Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Expat Vampires

I remember once watching a movie on TV about a young man who had just been bitten by a vampire, and who was in the process to becoming one as a result. He was lectured by an older veteran on the particulars of a vampire's life. There were big disadvantages- such as one could not go out in the sun lest one be burnt to a crisp, for one. One had to stock up on blood, and food became unnecessary, hence no true enjoyment of eating anymore. Naturally, things like love and marriage would also be out of the question from now on, as well as being able to simply participate in the normal affairs of society. And, most of all, one could never, ever become a normal human being again. There were advantages, however, too. A vampire would be a hard creature to kill. Common diseases would not take him/her. One was not always alone, as there were many vampires out there, and they would recognize their own and often befriend him/her. One could walk on ceilings, one did not have to worry about getting a job and, most of all, one did not age as fast. It took some six years of a vampire's life to gain one human year. Hence, one could look forward to a youth that would last a good 200 years vs. some 30-35 years. One would become wise and solemn the way most vampires were, and one would learn the exquisite pleasure of consuming blood as it would now become the absolute elixir of life, more delicious than any wine ever produced, or any nectar drunk by Gods heretofore.

I realize that it may be a long stretch of my imagination, but somehow, I compare becoming an expat to becoming such a vampire. We lose a lot of things by expatriating, and by moving into sometimes unfriendly societies, we sometimes become like silent ghosts whom the natives view as strange novelties, sometimes admiring and sometimes fearing. We can no longer participate as actively in our new societies of which we are not citizens; and even if we become citizens, we never quite fit in, often because we may not be fully allowed to. We have to deal with visas, work permits, new languages and customs and we get all sorts of reactions from people, ranging from joyful hospitality to complete rejection and even hatred. As vampires, we are often alone among the average folks, only able to relate to other expats. We sometimes go through months or years of silent agony of being among people whose ranks we cannot ever truly join.

There are many advantages, as well. There are about 200,000,000 of us all around the world, people who have started looking for opportunities in new lands. We should unite and help each other and give guidance to each other the way vampires often help their own ilk. We can use our being different to our advantage. If we are not attractive as employees, friends or partners in our old countries, we can always find a place where we will be valued more. If we are too young, we can go to a location where being young is not a disadvantage. If we are too old, we can also go to a place where older people are respected more. We can learn to quietly but quickly slither off to yet another destination in search of new opportunities, such as can only be known to international persons like ourselves. To vampires, a silent, vast and scary world of the night becomes their huge domain while other people sleep, and to us, the unknown chasm in between cultures also becomes our huge terrain in which we can make money, meet exciting new people and have the time of our lives. Like vampires, we can sometimes make friends with others like ourselves, but we are mostly on our own and are as independent as one can be. Other people are climbing social and corporate ladders in their countries, thinking that these are the only ladders that can be climbed, worrying about their image in their society and what their neighbors will say. We do not do so as much, as the possibilities that we have in front of us are mostly very unconventional and with far less competition. Since we are never truly members of our host nations, we care less about trying to be like everybody else, and can remain ourselves more. If things go haywire in the country where we are at, and we are lucky to get away unscathed, we can quickly rebuild our lives in a new host nation; something that other people can never do. And like vampires, we can never become "normal" again. Wanderlust, as the vampirical search for blood, is forever in our veins as we always look forward to new frontiers and new adventures. We are often misunderstood, and only another expat can relate to what we are going through, just like only another vampire can understand the problems that their kind goes through.

We may not have been bitten by another expat so as to become citizens of the world, but we may have been bitten by society that refused to provide us with what we needed. But, once you are an expat, you are always an expat and there is no going back. We might as well get comfortable with our identity as there is almost never a way to get rid of it in favor of reverting back to one‘s previous form. Too bad, we cannot live 300 years to prolong our ability to do so.

But then, again, who knows? Maybe there is an expat somewhere who has been bitten by a vampire and I am telling you, he is the luckiest dude of them all!

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