…from a Third World country
Where does the story start? Maybe the beginning should be the reason for wanting to leave one’s country of residence for another. So that’s as good a place to start as any.
As a British couple we have moved to and lived in four countries and are now contemplating our fifth. Why would we want to move from a beautiful, warm, fairly cheap, tropical country to a little island in the middle of the Med?
Language can be a big barrier. Later in life (not really old old) learning a new language can be a challenge. Especially when the locals don’t speak their own as one would expect. Dropping syllables, running words together. And my god, talk about “motor mouth”! And not many speak or want to speak English. Ever felt like an autistic child in a classroom of normal kids? Well, that’s what it’s like. But we have a few words down pat, enough for the essentials. However, in the beginning, trying to get utilities and house stuff sorted out without a translator was a nightmare!
Then there’s the problem of having work done by the “tradesmen”. Many of them profess to do everything but turn out to be Jacks of all trades and masters of none. For example, having cabinets made for the kitchen. Beautiful solid wood. Gave the carpenter a scale drawing and all the required measurements, exactly where the cupboards are to go… That was a waste of time!
A month later, some of the cabinets show up on the top of a taxi, with the carpenter and helper, in the cab. Supposed to be normal height from the counter to the ceiling. Two sets of doors and several shelves, the lower for everyday use, the top for storage. But no, the wall unit, a span of about five feet, came as one unit instead of three. Only one door where two should be, of about four feet in height and with two shelves. Being only five foot and a bit, I can only reach the bottom shelf on tiptoes and the rest on a stool!
“Take them back and fix them!” — “No, can’t do that! But we’ll come back Tuesday next week with the rest.” The problem is, which Tuesday? Next week, month or year? Three years later the wood is moving and warping. They don’t kiln-dry it, and they leave it out in the rain and humidity until needed.
The climate is hot, wet and humid for eight to nine months of the year. The rest of the year is very hot, dry and windy.
OK. So you learn to deal with the language, tradesmen, everything being mañana, meaning whenever they like, and the climate. You’ve got the house all tickety-boo, a lovely big four-wheel drive off-roading truck, and want to start enjoying the life in the tropics. Oops, a taxi decides to drive into your lovely big truck. No problem, the taxi comes off worse. But cripes, no mobile phone, no speak Spanish, what to do?
Oh no, I’m a gringo, a white face, a target (those taxis love us whiteys). What luck, a lady store owner speaks English. To cut a very long story short… police and insurance company are called and come. Taxi driver is not required to show his insurance (our attorney says they never are) but I am. When vehicles are fixed the insurance company write a document of completion, but leave a loophole for the driver to come back and sue at any time. Thank god for our wonderful attorney who speaks good English and got that taken out!
Now what does one do for entertainment in a predominantly Spanish-speaking country? Some gringos like to meet and go to bars, restaurants etc., that’s lovely but gets “old hat” after a few years. We do have some English-speaking movies with Spanish subtitles. TV is fed from the USA, mostly voice-over in Spanish, but a few channels in English, again with Spanish subtitles. No theatre or concerts to speak of (in our town, which is the second largest in the country). There is a gringos’ group that, on occasions, put on plays. That’s nice. No real heritage or cultural events, no real museums, art etc. Beaches on this coast are of volcanic, black sand and not always too clean. The closest is 20 minutes away, but you can’t swim unless you are really strong. Several people have drowned there. The other one is over an hour’s drive.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some of these things in the capital. But that’s six or more hours’ drive from here.
Shopping is a major frustration. It’s there today, but try and find it next week or next month… disappeared off the face of the planet! Fruit and veggies are grown here but we end up with the rubbish; most things are rejects and poor quality. If you want good quality imported stuff, you pay through the nose! Shipping stuff in from the USA costs as much as, if not more than, the item itself!
Quite often there are electrical outages and brown-outs. Mostly when it’s stormy, which is often. Water can be turned off for a few days after the rainy season, as they can’t keep up with “cleaning” it!
So all in all, time to move on!