A Peek Behind the Curtain

Feb 22, 2015 11:28:00 PM

Update, April 2014: This post was written quite a while back, but is still explains a lot about my recent life. Things have changed, though. We are now back in the good old USA. After Vietnam, we moved to Sweden, my wife's hometown of Lund. It was nice. The kids loved it and learned all about their mothers home country. However, my wife got an offer from the UN in NYC. It is a great position and I was happy to move back to the States. So now, I have a little office in Hastings on Hudson, NY. It's a great town that is only a 30 minute train ride to Grand Central; sort of the best of both worlds. We're looking forward to making this our home for many years. Hopefully, I'm not jinxing that by putting it into words...

Original Post, September 2010:

People always seem to want to know, “So where are you guys located.” My standard answer is we’re based out of Summerville, SC – near Charleston. This is technically true. My permanent home address is currently 200 Pimpernel Street, Summerville, SC. But I move around a bit. I’m writing this from a temporarily leased apartment in Hanoi, Vietnam. While it is 3:00 AM (I am suffering from jet lag a bit) here, it is 3:00 PM back in Summerville. My mother lives in South Carolina and collects the checks, but I have been moving around the past 10 years with my family. My wife, Lisa Nylin, is the main reason we move around.

Lisa works with United Nations Development Program. She essentially helps countries to set up institutions that support human rights. She has worked on ombudsman projects, voter representation issues, women’s equal rights, and even access to water rights. Most of these projects have been in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states in Central Asia. Not many husbands get to say to their wives, “Remember to pick up some Armenian brandy on your next trip.” I am extremely proud of my wife and her work. By supporting her in her job, I feel like I am helping to vicariously contribute to good causes.

I like living abroad, too. It has been a wonderful time so far. My last year at Georgia Tech, I decided that I wanted to continue my education in architecture and city planning. I also had an itch to travel a bit. As luck would have it, a professor of mine introduced me to a new program at The London School of Economics: City Design and Social Science. I enjoyed the program and met some of the most fascinating people I have ever known. Architecture school can be somewhat inward-looking to say the least. But at the LSE, the amount of topics for discussion was endless. I had a ball. One of the most interesting people happened to be a beautiful, smart, and unassuming young Swedish lady. She lived next door. By the end of the year, she had agreed to marry me. In order to be together, we decided to move to New York City.

NYC was as foreign to a southern boy like me as London was. But I also ended up loving it. We actually lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn – a wonderful brownstone community where everything you could want was just a few minutes walk away. I worked with a small development company that redeveloped spaces for arts groups that were leaving Manhattan because of high rents. It was a crash course in the crazy world of real estate development in NYC. My wife Lisa had gotten a job as an intern at the UN and eventually moved on to a paying job with the UNDP. She was also sending out applications to the Junior Development Program, a way to start in the UN professional world. After a while of gaining experience, she was accepted to start in the Republic of Georgia as a women’s rights coordinator. We jumped at the chance.

This meant moving together across the world to a developing country. In the back of my mind, I knew the opportunities for gainful employment for me would be slim. But I had a plan. Actually I had many plans – home plans from prior work as a designer of affordable homes. I polished off these plans, fixed them up a bit, added a few, and launched Home Patterns. Working from my apartment in Tbilisi through power, water, and gas cuts, the first year was, indeed, hard. Soon though, I managed to get a Vonage internet phone and things started to take off. This allowed customers to call me whenever they needed – without it costing 50 bucks a pop. Business started to get better and better. I was busy.

Lisa and I decided to start a family. Things went a bit faster than we imagined. We ended up pregnant in Tbilisi right as a revolution was starting. We decided to leave for greener pastures. Lisa was lucky to find a position in Bratislava, Slovakia. Our last day in Tbilisi was one of the most beautiful we had. It was also the swearing in day for the new president – luckily the revolution ended up peacefully. So with the help of a few Slovaks, I continued on with Home Patterns in Bratislava until this summer. Up until this economic crisis, things have been going great. However, for a while now, things have been slow, but I seem to be getting more builders now. Many are builders who once built 3-4k square foot homes, but are looking for new smaller plans. Maybe things will pick up soon. I will continue on here in Hanoi. One note, if I do not pick up the phone, it might be because it is the middle of the night here. Just leave a message and I’ll give you a ring back in the morning or early evening. Talk to you soon, Brooks.