“Before You Click Your Heels Three Times…Is There Really No Place Like Home?”

Last week, Oroneta tagged me with a meme about living the expatriate life.

Now, I know Duluth is far North, we all talk like Canadians here as we putter “aboot the hoose,” people do willingly eat herring, and we celebrate St. Urho’s Day, but I have to admit, however reluctantly, that I’m still technically in the United States, the country of my birth. And although I’ve traveled a fair amount in my FORTY long years–even living for four months in Dublin–I can’t say that I’ve really set up shop in another country long or deeply enough to have ever felt that my “real” life was taking place in another country. At best, I’ve only had that sensation the morning after a big night of drinking, when I’ve woken up bewildered, confused, and wondering where my shoes went.

Luckily, I will still answer Oroneta’s challenge, for I have an expat in my life, my sister, Kirsten (Yes, yes, you’re right! She was named after opera singer Kirsten Flagstad!) Some of you faithful readers might remember that my family spent two weeks in Guatemala over Christmastime; it was to visit Kirsten that we made the trip.

Okay, and because we needed some new tablecloths.

At any rate, since I’m in the midst of a particularly busy week–ever since I turned FORTY, it’s just go, go, go, what with the big job promotion, all of my community service, volunteering at the kids’ schools, retiling the playhouse floor, opening a free dental clinic, and, um, trying to get through the entire boxed set of Sports Night–I’m going to hand over the rest of this post to Guest Blogger Kirsten, who has much to say about her life as an expatriate (just for your edification, she’s also done stints in the Peace Corps in Belize and Moldova; in a few months, she’ll be leaving behind her current job in Guatemala City and heading back to her teaching position with Denver Public Schools, which she fled two years ago in the face of the strictures and penalties inherent in the No Child Left Behind act).

Yea, this this is Kirsten. Nice buckers, eh? Here she goes:

There are stages of grieving, stages of detoxifying
and stages of living and leaving a country…I’m in the
stage of “I can’t wait to get out of here and I’m
never, EVER coming back”…and you ask me to name things
I like, even love, about this place?? What? Are you
trying to make me reflective on this experience

Sigh….ok, here goes…

Name five things you love in your new country:
1. The textiles
2. The Mayan ruins
3. Being completely free and unmonitored in whatever I
do in my job
4. The couple of friends I’ve made who I think are
truly, deep-down good people
5. ???

Name four things that you miss from your native

1. Standards in education (and it was the strictness
of which I was running from by coming here!)
2. Friends who share a common understanding of
..things, life…
3. Driving a car
4. Air quality standards (especially, emissions
standards!! Egads!)

Name three things (I’m making it four!) that annoy you
a bit (or a lot) in your new country:

1. Pollution (air pollution, littering, snot wads on
the sidewalk…)
2. The idea that outright lying to someone is actually
being polite…
3. Lack of personal safety (there are machine guns at
every business, residence…)
4. The acceptance and promotion of class differences

Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you in
the beginning) in your new country:

1. The number of people who speak English really well
2. The level of wealth and luxury enjoyed by the 13
ruling families and the lack of shame they exhibit in
treating the “rest” of the people here as unworthy

Name one thing that you would miss terribly in your
new country, if you had to leave it:

IF I had to leave it? I AM leaving it! I’ve got a
countdown going! But, I’ll miss a teacher I work
with; she’s one of those truly, good people…I’ll
probably also miss the amount of free time I have here
to just read and watch TV. (I’m already calling my
Guatemala experience “my two years of TV watching…”)

Gracias, hermana, for the post. I daresay you might miss a few of the kiddles, too.

So how about the rest of y’all? When you’ve lived or traveled abroad, what have you loved and hated the most?





, , ,




28 responses to “”

  1. ldbug Avatar

    Oh, wow! Thanks for sharing, guest poster! I haven’t lived in another country (although when I lived in the south it certainaly FELT like a different country)..but I am working on secret things to move to another country for a few years sometime in this next year…

    I liked the pictures too:-)

  2. BlogWhore Avatar

    this is a great meme.

    thanks for sharing!

    p.s. i’ve got a new url.

  3. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    An amazing experience I can imagine! What bravery! I do like the part of being unsupervised and not evaluated!! I don’t think I’d feel all that safe there. I’m sure you had great impact on those kids though.

  4. oreneta Avatar

    Hope the birthday went well Jocelyn, and Guatemala city…geez. I have a friend comes from there, and she left when she was 16…she finds it a very rough town. Really, murderously rough. I spent a fair bit of time in Denver…what is the name of that fabulous bookstore, Tattered Cover? Fantastic place…when do you go home.

    Very nice hand off Jocelyn, that was a great read. Thanks

  5. lime Avatar

    thanks for turning it over to your sis for a bit. the whole culture shock thing can be rough.

    as for me..i spent a little over ayear in trinidad, west indies and i’ve got roughly 60 posts or so related to that. i’ve been strugglgin for some ideas on that series, maybe i’ll gank this meme….

  6. Diesel Avatar

    I’ve never been anywhere.

    So is Sports Night as good as I remember? Or is it pretty much like Studio 60 but there wasn’t as much else on at the time so it seemed better?

  7. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Man, how does she get around without driving a car???

    Man, I’m totally Americanized.

    Excellent, excellent guest blog. And I liked the introduction, too.

  8. Glamourpuss Avatar

    I remember being in a car in Japan and the Backstreet Boys came on the radio (blech) and I felt such relief and joy at hearing English spoken by native speakers. I felt truly alien there, much as I adored the place.


  9. AmyTree Avatar

    this is fantastic… I have the dubious privilege of not having been tagged with a meme before… so I might just borrow it and make my own post…

    thanks a lot!
    xx Amy

  10. Jazz Avatar

    Thank you Kirsten for sharing. It was a great post – and great intro Jocelyn.

  11. Diana Avatar

    So cool to get a peek at your sister’s life.

    I lived in Japan for 3 years, but remember none of it. Nope, not due to a long drunk. I was 6 weeks when I got there and 3 years and 6 weeks when we left. (Dad was in the Air Force.) For years, I thought I remembered it, but then realized what I was remembering were the snapshots in the photo albums we had.


    On the other hand, moving from Portland, OR, to the Upper Midwest has been surprisingly different, given that it is the same country.

  12. Dayngr Avatar

    Great meme and post. This one requires quite a bit of thought on my part. I’ll have to think it over and come on back and comment after business hours.

  13. steve Avatar

    Great to hear from you, Kirsten. I notice a family resemblence in your diction. And I don’t know about Duluth and the expatriate issue. Pretty much anything north of Lino Lakes is the bush. In fact, Ia fellow Duluth resident, ‘ve got this smooth, shiney, clear thing that fell from the sky. I’m on my way to return it to the edge of the earth.

  14. Dan Avatar

    Kristen misses driving a car?? Tell her she can be my chaffeur if she wishes! Tell me!

  15. velvet girl Avatar
    velvet girl

    Wow, great insight from your sister!

    I’ve lived as an expat… I’ll have to think on this one for a while. Maybe I’ll even do a post on it since I’d never be able to fit it all in the comments. 🙂

  16. choochoo Avatar

    it would be pretty nifty to live in another country at some point. Maybe, after I’ve won that huge fortune in the lottery (without ever having bought a ticket) I’ll move to Italy, or something

  17. Jocelyn Avatar

    My sister’s been reading the comments and has more to add, so I’m putting it here. Never let it be said a female in my family didn’t have something to say:

    Kirsten wrote:

    “i just read the comments…one person wrote something
    about culture shock..and i don’t know if i’m
    misunderstanding what she meant, but i really don’t
    think i’m in culture shock.
    i’ve been through lots of different phases of being
    here…thrilled, happy with the newness, the
    differences, the freedom in work, loving to travel
    around —at first…then as i worked out of the
    honeymoon stage and things weren’t “new” to me any
    more, i started seeing more and more of the raw
    edges…some of the cultural differences here don’t
    bother me, some irritate the hell out of me…
    guatemala is a third world country..it’s working its
    way through things…some things here (rights for
    minorities, women, air quality control! -again,
    egads!) are decades behind the states…and coming
    from someplace where i’m (and not just me!) accustumed
    to being ALLOWED to do something and it doesn’t matter
    that i’m a woman makes attitudes here often hard to
    take..also having black crap in my nose at the end of
    every day cuz of the pollution also make it hard to
    love it here…also by being an advocate of really
    educating children in this environment of “as long as
    they learn to speak english without an accent and
    other academics are frosting” i make it hard on myself
    with the adjustments i have to make in order to live
    at least somewhat happily at this school… ok, so i
    guess, it’s more of cultural adjustment than culture
    shock. i’m not really shocked by things here, just
    don’t want to live here forever! and i really really
    really really really think that if i had been in _any_
    other town/village/place in guatemala (other than guat
    city), i’d be at a different place in my stages of
    living abroad. i hate this city. it’s too big. too
    dirty. too dangerous. too negative. too, period.
    anyway…MY rant.

  18. furiousBall Avatar

    That was excellent, very nice. I haven’t been anywhere, thanks for all this worldly insignificance I’m feeling now. Maybe I’ll make a difference and visit Minnesota soon.

  19. CSL Avatar

    I’ve lived all over this country and a year in Europe, but nevr more than a few weeks elsewhere. But wherever I’ve been, there are good and bad things. I’ve liked every place I’ve ever actualy lived.

  20. Princess Pointful Avatar
    Princess Pointful

    I loved the honesty here– being able to recognize the good and bad of each country. People have too much of a tendency to romanticize or demoniize places outside of home.

  21. Claire Avatar

    I visited my Italian relatives in a little town called Zoppola for six weeks. They treated my like a princess. I was thirteen. I loved every bit of it.

  22. urban-urchin Avatar

    I lived in London for a large portion of my life.

    Things I loved about living abroad: the history, the music, the proximity to the rest of Europe, the Indian and Chinese food, my friends.

    Things I missed from the states when I lived abroad: more than four tv channels, wide open spaces, sunshine.

    Things I miss about living abroad: Tea, polo mints, reduced fat Marks & Spencer digestives, Top Shop, Selfridges, Christmas the feeling that you are in the city that is completely and utterly alive.

  23. jen Avatar

    oh…wow. first time here via urban urchin…and so glad i came.

    we’re trying to move to Belize, we’ve fell in love w/ the jungle there and have an itty piece of land we are working on. one day.

    soon, i hope. you have a terrific spot over here.

  24. Top cat Avatar
    Top cat

    Very interesting meme Kirsten.
    I think one of the things about living abroad is the realization of how much about this country we love.
    My time living in other countries was while in the military so my perspective may be a bit different.
    I enjoyed seeing how other cultures lived, their traditions and their food.
    I do think it broadens us when we see how other people live.
    One of the things I think I realized the most is people are people wherever you are, we have much of the same emotions, pain, heartache, joy and love.
    thank you

  25. jen Avatar

    i did see your comment..and i’ve had the same inkling about you.

    nice to meet you, sister.

  26. Logophile Avatar

    I lived in Greece for a year in 1994 and in Italy from 2001 till 2004.
    I identified sooooo much with the emotions in this post.
    Oh yes, I do.
    I think being a temporary expat has unique challenges and advantages, thank you so much for having your sister share with us.

  27. Spider Girl Avatar
    Spider Girl

    On my List of Things To Do Before I Die is to live in another country. So far I’ve never stayed more than a few weeks in any country except my own, but I really think it’s something that will really enrich my life experience as a whole when I do make that jump.

    Even if I decide after a while that there’s nothing more that I want to do than come back home to Canada again.

    My brother lived in the Honduras for a while–I have to say I envied him, not so much for the place he chose but for the adventure of it.

  28. yerdoingitwrong Avatar

    Such a great post. And I loved the pics!!! I’ve never been anywhere either. *sigh* Gotta change that…I’m missing out!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *