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.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer update...

Dear oh dear, I have slipped up. I somehow did not post anything in June so now I owe an even bigger update!

In May, there was the visit to Udonthani. To be honest, this was a wash out since it did nothing but rain solidly for the whole time we were there. We did a lot of eating and drinking and that was about it.

In June, I went to the UK. The primary reason for going to the UK was for my friend Lindsay Mennell's wedding. I was Maid of Honour and was thrilled to bits to be a part of the wedding and to see so many people that I had not seen in so long. Here we are... bridesmaids and groomsmen together. We were quite the team!

Ok, so the weather looks not so bad in that photo but honestly, it did rain a lot. Here are the photos to prove that despite it being June, the British are not having a 'summer' this year! 14 degrees in June... eh?!

My Dad's car thermometer (sorry i can't rotate the photo!)

From Phuket to UK in June - wrap up warm!!

Unfortunately due to being so wrapped up in the moment, I can't provide you with a photo of the Bride but believe me, she looked absolutely stunning! Hopefully some photos will get to me soon and I can let you all see.

Other highlights of my visit back to UK included watching the Euro 2012 Football Tournament with my Dad and while that might sound like a perfectly normal thing, anybody that knows my Dad will know that he HATES football with a passion. To prove it happened, I took photos (see below)... turns out he had recently bought a new TV and LG were offering 10 GBP refund on any goal that England scored. I think he got 50 quid back in the end! I was just happy it meant that I could watch the games and Sue (his girlfriend) even provided us with pie, peas and a pint! Happy days.

Me at my Dad's house with pie, peas and a pint!

Pie, Chips, Peas and the England match!
Also I was back in the UK for June 17th 2012 which was special to me for two reasons; firstly it was the first Father's Day I had been able to spend with my Dad in many years and secondly, I was taking part in the Cancer Research UK's Run For Life campaign at Lister Park in Bradford.

Me before the Cancer Research UK Run For Life 5km

Everybody gave it their all - really great!
And after all that running, it was time for a treat. I planned to take Dad to Harewood House for the Car Show but that was postponed due to rain so I took him to Betty's Tea Rooms in Harrogate instead. He had never been before so at almost 65 years old I introduced him to a proper cuppa and a scone!

Betty's Tearooms, Harrogate
I only had a few days more in Yorkshire... Spent some quality time with my Mum and she treated me to my fix of fish n'chips with my 'little' brother. I use inverted commas because I can hardly call him LITTLE anymore. Look...

Me and my not so little brother!
My UK trip left me with mixed emotions. I really noticed that the UK itself is struggling financially like I have never seen before - a lot of good pubs have closed down, tons of empty offices for let and even one of the biggest banks in my town was boarded up. Everything was really rather raggy... even finding decent fresh vegetables in the supermarket at one point proved a challenge. It seems that the type of thing to thrive in times of crisis in the UK is cafes and sandwich shops - they were everywhere and always had people in them! Another thing to lift the mood of anyone visiting the UK right now is the whole 'British' fever - the Union flag was being flown everywhere with the London Olympics coming up and 2012 being the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year. It was awesome! Even the cereals boxes, tins, packets etc in the supermarkets were all jazzed up with the Union Flag and you could buy some brilliant Union Flag cookies/cakes in all the bakeries. I loved that. To return home and see all the Britishness and people genuinely proud to be British, along with everything that is deemed British. Great.

For me, my family are in the UK. I can never hate going back to the UK because each time I go back, I spend time with my family and even if I am 6000 miles away most of the time, it does not mean I am trying to avoid them! This makes every moment I spend in the UK all the more special... although it makes me feel incredibly guilty when I have to leave. I just have to remember that in reality, the UK has nothing to offer me at this time in my life in terms of my career and my prospects. I can't live there just because that is where my family are. I would be miserable! If I have to move back to Europe, I think I will choose somewhere with better weather too - 2 days in England and my nose was streaming and I felt dreadful which made me decide I am actually allergic to the UK. Ha!

More of the mixed emotions came from one person I had left behind in Phuket. In over 8 years, I have never been this far from Mik for so long. It was strange to see my family, some of my closest friends and of course have Lindsay's wedding without Mik being by my side. You live and you learn... Now back to where my heart really is... Phuket...
Mik and I back on the road in the sunshine