The few days we spent in São Paulo were plenty, even though we didn't see barely any of the few sites listed as Go To's in guidebooks. We did see an interesting corner that I don't know many people get to see by staying with my friend Erin.
First of all, Erin is a great reason to be on Facebook and read blogs, because we were friends for like a year in Jr. High, really only at Girls' Camp and stake church activities, until she moved to Utah. I bumped into her some six years later at the MTC- it was my first day as a missionary and she came to send off her brother. She had a baby with her (her second baby, it turns out) and I remember thinking how different people's lives can turn out. Not in any way bad or good, just different.
Fast forward six more years and we've been Facebook friends and following each others' blogs, so I know she lives in São Paulo and she kindly offers to house us for a few days while we're in the city. Erin and her husband Brandon have been in SP for a year or two. Brandon works for the finance department of Mercedes Benz' truck and bus division (yeah. I didn't know that department existed either. In Brazil or anywhere. I can tell you the bus we rode and ditched after it broke down an hour outside Paraty wasn't a Benz.) and they've got the perks to prove it.
There were tunz o' expats in the Inter ward in Bangkok when I served there- government employees, businessmen, "consultants", English teachers, from all over. The perks have some variation on:
*Sweet accommodations, selected by you and paid for by the company
*Company car and/or paid for transit
*Private school education for kids
*And then some
Erin and Brandon are mad about the lifestyle. Erin says she'd be happy to never move back the States again. Good thing, since 80% of the success of an expat placement depends on the satisfaction of the wife. Because work is work, I guess, and women who are unhappy get feisty and mean?
Not me. I think I'd be and expat champ. There was a time in the International Ward where Raelle and I met and starting teaching a string of expats. There was a woman who worked for the South African embassy who had us over a few times. She lived in the apartment side of a fancy hotel (we can add free maid service to the list of perks). One lunch she invited a woman who worked for Care International in Afghanistan right when 9/11 happened (nightmare for many. Dreamy for me. She talked about how there was so much HOPE... for a while... and then it got ugly and she had to leave). In Sunday School this week were more fascinating people- lawyers, embassy staff, two guys who are starting Brazil's version of Baby.com.
Point is, you don't just stumble into a job like this. You have to want it, and want to make it work for your family. And I love that. I love the idea of raising kids with a picture of life outside the sterility of the US. Maybe not forever. I have a huge sense of home and roots (comes from 18+ years on the bottom of Demery Hill) and I want that for my posterity. And yes, the expat life has its downsides. Distance, obviously. Safety (in the case of many places I want to live. Not to much for where Porter would want to live). Languages or cultural discrepancies can be exhausting. Food, aggressive driving, and always being an outsider can be exhausting.
But life on the outside would be worth a go, I'd say. Especially if someone else is paying for it!