The Random Writings of Rachel: 2 Years Abroad

2 Years Abroad

We stepped off of Hawaiian soil on this day two years ago, and haven't seen any part of the USA since.

Last year, I wrote about being one year in to our expat adventure. Year two has been more of a challenge.






{Assortment of favorite photos from our year here}

China was so fun. So, so much fun. Year two, our first year in Malaysia, has been one of those experiences that tend to get categorized by normal people as "hard but good."

I don't like calling things hard. I get that from Angel. Calling something hard sounds a little bit like complaining. And complaining and being grateful don't make good partners.

So let's say instead that our second year abroad was a year of growing. When my family asked what I'd learned in the year before turning 25--a yearly birthday tradition--I said that I felt the last year had been a big year for being brave. For talking to strangers, for being a leader and making my own decisions and being the one responsible for an event or program or project instead of the helpful volunteer who supports other people's projects and doesn't bear the weight of full responsibility. It's a different sort of role for me, one that has taken a lot more courage.

A lesson in courage is something I probably should have already learned before my early 20s, but so be it, I guess this was a good year to learn more about being brave.

I also learned that even in the busy and overwhelming times, I can't afford to give up creativity. For the first half of our year here, a packed schedule caused me to set aside much of my writing. I didn't have any craft supplies so I didn't craft. I didn't decorate our house, or sew, or do anything creative just for the pure fun of it. It just wasn't practical to spend time on extras. But as time went on, I realized I was starving, trying to live in such a practical manner. I'm not a practical person. In 2016, I've brought back writing, even exercising my fiction muscles and submitting articles to magazines and creating a song parody and writing devotionals regularly again. I asked for and received embroidery supplies and coloring books for Christmas. Writing and creating don't (well, rarely) make any money for me, and they are less 'useful' than doing housework, but they add needed color to life, and I know adding them back in was the right decision.

Angel has gotten back into running over the latter half of our year here, with pretty awesome race results. I've been so proud to be with him over the last year. Angel's never been the ambitious, workaholic type, but he's worked very hard at his job, taken on whatever hours and classes are necessary so that we can continue living here, and in his 'free time' he helps me and my parents with whatever active projects we have going on at the moment, whether it's taking kids to the pool, doing a fix-it project for somebody, giving someone a ride, going on errands, visiting an old folks' home, or bringing home dinner. In the meantime, he's had to figure out all the basics of life all over again--car maintenance, taxes, post office, paying bills, etc. in a different country and under a completely different system. Sometimes he even volunteers his nursing skills when he's been asked to. I love that I'm married to a man who isn't flustered by frequent and sudden changes in plans and routines.

This year has also been unusual for us in that we've hardly lived alone. For one reason or another, we've had guests--our own friends, friends of friends, friends of our parents' friends, etc. visiting and staying in our apartment for a total of more than 6 of the last 12 months. That alone could put a bit of a stress on any household's balance, but Angel's handled it all with his usual laidback grace.

We've had to find new traditions and new ways to have fun together in our new country. In China, we always cooked dinners together after we got home from work. Now, he works mornings and afternoons and comes home for lunch, so I have a homemade lunch waiting and ready when he arrives. Sometimes we have time to watch some youtube videos while eating lunch before he heads back to work, other times we don't. This year is the first time Angel's spent extended amounts of time with my family. They now know him as the guy who eats all their leftovers--he considers it his civic duty to make sure no leftovers go to waste, so oftentimes if he's in the mood for a snack, he says, "I'll just go and see if mom has any leftovers." He makes smoothies for my family once or twice a week. "Pizza Saturdays" at my parents' house has become something of a tradition, and once we even managed to pull off "Taco Tuesday" once as well, after a month or two worth of cancellations. Even for me, I haven't spent this much time with so many of my sisters--not since they were very young, anyways, and it's been fun getting to know them on a different level.

The family and friends we left behind are still very near to our thoughts. We know that the longer we are away, the more of life we've missed on sharing with them. It's been exciting this past year to watch cousins graduating from college and everybody growing up and growing a little bit older. We talk sometimes about all the people we're gonna see and all the fun things we're gonna do when we go back for a visit, but we're not close enough to that to start putting a trip into the schedule. Photos on Facebook never fail to bring us joy, along with emails and Skype calls. Being a long-distance family will almost certainly always be a part of our lives, but knowledge of that fact doesn't tend to allay the fierce sadness sometimes brought about by missing my favorite people in the whole world.

We're grateful for the beginnings of a community that have formed around us here. Pressing on to year 3! It is well with my soul!

19 comments:

  1. What a year you've had! I'm glad you've had some good times and learned a lot, can't wait to follow along for year three!

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  2. Wow, this is so intense! I like how you say that it's a "growing" year-that is such a good, positive spin to put on it! I really like the idea of "Pizza Saturdays," and think that I may have to delegate a day of the week to pizza, too. And I am so with you on making time for creativity! I was just thinking about that the other night as I was working on my current knitting project (a scarf that's going very slowly). Life with a small baby is very full and busy, but I think it is so important to make the time and effort to do something creative and relaxing. It's a good way to keep life fun, and to keep my mind refreshed, if that makes sense.

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  3. What an amazing opportunity for your family! I imagine it is pretty tough sometimes but still completely worthwhile for the experiences you have had and the ones that are yet to come! Wishing you all the best with year three!
    xo
    Hannah
    wakeandconquer.wordpress.com

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  4. Such educative and amazing experiences

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  5. I think a year of growing sums it up beautifully - can't be easy living so far from home but you are coping well and finding lots to enjoy, it's great you can focus on all the positives :)


    Away From The Blue Blog

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  6. Aw, it can be so hard to travel! That's wonderful you're always able to come together for a meal.

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  7. I loved reading about your journey and all the things you've learned over the last two years. Can't wait to hear more in the coming year!

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  8. What a fun adventure! Interesting to see how things look when you've been away from the US!

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  9. I LOVE that you chose to describe this past year as brave - that says a lot about you! This sounds like a year where you have been stretched and learned a lot, and I've found that even though those years might not be my favorite while I am going through them, they end up being some of the years I remember the most because I learned so much from them. And I am the same as you as far as needing some creative outlets - I don't have the time or extra money to work on my dollhouse right now, but I love those adult coloring books and my sewing machine has come back out :)

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  10. Life is truly an adventure! I love hearing what you have learned about yourself over the past two years- and I especially relate to how it felt to not be creating. It can feel like you are starving. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  11. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to be brave, and oddly, I think it takes a lot of courage to admit how important creative outlets and hobbies are to life. I am glad your year of bravery made you decide to keep being creative, because I enjoy reading about all of your creative ventures. Cheers to year 3 abroad!

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  12. I totally understand the bravery it takes to endure a hard move (okay, maybe not across the WORLD). I think it's entirely possible to be be grateful amidst a struggle and it's certainly a natural reaction when you're thrown some curves in life. Plus, having such a dynamite relationship sure helps ;) It makes the tough times more bearable, for sure!

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  13. Aww what wonderful memories. Life can definitely be tough but as long as you keep moving forward things s get better. alway

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  14. I am glad that you feel community is starting to surround you. This can happen very quickly or be something that grows slowly but strongly. I think we can under estimate how important it is to our well being.

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  15. Wow. That has to be difficult but so rewarding. I love that you spend time reflecting and really figuring out how you're feeling.

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  16. What a wonderful adventure for your family! It hadn't occurred to me how living abroad would make someone more brave.

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  17. How wonderful that you've adapted so well, and a sense of community is beginning to grow! I can only imagine how difficult it would be traveling somewhere and basically starting new with connections and the like, but I'm sure you both do it well. Also, I love that Angel eats all the leftovers like a human recycling bin. Good for him! :) I'm glad that you're still able to connect with your friends through Facebook and Skype and the like... it's probably the closest thing to being there without actually being there.

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  18. I'm so glad you're learning so much, even through the hardships! <3

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  19. I like how you call it a "growing" year. I hope this next year is a flourishing year! And let me just say... I love hearing how close you've gotten with your younger sisters and how Angel is so a part of the family. :)

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