Monday, February 17, 2014

The Haves and the Have Nots

Day 17:

Thanks to the Expat Blog Challenge, this month has been allowing me a lot of time to think about this expat life that Husband and I have built. I've had my hands full the last few years with having a baby, mothering a baby, raising a baby, growing another baby, having another baby, mothering... you get it. I've been busy. Point is, I haven't thought written too much about our life since life as a mom seems to take priority... always. So being able to sit and think about topics that are primarily "life as an expat" oriented has truly been a gift.

Our decision to leave wasn't a hard one... in the beginning. It didn't become hard until we found out we were pregnant with our first. After that, the decision became significantly more difficult. The car ride home after our first sonogram was interesting: the sonogram we went to at 5 WEEKS that made official news of what I already knew: we were having a baby. I had been ping ponging this idea back and forth for the last month.

Would we stay? Would we go?
"I still want to go!" I belted out in the silence of our car ride as if holding it in would cause me to explode and implode at the exact same moment. (I am not a Physics teacher and have no idea if this is actually possible) "I still want to go." I repeated immediately calmer. 
Husband in his infinite patience and understanding reassured, "We can do this however you want to do this. If you want to stay, we can stay. If you want to go, we can go." 
Fast forward:
I still struggle daily with our decision. Not in a should we go home or stay kind of way but in the small moments of missing my parents and our families and wishing that my father could see Rafaella, the granddaughter named after him, dance and sing. She loves music - a gift I'm certain she got from him.

Everyday I am also grateful. Grateful for all of the things I never would have seen if I'd stayed home.
The biggest being this:
I am so lucky. 

I'm lucky to have a beautiful family: an amazing husband who cherishes and encourages me, two healthy children, time to spend with them, and good friends. But this is not what I mean when I say I am lucky.

When I say I am lucky, it is with new eyes that I say this. It is with eyes that have seen what poverty, real poverty, looks like. I know poverty exists in the U.S. but I've never really seen it. I've seen homeless people in the streets of NY but somehow they blended into the background of what New York City looked like and most of the time - they had a coat and shoes. I'm not saying it isn't poverty, it just isn't this kind of poverty.

The poverty I've seen here is hungry and shoeless, walking on streets dirtier than 5th Avenue. The poverty I've seen here carries an infant in her arms while begging for change. An infant smaller than my Santiago and as pretty as my Rafaella. The poverty I've seen here doesn't have a shelter to turn to or a soup kitchen to eat at.

The poverty here lives within walls that are still standing but by the grace of God. And stands on a dirt floor. Sometimes I feel bad that my daughter runs around barefoot as her choice instead of as her only option.  The poverty here politely asks to wash my windows for a coin instead of being at school. He wipes his wet squeegee on his shirt in order to not leave wet marks on my window and I can't help but wonder how many shirts he has. The other day, when he finished washing my windshield and I gave him his change I noticed he looked at a Coke bottle I had in my passenger seat. As I drove off, I thought I should have given it to him. And then I went one more thought passed that thought; I had spent more on my Coke than he made for washing my windshield. (A thought that quickly made me loop around to buy him a Coke and a bag of chips but made me feel no better because that won't really change a thing will it?)

And then I arrived upon this again:

I am so lucky. 

The only thing different about him and I is where I was born and who I was born to. I haven't struggled in life. I haven't had to choose between an education and actual money in hand. I've worked since I was 14, yes, but didn't have to. My parents taught me the importance of work and the value of money but they were lessons with safety nets below. Lessons I would never suffer at the hands of.

It isn't always about hard work and education and determination. Sometimes it it just about plain luck. Lucky to be born where you were born and lucky to have been born into a family that could take care of you. Lucky to be able to get an education. Lucky to be you.

Pure luck.
Those that have it and those that don't.

Thanks to In an Opal Hearted Country for organizing the February Expat Blog Challenge opportunity.
Day 17: Something I never would have seen if I'd stayed home (photo post with no photo)


  1. " ... because that won't really change a thing will it ..."

    But it does, Jen. At the very least, you've shown compassion to that boy, who may have been feeling so hopeless in that moment. And it's so much better than doing NOTHING.

    1. You're right, Yvette. Thank you for that reminder. It seems so disheartening sometimes to do such small things but it is in the small moments that real changes are made.

  2. Thank you for this. I think you'll remind everyone reading how lucky we are, too.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences as an expat we get to see the world from many new perspectives


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