I still don't really consider myself an ex-pat. Though I share some of my wife's interests here in Guatemala I still make my own living predominantly outside the country and haven't felt that reversing out the time I spend in the UK and Guatemala has resulted in such a massive lifestyle change as others who more consciously emigrate or indeed ex-patriate themselves.
Having such a long association with this lovely town and my local relatives by marriage, I also feel a good deal more assimilated when I'm here than other foreign residents I could mention. So call me a tourist if you like...albeit one who spends a bit more time here than most. (You most certainly won't find me calling myself a 'citizen of the world' however. Last time I overheard someone doing that, I thought what a twat! )
What's the difference between an ex-pat and an immigrant, I've had cause to ask myself a few times this year? That an ex-pat generally won't fight for his or her adopted country seems like an obvious one; in fact they generally run for their embassies at the first sign of trouble. (Though, the distinctions are very often more subtle. For example, your average American in Florence will occasionally wander around fantasising about being Italian in a way that can be contrasted with their equivalents over here, who will almost never dream of being Guatemalan.)
Anyway, 2008 was memorable in that I made good on the decision to spend more time out here and in the way that the departing Bush administration almost took the entire global economy out with them when they fumbled the winding up of Lehman Brothers.
Yet I believe that it is the contents of this year which will stick with me for longer. It's had one grim personal moment in particular, but also plenty of uplifting ones as the general sense of circling the drain eased from the late spring onwards. It has been the year that I finally found my way to Oaxaca and discovered the uncomplicated pleasures of Mazunte.
I then spent a good part of the summer back at the farm in Berkshire and was glad to be around when most needed. I've also felt personally rewarded (and useful) in the various roles I have undertaken for Commetric this year.
V and I have avoided making any major changes to the house over the last twelve months but have stored up a few biggies for Q1 2010. The local cat population has fluctuated, but we're steady on the chuchos.
Meanwhile, my investment in Amazon seven months ago has worked out so well that I don't know how much longer I can continue to deny myself a Kindle. Nevertheless I've rather scaled down my non-fiction reading this year so I've settled on a top 5 rather than a top 10:
1) The Berlin Diaries Of Marie Vasiltchikov — MARIE 'MISSIE' VASILTCHIKOV
2) The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher — KATE SUMMERSCALE
3) Agincourt — JULIET BARKER
4) Henry, Virtuous Prince — DAVID STARKEY
5) D-Day — ANTHONY BEEVOR
The opposite problem applies with my favourite films of 2009, as there were 20+ to which I accorded at least an A grade. Anyway, here — in no particular order — are the twelve I picked for my year-end chart in ultimately undisciplined fashion:
— Tony Manero
— A Perfect Getaway
— Che, Part 1
— The Hurt Locker
— There Will Be Blood
— Vicky Cristina Barcelona
— Gran Torino
— Drag Me to Hell
— The Damned United
— Let the Right One In
There was also a pair of very memorable feature-lenth documentaries:
— Man on Wire
— Encounters at the End of the World
These are all 2008/9 releases. Of the comparative oldies, we also greatly enjoyed...
— The Quiet Family
BTW, one night very soon we're going to be watching The White Ribbon, Haneke's Palm D'Or winner and a movie I suspect might have made it onto this list if we'd seen it in time,.