I received a Christmas letter from a cousin. He's a year or two older than I am. He got married young and had four children. Tragically, his wife got cancer and died when she was about 50, in the late 1990s.
After his last child, a daughter, went off to college in 2002, my cousin joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Kazakhstan. He filled out his service, and then ... decided to stay on to live in the country. He ended up remarrying a Kazakhstani, and lives there to this day.
I never would have guessed that this cousin, of all my family members, would have been the one to be so adventuresome. He was the younger of two boys, and when he got married he settled down only a few miles from where he grew up in Connecticut -- and that's where he lived for over 25 years. But I remember talking to him on the phone not too long before he left. He told me he no longer had anything holding him there -- his mother had died; his father gone to live with his brother -- and he wanted to see what else was going on in the world.
Many of us have siblings, or children, who have moved across the country ... I guess, most starting out in their home states in the Northeast and Midwest, moving to the West and the South for new opportunities. My ex-wife grew up in Ohio; she now lives in Georgia, where her two brothers live as well. My two sisters grew up in New York. One now lives in Florida, the other in Arizona. My two best friends from childhood both live in California.
I wonder, though, is this just my experience, or is it a more general trend. Where do your brothers and sisters and children live? Have any of them wandered as far as Kazakhstan?
The email I got from my cousin was very circumspect. He would not mention in his email a certain religion, or a certain president -- for fear of censorship and/or reprisal. I don't think he's paranoid; his fears seem real. And he did allow that he and his wife are considering moving back to the States, if things got much worse.
"Each year the government passes new laws making it more and more
difficult for foreigners to live and work here," he wrote. "There is also a growing
anti-foreigner (not necessarily anti-American) attitude among the local
people." He concluded, "Until you have lived overseas you can't really appreciate what the USA is."
Regardless, he seems very satisfied with his experience in Asia. He said he met some wonderful people from all over the
world -- something he never would have imagined doing for most of his life in Connecticut -- and he made friends with people from Russia, China, South Africa, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
I myself have recently met some interesting people -- although I didn't go far to do it. I've joined a table tennis club. The members come from as far as 30 or 40 miles away to play.
The club does not reflect the standard white suburbia -- or, maybe it reflects the new suburbia. I've met a Yuri from Russia, and another Yuri from Ukraine. I've played with an Olga (she beat me; she's good). The pro is from Jamaica. There's also a Dieter, a Jingsong, an Alok, an Andriy, an Animu, a Juan and a Sumeng. As well as a Jennifer, a Richard, a Frank. And me, I'm a Tom.
I, myself, have never ventured far from home -- never lived for any period of time out of the New York tristate area. And although I love where I live, I've always had this nagging feeling that I've missed something.
Still, I'm trying to do my part to connect with the rest of the world, one serve at a time.