Wendy, you’ve aged: notes on expat nostalgia

¡Karlita got her Spotify account back! My life partner was using cabecita_loca’s account and considerably fucking up the discover weekly and suggested music playlists. I was planning to break up with him on Spotify, but he anticipated my motives by creating his own account. GD! So it’s taken me months to wipe clean his music history in order to get my jamz back.

I’m finally listening to Chance the Rapper! He was an artist I kept hearing about but was continually forgetting to listen to with intention. And he’s got this hella nostalgic song about growing up and apart from the people of your past. In the song “Same Drugs,” Chance the Rapper lulls:

“When did you change?
Wendy, you’ve aged
I thought you’d never grow up
I thought you’d never
Window closed, Wendy got old
I was too late, I was too late
A shadow of what I once was
‘Cause we don’t do the same drugs no more
We don’t do the, we don’t do the same drugs, do the same drugs no more
She don’t laugh the same way no more
We don’t do the, we don’t do the same drugs, do the same drugs no more”

Lately, I have been thinking about nostalgia in it’s form of homesickness. I go through my own waves, but currently I’m aight. I’m not homesick. But don’t get offended, ya’ll are still on my mind. I’m just currently not feeling weighted down by heavy waves of homesickness, drowning me and making us do crazy things like spending thousands of dollars on a green card visa just to cancel it when we are like one step away from getting approved to move to the US. Like most of you, I have experienced the feelings of homesickness in all of its intensities. A lil bit of nostalgia is what maintains the spark and charm of folk music, though. And most David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Rait, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan songs. And every Bon Iver album. And Mariah Carey Christmas.

During my highest and lowest moments overseas, I was writing a lot of poetry.  Super private stuff in my journal and a lot of shared stuff with my best friend who at the time, was doing quite a bit of continent hopping herself.  Prose and metaphor was the easiest way to express my feelings and understand where my head and heart had wandered off to. This Chance the Rapper song made me smile big. His metaphor was so on point. Wendy, girl, we don’t…we don’t do… we don’t do the same drugs no more. It’s like he’s thinking out loud his most intimate thoughts in such a simplistic manner and moreover, his nostalgia is so freaking understandable.. and relatable.

Living/studying/traveling abroad is so glamorized. And for good reason. It’s really fabulous. And a exceptionally great representation of the spirit that is the yin-yang as we have come to know it, the interrelation of opposites. Good and bad symbiotically existing in a world of constant survival.

I was browsing other Expat blogs and stumbled upon one which suggested ways in which to conquer homesickness. I kid you not the first two recommendations (there were 3 in total) were: Whatsapp and snail mail.

Fucking chatting and writing letters? Um no. Yes, but no. Depending on other people is a quick fix, a band-aid that is way too small for the cut. Conquering homesickness while abroad is mostly a one-man plan. The third suggestion on this blog was to fly home for a visit!!!! I don’t even know how to have an opinion about that. Ok yes I guess it’s a fix cuz it makes homesickness a non-issue, but the point is to overcome and keep living that fabulous life abroad.

So I started thinking about what I’ve learned thus far as a hoary, much more optimistic and perhaps wiser expat creature living abroad for the last DECADE. 10 years. Holy shit. Here’s what I got:

Replace no one. Don’t even try. You will not find a best friend like the one you got at home. You will feel extremely left out when everyone from the same country/culture go down the rabbit hole of what feels like a never-ending convo in which everyone’s contribution to the dialogue begins with “Remember when..” You will not be able to relate to many shared experiences, even unspoken ones. Common sense stuff. To learn these cultural attributes takes an incredible investment of time in one country and a general pro-activeness to understanding these slight cultural behavioral patterns. The point is, let each new relationship blossom and flourish from a clean slate. Let your interactions be unique with every person, without holding any pal or relationship to  expectations. Searching for new BFFs to fill the holes in your heart is a sure fire path to depression. Not hoping for anything in particular out of anyone or any friendship will help you appreciate things that will distract you from the nostalgia ripping open your soul.

Do not compare. (This is kinda similar to the previous point). Yes, America is the best. NOPE! JUST KIDDING. I miss my family. I miss my girlfriends. I miss take-out Thai and Mexican food, and vegetarian options, BUT! The rest you learn to live without. First of all, everything is temporary. Second of all, if you’re not constantly comparing your new environment to your old one, you’ll realize what great capacity we have as humans to adapt! And enjoy new stuff! And give that ego of yours a break from bragging about how awesome your home country is. ALSO! YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO/MAKE/CREATE/RECREATE THE THINGS THAT YOU MISS ON YOUR VERY OWN. While living abroad in Spain, the country most intolerant to spice, I have self-taught myself to cook so many things! Jorge swears by my beer battered fish tacos. He likes my re-fried beans better than Taco Bell’s. I know, he’s an asshole cuz we both know it’s not true, cuz #tacobellforever. And just as I was getting ready to tackle homemade bagels, they suddenly appeared in Spanish supermarkets. But yeah, we eat at routine times here, so at first it IS irritating as balls that you cannot find a restaurant kitchen open from 4-8pm, but then you stop whining and you realize that if you DO follow the Spanish timetable, you still get your 5 meals a day and your body loves that regulation. And beer/wine at lunch break. And Sunday meal with the entire fam if you choose cuz nobody works on the holy day. And America, you can shove your pretentious small plates up your President’s ass because here you get tapas for an actually reasonable price. And they are legit. And NO ONE can fry a potato like a Spaniard. Oops, no comparing. Small plates ≠ tapas

The advice to avoid making friends with people from your home country is bullshit. Just don’t hang out if you are both really depressed. Other than that, go for it. Some of my most special friends are Americans that I’ve met abroad. And there is a corner of my heart that only these people have a key to. Hooray for shared experience (*emoji with both arms in the air*)

Exercise. Running sucks but it’s cheap and a lot of other motivated, sexy people do it so, #inspo. Sex* does not suck, and it can also be cheap.

*be safe!

Say yes and also come up with fun ideas. Hang out with anyone and everyone that suggests so. People from different age brackets*. From different countries. Just do it. But also think of fun stuff on your own and invite people. Being proud of your own culture is rad and it helps smooth over nostalgia when you invite others to enjoy alongside you. Food. Music. Adventures. Activities. Music. Picnics. Last year I suggested a “bitch switch” between some lady family members and it was hilarious and quite entertaining and there was no way I could translate the name of the activity but I tried. And everyone laughed. And the mutual participation was super rewarding. And they got something out of it. Humans like benefit and gain. Material or spiritual. So be sure to open your heart, mind, soul, body, and offer up the best of you!! Also, I’m usually pretty nervous about making different foods for these particular Spanish palettes, but I made banana buckwheat pancakes last week when we were camping and a couple people liked them which is a TOTAL WIN. And on that note:

*people who you consider “old” will almost always be interested in sharing their lives and interests with you. JUMP ON EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO HANG OUT WITH THEM.

Learn how to make chocolate chip cookies. Of all the American shit people inquire about or request, cookies, like the Nestle Tollhouse kind, are the one item everyone wants to try. I even think the rest of the world feels nostalgic about fresh baked cookies, despite the fact that they’ve never even dipped a chocolate chip cookie in a glass of milk at Granny’s house. Whatever the mystery is, there are A LOT of cookie recipes out there, I have probably tried more than thirty and at last I have a favorite! This happened recently. And I’m not sharing it yet.

Treat yourself. Especially if you’re doing the minimalist, backpacker thing. It’s a cool idea but remember how special it is to have a space where you feel comfortable and inspired. If it means you gotta buy some supplies to make art or a tapestry to hang or whatever you are convinced isn’t worth it cuz it won’t fit in your return luggage, JUST BUY IT. And when you leave, don’t take it with. Whatever. Detachment from things. You’re a minimalist, remember? But also, treat yourself. You saved and saved and saved so you could spend. Money is for spending.


I miss her cookies!

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