Charlie and I depart a very wet and miserably grey Da Nang International Airport at 3:45pm on 4 November and arrive into crispy, cold yet sunny home town Melbourne the following morning. Cold and dry versus warm and flooded. We have contact from Steve, who is now four hours behind us time wise, that Hoi’An has received so much rain in the last day that the town will definitely flood. We are here for one week so that Charlie can sit a final year exam.
We knew we were returning to Melbourne from the get go as Distance Education do not permit “travelling students” whose parents are not working overseas to sit these final year exams overseas or interstate. Unless you provide a letter from your overseas employer. Not us.
Flying past the wet clouds that hang over Da Nang, we reach the sun setting which is stunning from up here. Charlie is ULTRA excited about being back in Melbourne that she’s planned each day already and the first few are catching up with her friends.
In fact, Hoi’An floods so much that it reaches or surpasses its 1999 flood levels of 3.3m! The photos that are being fed back to Charlie and me back in Australia are too hard to comprehend. Streets that we would cycle along on a daily basis are completely submerged, and while Steve and the three girls are trapped inside for a couple of days due to the incessant rain, when it finally stops Steve and Dacey get out on their bicycles to investigate what the Old Town and Cua Dai Road actually looks like now.
Our landlady Dao’s clothing shop in Old Town is under water greater than her own height! They have had to move everything up to the second floor. Locals and expats are forced to evacuate their homes as the water levels rise and enter their homes. It’s a strange spectacle seeing photos of boats operating up and down the main streets of Old Town instead of bicycles and motorbikes and pedestrians.
Luckily for us we are living in a house that is located near the Cua Dai beach, and we are a street away from the river. We are also on higher land so the flood didn’t reach us, except of course for the damp coming through the walls and the growing of mould once the sun and heat came out again.
The Hoi’An Central Market, one of our favourite cafes Mia Cafe and the Japanese Bridge change in just one week – from flood to no flood. Here are the photos we receive from Steve and Dacey on the ground in Hoi’An at this time while Charlie and I are in Melbourne. Unbelievable!
Charlie and I miss out on the flood in Hoi’An but we arrive back home for the first time since we left on 19 December 2017. Charlie is soooo excited. She’s sitting on the window seat and I’m piggy in the middle. The woman beside me on the aisle seat is prone to moving a lot and nudging her arm across mine. So getting any decent sleep is proving difficult on this flight. But in one moment I nod off due to exhaustion and wake to see Charlie beaming at me with a huge smile and the news that we’re flying over Australia. Her legs are moving excitedly – like she’s won something valuable. She is very much looking forward to catching up with her friends. And one friend greets her at the international arrival gates. Lots of hugs and squeals.
But my very first thoughts on arriving back into home town Melbourne is this:
- It’s so bloody cold (we have been following the sun all year but sunshine helps ease the pain)
- Everything is the same (nothing changes even over the course of a year)
- Life here feels way too ordered and organised for me now
- There’s too much focus on sweating the small stuff here
- Where the hell is everyone? There’s no one out on the streets!
- There is so much space and land. Where did it all come from?
Catching Up with Family & Friends
It’s great seeing my parents greet us at the airport. The last time we saw them was early in our travel year in Buldhana, rural India back in March. It’s almost like a practice homecoming. We then head off to have breakfast together and catch up over a real café latte. And although they purchase breakfast for us, the thing I notice instantly is just HOW VERY EXPENSIVE IT IS! OMG!
My brother Jarrod and nephew Dylan also come down to the café and we enjoy cuddles with my nephew. He’s a lovely boy. But he’s a little impatient too and would prefer to see Dacey (our youngest) who is his favourite cousin. But she’s back in Hoi’An. Their reunion will have to wait.
Charlie has organised all sorts of catch ups with friends over the next few days as it’s Melbourne Cup Day long weekend, so already I’m back in our Honda SUV and driving her to Riddells Creek. It’s started I moan in my head – the driving, the picking up… I haven’t driven all year but it all comes back quickly and easily enough (which is kind of scary).
We drive through our little town of Riddells Creek, and nothing has changed. Except someone has painted their front gates in the Footy Grand Final winning team colours – yellow and black (Tigers). We drive past our house, still the same. Then we drop in to see our two dogs – Fudge Face and Oscar. They’re happy to see us and healthy. I don’t think Oscar knows or remembers who we are, but I get the feeling Fudge Face does as she looks right up at my face.
I get to hang out on the farm with my parents, and take a visit to see my nearly 95-year old grandmother in her home, see my brother in action at his job moving dirt in big yellow earth moving equipment, visit Stormy the Shetland, and catch up with my uncle for dinner. Being back at home is not so bad after all, except for the intense hay fever with watering eyes and snuffed up nose I experienced each day. A friend had suggested I see how I feel when I was back home, which may assist me in making a decision. But is my overall enjoyment at being back only because I know we have return tickets back overseas? Hmmm…
I drive down to see Sue and Baz and spend the afternoon with them on Melbourne Cup Day. Sue is getting around the house in her wheel chair and there’s a new long ramp from the back door down into the back yard so that she can get out of the house in an emergency. The recovery is slow. The healing process of the bones can be slower due to age and the femur bone is the largest bone in the entire human body! It’s frustrating for someone so active to be sent home from an overseas trip to sit and not move around. The good news is that a recent x-ray has shown good healing of the femur bone break, which means that sometime after Christmas Sue will be able to start rehabilitation. It’s probably a 4- to 6-month journey. And Baz’s hand is looking much better since it’s had time to heal.
But it’s great to catch up and see them again, especially since our parting in Laos was less than joyous one afternoon in the Vientiane Friendship Hospital. My sister in law Andrea visits too and we enjoy a brief catch up. The next time we will see them as at Christmas time which I’m looking forward to celebrating with them.
I have a dinner date with my former Salesian development department team Ebony and Amber plus Con and Deb and Peter come along too. It’s so lovely to see them and catch up together in person. I miss my work colleagues.
A visit to the Real Estate Agent, and an enquiry as to why we haven’t had a response from the email I sent them… Well we are onto our third or is it fourth rental property manager in just one year, and no one thought to inform us of this change! Frustratingly subpar communication.
Charlie enjoys catching up with friends and surprising others for birthdays. But now it’s time to read over her notes, and prepare for the exam.
The one thing I’ve enjoyed is helping Charlie revise for her Year 12 Health & Human Development exam. Charlie is self-motivated and well organised and creates small cue cards that I test her knowledge on. She’s a mix of nerves and confidence and the proportions of each change all of the time. But on the morning of the exam, I drop her to Gisborne Secondary College to sit her first final year exam. Next year will be more. Later on she lets me know she thinks she’s done well. Results will tell when they’re out on the 15 December. The waiting game starts.
But now she is finished. No more books or study materials or photocopied papers to lug around with us. She’s very happy school is complete for the year. She’s done very well with Distance Education too, I think more than she first thought.
A Final Decision…Please
I tentatively talk with my parents about the possibility of our family continuing on the traveling journey. Charlie and Ash sent an SOS out to them when Steve and I told the kids we would be continuing for a second year on the road, most likely making Hoi’An our home base and getting jobs there. So I was a little unsure what their thoughts would be on our so called decision and the impact it might have on our children’s lives. But I was very surprised. They were open and understanding. There was no rescue package occurring for the kids. I think my parents were planning their trip over to visit us in Hoi’an in 2018!
But the reality of having teenagers is that friends are their whole world at this point in their lives. It’s so hard – we want to continue, but they are adamant they don’t want to. Everything is once again in lingo so I will wait until I’m back in Hoi’An when Steve and I twill sit and chat and make the decision as to what’s best for us all.
Before we know it the week is up. Charlie is not happy about returning to Hoi’An via a few nights stop over in Singapore for the simple fact that she just wants to hang out with her friends. But we are heading back to finish our year of travel and finally make a decision about our family’s future.