Thursday, April 30, 2015

Support Systems

Fawn and me in January
Women have long known the power of support systems--both socially and emotionally. Per Wikipedia, social support is: the perception and actuality that one is cared for, has assistance available from other people, and that one is part of a supportive social network. 

In recent weeks I've been asked, "aren't you scared?" It's come from students, from friends, and even from my tax preparer. This is a shift and not a question I got in the fall or winter. I'm not sure what is provoking it at this point. Perhaps it is because my stuff has been shipped and in May my furnishings will relocate to their next homes. While it's been REAL for me for quite some time.....perhaps it's getting real for others? I don't know. 

As I drove down the highway yesterday, I reflected on the times I've relocated in my life. My family moved to a new town and school in Michigan when I went into fourth grade. Then we moved from Michigan to Pennsylvania the summer before my sophomore year in high school. In both of those instances I was excited to be the new kid in school. 

After two years in college and at the age of 21, I decided it was time to break out on my own--so I moved west to Idaho. I'll never forget pulling away from my mom's house, driving a Dodge Aries station wagon pulling a Uhaul trailer, watching her wave at me in the sideview mirror, tears streaming down my face. Driving cross country with my college friend, Susan, felt like a certain American rite of passage. It took getting through some weeks of sadness and unease, but I found my first apartment, got a job (then a better job), and continued my undergrad coursework. 

My deployment to Hungary/Bosnia/Croatia in 1998-99 led me to my next move, from Idaho to Colorado. I had a job within days and resumed schooling once my residency was established. I completed my Bachelor degree here, then my Masters, and moved from the business world to education--and am wrapping up my 10th year as a teacher and librarian. I've been in Colorado for 16 years...the longest I've ever lived in one place.

I've gone from city to city, from state to state, from east coast to the Rocky Mountain west. And now I go from West to East. From North America to Asia. 

As I relived these moves in my mind, I reflected on how I established my support systems--where was my nearest family and how I made new friends. I am happy to say that I have meaningful friends that I am yet in touch with from each and everyone of these places. Angi from grade school; Jules from high school; Jules, Kimmie, and Kathy from college. Then I have Angela and Michelle from Idaho. From Colorado--there are many...from Mallory (first friend here) to Katherine (one of the newest) and a host of many in between. 

With Dave & Michelle in Idaho

Yes, I've been able to find and make good friends everywhere I've gone and lived. We make time for those that matter to us. Family. Friends. 

I'll be assimilating into a pre-existing family in UB (with Zorig's parents and aunts, uncles, cousins) and creating a new one with him and Enji. I will, of course, make friends with colleagues at the American School of Ulaanbaatar. However, I also recognize that as I will be a "local hire" and staying in Mongolia permanently, there will be some things about my life that ASU coworkers won't know or relate to. For many of them, teaching in an International school is a way to see the world, so they stay in a school for a year or two and then often move on to a new place. And while they will be living in Mongolia, they won't be integrating the same way I want to and will. 

So I'm happy to say that I've touched base with another contact that I think is going to prove MOST helpful for me in the coming months. Zorig, while trying to track down an American woman he'd seen on the news in UB some time ago, came across this blog post by a different American woman. Her story (you really should read her post--it's astute and I wholeheartedly agree with her observations of the unique brand of machismo that exists there) has some similarities to mine--though I confess I can't imagine starting a long distance relationship by way of a translator. 

This week I made contact with her through Facebook and was thrilled to learn that "there's a small posse of American wives married to Mongolians," and that she is willing to connect me with them. I can't express how comforting this is to me. While I know Zorig will take care of me in all the ways he knows how to, I know that I will want to talk to a fellow American female at some point....AND to someone that has been through what I'm going to step through. 

So YES, of course I am scared. But I am doing all I can to prepare myself in the now, as well as how to set myself up for success in the future. I can't wait to see what my new friends will be like--all the beautiful things they will teach me and share with me. This is going to be a beautiful expansion of what has been a good life so far.......

Oh....and all you current friends....prepare to be a member of my long distance support system. Facebook. Email. Skype. Facetime. WhatsApp. KakaoTalk. Viber. I have lots of ideas on how we can stay in touch.....but need to get IN country first to see what really works for me....from there. So please.....stay tuned. 

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