Monday, January 31, 2011

The Great Divide

Increasingly, we have begun to notice that our life is divided in two – our old life (i.e. our pre-FS life) and this life (the FS life). We say things like, “Well, in our old life we would have_____, but in this life _____.” Funny, of course, because it’s still our life. It’s really, always “this life.”
I find the space between remembering and forgetting really interesting. I went to a small high school. I am certain that when I graduated I could name everyone in my class of 100, but now when these people’s faces pop up on Facebook, I often have no idea who they are. When did I forget? When did the new crowd out the old? Does it happen in an instant or is it a bit by bit shedding of brain cells that lose their purpose?
This is true with having children too. Of course, I remember our life before having kids, but I can’t really remember it completely. I remember the facts, but not the feelings. Mostly I wonder what we did all day.
I feel that in this life there are lots and lots of these divisions. For this first post it stands out to me when I try to remember what I thought the DR would be like before we arrived. I honestly cannot recall. And yet, I am totally certain that my images and imaginations were vivid and detailed and full of the excitement of getting to learn the reality. Our first day seems burned in my brain along with the dawning that happened on our drive from the airport that, “This looks a lot like a typical ‘third world’ capital. People might not visit us here…” I hadn’t thought it would be all resorts, but my fantasies were selective I think. Now everything here begins on that first drive into our new home.
The division permeates every corner of our lives. I write about it all the time with food, but it happens in other ways too. Even Jeremy’s music, we noticed, has had to change. He is a musician and writes is own music. In Austin, we were always surrounded by dozens of the same. No one played covers when you got together with friends, everyone jammed to each other’s stuff. In our FS life, people want covers. It’s all-good, but with far-fewer musicians, music serves a different purpose.
We now live within a world where babies are timed for home leave and weddings coordinated with CDOs. Where spouses and partners of officers wonder if they can still put their “profession” as attorney, or therapist, or teacher on forms if it’s been years since they worked outside a Consulate. Where, at some point, the number of years you have lived away from “home” is fewer than the number you have lived everywhere-else and you have a decision to make when people ask, “So, where’re you from?”
I have been reading about the events in Egypt. Back when Jeremy was in A-100 we had bid Cairo high. It would have been an interesting place to be. We weren’t totally feeling easy about it, but we were curious and thought it would be a good first post. Once you’re in the FS, you look at events like these through a different filter. My reaction is typically not one of fear, but one of practical awareness – Always have a bag of food ready to run with. Check and make sure the boys’ clothes in the emergency packs are not too small. Make sure our passport photocopies have the updated visas. And, sometimes there’s a bit of fear there too. Ever since the earthquake, if I can’t sleep at night, I imagine the best way to get out of our house. I really hate underground parking garages now. I wonder what in the world we would do with our 100-pound dog if we had to leave in a hurry.
Of all the things that we experience in this life – the new food, language, customs, rules – it’s the divide between who we were, or the life we lived, and who we are that most separates us from the past…and most connects us with now. For all the preparation that the FS requires, it’s funny, in the end, we mostly just live from this point forward…in complete and utter ignorance of what comes next.


  1. Great post. And I laughed at loud at your "mostly I wonder what we did all day" line. I have that same thought.

  2. Thank you for this post! Isn't it so true?! I find myself trying to recall events by where we were living at the time and then I can determine how old my kids were and then I can determine which year(s) whatever event may have occurred. I do wonder what I did with my life before children too.