Expat Coffee Talk – these are the days of our L.I.V.E.S.

Expat Coffee Talk – these are the days of our L.I.V.E.S.

This post has been brought to you by the Chronicles of LIVES – Living in Very Entertaining Situations.

I’m a Canadian who lives in Spain. Forget about the “Canadian” part for a moment. I’m an expat who has chosen to live in a land far, far away that isn’t my home country. Are you American, Australian or from another part of the world and have always wondered why people like me leave their country of origin to go live somewhere else?

Maybe you’re that person that only travels to other countries to spend time on the beaches, a.k.a. all inclusive resorts. If you are then perhaps you’ve asked your expat friends when they’re planning on returning to their country of origin, because surely, they don’t plan on being away from “home” forever….right? “What about being close to your family?” “Raising your kids?” No? Ok, ok, well, I hope I’m wrong. One thing is someone growing up with the same friends all their life, getting married in the same town, having kids in the same town, and having the same job in the same town, but another thing is being presumptuous and expecting everyone else to do all that. There are friends who grow up in the same city and travel to places like Punta Cana and Riviera Maya, and believe that they’ve seen the country, or *cough* *cough* the world.

I digress.

It could be that our expat friends who live away from their country of their upbringing call their new residence “home”. Thank goodness for the existence of diversity of thoughts because I’m an expat and do not call my country of residence “home”. I’m fortunate to be able to call both Canada AND Spain my home. What, you think that just because I’ve left my native land I don’t think of it as “home” anymore? Or just because I’m a foreigner in Spain means that I can’t call it “home”? I actually feel comfortable calling two completely different countries “home” because I’ve been lead to feel that way. Plus, it’s a complicated way of life and I like it 🙂

Maybe you have expat friends who believe that there are no such thing as borders along countries, that if they feel like living elsewhere then they will go do it.

I always wondered how expats do it. Do they just wake up one day and say that they feel like picking up their stuff and moving to a foreign country? What if they don’t even speak the language? What then?

Do expats move to be adventurous? Or because they are adventurous? If by adventurous they mean that they’ve been treated differently because they’re not from that country, or misunderstood because it’s not their native language, then I’ve been there! Like I said, my way of living is complicated but I always feel like it was worth the move.

So, what’s it like living in Spain? I’ll have to leave that topic for another time now, so feel free to stay tuned.

Signing off,

Shamim Sobhani

 

Photo courtesy of Utomo Hendra Saputra

 

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How I was stalked by a man in a trench coat

How I was stalked by a man in a trench coat

It’s midday and I’m walking towards downtown Manzini, Swaziland. It’s so hot and dry that I feel like I’m inside an oven.

As I cross the street, a man dressed in a trench coat appears out of nowhere and starts walking beside me. I immediately shudder. It doesn’t take me long to remember that I’m living in a country where rape, HIV and AIDS are rampant. Everyday since I’ve been in this country I’ve heard stories about terrible things that have happened to people, particularly to females. My next thought is “how do I get rid of the stranger?” By “rid” I mean how do I make him go away without crossing him. I know full well that it´s not safe to walk alone after dark, but in the middle of the day? It definitely isn’t a good idea to pay attention to this man even in broad daylight, let alone try my humanitarian (the reason I was in Swaziland in the first place) skills on him because I’m by myself. My only chance of pulling myself out of this situation is to scope it out. Plus, he was wearing a trench coat at noon on one of the hottest days of the year.

The mysterious trench coat man doesn’t show signs of giving up on pursuing me. He’s mumbling, more to himself than to me. I make out some phrases, “I’ll stay with you for 2 years, at least…”. Has he mistaken me for someone he recognizes? He’s starting to make me nervous so I tell him that he needs to leave me alone. He refuses. The fact that he’s persistent is building me up with fury. “No” means “no”.

I decide to go into a shopping mall, confident that he will disappear, but this plan fails. So now I’m hoping that by entering the grocery store in the mall, the sight of people will scare him away. Doesn’t work either. Everyone is staring at us while this persistent stranger follows me all throughout the store, while I pick up items to buy, while I wait in line to pay, after I pay, and even after I leave the grocery store. I didn’t think the situation would go this far. “Why isn’t anyone doing anything to help me?” I think. I hope they don’t think I know this person.

I’m outside again, and I spot the building where I work, but I decide it wouldn’t be wise to enter there because it’s Saturday and no one is working. I turn to trench coat man and threaten to call the police. He doesn’t budge and replies “Go ahead, call the police”. What the…? Is he challenging me? His resistance to my very firm expressed wishes is making me angrier and angrier. How DARE he doesn’t give me my Canadian definition of “space” which I call my privacy (about metre radius of space around me)?

Instead of feeling powerless, I feel empowered to do something. Feeling smothered, angry and overwhelmed by his unwanted presence, I actually fear what I might do to this guy. The thought of physically harming this guy runs through my mind. Lucky for the guy, I don’t make a rash decision. I see my friends’ shop a few meters away and, I slightly speed up my walk over there. Trench coat guy asks me, nonplussed, why I’m walking so “briskly”,  that I shouldn’t be afraid of him. Annoyed at his perplexed behaviour, I tell him that it’s HIM who should be afraid…of me.

My friends see me from indoors looking panic-stricken and bounce to their feet at once and I blurt out that this guy has been following me for a very long time. They don’t let me down and come to my rescue. The second my feet touch the floor of the shop, with the mysterious guy right behind me, I run all the way to the back of the store for refuge because I can’t take any of this anymore. I hear my friends running after trench coat man in the background. I never saw him again.

Fortunately (for him) I did not stumble upon trench coat man again during the rest of my stay in Southern Africa, which back was in 2007.

Featured image courtesy of Yousif Malibiran.

Signing off –

Shamim Sobhani

Pizza, anyone?

Pizza, anyone?

This is a non-complex post about pizza and memories.

The picture below is my creation of a pizza, prepared with my own bare hands, only to be devoured in a matter of minutes. What can I say – it was scrumptious.

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“Friday night pizza”

I’ve started a tradition of making pizzas on Friday nights, which is the perfect time to zone out while catching up on my favourite TV shows. A reward for vigorously scrubbing the bathtub and cleaning the house.

Nostalgia. This new tradition’s reminded me of the time my friends and I used have mafia marathons every Friday night when I lived in Israel about eight years ago. This involved getting together and eating pizzas while watching the Godfather movies.

Whoever thought pizza could create a special and permanent memory?

Signing off –

Shamim Sobhani