Neither Here Nor There

WesterUnionHereThereMost of my readers know that I was born and raised in the United States. After spending most of my early life in Texas (with a short stint in Italy), I lived in New York City for four years (college), followed by Boston for four years (grad school), and then San Francisco for four years (career start).

For the past seven year, however, I have been an expatriate residing in South America. I originally committed to moving here for a couple of years to see how I liked it, and then at that point I would decide what to do.

I’m still here.

And while I’ll always be a “foreigner” in the country that I currently reside in, every day I become just a little less foreign. When I speak Spanish, I have less of an accent. (This is oh so important since most of the commerce here is based upon a verbal bartering system…any hint of being a foreigner, and the prices shoot up!) I continue to learn more and more about local customs and traditions. I actually even show up late to social events. I continue to fit right in, even though I’ll always be a little out of place.

The same holds true when I return to the U.S. for visits. Even though this is “my” country, each year it feels a little more different…a little more foreign. Wide straight avenues surrounded by big box retail. Convenient…but somewhat boring, compared to the hectic outdoor markets of tiny stalls and labyrinthine streets that fill the city I live in. Don’t even get me started on the forms of greeting people! All too often, while in the U.S., I realize much too late that while a kiss on the cheek is the norm where I reside (to not do so is often seen as an insult), to do this same gesture in the U.S. is often a faux pas. I once actually did this during a business interview, believe it or not.

This morning, I taught class to a group of local students. To them, I provide a very American experience (beyond the fact that all of my classes are taught in English, no matter what the subject it). This afternoon, I am going on a mural tour with a small group of American students who are participating in a study abroad program at my university. While I will no doubt have much in common with them, I will also be that person who is very immersed in the local habits, customs, and language.

I am neither completely from here or completely from there. But it’s nice to explore this strange limbo-esque place in the middle.

And when it comes to my rheumatoid arthritis, I sort of have similar feelings. I will never get used to the constant pain and flares…but at the same time, I continue to get used to the constant pain and flares.

The day before yesterday, I had an extreme flare. (This sounds like the next Mountain Dew beverage: Extreme Flare™.) Unlike most of my recent flares, this one caught me quite off guard. Usually I try to sleep through the worst of flares, but this one found me completely awake. The pain, and my mind alongside, continued to race out of control. While deep down inside I probably knew that this would eventually pass, I actually lost sight of this fact. I didn’t know what to do. And to make things even a little more complicated, my supportive partner was out of reach, at work.

So I called my mother in the states. Even though she was thousands of miles away, and even though I knew receiving this type of phone call from me while I was in this state would no doubt be upsetting, I called anyways. That is what I needed at the moment.

When I finally was able to stop crying and start talking, we started talking about the flare that I was in at that moment. She suggested that I go into the neighborhood clinic for an anti-inflammatory injection, which I did after our phone call ended. Towards the end of our talk, when it seemed like the absolute worst had passed (although lots of bad still remained), we started talking about some other topics…like the Dallas Cowboy’s disappointing loss on Sunday night. And then I realized something: that I had made it through yet another (seemingly worst) flare (ever).

So while I will never be able to get used to flares like these, I continue to get used to flares like these.

And I couldn’t have done it alone.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

12 Comments
12 comments
  1. lana says:

    Personally, I think it is great to live in a foreign country. It is a great experience. I have done it and I know what you mean about the prices going up because you are a foreigner to that county. I know what you mean about arriving late. Most countries do not have this concept of time that we have in the USA. And you are absolutely right about feeling out of place. When you return to the states, you will feel foreign at least for the first year you are here and then life goes back to normal.
    As for the RA, you are right that we never get used to it. I am sorry about this latest flare but I found myself in the same position in recent days and ended up calling my sister to help me through. Most of the time, I am careful not to show this side of me to my kids and by the time, they are asleep in bed, the emotions start to fly. Sometimes, it is so hard to do it alone so it is good to have loved ones we can reach out to in the midst of it all. Glad the flare has passed. Take care of yourself.

  2. Sara J says:

    RA Guy- I do think I remember reading that article. Not sure if that’s the reality show you really want to win…hmmmmm

  3. RA Guy's Mom says:

    Always remember–and never forget–I am here for you whenever you need me…even if it’s just to talk (though there are thousands of miles between us–I am still just a phone call away)…and especially when and if you find yourself in the same or similar situation as you did this past time (that you were in the middle of an extreme flare)…and don’t worry about upsetting me–the important thing is to reach out when you feel the need to. When I suggested you going to get the anti-inflammatory injection–I know it’s something you’ve had to do before–but in the midst of your extreme pain it’s not surprising that you couldn’t think of it…and by the end of our conversation I felt better that we had gone on and our conversation had turned to other topics (I was actually trying to get your mind away from your pain)–you sounded better by the time we hung up the phone(s)…and although you were still in pain–I felt you would were going to be okay. I am glad you called me.

    Part of your posting today (about being “here” & “there”) reminded me of your senior year in high school when you returned from a year’s study-abroad exchange program when you’d gone to Italy. At the completion of your school year you couldn’t wait to go back to Italy to visit for most of the summer (before you left home again–this time to go to New York City where you attended Columbia for the next 4 years). Before you left for Italy that summer, I remember you expressing how you wanted to be “here” (at home/in the U.S.), yet you also wanted to be “there” (with your Italian family/in Italy)–you felt torn between the two places and even wished you could be in both places at the same time. I guess that’s what happens when you make friends and grow roots–other places start to feel like & become ‘home’ also. Now here you are–residing in South America for the past 7 years…and I know exactly what you mean in your writing when you refer to “here” (living in South America now) and “there” (the U.S. when you visit).

    Love you lots, son!

  4. Christy D. says:

    I’m a neither here nor there, too. I will never stop exploring new places to live. I’m sorry for your flare, but so very happy your Mom talked you through it. Going through a flare (extreme, not so extreme, or just annoying) is hard…but made easier with someone who is gentle and clever with the “look over there!” skills! Good luck to you…and enjoy S.America every day you’re there!

  5. Christy Abel says:

    It is always nice to meet another gypsy! I have lived all over the US, had 3 years in England, and now am in Australia. Maybe next time I move, RA won’t be able to find my new address!

  6. RA Guy's Mom says:

    Christy, Good luck with that last wish/statement (i.e. “Maybe next time I move, RA won’t be able to find my new address!)…such a clever, clever thought.

  7. Rheum for God says:

    What a beautiful post. Love the descriptive contrasts between two lands and it’s relation to how we handle RA’s attack on our lives and our senses. I lived overseas for five years and will never forget the shock of returning to the states once I exited the airport. I felt bombarded by endless shopping, eating and billboards shouting their ads at me. I was horrified. I am in Texas now and the landscape is covered in retail. If you miss Target at one exit–just keep driving–another will soon appear! So sad…

    I pray this finds you feeling much better today. I completely understand the comfort one can find when phoning mom. There’s just nothing like it.

    Stopped by to check on you and let you know I have two awards for you at my blog.

  8. shelley says:

    RA Guy,

    I just discovered your site a few days ago. It’s the middle of the night, I read your post about your flare and the call to your mother, then your mother’s reply. I guess this comment is for your mother, I admire her for being able to be so far away and still be strong and a comfort to you.

    I have been living with RA for six years now, tonight’s a bad night. Pain, can’t sleep…But that’s not what I want to share with you and your mother.

    My oldest son has been living with Type I Diabetes since he was seven years old. As a parent of a now adult child with a chronic illness I do understand what it is to be on the other end of the telephone. I understand…

    RA Guy, you’re my super hero…

  9. Missy says:

    I didn’t realize you spoke Spanish. ¡Estoy aprendiendo español! Flares are awful. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it either. I left work with tears streaming down my face the other day. It was so embarrassing! It’s so good to read your positive insight to these things!

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