Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wedding in the Winelands

Photo: Monica Dart Photography
Everyone said my wedding was the best wedding they had ever been to

I will never forget these words spoken by my mother while I was busy trying to plan mine. To any mothers out there, please take note, these are not words of support or encouragement for your about-to-marry daughter. I was left unsure of whether to congratulate my mother on her obvious success in wedding planning or whether to answer her with the truth... I mean, what guest is going to turn to the bride on her wedding day and say, "That was a crap wedding"!?

Fact is, your wedding day is about you (the bride) and your man (the groom). Never EVER forget that. You make it what you want and stay relaxed because the day you say "I do" to the man you want to spend the rest of your life with, will be the most special of days and it should be about the two of you, not about making everybody else in your life happy.

Actually, for reasons I'd rather not go into, my mother did not come. Neither did my siblings. Neither did one of my oldest and closest friends. All this did was make me especially thankful to those loved ones that did make the occasion and well, the day was beautiful!

12th March 2014: Alex & I flew to Cape Town. Alex had arranged the most spectacular apartment for us to spend. Check out the Residences Cape Town. We were in the 3-bedroom Penthouse ready for guests to arrive the next day. Check it out...

Photo: Residences Cape Town

13th March 2014: My good friend Lindsay, her husband and her mum all arrived while I got to meet our lovely photographer, Monica Dart for the first time. I knew from the work on her website that I had already made the right decision but meeting her, sharing our story with her and talking about our soon-to-be wedding day was awesome. After she had left I felt totally relaxed and confident that things would be just fine!

Now there is a seafood platter!
Shortly after this I met the man who was going to marry us, our Minister. Marius Brand is a very calm individual originally from Zimbabwe, now living in South Africa. The Zimbabwean link was particularly apt given that Alex had been living in Zimbabwe for 4 years and still refers to it as the one place he can always happily settle to live.

It soon became apparent that I needed some more paperwork if this marriage was ever going to be legal! A trip to the British embassy was arranged for the next day and so we headed to Cape Town for a big plate of seafood at Sevruga

14th March 2014: Not without drama. I went to the British embassy where they told me there was nothing they could do for me! Fantastic... what now? Due to get married the next day and the whole thing was looking to be just an expensive ceremony with no actual legal marriage!! So, I dashed to Protea Hotel to pick up my Dad & his girlfriend then I dashed back to Alex (who had prepared my affidavit for notarising), then I dashed across to the post office in Century City and thankfully I met with the nicest post office manager in the world! I explained my situation and she was so happy for me getting married the next day that she notarised the affidavit, wished me the best of days and never charged me a thing. She was lovely.

Now... time to go get married. 2 cars full of people and luggage, and onward to Franschhoek! We received a warm welcome from Marie-Louise and all the Staff at La Petite Dauphine. This place is magical and no words will ever be able to thank Marie-Louise enough in everything she did for us, planning our day without either of us there to help. She did fantastic! I highly recommend her for Wedding planning!!

The boys went off on a wine tour while we girls went for a bit of pampering at Camelot Spa. After being (more than) a little bit wound up and nervous this was the best idea yet. I soaked in a salt bath. 15 mins in the bath is equivalent to 4 hours sleep. Genius! Then I had my nails done beautifully before emerging to find Lindsay and her Mum had prepared a champagne lunch surprise. Totally relaxed. And then this...
Hahahaha! That's right - I had been lacking a hen do but I could rely on my AWESOME Maid of Honour to save the day. She kitted me out in an "I LOVE PHUKET" tshirt (wonder why!) and a pink wig (no comment) and we had an evening of laughs. The boys even joined us after their day of wine-tasting. You can imagine the state they were in!

15th March 2014: There were a few sore heads but it was time for the big day. At this point, Monica Dart's photos capture the day better than any of my words....
Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography
Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography
 All photos fantastically taken by MONICA DART
Photo: Monica Dart Photography
It never stopped. After the ceremony there were more photos, more champagne, more nibbles and then we took ourselves under the Old Oak Tree for an evening with wonderful food, more drink, and some hilarious speeches!
Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography

Photo: Monica Dart Photography
Special thanks to all those lovely people who did join us on 15th March 2014. You made our day all the more beautiful. Thank you.
Location: La Petite Dauphine, Franschhoek, South Africa
Flowers & Ceremony Arrangements: (to be added)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All change - Miss to Mrs!

This was always going to be a weird update. If you have followed my blog so far then this post may shock you or surprise you, or not... let's see. 

Thing is I was not UNhappy. You can see that from my previous posts but things started to change and I didn't seem to be as happy as I should be. Turning 30 was amazing but it did make me think quite a lot about where I was and where I wanted to be. The ticking biological clock was getting so loud that almost my every thought was TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that Mik and I had been together for almost 10 years at this point and it seemed naturally like the 'next step' in our relationship, plus I wanted a baby! But EVERYTHING seemed to be getting in the way. My passion for the next fitness challenge had somehow extended to Mik and while it was great to have a training partner, my challenges were running out, my passion for training was waning and I really, really wanted to enjoy my life more without worrying about the next meal plan, run, swim or bike ride, while Mik's love of triathlons was growing exponentially! In my head, the Phuket triathlon of November 2012 was my final big blow-out to push my body to its potential (at that time) and then, relax. Enjoy life. Start a family...
Feel the pain as I finished the Phuket triathlon

It was not happening like that though. Mik and I were growing apart. With my frustrations unsolved part of me carried on regardless. The Go Eco Phuket event that I mentioned in my last post (September 2012) was a huge success and literally catapulted me into near-fame in Phuket! It was not meant to be like that but it was great to see real awareness raised of Phuket's Eco-issues, in particular marine debris around the very Island that I had come to love. This did add to the stress on my relationship with Mik though. I didn't feel it at this stage, but I know he did. I was stressed, I was busy and those niggling frustrations (see above) were still chewing me up. I really wanted his support, and although I may have been wrong, I didn't feel like I had it; not for anything I wanted to do anymore, except triathlons! My life was all triathlon training and then December 2012 arrived.

Go Eco Phuket September 2012 - there I am
Mik's parents visited for Christmas. I was so looking forward to this; my first 'family Christmas' in more than a decade. Again, it didn't go quite as I imagined. On the one hand it was wonderful. I really like Mik's parents; they are caring, they are kind and they are creators of the perfect/ideal family (that my parents somehow didn't manage). The Jennings have been happily married forever! An inspiration! However, one conversation from their visit really stuck. 'Babies' were mentioned and very quickly brushed away as they gave support to the relationship Mik and I had at the time; no kids, 2 incomes and lots of time to enjoy ourselves doing whatever we wanted. But that was just the thing, I wasn't enjoying that anymore.

Meanwhile I was working A LOT at the dive centre. I was actually living FOR the dive centre most days. It made me happy but also, the sad fact that it was my life was making me sad. I loved the people there; the staff, the customers, everything... more than I loved being home. Throughout January Mik and I knew something was wrong and we talked about it, I took time out of the dive centre to try and fix it but it had gone too far.

At this time there was one thing, or rather one person who was making me happy. That person is Alex and here is the shocker... he is now my husband. 
I fought it and fought it and fought it. There was no way that anybody was going to come between the almost 10-year relationship I had with Mik. No way. I told Mik about Alex. I told Mik what I thought was happening. But Mik seemed to hate Alex even before any of this. With hindsight maybe he could see what was happening and that made him so resentful. I'll never know but had Mik been stronger in giving his support (instead of as he was with Go Eco Phuket) my reaction may have been different. Instead, whether he was pushing me away or I was pulling away, I really only felt happy and stress-free when I was around Alex. I wanted to make Mik and I work but more and more there were signs that it was over.

The last Go Eco Phuket event I did - August 2013
The start of 2013 therefore was horrible. I got angry with Alex and told him to get lost on more than one occasion, saying I never wanted to see him again. I was saddened and disappointed by Mik because he didn't seem to want to 'pick up the pieces'. I know it is as much about me but I really needed showing the way at this point. I was in love with two men! One I had been with for all of my adult life, never wanted to hurt and felt generally so comfortable with, I could never imagine my life without him (or his family). The other seemingly loved me like I had never felt loved before, he loved and supported every strange thought or passion I held and literally made me feel like ME (where I had felt a bit lost before). In the end, from the sadness and torture, I had only one choice and that was to chase my own happiness.

Nothing against Mik, nothing at all. I still love him in many ways but not the way he wanted me to or the way he deserved. It still saddens me that we don't have that much contact now due to the awkwardness that has developed between us. 
In the end I couldn't make him understand me anymore and in April 2013 I sadly packed my things and moved out, not really knowing where I was heading. If I had been looking for a sign at that time, it was the relief I felt as I unpacked my things into a small room in Chalong. Like I said, I was never UNhappy with Mik or my life in Phuket but the relief I felt on making a move towards giving that 'old life' up was reassuring at a time when I needed it.

I couldn't fight anymore. I didn't want to. Part of the relief came from accepting my own happiness and Alex was making me happy. At this time Alex was willing to do anything for me which while it was all very flattering, I could not let that happen. I did not want that. One of his anythings was that he would quit his corporate life to become a Diving Instructor in Phuket, while I carried on my much-loved life in Phuket. Now I had to be honest. It was not that I did not love Phuket anymore but I had been living in Phuket from the age of 21. I had literally grown up there. It is an amazing place to live but I could not get past the fact that I felt my life had expired there. I had done all I wanted but I could not see how I could progress there. Small progress could always be made but I was not living my life how I wanted and progress was too slow. I was missing being closer to my good friends and family in Europe. I was missing some amount of 'normal' life such as having weekends (not working 24/7), having important holidays off such as Christmas, Easter etc., enjoying long summer evenings... I was even missing being cold sometimes! I wanted a family but I wanted a family to be born out of happiness with more security than Phuket could ever give me or our family. Finally, it was time... "Alex, I don't think I want to be here anymore. I don't think you do really. What now?"

So many friends in Phuket!
May 2013 I was flying to Germany. It was part of my 'conditions' if you like. I wasn't going to commit my life to being with Alex if away from Phuket we were different. Let's be honest, Phuket is a small Island with expats a-plenty but it is not real. I can't really explain that to people who have not experienced it but you are thrown together with people that normally you would not meet, or have anything to do with. This is no bad thing actually! The long-term expat population is kind of slim in the 20-40 age range which means I was in the minority there anyway. You have the sea, the sun, constant dinners, drinks and friends around you. Honestly, it is paradise... but what happens outside of that? What happens when the sh*t hits the fan? Alex is German, I am English - what happens when we see each-other in our own cultures, surroundings and friend networks? Things could go horribly wrong! I was scared!

Many thanks to my boss for helping me with life in Munich
I should not have feared. In Germany my boss offered to let me give up my Dive Centre Manager job in Phuket to take up my new post in the Head Office in Munich. Alex already had an apartment in Munich... so I had no excuses! My dream of moving back to Europe could not have been easier, it had been handed to me on a plate.

With so much to catch up on, I am going to miss out some beautiful details here but I have to say that the last year has gone perfectly. From strength to strength I am making progress and I am still totally happy with Alex (even in his culture and with his friends). Ha! Actually I am doing really well. So many things slotted in to place, it is almost freakishly perfect.

I really want to blog my wedding day because it was amazing so until next time let me bring you up to date with the last 12 months in brief!
June 7th (early hours of 8th) 2013 - Alex proposed and I said YES
Alex then agreed to take a short-term 3 month job contract in South Africa which made sense as I would need this time to wrap up my life in Phuket properly.
July 2013 - I visited Cape Town for a week and we stayed at Mont Rochelle Vineyard for Alex's birthday. It here I had a moment of "I could get married here". Cape of Good Hope was also done at this time. Absolutely beautiful!
August 2013 - I visited Dubai for a week as Alex had been transferred there for his work. Amazing trip involving diving, going up the Burj Khalifa, and lots of food!!
September 2013 - Alex along with my friends Lindsay and Patrick met me in Singapore for the Formula One Race. We then traveled back to Phuket to pack the rest of my things and...
30th September 2013 - I left Phuket and bound my flight to Munich for my new life!
October 2013 - I visited UK to explain the 'new life' to my family and friends there. Also celebrated my Dad's birthday with him for the first time in years! I returned to Cape Town to finally choose Franschhoek as the location of our wedding.
November 2013 - I started full time back at work for Sub Aqua Dive Center (Head Office Munich)
December 2013 - Christmas time and I spent Christmas in the UK for the first time in 11 years! Also made a quick trip to Cape Town to confirm La Petite Dauphine as the venue for our wedding.
January-February 2014 - Stressful time with German language courses, wedding planning etc.
15th March 2014 - I married Alexander Christoph Kiel at La Petite Dauphine, Franschhoek, South Africa in bright sunshine with family and friends that could make it. Gorgeous day and here is just one picture to share until next time...

15th March 2014 - I became a MRS

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Phuket low season that never was...

Wow! Where is time going to? Phuket has what some describe as 'low season' from May to October inclusive. I am usually a bit depressed at this time. I don't like being quiet and not having much to do. Bring on 2012 and this low season has been manic! When i returned from the UK in June, business at SUB AQUA Dive Center (where I am Manager) immediately ramped up through July with the European Summer holidays kicking in at the same time as the Australian winter and great low season deals on Phuket hotels/flights.

More than just 'business', I got involved with a new project. You can read more about it on SUB AQUA Dive Center's blog but what started out as a small united group of Dive Centre Managers trying to do their best for Phuket is coming to fruition with the first planned event, 'Dive Against Debris' on 30th September 2012. It is the first time in all my time in Phuket that I have seen business owners/managers (particularly those in the diving industry) come together to do good. The event on 30th September looks set to be huge and I have put a lot of effort into gathering support for the project and offering logistical support in the run up to and on the day.

Then in August, I had the holiday of a lifetime. Mik and I flew from Phuket to Bali, spent 2 lovely nights in Ubud before flying on to Bima to joining Worldwide Dive And Sail's diving liveaboard to Komodo National Park.
Here are some photos from our trip:-

Villa Mandi, Ubud - tranquil setting

The best carrot cake I have ever tasted - Kafe in Ubud

Our place for a couple of nights

I could eat at this restaurant in the paddy fields of Ubud every day

I'll take the salad...

It tasted as good as it looks!

Ubud is so tranquil and beautiful

I was made up to find that cocoa beans grow in Bali!

Tea and coffee tasting - I am in heaven!

Me attempting a wood carving - I was rubbish at it!

This guy was sharpening blades for the feet of birds cock-fighting. Brutal!

Cycling in the countryside in Bali - Mik and me

This little girl let us walk around her home. Bless her.

Big smiles as we stop at a Balinese temple for a rest

Back on the road... or kind of off-roading really

This was a daily occurrence once we were on board the boat

First morning - we are awake just about. Time for dive briefing!

Had to include this - it was our 9 year anniversary!

Then came the Komodo dragons!

Dragon loving - LOL

Relaxing with a gin and tonic on the sundeck after a day of great dives

Tourist photo - Komodo National Park - tick!

Me and the man on Komodo Island

There ain't no dragon gonna eat me!

Me and my home for 10 days - ain't she lovely!

Indo Siren on 10 day Komodo diving tour

Absolutely beautiful vessel and great crew!

Close-up with the boat in my sights!

Fellow divers and crew on board the Indo Siren trip to Komodo August 2012
Then it was back to work! But there is a balance between work and play so if I took holiday in August, I then got stuck into my triathlon training and sorting the dive centre for high season. (Yes, not long now... 25th November is the Laguna Phuket Triathlon!). In September, it has been time to play a little again...

On 19th September Mik turned 40 and it was time to make sure he enjoyed every moment of celebrating it. With a few surprises, like a night at Serenity Terraces Resort , he had a lovely time. As I write this, he is off still celebrating with one of his gifts (rental of a Ducati Monster motorbike) and razzing around the Island with a couple of friends that have termed themselves 'Pie N Mash MC'. Ha! I'm so happy for him. Here are some photos of the fun we have had over his birthday week:-

The 'big' gift!

Surprise birthday cake taken to his workplace in the afternoon of his actual birthday

Evening of his birthday and it was time for a sundowner at East 88 beach lounge

Our apartment for the evening

Me and the man - combined age of 70! Crikey!

The band we rocked out with at his Party

The next morning... collection of gifts... mainly alcohol based. LOL!
 That's it. You are all updated. This week is going to be mostly spent making final preparation for the Go Eco Phuket 'Dive Against Debris' event on 30th September. Day full of press conferences and presentations to participants this Tuesday and the Rawai-Naiharn Dragon Boat Quiz this Thursday evening... It's all go this low season! Happy times.