11 December, 2008

Are you local?

As Grizzly Adams steered the raft down the New River (actually we paddled up the river since the New River flows south to north), I struggled with getting my head on right. The previous night had been rough. Camped out along the Shenandoah River, out tents got washed out by the inbound hurricane and we spent the whole night shivering under our improvised tarp city. Short of sleep, knee deep in mud, and wet and cold, we did what any sensible weekend warrior would do - we drank our entire weekend's supply of alcohol in one night.

Actually Grizzly Adams isn't our guide's name. But since I can't remember what he called himself and he was one towering, bearded, jolly and loquacious fella', Grizzly Adams it is.

"In West Virginia, a non-native only becomes local when the last person who knew you when you moved into town dies," Grizzie imparted upon us. "I arrived over 20-years ago and I'm still not local."

As much as I adore trekking and camping on the Appalachian Trail and rafting and rock climbing in the New River Gorge, I have no desire to pick up and move to the Mountain State.

But just now when I was laboring away at the gym, I got to thinking. How long must one live in a place before one becomes local? I have spent most of my life in three cities: Taipei, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.

In the self-styled entertainment capital of the world, one earns the privilege of being an Angeleno as soon as one moves into town, find a trustworthy barman, bagel shop, burger drive through, and sort out one's favorite beach and roach coach (Southern Californian lingo for taco truck).

In Washington, very few I associate with are natives. Except for some generations-old Chevy Chase or Fairfax County families (which are outside the city limits anyway), many Washington residents are from somewhere else and go somewhere else for Christmas and Thanksgiving. After 16 years living in Washington, I hold a Brooklyn driver's license and still call myself a Californian.

Even in Taipei, most are from elsewhere in Taiwan or China. As a Japanese city originally designed for 600,000 residents, the City of Azaleas still works off the same 1895 grid but is now bulging with 2.6 million residents. Do the math and it's fairly obvious that most Taipeiers are from somewhere else. Around the time of the last big war, gramps moves the family to Taipei from Miaoli County, a quiet farming community 142 km south of Taipei.

I'm going to Buenos Aires soon. What am I going to be? I'm quite sure I won't be a Porteño. But am I going to be a traveler visiting Argentina or am I going to be a Buenos Aires resident?


Baino said...

Ted it's the same here at least 20 years in a country place before you're considered one of the mob. But 10 years (if you don't have an accent) in the city. Frankly in Sydney it wouldn't matter . . It equates to how you conduct yourself in the pub, how many times you say 'mate' (you're in there) and whether you 'shout' beers.

Quickroute said...

I don't consider myself local where ever I am - Even back in Ireland. In fact especially in Ireland since I haven't lived thee for so long. I feel a bit more comfortable when I get 'local' savy but I know I'm still an 'extranero'

TCL said...

It's an odd thing Baino. My parents lived in US for better part of their life but still consider themselves Taiwanese.

Where is home then Quickroute? I've the same situation. Haven't lived in California in such a long time but it's still where I was from.

Quickroute said...

I suppose Dublin will always be 'real' home but I doubt I'll ever live there again - too expensive and heading back to the economic disaster that I left

Megan said...

You're from California the minute you get here.

martin said...

"We always recognize our homeland when we are about to lose it." (Albert Camus)

So, are you feeling Washingtonian?