My personal ad would read something like:
“Middle-aged woman, repatriated Expat, desperately seeking Authentic Thai Green Curry. Looking for homemade curry paste full of fiery hot crushed Birds Eye peppers. Prefer Thai eggplant. No peas or carrots. Fusion Pan Asian Curries need not respond.”
During the last few years, I’ve searched the Pacific Northwest for this perfect food with little to no success. I didn’t expect to miss this dish so much. I didn’t realize that my “comfort” food had changed so dramatically. When I initially moved to Thailand, I anticipated the culture shock of living in a new land. However, I didn’t expect to feel the same coming home. The longing for the familiar, the adrenaline rush of new experiences, the comparisons, the misunderstandings, the hilarious observations. Apparently it’s called Reverse Culture Shock and it’s real. Three years later, when you expect to be done with all that, it hits you right in the face, like a PNW wind and rain storm that turns your umbrella inside out.
Back then at age 53 with two grown children and a marriage spanning three decades, what in the world was I thinking? Up until we made the decision to move abroad, we had lived in the same suburban home for almost 20 years and the Pacific Northwest for…53.
My husband, Rick, and I really thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Personally, I thought, “I would be able to reach out and experience the world in a more gritty way. To connect with cultures, people, the earth. To feel exhilarated and exhausted. To experience life from a different, gritty, vantage point that challenged my beliefs and caused me to grow intellectually, personally, spiritually.” At least that’s what I wrote in my job application essay. I soon learned that I had vastly underestimated words like “gritty, exhilarated and exhausted.” But we adapted. We learned. We changed. It was fabulous.
So our return to the US has been a long, interesting, and surprisingly bumpy ride. Feeling like a foreigner in the place I have lived for most of my life has given me a brand new look at my own culture. Yes, even the PNW can be “gritty, exhilarating and exhausting”. So, here I am – finally ready to reveal my personal adventures as an Ex-Expat. I guess I’m going Gonzo.
Not familiar? “Gonzo” Journalism was coined to describe the style of writing first honed by Hunter S. Thompson, a 1970s icon and writer without a filter. It’s a style of journalism in which the writer involves themselves in the action to such a degree that they become the central figure of the story. Thompson was a cutting edge, often offensive writer that brought insight through participation in everything he wrote about. He was a radical in his field – changing the rules to fit an ever changing world.
So, this could be interesting. I’m nothing like Hunter S. Thompson. In fact, is it even possible to be a middle class, middle aged, well-organized and trustworthy Gonzo Journalist?
Maybe. Because whenever the waitstaff asks, “How many spicy stars do you want in your curry?” My answer is always, “How many you got?”
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