Monday, January 20, 2014

The Useful Expat

article from August 9, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

As an expat retiree, having settled into your new home country, satellite dish hooked up, reasonably fast Internet allowing you to communicate via Skype with the rest of the world, including those pesky relatives who tried so hard to keep you from following your dream and in the end just writing it all off to “the oldsters are losing their minds,” you may occasionally find yourself a wee bit bored.

In the “real world,” you know, the one you inhabited and worked in before you lost your marbles, you had a job, acquired skills through many years of doing that job and, as a home owner and car owner, chances are pretty good that you accumulated a wealth of knowledge that you could be sharing in your new digs.

After living in the area where you are, you surely learn of some of the shortcomings of various things and practices, and in dealing with them, you have a couple of choices. You can talk to your fellow expats about how lame “these people” are, or you can make friends with these folks who could probably gain a lot from your knowledge. The countries below the Tropic of Cancer seem to be the ones that magically draw expats, for various reasons, so it is this region that can gain the most from volunteer advisors who step in to assist with various projects, presenters at schools who share their culture with growing minds and expats who simply show by example. There is no better way to teach people than by example.

As many parts of the planet are being affected by more and more shortages of that life-sustaining fluid, water, there are ways to teach people about homemade drip irrigation systems, utilizing old water hoses or the cheapest available kind of tubing, joining it together properly and laying it out where it needs to be, and only then, bring out your battery powered Makita to drill the tiny little holes right where they need to be. While you are at it, you can also make sure that all the pipes leading to the house are not leaking, as well as perhaps fixing leaky faucets. It’s the little things, you know.

If you are in an area that is infested with the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, a very small little pest that, every year, kills untold numbers of people all over the world with diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever and something I just recently learned about, Chikungunya disease, which is similar to dengue, but much worse (so sorry – only available in Africa). So you will actually save lives by going around and educating people in gentle ways about how standing water in bowls and barrels, as well as puddles, are the main breeding ground for these pests. Perhaps the local vector control people (if there are any) will be able to supply you with printed materials you may pass out, while stressing how important the removal of standing water is to the family’s health and well being.

Everyone has something to bring to the table, and the smallest things can make you a more of a member of a community instead of an outsider. You might be amazed when you see the smiles greeting you in the street or stores while you are out and about. That is essentially what being a good ambassador for your country is. You will find yourself invited into people’s homes, participating in important events in their lives, such as baptisms, weddings, birthdays, and holidays, and suddenly find that you don’t need that satellite dish so much anymore.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where the Malbec Wine is so good, the Aedes Aegypti get confused and drink the wine instead of the blood, keeping us dengue free.

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.