Expats at Home?
When my parents announced we’d be moving from our blue-collar industrial Chicago neighborhood to the safe and sunny suburbs I went through what emotions I had accumulated at that point, I was eleven, and said ‘okay’, not knowing what it was all about anyway.
How my parents, on my dad’s measly salary, built a new semi-custom home was beyond me. But, who cared. It was a new adventure and I’d finally be getting away from those nuns: another story.
Each week we’d jump in the old Hudson Hornet and head out to see the progress:
First week: flat ground with weeds
Second: hole in the ground filled with rain water
Third: hole filled with concrete walls
Fourth: concrete basement floor and a big pile of lumber
Fifth: you get the idea. Semi-boring
Finally there were walls and a roof. The dirt had been leveled and we had a driveway. A driveway for God’s sake! Not an alley! Inside it was open 2 x 4’s with pipes sticking up. And insulation and windows. It smelled good. And then, at long last, it was painted and carpeted; and there were appliances and, finally, a move-in day, cleverly timed to coincide with the first week of my summer vacation. There was no lawn. Or trees. A Lawn? We came from the city; our lawn was cinders, our trees were telephone poles. But it wasn’t long before my dad jumped into that and we had all the green we could desire.
And I had my own room! And life was exciting. And I went to a new school I could ride my bike to instead of taking a bus. And that lasted for a whole three years when, all-of-a-sudden, upward mobility set in. And in less than five or so years my parents had built two more new houses, each one bigger than the last.
By the time I was in the third year of design school I needed to get out on my own. Since then, about 47 years, give or take, I’ve lived in maybe four apartments briefly and bought four houses during and between various marriages. I’m still in the fourth and will be until they drag me out by my heels. Downward mobility.
On the other hand, buying old cars and trucks…..
Wayne Mikosz is an ex-restauranteur, writer, residential designer, collaborative painter with the love of his life and a Certified Appraiser of collectible automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. Visit Convergence Studios. Check out his new book, 10 Stories of Life, Love and Death at www.blurb.com.
Ned and Carol, where are you? The reason I ask is that we keep getting calls for you. It’s been five years since we moved here and signed up for landline phone service. They gave us a number that must have once belonged to you.
But you two – you little imps – you two must have run up some mighty big debts, because not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from a collection service looking for you kids.
“If you are Ned Street or you know how we might locate Ned Street, please call yada-yada-yada.”
Now, when I see the collection agency name come up on caller ID, I pick up the call for two seconds and then disconnect. They are such wearisome calls after five years of hearing the same recorded message. And if I were Ned, would I really call the number for the collection agency? I hardly think so.
And not just one collection service is looking for you. There are several that would be interested in knowing your whereabouts. You and Carol must have racked up some serious debt. I imagine that it all started with some profligate spending on the credit cards and perhaps some gambling. The next thing you knew, it spiraled into a second mortgage and then maybe foreclosure on the house. The banks must have come after you too, but by then you and Carol had split town. Speaking of splitting, my guess is that the stress of your indebtedness drove a wedge between you and Carol, and the marriage folded. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that a marriage could survive the such a tremendous fall so far down the rabbit hole. I imagine you’ve gone your separate ways and tried to disappear into the cracks somewhere new, but it must be hard to try to rebuild a decent credit history with the collectors breathing down your neck.
I don’t know when the calls will stop. Maybe never. You would think the statue of patience limitations would have run out after five years, but hope springs eternal in the collection biz. I guess my own hope that the calls would finally stop demonstrates that I too have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, Ned and Carol, I hope you’ve landed on your feet somehow and find a way to rebuild your lives. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic, call your old phone number and let us know how you’re doing.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Practice Being An Expat at Home
The Pocket Babe and I have been living outside the U.S. for the better part of 3 years, now. That’s not a very long time but it is much longer than your average vacationer spends outside the states. I frequently meet other expats here in Cancun who have been here over 25 years and we know a handful of long-timers in Ecuador too.
We also regularly meet short-time vacationers here in Cancun who are easily identified by the colored wrist bands they wear designating their status at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. They are also usually the ones with the worst sunburns, their skin painful to look at.
Sometimes we see a couple who has obviously just arrived, looking like they haven’t seen the sun in decades. Their skin is so white they could easily hide and never be found in a small sandbox filled with Pillsbury baking flour. In 24 hours, their skin will be the color of a ripe tomato as they spend way too many hours in this very expensive sunshine often purchased at 18% interest.
The vacationers always presume we, too, are here on vacation.
“When do you go home?” they ask.
“We are home…this is where we live.”
So what does it take to be a successful expat, move overseas and start a new life? In a word…flexibility! If I had to pick one trait that is shared by all of them, it would be flexibility or rolling with the punches. Are you married to your routine? Won’t consider trying other brands of your favorite products? Live your life by the ticks of a clock? If so, you may want to consider loosening up a bit!
If you are considering the life of an expat, you can start now to increase your flexibility. Go shopping for needed items in different stores than is usual for you. Expand you menu to include different foods that aren’t usually on your list.
And here is possibly the best exercise you can do right there in your home town. Change brands from all the favorites you’ve used for many years to other brands you’ve never tried. Personal items, toilet articles, clothing, and most certainly…food! Change it all! Also, practice carrying toilet paper with you wherever you go. You’ll understand later!
Not all are destined for the life of an expat. Those seriously considering making the move can begin practicing some practical flexibility in your hometown right now. It’s a start!
Donald (Don) Murray is a retired guy living in Cancun with his Pocket Babe, Diane. You can follow him on his blog, www.donaldmurrayexpat.com. He has written a top-selling Kindle book, Our Ecuador Retirment...Part Two is available for download from Amazon. He now spends his time doing whatever the hell he wants!
If you grew up in the USA during the Sixties, it was impossible for you not to know of Paul Revere & The Raiders. From 1966 to about 1970 their hits were a constant on the Billboard Top 100, but most of us enjoyed our first exposure while watching Dick Clark's Where The Action Is in the afternoons after school. They were impossible to miss. It was more than their modified Revolutionary War era costumes (ooh, Mark Lindsay in those tights!), though. It was their showmanship, their humor, and certainly their music, but it also was their stage act, orchestrated by leader Paul Revere with his broad smile and slapstick antics. Yesterday, Paul Revere lost his battle with cancer at the age of 76, which is fitting since the band's image so doggedly adhered to the 1776 theme. This had to be Paul's last laugh, I suspect, and it makes me smile.
Make no mistake about it. Paul Revere formed a well-oiled, professional band and as members came and went all the way through today, he knew what made that band successful: rock-solid musicians, polished stage routines, all-out entertainment value, and a tried-and-true professionalism that's been lacking for decades. Paul was known as a warm, affable, generous, and kind man, but I suspect he also reigned supreme from behind his keyboards. He was a true leader and members who left did so usually due to artistic differences. That's okay. To be a Raider meant that Mr. Revere led the show.
Until the advent of heavier music by Jimi Hendrix and Cream in 1967, the Raiders were the only group to pull me away from my blind and blinkered worship of the Beatles. The songs on their albums were a diverse mix that covered everything from novelty rock to biker blues and although some songs could be a little kitschy, there were plenty of rockers to keep me listening for hours while I did my homework or sunbathed in the backyard.
It's a peculiar kind of grief we feel when someone like Paul Revere dies. In most cases we've never met them, much less known them personally, and in a lot of cases we haven't listened to their albums in ages, so why do we mourn? Truth is, their death presents us with a startling reminder that we too are mortal and that our time of departure is creeping ever closer.
Ride on, Paul Revere. We'll catch you on the flip side!
Steph Waller is an author and composer. Books One and Two (With A Dream and With A Bullet) of her rock and roll series, Beyond The Bridge, takes places in late 70s London. Read more at Incurable Insomniac and StephWaller.com.
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Dawn Denfield sees her world (around Portland, Oregon) in the close-up view. Talk about getting close to your subject! See more of her images at flickr.