There’s been an ongoing conversation in our household lately, the theme of which is a broad one, but it boils down to this: What do we want? An easy question, and yet not. It’s very simple to make a list of our goals and hopes and desires, but when you factor in all the uncertainty that is a part of our chosen international lifestyle, and then all the uncertainty that’s a part of life in general, it gets tricky.
Example number 1: We want to settle in, unpack our bags, and stay somewhere for a while. We want to learn the local language, we want our child to learn the local language, to make friends, to have a sense of a belonging. I want to build a program, to leave my mark somewhere. (Side note: There may be those who believe that, because we’ve chosen to live internationally, we must not want to settle down. The truth is, we believe that it’s possible to “settle down” anywhere. Wherever we are together, that’s home.) Anyhow, the desire to truly invest ourselves in a place is directly countered by one big uncertainty: The ever-present question “What if I don’t get a contract for next year?”. There’s no such thing as tenure when you’re an international teacher. We live from contract to contract, year to year. It can be difficult to truly invest in a place when you are always playing the “if we stay here long-term, we’ll (insert goal such as “buy a car”, “get a housekeeper”, “invest in language lessons”, etc. here)” game. That’s why it’s best to just live in the moment, and if you want to do it, do it now. Lesson number one learned from uncertainty: Don’t waste time.
Example number 2: We want to have another baby. The uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with this desire are not limited to expat lifestyles, but example number 1 does complicate things a bit. When we moved to Thailand, we had a 2.5 month old. We left Tunisia in April, had Dorian in May, moved to Thailand in July, and I started a new job in August. We did it. It was tough, it was stressful, but we did it, and I’m glad we did. However, I don’t want to do it again. That’s why being uncertain about contracts makes wanting a baby just a touch more stressful. If the timing doesn’t work out correctly, and I don’t get another contract, we could be in quite a pickle. However, lesson number two learned from uncertainty: Keep it all in perspective. If we are lucky enough to have another child, the joy we’ll experience will trump all of the difficulties that may arise if the timing isn’t perfect. Also, if we are unable to have another child, we’ll be all the more grateful for the beautiful child we do have.
There are more examples, such as the desire to give our child roots in his home country while providing him with the opportunity to live and travel in other parts of the world, the desire to maintain connections with family and friends back home, and more, but I don’t want to get bogged down in the idea of how uncertain life can be, because that’s not my point. My point is that learning to be comfortable in a state of uncertainty is possibly the biggest lesson I will learn from my time (8 years now!) as an expat. I am a planner and an organizer, so for me to learn to be comfortable in such a state is a fantastic accomplishment and just one of many reasons to consider leaving the comfort of home to try something or someplace new.
That’s all I have to say about that. On to a lighter topic: Hawaii. The Wongs were fortunate enough to be able to spend three weeks in Hawaii this summer, visiting family and a few friends. We were also able to celebrate Dorian’s first birthday with a number of friends and relatives in a beautiful party organized by Lynn, Corbet’s mom. I am grateful for every second spent in Hawaii, and I can’t wait to go back. The following slideshow includes some of the photos from a photo shoot done on Waimanalo Beach at sunrise. I believe our talented photographer, Kim Ebert, did a wonderful job.