Lughnasa                                                                     Harvest Moon



Being an expatriate is unfamiliar territory to most citizens of all nations on earth. Though we were a nomadic species in our early development, political changes have tended to wed people to a place and its boundaries. Globally. Even here in the often depicted as unusually mobile U.S. it turns out folks don’t leave home all that much*. [The big exception here, of course, being forced migration whether for economic or security reasons.]

Yet, some do. Both my brother Mark and my sister Mary have lived the bulk of their adult lives abroad. Mary lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for several years, then moved a good while back to Singapore, where she has remained. Mark lived a long time in Bangkok, spent time in Phnom Penh, and several years, including this upcoming one, in Saudi Arabia. He has circled the globe many times, as has Mary. Both have traveled extensively from their homes abroad. Mark once took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Vladivostok to Moscow.

452158While Mark’s visa application (always a hitch in the get along)  for his upcoming work in Saudi Arabia  undergoes review by the Saudi embassy, he and I communicate by e-mail. He’s currently living in Amarillo, Texas. I sent him a note that said the expat life has many oddities. He replied with the below which I found fascinating:

“Indeed, it does. I find it rather well exemplified in Martin Sheen’s opening performance in “Apocalypse Now.”  He is rather drunk, in then Saigon. He starts thinking of his ex-wife. He gets really wired, and starts smashing the mirror in the hotel. Martin, “When I was there, I wanted to be here. When I was here, I wanted to be there.” He then really smashes the mirror, and passes out. All the time, a fan is whirling above him. Coppola captured, I feel, the expat dilemma superbly.”

*”Internal migration has fallen noticeably since the 1980s, reversing increases from earlier in the century. The decline in migration has been widespread across demographic and socioeconomic groups, as well as for moves of all distances…Despite its downward trend, migration within the US remains higher than that within most other developed countries.” NBER