Thursday, September 27, 2012

Looking for boltholes – Part Two

The more we (Linda and I) think about an emergency bolthole to escape a worldwide economic collapse, the more we wonder if we’re not already living in it. One’s home is always familiar territory, isn’t it? We know who to go to for goods and services of every kind, where to shop, what areas to stay out of for personal safety, who to allow in our house and who not. And, how to minimise taxes.

It’s fairly easy for a new resident in any country to learn all those things from other expats who have arrived before, but even so... Often the advice one receives is conflicting. Even married couples don’t always like the same dentist or car mechanic. People tend to stay where they feel most comfortable, especially in old age.

 Some day, this Island may become too expensive for us, or too crime-ridden, or too noisy. Its medical and communications facilities may become sub-standard; so may its policing. Its underclass and its yard-dogs may become out of control. Its infrastructure may collapse; our household garbage-collection service may be cut back to once a week. The local authorities may become too hostile to foreigners.

I’ve written before about the resentment that many native-born Caymanians feel for more-recent immigrants; that’s not diminishing, as years go by. I am one of a handful of immigrants stubborn and defiant enough to sign their names to published criticism of our government’s policies and practices. That’s five (a handful is five, right?) out of 30,000, in a population of 50,000. Cayman is a tribal democracy, not a real one. Outsiders’ concerns are rarely taken into account. Much the same as in any bolthole, of course.

For boltholes, we have our eyes on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, Lakes Chapala and Avandaro in Mexico, and maybe the vicinity of Vilcabamba in Ecuador if it hasn’t changed too much in the past few years. Friends recommend parts of Costa Rica and Panama, but we don’t know them at first hand.

Why would we consider anywhere in Latin America, when we don’t speak Spanish? Well, we can speak a sort of pidgin Spanish, which is adequate for day-to-day dealings. We rely heavily on goodwill, which we’ve usually found more effective than language. Hey, we have Norwegian grandchildren, and we don’t speak their language. Spanish is a doddle, compared with Norwegian.

Naturally, Norway is also a prospective bolthole – though the cost of living might be a problem. The same goes for southern France. We loved the Greek islands in the old days, and we hear they haven’t changed all that much. Property is cheap there in these days of crisis; but we’re not tempted. Foreign-owned property would very likely be repossessed the minute Greece recovered its independence.

We got caught like that in Vanuatu years ago, when the post-independence government stole our suburban lot. We won’t be caught again. Anyway, we’re both over seventy. We’d be crazy to sink our savings into a house and land, when we could rent.

The ambient language of a prospective bolthole isn’t important enough to rule any place out of consideration. All the same, it would certainly be more convenient to choose one of the eastern Caribbean islands, or southern England, or Gibraltar, or New Zealand. All wonderful candidates. So is Cayman. Its status as a British colony gives us a certain degree of protection against lawlessness, in an increasingly lawless world.

We will keep all the other prospective boltholes in mind, and keep our fingers crossed. The words of an old Creedence Clearwater song spring to mind:  
Bother me tomorrow; today I’ll buy no sorrow. (Doo, doot, doo – lookin’ out my back door.)