My parents, better known as Papa and Pita, have always been a great source of support for me. Like me, many decades ago they left their home country of Mexico to make a better life in the USA. But unlike my current expat experience, life as immigrants was difficult for them. My mom would make our clothes when we were in elementary school. My sisters and I lived for the rare occasion where we would each get a quarter to buy ice cream at the school cafeteria. We grew up poor in McAllen, a small city in south Texas. With hard work and perseverance, they did manage to build a better life in this strange new country. Pita (short for “Lupita”) learned to speak English and eventually landed a job working at as a sales person at Dillard’s. Papa worked 2 jobs for many years, but by the time I was in high school he left both of them and established a small business selling his own brand of charcoal, “El Venado”, made from the mesquite trees in his small Mexican ranch. Thank you NAFTA!
Neither of my parents received an education beyond high school in Mexico. Yet they were determined that their children would not only be born in America and learn to speak English, but would achieve an American college education. You can imagine the look on my parents’ faces when I announced that I was moving to a developing Latin American country so my children could learn Spanish!
One of the most important aspects of preparing to move abroad was making sure that I could communicate with my parents. Talking on the phone is way too expensive and they do not have iPADs to FaceTime. I also wanted to be able to see them not just hear them.
So once again the tables were turned. The child became the teacher. I taught my parents to Skype. I upgraded my Skype account to a Premium membership so I could do group video chat. My sister who lives in the same town as they do downloaded Skype to my Pita’s laptop. I taught Pita how to register and get a user name and password. Before I left, we had a trial Skype session to make sure it worked. We had multiple kinks to work out, even after we moved, but eventually they figured it out. It was the best thing we could have done.
I Skype with my parents on a weekly basis. We are usually on for 1-2 hours. This is such a blessing for me because when I lived in the USA, I never talked to my mom on the phone. I was always busy and on the run. I actually feel we communicate more now even though I am much further away.
If you are moving abroad, I strongly encourage you to establish your main form of communication with your loved ones before you leave. If your parents or other important people in your life are not tech savvy, set up a system to communicate easily and inexpensively before you leave. If they don’t have a computer, get a Google voice number so they can call you that way, which is what we did to communicate with my mother-in-law. Take care of this before you leave! It is very important. Though you are embarking on an adventure to meet new people and make new friends, don’t forget about those you love in your country of origin.