Efraim MARQUEZ-ARREAZA

16 September 2008

To be an Expat

When I turned 18, I started to work as an English and Spanish teacher with foreign oil companies in Maracaibo, Venezuela (Shell, Chevron, Oxy Petrol, etc). Here, I met the first Expat, in latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland), which according to Wikipedia means: "a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence."

Now, for the first time I am the Expat (outside Venezuela and Canada) working for a global telecom company with just over a month in Khartoum, Sudan. Up to now, I can say:


Weather: it’s rainy season, so days are cool (windy)… but still very hot! Also, in this past month, there have been 2 sand storms that have completely fill de apartment with sands.

People: they are very nice, friendly and helpful. I have interacted with only a few and they all seem very proud of Sudan and say there's freedom here. Obviously, I don't know the internal affairs in details... but, I hope this country grows.

Language: I am completely lost in arabic... but, learning the very basic to get by.

Infrastructure: it’s deficient in most of the city, main roads are ok... but, internal are dirt and uneven. Also, power failures are almost daily (to have a generator is a plus at office or home). However, there are several ambitious projects.

Safety: there is trouble in the country (Dafur), but in the city it is pretty safe and I can go out at night (nevertheless, I have my 6 eyes in all direction at all times)

Food: I stay in the range of recommend restaurants for foreigners and I only had 1 stomach incident.

Entertainment: there isn’t any English-speaking movie theater (very bad for me), but satellite TV in hotel and apt have 2-3 news and 4-5 movies channels (good enough for me).

Internet: I connect through wireless broadband over 3.5G cellular network (it runs very nice… I can Skype, Gmail and Facebook easily).

Social life: it is mostly work colleagues and very few diplomat people (Canada, Spain, Venezuela, UN, etc). There are some parties with guest list and they are OK (but, I'm not a party animal).

Religion: I am impressed how it is so important to all people (age, gender, social class, etc). Especially in Ramadan… ufff, I would need to train before going a month fasting for over 12 hrs.

Cultural Awareness: I have seen all over the city, men (common, business and professional) holding hands as a sign of strong friendship. Of course, in my "western" mind this means something else... and it's a cultural learning experience.

Downside: I miss my wife, going to the movies on Tuesday night, hanging out with friends at Juebebes, play soccer and driving around Montreal at any time.

Upside: I am definitely getting more experience, expanding my professional network contacts and getting pay to travel.

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12 September 2008

Gringolandia 1988

Hoy, me acabo de dar cuenta que hace 20 años (12-Sep-1988) llegue a la Ciudad de Iowa, estado de Iowa, Gringolandia (Iowa City, IA, USA) con mis hermanos Timo y Dioni, pues mi mama estaba empezando a estudiar su doctorado (Ph.D.) en "Comunicacion Social" en la Universidad de Iowa.

Creo que mi visa era J-2, es decir, dependiente de J-1, la cual es "Exchange Visitor" pues mi mama tenia una beca LASPAU Fulbright. Nuestra estadia en Gringolandia fue aprox. 5 años (28-Jul-1993) continuos sin salir del pais y por supuesto, hubo momentos dificiles y otros agradables. Pero, lo mas importante de esa experiencia fue haber aprendido el idioma ingles y quizas entender un poco la cultura gringa.

Para mi la frase que describe mi sentimiento sobre ese momento de mi vida es: "I am not an immigrant, I am just visiting", el cual quedo plasmado en un pedazo de techo del cafetin en el colegio Northwest Junior High School, lo hice para un proyecto de la clase de arte "Visual Studies" del Sr. Griffin.

En general, puedo decir que la mayoria de los gringos (US citizens) que conoci eran de: mente cerrada, paranoicos y simplemente desinformados. Pero, por supuesto hay sus excepciones y solamente tengo un (1) verdadero amigo desde hace 20 años (hint: el fue a Venezuela en el 2002 y 2007 ;-)

En fin, esta entrada es solo para recordar esta fecha importante en mi vida y ahora, gracias al Facebook me he podido re-encontrar con otros buenos amigos de aquella epoca.

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06 September 2008

Fotos Agosto 2008

Aqui les dejo las fotos del mes de Agosto 2008 que tome con el celular entre Montreal, Canada y Jartum, Sudan. Hay muchas mas fotos en la camara... pero, estan en la portatil de Ale. Espero que disfruten del show:

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