I have spent a total of 2 years living overseas. 365 days since I moved from New Zealand to Thailand. All the planning, stress, anxiety and sleepless nights worrying lead me to my life now. I am so thankful that I WORKED and made my DREAM a reality. There were many moments where I thought about throwing in the towel and booking a flight back to Canada, instead of a one way ticket to Thailand. Since grade 8 I dreamed about coming back to Thailand and living here, not coming back as a tourist, but experiencing day to day life in my homeland. Try to reconnect with my culture and experience living somewhere else other than North America. The paperwork/politics of trying to live here, the language barrier and the anxiety over finding a job, and living accommodations while being Thai illiterate has made me a much stronger person!
If I had to define my year in Thailand it would be; self-discovery. I am a transracial adult adoptee (TRA) who is continually trying to figure out my adoption story and ongoing life story. Racial and cultural issues play a deep role in my identity. I have always felt like I was searching for something unattainable. Becoming more self-aware continues to help but never solves this problem. Learning more about racial and cultural issues and discovering communities of support have been life changing. The amount of literature now out there and currently being published is encouraging. I realize the concept of HOME is ever evolving for me. Being an adoptee will always be a lifelong learning process.
All that said – living in Thailand has made me appreciate all the opportunities I was given growing up as a Canadian citizen, in a household of 5. My family will always means the world to me. I will never be able to express the gratitude I feel for the life my parents gave me. They may not have “given me life” – but they may as well have put air into my lungs. When they chose to adopt me I was welcomed into a beautiful family with so many people to love.
I am proud of myself. The other day someone very dear to me reminded me that I should feel super proud of all I have achieved and accomplished. Moving and living in Thailand is no easy feat. I took a moment to really reflect on just how far I have come. I have always described myself as shy, almost deathly shy. When people argue that I am anything BUT SHY I become immediately defensive. Maybe it is not that I am shy but overwhelming self-conscious?? Many adoptees identify themselves as being codependent. Mix that in with the desire to try and always please people and you create a big insecurity problem. I care what people think. I wish I could always have my supportive group of friends and peers around me. I value their opinions ALMOST more than my own. I want to make other people happy. I want to laugh and smile and to make sure others are enjoying themselves too. Travelling alone has really helped me establish my core group of people. People who love and care about me. We ignore the distance and focus on the constant connections. Thankfully, I also do make friends relatively easy. There was never really a time that I felt alone in New Zealand or here in Thailand. I know what I want in a friend and I am finding it easier to let go of those who don’t put the effort in. In Canada I used to try so hard to hold on to weakening friendships. It really isn’t possible to be friends with someone who doesn’t put in the effort. It has become very clear to me that I work extremely hard to stay in touch with my friends, and I am ever so appreciative of their love in return. No matter the time or distance we have been away their love and energy means…Everything.
Not only do I have a wonderful family but I have had the continual joy of being welcomed into the lives of countless other people and families. My time in New Zealand was so memorable because I was welcomed with open arms by 3 great families! Here in Thailand my friends have all introduced me to their friends and families. It feels great to feel like a community member of their tight knit group. My Canadian friends have always made me feel like extensions of their family! I am forever grateful to have shared in so many great memories.
I had originally planned on sharing some of my opinions and experiences of living in Thailand but I think I will save that for a separate post. I want to end this by answering one of my most asked questions, “When are you going back to Canada”? My answer to that is I really don’t know. At least once a day I think about it and what my plans for the future are. This quotes sums it up really well.
Sorry it has been ages since I have blogged. Believe me I think about posting often. I don’t know how many I have composed in my head…someone needs to invent a keyboard that types out your thoughts!!! Much love and thanks to everyone who reads this. Thank you all for the support. I have travel blogs and pictures to share..one day!!
Lots of Love Always,
Amanda Sumalee Dowput MacWilliam
These past few months keep surprising me with unforeseeable outcomes. Many have been so amazing. That phrase of EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON is feeling like a reoccurring theme in my life.
In 2012 I joined a Facebook group called Bangkok Expats. I made a post about my back story and how I was eagerly planning my move for 2013. Mia replied to my post and we quickly began swapping stories of our Thai adoptions and our present life. I felt an instant kinship to her. Not wanting to go too deep into Mia’s personal story I can say that she is a Thai adoptee like me. She was adopted into a loving Australian family and raised away from her homeland. At the age of 21, she flew to Thailand alone to travel and discover the country. I was fascinated at how many similarities we shared. I felt an insta-bond to this lady I had yet to meet. My commute to getting to Mia and her husband Eddie’s house was memorable. Meeting them for the first time was both exciting and amazing. It just refueled my joy for having made it to Thailand.
To get to Mia’s house was an adventure in itself. I had never been to her house before and FOR THE LIFE OF ME could not locate it on a map (paper or electronic!). I was nervous to have to take a taxi for the first time. Recently, locals and tourists have felt the need to share horror stories of tourist being kidnapped or being taken on the LONGEST route possible to their destination. Mia reassuringly told me to call her if I had any hassles and gave me all the details on how much the fare should be and what possible routes the driver would take. I was feeling excited and nervous.
On a daily basis drivers of: tuk tuks, motorcycles and taxi’s honk at me or slow down to try and get me to hop aboard. I always try to look uninterested and keep walking to whatever destination I am heading towards. So the first time I need to hail a taxi I thought it would be easy! I kept scanning the traffic and standing as close to the edge of the sidewalk as possible. I knew that if I walked to BIG C and the other shops there were always vehicles hanging around waiting to drive people. I was just so stunned that no one had picked me up by the time I was almost halfway to the shops. I then spotted a green and yellow taxi (with his light on) coming out of a soi. I waved at him and he nodded his head. I confidently took the front seat and optimistically asked him if he spoke English. He said, “Little bit”! Phewff I was able to exhale. I got a good vibe off of him and the fact that he answered back in English. I was very prepared for the, “Nitto”.
Well to my AMAZEMENT my taxi driver not only spoke a little English…HE SPOKE a lot and we were able to converse completely in English. It did make me slightly nervous when he told me he had to tell me something, “I have to tell you that the green and yellow taxis are private. We don’t belong to a company”. I gave him this blank stare. He quickly reassured me that I was SAFE! He just wanted to let me know that people in green and yellow taxis own their own cars and make their own hours. So he is selective as to which passengers he takes. He bought his car from a dealer and designed the inside of it. I asked him why he chose for his car to have cable but not a gps system? He said he found them to be unreliable and got more lost with them. Not even 2 minutes into the ride I noticed a Canadian flag sticker on the meter. (OF COURSE I NOTICED it because whenever I am in any taxi I always incessantly check the number as it grows bigger and bigger!) The taxi driver told me that Canada is one of his favourite countries. For respect to the couple’s privacy I won’t share their whole lives’ histories but …again I felt like everything was happening for a reason. His wife is American, whose Dad works (worked?) for an oil company. She was born in New Mexico but did a lot of moving around as a child. Their family moved to Thailand and that is where she met him. She is now an English Kindergarten teacher. We switched contact info and was told I could call him if I ever needed a ride. I could even schedule times days in advance. So fancy 🙂
Let’s just say I am now friends with 2 amazing couples! Both women met and fell in love with Thai men and never left Thailand. So sweet. So romantic. In one day I welcomed 4 incredible people into my life. Thailand is really living up to its name: The. Land. Of. Smiles.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. So proud of Kiwi Momma for all her blogging of the Singapore/Hong Kong trip. I knew you could survive without my IT services 🙂
P.P.S. Looking forward to reading all of your NEW YORK blogs DOM! This is so exciting that you will be in your “home away from home” so sooooon!!!!
What a great blogging community I am helping to create. Go Suma go!
27 years ago this week my parents moved from Calgary, Canada to Bangkok, Thailand!!! Is it ironic that I am currently 27 years old and chose Sept 2013 to move back to Thailand? So many arrangements had to be adjusted and planned to get me to where I am today. I am taking my parents moving anniversary of living in my homeland as a positive sign for the future. WITHOUT THEM I would not be the Thai-Canadian I am today. Happy happy thoughts to celebrate this momentous milestone in our lives.
GORGEOUS view of Whistler. Canada
I have lived here for a week now and already feel like time is flying by. I managed to bus to school all by myself. Unfortunately as soon as I arrived I was reminded that it was only FRIDAY and school was on Saturday. I felt so silly and a little heartbroken. My inner geek was so excited for my first day of school. I must have mixed up my days; Tuesday felt like 2 separate days for me. I arrived at 1am in the morning and saw Pi Loong twice that day. I think that is what through me off. It was actually a good thing I went because I found out the bus ride to towards school was over an hour long. I learned to allow for more commuting time. I have not encountered any pedestrian cross walks yet. I am still feeling proud of myself every time I cross the road. I crossed 8 lanes of traffic without injury!I wonder if that feeling will slowly fade?
It was my first time to enter some of the malls and really look around at the fashion. There seems to be 2 different styles of fashion. Conservative wear of pants/skirts/tshirts/polos and button up shirts. Compared to the more “touristy or trendy fashions” which includes v-neck or heart shaped tops and shorter skirts and shorts. The local women all wear flip flips or wedged flip flops. I still don’t know how they manage the roads and public transit in their foot wear. The more affluent ladies wear heels, makeup and carrying a posh looking purse. I myself wear a mixture of both. In public I wear pants (sometimes shorts) and high neck t-shirts. Many of my tops and dresses are too low cut in the front. The v neck has always been a staple fit for my wardrobe but is not appreciated in local Thai fashion. It feels like the more conservative I look the hotter I am. AS SOON AS I step through my apartment door I am peeling off my clothes and trying to cool down. My short skirts and shorts paired with a tank top are my immediate go to. The past few days I have been wearing my sarong or swimsuit cover up with no bra. When I am hot straps irritate me so much. I wish I could dress more like a tourist but I am trying to blend in and respect the culture as much as I can these days. I have been warned that this is the rain season –the next two seasons are dry and HOT. I LOVE THE HEAT I ABSOLUTELY love it I just don’t like sweating.
I was able to clean my laundry the other day using a bucket and hose. It really jolted me to see how dirty water turned. I was shocked but quickly realized when I do laundry with a machine I never SEE THE water! I don’t think much of my Canadian clothing will make its way back to Canada. It is getting so faded and stretched out already. (In NZ I washed my clothes in the washing machine then hung the clothes to dry on the line). Not a big deal since it will slowly start to get replaced by the Thai fashion here.
We went to the Pak Kred Boat Pier on Monday. I got to see where lots of locals hang out and eat along the water. I didn’t see many people being transported across the river but I did see food being loaded into boats. You can pay to feed the fish bread but I was against it. They were so big and looked like they were attacking each other to get the bread!
Thank you to my parents for flying to Thailand 27 years ago! Thank you to all my family, friends and new readers who continue to read my blog!
My first time enjoying a Traditional Thai coffee. There will be more in my future!
The orphanage I was adopted from was called the Phayathai Orphange and was located in Thailand’s metro region of Bangkok. Since the late 1990’s the orphanage merged with another orphanage and now run by the Thai Government. When the two orphanages merged together it took on the name of Pakkred (or Pakkret) Babies Home and became the largest one in Thailand. It is located around 40 minutes north of Bangkok. Part of my desire to come back to Thailand was to volunteer at the orphanage…Babies home. I keep calling it the orphanage but they no longer refer to it as an orphanage. I honestly don’t know what I expect to get out of this experience. I don’t know if it’s closure; giving me a sense of coming full circle? Maybe I will feel more connected to the country if I go back to where it all started? I am not sure. I just know that Thailand->Bangkok->Orphanage was always part of the plan.
Since the relocation of the babies’ home they have less volunteers dropping in. It is not conveniently located and many tourist find it hard to find. From what I have read from online blogs and other internet sources –many people find it too difficult to contact the administration. People wanting to donate or volunteer their time became too frustrated by the lack of communication resulting in a redirection of their donations to other charities. Reading those stories made me sad and even more determined to volunteer some of my time.
I checked out of the Embassy Hotel and taxied to Pi Sangwan’s apartment (that will be a separate blog! LOTS to say about that topic!) Together with Pi Loong, we headed off to find Pakkred Babies Home. Having left Bangkok, we thought we would be able to commute much more easily! The bus stops are right outside BIG C so it is our one stop shopping. It is the place to go for shopping or find transport. Pi Loong didn’t know what bus to take so she asked the lady beside her. The lady happened to be going in the same direction and said that only ONE bus turns down the street we need. After waiting for nearly 30 minutes, Pi Loong layed out the options: tok tok, motorcycle, walk or mini truck. It felt like we had climbed on the next truck we saw. I got the sense we were lost/in need of directions. I was trying to ask Pi Loong how she knew what truck to take, as there had been absolutely no number or any signage. Do you just communicate with the driver once you are on? What happens if the other passengers are going a different way? When Pi Loong started conversing a lot with the only other passenger my suspicions were confirmed. Well we got off that truck pretty quickly. Pi Loong told me I could get off..but since I had NO CLUE what was happening I thought it best if she got off first and I followed her. I really didn’t want to be on the side of the road while she was still riding in the truck! She asked me if I had a phone number for the orphanage. I gave her a longggg look of, ‘no… I thought you knew where to go.’ She tried to reassure me that she DID KNOW, she had been before with Mom and Dad. She just needed to know how to get there. OH DEAR OH ME OH MY. She had to ask a lot of people for directions. Good thing she was with me because I definitely would not have found the place on my own. Eventually she began to think out loud that maybe they would be closed by the time we arrived. Not the motivational words I wanted to hear on our ever going walk in the heat. I told her I wanted to at least get there and see the place. I didn’t care if we had to go back another day when they were open I wanted to see it. I was becoming super agitated. I felt like we were walking and getting more lost. People were meaning well when they tried to give us directions but sometimes EVEN I COULD TELL that they were kind of guessing in hopes of being helpful. We stopped to ask for more directions at the Centre for Crippled Children (so not politically correct!! I am fully aware) and Pi Loong sank into a deep conversation with two security guards. I could tell she was asking for directions AND TELLING THEM MY BACK STORY. They kept looking at me and looking back at her. They asked to see both our IDs and by this point I was OVER the small talk. I wanted to just get to the orphanage. This detour was no making me happy. I was so flustered that we were so close but had not made it yet. I told them I had ID but why did we both need to show if we weren’t at the right spot? We needed directions to the Babies Home. She told me they gave her directions and we were really close but we were allowed to go inside and see the children. They were asking for ID because they need to hold on to them during our visit. I remember trying to stay calm while explaining to Pi Loong this was not the Babies Home. If she was worried about them being closed or closing soon, we should not be making any stops but heading directly over. I know I was coming off rude as to not wanting to see these children -but I truly didn’t. I was so close to where I actually wanted to be. We had to keep moving.
I was so relieved when we finally arrived. The gates were open and there were two staff members on their break eating food. I tried to explain in English that I moved here and wanted to volunteer. They understood the word volunteer and said, “Chai chai chai”. They were saying yes but they were not able to reply back to me in English. Thankfully Pi Loong was with me (hurray for a personal translator) and she explained that I should come back on Monday. There was an English teacher that came to see the kids and he could help organize something for me. That made me happy that I was allowed to volunteer. I really had not thought of what I would do if they said no.
I was pretty sure that I would not be allowed to take pictures once I had entered the premises. I was correct; there were even laminated pictures of cameras slashed out around the property. Clearly there has been an issue in the past! We were allowed to see the children and visit. There were about 35 Thai children around the ages of 2-4, playing in an enclosed metal playground. Well more standing around then playing. Lots were leaning on the gate or sitting with the one staff member that sat on the floor leaning against the gate. There were 3 other staff members outside the play area walking around or watching. I wasn’t attacked by emotions! My first observation was that it was sad that no one was playing or entertaining the children. They weren’t doing anything. Some of the children came up to the gate to say hi and gave us big smiles but most of them just stood around. It felt weird to be watching them like they were a zoo exhibit. I wanted to put my bag down and go in and cuddle and play with them. One of the most outgoing girls noticed Pi Loongs watch and was asking her what time it was. Then they started to have a little conversation in Thai. The kids all looked so tiny and cute. They were well dressed and groomed. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but it wasn’t too hard to get the gist of it.
One of the smallest girls kept crying for Momma. Later we learned that she had been dropped off today. HER FIRST DAY! That broke my heart. She was crying so one of the staff took her away from the play area and out for a walk. When she came back she was told she had to get her haircut. She started crying again. No one hugged her or tried to calm her down. They gave her a little trim while she was standing there crying. She did not enjoy it but seemed to calm down relatively quickly afterwards. I don’t like seeing children cry! It was awkward witnessing this child’s first day away from her parents. What would probably become a permanent stay.
Before we had entered the property I was joking to Pi Loong that she could adopt 1 or 2 of the children since she loved kids so much. I knew she wasn’t going to adopt but maybe she could play with the children weekly. She joked that she was tooo old but then the conversation grew serious. She said that she would not even be allowed to take them out on play dates. The government is very strict on who adopts them. She is too old and doesn’t make enough money so they would never even consider letting her look after a child. That made me really sad to hear too. Here is someone who is great with children and could give them much needed one-on-one attention but she is discriminated against due to her financial background. I guess it is for the safety and welfare of the children but what a loss for the children…Good thing they don’t require my financial history too volunteer!
We watched the children have dinner/snack. They lined up and each got a small bread roll. When they were done they were given another bun that had pork inside. One of the little boys started crying because he got told off for just picking out the meat on the inside. He didn’t want the bun and started crying. His cry was so cute…but he did eventually eat his entire bun! Good boy. Some of the children then lined up along the gate to share a water cup. The cup kept getting refilled from a big jug and passed along until everyone’s’ thirst was satisfied. They were all so polite about it.
I left not knowing how to discern my emotional state. I was happy to be invited back to volunteer. I was glad the children looked healthy. I was concerned that they weren’t playing and having fun. I think my role will be to go and speak English to them and bring a bit of joy. To help create happy childhood memories. All believe that all children deserve to be happy and fun. I hope that I can do that for them. Selfishly this volunteering will probably be more meaningful for me then them; but I am hopeful that we all share in the good times.
Thanks for reading…sorry for another long one!
xox Amanda Sumalee
A few weeks ago my 10 year old son (who I Au Pair for in New Zealand) presented me with this homemade story….I could not stop smiling! I hope it brightens your day too 🙂 I am mailing this to Canada so I can keep it forever!
[Amanda Once upon a time there was a orphanage and a orphan called Amanda. and no one wanted her until the Henshaws and they said we will take her the end.]
I wanted to share that picture for two reasons:
#1 To express how much the boys and I have bonded, and how great of an experience Au Pairing can be.
#2 Just to reiterate HOW MUCH I love children. I love love love how expressive they are; so able to tap into their emotions. How creative they are. How imaginative and curious they are!
Deciding to become an Au Pair has been one of the best decisions of my life. I wanted the opportunity to travel and work with children. Being able to live and experience a “Kiwi lifestyle” has been amazing. I have always loved children and I am so happy my passion for a career in this field continues to grow. I would recommend Au Pairing to anyone adventurous enough to leave the comforts of their home! I have always been fond of children and quickly form bonds with them. These boys have been no exception. They will forever be part of my life.
While I was babysitting the boys tonight, the 10 year old asked me a very important question, “Would you rather be in our family or yours?” I carefully explained that if I had always been in his family – I wouldn’t have the brothers I have now. I wouldn’t have the friends and parents I have now. My whole life would be completely different. I quickly followed that up with, we will always be a family NOW. I have a Canadian family and a Kiwi family. I knew he was pleased by my answer because he gave me the cutest hug and smile ever!!
Besides all the memories; I have adorable pictures and recorded quotes the boys have shared. I am so happy that the older I get, and the closer I become to becoming a mother, the easier it’s becoming to save and preserve children’s’ things. Digital pictures, scanners, scrapbooking, iphones, video cameras that aren’t MASSIVE… There are so many more ways to capture and share the memories. Yay! One of my favourite things to do is look at old photos and videos of myself as a child.
Originally I had planned to post the picture and nothing else. I am glad I decided on this little blurb to follow it up. I hope this post gave you a reason to smile.
Tomorrow is my day off and I am excited to spend the day sailing with my Kiwi-Mom! Aren’t Sundays (off) great?!
There is always a reason to smile,
xoxo Amanda Sumalee
This is my journey, MY LIFE. I am beyond excited but scared to death about finally going to Thailand. Wherever it takes me, and whatever I discover will be my story. Curiosity is the strongest feeling pulling me back to my place of birth.
While at the doctors I had to fill out the standard personal information form. One of the questions was ethnicity/nationality. It stumped me. I starred at it for what felt like eternity. I questioned myself as to what I should write down. I KNEW I should write down Thai, but I really wanted to put Canadian. Had someone been with me, I would have definitely written down whatever they suggested. I did not have wi-fi at the time but as soon as I got home I asked my Aunt what she thought I should have done. The same feelings were brought up again while filling out a New Zealand census form. I had to write down my nationality and place of residency….I was born in Thailand but lived my whole life in Canada. If Thai-Canadian was an option there would have been no need for hesitation.
When the doctor looked me over she asked me where I was from? I told her Canada and she immediately gave me this look of disbelief. This cold glare like I was trying to lie to her. I could feel her looking my whole body over. I FELT obligated to tell I have lived in Canada all my life but I was born in Thailand. Why do I have to feel so defensive when stating that I am Canadian? It’s as if her glare was her warning to tell me the truth or she would not continue the exam. When I told her I lived in Canada practically my whole life she told me I had ASIAN ears, was I from the Philippines? I had to restate that I was born in Thailand but lived in Canada virtually my whole life. I know the atmosphere of a doctor’s office always comes off as intrusive but I felt beyond uncomfortable and defensive.
I have never met an adoptee who doesn’t wonder about their origins. Adoptees share a unique bond: we are consumed by our loneliness. We don’t openly talk about it but it’s apparent. My life never had a defining moment of a “big reveal” of my adoption story. My parents never had to tell me on my 18th birthday (like someone I knew), or sit me down for any big discussion. There was no need for suspicious thoughts as I was always aware I wasn’t their biological child. I was brown and EVERYONE else in my Dad and Mom’s family are Caucasian. No matter how loved you are, being adopted harvests a visceral feeling of loneliness . Every adoptee has a shared experience of rejection followed by loss. I am not saying the heavy rainstorm can’t create a magnificent rainbow…but a rainbow is impossible without the rain.
I am not wanting to delve too deeply in this conversation now because I would like to try as best as possible to put my thoughts into an array of posts. Divide my thoughts up.
These posts about my adoption are personal. I would like to make them as honest and raw as possible without breaching my own level of comfort. It is not my intention to hurt anyone’s’ feelings. I hope to be as honest as possible. Maybe sharing my thoughts on the topic can help others open up about their experiences. Reading about other peoples’ journeys has helped me to heal. I have amassed some notes from books I have read and hope to post my thoughts on my newly acquired information in upcoming post.
PLEASE comment or message me privately to share your thoughts. I would love to hear suggestions or personal stories from my readers. I have never been a member of an adoptee support group but have read about some in the United States of America. Anyone have any information on online ones? xo