Its true that this place can be kinda wearisome...There are things here that are so ass backwards its not even close to funny, then there are other things that just seem to make a lot more sense...Food for instance...Preservatives are a dirty word here, the milk is only good for about 4 days...Beef is imported from Brazil and the cattle are grass or grain fed without steroids, the beef is also untreated with any of the colorings or preservatives of American beef the taste difference is amazing, I actually prefer the taste of American beef, but c'mon, I had 34 years to get used to it! The produce section in the store is all organic for the most part, most of the fruit and veggies still have dirt on them and are imported from nearby countries. The juice here is nearly all fresh and is better than I ever could have imagined it would be.
Mostly though what I wanted to talk about was family. In the states, family is an afterthought, here (although it doesn't apply to me or other expats really), family comes first. You might disagree with the religious mores of the country, but the focus on family is hard to deny. Tonight for instance I went for an evening walk by the sea. Nearly every cabana was filled up with grandparents, parents and children. I walked by watching the extended families prepare for prayer time and cook their dinner over open fire grills while the youngest played futbol on the beach. Every cabana and open space was filled with families gathering to eat and enjoy each other. When was the last time you ever saw that in the states? Maybe in the most disciplined families it happens every Sunday, but for most families it happens only on holidays, if ever!
What a concept, raising children with a whole family approach...we've never heard of anything like that in the states have we? Listening to the wisdom of our elders until they are too old to speak and then caring for them with the respect that only family can provide until they pass. I'm not staying here forever, but I will definitely be bringing a few things home with me. When exactly did we get too busy being industrious for this to happen in the US? At what point in history did we decide that since grandma falls a lot, we'll put her in a "nursing" home so that a bunch of underpaid, under-appreciated, under-background checked teenagers can look after her? What excuse did we use to justify that decision?
Call me crazy, but the fall of America really IS going to be like the fall of Rome. We're not going to fall to the drums of a foreign army, that could never happen, instead were going to fall to the degradation of our own ideals. Racism, nationalism and the communist elements of entitlement are all going to have their say in the whole thing, but even they don't have the power to take us down. Were going to do it to ourselves, smiling and striving the entire way. When we've all finally forgotten what freedom means and exchanged it for some conveniently packaged, sparkly illusion of a perfect life, we'll be done. Somewhere along the way, we got the crazy idea that success meant a suit and tie, and a BMW in the driveway of our large house. Maybe we thought it was taking the family on a big vacation every year. Maybe our children getting good grades and going to a good College and becoming someone famous. Maybe being important and telling people what to do. But most likely we thought it meant individual purchasing power...not that we needed anything mind you, just that we wanted things.
What about changing it up a bit, what about defining success as a family that takes care of itself and lives in a community that does the same? What about defining success as a warm family that you can count on? Imagine splitting the responsibilities and hardships that come with tragedy over an entire family? Imagine the cost savings of eating together every night, imagine a house full of life, the sounds of three generations echoing through the halls. Imagine the strength and togetherness that comes from 5 men rather than 1 going out to harvest wood, maintaining a garden and a yard, make repairs, change oil and maintain cars, how about 10 family members pooling resources? In my immediate family alone (with me home and only working one job), we could average about 300k a year, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. We have the skills between us to: Build decks, garages, carports, to fix cars, weld, assemble, grow and cook food, play music, teach, coach. We've been in the military, worked as paramedics, salesmen, roofers, flooring guys, teachers, nurses, business managers, real estate agents, law enforcement and Law, we've been elected, we've been appointed, we've been influential. We share the common interests of baseball, hockey, football, politics, animals, music, motorcycles, medicine, reading and literature. We all like redneck stuff like rivers, camping, grilling, fishing and trucks, (we all enjoy adding beer to any of the above activities), we all enjoy crafts in some form or another. And yet despite living relatively close to each other, we often times only see each other every month, sometimes only on holidays. This concept doesn't need to be due to some underlying religious theme in some piss poor reality show, and it doesn't have to be some crazy survivalist compound. If we want to salvage any portion of the American dream, I think were going to have to warm up to this idea in some form or another, maybe it doesn't have to be this extreme, maybe living in the same neighborhood is enough, maybe even living close is good enough, but this idea of striking out on our own to get rich and famous is going to have to fall by the wayside if we ever want to experience real happiness. We've all struck out on our own...and unless we define success by working 80 hours a week and wearing a tie, we've all failed miserably.