If you’re a frequent reader of the blog you may have noticed that it has slowed down a bit the last couple of months. This isn’t because of lack of interest or topics to discuss about. Its rather quite the contrary. The reason is that I’ve finally made it out of Argentina, and have been living in Northern Ireland for the last month.
Timing was actually pretty good. We have been meaning to leave Argentina for a long time, thinking mostly of USA. Because of troubles getting a visa to reside in USA, we’ve been postponing the move for many years, trying to find a sponsor or finding some way to get to USA. Its ironic how some Americans chose to leave USA while thousands of people go nuts trying to find a way into it. Finally in 2011 we had enough and decided to leave one way or another.
I had my eye on other options besides USA, places like Canada and Australia. I wanted a real country for myself and my family, so all the crappy Latin American places so often described as expat paradises (usually by people that never lived there or have a financial motivations in recommending so)where out of the picture. People looking to make money out of it can lie about how fantastically safe and cheap it is, how you don’t have to worry about a thing other than picking the right wine and senorita to spend the evening with. Born and raised in Argentina and having traveled to most South American countries I just know better than that.
Googling on the best country to raise a family I came across Northern Ireland. While not perfect (like any place on Earth) the more I read about it the more I liked it, so by mid 2011 we were already making up our minds about it.
At first we we’re going to leave in January 2012, but the situation in Buenos Aires getting worse made us jump out a bit sooner than planned. Hernan’s murder was another thing that scared us a lot, especially since we had heard so many stories of people getting robbed or hurt right before they managed to leave the country. I always remember that guy who left Argentina in 2000, came back a decade later to visit his family and got killed the same day he arrived when he went to buy a pack of smokes just a couple blocks away from where he was staying. There was also Cristina’s reelection coming, and we knew things were going to get worse after she got reelected. It was scary to see her take the draconian measures she took not a week after getting reelected. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that our preparedness and survival mindset made all the difference in the world for us during those weeks before leaving.
Remember how I preach non stop about having a supply of money at home in case there’s trouble, even more if possible in case you have to jump into a plane and start all over somewhere else? If I hadn’t followed my own advice I wouldn’t have had the USD to leave at that time, because of the heavy foreign currency restrictions the government of Cristina came up with right after being reelected. Oh yes, preparing does pay off.
So we sold what we could, donated a bunch of stuff to a nearby orphan home, gave away some to friends and family, and with a couple pieces of luggage each we got on board of a plane and left Argentina. Its hard to explain the feeling of having all your earthly possessions in just two suitcases, a backpack and whatever is in your pockets.
I remember the trip to the airport, right after loading up the car that was taking us there. I remember thinking how its just stuff. Even if it got lost or stolen at Ezeiza’s International airport in Buenos Aires, something that happens often, it can be bought again. I remembered the posts I made about minimalist gear, how important it is to have a bare minimum pocket carry set of gear with you at all times. Even that can be replaced. While I always knew that what matters is your loved ones, in my case my wife and kids, this experience was in some way putting my money where my mouth was, so to speak. We really did come down to that, just us and little else. In retrospective all we couldn’t do without was our plane tickets, passports, cash and a few other essential documents. The rest? It’s all expendable.
So many things cross your mind when leaving
your country for good. I remembered what my grandmother had told me about coming to Argentina herself escaping the miseries of the Spanish civil war. “What did you bring with you grandma?” I asked. “Money, a trunk with clothes and a hand suitcase. My books (she owned like four) oh, and a good coat”. And there I was myself, also taking a few books, just some, the rest, hundreds of them, had to be left behind in boxes, too heavy to take with us, also our wedding photo album, some other family fotos and just a handful of trinkets that held sentimental value.
We’re still adjusting to our new life in a town close to Belfast. Things are of course different here. Where should I start? The unfamiliar feeling of finally knowing you are safe and you don’t live by the gun anymore? How people actually have manners here, say hi, thanks, and no ones yells or screams? How you can drive without worrying about 90% of the people behind the wheel drive like clinical psychopaths? Schools where kids don’t beat the crap out of each other? Public schools that are actually good and a kid can get an education? People have glass doors here, and locks that I could pick with a paper clip in less than five minutes if I wanted to. Burglar bars on windows? I haven’t seen a single one yet. While homes have alarms, its mostly a matter of safety when traveling and leaving the house empty or even just to knock down a few pounds off the house insurance. Armed home invasions are extremely rare, and even those rare ones are usually because of drugs or some other illegal business.
So that’s us now. I wanted to wait until we were settled, until we finally came to believe this wasn’t a dream but actually our life now. No more being scared, no more worrying about whats going to happen next week , if the entire country is going to fall apart again in a matter of days. While the global crisis is real and affects the entire planet in one way or another, man it’s nice to be in a first world country.
In the following days, I’ll be posting every now and then about what its like to leave everything behind for real, the decisions made, general criteria and suck. I’ll answer questions as best as I can, as time allows.
Its so damn good to finally live life,
As people like saying around here;
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