Friday, March 30, 2012

Travel With Me, Uncertainly

I am only partly here, and only for a short time.

Vagueabond: A person who drifts from country to country but is unable to find a place where everything is right. This sort of person may be looking for perfection, or if not exactly that, at least the place that is better than all other places could possibly be.

This person is also not a traveler, being driven and not drawn. Shunning adventure, not seeking it. Looking for The One True Home for her or his particular soul. But unfortunately the Vagueabond cannot define or describe what it is that is there that would make the place so special, except by negatives.

Not here, not now. Not there, not then. Somewhere. Maybe. Somewhere that is not like anywhere else.

And so the quest continues.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Does Latin America Exist?

I've been reading about a certain country south of here for around three years. I've been thinking of moving there.

Mainly, I'm cheap. Because I have to be, not having much to live on. And with less to come. And there are the other things. You know. Or maybe you don't.

For one thing, when you get to be older it becomes harder to change jobs, or to find work if you don't have it. What "older" means depends on a person's sex, geography, educational level, and field of work. And sometimes makes some sense. If physical ability is important, and a person can no longer maintain an even strain, then that's it right there.

But most work these days isn't seriously physical, so what about the rest?

Sometimes, just appearing older than one's workmates is enough. Or being in a "young" field. No matter how profoundly stupid this whole ethos is, it is. The young don't catch on because, well, they are young. When this situation hits them they are both no longer young and can't avoid it anyway.

So there's that.

And then "older" is also a matter of experience. For instance, in more and more kinds of employment these days, if you have significant experience you are considered dated. Somehow it is assumed that once you have learned one thing, you can't learn another. And since you have been doing one thing for a while, you are no longer up-to-date. That is, you have become expendable.

So there we are.

Some parts of Latin America look not bad at all. I'm ready to try now. I just have to find out how to get there.

A lot of people take a trip or two or three, and then make the transition. I don't know any of them. I also can't afford to go flying around, staying places while maintaining a residence "back here", and spending money on sightseeing and exotic experiences and hotels and eating out everywhere.

I just want to go.

Nah. Not working out. Not so far.

I mean, though I want to start the process, it doesn't look like there is any way to do it. I've tracked the reports of many others who have moved and resettled, and none of them quite knows how it happened. No two pieces of advice are the same. No one has ever, in the many reports and hundreds of comments that I've read, ever described, step by step, a definite process.

Some recommend a certain resource, usually a lawyer, but the information is always vague. Sometimes it's a name and a city. And even those who freely admit to going this route always report massive confusion, false starts, dead ends, waiting, fear, frustration, and, if they say they finally did it, can't quite find the words to say how.

So right.

I'm looking at a place everyone has heard of. Not too big. Not too famous. Not too far off. Somewhat on the fringe, in a way. Others seem to be there, and to be doing well, and all that. And I thought I had about as much information as it was possible to get. As much as I needed.


When I sat down last weekend to actually lay out my plan and start doing actual things, I realized that, as has been said before about other situations, you can't get there from here.

I have to get certain documents, and send them to certain consulates, and do some shuffling and get stamps and translations and various things done to or with my documents, and I understand that. But the consulate staffs, as has been reported and repeatedly confirmed, do not speak English. At all. No one.

Also, although the consulates may have email addresses, those don't work. Telephoning may reach an unconnected number, or a voice mail system that cannot accept messages. Street addresses can sometimes be found, but they may not be addresses that accept mailed-in documents, if they are real at all.

So it's a wash.

One comment I've seen is that the one who knows the most is the last person to have completed the process. Others say that you have to go in person, and hand-carry things, and take a translator, and really be persistent.

Though this does not help if the doors are locked and the lights are out, even if you've found the right building at what should be the right time of day on the right day of the week.

Yet others recommend this attorney or that one, though not even the attorneys show up when needed. Though I guess they still charge.

One woman reported being about one step from success when the person across the counter said to her that her city of birth did not exist because it was not in the computer system. She could not change it to the city she had lived in all her life because that was not her city of birth. Adding her city of birth was also not possible because doing that was not allowed. It made no difference what her birth certificate said.

Which is why I now think that Latin America is an internet hoax. Latin America does not exist. If it did exist then it would be possible to do more than read about it. It would be possible to go there, and, obviously, no matter how many people write about it, or tell their experiences, it simply is not possible to actually connect.

Go ahead, try.

Therefore, there is no Latin America. Latin America does not exist. Which makes me wonder if I am living right on the edge of an unpublished J. R. R. Tolkien story. One that is rumored about but which cannot be read because both the place that the story is about and the book are mythical.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Not From Around Here

I'm widely known at home.

Local national: A citizen who and works and lives in the home country.

Local national: Host-country nationals. People hired for jobs within their own country.

Local national: (U.S.) Anyone, anywhere in the world who will work for less, and do it with a smile.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I'm In!

Tickling the beast from the inside.

Inpatriate: A foreign-national employee on assignment in the headquarters country.

Inpatriate: One living in exile in one's own country.

Inpatriate: Foreign national employees transferred to work in the home country of an international organization. Can be either temporarily or permanently.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Running For The Exit

America, leave it.

A year or two back Mega-Omni Corp. told its employees they had a wonderful new employment option. Move to a randomly-assigned foreign country at half pay or be cut loose.

More recently GloboPlex proudly announced that because of the rebounding U.S. economy they would start adding thousands of new jobs in Singapore.

A lot of Americans, enticed by the giant sucking sound but skittish of continuing to work for corporate overlords, are trying the idea on for size.

For example, take an engineer with six or eight years of college and 25 years of experience. Obviously this person is unemployable in the United States because:

  • They've seen every kind of crap there is to see, and won't take it anymore,
  • They want to try doing something fun for a change, and
  • While having fun they want to make a difference, and
  • Education and experience make them too expensive to keep on the payroll.

All good reasons to bail.

All kinds of people are doing this, not just engineers. Accountants, plumbers, doctors, bus drivers, professors, librarians, electricians. You name it, especially if they're over 40. You know what they say: "Too old to work, too young to compost."

So these people, a lot of whom have Social Security checks amounting to a few hundred dollars a month and boxes full of unfulfilled promises from former employers and government, are vacating the premises.

If they were 20 or 30 years younger and foreigners, they'd have corporate sponsors pounding on the doors of Congress to let them into the U.S. as contract workers. But since these people are experienced adult citizens it looks like their best chances for a life are elsewhere.

In a press conference about its Singapore move GloboPlex spokesman Bert Stench said, "We've outsourced just about everything. Maybe we have to start putting people on planes and dumping them at sea. We're working on it as we speak."

Meanwhile things are happening in other countries. "There's a feeling among more entrepreneurial Americans that if you really want to get anything done, you have to get out of country and away from the depressing atmosphere," said Bob Adams of America Wave.

He lives in Panama.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Assignment Letter

You send me, with specifics.

In the world of rules and regulations, you may be sent somewhere to do a thing for money.

You have an assignment. One that is important to the superstructure that feeds you.

Your assignment is defined on paper, in an assignment letter. Because this is all formal and all.

You get your terms and conditions. Like where-to, for how long, to do what, and why, and how much you get out of it (besides being allowed to keep your job).

And when, and how, and presumably if you get to come back, which is the usual thing, though you ought to check to be sure.

And you never know who's going to remember this all, so you need it in writing. In a letter. An assignment letter.

And then make sure it's backed up somehow. Airtight. You know, just to be safe.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


If I were you I might be a better something or other.

If many expats have Type A personalities, but not all do, then some must be Type B.

The description of Type B uses words like apathetic, patient, relaxed, easy-going, unscheduled, sensitive. So a sloth, albeit a genial one.

But a nice expat is more, and a great one is even more than that.

Think someone who notices the ways of others, different ways, and doesn't step in to make corrections. Think waiting. Think watching. Think learning. Think thinking.

Think thinking that different ways could be worse, or better. Or just different.

Think someone who tries to be a good neighbor. Someone who starts a library, or volunteers. Maybe teaches part-time, for no gain, to be useful. Someone who spends a few dollars for shirts so the kids can look like a real soccer team. Someone who learns the language.

Someone who sweeps the street out front, and for the neighbors too.

Someone people come to think of as pretty much OK. Which is more than OK.

It's great.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Rampaging amped-up Type A-minus personalities.

Give a person a few too many decades of life and first they get cranky, then they figure they have to retire somewhere warm and cheap and annoy people.

Suddenly they are fabulously wealthy on an $800 pension and damn well want everyone to know who the new boss is.

First they hire a maid, then a gardener, and possibly a cook, all to help with work in a one-bedroom cottage with no yard and nothing going on.

Free-floating hostility is a distinguishing characteristic. Any little old thing will set off one of these yokels. Some common causes of temper tantrums in stores, banks, and cafes are being delayed more than one second, getting confused due to deafness in one ear and poor hearing in the other, and not understanding anything because of refusing to learn the language.

Meanwhile, they feed off the goodness of the locals while complaining that those same people are all worthless thieves and idiots.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vacating Without Vacationing

Oh, right, that. Nothing serious. Only a business trip.

Business trip: An assignment overseas, usually related to an employee's regular responsibilities, in which the employee remains in any one location for only a limited period, almost always less than three months.

Unless said person is kidnapped, shot by the secret police, eaten by spiders, or goes native.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Story Of Citizen-Applicant

A sort-of fractured all-too reality.

Citizen-Applicant had business with Government Bureau.

At Government Bureau's office, Citizen-Applicant met Certified-Bureau-Official.

Citizen-Applicant's question was simple. It was general.

Citizen-Applicant sat, then asked.


Citizen-Applicant was instructed to fill out the form. First.


Name, address, age, date of birth, Government Bureau Identification Number (GBIN), street address, city, state, zip code. Mother's maiden name.

Said Certified-Bureau-Official.

Only a simple, general question applying to any Citizen-Applicant.

Not requiring any personal information.

So how about it?

What if I just ask?

Said Citizen-Applicant.

No. The form. Fill it, Certified-Bureau-Official said. The form must be filled. We have rules. Fill it. The Form. With a Capital. F.

Overruled by Certified-Bureau-Official again and again, Citizen-Applicant complied. Smeared marks onto a plastic card with a thick black marker.



Certified-Bureau-Official said Citizen-Applicant's mother was unknown and asked if Citizen-Applicant had been adopted.

No, not even once.

Certified-Bureau-Official was unhappy. Certified-Bureau-Official asked for an updated address.

Address hasn't changed. In 15 years. Said Citizen-Applicant. And not adopted.

Certified-Bureau-Official requested proof.

Citizen-Applicant, bold, asked the question. Anyway.

It was only a simple one. A simple question.

Proof? No proof, said Citizen-Applicant, and I only have a general question.

Ah, simple then, said Certified-Bureau-Official. Come back next month. Come back next month, and we'll give you Letter-A.

But I have Letter-A, said Citizen-Applicant, and I need Letter-B, can I get it now or do I need to wait until my eligibility is no longer a promise but a reality, a fact? What then?


Yes, said Certified-Bureau-Official. Starting next month, for no particular reason, come again, here, and you can receive Letter-A. If you ask.

I have Letter-A.

I need Letter-B.

Said Citizen-Applicant.

I do not understand said Certified-Bureau-Official. I cannot give you Letter-A until next month.

I have Letter-A.

I need Letter-B.

Said Citizen-Applicant.

Certified-Bureau-Official then assumed what appeared to be the martial-arts posture called Terrifying Sleeping Dragon. And ceased moving for a bit.

Citizen-Applicant, aware of nearby uniformed guard, did not try crawling.

Under the glass partition.

To strangle.


For amusement.

Come along then, month after next, when your eligibility is no longer a promise but becomes a monthly fact.

Then we will give you Letter-B, said Senior-Certified-Bureau-Official strolling up to window.


Letter-B? Said Citizen-Applicant.

You will give Letter-B? To me?

Yes, said Senior-Certified-Bureau-Official.

Letter-B. It will be so. Month after next.

No probs, said Senior-Certified-Bureau-Official, stroking its official necktie device.

That is what I believed all along, thought Citizen-Applicant, in his car, already blocks away.

It was only a simple question after all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Arrr & Arrr

Keeps your mind in tip-top ship-shape condition.

Rest-and-Recreation leave: This is a stretch of time. Periodic chunks of time off, away from work, considered to be distinct from ordinary vacation time or home leave, and given to expatriates in areas where living conditions are particularly difficult.

This sort of leave may last one or two weeks and may be available once or twice a year.

You don't get this with any small company, let alone one you have started. But if it's a mega-multi-national, and the cyborgs who run things like you, or feel that you have not been used up yet, you may be allowed to have this sort of leave.

If you are lucky and/or unlucky enough to be working for such a company, your R&R leave probably includes travel expenses on the house, and per diem expenses, which you get to spend, guilt free. But may have to pay for by giving up your soul.

For that you get a change of scenery every now and then.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mon Ami R Not You

Enemies maybe. Let's think about it.

Emigeezer: Someone old and cranky who has come to your country to live, and who may or may not like it a whole lot. Probably not, judging by how they act.

Many of them get exercise by complaining that the locals (like you) don't speak the right language, or they simply yell because nothing improves language comprehension like volume.

They like maids, too, and gardeners, and some of the other help available on the leftovers from a $1000 a month Social Security check. Plus the warm weather, but not the bugs that go with it.

Of course this kind of life is not for everyone. Those with more financial resources like to spend $300,000 on houses that formerly went for under $18,000, if sold to locals.

Or better yet, they like to buy in to a gated community, where the help has to check in, and wear security badges while earning their $1.75 an hour, and learning the right way to live. From the cranky geezers.

And the right way to live is on a golf course, near tennis courts, with heated swimming pools, yoga classes, and massage therapists on call 24/7. And lots of barbed wire around the edges, just in case some of the help's relatives are tempted to come by for a peek.