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This Expat Life ~ The End is Near

After more than 50 entries, This ExPat Life is coming to an end. Jacob and I are returning to the United States after living as expatriates for two and a half years in Mexico, Costa Rica and China. That doesn’t mean our five-year adventure of traveling and living around the world is over: we’ll just be focusing on the USA, Canada and Mexico for the next 12 or so months.

Looking at the last thirty months of living in foreign countries, it’s no surprise that I was rarely at a loss for something to write about. Some of my favorite stories are: doing laundry with an almost-automatic-washing machine in Costa Rica; when we were illegal immigrants into Mexico; learning Chinese social graces through a meal with my husband’s English students; and being sick abroad.

The strangest entry had to be when a UFO stopped me from getting home from Shanghai to our Chinese city of Wenzhou—but, of course, no one told us this in the airport at 3:00 in the morning: we read about it on line the next day.

It’s a bit harder to reread those that deal with the risks and difficulties of our chosen lifestyle: leaving San Jose, Costa Rica after being robbed three weekends in a month; being propositioned by a Mexican truck driver on a deserted road; and the impossibility of crossing a street thanks to millions of new drivers in China.

Certainly the toughest one to relive was the story of watching a man beaten unconscious on the street and while people watched without coming to his aide. It wasn’t until I received readers’ comments about my safety that it occurred to me that going to help the victim being assaulted by four 250 pound men had, maybe, put me in danger.

But then there are funny postings like How Entertaining is Chinese Food? And let’s not forget the only guest post I’ve had—by Boris the Cat—about his week in human hell.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my stories with you and hope you had as much fun reading about my adventures. You can still keep up with me through my Friday blog Baby Boomers Traveling and can soon look for my new blogging venture dealing with the business of travel and tourism.

The Boomers’ Guide to Going Abroad to Travel|Live|Give|Learn is now available through BookLockerAmazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com. If you’d like to read a free excerpt, just click here BookLocker excerpt and you can read the introduction and the first chapter. BookLocker also has a pdf version available to download instantly on your computer for $9.99. An e-book version will be made available soon.

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This Expat Life ~ You Humans Have It Easy

Guest Blog by Boris the Cat (Translated by Doris Gallan)

For two months now I’ve been reading over the shoulder of this writer as she’s been yammering about her time caring for we five cats and a dog in Guanajuato, Mexico. Well, I can understand her complaining about Boa—who wouldn’t be bothered having to walk a dog? Why can’t they just walk themselves? I’m always asking.

I’m Boris. You heard about me. There was the Shrimp Incident. That’s the one when the writer was so busy watching the dog watching the cats watching the shrimp, that she tripped over her writing box and it came crashing down on the hard tile floor. Apparently it ruined the picture part of it but she just hooked it up to another picture part and kept writing. That woman just won’t stop. more…

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This Expat Life ~ It’s A Noisy World

I’ve often wondered what makes some people early-morning risers while others can’t function until later in the day. My mother tells me I’ve always been of the early-bird variety, waking chipper and ready to go at the crack of dawn.

Living abroad has made rising early to work a necessity as the noise level in the Mexican, Costa Rican and Chinese cities I lived in made it impossible to write after midmorning. The first couple of hours are pretty quiet with just the roosters crowing in the background and the occasional dog barking. Doves coo, birds chirp and the only constant sound is the melodic tapping on my keyboard. more…

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This Expat Life ~ Looking For Heat in All the Wrong Places

When most people think of Mexico, they imagine a hot sun shining down on cacti-strewn deserts or sandy beaches. Few can guess at the cold nights mountains towns shiver through during the winter months.

Having spent a winter in Guanajuato several years earlier, I knew to bring my flannel pajamas and wooly socks. Thankfully, housemate Katie had also put flannel sheets, a down comforter, and several thick blankets on my bed before my arrival.

Central heating is very rare here as is house insulation or windows that seal properly. That means a lot of cold air comes into the house from outside and there’s no way to heat the inside air. All you can do is add more clothing on your body and more blankets on your bed. more…

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This Expat Life: The Ups and Downs of Volunteering Abroad

There are many great reasons for volunteering when you’re living abroad, not the least of which is that it’s pretty hard to do nothing when you see people struggling so much just to survive day to day. You feel good for helping out even just a little bit, you get to meet lots of people in the community, and maybe you get to make a difference in someone’s life.

Jacob and I first came to Guanajuato, Mexico four years ago for an intensive two months of Spanish classes. Through another student at the don Quixote school, we learned of a women’s rights project that might need some help. We jumped in and wrote an English-language website for them in the remaining six weeks—just in time for a U.S. speaking tour the director was about to undertake.

The program director, Vero, had been named one of three worldwide Defenders of Human Rights by Human Rights Watch and was advised by the organization to have a website created to send potential donors to. Of course, she had no resources to make this happen and she was amazed that Jacob and I happened to come to Guanajuato with the right skills just as she needed us. We then went on with our world trip intending to return to this wonderful city where we’d made many good friends.

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

I spent the next couple of years learning all that I could about fair trade businesses, products and shops and visited many in the 42 countries we travel to. The idea of bringing such a project to Guanajuato excited me—I just didn’t know that someone else would beat me to it!

When we returned two years later, we asked Vero what kind of help she needed. Jacob—newly qualified as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language—would end up teaching a group of women at the center and building archive shelves for years of paperwork to be filed away. I undertook to organize their first library and to sort out an economic development project—a fair trade program—that was having a hard time staying alive. Mine would have to wait as there was no sense starting a new one if the existing one wasn’t doing well.

It’s only now, my fourth time in Guanajuato, four years after my first visit that I’m finally able to get it started. Hermelinda, the woman with whom Jacob and I lived while we studied Spanish four years ago, will be sewing sleep masks and pouches that will be sold as part of sleep kits. These will be made available on the Baby Boomers Traveling website and at conferences and travel shows. Later, if we have enough interest, we can start distributing them to stores.

We’re starting small to minimize our risks with only Hermelinda sewing but when we grow bigger she’ll become the trainer and manager of other Mexican women sewing the products. The plan is that, eventually, the entire project will be turned over to them where they’ll own and manage every aspect of the project.

The need for this kind of work never goes away. Even though I’m sure Hermelinda could have used the money earlier, I know I wouldn’t have succeeded with my project if my time had been split between trying to help the other program survive (it didn’t) as well as launching a new one. I’m glad that I held off and waited for the right time and thankfully now that I’m ready, everyone else seems to be willing to jump in as well.

Look for The Boomers’ Guide to Going Abroad to Travel * Live * Give * Learn on sale here in hard copy and in electronic format soon.

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If you would like to subscribe to this blog, click on the envelope next to the word ‘subscribe’ at the top of the left-hand menu. You will receive notification by e-mail every time this blog is updated. I solemnly swear to never sell, trade or give away your information to anyone!!

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