Wednesday, February 28, 2007

An Expat Speaks

This post was unabashedly lifted by Chaos, who thanks the poster on The Oil Drum for relating his experience in another country (you can bet this one will appear in Part II):

"We left the US 2 1/2 years ago. Being an expat was always in the back of my mind but the Iraq war, the rise of W, and peak oil awareness forced it to the forefront, and we finally acted. We were typical lower middle class cube drones; spouse was a mechanical engineer for a NASA subcontractor, and I was a tech writer for a software company. We just quit, sold off everything for pennies on the dollar, liquidated all our assets, and moved, never looking back.

One of the benefits to this is our two daughters (7th and 11th grades) are already fully bilingual because we put them in the public schools. Another benefit is that we were at home for them, and we got to spend these critical years with them. We also have a wonderful bus system here so we have not needed or used a car for all that time.

We will be opening a small vegetarian restaurant next week. It is based in our house, a typical 1000 square foot home on a small lot. We are buying everything we can locally, from people we know. We get 8L of fresh milk delivered three times a week for about $3.50, we pasteurize it ourselves and make simple cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, cottage, and queso blanco), yogurt, butter, and drink the rest. The guy across the street has organic eggs (and chickens). We buy fruits and vegetables from several sources. Some delivered to the house, some are organic, and all are fresh. Coffee is organically grown from a local source. None of our produce comes from further than 50 miles away. We even have a source for organically grown cocoa and dark chocolates.

The biggest things we can't get locally are flour and soy beans (though they are grown here somewhere). I make my own tofu and tempeh so we need to find a local source for beans, and we will be baking a lot for the restaurant. We make bagels, English muffins, breads, cookies, desserts, etc., already for some customers.

We grow most of our herbs as well as some of the vegies that are hard to find here like hot peppers and tomatillos. So we make our own salsas and things like Italian sauces.

When we make lasagna, we buy the noodles. Everything else, except for the sprinkle of parmesean, is fresh and homemade, so y'all come down, that's our Friday special.

FYI: When I make tofu, I take five cups of beans that I buy for about $1.60. My yield is about four pounds of very firm tofu. I use the okara, the pulp left after straining the soy milk, to make vegie burgers, soysage (fake sausage), and fake meat balls. So for $1.60, I get:

4-5 lbs firm tofu
24-36 vegie burgers
3-4 lbs of soysage
60 meatballs

Any unused okara, I give to our milkman for his cows.

The same amount of beans makes about 5-6 pounds of tempeh.

The place we live is in a valley but at 1051 meters. The temps stay between the 60s and 80s, so we have to do no heating or cooling. Electricity here is 90% green, mostly wind and hydro. Water is plentiful and clean where we are. We have a year round growing season, and we are surrounded by coffee, small scale vegetable farmers, and fruit orchards. We are 4-5 hrs by bus from either coast.

We are a family of four currently living on about $1000/month, and that includes complete health care. That's care, not insurance, and I am an insulin dependent diabetic. I feel good about our choices, and I don't know how we could have a much smaller carbon footprint."

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