Repatriation Issues: Laugh, and the World Laughs With You
Hey, have you heard the latest joke? Here in Washington DC, there’s a new one these days:
Q: What is the difference between the US Congress and 7th grade girls? (No offense… to 7th grade girls).
A: 7th grade girls will eventually grow up… (bah dum pum!)
It seems that governance and public service have lost the seriousness and meaning they once held. Respect is at an all time low, even for politicians.
I wrote earlier this week, in some places elections were window decorations on a fait accompli. In light of recent news, that actually sounds prescient- I may have “misunderstimated” how far government officials will go to make a point.
Remembering back to the election of 2000, the election that brought hanging chads and butterfly ballots into the common lexicon of American families, I was approached by more than a few foreign government officials, asking (tongue firmly in cheek, of course) if we would “like some ‘help‘ deciding the election results”. They assured me they knew how to count ballots (wink! wink!)
Well, apparently that wasn’t far from the truth, according to this week’s NPR story.
October 12, 2013 8:00 AM
NPR, SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Ilham Aliyev was re-elected president of Azerbaijan this week.
In itself, that’s not much of a newsflash.
He succeeded his father in office 10 years ago. Human rights groups say that he has since suppressed free speech, curtailed dissent, and dominated the official state media; all of which can run up your vote totals.
But there was still some surprise this week when Azerbaijan’s central election commission announced President Aliyev had been re-elected a full day before voting begun.
The commission explained that they had merely been testing a new smartphone app to declare election results, and mistakenly sent out the 2008 totals. But the results they sent out showed this year’s candidates.
After balloting began the next day, international monitors complained that the election was seriously flawed by intimidation, attacks on journalists, ballot stuffing and miscounts.
Now that President Aliyev has been re-elected, I wonder if Azerbaijan election commission will reveal this week’s winning lottery numbers, or maybe who’ll win the World Series.
Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR.
Well, Ok then… (nodding thoughtfully). So maybe the US fiscal crisis isn’t as odd as that story, but it’s embarrassing just the same.
So, what’s the Life Lesson to be learned here? Is there a moral to this story?
My head hurts with all this. As Michael Corleone said (Godfather Part III): “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
Part of the process of repatriating is remembering that decisions to return home are complex, and made for multiple reasons, as are decisions to take an expat assignment in the first place. No place is perfect, and no resettlement is without its issues.
When I returned to the US, I have to admit it, my daughter was right. Though I was blind to it, I was cynical. I was also frustrated and, at times, angry.
It has taken me a long time to work through all the “new place” issues and begin to settle in. I’m not actually sure just when the process of repatriation even ends. Maybe it’s a continual process.
But at least, I was beginning to feel like I could have some semblance of a normal life. People in my new husband’s neighborhood knew I was the one ‘from away’, with the odd, maybe clandestine, career somewhere over there in Russia or I-ran (never the place with the too-hard name in between the two). I could go to work and come home like everyone else did- I was becoming normal.
And now? Now I have been demoted to the beginning again. “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
I am frustrated… trying to get on with my life; frustrated that my job is on hold through no fault of my own, aside from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As an expat, I was outside the bubble of local events. I got paid from a different stream. I could be fairly free. What happened at home wasn’t on me, and what happened to the host country was beyond my control mostly. It was a life of in-between. I miss that.
Here, all I want to do is to go to work and make a difference. I care about what I do and who benefits because of it.
For me, the take away is this: Repatriation is hard, and complicated. It doesn’t mean I have opted out of life. It’s hard to get back on that citizen merry-go-round. It’s hard when I haven’t been here long enough to know fully what everyone is shouting about. I find myself getting anxious over all the contention, like a kid in the middle of a divorce.
Just because I have repatriated, doesn’t mean I have quit. I still care. I care about my passport country and I care for the people left behind in my temporary work country.
It bothers me that the media sees a joke in all this, but in reality, that’s about all we’ve got here. Media is trying to make a point about how ridiculous the processes are.
And, I must say, I kinda have to agree. $24 BILLION down the drain here at home. Maybe being an expat isn’t the craziest thing I’ve ever done after all. Maybe sitting here this month is.