Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eleven Years an Expat

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of my arrival in New Zealand to live. This makes it my “Expataversary”, as the Gay Expat called it in his podcast 26 about his first year in France.

Eleven years is no big deal (unless it’s your eleventh birthday, which is a very big deal indeed). No one takes much notice of anniversaries that aren’t in multiples of five, probably because we have five fingers on each hand and have made everything decimal to match (except the system of weights and measures used in the US, but that’s a another subject).

I looked back to see what I’d written about this day in previous years. Almost inevitably, I said something like “I can’t believe it’s been so long, and yet it doesn’t seem like it.” That’s still true, but I don’t take much notice anymore.

The things that I noticed when I first arrived in
New Zealand I take for granted now. The honeymoon with NZ ended many years ago and I’ve now settled into a comfortable sort of ordinariness, a day-to-day familiarity that we all experience if we stay in a place long enough.

People sometimes ask me if I’d ever go back to the
US. The best answer is, “Who knows?” The fact is, if someone had told me twelve years ago that in a year’s time I’d be moving to New Zealand I’d have told them they were nuts. As it turned out, many of them thought I was nuts when I packed up and boarded a NZ-bound plane on Halloween 1995.

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I don’t consider either country to be better than the other, they’re just different. I’ll criticise things that I think are wrong, usually in government or politics, but those aren’t unique to any one country. And I’ll also praise things I think are good. All this has to do with my ideals, not any particular country.

Having said that, however, I arguably have a better quality of life here in NZ than I would have had I stayed in
Chicago. That has as much to do with me as with specific opportunities here, good as those have been.

I go to great lengths to make these points over and over because there are so many Americans who take it personally if an American chooses to live outside the
US. As I so often say, I didn’t reject the US, I chose New Zealand.

But what real choice did I have? For my partner and me to be together, I had to move here. Not only does the country of my birth not recognise the validity of my relationship, the government has gone out of its way to actively discriminate against it. “Equal protection under law?” Yeah, right.

So I mourn for the
America that existed before Newt Gingrich launched his contract ON America, before the christo-fascists (“theocons,” Andrew Sullivan calls them) took control of the Republican Party and launched jihad on fundamental American values and freedoms.

I don’t know if my America will ever return, but at least here in New Zealand I’ve found a land of tolerance and openness and acceptance. The laws here go far beyond the US in protecting fundamental human rights. That makes this a much safer place to for us to be than the US is. In this one specific area I’m quite prepared to say that New Zealand is definitely better than the US.

Even after eleven years I still enjoy living in
New Zealand as much as I did at the beginning; I enjoy it more, if anything. But I still miss things about America or, to be accurate, the America that no longer exists.

Fortunately for me that necessary move eleven years ago turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done. I just the hope the next eleven years are as kind to me as the past eleven have been, overall. But, then, all of us, wherever we live and for however long, hope for good says ahead. See? It’s not so different after all.


lost in france said...

Hmmm. You beat me to the punch with Expataversary. Thank you The Gay Expat!

We both left the US on a holiday and came from the Great Lakes region. Let me share a secret with you (please keep it to yourself): my last Expataversary was a multiple of five: 15!

Arthur Schenck said...

Amerinz sez: I like your style, LIF! You're my new best friend. Well, one of them, anyway.

lost in france said...

LOL (or, in French, MDR)!