It’s been a month since we returned to Thailand and we are happy to report, “We are not in Bangkok anymore, Toto!” We are so happy to be settling into our new home in Map Ammarit (Map is pronounced somewhere between ‘map’ and ‘mop’, but has nothing to do with maps or mops).
Though moving in any country is a big undertaking, it seems like an even grander process when living abroad. We spent our first night in our new home sleeping on hard tile floors and eagerly awaiting our belongings to arrive the next morning (which they did, safe and sound despite being warned that some movers in the past have stolen whole house loads). We’ve since been working on getting settled in, which is no easy task when your home comes with so few of the things considered “standard” in America. We came with some things from Bangkok, but we also were blessed in Bangkok to have a place that was partially furnished so there were at least wardrobes, a stove, air conditioners and water heaters for the showers. When we arrived, our new house still had construction dust that we needed to clean from the walls and floors and kitchen sink piping and all had to be repaired due to improper installation. We also were faced with the challenge of Thai houses having no closets (for linens or clothes), no kitchen cupboards, no stove, no water heater, no water tank on the roof (water does not always run without that), no toilet paper holders, no medicine cabinets, no screens on the windows, and a garage style door on the front of the house, but no solid wall with a door enclosing the front of the house from the street (allowing mosquitos to get in). Thai houses come basic and we are the first to live in this house that was built 4 or 5 years ago, which is a blessing in some ways and a challenge in others as many of these things we have to supply ourselves. We say these things not to complain, but rather so that you will know the reality of the enormity of the task we’ve been undertaking to imitate Jeremiah’s prophetic instructions: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce… Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jeremiah 29:5-7).” While we do not feel we are in exile here at all, we do know the Lord has carried us here for His glorious purposes and that the principles apply.
In many ways we feel this two story, three bedroom, two bath townhome is an upgrade for us. For example, the house already has a proper third bedroom (our home in Bangkok had two proper bedrooms and one big room on the roof that was intended more as a sun room rather than a bedroom). For another, the kitchen is large enough to hold our fridge, table and IKEA portable islands and has enough counter space for both our little convection oven and a microwave. In Bangkok, our kitchen had a tin roof which leaked at times when it rained so we didn’t want to have any electronics in it and was too narrow to hold our breakfast table. We also have both a living room and a day room whereas our old place just had one living space. This home is also significantly newer, as our home in Bangkok was probably at least 30-40 years old.
As for our little town, we definitely will not miss the traffic jams that became our normal in Bangkok and we are so glad to have a few schools with green spaces the kids can play in while we workout. Also, bonus points, there is a beach about 20 minutes away from our front door. Moving to a small town has its adjustments too. Many things are simply not as readily available here and as we are in the process of settling in we’ve been finding ourselves making the hour-long trek to the city of Chumphon more often than we would like.
We have been in town since December 17 (having arrived after midnight) and are beginning to figure out our way around town: when and where the markets meet, what is available in the many little locally-owned mom and pop shops, where to get a good cup of coffee, and where the best and cheapest restaurants are. We are also in the early stages of getting to know our community, though we’ve been informed that pretty much everyone already knows who we are. (We are after all the foreigners with the two adorable children that EVERYONE wants to take a picture with.) After pushing hard for two weeks to get mostly settled in, this week we’ve started to take time to get to know others better. We have also gone running twice at the local community school with our new friends and made a couple of trips to spend time at the beach.
We had often heard that “the province” was true Thailand and we have to say, there definitely is a whole new level of learning language and cultural submersion! In Bangkok we were in a little “bubble” if you will. There are not only a lot more expats and missionaries in the big city, but it is what is considered an international city. In the province, we are among a much smaller group of foreigners who call it home. We are also learning that aspects of Thai culture that are stereotypical such as “Thai time” for example, are in much fuller swing here in the province. It’s not entirely uncommon to plan to meet someone at say 1 for example, but have them come closer to 1:30 without them so much as explaining that they are running behind. We are also developing our cross cultural communication skills as we are having to learn how to interpret indirect communication and reciprocate as needed but still get our point across.
Despite the challenges our hearts are filled with joyful anticipation of what God will do and we are so glad to be following Him into this adventure.
What’s Next for Us?
Amy and Jed start school full-time tomorrow. Amy had a meeting just yesterday with the school manager to talk in more detail about how the school would like her to lead and help develop current classes and programs. Jed is excited about beginning school. Matt will also be serving some at the school, taking on a role of a school chaplain and perhaps helping with some of the conversational classes.
We are meeting with the Christians in town to talk about how to best move forward with replanting/restarting a church here. At one point a church was planted here, but it never had a consistent pastor or any clear vision or direction. The Christians in town are very eager to grow and reach their community. Matt will be seeking to raise up new leaders, disciple those new to the faith, and carrying the main burden of preaching in church each week while seeking the Lord as to how best lay a foundation for fruitfulness.
We are so thankful for those who partnered with us in finances in December to help us with the startup costs for our new home. Though we are encountering a few unexpected expenses beyond what we shared previously, we believe we are still within the estimated budget of $7,735 for initial costs and we had about $3,000 of that come in during December. We are still needing roughly $4,435 to make this place home so if you feel the Lord leading you to be a part of that you can follow the giving instructions here.
Thank you so much for being a part of what God is doing here in Thailand. We are so blessed by your loving support and prayers.
Matt, Amy, Jed and Alizah