What do you miss?
May 5, 2010
This is a typical question I am asked, especially by those who are thinking of making the move to a retired life far away from their home country. I know how their minds are working. If I move abroad what will my life be like? Will I be able to make new friends? What about my family? What about food, and my favorite TV shows, and of course my football team?
These are real losses for an expat, and loss is always a difficult thing. Here is how I have dealt with some of the things that I have missed.
Like so many people nowadays my family is pretty dispersed. One son and his wife are living in Virginia, with our first grandchild on the way. Another is out in the wilderness of the San Juan Islands near Canada. Except for the fact that we won’t be there for the birth of the next generation of our family, I really don’t think we are missing much. Both children have visited us this year, with promises of more visits to come, which in fact is more than we got to see them when we still lived in Seattle. And with Skype video calls we definitely see them all more than we used to. And we were just emailed a very cool 4D ultrasound picture of the little one.
I recently talked to a friend who would very much like to retire abroad. But he doesn’t feel he could leave three grandchildren back in Wichita. So that is probably where he will die.
A BBC documentary I recently saw claimed that on average only one in four of our grandchildren will even remember our names. I really would like to see and get to know the little one when he/she decides to make an appearance, so I guess a trip to Virginia is in our future. I kind of like the idea of holding our next generation in my arms, and even more, the idea that when I get tired, or the baby poops, or cries, that the parents will be right there to hand the baby back to, and that there is always a plane waiting to fly use back to Chiang Mai before the stress of taking care of a little one sets in
My brother and sister-in-law came for a visit last year. You get lots of visitors when you live in a place called a “tropical paradise”. We spent a week together which was more time than we ever did. Since we lived on opposite sides of the country we rarely get to see each other.
So, when it comes to family, yes, I miss them, but I have probably spent more time with them than I did before moving here.
It is hard to be living in Thailand and complaining about the food. But there are some foods that I do miss. My favorite ice cream back home is Breyers Ice Cream. It is made with all natural flavors and has a fairly high milk fat content. Check out their really cool website www.breyers.com. I can’t get that here but if you want to spend the money you can get Hagan Daz or Ben & Jerrys. The inexpensive ice creams here aren’t bad but you should give the local coconut ice cream (made with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk) a try.
When I first arrived in Chiang Mai there were no ice cream shops and almost no real ice cream available. So I got into coconut ice cream which you can buy from marketplaces and push carts. Pour some condensed milk over it, sprinkle on some peanuts and that bowl of Breyers Butter Pecan Ice Cream will get gently push to the back recesses of your mind.
I do miss Taco Bell but Chiang Mai has some pretty good Mexican restaurants, as well as Italian, French, German, Vietnamese, Chinese, and even an Israeli restaurant. There’s McDonalds and Burger King, and KFC for those who need a fast food fix. And even though there are some decent Pizza joints here I still miss New York pizza. But I missed that when I lived in Seattle too. Maybe when I make that Virginia run I’ll have to pop up to the Big Apple for a “slice”.
So I do miss some foods but there is so much to replace it with here, including the great and inexpensive Thai food, that I rarely give the foods of my former life a second thought.
My Dad once told me that the one problem with getting old was that the older you got the more of your friends will have passed away. I am slowly beginning to see what he means as I just found out from the Internet that my closest high school buddy, whom I had lost contact with after college, had recently passed away. But luckily, although they are very far away, most are still amongst the living.
Our generation, unlike any that has gone before, has left the old towns and neighborhoods, and resettled, literally, all over the world. So physically being back “home” just doesn’t bring me any closer to them. Other than a Christmas card, with a folded up sheet of last year’s transitions and accomplishments, that is about all the contact I get from so many people I have met and become close to in this life. That is, until Facebook came along.
Have you seen the movie The Big Chill? It’s about these really close friends from college who hadn’t been together since then. We all seem to have had a crowd like that. I know I did. Well, recently I found one of the old crowd on Facebook. Then she hooked me up with another one. And now there are 4 or 5 of us back in contact. And my buddy Mark and his wife Barbara, who we haven’t seen in a few decades, will be coming here for a visit. We get visitors from back “home” probably at least once a month now.
So, as it is with family, it seems that I have become closer and spend more time with our friends than we did before leaving.
Football, et. al.
In keeping with the “F” theme, Football also includes baseball, and basketball, golf, and TV shows, and movies, and all the other kinds of entertainment that I used to surround myself with. Now I use a combination of satellite TV, the Internet, DVDs (usually pirated I am sorry to say) and downloadable “torrents”, and voila, I have everything to keep my aged mind in a trance. I can watch the latest Oscar winners, or the Yankees, or Manchester United, or the Daily Show, or the Simpsons, or American Idol, or 24, or Desperate Housewives, or Glee, or just about any “pop culture” entertainment I could wish for.
Fall (and spring)
But there is one thing I do miss, the seasons, especially the fall and spring. I love the crocus pushing through the snow as spring just begins, leading to the cherries blossoming, and our Japanese peaches ripening. The summer is no big loss as we have one hell of a summer here. But fall, especially in the northeast where I grew up is something I really miss. Without the colors of fall the world is more or less black and white, and green of course since this is Thailand. And winter, I would be happy if I never saw another winter.
But one cool season in Chiang Mai balances out all the other season that I miss back home. Chiang Mai in the cool season is what heaven must be like. It almost makes me religious.
So taken as a whole, what do I miss? Not much. This life I have chosen makes the equation lean way to the side of Thailand.
But I do still occasionally dream of a nice hot slice of New York pizza.