I am schizophrenic. Not in the mental sense of the word, but in the Ex-Pat sense of the word. I moved to Argentina almost five years ago from California. Slowly I have become a part of the society here. I am not an Argentine, but I am not culturally very American anymore either. I am somewhere in the middle, slanted more towards Argentina.
I remember when I first moved to California from the Midwest I was so proud and happy to be there. I will never forget crossing the Bay Bridge for the first time. There was an immediate sense of coming home. It was the early 70s. I was a hippie. San Francisco was the embodiment of everything I believed in. People were free in San Francisco. They could be themselves.
I lived in California 33 years before my move to Argentina. I was proud to be from the Golden State. There was a certain mystique to saying that you were from California, especially San Francisco.
When I moved to Buenos Aires and people would ask me where I was from, I always replied "The US," and always added "California." I didn't want to be lumped in with the people from anywhere else. We Californians were different.
When I moved to Argentina I sold everything. During the first year I had to go back to finish up some of my client contracts. I had kept my car and my Oakland mailbox. My Vonage phone moved with me to Buenos Aires with the same phone number I had had for 20 years. I still had that California identity going.
When 2006 rolled around and the last of my contracts was complete, it was time to sell the car and change my mailbox. Selling the car was more painful than selling my house. It really meant I had nothing physical left in California.
I searched through Google to find a mail service that would forward my mail to Argentina so that I could still have a California mailing address. It seemed the best solution was located in Miami. It was distressful to say the least. I was not a Miami kind of girl. I was from California.
For a time I had one of my friends do my mail. Anything to keep that California tie. It was not working out. Finally, after months of no mail, and the realization that I needed something more stable, I opted for the Miami mailbox service. To this day I still have not memorized my mailing address. I felt disloyal. Miami! Please!
I still had my Oakland phone number and my California driver's license. I could still technically call myself a Caliporteña. (Porteños are what the people in Buenos Aires are called.) Then Vonage started to raise their rates. I didn't really make enough calls to justify paying so much money for something I didn't use that much. I looked around at other services – Skype, Yahoo. I made excuses. The reality was I didn't want to give up the phone number that I had had since 1984.
Then one of my friends told me about Magic Jack. You have no idea how many times I went to that stupid website. "This is MAGIC, THIS IS JACK" How annoying. I could never buy that product, simply because of how annoying their website was. Famous last words.
Business analyst that I am, was, and will be for the rest of my life, I began to investigate it. I could have five years of calls and the unit for less than Vonage cost for one year. It didn't make sense. Especially when I thought in pesos. "But," I would tell myself, "I would have to give up my phone number and how would people find me?" Totally stupid. About the only people who call me are "CALL INDIA" and telemarketers for all kinds of junk.
Finally I told myself to stop being stupid. The cost-benefit ratio of keeping Vonage sucks. Inflation is worse everyday in Argentina. A phone number is no justification. Besides, I could get another California number. In Oakland even.
I made the plunge. I bought a Magic Jack and 5 years of service. Then came the day of reckoning. I had to register and select my phone number. I immediately selected the 510 area code. I hated all the prefixes. I went to 415. I tried a couple and they were not available.
"This is stupid," I said to myself. I brought up area code 305 and selected a prefix that seemed easy to remember. Painless. In one mouse click I lost another piece of my California identity and I haven't looked back. It was just a phone number. Now I am studying for my Argentine driver's license.