rocks and trees on Flickr.
Nova Scotia is grey and cold. And I don’t just mean the people. Hiyoooo!
Familiarity does breed contempt. Or at least disinterest. Or even just the awareness of the limited options you have. Or maybe I just mean that I’ve gotten very bored of sitting around waiting for my turn on the doctor’s slab* and going through my daily depressing look at the job boards. Anyway, I find it hard to find something to photograph around here in the forest because, ehn. Every five steps bringing you through a bramble of skin-tearing thorns doesn’t help.
I sometimes think about learning to drive a car since I’m living in the ass-end of nowhere and for some reason government organizations seem to think a driver’s license makes you trust-worthy. Then I think about the costs of driving a car. I also think of how much anxiety simply being a passenger gives me. Then I think about how much better it is to live somewhere with great public transportation. I stop thinking about learning to drive at this point.
We know why governments want to you have a driver’s license. It’s another way for them to keep track of you. There’s nothing a government hates more than someone they can’t keep tabs on. And their corporate sponsors sort of set up a consumerist society that hinges on oil. Public transportation means that’s one less car bought, one less home in the suburbs mortgaged, one fewer person going to a box store out in the low-to-no-rent industrial parks, hundreds of dollars less being given to insurance companies, and thousands of liters of gasoline not being bought.
If I wasn’t so fond of regular meals, showers, and internet porn I’d go off the grid just to spite them.
Being an expat means you put yourself under even more direct government scrutiny. Politicians are a lazy, cowardly lot and that means they tend to cater to the ill-informed, selfish aspects of the people they represent. That’s why you need to take an AIDS test when you apply for a work visa in some countries. Anti-foreigner bigotry always comes with the assumption they’re bringing disease with them. That’s as true overseas as it is here. Yet, for some reason, the common-as-karaoke business trips a.k.a. sex tours of developing countries/ meetings a.k.a. lack of regular condom use when visiting the whore house with the boss, is never looked at as a possible disease vector.
Despite the number of indignities that come from expat life, the benefits are also numerous. In a way, you are living off the grid. Few people know you beyond “That foreigner”. You have the freedom to reinvent yourself, and if you get fed up with the situation you’re in, you can simply up and leave. Honour demands you tell the people and organizations that depend upon you before you do so. It sucks when you have to work extra hours to cover for a missing co-worker. It also sucks that, for each unpaid bill someone leaves in their wake, companies make it even harder for an expatriate to use their services. But if you do decide to walk away, no one is going to cross the ocean to track you down for last month’s internet bill or a few hundred in unpaid taxes.
I paid all of my bills and taxes before leaving Japan. It’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to live and work there again given my lack of connections, youth, and good-looks. But just in case I did get back there, I wanted to be able to afford ramen until the first paycheque came in fifty or more days later instead of having my owed money being seized.
The endless Korea vs Japan debate? Your boss in Korea is far more likely to front you some cash until the first payday.
* Update: I think they read this post. The hospital called for my turn on their slab an hour after I put it up. No improvement on the job board as of yet.