In America, there's millions of people doing what I'm doing, making a life in a foreign land, but most of them are doing it under far more difficult circumstances. In Texas, I saw them all the time, usually working outside under a hot southern sun, or scrubbing or chopping in the back of a restaurant kitchen, but I never thought much about how they got there. People often talked about how they couldn't speak English, or how they had different customs, or acted in a different way, but I never heard anyone wonder about the families and homes they must have left behind, about who and what they might have been in their home country and how that compared to now, or about what they thought of American life and how difficult it must have been to adjust, and especially not about what an admirable job of it they might have been doing.
The life I have in Japan, compared with that of most immigrants and expats, is incredibly fortunate. I don't work hard, I don't get dirty, my work is never dangerous, and for the most part I'm treated pretty well by my company, my neighbors, the local police and government. The reasons I came were simple too -- I certainly didn't have to come, and my life or the welfare of my family wouldn't have been in a bit of danger if I hadn't. I came for strictly personal reasons. All the same, it's never been easy.
I come from a country of immigrants and expats, and yet I had never really understood what it is like to be one. Despite all the different reasons and situations that may be involved, there must be some common feeling amongst all who leave their own country for another. I wonder now when I see someone from another place, when they become lost in thought staring out over some scene, what faraway landscapes might just then be playing behind their eyes, because this so often happens to me.
Friday, December 03, 2004
I read this great post from another blog, and just wanted to share the thoughts with you guys. It provided great insight for me and broadened my perspective on how expatriots all over the world must feel. It rekindles the excitement I used to have for working with foreigners living in the US. Hope you enjoy the read.