One of the most often asked questions about my move back to America is a variation of “do you miss Thailand yet?”  The easy answer is sure I do. I miss Thailand, Japan, Korea, California and every place I’ve ever lived.  Don’t you?

 

One of the most often asked questions about my move back to America is a variation of “do you miss Thailand yet?”  The easy answer is sure I do. I miss Thailand, Japan, Korea, California and every place I’ve ever lived.  Don’t you?

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F4 1/3200 ISO 100

 

I think what they’re really asking is if I transitioned well back to the states.  Transitioning from one country to another involves many things, everything in fact. Your home, your community, car and roads, family and friends, language, currency, weather, civil rights, foods, and much more.

I’m probably not the best person to ask.  You see, in a way I’ve been trained.  Before I joined the military the furthest from my Southern California home I’d ever been was Baja California, Las Vegas Nevada, the Sierra Nevada’s, and not much more.  Then suddenly I was in my new profession, handed a plane ticket, and ordered to report to places I’d never even heard about.  Heck, I’d never even been on a plane.

Every 2-4 years the military would hand me another plane ticket and send me somewhere new, along with my wife, kids, and the family dog.  In truth these weren’t ‘real’ moves because the military took care of all the expenses and details and when you arrived you had the choice of living on an American base in housing which was pretty much like American housing and shopping in stores which were pretty much like American stores.  They arranged passports, documents, paid for everything, there really wasn’t much to it.

A life changing assignment was my first.  Guantanamo Bay Cuba.  The only American base on communist soil, and we were not allowed to leave the base or our protected waters used for recreational activities like boating, fishing, or diving.  The only transition involved stepping on to and off the plane.  Oh, combat landings took a bit of getting used to.  Just ask anyone who’s experienced one.

I say this assignment was life changing because I absolutely hated being stuck on base.  It was nail in the head boring.  Just to break the boredom I’d rent a plane from the Aero club and fly to small neighboring islands to get away for a weekend.  Much of the same eh?

So later when my next assignment brought me to Japan I could never understand how roughly 95% of my fellow service members and their families elected to live on base and would rarely if ever drive through the gates into the Japanese community.  They avoided anything ‘not American’ with a passion.

 

Myself, I couldn’t understand.  Here we are in a foreign country, and a damn interesting one at that, and they didn’t want to even go shopping off base unless it was with an organized tour, much less set up house off base.  So you can understand the looks of concern (for my mental state) when I told them I was moving out in the Japanese community, would rent a Japanese home, shop at Japanese stores, and have Japanese friends.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F4 1/2500 ISO 100

Myself, I couldn’t understand.  Here we are in a foreign country, and a damn interesting one at that, and they didn’t want to even go shopping off base unless it was with an organized tour, much less set up house off base.  So you can understand the looks of concern (for my mental state) when I told them I was moving out in the Japanese community, would rent a Japanese home, shop at Japanese stores, and have Japanese friends.

I had the time of my life!  It’s a time I look back on with great fondness and a tear in my eye.  I was married, then divorced, then dating, then dating some more, and I advanced rapidly on a professional basis.  My middle son grew up speaking Japanese while playing baseball with the neighborhood kids.  He can’t remember a word of it now, but later in high school he was amazed at how easily foreign languages came to him.  Later when I was there by myself I learned everything I could about Japan, the language, the history, the people.. and I’d spend my annual leave traveling everywhere on my Harley.  I could talk your ear off about my time in Japan, or Korea, or the PI, or..

But the point is, it was a life changing event for me.  My first major transition.  And I loved it.  Many more followed at the rate of 1 every 2-4 years.  It strikes some people as odd that moving to a foreign country was as easy for me, maybe easier, than for them moving across town.  I’m not talking ‘easy’ as in ‘logistics’, the military took care of the heavy lifting.  I’m talking about the mental adjustment, immersion into yet another culture.  It didn’t take long where the 2 year point would approach and I’d already be looking forward to my next host country.

At retirement I moved to Oregon, bought a ranch, and tried fitting into what many considered the American Dream.  It really was a beautiful place with real hard working down to earth people.  I called it “God’s Country” and meant it.  There might be more beautiful spots on earth, but it’s more a matter of personal choice at this level.

What made the transitions different was when I started moving overseas as a civilian.  The cultural adjustment remained the same, but the logistics increased in a huge way.  You never realize what you have until you no longer have it. So in that respect I had to adjust.

And I think it was at this point where I realized I didn’t fit in, I didn’t fit in overseas where being a farang instantly and permanently makes you an outsider, and I didn’t fit in with most everyone in my home country because our experience sets are so different.  You might not think this a big thing, but your experience sets change your world and personal views in a big way.

It’s true that the vast majority of American’s have never owned a passport, and of those who do, it’s probably long expired.  They made the odd business trip or European vacation and that was it.  Heading off to third world South East Asia is something you watch others do on the Discovery Channel, it’s not something you do yourself.  So they often look at you as if something’s wrong. 

It gets worse from there.  Their world view is vastly different.  They wouldn’t know an Englishman from an Australian much less a Thai from a Japanese. I don’t blame them, America is a wonderful place with so many great places to see and visit here, there’s no need to go looking for whatever else the world offers.  We have the most beautiful beaches, several wonderful mountain ranges, splendid deserts, and forests only a few countries can still boast.  And then we have Yosemite and the Redwood forest not to mention the Grand Canyon and Smokey Mountains.

Many American’s think “why would I go overseas when we have so much here..”  There’s a lot of sense in that.  Most foreigners have no concept of how huge America is, how many different cultures we enjoy within our borders, and the vast array of geographical differences.

But it’s also a big world with many great places to see, cultures to experience, people to meet.. and they have no way to really understand this without experiencing it first hand themselves.  Or do they?

 

This is where my photography comes in.  Through photography I can not only make pretty pictures, but I can make pretty pictures which help convey my experiences, help the viewer feel the very essence of the people and cultures I’ve visited.  I bring home a piece of my experience set they can not only see, but one they can see, feel, smell, and hear as I did.  Providing I did my job correctly.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM @F4 1/2500 ISO 100

 

This is where my photography comes in.  Through photography I can not only make pretty pictures, but I can make pretty pictures which help convey my experiences, help the viewer feel the very essence of the people and cultures I’ve visited.  I bring home a piece of my experience set they can not only see, but one they can see, feel, smell, and hear as I did.  Providing I did my job correctly.

In this way my ‘transitions’ become not only something I lived, but something I can share with others.  So when you ask “do you miss Thailand yet?”  The answer is “Yes of course.”  But I’m not yet finished with Thailand.  I left a large piece of myself in Thailand, friends, family, memories and dreams.  The transition is ongoing.  The transition is my life.

Until next time..