Excerpts from a couple of Expats

First, let me say that I am SO proud of you for being in the world. 

I’ve learned that the stall right before the corner in mercado Diez de Agosto has the best avocados. I’ve learned to look down almost constantly when walking, that mixing mora and coconut juice is probably the best-tasting thing in the world, and that here in *Latin America* you definitely need to be part of something.

Families are like vendors on a feriado, they’re everywhere.  Toddlers wobbling about on their tiny feet, held upright by sometimes attentive moms, tiny kids perched on dad’s shoulders patting you on the head on the buses. Moms and cousins, aunts and grandparents together on a lazy Sunday taking in the sun.

Bereft of that, for now, I take pleasure in devising scandalous scenes in my head, the family in front of me are cold-blooded assasins who’ve been on the run for almost a decade, the kids but decoys.  That huge group of successful-looking adults enjoying dinner together have been sleeping with one another and fantasizing all about it during their seco de pollo course, while keeping smiles and protective arms around their respective spouses.  And that’s fun for a bit, but you tend to forget about other people when you’re a part of something.

Its not about the money its about the humanity and its vital for us to have lives of value.

A while ago, I started on the quest to complete my undergrad degree.  I had taken some time to work and make money, because a private NYC university is quite expensive when you’re me.  In any case, after a while, it became apparent that I needed something more substantial than administrative assistant work.  I found myself without a job, I had no security and no benefits.

I was 12 credits short of graduating, just 12 credits. I had put a year’s tuition on a credit card and I had signed promissory notes for a degree I never received. It was time to strategize and put all my effort into getting a job at that same university so that THEY could pay (since I sure as hell couldn’t) for the remainder of the credits so I could finally touch my diploma.

There are a lot of things that happen when you dream up your plans then accomplish your goals.  You believe in your own power.  You can change your world and nothing is more powerful than that knowledge.

But I could not be trapped, so I used education as my ticket out. I needed to be in the world and I was clever enough to fight for my right to BE.

Summertime on a university campus is magical.  All the services remain but the majority of the students have long gone.  It is wonderful to sit in an almost bare library looking out the window at the skyscrapers that surround you.  To read about worlds you know nothing about in a place that becomes so familiar.  You develop your routines, you know, coffee, book, park…juice, book, lounge….and that’s how I spent that summer, wrapped up in a book and surrounded by possibility.

That fall, I was ready, those books on the reading list were already read, I bought a pack of multi-colored highlighters, my notebook was full of fresh sheets, my pen poised above the first page to record the monumentously important words about to be bequeathed to me. Now I had done this all about a decade before, but this time it meant something more, something my 17 year-old self couldn’t understand – that learning and discovering, this talking about literature and meanings and signifiers is a luxury that exists only in certain sacred places.

The entire semester was a dream, a thread of intellectual gossamer holding me and the works of African and African-American authors to a continent, to a past and present, to a reality, I admittedly knew very little about.  To say that I admired my professor is an understatement, I adored her for giving me the chance to be part of this world again, to open me up to the possibilities that the academic world was within my grasp, for including me in that dialogue as I tried to build up the legs to carry me the rest of the way through this journey. And this was even before getting to know her.

A writer, a mom, a wife, a yoga lover, a reader, a scholar, a black woman. I like the listing of these multiple identities and their placement in my head and heart.

Profe, as I like to call her, has developed into a friend of the heart.  She has stood by me through academic and personal troubles and has been a beacon of a life to come – if I can get all the pieces right.  A humble yet confident woman, a beautiful mix of Afro-Latino-Caribbean soul. It takes a while to get acclimated here in Cuenca, to say that this is my life now and believe it, to think that save for airline tickets, there is no more of an immediate connection to a place called home for so long.

Who was I really? What am I doing now? Where will I be in the future?  I guess we can reinvent ourselves in places we’ve never been, but I’d rather build on the premise that I am ever changing and still me, all the things that make me an individual. Which is why, 7 months into this journey, I was thinking back on other major life decisions and thought of Profe.  I hadn’t been in contact for a long while so I did what anyone with an internet connection would do.  I googled. Googling her brought up a year old article that she had written about why and how she and her family moved and settled in Costa Rica.

Mostly, it was time to leave the USA. I wanted something else outside of the grind of NYC and dirt and subways and expense and terror. I wanted my kids to have a childhood and some freedom and I wanted to slow down and find some time for my dreams.

What?!?!? I’m not the only crazy person to pack up and leave the comforts of NYC?  Profe had done the same and more than a year ago.  If anything is a sign this was it and I left my embarrassment at not having reached out sooner behind and wrote an email.  Barely 24 hours later and I had received one back, full of the curiosity, love, and support I was looking for and not yet finding here.  I read that email about 10 times, it gave me and my experience  substance. It was another voice asking me did I feel the same about trading in what I had left behind for this, this ever-evolving experience.  It reassured me that people are happy elsewhere, that nothing lost is nothing gained.

I wish you such a beautiful life there. Create your homecoming!!!  Create beauty and I wish LOVE for you.  We have to be active agents in this thing called life. 

I wish the same things, Profe, I do, for myself, for you, for the people in this world who are strapping their destinies to their back and forging a path ahead.  I have to find it, my piece of happiness in this great, big planet of ours.



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