Monday, May 10, 2010

La Vida Expatica, #1

A nascent idea for a new series of posts...

I take comfort in surveying my things - clothes, art, notebooks, etc. - and realizing that a particular sundress or the yellow, brown and magenta abstract floral painting hanging on the wall of my office have accompanied me over several continents and through multiple years.

As expats we say so many goodbyes to people, places, even pets. It's hard, but I think most come to terms with that aspect of the lifestyle sooner or later. I can even see the silver linings in leaving so much that's dear to our heart behind: you get to meet and connect with hundreds more amazing people than those who don't live abroad (or in different cities distant enough either in miles or in culture to feel like different countries). That alone is worth the goodbyes, for sure.

You also tend to become a minimalist. I mean, I suppose some people are lucky enough to get sufficient container shipments paid for by their work to hold onto everything they so desire...but really I don't envy those people, despite lusting after their furniture and art.

I think when you have to constantly fit your possessions into two suitcases and a few air cargo boxes, you are forced to evaluate what's *really* important to you, to your happiness. There is an important line between what's nice to have and what's essential to have (to one's soul/well-being, I mean, not essential as in shelter and clean water - if you're an expat, you're likely already MASSIVELY thankful for all those aspects of 'essential'). The things you do keep, and haul halfway around the world with you, are the ones that are really worth hanging on to. The rest, at some level, is clutter.

The 'primavera ambulante' dress was made in Vietnam but now lives in California. I love that I'm posing so glamourously in front of a stack of bricks.

I take great pleasure in rediscovering and reusing the objects that have accompanied me over the last 15 years. It's like, by wearing that fabulous raspberry-colored wool overcoat I got at Zara back in 2001(in Rio, of all places), I am somehow reconnected with the Ali that was back then. I remember who my friends were, the apartment I lived in, the obsessions I had at the time (weight, bad skin, how to avoid taking Administração Financeira at school). It's a bit like reading through an old journal...the verbal and visual snippets from our past jolt us back in time, to an expired incarnation of self, if only for a few moments.


Jody said...

I love how creative I have become in making do with what I have. Using a rum bottle for a rolling pin for example, or never having used measuring utensils. Then, when I finally think I am going to buy something I think I "need", I stand in the store wondering why I actually need it when I have done fine without it so long. I leave the store empty handed.

I do dream about the day I am re-united with my crystal and china that we received as wedding gifts 8 years ago, because I would love to throw a proper dinner party- one that won't require me to borrow pans, and the plates all match. But somehow those parties of mix-matched people and glassware made the best memories, confirming it is more the people and the place and not so much what I can (or more so cannot) fit in my 2 suitcases.

I definitely relate!

Ali la Loca said...

~Jody - The pleasure of being reunited with one's crystal and china was definitely one of the perks of establishing a permanent residence here at Casa Cali. We have so many gorgeous dishes from my family, and I totally follow the philosophy that the "good china" is meant to be used every day! I do have a massive soft spot in my heart, however, for the dinner parties that involved borrowed silverwear and guests bringing their own seating. (I also did the rolling pin trick for many years, but with a tall drinking glass instead of a rum bottle!).

Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree more, ali! great post.

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