The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

GLOBAL FOOD GOSSIP: Solving the obesity problem with LBDs for all

global food gossipJoanna Masters-Maggs, our resident repeat-expat Food Gossip and Creative Chef, is back with her column for like-minded food lovers.

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I’ve come to believe that it would be possible to stem the tide of world-wide obesity with the standard issue to all women of a beautifully made, French, Little Black Dress. You know — the type that appears in French adverts, or as worn by Audrey Hepburn, or in silhouettes on paperbacks about Paris (also featuring delicately drawn curly patio furniture and pom-pom headed poodles). A shapely fitted confection which flares out just above the knee, worn by a pony-tailed, impossibly thin, and very definitely French jeune-fille. Ah, me, she is just a black outline on my current bottle of rosé — but I want to be her and live her life of lightly, skinnily, skipping through streets of shuttered buildings full of parked Citröens.

If I could wear that dress, look like that, I’d forgo that extra croissant. You know I would.

Hiding a multitude of chins with Standard Issue Clothing

Joanna abayahThe last time I received a standard issue item was from my husband’s company when we relocated to Saudi. Black it was indeed, but that is where its similarity with an LBD began and ended. It was, you needn’t guess, a rather large and definitely not fitted abaya with matching headscarf.

The Husband returned home from his pre-visit carrying a lovely pink and black box which whispered all sorts of possibilities of delicious contents. In retrospect, it was probably rather large for that. As abayas go, it was a racy number with hot pink and silver around the hand-obscuring sleeves and on the edge of the black chiffony scarf.

Yes, I know. What a floozy. Actually, the scarf gave me considerable pleasure. I liked to drape it and imagine myself Benazir Bhutto or Jemima Khan. While I felt quite exotic at times, the sad truth was that I was indistinguishable from any other woman in town. It wasn’t rare for a strange child to grab my hand, confusing it for that of its mother.

That abaya was a dangerous thing, though. I heard all sorts of stories about what people wore under it, from saucy knickers to tea-stained pajamas, but I wore running tights and a long-sleeved black t-shirt. Whatever we wore, though, there was never need for a constraining waistband which would pinch us after a doughnut too many. It was awfully easy to consider pudding after lunch or even an extra Middle Eastern pastry at breakfast, especially since other pastimes were fairly limited.

Obesity is in the eye of the beholder (or in the outline of the LBD)

I am told that French obesity rates are rising, but from what to what, I am hard pressed to answer. Yesterday I drank a coffee on the Cours Mirabeau, Aix’s most fashionable street, and tried to count the number of curvier types I could find. By curvier type, I am talking about those with extra rolls. There were precious few – especially when I consider towns in England or America. A little eavesdropping revealed many of these chubbier folk not to be speaking French. Lots of tourists and people whose origins were other than French seemed to be the ones adding a little padding to the city. Perhaps it is for them there is a little crêpe and Nutella stand on the appropriately named Rotonde, the lovely fountain which marks the centre of Aix.

You might say that this really isn’t a very scientific survey and you might be right, but bof to you. The French assure me that only Aix and Paris are ultra-slim, while the rest of the country is very different – said with a charming little purse of the lips and shake of the head, bien sûr. Yet this is what I see and I am convinced that it is because French ladies have a uniform, and they see it as their duty to fit into the damn thing.

If you can’t fit in the uniform, you won’t fit in at all

The uniform in Aix is a nice dress, or neat trousers, elegant tops and casual but well fitted jackets or even cardigans – but not comfy ones, darling, don’t even think of it. Colours are elegant neutrals, whites or blacks, and linen is definitely favoured for the summer. Patterns are handled with caution and fabrics are always natural. The whole package is finished of with a head of expensive beige highlights and who then, frankly, has any money left over for overeating?

One cannot wear this uniform well if there is any hint of pudge and so discipline is required. Yes, French women absolutely do hit the gym. This should make you feel much better. Do not believe what you have heard, that French women stay slim just by walking everywhere and taking the stairs. There are lots of gyms and they are full; the classes are as frenetic as anything in NYC. Sport is organized, and grown adult women enroll in athletic-, swim- and sports clubs at the annual Rentrée which follows the end of August’s national Vacances every year. Indeed, it is organized almost along military lines and involves getting medical certificates, insurance, and all sorts of paperwork. Even staying slim conforms to the national obsession with bureaucracy. You need discipline to collect and organize that much paper.

Your mother was right: eat three times a day, and only three times a day

This discipline really seems to be in a typically French Classic manner. Old-fashioned, if you like. Three sensible meals a day, one large at midday, and do not open the fridge between meals. Wine is drunk, but not in bacchanalian English or Irish excess. “Only one,” my French friend explains with a slight wag of her index finger, “at 5pm.” These are rules which we all know we can follow, but……

This is where the government would be wise to issue that frock. Just as the abaya gave hiding room for the effects of little indulgences, a little black dress does not. Better than the abaya, it would be a luxurious thing to wear and worth an hour in the gym every day in order to get into it. Once on, it would be a reminder to avoid any bloat-inducing, calorie-laden treats, which would spoil the line of its exquisite cut.

Come on! I had to wear the abaya in Saudi. It seems only right I should have to wear the classic national costume of France. Doesn’t it?

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Joanna was displaced from her native England 17 years ago, and has since attempted to re-place herself and blend into the USA, Holland, Brazil, Malaysia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and now France. She describes herself as a “food gossip”, saying: “I’ve always enjoyed cooking and trying out new recipes. Overseas, I am curious as to what people buy and from where. What is in the baskets of my fellow shoppers? What do they eat when they go home at night?”

Fellow Food Gossips, share your own stories with us!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post!

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Images: All images from Joanna’s personal photo albums, and used here with her permission

CHUNKS OF DRAGONFRUIT: A tale of an Australian expat navigating her own way in Japan

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun and Dragonfruit cover, courtesy Shannon Young. Purple dragonfruit by Mike Behnken (CC BY 2.0)

Kathryn Hummel and Dragonfruit cover, courtesy Shannon Young. Purple dragonfruit by Mike Behnken (CC BY 2.0)

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia is a new anthology edited by columnist Shannon Young. For the benefit of Displaced Nation readers, Shannon has generously carved out a few tasty morsels from the writings of the collection’s 26 female contributors, highlighting their feelings of displacement within Asia. This is the second installment. The first can be read here.

—ML Awanohara

For our October excerpt, I’ve chosen Kathryn Hummel, an accomplished poet whose prose immediately stuck out to me for its lyrical quality. She uses intricate details to make her life as an Australian expat in Japan come alive, and she captures the emotions of displacement beautifully.

Kathryn also uses a unique structure featuring a poem followed by a meditation on the stages of expat life: from arrival to finding community to a mid-life crisis of sorts to acceptance. Kathryn draws the full map of a life abroad.

I hope you’ll enjoy the beginning of Kathryn’s piece, which is titled “Charting Koenji.” (Kōenji, for those unfamiliar with Tokyo’s layout, is a neighborhood on the outer western edges of the city.)

“Charting Koenji,” by Kathryn Hummel

Sometimes there are moments that catch in the flow of the everyday like a taped-up tear in a reel of film. Afterwards, there is an almost imperceptible change in the tension and projection of life, when I feel more than I see that Koenji is not my place. While I am closer than a stranger, I am still at a distance: this I measure from the inside out, since I can’t get far enough away to see it as an onlooker, detached but still interested in how the scene rolls on. For the past two years, the everyday scenes of my life have had Japan as a setting: most of these have been concentrated in the district of Koenji-minami, Suginami Ward, Tokyo. During my first weeks here, I intoned that address so many times it became a mantra, a verbal talisman to guard against losing myself in the city. Although being an expatriate—a collection of syllables I don’t often apply to myself—places me in a position of being both inside and outside, when I hear the wooden heels of my shoes clip the now familiar walkways of my neighbourhood, I am reminded only of this place, my present.

I. Arrival

Arrival is not signified by
the unburdening of suitcases
but the mechanics of realisation.
This is where I am, will be:
I have come now to the place
where before I was going.

Being present in a place means you inevitably paint yourself in the picture, draw the map around you. Slip outside these bounds and you are lost, or so I once thought. In 2004 I had stopped in Japan on my way from China to Australia and was delighted by my weeklong visit. I knew that living and working in Japan would be harder than traveling through, when my only responsibility had been to find the best way to be happy before my set departure date. Still, I had friends in Japan and their phone numbers to call; a Japanese language certificate and alphabet flashcards; a few tatami mats’ worth of rented space and a position, courtesy of an arts-exchange program, to write words for an intimate Koenji gallery wanting to commune with the English-speaking art world. If the present was a leafy bough, my future (as well as my literary imagery) would be heavy with the fruit of my Japanese incarnation.

I arrived in Osaka and rested for a few days at the home of Quentin, a university friend who had spent the last three years of his life traveling back to Japan to teach English, a compulsion he would spend another three years satisfying. At Quentin’s suggestion, I made my way to Tokyo on a journey of acclimatisation and language practice. I took a slow train to Hamamatsu to go on a gyoza (dumpling) hunt and traveled on to Yaizu, where, walking to the beach to see the distant Fuji-san bathed in the light of sunset, I met and later made love to a fish-factory worker from Peru. Yet even this encounter had the day-seizing quality of one made on a transient journey only.

When I reached Tokyo, the city was so miserably wet I thought it would never dry out. As arranged, I was met at Koenji station by my landlord, whose easy graciousness flickered warmth over my arrival, and accompanied to the building where my first studio apartment was waiting. After giving me a tour, which consisted of opening the bathroom door and indicating to the rest of the open-plan space, diminished by a folded futon and my wet bags, my landlord retreated with a bow. I was not delighted by Tokyo so far but wanted to be, so I gave my wool scarf a tighter wind, armed myself with an umbrella and ventured out. During my walk, I found that the compass on my Bleu Bleuet watch was only for show—an incidental discovery, since instinct is the direction I rely on above all. At that particular moment, I had none, and the rain didn’t help clarify my position. It leaked somehow through my umbrella and under my collar, where it remained without guiding me. As it usually happens when I walk the streets of a new place, I got lost.

The houses lost me. Or I lost myself in them. Every grey, dun, or cream-colored structure fit together in a maze of reinforced concrete. Some homes were irregularly shaped to sit correctly on their blocks; others had strange additions that seemed the architectural equivalent to tusks and antlers; oddly shaped, overgrown bonsai sprouting various thicknesses of branch and colors of foliage mingled with low electrical wires; antennas, rubbish bins, sometimes just inexplicable but neatly arranged collections of junk, assembled to give the impression that it was still of use, awaited their purpose. There was an element of seediness that did not feature in my memory of Japan: paint peeled from wooden walls and bald light globes had been left burning after midday. In the alleys behind restaurants, I was met with cardboard boxes, broken brooms and wooden pallets, rusty machinery and empty cans of cooking oil. The rain blurred the scenes without actually softening them, making greyer what was already dismal.

I told myself not to try to make sense of the maze. Tomorrow I would find my way to the gallery where I would be working and meet Kenzo-san, its owner, and all would be well if I believed all would be well. At the same time I thought, with naïveté or impatience, that I had to have a plan, that aimlessness would prevent me connecting to Koenji.

Before I left Osaka, Quentin studied my face as if trying to read its meaning. “You should have a Japanese name,” he told me. “Kat-san isn’t so easy to say.”

To me it didn’t seem as difficult as “Kassorin-san,” but I already had thought of a name that sounded appropriately Japanese. “What about Katsu?” I asked. “It’s a mixture of my first and second names: Kathryn Susannah.”

Quentin shook his head. “No. It will make people think of tonkatsu (deep-fried pork). They’ll think it’s strange. Why not choose something that represents you—a tree, or an animal?”

Quentin’s advice may have worked admirably for him in his various Japanese incarnations, but has never yielded the same results for me. I was then, and remain, “Kassorin-san,” a woman who navigates her own way. On that first afternoon in Koenji, I continued to walk until I at last saw something that indicated my flat was not far off: a secondhand bookshop I never have learned the name of, though I did eventually begin to buy books there that I hope to read, one day, with ease. The bookshop is recognisable during the day by its awning of green-and-white stripes, at night, by its security doors. Each of the three doors is painted with a face: one with running mascara and a Clara Bow hairdo, one with a sweat-beaded forehead and a guilty laugh, the last with an angry eye and an imperious-looking nose.

These faces, which remain guarding the bookshop until 11:00 am each day, signal more than my location—they are signposts for my mood. Depending on whether my mind is full or empty as I walk past on my way to the gallery or language lessons or the house of a friend, I either ignore or sympathize with whatever I can read in their expressions: their moods always change. It seems charmingly whimsical to write that these faces were my first friends, though when I realised this, I knew it was time to stop observing and start finding my community in Koenji.

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Poems From Here KHummelReaders, if you enjoyed that morsel, I hope you will consider downloading a sample of the Dragonfruit anthology from Amazon. (The e-book and paperback of are available at all major online retailers.)

And if this excerpt has made you curious to learn more about Kathryn Hummel, her new collection of poetry called Poems from Here has recently been published by Walleah Press. You can also find out more about Kathryn at her author site: KathrynHummel.com.

I look forward to sharing more excerpts from the Dragonfruit anthology over the next couple of months.

* * *

Thank you so much, Shannon! Displaced Nationers, any comments on what Kathryn had to say in this passage? Having lived in Tokyo myself, I found her description of the city captivating. I was also impressed by her determination to “navigate her own way” in a city that makes many of us Westerners feel we’ve stepped through the looking glass.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with snippets of worldly wisdom, exclusive book giveaways and our nominees for the monthly Alice Awards. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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LOCATION, LOCUTION: Fran Pickering, London-based crime writer and Japanophile

Fran PickeringIn this month’s “Location, Locution”, expat crime writer JJ Marsh interviews Fran Pickering, a London-based crime and mystery writer who has lived and travelled extensively in Japan. Her experiences there provide the inspiration for her Josie Clark in Japan mystery series. She also writes about London art and events with a Japanese connection on her blog, Sequins and Cherry Blossom. Her latest Josie Clark book, The Haiku Murder, has just come out, on 13th October. Find out more at franpickering.com.

Which came first, story or location?

Location. I wanted to share my love of Japan in a way that would be interesting and non-academic, so I started writing murder mysteries about an expat Londoner in Tokyo.

What’s your technique for evoking the atmosphere of a place?

I know Japan so well now, I have to think myself back into the mind of a person encountering it for the first time and remember how strange and foreign it seemed to me originally. I go for the little, easily forgotten details – the smell of the drains in Tokyo, the sound of the mechanical cuckoo on the pedestrian crossings in Takarazuka, the complexities of different shoes and socks for different surfaces in a traditional inn. It’s the small things that bring a place alive.

Which particular features create a sense of location? Landscape, culture, food?

Food is very big for me. Japanese people are obsessed with food – they talk about it all the time – but so many people in the West think sushi and noodles is all there is to Japanese cuisine. As Josie investigates the latest murder she needs to ask a lot of questions, and the easiest way to do that is in cafes (she spends a lot of time in Starbucks) or over meals. The sort of meals people eat and where they eat them gives a clue to their character too.

Can you give a brief example of your work which illustrates place?

Here’s an excerpt from The Cherry Blossom Murder:

It was just after nine o’clock. The streets of Akasaka were crowded and noisy. A gaudily decorated pachinko parlour blasted out an advertisement for their new pinball machines, accompanied by an irritating advertising jingle; inside the parlour Josie could see people staring zombie-like at the pachinko machines as the tiny silver balls spun and fell, spun and fell, endlessly fed from the bowl beside each player.The Cherry Blossom Murder

A group of young men and women passed her, the girls in short skirts, one of them loping along drunkenly as the boys held her upright. Behind them came a group of salarymen, still in their work suits, noisily discussing their golf handicaps. They barged Josie unthinkingly off the pavement.

A fortune teller sitting on the pavement behind a table plastered with pictures of hands called to Josie to come and have her future read. For a moment she was tempted, but then she walked on, past Denny’s and Johnny’s and Cozy Corner, all brightly lit and full of people, to the familiar yellow sign of Doutor’s coffee house.

How well do you need to know the place before using it as a setting?

If it’s a real place, then you need to have been there and looked at it carefully. I try and revisit places I write about to make sure I’ve got it absolutely right, and to pick up on aspects I may have overlooked the first time. It’s remarkable how memory can play you tricks, or leave you with a superficial impression. I take photographs of key settings to refer to later.

Which writers do you admire for the way they use location?

Lee Child. He’s an English writer whose books are set in the States with an American protagonist. He really nails it; the flavour of the country leaps off the page. And Ben Aaronovitch, whose Rivers of London series takes you into every nook and cranny of Covent Garden and makes you almost believe that a building on the south side of Russell Square actually does contain the Folly.

* * *

Next month’s Location, Locution: Clare Flynn, whose books are set in Australia and India.

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JJ Marsh grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After living in Hong Kong, Nigeria, Dubai, Portugal and France, JJ finally settled in Switzerland, where she is currently halfway through her European crime series, set in compelling locations all over the continent and featuring detective inspector Beatrice Stubbs.

STAY TUNED for our next post!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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For this global nomad, botany buff and blossoming novelist, a picture says…

Cinda 1000 Words CollageWelcome to our monthly series “A picture says…”, created to celebrate expats and other global residents for whom photography is a creative outlet. The series host is English expat, blogger, writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King, who thinks of a camera as a mirror with memory. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out his blog, Jamoroki.

My guest this month is Cinda MacKinnon, an American who grew up overseas and is the author of an award-winning novel set in one of her former homes, Colombia. Called A Place in the World, the book was featured almost exactly a year ago on the Displaced Nation.

Cinda shoots mainly “macro” (extremely close up) pictures, a habit she developed because of her interest in nature and plants—especially wildflowers. A writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, Cinda is trained in geology and has also nurtured a life-long passion for botany. It’s telling that the protagonist of her novel is a botanist!

Cinda enjoys hunting down rare plants and taking photos that show their minute details, such as the number of anthers (the part of the stamen that contains pollen), so that botanists will be able to identify them.

She now lives in northern California, where the California Native Plant Society has become a fan of her photos and sometimes asks her to supply a few of them for their newsletters and exhibits. Who knew?

* * *

Hi, Cinda. Welcome back to the Displaced Nation. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss your photo-travel experiences. When I first started following your blog, I assumed you were a writer—but then was delighted to discover that you’ve also taken some excellent photos. I know you’ve already been over some of this ground in your interview with ML Awanohara, but can you tell me where you were born and when you spread your wings to start traveling on your own?
I was born on an Air Force base in Louisiana, but lived there only a week. My dad was already stationed in Greece, and my mother followed him as soon as she was able to travel. I lived in Greece and Germany as a pre-schooler and then in Colombia when my father changed his job and began working as a military attaché for U.S. embassies. Having fallen in love with Latin America, my parents retired in Costa Rica when I was in seventh grade so, happily, I was able to stay in that part of the world through high school…and beyond. After college in the United States, I moved to New Zealand with my husband (back then, they told us we had to get married to immigrate together!). We came to California when he finished his PhD. And here we’ve been ever since, although I view that move to California—I was in my thirties—as the first time I actually lived in the States. Even though my passport said I was a citizen, it has taken me a while to feel like I belong here.

You have been an expat almost since birth—what is known as a Third Culture Kid. Would you say that your wanderlust comes from your nomadic upbringing?
Once I grew up, I wanted to see more of Latin America and as a young family we could do that cheaply. Next I visited Europe to see some of the places I’d lived with my parents, but like so many others ended up falling in love with Italy and France. I think language had as much to do with it as the culture and people. Growing up speaking Spanish, it was fairly easy for me to be understood in Italian, and I found French so beautiful that I have become a perennial student. Recently, my husband and I explored Central Europe along the Danube River, from southern Germany to Budapest. That splendid trip provided fodder for at least five blog posts.

Mais oui. I have always loved the French language, too. Where exactly do you live in northern California?
We live in a semi-rural area nestled in the hills and yet are only 30 minutes from San Francisco—an unusual situation due to geography, which insures our immediate surroundings will never be developed.

“Are not flowers the stars of the earth…”—A.J. Balfour 

And now let’s have a look at a few of your shots that capture favorite memories. Can you tell us the story behind each of them, what makes them so special?
This is one of the first wildflowers I photographed and is still a great favorite of mine: a shooting star, or Dodecatheon clevelandii:

Dodecatheon clevelandii, aka shooting star. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnonn.

Dodecatheon clevelandii, aka shooting star. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnonn.

The next photo is of the odd-looking Tiburon Lily, Calochortus tiburonensis, which blooms only a few weeks a year and is quite rare; it evolved on serpentine soils, which gives rise to unusual plants that can tolerate this somewhat toxic chemistry. Indeed, you can find this little lily in only one place: on Ring Mountain (a single hill really), north of San Francisco:

Calochortus tiburonensis. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

Calochortus tiburonensis, found only on Ring Mountain. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.


Another peculiar wildflower is C. tolmiei, nicknamed “pussy ears”. It is challenging to capture the tiny hairs and other features as it is barely 2.5 cm across—plus it tends to grow on coastal slopes where the wind wreaks havoc with your focus!
Calochortus tolmiei, aka pussy ears. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

Calochortus tolmiei, aka pussy ears. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.


I’ve taken quite a few photos of wild flowers without having a clue what their names were. I’m getting a real lesson in flora here. Thank you, Cinda. I can see why they call botany the “science of beauty.”

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”—Claude Monet

I know you have photos of scenery, too, and these next four, I believe, have a special significance for you.
I mentioned I am a bit of a Francophile and a favorite region of mine is the Dordogne Valley. This is a place with history, from Richard the Lionheart to Joan of Arc; pre-history (the Cro-Magnon cave paintings); and beauty. I talked my husband into renting a canoe and we paddled down the Dordogne River, past castles, ancient bridges and towns. This photo with the medieval Château de Castelnaud in the background is a memento of that glorious day:

Canoeing on the Dordogne in glorious weather. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

Canoe with a view, la rivière Dordogne. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.


Next, I’d like to show you a photo of a very different place, in California. Actually, I can give you a choice of two: would you rather see the California desert before a rain storm or one of Arvin, a city in southern California? Arvin is interesting because it’s set in hilly grassland that half of the year is dry and dormant but explodes into wildflowers in the spring (if the winter is wet). What’s your pleasure?

Can I have both?
Mais oui! Here’s the Sierras:

The stormy Sierras. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

The stormy Sierras. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.


And now for Arvin in all of its glory:
A profusion of wildflowers in Arvin. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

A profusion of wildflowers in Arvin. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

Both photos are so lovely! That’s why I decided to give you this bonus. But if I really was forced to choose, the desert before the rain is so dramatic. I think you should turn it into a photo-painting using Topaz Adjust or Impression. What’s your last shot?
Another California landscape I’m fond of is Monterey County. When I was a teenager, I read all of John Steinbeck’s novels, never dreaming I would live in California much less end up working in the Salinas Valley as a hydro-geologist for several years. On arriving I felt as though I’d been there before. The town of Monterey itself has become a tourist attraction, but if you go out into the countryside there are still scenes like this one, with the adobe house on the hill:

An enchanted realm near Monterey, California. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.

An enchanted realm near Monterey, California. Photo credit: Cinda MacKinnon.


Please God, don’t let them turn it into another orchard or development!

Here here! I noticed you haven’t included any photos of people. Do you feel reserved about taking photos of strangers?
Yes , and I don’t like portraits to look overly posed. So first I try to take photos surreptitiously. If that’s not possible, I try to be respectful by asking if it’s okay– preferably in their own language. No matter where I travel, I learn some basic phrases in the language of the country (Hungarian was the hardest so far!), but I’ve found that “okay?” seems to be a universal word.

You are right: “okay” seems to have been adopted by most of the planet, though it’s origins are unclear. One theory is that it was derived from a shorthand way foreign-born Americans in the 1830s developed for writing “all correct”—only they’d spelled it “korrect”!

“I will touch a hundred flowers/And not pick one.”–Edna St. Vincent Millay

What motivates you to record what you see through photographs? Is it the ability to capture something unique, which will never be seen again?
Hmmm… I barely think of myself as a photographer; it is one of several hobbies! But certainly, what you say is true of fleeting blooms, and photos do help to preserve memories of wonderful places, whose beauty could vanish. But I think what really led me to photography was my interest in plant nomenclature. I like to block out weeks of time every year to hike in hills, valleys and deserts and search for rare blooms. It is a bit of a treasure hunt, and my photos of evidence of the riches I uncover.

Your modesty is charming, but I think you definitely have an artist’s eye and many of your photographs could be transformed into beautiful pictures with a little more post processing. Which leads me to the technical stuff. Some of our readers may want to know what kind of camera and lenses you use, and how you handle post-processing.
I use a Canon Digital Rebel XT SLR with a macro lens when I am looking for wildflowers in the spring. But for traveling I’ve started to just put my trusty Canon PowerShot in my pocket. I usually use Photoshop for post-processing, but as you’ve pointed out, I’m not adept at all the advanced features. I use “auto” first, and that is generally all I need, except I often crop a shot and, if needed, adjust the lightning or clean up stray blemishes.

Finally, do you have any advice for wannabe photographers who are traveling or living abroad?
It is not the equipment—it is in the eye. Some of my better pictures were taken with a point and shoot. I asked a professional photographer friend if he thought I should buy some filters or another lens, and he said his best shots are sometimes with his cell phone! I guess the motto is “be prepared” for something that catches your eye—be ready for the special moment when the light is right. Make sure your subject doesn’t appear to have an antenna sprouting out of his head at that moment. Don’t use the “sharpen” feature for portraits as it accentuates flaws (unless you want that for character) and can give a severe look. And don’t make your friends look at 200 mediocre photos of your vacation—please cull out the unappealing or out-of-focus ones! (My rule of thumb for talks is 1 to 1.5 slides per minute—that’s 60 to 90 per hour—nobody wants to see more than that.)

Very succinct and good advice, Cinda—right up my street. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to tell your fascinating story in this interview.

* * *

front-cover-place-in-worldReaders, what do you make of Cinda’s close-up photos of exotic plants and her photography advice? I find it curious that she writes about people looking for their place in the world, yet is obsessed with the kinds of flowers that bloom where they are planted. As Georgia O’Keefe once put it:

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.”

Please leave any questions or comments for Cinda in the comments!

Meanwhile, I suggest that you check out Cinda’s Pinterest boards for more of her botany photos. You can also get to know her better by visiting her author site and blog, and liking her Facebook page. And don’t forget to read her book if you haven’t done so yet, many glowing reviews for which can be found here.

(If you are a photographer and would like to be interviewed by James for this series, please send your information to ml@thedisplacednation.com.)

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST: Lawrence Osborne’s haunting tale of expats and travel in the Moroccan desert

Booklust Wanderlust Collage

Left: Oleh Slobodeniuk (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0); right: Beth Green (her own photo).

Attention displaced bookworms! Our book review columnist, Beth Green, is back. An American who lives in Prague, Beth mixes booklust with wanderlust in equal measures, which gives her just the right background for reviewing recent book releases on behalf of international creatives.

—ML Awanohara

Thanks, M.L.! And, hello again, Displaced Nationers. With the arrival of fall in the Northern hemisphere, I find myself in the mood to dig into some darker, heavier—more Halloweeny, shall we say?—material.

As a long-term traveler, third-culture kid, current expat, or all of the above in some cases, each of us has at some point or another faced a cultural divide we’ve found it difficult, if not impossible, to cross. Maybe it came down to a clash of religious or political beliefs. Or was it something to do with wealth? There are privileges that come with being an expat—and that, ironically, can cause discomfort.

But perhaps one of the most harrowing breaches of trust occurs when people possess differing concepts of justice.
TheForgiven_colorcoverLawrence Osborne’s novel, The Forgiven, wraps all three of these tough-to-tackle subjects into a compelling tale centered around one darkly beautiful “what if”:

What if you accidentally committed a crime in another country?

Every traveler’s worst nightmare

Osborne’s protagonists, David and Jo Henniger, are a wealthy middle-aged London couple who have grown frustrated with each other and jaded about life in general. David is a society doctor in Chelsea who has just lost a malpractice suit and is also beginning to lose patients. Jo is a children’s book writer who hasn’t written a book in some time.

To get a change of scene, and perhaps a new lease on life, the couple sets off to attend a lavish party being thrown by one of David’s school friends, Richard, and his partner, Dally, at their ritzy retreat in the Moroccan desert. It’s a wild weekend-long affair tony enough to have photographers from the New York society pages chronicling it.

Now, that doesn’t sound like my travel scene, but Osborne makes it clear that what happens to Henningers could happen to any of us who dare to venture into unknown lands, where the inhabitants have different religious beliefs to ours, are poorer, and possess an unfamiliar sense of justice.

Jo to David: “I shouldn’t let you, Stumblebum.”

Overriding Jo’s objections, David decides to do the drive from Tangier through the desert in the night even though he has just consumed a bottle of wine.

Jo sulks but lets him drive.

Long after dark, while the Hennigers are trying to navigate the unfamiliar desert terrain, two Moroccan boys leap into the road ostensibly selling fossils though possibly intending to highjack the vehicle. David runs in to one of the young men, killing him. The other boy runs away.

Osborne sets up an unforgettable scene as David and Jo make their entrance to an extravagant expat party with a dead body on the back seat of their car. Not knowing what to do or how the Moroccan police will respond, the Hennigers have taken the corpse with them.

For the hosts, the situation is an embarrassment and a source of annoyance. For their Western guests, it’s a rude interruption and a source of gossip. For Moroccans like Hamid, the head servant of Richard and Dally’s estate, it’s a tragedy that brings out his deep loathing of Western values. For the family of the boy, who arrive the following day to collect the body, it’s both tragedy and crime.

But for David and Jo, it will prove life changing.

Jo to Day (another guest): “It’s like going through the Looking Glass.”

This story, rather than showing how travel erases our differences, puts the notion of “otherness” into high relief. The couple who host the party and many of their friends see Moroccans as as objects of curiosity, wisdom, servitude, and lust. David, less cosmopolitan than his hosts, falls back on traditional colonial values, regarding Morocco and Moroccans as inscrutable and inferior.

By the same token, the Moroccans in the story can’t fathom the Westerners’ lifestyles or motives. They are “unimaginable human beings,” infidels—people who don’t eat with their fingers, who don’t believe in God.

Driss, the young man who is struck and killed by David, wants desperately to break away from the life his father had. He comes from a Berber family that lives in a remote outpost of the Sahara, where children must slave away hacking out Trilobites all day long, with the hope of selling them to Western millionaires.

Driss’s father, Abdellah, more than anything else wants to avenge “the fact that he simply had never known his son at all.”

When Abdellah and his brothers arrive to pick the body up for burial, they demand to meet David. They ask that he travel with them to make atonement. Richard and Dally, keen to get on with the party, assure him that it will be for the best.

Jo to herself: “Who knew what here was artificial and what was indigenous?”

The Forgiven is a tribute to Osborne’s roots as a world-class travel writer and chronicler of the expat life. He takes us behind the scenes and into the inner lives of Moroccans as well as of the expats who choose to live in that part of the world.

Take, for instance, Osborne’s account of Moroccan versus British pessimism:

“The men of the desert know everything,” Hamid said once, like a quote out of Lawrence of Arabia. But they didn’t, really. They were just efficient pessimists, and therefore astute readers of human nature. They always assumed the worst, and that made them correct nine times out of ten. Their pessimism, however, was not like David’s. David was someone who believed that the past was superior to the present, and that was a different sort of pessimist. It was not the entire past that was superior, of course; it was mostly just the British nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Or this passage about how the Moroccan villagers tend to regard Richard and Dally and their wild parties:

It was admitted that they were wealthy and that they spent their money in an exceedingly unwise and profligate way, and that this was much to the advantage of the people.

Jo to Richard: “I dare say I won’t be the same again…”

The story maintains momentum by swinging between Western and Moroccan cultures, leaving the reader almost breathless, not always sure of their footing.

As readers, we guess but aren’t sure if the lumpish David, who is clearly an alcoholic, is still drunk on his midnight drive. Did he mean to hit the young man? And, the victim of the accident—can we say he’s a victim? Flashbacks to the youth’s bravado-filled conversations with a younger, impressionable friend paint him as an unstable character, full of hatred, with a shady past…

Jo, David’s long-suffering wife, is also an enigma. An aging beauty, she feels isolated from the young, frivolous women at the party. Does she love David, or want to leave him? Does she care if justice is exacted? Or does she care only that she be, as the title suggests, is forgiven?

* * *

Not wishing to give away any more of the plot, I’ll end by reiterating: Displaced Nationers, in your own experience, which topics tend to open up the widest cultural divides?

Let me also leave you with the epigraph from the novel:

“Many roads do not lead to the heart.” —Moroccan Proverb

Until next time—oh and please drive safely!

* * *

Thanks, Beth! I’ve read The Forgiven and am still haunted by it. Lawrence Osborne is a contemporary writer with a deep understanding of what it means to feel “displaced” by one’s travels. Reading the book gave me thrills and chills, not just for the story but for the beauty and precision of his prose. Readers, does this sound like a book for you?

Beth Green is an American writer and English teacher living in Prague, Czech Republic. She grew up on a sailboat and, though now a landlubber, continues to lead a peripatetic life, having lived in Asia as well as Europe. Her personal Web site is Beth Green Writes, and she is about to launch a new site called Everyday Travel Stories. To keep in touch with her in between columns, try following her on Facebook and Twitter. She’s a social media nut!

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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And the September 2014 Alices go to … these 2 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

If you are a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, the Displaced Dispatch, you’re already in the know. But if you’re not, listen up. (Hey, why aren’t you? Off with your head!)

Every week, when that esteemed publication comes out, we present contenders for a monthly “Alice Award,” most of whom are writers or other kinds of international creatives who appear to have a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of being a global resident or voyager.

Not only that, but this person tries to use this state of befuddlement as a spur to greater creative heights.

Today’s post hono(u)rs September’s two Alice recipients. They are (drumroll…):

1) DANIEL ROUSE, Shropshire-born expat living in Toronto, Canada, and Telegraph Expat blogger

For his post: “Class doesn’t matter in Toronto,” for Telegraph Expat
Posted on: 19 September 2014
Snippet:

Back in Shropshire…it wasn’t uncommon to have friends with nicknames deriving from their occupation; that’s how they are identified. It can be to the extent where a job is married with a first name without pause for breath: “you know my mate Ronnie-the-plumber.” I am guilty of this….

Over here it doesn’t matter what people do for a living, so people from all walks of life socialise together. Being worth a decent conversation is all that matters.

Citation: Daniel, we had rather assumed that the British class obsession would be fading by now. It’s been quite a few years since Maggie-the-Grocer’s-Daughter assumed power, followed by John-the-Circus-Performer’s-Son. Then there was Tony-the-Grandson-of-Actors-&-Grocers. And let’s not forget Kate-the-Party-Planners’-Daughter. But it seems that with the ascendance of David-the-Descendant-of-William IV (albeit via an illegitimate line), class considerations are permeating the land again—having now reached Shropshire. Some may say it’s a good thing—long may class distinctions flourish! A society can’t function if people don’t know their place. And besides, as Downtown Abbey has taught us, upper and lower classes have always been the best of friends. We must confess, however, that we do not find this very sensible. Rather, we think that names, rather than being associated with professions or parents’ professions (and therefore educations, incomes, and class profiles), should be reminders of what a person looks like. The source of our wisdom is the redoubtable Humpty Dumpty, in this exchange with Alice:

“MUST a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.

“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: “MY name means the shape I am—and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”

Now some may think Humpty Dumpty has prosopagnosia, but surely he’s just being practical? We also believe that expats would do well to employ this kind of mnemonic device when they first go abroad and are immersed in a phantasmagoria of new faces, body shapes, clothing, hair styles… In your part of the world, for instance, we could imagine epithets like “Big-Boots-xxx” or “Bushy-Beard-xxx” coming in handy. (Listen, you say you know your Canadian friends really well, but we still don’t advise using these nicknames to their faces, just in case…) Congrats on this fine post, Daniel, and we look forward to re-encountering some of this material in your short stories!

2) LINDA RUBRIGHT, former expat in Europe and the Caribbean, and founder of the travel and lifestyle blog the delicious day

For her post: “8 Secrets No One Tells You about Being an Expat,” for Sherry Ott’s new career break site, Meet Plan Go
Posted on: 25 September 2014
Snippet:

Secret #4: You are the punch line to a lot of jokes.
…The tiny differences are enormous differences, and what can you do about it? Expect a lot of laughs—in your direction.

Citation: Linda, you are so right, and have such a good way of putting it: how truly strange a culture can look when you are stuck in its “deep catacombs” (see Secret #2). For sure, “catacombs” are a telltale sign of having fallen down a rabbit hole. And we agree with your premise that exploring said catacombs without a compass can induce “profound loneliness and feelings of complete incompetence” (#2 again) not to mention homesickness (#8). We’d further like to point out that even on Alice’s through-the-looking glass adventure, when she stays above ground, such feelings of discombobulation continue, especially when she repeatedly tries to climb the hill near the house to the beautiful garden—only to find herself back at the house. Did an encounter with the Red Queen shed light on her frustrations? Hardly:

“Well, in OUR country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Still, at least the Red Queen was kind enough to attempt an explanation of basic cultural differences. She didn’t laugh at Alice. Which is more than we can say for you that time when you witnessed your Spanish boyfriend’s first attempt to pump gas in the United States and apparently found it uncontrollably funny that, being from Spain, which is 100% full service, he was also not used to gallons, credit cards, or zip codes, and kept fumbling with the machine. But we have news for you, Linda: the joke may be on you in the end. Little did you realize that the most successful expats are gluttons for punishment, and the eight points you list as drawbacks to the expat life in fact don’t perturb us all that much. Why do you think your BF is now your husband, living with you in Colorado? He loves being the object of your humor! In any case, thanks for this great post, and good luck to the pair of you with your travel advice site.

*  *  *

So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, or have you read any recent posts you think deserve an Alice Award? We’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t miss out on the shortlist of Alice contenders we provide in each week’s Dispatch, which are sources of creative thought if nothing else! Get on our subscription list now!

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CHUNKS OF DRAGONFRUIT: A tale by a Chinese American expat woman in China

Dorcas and Dragonfruit cover, courtesy Shannon Young. Purple dragonfruit cubes by http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebehnken/4996063234/

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun and Dragonfruit cover, courtesy Shannon Young. Purple dragonfruit by Mike Behnken (CC BY 2.0)

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia is a new anthology edited by our latest columnist, Shannon Young. For the sake of the Displaced Nation audience, Shannon has generously agreed to carve out a few tasty morsels from the writings of the 26 female writers within the collection that highlight their feelings of displacement within Asia. Take it away, Shannon!

—ML Awanohara

Thanks, ML. I’m excited to be doing this. The very first excerpt comes from a piece by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, called “The Weight of Beauty,” which covers the insecurities she experienced as a Chinese American woman living in China. Dorcas worries that her command of the language doesn’t match her Asian face and her average American weight is considered fat in China (she knows because strangers tell her!). Despite the difficulties, she finds an unexpected connection with her slim, beautiful, bilingual Mandarin teacher.

Here is the beginning of her story:

“The Weight of Beauty,” by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

“If you went running every day, you could lose some weight.” A maintenance worker with a receding hairline squinted at me as the elevator in our apartment building rose far too slowly. This was the first time I had ever interacted with this man. Unfortunately, he was speaking Cantonese, which meant that I understood him perfectly.

“Mmm…” I responded, avoiding his eyes.

“Really. If you ran every day, you could lose some weight,” he repeated, concerned that I had not given him a proper reply.

I flashed him a tight smile, but I did not trust myself to say anything else before he stepped out of the elevator. As I watched his stooped, retreating back, I tried to remember how I was considered “petite” and “tiny” by my American friends. But the US was, literally, half a world away.

When my husband and I moved to China in the summer of 2008, my body’s relative mass seemed to triple during the time it took us to cross the Pacific Ocean. From my first day living in the industrial city of Shenzhen, my weight was a favorite conversation topic of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances alike. “You’re rather fat,” I would often hear. Or, “Did you gain weight? You look fatter.” If I stepped into a shop, sales clerks would rush forward, stopping my progress with wild gesticulations communicating that they had no merchandise remotely close to my size.

My figure was not the only thing wrong with me in the Middle Kingdom. I had grown up speaking Cantonese in the United States, but I knew barely any Mandarin. And judging by the reaction of the locals, my lack of language skills was by far my greater sin. Restaurant waitresses turned up their noses at me; grocery store cashiers clucked their tongues at me; taxi drivers quizzed me endlessly about my deficiency in Mandarin. My life in China at times felt like a series of one-act plays in which characters emerged with the sole purpose of telling me how stupid, fat, and just plain wrong I was.

“Ignore them,” my husband Ned, whose Turkish and Jewish roots had combined to make him look generically Caucasian, urged me.

“How can I?” I protested. “They’re everywhere.”

“But their opinions don’t matter. They don’t know you.”

That was the problem: they thought they knew me. I was a Chinese woman living in urban China, so knowing how to speak Mandarin was the minimum criterion for proving my sentience. It was equal to a blonde, blue-eyed woman in a cowboy hat and boots in rural Texas barely comprehending a word of English. It just wasn’t supposed to happen.

In exasperating contrast, the locals regarded Ned like a creature with magical properties. They were entranced by his height and broad shoulders, his light hair and green eyes, and they immediately set the bar for cultural competence at zero. All he had to do was say, “Ni hao,” and the same individuals who had been glaring at me as if I had insulted their ancestors as far back as the Tang Dynasty would glow with beatific smiles and tell Ned how amazing his Mandarin was. Ni hao was Ned’s universal password to obtain what would forever be denied to me: respect, attentive service, automatic entry into heavily guarded buildings, and a mysterious fount of Chinese joy and happiness that seemed to emerge only at the white man’s touch.

“He’s so handsome,” Chinese women would tell me, glancing at him through fluttering eyelashes. “Is he your boyfriend?”

“He’s my husband” was a Mandarin phrase I quickly learned to say.

Under the daily barrage of insults and sneers, my former life in the United States as an independent, competent, well-adjusted young woman began to recede from memory. It was as if that old version of me had never existed, as if I had always been the overweight, bumbling idiot that 1.3 billion people seemed to think I was.

I learned to wear an I-don’t-care-what-you-think expression on my face, but in reality, my defenses were only shadows of battlements. I felt as if I was constantly under siege; even the most innocuous encounter could become a surprise assault.

One day I greeted a deliveryman at the door of the office where Ned and I worked. I had done this several times before, and the routine was easy. All I had to do was say “Ni hao,” take the package, and sign for it.

But this time, when I handed the clipboard back to the deliveryman, he scrutinized my signature before eyeing me suspiciously. “Why don’t you have a Chinese signature?” he asked in Mandarin, a stony expression on his face.

“I’m American. I only have an English name.” I spoke slowly and gave him a small, apologetic smile.

“Why don’t you have a Chinese signature?” he repeated stubbornly, red blotches blooming across his forehead.

“I was born in the US I only have an English name,” I repeated just as stubbornly, all traces of the smile gone.

I didn’t understand any of the words he spat at me after that; he was speaking too fast and I was too shocked at his venomous tone. Knowing that I had just been deeply insulted, I refused to give him a response. We faced off in silence for a few tense moments before he turned on his heel, continuing to mutter vitriol under his breath as he walked away.

At that moment, learning Mandarin became my top priority. I contacted a company called New Concept Mandarin, which focused on teaching conversational survival Mandarin. They promptly responded, offering to send a company representative to my office the following day. When I told Ned about it, he asked to join in on the meeting to see if the classes were right for him as well.

The next afternoon, when I heard a knock at the office door, I jumped up from my desk. “I’ll get it,” I announced to the office in general.

Easing the door open, I called a cheery “Ni hao” into the dimly lit hallway. Then I froze.

“Ni hao,” responded the supermodel standing in the doorway.

I couldn’t stop the thought from entering my mind: If this woman isn’t from New Concept Mandarin, she must be a high-class prostitute. My eyes locked first on her dress, a body-hugging, black-and-white-striped mini that revealed every impeccable curve on her petite form. The shine of her straight, long black hair, which she casually tossed behind one shoulder, mesmerized me; her wide almond-shaped brown eyes, her thin upturned nose, and her closed-lip smile left me in awe.

As I stared at her, I remembered how I had barely brushed my hair that morning; how I had a grease stain on my blouse from lunch; how I had an angry zit on my forehead that was probably doubling in size at that very moment.

“Are you from New Concept Mandarin?” I asked in a squeaky voice.

“Yes,” the vision said confidently, with only a trace of a Chinese accent. “My name is Joanna.” She held out a tiny hand adorned by a French manicure.

Feeling oafish, I extended my sweaty, un-manicured hand and awkwardly shook hers. “Please come in.”

I shuffled to the conference table in the middle of the office, conscious that five pairs of eyes followed our progress. The room suddenly felt too open, too public. I didn’t want all my colleagues—and certainly not my husband—seeing what I saw: this epitome of Chinese beauty in juxtaposition with the ungainly, unkempt Chinese American who actually liked to eat.

I invited Joanna to sit in a black swivel chair. She descended gracefully into the seat and crossed her slender legs. I attempted to imitate her movements, but instead I had to steady myself on the armrests when I nearly missed my seat. Clearing my throat to hide my embarrassment, I asked Ned to join us.

* * *

Readers, I hope you enjoyed that morsel! Want to read more of Dorcas’s story? It’s the second in the book, so you’ll be able to finish it if you download the free sample on Amazon. (The e-book and paperback of Dragonfruit are available at all major online retailers.)

And if you’re curious to find out more about Dorcas Cheng-Tozun and her writing, she can be found at chengtozun.com.

I look forward to sharing more excerpts from the Dragonfruit anthology over the next few months.

* * *

Thank you so much, Shannon! Displaced Nationers, any comments on what Dorcas had to say in this passage? Have you ever had the experience of having people look at you but not believe you were (or weren’t) speaking their language? I speak of the phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance…which can make one feel very displaced. Tell us about it, or any other responses you’ve had to this excerpt, in the comments!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s announcement of the September Alice Awards.

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DIARY OF AN EXPAT WRITER: Testing one, two, three…Can anybody hear me?

DiaryExpatWriterToday we welcome a brand new columnist, the up-and-coming author Shannon Young. This past summer, Shannon announced she’d cut 18 inches off her hair, quit her day job to become a full-time writer, and given herself a pen name for her new series of adventure novels. And, yes, she is an expat, a kind of love refugee, living in Hong Kong. She had generously agreed to chronicle her writing adventure for us.

—ML Awanohara

Dear Displaced Diary,

In this column, I’ll be recording my experiences as a full-time expatriate writer. Officially, this is only a test.

Let’s start with a bit of background: I have been an expat, an American in Hong Kong, for four years and one month. For the past four years, I taught English in a local primary school while harboring a desire to work in book publishing.

Originally, I wanted to be an editor, to find talented writers and help them get their work into the world. I didn’t think I had stories of my own. Then, I moved to Hong Kong. In my new expatriate life, I found stories: personal dramas, bewildering worlds, opportunities for stimulating observations, and even ideas for fiction.

So, I started writing…

I discovered I love the process: mulling over half-formed ideas, stealing character descriptions from people I saw on the street, scribbling outlines on everything, and sitting down in coffee shops for hours at a time to actually do the work.

Four years later, I’ve completed a number of projects composed of bytes and bits of code, of pages and ink, of words and stories. Each project has taught me to look closer at the world around me. Each project has challenged me to be more diligent and to look for opportunities to write something that will matter.

One of those projects, a Kindle single called Pay Off, discusses how my teaching job in Hong Kong enabled me to pay off my large student loans from a US university. I’ve been debt free since December 2013 so have been able look seriously at other occupations.

I want to keep writing…

My teaching contract ended in July 2014. By that time I had accrued some savings, some complete or nearly complete books, and a husband with permanent residency. Instead of continuing to teach, I realized that now was the time to try to make it as a writer.

This is only a test. If I am not bringing in enough money from my writing (or worse, not enjoying the work) around Chinese New Year, I will start looking for a new job.

For now, I’m jumping in with both feet, seeing if this dream is feasible.

Like becoming an expat all over again…

Quitting a day job to write full-time is a lot like moving to a new country. You might know a bit about what to expect and what to pack. You do your homework; you find stories of people who’ve done it successfully, who love their new lives. You also find stories of people who’ve failed, who didn’t gel with the new place for any number of reasons. Most expats fall somewhere in between, learning to live with the difficulties while also enjoying many good moments.

Some people say it isn’t possible to make a living as a writer. They cite the successes and insist such people are outliers: exceptionally good or exceptionally lucky. As with moving to a new country, I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between. All I can do is take the leap and see if I can make it work.

But, just as I wouldn’t move to a new country without a suitcase, I am not starting this writing journey with a blank Word document and “Once upon a time…”

I have a strategy!

Here’s what I’m “packing” for my full-time writing life:

1) A portfolio of published works—comprising not just the student debt Kindle single but also the anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit: True Stories of Expat Women in Asia, which I edited for a small Hong Kong publisher. It came out earlier this year.* Neither of these works is a huge moneymaker, but sales can add up slowly. More importantly, these two publications have given me valuable publishing experience.

2) A book deal. My memoir of my first year in Hong Kong, Year of Fire Dragons, is being published by Blacksmith Books, an independent Hong Kong publisher, at the end of October. Hong Kong is a small market and even healthy sales won’t pay my rent, but at least I have a book to launch and a tangible opportunity to build my career.

3) A genre series in the works. This is the essential part of my strategy, the heavy winter coat, if you will, that I’m packing as you never quite know, once you become an expat, where you might end up. (I’m in Hong Kong now, but as I never could have predicted that, shouldn’t I be prepared for the day when I move to, say, Finland?) Since late 2012 I have had the wild pleasure of working on a series of post-apocalyptic adventure novels set at sea called The Seabound Chronicles (under the pen name Jordan Rivet). I’ve planned for a four-book series and written drafts of three of the titles. Book One, Seabound, is currently with the copy editor and should be ready to launch in November. I plan to self-publish this series as e-books and POD paperbacks and, frankly, hope to make some money.

4) Last but not least, reasonable expectations. While I am hopeful that the combination of my publishing experience so far, my existing works, and a highly commercial series will enable me to continue doing what I love, I am also realistic. I don’t expect to get rich. The goal here is to build up an audience—and a long tail of sales—that will eventually enable me to pay my rent and buy the occasional plane ticket home to see my family. But my primary expectation is that I will work hard, produce the best books I can, and try to learn as I go.

“If you want a pearl, you must dive for it.”—Chinese proverb

I realize I’m taking a risk by forgoing a steady income and living on savings in order to give myself more time to write. But taking risks is second nature to expats. We leave behind everything we know, and there are never any guarantees about how things will turn out.

My own jump into expat life occurred when I followed the man I loved to his home country. At the time, I didn’t even know if we would get along when we finally lived in the same country. At first, it looked like everything would fall to pieces because a month after I arrived in Hong Kong my boyfriend’s company sent him to London. I had a year on my own in Asia, fearing that my risk had been in vain.

That story has a happy ending: that boyfriend is now my husband—and I love Hong Kong. It was a risk that paid off, but it could have gone very wrong. Now, I hope the risk I’m taking will turn out at least half as well.

And can I tell you a secret, diary? Since I stopped working and started focusing on writing full time, I’ve been deliriously happy. I love having hours to myself each day to sit down and work on my own creative projects. I love reading about the publishing industry and studying other people’s books and careers. I’m trying hard not to become an obnoxious friend who only talks about their own work because it’s all I think about these days.

Yes, I know this honeymoon period won’t last forever, but at least allow me to say: it’s been wonderful so far!

And yes, I sometimes struggle with prioritizing, but that’s because there are so many things I want to do! But I’m gradually getting used to my new routines and performing triage on my to-do lists. I’m developing the daily habits of a writer. I want to use this period well.

Each month, I’ll share a bit more with you about where this journey is taking me. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Thanks for reading!

Yours,

Shannon Young
www.shannonyoungwriter.com

*From now until the end of the year, Shannon will be sharing excerpts from Dragon Fruit. Stay tuned!

* * *

Readers, it’s your turn. What is a risk you’ve taken in order to follow a dream? Was it becoming an expat or something even more daring, like becoming a full-time writer? What are some difficulties you faced along the way? Let me know in the comments!

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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TCK TALENT: Even without slide projector, projection of life as a Third Culture Kid engages Reykjavík audiences

TCK in Iceland Collage

Elizabeth Liang in front of Tjarnarbíó, in downtown Reykjavík, where she performed her one-woman autobiographical show, Citizen Alien, on growing up as a TCK of mixed heritage. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Liang.

This month Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang updates us on her own creative life, which this past summer veered in the direction of an island situated at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans!

Halló, vinir mínir! Hello, my friends! I’m addressing you in Icelandic because in this month’s column I’ll be re-creating my journey to Reykjavík, where I traveled in August to perform ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey, my one-woman show about growing up as a Third Culture Kid, or TCK, of mixed heritage.

How did I end up performing my show in Iceland? I have a friend in that part of the world who put me in touch with the artistic director of Tjarnarbíó, a creative center for professional live art in Reykjavík, who enthusiastically offered to host the show if I could cover my travel and lodging. Presented with a chance to combine three of my favorite activities—acting, writing and travel—how could I resist?

Engum flýgur sofanda steikt gæs i munn (“One cannot expect to benefit without making some effort”)—Icelandic proverb

My husband, Dan, agreed to work as my stage manager, which was perfect because he knows the show so well. I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise the requisite funds for our trip, found a cozy house in Reykjavík on AirBnB for us to rent, bought our flights, started promoting the show on social media—and then off we went to the Land of Fire and Ice.

We arrived in ideal weather, cool and dry, which many Icelanders told us was lucky because it had been raining all summer. We were relieved to find that our lodgings were in a quiet, pleasant residential area that was a seven-minute walk to downtown and a 15-minute walk to Tjarnarbíó.

Tjarnarbíó is a beautiful venue with state-of-the-art technology. At the technical rehearsal, the two “techies” who adjusted the lights and projector were friendly and professional. (Incidentally, we never met anyone in Iceland who was unfriendly, and the Icelanders we encountered all spoke perfect English, some with gorgeous British accents.)

That said, we had an unexpected snafu at the tech rehearsal. There are two kinds of projections in the show:

  1. Pictures and videos that are projected onto a screen via my laptop, and
  2. Words that I project onto my torso using an old-fashioned slide projector.

During the tech rehearsal, the slide projector I’d used in the show for over a year konked out. The stage hand and I stared at the plume of smoke rising from the top and said: “It’s smoking.”

No, the problem was not the power converter. We had the right one. Nor was it the bulb. We replaced it but the projector still didn’t revive. So my Icelandic friend’s father-in-law generously loaned us his. More on this later…

Citizen Alien Photo Strip

(top to bottom) At the tech rehearsal, the lights were lowered from the ceiling–fancy!; opening night; closing night; post-show celebratory drink; with Dan in front of Hallgrímskirkja Church; with Dan in Þingvellir National Park. All photos courtesy Elizabeth Liang.

August 20, 2014: Opening Night

We had an audience! I only knew of five people who were planning to attend (of whom I’d actually met only one—my Icelandic friend). What a pleasant surprise to see twenty or so people in the house!

And they laughed! I guess the show’s humor translates.

Dan stage managed wonderfully and the light board operator did a great job, too. The only hitch was that when it came time to project slides onto my torso, the borrowed projector didn’t work, even though we’d tested it earlier. I improvised and the audience went right along with this. (Afterward, a very kind audience member offered to loan us his projector, but when we met later, he realized it had a part missing. So Iceland never got to see words projected onto my torso. Ah, well.)

The best part of opening night was the fact that I enjoyed myself on stage, which hadn’t happened in a while. There were two curtain calls and people stayed afterward to shake my hand, thank me, and say lovely things. It was such a pleasure. About half were Icelandic and the other half internationals—once again, the right people had found me and my show. Several said they would spread the word for the next performance.

A few people from Spain, France, the Czech Republic, and Iceland hung out with us at Tjarnarbíó’s cafe afterwards. They all mentioned different parts of the show that resonated for them, and one said she felt that the show does a service for nomadic and non-nomadic people—it’s like a bridge between them. They thought it should be filmed, which I’m planning to do in December.

All hail my director, Sofie Calderon, for making this show such a dynamic experience for the audience! People from far and wide have enjoyed the production, and that’s Sofie’s doing. If it had been up to me, I would have found ways to hide onstage, because performing a solo show is super scary.

August 22, 2014: Closing Night

More people in the audience, which was very moving, because I knew none of them. The word of mouth from opening night must have been good. And maybe all those promos I sent to the international school and Facebook groups helped…?

The performance didn’t feel as good—I was having less fun and getting fewer laughs—but I forged ahead. Afterward Dan and the light board operator said “No way, it was TIGHT, really good show!” Yet more proof that we actors have no idea how well we’re doing. We only know if the audience is responsive or quiet.

Just like on opening night, a bunch of people waited to speak to me afterward. One was a young adult TCK who was very moved by the show. Another was a professor at the University of Rekjavík whose field of study is TCKs. Their compliments, along with all the words of support from other audience members, was tremendously encouraging.

Because the truth is: before embarking on this Northern European adventure, I had no idea how audiences would react, or if there would be any audiences at all. I had girded myself to perform for a handful of kindly people on opening night and then possibly cancel closing night because who knew if there would be enough interest?

Reykjavík may be a small capital, but as it turns out, it has plenty of residents who are international or international in outlook, and open to trying new things.

Kleina & coffee, Björks in boots, Lutherans & lava…

Beyond the show, Dan and I had a glorious time exploring small but pretty Reykjavík; the Blue Lagoon, a thermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavík; and the Golden Circle, a route the loops from Reykjavík to central Iceland and back. Other highlights included:

  • snacking on kleina, a donut-like pastry in the shape of a trapezoid;
  • visiting Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran cathedral designed to resemble the lava flows of Iceland’s landscape, and Settlement House;
  • hanging out at the Boston, said to be one of the world’s best bars, and at several coffee houses; and
  • last but not least, watching singers and dancers all over town on Culture Day/Night, a day and night-long program of cultural events that takes place in August every year and is one of the country’s largest festivals.

I also got a kick out of Icelandic fashion—bright colors, unusual cuts—and, as I love boots, was pleased to see practically every woman sporting boots of some kind: ankle, knee-high, sexy, hiking, and everything in between. (Did I buy a pair? Nope. Iceland is expensive.)

On our last night, we stepped out onto our little street to see fireworks, which felt like a final burst of congratulations. I got teary-eyed!

Overall, it was a delightful trip. Dan and I left thinking we’d like to go back someday. We want to see more of the island (puffins! volcanoes!), enjoy the friendly vibe…and hopefully bring another solo show for Icelanders’ entertainment—but without any cantankerous 1980s equipment.

* * *

Thank you, Lisa! Having only been to the Blue Lagoon as a round trip from Keflavík International Airport, I really appreciated this vicarious journey into the heart of the city’s cultural scene. And, as always, I’m impressed that you were contributing to the culture as well as taking something from it! Readers, please leave questions or comments for Lisa below.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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For this TEFL teacher with a strong Cornish identity but a compulsion for travel and the expat life, a picture says…

Cornish Kylie Collage

Canon zoom lens; photo credit: Morguefiles. Kylie Millar (self portrait).

Welcome to our monthly series “A picture says…”, created to celebrate expats and other global residents for whom photography is a creative outlet. The series host is English expat, blogger, writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King, who thinks of a camera as a mirror with memory. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out his blog, Jamoroki.

My guest this month is 27-year-old Kylie Millar who was born and bred in Cornwall, England, and, though she now finds herself in Thailand, just like me, she remains proud of her Cornish heritage, having branded herself on her travel blog as Cornish Kylie.

Not only that but Kylie informs me that the Cornish were granted official minority status earlier this year. Being born and bred in Cornwall now means, technically, that a person is identified as Cornish first, British secondwith the latter identity being confined largely to one’s passport. Well, it is true that Cornwall was its own Celtic nation before the Norman Conquest, and they have their own language, Kernewek, which is distinct from Welsh.

After the Scottish vote for independence, can a bid by the Independent Republic of Kernow be far behind?

How times have changed!

* * *

Hi Kylie. It’s good to see you at the Displaced Nation. As the name of your blog implies, you are a proud Cornish lass—rightly so! You have also travelled a fair bit. But since Cornwall is a place close to my heart, can you reminisce for a bit about your childhood in that part of the world?
I was born in Truro, the main hub of Cornwall, which has a cathedral and is therefore designated a city as opposed to a town. But I was raised in the hilly seaside town of Falmouth, known for its lovely beaches, fishing port and docks. To some, it may seem like an aging coastal town, but the recent influx of art students to its expanding university has given it a new lease on life and a nice arty vibe. My dad is a fisherman so I grew up living a typical Cornish life: summers on the beaches, the smell of a crab being boiled on the stove top (which to this day I cannot abide—the curse of being a fisherman’s daughter and not liking fish or seafood!). But I really do appreciate how lucky I am to have grown up in such a wonderful place and fully intend to return one day.

Gwrys yn Kernow (made in Cornwall)

As you know I spent my last year in the UK before emigrating to South Africa (1994/5) in Falmouth, so it’s interesting to hear about the changes. How long after I left did you spread your wings and start travelling abroad?
I actually didn’t spread my wings all that much growing up. Family holidays consisted of trips to Butlin’s holiday camps and a few package holidays to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. I didn’t even move away from Cornwall to go to university, I just commuted the 75 miles east to Plymouth. Why would I want to move away from somewhere like Cornwall?

I agree. It’s a magnetic place even for those of who weren’t born there. Carry on, please.
As part of my degree I had the opportunity to go to China for a few weeks to do a little bit of English teaching and a cultural exchange with Chinese university students. This was my first time to experience a culture completely different from my own. I was only 19 and in a constant state of “culture shock”. It wasn’t until after I completed my degree and had a few years’ work under my belt that the urge to explore really kicked in.

Please tell me a little more about your travels.
Aside from the trip to China, I have holidayed in Egypt and Morocco. Then my next big trip was a month backpacking around Thailand with one of my best friends. That’s how I first caught the Thailand bug.

You certainly don’t intend to let the grass grow under your feet, Kylie. I foresee you becoming a seasoned traveller before long. I know there is a lot more to your story, but let’s start with the reasons that drove you to travel.
I’m not a fan of people traveling purely to “find themselves” or even to “make the world a better place”. Actually, I have changed a lot since coming to Thailand, and I’m sure that, as a TEFL teacher, I’m contributing in some small way to the education of Thailand’s future leaders. But that’s not the sole reason I came here. I had a job in the UK that I loved, but I sensed I was stagnating. So I followed my instincts (very scary but it felt right) and quit, upped sticks and came to Thailand, got a TEFL certificate and started teaching English to Thais.

“Life is so short, you must move very slowly” – Thai proverb

You say you’ve got the Thailand bug, which in my experience can be difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t lived here. So let’s leave it at that and talk about where, precisely, are you right now and what are you up to.
I spent my first 18 months living in the city of Hat Yai, in southern Thailand, near the Malaysian border. I was teaching English at a government high school, with classes of fifty students and few resources apart from those I conjured up myself. Later I went to Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, to work as a teaching assistant in an international school. The two posts and their locations were poles apart.

Can you say a little about that for the sake of readers who don’t know Thailand?
In Hat Yai I was one of a handful of farangs (Caucasian foreigners) living in a village on the outskirts of the city. On my daily commute to the school, I would meander through rubber plantations, passing water buffalo. At first people would stare, but their stares quickly turned into smiles and shouts of “hello!”. Nobody spoke English beyond that one word, so I had to learn to speak Thai very quickly to be able to order food. In Phuket, by contrast, I am one of thousands of farangs and when Thai people see me they assume that I am a tourist and treat me accordingly. It’s harder to win over the locals here because tourists are their meal ticket. You have to convince them that you aren’t a tourist; you live here like they do. That said, life in Phuket is a lot easier. It has familiar things like pizza and sandwiches (I haven’t got used to eating rice three times a day yet). And of course the island’s beaches are stunning, which reminds me of Cornwall and makes me feel at home.

Ah, I think I detect something of the home bird in you, alongside the intrepid traveller… And now let’s see some of your favorite photos and hear the stories behind them.
When I was in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the many beautifully decorated doorways. This picture was accidental as the boy emerged from the doorway just as I pressed the shutter release. Then I realised how people can add an extra dimension and started to include people in more of my photographs. This trip to Morocco was special: it opened my eyes to a very different part of the world.

Kylie_BoyinMoroccanDoor

A boy in a Moorish door; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

I love this. Dirty, dusty, old and full of intrigue. A great shot. What else do you have for us?
Songkran is the festival held in mid-April to celebrate traditional Thai new year’s. It’s probably the most famous of all the Thai festivals because it’s the scene of the world’s biggest water fight. Determined to join the festivities, I locked away my main camera and went out to the streets. I got this shot when the water fighting stopped to let a convoy of vehicles, carrying Buddha statues, pass to the temple. Songkran is absolutely insane, and if you ever find yourself in Thailand at this time of year, prepare to get wet—or hide!

Kylie_ThaiNewYear

Happy New Year, Chiang Mai style; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

And here’s one more of Thailand. As you know, anti-government protests took place from November 2013 through May of this year. I live close enough to Bangkok that I was able to come in and take photos. Having a big camera was useful as it made it obvious I was an observer, not a participant. Foreign involvement in the protests was a big no-no. On the day I took this shot, anti-government protesters had made progress, spirits were high and the atmosphere was unlike any other I have experienced. People were happy to have their picture taken, and this lady was my favourite, standing proudly in traditional yellow to signal her support for the King. For some reason, the scene made me think of the crowd around the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury music festival in England—not what you’d expect at an anti-governmental protest. I’m glad I was able to see it all firsthand.

Kylie_yellowlady

A sunny presence at the Bangkok protests; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

Getting to the zuggans (Cornish for “the essence”)

Now could you show us the kinds of places that tend to bring out your shutterbug instincts?
One of those places was Jemaa el-Fnaa, a bustling square in Marrakesh that offends all of the senses. Said to be the busiest square in Africa, it is hot and dusty, and the air is full of the smell of tagine spices and roasting meats. The sounds of hawkers and snake charmers mix with the buzz of the crowd, punctuated by the call to prayer that reaches every corner of the souks—it’s the largest traditional market in Morocco. Rugs, lamps, cushions and fabrics in deep oranges, luscious reds and striking purple line the narrow lanes of the souks. Rusty tin roofs let in shards of light that make this a photographer’s dream. But cameras can only capture so much…

Kylie_souk

The wonders of the Marrakesh souks; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

You captured the smells as well as the intrigue. Well done. What’s next?
I visited George Town, in the northeast corner of Penang island, twice recently. It’s famous for being one of the main destinations for visa runners and backpackers alike. I was drawn to its hodgepodge of cultures: mosques, churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples all sandwiched together. Ethnic Chinese and Indian communities live alongside each other, and traditional clan families can still be found living on stilt houses on the jetties. In this photo I tried to capture some of that:

Kylie_bikeforrent

The back streets of George Town, Penang; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

I’m not generally a fan of black-and-white photos but this subject lends itself so well. And finally?
Many of the things that make Thailand unusual are seeming more normal the longer I live here—like the bright orange monk’s robes in this picture, the turquoise sea, the towering Buddha statues, multicolored long boats, the outrageously decorated temples and colourful tuk tuks. It’s home now but, as I think this photo shows, I still like to play the tourist and explore:

Kyli_ThaiOfferings

A novice Thai monk and spirit house; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

I like the way you captured Thailand’s vibrancy. Tell me, do you feel reserved about taking photos of people, particularly when they are conscious that you are doing so?
Actually, I like to try and get natural photographs without the person knowing at all. I want to capture moments and events not someone posing. People generally enjoy having their picture taken, so if they spot a camera they will smile or pull a face and the obligatory peace signs come out. Not quite what I’m looking for… Driving an old banger of a car helps because Thais will sometimes take our picture—because we farangs are assumed to be rich and usually drive smart cars.

“Today I’m going to shoot someone…and they will love me for it!”

It can be annoying, this Asian misconception that all Westerners are rich, but I guess we all get used to it in time. So you don’t ask permission unless you need to before taking people’s photographs—but how do you get around any problem of language?
If I am unable to be stealthy, then I use the universal “can I take a picture?” sign consisting of pointing to my camera. I have learned how to ask in Thai but the words sometimes escape me. The big camera is usually a clue! When I was in a mountain village in Morocco, getting some shots of the decorative doors as mentioned above, an old lady smiled at me and gestured that she’d like to have her photograph taken. As I released the shutter button, she held out her hand, demanding payment. Not wanting to cause a scene, I forked out some change. Although not too happy with my offering she took it—if only she knew I only wanted a picture of her back door, not her face!

Kylie_Atlas Mountain lady

People shots for a price; photo credit: Kylie Millar.

Would you say that photography and the ability to be able to capture something unique that will never be seen again is a powerful force for you?
My mum always says that I take so many photographs but I am hardly ever in them. And that is very true. I know that when I am older I will wish I had more pictures of myself having adventures. But for now photography is a means of capturing what I see and feel. If I think the photos are worth sharing, they will end up on my blog. Photography is changing with the times, though. When I studied A-level photography we used film, processed by hand after spending hours in the darkroom. Filters had to be slotted into the machine; now they are just options on an iPhone app. When my mum was younger she went on a trip to Israel and Jerusalem, and she has two rolls of film from that trip—around fifty photographs. Nowadays people will take more than fifty photographs on a single night out. The technology has evolved so much that nearly everyone has a camera in their pocket on their phone, which is great. It makes photography more accessible to all, with no wasted film. But it does mean that photos are not so special and precious as they once were.

Some of our readers may want to know what kind of camera and lenses you use, as well as any post-processing software.
I’ve got a Canon 600D with standard lens, and a 75-300mm telephoto lens (perfect for those stealthy pictures of people, and for animal shots). I’ve also got a Panasonic Lumix point and shoot for the days when a bigger camera isn’t practical. If I am going to edit, I use Adobe Lightroom, which I am still finding my way around. Having never been taught how to use digital post-production software, I have to rely on trial and error—but that was also what it was like in the darkroom. It’s more fun that way!

Finally, do you have any advice for wannabe photographers who are traveling or living abroad?
Take more pictures than you think you need. Bring spare SD cards and back them up—you will lose one or one will break. Don’t keep your camera locked away in a bag, keep it to hand, it needs to become a natural extension of yourself, not this big cumbersome thing you have to get out every time you want to take a picture.

Even though we are more than 40 years apart, we both left Falmouth and ended up in Phuket with the same camera (Canon T3i 600D). No wonder your pics are so good! Thank you for taking the time to tell your fascinating story.

* * *

Readers, what do you make of Kylie’s experiences and her photography advice? And do you have any questions for her about her photos or her travels? Please leave them in the comments! And don’t forget you can follow Kylie on her blog, Cornish Kylie. You can contact her by email at info@cornishkylie.com, and you can also find her on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

(If you are a photographer and would like to be interviewed by James for this series, please send your information to ml@thedisplacednation.com.)

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with Alice nominees, exclusive book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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