Let’s go back in time to the first month we were here and capture some of the highlights, in pictures. I’ll hope to do this for each month since we’ve been here, as time allows (keep your fingers crossed!).
So, without further ado:
The day after we got off the plane. We stayed at our teammates Ken and Alison’s house. We have such fond fond memories of our first few days in Thailand here, where we kept pinching ourselves and saying we were here! We also slept some glorious sleep here, knowing our long journey had been completed.
Our very first Thai meal! At a restaurant called “Northern Thai” right down the road, our teammates took us here for lunch the day after we arrived, where they recommended we order Khao Soi, a dish served popularly in Northern Thailand. It’s not pictured–that is chicken wings, a fried reality the first month or two we were here, as the kids slowly acclimated to Thai flavors. Getting more Western options like this for them allowed us to eat at Thai places at all. I don’t remember being overly impressed with the Khao Soi (plus it is a hot soupy dish, and that felt somehow wrong to be eating on such a hot day), but we’ve since eaten it here again and all over Chiang Mai (it’s a staple), and it really is the best at this restaurant! It is about 30 baht, or $1 per bowl.
(disclaimer: it feels vulnerable to post our family vacation online-it feels more personal than I tend to share with an open audience. But then I’m writing this for our own memory’s sake, and I’m trusting that those who make their way here will love seeing plenty of pictures of the kids.)
We stayed in Khao Lak, an hour north of Phuket. This beach town was hit hard by the tsunami of 2005 and had to be rebuilt significantly. When Brenden made his two missions trips nearly a decade ago to help with tsunami relief efforts, he is pretty sure he was just miles from where we stayed. Small world!
We were grateful for our little hotel room. We just needed something basic, and it was special to have so much uninterrupted family time.
We got creative with nap times, pulling the curtains around Maja’s crib (which the hotel provided) and putting Emerson in the bathroom. Maybe both options are kind of gross, but we were still jet-lagging and needed our sleep.
Watching Cars with Daddy–a rare treat to watch such a full-length feature. We did a lot of lounging and recuperating from several very intense months of preparations. In fact, these first couple weeks, I have more pictures than one would think possible of sleeping babies in big beds.
Maja’s favorite “elephant pool”.
We did a lot of playing on the beach.
The kid’s got some serious swagger.
The beach we were at reminded me more of the serene, quiet NC beaches than the tropical, exotic paradises you see in pictures of Thai beaches. The sky was huge and never-ending (my favorite).
A lot of observing new things. I still find Maja crouched down looking at this or that bug.
The truth is we ate a lot of french fries. And we can’t blame the Western cravings on the kids alone (I wasn’t expecting that either). We ate our meals with symphony recordings of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak my Heart” and operatic singers trying out Mariah Carey’s “Hero”. The 1990s covers, done in all genres, literally made me laugh out loud and feel happy. Thailand loves some 90’s music!
Halfway through the stay, the hotel staff approached us and said they wanted to upgrade us to a pool villa on the other side of the property to give us “the most perfect beach holiday” or something like that. For free! We were over-the-moon and so happy to spread out some more. (The little private pool was just steps outside the sliding doors of this room–I’m not sure we’ll ever get this opportunity again!)
Slippery floors and a spilt glass of milk made for some glass in the forehead.
But it didn’t keep Emi down for long.
We were so grateful for this chance to catch our breaths before heading back to Chiang Mai.
We met some wonderful staff and other travelers from around the world and also got our first taste of just how much attention little Western kids can attract. Staff people would try to take pictures with our kids, and they would touch and get inside the kids’ personal spaces. Pretty quickly, Maja learned to assert herself with a loud “No” and an arm swing or two. That was a major grappling for me as a mom this first month–how can I support my daughter and protect her feelings of safety and personal space while still trying to connect with the Thai people who are giving this attention. I regret to say I erred on the side of asking Maja too often to accomodate others’ requests because when she would, it was so neat to see how happy they’d get (we came to Thailand to connect, right?!). This is a slow learning curve, and even months later, it continues to be an area that requires my vigilance and continued growth, for my sweet daughter’s sake.
I had my first rub with class and life here too. We got to know a Filipino staff worker early on, who shared that she worked here at the resort in order to support her 5-year-old daughter back in the Philippines. She wasn’t on great terms with the father, and it made the most sense for their situation for her to be the one working. She hadn’t seen her daughter in several months. Oh my heart. To be away from your baby. By the end of our stay, she updated us that she couldn’t do it any longer and was heading back home. She was going to try to work things out with the dad, who was going to take his turn heading to a neighboring country to work. I was relieved for her, but heavy-hearted to rub shoulders and share hearts with someone whose life situation looked so different than my own. There have been handfuls more of these realities that I’ve had to look in the eye since being here (which stir up rather thunderous thoughts on privilege, lifestyle, and how I can respond with my own choices).
Upon returning to C.M., an immediate search for houses began. Craig and Kara, our teammates, drove us through neighborhoods for an afternoon, where we wrote down numbers of all the “for rent” signs we saw. Holding the kids in our laps in the backseat felt very, well, third-world and exciting (scary) to me. They, as you can imagine, were happy as larks. This is a picture of them in front of a rental home we checked out.
Craig, Kara, and Jake. As head of HR, Craig faithfully guided us through every step of the process in the year leading up to our arrival. They took amazing care of us our first few days here, and then promptly flew to America for 5 weeks, giving us the keys to their home and truck. I know God knew this is how it would work out timing-wise, and we thank Him for this bit of independence as we made big decisions and acclimated.
Our first map. With some phone problems over the first couple weeks, we had no GPS to lean on. We still laugh at our first time driving as a family in the truck–it was, shall we say, tense!
We were blown away that this kid was hanging out the back of the song taew (taxi). So blown away we even took a picture. And that’s why I so badly want to capture all this initial newness–because now, we’d probably do it ourselves!
Bamboo makes the world go round in these parts.
We didn’t take a lot of pictures of the local culture because well 1) we didn’t have our phones yet and didn’t want to pull out a big camera and 2) we didn’t want to be insulting or touristy–this was our new community. More clandestine shots happened in July.
Final thoughts on June:
We rode it high and excited, celebrating and thanking Jesus for His faithfulness in bringing us here, even as we geared up to start settling down. I wondered that the sky was still blue and the grass was still green, that the sun still came up and went down, even halfway across the world. We did normal stuff like bedtime routine and washing dishes, and it felt good to do the familiar. The kids recognized the geckos’ chirps and Maja asked me “How do you say kiwi in Thai?” I/we mourned the loss of Brenden’s beard (which, we now realize, he can keep to some extent except for when he enters Myanmar) and the months of hearing Maja’s little voice say we were going to Thailand, even when in reality we were just going across town. We wrestled with how early it got dark, wanting to go to sleep with it, and slept so hard this first month that when our alarms went off, I thought we had mistakenly set them for the middle of the night. By month’s end, we were still struggling to figure out how to undo the rubber bands that secure much of the food here, especially when overhungry.
So there you have it. Month one in a nutshell. Guess that’s a wrap!
September 29, 2015 at 12:59 pm
so nice to see what you told us that you went though that 1st month were right on yet the pics really make emotions come out .well done .I’m sure the adjustment continues but you all seem to be comfortable as you learn and move on to the new ways. thanks for taking the time to share much love and hugs dad
September 29, 2015 at 2:16 pm
You grandparents were definitely who I was thinking of when I picked out these pics! I know you can’t get enough 🙂 love you guys!
September 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm
oh me oh my what a great post! what a great June! Looking forward to the next installment. And rubberbands on bags – you need maybe an envelop opener?
September 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm
Oh you make me smile! and miss you…come over for a cup of tea? And somehow an envelope opener made the cut (haha, no pun intended) so I have one with me: I’ll have to try it out (though we’re much more adept at this point…)
September 29, 2015 at 7:20 pm
thank you for this…all of it. Vacation pics included. Makes me so happy to see you all. (Don’t forget pics of you two every once in a while). Thank you for sharing your life with us. It means a lot that you take the time to do this. Love and prayers for you daily.
September 30, 2015 at 12:16 am
Oh Sonya, thank you. Thanks for the encouragement-means so much coming from you. love you.
October 5, 2015 at 1:15 pm
Love all these pictures! And hearing about your experiences through pictures – what a fun way to share! Praying with you guys as you continue to settle and enjoy Thailand.
October 25, 2015 at 9:01 pm
The pictures say everything – heartwarming and comforting at the same time – a memory for a lifetime.