The Old Codgers' thread

I am one of those old codgers who has visited countries that no longer exist (Yugoslavia, USSR, East and West Germany) or whose names have been changed (New Hebrides, now Vanuatu) or whose boundaries are not the same as they once were (Jordan, whose "West Bank" of Palestine is now occupied by Israel). Anybody else out there who has done that sort of thing?

All expats can identify - if we cast our minds back - the point where we first decided to become expats, or to move from one expat country to another. That decision or event changed our lives. A couple of years ago I happened across a story of Mark Twain's which he published under the title "The Turning Point", and I tried to identify my own turning point. It was not nearly as dramatic as Twain's, but it was an interesting exercise in deduction. I blogged about it in a post at the link below. And below that, is how I began the post. … point.html

Twain (born Samuel Clemens) identified the turning point of his life as his infection with measles at age twelve. That was precocious of him. Mine occurred at age 26 in the US Consulate in London at ten o’clock one morning. I expect most people’s personal turning-points occur more in young adulthood than in childhood.

Fearful of a local measles epidemic, in the days when measles was a killer, Samuel’s mother confined him to the house pro tem. Impatient with delaying what he reckoned to be the inevitable, he sought out an infected friend, crawled into his bed with him and stayed overnight. When the epidemic had run its course – with the boys luckily still alive – Sam’s furious mother gave up on his schooling and apprenticed him to a printer of books.

Captivated by stories of the Amazon River, he ran away on a Mississippi river-boat headed for the international port of New Orleans. With no money, he stayed on the river, became a pilot, then a writer of occasional stories, then a literary legend. It all began with the measles.

It would be interesting to know what other EB members believe to have been their main "turning points". Any offers?

Gordon Barlow :

All expats can identify... It would be interesting to know what other EB members believe to have been their main "turning points".

Great topic, Gordon. :top:


My life changed after a Thanksgiving Weekend brunch at a girlfriend's apartment in Westchester County, New York, some years ago.

Her brother was there with a date from Eastern Europe.  Somehow this woman had no clue that it might be inappropriate and jarring for her to talk continually for 40 minutes about every death and illness that had occurred in her extended family during the previous ten years.

This bombardment of negativity silenced everyone else at the table.

Finally, after a break in the 'conversation' of a couple of minutes, I suggested that we move to a positive topic.

That set my girlfriend off.  Without any previous indications, she started screaming at me, launching  a tirade so shocking in volume and intensity I can't recall her exact points .. but obviously she was irate, to say the least, about my suggested change of topic.

I didn't fight back or defend myself, but instead took a break to cool my head in a walk around the neighborhood, and then came back to the apartment for a few minutes.  At that point, she threw me out.   Other than a parting shot from her by phone a few days later, that brunch day was my last contact with her.


I had just moved back to the New York area, and with the stock market still in its Roaring 90's phase, I had the time, the opportunity and the incentive to take an overseas trip a couple of weeks later ... my first-ever visit to Thailand.

The sense of fun around Chiang Mai  was eye- and soul-opening .. the connections with Expats were terrific.. and the experiences with my new Thai girlfriend showed me how a non-USA woman can have a completely opposite and positive way of being with her man.  Warm, accepting, willing for him to speak his mind.

I ended up staying in Thailand for over three months on that trip .. and then returning for extended trips two more times in the next year.

Eventually, I realized that all of Thailand is too darned hot for an Expat to live year-round and wound up in the high-altitude sierra of South America.  I lived and worked most years in the U.S. but made overseas trips to Thailand and Ecuador on vacations and between jobs, before making the 'permanent move' here in 2013.

I never dated a North American woman again.

There's no question but that the brunch back at Thanksgiving 1998 was the turning point.

cccmedia in Quito, Ecuador

cccmedia :

I never dated a North American woman again. cccmedia in Quito, Ecuador

ccc. You should probably not apply your couple of experiences to ALL of the 200 million females living in the US and Canada! Please tell me you wouldn't kick Mila Kunis out of your bedroom...

It wasn't practical to date all 200-million, Gordon, so I had to go by my experiences with a somewhat smaller sample. :cool:  But I'm certain it was with more than "a couple" of NA women.

Are you referring to Milena Markovna Kunis, the Ukrainian actress who moved to L.A. in the 1990's? ;)


cccmedia :

Are you referring to Milena Markovna Kunis, the Ukrainian actress who moved to L.A. in the 1990's? ;)  cccmedia

Yes I am. I picked the most beautiful North American woman I could think of. She used to be a star of the TV comedy series "That '70s Show". I forget who else was in it - and don't care!

Here's another topic for us... How we met our spouses. I don't mind leading off, with an extract from a blog-post of mine published in January 2013 called "Zorba the Greek".

Eight or ten of us foreigners from the hostel [in Thessaloniki, Greece, in October 1964] watched the movie ["Zorba the Greek"] in the town cinema, in English with Greek sub-titles. We laughed at the funny lines a second before the locals did, which made it even funnier. We sat around drinking coffee back at the hostel, and some of us exchanged names and addresses. “If you ever get to Canada...” – that sort of thing.

Next day, or the one after, I was ready to hit the road again, going east. I had already promised a lift to two fellows, each of whom stuffed an alarmingly large pack into my Beetle. Then some girl from the Zorba session asked if I had room for one more. Well, not really, but what can you do? The boys got out where they wanted, but over the next few months she and I drifted eastward, then westward, then north, then west again... She’s still here, somewhere around the house as I write this. What can you do?

My first tropical island was Grand Bahama, when I was 26. My employer (Touche Ross, in Toronto) sent a few of us bachelors down there to help out the local branch of the firm in its busy season. A good time was had by us all. When we'd done our job, two of us were sent to New Providence - the main island of the Bahamas - on another job. I liked it so much that I applied for a job with the client, and a few months later my new bride and I went to live there. We stayed for 3 1/2 years - the best years of our lives, by a long way!

Any other old codgers with a tropical-island story to tell, from their young rum-and-coca-cola days?

Last night while cleaning out a drawer, my wife found two letters that she had written to Santa Claus when she was six. We were reminded of how we were taught to write cursive back in those days. Hours and hours spent on getting the loops just right, and trying not to slip below the line!

Oh, and during her rummaging, Linda found some old photos that had been lost to us for years! In May 2014 I had blogged (link below) about finding one photo of me in Arab dress taken decades ago during our adventures in the Middle East. I deplored the fact that the traditional dress of men in Arab countries was always much cooler than the traditional dress of women. And here was a photo of Linda in Arab costume, which absolutely proved the truth of that observation!

(Of course "Arab countries" covers a whole lot of territory, and this was taken by a Christian Arab in Palestine, but in all our travels the women seemed to have gotten the short end of the stick in respect of traditional fashion.)

More rummaging... This time, we were lifting our old stamp collections down from the ledge above the washer and dryer; Linda thinks she ought to try selling some of them on eBay. Among the collection is my first Album, given to me for Christmas 1947 by my gentle and much-loved grandfather (my mother's father; the other was a grumpy old coot, not loved at all).

The stamps are not worth a damn thing, probably, and scarcely worth a mention, but stuck in at the front of the album are several envelopes kept because of the postage stamps on them. I know stamp-collecting is out of fashion now, but there must be other members of this forum who have something similar squirreled away that deserves to see the light of day again. Here's what I have, and I hope others will disclose their secrets too.

* a 2/- Queensland Beer Duty adhesive stamp for 8 gallons, dated 22.2.1900
* an envelope addressed to my grandfather, postmarked 28 Ago 1919, from a penfriend of his (and a fellow-collector) in Managua, Nicaragua
* an envelope addressed to me at Hannaford, 21.11.1951, from a penfriend of mine in Oslo, Norway. Grandpa had suggested that I write to the company that canned the herrings we used to buy, asking if he knew anybody my age who might like to swap stamps with me. The boss man passed my letter on to one of his workers whose son was interested.
* a "letter card" from New Zealand, postmarked 29 October 1900, to Grandpa from one of his brothers acknowledging receipt of some news about the family timber mill in Ipswich (Queensland).
* a picture-postcard from Rome to my brother and me at our boarding school in 1954, sent by a neighbour of ours in the bush who had married "well" - well enough to gallivant around Italy, at least: the first person from our district to have done that.

New topic

Meet other expats and join the events