I realize I’m doing this backwards. Usually people introduce themselves before they begin talking. But I jumped right in and began posting because I was very excited about my first book. After four months of posting allow me to take a moment and introduce myself. My name is William Chasterson. I’m a writer and a student of history. I was raised in the Midwest of the United States in a very conservative town of about 15,000 people. In my twenties I moved to New York which is where I’ve been for the past 15 years. After the first few years of culture shock I was finally able to settle into my environment and actually consider myself a New Yorker. For the past year and a half however I’ve been living in the third world. I’m not going to mention the name of the country I moved to because governments can be sensitive at times and although I have nothing negative to say about any government. They could arrive at the wrong conclusion and I could wind up behind bars.
How did I end up here?
I’ve always had an inclination to want to be successful. But I felt something was lacking in the traditional means and end most people use to arrive at what they consider to be a success. I wanted to contribute something positive to society. For years I’ve done volunteer work but I always felt as if I was holding back somehow. I wanted to do more and my wife and I talked about one day making a grand sacrifice and traveling to an underdeveloped country. Then one day we found that ten years had passed by and all we had done is talk. We were getting older. If we were going to contract some rare disease while helping others, now was the time to do it. We’re still young enough to be able to bounce back. But the clock was ticking. We decided that it was now or never. We needed to either take action or stop talking about it. Although I had a nice paying job with flexible hours I decided to quit. My employers couldn’t understand my decision and it was difficult for me to explain. On the exit interview every question implied that I had found a better job and they wanted feedback on what they could have done differently to retain me. After I left my job things began moving rather quickly. I rolled my 401K savings over into an IRA. We got our travel vaccinations and malaria pills. We stocked up on everything we thought we would need to get us through the first year. We’ve always considered ourselves as living simple lives. But when you have to gather up and store everything you own you may find you have more possessions than you thought. That’s what happened in our case. Friends did us the favor of storing what we could not take. Long story short, we boarded the plane and embarked on a new phase in our lives.
The first year
The first year was harder than we could have ever imagined and the plans we made to support ourselves caught snag after snag until finally falling through. This meant we had to rely on our savings more than expected. The country we moved to has no middle class. In America people talk about their not being a middle class or the middle class being under attack but until you actually experience a society with no middle class it’s impossible to imagine. First of all there is a small class of über rich people and a much larger class of extremely poor people. I expected everything to be cheap but the opposite is true. There’s no competition for prices because the rich don’t complain or bargain. Whatever things cost they just pay and keep it moving. The poor can’t afford any luxuries. They live in survival mode. Imagine high prices and low quality products and food and you’ll have an accurate picture of what it’s like here. Compared to Western societies even the rich here live relatively rough lives. While the poor just subsist in the most barren of environments. It’s kind of like George Orwell’s 1984. Despite the challenges however we have had much success in the volunteer work we came to do. I’m not using this blog as a forum to further my volunteer work at this time. Most of the people I work with don’t even have computers. For this reason I won’t go into great detail about the work. But I will say we educate people to make practical changes which enables them to live happier lives. I know our decision to move seemed unusual to many but I always believed that deep down everyone wanted to do what we were doing. We’re not special in any way. We saw an opportunity and we grabbed it. If given the same opportunity I felt anyone else would do the same. This belief has changed somewhat but I don’t want to talk about that right now. We sent a lot of emails and pictures back home because we thought everyone would be interested in what we were doing. We carefully filtered the emails because although we were suffering we didn’t want to discourage anyone. We only chose pictures where we were enjoying ourselves and we highlighted only the good experiences. Far from discouraging however I get the impression that the emails had the opposite effect. Some may have thought we were having the time of our lives and were bragging. We were actually having the time of our lives but not in the ways they may have imagined. On our return to the states I once again experienced culture shock but now in a different way. Everything was convenient but there was an overpowering stress that permeated everything. On the surface it seems that living in the third world is much harder because of the poverty, poor hygiene and strong military presence. But the stress I felt on my return was harder for me to deal with than anything I experienced the previous year. I blame no one for this. Human beings (including myself) are complex strange creatures. I’ve documented some of these experiences in my new book Metaphysical Man which is due to be released July 1st 2015. I’ll most likely be updating this post as time goes on so that those who might be interested can find out what eventually happens to us. But that’s all for now.
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