Families living internationally have to deal with leaving and arriving. It is part of life but it doesn’t become any easier simply because it is done more often and from farther away. Rather than ruminating on the realities of the agony of leaving being offset by the relief of arriving and other platitudes I will just tell about what’s happening in our family this week.
This week it’s our turn to say, “Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you” to borrow a poignant phrase from our favorite musical. Since 1993 daughter Julie McRady and son-in-law Andrew have been here in Chiang Mai. Julie spent part of her childhood here attending Chiang Mai International School. When she left Thailand in 1985 she said she’d be back to teach at CMIS, and everybody said, “Sure, sure.” But she did as she had planned after graduating in elementary education from Berea College in Kentucky. She convinced Andrew to come as well. For Julie it was like coming back, but for Andrew it was a steeper acculturation curve. Julie quickly settled into teaching primary grades at CMIS while Andrew tried his hand at teaching English at Prince Royal’s College across the street, and then switched to the English Department at Payap University. After a couple of years Andrew joined a small group trying to improve and save Nakornpayap International School. NIS was purchased on the edge of bankruptcy and moved to a new campus where Andrew honed administrative skills, taught Social studies, and gained a Master’s Degree from a university in Australia. About 4 years ago the time came for Andrew to join Julie and their two children at CMIS. Their daughter, Siree, was born here in Chiang Mai 16 years ago as of next August 13 and Aran followed on June 7, 12 years ago. They are bi-cultural. They are international.
They are moving to Bell Buckle, Tennessee, a whistle-stop on the railroad made famous by the “Chattanooga Choo-choo”, but more importantly as home of Webb School, one of the best private schools in Tennessee. Andrew graduated from Webb. The McRady family owns a house in town into which Andrew and family will be moving next week. Andrew has accepted a position at Webb as Dean of Students. Siree and Aran will be Webb students. Julie will be a housekeeper for a while and also continuing a long drawn-out process to discover what is really wrong with her digestive system. Hopefully medical experts in Tennessee will be able to do what ones here in Chiang Mai have not done. So there is a shadow of uncertainly over the future as they leave.
One area of concern is how Siree and Aran will adjust to being in America, in Tennessee, in Bell Buckle. They have been international all this while, all their lives. They have been neither Thai nor quite American. They look and sound like American kids, but that will be deceiving. They will find they do not think and react like American kids. Julie knows that very well, having dealt with it in 1985 and for a long time after that. “First world” kids with first world worries will seem so strange. The wider world will seem more like home than Tennessee and that will strike people as strange and maybe even suspicious. But there are people there to make the landing as soft as possible. Their 2 grandmothers will both be right there along with extended family. And Webb is as multi-cultural as a private school in Tennessee can be. Culture shock for people returning from abroad is as inevitable as jet-lag and dietary-distress (known by other less appealing names) are for new travelers. But, well, maybe it won’t be too bad.
This month has been disruptive. A lifestyle has been interrupted for this family. The last few days have been the climax. Movers and packers emptied the house. The 2 husky puppies were sent to new homes yesterday morning amid tears and a gentle rain. Now there is waiting for the long flights on Thursday.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.