We move to
I speak of these things blithely, from a position of privilege. I moved to another country by choice, because the man I chose to marry is Greek. Most of the other ex-pats I know also moved by choice, whether for a desire to change lifestyles, or marriage, or job opportunities. I wasn’t fleeing tyranny, war, famine, fear or any of a number of things that make desperate immigrants cling to life on a shoddy boat across the murky waters of the sea, headed towards a life of uncertainty and perhaps, if they are lucky, hope. Provided they find asylum in a new country, what are their experiences like? Are they able to laugh about the language differences? Do they joke about the behavior of their new countrymen? Do they find amusement in the products on the grocery store shelves?
These immigrants are the true expatriates. They leave everything behind – friends, family, jobs – never to return again. In many cases they are probably not allowed to return again, or face death or prosecution if they do return. In their eyes, there is no choice. When a sweaty man approaches them, face veiled in shadows, and offers them passage for a fee, they take the opportunity. Most of the time they probably don’t even know where they are going, whether the boat will make it, what dangers they may face on the other side. All they know is that their only hope of a decent life is somewhere else. Anywhere but their home country.
It is pretty easy when you live a comfortable life to pass judgment on these immigrants. It is easy to ignore them, disregard them, discount them as individuals. “They don’t belong here” you might say to yourself, or “they steal our jobs.” You might opine that they cause more crime. Sometimes they do. Yet the nationalists who are so proud of their heritage, their culture, their country and don’t want it “tainted” by unwanted immigrants seem to ignore that the immigrants lack the very thing the nationalists are so proud of: a place to call home.
Expatriates like me are lucky. We have the opportunity to live and experience other cultures, but we can still go “home” when (and if) we want to. Should we travel back to our home countries, once we flash our local passports the customs officers tell us “welcome home.” Yet a constant nightmare of mine is that someday I won’t have a country to go home to.
Some friends and I took a trip to
In the year between 9/11 and when I moved to
I miss my family and my friends. I miss