Aside
2

Word has it that if all expats in the world were pooled together in one territory, we would form the 5th most populous country in the world. When I first saw this data I was amazed. Are there truly that many people living outside the borders of their home country?

When we moved from Jamaica to the United States I didn’t feel like an expatriate; I felt more like an immigrant. This feeling stems from the fact that, for Jamaicans, living in the USA is what people do. Everyone in Jamaica has a friend and/or family member living in the US. The fact that we relocated specifically for hubby’s job did not change that feeling of immigrant vs expatriate.

The move from the US to Indonesia has, however, now placed me squarely in the expatriate box. There are tons of articles written on the expatriate lifestyle. Many create fantasies while others try to understand the emotional and realistic lives of all age groups within the expatriate community. The expat life isn’t always a bed of roses. For example, as a Jamaican, it kills me to not have the rhythm of my music, of my people and of the life on a small island. Say what you will about the problems in my home country, it is and forever will be home.

Photos below of a beautiful spot in Portland, Jamaica and of Red Stripe beer (the most refreshing beer in the world).

Portland

Real Jamaican Beer

Personally, I love the expatriate life. I like seeing the world as a tourist and as a resident. I feel as though the world is my own cocoon. My family and I are now champions at figuring out which countries have safe enough to eat street food (well hubby and I do as the kids are anti street food). We are also masters at figuring out in which cities hunger is a more viable option than touching anything cooked in a restaurant with less than 4 stars. We have seen so many World Heritage Sites and have felt the warmth of so many cultures that anything other than gratitude for our lives is thankless.

Among the many things I truly love about expatriate life is the hunt. The hunt for the next place to live. For me, the hunt starts long before we are scheduled to leave the current post. It is when the mind tells me I need to learn a little more about living as an expat in a particular country. It is when a newly made friend is re-posted and is moving to a country that holds a fascination. It is when I meet someone who, over dinner, revels in the memories of their last posting. That city in which they regularly had monkeys in their backyards or where Friday nights in the high-end clubs are free Cosmopolitans (the drink) for women until 11 pm. The funny part about the Friday free cosmopolitans is that the country in question is a religious state. That discussion is for another day and time.

When I hunt, I hunt well. I go detailed. I look at houses and compounds. I learn details about schools: is there a British school or an American school or both? Do the students at the British school study for A’level exams or the International Baccalaureatette (am I the only one who finds it difficult to spell that word)? Is City X a family duty station or not? Ah, fun fact on family duty stations: Iran and Pakistan are family duty stations but Haiti isn’t. Hmmm, not sure I get the logic of that one. Other fun fact: everyone I have ever met who has served as an expatriate in Zimbabwe wants to go back. One such friend describes Zimbabwe as the secret duty station. It is that place we hear about and assume it is awful but in reality it offers a wonderful life for expatriates, or so my friends proclaim.

Where to next, we have no clue. Catch me after a trip to the Caribbean and I may say any Caribbean island. Catch me after watching a documentary on life in Buenos Aires and I may nag hubby to move us to Latin America. Let me see Africans dancing on my tv screen or hear the roar of lions and nothing can rattle my conviction I am destined to reside in a country somewhere on the African continent.

The reality is we know not when or where we will next have an address. What we do know though is that we still have much to see and do in Indonesia. Right here on the Ring of Fire in the country with the most volcanoes in the world.

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What happens if you are an expat wife and being a stay at home mom is not your thing? Part 1 of 2

In 2005 when we started our expatriate life I was excited and sad at the same time: we were embarking on a new adventure ( if you can call living in the US an adventure) but I was also giving up my independent life. Let me give you a little background information. In 2003 the political blood that had been boiling in my veins finally erupted and I quit my job as Director of Youth (Jamaica) and ran for office as a Council Woman. Not only was I elected but it was as though a new me had been born. I had never experienced such deep passion for anything outside of my family before my foray into representational politics. The constituents whom I represented acted as stimulants of my existence. My political career and prominence were growing and I felt I could achieve anything I wanted in the political sphere. Truth be told though, my family was feeling the pinch of me being absent. My husband heard me more on the news than he saw me at home. No let’s change that: he also saw me when he brought our baby to be breastfed on the campaign trail.

Enough background for now – I think you have gotten the drift of why I felt that moving to the US was similar to giving up my independence. In the US I was lost in the midst of everything and everyone else. The novelty of ni there wore off in about a month (that is as long as it took for me to complete a real estate course). I was bored, I felt that my mojo had been crushed. There was no passion boiling through me, the place was cold, I wanted to work but couldn’t find a job. Life became miserable. I hated my new life as expatriate.

Talking with other expat wives in my husband organizations I came to realize that I was not alone: the US could be a tough posting. Forget the shopping and the bright lights and reality sinks in quite fast. Jobs for expat wives are difficult and while many do not want employment, many do. No matter who you were or what your profession was at home, in the US (more often than not) you have to start from scratch. If you were a doctor at home, in the US you have to go back to school before you can practice, a lawyer – same scenario. If your academic background was not from the US you were stuck waiting to get lucky or for something to open up in your Embassy.

For me it was sheer misery and I wanted nothing more than to go home. I felt depressed, I got miserable (or more miserable as my husband would say). To make matters worse my political party (Jamaica Labour Party) won the national elections in 2007 after 18 years in opposition and there I was stuck in a country that did not feel like home. It felt as though someone had imprisoned me but was allowing me to watch what I was missing. I got even more miserable and antsy. It felt as though there was no end in sight to my state of regret about leaving Jamaica.

We spent many nights trying to find a solution. What are some of the things that an expatriate wife can do in the USA if she is not interested in being a stay at home mom? I desperately needed to be defined as something other than my husband’s wife or my kids’ mom. I needed to be me and to be acknowledged as such. 

In early 2008 I got a phone call that changed everything – I was alive again!!!!! This phone call brought news that began my journey of enjoying our posting in the US. There were twists and turns, ups and downs but I came unto my own. I grew into my role as Stephen’s wife and my kids’ mom because I found a way to also be me. My family went through the worst experience ever during this time but let’s talk about it tomorrow when I can tell you more about how to make the best of a bad posting if being a stay at home expat mom/wife is not your thing.

Until next time…..One Love!!!

If you like this blog you may also like http://www.jamaicanmeditations.blogspot.com