080412 Thaikarl - Where's home, anyway?

a while ago, someone left the following comment to my blog:

you are a man with two countries. when you refer to Thai as home you abandon all this country does for you.  may I suggest you refer to your home as something else. your family still lives in this home. homey....however you are free to say what you want in this country so home away if you like....

I've thought about this comment for some time.  and I do have a response. a long version and a short one.  if you don't want to read thru the long version, scroll down to the bottom of this post and you'll find the short version.

The LONG response.

yes, I am a man of two countries.  I hold an american passport, I am still an american citizen, and will continue to be.  my future wife, is Thai, and she lives in Thailand.  I have chosen to be responsible for her care, and for her mother and daughter.  so I am very much connected to Thailand also.
even if I lived here for many years, it is  unlikely that I would qualify  for Thai citizenship, since good command of the thai language is one of the requirements.  so I couldn't change citizenship, even if I wanted to.  even if I did, I would NEVER BE Thai.  I will always be american.  no matter what passport I carry.  just like in america.  even if you, your father, his father and his father and his father have lived in america since their births, if the most distant father came from asia, or africa, or the middle east, you will be labeled asian, african, middle eastern.  we simply tack the word 'american' behind it.  unlike europeans.  only several generations ago my ancestors came from germany  and italy.  but I am not called german-american, or itialian-american.  there was a time and place, where these delineations were in common use, but today, and all of my life, I have been simply "american".  I will always look different that Thai people.  such is as it  is.

so where is "home"? we all know the saying "home is where the heart is"  is this true? or is home the birthplace, the growing up place, the place you "settle down"? the place you retire? the place you die?  I had the fortune to be born into a military family.  I was born in Massachusetts, live in colorado, california (where my earliest memories are) then france, several places in germany, dayton ohio - longest we ever stayed in one place, 6 years- the netherlands.  I left home at 18, lived in ohio, florida, louisiana, colorado, ohio again, colorado again until finally moving to seattle washington.  my birth family moved to the seattle area when my father retired.  but only my father had ever been there.  he chose to retire in seattle because he liked the area and had friends from the air force there. his birth family lived in new jersey.  my brothers and sisters, who spent the larger part of their growing up years in seattle, consider seattle as "home" now.  so where's my "home"?  I have lived in seattle area since 1979, some 25 years.  my birth family all live there now.  which is a bit extraordinary since there are 7 children in the family, and in the mobile life of america, where people go where they need to for education, jobs, climate, the fact that we all live in the same 30 mile radius is notable. but it is the result of everyone choosing to be there.  one of mybrothers went to california after college, because that's where the opportunities were for him.  after many years there, and numerous forced changes of company, he finally moved back to the seattle area.

my time living in europe did change me.  it gave me a much different perspective, much different experiences than stateside kids. I don't presume to say my international childhood was better, but it was different.  even then, we lived within the world of the  military, were they bring as much of america to you as they can.  we shopped at the Base exchange where we could buy american food and goods.  we lived in  base housing with other americans.  except in the netherlands, because my father was attached to a NATO base, the high school I graduated from was an international school.  the kids were from USA, canada, england, germany.  and I had friends in all those classes.  we lived in a house on what we used to call "the economy", which meant that we lived in a normal dutch house, that was leased for us by the military. so  our neighbors and the town we lived in was all dutch people.  and you know something?  I liked it.  there was something about being in places,  having friends, that were just DIFFERENT than me. of course, there were similarities common to all people, we like to have fun, liked the opposite sex, went to school, had families and hopes and dreams, just like anyone in world.

so, that was then. I had the "want to travel" idea, like many people.  but I didn't  know how to do that.  finally I had the chance in 2002, when I had a job that was paying me way more  money than I  was used to.  I had two weeks vacation, so I decided to go around the world.  1 day in amsterdam, a week in india, 3 days in bangkok. the rest of the time was travel time. and I  loved it. especially india, and my 3 days in bangkok were magical.  so when the big pay job ended, I had some thousands in the bank, and my first thought after reading the lay-off letter was: "I'm free!" and I went around the world again- this time 2 weeks in europe, where my sister and I visited all the places we lived as kids, more than two months in india, and three weeks in Thailand.  when you go somewhere for a weeks vacation, or even two weeks, you have hardly even landed in a place before it's time to go back.  when you have two months to explore a smidgen of india, you land, and start to actually BE there after a month. and after nearly three months circumnavigating the globe, I came back to america, and for months and months all I could think about was "I want to see more-  I want to know more"

I went back to Thailand a couple more times.  the forth landing, as I was walking thru  the airport, smelling the air, feeling the warmth, seeing the workers in the airport- filled with you, excitement, anticipation, adventure- I decided.  I want to live here.  that is what I want. that  is what I'm going to do.  somehow, someway. I  was kind of startled to have even had these thoughts.  but I distinctly remember how  I felt the last time I got off the plane in seattle returning from Thailand.  I felt like: "okay,  I'm back in seattle.  it's kinda cold here.  um, have to get some work going." that was it. I still like seattle, I like being near my family, I like the familiarity, the country, the social contacts and the history I have there.  I can talk with strangers, read the  signs, high-speed internet, intelligible TV.  it's all there.  and it is lovely. but again when I am there in seattle, all I could think about is going back. what about cambodia? what about vietnam? what about northern india, egypt, turkey... what about those places, those people, that life there?

I went to cambodia, loved it. I went to vietnam. loved it there too.  but as fate would have it, I met a Thai women. before I took my forth trip, I got online and tried to make friends in Thailand, cambodia and vietnam.  I wanted to meet native people there, visit them, see their homes and how they lived. I was successful.  I met a young guy in  cambodia, and another young man in vietnam. they took me around, introduced me to their friends, took me out to see things, eat the food, exchange ideas and information about our countries.  the Thai women, once I actually met her was just a really nice person.  I discovered, I really really liked her. after our visit, she want back to the city where her teaching job was, and i went off elsewhere.  I missed her, and called her to see if she could take some time off from her teaching job and hang out with me.  and I began to fall in like, and then in love with  her.  oh, I asked myself all the usual questions: What's going on here? Do I really want this? Can this work? etc etc.  I even did the very american thing, and came here and spent months together with her. you know "getting to know her" and as they say, everyday, in every way, it just got better and better.  I wanted to marry her after a week.  but I did the "proper" american thing, and waited three months to ask her.

three months in a place is enough time for the "I'm on holiday" fog to thin out.  it's  enough time, for me anyway, to get a  sense of "this is what it's like to live day-to-day ordinary life here".  I loved it. and more importantly, I liked it.  you can love someone, or something  and not like them or it.  when you have both, you have something special going on.

when I returned to seattle after my sixth trip, I gave my apartment over to my room mate, I'd already sold my major assets- even my  beloved triumph  motorcycles - and had a house built for  us next to her house.  I lived at my sisters and brothers while working to save the money to come back here for this trip.

so, my house is here in Thailand. the women I am married to is here in Thailand.  I don't even have a residence in america, but I have a residence book here. I love the food here, the climate (especially), the culture- what I can understand of it, and even what I don't understand-  the fauna and flora, I feel happy, content, energized, and calm here.  so you tell me... where is my "home"?

the dictionary entry  in Answers.com defines "Home" as:  http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=home&gwp=13

1.  A place where one lives; a residence.
2.  The physical structure within which one lives, such as a house or apartment.
3. A dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it; a household.
4. 1. An environment offering security and happiness.
    2. A valued place regarded as a (a)refuge or (b)place of origin.
5. The place, such as a country or town, where one was born or has lived for a long period.

Note that "place of origin" doesn't appear until 4.2(b), and home as a birthplace or place you have lived a long time doesn't appear until 5.
Definitions 1, 2, and 3, are each portable- a residence, physical structure and a dwelling can refer to where you are at any time.  So by definition, if I am at our house in Thailand, or sleeping in my sisters den, or in my van, that is home.  The key definitions are "an environment offering security and happiness", and "...a refuge..."  If you ask me where in the world those definitions are satisfied for me, I have to answer "Thailand".  There is a problem here of course. I  have had residences, physical structures and dwelling places with social units, that have, at times, NOT offered security and happiness or refuge.  In my philosophy of life (sic), those attributes come from within my own self.  It is up to me to decide if those attributes exist in any given location.  I think it goes back to the saying, "...where the heart is."  I believe that is independent of the dictionary definitions.

Have I "abandoned"  america and "all it does for me"???  as I have stated, I am still an american citizen.  my passport allows me free entry back to the USA anytime I  like.  and like it or not, I will be returning to america often, because I can make more money faster there.  that is one thing america does for me, and I am not so wealthy that  I can escape that.  of course this means long separations from my  wife and her family, and my home here.  but, that is what we choose to do.  I could take a job here  teaching english, but all the english teachers I know here can't save enough money to buy a ticket back to  their original county.  and I need to build up some kind of future support for myself and my wife.  so everything 'america does for me' is still right there, and still important in my life.  and if I were to get into some kind of trouble here or other places, it would be the american embassy who I would turn to for assistance.

Have I "abandoned" anything?  it is a matter of perspective.  true, the last thing you will see of  me will be my back as I  get on a plane to leave for Thailand.  I  do go away from  america.  put simplistically, there are two reasons for making a move - to get away from something, or to GO TO something else.  simplistically, either you are running away, or running towards.  which reason you are using as motivation for movement is up to you.   you cannot goto another place, with out leaving the place you are now!  I have a nephew who was born and raised in north seattle, washington state.  he now  lives in arizona.  he has friends there, a place to live, and will be going to school for two years.  he says he loves it there.  his mother and father, and his siblings live in seattle.  did he "abandon" everything he has in seattle to live in arizona?  Did he "abandon" everything the  state of washington, his  family and city does for him?  it's interesting that we don't think of moving to another state as abandoning.  but,  moving to another country, and calling it "home" is perceived by some as an abandonment.  but you cannot go anywhere, without leaving some place behind.

Thailand, is my home.

The SHORT response.

Home, as they say,  is where the heart is.  My heart is in Thailand.  So, this IS my home.

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com


  1. Hi Karl. Just found your site and put it straight into my favourites.

    About "Home" Easy to answer.

    Is it the soulless house in England I have lived in for 20 years, a lot of aquaintances, a few good friends and a job I can tolerate?

    Or is it a small town in Northern Thailand where my wife, new son, stepdaughter and extended family live?

    No contest. I treat my last few months in England as "working abroad" to get the money to go home permanently.

    Blogs like yours help keep me sane in England.

    All the best.


  2. Hi Karl and Mike1306, I agree with both your and Mikes to the question "Where's home. Beautiful Thailand is my home I am english working in Dubai and dream of Thailand every day. A town near Petchinbon is my true home and is the nearest thing to heaven. Mike knows what i mean he has found his utopia. Good luck mike I do not miss England. I miss my wife and Thailand.


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