There was a distinct lack of laughter from my usually pleased family from precisely 3pm on the 12th October until the 14th October at around the same time. We were actually all very quiet and all very miserable during this long 48 hour period.
On 12th October 2014, we shut up our home and headed to the airport for nine days of sunshine on a beach in Thailand. Getting into the car for any trip these days seems like more of an ordeal than it should be.
Juggling work, life, family is busy enough without ensuring everyone has enough underwear to see them through for nine days. As we set off, Michael and I gave each other a little high five.
We were off.
We did it. Hurrah – here we come, Thailand.
More high fives all around as we boarded the bus to take us to the terminal for check-in. Hurrah! We are here, and WE ARE GOING ON A HOLIDAY, PEOPLE. The long queue didn’t worry us. No sir-eeee.We were all so happy to be getting away and, for once, allowed plenty of time for delays (we’ve missed a flight before as it happens). We arrived at the check-in counter and handed over our tickets and passports. The first bags are on the scale.
“Mr Kerrison is checked in”. Yay (more high fives).
“Mrs Kerrison is checked in”. Positively beaming I was.
Our youngest daughter Ettie steps forward. And then came these words….. “Mr. and Mrs.’s Kerrison…… Ettie’s passport has expired” (No high fives). Speechless. Ettie’s jaw drops, and she asks, “Mama does this mean I have to stay home by myself“. Heartbreak right there. Grace and Ava’s passports are checked…..both expired. All three daughters passports expired 2 weeks before this date. Ettie’s is no longer alone with her dropped jaw, and none of us seems able to talk. We were ushered over to the Managers desk to see what could be done. We had hope. There was still a little excitement. These good people WOULD fix our mistake. And then this……
“Mr & Mrs Kerrison…..we are afraid there is nothing we can do for you. You will need to head home and make an appointment with the department of foreign affairs tomorrow when they’re open.” This is where the distinct lack of laughter really kicked in into play.
Tails between legs and many teary eyes. Let’s just say it was a very ‘reflective’ car trip home. In our ‘busy-ness’, we had totally overlooked that children’s passports are only valid for five years.
There are likely no repeatable words for what Michael and I were both calling ourselves in our heads. How could two reasonably intelligent people be so bloody stupid?
The days of no laughter continued as the five of us headed into the city to the department of foreign affairs so that we could be there right as they opened. And….might I just say…… what a happy little place this is (not)! For some warped reason, I had a glimmer of hope that the person who would assist us would feel compassion. See the desperation in our eyes. See that we had three beautiful children looking soooooo incredibly de-puffed and share a laugh with us as they lightly smack their right thigh and say, ‘Oh….you know……these things can happen. As they would then happily stamp and issue us our emergency passports to get us on our way.
As we were ushered forward in the queue, we were presented to a lady we feared would not have laughed for many years.
Without a second thought, she said that our only option was to apply for emergency passports. She advised us the quickest turnaround is a minimum of 48 hours for emergencies. But, in her opinion, we wouldn’t be flying out for days as …..” DIDN’T WE REALISE OUR CASE WASN’T REALLY ACTUALLY AN EMERGENCY. AND WE WERE ACTUALLY VERY LUCKY TO BE GOING ON A HOLIDAY AT ALL”. I write in capitals not to be shout at you but to remind myself how these words were spat at me. If I was in a better frame, I might likely have laughed. Her attitude and outburst were quite simply deplorable.
Instead (and I might add that I was unaware of my state until Michael was suddenly cuddling me), I was standing there with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt so sad for our girls. I felt like we had failed them.
We then spent the best part of the remainder of that day at the not-so-happy-place to completed the necessary forms. We obtained new passport photos and swiftly sought witnesses to endorse the back of these passport pics. We finally headed home altogether and were told to just wait and that if we wanted to, we could check the progress online.
Amongst all of this, I should add that our airline was incredibly good to us. They had told us that they would get us on a flight to Thailand as soon as our passports came through so long as they had availability. We knew there was one the following afternoon, but we now also knew (thanks to the happy lady) that we were no hope of getting on that one. It was a waiting game. None of us had unpacked, and there was lots of little cuddles and rubbing of necks but definitely no laughter. Looking back on this now, I feel wrong about this. I wish we, as parents, had reacted a little differently. I wasn’t proud of how miserable we were at the time and how we didn’t really try to lift the kid’s spirits. It’s all easy to say on the other side, though, I guess.
As I went to bed, I could see the slightest movement finally as I tracked our passports online. They had moved to 20% (it’s something, right?) at the end of that day. By morning, I checked again as I had started to get excited to think that we might possibly get on the flight later that day by some miracle. It was still at 20%, and Michael begged for me not to get excited. We were living in limbo. It was weird. We caught up on a bit of reading and general life admin but still, just a waiting game.
I checked a few hours later, and somehow, we were at 60%. Excitement right there. Michael suggested again for me not to get excited, but he suggests many things that gorgeous man. I had worked out that if we jumped in the car right then and headed to the happy place in the city, in the hope the passports might be ready when we got there, there was a tiny chance that we might make the flight. We, of course, had not yet phoned the airline to see if there were still seats. Yes, we would be cutting it fine, and the minor detail that we’d be driving in on a wing & a prayer than the passports would go from 60%-100% within the hour for this to happen. A little far fetched, I know, but what did we have to lose? The girls latched on to my excitement, and our eldest, Grace, made my heart pop. Her words were, ‘Let’s give it a go. The worst that happens is we have to come back home. Within five minutes, we threw our cases into the back of the car and headed back into the city.
I was tracking our passports all the way in there via my phone. The progress was not moving. C’mon, good fairies. Help us here.
Michael parked out the front & waited there with our girls as I burst through their doors and waited again to be served.
When I was called up, I felt our luck had changed……. this lady smiled at me. Amazing, right?.
This new & improved lady was warm and was clearly customer service-centric. I explained that we could make our intended flight that was leaving in a little over 2 hours if the passports could be ready. She checked for me but only saw what I saw – 60%.
She wanted to speak to folk ‘out the back’.
Can I just tell you how hard it was for me to resist the urge to straddle her desk & give her a full-blown kiss snoggy kiss. And, I would have, Defs. Except there was a very thick piece of security glass between her and me, which I can only assume wasn’t for the people like her that needed a kiss.
She returned. She suggested I wait over to the side and that we’d chat in a few minutes. WHAAAATTTTT! I was frantically texting Michael the slightly hopeful (but not guaranteed) news. He then took to frantically arranging for my Brother to come and collect our car from the airport, as we didn’t even have enough time to park it. I know you probably can’t feel it through my words. Still, even as I tell this story now, I can relive the hope, the adrenalin and the smiles (finally….the smiles) that were coming back. We made it……..by the skin of our teeth, but we made it.
We arrived in Thailand with a bit of rejoicing, a good slug of celebratory wine, eight hours after takeoff.
Our holiday would be cut short, but we, we had made it.
In short, our seven days in Thailand were more than we could have hoped for.
On one of the magical days when we were driving alongside some pretty beautiful countryside, Ettie asked me what my favourite time on the holiday so far had been. I think she had sensed what I was feeling (she’s pretty incredible like that). I answered her with this”
“Right now, I answered.”
“I had just been thinking how wonderfully lucky I am to have the four of you as my travel companions……. my family…….the people I love most and can see these magical places with. To share these amazing moments with”
On this holiday, we swam, read, toured, ate, drank, and laughed (a lot) again.
I should probably also tell you that we lost luggage during this trip. Michael entire case just never showed up. I also had a stolen credit card. We laugh about these things now too!
Here are some beautiful photos from our trip and one of my favourite Thai dishes that I cook so often at home. This particular recipe will feature in the upcoming Relish Mama cookbook. Still, I thought it very fitting to share it with you all here too.
One word of advice – go and check your passports, my friends.
- Wok or frying pan
- 2 tablespoons raw rice
- 500 g coarsely minced chicken can substitute for beef or pork (see vegetarian & vegan substitute notes also)
- 1 lemongrass stem white part only, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes
- 50 ml fish sauce
- 1-2 limes juiced
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves only and washed
- 2 tablespoons of chopped spring onion
- 2 fresh red chillies deseeded and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 coriander roots
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup white sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- Fresh coriander leaves to serve
- Ice berg lettuce leaf cups washed and chilled (or substitute for cos lettuce cups)
- Mint leaves to serve
- Place the rice in a pan and cook for 2 minutes, tossing the pan.
- Grind in a mortar and pestle or mini food processor.
- Heat a wok on high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and when boiling add the minced chicken, stirring well to break up & until cooked.
- Add the lemongrass, ground roasted sticky rice, dried chilli flakes, fish sauce & lime juice.
- Stir in the coriander leaves and spring onion.
- Spoon into individual Iceberg lettuce leaves & garnish with the mint leaves.
- Served with the dipping sauce spooned over the top.
- *For a vegan & vegetarian friendly version, use tofu that has been blitzed finely or chopped finely. Alternatively, us vegan mince instead of chicken mince & use a vegan friendly fish sauce.
Happy snaps from Thailand October 2014