This past year has been one in which the birth of a second child and deadlines for this column — boundless blessings, both — upped the pressure on my husband’s and my relationship. We saw the best and the sleep-deprived worst in each other; we also, in facing our worst, found unexpected hope. We know that more pressures await. Yet fantasies aside, as the girls and I explored Wisner, the answer to whether we would return to life in expat Thailand, and to the man who spoke Japanese with us on Skype at night, was yes.
I worry about this child who loves to see worlds merge, yet lives apart from her home cultures in a high-turnover expatriate town, where friends and shared experiences come and go quickly. She just said goodbye to some departing preschoolers and a trusted librarian as the international school’s term ended. She will grow up in a scattered, not geographically fixed, community, and needs reminders that say, like the MJ hit, “You are not alone.”
Bangkok has lots of gates. Our suburban expat community and its subdivisions have entrances manned by guards, many of whom salute and click their heels as if we were commanding officers. Homes inside the community often have waist-high gates at the end of the drive, with the doorbell at the street. Outside this area, local homes have gates twice as tall, many with spikes at the top. Some are simply solid, moving walls.
We have not discussed bodies placed in the earth that do not biodegrade: substances that degrade. I got a look at these two years ago, when a field near our complex turned into a waste dump. The area, about the size of a soccer pitch, separates our walled parking lot from a Thai primary school, whose students we hear singing patriotic anthems at outdoor assemblies.
I am hardly alone in this: our expat neighborhood harbors many spouses who left a career or went freelance to follow a partner’s job overseas. These spouses boast various professional backgrounds–labor and delivery nurse, realtor, designer, engineer, journalist–yet these backgrounds can disappear when their most visible job is being the at-home parent.