We’re the Globals

March 4, 2014

Ever since Homo Habilis got the urge to move out of Africa and venture abroad, humanoids of all kinds have had the itch to move, to migrate, to find that greener grass across the way. I saw this continued migration pretty clearly today at the Thai Immigration Office here in Chiang Mai. I was there to do my 90 days reporting, a requirement for all types of visa holders. Here is what I saw.

On one side of the compound, under a tent protecting them from the first rays of the hot-season sun, but not from the heat, were a couple of hundred migrant Burmese workers patiently waiting for their permissions to stay and work in this country.  On the other side of the compound, in a smallish, non-air-conditioned room, with 4 fans, 3 of which were not working, waited another couple of hundred sweating foreigners, who for one reason or another are trying to stay in country.

Lately there has been lots of talk about a “global economy”.  Look on a label of any food or clothing or electronics and you’ll see names of countries from every continent. Some will surprise you. At the supermarket yesterday I wanted to check out what was in Heinz Barbeque Sauce. So I read the label and discovered something more.  The sauce, a required ingredient in the quintessential American Barbeque, was made in China.

Speaking of China, there were dozens of twenty-something Chinese at the Immigration Office today awaiting visas to stay long-time in Thailand. What’s that about?

But it’s not only “stuff” like Barbeque Sauce that has become global. So have many people.

Now not everyone is as mobile as the people at Immigration. Many Americans not only don’t have a passport but don’t ever move more than a few hundred miles from where they were born (Check out the very good movie Nebraska to see what these people are like.) But lots of us have broken those ties. Who knows, we may even be becoming a new species, Homo Globalis.

When I began my world-traveler journeys close to half a century ago “we, who were on the road” were all just out for the experience. I remember sitting on a curb on “Freak Street” in Katmandu watching the flow of people from all over the world, most on a cannabis high, heading towards the Himalayas. Today, maybe for reasons other than climbing mountains and “finding ourselves”, that movement continues.

When I left home at age 22 I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I mean I was getting on a Boeing 707 and heading out into the big wide world. But maybe I wasn’t that cool. My son is visiting from the U.S. now after short stays in Japan and China. My other son, who lives in Japan, is currently in Korea working on the multi-nation military exercises that should make Crazy Kim from North Korea go apoplectic. And my daughter-in-law and our 3 grandchildren will be flying in from Okinawa to visit us for a couple of weeks. No, I don’t think now that I was that cool at 22. My grandson Ethan on the other hand will be traveling to his third foreign country before he is 6 months old. Now, that’s cool.

Today’s movements of peoples around the world sort of resembles Brownian motion (the seemingly random motion of molecules all bumping into each other and pushing them to new locations). The Spaniard leaves Spain for Latin America, The Latin American moves north to the U.S. as do thousands of Chinese and African students; the Turks move to Germany; North Africans to Europe; Russians and Arabs populate Phuket and Pattaya; and everybody it seems is moving to Thailand while the Thais move to California and Australia.

Question: What is the most common boy’s name for newborns in Europe?

Answer: Mohammad

Retiring – hopefully the last migration

This simple bog about retiring to Thailand has had close to 100,000 visits since I began writing. Someone’s thinking of moving. I’ll let the social analysts decide what is causing this world wide migration. But I can speak some to why I decided to leave the beautiful city of Seattle WA to retire in the equally lovely Chiang Mai.

In Seattle, a place I love (Go Seahawks!), we would be living in a nice 2 bedroom condo but we would be living Social Security check to Social Security check. Our travels would be limited to maybe the west coast of the U.S. and maybe a short hop up to Canada. And probably there would be a lot of fast food and snow shoveling in the picture. I think the worst part of retiring back in America is that I would be lonely and bored.

Although Thailand is far from as inexpensive as it used to be, we still can afford a nice sized 4 bedroom home, surrounded by a resort-like garden and not a snow shovel in sight. Since we live in a tourist destination we have so many visitors that loneliness is no problem and there are too many exotic things going on around us all the time to be bored – I mean how often does one get a chance to sit in a stifling mini U.N. every 90 days back home? Not in Nebraska I don’t think.

Next month we’ll take a trip south to the Andaman beaches and I am hoping (if those cheap Air Asia tickets come through) that a few weeks in Bali is in our future. We may still live Social Security check to Social Security check so we aren’t rich but we’re definitely not lonely or bored.

The Global Utopia or Dystopia

We started raising parakeets (“buggies” for you British and Australians) and I make a mixture of seeds for them. I take some of these white millet seeds and mix them with some of these black sesame seeds and some other brown ones. I shake it all up and the birds are quite happy with this multi-colored mixture. I guess I have to blame it on the wanderlust of our two families, because our grand children are just as mixed as my bird seed concoction. They carry genes from China, Thailand, Laos, Ireland, Germany, and Korea, and at the same time are 100% American.

If this world wide moving continues, we have a chance that in the not too distant future our world could turn into a nice homogeneous mixture like my bird seed. But somewhere along the line Homo Habilis turned into Homo Sapiens and if the past is any indicator, and of course it is, we’ll see people putting on different color shirts, and waving different color flags, and praying to different deities, and instead of seeing what we all have in common, we will focus on how different we all are.

What a lost opportunity.

Whatever happens I am going to try to stay happily retired here in Chiang Mai, spend time with my Homo Globilis children and grand children, and my parakeets, and continue to mix my bird seed and hope for the best.

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