Growing up Expat – The Gains

I wrote about the sacrifices that we make here, but I really wanted to spend these last few weeks before we head home for summer talking about what we have gained.

Being Happy with Less – I’m not trying to get philosophical just yet, I plain and simple mean we live with less amenities than were available to us before.  We can’t run to Target for “anything”, no bathtubs or library story-times, and we often wait weeks for our favorite snacks or supplies to get shipped to us.  All the things that were difficult in the beginning have become normal to us now.  We are no less happy than before, we have just truly come to appreciate life’s simple pleasures and conveniences.   A good latte and a beach can really go a long way for me.   Except for visitors, we still need more visitors.

Perspective on Wealth –  While we live in a wealthy part of town, we regularly see those who have much less in life than we do.   We have driven by the barrios where there are barely walls on the homes, no sanitation services, and families walking around barefoot. I have never been more aware of what I spend on “luxuries” and what that money could do for another family.   We donate a lot, we have been able to participate in many charity opportunities, but it hardly seems like enough.  We have never been exposed to poverty in this way before and I hope that my children continue to understand what it means to  have a philanthropic heart.

Being Okay with Being Different – No matter how well we learn Spanish or dress like the locals, we will always look, speak, act and be different.  We stick out, and that’s okay.  We have learned to be comfortable with the stares and the questions.  Many people mistake us for tourists and they are shocked to learn that we live here.   I think there is an ease about not having to fit in, as long as you do not self-induce any pressure to conform.  Many of the women here dress to the nines everyday.  I do not.  We are a more casual family and we come from a relaxed West Coast lifestyle.  I have found myself on occasion dressing up to attend school functions and then I ask myself why?  Am I paying respect to their culture or do we all just want to fit in?  Either way, I am aware that being confident in being different is a life skill… one I hope my children will continue to develop as our time here continues.

Quality of Life –  Cost of living here is much cheaper and therefore, we live a life we could never afford in the States.  Pedicure’s are $7.50, a dinner out is $35, and the movies are $5 a ticket.   We have a beautiful apartment with amazing views.  We have someone come to our home 2 sometimes 3 times per week and help with the cleaning, some errands and some baby-sitting.  Let me just say it here, I do not take this for granted, it is a LUXURY!  I feel spoiled in a major way, and I will probably devote a whole post to the topic of hired help and how we have adjusted to this cultural element.  My children go to an international school and are so lucky to be exposed to the cross-cultural elements that come with friends from all over the world.  We gave up a lot of “normal” life to be here and I try to remind myself that these are some of the reasons why.

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