I Have Changed

I have no business writing a blog post with the number of things on my to do list and the limited amount of time to do them. We leave for the States on Friday for a month! Yay! I am looking forward to seeing family and friends and also the following:

* Target and Chipoltle

* thrift stores – gonna stock up on clothes for Coco

* order and cleanliness and efficiency

* going on dates, going to free museums and zoos and parks and hanging out on U Street

Funny thing that I noticed though is that I would be okay if we weren’t going home. Shocking I know! I mean, I really, really miss my friends a ton so it will be great to see them but I don’t feel the deep, intense desire to hightail my ass back to the States as I did at Christmas time. Back then I was miserable and still in the midst of traumatic culture shock (ok, a bit dramatic) but now I can actually say that I made it through to the other side! Although I still don’t like Manila, I am finding it is tolerable. Things are so much better with the new apartment, my great yaya and having year 1 under my belt but I am also changed.

How so?

Well, I suspected this about myself all along but I *think* I am actually enjoying being an expat! Gasp. I know, I have been bitching and complaining for almost the entire year but now I am considering never returning home. Now I put the word think in italics because I haven’t quite committed to living overseas permanently (and it certainly wouldn’t be in Manila) but I actually am starting to think this is possible. I love a lot about the States (see above for starters) but I have changed so much this year and I don’t really see how the new me can live back home full-time anymore.

It’s a long, boring story of how I got to this point and surely most of you aren’t interested in but here are a few reasons why:

* I want to be trilingual. This has intensified since meeting so many people here who are. I want to learn both French and Spanish (at least) and that will be easier and quicker if I live in a country where the languages are spoken. I also want Coco to be trilingual. Getting us both to C1 level fluency will be very difficult living in Washington, DC.

* I want to see the world!  A year ago, before I moved abroad, I considered myself fairly well-traveled. Outside of the US I had been to Mexico, USVI, Canada, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Spain, the Netherlands, France, England, Italy, Germany, Austria, Sweden and UAE. Did I forget anywhere? For an American I think this is considered well-traveled yet I knew there were so many places I still wanted to see. However, as an overextended, underpaid teacher and single parent I was more likely to experience them in the pages of National Geographic. Sure, I might be able to save up for one trip a year but even that was going to be pushing it. I figured I needed to pare down my list and plan on seeing just a few and I was accepting that. But then I moved here and I have met people who have traveled so much more than I have and some are teachers, others single parents. They weren’t doing one place a year, they were doing more like six! Then I learned about people who are nomadic or who have location independent careers which allow them to essentially travel full-time. This was totally eye-opening to me! I started to realize that doing a lot more traveling didn’t have to be just a dream; I was starting to see that it could be a reality. Instead of seeing maybe 5 more cool places in my lifetime I can now see doing 50! But in order to do this I need to live abroad. Most places are just too darn far and expensive from the States.

          sipping fresh coconut water – Puerto Galera           elephant trekking – Phuket, Thailand

* I like having a multicultural group of friends. Okay, technically I don’t have a group yet but I am developing one. What I do have though is people I interact with on a daily basis whose opinions and viewpoints and experiences and analyses aren’t steeped in the constraints of growing up in America (race relations, foreign policy, etc.) I was having a conversation the other day with a Pakistani friend about discrimination and it dawned on me that I hadn’t thought about racism in months. You can’t go a more than a day or two in the US without reading about/discussing/speculating/witnessing racism or discrimination in some form. It’s damn refreshing.

* I enjoy the lifestyle. In Asia that means regular spa treatments and hired help (nannies, drivers, gardeners, cooks, etc.). In Europe that means  gorgeous surroundings and access to many countries on the cheap. In the Middle East this means lots and lots of money and exposure to a culture so very different from your own. In Africa it means being part of the majority and living in the Motherland. In South or Central America it means interesting culture and immediate bilingualism. In all of them it means as a teacher I get free tuition for Coco at a top-notch institution. I ain’t getting none of that in the US of A.

So yeah, I miss thrift stores and Chipolte, but those things  truly don’t compare. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I will enjoy every minute of our vacation but when I return I will begin planning our trips for the year. Destinations in mind? Cambodia, Vietnam, Boracay, Hong Kong and Bali. Living here certainly has its challenges but I have decided to stop complaining and start embracing all overseas living has to offer.

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8 Responses to I Have Changed

  1. hazel says:

    Wow! It’s inspiring to read about your ‘evolution’ over the last year. I’m excited for you, for the momentum you are building up, and to see where it takes you. I wish I could find the spark to set me off on my own journey instead of merely living a somewhat limited and humdrum life where all l can manage is to dream. I’m excited and happy for you that you have found the EXTRAordinary in life and I will check in more often to see where life takes you and your beautiful daughter. I’m so glad that Biset and I had a chance to meet you and Coco during that brief, poignant, exotic time & place in our lives. You are an inspiration!

    • Joy says:

      Hazel, so nice to see you here and thanks so much for you kind words! Yes, it was wonderful to be able to meet at that special time and to have this amazing journey that we share.

      Keep looking deep within for what you want and how to make it happen. I moved abroad specifically to pay off debt (felt like i didn’t have a choice) but find with each passing month that it was/is a catalyst to make other things I want happen. Sometimes forcing yourself out of your comfort zone lets you see things in a different way. It did for me. I say this to say it is possible for you too. In other words, taking that first step can lead to many more steps in a new direction. The first step, whatever it is, can be really scary but the reality is you can always go back to the way things were. Good luck!

      Hugs to you and little B.

  2. Catherine says:

    Enjoy, enjoy! It sounds like you and I are both blessed by kiddos that are ‘go with the flow’ kinda girls. That’s the only way this kind of lifestyle would work but if it works for both of you…go for it!

    I spent a bit of time in Manila visiting friends who are missionaries there. They work at a missionary school and the students are amazing! They know what it’s like to live in the moment and enjoy the friends they have and then that it’s ok to say good-bye and move on as they move or go on home assignment. What a world of opportunity you’re opening to both of you! Enjoy!!


  3. kellycamille says:

    Yay!! Wonderful read. I am so proud of you and so eager to do what you’ve done (as you know). Life was meant to be lived fully and if this is what makes your heart sing, do it! Home (the US) will always be here – and largely unchanged, I’d bet – check it out when you’re U St and elsewhere this visit. You ain’t missin much. But elephant rides, exploring Asia, becoming bilingual through immersion, FREE tuition and excellent education for the bambina?! Well, THAT’S something to live for.

    You are a true inspiration and one of the coolest people I know. Brave girl, no Brave Girl, the superhero. Go on witcha bad self. ;0)

  4. kellycamille says:

    Yea!! Go girlie! You are my hero (you know this). Can’t wait to join you in the big, wide world and I’m so very proud of you for taking the leap. See, who needs TP Elementary school when you’ve got so much else? Wonderful read.

    • Joy says:

      I had to post both comments even if the second was a revision because i had to say thanks for the hero comment 🙂 And yeah, i got lots of love for TPES but yeah.

Kind words only, please! :)

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