The Rat in the Toilet

Leaves pile up at the foot of the dogwood tree where the bored 11-year-old girl sits perched like an eagle, gazing expectantly out to the horizon. If only something would happen, if only there was something new, something different. That evening she feels like she won the lottery when told by her parents that they are moving fromPrinceton,New JerseytoHouston,Texas.Texas. She is thrilled.Texas! Now that is definitely something truly new and different.

Though it sounds rather provincial today in today’s world where with the click of a mouse the world opens—in that 1961 America, the idea of moving did offer adventure and unimagined possibilities. And best of all, a change.

When in 1972 that very same child had become a young woman, she couldn’t get her passport fast enough to follow her American boyfriend to where his family lived inLima,Peru. Transforming the boyfriend into husband, they spent the following years moving about the Americas from Lima, Peru to Toronto and Vancouver, Canada; Asuncion, Paraguay to Willemstad, Curacao; and Guayaquil, Ecuador to Mexico City, Mexico and various parts of Gringolandia too.

Though she couldn’t follow the MS Magazine ideal of the stabile career, opportunities abounded. From pounding the boards of semi-professional theatre (and not so professional theatres) to writing for magazines, newspapers, radio; to researching and writing guidebooks on ‘how to live abroad’ and community development work; new experiences seemed to pop up as easily as the rat out of the toilet had in the house inGuayaquil,Ecuador.

Whether it was working with expatriate organizations, with Chevra Kadisha, mentoring new expatriates or learning new skills, she certainly got the life that she had wanted—an adventurous one. Yes, I certainly did.


PS. In Ecuador I learned that the way to keep sewer rats from entering a house is to pour a cup of used motor oil down each toilet—to grease the pipe, and encourage the critter not to exit the sewers into your house. Although environmental naughty, in the reality of the third-world it also was very functional. And since even our children’s school had problems with toilet rats exiting toilets, what was a mother to do?

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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