A Couchsurfer’s Profile

Since my profile on CSing became a bit too wordy, I’ve decided to transfer the information from the site to here, just in case anyone wants to read more details before deciding to stay at my place or host/accept me as a guest.  I still believe the more you can learn of another CSer, the better off is the sense of trust and understanding.

 

First, I may be 50, but that should stop NOBODY from the hospitality concept of what CSing entails, either with my being a host or a surfer (I explain a bit more of this later in my profile).

Having worked and lived abroad in Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland, and Costa Rica (and a semester in Mexico back in my undergrad days), I am all about life abroad. Overseas living has now grown to about 18 of the last 20 years of my life. Such a lifestyle has afforded some incredible experiences, a variety in life and languages and culture. My eyes open to more, my feet desiring further usage, I hope to return to life overseas in the future.

As of June, 2018, I have been taking a sabbatical for the time being to pursue some extra endeavors, such as writing a book about divorce overseas, returning to some erstwhile photography habits, planning a children’s book, etc. During this year off, I had hoped to live all over Latin America. Starting off well, I’d traveled in El Salvador (three weeks) and did some volunteer work exchanges in Honduras (six weeks), and Panama (seven weeks), but on 1/26/19, I returned to the States for the fist time, to live, in 15 years.

Basics: I was separated in 2013 and divorced in 2014 from my ex-wife in Taiwan; unfortunately, my two children are with her in Taiwan, still. All of that story can surely be shared (best over a coffee or a beer) if folks are interested!

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Ten years now on CSing! Amazing!

I’m unfortunately not able to host at the moment, having moved out of my apartment in Costa Rica in the summer of 2018, where I had been actively hosting. However, I am happy to meet people along the way, to hopefully be hosted from time to time, and to still help traveler’s if need be! I will be moving to the Twin Cities in August and hope to start hosting again then.

During my most active CSing years in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, I toured people in town by taking them around for a few hours on a personal exploration of the city. When I had a car there, I took CSers out to local areas, on the weekends, even up into the mountains or farming areas. I used to be a tour guide for EF (English First) and at my university–so I am a pretty good one and I love doing tours! I once dreamed of making a career of international tours, but instead went abroad to teach and haven’t turned back. CSing helps appease the urge to still be an international tour guide, showing visitors the places I know, off the beaten path. Such engagements satisfy the needs to help other travelers because I’ve been new to so many places overseas that I can have great empathy for travelers in need, those curious about new cultures, etc.

The aforementioned also applies to domestic travelers and explorations, too.

My mentality for hosting guests in Taiwan (my first overnight guest was in late 2013), and then in Costa Rica, included welcoming them into my home, introducing them to the layout of the house, providing them with towels–and use of the fridge, kitchen, and washing machine to do laundry (What weary/eager traveler doesn’t appreciate clean clothes from time to time?)! With folks who stay more than a day, I always give my house keys, too, as a sign of trust so that folks can come and go as they please. In CR, since I worked early, I allowed CSers to sleep in later and just toss the keys through the window when leaving for good, indicating that this community is based on trust and respect. Moreover, I always treat my guests to a dinner out–since that’s my way of paying it forward because my original CSing friend in Myanmar bought me lunch, and Bruneian CSers did the same, too.

What comes around goes around.

Such receiving and giving provides a wonderful balance in life–and helps pave the way for closer bonds with those we come across in our travels. In fact, I’ve started to feel that CSing at someone’s home, getting to know a local’s way of life, culture, etc., is actually more important than just sightseeing in a new place while traveling abroad. When I’m 70-years old and on my deathbed (or whenever), I’ll remember with fondness how kind my hosts were in El Salvador or Honduras, for example, but I may not even be able to remember what the beach looked like in El Tunco (El Sal) or what the mountain vistas were in central Honduras. In the end, it’s those connections with people that will last the longest.

CS provides just that opportunity.

After years of hosting and touring, and meeting others overseas for simple outings together, I really started surfing during my time in Latin America, having had fantastic hosts so far (as of January of 2019) in Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama.

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I have a 2013 blog about CSing, and how it actually led to a 189-day parental abduction of my children because my ex-wife accused me of taking my kids on a romantic date, when in reality it was a CSing guest from abroad:

https://wordpress.com/post/analienatedfather.wordpress.com/13

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Something I’d like to share or teach with the CSing community is this: Sadly, I often don’t receive replies to CS requests, and I have NEVER actually received a request (even though I’ve now hosted 20 guests). That I’ve found a little strange. The only way I’ve received those guests is by reaching out to public requests for travelers to my towns, which I’ve done without care for any filters. Thus, since I have had nary a traveler write me, I’m worried that travelers are searching with parameters of either gender or age.

I hope that doesn’t happen, for a traveler is a traveler regardless of if he/she is 20, 50 or 70.  Yes, for socializing and dating and friendships, most humans collaborate with people their own age, but with CSing being a traveler’s hospitality exchange, I was a bit surprised to this potential limitation by others. We should all share the hospitality mindset regardless of age or gender. If someone has good-to-great references, honest and open explanations of their lives and reasons for CSing, and revealing photos (revealing of their travels, sharing with friends/family/CSers, of their personalities and interests) that can all combined make someone feel comfortable to host/be hosted, that’s all that matters.

I’d host a great grandfather if he was looking for a place.

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Disclaimer: My hosts in El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, and Honduras have all been so lovely in their written references–and it is references that help create trust and understanding about our hosts. However, on 10/2/16, I read a negative reference from my host in the USA that shocked me, claiming I “didn’t follow through on paying for dinner” or on “being a good CSer”. That saddened me, for I don’t believe that is accurate at all! At her home (with multiple roommates), when I arrived, I gave her a new bag of Starbuck’s coffee and even some beers for her roommates (who later thanked me for them). The dinner out the first night, we joked quite a bit, and even laughed a good deal (I was NOT “uncomfortable” at all). I didn’t expect that she wanted me to pay for the meal, which we did split. The next morning at around 9am, which I had now screenshot in my chat history on my phone, I texted her that I’d seen a number of international cuisine restaurants on my way into the city and that I would like to go for dinner later in the day–AND I WROTE, “It will be my treat”! Yet, she did not text me the entire day until later in the evening, just asking “Did you eat yet?” late in the afternoon. She also told me she was staying at home to do some jelly/jam making from berries she’d collected, offering I could go back to help them. But she never said “yes” or “no” to dinner, so I stayed out later watching the presidential debates.  Finally, because I’d been going through a horrible divorce in Taiwan, I’d told her about it, yet she wrote that I’d told her wild stories, and because I’ve had Chron’s or similar issues for years, I’d also omitted that night–which she even mentioned as debatably happening.  Finally, the chat message history on my phone further shows that she had sent me a message (the day I left to drive to Colorado) that stated, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more accommodating.”  So to read her reference now truly saddens me–and utterly shocked me (10/2/16).

 

 

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The CSing Difference: 10 Years On

Having been a proudly legitimate member of the Couchsurfing community for ten years now, I still have to explain to people, especially periodic naysayers, what CSing entails, how it works, and why on Earth I would ever stay in a stranger’s home, especially in a foreign country.  A foreign country? Egad!

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  • A famous five-star hotel in Fez, or even a two-star for this fashionably frugal fellow.  
  • Motel off the motorway in Managua (though not the oft questionable “love”-related types found in many a land, thank you very much; been there, done that)?  
  • An AirBnB room in a family’s home, or an entire AirBnB home run as a commercial-only enterprise, with nary a sighting of any family.   
  • A home-swap-website-exchange gem discovered in Buenos Aires.  
  • Pet sitting or housesitting in a temporarily vacated household in Costa Rica.  
  • Camping in Carlsbad.  Glamping in Ghana.  Safariing in Swaziland.
  • A cheapo university dormitory in summer-saturated Stuttgart.  

Today’s solo traveler, regardless of age or status, can pick from quite the list of  accommodation options.  Without sounding pretentious about my being a forever-on-the-go vagabond, as a self-proclaimed globetrotter (though tentatively making such a claim makes me momentarily queasy), I nowadays, personally, could NOT live without my go-to site in planning a journey (not to mention, in using the site during the journey itself)–and for damn good reasons.  

Damn good reason x 10 = Couchsurfing

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Above any other accommodation choice, though it is NOT merely about accommodation, Couchsurfing now reigns supreme in my heart, and with any number of accolades ready to deploy, I stand confidently firm in my belief that the concept of CS’s hospitality exchange is an integral aspect of my traveling life.   

In fact, to me, CSing has practically become more important than any famous destination, more meaningful than any sightseeing highlight, or even more special than a journey itself.    

Those are bold statements, indeed, aren’t they? 

Indeed they are.

For damn good reason(s).

Yet, how does it compare?   

Without a doubt, motels and hotels (especially overseas)—whatever their star rating, are coldly confining places, oft void of cultural exchange.  Within, a traveler can anonymously spend one’s evening, especially when going solo, woefully surfing channels, with that remote-holding hand effectively extended at the perfect angle to activate the TV’s sensor nestled at the bottom of the idiot box mounted high on the wall on the distant side of the otherwise hollow room.  

You’ve all done it, I’m sure.

Sitting alone, a lonesome guest may even call for room service at the Bogotá Best Western, for example, for a late-night sweet tooth satisfaction, perhaps momentarily getting to whisper “gracias” to the Colombian service staff, before he or she shuffles off to the next crusty-eyed patron eagerly awaiting their midnight arepas snack binge.    

Perhaps, at such a location, moreover, if one is lucky, a bit of dialogue could be had with the passing cleaning staff in the hallway the next morning, or had with an ephemerally amiable front desk clerk during one’s check out, or perhaps had with the breakfast buffet scrambled-egg scooper standing behind the oil-spattered plexiglass display case.

Quick “holas” with the locals momentarily seem fulfilling, but are they?

Upon returning home or back to the real world, you might even think you’d lucked out to have had such a “cultural” exchange, gloating to your noisy neighbor Neal or your curious cubicle colleague Carla about how pleasant the Colombian people were.  

As stated, overall, the hotel experience abroad sequesters the average traveler from the local populace, leaving one feeling as if such a stay were happening back in their home state or somewhere like New York City, instead.  Whether you stay at the Best Western in Bogotá or Boise, the end result–regarding cultural awareness and it providing growth or understanding–is about the same if that’s all you’re able to involve yourself in.  

Of course, getting out and about into the hotel’s surrounding locales may very well provide cultural insights, proving the above comparisons false, but as far as accommodation selection goes, why segregate oneself to such a degree–wherever you find yourself?    

The same usually holds true for camping or glamping, for one is separated from the local populace to varying degrees in such situations (though you very well might have an abrupt encounter with a Chinese-language-familiar tiger in the hills outside HuangShan, or you may exchange a friendly wave with a Kenyan game warden while on safari, greeting him or her with a hearty “Jambo!” as he/she lights the morning fire). 

The point is, there’s not much opportunity for cultural swapping if you camp solo or with a partner while traveling abroad, except if a nearby local tenter is available for a marshmallow toasting around the campfire one night.    

That’s not to say you won’t meet local folk while hiking the deep forest nor while bathing in an emerald pool at the base of a jungle-enshrouded waterfall, but with camping itself, it may be limiting in terms of sustained, enlightening host-country interactions.  

Likewise can be said for AirBnB, which, in my opinion, tends to maintain too much of a focus on profit, even if Mr and Mrs Joe AirBnB might include some shared meals or chats over a glass of wine in order to be more welcoming (more than a hotel stay, of course).  Hospitality by said hosts, however, does not always stem from altruistic kindness but rather more often appears out of a need to gain financially.

Getting guests to leave a positive review may, indeed, be their first priority.    

Though gaining cultural insights and understanding is certainly more possible at an AirBnB than a hotel, motel, Holiday Inn (a feeble attempt at referencing the Sugar Hill Gang), especially where and when the host actually lives at the home, many arrangements from the site entail the use of a home without a host being present (or with some hosts, if actually present, not intending to socialize).  

In 2017, for example, I had stayed at an AirBnB duplex in Quepos, Costa Rica, with the only opportunity to interact with the hosts coming when they stopped in the next day to quickly check in on the Nicaraguan cleaning staff in the downstairs apartment—leaving us with the impression that they were enjoying the forthcoming bank deposit they’d be making from our stay more than our stay, itself.

Their dialogue distracted, they were not much interested in our presence.

With us leaning over the second-floor balcony, with them gazing up from their place on the slopping-away lawn, with our hopes high they’d engage a bit more, we had inquired enthusiastically about the macaws circling above the nearby palms, learning in a seven-minute conversation that they’re frequent visitors (the birds, not the hosts).  That was about all the culture we exchanged before they darted off to possibly check their other profitable properties.

In fact, for my sister and her family who were visiting me (I was living in CR), the brief dialogue was one of the most intimate exchanges they’d had with locals during their 10-day stay because we had opted to stay in other insulating AirBnBs and hotels.

Besides getting to know my Tica girlfriend for four days, their true Tico-related experiences were minimal.   

On the far end of the spectrum of AirBnB’s hosting options, one never even sees another soul, such as when my family and I had two days in a home in southern Utah in the summer of 2018.  Instead, we merely received text messages explaining the house’s security code after we, frustratingly, couldn’t get in.  Then, instructions posted on the kitchen wall were all we had to remind us that this was someone’s (second, or third or fourth) home rental property.

Despite AirBnB having started off as a concept that would break down barriers, allowing one to gain appreciation for a local family’s lifestyle, my few experiences with it have been nothing of the sort.  

Thus, with the aforementioned accommodation options relatively void, to varying degrees, of the benefits of cultural exchange, while making my way around the world, I’ll instead look to Couchsurfing, the hospitality-focused website, which I’ve been a member of for the last ten years.  

Ten years?

For damn good reason.   

You see, the Couchsurfing mindset, and by that I mean the ORIGINAL concept that formed the foundation of the site (at least I have always wholeheartedly wished it were for altruistic reasons), is based on helping other travelers, with its open-minded, flexible hosts helping to support the international (and domestic), wherever you find yourself, traveling community. 

Said travelers are often hosts themselves in their home country, and based on that fact, surfers and hosts help to develop a complex web of trustworthy, reciprocated neighborliness that spans the globe.  

Indeed, to utilize CSing entails opening your heart, opening your home, and even opening your eyes (perhaps at times even opening your pocket book or wallet*).

[*CSing hosts cannot ask for money, yet in participating in a gift economy, one surely can bring along a present or treat one’s guest to a meal, which I have long done.]  

But how could partaking in hosting exchanges as a Couch (as some Latin Americans call the actual surfers) be “more important“, as I earlier declared, than finally experiencing a long-in-your-dreams famous tourist trap or checking off a world-renowned landmark from your fantasy destination checklist?

First, by landing yourself in a stranger’s home for two or three days, or more, socializing, spending time out and about together, you’re bound to change your world view of said host’s country, more often than not in a positive fashion (or, on a domestic level, of said host’s city/state).

My curiosity piqued in the summer of 2018, eager to prove that a certain president’s “shit-hole” comments were erroneously ignorant, I set off to El Salvador, having already established communication and arrangements with a number of members there.

The upshot: Three weeks later, I left El Salvador behind, entirely certain that, although ALL countries have pros and cons and have issues to grapple with, this Central American nation should be on anyone’s travel list (truly on everyone’s list).  Such a judgment comes not only because of its lovely terrain and enticing geography, not only because of its off-the-beaten-path appeal, but also, more importantly for this bloke, because the CS community there permitted me insights into how delightfully, positively captivating humanity is, with all of my Salvadoran hosts helping to solidify that simple notion.

Hitherto, that’s all I have had with CSing: positivity in my perception of the peoples that proactively partake in it (even if I’ve heard of a few bad apples), and positive growth in my own viewpoints of a nation after such exchanges.

Compare that all to sequestering yourself in a hotel, where your perception of the nation you’re visiting is based on and still lingers from what’s being expounded upon these days on CNN or BBC.  Not much growth on such a level comes from your ephemeral “hola” with cleaning staff, even if you may think later that the people were nice.

Of course, remember, even if you’re primarily holed up in a hotel, you may gain some insights by joining a bicycle-to-brewery tour in Edinburgh or Snap-chatting pics of Angkor Wat to your buddies back home, but by traveling along channels created by CSing, it is different.

For… you guessed it, damn good reason.

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Undeniably not for everyone (even members of my family are startled by the prospect of having a stranger in their home or of meeting someone for a tour or a coffee), CSing, for me, has become an integral aspect of my life, with it having changed the way I travel and… with it having changed travel, itself.  

It has turned strangers into great friends and good acquaintances.

By extension, being that travel helps to shape my core identity, CSing has then, consequently, changed my life.

Indeed, in countless, magically myriad ways.

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The increasingly easy ability to share one’s travel experiences with a total stranger because of the opportunities available via the internet has become the norm for me, for, since 2009, I have relied on, and, in fact, I’ve gradually become accustomed to integrating Couchsurfing into every trip.

Not familiar with the site nor the concept?

Well,  CSing is a sharing app (having of course started as a website), which has permitted like-minded (and, unfortunately, some not so like-minded**) travelers access to the homes and hearts of hosts around the world.

[**There are those aforementioned bad apples in all walks of life, but like life in general, I would like to think that 99.2% of members are on the site for altruistic reasons.]

Having been both a host and a surfer, heretofore, I can admit that CSing has evolved from a simple supplemental aspect of my travels to a core concept that even guides the planning of my pending peregrinations–and even determines the eventual manifestations of said plans nowadays.

In other words, I have found myself outlining my routes and destination options around CSing opportunities on recent journeys–instead of simply throwing in a surfing opp on a whim to add to the overall experience.  To enhance my excursions abroad by meeting locals through the site is no longer enough; I’ve actually put together itineraries based on such possibilities.

Why would one do that?  Am I missing out on something by being less spontaneous in just going with the flow abroad, which was more my previous propensity traveling?

Or, conversely, am I gaining something?

Indeed, that is as readily debatable as whether or not chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream.  

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Now, how much Couchsurfing mandates modifications to my itineraries is up to me, not to be judged by anyone else, right?

In a nutshell, here’s why and how this process has unfolded and why CSing has largely shaped my most recent trips overseas (and the planning of a domestic one at the time of writing this entry, April, 2019):

When I first started out backpacking, my first trip abroad coming in 1992, I consulted the quintessential guidebooks back in the day: Let’s Go and Lonely Planet (even secretly skimming editions of Frommer’s or Rick Steve’s at bookstores before taking off, to aide in my sightseeing planning, hastily jotting down destination tips, hostel insights and restaurant advice before store employees discovered my peripatetic-pathway-pending-prompted pilfering).

For years, I never left home without a copy of Let’s Go or LP.

Today, however, if the latest edition of Lonely Planet were standing cockily at the end of a dusty ghost town’s Main Street, ready to draw its best weapon against any single CSing host I’ve had, the town’s undertaker would merely need to prepare a book burning instead of a burial.  The town crier, too, having collected endless pages of guidebook destination tips blowing along like tumbleweeds, would only be left to extol the virtues of the CSing victor.

Guidebooks simply cannot compare these days. 

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Eager and new to overseas travel in ’92, I partially planned my whirlwind introduction to Europe by what world-famous sites there were to visit (nowadays, I’d never travel that fast and furiously through any country, let alone five or six), with my risking being labeled with the more narrow nomenclature “tourist” rather than “traveler,” by doing so (if you can accept the inherit yet dubious difference between those two terms).

With a focus on, at least during the preplanning preparation leg of my first trip, getting to places such as the Eiffel Tower, Kilkenny Castle, a few German Altstadts, and, ahem egad, even the Heineken brewery tour, I was undeniably determined to check off a few “worthwhile” destinations along the way, based on some not-a-local author’s definition of worthwhile.

However, during my month-plus of exploring the Europass-confined circuit I’d circled out on a foldout map, pre-smart phone era, I actually learned along the way that those sites were secondary in providing any sense of satisfaction (perhaps even tertiary or less).

27 years removed from my first trip to Paris, I recall more readily, and much more fondly, my casually browsing boulangeries, checking titles and VHS box images at video stores, and languidly loafing at local side street grocery stores.

Yes, I’d visited and ascended the Eiffel Tower (nobody should miss the opportunity to gaze upon such incredible views from atop and perhaps… to simply say one has been).  My curiosity piqued, I’d, additionally, stepped in to Notre Dame to ogle the stained glass marvels, relishing the sense of satisfaction in knowing many folks only see it in travel mags or textbooks.

However, getting out into the side streets of various arrondissements, immersing myself in the local scene, and slaughtering a few phrases of French (from the back of my Let’s Go guide) remain more vividly clear, to this day, in my mind’s eye.

It was more about the people and, admittedly a bit superficially, the resulting cultural transactions, i.e., those initial exchanges were not deeply educational nor super profound.  Yet, somehow, chatting with a store clerk in his broken English (and my worse-than-that French) retains more ‘importance’ to me than having scaled the city’s most famous sky-scraping symbol.

Whatever it was that made me appreciate standing solo in a bakery, chatting with another local customer about what breads to sample, an event more satisfying than being surrounded by thirty tourists trying to snap a photo of the rose windows in Notre Dame, had set the foundation for my future travels.

Couchsurfing, over the last 10 years, has permitted me to continue building on that foundation.

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In the same token, moments spent in Salzburg a week after Paris still stand out (though 27 years have passed), not because of Mozart’s childhood home (one of many apparently) nor because of the postcard-perfect castle overlooking the downtown, but rather as a result of my local host’s hospitality and kindness–eons before virtual hospitality sites were a thing.

This woman, a well-past-middle-aged grandmotherly sort, had stood out to me and my impromptu travel companion from California, whom I’d met on the train, as we eagerly exited the Salzburg station.  Though she didn’t speak much English, communication was still doable, enough so that we two travelers both agreed that her friendliness was worth trudging across town, both laden with heavy back packs.

The two days we spent in her house, regardless of it most likely being a commercial transaction for her, were eye opening and warming to the soul.

On the other hand, if we had, upon arrival, made a beeline for a traveler’s hostel, such memories today would not exist as they do today.  Most likely, I may instead currently be recollecting something of an international party scene at said locale–or perhaps of having joyously socialized with other on-a-shoestring youth from all over the world.

Granted, those potentialities both would have been, without a doubt, priceless (and I had once thoroughly relished such hostel-inspired moments over the course of my younger traveling years), yet I had felt then, and feel now, that with gaining some insights into the Austrian woman’s home, being introduced to wall-adorning images of her grandkids, seeing how she painstakingly folded her laundry, helping sort silverware in the kitchen, all somehow emerged in my memories as a perk.  Although it wasn’t what I would nowadays label as “pure cultural exchange” (i.e., we were still perhaps only $$ in her mind), it was undoubtedly more insightful into the life of a local than what my travel companion and I would have had at a hotel or hostel.

Yet, staying with her was a basic introduction of what my travel mindset would gradually become, thanks to CSing.

The seed was planted early.

The upshot: Some 10-plus years before Couchsurfing appeared on this vagabond’s radar, I had early on seen the value in finding shelter in someone’s abode while venturing far and wide, a place to temporarily call home.

Fast forwarding from 1992 by 15 years, I was on my third year of teaching in Taiwan.

By then, I had already studied abroad in Mexico (living with a host family, fancying all it afforded me), I’d even sold-my-soul as a soldier yet eagerly requested to be stationed in Germany (having developed genuine friendships with Germans “on the economy”, having dated a local), and I had worked in Japan (where I’d gotten to know local colleagues and had also developed a relationship)–all beneficial to gaining insights into the lives of locals.

That year, 2007, a colleague gleefully mentioned in our staff room, or perhaps it was over a coffee, that she had signed up for “some site” called Couchsurfing.  Knowing that I had somewhat given my life to satiating the travel bug that had, theretofore, habitually consumed me, she promoted the idea of hosting international guests and utilizing the site, myself, while jumping around Asia.

Despite some trepidations expressed by my future wife (my future ex, for that matter), for she* “never would trust” such a service, I was eager to create a profile.  However, with some delays in traveling (e.g., getting married in 2008 and having a baby a year later), I didn’t put to use the site until the northern-hemisphere summer of 2009.

[*To put this gently, she genuinely abhorred the notion of someone staying in our home “since we have children” and, moreover, she couldn’t fathom her man meeting someone of the opposite gender while in another country–even if the purpose of such an opportunity was based on helpful hospitality and getting to know something from a local’s perspective.]

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Out of the gate, the betterment of my overseas explorations, directly due to Couchsurfing, became clear.  Soon after creating a profile in 2009, I was off to Myanmar.   

There, three members of the community, over the first four days, were all inclined to sharing insights.  All were open to opening my eyes, with the first being a Burmese man who had recommended a hole-in-the-wall local’s only establishment, a place I wouldn’t have found without him, especially on the first day in the former capital Yangon.

Imagine having a potential friend, or at least an acquaintance, upon arrival in a place where you know nobody else, a sort of shake-n-bake instant connection.  

On the other hand, imagine what it would take to be able to have lunch with a resident soon after arriving, without CSing.  Would I just approach someone cold-callingly on the sidewalk and ask them to go grab a bite to eat?  Never! 

Our chat over some spicy noodle dish allowed me to build awareness of some of the struggles of the population, of issues of the economy, and also of how changes were taking place that left him hopeful.  I wouldn’t have gotten such insights if I had not used the site in such a way, reaching out to him in advance (and others) to see if he simply had time to meet in a public place, without any desire at the time to sleep in “some stranger’s home” (admittedly, my ex-wife essentially dictated that I not get that involved with the platform).  

The following day, a German expat, who’d been living in Yangon for four years, met for a coffee shop chat for over three hours.  Her enthusiasm high, she eagerly expounded on all that was improving, how changes with the government were making her more comfortable in continuing to raise her son there, how foreign investment was taking place.  Moreover, she provided valuable tips on what to see, where to go, and what to skip.  

Surely, suggestions were based on her biases and opinions, but often times any resident’s reality-mixed-with-perspective-based explanations are more intriguing and entirely more relevant than info gleaned from the caption of a National Geo Traveler online image or a two-sentence summary description in Lonely Planet.  

Valuable were her stories, proving once again that CSing exchanges elevate one’s journey to a higher level.  For damn good reason, it had already proven itself more favorable than a hotel stay or traveling without.    

Yet Myanmar’s CSing community upped the ante even more over the following two days.

That’s because on day three, my travel buddy, another North American teacher, and I met up with a Burmese gal, spending the entire day together, walking the streets, exploring shops, stopping here and there for bites of local delicacies.  Together we also relished scrumptious eats at off-the-beaten-path food joints tucked into back alleyways.

Not to beat a dead horse, but without her active participation in the CSing spirit of things, we most likely never would have gained such a grand understanding of the city. 

For a good nine hours, she introduced us to life in Yangon, even taking us to an enclosed mall (not generally my thing, but it was actually a great insight into a somewhat unexpectedly high level of consumerism, into people’s shopping habits, etc.).  

Later, she purchased a Burmese music CD for each of us, a gift I had kept and used for years.    

Although we offered and attempted to pay for all of the aforementioned costs, she refused and treated us to everything, no strings attached.  

Day four in Burma continued the same way, with her dedicating another eight to nine hours of her time (i.e., life) to show us around, no questions asked, no gimmicks awaiting.  To practice English, to express pride in her homeland, and to treat guests with an open heart all seemed to be her modus operandi.

Those first four days triggered a keen interest in CSing that still has not abated in ten years. 

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From 2009 until 2019, traveling (and, as I’d mentioned above, life, to some degree) was partially shaped by CSing.  As a frequent traveler and regular host for a stretch of these latter years, my life was and has been influenced by such interactions.    

Indeed, “charitable views of men and things”, to borrow from Thoreau, have come about as a result–and I, indeed, gained in understanding more of each destination on a different level, yet there have been other aspects of the platform that have stood out.

With my enjoying further similar tours in Beijing in 2011 and Brunei in 2013 (with my family), and with giving tours, myself, in Taiwan (actively so from 2011-2013), I continued to reap the benefits of altruistic hospitality exchange.

The goodness of people, in a world that doesn’t always exude goodness, is often evident, making these exchanges a conduit of hope and understanding.   

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Naturally, in being toured about a city by a local, all was clearly beneficial, for I learned just as much as if I had relied instead on any professional tour guide service, and perhaps more.  

Tour operators often dictate that a guide stick to a script, with my understanding that fact based on personal experiences as a tour leader in the past.  What pros deliver are oft well-rehearsed factoids, and some will not, nor cannot, deviate from their spiel.  Yet a CSer definitely has no such guidelines, especially in a place like China when an agency may have to check themselves and their guides in what they expound on, lest ‘big brother’ get involved.  

On the other hand, CSers tend to speak freely on all topics that affect local life.  

Knowing that, I also was arguably a different sort of guide (and potentially more valuable than a pro), since visitors to my adopted city in Taiwan were able to hear from a distinctly divergent perspective about life there.  

As an outsider, I was able to share knowledge on such issues as how the history between China and Taiwan had shaped tourism development during my years living there.  Because I had seen the difference before cross-strait flights were restored and what happened afterwards, I could provide an explanation about the impact that Chinese tourists were having on local life.  Yet because that topic is a sensitive one, locals may have been more apprehensive to open up such a dialogue (especially to Chinese CSers, whom I’d guided about on a few occasions).  

I also spoke of infrastructure investments the government had implemented, racism and being treated differently, at times, as a foreigner, etc.  Sure, a local Taiwanese could potentially be equally treasured in discussing said topics, but in terms of the reciprocity of CS membership, I feel that I was able to offer a return in paying it all, the aforementioned generosity of others, forward.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

After leaving Taiwan, I’d spent a year and a half in Latin America, where I pursued an investment in the community, full throttle, hosting as much as I could (with my guests coming from a variety of global locales), traveling via CSing channels, too.

Reciprocity was my goal.  It paid off in so many ways.

For damn good reasons.

During those 18 months, my heart was filled with the joys of sharing, learning about life directly from my hosts in El Salvador, Honduras, Columbia (three countries that routinely make those ridiculously over-exaggerated and truly undeserving lists of places not to go to), and in Panama, too.  Learning about their lives, them being teachers, nurses, folks from all walks, opened my mind and heart, broadened my perspective and understanding.

Especially in the light of the countless negative images of those places presented in the media, which we are bombarded with habitually, such exchanges were a refreshing, reinvigorating take on the “real” truth: The goodness of people is alive and well still.

All of my stays were learning opportunities (as were my hosting engagements), and with such learning comes growth, empathy, and compassion.

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A balance of a give-and-take approach is key in this community, and that is what inspired me to become a full-on host in the fall of 2013, finally free to do so since my ex-wife, who was anti-CS-minded, and I had separated.  Though, theretofore, touring folks had allowed me to treat them to lunch, permitted me to drive them about (fully free of charge, of course), hosting in my home elevated my spirited investment into helping other like-minded travelers. 

Disclaimer: To have provided tours to other members and to have hosted them in my home have both begotten a deeper sense of gratification than having been hosted or toured about, myself.  

Reciprocity is key, but it does feel better to give than to receive. 

I assume that’s true for most of us who operate on the same two-way street, though there are unfortunately folks who utilize CSing for their own gain, for merely finding a place to stay (not to mention the bad apples that utilize the site for other interests).  

Granted, there are limitations at times that may preclude one from hosting actively, but the most valued members of this community surely should be the ones who strike a balance with the give-and-take approach, who return the favor.

Kudos to all who try.  

For me, that mindset is undoubtedly a benefit in living both a good life and being an active member of the platform.  Sharing with others gives birth to a whole ever-evolving cycle of connectivity, trust, and open-mindedness.  Through such interactions, we ideally learn that people are still good, that there are those who exist that would give you the shirt off their backs.

Surely, Couchsurfing is MUCH MORE than just accommodation; it is far and away the best choice in how to travel for this bloke.  

We can ALL use more of the spirit that CSing encompasses–on a grander scale.  Indeed, the world would be a better place.

For damn good reasons. 

 

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Below is a sampling of references that fellow CSers have left on my profile, with some being from those who have hosted me; others, those who’ve been hosted by me.  These references, as well as profile descriptions and even photographs (that show traveling experiences, real connections to others, personality, etc.) all allow a sense of trust to be built.

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A Violet Trigger

With the passage of time, as we all recognize and oft fret about, memories fade. Yet what happens when mental memoirs of our own family and any related experiences with them start to dwindle?

Indeed, aging is a process that inevitably relegates remembrances of childhood family events, and shall I dare say this, family members, especially those who have long passed, to an often untapped repository.  At least that’s the norm for many of us.

Or is it just… moi?

Granny and Poppy

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Born in 1895, Albert Whittaker, my great-grandfather, remains a stoic, soft-spoken, somewhat aloof figure in my consciousness.  Aged 90, he had passed back in 1985, smack dab in the midst of my mid-teen, angst-ridden high school years.  So much time has passed that any attempted reminiscence of Al comes, admittedly, with a struggle.

These intervening years since his death, 34 of them now, haven’t proven beneficial to keeping him as closely in my heart as I feel I should.

Time, indeed, is a dastardly detriment to maintaining such relations, both in our hearts and minds, with those who’d long before gone on a sort of permanent sabbatical.  Perhaps human nature calls for that, subconsciously, so that we don’t bemoan such losses too routinely.

Moreover, since my present-day family is quite small and family reunions are utterly nonexistent, conversations with any family–which only periodically pop up on FB, rarely entail shared recollections of those great-grandparent-related days spent in Watertown, Connecticut, way back in the late 70s or early 80s.

Needless to say, mentions of Albert, or Poppie, as we called him, are uncommon–as are thought processes that fully bring me back to him and any interactions once experienced together.

Along the same line of thinking, a hectic few years, a mindset of not being ‘trapped’ in the past, and a thorough numbness brought about by some personal challenges lately, have unfortunately, combined, not allowed for much family-focused nostalgia recently.

From time to time, however, I may rapidly skim through long-ago scanned photographs from childhood–now stored on an external hard drive.  Viewing photos on a device definitely does NOT provide the old-school joy of flipping through a physical photo album, does it?

And such storage devices certainly make it less likely to access them in the first place.

Back in the day, photo albums stored openly on book shelves occasionally enthusiastically called out to me to jump into their sentimental offerings, ripe for perusal.  On the other hand, my external drives are kept hidden away, quietly passing time, yearning for acceptance and usage.

Moreover, I periodically throw a it-would-now-be-ancient-with-dog-eared-corners-if-it-weren’t-for-scanning-technology picture of people from my past up on Facebook to get an empathetic yet entirely superficial thumbs up, but as we live in this all-too-busy world, not much time is actually given to pondering those peeps from the past that are present in those pics, as sad as it is to admit.

Just recently, I’d posted on FB a cell phone shot a cousin of mine had taken of a collection in her aging photo album which included a perhaps prehistoric polaroid of me and my grandmother standing side by side by her old Olds, a pic taken back in ’89 or so.  Yet because my cousin had commented on my admittedly-too-tight shorts in said image, my focus in pasting it into social media was truly about the fashion faux pas, with only a fleeting feeling of re-connecting to my grandma Shirley as I uploaded it, sorry to say.

Pathetically, with social media having shaped our habits, it seems like the norm is to spend a nanosecond or two on viewing photographs these days, others and our own, flicking through images on Instagram or Tinder as rapidly as dandelion seeds disperse upon a tween’s heavy exhale while holding it towards the heavens.

Just as those seeds disappear instantly, out of sight, out of mind, so too do our connections to the past because of these rushed viewing routines.

Yet it isn’t only attributable to my oft much-too-ephemeral viewing habits.

In my late teens and early twenties, I found myself to be a more sentimental sort.  Having hit 50, I’ve lost that art, if you will.

Why?

Perhaps the difference is merely because my memories were quite fresh then–or still in “live mode”, per se.

Am I alone in this?  Part of a slight minority?  Or do the majority of humans move on from such sentimental ramblings as a natural process in life, either eagerly looking forward to the future or simply savoring the here and now?  Or do we avoid things that may trigger regret or fret.

In fact, I also find it difficult to engage in uninterrupted remembrances.  Challenging it is to first of all recall the past, but it is even more burdensome to invest any length of time in the process.

Today, April 16, 2019, I’d be lucky to not break a sweat trying to drudge up sustained recollections of erstwhile experiences with Albert Whittaker.

Instead, after a few seconds of soul searching, scanning whatever is stored in my mental encyclopedia of erstwhile occurrences, toiling to recover and retain even seconds of the childhood hours spent at his home (I have ZERO evidence nor understanding of ever having gone elsewhere with him), only scant vestiges reveal themselves in fleeting visualizations.

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Florence Whittaker (born five years later than her husband of 69 years, Albert, in 1900), my great-grandmother, remains a sweat, soft-spoken, thoroughly caring and kindhearted soul in my mind’s eye.  Although she outlived her husband for many years, passing in 1997, aged 97, which means I had more opportunities to get to know her in my young adulthood, the intervening life associated with those 21 full-year calendars have all cast a shadowy overlay on my recollections of her, too.

Despite having known Florence, a.k.a., Granny, until I was 29, (i.e., we had shared more adult-like conversations, associating with each other differently than the me as a teenager had with her life partner years before), I cannot piece together uninterrupted memories of our times together that persist more than a few moments.

Logically, as if regurgitating facts from a Civil War textbook, my history with her contains a clear knowledge of formerly chowing down on the results of her magical baking skills: the best damn pecan and apple pies on the East Coast (not to forget her brownies).  Plus, moving a kids-sized table to the tiny entryway landing outside the kitchen, in order to eat Thanksgiving meals with my cousins, also comes readily to mind.  And to hold her hand while she prepped for a doctor to surgically remove a large growth on her forehead, around the time she was 96, was and remains a tangible event we shared.

But… because so much of the past inevitably (it seems) escapes me now, I heartbreakingly feel I’ve lost so much of a connection to her.

Admitting this in a blog post seems kind of sacrilegious, and I realize such musings may even torment family members who may read it as well.

Never would I want to offend either Albert or Florence, given the slight possibility they may be looking down, or perhaps even be looking over my shoulder, as I let my fingers flow on my keyboard.

Yet the fact remains that I lament such a loss.

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Although I openly kick myself for the lack of clarity of my childhood reminiscences and for not doing enough to stockpile them more safely, that’s actually not what perplexes me most, however.

At age 50, currently, I periodically ponder life (and death) in light of my own great-grandparents deaths, in the above context, especially because of recent health scares.

Such realizations and personally-relatable recent events permit me the right to wonder, perplexingly so… What will remain of my life and experiences once I pass?  

Will all that I will have done–or will not have done–by the time of my own death, have a vestigial place in the annals of history, let alone in the short-lived reminiscence of subsequent family members?

Will my own family members, one, two or three generations removed, even be aware of my existence?

Just as my children had never known my Granny and Poppy, i.e., they won’t be able carry on knowledge of their worldly presence, any first-hand actual awareness of my time on Earth will stop in a few generations.

That having been said, which aspects or elements of me, Michael James Alfred Brown, will be known?  That I made a damn fine western-style breakfast?  That my burgers, a recipe from my mom, were the bomb?

Will my kids’ kids one day fondly recall, “Oh, I loved Grandpa’s hamburgers”?

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One particular rumination leaves me the most queasily befuddled, if I, indeed, stop to really think about it: For how long will any memory of me endure?

Truth be told, without insult to my most recent generational genetic connections, nor to yours, dear readers, I simply don’t see most of us “lasting” two or three generations down the line, without much power to even etch a nostalgic place in the psyches of our offspring’s offspring (give or take two or three subsequent spokes in the familial wheel that will keep on spinning long after we’re, ourselves, food for worms).

Of course, a certain percentage of folks worldwide will leave imprints on humanity, getting their names and accomplishments recorded in text.  Yet I’m referring to the majority of humanity.

For some of us, for those that come from tight-knit families that have four or five generations under one roof every Thanksgiving–and continue such endearing endeavors with every passing cycle of generational propagations, then our own lives can potentially, more easily travel on in the recollections of said offspring and their children.

And their children’s children.

Hopefully positively so!

Yet for those whose families are small to start or have dispersed thinly over the years, such as mine, such limited relations over time may foment the failure of actually being cast into the remembrances and hearts of those to follow.

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Though I had indelibly loved my great-grandmother, aforementioned, with the deepest of respect, having created a bond with her until her death in ’97, and though I must have loved Albert, the love of her life, I once in a blue moon question their lives.

 Just as I do my own.  

Such reflections aren’t habitual by any means; they don’t keep me awake at night, nervous and obsessed.  Nevertheless, triggers will periodically arise that do prompt them.

Said thoughts are not meant to measure the “worth” of each’s life by any means, but they are more so along the lines of how their individual existence matters to the world nowadays, years after they’d stepped off into the horizon, physically, spiritually, and metaphorically.

Naturally, in these introspections I include predictions about my own place in the living cosmos long after I’m no longer tangible–and how I will be known some 20-to-40-to-60 years after I’m checked out from Hotel Planet Earth.  Or not be known.

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How many people are still alive that personally knew Florence?  Albert?  Who knew her well enough to actually say that they knew her, not just that they recall something like, “Oh, she was that white-haired granny who lived at the end of my street growing up, wasn’t she?”

Surely, her acquaintances and friends have long passed.  Without that generation, who is left that would know her?   

Even for my family, my cousins would, of course.  We all loved her.

Yet my brother may not retain vivid recollections of her.  He’s 25-years my junior, putting him around three years of age when she had passed.  Besides peering periodically at photos in which they may be together, just like that image of my grandmother and me in my tight shorts, will he maintain any clarity of who she truly was in carrying on her existence?

Will, potentially, his future children?  Or my cousins’ children?

Having said that, merely moving one generation down the ancestral line from him, or two from me, and the predictions grow cloudy.

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Having kept a shoebox of family photos, I’d like to think someone will one day relish having them instead of tossing them in the trash–but just as I look at a 1904 black and white of Albert Whittaker’s family, which I still have, when Poppy (i.e., my great-grandfather) was a mere lad, any subsequent generation may think, “Who the heck were they?”

Is that what we’re all bound for, except those bound for history books (or Wikipedia pages)?

“Who the heck were they?”

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However, every so often, momentary triggers can catapult us to a dust-covered recollection from yesteryear, which is exactly what happened recently at a botanical garden in the capital city of San Salvador, El Salvador, of all places (some 2,000 miles from where Granny Whittaker is buried in Connecticut; 20 years after her passing).

After casually strolling the garden’s grounds, I passed through a nursery on the way to the exit, immediately remarking, internally, as I sauntered by a display table, “Wow, Granny Whittaker used to raise violets just like those!”

I further fleetingly thought back on how, during certain months, she grew them in the back bedroom of their home, always willing to pass them out to the grandkids like one would candy on Halloween.

Perhaps barely 30 seconds elapsed there in that nursery, but for those few precious moments, I was a pre-teen again, sitting by the windowsill of that room, afternoon sun rays illuminating her potted violets, Granny Whittaker standing above me, hand on my shoulder, telling me to choose one to take home.

I’d like to think that it wasn’t merely a cobweb-covered recollection that was triggered by the sight of those flowers; perhaps, just perhaps, her spirit was attempting its best ESP-like messaging to persuade me to purchase some violets myself so that they could more routinely remind me of her.

How I wanted to, Granny, yet I was traveling through Central America with nary a place to store them.

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With hitting 50, discovering the hard way that memory is fading, I have recently promised myself to be more sentimental from time to time, to sit and not just frenetically flick through phone photos–but rather to peruse old pics with a genuine effort.

We owe it to them, those generations that came before, don’t we?

Yet, too, I’ve discovered that perhaps we need to more frequently intentionally plant seeds that will still blossom for generations to come–so that we, ourselves, will be recalled, not just as a faded image of some stranger’s face but also during moments that will trigger fond recollections of a family passed.

What will your violets be?

 

 

 

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[This post was especially burdensome to write because as an alienated father, I cannot help but think of my own children not being able to carry memories of me and our early-in-their-lives time together into their own futures.  Being that I have not had any contact with them, nor have they and I met since July of 2017 (especially since they were a mere 8 and 5 at the time), they perhaps will forgot Daddy completely.  Such a phenomenon, unless we our reunited, would solidify my being forgotten in one mere generation.  Perhaps my one saving grace might be my status as a teacher, possibly allowing a memory of me to be carried down by a different generation, longer than my own generation will survive.  That’s all I can hope for at this moment.]

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Bullying Talks: Where to Draw the Line as a Teacher

Where should a teacher draw the line regarding classroom conversations about bullying?  Naturally, it depends on a multitude of variables, such as the age of the children, maturity, backgrounds, etc. However, at what age would it be appropriate to mention that at times, when students are bullied so much that they lose hope, that they may even go so far as to commit suicide?

Of course, so much depends upon perspective, so even before logging into WordPress this rainy afternoon, having just come from school to lounge at a cafe a while, I’m already aware that folks will immediately express an opinion upon reading this–based on their point of view–perhaps calling me out for being wrong orjust as readily maybe supporting the notion I’m about to express.

You see, this academic year, as a Grade 3 teacher abroad, my students and I have broached the bullying topic a number of times, prompted to do so not only because of the general importance of understanding the issue but also since we’ve experienced it firsthand periodically throughout the year.

We’ve also dealt with such topics as students’ exclusionary antics, acceptance and tolerance, peer pressure, etc., and, just yesterday, I felt it necessary to give some insights at a group circle gathering into acting “Chinese” and pulling one’s eyes farther apart while doing so, for some kids were doing it as we were lining up, with some hearty laughter as they did.

[With my own children being half Chinese, having seen in-reverse narrow-minded antics during my 13 years living in Taiwan and Japan, I felt I should address respecting all peoples. Yes, these are “just kids”, but it was a teachable moment, nonetheless.]

Needless to say, there have been numerous teachable moments this year, and I relish such opportunities more than I do teaching actual content.  I’ve long felt that way, and I’ve long stated that I would rather have students leaving my class at year’s end with a better sense of understanding of such things as responsibility, respect, a stronger work ethic, integrity, etc.

Indeed, I even mention that in interviews.

Regardless of having had a challenging year on some levels, I’ve hoped all along that this year would result in the same internalized objectives having been met. I still want my students to leave this year with a notion of greater open-mindedness and acceptance (I even just cringed yesterday when I saw two different boys in my class physically move away from other boys, whom they’ve expressed they don’t like during separate conversations–only when the other boy is simply being kind and friendly to them).

Thus, I’ve really taken some time to address bullying and fair treatment of others, and I’ve stepped in when I’ve seen it firsthand, always willing to protect the “little guy”.

Sporadically throughout the year, I’ve had a handful of students mistreating others. I’ve witnessed it firsthand.  I’ve additionally heard through the grapevine of what’s sometimes happening, through parents, through other teachers, through word of mouth.

Just as sporadically as it has happened, we’ve sporadically dealt with it in full class circle-sharing discussions, outside-in-the-hallways small group chats, or in face-to-face, one-on-one talks. Some emails with parents have even been exchanged

Yesterday, May 22nd, I’d gotten wind of it possibly happening again.

Having spent so much time on the topic already, I was surprised to hear of it.  Shoot, we’d even done an activity a few months back, for two days, based on Dr Seuss’ The Sneetches (focusing on the mistreatment of others, teasing, shunning, tolerance), so I was a bit surprised to hear once more that the topic needed to be addressed.

Having received an email from a parent, I thought it was serious.

Lo and behold, it also came on the day that we attended a school-wide, 7th-grade-led bullying rally, when students from primary and upper grades gathered to a sing song and wave some banners in the gymnasium.

Inviting my students to a circle, later in the day, I drew a line on the board, representing “crossing the line” and the idea of a fine line, proceeding to then draw larger stick figures with associated, similar speech bubbles on both sides.

On each side of the line, said main figures commented to a second smaller figure, “You are silly.”  Knowing that I’d better be careful of using stronger words (like “stupid” or “dumb” or “ugly”), I even explained to the children that the term “silly” could actually be anythingsomeone says to you.

My guided talks continued to explain that when your friends call you silly, tease you, joke with you, even possibly calling you names, but you don’t mind or you think it is funny(because, in reality, that’s what some friends do), then that’s all within the boundaries of being friends. I labelled that side as friendship.

However, I then explained that if you cross the line, and it is a thin line, that’s different.

To the left of the line, I wrote the terms “hurt,” “uncomfortable,” “dislike,” expounding further that “once someone crosses the line” by calling you “silly”, or something you don’t like, and if it hurts you, that it has gone too far.

To have someone do it again and again, when the “victim” (I also wrote on the board) doesn’t like it, crosses over to bullying.

As I went on, I’d stop to ask the group to share some ideas, eliciting some erstwhile concepts we’d brought up earlier this year.

They recalled that if someone says such things after you’ve asked them to stop, even once, that they have entered into the territory of bullying. If it happens again and again after someone has asked them to stop, it is surely bullying.

Our dialogue then delved into the options for a “first line of defense”, with children recollecting that one should say, “Stop it!” or, “I don’t like that.”  And if it persists, a victim of bullying needs to inform a teacher and then a parent.

I was happy to hear that some recalled those options for seeking help.

Others even called out some notions addressed in a video we reviewed a few weeks ago, such as “Take a stand,” when a counselor had even come to sit in our circle, then also addressing bullying and peer pressure.

Moreover, after the diagram on the board was finished, I came to sit in the circle, starting with, “Here’s a real story, Guys and Girls.”

“When I was a teenager, people teased me about my acne–and I used to get terrible pimples.  I didn’t like it. Some people called me ugly. I even had a woman once tell my girlfriend, ‘He’s handsome from afar, but up close, I didn’t think so.‘ I wish that I didn’t believe them, but I sometimes did.”

Even at 49, I can recall how hurtful that seemed–and how I let it hurt me.

I then segued into a fairly difficult topic to comprehend, but because we’d already conversed about it a few times, I wanted to remind the children, stating that, “One of your best defenses it to not believe whoever is bullying you.You may all experience someone being mean to you at some point in your lives, that you may have people call you things such as ‘stupid’ ‘ugly,’ or worse, but if you can be confident to say, ‘No, you’re wrong,’ or to believe, ‘No, that person’s perspective is not right,’ then you can protect yourself more.”

After sharing that, with a few students wanting to share more (I even had a more-mature-than-his-age boy comment, “It is okay Mr B to have pimples.”), I implored them to be nice to each other, even reminding them once again(as I’ve done so many times this academic year) that even if you’re not friends, you should still respect each other as classmates and be nice to each other.

I reiterated that bullying can really hurt people and that it even pushes people to go so far as to sometimes commit suicide (recalling that even a few weeks back some kids mentioned a boy who’d been pressured so much that he jumped in front of a train here in Costa Rica). Without skipping a step, I continued, “I’m even watching a Netflix show about how bad bullying got at a school and how hurt a girl was so hurt, even causing her to commit suicide,” mentioning that the name of the program was 13 Reasons Why.

We wrapped it up around soon after, moving on to another class or activity, and for the rest of the day, I didn’t spend any time thinking about the topic.

However, just today, I was told by an administrator, pulling me aside, that… parents had contacted the school to know why I had talked about suicide yesterday, with the explanation, furthermore, that some parents were “concerned”. I was initially dumbfounded, yet I tried to understand from their perspectives why they would feel so.

After detailing what had and how things had transpired, as I’ve done above, I stood momentarily wondering if I had crossed the line.  Did I?  Didn’t I? That is certainly going to be up to debate–and, of course, boils down to perspective.

The last thing I stated to the administrator was that, after she commented how maybe I should not have mentioned the TV show nor suicide to students, was that perhaps broaching this topic isimportant.

At the moment, knowing that I needed to do some further prep for my afternoon classes, I had to get back to my classroom, but I left a bit perplexed.

The conversation, obviously, left me wondering.

Do we shun such topics?  Or openly address them?

Did I cross the line? Or were things taken out of context? Or, conversely, was all totally acceptable, which, from my perspective, it was?

And at what age is it appropriate to broach? When is too young? When is just right?

You can be the judge, and I won’t judge you.

It is really all a matter of perspective.

 

 

Posted in Living abroad | Leave a comment

Day 3, USA: Repatriation Shunned

Originally posted on a newer blog site in June of 2018, I’ve transferred this entry here to merge all my online writing into one place.  This piece deals with having decided to NOT return to the USA, back in the summer of 2017, and the reasons why such an option wasn’t happening–and isn’t going to for some time to come, if ever.

 

Ever so recently, I surprisingly received an ever so ephemeral hug, professional yet sincere, from a colleague, one that created an ever so momentary sense of being understood. It was welcome, for, undoubtedly, I am certain there are some folks here who just do not understand (amidst those who simply do not care and the others who have no clue about) my situation.

Without sitting down and personally chatting with them, which I haven’t yet done, nobody will know the depths of the emotions I’m feeling and dealing with (and even then, it won’t be feasible to expect anyone to truly relate). Nor will anyone be able to comprehend the reasons I’m now here, a million miles away from my kids.  Moreover, the impetus that prompted another move abroad may even be unknown, and incomprehensible, to even long-term friends and family.

As someone joked a few months back, I may come off as the “mysterious Michael Brown,” but I have no intention of being unknown. Quite the contrary, I do want all to know, as my recent blogs have revealed.

Just as with all the blogging that I currently partake in (besides the favorite-cafés entries I’ve periodically made), I’m putting finger tips to keyboard this time as a form of release–for this man undoubtedly needs an outlet.

Yet, most importantly, I’m blogging to have a public forum of sorts to serve as a repository for my kids to, fingers and toes crossed, one day access. All needs to be known for me to have any sense of sanity, and channeling my energies into a diligent record keeping for them, at least on the surface, mitigates my haunting doubts that they’ll never know why I’m no longer in their lives.

As many an in-the-know person knows, especially those privy to my one-time blogs and YouTubes from my erstwhile hellish experiences, I left my ol’ life behind in July of ’17, completely, departing from Taiwan with literally no clue about what I was going to do.

Just a few shorts week before that, however, my tenuous-but-better-than-jumping-off-a-bridge objective was to move to Taipei, rent a pad, look for part-time work, and begin anew while still seeing my children twice a month. That could have been the perfect solution to be in their lives–until D-man turned 18, at least, old enough for them to make choices of where they wanted to be–and to at least get out of the same city that was haunting me, for a variety of reasons.

I had hoped to maintain the (theretofore-arranged-by-the-family-court) two weekends a month–as the norm had been for 71 weekends prior (since signing divorce on the dotted line, begrudgingly, in 2014).

That all fell through in July last year, after all, and my life fell apart, with the ridiculousness of the family court’s farce and facade those last few hearings pushing me to the limits of my failing fortitude.

Hand in hand with the judge’s ludicrously false antics, all unfolded that horrific last  attempted pick-up weekend exchange (July 8th, 2017) that prompted me to give up on moving to Taipei, having decided that I never wanted my children to be torn again, stuck in the middle between their pseudo-maternal side and their Daddy.

I promised at that moment, all recorded and even posted on the Internet, that those gorgeous, sweet, innocent siblings would not have to endure a moment like that again, standing there 20 feet from their pseudo-grandparents and the only-deserving-to-be-called–the-“birther” birther and 20 feet from Daddy, looking back and forth, uncertain and confused.

After 71 wondrous weekends together, with flawless exchanges until that moment, nothing would have nor could have put them in that situation except for the cold-hearted maternal brainwashing, shameful influence, and deceptive manipulation she’d perpetrated for 3.5 years, slowly alienating the children against their daddy.

There was ZERO justifiable reason those kiddos would have stopped that morning.  The 71 weekend exchanges that preceded that moment are proof.

Alienated father, 101, is what I am.

Sadly, that’s my new identity.

Isabella and Derek Brown deserve, 100%, to have a father in their lives, but at the same time, they deserve 100% to never again be incessantly bombarded by the lies, deceit, and false-faced influencing that the birther was inflicting them with, evident to all.

With everything that was perpetrated by a corrupt judge, with the falsehoods belched forth by fraudulent court officials, I knew I was at a loss, never to earn a fair chance–and what was bound to happen (the unfounded, the ridiculous, and the fabricated) prompted my immediate departure (well, that is, after 3.5 years of having persevered in a slanted system).

To step away in order for the kids to never again be pummeled by the birther’s shenanigans, to have them never again face such hardships like those that are begotten when a parent cruelly interferes with a kid’s perception of the other parent, to never again allow them to be incessantly perplexed by how their maternal family’s deceit and lies contradicted Daddy’s truisms, all seemed like the right reasons to make such an onerous choice.

Ostracized and alienated I was from them already, hopeless that the court would rule in my favor (fuck, the woman committed a parental abduction of the kids for 189 days in 2014, yet three judges ‘ruled’ that it was “just a miscommunication” because “she didn’t know the dad wanted to see them”–when loads of evidence proved I was emailing them, calling them, texting them numerous times a week for six months, with videos showing me dropping off gifts at the complex’s front gate guard’s window, with him rejecting me on the third visit).

Miscommunication my ass.

Bias and prejudice, corruption and collusion was more like it.

When I learned that the appellate judge rejected my case in 2016, citing, “there’s nothing the mother did that was wrong because it seems like they just couldn’t agree on a time to meet the kids,” though all my communication for six months asked such questions about seeing them (and the ex, moreover, responded ZERO times in six months), I knew I was fucked.  The same could be said for when the courts accepted a falsified report from an assigned official, even though my secret recordings of her visit proved proved she blatantly lied and created utter, nonsensical fabrications. I had no chance.

Then in mid-to-late spring in 2017, I knew in my heart (and merely because of utterly logical thinking because the precedent for corrupt bullshit had been well-established) that the court was aiming for the jugular once again.

I was history.

That fact haunts me to the bone.

So what was awaiting me, and how did I get here?

During my last week of my total 12-year stay in Taiwan, I had heard from a friend that her husband was willing to lend a hand in securing my flights outbound, for a 50% savings, because he works for an airline out of the Middle East.  She had not only followed my FB postings of the hell I’d endured but also how I’d been pushed to the brink.

Being that there was a flight from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi and then on to JFK, for a steal, I gave the go-ahead, without any notion of what was in store beyond a few-day timeframe.

Simply put, I just wanted to see family and old friends, not even knowing if I’d survive the nascent stages of the transition leading me from the unknown (having lost my identity of being a great daddy) to the greater unknown (having lost my identity of being a great daddy PLUS having no sense of where I was headed).

That transitional phase, thrown in my face as a bad stage performer gets pummeled by rotten tomatoes, could just as well led to my immediate demise, one that I was warned about by a colleague and acquaintance (using the term friend isn’t full feasible since said person hasn’t contacted me once since my departure, which to me isn’t very friend-like).

My last weekend in the city, I’d sat with said expat colleague at an outdoor, lakeside bar, bemoaning my situation a bit over a pint. That’s when he explained that he didn’t want to hear of my returning to the States and then taking my own life–for that would have meant to him that she, the ex, would have won. I could never let her win, he implored. Something like that had apparently happened to another foreign bloke who’d lost his kids in Taiwanese divorce court, etc., returning home in the end to then end it all.

Landing in JFK, having hurriedly asked my NJ-residing step-father a mere handful of days prior if he wouldn’t mind a visit, I figured out (truly without much forethought and very little preparation) the steps of getting to the middle of Jersey, jumping through hoops to put myself on previously-unfamiliar bus connections in NYC.

As a seasoned traveler, I was able to keep my wits about me even though I wasn’t quite sure of all the steps of getting to where I needed to go. Less than a year later, I can now barely recall the whole experience (and, indeed, I had to ask the friend whose husband helped with the tickets, at the time of commencing this blog entry, if I had actually landed in Newark orJFK).

Needless to say, it isn’t strictly based on my forgetfulness that I don’t fully recall.  With memory sometimes slipping, the fact that I don’t recall the departure nor arrival very clearly could be blamed on that.

In reality, I was numb for days.  All was shrouded in a disturbing fog.

My head utterly cluttered and in a daze, I somehow arrived late in the night at a small-town bus terminal in central-east Jersey, where Pops and his second wife Lo picked me up, awaiting me with open arms.

It was the first familial embrace I’d received (aside from my kids, of course) since a three-week road trip from CA to MN and back, back in 2016, so I welcomed the contentment and connection. Having just gone through a nightmarish year (after a full 3.5 years being battered by the ersatz court system), one full of outlandish bullshit begotten by a corrupt judge, biased officials, and a vindictive ex, it was lovely to be around family again.

To have left Taiwan and been separated from my children perhaps forever, having been stricken by a profound sense of hopelessness, having thrown in the towel after an overwhelming and on-the-losing-end-of-a-3.5-year battle, I needed to be home–even though “home” is and has never really been definable for this vagabond at heart.

On a side note, my last ‘real’ home in the USA, where I felt any sustained connection to place, time or people, was my childhood residence, which we’d moved out of back in 1985. Of course I’d lived in the USA for some time after that, and I’d established a close-to-home-like existence in Minnesota for a number of years, but before finally taking off to live abroad (18 of the last 20 years as of 2018), I’d not had a family home record to speak of since the mid-80s.

Home, in the closest sense of most folks’ definitions, as used two paragraphs above, was at best defined by the general borders of the USA. However, within the nation’s boundaries, there’s nothing tangible for this middle-aged man to label such a place.

Thus, when I arrived in Jersey, completely appreciative of my step-dad’s largesse and assistance, I was still rather lost and undoubtedly feeling uprooted.

Spending some quality time together, chatting in the eves with him and her, driving down the coast in his Chrysler convertible together on blue-sky days, stopping for some DQ, having a beer here and there, for the first few days, was all JUST what the doctor had ordered. I relished, and will long cherish, crabbing together, cruising the inlets in his boat, explanations of the past, talks of our former lives in NJ, CO, WA, and NY, etc.

If I hadn’t had them to fall back on, I may not have made it those first baby steps out of the gate (though my sister had also offered a place to lay my weary head in her neck of the woods).

Although I loved heading for burgers at a popular strip-mall-style joint, getting a slice (that’s “pizza” in East Coast parlance, y’all) at a beachside bar, visiting a suburban shopping mall for a haircut–all the while pleasurably reconnecting after years away–I felt out of place culturally.

To eavesdrop on locals wherever we went (their moments oft absorbed in chats about the latest episode of the Kardashians, lamenting the sizes of S-buck’s Frappuccinos, or commenting on the blonde’s false eyelashes at a nearby table), all generated some serious internal debates as to if I really could re-connect to the country I’d left in 2004.

[Part of the problem with the aforementioned is that I was routinely, thankfully sequestered from trivial chat topics, even when sitting in public places, while in Taiwan the six years prior because the din of Mandarin conversations often just blended together and I found myself surrounded by incomprehensible chit-chat unless I truly tried to pick out specific topics I could understand. My ears accustomed to blended, boisterous babel whenever out on the town, though I speak some Mandarin, I perhaps wasn’t prepared for the blitz of such seemingly shallow and somewhat mundane conversations.]

Did I belong?

Was it “right” to be there?

If I was going to stay put, I wondered, would I wind up settling in the East Coast (which I’d moved on from in 1991, heading to the Midwest which I associated a bit more with), or depart for elsewhere?

I had received invitations to Sis’ homestead in South Dakota, to friends’ refuges in Minnesota. I’d even contemplated AZ to be close to my biological father, but questions bombarded me about suddenly being back in the States in general.

Was I even truly American (the loosely permissible term many use around the world for folks from the USA)? Or is my identity nowadays more affiliated with being an expat?  Truly, though it is hard to even use this term (lest I sound pretentious), I am more international than national in my outlook.

In some ways, I simply wasn’t feeling the USA.

From what I’ve seen online, others who live abroad oft have similar doubts about their connections upon return.

Repatriation is one damn large horse pill to swallow.

To varying degrees, aspects of life there–that slapped me in the face as shocking–also exist elsewhere, but reverse culture shock was in my face like a schoolyard bully, blatant and pugnacious. Under the surface, I was constantly questioning my place and where I fit in, even when dropping off to sleep at night those first few days back.

Naturally, I will forever have a mental and emotional connection to my ‘home’ country, the good ol’ USA.  My  foundation exists there and was shaped there (though it is actually more internal than external, all spiritual and not truly geographical).

Although the USA will always define my origins, the chapters in the book of life that more outline my current moi can arguably be based on 17-plus years’ worth of accumulated experiences in Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Taiwan–even dating back eons ago to studying abroad in Mexico or even to my first backpacking adventure overseas at 23.

To compare my US-based formative years that shaped me against my more recent, adult-identified experiences abroad, trying to form a vague definition of my own selfness, is an exercise in futility.

Not to mention, to turn around and come “home” again, especially in such a forced manner, begets some deep fucking soul searching.

Repatriation, indeed, is not an easy process. For those of us who’ve opted to be abroad, especially for such an extended period, repatriating is chock full of challenges.

Groups exist online to deal with these issues. Books have been written. There must be psych professionals out there who specialize in these specific disorders.

Some can do head home; some cannot.

I couldn’t.

My head spinning, though simultaneously placated by the pleasant times with Pops and Lo as we re-bonded a trifle, I decided on Day 3, to leave again, jumping online, spending hours researching teaching opps overseas.

Admittedly, however, there was more to that frenetic deliberation and prompt decision than the aforementioned explanations.

Repatriation phobia doesn’t paint the whole picture.

You see, I actually was feeling that if I had settled in the States last summer, I would have suffered from not only an inability to reacclimatize (on top of the profound sense of losing to the unethical Taiwanese court system and losing my kids to their so-called maternal family) but I would also have lost a profound sense of the identity of whom I had been long before meeting my ex.

Yes, my identity as a father was shattered, which I’ve blogged about elsewhere over the last few years, but if I had resettled in North America, I had felt those first few days back that I would also have been losing my sense of being a forever-on-the-go vagabond and a global denizen (if one can assign such a term to one’s self).

With eights states and six total countries under my residential belt at the time (having additionally checked off some 50-plus countries and 48 states travel-wise, theretofore), I didn’t want to give up on that one former aspect of my being.

Without it, i.e., settling in the States, I had recognized I’d have become even MORE hollow. For someone who’d wanted to give up completely last summer, sinking to the depths of despair, I knew I would have had needed more to keep me afloat.

The fact is, although part of my identity stems from being a teacher man, too, that “world traveler” status is otherwise all I had left to give some satisfaction to at least the surface of my empty shell.  In some ways I had hoped that I could start filling the void with something special (which may or may not ever happen fully in the future)

Settling back into whatever role awaited me, merely domestically, would have further destroyed me.

Thus, for that short stay, I was internally swamped with an identity crisis, with much going on below the surface, things that nobody but myself could define or deal with.

On that third day, I even recalled the sense of loss I’d faced back in June of 2011 when my ex-wife and I moved back to Taiwan from Europe.

Even though the return to Taiwan was meant to be a one-year sojourn, which had been discussed through email (yes, even relying on electronic messages about important topics with my own wife, which is a long story), and though I had worked to get to another overseas job, landing a position in February of 2012 to teach in Myanmar that August, all fell apart further when my ex had cancelled her contract (to teach at the same school in Yangon), telling me “you can go on your own.”

No way was I going to leave then.

Despite the marriage being on the rocks already, nothing at the time would have ever been deemed, even with the most profound imaginings, enough of a hardship to push me away from my children.

That’s about the time I wrote my sister and mother that if divorce was on the horizon, I’d have to stay–and would stay–in Taiwan until the kids were adults.

With her cancellation of our move back abroad (although I was technically still abroad being in Taiwan) came the invalidation of my long-term dreams of bringing up a family overseas, traveling globally, raising third-culture kids in the process.

She shat upon my overseas dreams, but with the reality of being a Daddy, I focused 2012 and early-to-mid 2013 on being with my kids, even being at home more than she was because I had decided to tutor privately for two years to be with them (I even submitted to the courts former emails in which she wrote, “You see them more than I do”).

Spending so much time with the kiddos for that year and a half helped mollify any sense of losing my long-established identity of being a globetrotter. With a return to full-time teaching in August of 2013, and then in September when the marriage collapsed, I returned my focus to my profession a bit more, juggling nearly full-time court issues with a full teaching load.

For a while afterwards, my identity was somehow balanced and more defined (sans the hell of the 189-day parental abduction).

Fast forward to the summer of 2017.

Without my kids, without my worldwide existence (without even Taiwan, a place I grew to partially despise with every phase of the unfolding nightmare), sitting in New Jersey those few days, I realized I would nary be able to create a sense of purpose like I’d formerly fancied.

It become clear on day three that the USA couldn’t bring me what I lacked: a true identity.

But there was even more to it than the aforementioned.

Enabling myself to say “fuck her,” instead of giving up completely (i.e., putting myself ‘out of my pain’), along with permitting myself to regain a former slice of my traveler’s identity, I ALSO realized that the more globetrotting I could do, the more I could keep myself busy, which is one way of dealing with the hurt, filling the void of loss.

To keep myself forever on the move, bouncing from continent to continent for the last third of my life, might very well be what the psychologist ordered. If I don’t develop the coping strategies to healthily move on from all (which I admit makes me feel as if I am painfully replacing my children), I might as well be able to check off a few more exotic locales from my list of dream destinations.

It didn’t take much to understand that I would be better off psychologically and emotionally if I could spend my time exploring new frontiers, crossing distant borders, gathering new passport entry stamps.

A .50¢ bowl of pho from a grungy dive joint in Hanoi will forever trump Chipotle (and will trump Trump, currently and for the next 2-to-4 years, at the time of writing).

Traversing the Great Wall will always outshine hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Crossing over the border from Honduras to El Salvador will long be more enticing than driving across the state line from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

Staying at the Luxor in Vegas will never come close to seeing the pyramids in Gaza.

Without offense to anyone who would opt for the latter options of the above four choices, desire-filled comparative choices that I can still relate to, I merely wish to say I benefit more from being abroad, especially now.

My heart empty, my mind awhirl, when I returned to the States last July, I had obviously just jumped out of the frying pan–with no coping strategies to just “move on”. But move on is what I decided to do, at least geographically speaking.

Consequently, realizing that all, my initial casual browsing that morning, on the third day, sitting at a café, evolved rapidly into more enthusiastic purposeful searches in the afternoon.

Despite my being eager to find a posting overseas, nothing I was doing was being done enthusiastically.

Lo and behold, the initial hours-long effort paid off with my discovering openings, with my arranging Skype interviews, and with my lining them up and knocking them down, if you will. Over the next two days, I’d landed three offers after three online meetings.  A whirlwind of decision making ensued.

While visiting Virginia on the sixth day, having decided on a quick road trip to see a life-long friend, another offer was made that I didn’t want to pass up.

Despite being “satisfied” with my success, no sense of true pride came about (if I didn’t have my experience and a decently-strong CV to fall back on, I really would have been in trouble emotionally, not just professionally). Usually, for most folks, landing four offers in a short span would result in a bit of merrymaking. For me, those momentary achievements simply kept me afloat.

I didn’t celebrate; I didn’t gloat, for this chap was in no celebrating mood.

Just two weeks before, I’d said goodbye on a sidewalk, in tears, to my kids.  A million dollar jackpot-winning lottery ticket would have merited no more joy than the simple process of urinating into the toilet accurately.

Instead, I merely rejected the first three offers, accepted the fourth and final (for a place I’d longed to reside in even since back at my first overseas job fair in 2004–and in reality ever since my last college course), and crammed my one suitcase and my one backpack to the hilt, upon returning to Jersey a few days later.

Undeniably, saying farewells to Pops and Lo was distressing, for the older I get, the older they do as well.

As we hugged at the airport, at the curbside drop off, tears flowed heavily, with my doubts about where my life’s path will lead, when the next time would be to visit (always a challenge when my ultra-small family is spread from NJ to CT to SD to CA), or if I’d even make it past the initial transition, longing for my kids as I do, in my new “home”.

Yet, the urge to be on my way again, with the appeal of overseas adventures and life in foreign lands attracting me like a magnet to a wayward paperclip, further exacerbated my need to simply stay busy with this new phase of life.

Looking to redefine myself somehow, working to reclaim some sense of purpose in my life, having lost my identity of fatherhood, I can at least be empowered now to, at least symbolically, say she didn’t win.

We’ll, who the fuck am I kidding?  She won practically everything, but I won’t, at least, allow myself to be defeated completely.

On Day 3, I made that decision, and I’ll stick to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Living abroad, The Divorce and Custody Hell | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dating Locally, Logically: Single Expats Abroad

Michael, did you date me just to say you could ‘be’ with a Mexican girl?“, questioned a gal I was saying farewell to (because I was going back to the States after three months in a Spanish-language program, the final month of which we spent together).

Why on earth would thatbe my objective?  I dated her because she was funny, personable, attractive and bright, not to put a cultural notch in the headboard.

The German girls who date the American GIs here are usually sluts,” opined a close, English-speaking female German friend, chatting over a cup o’ Joe in a local, bohemian coffee house in Bamberg, Germany in 1998 (which was somewhat ironically stated, for just a few short weeks later, we started dating, a relationship that lasted for over a year before I shipped off to Kosovo).

But wasn’t that just a bit presumptuous ’bout an entire category of women?

All you guys here are just after Japanese chicks,” exclaimed a Brit, Catherine, at a party, a gathering of expats working there in the JET Programme in 2001. Her comments came during a discussion about how we’d all settled into our routines and lives (or not) in the boondocks of Aomori prefecture, after about two months there.

You’re just anotherdude living here who loves Asian chicks,” cynically commented a North American woman, whom I’d chatted with at a cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the mid-to-late Aughts, after I told her I was engaged to marry a local gal I’d been dating for two-plus years prior.

No wonder teachers here hook up with each other; no local Swiss are dating teachers like us,” joked a bloke from the USA at an American school employee cocktail gathering in 2011. He wasn’t fully kidding, for at least that particular year, no teachers were dating local folks, as far as we could tell or anyone admitted to.

I cannot wait to move to Europe, where I can finally find a date,” rejoiced Paula, a bubbly South African gal who’d been working at an international school in Taiwan for the previous three years. In 2014, she was hoping to find a more interesting lifestyle awaiting her in Amsterdam. Three years in Taiwan were a tormenting drought apparently, and another departing American colleague mirrored similar sentiments at the same going away staff gathering that day.

Why are you on Tinder? You’re an expat here, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting dates just with women passing by,” stated a recently-met-through-Tinder Taiwanese woman, sharing stories over a beer at a Taipei bar in the early summer of 2017.

Latinas love the expat guys here, but, then again, so do the Latinos love us expat women. It is so easy to meet locals on dating apps if you’re a foreigner, too,” giddily celebrated a new female Canadian colleague, both expounding on how we’d met someone local rather soon after moving to Central America.

Dating Abroad, The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs  –

As one can see above, it seems like a trend has occurred over my years of living abroad, a total of 16-plus of the last 18 years of my life, and even dating back to studying Spanish in Mexico some 24 years ago. No, the above quotes are notprecisely recorded evidence of such ongoing occurrences, but because I’ve had similar conversations over the years with others choosing the same lifestyle as me, I’ve surely gotten them down accurately enough to not misquote, yet with a change of names thrown in, to boot.

The reality of the aforementioned, from-real-life-discourse excerpts and the context from which they stemmed is that they’re not, obviously, mere one-offs for one particular guy (moi), nor are they the only notably pertinent comments made during my 16-plus years spent partially around the world.

Honestly, my ears have been privy to countless quotable comments, periodically, over what increasingly seems to be eons of international living.

Furthermore, to fully understand the frequency with which such topics are broached by those of us dwelling overseas, one must multiply, exponentially, the frequency of said oral observations, because, surely, anyone who has spent time living in a foreign land has been on the receiving end of related questions or perhaps even uttered such statements themselves.

Additionally, those of us who have discussed these matters undoubtedly are not the only ones to have ever born witness, over the course of humanity, to these dialogues–and that’s going back to centuries ago when travelers, merchants, conquerors and explorers started spanning the globe.

Sprouting from such endeavors, commonly, is the intermingling of cultures. Therefore, complaints or judgments have transpired in equal measure ever since such mixing began.

One can easily imagine how a brother’s feathers got ruffled because his 20-something sister in Rome hooked up with an Egyptian merchant peddling wares some 1,900 years back, or how some New World village chieftain raged on about a budding romance between a nearby foreign settler and his ready-to-wed daughter some 500 years ago, or how a Sicilian mother lambasted her lascivious teenager for bringing home a Scandinavian tourist after meeting on a sunburnt beach back in the 1960s, and so on and so on and so on.

[No, dear trolls and naysayers, this isn’t a historical commentary, and, no, this isn’t to serve as a breakdown of the horrid atrocities that have occurred over the history of mankind. I’m not unfairly alluding to the pillaging, marauding hordes sacking villages, torturing and raping the indigenous folks in each conquered territory, with women screaming and kicking as they were carried off to homelands far away, though perhaps some expats who’ve married a local have had similar reactions when he/she asked their spouse to move back to ______________. I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blank of some horrendously boring city; I’d written Cleveland, as an example, but I didn’t want to offend anyone from there. It’s really a city on the rebound!]

Intercultural dating and the choice to do so,the point is, has been happening for time immemorial–and some folks either don’t get it or don’t accept it.

For a handful of others (for the hundreds of thousands, or more, like me), it is the norm simply because we opt to exist outside of our homelands. Thankfully, there are others who do not question things, accepting it as one would accept any other’s business as being none of their business.

I’m simply using the aforementioned examples to say that this is, without question, nota new dialogue to be had, but rather an ongoing set of occurrences in this one individual’s journeys abroad–and how they relate to what countless others who’ve chosen to work globally have experienced.

Yet why do I write this now, today? The reason: the topic keeps popping up in different contexts.

With that out of the way, the relevant dialogues about the choices one makes while dating in foreign lands, which I’ve found most irksome, are the one’s that entail and venture into veiled-to-outright accusations that one is specifically seeking out locals only, as if one is clandestinely racially motivated to do so, as if we’re collecting postage stamps from each country visited or setting out heat seeking missiles on one particular ethnic target, only.

Such cynical conversations also oft include subsequent, direct or indirect allegations that those of us who date locally are somehow consequently dismissing expats of the opposite gender (or of the same, if that’s where you lie) who may find themselves in coinciding situations, i.e., being single, hoping to find another to share our lives with while away from ‘home’ (wherever and whatever that means), not wanting to go out to eat beef chow mien solo, for example.

Disparaging remarks such as “you’re just into Asian chicks,” or “you guys only want to date local women” are, at least in my opinion, by and large, unfair and illogical, though there are people in this world who may be so closed-minded as to be discriminatory or selective in this regard, sadly.

In fact, last year I learned through a female coworker who was hired by a school in Thailand–as was relayed to her during the hiring process–that many international educational institutions in Bangkok tend to hire married couples and single women to help weed out dudes who are just looking to live in Thailand for ‘selfish’ reasons.

Opens your eyes a trifle, doesn’t it?

Though I’d like to believe in the goodness of all in choosing to seek employment in other countries for altruisticreasons, to partake in adventuresome living, to engage in learning new languages, and to absorb cultural happenings for one’s own personal development (and of course to make a living), I have to dismount from my high horse to accept that there are a minority who want to intentionally indulge themselves in other aspects of internationalization.

I suppose the unwritten rules of Thai schools to not hire as many single western males proves that point.

Pathetically.

Perhaps that’s why I take a stance against such tactics and defend my choices earnestly.

When faced with scrutinizing sarcasm about my dating life during these past 16 years, when bombarded with questions of, “Why are you only looking for local gals to date?”, I have often retorted that my dating endeavors in becoming acquainted with someone new, i.e., looking for a partner, are NOT exclusively reserved to one group or one ethnicity, adding that because, when one is living in a particular country, such as Taiwan or Japan (13 years of my life, hitherto), one is prone to most easily meeting a local from that country and not other expats!

Of course there are variations or degrees in how accurate that statement is based on location, location, location.

To illustrate my point, while living in Japan in 2001-2002, working in public schools there through the JET Programme (before returning to do an MEd and licensure program so I could get a certified teaching job at accredited international/American schools elsewhere), I was, as far as I could tell, the ONLY expatliving in a quaint town of 10,000 Japanese, way up in the northernmost prefecture of the main island of Honshu.

In my time there, I never once met another foreigner living in the sametownship. Of course I wasn’t easily–if ever–going to meet another foreigner in that town.

Thus, wasn’t it clear, my eyes open to meeting someone, I was bound to only meet a local (this was a pre-smartphone apps era, peeps, and dating opps via the internet were not yet a thing).

Thus, when I once was invited to a food fair by a 65-to-70-year-old adult student from my once-a-week evening English conversation class at the community center near my home, and was consequently introduced to her younger acquaintance, it was not because I was somehow selectively honed in to target local women.

Undoubtedly, I wasn’t ready to drop my payload on one specific bulls-eye pettily based only on race.  That night, after returning home, I was giddy about meeting a woman, NOT about meeting a Japanesewoman!  Not once did I think, “Cool, I met a Japanesegal.”

I merely met awoman.

To have done so was because I was in the right place at the right time, which, if you come to think about it, would have been exactly the same process (pure happenstance) as if I had been attending a food fair in Ames, Iowa (in the middle of nowhere USA; no offense to Ames, it’s a charming place!).

Nobody would have labeled me as a “looking-for-an-Asian-persuasion” type of guy (I despise that judgmental concept and equally judgmental term) if I had met some local white American in the middle of Iowa under those same circumstances.

People would have matter-of-factly stated, “Oh, you’ve met someone,” if I’d merely been acquainted with a white woman in Ames or in Japan, for that matter.

Yet, throwing a racially-generated label on me was exactlywhat some female expat teachers did at a JET participant gathering when they learned I was hanging out with someone.

I’d met a woman, by only being introduced to her, yet I was somehow to blame for being “a falconer” because she just happened to be Asian.

Such expressions are akin to the equivalently idiotic “once you go black…” comments someone once made to me when I met an African America girl at a party in high school. Literally, at 17 years of age, I wasn’t learned nor confident enough to counter their narrow-mindedness back then, but I’ve certainly grown tired of it over the years, wanting to shed light on it now.

Why are many people so quick to judge and assume?

Accusing a dude (or gal) of being “oriented” (or “horny for”, as some have superficially chimed in during such discussions) only to a specific racial group simply because one temporarily lives amongst the people of that particular society is NOT fair nor level-headed thinking.

When you’re living abroad and you’re surrounded by and immersed in the culture and the people, and you just happen to meet someone, others need to cease automatically degrading it and classifying such relationships as something somehow ‘wrong’.

On that note, if an international teacher, such as myself, meets another international teacher and they date while they’re living in Morocco, for example, nobody turns around and labels the relationship (or the reason for entering into it) as stemming from some misguided incentives or flawed dating patterns.

For me, the gal that I met and started to date in Japan was attractive for a few reasons, for her pleasant personality, her smile at first sight, her sense of humor.  To mislabel an initial attraction and subsequent outings as being racially motivated is shallow.  I once dated a white woman in college whom I had been attracted to immediately, yet nobody characterized the experience as being for similarly trivial reasons.

The only difference?  The judgements that folks made in Japan were far different because of assumptions and narrow-mindedness merely based on her ethnicity.

In reality, nobody should have brought up anything about race or ethnicity at that party, just as how I shouldn’t even be compelled to write this blog about the topic–for such distinctions should, ideally, never be made in the first place and no discussion about said themes should need to be had.

However, we’re human. It happens. I get it.

Not really.

Furthermore, those same expat women complained at the party (a gathering of teachers who had to drive anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes because our rural residences were so far apart) that it was “not fair” that we (men) could date locals but they “could not”, which brings up a whole new set of complex issues and an entirely debatable set of understandings about why they felt they couldn’t play the field, if they’d wanted to.

At that same expat party was a 20-something British bloke who was also accused of “being into Asian chicks”.

He had told me at our orientation in Tokyo earlier that school year–or was it on the plane from the capital to Aomori prefecture–that he had studied language in a Japanese studies proram in uni and that he was hoping to really immerse himself in the culture of rural society, away from the main urban centers of central Japan.

Yet because he’d already met a young gal there by the time of the party (two months into our stay), the American and British females sitting around the living room tagged him as also being a falconer, hunting for easy prey, somewhat tainting his otherwise wholesome attitude about life there.

After the party, a bit perturbed by the conversation about his alleged discriminatory dating choices, he remarked to me that it was bullshit that the gals had said such things, chalking it up to “bitterness, because theycouldn’t find anyone,” and even labelling them in reverse with even more closed-minded comments than they’d delivered about our dating “preferences”.

Naturally, I understood his being appalled at the judgements that had been made, with both of us on the receiving end of blatant negativity during the hotly discussed exchange, but I also tried to see the side of the women who’d expressed their frustrations.

If I quickly dismissed their complaints as being based on what hesuggested, then I also would not have tried to truly accept or understand why they felt the way they did.

Much of this could boil down to perspective, to some degree, and perception.  Or could it?

Working to understand both sides of an argument at least goes a long way.

A handful of the females, whom, like most of us, had been placed into rural public schools around the prefecture, bemoaned that they were not able to meet “eligible men”, and, unfortunately, in their opinions, that meant Japanesemen (unhesitatingly encapsulating allas unsuitable suitors).

Some stated, quite openly, that they felt they were “intimidating to local men”, that they were “too outspoken” or loud, coinciding with a stereotypical notion that “guys in Japan like quieter, more passive, subservient women” (though that’s surely not true of an entire nation, and generationally there are changes already to those cultural norms–and there are always exceptions to the rule, anyway).

Some even described how their European or North American frames were physically much larger than dudes they could meet, precluding them from having relationships because they feared men would not be attracted to them or, conversely, that they weren’t interested in men of such small physical stature, either. Some even joked of towering over potential dates.

Of course, other stereotypical wisecracks about size sproutedforth during the discussion, pardon the pun.

Entering into the conversation were comments, too, of how men there, especially in more rural communities and smaller townships, were more traditional in their thinking, that they expected a woman to be less career driven and more bound to the home. Women who have stronger opinions or who more openly express themselves may be taken as a turn off, they expounded.

All sorts of topics were broached, none of which were necessarily right or wrong because–in reality–much of it boils down to perspective and how one perceives such inputs.

Right?

Still it remains quite questionable, however, if any of those women were right in their assumptions. Couldn’t they have all just simply dismissed stereotypes and tried to find someone?  Wasn’t there someoneavailable for them, or did they just blindly banish all local men for being non-date-worthy?

Wouldn’t going out on a few dates have possibly opened up their eyes or mindsets a bit more (perhaps even opening other attributes), to potentially set aside some of the obvious cultural differences or norm-based dating expectations, in order to then be able to search out the more positive characteristics of local chaps?

Who knows, then some bonehead could have coined the term, “Once you go small, your emotional state never will fall!” (Hey, now now, we’re talking STATUREfolks! Don’t read between the lines!)

On a serious note, if one of them wound up dating a Japanese, it can most assuredly be said that the expat blokes would not have ridiculed them with converse “Asian persuasion” criticisms.  Sadly, that expression doesn’t appear to exist in reverse and appears to be uni-gender, uni-directional in its usage.

I’ve never heard of someone teasing a woman who’s dating an Asian man with that same “persuasion” quip. Odd, isn’t it?  It’s alwaysdirected at guys.

Even for me, dating my girlfriend there, I had to accept certain aspects of her culture that seeped into the relationship, aspects of Japanese society that I didn’t fully accept, in order to focus on the positives that she offered as a human being, as someone I cared about.

For example, I was initially flabbergasted by the curfew she had had, with her parents demanding she come home before 11pm Sunday through Thursday, and by midnight on the weekends.

Though I was around 31 and she was 27, we still had to abide by the obligatory scheduling her parents had set.  There was no way around it lest she truly rock the cultural boat, but for many yet-to-be-married women there, familial expectations and cultural norms are often that they still live at home and abide by parental rules until they’re married (many women in the department of education in my town were 40-somethings and still living under their parents’ roofs).

[In fact, I had to pick her up and drop her off just down the road from her folks’ place, for she feared they would complain that she was dating a foreigner.  Doing so, I frequently wondered what I was getting into, but overall, I accepted such aspects of dating locally.]

If female expats there put aside some aspects of the traditional Japanese cultural leanings, couldn’t they have settled into longer relationships, too?

One could even go into the topic of the comments made by some British and American gals then that “Japanese men aren’t that attractive,” but that would be opening up a whole other can of judgmental worms.

Yet this isn’t just a living-in-Japan phenomenon.

Until this day (at least up until departing the country in 2017), female expat colleagues in Taiwan also often grumbled about “not being able to find a date”–and regularly definitely emphasized that it was “much easier” for expat men, naturally adding that we men were somehow miscalculated in doing so.

Colleagues and acquaintances there in Taiwan revealed that they’d periodically hook up with other North American, South African or European overseas workers (teachers, engineers, etc.), but by and large, the majority would lament they were forced to spend immeasurably more time with girlfriends going out or hanging at home, compared to back in their homelands especially.

They bemoaned the (perceived) lack of desirable local men, though in reality the city we lived in was of a population of well over a million (one would hope some of whom were eligible) inhabitants.

Indeed, mixed-culture and mix-ethnicity dating in Taiwan was a lopsided affair.

Once, after my marriage to a Taiwanese, I commented to her at an outdoor birthday gathering that not only were all of the couples present then mixed-race, which is NOT a bad thing, of course, but also that, oddly, there were onlywestern men and their Taiwanese spouses present.

There were at least a dozen couples with kids running about, yet it was as if some unwritten rule had permitted only such pairings to attend the party, ruling out local men with foreign wives or even Taiwanese couples or strictly expat pairings.

The fact of the matter was that for my 12 years of living in Taiwan, I personally knew of only one married partnership between an Aussie woman and her Taiwanese spouse (whom a few expats seemingly needed to label as “cool” and “more western” in his thinking).

Why is that?

What drove expat gals in Taiwan (and Japan) to dismiss so many single nearby men?

Why the one-sided pairings?

On that note, the latest trigger to finally prompt me to broach this topic in such a format (after quite some time pondering how it would come out or be received) happened just this weekend (Feb 3-4, 2018).

I had noticed that in an overseas school-related FB exchange group posting that a female teacher had listed out her top choices of employment after attending a hiring fair. Surely, important aspects of living abroad were noted as what needs to be weighed in accepting an offer of employ in a foreign land, yet it was more notable that one attribute of making the best decision was the availability of dating options.

Not that she focused too much on it (for it is just one facet she’d dwelled on, apparently), but rather that a few posters in the thread subsequently highlighted it as potentially concerning, addressing specifically China and working there.

Moreover, as I read through the threads, questions naturally arose as to why China, as a whole, would be rejected as a teaching location or categorized as not having enough dating options for an expat woman.

With a population of well over 1.3 billion, with some 98% being male, one would think that there just has to be someChinese men worthy of dating, right?

In no wayis my mentioning her carefulness and wariness demeaning, for quite a few female members alluded to similar concerns, but I admittedly, automatically wondered if I would specify “dating possibilities” as a factor in selecting a job in a foreign country. That mindset is not based on my gender, I don’t believe, but in my opinion, the opportunity to live in a new culture entails so much more than that.

Thus, how much of a factor, overall, should it be (of course it boils down to perspective)?

With that said, if I couldn’t date, get laid from time to time, or fall in love during the whole 2-3-or-4 years of living in a new country because the local community is somehow closed off to that, making the potentiality of dating limited, rare, or impossible, I’d hesitate if such forethought allowed that knowledge beforemoving to a new overseas locale.

However, I don’t believe I’d completely scratch a place off my pros and cons charted alternatives for one reason.

Or would I?

Who is to blame in this regard? Or is no one to blameand this is somewhat a fact of life for those living overseas?  Do such occurrences just come with the territory, depending on the territory?

Are expat women being too picky?  Judgmental? Intolerant? Simply expressing dating preferences? Are their dude-ly counterparts somehow wrong in going out as they do, as accusations sometimes allude to (or blatantly attempt to highlight)?

Are there really barriers that exist in the opposite direction, in that “Asian” men (quite the generalization since Asia is humongous) won’t accept a western or expat girl while abroad? Or are these sweeping rationalizations merited?

All I know at this point is that these in-my-face debates about eligible locals, etc., no longer appear to exist (or at least haven’t yet transpired), for I relocated to Central America six months ago, now enjoying a lifestyle without a lopsided blame.

Here, from my experiences so far, based on what colleagues have admitted to, explained, and hinted at, both expat men and woman are activelydating locals, without the members of one gender group self-sabatoging one’s own dating options while here.

Apparently, however, I’ve been told to be on the lookout for “visa hunters”, which is a term I’ve only just learned of since moving here six months ago.

There seems no escape from such related-to-dating topics, even when escaping the beaten path by choosing to lead life abroad.

[Whether the notion of “visa hunters” is accurate or not, or the reasons why an expat may be “more sought after”, can easily be another blog entry.]

Regardless, Twain was correct in saying, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, all foes to try understanding.” Yet that notion doesn’t apply to conversations about dating during such travels, apparently.

I wish he’d also concluded that travel should befatal to the debates about why one would date abroad and with whom one would choose to partner with while overseas.

If it isn’t so common to question another’s dating preferences back home, one would expect that the open-mindedness that traveling allegedly permits would make such deliberations obsolete.

So the next time you see someone dating a local, internationally, let it slide without judgment. Perhaps those living around the world can even promote dating overseas as a way to break down erstwhile barriers and to bridge unfounded cultural differences. No, that’s not a promotion of seeking out someone intentionallymerely based on race or ethnicity (for then those accusations of selectively targeting a particular type would be validated), but if it happens more often and naturally that we intermingle, or at least be open to it, we’ll all be better off with greater worldwide diversity and less prone to judgment.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Will Marrying Abroad Take You—Or Leave You?

So you’ve decided to work abroad, allowing yourself the enviable opportunity to see the world, soak up several cultures, partake in language learning.  The list, surely, does not stop there.  Your head full of hopes, you focus on the open horizons ahead, counting your lucky stars that you’re finally taking that leap of faith to live in a foreign land.

Upon arrival, if you’re single, you’ll be bombarded with decisions about dating,  an ever exciting process of meeting Mr or Mrs Right.  How will you meet new people?  Are you aiming to be club going, café lounging, gym-bound, or app surfing, and will those avenues open up opps to be swept off your feet? 

Without a doubt, however, you may struggle to meet others, with so many variables making it a challenging course, of course depending on the local culture and norms, language barriers, or even if you can tolerate a first date fumbling with chopsticks over a bowl of stinky tofu. 

On the other hand, you may find love overseas, perhaps in a heartbeat, getting swept up in the moment of that charming French lad’s accent or the welcoming wink of a Latina at a local cantina.

How many have done the same before you? What’s happened to all of those couples, over the eons of dating cross-culturally? 

If you’re bound for discovering love abroad, then what?

Although dating back home, locally, entails decisions that we’ve all faced (ifyou’ve dated, of course), such as what loop of the freeway is best to use at rush hour to expedite seeing each other for happy hour, the process of dating while you’re living in another country opens up a whole new set of curiosity-filled questions, numerous unknowns, and fresh-to-us endeavors.

Naturally, the run-of-the-mill issues that happen in any couple’s lives come about, prompting heartfelt discussions about said topics, but of course, there will be a slew of new issues to broach and queries to pose, especially about cultural differences and how one another’s perspectives and norms shape and guide our decisions in a relationship. 

Since we are subject to so many underlying, from-birth cultural norms, bi-cultural, bilingual partnerships are at times faced with complex challenges that don’t exist in a regular ol’ relationship back home.  With hopes, you overcome the biggest obstacles that stem from said differences, discovering, in the end, that love is love and we’re all human, it turns out, regardless of both superficial and overt customs and habits.

Yet once a relationship is firmly established while in a faraway land, such adopted-but-still-foreign environs will necessitate more potentially complicated decisions about the next step. 

Will you marry?  If so, where?  Back home?  Whose family succeeds in seeing you more often?  Where will you settle?  Whose eventually-going-to-age parents will benefit from your being close?  One way or the other, there will be some sacrifices made with regards to being far from the family and friends of one of the partners.  Taking the loop or local subway to visit one set of in-laws on the weekend won’t happen; they’re a 9-, 12-, 15-hour flight away.  How about home and property purchases?  Retirement down the road? 

All such topics will, and open dialogue should, surface, but most importantly, where will discussions about having and raising kids lead you?  Then what?

Once an overseas partnership leads to marriage, and once a marriage (or not) leads to kids, inevitably, a couple will have multitudes of other doors to open that may or may not allow the expat abroad to return to their passport country.  Yet for those fortunate, those raising children in a marriage abroad, the one who’d decided to stay overseas to do so will still benefit from traveling the world, soaking up those cultures, partaking in language learning.  Ideally, your reasons for taking that leap to live internationally in the first place are still pursuable, along with raising kids within the realm of marriage overseas.

Falling Out of Love, Overseas

If you’re planning on finding love and falling in love—during your world-embracing teaching career, you must take the time to at leastwonder about what might happen if you fall OUT of love while no longer in Kansas any more. Then what? 

If not married, that’s fairly simple; if married, a potentially dramatic far-differentstory.

Of course, chances are that all could end peacefully, allowing the splitting off onto separate life paths to be smooth and well-graded.  An expatriate partner would have the freedom to choose what horizons lie ahead, wherever that may be. 

Yet consider, if married with children during your global adventures, all the complexities of what potentially could arise when divorced. Did those of having taken such a step or those who are contemplating it really consider all that a negative divorce could encompass? 

Of course nobody feels very comfortable pondering potential pitfalls, for we all want to believe in fairy tale endings, male or female.  However, I’d like to promote that if you’re reading this and have plans to perhaps tie the knot while in a far off land, that you stop to assess the risk–even if marriage shouldn’tbe labeled as a risk.  

More often than not, one partner will again be faced with challenges and issues that exist far beyond the scope of a “normal” path(i.e., back home in Kansas). 

Divorce courts, custody hearings, lawyer-hiring-processes, childcare, translations and interpretations, etc., and every process to navigate such steps, will all be impacted by or result from being abroad (for one of the two adults involved). 

With that said, I’ve been there done that, a nightmarish journey that left we with nothing, an experience that, as an overseas educator who has lived 18 of the last 20 years internationally, tainted my last three and a half years in said country.  Faced with insurmountable odds, being pummeled by incessant biased farce—to the point of provablefamily court corruption, having unfairly lost my children, having lost $30,000, I threw in the towel.  In the end, I had no choice, pushed to the brink of despair, hopeless, and I left my overseas home.  Now alone, without my kiddos, as a heavy-hearted alienated, targeted father, I focus my energies on again setting out in a new culture, a new nation.

Considering continuing life overseas, since I cannot fathom repatriation at this time, for I’d already been stripped of my identity as a parent and I couldn’t stand losing my identity as a traveler and expat, also—I too must now rethink all that dating overseas entails, and where it may lead.  Knowing I am not the only one to experience this debilitating process, I still have hope that global horizons hold something rewarding, romantically—at least for matters of the heart, as I set out on this new international journey.   

If you, yourself, are hoping and expecting to date abroad, look further down the road, far past the excitement and romantic stages of dating, far past the various phases of long-term love and relationships, and consider your choices and what could happen if you settle for some time internationally, both positive and negative. 

Keep faith that mixed-culture relationships can and do work, yet always make your decisions with the realistic notion of what might happen if all fails—especially if children are in the mix.

 

 

[The author, who has taught in Europe, Asia and Latin America, is a seasoned international school teacher, one who is now considering what countries lie ahead, sans family, while on a literary-minded sabbatical. The afore-written post is simply to bring light to such a topic, but the author is setting out now to commence a detailed book on divorce and custody abroad, a difficult process that many have faced since travelers, migrants and expats first began falling in love internationally.  He’d love to hear of similar stories from overseas experiences.]          

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