27.8.13

We Moved!



More than six hours of driving later, through the rain in the darkening afternoon through the mountains on a pothole filled highway, in a car with no power steering or power anything, we made it to our new house.

new house balcony, looking in and looking out


We still don't have a truck to drive. It's with the 3rd mechanic now I think. Apparently the first guy could take it apart but didn't know how to put it together. In typical Thai fashion though he didn't just admit that, because then he might lose face. Instead he lied, said he was waiting for parts and then, when pressured, tried to put the thing together and did it wrong, causing even more damage. It was just a cracked engine block before. Now all the valves need replacing too.

But we're here, in a lovely house that I had never seen before the night we pulled up to it.

BamBam's first response was, "Me wuv my new house!"

 That pretty much sums it up. There is enough room for us, with some extra besides.



It feels like we're all alone here, but we're really on the edge of a Thai village, complete with dirt roads and stray dogs, and there is another down the hill. Also giant bugs of all shapes and sizes, including some beautiful Atlas moths, the largest moth species in the world.

(Go to my instagram feed if you want to see the Boy holding a spider of comparable size.)
The shop keeper at the little store up the road, (my kids always scout out the nearest place to blow their allowance money on stuff I'd rather they didn't have), shakes her head at me because I don't speak Thai. So unheard of. I speak enough to know that's what she's saying though as she mutters to herself and shakes her head disapprovingly. I want to promise her I'll try harder, but I can't say that yet.

One of my neighbors asked me how I was the other day and I didn't recognize the words so I told her I didn't understand. She switched to English, "How do you go?"

So I told her we came from down the hill and we were headed up the road.

It took 2 more minutes, as we were walking, for me to realize that that she meant, "How do you do?" A few seconds later I figured out that that I knew the Thai words she said and the appropriate response. I'd just drawn a total blank.

But I'm getting better. Before we left Chiang Mai I got my Thai drivers license and picked up a package at the post office all by myself. I didn't catch all of it, but I understood enough of what people said, mostly because they were both predictable transactions, that I was asked in both places if I spoke Thai. The answer was, "A little bit, but not so much." That made me happy. Every where we go Aaron speaks all he Thai he knows, which isn't much, but his accent seems good. And people are always asking me if he speaks Thai because of it. So I'm proud that they think I might know some Thai because I'm using as much of it as I can when I go out.

Elvis killed a neighbors chicken our first day here. He broke right through the bamboo fence and it was over in seconds. So Aaron went over and bought the chicken. Then he used it to teach Elvis not to kill chickens, hopefully. Then he took it back and gave it to the neighbor again. They were very happy about getting the chicken back. They called over all the other neighbors to see. It was the best we could do to make amends with the limited language we have. We don't want anyone throwing poisoned meat over the fence to deal with the chicken killing dog. (It happens.)

My aunt suggested we get some chickens of our own so Elvis learns to protect them instead of eat them. that seemed like a good idea so we'll probably do that. We have the space for it.

Elvis doesn't realize that he is currently in an audition for the role of inside dog. He therefore doesn't know that every time he sneaks onto the cushioned chair outside when we're not looking he's blowing that audition. Dogs don't belong on furniture in my house, especially not dogs that live in rainy jungles in a rented house that came furnished with white couch cushions. He may just have to stay in the laundry room forever.

There's a lovely woman named Tae who also lives here on the property with her husband and little baby. She's kind of the manager. She also works for the NGO our landlord directs, Compassio.org, and stays here for free as part of her pay. He offered to move her out so we could use her house too, but suggested we might want to keep her around. She speaks English, Thai, Burmese, and her first language is a tribal language. Those are the languages I know about. She showed me all over to the local markets and helped me find things we needed for the house our first few days here. She's wonderful.



Now we don't have a car again, since the car we drove here was a loaner. It belongs to Compassio and needed delivery after being in Chiang Mai for repairs. Which worked out well for us. It's being used by a couple who runs a home for babies whose mothers are in prison.  Tae keeps asking me if I need her to pick up anything while she's out. I can probably borrow a vehicle on weekends for grocery runs though until our car comes.

One of the things I asked people to pray for me about before we left was learning to ask for help, because I try and do everything myself. I actually often enjoy doing everything by myself. I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing things. Apparently the answer to their prayers was for me to be forced to ask for help, on a daily weekly basis, in the form of needing to always borrow someone's car, or ask people to pick things up for me. I feel like a teenager all the time, asking to borrow my dad's car. Thanks for praying, I think.

The internet is super slow 3G network. We tried to see what kind of faster internet we could get at the store. They showed us the plans and maximum speeds and set ups costs and told us it would take 1-2 months to "run the wire". So I asked them if it was DSL service we were getting, or if it was from a cell tower or satellite. Tae translated the question. She didn't understand. So I drew a picture, of a house getting satellite signal, or wire, or phone signal, and we asked again. She didn't know. The guy who might know wasn't there. She just knows how to sell plans.

Some people think the internet is magic. It sort of is I guess. But it would be awesome to know what we're paying for before we sign on.  So still no internet. We wait for a technician to come out to the property and look around and tell us what is possible.

I like the rhythm I'm finding in this house. Every house imposes itself on your daily routines somewhat, just because of the layout. Here the kitchen, dining room, playroom and kids rooms are all downstairs. Upstairs is this big spacious sitting area, balcony, and our master bedroom. So after the kids are in bed I stay downstairs and clean up the kitchen while they fall asleep and then, once I come upstairs I feel like I'm truly done with housework for the day. The physical separation creates the mental separation as well. Now I'm in a hurry to finish that part of my work so I can go upstairs and just relax.



I need to post pictures of this place, and I have so many stories drafted that I'm eager to tell. It's going to be at least another day or two of unpacking and reorganizing and then I think I'll be able to find the time to start telling them.



This house is on a hill, and it's been empty a while so the concrete on each side is covered in mud and super slick algae. There were multiple falls the first day here. So task number one was to scrub away at all the algae and mud so it was safe to walk. We did that for a day in the rain, and then Tae told us she could get a pressure washer to use. I'm still damp from the few hours I spent washing the concrete today. We're taking it in turns, the Boy, and Girl, and I. There's a lot to wash.

But little bit by little bit this place already feels like home. We're going to be just fine here. I can tell.

11.8.13

3 years old

Dear Bam Bam,


You are 3 today. Somewhere between 2 and 3 something magical happens to children. Something magical has happened to you. You start using words at least as often as you use pointing grunting and screaming to communicate. We finally get to hear some of the things that go on in your head. Being here with all of these kids has been great for your language development.

You've figured out that playing works better when you use your words with people and that was pretty good incentive. Now when I walk by you and you are playing with someone you stop to yell at me gleefully, "Mama, me an [insert name here] are pwaying!"


The other lovely thing that happens is that you start peeing more often in a potty than outside of it, even at night! Though for you, that ratio tipped drastically back in the other direction the day you saw your cousin Eli, who is almost 4, drop his pants just enough to pee off the side of the porch while standing on the edge.

Your first attempt to do this ended up in pee all over your pants, as did the second, and the 3rd. But you are apparently mastering this skill at last, because your pants stay dry longer now. I'm happy about that. I'm also happy to let you keep peeing outside in the yard as long as you've stopped pooping in the driveway and use the toilet instead.

You are sweet, so so sweet sometimes, showering me with kisses, and saying, "Me wuv you mummy! Me wuv you!"

Sometimes you shove another kid who is smaller than you for no reason other than that they are standing in front of you. You are still figuring out this empathy thing. But most often you aren't trying to be unkind, you just aren't aware that you are strong enough to hurt people yet.


You love being a big brother. You hold Dek and grin, "Me howding da baby mama, he not cwying."

You lay beside him and smile and give him your finger to hold while talking in a gentle little chirruping voice, "It's ok baby, it's ok."

You run to tell me, "Baby cwying mama, baby cwying."

You can never say anything just once. Once you have discovered a phrase that communicates you find it so exciting that we have to repeat the conversation over and over and over again.

"Mama, me done eating mama."

"Ok, put your dishes in the sink."

"Ok mama. Me aww done eating mama."

"Good. Are your dishes in the sink?"

"Yah my dishes aww inna sink? Mama, me done eating mama."

And on it goes.



One day last week you disobeyed and I had to discipline you. (Ok fine, you do this several times, on several days.) On this day however, when all was done, I pulled you close to hug you and kissed you on your temple, where I always kiss you, and said, "I love you."

"NO MAMA!" You screamed and pulled away. "NO, YOU NO WUV ME."

You were very angry at the injustice of being disciplined for hurting someone who had been mean to you. But life isn't about what the other guy did my son, and you will learn this. It's about who you are in the face of what the other guy did to you, and the choices you make.

You screamed, "No, you no wuv me mama," for several minutes, louder when I quietly told you I would always love you, and so I would help you learn when you needed my help. When the storm had passed you came, whimpering still, to where I was sitting and buried your head in my lap until I picked you up and kissed you again.



Today you walked to the little muban store down the street with your big brother, and no parents along, for the very first time. (The Boy had my cell phone in his pocket in case he should need any help but you didn't know that.) You spent the few coins that he gave you with your birthday present on some candies and came home, very proudly, showing them to me. "Mommy, me back mommy. Me buy caneee!"

You also went for breakfast with daddy on your birthday for the first time, and it was fun and you weren't sad to leave without me.
You are finally ok with the separations that must occur. You understand now that we will come back together again. When we first got to Thailand, I still had to sneak away to keep you from crying the whole time I was gone whenever I went somewhere, just I had to do in California. But the day came when you saw me getting in the truck from where you were playing with the other kids on the playground and came running over.

"You going to da store mama? Can me come wif you?"

"No honey, I'm going by myself, but I'll be back soon."

"OK MAMA! BYE MAMA!"

And you joyfully waved me out the gate.

You were thrilled to be the one getting birthday presents at long last.
 My favorite thing about coming home, and your daddy's too, is the way you run to greet us yelling, "Yay! MY mommy's back. Yay! My Daddy's back." All while doing a little celabratory sort of jump up and down dance. Your daddy felt a little cheated when he came home from two nights away and I was keeping you busy inside with something and he didn't get his greeting. It's one of the best things ever.

I love to watch you get stronger and smarter and funnier each day.

You spent all week playing birthday party. I managed to record a bit of it. It's amazing.

video

"Mommy, me put fire on da cake."

Happy birthday Dear BAM BAM! Happy birthday to YOU!!!

Love,
Mama

5.8.13

13 years

When I discovered I was pregnant last year, just as we were laying our plans for moving to Thailand this spring I told Aaron by texting him a photo of the pregnancy test while he sat in an airport, on his way for yet another business trip away from home. Two days later he called me from the road and said, "I think we should live in Pai. Rachel and Chinua are there and I know how you are after having a baby, you need to have some women friends nearby. Plus it's a cool place and the kids will love it there."

That conversation left me feeling so loved, and like I could handle this whole, pregnant in a strange new place thing, because I had someone who understood me and my needs supporting me.

So the plan has been to move to Pai. When the house we wanted fell through Aaron took 3 days and went there on his own to try and find us another house that was large enough to house our growing family. He saw plenty of houses, but not any in our price range with more than 2 bedrooms. (Okay, there was 1 really quirky house that I might have made work, even with the metal yard next door and the yard shared with strangers, but it was far from ideal.) At the same time our conversations were shifting as we realized just how useful it would be to live closer to where a lot of the work is and Aaron started talking about needing to get an apartment there for the couple of months he would need to be in town full time, plus the trip he's planning to Nepal and the other back to the US. It was adding up to a lot of time away again, something the past 2 years have been full of, and something we had hoped was coming to an end.

When there was no house in Pai, we started talking about Mae Sot instead seriously. Aaron wouldn't decide, he left it to me because I had the most at stake in the decision. He can live anywhere. He'd be happy in a hut in a village. I find that sort of thing a bit more challenging, and I'm such a homebody that what a house is like seriously affects me.

So I decided we should look in Mae Sot, because, as much as I love Pai and our friends there, I thought it mattered more to be together as a family.

Then I realized what I had done and regretted it immediately. I've never even been to Mae Sot. I don't know anyone there. I don't know where anything is. I don't speak the language. It's a shifty border town.

Plus there was grief over saying goodbye to the rosy glow of, my husband chose this place for me because he knows what I need and he wants to give me and the kids a great experience while we're here.

(This was all complicated by postpartum hormones I must add. I had just given birth and all.)

So I cried and back pedaled and thought, "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we should go with his first choice. I want his first choice to work out."

I didn't trust my own judgement, thanks to the hormones. I asked him to just decide for me. He answered, "That's not how our marriage works. I don't tell you what to do. You are the one who will have to live with the consequences of this choice more than me. You need to make it."

I knew he was right.

"But what would you choose if you were choosing?" I asked him.

"I wouldn't make that choice."

Still right, darn it.

I asked Rae to ask about the first house again, and if they would be willing to let it go for less since they still had no other offers.

And I talked to Aaron about my conflict, about how it felt like wussing out to really want to be somewhere easy, that I liked. His response was, "Be who you are and stop apologizing for it. Decide how much you are willing to put up with and what ways you want to be stretched and then just do it."

Which may not sound like much to you, but was balm to my jangled emotions and frayed nerves. I needed right then for someone to give me permission again to be myself, and say what I wanted, rather than trying to make everyone else happy.

The owners of the house accepted our offer. I had what I wanted, and I said it out loud. "I want to live in Pai, and I want this house." I loved that house, it's wide hallways and large balconies and the view of the mountains. The way it was walking distance to all to the local markets, and Rachel's house.

I wanted it. But I didn't make the call.

I looked at my 11 year old son who needs his dad around. I looked at how much better we work as a family when Aaron comes home every night. I picked up the phone, and then put it down again. Something in my gut wasn't settled yet.

Aaron went to Mae Sot to take some volunteers up on the mountain to the orphanage where they will teach English for a few weeks. He stayed at the house of a friend, who runs an organization we will be partnering very closely with in the coming few years. This house is their second house. They are thinking of renting it out. He sent me pictures. It's beautiful, and large enough.

I still didn't make the call to Pai

We still didn't even know if they would decide to rent it out in the end.

So I called the house owner in Pai and asked if they could give me a few more days to let them know. They agreed.

And last night, on our anniversary, we made an agreement on a house in Mae Sot. I still have never been there. We're going to live there in 2 weeks time. But we'll be together, and really, I realized that's what I want most of all.

We've been married 13 years now. I am so blessed to have in my life a man who understands me, my strengths and weaknesses and who loves me anyway, a guy who puts my needs and the needs of his family above his own, and who gives me permission to be myself, and stop apologizing for it, when I forget and lose my way for a while. He gives me the courage I need to find my way through to a better, stronger version of myself, time and time again.

Happy Anniversary Aaron

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