All Good Things Must Come to an End

I don’t know, where you’re going

Or when you’re coming home

I left the keys under the mat to our front door

For one more chance to hold you close

I don’t know, where you’re going

Just get your a@* back home

Gym Class Heroes (and pretty much a direct quote from my mother)

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Once again, we have big news!

Our expat journey is coming to an end. 

We will be returning home to Michigan this summer! 

The first question I’ve been asked when I tell people our news is, “how do you feel about that?”. Well, It’s actually one that’s easy for me to answer. I AM SO EXCITED!!!

Don’t get me wrong, living life abroad is amazingly awesome! If you have followed our journey, you’ve seen how we have taken full advantage of this opportunity we’ve been given. We have learned to rely heavily upon God, experienced different cultures, traveled the world, and met some really incredible people. I cannot even tell you how grateful I am for the 3 1/2 years we have lived in Asia. But, when faced with the opportunity to move back home, I’ve opened a part of my heart that I didn’t realize I had closed up tight when we left. 

What I mean is, leaving loved ones behind, especially two of our children is incredibly difficult. I told myself all the time that our older two are grown and have moved out on their own so we wouldn’t see them much even if we still lived in Michigan. However, there’s comfort in the fact that although you may not see them every day, you could if you wanted to. You could jump in a car and drive a few hours just to see their faces or to give them a great big hug. I’ve missed that so deeply and realize how I’ve had to suppress that loss in order to enjoy our lives abroad. 

Wait, why have I missed this? 😉

Now, on another note, when the older two have come out to visit, we have gone on such grand adventures, making our time apart a bit more manageable. We hiked The Great Wall of China, bathed elephants in Thailand, saw the great Terra Cotta Warriors, walked the ancient steps of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, jumped off boats in the Andaman Sea, and hiked our way through Scotland. As a whole, we did more than I could ever imagine. Yes, our adventures when we were together were grand indeed. And again, I am so grateful for the amazing opportunities we were all given. Experiencing all we did together meant more to me than anything else on this journey.

But now we are repatriating. Moving back to the familiar. Although our adventures may become a little less grand, I cherish the thought of celebrating many small milestones together. Gathering around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, ringing in the new year, singing “happy birthday” and watching my family blow out their candles. All these things have been very deeply missed.

I hope you will celebrate this huge milestone with us. We look back on the amazing journey we’ve been on with humble and thankful hearts. Will this mean the end of The Bunch Abroad? I think not! We have many more adventures to go, including the huge adventure of repatriation. Many people have told me that this is actually the most difficult part of living abroad. Eek! 

As you can see, these are exciting times in the Burin household! And don’t think for one minute that we are planning on moving back home without any fanfare. You know us better than that! No, we plan on going out with a bang by planning a few more incredible trips and still have lots more to experience together. Today I am simply grateful for God’s never-ending blessings and providence over our lives. He is good, and we are blessed beyond measure.

Now on to what might be our biggest adventure yet…repatriation! 

Let’s do this!

It’s Time to Celebrate a Silver Anniversary!

Brett and I just celebrated 25 years of marriage…25 years!…A quarter of a century! That’s nothing to be taken lightly. We’ve certainly come a long way since that second day of college when I was introduced to him through a mutual friend. First thoughts on my end, “what a dork”. The second time I saw him, he brazenly told me he was going to marry me someday. “Ha!”, I thought to myself. “That will never happen”. Fast forward 25 years, 4 kids, 6 moves, and many adventures later I suppose it’s safe to say he knew what he was talking about. 

Our Bunch ❤️

Practically every couple has “their song”. Brett and I actually have two. Shortly after Brett and I got married Shania Twain’s “Still the One” was released. We knew it was one of our songs and I looked forward to the day when I could listen to it and be able to say, yes we’ve made it. 

Looks like we made it

Look how far we’ve come, my baby

We mighta took the long way

We knew we’d get there someday

They said, “I bet they’ll never make it.”

But just look at us holding on

We’re still together, still going strong

You’re still the one I run to

The one that I belong to

You’re still the one I want for life

You’re still the one that I love

The only one I dream of

You’re still the one I kiss good night

Ain’t nothing better

We beat the odds together

I’m glad we didn’t listen

Look at what we would be missing

The reason why this song was so important was because we knew when we got married we were up against huge odds. As you may know, not long after we met, Brett grew on me a bit and we ended up dating. After all, he was persistent and just wouldn’t go away. 😉 Well, I ended up getting pregnant out of wedlock and many, many tears passed before we decided to get married. “I’ll give it a shot for the sake of the baby”, I thought. But honestly, I wasn’t all in, and neither was Brett. Honorable, yes, but we were just kids and had a lot of growing up to do. My stepdad at the time told me that Brett was just going to leave me as soon as I “got fat” and I could just see others shake their heads behind our backs, perhaps making bets on how long our union would last.

And you know what? They were right to do so. We didn’t like each other for many years. Everything he did annoyed me, and he secretly resented me for taking away his fun college experience. We held on by a very thin string but always kept God and our children’s welfare first in our hearts. It was hard. It was really hard. Finally, about 6 years and two kids in, we took a long hard look at each other and decided we needed to do more than just get by. Call it maturity, or just the fact that we got past the idealism of romantic love, I don’t know. But at that time God really moved in us and it was a turning point in our relationship. 

It took another few years to learn how to make our new “mature” relationship work. However, we were determined not to give up and fought fiercely for what we were trying to build. That’s when it began to get good. We began to get to know each other as adults, and mutual respect grew. To be perfectly honest, it was a bumpy road and we had a lot to learn about what true love was supposed to look like.

But now here we are. It’s taken a long time but we’ve built a solid foundation, and have become best friends. It’s wonderful to be able to say that there is no one else I would rather spend time with than Brett. Does that mean our lives are now all wine and roses? Goodness no! Marriage is a constant state of ebb and flow, of learning, adapting and growing. We still argue and don’t see eye to eye at times but know in the end we will always come back together and work it out. We have learned to give unselfishly to one another (most of the time). I now see Brett as a loyal, hard working man who would do practically anything to make me happy. He constantly pushes me to be a better person, and I him. We are still very different in many ways, but have learned to meet in the middle and this is incredibly character building for each of us. 

So what can I say after 25 years of marriage? 

  • It’s not easy. You have to be willing to adapt, become unselfish, and love unconditionally.
  • If you put in the effort, It’s the most rewarding thing you can do aside from raising children.
  • Love is not a fairytale. It takes loyalty, commitment, hard work, and lots of prayer. But it’s better than a fairytale because it will fill your life with a rich, deep, committed love that lasts.
  • Always try to put your spouse’s needs first. The more you give and show love to them without expecting anything in return, the more they will love you back.
  • It’s ok to have up’s and down’s as long as you are both committed to making it work in the long run.
  • Faith in God is the essential component in making a marriage work. He has been our rock and I can tell you 100% we would not have made it without our commitment to our vow we made before Him.
  • Make your spouse your best friend. Do things together. Spend time together. Dream together. Brett and I never run out of things to talk about. We have coffee, go on walks, out to dinner, to the movies, etc. We just truly enjoy each other’s company and I don’t take that blessing lightly.
  • Remember that one day the kids will be gone and all you’ll have is each other. For some people this is a terrifying thought. Take time early on to invest in each other so when that day comes you won’t be strangers.

And finally, here’s our second song. I’m sure after all I’ve said you can see why. It’s by Alan Jackson and still makes me cry.

Remember When

Remember when I was young and so were you

And time stood still and love was all we knew

You were the first, so was I

We made love and then you cried

Remember when

Remember when we vowed the vows and walked the walk

Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard

We lived and learned, life threw curves

There was joy, there was hurt

Remember when

Remember when old ones died and new were born

And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged

We came together, fell apart

And broke each other’s hearts

Remember when

Remember when the sound of little feet

Was the music we danced to week to week

Brought back the love, we found trust

Vowed we’d never give it up

Remember when

Remember when thirty seemed so old

Now lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone

To where we are, where we’ve been

Said we’d do it all again

Remember when

Remember when we said when we turned gray

When the children grow up and move away

We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad

For all the life we’ve had

And we’ll remember when

This is what 25 years looks like for us. It’s taken a lot of work, prayer, and self-sacrifice but oh the rewards are so sweet. I pray your quarter of a century marriage milestone will look the same and when you look at your best friend who may now have a few more wrinkles and some grey hair that you will be as grateful as I am for the blessing of the person standing before you. 

I love you Brett! 

Happy anniversary. 

Thank you for never giving up on me, for being my best friend, and for loving me even when I am difficult to love. 

You put an inscription in my ring and I agree without hesitation:

 I would do it all again! 

10 Ways to Help you Overcome Jet Lag

Jet Lag Isn’t For the Faint of Heart!

When our oldest son, Hunter came from Detroit to visit us for the first time in Shanghai, he thought he had the whole jet lag thing figured out. “I’m going to pull an all-nighter the day before I leave so I’ll be really tired and sleep on the plane the whole way there. That way, once I get there, I’ll be wide awake and ready to go”. Brett and I just nodded our head’s and told him we would see how that theory played out. Sure enough, he was exhausted, but still couldn’t sleep well on the plane so wound up arriving in Shanghai 15 hours later even more tired than he would have been if he had prepared for the journey like a normal person. 

I’ve heard every theory under the sun for how people plan on attacking jet lag, and although there are those rare people to whom it doesn’t seem to affect (and I truly hate those people), 9.999 times out of 10, every attempt ends in failure. Not only that, but I’ve gone through this grueling process so many times now that I can almost predict how the majority of people will react. Here’s how it plays out:

Night 1: The first night you arrive at your destination, you’ll be so exhausted from travel that you will actually sleep really well. Don’t be fooled! This is just your body’s way of tricking you into thinking you’ve beat the system. 

Night 2: The next day you’ll hit your jet-lagged wall about 3:00 pm. If you manage to make it through until a decent bedtime, more power to you, but don’t think this means you’re going to sleep through the night again. You silly person! No, you’ll most certainly fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but then sometime between 4-5 am, BOING! Your eyes will open and you’ll be wide awake (perhaps until morning) thinking about all kinds of irrelevant things like, “if airlines were smart, they’d put a spa on the plane so travelers can schedule an inflight massage.”. I’m here to tell you, I’ve planned out all the details of such spas throughout many a sleepless jet-lagged night!

Nights 3-6: Like Groundhog Day, repeat the process from night 2 for the next three days, with each subsequent night offering one extra hour’s sleep before wake up and voila, after about a week, you’ve finally fully adjusted. Hallelujah! Hopefully, this won’t be just in time for you to return home and start the entire process over again.

Jet lag is even so kind as to be nondiscriminatory. Trust me on the one. It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 or 82, a college partier or a homebody, an early bird or a night owl. Nope, everyone gets hit the same. There’s simply just no way to avoid it. So don’t get cocky by pinning 15 different jet lag busters on Pinterest, and think you’ll somehow beat the system because it’s just not gonna happen. Instead, simply buckle up and prepare for the ride. 

Since I’ve been down this road so many times, I’m here to tell you that there are some tricks of the jet lag trade that will help you power through. Although you will still be jet-lagged, at least you’ll know the best ways to attack it head on, and perhaps relieve some of your suffering in the process. I should add as a side note, that we typically face a 12-hour time change when we travel to/from home and although other time differences will be difficult, this one is the grand daddy of them all.

1. Take advantage of that first good night’s sleep. 

You’ve been through a lot throughout your travel and your body’s exhausted. Take advantage of this fact. I typically sleep almost 12 hours the first night after a long-haul flight. Nothing feels better than a shower and lying horizontal after traveling for 12+ hours (our last trip from the US to Bangkok was 25 hours! Now that one’s a doozy).

2. Don’t be afraid to seek help.

Meaning, sleeping pills or supplements to help you sleep. I’ve tried sleeping pills, melatonin, and diffusing lavender essential oil help me. Now, I don’t recommend using them all at once, of course, but find one or two that work for you and use them the first few nights. In addition, having a houseful of screaming kids will help you sleep at night too. If you want some, I’m happy to put some of mine on loan to you. 😉

3. The first 3 days are the worst.

You know how Jesus rose again on the third day? Well my friend, so will you. I wish I could sugar-coat it and tell you that you won’t feel like you are walking around with a fog hanging over your head but then I would just be lying. It’s the strangest feeling. Sometimes I even still feel like I’m on the plane. But for some reason, after the third day, the fog lifts and you can begin to once again function like a normal human being. It’s always funny walking through the grocery store the first few days after a big expat holiday. It looks like the store has been overrun by the zombie apocalypse. Everyone’s walking around with a glazed look in their eyes while putting who knows what into their cart.

4. Strive to stay awake until at least 8 pm.

This will help your body adapt to your new time zone and ultimately help you more effectively overcome jet lag. Sounds easy, right? Haha! We’ll see.

5. Go back to kindergarten.

Nap time may be your best friend when fighting jet lag. Just make sure you nap carefully. I highly recommend napping before 3pm, and only for 30 minutes. Now I know you may have hit your wall and just want to go to bed for good at 3:00, but fight that urge with everything you have. After all, you aren’t going to get adjusted to your new time zone if you have an afternoon bedtime.  In addition, if you nap longer than 30 minutes, you run the risk of not being able to fall asleep when it is actually time to go to dreamland. Trust me on this one, there’s scientific evidence to back me up here.

6. Embrace the tired.

It’s important not to push yourself too hard in the first few days while adjusting to your new timezone. Instead, simply enjoy this time with family or friends. Get a massage. Maybe go check-out a site or two, but remember that 3:00 witching hour will be lurking at your door and when it arrives, be sure to cut yourself some slack. The same goes for moodiness or, dare I say, grumpiness? Remember, your poor body is exhausted so it’s ok to cry if someone doesn’t pass you the ketchup fast enough. Sounds weird, but I’ve cried over things way more stupid than that. 

7. Figure out what’s going to work best for you at 4am.

Brett and I take very different approaches to this problem. I become a fierce fighter and stubbornly lay in bed looking at the ceiling because, “darn it, I WILL adjust”. While he embraces the early wake up by getting out of bed, making coffee, and watching the sunrise in quiet peace. However, no matter what, we both end up adjusting at the same speed so it’s just important to figure out what will help get you through those frustratingly early hours so you don’t go crazy. 

8. Give working out a try.

Although the last thing you may want to do is go for a run, studies have shown that working out helps improve sleep, and at this point I’m sure you’re willing to try anything to help you make it through the night!

9. Plan enough time in your trip to adjust to jet lag.

I always tell people who are planning on a trip to our side of the world to allow a minimum of 2 weeks vacation if possible. The first three days are really rough, and considering it takes a full week to get adjusted to the time difference (we’re 12 hours ahead of the US), wouldn’t it be nice to have a full week after you’ve adjusted and feel human again to sightsee or do activities without feeling as if you will pass out if you merely sit down?

10. East to West is best.

It’s easier to overcome jet lag when traveling from East to West. I don’t know why, but for some reason this is the case every single time, and not just for us. I’ve talked to other expats who experience the same thing. Weird, right? I’m sure there’s some science-y reason behind it but that’s beyond my expertise, sorry.

As I said before, Jet lag is not for the faint of heart. But take heart! This too shall pass and you will soon be back to your good-old magnanimous self, ready to take on this new adventure before you.

Good luck, and sweet dreams!

Special thanks to Autumn Lytle for organizing all our awkward family photos I know the amount available was endless). Who knew they would be perfect for this post? 😉

The Second Time Around (Kid’s Version): 5 Reasons Why Kids Should Live Abroad Again

The first time Brett asked my thoughts about a possible move to Bangkok, I quickly responded (and when I say quickly responded, I mean I didn’t even have to think about my answer, and may have actually laughed out loud), “no, the boys are too settled here in Shanghai”. The second time he asked I responded the same way. By the fifth time, I began to really ponder the possibility. Perhaps because I realized he was never going to give up asking. 😉 But really, the more I thought about it, the less crazy sounding it became. 

Sure, the boys were settled. We all were. Shanghai was where we had been living for two and a half years. In ex-pat time, that’s forever. But really, Shanghai was home. Things were comfortable. The boys were involved, and life was pretty good. So I thought and thought about why in the world we would uproot them again if we didn’t have to. But believe it or not, the more I thought about it my hesitation began to fade away. 

I realized that although they were involved, their actives were not anything they couldn’t continue in Bangkok. They did have one or two good friends, but the reality is, Bangkok isn’t really that far from Shanghai so it would be easy for friends to come to visit if the boys needed a little pick-me-up. Also, our new assignment would only be for another 2 or 3 years which would be a great opportunity for them to once again experience a new part of the world. By this time, I was convinced that a move would be good for them and lo and behold, everything came together and it happened! Needless to say, that’s making a VERY long story short. 

Thankfully, adjusting to life in Bangkok has gone relatively smoothly for the boys. I’m incredibly thankful they are willing to bloom where they are planted. As we’ve been settling into our new lives, I’ve proudly observed their adjustment, and am now convinced there are many benefits to kids who live abroad not only once, but multiple times. Here are just a few: 

1. They learn the art of adapting to any situation.

I’ll admit, the older I get, the more set in my ways I become. For the most part, I know what I like and tend to stick to it. Give me a Grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks and I’m happy. Bring me a Green Tea Frappuccino and that thing’s going in the trash as quickly as possible. I’m sure many of you are the same way. However, living abroad removes you from your comfort zone and forces you to adapt to many new things. People who are exposed to more new situations when they’re young are likely to be more easygoing and adaptable when they are older. Who knows, they may even develop a love for two or three different kinds of Frappuccinos!IMG_4758

2. They are becoming braver.

Do you remember your first day of high school? If you were like me, you planned out the outfit you would wear a week in advance, and when the day finally arrived you were terrified. What if you didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch? What if you went to the wrong class? What if you had a big booger hanging out of your nose all day? My boys have faced these kinds of scary situations time and time again while adjusting to their new country. I watch them resign themselves to the fact that they are going to go into a new situation, head held high looking confident, even though I know they are terrified inside. It makes me so proud. Situations like these aren’t easy and at home, they would be few and far between. But they learned from our time in Shanghai the braver they are and the quicker they get the first time of anything over, the faster they’ll adjust and become comfortable. Before we moved abroad the first time, Jack (who was 9 at the time) was afraid of everything. He wouldn’t even be in a room by himself. In Shanghai, he gained confidence by trying new things and meeting new friends. Now in Bangkok, he began riding his bike to school by himself the first chance he got, among many other things he is now willing to try and do. If we never broke out of our comfort zone at home, he wouldn’t have had to become more brave and would probably still be afraid of everything.

3. They get to really experience a new country.

Vacationing to different countries around the world is amazing! It’s such a blessing to see different parts of this beautiful world and experience different ways of life. However, you are still on vacation and the visit is for a limited amount of time. You can only skim the surface of the place you are visiting. When you live in a new country, you immerse yourself in the culture,  and truly learn how it’s people live. This provides an invaluable broader understanding of the world. I’ve watched our boys become more tolerant of people who live differently; not only locals but other ex-pats from around the world as well. Their world has become bigger, and their lives have become richer and more well-rounded as a result.

4. They are given the chance to reinvent themselves.

Now I’m not saying my kid’s needed to reinvent themselves, although I would like them to listen to me more (haha!), but moving abroad again gave them an opportunity to step back, take a look at things they had been involved in, the type of friends they had, and how they chose to spend their time. For example, in Shanghai, Elijah was very involved in choir and drama. When we moved to Bangkok, he decided he wanted to give volleyball a try. Now he is on his new school’s volleyball team and loves it. I doubt he would have switched gears so to speak if we stayed in Shanghai. Things were comfortable and he was on a certain path. Let’s be honest, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to reinvent yourself. Not many people will ever have the chance to do this.IMG_3820

5. They realize the importance of family.

When I say this, I’m referring mainly to our two boys that have moved overseas with us. For Autumn and Hunter, our older two still living in the States, Shanghai or Bangkok is not much different. Meaning, because both locations are on the other side of the world from them, we are very far away in either place. But for Elijah and Jack, we now know that for the first few weeks after a move, we really only have each other. We are strangers in a strange land, don’t know anyone, are clueless as to what we are doing, and lean heavily upon each other as we adjust. Even once we were settled in Shanghai, our reliance upon each other remained stronger. We were never as close when we lived back home. In a way, we didn’t need each other as much. We had a tendency to live separately under one roof if that makes sense. As a mom, I relish the comfort my boys take in our home life. Although we may not have any of our furniture or reminders of home in the beginning, we manage to find the comforts of home in each other. It’s even more meaningful for me as a mom of teenagers who usually stay as far away from us parents as humanly possible.

I know I’ve had a lot to say on this topic but it’s because I have become a firm believer in the value of children living abroad once, twice, or more. They grow so much braver, adapt to life better, become tougher, and learn that the world is so much bigger than their own backyard. It’s true that every day hasn’t been sunshine and lollipops. We’ve had some tears and tough days (mostly on my end ;)), but overall the boys have adjusted incredibly well…even easier than the first time. 

If you’re like I was and your children are your first concern when considering a move abroad, take some time to really think it through before you laugh out loud at the idea. You will see the benefits will far outweigh the costs and giving them the opportunity to live abroad will be a benefit they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

The Second Time Around. 5 Reasons Why You Should Live Abroad Again.

We are now officially on our second overseas move. I’m still surprised we now call Bangkok home, especially because a mere three months ago we were unsure we would even be moving. And now here I sit in my new workspace. Same computer, different country. But that’s the life of an ex-pat, isn’t it? It seems to be more the norm that once someone accepts an overseas assignment, they often continue their journey abroad through more than one location. It’s as if living as an ex-pat gets in your blood and as time passes, it becomes harder and harder to picture living your life as you once did.

Although being on our second overseas assignment hardly qualifies me as an expert, I can say that I have learned a thing or two about how different the adjustment is between your first assignment and subsequent ones. I suppose it’s like having a baby. You are absolutely terrified with the first one. Everything you do is new and scary. As you have more and more babies, you begin to feel more comfortable with the process. You are never by any means an expert, but you don’t worry quite so much over every little detail like you did with the first one. 

Here are some observations I have made with my second overseas “baby”.

1. Experiencing things for the first time isn’t quite so scary. 

Granted, things are different every place you live, but having been through it before I’ve learned that all IKEAs and Starbucks are pretty much the same no matter where you live. 😉 On our first overseas move, I always needed to do something the first few times with someone else in order to gain confidence. This time, I only need to do about half of my new tasks with someone else. Can you imagine if we have three or more international moves? I’ll be running those towns when our wheels hit the ground! I joke, but really, the more you make international moves, the more comfortable you become walking into an unknown situation with confidence. There have been a few times here already I have told myself to put on my big girl pants and just get out there. And hey, I survived! So can going to new places, whether they be a grocery store, mall, or market by yourself still be terrifying? You bet! But having lived in a foreign location previously, I gained confidence in myself enough to get out there quicker this time in order to navigate my way around.

IMG_3639
Grocery shopping Thai style

 

2. You become more patient with yourself.

Possibly the most important thing I learned from our first international assignment is that it takes time to adjust. Possibly a lot of time, and everyone adjusts differently. This time around, I remembered that in our early days after our move to Shanghai I was really only able to accomplish one task outside the house per day and still keep my sanity. In the beginning, if I tried to do more than that, I would inevitably end up in tears by the end of the day. So this time I have been more patient with my progress. I have allowed myself to have “off days” where I just don’t get anything done. If you know me at all, you know that I am always on the go, trying to accomplish more than 24 hours will allow. So, slowing down and living within my newbie abilities is tough but it has helped so much. I think I’ve only had one or two days when I’ve been in tears by the end of the day, and usually, they were a result of the power going out for the 10th time or finding a massive cockroach crawling across my kitchen counter so I would call that definite progress!

IMG_3602
I think it may be easier to have down days here. 😉

 

3. You learn the importance of putting yourself out there and getting involved quickly.

In all honesty, for me, this has been the most difficult thing to do. An introvert by nature, I find group situations extremely exhausting. I tend to fumble over my words and hover in the back, preferring to follow rather than lead. However, that being said, I also know after my first international move how fleeting time is. People and opportunities come and go practically overnight. I cannot believe almost three years flew by in Shanghai. So, the quicker you put yourself out there, making friends, and learning about opportunities in your new hometown, the more you can make of your brief time there. So in the three weeks we have been in Bangkok, I have been to almost a dozen meetings and met more people than I can count. This is absolutely draining for me, but you know what? I see people I know out and about now. We talk and have begun to form friendships. I know once all the initial meetings are done I will be fully informed and then can choose where I want to get involved. Then things will start to settle down and I can crawl back a bit (just a little bit) into my comfortable introverted state.IMG_3421

4. Adventure becomes your middle name.

I’ve said this before, but prior to our Shanghai move three years ago, none of us owned passports. We had never left the good old USA! Now in the short span of fewer than 36 months, we have been to 10 countries and have been on more adventure trips than I can count. We have hiked The Great Wall of China, been white water rafting in Bali, snorkeled in the Gili Islands, and explored nearly all of Scotland, just to name a few. Not to mention that just living out daily life in a new country is an adventure. So, when we were back home living our peaceful lives, an adventurous day might include going to an amusement park. Now our definition of adventure is vastly different. Knowing time is limited in your assignment, and your new land has many unique opportunities makes you want to get out there, explore and do all the things the area has to offer. 

5. God is faithful no matter what.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many threads God had to weave together in order to bring our latest move together. But through the entire process, I could see His hand accomplishing the impossible. Throughout our overseas moves, leaving family and friends halfway around the world, God has been our only constant. Our rock. Through uncertain times, He has been there. Through difficult times, He has been there. Our circumstances have changed so much over the past three years, but He hasn’t. Each move brings me closer to God. I have to rely on Him more and more because I know I simply cannot do it on my own. Before we moved to Shanghai, I got my first tattoo. It’s a cross on my wrist to remind me that no matter where I am in the world, God is always with me. This is my comfort in our ever-changing world.IMG_3666.jpg

As you can see, I’ve learned a thing or two (or five) since our first international move. I hope my words will encourage you if you are considering taking on another overseas assignment. The opportunity far outweighs the struggle it takes to get there. You may surprise yourself with your new level of confidence and ability to settle into your new world. I say if you are given the opportunity to do it all again, go for it! You won’t regret it and will come away stronger, more adventurous, and perhaps more faith-filled than you ever thought possible.

A New Chapter: Bangkok Bound

The only thing certain in life is change.

When we first found out we were moving to Shanghai, I was terrified. When we arrived in Shanghai, I was terrified. Our first few months of living in Shanghai, I was terrified. But, as time went on and we settled into our new lives, I found myself getting used to our new lifestyle. Actually, I found that I really liked living abroad. Most of my fears went away and we all settled comfortably into life abroad. 

That being said, living an expat life usually comes with an end date. You agree to a certain amount of time and understand that you need to make the most of it because before you know it, you will be packing your things to move back home. Our initial assignment in Shanghai was set to end, well…now. It was a three-year gig. However, we liked it so much that when we were given an opportunity to extend another two years, we jumped at the chance. Not only would it let us live our newly adapted expat lifestyle longer, but it would also allow our 16-year-old, Elijah to graduate from an international high school, which we agreed was a huge opportunity. 

So, we all happily resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be in Shanghai until 2020. Silly us. We should have known not to get too comfortable. Along came a work opportunity for my husband Brett and, BAM, we were told to pack up our things and move to Bangkok.

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First week in Shanghai

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Last week in Shanghai

 Whoah, Nelly! Ok, that’s a curveball, but if living abroad has taught us anything, it’s that we are so blessed and always need to be adaptable. So, how long do we have to pack up, move to a new country, enroll the boys in a new international school, find a house, transport our dog, and say goodbye? Let’s say two months, but only one month of hands-on time to pull everything together. Because, why not? Might as well just rip off the Band-Aid, right?

As you can imagine, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Another international move makes a move across town look like a cake walk. But things are coming together. We are all wrapping our heads around what our “new normal” may look like, and although I am back to being a bit terrified about our new home base, I now know I can do it. Hey, if we picked up our lives and moved to China of all places, we can certainly make a move to Thailand (at least this has been my mantra lately). 🙂

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Ready to go!

So, stay tuned for our new chapter. We will have a lot of twists and turns over the next few months. I’m sure it will be entertaining and I hope you won’t mind what is normally a little bit of crazy turning into a whole lot of crazy! IMG_3005

So, here’s to another new adventure! 

The Burin Bunch 

is 

Bangkok Bound! 

(say that 5 times fast) 😉

6 Reasons Why Kids Should Live Abroad

My 11-year-old, Jack had quite a day last week. He decided he would go on an “adventure bike ride” around our neighborhood. When he returned, his eyes were alight with excitement and he had quite a tale to tell. You see, we live on a very large compound which includes villas, a hotel, conference buildings, a large lake, and walking trails. Jack’s adventure led him to the conference buildings where he found a conference was taking place. To summarize his epic journey, he basically walked into the conference, was given a backpack, a book, some mints, and a lanyard, then sat for a while enjoying a cup of tea before being chauffeured back home in a Rolls Royce golf cart. We have since discussed the need to be careful when out exploring and the fact that it is not really appropriate to crash conventions, but to be perfectly honest, I am pretty impressed by this kid’s sense of adventure and bravery.

 Adventuring aside, this led me to think about how far my kids have come in the 2 1/2 years we have lived abroad. My mom always used to say that she believes everyone should live abroad for at least one year and you know, I now completely agree. I’m sure me agreeing with my mom is music to her ears. 😉 But really, I have seen so much growth in my children while living overseas that I can’t help but agree. Read more