In honor of the upcoming release of the final book in the Girls’ Night Out Series, I thought I’d do a few blog posts on where I was at in my life when I wrote each story.
Stella and Bas journey from Silicon Valley to a tropical paradise and back, finding love and passion along the way. This book was written after the move I mentioned in the last post. My darling husband is an ambitious man, and when he approached me with the idea of maybe working abroad if the opportunity arose, I was enthusiastic, thinking it would be years before that ever became a possibility. Three months later…Hello, Singapore! My parents’ only grandchildren were 2 and 4, and I was moving them to the far side of the world. Thankfully, I have adventurous parents. We took six months to settle into our new home, visiting all the tourist (and not-so-tourist) spots in Singapore, exploring the parks and gardens, getting our routines and safety net set up. There is nothing so comforting as being able to fill out a school form with confidence. Doctor? Check. Dentist? Check. Emergency contact? Check.
Once we were settled in and feeling confident that our kids had an array of foreign food choices they would happily eat, we began to adopt more of the expat lifestyle, namely traveling at the drop of a hat. Three day weekend? Let’s go to Indonesia. Free Sunday? Golf is cheaper in Malaysia. Back-to-back Teacher Institute Day and Bank Holiday? Thailand, here we come. The international schools recognize that travel is a formative part of many of their students’ lives, and there are multiple week-long breaks throughout the school year. One of these breaks lined up with my 34th birthday, so my husband combined my Christmas and Birthday present and gave me a trip. Anyone who knows me knows that I despise getting a combination Christmas/birthday present due to childhood angst over losing a gift, but this present was so amazing I wasn’t even bothered!
Not only did he say, “Let’s go to Bali for your birthday!” he planned the whole trip. That’s right, ladies! (Yes, he’s a keeper and no, I don’t share him.) Up to this point, I had planned all of our trips, including New Delhi and Chennai, India; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Bintan, Indonesia; and The Maldives. But he did everything, from booking the flights and hotels, to arranging a cooking class and excursions while we were there. It was truly a gift of his time and regard, as well as his funding. Little did I know, the gift was going to keep on giving.
On the morning of my actual birthday, he took me and the girls out for brunch. He was acting coy, and I figured he’d invited some girlfriends to surprise me. I had made a lovely group of lady-friends in Singapore, and no one had said a thing about my birthday. I walked into the restaurant and froze. No friends. No confetti. No shouts of surprise. Just my mom and my dad sitting at a table, waiting for us to arrive.
He knew I was homesick, having not been able to go home for Christmas and having just had a major surgery far from home. So he flew my parents halfway around the world to surprise me for my birthday. That right there is true love, folks. I had no idea how much I needed that hug until I was wrapped up in the middle of it, with tears of happiness streaming down my face. I’m getting choked up again as I write this! It took me a solid hour to put together the fact that they were going to be coming along with us to Bali! (This was his real motivation for doing all the planning. He needed a room and flights for 6, not 4.) Everything that you see described through Stella’s POV on the island is a direct reflection of my own observations while we were there. I will post a few pertinent pictures if you want to see what she “saw.”
Stella’s personality took on a life of it’s own, but her early sketches were based on one of my dear girlfriends from college who is traveling the globe doing amazing work and searching for her own Mr. Right. The airplane scene delighted her. “Definitely something I would do…”
Her hero, Bas, is selfishly the person I wish she would meet because it would settle her closer to me and my girls who adore their Auntie/Godmother.
He is also a composite sketch of a lot of the men I have met living here in the tech capital of the world. I may have taken some liberties with the realities of being a CEO for the sake of the story, but I hope it still reads true. Thanks for reading with me.
Photos in order: My surprise, offerings at the market, calamansi & mangosteen, The spice lady at the wet market, Dewi my cooking instructor, the mangrove forest, a hidden shrine in the mangroves, three plates from a fancy restaurant that inspired the one in the book, sunset on the beach, frangipani flowers, rice paddies where I set the yoga retreat, terraced rice fields, the volcano, protected ancient tree at Tempak Siring, my sarong, the founts, my husband getting "wealth" shot straight up his nose, the beautifully clear natural spring that feeds the temple springs.