What to Do?


SO WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?

Not working doesn’t mean hanging around with nothing to do. OK, it does sometimes, but unless you’re physically ill or addicted to television, moping around the house sucks no matter where you are.

If you are energetic and gifted with an active mind, you’ll come up with plenty to do. For example, I take Thai lessons for six hours a week. Piano lessons take up only an hour a week, but practice takes up about eight hours a week. Getting massaged takes about six hours a week, and eating out about the same. All that stacks up to almost forty hours a week. Gee, this retirement can be hard work, almost a full time job!

Talking to other expatriates is a lot of fun. Whether they’re retired or working, you’ll have more in common with them than you will with most locals. Here in Thailand, it’s common for Western men of a certain age to marry much younger local women. These men often seem surprised that they got not just the girl, but her entire extended family. Thais put great stock in family, so don’t marry a Thai girl unless you’re prepared to take on some familial responsibilities.

I’m sure the same holds true in Nicaragua, or any emerging economy. If a beautiful daughter marries a man who is, by local standards, rich, he’s going to be the one they call in an emergency. Don’t pretend that one away.

But the rewards of having an “in” into the culture could be great. Think of all the people with whom you can practice your new-found language skills. Unlike the haughty french waiters of these people will be delighted by your attempts to speak their tongue. And if you treat them with respect and love, they will return it.

The biggest problem facing most ex pats and most retirees is loneliness. Money has a way of insulating you from your surroundings. The retired millionaire can go to South America or Southeast Asia and build a mansion surrounded by a security fence, hire maids, cooks and groundskeepers, and still die of loneliness. We non-millionaires are, in a way, lucky. We’re forced to rub shoulders with the common folk, and in doing so, inculcate ourselves into their culture. You can still hide away in your house and watch HBO satellite TV if you want, but that’s not why you traveled halfway across the world, is it?

 

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