Saturday, October 11, 2014


Like many in our position, we've been grappling, since day one, with the question of what to do after the expiration of my husband's two-year contract with the school next June. The rate at which we changed our minds was dizzying -- we've made one decision only to change our minds five minutes later. We have gone 360 degrees, sideways, upside down...if it's a direction, we've been there. Surprisingly, when this school year began, we were even less certain than we were three months before about our path come the end of this school year.

At the end of August, the high school principal convened a lunch meeting with a group of certain teachers: all the teachers from our cohort and a few others who have been here for three or four years. The purpose of the meeting was a mystery and divulged only at the meeting. Basically, it was to let all these teachers know that they and their work are appreciated at the school, and that the school would like for them to return for at least a third year.

Currently, the school is in flux with a big turnover expected after this school year -- the head of the school, possibly the principals at all three levels (along with their spouses, all of whom are also teachers), and many teachers will be leaving after this school year. It's the nature of international schools, but all this change is unsettling when our own future already feels so uncertain.

Something reassuring that came out of the meeting was the principal encouraged all the teachers to look around for other opportunities between now and November, when we have to notify the school of our decision to stay or go, and offered to write recommendations for those who do so. This was reassuring because many of us were worried about the backlash we might receive should we ask for letters of recommendation.

Of course, there are teachers who decided from the start that they would be staying for at least a few years, and there are still others who have only decided to stay or go since the meeting (only one teacher broke contract after last year and returned home early). I'm actually quite surprised by the number of people who have decided to stay or who are leaning towards staying. But as someone said, it's easy to decide to stay -- life here is easy and comfortable, and you don't need much money to live a good life here.

For my husband and me, we were pretty certain by June that we would not be staying a third year, although we were still quite undecided about whether we would stay abroad or go home. But after returning to Bangkok in July, we, too, began giving some serious consideration to staying a third year. We, too, were tempted and lured by the easy and comfortable life here.

What's different with our situation, however, is that my husband still has a job to go home to, whereas none of the other teachers do -- they either resigned from their jobs before moving here, or received a one-year sabbatical and then resigned from their jobs to stay for a second year. We are truly lucky that we have more options.

Nevertheless, my husband decided to sign on again with the recruiting company that helped him obtain this job last year. We decided not to apply as a teaching team -- my lack of teaching experience would likely decrease his prospects more than increase our opportunities (even though I keep hearing that special education is in high demand at international schools). We also decided that we would continue to live abroad only if we were able to get our dream/ideal school and living situation. We might as well be trying to win the lottery, but what the heck? There was no harm in trying.

He requested, and received, stellar letters of recommendation from his principal and head of department, who retired at the end of last year, but continues to live in Bangkok for six months of the year. We began scouting out schools. Still, there were endless discussions daily about what our next step might be. Finally, tired of the endless seesawing we had been doing, I suggested that we just make a decision and stick with it. And even though we all feel quite at home here this year, we didn't exactly have the time to conduct another international job search and weren't feeling particularly inspired to find another school and start all over yet again, so we decided to pull my husband's online application portfolio. The decision was now between staying a third year and going home.

We thought about it and decided that we still have some loose ends to tie up at home. While we feel that living abroad suits us quite well, after two years away, it's time to go home, take stock, and re-evaluate: We need to figure out if we've "outgrown" our home country (after all, we're no longer the same people who left the U.S. over a year ago). We need to figure out what we want in the long run -- do we want to stay home or stay abroad? Or do we stay home and move to a different part of the U.S.? (Although, funnily enough, moving across the country still seems more daunting than moving across the world.) With this decision, my husband gets to keep his job back home, and we continue to keep our options open. In the meantime, I can figure out what I want to do (the never-ending question). So, yes, we have finally made a decision. No more wondering, no more seesawing, no more looking around.

After making the decision, we felt quite excited by the idea. And relief at having - finally - put this issue to rest. Don't get me wrong, I still have many moments of doubt about returning home. There's still a tiny part of us that's still leaving the door open for staying one more year, especially when we think about how happy our son has been living and going to school here. So who knows? We may change our minds again in the eleventh hour. For now, though, we are generally happy to have finally come to a decision, and will begin planning for our homecoming. Before we know it, it will be time to say goodbye and go home! It's such a bittersweet thought.

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