by Kerry Nappi
High: I ended 2014 on a related Low when I broke my toe two days before we left for Easter Island. I worried that I’d fall behind, miss the fun, ruin the vacation. Well, I am glad to report, the toe had little to no impact on the trip. It was everything we expected and more. Easter Island isn’t the most remote island in the world, but it’s pretty darn remote. Once we got to Santiago, Chile on South America’s west coast, we still had to fly 5 1/2 hours over ocean to get to the small volcanic island. The giant moai (stone statues) erected by the Polynesian settlers were, of course, the highlight. In fact, my husband just called it The Big Head Tour. But the simple luxury of walking in town, not feeling at risk as we have sometimes felt in Brazil, having dinner every night while watching the surfers, and just being together for 9 straight days made it a holiday well worth the distance. There was one surreal moment I felt when I realized: We’re this American family having this simple lunch here on Easter Island with our New Zealand tour guide Marc, who is married to a Rapa Nui woman, before we go home to Brazil. When did everyone become so connected?
Low: I have tried half a dozen times to reword the same sentiment, but this low has been written to death: My older child has moved out. We thought he’d be here in Brazil longer, but he’d rather work for six months before he starts university, and that’s okay. His destination is far from home, but we knew that would happen when we relocated to another continent. And I know modern life affords us so many instant communication tools that it will be almost like he’s still here. Nevertheless, I feel the loss. Nobody else comes into a room laughing and speaking before even checking that I might be busy, always starting with, “You want to hear something funny?” a dozen times a day. I won’t add the personal stories of 18 years because every mom has those stories and every 18-year-old doesn’t want them told, and because if I do, he might not text me something funny tomorrow morning, and then I would be really sad.
Glitter: Back to Easter Island, because there were just so many moments there. There were tours of moai and activities like ATV riding and horses and snorkeling, but my glitter for the whole month, I think, was a 5 hour glitter. We went trekking on a part of the island where there are no roads and thus no vehicles, few other people, and hours of no contact.
I had debated making the trek at all because, well, when you have a broken toe and two bad knees, you wonder how hard it would be for your family to carry you 12 kilometers back to civilization. The way was sloped, stretching down the hill to the coast and covered with black volcanic rock. We spent 90% of the time looking down at where our feet were walking, though the other time was checking out hidden caves and knocked-over moai and noticing carcasses of cows and horses that had perished. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind just a little that those creatures, too, might have had a knee or toe not quite up for the walk!
The reason it was my glitter is just this: When you are 50 and in need of a couple new knees and maybe a slightly less-creaky back, you don’t get too many physical challenges that are fun. Sometimes the challenge is not whining when you get up in the morning. But this, this felt like an honest, I-am-conquering-a-mountain-
Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.
As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.
Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.
The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.