You can tell a lot about a person when you announce you're moving to a foreign country. (Very foreign as it turns out - Some of them haven't even heard of it). Firstly, there were the Nutters (the ones who thought I was nuts). I might as well have said that I've got a contagious fungus festering under my left armpit and would they like to have a look.
A typical conversation with a Nutter would go something like this:
"I'm going to Phuket in July."
"Oh wonderful, I've heard it's a great vacation spot."
"Actually I'm relocating there."
"Oh come on, very funny, ha ha."
"No I'm serious."
(Cue expression of horror accompanied by gasps and eyebrow-raising).
"You mean, you're going to LIVE there? But why?"
"Er, well, I've always loved karaoke and fried rice," I'd joke.
"What are you going to DO there?"
"Well I thought I would sell my body, at least what's left of it after I've contracted a flesh-eating virus that leaves me disfigured, and of course I'll drop half my weight since all they eat there is grasshoppers washed down with diesel."
(Cue nervous smile that says: I'm not sure if you're ripping me off or if you're being serious).
"But why would you want to lose everything you've got here?" asked a work friend.
"Yeah, I know, why would I want to give up all this," I'd say, sweeping my arm over the grey office with its grey walls and grey-faced people watching the clock inch its way to 5pm. "I must be mad."
"But how do you know if you'll like it if you've never been there?" was another typical Nutter question.
"Come to think of it you're right. Beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters... Sounds awful. What was I thinking?"
"You always were such a free spirit" was another Nutter response. (In other words, you crazy hedonist, the sixties are over you know. Give it a month and you'll be back).
Of course my poor mum had visions of me lying in a gutter with a sign, "Farang needs money to fly home. Will sell body in exchange for food." I comforted her by saying that I hear they have world-class gutters in Thailand.
She tried hard to put me off the whole idea. "You know Aunt Marcy went to Thailand and she said there were no flushing toilets in the whole country. And you have to..." (she whispered conspiratorially)... "squat!" She threw a nervous glance at her own flushing toilet to make sure it was still there, no doubt saying a silent prayer to the God of Plumbing for modern appliances.
The rest of my family are Nutters too. Instead of doing crossword puzzles, my gran has another hobby: She collects news - the bloodier the better. "And did you hear about that poor woman who set herself on fire after she painted her nails and then lit her cigarette?" she said excitedly, pouring me a cup of English tea.
I tried not to focus too much on Thailand, with my highly-strung mum within earshot. "So how have you been?" gran asked. "Oh fine, works fine, Wayne's fine, we went shopping yesterday, we're moving to Thailand, and..."
"Thailand?" she perked up, downloading any horrific stories from her cerebral news archive. "Isn't that where the tsunami happened? And wasn't there a military take-over?" "Er, I squirmed in my seat, watching my mom turn pale. "Another cookie, gran?"
At one stage I was worried my mum might try track me down. I pictured a little English lady wearing binoculars and safari gear asking the ‘natives' if they'd seen a young, malnourished lady in a gutter. But I relaxed after I heard from my brother: "Mom says that you're moving to Taiwan..." Another colleague wished me a pleasant stay in Ireland (Thai-land, Ire-land... I guess they're easily confused).
Then there were the Romantics, the ones who gushed about my decision and claimed to be "soooo jealous." Cue reminiscing about the life-changing gap year they took back in their youth (most of my friends are still in their thirties) to Switzerland and how they worked three jobs at a time and didn't have enough money to buy a coat so they froze in winter, and wasn't it wonderful! So character-forming! And if only they'd stayed there and married that barman/lady, life would be so much better.
Cue dramatic sigh. "I would go tomorrow if I could. But I have a mortgage to pay off, and ten children, and responsibilities. If I were single I'd do it tomorrow. You're so lucky." Another weary sigh. I tried to explain that I wouldn't be sitting on a beach all day sipping pina colades but they refused to have their vision tarnished.
Lastly there were the Cynics. The ones who lived in Thailand for five years, got scammed by some Thai woman, and now all they can talk about is how wonderful their country is, how reliable the public transport system is, how much they missed the snow, that lying, cheating minx, etcetera etcetera.
Despite the mixed reactions from the Nutters, the Romantics and the Cynics, everything worked out fine. In fact, as long as I'm employed and not starving my mom doesn't really worry.
"How are you darling? What is it like over there?" she asked me over the phone.
"Oh it's really interesting. There's so much to see and..."
"That's nice," she said, distractedly.
"Especially the fried worms and cockroaches."
"That's lovely darling."
Of course the usual question from everyone is: When are you coming home? And for each person I have a different answer. For the Nutters and Cynics it's "soon" and for the Romantics it's "never." Let's hope my mum doesn't find out.
Leigh-Anne has her own blog at www.mrs-scribbles.com