Expat Essentials: The Mighty Kindle

Posted on January 31, 2012

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How do you pack up your entire life into two suitcases?

This is a dilemma that many people in cross-cultural relationships must face, especially if they become expats in their spouse’s home country.  Amidst piles of clothing, important documents, and beloved knick-knacks like that special coffee thermos your grandpa gave you, there’s a lot that gets left behind when you move internationally.

For me, one of saddest items to part with was my book collection.  Shelves upon shelves of were sold off to Half Price or boxed up in my dad’s garage.  Who doesn’t love books?  The feel of a heavy tome in your hands — their crisp pages and musty smell as you curl up on the sofa with a Hot Toddy in winter or lie lackadaisically on a blanket by the lake on a breezy summer day.  But let’s face it:  books don’t travel well.

And so, I passed my first year in El Salvador not reading.  I didn’t have books!

Though we’re only a short way into 2012, I can already see a big lifestyle change that will take place this year: there will be reading.  Why?  Not because of a resolution to read more.  Not because I got books for Christmas.  Rather, it’s because of a newfound access to literature through a supremely practical tool: the mighty Kindle.

ALL expats should have a Kindle.  OH how I love my Kindle.

In a month’s time, it’s completely changed my personal reading habits.  Before, I felt like a trip to the bookstore was a difficult chore — time-consuming, boring, and fruitless.  Sure, there are bookstores here.  But they are ugly and small, located mostly in ugly big malls.  No cute coffee shop.  No comfy armchairs.  No employees that have the vaguest clue about literature.  And worst of all, no selection, not even in Spanish.  The “English section” tends to be limited to the current trendy titles in pop lit, meaning that any time I venture into a bookstore, I find nothing of real interest.  As a result, in 2011 I literally read just one novel, a decent Isabel Allende.

But how things have changed, thanks to my Kindle!  Since receiving it (thanks Dad), I’ve delightfully devoured the Jane Austen’s I hadn’t previously read, I perused a handy guide on how to be a good supervisor, and I’m now heading on to Joyce.

The difference, simply, is access.  This is true in so many aspects of our lives, isn’t it?  When there’s a health foods store across the street, you’ll probably eat more healthfully.  When the weather is nice, you’re more likely to take a run.  When you can find yoga episodes online, there’s greater incentive to practice at home.  Likewise, when you can download a book at the click of a button, and can carry it with you in a light-weight, tiny device in your purse, in your suitcase, on planes … well, you’ll read more.

Especially if you travel a lot.  Especially if you live in a place where there are no libraries and the bookstores are uninspiring.  Especially if you speak Spanish all day every day and sometimes just have the URGE to read relaxedly in English.  In short, the convenient Kindle, the dainty, mighty Kindle, is in every way an expat essential.

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Posted in: Expat living