ExPat in My Homeland

We moved. After two years of “will we / won’t we,” and delays due to travel restrictions and the pandemic, we made it. Moving overseas is big – something I knew having done it several times – but I found out there is a huge difference in moving one single person to moving an entire house, a husband in the midst of a massive merger, and pets. Plus getting our English house into shape to allow strangers to live there. The whole thing was a gargantuan task, but we were lucky that I could devote the time to make it happen.

Due to his work schedule, my hubs moved a few days ahead of me. I stayed behind to wrap everything else up, sell my car, and fly out on the same flights as our cats. A day and a half before he left, I came down with a nasty norovirus, which hit as we were seeing friends to say goodbye (natch). I spent an entire day in bed, not packing, not getting things ready. We were up early the day he left, me trying to rally to get everything done. Thank goodness my mum-in-law took him to the airport, because right after they left, I crashed. He made it out all right… and took my keys with him – car, storage unit, the lot. I got them back by the skin of my teeth before selling the car and fortunately had spares of everything except the storage unit. As I was recuperating from being violently ill and trying not to be overwhelmed by everything that needed doing before I left, he was trying to work and get us into and settled our new house.

Here’s what I forgot about being in America: you must have a social security number (SSN) to do anything. He hadn’t received his yet, so I was in England trying to set up WiFi, power, gas, and the like for the hubs in Georgia. Meanwhile he was working like crazy out of my cousin’s spare room. You know what else I forgot? You also need a US number to set anything up. I told him to get a phone, but he couldn’t get a plan since he didn’t have an SSN. He ended up buying a cheap phone and got us a local number so we could have water and power.

I made it across in one piece and with an additional borrowed bag (minus many things that had to be ditched since the bag was overweight, of course it was). The cats didn’t make the flight. They came in the following day once the winds had died down in the UK. That gave us time to buy blankets to cover up the rented living room furniture and buy them food.

They were not pleased when they arrived.

Still, my English cats are adapting to a world where they aren’t allowed outside (more predators here and much busier street) and where we have central a/c.  They have calmed down for the most part; although my murderous cat is pretty sure she could take on one of the many American squirrels that run up the old trees around our house.

My husband is finding the change… interesting. He has to get used to putting the month first in dates, driving on the right side of the road, the fact that strangers talk to him in the street, and deal with Georgia humidity, which is like Surrey humidity. But in the summer. All the time.

I get it. I’m having my own culture adjustments. I expected some – I’ve had to reintegrate into American life before and, of course, had always felt the differences when visiting. This time we’re living in a state I’ve never lived in before. One I’d only visited when we knew this move was a possibility. On one hand, the move is okay; I’m pretty friendly in general, so I don’t mind strangers talking to me occasionally. But I forgot so many things. Like who sends you your license plate or just how long it takes to buy a stupid car in a dealership. How a POS vs a health fund works, or that you have to have insurance to get healthcare. Reminding myself to tip everyone. I always tip well in restaurants; I spent too much time on the other end not to, but I forget to keep cash on me to tip the guys delivering my new couch. Oh, and I keep using the wrong words for things and dropping Britishisms into every day conversations – I said whilst unironically the other day. I’m often asked if the “weird” thing I’m doing is “the English way.” I may be a dual citizen, but I never thought of myself British. I spent a lot of time living in or visiting different countries, only to come back to mine and feel foreign.

I am enjoying a lot about this change. I mean, I love the Atlanta neighborhood where we live and the 100-year-old house we’re renting. I adore the old trees keeping watch. I like the history of the cemetery I became a “friend of,” the accessibility of the local library, and the little village we can walk to with a juice bar and bakers and pet food store. I like people saying hello in the neighborhood. I love being able to meet up with my cousin on the regular, and I love being near enough to fly my sister’s for a long weekend for her birthday. I did not, however, like getting another bout of norovirus from her, and I definitely did not enjoy getting Covid five weeks after we’d arrived in the US after avoiding it in the UK for two years.

And the news. I hate the news.

I cannot fathom the pain and suffering experienced by the communities hit by mass shootings – recent or in the past. Uvalde broke my heart; it broke everyone’s heart. At the time of writing this, there have been thirty-three more mass shootings (defined by four or more victims killed) across America since Uvalde’s, and 246 from the first of the year. A week ago, my niece was entering the hospital where she works when gunfire broke out nearby. She was fine – no, not fine, she was terrified – but she wasn’t shot. I’m grateful for that, but I do not understand how this is ongoing, how we become so desensitized that it’s a blip on the new cycle. My dad is a gunsmith, my family members have and own guns. It’s a part of their lives. Most of them believe that there should be more checks, more training, in order to be a gunowner. I don’t understand how this is even a question. Our military has extensive training and limited access to the kind of gun that an 18-year-old bought in a store and took into an elementary school. Look, we’re fostering a kitten right now. We want to keep him when he’s available for adoption. There are more hoops for me to jump through in order to adopt this tiny kitten than there would be for me to buy a gun. I can’t wrap my head around it.

Then there’s the Supreme Court looking to overturn Roe v Wade. States changing abortion laws in preparation, making safe healthcare unattainable for most people. Taking away an incredibly personal and difficult decision of a woman. How can this be happening? We’re in the 21st century – we can’t go backwards. How do people who have nothing to do with a situation get to make decisions that would have no effect on their lives, except maybe in the polls? Abortions won’t stop, safe ones will be harder to get, more women will die, and poorer women will be affected the most. Neighbors are encouraged to spy on neighbors and turn in the desperate woman or anyone helping her. How is that right? I know the argument – that it’s about saving lives – but it is not as simple as that. That life is not viable unless the woman carries it to term. Sometimes the life to be saved is the mother’s. And there’s too little done to protect that life once a child is born. Regardless, it is no one’s business except the woman in that position. Period. If she chooses to involve other people, that’s her choice. If she asks you for your opinion, that’s her choice. I hope that she has someone she trusts to talk with to help her decide what’s best for her and that her loved ones can support her. Too often this is not the case. That woman needs to make her decision – she should be allowed to make the decision over her own body. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t get one. That is your choice. Furthermore, if Roe v Wade is overturned, it paves the way to overturn many other hard-fought-for rights of other marginalized people. It’s antiquated thinking. It’s heartbreaking.

It’s hard to keep moving forward in the midst of such personal and social insanity. Hard to focus on creativity and have any presence on social media. It’s also necessary for me – the creativity, not the social media. Also, I have this kitten to care for and introduce to our big cats. They are very curious and a little annoyed. I have faith that will work out. As I get better (still coughing and tired from Covid) and as I’m still adjusting to an American way of life, I need to spend time doing something to help navigate these new waters. Maybe spend more time with these old trees. I’ll find time to quiet the rushing of my brain and time to visit the worlds I create in my mind (i.e. write more). As I reintegrate again into American life, I’ll try to feel less of an ExPat here. And hopefully, somehow, get used to Georgia humidity.

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