I still remember those difficult early months after moving here (April 6, 2013) when, as the 6th of each month approached, I would think, “Three more days and then we’ll have been here three months,” or “Six more days and we’ll have made it five months!” To be honest, I probably even counted the half-month mark of each month at that point. Successfully making it through each month felt like a huge accomplishment to me!
During the 2nd part of the year, the 6th of each month began sneaking up on me and almost always caught me by surprise. I suppose this was a sign of getting over some of those initial feelings and thoughts that come when your world is rocked to the extent that mine had been. It felt good to no longer notice the 6th of every month. And then do you know what happened?
April 6, 2014, came … and went. Despite the quietness that accompanied the day, I did take note of it and even though there was no huge outward celebration, Shun-Luoi and I did spend some time remembering. Remembering what it was like to step out of the airport in Chiang Mai one year ago after 30 hours of traveling and thinking that the “hot season” wasn’t quite as hot as I thought it would be (3 days later the temperatures jumped, keeping me humble). Remembering how our new friend Pam graciously picked us up and navigated getting us and our 6 checked suitcases and multiple carry-ons successfully to our guesthouse. Remembering going to a local mall in order to get lunch (Pizza Hut!) and to withdraw Thai baht from an ATM and remembering how utterly overwhelming being in a large Thai mall was (and still is – the mall scene may be dying in America, but it is NOT in Asia; malls are large, loud, and can be super busy). Remembering thinking how utterly crazy it felt to step onto multiple planes, step off a plane over one full day later and realize that just about everything about your life has changed.
Since we made the decision to leave Thailand and as the day of our departure will soon be upon us, I find myself remembering more frequently. However, the recent remembering is also now coupled with celebration. I can easily remember the days I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drive here because of the different road “rules,” and because I’d have to drive on the opposite side of the road than I had been the previous 17 years. However, today I drove the kids somewhere and celebrated the fact that driving here no longer makes my back turn into pure knots every time I do it. I remember when I could only say “hello” and “thank you” in Thai and although I still only speak the language at about a one year-old level, I can now basically order food and drinks for my family at a Thai roadside restaurant. I remember when even a short venture out into local life here left me reeling and overwhelmed because of the sights, smells, and noises I encountered. I still feel that way at times, but can much more easily engage the culture for longer periods of time now without wanting to run home and curl up in the fetal position because of sensory overload. And on and on … remembering and celebrating, remembering and celebrating.
There is also much stress and mourning during this season of preparing to leave and return to America. But in the midst of it all, I will continue to take time to engage the fact that the time period between April of 2013 and April of 2014 will have been a rich time; one that has given me much to remember …
and much to celebrate.