How to be an Ex-pat

This morning I was walking my dogs to this passage, from W.S. Merwin’s Poem, Variations on a Theme.

Neem Flowers

Neem Flowers

That carried me through the clear day

and come even now to find me

for old friends and echoes of them

I spoke these words aloud as we walked and the scent of neem flowers swirled around us. The scent is reminiscent of peonies: my favorite flower.

This is how I have lived far away, for a long time. There is no spring, with crocuses bursting through the snow, or the tingling joy of removing layers to feel the wind on your bare skin, but there is the scent of spring.

There are hundreds of examples: there is no, but there is…when you live outside of your own culture.

The question is, is it enough? And are the reasons you are willing or wanting to be elsewhere worth what you will lack? You may think you will only gain, especially if you’re leaving to make your money go farther in a different economy. Even if you live better, there will be sacrifices. If you live a long distance from your friends and family now, trust me, they are farther when there is a border between you.

In your new country, if you are involved in the community you are still a foreigner. It feels different to be a citizen. Maybe it shouldn’t, perhaps I’m not evolved enough, not global enough, but in my experience, it feels different in my body, being in my home country or my host country. The sensations are both unpleasant and comforting, in both locations.

I’ve been asked many times if I ever plan to return to the U.S.?

No, I don’t.

Will I ever leave Nicaragua?

I hope not. I love Nicaragua. My body feels good here, even though I am foreign.

It seems a lot of people are immigrating these days. Looking for places that suit their personal politic better than where they are. I left the U.S. for personal reasons that were politically based. I have never regretted it, nor have I ever wanted to return. So, I’m going to go out on a limb and give some advice on being an ex-pat.

Imagine you are a guest in someone’s home. Because you are. Be who you are, and remember that a good deal of that is where you came from, but, don’t try to superimpose it on your new home.

Look for your familiar comforts in what is new and unique to where you are now. Peonies speaking to you from the Neem.