We arrived to the Kingdom of Thailand a little over two weeks ago, and it has been nothing but a fun, confusing, sweaty adventure since.
How did it go? Well, it went. Shepherd was great, but it definitely was hard. We’re practical people (read: not above drugging our child), so we gave him melatonin, which helped him fall asleep. The trick is, the kid wants to move and play, and that just wasn’t an option. He slept for like 8 hours of the 12 hour flight, on and off. We got the brilliant idea half way through to let him lay across our tray tables to sleep. The kid can only sleep on his stomach and seeing as how I have a beach ball on my lap and Stephen was squished between me and a stranger, Shepherd was less than comfortable. Tray tables = awesome.
The second flight was so much better simply because we had bulk head seats and they gave us the whole row. It was still hard, Shepherd had no idea why we kept putting him in chairs in the sky and not letting him crawl around, but overall it was fine. He slept a lot again, and we got our first experience having a white baby in Asian culture.
The flight attendants loved Shepherd. Loved. Took him, walked around with him to “give mommy break”, fed him ice cream, got him pillows (hello, I’m the pregnant one! Give me a pillow! Kid doesn’t care about pillows!), kept asking if we needed anything “for baybee”. And, of course, kid ate it up.
We landed in Thailand around midnight on March 8, and were ushered to the front of every line (immigration, customs) because of Shepherd. It’s about time he started pulling his weight.
All our luggage (7 checked pieces, roughly 500lbs total) made it, and we loaded up the trolleys and headed to the hotel shuttle.
We got to the hotel, ordered food (obviously), all of which was way too spicy for me (obviously) and went to bed. About three hours later we woke up and went to breakfast (obviously).
Then we went to IKEA and got the boys cribs and highchairs. At this point, we were in a taxi and Stephen was wearing Shepherd. And it was about 100 degrees. I think it’s safe to say that Shep’s brain broke. He didn’t know what was happening, why it was happening, where he was, why the air was burning his face off and if he should be awake or not. It was very funny to watch. Anytime we would set him down he would slam himself face down into something soft and start to sleep. Don’t judge that it was funny. Eventually it did make us sad, too. But mostly it was funny.
Later that afternoon we flew up to Chiang Mai and were met by the Venture staff here. They loaded up our stuff into their truck and brought us to their house where we would make camp until we found our own house.
We Live Here Now
That next week was full. Jet lag wasn’t so rough for us, but it was tough for Shepherd. Needless to say, there were many cuddles.
We got our car within the first few days of being here. I found the car online before we left, so when we landed we just connected with the people and went from there. Stephen did all the logistical work with the owner of the car. They were so awesome. They too were expats and they had been here for awhile so they knew how to get things done. Stephen went with the guy and got the title of the car and all that entailed (three days, many hours, many documents and lots of waiting).
The Venture staff here showed us around, took us shopping, made us dinners, played with Shep, took us to church, answered our questions, took us to meet with someone about our Visas and did a million other things for us. I don’t know how people come here alone, because without them we for sure would not be as settled at this point as we are now. We love them.
We also connected with a real estate agent here who was recommended by a Covenant Missionary I know and love. We wanted, and tried, to get a house in the neighborhood the two other Venture families we’re living in, but nothing was open in our price range. Things were going to open up around June, but with the new baby coming in early May, and Shepherd being through so.many.moves, we really didn’t want to move into somewhere short term only to move a month after the baby was born. That said, our real estate agent was amazing. We spent a day and went all over the city, and we looked at like 12 houses total. The second to last house we saw, we fell in love with. We found our house.
We also got Thai phone numbers. That was fun.
We met the Thai woman who leads HOSEA center. She is amazing and so sweet and we can’t wait to work with her.
We also had our first OBGYN appointment here. It was different than I expected, as doctors here have their own private offices where they see patients in the evenings after being at the hospitals all day. Our doctor is very kind, patient, speaks English and delivers almost all the expat babies in Chiang Mai. She read through my records and we talked for awhile. I felt so much better getting that appointment done. All that’s left is touring the hospital, which we will do later this week.
All the while, through learning to drive here (opposite side of the road, opposite side of the car, opposite hand operating the stick shift, and just many different “rules”) to navigating how to get things done here without understanding the language/culture/laws, Stephen and I just kept looking at each other and saying, “We live here now.”
How We’re Doing or ARE YOU FREAKING OUT YET?
So far, we’re 90% good. Like I said, little things like getting simple tasks done and learning to drive here has been tricky, but not impossible and not even totally overwhelming.
Let me share a deep secret with you: I have a Pump Up song. Stephen has semi-adopted it as his Pump Up song and now it’s our family Pump Up song.
It’s just the first ten or so beats from the Jock Jams hit “Y’All Ready For This”. But let me tell you, it gets the pump up job done. You’re welcome to use it as your own Pump Up song if you’re in the market.
Anyway, before I have to do something where in which I would need a pumping up, I sing out those first few beats. This is an auditory cue to Stephen that I am nervous or overly excited and need to focus slash get my mind the GAME.
I have sung those beats many, many times in Thailand. Mostly before driving. Duh-na-na-na-na-Duh-na-na-na-na-na, y’all ready for this?
It has helped a great deal.
We have gone through moments of homesickness that we’re encouraging. We don’t want to bottle it up and not deal with it, so as things come up, we talk about them, feel the feelings and just let it be and move on. I’ve missed food, which is so weird because I never care about food from home. But for some reason, all I can think about are APPLEBEES WINGS. It’s real, man. I’ve had like four dreams about those saucy little bites of love. For Stephen it’s been things like the internet at our house not working. It’s frustrating when it’s a thing you know and understand and should be able to fix/get through, but can’t because you don’t speak the language.
We’re being very intentional about not romanticizing home right now. There are plenty of things about Thailand we don’t understand and cannot seem to reconcile, but that’s true at home too. Right now we’re focusing on the things here we love and exploring the things we don’t understand.
We miss our friends and family the most. Going to the doctor and thinking about the new baby being born here and no one we love coming to the hospital to visit, well, that makes me very, very sad. Thinking about giving birth in a place where I don’t fully understand what’s happening like 70% of the time makes me homesick. Shepherd jumping at the phone when we FaceTime people because he wants to touch them and play and doesn’t understand it’s just a picture, makes me homesick.
Those are the sacrifices we’ve talked about time and time again. It’s just now we’re here, it’s real, not something we’re thinking about or praying about or making theories about, it’s life now. So, as best as we can, we let the feelings come up, feel them, talk about them and pray.
How Shepherd is Doing or MY ASIAN BABY
Please. This kid.
Shepherd was made for Thailand.
As I said, they love babies. Especially white babies, which is convenient because that’s what I’ve been making.
Stephen had to go to the Chiang Mai “DMV” for the car. He spent literally four hours one day waiting in a line. The next time he went back? No wait. Ushered right up to the desk. Why? Well because he had Shepherd. He said the lady called him up, held her arms out to take Shepherd, held him and then asked what she could do for Stephen. Lesson learned: bring a baby everywhere.
We were in a home store last week getting things for the new house. Shepherd was in a cart. We were checking out. A little sales girl ran over to the cart, grabbed Shepherd and tried to get him out of the cart, but his chubby legs were stuck, so she looked at Stephen like Hey, man, you gonna help me or what? Stephen, not meaning to be rude, gave her our baby. Then, I jest not, eight employees gathered around as she held Shepherd and he pointed and smiled and yelled. We’re invisible. We just lift him out of carts for people and sometimes change his diaper.
He loves the food. He can eat spicier food than I can (which isn’t saying a whole lot, but I am impressed). He ate so much pineapple one day his butt was burning (we don’t need to talk about that potentially being the parents’ fault for giving him so much).
He wasn’t so sure about his crib the first couple nights. It took him a good few days to stand in it. Maybe he thought it was a cage? I don’t know. But now he loves it, and he for sure knows it’s HIS room.
Overall, he’s doing great. He’s such a happy kid and so much of why we’re doing this is for him and his brother. Not just because being naked in your front yard in March as your dad sprays you in the face with a hose is awesome, though that’s on the list. We want him to meet Jesus in a crazy way, and his sweet, tender heart already showing us that he’s going to do just fine in The Kingdom.
Once we found our house and talked it over, looked at other options, prayed a ton about, talked about it Venture staff and came to a decision, we got to move in about a week or so later.
We love love love our house. It’s 2km closer to the city than the neighborhood we were originally looking at. It’s a gated town home complex in the middle of a very Thai neighborhood, which we love. There’s a tiny crazy road that our neighborhood is on, and there are tons of little shops and food stands along it. It’s also right between two major highways which is super convenient. There’s a Thai market two minutes away or within walking distance, which we go to probably once a day. And there’s resort 500 meters from our neighborhood gate that let’s us use the pool.
And it was brand new. And under budget. And furnished.
So, I basically cried when we first saw it.
It’s a three bedroom, three bathroom two story. We have a yard on the side (naked hose downs) and our washer is out back (fun perk of Thailand = laundry happens outside). The kitchen isn’t finished yet, so the owner is letting us live here for free until it’s done.
Here is the house:
Like I said, we love it. It’s the first house we’ve ever had, the first room Shepherd has ever had and we’re so, so thankful.
So, that’s the quick and dirty of what’s been happening and how we’re doing. We have Thai numbers now, so if you want them, let us know. We have iPhones so we can text and FaceTime for free to other iPhones. We also have Skype and Facebook, so really, we’re accessible. If you would like our address (we would love care packages!), let us know.
We love you all so much and now that we’re settled we can’t wait to share with you all that Venture is up to here.
All our love,
Katie, Stephen, Shepherd and Inside Baby V