Best Countries For Expats Part 2

Image

Best Countries For Expats Part 2

“You are never too old to set another goal, or dream a new dream.” C.S.Lewis

Australia seems like a perfect place to live – beautiful weather, shrimp on the barbie and kangaroos. Australians speak English and they are friendly and helpful. They have good health care and the outdoor lifestyle is similar to California. Australian TV is like American not British TV.  Some of the natural beauty, plants and wildlife are only indigenous to Australia.  Sporting events are easy to find but outside of Sydney and Melbourne, theatre and ballet are scarce. There are 1500 species of spiders, 6000 species of flies, 4000 species of ants and 350 species of termites in Australia. Finding creepy crawly things in your home is common. I can not picture myself eating or offering a vegemite sandwich.  The cost of living like in New Zealand is very high. Flying back to America is expensive and a  long flight. LIving so far away, I will miss my friends and family and a lot of events here. 

Costa Rica feels like California with a rainforest. It has a steady democracy that spends its money on education instead of the military, A million Americans visit every year, and they have put those dollars back into infrastructure — reliable airports, deluxe highways, huge conservation districts — that make the country easy to get around and easy to enjoy. It has volcanoes, mountains and beaches. It is closer to the US than other countries we are considering which makes travel easier. My Spanish would definitely improve. Crime is a problem. If you have nice stuff or appear to have nice stuff, someone will try to steal it. There are no addresses, so if you need something mailed down, you might have to wait for a friend to bring it in a suitcase. Tourist visas are a cinch but residency can be slow going for anyone who’s not working for a big company. Foreigners have already snatched up most of the property bargains.

Warm weather, great food and “La Dolce Vita” are all good reasons to move to Italy. Every Italian city is basically a huge museum with historic buildings on every corner. The midday siesta is still a thing which is great for me because I can nap anywhere at 3:00 PM.  Real estate prices are good for Americans though many of those old beautiful houses are “fixer uppers”. Italy is not the best country for people who like big cars. It is easier to navigate the narrow cobblestone streets with  a small car or motorbike. The cost of living in the cities is expensive but there are many towns that aren’t.   The health care system is good  and if you can get into the public system, good healthcare is free.

Living in Spain sounds like a dream. I imagine a sunny climate, natural beauty,  cobblestone streets with flamenco music playing in the background, while I sip sangria and eat tapas at a local bar. The cost of living is lower than other parts of Europe. Things move slowly in Spain. When going to the post office, bank, restaurants and shops expect to wait.  Spanish bureaucracy is notoriously slow.  The regional politics are complicated and everything shuts down in the afternoon. Don’t plan on getting anything done in August. The whole country is at the beach.

Israel’s economy is very strong and the standard of living is high. There is amazing food and beautiful weather as well. Any Jew can move to Israel freely. Tel Aviv is the most expensive city in the Middle East and the cost of real estate is high. English is widely spoken here and health care is great. For a small strip of land, the cultures in different areas are diverse.We have already spent a month living in Tel Aviv so I know I could do it.  Everybody smokes which is a problem for me. Everything is closed from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown so that takes some getting used to. Sunday is Monday.  Living in Israel is living in constant fear of terrorist attacks. Lately living in America is the same with constant fear of random shootings. 

Stay safe,
JAZ

Best Countries For Expats Part One

Image

Best Countries For Expats Part One.

“In any given moment, we have two options, to move forward into growth or to step back into safety.” Abraham Maslow

There are somewhere around nine million American civilians currently living abroad. Where to go is an open question. Mild weather is the most important thing for us. Whether a country has a lot of English-speakers, a favorable cost of living or an immigration process that’s (relatively) navigable are other considerations.  Here are some of the possibilities we are thinking about. These countries make a pretty compelling case to leave everything behind. I think no matter how much research you do and how prepared you think you are, there will always be things that surprise you when you’re finally there. Some are good, some are bad but that’s what the experience is all about! Here are five of the ten countries that we are considering in no particular order.

New Zealand would be an easy place to move to because everyone is friendly and speaks English. It has a lot of outdoor activities, great air quality, Lord Of The Rings scenery and wineries. Wellington is a cool city. There are many areas with milder temperatures year round. It is extremely safe with no violent crime. We can really travel around Australia and Oceania. The downside is that it is a full day’s flight from America and the cost of living on an island far away from everything is high. 

We visited Uruguay for the  first time last year. I loved it. Uruguay has a stable economy, large middle class and a very low violent crime rate. There are no homeless camps. People live simply. It has a functional political system with little corruption and a highly educated population. Marijuana is legal to grow and to possess for personal use. The wine, the beef, and the national soccer team are all world-class. The Atlantic beaches are among the best in the world and the temperature in the winter never falls below freezing. It is relatively easy to buy property and establish residency without bribery. Uruguayans on the whole are welcoming, friendly and helpful. I love South America so traveling around from here would be great. It is not as cheap as other Latin American countries  to live in but is still less than the US. Thefts and muggings are common in the cities. There is not a lot of English spoken here so I will need to improve my Spanish.

Greece is sadly expensive for the Greek people but a bargain for Americans. The food is delicious and fresh – think feta, lamb, fish and tzatiki. The scenery is breathtaking and the weather is similar to California. If you want a city, avoid Athens and try Thessaloniki. I have spent many summers there and love this country and the people I have met. The islands are dead in winter and ferries don’t always run so it’s important to pick an island like Naxos or Crete that is agriculturally self sustaining. I’m familiar with the culture, the beauracracy, and the slow way of doing things. There is terrible unemployment due to their financial crisis  and as long as you are not going there to work you will be ok. 

Peru has some  of the best food in the world. No country with 5000 varieties of potatoes is anything but deadly serious about food. The food in Lima is a mix of Chinese, Andean, Japanese and Incan influences. The landscape is beautiful, diverse. and filled with history. Macchu Picchu is one of my favorite places on earth. There are plenty of Pacific beach towns as well. At the moment, the government and the economy is stable. Good health care, cost of living and travel is very affordable here if you are coming from the U.S.  A tourist visa lasts for six months so it will be easy to try it out and Peruvians seem to like Americans. You do need to speak Spanish and crime is high in the cities. Some parts of Lima are not safe.

Portugal has a mild climate, panoramic seaside views and endless beaches. The American dollar does well here. It is a relaxed way of life and there are many English speakers in the cities. The people are warm, welcoming and helpful which is good when trying to deal with the language and bureaucracy.  Health care is good and affordable even if you pay out of pocket.  Violent crime is very low and theft is mostly pickpockets in the tourist areas. It is considered one of the best places in the world to move to. The downside for me is that the language is very difficult. It looks like Spanish but is pronounced so differently. I have been to Portuguese speaking countries four times and still can only say Thank You.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Gratitude In The Time Of Corona

Image

Gratitude In The Time Of Corona

“Enough” is a feast.” Buddhist proverb

Some days are great. Things go as planned and you bounce from meeting to appointment to lunch and you feel wonderful inside.

Then there are the other days. Like being in the house for four and a half months quarantined with no end in sight – wondering  if things will ever get back to the way they were in the old world. There are days when you do not feel motivated at all.

I’ve done gratitude lists before.  Writing five things I am grateful for in quarantine became rote because I did the same thing every day. I realized that if I wrote one thing a day and really thought about it, it worked better. Here are some of the things I have written down. Maybe they will resonate with you during these times.

The easiest thing to be grateful for is having a roof over my head. I live in an area with a lot of homeless people. I fear it will become worse from this virus.  I choose not to take this for granted.

 I am grateful for easy access to good drinking water. We can’t really drink from the faucet like in Iceland or New Zealand, but we do have tap water that we can boil in our homes. One eighth of the world’s population do not have access to safe drinking water.

 I recently read that the  ancient Greek philosophers  started their day outside in Nature to feel calm and grateful.  I try to spend at least a few minutes having coffee outside looking at the beach. Being in “prison” for four months with people not wearing masks here, has made my relationship with the beach complicated. But every morning, when I sit and look out at the ocean, I am so grateful that I get to see this and smell the ocean air to start my day.

I am grateful that everyone I know is healthy. They have either recovered from the virus or not gotten it.  While I do my part to stop the spread  of coronavirus by staying home, others are going to work, risking putting themselves and those they love in danger of exposure. My gratitude toward these front-line professionals not only is well-deserved, but it also helps relieve stress which suppresses our immune systems.

I am grateful for the time to read good books. i wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a kid and getting lost in a book was a familiar feeling. Now with so many options for entertainment, focusing on a book is harder.  But now I read every day and when a book grabs me in, I remember the feeling I had as a child. 

I am also grateful for access to the internet during this time.  Can you imagine going through this without the internet? We are able to order food, medicine, clothes and any random thing we can think of – mostly with free shipping. We can take classes with our favorite teachers, talk to friends, family, doctors  and work on ZOOM.  We have access to a crazy number of TV shows and movies from all over the world. We get theatre productions and we can still look up every thing that comes into our head. There is instagram and facebook to stay connected with the world. 

I am grateful for Banksy my dog. He is my constant companion through this time and is endlessly entertaining. He keeps me sane during this time of social distancing. 

I am grateful for small kindnesses. A person who actually puts on their mask when they walk by me, a pretzel delivery from my daughter, a funny youtube video sent from a friend or the perfect eggplant parmesan prepared by the BF all help me get through this.

I am grateful for my friends and family. We are all in this together and when we are reunited it will be even more special.

I am grateful to be spending this time with the  BF.  Day 145 is definitely different then Day 1 in quarantine. It is our first year of living together.  What we were able to tolerate easily before is a bit different now. Trapped in close quarters, tense moments are inevitable. But we get through it with communication, laughter and hugs and we are really lucky to have found each other.

Stay Safe,

JAz

African Proverbs

Image

African Proverbs

“A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, he told her, to which she retorted that a proverb was the last refuge of the mentally destitute.” W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

Proverbs are an integral part of African culture. Passed on from generation to generation for centuries, they are still in wide use today. Proverbs are used to illustrate ideas, reinforce arguments and deliver messages of inspiration, consolation, celebration and advice. Here are some of my favorite African proverbs. There are many.

No matter how hot your anger is, it cannot cook yams.
.
The rain does not fall on one roof.

If you want to walk fast walk alone, if you want to walk far walk together.

The best way to eat an elephant in your path, is to cut him up into little pieces.

The death of an elderly man is like a burning library.

Not everyone who chases the zebra caught it but he who caught it, chased it.

Never marry a woman who has bigger feet than you.

Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.

If you carry the egg basket, do not dance.

Only a fool tests the river with both feet.

Teeth do not see poverty. (smile)

Rain beats the leopard’s skin but does not wash out the spots.

Don’t set sail using someone else’s star.

The child of a rat is a rat.

There are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree.

You must attend to your business with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market.

A bridge is repaired only when someone falls into the water.

He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself.

Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Picking The Right Country

Image

Picking The Right Country

“When you move from one country to another you have to accept that there are some things that are better and some things that are worse, and there is nothing you can do about it.”Bill Bryson

If you are planning to live abroad by choice and not by a job posting, it can be an overwhelming decision where to live. When I fall in love with a place, I often ask myself if I can live there.  A lot of times the answer is no. It’s beautiful but it gets cold in the winter and I am way too used to California weather. I love hot tropical climates – but would  I want that all the time? They are usually accompanied by rainy seasons.  Beautiful places can be too isolated, too crowded or too many  tourists in the summer. While it’s fun to use hand motions, in an emergency wouldn’t I want someone to speak English? I’m getting older so I do not want to be a day’s drive from the nearest hospital. Will not having a support system in place be too hard? 

We will definitely rent something big enough to have guests so our friends and family can come visit. Making friends in a new country without work or school will be hard.  Quarantine has prepared us for that. 

There are some places I can rule out right away. I’m allergic to smoke and pollution so Southeast Asia and China are out. 

I would definitely like to live somewhere where the cost of living is less, not more than Los Angeles. Most of the countries on that list have cold winters so they were already out. Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, France, Iceland and Japan were not a consideration. Unfortunately. Australia, New Zealand, Israel and the Bahamas are taken off here as well. 

I do need access to a city. One of the things quarantine has taught me is that I don’t have to be busy all the time. Living  in a beach town could work now. I can’t live my life without access to culture – museums, theatre, good restaurants but I don’t need so much of it now. 

It’s going to be hard to pick the right place. The “grass  is always greener” mentality plays in here. Running away from home rarely ends well so we have to research and try to make the right choice for us. Luckily, I have plenty of time now, to do this.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Street Art In The Time Of Corona

Image

Street Art In the Time Of Corona

“Art helps us identify with one another and expands our notion of we – from the local to the global.”Olafur Eliasson

Art is always important to bring people together during a time of crisis. By mocking political leaders, laughing at our faults, recognizing health care workers and reminding us that masks are important, Street Art offers a momentary respite from the constant news and psychological toll of the virus.

Kobra, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Teachr1, Los Angeles, USA

Lushux, Melbourne, Australia

TV boy, Barcelona, Spain

John D’Oh, Bristol, England

Nello Petrucci, Pompei, Italy

Ufa,Russia

FAKE, Amersterdam, Netherlands

Temat, Warsaw, Poland

Tyler Street Art, Mumbai, India

EME Freethinker, Berlin, Germany

Andreas Welin, Copenhagen. Denmark

 

Stay safe,

JAZ

 

Moving To Another Country

Image

Moving To Another Country

“There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you’ve carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand.” Sarah Dessen

The country I have lived in for my whole life has let me down. The United States I knew was a force for good. We were founded on religious freedom. We are a melting pot; we value pluralism, diversity, and equality; the American dream is real. These are our values; our ideals, but more importantly, our identity.

I did not believe that there were two Americas. I did not believe that Trump’s hateful rhetoric would get him the presidency. I consoled myself with the fact that we still had the courts, our right to protest and the system of “checks and balances” that we learned in elementary school.

I have watched the last four years in shock – whenever I think it can’t get worse, it does. I am lost in the never ending sewage that is Trump news. It has culminated in a global pandemic that an inept president could not get under control. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will die because of him and there will be economic disaster for people not rich enough to ride this out. I turn on Fox News to get the other side and all Trump is talking about is Confederate statues. We have to save ourselves in this pandemic.

 I have been home in quarantine for four months with no end in sight. Things are getting worse not better. Be smart  – stay home when you can, social distance, wear a mask and wash your hands. Listen to your scientists and health care professionals. They do this for a living.

There is something both horrible and wonderful about hard times. When you are trying to survive, to just make it through another day, anything that is not essential begins to fall away. And who you thought you were, your expectations of life, everything you knew, gets taken apart, piece by piece.

This idealized person I thought that I was supposed to be doesn’t exist at the moment. It turns out that life can be much simpler than I thought. 

We have made a decision, that if or when, we are allowed to leave the United States we will try living in another country for six months. We are hoping that we will be allowed to leave after the first of the year.  We made some inquiries into houses. No one has gotten back to us.  Is it because we are American?

The BF thinks we may not come back. But I am still hopeful that the story of America is to find a more perfect union and this too shall pass. I will keep you posted as we figure it out. What changes will  quarantine make for you?

Stay safe,

JAZ

 

Ten Hamilton Quotes

Image

Ten Hamilton Quotes

“ What (you might be asking) can a Broadway musical possibly add to the legacy of a Founding Father–a giant of our national life, a war hero, a scholar, a statesman? What’s one little play, or even one very big play, next to all that? 

But there is more than one way to change the world. To secure their freedom, the polyglot American colonists had to come together, and stick together, in the face of enormous adversity. To live in a new way, they first had to think and feel in a new way. It took guns and ships to win the American Revolution, but it also required pamphlets and speeches–and at least one play.” Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton -The Revolution

Watching Hamilton from my bedroom during a pandemic was very different than seeing it on Broadway.  Broadway will remain closed for the rest of the year. I can’t imagine what my mother who went to the theatre six nights a week after her kids grew up, would have done during this. She loved to be in the “room where it happened” and passed that love on to her family.  She certainly would have been enjoying all the “live theatre” on TV and would have loved this production.

 Hamilton was as innovative as it was traditional. It wasn’t a reinvention but a reminder of the character of the American people. It is a work that celebrates patriotism and diversity. Right now pride in America and optimism is at an all time low. When the world has turned upside down, you have to figure out what comes next. “Who will tell our story?”

Here are ten life quotes from Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda. 

“Talk less. Smile more.”

“I’m not throwing away my shot.”

“How on earth did you do that with the same 24 hours a day that everyone else gets?” 

“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see” 

“I’ll make the world safe and sound for you. You will come of age with our young nation. We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you. We’ll give the world to you.” 

“We’re immigrants. We get the job done”

“Change requires hope.” 

“We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable.”

“I stop wasting time on tears. I live another fifty years. It’s not enough!”

“You have no control. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” 

Stay safe,

JAZ

No Travel For Americans

Image

No Travel For Americans

“I don’t believe there’s any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can’t completely ignore.”
George Carlin

If you are planning to travel to Europe this summer and you happen to be American, you might want to make other plans.  The European Union opened their borders on July first and America is not on the list of countries allowed to visit. The decision to exclude certain countries is based on the number of Covid 19 cases and how well their governments are doing to control the cases.  China, Vietnam, Uganda. Russia, Brazil and the U.S. are all being seen as unworthy of inclusion. Are these the “shithole countries” now?

We also cannot travel to Asia, the Middle East, Africa  and South America. There are some countries which have a two week quarantine before you can enter but that is as long as an average work vacation.

To rectify the situation, Trump has cut the funding for Covid 19 testing. According to him, if there are less tests than less people have it. It’s sort of like less pregnancy tests, less babies. The United States has the highest death toll in the world from coronavirus.The U.S. death toll is more than 132,000 and there have been more than 2.9 million cases.The U.S. accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths worldwide.

In March, Trump banned travel from Europe, the Uk and Ireland. Since then, Europe was able to flatten the curve and our numbers continue to soar. The countries that were able to control the virus had national policy – not  each state doing something different.

You can’t blame Europe. Why would they want a bunch of Americans infecting them now that they have the disease under control. You can blame Trump. If he had realized the seriousness of this early on, had a strict quarantine in all states like Italy did, and wore a mask, we would be back to summer vacation travel by now.

Stay home, stay safe, and please wear a mask when you go out,

JAZ

Don’t Defund The Police – Fix Them – And This Time Make It Stick

Image

Don’t Defund The Police – Fix Them – And This Time Make It Stick

“In my own lifetime, I want to see the fighting cease. In my own lifetime, I want to see my sons enjoy the fruits of peace. While I’m still here, I want to know beyond a doubt that no one can lock us in or lock us out. We have climbed higher. much higher than I thought we’d climb. It’s a long journey, and even though the end’s in sight, there’s not much time.  I want to know we haven’t built on sand, in my own lifetime “ Sheldon Harnick “The Rothschilds”

The Police  Force is considered to be the most corrupt of governmental  institutions world wide. Fundamental systemic changes, including anti-corruption reforms, are needed in countries all over the world to prevent police abuse.

George Floyd’s death is the latest in a long series of brutal encounters between the American police and the people they are supposed to serve.

We need to make meaningful changes to address police misconduct.  When something calls attention to their faults (like murder), they implement change for a while. As public attention shifts and politics moves on, the police reform efforts eventually stop. 

We need to get rid of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine that protects officers who violate someone’s constitutional rights from civil-rights lawsuits unless the officers’ actions were clearly established as unconstitutional at the time.  Just throw it out and make them as accountable for their behavior as the rest of us are.  They have clearly abused that privilege.

Police officers should keep better records of what they do and how they do it. Why were they in a high speed chase down the freeway? Who got injured along the way? etc. They looked like an invading army during the protests and many instances of unnecessary brutality and meanness were reported. Was any of that investigated? 

The most important thing to spend money on is better police training and screening. Train parking enforcement to deal with most traffic violations. Get rid of traffic cops.  If I get stopped outside of Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles, police act very differently. I did not need four officers with guns surrounding my new car because it didn’t have a front license plate at the time that law changed.  When I yelled at them for doing that and scaring my daughter (and me), they took forty five minutes, to write up the ticket. (Yes, I know what white privilege is but once I am in a non white neighborhood, they think I am Hispanic or Muslim).  Screen for psychological disorders, racial and  gender prejudice, homophobia, bullying, depression or violent, angry personalities. Get rid of stop and frisk and racial profiling.

 Police see the worst of humanity, the most depraved, and they do so at risk to their own lives. I think they are so used to thinking everyone is a bad guy and might have a gun and kill them, that they lose their humanity.  They treat certain neighborhoods as war zones and seem to forget human beings live in them.

 Police are rewarded  for “collars” (arrests – yes I’m obsessed with watching Law and Order) and how many traffic tickets they give in a month. What if they got rewarded equally for people they helped and the kindnesses they did in a community? What if they got rewarded for the humane way they dealt with lawbreakers?  They seem to have a problem telling the difference between an African American man walking home from work or a student running  home from college and a criminal. So it is best if they find a better way of dealing with arrests. Make their pension not a guarantee but based on constant re – evaluation.   

This “Blue Wall Of Silence” has to stop. This is the informal rule among  police officers not to report on a colleague’s errors, misconducts, or crimes, including police brutality. It has to be part of a new kind of training.

 Somewhere during the quarantine of the corona virus and the protests against police brutality, an African American friend sent me a picture of her brand new grandson. We have to do better. We have to fix this and keep at it this time. No more slacking off when things quiet down. 

Stay safe,

JAZ