Before I came to live in Thailand, I lived in Shanghai for a year. I was teaching at a very large and prestigious international school there, and was lucky enough to be teaching one of the best classes I have ever worked with.
If you’ve never been to China during Chinese New Year, you won’t have any idea just how noisy it is. Since the Chinese invented fireworks back in the 7th Century, they have banded together as a nation and decided that they should try to let off as many as possible in the weeks around the Chinese New Year festival. It’s absolutely deafening, and because of this, many expat families living there leave China and seek a little peace and quiet in some other place around the world.
Sofia, big brother Paolo, and Mum and Dad, managed to escape Shanghai, and the interminable racket of the Chinese fireworks, and came to stay in my very own little town of Hua Hin, here in Thailand. I should maybe point out that I don’t actually own the town - I just live there.
There’s a kind of unwritten rule that teachers are not supposed to have favourites amongst the children in their classes, but Sofia was a child that I simply couldn't help but love to teach. She was bubbly and infectiously happy, intelligent and forever hardworking, all qualities that made her a pleasure to teach.
I was lucky enough to meet up with Sofia and her lovely family during their holiday, when we had dinner at a restaurant down on one of the piers that look out over the ocean. We had a delicious meal, and ate more food than it should have been possible for seven people to eat, and spent the evening chatting and sharing stories about what has been going on in our lives since we last saw one another.
Sadly, my little friend has now headed home to Shanghai, but Mum and Dad have assured me they will be back next year for another visit... I can’t wait. Maybe I won’t have to, if I am lucky enough to score a Visiting Author Day back at my old school sometime soon. Until then, I will think fondly of one of my favourite readers, and treasure the evening our families shared together down on the pier.