Monday, October 20, 2008

53 weeks later

So, a week AFTER the one-year anniversary of us coming home, I'm finally getting around to blogging about it. There are days when I have to remind myself that I really did live in a foreign country for nearly 18 months; it seems so long ago. There are days when a certain smell or sound will bring back a crush of memories, and I wish I were still in Khon Kaen, lying in a huge bed, cuddling with Adia, Trea, and John, while listening to the rain pounding the roof. There are still times, mostly when I'm doing the dishes, when I feel a profound gratitude for things like air conditioning and hot, clean water. I still get giddy about my dishwasher and four-burner stove (with an OVEN!) and the shiny new energy-efficient washer/dryer. I'm grateful for all the modern conveniences and grateful that I know I can live without them (not without some whining, but still, I can cope).

And I really, really miss my friends. Nit Noi, Nok, Ged, and Earn, who made going to church worthwhile. They always made an effort to talk to me - at first they just said hi, and then, as they got brave enough to speak English, we got to be friends. Nit Noi has a son who will turn two this month, and we used to commandeer one room of the church building and make it the nursery. We spent a lot of Sundays sitting on the floor of that room, nursing and talking. Nok always held Adia for me. Ged was sweet and friendly and, once she got over being scared, spoke English much better than she gave herself credit for. Earn spoke the least amount of English but never let it stop her from participating in any conversation. It was Earn who told us patiently explained to us how to catch the lizard we knew was in our kitchen (the big one that kept pooping on the counter); we never did see him, but I will never forget hearing Earn explain that she already had one lizard skinned and frozen in the freezer at the church . . . There's only ice in our church freezer now.

I miss our neighbors too. The old lady next door, who was soooo friendly and nosy too :). Teacher Jaw, our neighbor across the street, who babysat Trea and took care of both girls, at different times, while I was teaching. Teacher Jaw was the Thai grandma my girls never had. She and our next-door neighbor used to eat dinner together several times a week, and sometimes Teacher Mam, Teacher Jaw's sister, would come, and other women I didn't know. Teacher Jaw always talked to me (as though if she said it slowly enough I'd get it eventually, and sometimes I caught a word or two. Mostly John interpreted). It's strange that I felt more of a sense of community there, where I couldn't hold a real conversation with anyone, than I do here. I don't even know the names of our neighbors across the hall. I rarely see any of our neighbors, and no one lingers outside on the porch, let alone cooking and eating for hours at a time.

That said, I am glad we came back. They are getting stricter with their immigration regulations, and making it harder for teachers to get licensed. I didn't like having to work under the table, and yet I couldn't get sponsored for a proper license. I don't miss driving in the crazy traffic, and it's kind of nice to be able to talk to people in my own language. This is my country, and my comfort zone, and it's . . . comfortable.

We'll always be glad we went. I don't think I would have my job if I didn't have that experience, and it helps me relate to my students. John doubts he would have gotten his job without going to Thailand - it set him apart, and his boss knew, from her own experiences living abroad, that it takes a certain adaptability and patience.

And it was great fodder for stories. Lots of stories, to tell Trea and Adia, and someday we'll take them back and show them where it all happened.

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