I found myself flicking back through some of the year’s stories on this blog last night with more than a hint of nostalgia and figured it was high time I give whatever readers I have left an update on where we are at in life. After so many years of blogging I really found it quite exhausting after a while and to be honest when I look back on my annus horibilis that was the back end of 2015 and the front end of 2016, it is no surprise I lost my mojo. Anyhoooo…we are in a much better place now so let me full you in.
We are living inside the Australian Embassy in Hanoi in a 3-bedroom apartment. The apartments were renovated to the tune of $6m about 3 years ago so they are VERY nice indeed – far nice than anything that would be available outside the compound. There are multiple large grassed areas with bbqs, two swimming pools (adult and kids) , gymnasium, tennis/basketball court, adventure playgrounds for toddlers , a bar for the adults and the grounds have mature trees for shade. There are 12 apartments so in effect 12 families and there are around a dozen kids in age from 16 down to baby age. The pluses of living in the compound are all the above as well as the shortest 2-minute commute to work I have ever had (massive bonus in this city) and the fact that Angus and Grace can and do visit me at work whenever they want. Downsides are it is a bit of a bubble and you have to make sure you get out regularly. It is harder to meet “outsiders” as our Embassy is located some distance from the expat enclave of Tay Ho. But all in all – the pluses by far outweigh the minuses and it is all fully paid for so you know…. who am I to argue!
Angus and Grace are being home schooled by two UK citizens who are a couple (though not sure for how long). Gemma and Dan are late 20s and have lived in Hanoi for a few years. Dan teaches English and Gem does most of the days teaching the kids. We are now teaching inside the embassy which makes things very easy as there is no need for Leakhena to have to walk then anywhere. There is a large rumpus room off the bar that we use and it is fully set up with tales and lounges etc. They learn from 8am to 1pm Monday to Friday and there are trips out to zoos and other places of interest. I have been very happy with the results of the homeschooling “experiment”. Both kids are coming along in leaps and bounds and Angus in particular has come miles in the last 18 months. He is doing year above maths and had very neat handwriting, great manners and is really helpful. Grace is also a little smarty pants (intelligent) but she is definitely the lazy one and needs prompting to do most things domestic like clean rooms and have showers etc. The one thing I suppose I am conscious they lack in the learning environment is other kids but when I see how some of the UN International Kids (UNIS) are turning out – this might not be such a bad thing! They are great kids and I love them to bits and I hate the idea of them growing up.
Weekends are dictated by the weather which in Hanoi can vary from one hour to the next. It can be cold and overcast in the morning and then sunny in the afternoon. Right now it is very pleasant so we can go out to lunch or to the parks or lakes or zoo etc with the kids. I have been doing a lot of fishing outside Hanoi near the airport where there are some beautiful hills and some lakes full of snakehead. Awesome fish to catch on surface lures. It will be getting very hot soon so this will mean most of our spare time will be spent around the embassy pool. One thing I really do not like about Hanoi is the humidity and dankness. It is very different to Phnom Penh for example or even Manila. It just gets oppressively dank and dark here for a few months over Xmas and you might not see the sun for ages. We do however get a very real cold season with temps dropping to 10c or lower and we often light a fire on our balcony.
Work is full tilt and only getting moreso as the time passes. If you are not across what it is I actually do – I manage the property portfolio of the Australian Government’s Overseas Property Office ( OPO ) across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. This includes the Australian Embassies, High Commissions, Ambassadorial Residences, Staff Residence compounds and other strategic property assets in each location. My first year was relatively cruisy as most of my work was revolved around hard services ( power, water, mechanical etc ) routine maintenance with a few minor projects. This year I have delivered over 25 capital works projects across my three countries –most in Hanoi – so yeah…..it has been very busy and next year is shaping up to be the same. I really enjoy the projects aspect of the job as it keeps you on your feet with constant challenges to overcome and no two days the same. Weeks fly by and you get to deliver a tangible result where you can stand back and say “ I did that”. I am proud to say I have delivered all of my project on time and on/under budget and with 0 safety incidents. Unfortunately as a Facilities Manager this just means you have done your job so there are never any thanks…only complaints when things are not going to (someone else’s) plan ! I travel a fair bit to Cambodia and Laos and this is always a welcome additional aspect to the role. Our team started as 8 across Asia and we have already had several changes with more to come so it is looking like I will soon be one of the last standing originals from when we went live in Jun2016. Some guys (or their wives) have not liked being away from Australia, some have not liked the country they got posted to, some haven’t got on with the client or our Management etc etc. However again…I am happy to say I seem to be doing well on all fronts so no dramas here. I do not now where this leads further down the path but JLL is a big company and we are based everywhere so I am in the right place.
I am fairly confident that this year we will all return to Australia for our first Family holiday. Leakhena is very close to finally getting her partner visa after 2.5 YEAR process that has been blown out by constant new demands for documents meaning trips back to Cambodia, wasted time and money etc etc. I have kept my cool and plugged away and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I would HATE to have to ever do it again.
So there you have the latest news from Vietnam. Leave a comment if you are still reading as it might inspire me to write some more and hope you are all well !