Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Geographic purgatory

I feel like I’m in geographic purgatory – not planning to stay, not quite able to leave, enjoying it for the moment.  That strange expat culture based around where you’re not rather than where you are.  The British club, 189 Suriwong Road Bangkok; American Women’s Club, 171-173 Soi Phromsri, Sukhumvit 49/11 Bangkok; Drehscheibe, Embassy of United Germany, Bangkok, German speaking women meet to play tennis and go on excursions as well as lending a hand in orphanages.

And so it goes; move thousands of miles from home and you will find, most likely, members of your home country banding together pretending they never left if only just the 2nd Sunday of each month.  Move thousands of miles from home, and after the honeymoon wears off, after you’ve gone through the United States Department of State stages of culture shock, from honeymoon to initial culture shock to initial adjustment to secondary culture shock and so forth, that someday you too will open your front door to find the Wrong Country outside.  On those days you’ll close your door and go back inside to your carefully curated living space, one that will always be more western than your neighbor’s even if you’ve tried to go native, and you will spend your day making apple fritters with grey market USAID flour.  You will join other expats on the tenis court and you will be oblivious to the poverty of your home country as you lend a hand at local orphanages on the other side of the planet.

Being an expat feels like existence outside of reality some days.  You suddenly have a nuanced understanding of shades of grey as they related to the acquisition of goods and services.  You meet people who work in “logistics” and despite multiple drinking sessions you still have no idea what industry they’re in.  Perhaps most interestingly, you befriend anyone and everyone who speaks your language.

Expat communities are by their nature transient.  When you make friends at “home” you plan to know them for a while, you have an entire city of people to choose from and so you carefully select people you want to spend large portions of your life with over time.  Making friends as an expat is different.  As long as the person isn’t downright insane, a weapons dealer, or (due to my job restrictions at the time) in the intelligence community friendship is fair game.  There were 50-ish English speakers in my province, holding out for someone with shared interest wasn’t an option, so you make up shared interest – go Springboks!

Anyway, I’m having this strange temporary permanence feeling again even though I’m very firmly in America.  In some ways it feels odd, but in other ways it’s helpful.  It is easier to meet people, I’m more open to being an interloper in other people’s idea of fun, and it reminds me of where I’m coming from.

Written by kinkinexile

August 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Posted in headspace

4 Responses

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  1. This is fascinating because you’re completely and utterly right about the expat thing. I’m an expat living away from England and no matter how long i’ve spent here, everyone congregates together in their “english speakers” crowd, a motley crew of people you would probably never socialise with “at home” but to whom you gravitate to because you have the shared experience of being foreign in a foreign country. The only permanent thing is the transient nature of these communities. I hope you feel less odd about everything soon and remember the good things that come from being able to mix in with people like that. 🙂

    lipstickandligature

    August 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  2. I’ve a friend who lived in the Caribbean and we were commiserating quite a while ago after my return from Europe. You expect culture shock when you head away from home but my friend and I were commenting on how hard re-entry is, and how long it takes. We both found that it seems cyclic, that weird feeling of being out of place even though you are home. It strikes me still (and I think it is no coincidence that it is happening during a Prez election year). I’ve been looking into overseas options for our family recently and thinking that as long as I am going to feel like a foreigner I might as well have the environs to match. Even if we stay though, the feeling is, as you said, something we can use to inform how we choose to live and enrich our experiences.

    Your observations about the ex-pat community are soooo spot on. My circle of friends over there included people I would never have sought out in the states, and I certainly wouldn’t have cultivated their friendship, but everything is very different when you feel so isolated and out of place and it changes your assumptions. I feel I benefited a great deal from having those people (most of them anyway) in my life, even for just a couple years. I think it also freed up some of my preconceived ideas about people and meaningful relationships, which is a good thing.

    DD

    August 6, 2012 at 8:38 am

  3. This…

    Expat communities are by their nature transient. When you make friends at “home” you plan to know them for a while, you have an entire city of people to choose from and so you carefully select people you want to spend large portions of your life with over time. Making friends as an expat is different. As long as the person isn’t downright insane, a weapons dealer, or (due to my job restrictions at the time) in the intelligence community friendship is fair game. There were 50-ish English speakers in my province, holding out for someone with shared interest wasn’t an option, so you make up shared interest – go Springboks!

    …reminds me a lot of travelling the way I have been, and its intersection with what I’ve come to call “locality privileges.” A different framework for a similar concept, perhaps. Something we could enjoy spending some time talking about, methinks. Over a meal. And after a shower….

    Missing you, hope you’re well.

    maymay

    August 7, 2012 at 11:50 am

  4. In my -still continuing – years of “exile” it has really become my home country, the USA, that is a sort of geographic purgatory. In part this is a function of time; I left in 1999. But it is more a function of attitude; I have no plans to move back permanently. So when I do come back it always feels unsatisfyingly temporary. Just as I enjoy the food, I also crave the sort of relationships – those that have more of a basis in mutual appreciation of sameness than in mutual appreciation of difference – that should be easier to find at “home.” But my permanent transient-ness impedes or precludes their development in a way somewhat like a mirror image of the fast friends among the “expats” abroad who would never know each other at home. However, for me at least, exile has one great joy or maybe power. It the knowledge that you can always leave (I know that is not the case for all “expats,” think here of, say, Bangladeshi construction workers in Dubai [but they do not fit the standard “expat” script]). It is not that I would leave. It would not be easy, but the idea of it and that is ultimately not my problem “gets [one] through many a bad night.”

    semuren

    August 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm


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