Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Homeward Bound

So, we are only about 3 weeks from our very first visit back to the States from living in Thailand for almost 2 years now, and I cannot even begin to fully describe all the thoughts and feelings running through my head right now.  But I figured blogging might be a good way to get it all out there and process through what the next few months will bring... Lots of random thoughts but here goes...

First of all, I am extremely excited.  I can't wait to see my family and friends.  I can't wait for our boys to be reunited with their cousins and grandparents.  I can't wait for our family to return to the city our boys were born in and visit some of the places that we frequented during their first few years of life.  I can't wait for our boys to spend time "out in the country" helping grandma with the chores and having hot chocolate with her in the morning (Clay has been talking about this for MONTHS).  I can't wait to go to Target!  AHH! I can't wait to go shopping for clothes that actually fit me!  And all the western food we will get to eat!    Our boys are going to LOVE cheese sticks and all the cereals!! I'm excited to speak to churches and with partners about the past 2 years, tell them about Thailand, what life is like here, what things are happening here and what God is doing in our lives. Oh the list can go on and on.  There is so much to be excited about.
But with all this excitement, to be honest, there is some apprehension.  How will my boys deal with reverse culture shock?  Zeke had just turned 2 when we left and doesn't even remember America.  Soon, both my boys will have lived in Thailand more of their life than in America.  How will Zeke (our more emotional child) deal with all the transition?  Should we even put him in the nursery at the churches we attend since I know it will stress him out?  What are people's expectations of us?  We are just ordinary people, doing what God has called us to do, not some super-christian.  Have we accomplished enough in the past 2 years to make our partners investment worth it? (Please, read this statement with an understanding that this is a pressure I put on myself, not something I think is right or I should feel this way, just simply, the way I do feel at times, and I think most feel at times in our line of work).  How will people respond to us?  What kinds of questions will they ask?  Maybe they won't ask any questions?  While we are in America will they even realize that this is not just some vacation for us, this is actually a part of our work?  I have heard so many people say that furlough is NOT a vacation, in fact, they say you might need a vacation from your furlough!  ;)
Humm, so much to think about, and now, off to go pack and get our house ready for leaving it for 2 and a half months ;)

September 2013 on the way to Thailand

April 2015 from our recent trip to Bangkok

Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Days

 Well, I figured I should take this opportunity to share with you some of the happenings of the Johnson family.  We are so very grateful for so many of you who love our family, miss our family, pray for our family, support our family, and ask about our family.  This blog is for you, and especially for the grandparents who love to see pics of all of us;) This is purely the fun stuff that we have done or celebrated in the past few months.

 On May 30th, we celebrated Clay's 5th birthday! I can hardly believe it!  Here Clay is Skyping with Gammie and Mimie.  I think our kids are going to grow up thinking that opening presents on skype is just a part of every birthday and Christmas celebration!  Having lived overseas for almost a year now, we are INCREDIBLY grateful for technology like Skype, especially for our kids to have an ongoing relationship with our family even though they will only "see" them every 2 years!

Happy 5th Birthday my smiley Clay!

Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains.  I have never lived by the mountains before. There are many cool places to visit around here! Here we are at a look out on the side of a mountain with Chiang Mai in the background.

 One of the most popular attractions here in Chiang Mai, for Thai and farangs (foreigners), Doi Sutep mountain

Now that's a Big bell!! 

Thailand is a VERY HOT place!  Though I can't say it was too much of a change from New Orleans summers, but imagine going through NOLA summers without having your AC on all day.  Yep, it gets very hot and humid.  So, this hot season we have enjoyed some special frozen treats.  The popsicle Zeke is eating here, I think was coconut favored with red Kidney beans!  Zeke is one of our more adventurous eaters.  I think it's because he was only 2 when we arrived here.

One of the things we are required to do in order to keep our VISA to live in Thailand is that we have to leave the country every 90 days.  The cheapest way to do this is to drive 5 hours north through the mountains and cross the border into Myanmar.  This was fun and adventurous at first but has become quite the daunting task now!  The boys do a really great job.  Their favorite part is that we stay at a hotel by the border.  Here they are in the slippers the hotel provided. I'm pretty sure they wore them the entire time we were there and Clay even wore them to bed ;)  In the next couple of months we are planning on applying for a Visa that does not require us to actually leave the country every 90 days, but just check into the immigration office here in Chiang Mai.  PLEASE pray with us that we are able to get this Visa.

 One Saturday morning we decided to try out the aquarium here.  It was quite interesting seeing some of the sea creatures that we have never seen before!  And anywhere you go that has animals, you can feed something.  Here you could feed the fish with a baby bottle!!  Yes, you read that right, a baby bottle! They would come up stick their heads out of the water and suck for a few seconds!  It was quite the experience.

 In July, Rob celebrated his 32nd Birthday!   Also in July Rob and I celebrated our 9th anniversary!

In July, we were blessed to be invited to go to Phuket, Thailand with my sister-in-laws family and parents!  Phuket is on the south of Thailand, on the beach!  This was such a relaxing and fun time for our family.  We have gone through a lot in the past year and were grateful to have this time to refresh and spend some quality time with our family before the kids started school in August.  what a blessing! 

 YAY!  Nina and Pops (my sis-in-laws parents) came to Thailand!  here we are having a Thai dinner in Phuket!


 On August 2nd, our little Zeke turned 3! Oh this boy!  He is a challenge to raise, but the most cuddly, lovable, silly little man!  We love him dearly!  He was sure to tell me exactly what he wanted on his birthday cake, blue icing  (blue is his "favorite" color), m&ms, gummy bears, a car and Pocky sticks (a sign my kids are becoming third-cultured kids, wanting Pocky sticks on his cake!!)

We celebrated with a friend, whose 2nd birthday was the day after Zeke's!  

Well, we had quite the cultural experience when Clay fell in our "yard", which is really just a strip of concrete around our house.  He cried quite a bit when it happened, but it took us 24 hours before we decided that maybe we should go to the hospital to get an x-ray.  It was quite overwhelming to have to deal with a hospital in another culture, but all went well, and come to find out, he had broken his arm.  The only problem came when they decided to only put a splint on it instead of a hard cast.  The ace bandage was falling off the very next day, so after about a week, we decided to return to the hospital to have them put a hard cast on, which they did!  It only takes about 3 weeks (i guess) for a child's bone to heal.  So, get got his cast taken off on Monday.

And here are our two little guys on the first day of school.  Clay is now in kindergarten and Zeke started Pre-K 3!  They are attending an international school here that has students from all around the world!  It is a great school and we are so grateful that our kids have such a wonderful place to attend!  Clay absolutely LOVES it and wants to "sleep there too." Zeke is adjusting.  He is only going 2 days a week (Tues and Fridays) and is getting use to being away from mommy, Zeke is now on his 3rd day and each day seems to get better and better.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Oh the Places You will Go...

I know it's been a long time since I last blogged and for that I apologize.  I honestly wasn't even sure what to write about, and well, I guess I'm still not sure. But here goes...
Life has been stressful lately.  My duration as a mother has consisted solely of being a stay-at-home mom.  I'm not so sure how working moms do it.  Being a stay at home mom is stressful enough.  I guess one of those things I did not really realize is once we moved here, I would become like a part time working mom.  You see, I knew that I was going to be learning Thai, but I guess I was naive to know what all that meant.  Well, it means that I am no longer just a stay-at-home mom, I'm a student of Thai as well.  Finding the balance between the two, without being too stressed is hard.  Not to mention I am a student of the Thai culture, learning how to do things here, cook here, pay bills, you know, relearning all the things I that were second nature back in America. Yeah, so between being a student of the Thai language and a student of Thai culture, I also need to squeeze in being a mom and wife.
There are times when I just want to fast forward my life about 6 months where I (hopefully) will be done with language learning (umm, please do not miss read this as I will be fluent or as I will not continue to be a student of the language, my daily life will not let me forget that I will always being a student of Thai).  In 6 months, BOTH my boys will be in school. (Ugh, not so sure how feel about this one).  And maybe just maybe I will feel more confident in the daily things I need to do here to keep my family going.
You see, I guess lately, I'm just missing the ease of a culture I know and being around people who already have a long history with me.  My mom retired last month.  She has worked full time since I was a little girl.  I hate that we are not there to enjoy her new found freedom.  And last week, my husband's entire family was together, even his sister who lives in Africa was there.  Yeah, everyone, except us.  I have to say that well, that sucked.  Yeah. I've had a few emotional breakdowns lately.
I know from reading all this you must think that I am in this horrible depressed state.  Although there are times when I have been incredibly stressed and although there have been times when missing those we will not see for at least another year has brought me to tears, I must say, I have not been this at peace in my SOUL about where I am in life in a long time.  I wish that I could describe to you in words how at peace I am with being here, but ya see, it's a peace that surpasses all understanding.  So, I simply cannot describe it. Although there are sacrifices that are very hard, somehow, someway, it's ok.
You know, I have days when I can't believe I get to live here in Thailand.  There are days when I am overwhelmingly thankful that we are giving our kids the gift of being a third-cultured kid.  There are days when what we are doing here, is so incredibly satisfying because we know we are right where He wants us to be.
So, please, although there are times when I might complain on Facebook about something that's not as easy as it is in America, or I might say that it sucks to be so far away from family and friends, please, don't feel sorry for me.  Be excited for us, pray for strength in difficult moments, pray that God would continue to give us His peace. Pray that He would lead our steps. And pray for our kids.
Although there are times when I wish those teleport (i'm sure I misspelled that;) type machines you see in TV shows were real so we could all just teleport back home for awhile, I wouldn't want to stay there. At least for now, we are right where we are suppose to be.      

Friday, February 07, 2014

Welcome to Our House...

So, needless to say, our lives have changed drastically since we moved to Thailand in September.  From the food, to driving, to the language, the people, pretty much everything about our daily lives have changed.  In light of this I thought it would be fun to go around our house and show you some of the ways our daily lives have changed.  Before I do, I have a couple things to note...
One, in NO WAY am I writing this to complain about the differences in the way things are done here.  I am sharing this more to help you understand a different culture and a different way of doing things.  Maybe you're like me, and think it's fun to see how different people live their lives, none better than the other, just different.  I love that about cultures! Second, I have to tell you, I feel extremely blessed to have found the house that we did.  I never imagined I would love a house here as much as I loved our house in New Orleans, but really I feel blessed that we have found a beautiful, peaceful place, close to friends and family, and a neighborhood so quiet and calm that we let our 4 year old ride his bike around freely!  Not to mention the house has certain amenities that plenty of houses around here don't have (like a western style kitchen, instead of an outdoor Thai style kitchen) that make our transition to living here just a little bit easier and make things feel more like the homes we are use to!
Without further ado, welcome to our home!
This is how we get hot water.  There is no hot water here in any sinks, but these are installed in the showers so we don't have to take cold showers! It's a bit concerning when you see electric wires so close to your shower head!

There are no closets here.  if you want to hang your clothes, you have to get a wardrobe!

Being that Thailand has LOTS of bugs and that houses are more open here (Our windows and doors are always open, thankfully we do have screens, but plenty of bugs still get in!), the boys have their very own bug zapper/ night light to help keep the mosquito bites to a minimum!

Thailand is a pretty hot place.  There are 3 seasons, cool, hot and rainy.  There is no central air here.  We do have individual conditioning units in the bedroom (thank goodness) but we try to only turn these on at night since electricity is so expensive.  Therefore, we have lots of fans! 

Gone are the days of having a DRYER.  This is one of those things I miss the most, especially when my kids are sick.  Sorry boys, no blankie you just threw up on until the sun can dry it!

All the houses here have fences around the house and big gates.  

A personal change for our family is the lack of yard space.  If you knew our house in New Orleans, we were blessed with a really large yard with plenty of grass.  Now, we have a little strip of concrete that goes around our house and that's it.  No more grass to play in! Though there are some houses that have yards with grass, most are very small.  Let's just say, we have gone through a lot of band-aids since moving here!

These are spirit houses that are in the corner of our front yard.  These are everywhere in Thailand (most houses have one) and though we have asked our landlord if she could take it down, she said she cannot.  We have had to put a barrier of potted plants around them so our kids won't play with them or the things on them.  It's just a daily reminder of why we are here...  

Never go in a house with your shoes on.!  Things are VERY dirty here.  It's really amazing how much dust and dirt there is and how dirty your shoes and feet get.  Most people have a shoe rack outside next to their front door for shoes.  There are even some public places and offices where you are suppose to take your shoes off before entering!  I just always try to remember to check my tennis shoes for anything that might have crawled into them before putting them on!! 

Oh to have a dishwasher again. Only washing dishes my hand here! I'll tell you a secret though, I kinda don't mind this as much.  For some reason I have been finding washing dishes by hand (in cold water mind you, remember, no hot water in the sink) kind-of therapeutic, don't tell my husband though! 

Umm, yes that is a ginormous propane tank in our kitchen just hanging out in it's own cabinet.  Our stove is run by propane from this tank, and when it's empty, there's no warning.  You're in the middle of dinner and all of a sudden the burner goes off.  Yep then you have to call the gas people who bring you another tank on their motorbike side car and hope that it gets there in enough time for you to finish dinner!! 

This is what we affectionately call the ant cabinet.  And yes, it does what it sounds like it does.  Ants are a big problem here.  No more leaving any food on the counter or table or soon it will become a feast for your nearest any colony! You keep all your food in this cabinet, make sure it is not touching the wall or anything else.  then you get these special bowls and put baby powder in them and put the legs in the bowls.  For some reason the ants cannot crawl through the baby powder to eat all our food!
The bowls with baby powder to keep the ants out!

Yeah, we use to be one of those families that just drank the tap water, no more.  Though the water here is safe enough to shower and brush you teeth with (thankfully!) it is not safe enough to drink! Thankfully this nice water cooler keeps the water nice and cold! It's great! The hardest time to remember this is when I am cooking or baking.  Thankfully I have not made a big mistake yet and had to throw out a batch of anything because I forgot and used water from the sink!

I don't know if you can tell or not here, but refrigerators are significantly smaller here than in America (Our fridge now is probably half the size of the one we had in American and we just had a normal size fridge). Though, this really hasn't seemed to be too much of a problem for us. Food doesn't seem to have as many preservatives here as it does in America, so you cannot keep it as long.  The biggest problem is the freezer space, especially because meat even in the fridge goes bad so quickly you really have to keep it in the freezer if you want it to last more than a couple days and not to mention, we love smoothies.  

Well, there you have it! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

No Matter Where You Are

As I have stated in my last blog, I've been having a hard time this holiday season saying good-bye to the way things use to be.  We are learning to have a new normal.  On top of that, our family has been continuously sick for the past month and a half.  It's become a bit ridiculous, and brought me to an emotional breaking point.  I needed a good cry anyway!  Ya know, at least for me, sometimes you need a good cry!  But, I picked myself back up, asked people to pray for us and I'm happy to say by Christmas Day we were all healthy (ish).  (Zeke has come down with a cold, but with no fever or anything, so that doesn't count!)
Christmas was actually pretty good.  We Skyped and opened presents with family!  It almost felt as though they were actually here for a moment.  That was nice.  And we have an unfair advantage in that my brother and his family live here too.  We spent the whole day together and Renee and I even made a very yummy Christmas dinner! Best meal I've had here by far! We felt very accomplished to make so many American dishes in a foreign country! Everything tasted close enough to the "real thing/"  It was great!
I think my problem with this holiday season is that I was trying to make it "feel" right.  The conclusion I have come to is that it will never "feel" right so I just need to embrace the fact that we need to establish a new "feel."  We need to make new traditions.  It will be the holidays my kids will know as normal, so we need to try and embrace and develop a new way of doing the holidays.  The skrony fake Christmas tree we have will be the Christmas tree our kids grow up putting their home made ornaments on.  They won't know any different! They will love that they get to Skype with grandparents on the TV as they open presents.  It's not how I grew up celebrating, but it's how my kids will.
 HOWEVER, when it all come down to it, Christmas is not about the presents, decorations, or Christmas tree.  It's about celebrating the birth of our Savior, and that we can do no matter where we live.  So, I choose to be thankful today, for our God has sent us a Savior!  Hallelujah! Merry Christmas!
What an incredible song, listen and be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas...  

And here are a few pics from our Christmas!
 Reading the Christmas story by our Christmas tree!

 Spiderman hats and m&ms.  They were pretty happy!
 Opening presents on Skype with Mimie and Gammie
 Renee and I made Christmas dinner! Very fun and we are still eating leftovers!
 Christmas dinner!


Friday, November 29, 2013

I have to be Honest

I know Thanksgiving has come and gone and I have to be honest, I'm not feeling so thankful!  If you ask anyone who has lived overseas for an extended amount of time when did you have the hardest time?  I'm pretty sure most of them would say, the holidays.  Yep, not so fun.  Now, I have to admit, I feel a pretty bad saying this because, well, in reality, we are incredibly blessed.  You see, we have what most people who move overseas don't.  My brother and his family live here in Thailand too! What a blessing! And in no way am I brushing off the reality that having family to spend the holidays with is AMAZING!  My point is that I am surprised that even despite the fact that we have family here, it's still SO HARD.  No pumpkin patches, no hot apple cider, no hoodies in chilly weather, no grandparents, no holiday traditions, because well, you have to make new ones, nothings the same.  I mean, NOTHING.  From the weather, to the food, to the people, to the environment.  It doesn't feel like home.
We even attempted to make a new tradition.  I downloaded last year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (because we are 13 hours ahead, we can't watch this years).  It's nothing we ever really watched in America as a tradition or anything, but I figured it might help it "feel" more like Thanksgiving.  We watched it with family and I tried, really hard to just look at the TV and think about Thanksgiving and well, it didn't work.  Felt weird actually.  Like Thanksgiving parades and Thailand don't really go together.  And today we decorated for Christmas.  We put up our fake Christmas tree (we've never had a fake one before) and hung the stockings (I brought them with us) and now everything is blowing in the oscillating fan because well, I'm in shorts and a t-shirt and the windows are open because it's never winter here and there is no central AC in Thailand.  Even though I'm from New Orleans and I have had plenty of warmer Christmases, it's still so strange.  It just doesn't feel right.   I'm not so sure how to explain it.
BUT, here is what I KNOW (even though I might not be FEELING it at the moment).  I know that we have a heart for Southeast Asia.  I know that we LOVE Thailand and it's people.  I know that God has called us to move here and be here.  I know that I am incredibly blessed in SO many ways.  I know that, for the most part, we are loving living here, doing what we are doing and I have no doubt that we are suppose to be here. So, although the holidays might not feel like the holidays this year and although we don't get to eat all the traditional foods that we normally enjoy this time of the year, and although we are missing all the people we usually spend time with, we're here, doing what God has called us to do, and there is no better place to be than that.  So, although I'm not feeling so thankful right now, I'm choosing to be, well, trying anyway...    

Friday, October 04, 2013

Thailand Here We... Are!

Well, we are here!  All the preparing, all the prayers, all the traveling, and we finally made it!  It's still a little hard to believe.  I know, we have been here for over a week now, you would think it has all sunk in, and well, it hasn't.  I'm not so sure it will until we are able to live our daily lives again, until we find a house to call home, until we have a more regular schedule.  Right now we are transitioning.  And tomorrow we will begin a month of training.  Training with the organization we have come here with.  Learning about the culture, meeting people within the organization, learning how to live daily life here, etc.  They do this with all the new people coming to SE Asia, we are excited to be a part of the team. To be a part of bringing the gospel to this side of the world.
For now we are staying at a retreat center as we get over jet lag and begin to start getting the basics done of establishing yourselves in a new location.  We are thankful that we have had some great progress in our search for a car and have found one! We are just waiting for it to arrive (its coming from Bangkok) and checked out, but we should have it soon!  We have also been to quite a few stores learning where to shop and what kinds of things we are (and are not) able to get here.
Our kids are doing well.  The first week of jet lag with a 2 year old and a 4 year old are, well, rough, to say the least.  There was a lot of waking in the middle of the night, a lot of crying, and a lot of eating breakfast at 4 am, but thankfully, I think they are finally almost over it.  We have actually gotten both of them to sleep through the night, well, once so far, but it was glorious and hope to have more sleeping through the night in the near future.  Our goal was to get everyone over jet lag before we starting CLI (Cultural Learning Institute), and I think we will reach that goal.  Or at least be close enough.
Our finances are well, what they are.  We are still lacking about $700 a month, which is a stretch to say the least.  We are really trying to trust God with our finances and that God would place us on the right people's hearts at the right times as we continue to do His work here.  It's all God's money anyway.  We truly believe that He will provide each month, though our human eyes have a hard time seeing.  I know He is faithful.  There is something about trusting God for your EVERY need, and not being dependent on yourself that well, brings faith to a whole new level, and, it's hard.  It's hard to not just depend on that paycheck we got very regularly when Rob was working for a contractor.  It's hard to have no clue how much money you will have to live off of each month.  Not really sure how to budget for a budget that fluctuates so much.  I guess we will figure that out.  There are seasoned missionaries that continue to affirm to us of God's provision over and over again.  Their faith is so obvious, I can only pray to have faith like that one day.  I guess that's the journey I'm on now.  There's no way I can have that kind of faith without the journey.]
Well, here are a few pics of our travels thus far...
 Good bye New Orleans!  Here we are checking in all our luggage at the New Orleans airport!
 The kids loved riding on the airplanes (all 4 of them it took us to get here!)
 We had an overnight layover in Seatlle and when we arrived we got our luggage back and one of the duffle bags had ripped and had a very large hole!  So, we duct taped it up and shipped it off to Thailand!
 Our kids with pretty much all our earthly possessions in just 10 bags! Phew..
 Our layover in Korea! One more plane to Thailand!
 And this pretty much sums up our jet lag experience. This is us the evening of our first day here.  we were a little tired to say the least!
 After staying with family for a few days, we came to a retreat center for people in ministry and have been staying here while we get over jet lag!
 Rob's first time driving here!  He's a natural!
 Here we are at a mall here.  It is normal for someone to parallel park behind you but they are suppose to leave it in neutral so you can just move the car out of the way to back up, well the people who parked behind us must have forgot.  So they had to jack the car up and push it out of the way!  It was a 45 min ordeal!
They love tigers here!