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“Unenthusiastic about enthusiasm”: On Sarah Lyall, the relief of being a returning expat, and never getting over the feeling of cultural discombobulation

CulturallyDiscombobulatedFor today’s post ML Awanohara (doyenne of this particular piece of the interweb) suggested that Sarah Lyall‘s recent piece in The New York Times (“Ta-Ta, London. Hello, Awesome”) might provide me with a suitable topic to chisel out a post for the Displaced Nation.

I’ll be honest and admit (though I never articulated this to ML) that I was rather resistant and a tad unenthusiastic to the idea. I’d previously skim-read Sarah Lyall’s book, The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British, and found myself irritated by her observations about her life as an American transplant to London.

In short, I didn’t enjoy it. I was left uncharmed and felt it had about it an omnipresent smug tone.

Bill Bryson did it best

Recently, I’ve had a similar reaction with British academic Terry Eagleton‘s new book, Across The Pond (goodness, even the title sounds like another sub-Bryson knock-off), about his thoughts on living in America.

So I’m an equal-opportunity offender on this matter.

Perhaps foreigner-writing-about-their-adopted-home is a sub-genre that is not for me, which is unfortunate considering that’s the very subject of my personal blog, Culturally Discombobulated (now that I think of it, it sounds like a sub-Bryson knock-off, too). Having read Lyall’s article, I suppose she would call this attitude typically English: at once self-loathing and arrogant.

So I decided I would ignore ML’s suggestion and instead write another Capital Ideas post. As I was about to start writing it (well, start thinking about writing it, if I’m going to be entirely honest), I noticed in my inbox an email from my wife telling me to read this article.  Like Sarah Lyall, Mrs W is an American who has spent time living in London before returning to the US.

Putting my initial reservations to one side, I decided to see just what I was missing.

I must admit, Sarah’s right about L.G.

First, a little bit of background: Sarah Lyall has been The New York Times London correspondent for 18 years. Her article this week was about her repatriation to her home country.

I’ll be honest. Unlike when I read her book, The Anglo Files, I found myself more charmed by her writing and observations. This could be the result of the shorter form of a newspaper article, my mellowing, or far more likely our common enemy that is Loyd Grossman—Sarah’s wish on first moving to the UK was that she wouldn’t end up sounding like her more famous compatriot.

Readers who have not spent any considerable time in the UK are probably oblivious to L.G.’s existence. A television presenter (who was host of the original MasterChef, which other than name bears scant resemblance to Fox’s Gordon Ramsey vehicle) as well as a range of pasta sauces (I’ve no idea why, given that he’s not a chef), Loyd Grossman is in possession of the oddest transatlantic accent. It’s preppy New Englander meets Sloane Square yuppie, and just hearing it makes you want to declare class war.

For all of us in clear and present danger of one day developing a transatlantic accent, Loyd Grossman is a stark and terrifying cautionary tale.

…and about us?

Sometimes when I am reading a foreigner’s perspective on the British, I am struck by how awful we sound—a complete bunch of miserable bastards that have developed a carapace of irony and delight in popping positivity like it were a balloon at a child’s birthday party.

Is it any wonder Sarah got a bit fed up with our lack of enthusiasm:

…Britons are not automatically impressed by what I always thought were attractive American qualities—straightforwardness, openness, can-doism, for starters—and they suspect that our surface friendly optimism might possibly be fake. (I suspect that sometimes they might possibly be right.)

Once, in an experiment designed to illustrate Britons’ unease with the way Americans introduce themselves in social situations (in Britain, you’re supposed to wait for the host to do it), I got a friend at a party we were having to go up to a man he had never met. “Hi, I’m Stephen Bayley,” my friend said, sticking out his hand.

“Is that supposed to be some sort of joke?” the man responded.

The pursuit of happiness may be too garish a goal, it turns out, in the land of the pursuit of not-miserableness. After enough Britons respond with “I can’t complain” when you ask them how they are, you begin to feel nostalgic about all those psyched Americans you left behind.

After reading this piece, my wife said that she’d forgotten that so much of my personality was cultural. “I thought,” she said, “that it might be time for you to have some therapy, but then I realized you’re just British—no amount of therapy can fix that.”

* * *

I’ve not experienced what it is like to repatriate yourself back home. I do know, however, that many of you have. Do let me know in the comments below what struck you about moving back and what you missed about the adopted country you left.

TCK TALENT: Alaine Handa choreographs her way to festivals in Toronto and now Edinburgh (2/2)

Habitat CollageNew columnist Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang continues her conversation with fellow TCK performing artist Alaine Handa. (Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already.)

—ML Awanohara

Hi, everyone! Yesterday, I talked to Alaine Handa about her Third Culture Kid background and what led her to produce her first international touring show, Chameleon. Today we’ll finish up our Chameleon conversation and move on to talking about Alaine’s brand new show, Habitat, which is having its world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (If you happen to be in Edinburgh, scroll down to the bottom of this post for details.)

* * *

Act 2: Chameleon, continued…

Welcome back, Alaine. I can relate to so much of what you said about Chameleon. The creative/rehearsal process can be so fulfilling that the performance itself is often the icing on the cake for the performer-creator. Whom did you have in mind for the wider audience?
As a proud TCK and Global Citizen, I felt the stories of TCKs needed to have a voice that supports all the research, books, blogs, and memoirs that have been written on our lives—yet can transcend boundaries of spoken language through dance and movement, something all cultures can understand. Perhaps my ideas were grandiose, but I really hoped that productions of Chameleon would touch the lives of all those who identify with living cross-culturally and existing as cultural mixes.

It sounds as though Chameleon provided a voice for a cross-section of nomadic, mixed-heritage, intercultural people, not to mention everyone who has ever felt unheard or unseen—which is everyone at some point in their lives. I did the same with Alien Citizen and am wondering if we should create a TCK festival for performing artists like us… But, back to you! How was the performance received?
Every single performance of Chameleon had at least one person in tears because they identified so much with it. After each performance, we spent quite a lot of time talking to audience members. I made a lot of new friends around the world!

Were there any surprises?
The biggest surprise for me came from the TCK student performance at Utahloy International School, in Guangzhou. The students were very receptive and open to sharing their TCK stories with me, as well as on stage. It brought tears to my eyes.

Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?
By telling my story and other TCK/CCK stories, not only did I come to understand myself better, but I also felt a strong sense of community among the globally mobile citizens of the world.

Act 3: Preparing a new show, Habitat, for the Edinburgh Fringe

And now you have a new show, Habitat. Is this your first time at the Edinburgh Fringe?
Yes! We are very excited. One of my dancers has performed in the Fringe before so he will be super helpful during the festival.

In your promotional materials for Habitat, you have the following statement:


Our personal space is the environment in which we confine ourselves to become our truest selves.


Can you explain?
As a TCK, I am constantly meeting people of different backgrounds, and I change my behavior and mannerisms accordingly. Thinking about this, I wanted to explore the transition to one’s personal habitat, where you can finally relax and just “be” who you are.

Who is the intended audience, and is it different than the audience from the one you had in mind for Chameleon?
This piece is more universal. It shows how different people from different backgrounds change the way they behave around others and when they are alone.

I see the cast is multicultural, with dancers from Singapore, USA, Portugal, and Indonesia. Was it a challenge to bring together a cast from so many different places?
To be honest, although it’s “easier” to label the cast by our passport countries, we are, in fact, a collection of multicultural individuals who have lived in different parts of the world at various times. Right now, two of us live in Singapore and the other two in New York. The biggest challenge we faced was rehearsing on separate continents, given the time difference. We relied heavily on email and YouTube, and later on Skype. As the choreographer, I faced the challenge of conveying what I wanted to see from the 2-D perspective of video. Slowly but surely, the show has come together piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle.

How did you find the other dancers?
I’ve worked with Laura on Chameleon and was working with her on the creation of draft material prior to my move back to Singapore last year. I met Ezekiel in Singapore; we both teach dance for the same company. Belinda and I are friends from New York; she and I met at an audition for a choreographer I danced for while living there. We found out that we trained with the same jazz dance instructor while I was growing up here in Singapore and took the same classes.


Are the other dancers also TCKs or “displaced” in some way?
I think I’m the only TCK, but of the other three cast members, two are expats and the other is bi-cultural, with both parents originating from different countries and cultures. I guess you could say we are a “displaced” group. I knew I wanted to work with a multicultural cast again because it made for such an interesting group dynamic with Chameleon—although in this case, the cast has not worked together before.

You’re now in Edinburgh. What’s it been like so far?
When we first arrived, we had about 20 hours of rehearsal (including tech and dress rehearsals). The pieces are gradually falling into place.

Act 4: Life after Edinburgh?



Do you have plans to take Habitat anywhere else?
Yes, we are encouraging theatre venue producers, programmers, agents, etc. to come see Habitat during the Fringe in hopes it can be produced in other venues around the world.

Where do you think the show will go next?
I’m not sure—I’d like to bring it down to Australia. I also really enjoyed Toronto Fringe a couple years ago and might bring Habitat there. We are also looking to get this show booked for different venues across Europe, Asia, and North America.

* * *

If you happen to be in Edinburgh, here are the details for Alaine’s show:

  • Number of performers: four, including Alaine
  • Show length: 45 minutes
  • When and where: July 31 – August 13, 2013 @ C Venues (Venue 34), Adam House, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  • Time: 1:50 pm every day.
  • Purchase tickets here.
  • Trailer:

Habitat in Edinburgh Fringe Festival from Alaine Handa on Vimeo.

Questions for Alaine? Be sure to leave them in the comments section!

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 seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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img: Video Stills by Kevin Tadge, taken from preview performances of Habitat at the Edinburgh Fringe (2013).

TCK TALENT: Alaine Handa choreographs her way to festivals in Toronto and now Edinburgh (1/2)

AlaineHanda_pmToday we introduce a new monthly column by Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang. Remember that Guatemalan-American of Chinese-Spanish-Irish-French-German-English descent who was putting on a one woman show in LA about being a Third Culture Kid? You know, she “came out” as a TCK on stage, and lived to write a post about it? Lisa will be searching for other TCK talents to interview for the series. She debuts with a two-part conversation with fellow TCK performing artist Alaine Handa (pictured). Part 2 is here.

—ML Awanohara

Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are making headlines these days for their creative output. We see them being featured in established news outlets and online magazines, as well as on popular blogs. I suspect that the emergence of Barack Obama as national and global leader—he is an Adult TCK (ATCK)—has contributed to the phenomenon.

Still, ATCKs in the performing arts remain relatively rare, so as an ATCK actress-writer I’m always happy to learn of fellow ATCK performing artists like Alaine Handa, a second-generation TCK who works as a choreographer/dancer.

Alaine was born in Singapore. She spent her childhood in Jakarta and adolescence in Singapore. She went to college in Los Angeles, California, and then moved to New York, where she formed her own troupe in December 2007: A.H. Dance Company.

She has since moved back to Singapore, where she has lived for the last year.

In this, the first of a two-part interview, I ask Alaine to tell us about her company, her TCK background, and her first internationally touring show, Chameleon: The Experiences of Global Citizens. In Part Two of the interview, to be posted tomorrow, we’ll move on to talking about her production that is about to premiere (!) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

* * *

Hi, Alaine. I’m curious: what led you to form your own dance company?
Ever since I was a young teenaged dancer, I aspired to have a professional dance company that toured the world performing in different venues, festivals and theaters. I think it was because I longed to have my own choreographic voice to create dance pieces that meant something to me. Still, the decision wasn’t easy to go from dancer/choreographer to choreographer first and dancer second. After moving to New York, I continued performing for other choreographers and project-based dance companies. I only decided at the end of 2009 to focus solely on choreography while performing occasionally. I guess you could say I never lost my determination to make that happen.


Can you tell us more about your background as a second-generation Third Culture Kid?
Both my parents are TCKs. My heritage is mostly Hakka Chinese (with a bit of mix in there somewhere along the lineage). My grandparents and great-grandparents were Chinese immigrants from somewhere in China who settled in Jakarta. My mom attended an English school until it was shut down due to political pressure. She then was sent to boarding schools in Hong Kong and Sydney, and she graduated from an Australian university outside of Sydney. Meanwhile, my Dad attended a Chinese school in Jakarta before it was shut down. He helped his parents for a couple of years and then was sent to Singapore to learn English. After a year, he went to London to attend university and then to Boston to obtain a doctoral degree in optometry.

Which culture do you most identify with?
I attended American international schools in Jakarta and Singapore so I’d say I’m culturally very American. I majored in dance through UCLA’s Department of World Arts & Cultures, which looked at dance and the arts in a sociological-anthropological way and as a community-building catalyst. And then I spent seven years performing, teaching, choreographing, living, creating, loving, and building a community of TCKs in New York.

ACT 1: Chameleon goes to the Toronto Fringe Festival


A couple of years ago, your company put on a show at the Toronto Fringe Festival entitled Chameleon: The Experiences of Global Citizens. I enjoyed watching the video clip of your performance. Please tell us more about it.
Chameleon, the Experiences of Global Citizens is a full dance production with a rotating cast of three to six dancers using film, spoken word, jewelry design, music, and photography, to support the personal stories of TCKs, Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs), and Global Citizens. Each dancer performs a solo in the production in addition to dancing in the group sections.

The video excerpt is only one section of the production: my solo. (Thanks for watching!) I layered together three different poems for the sound:

  1. “Uniquely Me,” by Alex Graham James from Ruth Van Reken and David C. Pollock’s book, Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds.
  2. “De Främmande Länderna” by Edith Södergran (translated into English), a Swedish poet I studied while attending UCLA.
  3. Last but not least, “Eulogy to my multi-racial / Multi-cultural ancestors / Also known as the anti-eulogy / To my multi-racial / Multi-cultural ancestors,” by Leilani Chan, an Asian-American theatre director in LA.

It sounds as though you’ve rolled TCK and CCK art into one cohesive piece—much like a TCK or CCK individual is the sum of many seemingly disparate parts, creating a vivid, unique entity. What was the thought process that produced this art?
Hmmm…my thought process in creating Chameleon was a lengthy one as it is very personal to me. A little trip down memory lane is probably the best way to describe it.

I graduated high school in 2001 and then moved to Southern California to attend Pitzer College. 9/11 happened a couple of weeks in. Everyone in the States was in patriotic mode. I didn’t quite fit in. Many journal entries, tears, frustrations, and conversations later, I wrote about my experience as an outsider/insider and drafted a dance piece about my mixed up cultural identity that I wanted to choreograph for my senior project. I transferred to UCLA for my third and fourth year. I experienced bouts of severe depression and several anxiety attacks throughout my college years and began to see the “light” at the end of the dark tunnel my final year.

A friend told me about the Third Culture Kids book in 2003, and a life-changing epiphany happened. I returned to my journal entries and found my ideas to create a dance piece about my experience as a TCK for my senior project. I cast a multicultural group of dancers, interviewed TCKs I knew for my very first documentary film “I am a TCK,” and rented a theatre in L.A. for my senior project and titled the piece “Third Culture Kids.” The first part of the production was the half-hour documentary film followed by a 20-minute dance piece that was autobiographical in nature. This would become the very first draft of Chameleon.

After graduation from UCLA, I was burnt out and moved to New York to pursue a career in dance. I knew that my TCK dance piece needed to be re-created again at some point. I performed for a bunch of independent choreographers, dance companies, and was teaching dance in the public schools in Brooklyn. I formed A.H. Dance Company at the end of 2007 and we had two performing seasons before I decided the time was right to tackle the stories and experiences of TCKs again. I cast dancers that were cross-cultural or TCKs, a TCK actress, a TCK jewelry designer (who created our prop pieces that were an amalgamation of HER TCK experiences), and TCK/CCK/TCA photographers submitted their work to be used as backdrops for the dance sections. I also extended and re-edited the film “I am a TCK” by interviewing even more TCKs. We premiered the piece at University Settlement in New York as part of their Spring Season in 2010, after receiving some funding from Singapore International Foundation, which also funded the performance at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

ACT II: Chameleon travels widely and goes global

We toured the production to festivals and organizations with community programming. I even presented portions of the piece, including the rehearsal process, twice at the annual Families in Global Transitions (FIGT) conference, where I met Ruth Van Reken, Tina Quick, Apple Gidley, Jo Parfitt, Julia Simens, Judy Rickatson, and many more of the TCK researchers, expat writers/bloggers, international educators, and more.

I am very proud of this work and how it has traveled around the world. Currently, Chameleon has taken on a more educational approach. I’ve re-set portions of the piece for student TCK dancers from Singapore American School and they performed it in Kuala Lumpur as well as in Singapore. In January this year, I traveled to Guangzhou to re-set a simpler version on TCK students (a lot of them were non-dancers) at the Utahloy International School for a week-long residency that culminated in a performance. The rehearsal process of telling the personal stories of TCKs through movement and dance with spoken word was equally as rewarding as the student performance itself.

* * *

This just in from Alaine at the Edinburgh Festival: The preview performances of her latest production, Habitat, have been going well, and they’ve even received a recommendation from a local newspaper, behind famous greats like Carlos Acosta and the Bolshoi Ballet (which are actually playing in London). Kudos, Alaine!

Tomorrow we’ll talk to Alaine about how this production came about. Any questions for her, meantime?

STAY TUNED for Part 2 of Lisa Liang’s conversation with Alaine Handa.

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img: Alaine Handa, by Anthony Schiavo, courtesy A.H. Dance Company.

Are Brit international creatives better than their Yankee counterparts?

NYC_Awindram_pmWhen Chariots of Fire screenwriter Colin Welland won his Oscar in 1981, his acceptance speech began with him somewhat obnoxiously and ungraciously proclaiming: “The British are coming!”

Unlike Paul Revere, this wasn’t intended as a dire warning to fellow Americans, but was rather a British boast about perceived creative superiority over the transatlantic cousins.

Ultimately, the renaissance of British cinema that Welland envisaged did not materialize, but though that particular “British invasion” did not in the end occur, the US has since . . . oh, let’s say since 1812 . . . endured a number of British invasions: from Dickens’s arrival in Boston in 1842, to Oscar Wilde’s statement to a US customs officer that he had nothing to declare but his genius (which I would certainly not advise anyone that they should try to use that line in JFK), to the Beatles’ first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 (considered the beginning of the British Invasion in music).

If David Carr’s recent column in the New York Times, entitled “British Invasion Reshuffles U.S. Media,” is correct, then we may be in the grip of another one. The genesis for this piece has been John Oliver‘s recent, perfectly competent portrayal of a bamboozled substitute teacher on The Daily Show.

Carr’s contention is that at the moment “everywhere you look in the United States media landscape, you find people from [Britain]“:

Piers Morgan came from Britain to take over for Larry King, the Wall Street Journal is edited by Gerard Baker, a British newspaper veteran, and the chief executive of the New York Times is Mark Thompson, who spent his career at the BBC. Anna Wintour has edited Vogue for more than two decades and, more recently, Joanna Coles took over Cosmopolitan, which defines a certain version of American womanhood.

NBC News recently looked to the mother country for leadership and found Deborah Turness, the former editor of Britain’s ITV News. ABC’s entertainment group is headed by Paul Lee, also formerly of the BBC, and Colin Myler, a Fleet Street alum, edits the New York Daily News.

The list goes on, but the point is made: when it comes to choosing someone to steer prominent American media properties, the answer is often delivered in a proper British accent.

But, as the title of this post asks, the British better at being international creatives than their American counterparts? Are we more fearless?

The examples that Carr puts forward are compelling, even if we may have to suspend our imagination and hope our stomachs do not turn too much in allowing Piers Morgan to be considered a “creative.”

However, I am unconvinced in a post-Leveson world that there is inherently anything better or more attractive about British media operators when set alongside their American counterparts.

Of course, that does not alter that it is inarguable that New York media finds itself with a number of prominent Brits.

Carr hits on one of the main reasons for this — London:

“Los Angeles, New York and Washington all have their domains, while in Britain, there is only London, a place where entertainment, politics and news media all live in the same petri dish.”

In an increasingly international world, a world in which the super elite can be found in a select number of super cities, it is only to be expected that large New York media empires would be selecting from a fairly small pool. They’ll look to New York and London — the two major English-speaking super cities.

It is perhaps a complete misconception that for the purposes of this question we think in terms of America and Britain, as if to make out an otherness between each party, when they share status as super city elites.

The true “other” would be the newspaper man from Minnesota or the TV station manager from Louisville. I know from my own anecdotal experience of MBA grads from top US business schools that the majority that I know are in New York or London. This is just the new normal — it is hardly surprising that it is reflected in New York’s media executives.

It is also noticeable to anyone who has spent any time in the UK that while a struggling, gasping industry, print media is more alive in the UK at present than it is in the US.

The result of this is that they are a large number of British candidates that would be attractive to US companies in the position to headhunt a new executive.

A final factor is the attraction of “success” in the US for Brits. I don’t say this lightly, but take a look at Piers Morgan’s twitter account . . . I know, I know . . . awful, isn’t it? However, a quick look through a random selection of Morgan’s twitter will soon reveal a man who enjoys boasting — or if I’m being more generous, teasing — other British celebrities who have no profile in the US.

Success in the US seems greater, somehow. There is a pull there that is irresistible. There is romance to it. “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” What do all the many American CEOs heading boardrooms in London get to sing to themselves?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an interview with our featured author of the month, Rosie Whitehouse.

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img: awindram

And the May 2013 Alices go to … these 4 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

As subscribers to our weekly newsletter will hopefully have noticed by now, each week our Displaced Dispatch presents an “Alice Award” to a writer who we think has a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of the displaced life of global residency and travel. Not only that, but this person has used their befuddlement as a spur to creativity. He or she qualifies as an “international creative.”

Today’s post honors May’s four Alice recipients, beginning with the most recent and this time including citations.

So, without further ado: The May 2013 Alices go to (drumroll…):

1) ADAM GROFFMAN, travel blogger and expat

Source: “How a children’s book inspired my wanderlust” in Travels of Adam
Posted on: 13 April 2013
Snippet:

You see, what I loved about this book as a kid is the focus on architecture and food in this utopian society. Each family is responsible for bringing a country’s culture to the island nation.

Citation: Many of us at the Displaced Nation attribute our abilities to tolerate and even embrace life abroad (the strange foods and drinks, the loneliness, the largely incomprehensible rules) from having taken to heart Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, as kids. A good dose of literary nonsense has taken us a long way, and even to this day, we appreciate having recourse to Lewis Carroll’s great works to make sense of our rather curious lifestyles in countries other than those in which we were born.

Adam, we understand that you quit your job in Boston to travel the world and that you trace your own wanderlust to the 1947 American children’s book The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois, a story that in some ways is even more fanciful than Alice’s.

For those who don’t know it: The book begins when a schoolteacher, Professor William Waterman Sherman, becomes bored with his life and sets off on a journey in a hot air balloon called The Globe. He hopes the wind will blow him and his balloon all around the world. But instead he has a crash landing on the mysterious island of Krakatoa (Indonesia), where he discovers a utopian society started up by a group of wealthy families. Each family owns a restaurant of different types of foreign foods and all members of the island eat together at a different house, full of fantastic inventions, every night. Krakatoa being a volcanic island, the families are aware of the danger that the volcano could erupt at any moment (in fact its volcanoes erupted in 1883). Their escape plan consists of a platform made of balloons…

Adam, we love the idea of emulating a fictional character who favors balloon travel—the kind that begins without regard to speed and without a destination in mind. It’s also romantic to think that you expect to find, at best, utopianism, at worst, good food, in the course of your world wanderings. Perhaps it accounts for why you’ve landed your own “balloon” in Berlin, Germany’s creative capital and a city renowned for its architecture (only, how is the food there?).

2) TRACY SLATER, expat writer, author and blogger

Source: “What Does Home Mean When You Live Abroad?” in The Good Shufu
Posted on: 8 May 2013
Snippet:

I know how easy it is, when we live overseas, to lose our gimlet eye about home: to romanticize it, to see it as a kind of lost Eden, a place where we wouldn’t suffer the same disappointments or lonelinesses or defeats that we suffer in our expat lives.

Citation: Tracy, we would add to that something we learned from Alice, which is that part of the reason for cherishing the memory of home so much is that you can’t easily share what you love about it with the people you encounter in your new place. Alice experiences this when trying to talk about her beloved cat, Dinah, with the Wonderland creatures:

“I wish I hadn’t mentioned Dinah!” she said to herself in a melancholy tone. “Nobody seems to like her, down here, and I’m sure she’s the best cat in the world! Oh, my dear Dinah! I wonder if I shall ever see you any more!” And here poor Alice began to cry again, for she felt very lonely and low-spirited.

We also find inspiring your quote from the Egyptian writer and thinker André Aciman, that all exiles impulsively look for their homeland abroad. Even poor Alice suffered from that affliction—recall her trying to make herself at home at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, only to discover it is a less than civil gathering to what she is used to. First she is told there is no room for her at the table; then when she sits anyway, that her hair needs cutting. She is offered wine even though there isn’t any, and told to take more tea even though she hasn’t had any.

In fact, some of us can relate quite directly to this need to feel at home via a good cup of tea. TDN writer Kate Allison, for instance, has lived in the United States for many years but to this day fails to understand why Americans give her a cup of lukewarm water and a tea bag when she orders tea. And ML Awanohara, who lived in England before becoming an expat in Japan, often longed for English tea while sitting through the Japanese tea ceremony.

Tracy, we very much look forward to your forthcoming book, The Good Shufu: A Wife in Search of a Life Between East and West (Putnam, 2015), to help us make sense of such classic expat predicaments.

3) DANIELLA ZALCMAN, photojournalist

Source: “London + New York: A double exposure project”—an interview with Daniella by Austin Yoder on Matador Network
Posted on: 22 April, 2013
Snippet:

When [Daniella] moved from New York to London, she decided to create a series of double exposures to marry the spirit of both cities based on a combination of negative space, color, and contrast. Daniella’s double exposures create beautiful imaginary landscapes, and are captured entirely with her iPhone 4s.

“When I got to London, I knew that I wanted to capture not just the sensation of leaving NYC, but also of exploring a new city and making that environment feel like home.”

Citation: Daniella, we are enchanted by your idea of creating a composite of your beloved home city (New York) with your adopted city (London) to come up with an imaginary landscape. Indeed, we think it must be akin to the process Lewis Carroll used when creating Alice’s Wonderland—blending the bucolic English countryside surrounding Alice (she is sitting on the river bank considering making a daisy chain when the White Rabbit first appears) with the curious world that exists at the bottom of the rabbit hole, the familiar with the unfamiliar. When Alice awakens and reports her dream to her sister, the sister “half-believes” herself to be in Wonderland—if only she can suspend her disbelief for long enough to the sheep-bells tinkling in the distance as rattling teacups, the voice of the shepherd boy as the Queen’s shrill cries, and the lowing of the cattle in the distance as the Mock Turtle’s heavy sobs…

4) “SARAH SOMEWHERE”, world traveler and blogger

Source:On Freedom” in Sarah Somewhere blog
Posted on: 29 April 2013
Snippet:

I am not, by nature, a free spirit. I’m a worrier, a control freak and a chronic people pleaser. Letting go and trusting in the universe’s plan for me is not my default setting, nor is being content with what I have rather than continually striving for more. I still need some practice.

Citation: Sarah, your struggle with living life in the moment in Mexico puts us in mind of Alice, who, is constantly worrying about the impression she is leaving on the Wonderland residents, and finds it a challenge to enjoy the moment in a place as curious as Wonderland. We wish you luck in finding that sweet spot between total personal freedom and societal obligations. And, taking our cue from Alice’s sister, we envision a day when you’ll be telling stories about your adventures in Southeast Asia, China, Mexico and India to a group of children and inspiring them to follow their unique destinies:

she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

* * *

So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, and do you have any posts you’d like to see among June’s Alice Awards? We’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t miss out on these weekly sources of inspiration. Get on our subscription list now!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another Jack the Hack column…

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance whether you’re one of our Alice Award winners, sign up to receive The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with news of book giveaways, future posts, and of course, our weekly Alice Award!. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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LESSONS FROM TWO SMALL ISLANDS — 3) Keep calm and eat curry

Mid-July in Manhattan, and I’m thinking that New York deserves its reputation as The City That Never Sleeps. Not because we’re all out partying — far from it. We’re lying there tossing and turning because we can’t regulate our air-conditioning units.

“High” puts you in Siberia; “Low” sends you down into the Tropics. There are no in-betweens, except for the brief period just after you’ve gotten out of bed to adjust the setting. But by then you’re awake again…

It has always surprised me that New Yorkers are willing to put up with such primitive cooling methods. It’s not like them to suffer silently. My theory is that they simply don’t know any better. As the world begins and ends in New York (isn’t Times Square supposed to be the center of the universe?), this must be the best of all possible air conditioning systems.

Regardless. The point is that I am finding summer a terrible trial now that I’ve repatriated — one that at times requires Olympic strength and endurance.

As summer wears on, I wear out. Not only do I never sleep but I never eat — or eat only minimally. My appetite dwindles at the thought of passing yet another uncomfortable night at the mercy of Simon-Aire products.

All of that changed, however, a few nights ago. Actually, the night had started normally enough: I had gone to bed and was freezing cold so couldn’t sleep. But just as I was lying there thinking about getting up to turn the air con down or else searching the closet for another blanket, I had a sudden, heartwarming thought: “I could kill for a curry!”

How did I go from cursing Dr. Cool, whose workers had installed a supposedly upgraded Simon-Aire unit in the bedroom at considerable cost, to a happy craving for curry? I can only surmise that my subconscious mind was trying to restore my spirits by reminding me of my curry-eating days in the two small islands where I’d lived as an expat, England and Japan. I felt calm again, and my appetite returned…

America — a nation that has deprived itself of a serious curry experience

When I first moved to New York, I was beyond thrilled to discover that the Indian actress and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey lived here, too. To my utter surprise (and delight) — I had always assumed she lived in London — she has been residing in an apartment on the Upper East Side for the past several decades. (She also has a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley.)

Surprised in a good way, yes — but also somewhat mystified. Why would Jaffrey choose to live in America for so long, given the sorry state of Indian cuisine in this part of the world?

I guess it has to do with husbands — she came to the city with her first husband, the Indian actor, Saeed Jaffrey, and then after their divorce, married an American.

Or perhaps she just likes a challenge? In Jaffrey’s very first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking, written not long after her arrival on American soil, she says she is writing the book because

there is no place in New York or anywhere in America where top-quality Indian food could be found, except, of course, in private Indian homes.

That was nearly forty years ago, and I have to say, her efforts to improve the situation, beginning with that book, have yet to pay off. Manhattan now has a couple of Indian restaurant neighborhoods, and then there’s Jackson Heights in Queens — but in general curry hasn’t caught on in a big way with Americans. If we want to eat spicy food, we usually turn to Mexican or Thai, not Indian.

As Jaffrey herself put it in an interview with an American reporter last year:

America as a whole has not embraced Indian food like they have with Chinese, or with sushi. It’s beginning to change, but only in big cities. Something is needed, something real. I have waited for this revolution, but it hasn’t happened yet.

This is in stark contrast to England and Japan — both of which embraced the curry cause on first exposure and now behave as though they’d invented certain dishes. Indeed, chicken tikka is considered to be a national dish in the UK, while “curry rice” (pronounced karē raisu) rapidly achieved the status of a national dish in Japan.

Nostalgia: Going out for a curry in England

England, my England — where Madhur Jaffrey is a household name, and curry houses abound!

Britain got the hots for curry during the 19th century, when there was an enthusiasm for all things Indian. And I got the hots for the Brits’ late-20th-century version of curry when living in an English town as an expat. My friends and I would spice up our evenings by going out for curries. We always ordered a biriani, chicken tikka masala, and a couple of vegetable dishes (one was usually sag paneer, which remains a favorite to this day).

Our starters would be onion bhaji and papadums, and drinks would be pints of lager. If we had the space for dessert, it was usually chocolate ice cream — none of us ever acquired the taste for Indian desserts (dessert of course being an area where the British excel!).

But even more special were the times when friends invited me to their homes for meals they’d concocted using Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes. One memory that stands out for me is an occasion when my former husband, a Brit, and I joined four other couples for a friend’s 40th birthday party. The hostess, the birthday-boy’s wife, presented a dazzling array of Madhur Jaffrey dishes that looked like something out of a food magazine. I’ve been to much ritzier birthday parties before and since, but none have struck me as being as elegant as this one — partly because of the splendid display and partly because by then I knew how much chopping and dicing of garlic, ginger and onion, how much grinding of spices must have been involved. What a labor of love!

Yes, by then I’d begun experimenting with Indian cookery myself thanks to the influence of a very good friend, who’d given me the classic Madhur Jaffrey work, Indian Cookery (which had been a BBC series), along with all the spices I would need for making the recipes: nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, mustard seeds, coriander, cumin turmeric, cloves… To this day, I always keep an array of Indian spices in my pantry so that I can make my own garam masala at the drop of a hat. Now if only I could find some friends who would drop their hats! (Hey, I even have the old coffee grinder ready for grinding the spices, just as Jaffrey instructs.)

Nostalgia: Curry rice & curry lunches in Japan

Eventually, I moved away from England to another small island, Japan — where I was relieved to discover I would not need to give up my new-found passion for Indian food (though I would be foregoing my beloved basmati rice unless I smuggled it in at customs).

Thankfully, the Brits had gotten there about a hundred years before me and had introduced curry to the Japanese, with great success.

Because of “r” being pronounced like an “l” in the Japanese language, we foreigners couldn’t resist making many tasteless jokes about eating curried lice, but that didn’t stop us from having our fill of the tasty national dish, curry rice.

As in the UK, I found it a nice contrast to the traditional fare, which, though healthy, can be rather bland.

At this point, I’d like to loop back to Madhur Jaffrey and note that she disapproves of the word “curry” being used to describe India’s great cuisine — says it’s as degrading as the term “chop suey” was to Chinese cuisine. But I wonder if she might make an exception to the Japanese usage? Apparently, Indians themselves when speaking in English use “curry” to to distinguish stew-like dishes. And Japanese curry rice is the richest of stews, made from a “roux” that can be bought in a box if you do it yourself.

My first box of curry roux was a gift from a Japanese friend. It was accompanied by her recipe for enriching the stew with fresh shrimp and scallops. Oishii!

Still, the curry I crave most often from Japan isn’t curry rice at all, which I find on the heavy side. No, my deepest nostalgia is reserved for the set lunches in Tokyo’s Indian restaurants, which I used to partake in with office colleagues.

The (mostly Indian) chefs have tweaked the ingredients to appeal to the Japanese palate: little dishes of curry that are artistically arranged on a platter, accompanied by naan. freshly baked (fresh is very important to the Japanese) and a side of Japanese pickles: pickled onions, or rakkyōzuke (a tiny, whole, sweet onion); and pickled vegetables, or fukujinzuke.

(The addition of Japanese pickles, by the way, is genius! Try it — you’ll love it!)

All of this is capped by coffee or masala tea, both of which are so well executed they can fill in as desserts.

My takeaways (I wish!)

I fear there may not be many takeaways for my fellow Americans from Lesson #3. After all, the world’s leading authority on Indian cuisine has tried to convert us and failed.

Nevertheless I’ll suggest a few scenarios, with pointers on how you might attempt to introduce a curry-eating tradition into your circle:

1 — Summer is getting to you, so you suggest to a group of friends that you all go out for a curry. When they stare at you blankly, do a little head bobble, smile charmingly and say: “Why ever not?”

2 — Summer is getting to you, and you decide to build a shrine to Madhur Jaffrey in your home by buying as many of her books as you can — including her children’s book on the Indian elephant, Robi Dobi, and her memoir of her childhood, Climbing Mango Trees. You arrange them around a screen that is playing Shakespeare Wallah, a film she appeared in in the 1960s (directed by James Ivory and starring Felicity Kendal). Invite some friends over and when they ask you about the shrine, start talking about the joys of Indian cookery and see if you can make some converts. Perhaps offer to lend out a book or two. (I might start with her newest work, which emphasizes “quick and easy” methods — bless the 78-year-old Jaffrey, she’s indefatigable!) And you can always dip into the books yourself if the heat is making you sleepless. Jaffrey writes beautifully.

3 — Summer is getting to you, but you decide that when the heat breaks, you will start up a Curry Club with a few of your friends, encouraging everyone to contribute one Madhur Jaffrey dish or a Japanese curry made from roux. Even if most of them drop out and you end up cooking a dish for yourself, perhaps this exercise will satisfy your craving until winter. (I find I get these cravings roughly every six months, usually in summer and winter.)

* * *

Well, I’m off to see if I can resume my sweetly fragrant dreams of my expat culinary adventures — just hope it does the trick of distracting me from my ancient “aircon” (popular Japanese contraction) units!

In the meantime, let me know what you think of this lesson. Are you a curry lover? And if so, could you live in a nation that doesn’t share your craving? How would you put some spice into your life under such sorry circumstances? Do tell!

STAY TUNED for Thursday’s post, another in our “Expat Moments” series, by Anthony Windram.

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Image: MorgueFile

EXPAT MOMENTS: Two Englishmen in New York

Following last month’s post on expat moments, we start a new series focusing on little moments of expat experience — moments that at the time seemed pifflingly insignificant. This week involves a celebrity encounter. No prizes for guessing the name of the celeb.

At Columbus Circle, for a fleeting moment, an opportunity presents itself.

A sidewalk collision between two pasty-faced men is avoided as both intuitively, if ungracefully, swerve to avoid bumping into each other. They are both headed towards the same crosswalk where they wait, shoulder-to-shoulder, for the traffic to stop. An observant onlooker might guess — correctly, as it turns out — from their uncoordinated, somewhat flailing gaits that both men are, in fact, English. The onlooker might also note, despite the difference in ages between these two men, that they are dressed similarly; both wear brown brogues, blue jeans, white shirts and blue velvet jackets. However, having established that this onlooker is particularly observant he or she notices more than that; they can see that though they are dressed similarly, the clothes of one of the men — the older man — are expensive and designer label whereas the younger man’s are from a department store.

As these two men wait at the crosswalk the younger man glances at the older and, though he has never before met him, recognizes him immediately. If you were to ask the younger man, he would confirm that he holds very strong views of the older man he is stood next to. If you were to press further, the younger man would admit that he has long judged the moral character of the older man stood next to him. If you were to have asked the younger man only an hour before how he would define “unctuousness,” he would merely would have replied with the name of the older man.

The younger man considers that he could lean in towards the older man and tell him that he thinks he should go “f**k himself.” But the younger man, though he would not admit it, is enthralled enough by the older man’s celebrity that he is striken momentarily dumb.

Instead, the younger man — who in his more vainglorious moments views himself as a modern-day Frank Capra everyman — thinks homicidal thoughts. As they keep on waiting at the crosswalks for the pedestrian light, and car after speeding car passes them, the younger man thinks about how the most … “accidental” … of nudges would send the older man under a New York cab.

And those few seconds, as they wait for the pedestrian light, last for the younger man the thinking and execution of a thousand “accidental” deaths, until finally there is the glow of the pedestrian crossing light and they safely cross the road before separating to go their own ways and the younger man can go back to pretending that he’s at heart a decent chap.

This post was first featured on Culturally Discombobulated

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post.

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Image: MorgueFile

Staring at the sun — and 3 little “nothing” moments in my displaced life

Yesterday in San Francisco, at the corner of Folsom and 8th, I saw a middle-aged man holding up a sheet of dark glass and staring at the sun through it. “It’s beautiful,” he said to me as I passed him on the sidewalk, “so beautiful.”

I smiled in reply to him, secretly wary that he just another cracked, panhandling prophet in a city full of them.

“Do you want to look at the sun through it?” he asked, indicating his sheet of glass. I looked at him confused. “It’s welder’s glass,” he said by way of explanation.

Yes, he must be mad, I thought, and just before I was about to smile a “no, thank you,” and carry on walking, albeit at a hurried pace, he held the glass up at me, and through it, like some wonderful magic trick, the sun appeared as dark disc apart from a brilliant cresent of light at the bottom. That there was a partial solar eclipse had completely passed me by. I hadn’t been able to see the effect with the naked eye, the sun looked larger, a little hazier, but nothing out of the ordinary and it would have passed me by, but here on this particularly street corner was this happy, smiling man performing what at first seemed like a magic trick, and making sure that a small moment of joy wouldn’t pass me. So I took hold of this stranger’s sheet of glass and looked straight at the sun through it, and he was right — it was so beautiful.

This week, The Displaced Nation asked if I could write about three chance encounters experienced in my adopted homeland that I found moving or bittersweet. Moments like I experienced yesterday on Folsom and 8th.

This ties in with an idea that has long interested me, and inspires my personal blog, Culturally Discombobulated — it’s what I think of as little moments of nothing*. Moments that on the surface may seem mundane, or insignificant, but that move you or are the catalyst for deeper thoughts. My own little dipped madeleines.

As this is something I do at times on my personal blog, I am going to reproduce here three little moments of nothing that I have already been posted over there.

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1) A rock and a hard place

A garage forecourt in Kingman, Arizona is not the sort of place you expect to visit on a sightseeing tour. But a sightseeing tour is precisely what I am on, and a garage forecourt in Kingman, Arizona, is precisely where I find myself. In fact, this is the second time today I’ve found myself on this same depressing patch of asphalt.

To be fair, I should clarify that I have been on a bus tour of the Grand Canyon and now, late in the day, we are making our way back to Nevada. We’re certainly not stopping in Kingman for reasons of historical interest. We are not here to learn that it was in Kingman that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married. Gable driving the two of them all the way here from Hollywood in his cream-colored roadster during a break in the filming of Gone with the Wind. In the town they purchased a marriage license from a dumb struck clerk named Viola Olsen before being married by the nearest Methodist Minister they could find. We are not here to learn about the town’s connection with Route 66. We are not here to learn that it was in Kingman that Timothy McVeigh renounced his US citizenship, turned his home into a bunker and began making homemade bombs.

No, this is a purely pragmatic stop; a convenient place on the I40 to stretch the legs, grab a bite to eat, and empty the bladder. In the morning on our way out to the Canyon we stopped here. I bought a ham sandwich at a Chevron garage as I couldn’t stomach the thought of my other option — McDonald’s — that early. The women working in the garage were pleasant, hefty, corn-fed girls. All three had the same hairstyle, an architectural triumph of ringlets and hairspray piled high atop their heads, it looked like it belonged in a 1987 High School Prom. Once back outside on the forecourt a number of men tried to pan-handle me. There was, I thought, something off about the place. By its very nature, you expect a stop like this to be full of folks on the move, but instead there was an unsettling stillness. A number of the people gave off the impression that they’ve been standing around in this same forecourt all their adulthood. It could be that some of the sketchier elements in the town have a rough idea of what the sightseeing bus’s itinerary is — and they come especially and try and get some change out of the tourists.

And now after a long day, we’re back. A bus load of predominantly foreign tourists, here to pay a brief visit like some cut-price UN delegation: Japanese, Thai, Italian, Canadian, French, Australian and British make up our contingent. Some of us are loud and overbearing, and some of us think that everything needs to be documented by our cameras, and some of us have spent all day complaining, and some of us have spent all day gushing in delight, and some of us — if the snoring has been anything to go by — have spent all day asleep, and we are all thoroughly sick of the sight of each other.

Thanks to the evening breeze, the forecourt smells even more strongly of gasoline, pitch and fried grease than it did earlier. Off we all trot, against my better judgment, to the McDonald’s. Every night it’s a different cast, but it’s always the same show that the locals get to enjoy when the sightseeing tour stops here: a tired group of hungry tourists that mewl and bark and garble in their strange tongues and accents. We soon take over and overwhelm the McDonald’s; we create long lines for the toilets, even longer lines for the food along with a white noise of strongly accented English and misunderstood orders.

It’s all too much for one Arizonian. I think it’s one of the men that pan-handled me early in the day. He has a similar looking beard, the same sun-blistered complexion, and the same jittery demeanor.  He is angry with the Frenchman queuing behind him for what he perceives as an invasion of his personal space, and he is getting irate with how long it is taking the Turkish family in front of him to order, but their English is poor and they and the cashier are struggling to make themselves understood. When he finally gets to place his order and is waiting for his chicken McNuggets, he scans carefully all of the other people waiting in line, and scowls at these interlopers with their ridiculous anoraks and backpacks. He takes his McNuggets and barges his way out through the line, needlessly aggressive. As he passes, he elbows me. “F***in’ furriners,” he mutters.

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2) “In my father’s house.”

The shoes of the man sat opposite me on the “E” train are made from black leather, long since scuffed to grey. They are on the whole unexceptional, but for a large fleur-de-lis that has been embossed below the lacing. Their one time appropriateness for special occasions has been worn away.

On the subway and on the underground I often find myself staring intently at the shoes of my fellow passengers. It is not from a fetish, it is just that I keep my eyes on the floor, avoiding eye contact with those around me, or I keep my eyes on the page of a book I am reading. A few minutes before, when we pulled into a station, I stopped reading, put my book on my lap, and cast my eyes to the floor. Occasionally a glance is stolen, such as the one I make at the man wearing the fleur-de-lis shoes. He is a thin, middle-aged black man wearing a blue suit that like his shoes is faded by wear.  He sings “In my father’s house.” Well, he sort of sings “In my father’s house.” It is not the whole hymn that he regales the train with, it is just that one phrase — half-sung, half-shouted every thirty seconds or so. Looking up I see that most of the other passengers have their eyes to the ground, particularly when he sing/shouts “In my father’s house,” though every time he does that he looks around. I don’t feel he looks around for a reaction, but for recognition. Perhaps feeling that things have descended again into commuter quietness, he again sing/shouts “In my father’s house.” I put my eyes to the floor and look at the fleur-de-lis pattern.

Queens Plaza is his stop. As he leaves the train, he notices the book in my lap — God: A Biography, by Jack Miles. He seems happy with my reading material and looking at me, he sings/shouts “In my father’s house” as if I’m the only of his “E” train flock that understands the importance and virtue of his ministry. Then he leaves the train before I have time to explain that reading a book called God does not make me virtuous as he might think it does, and that the book is a critical look at the Old Testament. It considers God a literary character and so casts him in the light of literary theory. Not that I would have said that if I had the time.

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3) Angels and iced tea

In this almost empty coffee shop three elderly women, lifelong friends perhaps, crowd round a table and converse over iced tea. They talk at length about their new pastor, about his energy and his youthfulness. They talk at length about angels, about their unwavering belief in them and their experiences of them. The loudest of the women, her hair an unconvincing shade of red, starts to talk about her youngest granddaughter — about how she’s as sharp as a tack, but hasn’t she started asking the trickiest of questions. The red-haired woman confides to her two companions that she has spoken with their youthful and energetic pastor about how to respond to these questions.

For instance, she tells the other two, only the other day the granddaughter had said, “Grandma, why do we have to go to Church?”

She was, she freely admits, flummoxed by how to answer, but then she remembered the pastor’s words. “Aw, sweetie, that’s a matter of faith.”

Yesterday, she continues, when she was driving her granddaughter home from school the girl had asked, “Grandma, why do we call trees trees?”

She once again patiently said to her granddaughter, “Aw, sweetie, that’s a matter of faith.”

In the almost empty coffee shop the three women gently laugh at the ridiculous things that children say, take a sip of iced tea, and start talking about angels again.

*The film director Max Ophüls once wrote about art: “Details, details, details! The most insignificant, the most unobtrusive among them are often the most evocative, characteristic and even decisive. Exact details, an artful little nothing, make art.” Most of my life I seem to spend in search of moments of little nothings that I end up attaching great importance to. It probably makes me a nightmare to deal with it as a friend or companion.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an account of la dolce vita from a fresh perspective!

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CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of Third Culture Kid Tiffany Lake-Haeuser

Let’s all line up and curtsy to the 16-year-old German-American Tiffany Lake-Haeuser, who has just disembarked on the shores of The Displaced Nation. Born in New York City to German parents, this Third Culture Kid returned “home” to Germany when she was six and then at age 13, moved with her family to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Now back in Frankfurt, she divides her time between this city and Paris, where her father currently resides. Today she will play the role of Queen of the Nile and let us in on the fashion and beauty secrets she’s collected from her travels.

BEAUTY STAPLES

I’ve become a big fan of black eyeliner after living in the Middle East. (The real Cleopatra would approve!) The more conservative Arab women in Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE don’t wear eyeliner, but those who are more modern or Westernized often wear quite a lot. They all have such nice eyes and long eye lashes, so it always looks striking. Eyeliner easily takes an ordinary make-up to something special.

BEAUTY TREATMENTS

Living in the Middle East also taught me that eyebrow shaping helps frame the face and makes people look elegant. Even though it’s painful, I get my eyebrows done regularly.

And from my various travels, I’ve learned how important it is to take care of one’s skin and hair, especially since those are two things people notice right away when they they meet you.

HAIR

My hair has been very long, but I recently had it cut to much shorter. I have pretty much done everything with my hair from long to short to all different kinds of bangs. The only thing I haven’t done is dye my hair, because I am afraid it will be damaged.

FASHION

My favorite piece of clothing from my travels is not so exotic. It’s a big dark blue woolly cardigan that I bought at the Urban Outfitters in London. I love that sweater because it is so comfortable. Sometimes it can be hard to combine with an outfit, but I’ve discovered some ways I think work well.

LINGERIE

I have never bought lingerie in any country other than my own but I would imagine South America to have nice lingerie so I would definitely keep an eye out for that if I ever travel there.

JEWELRY

My favorite piece of jewelry is a ring my mom bought me at a market in Sharjah (the capital city of Sharjah, one of the emirate states). It has a black smooth stone and a silver frame; the stone is slightly bigger, too. I really like the fact that it doesn’t come from a store that mass produces their stuff, but instead it’s different and individual.

WEARING RIGHT NOW

I am wearing a pair of black jeggings, which I recently got at the German clothing store People’s Place. In my opinion, they are flattering and you can never really go wrong with a comfy pair of skinny jeans. I am also wearing a light green sweatshirt, which is the softest piece of clothing I own (also from People’s Place), and a slightly cropped pastel-pink shirt. It’s also amazingly soft — it’s from a Roman boutique called Brandy Melville, their store in New York City. For accessories I have on a feather necklace from the Urban Outfitters in Frankfurt and a black flower ring that comes from a small jewelry store on the outskirts of Frankfurt.

DAILY FASHION FIXES

I always read Glamour magazine, especially since it has so many versions: German, British, American and Australian. I like to see the differences in fashion around the globe. (British and French magazines have the most cutting-edge fashions, though.) And I read a lot of fashion blogs: for instance, Birds of a feather flock together — by Cailin Klohk, an 18-year-old half-Irish, half-German girl who lives near Frankfurt — and Snakes Nest (an American one).

Actually, I created my own blog at the end of last year as my dream now is to become a fashion journalist. It’s called Girl on the Run. I chose the name because of my many moves and travels, which makes me feel like life never stands still and I am constantly discovering new things.

STYLE ICON

Alexa Chung is very present across Europe — I think she has a beautiful and individual style. She mixes some pieces no one would think of to mix, yet they work so wonderfully together. Also, she seems to follow her own instincts instead of being a slave to current fashion trends.

STREET FASHION

I like to go to the Zeil/Hauptwache area in Frankfurt to people watch; there are so many different kinds of people and fashion-forward styles. I especially like to look at people’s bags as I have a slight obsession with bags.

TOP BEAUTY/STYLE LESSON FROM TRAVELS

From all my travels, I have learned that it is important to follow one’s own tastes and cultivate one’s own style instead of just mimicking fashion trends. There are so many beautiful ways to dress in the world, and seeing them has really opened my eyes and made me open to experimenting with what really suits me.

Tiffany Lake-Haeuser is an 11th-grade student at Frankfurt International School with an ambition to become a fashion journalist some day. For more of her fashion impressions and beauty advice, follow her blog, Girl on the Run, which she plans to update regularly now that it’s spring break!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, a celebration of The Displaced Nation’s one-year anniversary!

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Images: (clockwise beginning with large picture on left): Tiffany Lake-Haeuser on the balcony of her father’s apartment in Paris, sporting her shorter hairdo; applying eyeliner; her Emerati ring (a gift from her mother); and a side view of her beloved cardie from London (Urban Outfitters).

An Italian with a passion: How to live the Dolce Vita, with Barbara Conelli

Barbara Conelli is a woman on a mission — a mission to bring, as she puts it on her website, “Fantastic Fearless Feminine Fun into women’s lives.”

A prolific writer, with one book already published (Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, a journey through Italy), another coming out in May, and other writing credits galore, Barb “invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.”

While many of you will be familiar with her writing and blog, others will know Barb from her popular Chique Show at Blog Talk Radio, where she interviews authors and talks about life in and her passion for Italy.

Today, though, it’s Barb’s turn to be interviewed.

Thank you, Barb, for agreeing to be interviewed! Can you tell us a bit about your background — where you were born, where you grew up, where you studied?
I was born in London to an Austrian mother and an Italian father. My background was incredibly multicultural and the fact that I had relatives in different countries who spoke different languages encouraged me to start learning the languages they spoke, and when I did, I realized some of the relatives were much nicer when I didn’t understand them. But it was too late; at that time I was already speaking eight languages and traveling around the globe, a passion that turned out to be totally incurable. I tried hard to be a homebody but it never worked.

A chronic gatherer of knowledge, I studied at several universities in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the US, and when I got my second PhD I realized the academic career was totally killing my creativity and my soul. (As you can see, realizing important stuff too late was a pattern in my 20s.)

Although I’ve had many homes away from home, Italy has always been my real home. Grandma Lily, my paternal grandmother, made sure I grew up to be a real Italian – food-loving, high-spirited, untameable, capricious and addicted to shoes. I frequently visited my cousins in Italy already when I was a kid, and when I got my heart-broken by an Italian at the age of sixteen, I knew there was no turning back. I was an Italian. Until today I’m not sure whether it’s a blessing or a curse. (Thanks, Grandma Lily!)

You split your time between New York and Milan, correct? When did you move to Milan, and why there in particular?
That’s right! Grandma Lily was born in Milan. She left the city and the country with her parents when she was a little girl and she never went back. However, the city stayed in her heart. I visited Milan many, many times, but I decided to actually get a place there and make it my home when I started to think about writing a book about the city. I wanted to really live it, breathe it, be it. I couldn’t live in Tuscany and write about Milan. That would have made me a tourist, not a Milanese. And I wanted to be one with the city and become familiar with its many faces.

Your first book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, was published last year, and your second, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, is due to be published in May. Can you tell us a little about your new book?
Yes, I’d love to! I’m so excited because my editor has just sent me the final version of the manuscript, and I’m totally in love with the book! In Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, I share my unexpected encounters with the capricious, unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go. This book is very informative and contains lots of factual information about the city, but at the same time it’s very poetic, lyrical and romantic. It shows that Milan is the perfect city to have a love affair with.

And what happens after Dolce Amore? Another book? Can you give us any hints?
There are several exciting projects I’m working on. Later this year, I’m planning to publish a collection of selected articles and essays I’ve written about Milan and published in magazines and on my blog. I’m also putting together a travel anthology that’s going to be released in the fall, with travel essays and short stories written by sixteen amazing, wonderful authors.

As far as my Chique Book series is concerned, with Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore I’m leaving Milan and venturing into Rome. The next book is titled Chique Secrets of Dolce Far Niente, and in this book I’m going to reveal the hidden face of Rome and share with my readers the Roman art of pleasant, carefree idleness.

My books always have a deeper message and I love using the city I write about as “the stage of life”, a creative space where we can learn, grow and get to know ourselves. Milan is about loving your life and finding beauty in simple, everyday things. Rome is about being fully present in your life instead of exhaustingly focusing on doing, doing, doing.

Something that comes across loud and clear in the reviews of Dolce Vita is your talent for writing descriptive prose and storytelling. What made you decide to write non-fiction rather than a novel?
A good question! I’ll be honest with you: I am working on a novel (okay, looks like I’ve just come out of the closet and admitted I’m a shadow novelist). However, I find writing fiction much less appealing. I love exploring the real world, I love talking to people, I enjoy discovering their stories, understanding what makes them tick. I’m incredibly curious and inquisitive, and I always look deeper, beyond the obvious, the visible. My readers often say that when they read my book, they feel they’re actually there with me, experiencing the same things, tasting the food, submerging themselves in the atmosphere. My books are like a magic carpet that takes you to beautiful places enabling you to live a beautiful adventure sitting in an armchair and wearing your jammies. I truly believe that being able to give this to the reader through the pages of my book is a miracle, and it makes me endlessly happy.

What audience did you have in mind for Dolce Vita when you first wrote it, and did you end up attracting those sorts of readers?
It’s an interesting question. I write primarily for women and I wanted my book to appeal to experienced, avid travelers as well as to those who dream of Italy and desire to explore this beautiful country. I definitely succeeded in connecting with my audience and I’m very grateful for my fabulous readers and fans from all around the world who give me lots of love, support, encouragement and wonderful feedback. However, I was very surprised to see that my book attracted also many male readers who totally enjoyed my writing. I just love that.

To which aspects of your writing have readers responded the most?
When you read the reviews, there seems to be one strong common denominator: “I felt I was really there with the author.” I’ve been so touched by this, and I feel very blessed because it means I’ve been able to get my message across and bring Italian beauty, charm and grace into the lives of many women. This is my definition of success – doing what you love and touching other people’s hearts by sharing your passion with them.

Have you written anything else?
I have two previously published books on relationships and self-love, based on my coaching career. I have also written screenplays for TV shows and scripts for TV talk shows. And I’m a movie translator – I have translated and subtitled over 800 feature films, shows and documentaries for major movie studios, TV channels and distribution companies. I have also translated several fiction and poetry books. Yes, I’m a typical “slasher” – a multi-talented person with many careers. But if you ask me who I truly am, my answer is I’m a writer and traveler. That’s my soul’s calling.

I first heard you — and heard of you! — on your blog talk radio show, the Chique Show. How long has the Chique Show been running?
Chique Show has been broadcasting for about a year. It has gained incredible momentum and today, just 12 months later, we have over 5,500 listeners, recently adding more than one hundred new listeners every week.

Is a radio talk show something you have always wanted to do?
When it all started, it really wasn’t my goal or dream to be a radio hostess, although I had always found this medium fascinating. Chique Show was meant to be just another platform to promote my new book but I immediately fell in love with it, and today it’s much bigger than I ever imagined. Chique Show is a great connector, a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, and my way of giving back and bringing authors closer to their readers.

How would you like to see it evolve?
I would love Chique Show to become a featured, branded show that would broadcast every day on a variety of topics. You know, one of my mottos is the words of Donald Trump: “If you’re going to think anyway, think big.” And Eleanor Roosevelt’s: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I’m a visionary, and there’s not just a branded radio show on my vision board, but also a magazine and TV channel. I love challenging myself and pushing my own boundaries. My mum says I decided I was going to be a success story already as a toddler. I’ve always been stubbornly creative and free-spirited.

You’ve had a lot of guests on the show. Have there been any particularly memorable moments?
You know, I really love those moments when my guest and I totally click. When we find a topic we’re both fascinated about, we chat, we laugh. There’s a fantastic vibe and irresistible energy that totally fill the radio waves, and our listeners can feel it. We are just wonderfully connected.

I’ve also had deeply moving moments on the show when my guests opened up and talked about their life experiences, their struggles, their pain, and how they managed to overcome adversity and follow their dreams.

One of my favorite shows is the interview with author Lyn Fuchs that you featured here on Displaced Nation a couple of months ago. I love smart, talented, open-minded and humble people who are not afraid to do their thing and stand out from the crowd. Lyn is one of those people and having him on the show has been a real pleasure.

Is there anyone you would *love* to interview on your show — a “fantasy” interviewee, as it were, be they alive or dead?
Leonardo da Vinci: the most fantastic “slasher” in history. I wrote about his years in Milan in Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, and I find him fascinating. I believe his genius is still undervalued. Madeleine Albright, a lady who epitomizes feminine power and wisdom. And Grandma Lily — the sage of my family.

With March being Fashion Month, many of our recent posts have been fashion- and style-related. Now, if you’ve actually read any of those posts, you’ll have realized that three of us anyway are the last people on earth who should be advising on fashion. I poke fun at haute couture, Anthony’s fashion advice begins and ends with chinos and a shirt, and Tony’s staple apparel is shorts and T-shirts. As someone who has made her home in two of the world’s fashion capitals, can you give us any tips about where a couture-challenged person can start?
Okay, my fantasy’s running wild here. Chinos make me think of Indiana Jones (a.k.a. Harrison Ford at his best). And shorts and a t-shirt? Matthew McConaughey. Hot, sexy, juicy! (May I join your team like right now?)

I love fashion because to me it’s yet another expression of creativity and art. It’s also one of the easiest ways to say who you are. You can use fashion to make a statement and I’m totally non-judgmental when it comes to people’s choices.

The best piece of advice is, be yourself. You don’t need to choose one style or color palette and stick with it forever. Fashion is a game and it’s meant to be played and enjoyed. Fashion is not created by designers, it’s created by you, every single morning.

In my closet, you’d find little black dresses and faded jeans, pantsuits and colorful skirts, white shirts and t-shirts with wild patterns. Lots of scarves and hats and other accessories. My wardrobe has as many faces as I do because I may be different every day but I always insist on being myself.

To sum it up, stop flipping through fashion magazines and show the world how beautifully unique you are!

OK, so we’re following your advice and doing a bit of retail therapy in two continents. Where would you suggest as first stop for shopping in Milan?
I suggest you leave your Lonely Planet Guidebook in your bag and start exploring. I love Milanese vintage stores, visiting them is a real adventure. I can recommend “Cavalli e Nastri” in Via Brera, or Oplà in Via Vigevano. For original jewelry, Vigano in Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle. And a Borsalino hat is a must!

And then we take a transatlantic flight and go shopping in New York…where’s our first stop there?
Tiffany & Co., of course! Okay, just kidding. The Tiffany store in both Milan and New York plays a very important role in the last chapter of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore where it turns into a spicy matchmaker. Plus, I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I almost never shop for clothes in New York but I love New York bookstores. I live on Broadway and I’m addicted to the Strand Book Store at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street.

And on Saturdays, I love going to the Greenmarket at Union Square, the most wonderful outdoor market in New York whose atmosphere reminds me of Italy.

Splitting your time between two countries as you do, do you find it difficult to settle into the ways of one country after a length of time in the other?
Actually, it’s funny because when I come to Milan, my friends usually tell me: “Stop being so American!” It takes me a few days to slow down and return to the spirit of la dolce vita. It always reminds me how fast we actually live in the States, and how we allow life to just pass us by.

When I return to New York, it takes me about a week or two to get used to the bustle of the city. I love New York, it’s an incredibly vibrant city, but it can truly wear you down. You need to manage your energy really well and set your boundaries. Although New York is said to be the city that never sleeps, a New Yorker needs to get some sleep at least every now and then.

What aspect of Italy would you like to transplant to New York life — and why?
The art of taking the time to actually live. Experiencing life with gratitude and a sense of awe. The sweetness of human experience. Achieving great things is wonderful, but your life needs to be balanced, and that’s what New York sometimes misses. We need to stop and smell the roses more often.

What about vice versa? Any aspect of New York life you would like to transplant to Italy?
The glitz, the flashiness and the flamboyance. New York is a self-confident brat and it would be fun to see more of that in the easy-going, laid-back Italian way of life.

You’ve traveled extensively — have you discovered any other places where you’d like to live for a while?
After living in Middle East, Africa, in the Australian outback, in stunning European cities and wonderful metropolises of this world, I would like to create one more home-away-from home in French Polynesia. Sleep, eat, dance, swim in the ocean and write books. My idea of writer’s heaven.

Your suggestion about joining the TDN team? Yes — on condition we can all descend upon your new home in French Polynesia… Heaven indeed. Thanks, Barb, for talking so honestly to us!

We will hear more about Barbara Conelli in a few weeks, when we review her new book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, and subscribers to the Displaced Dispatch can look forward to another exciting giveaway!
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Image: Barbara Conelli

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