My parents both use the phrase I’ve put here for the title of this blog – I’ve arrived, and to prove it, I’m here! I looked it up on Google and discovered that it comes from a 1950’s radio show called Educating Archie. Regardless of the roots of the phrase it’s been swimming round my head over the last few weeks as it seems I truly begin to put down roots in Malaysia.
One thing I have always noticed about the Malaysian jungle is that the roots grow frighteningly close to the surface; they look like the raised and rope-like veins on the backs of the gnarled old hands of the old. And because they are slightly raised it is easy to trip over them. Clumsy as I am known to be, I have to watch out for the perils of raised roots or I’ll trip, face-first into the red earth. But enough of metaphors, let me get to the point.
I’ve been back in Kuala Lumpur just three weeks since leaving the boys in their London flat ready to face their final years at university. Within hours of my landing it was as if all my clients decided to send me their manuscripts to read and suddenly I had 11 books to manage. The slow year I had promised myself while I settled into Malaysia was over. So I was frantically busy at work.
Also, within days of my arrival Ian and I were invited to our first real party – a 40th – (you see a lot of the folk who live in our condo are younger than us) and well, you know what happens at parties – you talk to people you know and meet some new ones. Two days later and the daughter of some very good Stamford friends came to stay while en route for Australia on her gap year and though I told her I needed to work, we still made sure we did the most important things – like teach her to make nasi lemak and introduce her to eating at a banana leaf restaurant – so that kept me busy.
Then, two days later, second guest arrived in the shape of the illustrious Ruth van Reken. How relieved I was that wanted to stay in and rest! Nevertheless, a week after I’d arrived myself I had a busy work schedule and a houseful. Ruth, as many of you will know, is a world expert on Third Culture Kids and the author of two books. When she is in town I am so jolly chuffed to be in her orbit that I am compelled to share her. And yes I know I am writing in the present continuous. This is a regular occurrence when a guru comes to stay. I just can’t help myself. And so, for the first time I jumped into to organizing some events so that people in KL to get to enjoy a little slice of Ruth too.
Not only did Amira, the current focal point of KL’s Shell Outpost answer the call and organize a workshop but I decided to hold a pot luck dinner at our place too, for about 20.
Of course the Shell event was oversubscribed, but what surprised me about my own was that I did not advertise it online or in the media, I just emailed a few new contacts here. And like magic, my event was full to bursting as well. Husbands wanted to come too (alleluiah) and my new friends had friends to bring and voilà I had a flatful. With half an hour til the party started I looked around our living space to see we had set up a beamer, projector, microphone and amplifier. Not only did it look professional but we actually own all that equipment too. It was as if my new skin began to slough off and the old one started to show through. I was on fire!
Again, we met new folk and talked to those we knew better and when the evening came to a close and we found ourselves running out of dishwasher space for the first time since we’d arrived here, we realized, this was a sign that we really did live here now. We’d had a party, with a lot of people who really were beginning to feel like real friends.
Then, last week, it was the Great British Ball. We haven’t been to a ball in over 20 years and I had to buy my first ever long dress (what a chore!). Ian had, ahem, grown out of his dinner suit and so he’d had to locate a place to hire one from after a fruitless search for one off the peg revealed that as a UK medium he was positively giant-sized by Malay standards and no shop made them large enough!
Emma and Joe had organized a table and again I realized I knew everyone well enough to have a jolly good time and wonderful conversations until after one in the morning. Another sign that things had certainly got better. I bumped into people I knew (there were over 800 folk there!) and was recognized by people who knew me and I’d already forgotten, but that I guess is a hazard of getting older.
And so to celebrate the fact that we have real friends here now Ian and I have decided to hold our first Christmas drinks party in about a decade. We don’t have space for more than about 40 so I sat down to make a list of the people we now knew and had met up with more than once socially. The ones I not only recognize in the supermarket but stop and chat with too. It took less than five minutes to put 50 on the list and then last night I lay in bed and realized I had forgotten the folk from Ian’s new band and my writing circles. When you have to cross a few folk off your invitation list you really do know you have arrived.
But let me go back to the roots metaphor at the beginning of this blog. So, yes, it seems we are putting down roots, but, those that are near the surface, the existential ones, those that are about the things we do have taken up a fair amount of my Coronation Street watching time. They have stopped me from having the time to read the subscription to The Times that I have on my iPad and they have stopped me from sitting on my balcony in the morning with my cup of tea and watching the birds. They have stopped me from writing my blog. Being too busy can be a bad thing. It makes me less able to wind down and incapable of halting my racing mind when I am trying to go to sleep. Those roots, wonderful as they are, are in danger of tripping me up.
But today it is the Deepawali holiday and I am taking a day off, starting off with that cuppa outside with my laptop, the birds and my blog. And you know, I am not going anywhere.