I think I’ve finally gone over or at least seen the top edge of the expat wall instead of continually hitting it face first over and over again.
Until I started blogging about my expat experience, I hadn’t realized how many expats scattered about the world actually do blog. There are entire communities of expat bloggers who blog like it will save them their sanity. And for many people, myself included, I suppose it does help just a little bit.
It’s not rocket science and I’m not the only one, but when I post, I do so primarily to share what I’ve been up to with friends and family back in the States and in France. It’s also been fun to look back at what I’ve experienced and more recently, to see how much I’ve changed.
I think when you live so far away, not only from friends and family, but from all that is familiar, it does help to be able to passively communicate via a blog. And maybe, if you’re lucky, another member of the expat community will let you know that ‘yes’, he or she has been down the path you’re on and ‘yes’, you will look back someday at the moment when you lost your cool with the security guard at the Super U and laugh.
After my recent trip back to the States, I realized how amazing America really is and how much I took for granted while I lived there. I also felt a tad displaced simply because the experiences that I’m currently having are not like the experiences my peers or family are going through or have gone through.
The people I felt I could immediately connect with and share my stories with were to the blessed few adventurous souls I’ve had the beauty of meeting, to other expats who were muddling through or to U.S. military personnel that had served overseas. I had some amazing conversations with people like this back in the States and realized that we connected in a different way because we all had lived and worked or were living and working abroad.
Don’t get me wrong. Being an American expat living and working in Mauritius is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but there are moments when not being back at homeplate leaves you feeling kind of out of it.
I wasn’t in America for what could turn out to be one of the greatest elections of my lifetime. I will never have those images, the work water cooler discussions nor the shared energy of that moment in history in my book of life experiences. I can re-visit via books, magazines, the internet; but the total experience didn’t leave it’s thumbprint on me.
I also wasn’t around when the Financial Crisis screamed in and started showering everyone with bum-humdingers. During that time, my Malaysian boss used to ask me about it all the time, but what could I tell her except for what I was reading – just like her – on the internet?
All I could do was to try to continually motivate my teams with my ‘American’ methods of working just at the exact moment when America seemed to have some sort of nervous breakdown.
For a while it was really playing out like a bit from some comedy troop’s one-act skit: Hundreds of thousands of American workers lose jobs; Minnesota Pilgrim gainfully employed in developing country that’s going through a hiring bonanza and attracting lots of foreign investment.
Of all the times when my chances of getting hired in a developing country where probably better than getting hired in America…strange. Really strange.
Even Sarah Palin didn’t hit me the way she hit everyone else. The first time I even heard her voice was six months after the election because our internet connection wasn’t fast enough and our computer was totally loaded down with viruses which made streaming video impossible at the time.
I had read plenty about her and about the famous Tina Fey SNL skits, but had never seen any of it. And when I finally did get to see an actual Palin video and then one of the SNL skits, there was nothing. No fury. No laughter. I guess by not being a part of the collective unveiling, I missed out on getting my lunch money.
So, now, after being here for a bit more than a year, I’m finally comfortable to say, “Mauritius is my home, but sometimes it doesn’t really feel like my home.”
I now also understand what other expats have said about feeling like you never really feel like you belong anywhere 100%. I don’t feel like I belong completely to where I come from. I don’t feel like I belong completely to where I’m currently at nor, do I feel like I belong in totality with the country of my foreign partner in crime, the Frenchman.
It’s all just kind of mixed up, but for the moment I guess that’s what feels most like home.