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The Accidental Expat

On the first day of the fourth month of 1993 - April Fool's Day - we landed in Japan.

Up until that moment, we had never been outside of the Americas.
We had never eaten sushi.
We had never sung karaoke.
We had never even listened to a Yoko Ono album (then again, neither have most Japanese).
Still, there we were, in Japan.

Many people plan to be expats.
Some want a foreign assignment as the next step on their career path.

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Some pursue an overseas education in order to experience other cultures.
Some head to exotic lands to pursue romance and adventure.
And some are just trying to escape financial, political, religious, or legal problems back home.

We were none of those.

We were just sitting in a small house, in a small town, on a small island, in the state of Vermont, watching another foot of snow fall, when a call came from my manager.
Would we like to live and work in Japan for a year?
We laughed, until we looked outside at the three feet of snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures.
Then we said, "Why not?"
At least it would get us out of the house.

Our friends and family were happy to help us with the 'why-nots'.

They pointed out all the good things that we'd be leaving behind, starting - of course - with our friends and family.
Then they added ESPN, MTV, no smoking restaurants, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, two car garages, cars to put in the garage, and closet space.
They neatly avoided American politics, the religious right, serial killers, junk mail, and reality TV.

Then they pointed out all the obstacles that we would face in Japan.
We listened, because they meant well, but in the end we decided that we weren't going to let raw food, exchange rates, earthquakes, typhoons, yakuza, language barriers, Godzilla, or the kamikaze work ethic get in our way.

A more immediate obstacle, it turns out, was marriage.
Ours was not to be a shotgun wedding, but more of a 'chopstick' wedding, necessary to ease our Japanese visa and tax documentation.
We talked about it, and decided that if our love could span oceans, countries, and political preferences, it could probably survive marriage as well.
So we packed, visited our parents, flew to California, took care of our paperwork, got married beneath the redwood trees of Santa Cruz, and then flew to Japan for a one year honeymoon.

That was pretty much it. There was no grand plan.
We didn't leave on a search for wealth and riches.
We didn't come to seek eastern enlightenment.
We just said why not, to a one year contract.
Five contracts and seven years later, we're still here - working on the world's longest honeymoon.

Why not?

GH 07/00
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