One Year Reflections

I can’t believe it’s been a year since we moved across the world!

 

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Stocking up on needed apartment items last July

Our family is celebrating 1 amazing year of life, 1 year serving and thriving in Thailand. It’s one of the biggest life decisions we ever made, and we are discovering each and every day just how happy we are with it. Life isn’t perfect here, but it wouldn’t be perfect anywhere on the planet. We are satisfied that we are right where we’re supposed to be for the time being. Come along to discover the 4 reasons we absolutely love our life here.

1. Daily Life is Satisfying

Here, just as back home, we found a daily and weekly rhythm to life. That rhythm is not stagnant, it’s always developing and changing. There are routines and habits that develop based on work and school schedules, and here in Bangkok we found that comforting. Although the routines and such were different than they were back in the states, the fact that we have them is a comfort, if that makes any sense. (Maybe it’s my ISFJ personality that likes this!) Jeff and I coached sports, the kids played sports and had other after school activities, and often afternoon planning revolved around that. Some weekends there were cross country meets or soccer games, and church activities, and dinners with friends, or out of town trips – same as back home.

One of the things about Bangkok life that is simultaneously comforting and frustrating is the pace of life. The pace of life is slower, a good thing, right? But it is slower because it is HOT and STICKY, and also because of TRAFFIC, and because in rainy season everything is FLOODED. It isn’t slower because we are sitting on a white sand beach drinking mai tais on vacation (although we have been blessed with a few wonderful escapes from Bangkok that have helped to pull us through the urban jungle living) We’re not here on vacation – we live here, we work here, our kids go to school here, just like we did back home. We do relish the slower pace of life. We have accepted, and rather enjoy, that we just simply CAN’T get as much done in a day or a week as we did back in suburban California, and that’s okay.

Some living adjustments we made along the way over the last year:

  • never leaving home on the scooters without the rain ponchos
  • ran out of food in the house? No problem – either we order restaurant delivery or groceries. Restaurant food will arrive within the hour, groceries the next day.
  • Physically going to pay phone and electricity bills at the closest 7 Eleven (which are on every corner in Thailand!)
  • Carrying cash – many places don’t accept cards
  • remembering to not flush the toilet paper – put it in the trash can
  • getting up early – school starts early for traffic reasons (some of our students come from the other side of Bangkok)
  • driving on the LEFT side of the road (after our month back in the states I keep going to the wrong side of the car here now!)
  • watching the lightning app (Weather Bug/Spark Lightning) in case we need to get under cover
  • remembering to ask them to hold the mayo and corn on the pizza
  • paying lots of money for familiar western imported groceries (you know, like peanut butter, cheese, Hot Cheetos…)
  • living without things they don’t import here, like Pay Day candy bars and Tapatio hot sauce
  • paying less than a dollar for a fresh coconut or passionfruit smoothies
  • working out –  our school campus is open to staff and staff families 24/7, so we can enjoy the salt water pool, gym, climbing wall, play structure, futsol court, etc. any time
  • thinking ahead to the best way to get somewhere, depending on distance and weather. Scooters are always first choice – fastest option. Car is always nice with the air conditioning, except when there is no parking. BTS (sky train) and MRT (subway) always an option, and taxis (cheap) can be a good choice as well. We feel so very blessed to have a car, and 2 scooters (and nice bikes)- many Thais just have their feet and maybe a cheap bike.
  • Hiring a helper to clean house and not feeling guilty about it.  She gets paid well, we get a clean house. It’s a win-win because for $15 she cleans our place for 4 hours, and it means she cleans two or three a day making more than double the Thai daily minimum wage (Thai minimum wage is 400 baht per day, about $12).

2. Work & School are Fulfilling

First, we came to Bangkok for me to work. I am blessed to be teaching second graders at an incredible American-style international school called International Community School. I love it! I am super excited to start my second year here (my 20th year teaching!) I have fallen in love with the school, its teachers and staff, its mission, and the wonderful students and their families over the last year; I am so happy that my kids have the opportunity to go to ICS! I get to teach students from all over the world, and our kids get to study with and be friends with kids from all over the world, and learn from teachers from all over America and Australia and Canada!

There are so many amazing things for me to love about my job. To name just a few: the kids! They are with-it, they come from well-off educated families for the most part, and come to school ready to learn. Also, super supportive admin all the way to the top, freedom to teach how I see fit, a cohesive and like-minded community that isn’t afraid to discuss issues and be honest yet respectful, excellent facilities and curriculum (curriculum that isn’t changed or adopted without two years of TEACHER input and decision-making), prep periods – one or even two EVERY DAY, and my favorite thing of all – I get to share about Jesus with my kids and their parents. I could do an entire blog post on why I love my job – this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Next, my husband Jeff was able to find a niche at the school in coaching U11 boys basketball and he has really enjoyed that. He will be doing it again this coming year.  He also works remotely for his previous boss, doing design work for an engineer back home on a 3-D design program called Revit. He loves keeping up his skills and learning new ones, and the hours he works suit our life here, as he is flexible on when he works as long as he can submit his work by 10:00 pm our time. So he can still coach, and attend the kids’ after school activities, even help out with grocery shopping or laundry during the day. We feel very blessed for this to have come about just in April, and it seems to be working out well so he gets to continue it in the coming months.

In addition to Jeff’s coaching and computer work, he has taken up building bamboo bikes. Bamboo is readily available here, we love biking, and he loves working with his hands, so this has been a natural fit. The bikes take him 50-60 hours to build. He was able to sell one, and has given three as gifts: one to his brother, one to his good friend, and one to our son for 8th grade promotion. He made all these in our apartment, so we’re glad that this coming year we are living in an actual house and he’ll have a utility room and even an outdoor covered patio in which to build (and make the messes out there!)

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One of Jeff’s bamboo bikes, along with the “shop” he had in the apartment

Lastly, the kids “work”, too! They both get some babysitting jobs, and our teen has had handyman opportunities as well. But school is their main work, and our school doesn’t mess around – it is highly academic and they are pushed to succeed and many ICS students go on to top notch colleges in America and around the world, often with multiple scholarship offers. This last year both the kids enjoyed their classes, both making honor roll, and they are looking forward to new experiences this year – youngest moving up to middle school, and oldest moving up to high school. (But I was nursing them and rocking them to sleep JUST the other day!)

3. We are able to squeeze in fun, it just takes more work

In our previous life back in the states, we were a very outdoorsy family. We even owned an outdoor gear retail shop and we guided trips such as kayaking and backpacking. In California, it was easy to live that life. In Thailand it has not been so easy.

One reason is that we live in the Big Mango, Bangkok, city of 14 million people and concrete everywhere. There are tourist areas outside of Bangkok with some of these kinds of outdoor activities, but they are not easy to get to from Bangkok. The best ones, the ones you see the iconic Thailand photos of, are down south and super far from us. Or way to the east, also a bit far for a weekend. Or way up north, again, hours away from Bangkok.

Another reason is that in a developing country those kind of leisure activities are much more rare – many of the people already live like they are camping on a daily basis, so why would they GO camping?  Many Thais work to just eat that day, they are not planning hiking trips. (The huge contrast is that the students and their families that attend the school where I teach are the opposite – they are the upper class, living in large homes and traveling around the world. There is an emerging middle class here, but it is mostly just rich and poor.)

Due to those things mentioned above, our family has had to redefine our definition of fun. We still seek to do outdoorsy things, and we have done some hiking, even some zip lining and rock climbing. We now seek out parks in the city so that we can feast our eyes on some green, some flowers, some water features. Luckily, there is a large park, called the King’s Park, a few kilometers from our neighborhood. We can bike over there and exercise or just walk around, even take a paddle boat out onto the water which our kids like. Next to that park is a lake with a 4 K bike track that has become my Saturday morning place to go. This coming year we plan to join the club there (about $1 to join for life!) and take kayaks out. You can also sail there, and I am sure Jeff will want to try that. We have found ways to bike in and around the city, and hope to check out a bike club or two this coming year.

Since we’re not leaving every weekend to go do outdoorsy things like we did in our life in the states, we instead do things such as go to Bounce (it’s like Rockin’ Jump, but better!), ice skating, the movies, or touristy things like visiting Asiatique night market or take a boat ride on the Chao Praya river. We even paid for a guided bike trip with Grasshopper Adventures. It was awesome – our guide took us at night through all these great neighborhoods for food! Like I mentioned above in regards to the slower pace of life, we have to plan everything ahead and think through more details to make things happen. We are not as spontaneous as we used to be because of this.

4. Blessed to be a blessing, feeling at peace even when life isn’t easy

Our family is blessed, pure and simple. We may not have everything we want, but we always have everything we need. It’s been awesome to see that happen repeatedly over the years. Even when times have been hard financially, we have kept up our sponsorship of our boy in Africa through Compassion International, and been able to pay the mortgage. Even when life has been super stressful, our friends and family are there for us. We are here in Bangkok because God called us here.  When you are seeking God’s will for your life and you step out in faith and obey, even when you’re scared, even when it’s not easy, you feel peace.

“When God has a mission for you to complete he will give you the intelligence, talents and resources to complete the job. He will also give you an army of people to protect you.” ― Shannon L. Alder

We have no doubt that for now we belong here, serving in Thailand, and we are so grateful to have not only survived but really thrived during our first year here! Thanks for joining me in my One Year Reflection!

I’d love if you’d take a minute to post a comment here on WordPress. It helps me know I am writing for people, not just keeping an online journal for myself. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “One Year Reflections

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. Love reading about life there…. Sounds like such an amazing opportunity. Pizza with mayo? No thanks! 😊 Miss your smiling face but so thankful for social media.

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  2. Nicole, your descriptions of life in Bangkok and the various things you are thankful for were so interesting (crazy pizza) and inspiring. ❤️ I remember the hot, humid weather there and bet that takes a toll on someone like you who enjoys cold temps. Thank you for sharing what you and the family do. Tell them I am praying for all of you as you transition to school and acclimate to the weather.

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    1. Thanks for your prayers, Christine. You are right about missing the cooler weather – it was nice to have had cool weather most of the time we were in the states!

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  3. Nicole,
    I am always impressed by what you have to say in your blog. I have enjoyed reading everything. I could not have done what you did, and I am missing you around our campus. I taught summer school for half time this year, splitting it with Jackie. I would not like the hot weather. I would be too squeamish to eat the different foods.
    However, the school sounds fantastic and I wish we could incorporate some of the things your school does there.
    I keep you in my prayers and look forward to seeing you next year!
    Bridget

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  4. Thanks for taking time to comment, Bridget. You are missed as well! I bet you’d do better than you think if you traveled. It’s true it’s not always easy; I should blog more about the difficult things sometimes, but I try to be as positive as possible as often as possible.

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  5. Hello from the Carolinas! Mike and I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few hours with the adorable Cipriano family.

    Nicole, your energy and good spirit just glows out of you, and your energetic sports activities have kept you in enviable shape.

    Both Austin and Taylor are very sweet and enjoyable to talk to. They have good attitudes toward life and will be forever changed by this immersion into Thai life.

    Jeff seems to have found several very interesting paths which are transportable and will serve you well wherever you next land.

    I will send the pictures from the trip to Atlanta when we get back home ( we are at Hilton Head Island for a few days)…My two favorites are Taylor spraddled over the packs in the van and Jeff giving the thumbs up with the van and all its stuffings behind him.

    Nicole, people may not put comments on your blog, but there are probably more eyes reading it than you know. Ours from our Europe trips had some way of counting and showing where the readers were. Somehow thousands of Chinese people seemed to be reading it. Maybe practicing their English. : )

    Much love to the four of you…thanks for finding some time to squeeze us into your packed schedule while here.

    Shelley and Mike

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