Asian American · Expat

Celebrating 7 years abroad

7 years Collage

It was Facebook that reminded me that the milestone had passed. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have continued to scroll past this moment, drinking my coffee and eating my banana.

I posted, “I signed up for Intensive Thai, but based on my photo (with my application) I was enrolled in Intensive English instead.”

Would you hire an Asian American to teach English?
Ah, the face of a woman who needs to brush up on her English.

Now, normally, I’d write a long post about what these 7 years overseas has meant to me, what I’ve learned, etc., but after deciding that I hated half of what I wrote, I’ve settled on writing a list post, in an effort to stir up the punch, so to speak, and force me to distill my years abroad into one tasty beverage.

Ingredients:

Identity cocktail

  1. Being asked, upon hearing that I’m from Hawaii, “Are you from Hawaii China?”
  2. Always being asked, “Where are you from?” And almost always being started at, despite looking Asian living + traveling in Asian countries.
  3. Quickly learning how to say in Thai, “My mother is Thai and my father is Chinese, but I was born in Hawaii and I’m American”.
  4. Watching locals light up upon hearing I’m part Thai and Chinese.
  5. Having a Chinese Bible thrust under my nose in a park in Cuenca, Ecuador followed by my British friend’s laughter as she looked on.
  6. Being taunted on the streets of Cuenca by teenage boys yelling, “Konichiwa,” as I walk briskly home in the dark.
  7. Overhearing Thais say, “She speaks really good English,” after leaving a red taxi truck in Chiang Mai.

7 big years Collage

Perspective blender

  1. Realizing that America has its own set of rules, constructs and artificial realities, and recognizing that culture is invisible.
  2. Attempting to see what is assumed.
  3. Seeing my mom on her home turf, connecting with her through her native language, and (hopefully) understanding her a little more.
  4. Getting out of comfort zone, regularly.
  5. Making friends from all over the world, living and working in an International environment, and being that Annoying American trying on her British accent.
  6. Having successful (and unsuccessful) interactions with locals using their language. Really having to rely on what I’ve retained and my creativity to navigate my way around (e.g. avoiding meltdowns).
  7. Learning to be more patient because that’s the way things are on this side of the world…

7yrs Collage

Growth + goals garnishes

  1. Living a life that is much closer to how I want to live, through part time work, play and pursuing my passions.
  2. Finishing that damn memoir, my first book, after years of carrying it around the United States.
  3. Working on my second book with all its ups and downs of self-doubt peppered with excitement.
  4. Blogging consistently, writing every day for me, not losing sight of the dream.
  5. Successfully conquering my fear of driving a motorbike, but definitely not how traffic moves in SE Asia.
  6. Eating food that I once thought was gross, terrifying, weird and too different.
  7. Kicking my fears and failures in the gut by getting back into teaching. Namaste. Amen. Big hug for me.
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53 thoughts on “Celebrating 7 years abroad

    1. We came out to our respective countries not too far apart. I think we came out in mid-July. I can’t be too sure anymore. The FB update was when I enrolled in classes, so we had been here awhile already. Congrats to you too!

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  1. Congrats on seven years abroad, Lani! I love it how you took so many photos along they way, and very good quality ones too. A photo for each place and almost every memory. What a wonderful feeling it must be when you look back at all of the photos. I really like the purple Barney one, lol. How can anyone not be cheery around Barney… :’D

    Reading your three lists, it seems you experiencing and achieved a lot amidst the ups and downs. Moving around so much, I do wonder what is your constant – is it your writing, your partner, your books, or maybe it is something else altogether, I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mabel. I didn’t think I too that many photos, but I guess I did. There were times that I look back on and regret not taking more pics, so I guess when I moved abroad I tried to rectify that.

      I think my constant is I like me, I’m a risk taker and I’m quite happy with simple things. Plus, yes, writing is my therapy, my go-to, my best friend. Meeting great and interesting folks along the way certainly helps, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Seven years?! Wow! Now how about making that trip to SA while I’m still here so that we can go and play with leopards and proper African elephants? 😀 You know you want to…Love the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d really love to. I looked up ticket prices after our chat and nearly fell out of my chair. Very expensive, but maybe a miracle will happen…now you got me wondering, are you leaving anytime soon???

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Only once my Master’s degree is done (that’s still the whole of 2017) and I find a suitable place to pursue my PhD. So you got plenty time dear 😉 I finished your book by the way! You are hilarious and I loved the idea of light and dark. I feel so cool just knowing you :p

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Wow. I’m flattered. Thank you. I can’t believe you read it already. I really appreciate it. *starts fawning and petting you*

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I know everyone says it, but my, oh, my how time flies. I’m looking at the calendar and thinking, before you know it – we’ll be celebrating 2017!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations! Though I also lived seven or eight years abroad it was just Finland which is basically my other home country…sure you can say similar about Thailand but for me I spent every summer and many winter holidays in Finland plus all my relatives there so it never felt really like abroad to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps you can say Finland is your second country, or second home 🙂 In any case, time spent away from your passport country is enriching nonetheless. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Big hug for you!!
    Wow! This is jam-packed with content. So many interesting things.

    My husband used to be mistaken for a Korean, Thai, Filipino, etc. Generally he liked it, thought he was a man of the world. But when we visited his hometown, people on the ferry who were speaking loudly in Hokkien called me an Australian and him a Japanese, and, taking it as an insult, he shouted at them.

    Congratulations on “Blogging consistently, writing every day for me, not losing sight of the dream.”

    I hate to brag, but I made it through 17 years abroad plus 5 more years of spending part-time abroad and part-time in the US. Whew! Anyway, by now that’s a long time ago.

    Love all those photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re allowed to brag. That’s a crazy amount of time to be out of country. I’m sure you are a changed woman because of your experiences.

      Sometimes I worry about my decision to live overseas given an uncertain future, but then I remember I’m doing what I want and I really did want to experience working and living abroad and now I can say I’m doing it!

      The photo collage was a fun last minute idea…after all, I couldn’t decide what photo would represent my time away from America!

      Thanks, Nicki.

      Like

    1. Sounds like a few of us, came out during the summer months. Yeah, 10 is a big number, gotta do something for that, right?

      Cheers, Marta 🙂

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  5. Happy anniversary, Lani! We’re coming up on 1 year, but we have learned so much in that year. Growing up globally prepared me somewhat, but not all the way for our daily challenges, humorous situations, and general ups and downs. I’m in awe of everything you’ve accomplished!

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    1. That’s a high compliment coming from a world-class citizen like you! Thanks.

      And yeah, the first year is such a doozy. You do learn so much about yourself. Congrats to you as well. xxoo

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  6. Congrats! What adventures 🙂 Being enrolled in the English class reminds me of many of the (somewhat amusing) instances my Chinese born Australian fiance and I have encountered travelling. We were waiting for a bus in Japan once when this white guy came up and asked him in really slow English if this was the bus stop. We only realised later that he mustn’t have thought Peter could speak English (he speaks English, Chinese and Spanish all like a native speaker but no Japanese, despite many people mistaking him for Japanes). Another time he was in an onsen and put some snow on his head because he was hot and a white guy saw and said to his friends “we should put snow on our heads, that’s what that Japanese guy is doing so it must be the traditional thing to do”. Peter got a bit of a laugh out of that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are great stories. Yeah, I have to admit, Peter looks Japanese. I thought he was, too!

      Sometimes my students start speaking to me in their native language, I think they get caught up in the moment when we’re having a laugh and then we all really start laughing when they realize their mistake.

      I don’t mind being AA in Asia. I think I prefer it to all the times when I was the minority. I mean, I’m okay with that too, but it’s nice just blending in…Thanks, Cat ^^

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really love the format you decided to use, it is quirky, just like you! Vince and I had a chat about how much we have changed and learned about ourselves and the “Behind the Eyes” culture in Thailand we feel very proud of our 2 1/2 years there.

    He learned about 20 years ago that his Great Grandfather was Portuguese. Feeling no connection to the US, I guess we can call Portugal our home country now. 🙂 So far we have been accepted in ways that never in a million years would have happened in Thailand. I kept telling Thais that would get too friendly, “ATM Empty” They would hesitate and then laugh.

    In the first two days in Lisbon, nearly everyone automatically speaks to us in Portuguese and French. When we have that “Deer in headlights look” they ask if we speak English and are visibly relieved when we say yes. Also, with Vince’s small amount of Portuguese they tend to answer back rapid fire, like he is also fluent. So, here we go on our new adventure with more surprises to come. I think we will be here for quite awhile!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny. I’ve felt more of a pull to Portugal than Spain. I like to compare it to the Oregon vs Washington syndrome 😛 Oklahoma vs Texas, okay, you get the picture.

      I truly hope you both stick around there for some time. I want to visit! So I’m curious, if Vince’s connection could ever lead to citizenship one day? I know in Ireland, grandparents are considered close enough lineage to obtain citizenship.

      I think you will enjoy fitting in and feeling like one of the crowd. There really is something to it. I don’t like the attention of being different. I think I did briefly in college as a way to embrace it, but overall, I prefer to be the wallflower making mental notes from the sidelines.

      So happy for the both of you, will be eagerly following along. One of my former Waldorf students was from Brazil so I got to hear some Portugese around school – apparently there was some overlap to Spanish, not sure how close anymore. It will be a sexy fun language to learn!

      Thanks, Lin. xxoo

      Like

  8. Congrats Lani.

    Being an expat, I find I never stop learning. Perhaps, it vary from country to country. Sure, there were bad days🙄😁 but the things that the locals (complete strangers) do and bend forwards for this foreigner (how I hate this word) always stirred me. I felt and still feel blessed and privileged.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lani, so good to see your blog again. So assuming you are still in Siem Reap. I and Judith have signed up for the Kampot Writer’s Festival and will be there From Nov 3 to the 7th and then travel around. Do you know about the Festival? Maybe you can come. Anyway I’m sure well get unto Siem Reap. Will keep you posted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I didn’t know about it. I’ll check it out. It would be grand, I think, to go! I’d like to go to Kampot anyway! Keep me posted, please! Thanks ^^

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  10. I love your lists! Your identity cocktail was very amusing. It’s amazing how idiots just open their mouths and stuff falls out. All of your lists were very heartfelt and thoughtful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heh, heh. I might have to try using this format more often. Especially since I’m trying to work on finishing a rough draft of the book!

      Thanks so much. ❤

      Like

    1. Awwww, thanks so much Jen. I don’t remember you mentioning having read it. But now I do! All folks who read my book and love it, are rock stars. True fact!

      Hope you had a great birthday and a safe and enjoyable trip back to the States.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I really enjoyed this post Lani! You make me want to move to another country for the change in perspective. I imagine that culture shock would be like rocket fuel for my creativity.

    Also I’m so glad to hear that you’received writing a second book. Can’t wait to read it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Congrats on 7 years and here’s to many more! Stepping out of your comfort zone always invites unique experiences and often beautiful moments!! I have been living abroad for so many years and I still discover something amazing and new each and every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Haha, that FB post is a good one 🙂 I remember international students in college would always ask me where the ESL center was. I felt bad that I didn’t actually know.

    Connecting with your mom in her native language – that’s wonderful! I read this article recently about Japanese war brides – there was this snippet about one of the children who ended up learning Japanese as an adult and was able to understand more of his mother’s character, innocuous things I wouldn’t have thought of, like humor. Must have been surreal!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kelly 🙂

      Well, I can’t say my Thai is good enough (esp since I’m living in Cambodia now). But it was a door-opener. It was enough to see how much my mom is a reflection of her culture.

      Like

  14. Lani, I still live in Chiang Mai, but recently visited Cambodia including Seam Reap. I am interested in your take on Cambodia vs Thailand since you have been there for a while. Have you already written articles on this?

    Hope you are well and happy.

    Regards,
    Jim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jim. Yeah, I know I should write one of those articles. I’ll try to get around to doing it. I’ve been hesitant because I spent so much more time in Thailand than here, but a comparision would be useful and interesting! Cheers, you too!

      Like

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