Why People Move Abroad: The Stranglers

Re-posted from April 1, 2014 on Xinjianggagins.

Why people move abroad sometimes confounds me.  Generally, short-to-mid-term expats seem to fall into three categories: people who move abroad for work, people who move abroad out of cultural interest or curiosity (this was me in China), and people who move abroad due to difficulties (with the police, with the government, or with the economy) in their home country.  Usually there’s some compelling reason for people to leave their home countries and take up temporary residence in another.  I’ve met English teachers who moved to China to study the language and explore the culture, but needed some way to pay the bills; English teachers with skill sets so low they’d have trouble finding a job that paid as comfortable a wage in the UK or US;  exporters and journalists, managers and furniture buying specialists in Foshan (the world capitol for furniture production), soil specialists and petroleum researchers in Xinjiang, and a host of engineers in Bishkek.  But occasionally I come across another breed – people who just seem to pop up in the oddest places overseas, no explanation attached.

Yesterday I took an American friend freshly arrived from Urumqi apartment hunting.  I had seen one ad on couchsurfing for a room available in a flat shared by some foreigners and located near the center of town.  Currently the flat has a somewhat-spacey American girl who majored in Russian studies and is in Bishkek freelancing it and just hanging around because she’s interested in all things CIS and Soviet (logical, though I don’t know how she pays the bills); two Belgian bikers who got stuck in Bishkek over the winter, and are now ready to pedal off across China (also logical); and an Australian computer programmer who A) doesn’t speak Russian, B) doesn’t speak Kyrgyz or another Turkic language C) doesn’t have any apparent interest in Bishkek (the American said she often cooked for him and attempted to motivate him out of the apartment), D) Is not dating or pursuing anyone locally, E) Is not gainfully employed or in any way occupied during the day and, F) is currently living in a country with iffy internet, electricity and supply of computer parts (on all accounts not logical).  He was also pretty spacey, and I certainly didn’t get a straight/coherent answer out of him as to how he ended up here (though apparently he also lived in China “for a long time”, enjoyed traveling around, but also speaks no Chinese). How does someone from Australia end up…in Bishkek… without apparent plan or purpose? It’s like he just plopped down here from the sky. I doubt twenty percent of Australians can even spell “Kyrgyzstan”, much less locate it on the map (that’s not a country insult;  I come from a country where our geographical skills are notedly dismal. And Kyrgyzstan is pretty small).  But I guess that’s the occasional illogic of humans.

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