article from February 23, 2011
By Jamie Douglas
When I first started writing and editing for this publication, I wrote several articles that set instant fires in the hearts of some expats, one of which was about the advantages of renting vs. buying real estate.
Mind you, I had no evil intent! What I do have is 40 years of experience traveling and living in foreign countries. Yet, I was rather rudely belittled by a reader asking if I was “blowing smoke,” in reference to my having to bail out of the country I was in very quickly on several occasions. I didn’t much appreciate subsequent commenters asking if I was smoking crack, either, when they disagreed with my opinions.
But anyway, back to having to bail...
In the last few weeks, we have seen several countries with sizeable expatriate communities, not just from the USA and other Anglo nations, their regimes suddenly collapsing or in the process of disintegration or exploding into outright civil war, forcing many expats to grab what they could and get the hell out of Dodge, or rather Cairo, or Bahrain, or Libya. That infamous Domino Theory is working its way through North Africa and the Middle East, and most of those who had to evacuate had to leave virtually everything behind. And you may rest assured that many of them will come back eventually to looted houses and destroyed properties.
Most of those expats where not retirees seeking a safe haven for their income or a cheap place to await the grim reaper. In fact, they were employed by multinational corporations that set them up comfortably with their families, their kids attending private schools, and generally feeling insulated from the daily turmoil and strikes that have been raking the region now for about three years, ever since the USA decided that instead of donating or selling cheaply the surplus grains they were producing, they would turn it into ethanol to feed their hungry SUVs. All that while the price of basic commodities such as wheat, corn and rice have gone through the roof. The Egyptian government was able to pretty much downplay the food riots, where many lost their lives, while the infant death rate from hunger surged worldwide. And now the US Congress has decided to mandate an increase in the amount of ethanol in fuel to 15%, which will soon be gobbling up more untold thousands of tons of edible grains. This is how the USA is destabilizing the world now. It’s the politics of hunger. Even Al Qaeda was caught unaware of the impending fall of the dictatorships throughout the region.
But the fact is, tens of thousands of expats had to run, taking with them only what they could carry. Now to bring this back into context, there is Venezuela, a country in the Western Hemisphere where there are several hundred thousand expats from all over the world, many employed in the energy industry, but also in other industries, high and low tech, along with all the retirees living there. Hugo Chávez is the Moammar Gadhafi of the Americas, a former member of the army who overthrew the government and now acts like a totalitarian madman. His gig will be up sooner, rather than later, and I will not predict how that will play out, but you can bet that there will be a mass exodus of foreigners from Venezuela while the poor masses who are now the backbone of his Bolivarian Revolution will go on a looting rampage before order can be restored. Mark my words!
Now to another subject, the frogs and earthquakes I wrote about a little while back. Yesterday, Christchurch in New Zealand was hit by a second and this time very deadly earthquake. The damages are enormous and my sympathies go out to my many friends in Canterbury. The historic cathedral where “the Wizard” used to preach his anti-American rhetoric is destroyed, and most of the city is under water, with many still trapped inside the rubble of collapsed buildings, fires raging out of control and the fire brigade’s efforts severely hampered by all the broken water mains.
A few days ago, a pod of 100 pilot whales beached themselves on Stewart Island, and those that did not die outright had to be euthanized. Over the last few days, there has been a tremendous amount of seismic activity in that region. With all that seismic activity occurring, it would not surprise me if the beaching of the pilot whales was somehow related to the tremors. But scientists, knowing everything that goes on in whales’ brains, immediately proclaimed that the two events were not related at all! Very interesting. Did the whales telegraph the scientist who made that bold declaration that their pending suicide had nothing to do with magnetic or other anomalies that were happening in preparation of this catastrophic event in Christchurch? Note that this has happened more than every 4 or 5 years, as the photo in this link illustrates. The last major one occurred September 23, 2010. The previous big earthquake occurred September 4, 2010, almost three weeks after the last big mass suicide or disorientation of pilot whales. Could they be related? Perhaps! Perhaps not, but for a scientist sitting in his office in Auckland to make such a broad declaration to me demeans the term “scientist.”
My condolences go out to all the families who have been affected, not just by this natural disaster in New Zealand, but also by the manmade disasters in Libya, where a mad dog has decided that his holding on to power is worth opening fire from aircraft on his own people.
Reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. Park your gas guzzling SUVs and walk a little more. Your heart and lungs will appreciate it almost as much as your descendants will.
I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.