The country where I would live
If you’ve asked me this question seven or five years go, I would definitely choose Alaska. i.e. the United States, not the ‘Lower 48’ though but precisely Alaska.
It was all based on my fabulous 2011 documentary film production expedition dedicated to its Russian heritage, just ten days. I’ve put so much efforts to get there…. What ten days those were! We rolled over the state, actually, its historical Russian America part, mostly coastal areas. Getting a lifetime experience and filled up with emotions so deep… Unforgettable. My dream came true.
But then I went there one more time on my Fulbright journalistic project in 2017. Spent there more than three months. Living a life of a field researcher, basically, a resident of the state. Also, a musher. Visited even more places than the first time, from the Interior’s parts, mushing up there and visiting Chena hot springs on the 61-degree latitude to South East Alaska hunting crabs out in the Pacific, drinking North Pacific pale ale in the process to traveling (one more time) to the enchanted Kodiak island…
That was different this time though.
I now was no visitor but a resident. Yep, such a fancy corner of the world still… I’ve become a bit… fed up. With dogs, with everything. That’s life. The magic has gone.
So now my #1 option is former #2 one: Sri Lanka or Ceylon. A place where Sir Arthur Clark has spent around 40 years of his life. A divine ancient island filled with legends millennia old: Hindu gods & demons, Rama, Sita, the monkey god Hanuman, Adam’s land bridge, green jungle, epic sunsets over the ocean, British heritage, best black tea in the world, etc.
There is only one problem with Ceylon: I was there just once, back in 2011, too. This was my honeymoon.
Where else would I like to live?
To properly work this one out, I need to list all the attributes, the quirks, and the frustrations living in my permanent domain for the past eight years, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and then discover somewhere which will better those on all fronts.
The island itself is stunningly beautiful. Quaint little villages that seem to have remain unchanged since biblical times, gorgeous mountains, sandy bays galore, three of four sizeable big towns or small cities, and mostly un-busy roads between them.
The climate is perfect for me. Mostly sunny all year round, and very warm for 10 months of the year. OK, it gets extremely hot in July and August, but give me those all-day-long blue skies any time instead of overcast, misty, grey crap that you get in many places elsewhere.
It’s cheap. Oh so cheap compared to almost everywhere. Even though the Turkish Lira has been struggling for some time now, prices still compare very favourably. And on a fixed-income pension, that’s important for us oldies. I would baulk at paying more than £3.00 for a decent New Zealand Sauvy, with a measure at least double what you would get in an UK pub or restaurant. Our villa, on a beach resort, would easily fetch over a million sterling back in our previous home island of Jersey – here it is a tenth of that!
The people – warm, generous, ever-helpful, not in the least bit resentful of us “wealthy” ex-pats living in their homeland.
That’s just four attributes – there are so many more.
Yes, it’s also quirky, and can be frustrating with a fair measure of third-world-type occurrences, particularly in administration. Just yesterday, to help with our residency renewal, I had to travel 130km to the capital Nicosia and back, just to obtain a piece of paper a little bigger than a postage stamp, containing a tiny detail which was already known to the Immigration Department. But no, it had to be on a special little bit of paper, provided by only one office in the entire country.
The standards of driving are appalling, and there is more litter around than we were used to. It’s always somebody else’s job to clear up after a picnic.
So, where to go to get improvements on all this? Mrs B and I have always liked France – we lived close to it during our thirty years living in Jersey, and often used to pop over on the fast ferry for Sunday lunch. We love the fresh croissants for breakfast, and their wines can be quite pleasurable as well. We have enjoyed several holidays there and always enjoyed our experiences.
But it’s more expensive, the weather is far too British, and some of the people simply don’t like Brits (not sure I can blame them that much).
I simply cannot imagine anywhere I would rather live than here in the TRNC. And, as a bonus, let me assure you that there is nowhere else on this planet I would rather be during this pandemic. Only one local fatality in all this time, and to date, nobody in ICU. And we can all enjoy the Christmas period celebrating with our close friends. How many people around the world can say that?
I mean what’s not to love: they are all descended from pirates and criminals. Our people have so much in common. In the 80’s several of our biggest movie and music stars were from there.
The last time I met an Aussie, he cracked open the door and out came this hand clutching a Fosters. This was at nine in the morning. I now know that Fosters is something they do for the benefit of the Cowboys. They don’t actually drink piss themselves so they ship it all North. Thank you so much.
So if you asked me twenty years ago where I wanted to live I would have said Australia, without hesitation. The whole female pirate thingie makes me smile. Do you think they walk around the house with one of those big knives between their teeth? God, I hope so.
I suppose that means they don’t talk a lot. You would get a cut on your tongue every time you wanted to nag about the lawn.
As you get older, you become wiser – or so I’m told. I recently learned that Aussies don’t actually walk around with big knives or dress their women like pirates. Needless to say Australia has lost much of its allure.
A few years back I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in Southern Italy; what a beautiful country. I don’t like big cities but I even like Rome, the place is like a huge outdoor museum.
I felt very comfortable there, to an American ear, Italian sounds like Spanish and they seem to like Americans. Maybe I was a bit too comfortable: my last trip was only for a month and I put on like twenty-two pounds. Wine, great cheese, and these olives to die for… not like that garbage they sell at the grocery store in the States. Lunch would be something like Prosciutto and cheese. Italy is amazing.
So I suppose that would be my answer for today: Italy. Of course, because of the virus every country is about to undergo real economic changes and my answer may be different next year. But Italy is truly spectacular and you really should go if you get the chance.
By the way, there are two different Italys: The North is industrialized and wealthy, while the South is more laid-back but suffers from a less well developed economy. Unemployment in the South remains a stubborn problem. It’s really not fair, tourism remains mostly in the North while the South offers a beauty unique on the Planet.