My Daily Roadtrip

Archive for the tag “life in Thailand”

The why behind the move

That nice little title makes it sound like I’m going to give a very neat and easily understandable explanation as to why we’re moving back to America, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, I snuck it into my last blog post, so in case you didn’t know … we’re moving back. Next month.

But sometimes the “whys” behind things aren’t so easy to understand, are they? And then communicating that non-easily understandable “why” to someone else? Even harder. I’ll tell you the reasons that aren’t behind us leaving … that could be a good starting point.

We aren’t leaving because anything is wrong. We aren’t leaving because we couldn’t deal with living overseas. Well there were times I haven’t dealt well with it, but that was just part of it all; either way, it’s not a reason we’re leaving. We aren’t leaving because I just couldn’t handle one more meal that involved rice (although I wonder somedays …).

We’re leaving because God’s next things for us as a family are not here in Thailand, but back in America. It’s a very long and very emotional story and this isn’t the space in which to share it all, but I’ll give the nutshell version. At the end of December, I began a hiatus from Facebook . When I shared this with people and deactivated my account, my last status shared that we’d decided to stay another year in Thailand. And we had. I was emotionally and mentally gearing up for another year and we felt good about it; I was excited about settling in here. In January, things began to get interesting. Shun-Luoi had a job offer from an organization based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In the process of talking and praying about whether or not he was supposed to take the job and we were to move to Phnom Penh, an entire barrel (not a can, but a barrel) of worms was opened. We began discussing everything in regards to how we were doing here as a family, whether or not Shun-Luoi was thriving in his career, Shun-Luoi’s creative vision and how it’s drastically changed over the past year, the values we most wanted to live according to as a family, and whether or not we should move to Cambodia, stay here in Thailand, or … even move back to America. The American option surprised us, but because God was clearly bringing it up, it needed to be considered and prayed about. That led to weeks of intense discussion, much prayer, more discussion, tears (me), and stress. It wasn’t a clear “aha!”-type decision. But, after all was said in done, we decided that, while staying in Thailand was a good option, moving back to America was the better option in light of the factors we could see.

And so we made the hard decision that we were going to leave. Leave even though relationships here have been sweeter than ever recently. Leave even though we will not get to reap much of what was sown during the difficulty of the past year here. Leave even though the experience has offered us rich opportunities that we may never have again. Leave even though the details of what we are returning to are hazy. But this we do know; God’s timing for us to leave is now.

I don’t know all the reasons behind why we’re leaving. So, if this post leaves you with more questions than you had originally … well, you can join in with the “I’m not sure I understand’s,” of our family. I’ll share more as it develops, but this one thing I’ll say. God is doing some crazy stuff and setting the stage to show up in big ways in the lives of the Fong family. So we’ll wrap up things here, say some heartache-inducing good-byes, and return to America to pursue some new possibilities there.

And we’ll trust God with all of the why’s.

 

 

Not so different after all

Hands down, the best thing about living in Thailand is the opportunity to engage people of many different cultures. We get to engage Thai culture, but because there is a fairly large expat community here, we’ve also had the opportunity to talk with and learn from people from many different countries on numerous continents.

For instance, I am learning a lot about Swedish culture from our Swedish friends who just live down the road. My ancestry is largely Swedish, but learning about Swedish culture from family who is several generations removed from Sweden is very different from learning from those who have actually grown up there. It has been so fascinating and I at times worry that my consistent question-asking will be off-putting to our kind friends. Thankfully, they’re super gracious about it, so for now, I’ll keep asking my questions. And then there are our British friends – I am coming to appreciate the use of different words, such as “lovely” and “brilliant.” (On a side note, I think everyone should have some British friends; I could listen to that accent all day!) I am learning more about national health care, which countries make up the UK, and that the same English words often mean different things to them than they do to me. And although there are currently language barriers that prevent me from learning all the things about Thai culture that I would like to, I am learning a lot simply by observing, talking to others who have lived here longer, and talking with the Thai who speak a bit more English.

As you can imagine, there are many differences between the American culture I was raised in and the cultures of those we are meeting and now live amidst. Some of these differences are significant, some are slight. However, beyond the differences, there is much that is the same. Hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes; we all have them. Even more importantly, each person has incredible value, dignity, and something to offer those around them. In some ways, we aren’t so different after all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

© D. Shun-Luoi Fong

My husband recently started a new project called, “A Shared Humanity,” which explores just that; the things that show we are, at the core, not so different as we might think. He has been spending a considerable amount of time each week meeting and engaging with people from around the world in order to learn more about their own life and story. He also creates a portrait of each person and then shares a piece of their story on the site. Shun-Luoi leaves it up to you to engage with each story and see how you may or may not identify with each person, but even if the circumstances of that person’s life are drastically different from yours, chances are that you might just find some commonalities between you and them. This is your chance to engage people of cultures you might not have the opportunity to engage. Take it! I encourage you to click on each image, to really look into the eyes of the people in each imagine, and to consider the things they’ve shared.

In addition, strongly consider getting out of your own cultural comfort zone and seek out people from other cultures in order to learn from them and possibly even share of yourself with them. If you keep at it long enough, I think you’ll be surprised at the ways in which you’re more similar than you expected.  I promise you these experiences will be rich, even if different than you might expect. There will be probably be cultural faux paus committed, one of you or the other might have to muddle through a concept that doesn’t translate easily into the other’s culture, and there might even be language barriers. I realize I’m in an unique position in which to do this, but I think the majority of us can find someone of a different culture (and think of “culture” a bit more broadly than even just nationality, ethnicity, and race) who lives around us. It might take a bit of work, but do it anyway.

I’m not trying to minimize our differences, because I admit that they can be significant, and even challenging at times. But you might also come to discover, that in some ways, we’re not so different after all …

What I’m realizing about “home”

Home.

I’ve heard the word, the discussions on what “home” means to different people, and have read numerous blog posts about the concept in the last year. And as you might expect, it’s a fairly big topic for those living outside of their passport country. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m even a bit tired of the conversation; not because it’s a bad one, but because I’ve been, in a sense, forced to consider the topic a lot these last 10 months.

I wasn’t looking to explore the topic of home, but moving away from the country you’ve grown up and known, and in which you are known to a degree you can’t be outside of it, somewhat forces you into considering it whether you want to or not. With that being said, I thought I’d explore what I’ve learned about the idea of home by writing about it. I’m comfortable – well, as much as someone who would, if left to my own preference and devices, put all of life into neat little boxes – knowing that my thoughts about home will shift and change the longer I live and the more I experience.

Before we moved to Thailand, I would have probably said, with about 95% confidence, that home is wherever I am with my husband and children. I’ve seen some pretty cool-looking wall decor that says, “Home is wherever I am with you” (denoting being with that special someone) and I like the thought. I really do. However, I could not hang such a sign in my house after learning what I have in the past year. My sign would have to say something like, “Home is largely … but not completely … wherever I am with you.” As much as I think such decor would bring about some interesting conversation with dinner guests, I think I’ll probably pass on having such a sign made for our walls at this time.

That idea that home is wherever I am with my husband and kids? It’s true, but I now would add some additional factors to a place being home. In the past year, I’ve discovered that, for me at least, the concept is a much more complex one than I had originally thought.

As I get older, I understand more and more that to be truly home is to be fully in the presence of God, the one who created me, knows me perfectly, and who made a way (Jesus) that I could be in perfect relationship with Him. The One in whose presence all that is broken and wrong with this world will fade away. I’ve now personally experienced or witnessed enough pain and consequences of both my own brokenness, as well as that of others, to be convinced deep down in my soul that this world is not as it should be. Because of this, I long for that eternal home more than I ever have, in varying degrees based on the day and my current circumstances.

But since my residence is currently set up on this earth, I now wrestle through what this concept of home currently means for me. As already established, it does, among other things, currently include being in the same place as my husband and two children. But beyond that, I now believe it includes being in a place where I am, in large part, understood by the culture and where I also understand – at least somewhat – the culture.

a few different aspects of "home" to me

a few different aspects of my current “home”

I remember the day months ago when I realize that I would never be very understood within Thai culture. This doesn’t sound like a profound realization; after all, why would I? I’m a guest in Thailand and I get that. We speak different languages, have very different histories (both as people and as the countries we’re from), and are very different culturally. But to feel in my gut that I live in a country where the majority of those around me will never culturally understand me? (Knowing that I’ll never completely understand them is also something I’ve considered, but that’s something to explore later.) That I’ll always be different? That, even if I could understand the language well (which I can’t beyond a very basic level), there will always be cultural nuances that I would have to explain because the way I think as a foreigner, and as an American, is very different? It brings about emotions hard to process. Such a realization can lend itself to a general feeling of lostness – how can I actually find my place here in Thailand if I’ll never “fit in?” It can also bring about a sense of loneliness, a general gut and heart “ache” at times.

Both things made me realize that America – or maybe more accurately, American culture (or at least parts of it) – is part of home for me. If I remained in Thailand for the rest of my life, I’m sure it would come to feel more like home. But knowing that I belong, in a sense that I never will here, in America, makes my passport nation – and its culture – part of home to me. That realization came as a surprise to me, although maybe it shouldn’t have. I just thought that home would be only wrapped up in the living of life with particular people, not with being part of a particular culture.

Maybe my thoughts on what home is will shift, maybe even in the near future. I’m guessing it will. Ah yes, yet another concept that refuses to be put away neatly in its own little box. As a result, I guess I’ll keep on living, considering, and understanding more about just what home means to me.

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My husband has an ongoing personal project that explores the concept of home through interview, still photography, and video footage of various people of different ages, race, and geographical location within the United States (hopefully to be expanded soon!). Check it out here – look for “the home project.”

My phrase for 2014

I have read multiple blog posts lately about the one word that people have chosen to guide their 2014. I like this idea better than making a list of specific goals for the new year. While I believe that making yearly goals and starting with one word to characterize your year are very similar in purpose, I like how beginning with one word sets up a framework, more of the big picture from which to work, for the year. That works better for who I am because I naturally tend toward getting sucked into the details of life and forgetting, or not even knowing in the first place, what the big picture is; why the details are important, and what the smaller ideas all point toward.

I liked the idea, but when I thought about 2014 and all I was hoping for in it, I just couldn’t come up with one word. All my thoughts came in phrases. So, I decided to throw the whole idea out.

Just kidding. I didn’t. And while you may laugh at the idea, there are those times when I throw something out because I can’t get it to “fit” just right within certain parameters, even when there’s plenty of freedom in which to move and flex the parameters. But I’m learning that more of life than not doesn’t fit all nice and neat into the little categories and the “black and whiteness” that I want it to fit. But I digress. Back to my phrase for 2014 …

Settle in. 

I find that it can be hard to settle in at times … to different roles I play, ongoing tasks that are just part of life, and to where I live (both geographically as well the specific house we currently view as part of our “home”), among other things. And by “settling in,” I am referring to the mindset and actions through which I embrace all of those different things, get comfortable in my own skin in each of them, become content in particular areas in which I’ve been discontent, and put down roots where needed.

I realize this sounds fairly vague, but bear with me as I continue to think it all through myself. Here’s an example. When we first moved to Colorado back when I was finishing up graduate school, we decided that we were just moving there for the summer. Well, things changed and we ended up staying for five years. Even during those years, we thought we might be moving on from Colorado at some point, but didn’t know when. As I result, there were areas in which I didn’t settle in. I never full decorated any of the 7 houses/cabins (yes, 7!) we lived in during those years. I probably wasn’t as intentional in some relationships as I should have been and wanted to be, because I wasn’t sure when were were leaving. In some senses, I never mentally settled into the mindset that “this is home” until we neared the end of those 5 years – and by that point, we knew we were going to move to Thailand.

Although it’s hard to have the “this is home” mindset (key to settling in, in my opinion) when you’re somewhere for an undetermined amount of time, I know it has to be possible. I’ve seen it happen. When we lived in CO, we got to know a family who was living in Colorado Springs for 1 year due to a temporary transfer with the husband’s company. I watched them jump right in to life in the Springs as they got involved in a church, in community goings-ons, and in relationships. It was incredibly inspiring to watch them seemingly not hold back merely because they were just going to be there for one year. And you know what? They ended up extending their stay for one additional year and then, when given the opportunity to stay indefinitely with the company office in the Springs, they took it and are living there indefinitely. But what if they hadn’t settled in that first year because they knew they were leaving? I think they would have missed out in multiple ways. But  they didn’t and I learned a lot from watching them.

Although an international move has its own specific set of nuances, many of the principles of the need to “settle in” remain. I don’t know how long we’ll be in Thailand, but what does it look like for us to settle in here?

And beyond that specific example, what does it look like to better settle into the role of being a mom and wife in ways I have not previously? Into being an adult in areas where I’ve resisted and wanted to remain a child? Into other areas of life where I, for whatever reasons, have not settled in?

I’m not sure. But I’m hoping and praying that 2014 will be characterized by such things. Here’s to the new year … and to settling in.

When you think of the new year, what words or phrases (or long, run-on sentences ;)) do you want to guide and characterize your 2014? 

When you’re not a tourist

I always find it slightly amusing when people seem to think that I live an exotic life full of weekly elephant rides, hanging out at the beach (the closest which is around a 10-hour drive away), and soaking up the tropical sun. Sorry to disappoint folks, but I live here. I’m not a tourist. Imagine your daily life. My life is probably fairly similar to yours in many ways; it’s just that I happen to be in Thailand. Granted, that in and of itself introduces some huge nuances to how I live life, but the point is that living somewhere is very different from being a tourist in that same place.

Sorry, but I don't live here ...

Sorry, but this is not the view* out my front window …

In that vein, I thought it would be fun to share ten things that set me apart from a tourist:

  1. I do not walk around wearing a large backpack on my back … or my front (seen a lot).
  2. My “to-do” list for the week does not (usually) include visiting Doi Suthep, the Elephant Conservatory, exploring the Old City, or taking a Thai cooking class.
  3. I do not have a return ticket to the country I came from. That is no small thing. It is much easier to say, “Well, I can deal with anything for 5 weeks,” than to deal with difficulties due to the move that will last an undetermined amount of time.
  4. I am not only in Thailand between the months of October and January (cool season).
  5. I do not walk around the streets of Chiang Mai with an opened Lonely Planet: Thailand book.
  6. I know how to say more than “sawatdee kah” (hello – feminine) and “khap khun kah” (thank you – feminine). Not much more, mind you; I speak Thai at around a 2 year-old level (if that), but I do know a few additional phrases and words.
  7. I do not ride around in a tuk tuk with my feet propped up in the air. To put it simply, “feet are regarded as unclean and symbolically (as well as physically) the lowest part of the body” (source) in Thailand. The “raised foot in the tuk tuk”maneuver is a cultural faux pas and I (now) realize that.
  8. I am not amazed on a daily basis at how cheap everything here seems. Granted, the cost of living here is lower than in America and I am not complaining about that one bit. However, I realize that some things (ie. a car/truck) can actually be more expensive than in my home country. I also have come to expect lower prices for many things and balk at times when certain things here have American price tags.
  9. I know that Thailand is more than simply “The Land of Smiles.” Like any culture, it has its dark areas, ways of doing things that can drive one mad, and is not all that it may initially seem.
  10. Although Chiang Mai has been ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, our family leaves Chiang Mai to vacation.

No, I don’t think I’m better than the tourists who come through Chiang Mai. However, I am different. And now my perspective has been forever been changed about living in other countries … if Shun-Luoi and I ever talk about different places we’d like to visit and they seem so romantic and perfect, I now think, “Yeah, but what would it be like to live there?” Chances are, everyday life wouldn’t be as romantic and perfect as you imagine it would be.

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble about living overseas or about our life here. I do hope that we get to ride elephants sooner than later and we are currently in the beginning stages of planning a beach trip. I am acutely aware that these (among many other experiences) are amazing opportunities that most will never have and I’m really grateful for even the prospect of experiencing them. But for now, I’ll head back to my grocery shopping and laundry-folding.

Because I live here.

 

* photo credit: mrkt (sxc.hu)

The things I’m getting used to (or not) here

In order to share some of the nuances of everyday life here in Thailand, I thought I’d write about things in terms of how comfortable  (or not) I have become with them or how I have (or haven’t) gotten used to each thing. For the sake of brevity, I won’t be expounding much on each one, but feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comment section and I’ll tell you more …

So far in Thailand,

I have gotten used to the sinks in my house having two options – off and on. (Well, to be honest, I can have more or less pressure if I want, but there are no hot vs. cold water options.)

I have grown comfortable with the navigation of the local hospital in order to check in, be seen by a doctor in the emergency room, and pay my bill. This one is compliments of my son, who recently had a run-in with one of our sinks falling off the wall, shattering, and cutting one of his legs fairly badly. After seven visits to the ER for stitches, bandage changes, and check-ups, I’m quite comfortable with the process.

I have not gotten used to seeing older, white, western men out and about with their young Thai girlfriends.

I have gotten used to seeing stray dogs running around just about anywhere and everywhere. I have not yet gotten used to said dogs barking, yipping, and sometimes riling up our entire neighborhood of pet dogs (who are enclosed within their gates). To be honest, it is one of my least favorite parts of living here.

I am getting used to how many of the smaller stores, restaurants, and coffee shops here are open … well, just when they are. A daily schedule of when they are or aren’t open? Not so much. In addition, these stores will often be there one day and gone the next with no explanation.

I have not gotten used to how, once you make friends here, they will care for you like family even if you’ve only know each other for 4 or less months. However, I absolutely love it! It really is unique and I am learning a lot because of it.

I am not always comfortable with the amount of attention (and sometimes touching) my children often attract when we are out.

These 2 cuties get A LOT of attention when in public!

These 2 cuties get A LOT of attention when in public!

I have gotten used to paying certain prices for particular foods, coffee, and the like, and now am slightly indignant when I have to pay $2 USD for an iced latte rather than $1 USD. I know, I know, I’m going to experience “sticker shock” big-time when I return to the States for the first time!

I have gotten quite comfortable driving on the left side of the road, although I often still head to the wrong side (left side) of our truck to get in when I drive (the steering wheel is located on the right side here), and sometimes still turn on the windshield wipers when I mean to flip the turn signal (reversed from how they are in American vehicles).

I have not yet gotten used to those times when we are the only white people amidst a sea of Thai, such as when at the market, at the park when the Thai are out exercising, or at the local hospital. I’m ok with that – I think everyone should at times be forced to be in places where they are somehow the minority, as it challenges the way you think and look at things and people.

I have grown comfortable with the fact that small geckos live in my walls and ceiling and run wherever they please whenever they please. I have not grown comfortable with how these geckos also poop wherever they please. Nasty!

leaving our shoes outside the room we went to a meeting in

leaving our shoes outside a meeting room

I have gotten used to having to take off my shoes at the door of some businesses, gatherings, etc.

I am growing more comfortable having to use squatty potties at times when in public bathrooms. I am still getting used to the fact that these public bathrooms often do not have toilet paper, soap, or paper towel available in them.

I am not used to, and am in fact uncomfortable with, the fact that the majority of public advertising in Chiang Mai uses only white models or light-skinned Asian models. (In America, darker skin is often considered more “beautiful.” Here in Thailand, however, lighter skin is considered to be more “beautiful.”)

I am getting a bit more used to there being a different set of “rules of the road” to which people abide to here. I am still getting used to the graciousness of Thai drivers (Road rage? The only time I really experience that is when I ride with westerners!), but being a new driver here, I am grateful for it!

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, folks! Maybe I’ll share more in a “part 2” post at some point in the future. Until then, you’ve gotten an idea of some of the things we encounter in daily life here and how comfortable (or not) I’ve grown with them.

“So, do you like it here?”

About a month ago, I was hanging out with a group of women and  was talking with one in particular who had just arrived in Chiang Mai 1.5 weeks before. In the midst of our conversation she asked the question,

“So, do you like it here?”

Umm, do I what? Like it here? This may not seem like that difficult of a question, but I don’t think anyone has asked me that since I moved here. I’ve been asked many things, but not that question in particular. And you know what? I didn’t know what to say. I had to stop and think. Even after doing so, I gave some kind of feeble answer because it was a question that was actually bigger than I knew how to process at the time.

To be honest, even after 5 months of living here, I’m still somewhat in “survival mode.” Survival mode is the place where you feel fairly incompetent at most things and a high level of baseline stress is palpably present on more days than not. It’s the place where you spend a lot of time figuring out things like how to make tasty but cost-effective meals using local ingredients and how to get your clothes clean and mildew-free even though it’s rainy season and you don’t have hot water in your washer. It’s the season when you engage hard questions such as, “How do I continue to care well for those around me when my own world has been so rocked?”  While I’ve learned a lot about living here in the past 5 months, the overall learning curve continues to be high and I have no idea when it will level out (or does it?).  I definitely enjoy and find joy in many things here. However, when so consumed with relearning how to complete everyday responsibilities, working through my own personal struggle, and caring for my family and home, it’s hard to think about whether or not I like it here.

But, I can think of multiple things I like as a byproduct of living here:

  • I “like” that I have to walk by faith in Jesus during everyday life here on a more consistent basis than ever before. This is the kind of “like” that is painful, but good. Wow.
  • I like that I’m encountering people and a culture very different than what I’ve always known. My world is being opened in incredible ways and I doubt (and hope) I’ll ever be the same because of it.
  • I like that my kids are becoming good friends, possibly because they only have each other as consistent playmates. This does my mother’s heart incredibly good.
  • (Somewhat related to the first one I shared) I like that I am, by God’s grace, learning to do hard things.  I am facing fears and learning to see struggle not as the enemy, but something that must be walked through with God and seen through a biblical lens. I’m learning this struggle is something through which I can be changed in really big ways. Do I like this process? Not so much most of the time, but I’m learning to be more comfortable with it.
  • I like that our family is doing this together and all the things that brings along with it.
  • I like that I have met some great people who are teaching me about living in community even when you haven’t known each other that long.
  • I like that I get to drive a motorbike. Hey, does this all need to be so heavy?

I’m glad we’re here (most days). I like much of what’s happening in our lives because we’re here. And someday, I look forward to being at the place where I can better engage the question of whether or not I like it here.

Someday, but not today.

And … it’s over

So, the honeymoon period of being here is over. And I mean, over.

I’m learning a bit about culture shock on an academic as well as personal level right now. Although sources differ, it seems there are 4 stages to experiencing culture shock for someone living in a different culture, the first being the honeymoon phase. I had heard of the honeymoon phase and will admit that I was doubtful of such a phase for a family with small children. After all, it’s not like Shun-Luoi and I could rent a motorcycle, head out to a different restaurant every night, and go riding elephants whenever we wanted to, as some may be able to do when new to the culture (which I don’t begrudge them, by the way).

However, I am now convinced that there had been a honeymoon period for us after all … because it ended two weeks ago.

I remember feeling stressed more than usual for multiple days in a row and then one day it hit me, “We live here.” I realized that we were not just here for a long vacation, that we would not be heading back to America any day soon, and that the things that were difficult about life here were going to continue to be difficult for some time. And somehow, I didn’t feel as up to the various challenges of figuring out the answers to many of the questions I had about day-to-day living here. The things that had seemed somewhat difficult the week before now seemed much, much more difficult. Add to that the specific frustrations of the ongoing heat, not being able to drive yet, the lack of a strong support system, and a bit of fear brought on by the prediction of a record-breaking dengue fever season and well, it’s been an emotional roller coaster.

Me drinking some fresh coconut water ... way better than a picture of me crying because of culture shock ;)

Here I am drinking some fresh coconut water … WAY better than a picture of me crying because of culture shock!

People tell me that what I’m experiencing is normal. It’s helpful to hear that, to know that maybe I’m not just a freak. That maybe I will be able to handle living in another culture. And yet, as my mind always asks in situations that include struggle; “How on earth do I do this?” On days when I sit in my kitchen, cry, and tell God, “I don’t want to be here right now,” how do I walk forward in faith? By the way, it’s not like I want to run back to America. It’s just that there are moments when I don’t want to be here. Did you get that? Me either, to be honest. But then I realize that what I really want is for things to feel easier. I don’t want to face the fact that this emotional roller coaster could last for months and that some of the current challenges will continue for the unforeseen future.

I can mentally assent to the truth that a life of ease is never anything I was promised as a follower of Jesus – I get that. But that doesn’t answer my question of what to do when the difficulties come. Or when the overwhelming feelings threaten to sweep me away. A wiser, older friend back in Colorado encouraged me (via Skype – how grateful I am for technology!) to think of it not simply in terms of difficulty or ease, but in terms of contentment. Can I, like Paul of the Bible, learn to be content in whatever circumstance I’m in, whether easy or difficult? Can I, as another friend encouraged me, not seek to rush through this stage of the current process I’m in?  Will I really lean into it (still figuring out what that really means), experience all that God has for me right now, and allow Him to meet me in the midst of it?

Um, yes?

By God’s grace and by faith, yes.

And much to the chagrin of this black-and-white thinker who wishes there was a nice and neat formula for everything, I have no idea how to be content in this stage of the game, to not try to rush through the discomfort, and to allow God to minister to me in the midst of it all. I know some practical things to put into practice and steps to take. But when it comes down to it, I have no clue how it all looks and will play out.

And so I’ll walk (or crawl) through this stage by faith. I’ll start each day with, “God, please give me what I need for today. Fill me with faith, help me to exercise the faith I already have, and help me to embrace this adventure you invited us into.” I’ll do the things I know to do. I’ll simply pray, “Help me to get through this,” when I have no clue which practical steps to take.

Oh, and I’ll probably be drinking a lot of iced lattes, taking many deep breaths, and shedding plenty of tears along the way. Ah, life when the honeymoon period ends. [insert deep breath]

“Quotable quotes,” Fong style

In the Fong house, sometimes things are said after which Shun-Luoi or I comment, “Well, that’s a quotable quote.” It helps when you have a hilarious 4 year-old in the house, but even us adults come up with something of “quotable quote” nature from time to time. I’m sure it’s probably the same in your house! Today I’m sharing some recent quotes from our household as well as a bit of the back-story behind each of them. I guarantee they will give you insight into what’s going on in our lives and hope they also make you smile.

“If you need me, I’ll be curled up in the fridge.” (Shun-Luoi) It’s the “hot season” here in Thailand and Shun-Luoi made this comment last weekend during one day that seemed even hotter than usual. The heat is really draining and I agree with him that “curling up” in our refrigerator (a great mental picture) sounds pretty appealing at times.

“Obeying your father always comes before capturing birds!” (me to Elijah) Any parent knows how easy it is to be incredulous at the things that come out of your mouth when talking to your child. I have said things I never, ever dreamed I would say – and many of them in front of other people. (sigh) This particular quote came while we were attempting to leave the house recently. Trying to go anywhere with a 2 year-old and 4 year-old always feels like herding cats and this instance was no different. Shun-Luoi had asked Elijah to do something, but Elijah ran off with his fishing net talking about how he needed to go “capture birds.” Sorry son, capturing birds will have to wait when your dad asks you to do something.

“Baby, mama, daddy, baby-mama-daddy.” (Abigail, multiple times each day) I’m telling you, this girl sees the world through relationships. I don’t know if that’s common or not for most 2 year-old girls, but it is for mine. Here’s an example … we can be reading a book that has 3 elephants on one page. All 3 elephants are the same size and look exactly the same, but within seconds, Abigail has designated one to be the baby, one the mama, and one the daddy. It’s really fascinating and I love watching how she takes in the world around her.

"Dad? A little help with the frog, please?"

“Dad? A little help with the frog, please?”

“My heart was just ruined!” (Elijah) Elijah has been a regular “Tom Sawyer” of sorts recently. Last week, he has caught a worm, avery fat frog (with the help of his dad), and a butterfly. Each was set up fairly nicely in a home consisting of a garbage basket. Aftercatching the frog, he put it in the basket and I told him he would not have to put anything over the top because I figured the frog was too fat to jump out. As it turns out, I am not a frog expert and the fat little guy proved me wrong. He ended up hopping out and jumping into a nearby drain. My son came to me, declaring that his heart had been ruined because the frog had jumped away. Seriously, where did this kid hear of such a concept of one’s heart being “ruined?!” Anyway, lest you worry, he made a quick recovery when he eyed the mango I was cutting up as part of our dinner and exclaimed, “Ooh, yummy – mango!”

“You can take your “mai pen rai” and shove it!” (me) The Thai phrase “mai pen rai”  (my-pin-rye) means “no worries” or, “don’t worry about it.” Flexibility and a more laid-back approach to life in general are highly valued here in Thailand,* and you will hear this phrase often. My husband, though actually half-Chinese, is basically Thai in temperament. I’m serious. One of his sisters once said that if Shun-Luoi was any more laid-back, he would be comatose! While a bit dramatic, it is true that he can really roll with just about anything; it’s really slightly maddening quite remarkable! Truth be told, I do admire this about my husband and would like to be more like him in this way. Anyway, one of our first weeks here, he was uttering, “mai pen rai,” quite frequently regarding things that didn’t go as we had planned, had taken longer than expected, etc. One day when I *might* have been a bit stressed out, he said the phrase and I, mostly joking, told him what he could do with his “mai pen rai.” Folks, if you can’t laugh about these things, then you shouldn’t move to another country. You just have to in order to stay sane!

And those are just a few of the gems coming out of the Fong household these days!

What about your household? Any quotable quotes you’d like to share?

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* I am not claiming to be a expert on Thai culture after living here a mere 6 weeks. However, you don’t have to be here long to pick up on some of these things – plus, I have the luxury of discussing them with someone (Shun-Luoi) who previously lived in Thailand for a year. End of disclaimer. 😉

Being someone’s “rock”

It can be a scary thing to discover you’re someone else’s rock; that they look to you, in a sense, to interpret what is going on around them and for stability in the midst of anything life brings.

But I am just that. I am the “rock” my kids look to*, especially right now in the midst of crazy transitions that come from moving from America to Thailand.

I think our kids always look to us as their parents to help figure out just what’s going on in life. Then again, they are probably not trying to figure it out as much as they just need to know that everything is ok. Take for example my kids. I would not say that touch is their #1 “love language.” I mean – they are ok with being touched, but aren’t going to naturally hug someone or always need to be physically close to us. Until we moved to Thailand, that is. See the picture below? Yep, that’s about what it’s been like. Actually, I think they’re doing it a little bit less, but for the first couple weeks, they wanted to be close. Very close. Not all the time, but for a large percentage of the time. They each needed to know where exactly in the house I was if not in sight. They would fight over who would sit in my lap and if the 3 of us sat down, they had to be within about 2 inches of me. Now imagine those scenarios in 100 degree, high-humidity, weather. Wow.

Elijah, Abigail and me - getting cozy :) (excuse the box shape of Abigail's behind; they are the best diapers we have found here so far ;))

Elijah, Abigail, and me getting cozy  (excuse the box shape of Abigail’s rear end; they are the best diapers we have found here so far – ha!)

Let’s just say these times haven’t always been my favorites.

Because hey, I’m trying to figure it all out, too. I’m experiencing sensory overload, am fairly overwhelmed at least once/day, can speak very little Thai, and am trying to figure out how to accomplish even the small things in our days. I need some space to process life and if I’m honest, two little ones looking to me and needing me so close cramps “my style.” As the first days of us being here continued to pass by, I started becoming impatient easily, speaking in anger, and would often say, “Please get off me; Mama just needs a little space!”

And then, at some point last week, I felt very challenged in my attitude. I realized just how selfish I was being. How would I feel if my true Rock, God, basically told me I was being too needy during times of upheaval and transition? That I was asking too much of Him, wanting to be too close to Him, seeking too much comfort from Him? That I needed to just quit asking Him to be my stability because, good grief – He needed some space from me.

Well, ok. Consider me sufficiently challenged, God.

When I thought more about how my attitude needed to change for the sake of my children (and everybody, really), I thought more about the fact that I am the rock my children look to. One of my first thoughts was, “Oh, those poor kids.” Seriously! Me? Imperfect, impatient, easily angered, sinful me? Yikes. But yes, me – including all the aforementioned messiness. I also realized that being my children’s rock was not only a huge responsibility, but a privilege that came with being a mother. A costly privilege, but a precious one. A further realization was that of, “Oh man – I so cannot do this on my own! Only by the grace of God can I be this for my children!”

And so, by God’s grace, I will be just that, albeit imperfectly … Mama, their rock. I will let them climb up in my lap even when sweat is pouring down my face and when the scenario at hand could be pulled off more easily (ie. dinnertime) if no one was in my lap. I will let them be in the kitchen with me while I am working there even if they will possibly make a mess or get into things they should not be. When they ask me to lay next to them while they’re falling asleep, I will do it more often even though I have other things I’d like to get to.

I will also continue talking to them about Jesus, their true Rock, the one who will always be with them and never fail at being their stability and comfort. The one who will always speak the perfect truth into whatever transition (or no transition at all) or difficult circumstances they find themselves in. And hopefully, they will see a bit of Him in the way I seek to be their rock.

“There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2

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* Shun-Luoi is also a rock for our kids, but for the sake of this post, and because I am with the kids more throughout the days, I focused on the mother-child relationship.

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