Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Furlough Fears

So furlough is slowly creeping closer and closer. In less than a month we will be boarding that plane for America and our stay will be so long (4 and 1/2 months) that we will be essentially living in the U.S. We have actually lined up a rental apartment in Peoria and everything.

Many people probably think we would be just ecstatic to return to our home country and there are so many wonderful things to look forward to
-being near to family
-seeing friends I miss like crazy
-meeting with support team members to share stories of God's work and faithfulness in and through our lives
-not eating rice at every meal
-having free baby-sitters nearby!!
-eating amazing American food- Chic Filet! Avantis! Monicals! CPK! Oh be still my heart, I sure do miss American food....
-shopping at Target!!! and other stores with lots of clothes in my size!
-civilized driving patterns
-freely flowing hot water from all sinks and showers!
-not eating rice at every meal
-celebrating holidays in America! Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families!
-not sweating all day every day
-having dengue fever in America (Oh wait, hopefully not this time!!)
Oh and did I mention not eating rice at every meal? Is it apparent that this girl has had about enough of rice for awhile.....

Anyways, America is fabulous it's true. But the weird thing is, we aren't as American as we were last time we were there....and it scares me a little. Sometimes I have a hard time scrolling my facebook newsfeed because of the things some people post- the obsession with fashion, beauty, and fitness seems to have multiplied exponentially. We have only been gone two years, but we have been a little bit sheltered I think. We actually don't have any sort of cable or satellite hook-up to our TV so we don't see most mainstream media, sports, or news except when we go looking for it. Occasionally a TV commercial pops up on youtube and Colby seems confused and frustrated by this weird advertisement interrupting his dinosaur video. Josh and I have managed to keep up with a few favorite TV shows via the internet, but there are no commercials, and there is no channel surfing to stumble onto something you wish you hadn't watched.

Sticker Shock
So yes, mainstream media and culture scares me a little as it seems to have gone downhill swiftly. A few other things that scare me- sticker shock. The cost of living is for sure less in Thailand. Now don't get me wrong, some things here are actually more expensive- used cars for instance are way more expensive here! International school is cuh-razy expensive and may need to be added to our monthly budget soon. There are a few others things like fuel too.

But then there are some other areas where we definitely spend less in Thailand.
1. We can eat out as a family for less than $5 total- easily! And the food is delicious! And sometimes we spend less than $3 to all eat out together. Of course you aren't sitting in air conditioning and the restaurant does not have walls or a bathroom, but it does have food and usually some sort of tin roof. :-)
2. Rent although our house might not meet the minimum standard of living of many Americans
3. Luxury items like massages and frappucinnos are very cheap here too- $1.50-$2 for a coffee frappe and $5 for a one hour massage! Despite this, I can't remember the last time I got a massage....
4. Fruit and vegetables at the local market sometimes seem practically free...

I could go on, but you get the idea, some things are cheaper, some things are more expensive. Either way we will probably feel like it is a crime to pay restaurant prices in America.....so who wants to take us out to eat? :-)

Are We those Weird Expats?
Some other concerns....have we become the weird expats? I know we have only been back in Thailand two years, but we have been living abroad or traveling to third world countries for eight years now! That's a long time of doing something not at all normal and I'm guessing it might show more than we realize. Our friends are all other expats, missionaries (who might also be weird unbeknownst to us!) and Thais who of course are very different from Americans.

Fellowship or lack thereof?
Fellowship is a huge concern while we are home. While we know lots of people in Peoria and Glen Carbon, we are no longer part of any real organized fellowship anywhere in the U.S. Yes there are churches who sent us out and we plan to attend, but we don't have a Bible study to attend or a Sunday school class we feel we are part of. We don't have a group of friends who will be calling to invite us out or to their Christmas party. It could be a weirdly lonely time back in our "home."

It's just Not Home
And that's the other thing, it's just not home anymore. I love the song "Home is wherever I'm with You." And it's sort of true, we'll all be together, but we won't have Bella our dog. We won't have our house or 90% of our possessions. We will be living in an apartment with minimal furnishings, toys and likely no decoration. Bella will be back in Thailand staying with friends. We are trying to sublet our house which means someone we don't know will be using our home and furniture. We won't have a car to call our own, though we have borrowed vehicles lined up. It's just weird and I already know I'll be longing for and worrying about our real home in Thailand.

Missing School
Colby will also be missing his first semester of preschool in Thailand. I know it's not a big deal really, but it matters to me. I am ready for him to begin part-time preschool and truly think it will be good for him to have that structure in his life. We are not even sure if the school we want to send him to will have a spot open for him to fill when we get back in January. :-(

Support Raising
The fact that we will be doing intensive full time support team development/fund raising for our new role could be its own blog post. But yes, while we consider it a privilege to invite people to partner with us in our work, it is also HARD. There are good days and bad days. People who encourage you and pray for you and lift your spirit and people who tell you to "get a real job" and "stop beating the bushes." Yes raising support is not for the faint of heart. But we know that ultimately it is God who called us to our position, and it is God who will bring in the support we need. We hope that many of our current supporters will continue on with us as we transition to a new organization, but even if they all do, we still have to raise additional monthly and one-time support.

And of course don't even get me started on the weather in Illinois in the fall and winter! Yikes! My babies and I are going to freeze!

Feel free to begin praying for us as we are beginning preparations for our time in the U.S. Our schedule is still not nailed down, but we know we will be making a visit to Orlando in September to wrap up our official work with JF and do some training for our new role. Beyond that we will be traveling all over Illinois and beyond to connect with friends, family and support team members. I get exhausted just thinking about all the travel and the toll it will take on our young kids who really need stability and "normal" schedules in order to do basic human functions like sleep.

Here's some random pics from life this past month all shot with my Nikon.

Pensive Colby. I think he was watching some deer. 

She toddles with the best of them. (At Horizon Tweechol Botanical Garden)

He was only 4 inches off the ground but was desperately saying "mommy let me down, let me down!"

Elephants are a common find around Chiang Mai...

So are these friendly Thai deer who think Colby's green t-rex looks like it might be food. 

Colby loves puddles. I love reflection photos. 

Hailey loves trying to put shorts and underwear on her head as a hat. No joke. 

She also is adorable with a ponytail on top of her head. 

And loves playing with mommy's phone especially to take selfies of herself. 

This doll is her favorite toy right now. :-) Thanks Mimi! 

No idea what she's doing....

Summer loves to play mama's helper with Hailey while I do Bible study with her mom.

Some of the ladies I will miss at a 4th of July Party

Some of the women in my Wednesday morning Bible/book study group along with our kids. We got together for our last meeting for awhile at a fun restaurant with a playground. This sort of fellowship is what I will really miss when we are in the U.S. Hope I can find something similar to plug into short term. If you know of anything feel free to let me know.