Well, that’s a fair enough question. What the hell ever happened to The Experimental Expats? Realizing it’s been almost a year since sharing anything other than Facebook rants and complaints about Trumpland USA with a few non American friends, I’ve decided to come back and answer that question. But first, my middle age rant about technology and how much I hate it. Having spent a large part of my scathingly longHouse Husband Days learning how to create, fashion and keep a WordPress blog updated, wouldn’t you know those bastards had the audacity to create an updated editor? Shuddering, panicking and almost running back into the unusually brutal Northern Thailand heat (more on that later), I decided to give “Block Editing” a shot. After discovering a fluke in my site that the Happiness Engineers first denied, then admitted needed to be turned over to the developers, I spent two days self tutoring so here I am again and to any millennials who think my posting is old and archaic for lack of fancy code, Jetpack shit or anything else besides actual words; Too Bad.
Feeling like we fell into a mode of real complacency after our trip back to North America, the hiatus felt necessary. Realistically, our lives as middle-aged early retirees living overseas aren’t great fodder for a digital world with two-minute attention spans. We don’t have “second careers”, haven’t gone back to school, opened a business or learned a new language (OK, we speak “nit noy“ Thai). Not yet finding “the next great thing”, we don’t even have Instagram accounts. Living here in Chiang Mai among the worlds’ biggest group of obnoxious expats anywhere on social media and the “digital gonads” who know everything about every topic, it seemed reasonable to take a long blog vacation until something worth writing about came along. Realizing that time is here now, I’ll share three significant things relevant to our little blog. I’ll cover one of the three issues in this post and come back to the other two later.
Thailand’s Immigration Department made significant changes to the rules for extending visas based on retirement.
The “burning season” which is a long period in the dry season that local farmers across Northern Thailand burn their fields has now turned into an environmental disaster so serious it requires more than the 47 days we escaped this year to avoid inhaling seriously dangerous particulates.
As a result of the above two issues, we’ve decided five years in Southeast Asia will be enough and we’re leaving Thailand for greener pastures in Mexico next summer.
Currently reading an unbelievable API (air pollution index) number of 252, Penang Island today is completely crippled with smog levels that not even Singapore or Beijing sees very often. Somehow claiming “they’ve beencaught off guard”, all schools are closed indefinitely, flights are either delayed or cancelled and you can’t even hear any motorbike noise which basically means the island’s population may as well be dead. It’s been 18 years of illegal slash and burn practices one country over so I guess I’m not understanding why they think climate change somehow won’t affect them in drought years, especially with a highly publicized and strong El Niño event happening, but the only official information is a blurb telling residents to “stay indoors”. For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the API, levels under 50 are healthy and over 200 is basically hazardous to step outside. Indonesia remains in the mid 450s every day and many parts read “999” because the developers of the machinery that measures air quality probably pegged it impossible to ever break 1,000. For expats caught in the middle like us it means another day of sitting in the living room wasting energy although the smoky stench occasionally creeps through the air conditioning vents anyway.
Although it may have been better to pay the exorbitant storage fees and keep our 29 boxes of personal goods in the California storage locker, it’s too late now as the vessel arrives Saturday. Having paid the logistics company today, we expect delivery sometime next week through a “forwarding agent” so there’s nothing we can do but stay indoors all day and bear witness to an environmental situation that western minds couldn’t possibly wrap their heads around. Working out in the air-conditioned gym is almost impossible because the air stays off when it’s unoccupied, allowing the soot and stench to creep through the windows and under the door. Understandably, nobody in the rest of the world sans a small community of Greenpeace advocates and scientists pays much attention to a problem that doesn’t really seem important and many long-term expats tell us we should just leave since we have freedom of mobility. But those who follow this blog know how long and hard it was to get the MM2H visa thanks to a host of hurdles involving banking secrecy rules and tedious procedures so it’s not as simple as just picking up and leaving. Mostly it’s discouraging and admitting it’s not going to work for our lifestyle is not an easy thing to accept. But nature can’t fix this, rain is nowhere on the horizon despite Malaysia’s status as rainforest country and G8 leaders are not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring for help battling the wildfires. If this happened in California, CNN would be going bat shit covering it 24/7 and federal funds would free up to address the emergency. Southeast Asian nations live by different standards so all I can say is keep this in mind when considering an expat retirement destination.