In the wake of Katrina: Expat fears

9th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

After the recent catastrophe in Louisiana, I asked in our newsletter how fellow expats face the certain knowledge that they will be far from home if and when disaster should strike. Here's what they told me.-- Expatica France editor Clair Whitmer

Dear Editor,
I glossed over the 'what if' part of our pre-assignment orientation. Everything had been fine with our parents until one month before our first expat move here to Japan at the beginning of this year. My father-in-law had elective surgery in New Orleans before Christmas that left my mother-in-law a widow.  My mother's health unexpectedly deteriorated in Florida.  Then Katrina hit my newly widowed mother-in-law's home of 40 years...

I feel guilty that my absence creates a bigger burden for siblings. I feel frustrated that I sold my big home in Houston that could have housed a large, needy New Orleans family and that I am not there to cook jambalaya for them. I feel sad that I can't be around my older family members every day to show them I love them by just 'being there'. I feel angry as I watch endless hours of CNN.  They are largely ignorant concerning the Gulf Coast area and therefore giving the world a very twisted story. 

I feel blindsided by questions from non-US citizens like, "Is Bush slowing FEMA aid to New Orleans because they are poor, black or democratic?"  Most of them don't have an hour for me to give them a fuller picture.

As we move to Paris this fall, we are hoping to find an apartment that will accommodate my mother-in-law. We don't know what else to do,  short of quitting the project.

Susan Elkins
(Japan, in transit to Paris)


Dear Editor,

I recognise myself completely in what you described in the Expatica newsletter this week.

I am a Dutch 34-year old woman with Indonesian roots living in Sicily for two years. My father lives in the Netherlands and has arrived at an age that some health problems are inevitable. So one of the factors I thought over before coming to Italy was whether I should stay near my dad or not.

On the other hand, I have to live my own life with my 'marito' who is Sicilian; luckily my father has all his (younger) brothers living in the same town, one is even living together with him in the same house. We have frequent contact by phone and email, so I could 'use' these arguments to push my guilty feelings to the background.

It has happened once that I overestimated the health problems when he was recovering in hospital, precisely because you are far away and cannot assess well the real dimensions of the situation. I totally panicked because nobody was able to explain to me what had happened exactly over the phone, not even people at the hospital.

On the contrary, the people in the hospital do not understand why you are making such a fuss. You feel so helpless and guilty not being closer around...
I also happen to have dear family members living in New Orleans. And also this time I was very worried, especially the first days that you cannot communicate and see all those awful images on TV. Email is a blessing.

Ruth Mensingh
(Sicily, Italy)

Dear Editor,

I commend your newspaper [sic] on correctly reporting the situation in New Orleans. I am ashamed as an American that we have a 'President' whose goal in life is to conquer Iraq, but let Americans (especially Black Americans) suffer and die in our own country. I thank God I didn't vote for 'this President'. He should be impeached for his callousness.

Angel Roldan
(No country address given)


Where's the UN? When the Tsunami hit, America was sharply criticized by Kofi Anan [sic] for not donating enough. And at $350,000,000, we were the fourth largest donator. Someone said earlier in this post that the silence of the international community is deafening. Well, I say the silence of the UN speaks volumes.

(Kansas, USA)

Editor replies:

This letter was not sent to Expatica directly but forwarded to me from an Expatica reader. I include it because it represents several other letters I did receive this week from Americans critical of a perceived lack of support from Europe to Louisiana disaster relief.

I sent each of them links to our stories on what in fact were generous offers of aid from France and other European nations. (Although it has been suggested that the French offer of military aid, declined by President Bush, was in fact a back-handed attempt to highlight an American inability to cope with its current load of military commitments.)

I also received several letters from Americans wanting to correct what they feel is an inaccurate protrayal of American race relations left by the news coverage.

We don't report on US news so I'm not reprinting those.

I do know is that it is frustrating, however, for American expats to be asked to respond to American accusations of European indifference but, at the same time, to want to give a fuller interpretation of the television images to French acquaintances. It's one of the classic Catch 22s of expat life.


RE: Lance is too a hero: Expatica readers

Dear Editor,
Warning : if you are reading this email, then you could possibly test positive for EPO.
I am surprised at how quickly we can all fall victim to a well-written and scandalous article such as the one L'Equipe has recently proposed concerning Lance Armstrong. I am even more surprised that your article about the Armstrong poll results never mentioned the following points :

EPO is produced naturally in the human body by the kidneys! The current EPO testing methods can very easily detect traces of EPO in an athlete whose body produces sufficient levels of it.
We saw this just three or four weeks ago in the case of Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke;  in August, he was completely exonerated of all doping charges after successfully proving that his body naturally produces sufficient levels of EPO to show up in the now infamous French laboratory that invented the testing method.

Let's not be too hasty to judge Lance Armstrong just yet.

J. Brett


RE: French 'sour grapes': Americans to L'Equipe

Dear Editor,

First where did this sample even come from? Legally all samples from that time would have been destroyed unless permission from said rider was given to keep the B sample.

Also at this time it is safe to say Lance had been on some sort of drug to help in his recouping from cancer.  Is it also illegal to use to save one's life? I do know these drugs do show up for a period of time even after they are not being used.

He has been the most tested rider in the history of sports and never have you found anything yet. The Americans could be correct in saying the French have it in for Lance. When was the last time a French man won the Tour?

I have no love of Americans but in this case I have to side with them. Sour Grapes all the way.

Chris Ashley
(Briton living in Canada)


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September 2005

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Subject: Living in France, French news, Letters to the Editor

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