My Daily Roadtrip

Archive for the tag “moving back to America”

The 6th of each month and remembering

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.


March 2014 – © Katie Friesen Photography

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.


The life I wouldn’t have chosen

Here is the rundown on the last 14 or so years of my life … (don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief):

  • 2000: graduate from Winona State University with my BSN-Nursing; move to St. Paul, MN to work as a nurse at St. Paul Children’s Hospital
  • 2001: leave nursing, go on staff with The Navigators, move to Ithaca, NY, for a 1-2 year internship with The Navs at Cornell University
  • 2003: finish my internship, move to Cedar Falls, IA, and work as a RN at an ophthalmology clinic (translation: working with people & their eyes)
  • 2006: move to St. Louis, MO, to pursue a master’s degree in counseling at Covenant Seminary
  • 2007: marry Shun-Luoi
  • 2008 (summer): move to Manitou Springs, CO, to live “for the summer” and finish up my final 2 master’s classes remotely as Shun-Luoi works for a local non-profit organization
  • 2008 (fall): move to Pagosa Springs, CO, to be on staff with Summit Ministries’ gap-year “Summit Semester” program
  • 2008 (winter): move back to Manitou after semester program is finished (this was the plan)
  • 2009: graduate (remotely) with my master’s degree, give birth to a beautiful baby boy named Elijah
  • 2010: move for a brief stint to Longmont, CO, to explore moving into the more urban area of Denver, CO; move back to Manitou in the fall, give birth to a beautiful baby girl named Abigail
  • 2012-2013: decide that we’re moving short-term to Thailand to base Shun-Luoi’s humanitarian business; sort through and sell the majority of our possessions, move to Thailand in April 2013
  • 2014: make the decision to move back to America in the spring of this year

On a side note, Shun-Luoi and I were talking about some specifics regarding our future recently and he mentioned that we should maybe wait until I was a bit more rested because he knows I find it harder to talk about certain things and make decisions at later hours of the day. I laughed and told him that wasn’t really possible because I hadn’t felt “more rested” since, um … 2006, before I began graduate school and had kids. I was right, and after reading the above list, I think I need to go take a nap. 😉 On a more serious note, I wrote that all out to show that I obviously haven’t really lived the ahem, “conventional” American life.

I realize that things are changing in that many people (in countries such as America -I realize this is not a worldwide phenomenon) choose to do things differently than graduating, settling into one career, settling into a particular area of the country, and staying there until they retire. I don’t think things have all changed for the better, as I believe that my generation and those behind me could grow in their ability to commit, especially to hard things, among other things. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to try different things if we’d like and that is a privilege. Despite the changing tide, however, it’s still easy for me to feel the pressure to live the more conventional American life and to wonder what others think because we’re not. But friends, God has just not led that way in our life together thus far.

But let me tell you something. Anyone who really knows me deeply, who knows my personality and my preferences, would know that if left to myself I would not choose this path. I wouldn’t. I can struggle with being too rigid at times, I can be a black and white thinker to a fault, I tend to “dream small” (not something I apologize for, but it’s a factor), I have a history of dealing with some anxiety, and I prefer adventure within a controlled setting. Now, take a look at that run-down of my last 14 years again … do you think someone like me would choose that many changes, an international move, and everything else involved with each major thing I listed there?

Not unless they’re crazy. I wouldn’t have chosen this life for myself. But, I’m so glad the life I live is mine. I’m (most of the time) thankful for the fact that God has asked me to do things I wouldn’t have naturally chosen, because it has meant that I am pushed out of that aforementioned rigidity, black and white thinking, fear, and anxiety. I am pushed beyond myself and while not comfortable at times, it’s rich. I believe I’m becoming more fully who He created me to be, which has huge ramifications on how I love and serve Him and others.

The next place we move is one we’d love to be in, Lord-willing, for a good chunk of time. After all, there is much good to be found in putting down roots and investing deeply in the people and things around you. But “conventional American life” or not, it’s bound to be an adventure.

Sign me up. (gulp)

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.



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