Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Far-Flung Family

     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.    


Olga said...

My family (2 brothers, a sister, a son and a daughter+2 grand kids) all live in VT. One brother and SIL, like us, split time. They live in SC for half the year. Mike is the only one in his family to have left CT, but his son lives in CA and his daughter is in SC. My cousins are spread around NY, NJ, and PA, but their kids are all over the country.
I had to look up the location of Kadzakhstan last year when some friends announced they were going on a mission there.

MerCyn said...

My cousin went to teach for a year in Australia after college, met a guy, married and comes to the states every couple of years to visit family...My son lived in Colorado the last few years and loves it. But now with three kids and no family out West they are moving back East. Hub and I will be traveling north to Vermont and south to Florida to see grandkids. Have car - and Spirit airlines - will travel!

Stephen Hayes said...

My only sibling lives in the San Francisco area but I have no contact with him. As for travel, Me and Mrs. C. love to see the world and have been to many great places. Last year we visited Turkey and in March we're flying off to India. Can't wait to ride an elephant!

Linda Myers said...

I grew up in the military, have been to every state and lived in a bunch. I had the idea we'd stay in Washington State because our kids are there - but now they're there and in Oregon and Oklahoma and California and New Jersey.

And here we are, wintering in Tucson. I'm not keen on the desert but realized just this morning that I really do like a couple of its seasons. Winter sun, yes!

Bob Lowry said...

My brothers live in Kansas City and Atlanta. The rest of the family has gathering in the Phoenix area.

Growing up I moved 23 times before leaving for college. After marriage we have moved 11 times..not military just job oriented, and climate preference.

Living in different parts of the country have been very positive to my life. I have enjoyed all the adjustments.

Anonymous said...

I had always wanted to live in the big city, specifically San Francisco. When I retired from teaching, at a young age, I moved there for 15 months with the hope of getting a job. It didn't happen so I am back in the town where I have lived most of my life, in the house we have owned for 32 years. Guess it's not meant for me to venture too far away.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

NO, I have never been to Kazakhstan, but a cousin is serving there (believe it or not) with the US Government.

One of my good friends at work lived in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer. It's not uncommon to run across folks from all parts of the world here in the DC area. When I was a student at Georgetown, Catholic, U Maryland and recently at GMU, many of my classmates were 'foreign' students or children of immigrants. Plus, I worked with many folks from all over the world for over 30 years.

Nice to connect with your cousin after all these years. Dianne

Janette said...

Keep in touch with your cousin.
He is right---there is no place like the USA (even if my family thinks I am nuts not to live in Arizona).

Joanna Jenkins said...

I am one of five children raised by both my parents in a small Ohio town. When I was about 9 years old I knew I wanted to move away and live in a big city-- NYC was my dream. In my early 20s I moved there and was very happy until I was transferred to California by my job. I've been here for 25 years.

My ENTIRE family still lives in Ohio within 6 blocks of each other!
They couldn't be happier and think I'm nuts to live in a big city (they've all visited and traveled so they've "seen the world" and prefer their small town.)

On a regular basis I tell my mother that I spent the first half of my life trying to get OUT of our small town and the second half of my life trying to get BACK. I'm pretty sure, in my twilight years, I'll get back there to love.

But I know for SURE, that I will never be as adventurous as your cousin. I admire him to taking such a giant leap of faith to make a change in his life.

Happy New Year to you. jj

thelittleoldladystaysput (ordoesn't) said...

Hi - I write back to you from my blog, The Little Old Lady Stays Put (or doesn't). Thank you for your note. And I love your aesthetic. it seems we are all dealing with the same issues but from such a variety of visions. I am always looking at the human interest piece. Your cousin has certainly provided that. In my own case, like you, I've never left my home ground of the NY tri-state area and often think of Henry D.T's satement that he'd traveled widely in Waldon. That's me. I'm certainly not Kazakhstan material. Each individual life is my travel log and I do that right here. Who knows, maybe someday I will venture out. Thanks so much for sharing your work. I would be honored to have your blog on my list if that's all right with you.