The alarm goes off at 7:11 a.m. but I don’t get out of bed until approximately 7:29. I’m not tired or hungover, or channeling my former roommate .. I’m actually surfing on my iTouch. It’s true – I don’t even get out of my bed before I go online. How many of you are guilty of the same? (as you read this from your handheld devices in questionable locations).
So what’s on first? The weather. Bethlehem, Madrid. It’s already 1:11 p.m. in Spain, and I take a few seconds to think about my other life while comparing the temperatures. Then I check my email. Sale at Kohl’s, free shipping from Cheryl & Co, Qmail from ArtsQuest, SPANISH. Yes! A return email from a dear friend 3,000 miles away, in another language. My other language.
When I was living in Seville, I talked about leading a dual life between pueblo and city – commuting to work in Bollullos, 45 km from my flat in Triana. Email, video chats and this very blog brought many of things I love closer to me than in my semester abroad in 2004. You know, back when I was calling my parents from a pay phone in the street and sending carrier pigeons instead of text messages …
So what are the challenges of leading a double life? Isn’t it supposed to be sexy like a spy film or high profile like that of a celebrity? In fact, no. Sometimes it seems fictitious, as though the past year was nothing but a figment of my imagination. Sometimes it is exciting when I get to share my stories with anyone who will listen. Sometimes it can be downright painful when I find myself missing everything from the orange trees to the local diner. Sometimes it can be confusing when I can’t find the words to express something in my native language. With one foot in each country, it often takes more concentration than I can muster just to be in the present moment. Some days, in both places, I wonder what on earth I’m doing there .. or here.
Now suddenly, it’s August. I find myself standing in Pennsylvania, blinking in the sunlight and wondering where the hell my FBI clearance is. Across the pond, my new boss is writing me emails about the upcoming year. I chat with friends returning to nuestra tierra in mere weeks, and friends who have never left. I cringe over flight prices and plan my ten year high school reunion that I will likely miss. I’m working full time to make money that I will be spending somewhere else. The new suitcase I just purchased is the pretty purple elephant in the room, a reminder and a deadline.
This double life gig is not about having your cake and eating it, too. It’s like trying to make your favorite cake in a foreign country in someone else’s kitchen with almost ingredients and an oven with an attitude. But the icing is delicious. Trust me.
Kudos to fellow bloggers who have recently completed the #My7Links challenge: Natalie, Cat & Jessica. Premiere quote of this archive-combing expedition goes to Jessica from Budajest who has summarized my expat existence in seven graphic words: “Three years abroad has opened my bones.”