The younger version of me, the pre expat version of myself, the version of the inexperienced traveller in me, the version of myself saying “I’ll never ride on a motorbike”. Then there is the earlier version of myself as to what holidays that I celebrated, never knowing that there would be new holidays that she and her children would celebrate soon. That unknowing version of myself is so, so very wide and deep. It is one I am pleased to have opened up and let inside of that old version to a new version of knowing, of finding, of letting go of fear and sharing the information I’ve learned along the way to that new expat who’s just letting go of her old version to make way for the new version.
The way I saw it, was different than how it came to be. The kids would go to an American school. They do not. We would see my husband more. We do not. We would play outside all day. We defiantly do not. We would go to the beach often. We do not. I would learn Thai. I have not.
With the expectations I did have and many of them not met, there is a range of things I didn’t expect that actually I find, make me the most delighted about our years and experience here. The food. We love it. The Thai people. They have our hearts. Our new friends. Our friends spanning from all over the entire world now. My kids and their acceptance of the culture and their ability to adapt.
And that acceptance includes new traditions and celebrations. We have our holidays we celebrated back in the States, the obvious Christmas, New Years, Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving. We moved to a country where there are 16 National Holidays, 16! The most in any country in the world. We understand and now know what most of them are and what they mean, pronouncing some better than others.
And some, we celebrate and are involved in more. Our favourites are Loy Krathong and Chinese New Year.
Mid-November the shops start to change inventory and the traditional Thai outfits for men and women, boys and girls are laid out at many indoor and outdoor markets. It’s like seeing Easter dresses come into the shops in the States. I stare, browse over them and decide now who needs a new one or who can wear the one from last year that the one ahead of them wore for the school and village celebration. Having four boys my variety is small, and nowhere near as glittery and pristine as the women’s selection. I always have a moment going through the girls’ line of dresses. Luckily I have friends who have daughters and I can stare and obsess over their attire.
On my second Loy Krathong here, I decided to dress in traditional Thai wear. I am sure you aren’t surprised given my earlier statement of admiration for the girls’ formal dress.
I was given a piece of fabric by my husband’s co-worker and she said it could be used as a tablecloth or a skirt. I had it hemmed and found a traditional gold belt to wear around it to hold it up. I paired it with a tank top that may have been slightly not seen as customary or acceptable. I wore it anyway and began my walk to our villages Loy Krathong celebration. With each step, I was sweating more and more and the dress was starting to slip down as soon as I arrived at the pool I was thinking I might jump in! That evening the majority of Thai’s smiled and some laughed when they saw me. It made me feel a little insecure. I started to question what I had done, I was hoping I wasn’t offending anyone. A friend assured me that was them being happy to see me wearing their costume. They just didn’t have the words to say it. I’m hoping she was telling me the truth!
Our second favourite holiday we’ve acquired is Chinese New Year. The red and gold replace the colours of the Christmas, green and red. The candles and lanterns line the streets and the food arrangements are something to be seen. I spent Chinese New Year in China town last year by a total fluke and what an experience that was. Costumes, dragons dancing the streets, ducks hanging and filling our noses with the aroma.
The children also dress for this occasion at school as well. I always say a little prayer before both holidays. Knowing, if one decides he’s not into wearing the costume then, it will be a full-on press to get the team back on track and on the same page to put theirs on too. Luckily so far, all have been agreeable. It still manages to shock me, how much of a normalcy it is for them to represent two countries in their traditional wear each year. They now know, what the holiday means and why they are dressed up. Time and maturity will do that to these third cultured children, which is a celebration and new a tradition in more ways than one.
I’ll always have the memory of chaos to get them dressed and out the door on time. Holding my breath as they get on the bus and drive away. I walk inside and sit down with my cup of coffee and breathe a deep sigh of relief. My eyes might even swell with tears as so much of this life as an expat is hard but with new traditions and celebrations, we keep moving forward, focusing on the embrace of what that day will mean at school and in our community. Making this new version of our family, with many new traditions, holidays and celebrations a celebration in itself.