Life as an Ex-Ex-Pat
The nomadic daughter is returning. Sort of. Though I’ll still be a four-hour flight away from my family, purple mountain majesty lies ahead. This move has had more planning and paperwork than any of our others. But after a year of hoop hopping and other cliché rigmarole, JD’s card is now almost Green and so’s his horn. African in tow, I’m coming back, America.
We want this and have worked for it and paid a pretty US penny for it. Even still, it’s bittersweet. Not just leaving Vietnam and our friends, but also leaving a particularly ear-perking noun. I will no longer be an ex-pat (big hat immigrant, if you will). Soon I’m just a regular old pat.
JD’s accent is our insurance policy for some level of exotic bird status, but I no longer contribute to our Cool Card. I am back to being from Michigan instead of hardcore Detroit (since more foreigners recognize the city than the state as a geographical landmark). Back to saying “napkin” and “gas” without those around me giggling. Back to being of normal size and eating with forks.
The normalcy is comforting. I will be a real part of the place; not an outsider laughing in. This is my country and my home and I look forward to football games that rarely use feet and Fall that is not a verb. Bring on the cider mills, Ranch dressing and microwave conveniences. Bring on being three instead of eleven hours different in time zone from my family and celebrating my first Thanksgiving in nine years. Let’s fast forward to showing JD around and introducing him to portion sizes that could feed a kraal. I imagine us laughing our way across all fifty-nifty with the carefree joy of a Facebook profile picture. It will be great.
But it will be less edgy. While others from my high school have bought homes and compared dental plans, I haven’t. I love what I’ve done in the meantime, but now it may be time to play catch up. I am more comfortable driving the much-feared scooter in Da Nang than my Ford Focus in Washington. I am better at haggling in markets, and worse at mowing the lawn. I am now fluent in teaching ESL but am six years out of practice with classroom behavior management. I spell with unnecessary U’s and my computer does not correct me.
As much as this blog makes fun of travel blogs and the hierarchy of travel brag stories, living abroad is a wee bit of my identity. And my move home is a loss of sparkle. What am I supposed to do to compensate? Surely my personality won’t get me far. Looks fading quickly. Oh, right, exotic husband trump card still in play. Phew.
There will be bumps; there will be borings; there will be fewer people who think I’m the Cool Kid, but it will be wonderful. Time to stop hiding behind the skirts of my passport and do something even better. Reverse culture shock is a privileged euphemism for the insecurity felt when comparing apples and oranges changes to just two bananas on the shelf.
Alright then. Let’s see how this ex-ex-pat goes.