Same Same, but Different

The slogan is synonymous with cheap t-shirts on sale by the thousand in every night market across South East Asia. I tried to find the origin but there seem to be varying legends as to where it came from or even means…

A few mails from home and watching Charlotte grumping at doing some maths today got me thinking about our family dynamics. The question that popped up was; have our family dynamics changed since 10thJanuary 2018? Well the answer I came up with is ‘same same but different. It started way before we got on an aeroplane about 180 days ago.

St.John and I have always considered our little family to be a tight knit unit with a positive dynamic. Back home we often spent time just being together as a family. The firm favourite being just the 3 of us spending weekends at our holiday home in Arniston. The lack of a large extended family, living close by I guess contributes towards. Don’t get me wrong we have an incredible family of another sort, great friends in Cape Town and South Africa who we treasure and love spending time with.

St.John’s commitment to his boss in late 2016 was that he’d be on the road selling as furiously as he could manage the year before we left and that he did. We never counted the number of bed nights he was away in 2017, but it was lots. Having one parent away from home shifts the family dynamic. St.John often commented that when he got home after a long time away he felt like he was just the cheque book and was excluded from the tight bond that Charlotte and I had formed.

St.John and I were living on different planets, him travelling and all the associated stressors and exhaustion associated to the frantic pace of his work commitments. I was the primary caregiver to an anxious child (read about that here) and trying to prepare our lives Cape Town for a years hiatus e.g. renting out our house etc. Add to this the paperwork for our trip, possible routes and research associated with that, insurance, visas etc., tickets. Occasionally our planets came into the same orbit and we stayed up into the small hours of the night talking about our trip over a few glasses of wine. Not great for the next morning, but those were the times we seemed to be able to just talk about our adventure without getting stuck in ‘admin mode’.

‘Admin mode’ is still a huge reality of traveling and we spend quite a bit of time planning and researching. In reality, this is Charlotte on her screen and St.John and I doing research about where to stay, how to get there etc. Given our personalities the Bungey family requires a plan, albeit a loose one. Just drifting is a bad idea. So we do plan our next steps, sometimes weeks ahead other times just a few days ahead. We largely follow the broad route we’d mapped out before we left. That said sometimes even the best plans fall apart… things are sometimes not what we expect. like being in a hellhole of a hotel in Costa Rica and everyone is hungry and there is no easy solution to find something to eat. We will leave that story there for now, suffice to say, we are all still alive, limbs intact and we can now laugh about it.

It amuses me that even though we are together pretty much 24/7 we still have miscommunications. Conversations like “I thought you had that under control?, “When did you ask me to do that?” and “You didn’t make it clear you wanted me to …” still happen, thankfully less often now. A lesson we’ve learnt the hard way is be clear on what you want to say, no assumptions and subtle hints. The worst time for a communication break down is if someone is hangry (a grumpy state bought on by being hungry). This is when conversations like “what do you feel like eating” are met with “I don’t mind, you choose’. I think every family has been there, so we’ve developed a system of the ‘hangry flag’. When you start feeling hungry let everyone know first flag is up. If this is ignored then put a second one up. The second flag is basically a declaration that you will not be responsible for your behaviour if everyone keeps ignoring your request to find something to eat sharpish!

Before this adventure we’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a lot as a family. We’re used to sharing rooms when required. Now having spent in the region of 180 days together 24/7, it’s moved personal space into a new dimension. I won’t go into the gory details, although St.John is threatening to write a blog just on the bathroom habits. Sometimes the best remedy to get some personal space is what has now become known as quiet time. Essentially we just leave each other alone for an hour to an hour and a half doing whatever we want to do whether that is reading, watching something on Netflix, having a snooze, or writing blogs or going out for a walk.

Think about your average week day…there is work and school which involves being apart and interacting with other people. This is why meals times are typically such an important time for families. That doesn’t exist for us we know exactly what we did during the day because 99.9% of the time we all did it together. I have found because of this our conversations are quite different from those we used to have around the dinner table with Charlotte. Our topics are often quite philosophical sometimes relating to politics (Donald Trump and current SA political shenanigans give us lots of material) and lately the human side of war. (I think it being in Vietnam and Cambodia that we have had to talk about war and why humans behave the way they do.) The irony doesn’t escape me that sometimes we talk about our next travel destinations…can you believe we are thinking our holiday for next year July already! Sometimes we just talk absolute nonsense, because we can!

Our conversations may have changed but there are so many elements that are the same. Having a growing child that is putting her feelers out testing where the boundaries are, sometimes overstepping them and occasionally realising to her delight that the boundary has stretched further than she thought. Charlotte has grown up this year, not just physically but emotionally too. There are moments when we hear her input into family conversations and realise that she is in many ways older than her 10 years, not to mention she has developed a wicked sense of humour! On a side note though, we still have to remind Charlotte to brush her teeth everyday just like at home …so somethings NEVER change!

As I finish up this blog there is a family of 6 having lunch near us and their kids are restless and want to leave. The parents are relaxing and enjoying their beers. There is a whine…responded to with a stern “just be patient, we’ve been doing fun things for you all morning. Not everything revolves around your immediate wants, believe it, or not!” … so glad to be reminded all families have those moments.

So what’s my conclusion? We are the “same same but different” Bungey family!