Boomer Part 2

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Being a semi recovering Netflix addict, I recently watched an Australian film called Tracks. It’s about a woman, currently in my age range, who at  25 thought it would be a swell idea to cross the expanse of the Australian desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. Not only that but with her dog and 4 camels to carry her gear while she walked.

My generation, at one time, and as part a generational cultural rebellion, acted on a desire to  explore internal (read psychedelics) and external (exotic travel) horizons. The idea was to break free of chains to the establishment and parental norms and spend time in Thai monasteries, Indian ashrams or maybe drop ayahuasca with a Peruvian shaman. I myself am guilty of renting a little Citroen car with a sewing machine engine and driving across the Moroccan Sahara to the Algerian border just to meet up with Tuareg tribesman. Things that our parents would probably not approve of. Though the lamb couscous was pretty decent.

However I did  stay in school, and in 1980 joined the middle class along with the rest of the flower power kids. The nod to the aspirations of my rebellious colleagues of the 60’s began in April 2005 when I sold most of my possessions, loaded a SUV and trailer and took off for Mexico and down the coastal highway to what I call the Banana Republic of Belize in Central America. The plan was to practice rural transcultural medicine. Needless to say most of my family and friends thought that the cheese had slid of my cracker.

The retiree ex pat advertising phenomenon is relatively recent and my generation is the target. The reasons are basically the same mentality that fired the 60’s rebellion. From the bible of ex pat relocation International Living…

“Three years ago, my husband Michael and I were both on the corporate treadmill—Michael as a consulting engineer and me running my own business.
We were working long hours just to maintain our lifestyles, leaving us overworked and miserable. We have come full circle”.

Though the majority of people still live, work and retire within 100 miles of where they were raised, International Living is calling out to the disenchanted, demoralized and disaffected. Of the Americans I met many were fed up with America and a good number were veterans. The Canadians were fed up with winter and generally did a 6/6 split to not lose out on free health care or refills of Horton coffee.

I have less data on the motley group of non North American expats that make up the unique multicultural mix that is Belize : Brits, Croatians, East Indians, mainland Chinese, Hezbollah terrorists and “refugees” from Honduras and El Salvador.

I have found that N.A. expats are drawn to Belize primarily by their ability to use the English language. Except it’s nothing like the Queens own. And only 4% of the population use it. On the downside  the country has poor infrastructure, appalling poverty, corrupt governance, an oppressively humid bug infested climate and overpriced red wine. After 5 years of somewhat careful study, here are my conclusions  on the sociology of the ex pats of Belize….

1. Wealthy retirees : a motley bourgeois group who build McMansions on oceanfront with a variety of sea toys and spend a well-earned life of casual leisure not possible in S.Florida. They are generally North American in origin. Brits and Europeans in this group go to Malta.

2. Poor retirees: the social security group who can live a better life for less in Belize or Nicaragua

3. Fugitives: the original group popular in the 80’s running from the IRS, a greedy ex spouse, or felonies. Not as common any more.

4. Losers and drifters: can be found in “Cool Spots” from around noon daily sitting in front of 12 brews. Alcoholics in this group as well.

5. Spouse hunters: Narcissistic men of all extractions (Canadian, American etc) looking for wives or lovers of Belizean or other Central American origin, as traditional women are increasingly hard for them to attract. These men are generally well off , overweight, balding and are appealing to young local women who will admire them and never disagree.

6. Crusaders: includes professionals, clergy, and other well-meaning do-gooders saving the locals from the legacy of years of colonial imperialist oppression. I was in this cohort.

7. Granola crunching tree huggers: the back to the land group who like to get their hands dirty growing crops or raising hogs.  This group also includes environmentalists who take on a cause like saving the endangered Pie Eyed Woodcreeper or the rare Cross Legged beetle. Harmless, well-meaning and eccentric.They enjoy homeschooling their kids, making their own toothpaste and rarely wear deodorant.

8. Fed Up: with the North American, fast food, consumerist early heart attack cultural value system. Similar to #7.

9.Business people: those brave souls who open up a bar and grill to find out that the buns ordered yesterday won’t be here till next week unless the driver gets over his hangover and fixes the transmission. Learns quickly that a classic Belizean dish is Bouef Tronconneuse…

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Most are likely to beat a hasty retreat north when their investment is gone.

10.Flotsam &Jetsam :a myriad of societal misfits/rejects. Similar to group 4. Range from hermits to schizophrenics. Not specific to Belize or El Salvador. Can also be found in Nepal or Slovenia.

11. Cosmopolitans: modern day rootless nomads who are well travelled, educated and whose home is wherever they stop moving for a bit

This summary  is obviously meant to be irreverent but a surprisingly a number of people agreed  with the early draft.

My generation has been accused of being superficial, materialistic and egocentric having sold out the values of the sixties. All true of course. But we have earned retirement and it’s going to be someplace exotic, not Boca Raton where our parents slowly died playing Mah Jong by the pool. Nope it’s going to be a mountain side village in Ecuador or a chicken ranch on the Belize- Guatemalan border.
Far out.

Adjustment issues and coping strategies for current ex pats in part 3.

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One Response to “Boomer Part 2”

  1. Carole Kocian says:

    English language is central to all the above. Otherwise, I don’t think any of them really know where they are going, i.e. couldn’t find it on a world map if their life depended on it.

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