The Expat Meme

18 Jul

I lived in the United States for 18 years.

I carry an American passport, and I consider myself American, but the place that I never stopped calling home, as in going home, is the country where I grew up, where members of my family have lived for generations and where my childhood memories lie.

Honduras is a small country. Six or seven million people living on 112,088 square kilometers, with a small economy, and sometimes a large quantity of small minds and greedy hands. But still, it is the place that I’ve always called my country.

I am a very strange mixture. Kind of like that weird new animal that is part zebra and part horse. While life in the United States gave me superior education and a broad cultural awareness, Honduras gave me my basic identity.

I know people who have shunned their Third World self, who have morphed into something not quite American, not quite Hispanic, more like a cheesecake made with queso fresco, or a woolly jumper with cotton frills, but I never did. I like to think that I retained all that is good about being Honduran, and shed all the petty and unworthy traits while becoming a fulfilled, curious human being. I guess I hope to be just a better kind of queso fresco.

And so, having arrived back in Honduras two days ago for a month-long visit, it seems fitting that I should post the Expat Meme, which I found on Charlotte’s Web.

The Expat Meme

5) Name five things you love in your new country

In Pakistan I love:

  • Shopping for beautiful fabrics: hand-embroidered cotton, pure silk, beaded chiffon, hand-woven shawls…

  • Knowing that when a policeman stops our car, he will not look at my husband with suspicion because of his looks or the name on his license.

  • The respect I get for being the wife of a Pakistani citizen, which my husband didn’t get in the United States.

  • The low cost of living. We have a comfortable lifestyle for a tenth of what it costs in the United States.

4) Name four things you miss from your native country

From Honduras I miss:

  • Wonderfully sweet bananas that stay firm for days and don’t come all black and ‘pressed’ as my daughter says.

  • Green landscapes, in spite of deforestation.

  • Driving by the beach in Omoa, with the scent of salt and seaweed invading the car.

  • Laughing and joking with my family, and having them understand the joke.

From the United States I miss:

  • Efficiency and order: Cars that stay in their lane, people who wait their turn and electricity that doesn’t go off.

  • Diversity of people, food and every other thing.

  • Environmental awareness. Nobody gives a thought in Pakistan about chopping off a hundred-year-old tree.

  • Shopping in big, comfortable stores where everything is within my reach, at reasonable prices and without a suspicious salesman following me around.

3) Name three things that annoy you in your new country

  • Garbage everywhere, even in our posh neighborhood, from the empty lot next to our house to the corner of the street near my daughter’s pre-school. I have a nagging suspicion that my neighbor (and landlord) downstairs doesn’t use the basket by the gate meant for the collection truck but simply dumps his rubbish over the fence. There is a sad view of this mountain of refuse from my daughter’s window. Even sadder is the sight of the woman who comes to rummage through it.

  • The total dependence on servants, as they are called here. I’ve seen people who are standing next to the refrigerator ask the maid to get them a glass of water.

  • The unequal distribution of wealth. This is not a poor country; it’s a mismanaged country.

2) Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you when you arrived) in your new country

  • I was surprised to learn that families keep a log of the gifts they give and receive in order to compare the value. There is an obligation to reciprocate in kind or face scorn as the news will certainly spread.

  • Women’s preoccupation with clothes. You are nobody if you don’t get new clothes stitched every season, and your husband is in deep trouble.

1) Name one thing you would miss in your new country if you had to leave

  • Seeing my husband get recognized for being his father’s son.

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2 Responses to “The Expat Meme”

  1. charlotteotter July 18, 2007 at 10:58 am #

    I love what you say about your husband being recognized for his father’s son. I haven’t lived in my hometown in South Africa for twenty years now (and probably never will), but the feeling of belonging when I’m there is intense and very real.

  2. La Gringa July 21, 2007 at 7:00 am #

    Hello, I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed your meme. I’m a U.S. expat and I think I might select the same things that you miss about the U.S.

    Interestingly, the things that annoy you about your new country also annoy me about my adopted country, Honduras. I’m not sure that I would put all three at the top of my list, because corruption would definitely have to be first, but they are annoying!

    Come visit my blog someday. I have lots of pictures of Honduras. Nos vemos….

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