“I came to Amsterdam in 2002. I had met my then boyfriend in Laos; he was from Zaanstreek. We got married here, but after ten years our relationship ended. I then lived in Amstelveen and worked on the Zeedijk as a chef.
When I first came to Amsterdam I went to a civic integration class about fifteen minute’s bike ride from my house. It was winter, and had been snowing, and I had to make my way there by bike. I found it horribly cold, I could hardly bear it. I also couldn’t distinguish between the various bridges and canals when I first arrived. I had to get used to that. I’ve actually since realised that even the Dutch find this difficult. But getting lost in Amsterdam is never a problem. You always discover something new.
My last visit to Laos was five years ago and within I week I was homesick for Amsterdam. Walking along the canals, a drink in the centre of town, riding the bike everywhere with my friends. I even missed the cold, as it can reach 40 degrees in Laos. I also missed my bull terrier, Sake. He couldn’t go with me as it’s too hot for him over there. His tummy gets sunburnt in Laos.
My family have not yet visited Amsterdam. They are afraid of flying. I FaceTime with them and then they also talk with my boyfriend. At least, they say something and I translate it. I was brought up by my grandmother as my mother died when I was two. My family know I prefer men and they accept this, even though I was never allowed to play with the girls at school. I would ask them, “why can’t I?” And my family would say, “because you’re not gay”.
My boyfriend owns an advertising company and set up a restaurant for me; Boi Boi on the Dapperstraat. It’s a Thai restaurant, and I’m the chef. I mainly cook Thai food, but occasionally try a recipe from the Southern region of Laos, or Isan food as it’s called. I get my ingredients from the Dappermarkt. I go there every day and for a short time I feel like I’m back in Laos. Everyone knows each other and greets each other; “Hoi, Kay. Good morning, Kay.” I feel like I’ve come home.”
8 people in Amsterdam have the Laotian nationality