The Displaced Nation

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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.

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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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.

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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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

CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of former expat Anastasia Ashman

Continuing our feature, “Cleopatra for a Day,” we turn to Anastasia Ashman, an American whose love of the exotic led her to Southeast Asia (Malaysia) and Istanbul, Turkey to live (she also found a Turkish husband en route!). Having just moved back home to California, Ashman opens her little black book and spills the fashion and beauty secrets she has collected over three decades of pursuing a nomadic life.

BEAUTY STAPLES

Like Cleopatra, I’m into medicinal unguents and aromatic oils. My staples are lavender and tea tree oil for the tropical face rot you can get in hot, humid places — and for all other kinds of skin complaints, stress, headaches, jet lag, you name it — and Argan oil for skin dryness. I take them everywhere. I also spray lavender and sandalwood on my sheets.

When living in Southeast Asia I liked nutmeg oil to ward off mosquitoes. (I know that’s not beauty per se but bug-bitten is not an attractive look, and it’s just so heavenly smelling too, I suppose you can slather it on your legs and arms for no reason at all.)

I didn’t even have to go to Africa to become dependent on shea butter for lips and hands, and I like a big block of cocoa butter from the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul for après sun and gym smoothing — less greasy than shea butter, which I usually use at night.

I’m not really into branded products. When you move around it’s hard to keep stocking your favorite products and I find companies are always discontinuing the things I like so I’ve become mostly brand agnostic.

I just moved from Istanbul to San Francisco, and I got rid of almost everything I owned so I’m seeing what basics I can live with. Because to me, basics that do a wonderful, multifaceted job are the definition of luxury. You’ve got to figure out what those basics are for you.

Oh, and when I am in Paris, I buy perfume. Loved this tiny place in Le Marais that created scents from the plants on the island of Sardinia. And wouldn’t you know it, the second time I went they’d gone out of business. Crushing.

My favorite perfume maker in Paris at the moment — very intriguing perspective, lots of peppery notes and almost nicotiney pungencies — is L’Artisan Parfumeur. I’ve got my eye on their Fou d’Absinthe.

In another life, past or present, I know I was involved with perfume…

BEAUTY TREATMENTS

Believe Cleopatra would drink them dissolved in vinegar? In Malaysia I used to get capsules of crushed pearls from a Chinese herbalist down the street from my house — apparently they’re good for a creamy-textured skin.

I’ll take a facial in any country. I like Balinese aromatic oil massages when I can get them, too, and will take a bath filled with flowers if I’ve got a view of the jungle. Haven’t yet had my chance to do a buttermilk bath. I also do mud baths and hot springs where ever they’re offered, in volcanic areas of the world.

Another indispensable: the Turkish hamam. It’s really great for detoxification, relaxation and exfoliation. When living in Istanbul, I’d go at least once a season, and more often in the summer. It’s great to do with a clutch of friends. You draw out the poaching experience by socializing in the steamy room on heated marble benches, and take turns having your kese (scrub down) with a rough goat-hair mitt. You hire a woman who specializes in these scrubs, and then she massages you with a soapy air-filled cotton bag, and rinses you off like a mother cat washes her kitten.

Soap gets in the eyes, yes.

I own all the implements now, including hand-crocheted washcloths made with silverized cotton, knitted mitts, oil and laurel oil soaps, copper hamam bowls (for rinsing), linen pestemal (wraps or towels), and round pumice stones. (For haman supplies, try Dervis.com.)

DENTAL CARE

I’ve had dental work done in Malaysia and Turkey and was very satisfied with the level of care and the quality and modernity of the equipment and techniques. I got used to state-of-the-science under-the-gum-line laser cleanings in Malaysia (where my Taiwanese dentist was also an acupuncturist) and worry now that I am back to regular old ineffective cleanings. I’ve had horrific experiences in New York, by the way, so don’t see the USA as a place with better oral care standards.

In general, I like overkill when it comes to my teeth. I’ll see oral surgeons rather than dentists, and have my cleanings from dentists rather than oral hygienists.

ENHANCEMENTS

Turkey apparently has a lot of plastic surgery, as well as Lasik eye surgery. One thing to consider about cosmetic procedures is the local aesthetic and if it’s right for you. I didn’t appreciate the robot-like style of eyebrow shaping in Istanbul (with a squared-off center edge) — so I’d be extra wary of anything permanent!

HAIR

I’ve dyed my hair many colors — from black cherry in Asia to red to blonde in Turkey — and had it styled into ringlets and piled up like a princess and blown straight like an Afghan hound. That last one doesn’t work with my fine hair, and doing this style before an event on the Bosphorus would make it spring into a cotton candy-like formation before I’d had my first hors d’oeuvre.

I’ve had my hair cut by people who don’t know at all how to handle curly hair. That’s pretty daring.

I looked like a fluff ball for most of my time in Asia, because I tried to solve the heat and humidity problem with short hair and got tired of loading it up with products meant for thick straight Asian hair.

Now that I’ve relocated to San Francisco (which, even though it’s close to my hometown of Berkeley where I haven’t lived in 30 years, I still consider “a foreign country”), I’m having my hair cut by a gardener, who trims it dry, like a hedge. Having my hair cut by an untrained person with whatever scissors he can find is also pretty daring!

FASHION

On the fashion front, I have an addiction to pashmina-like shawls from Koza Han, the silk market in Bursa, the old capital of the Ottoman empire and a Silk Road stop. I can keep wearing them for years.

I also have a small collection of custom-made silk kebayas from Malaysia, the long, fitted jacket over a long sarong skirt on brightly hand-drawn and printed batik, which I pull out when I have to go to a State dinner and the dress code is formal/national dress. (It’s only happened once, at Malacañan Palace, in Manila!)

I have one very tightly fitting kebaya jacket that is laser-cut velvet in a midnight blue which I do not wear enough. Thanks for reminding me. I may have to take out the too-stiff shoulder pads.

LINGERIE

I like state-of-the-art stuff that does more than one thing at once and find most places sell very backward underthings that are more about how they look than how they fit, feel, or perform. Nonsense padded bras, bumpy lace, and stuff that is low on performance and high on things I don’t care about.

I got an exercise racerback bra at a Turkish shop and had to throw it away it was so scratchy and poorly performing. No wicking of sweat, no staying put, no motion control. But it had silver glittery thread — and (unnecessary) padding!

JEWELRY

I like most of the jewelry I’ve acquired abroad and am grateful to receive it as gifts, too. All of my pieces have some kind of story — and some attitude, too.

From Turkey: Evil-eye nazar boncuğu pieces in glass and porcelain; silk-stuffed caftan pendants from the Istanbul designer Shibu; Ottoman-style enameled pieces; and an opalized Hand of Fatima on an impossibly fine gold chain. This last piece is what all the stylish women in Istanbul are wearing at the moment.

From China: White pearls from Beijing, pink from Shanghai and purple from Shenyang.

From Malaysia: I got an tiny tin ingot in the shape of a turtle in Malacca, which I was told once served as currency in the Chinese community. I had it mounted in a gold setting and wear it from a thick satin choker.

From Holland: A recent acquisition from Amsterdam are gold and silver leather Lapland bracelets with hand-twinned pewter and silver thread and reindeer horn closures. They’re exquisite and rugged at the same time.

WEARING RIGHT NOW

Today’s a rainy day of errands so I’m wearing a fluffy, black cowl-necked sweater with exaggerated sleeves, brown heathered slacks, and black ankle boots. They’re all from New York, which is where I’ve done the most shopping in recent years.

My earrings are diamond and platinum pendants from Chicago in the 1940s, a gift from my grandmother.

I’ve also got on my platinum wedding and engagement rings. They’re from Mimi So in New York.

DAILY FASHION FIXES

I liked FashionTV in Turkey, which was owned by Demet Sabanci Cetindogan, the businesswoman who sponsored my Expat Harem book tour across America in 2006.

The segment of Turkish society interested in fashion is very fashion forward. I enjoyed being able to watch the runway shows and catch interviews with the designers.

If I could draw and sew I’d make all my own clothes but I am weak in these areas. In another life, when I get a thicker skin for the fashion world’s unpleasantries, I’ll devote myself to learning these things and have a career in fashion design.

STREET STYLE

In Istanbul, Nişantaşi is somewhere you’d see some real fashion victims limping along in their heels on the cobblestones and Istiklal Caddesi, the pedestrian boulevard in Beyoğlu, would be a place to see a million different looks from grungy college kids to young men on the prowl, with their too-long, pointy-toed shoes.

TOP BEAUTY/STYLE LESSONS FROM TRAVELS

In fact, I’m still assimilating everything — and everywhere — I’ve experienced in terms of fashion and beauty, but here are a few thoughts:

1) Layering: I learned from Turkish women to layer your jewelry and wear a ton of things at the same time. Coco Chanel would have a heart attack! But the idea is not to wear earrings, necklace, bracelet and rings all at once, but lots of necklaces or lots of bracelets or lots of rings at the same time.

2) Jewelry as beach accessory: During the summer Turkish wear lots of ropy beaded things on their wrists during a day at the beach — nothing too valuable (it’s the beach!) but attractive nonetheless. Jewelry stands feeding this seasonal obsession crop up at all the fashionable beach spots. Dangly charms and evil eyes and little golden figures on leather and paper ropes.

3) A little bling never hurts: I’ve also been influenced by the flashiness of Turkish culture, and actually own a BCBG track suit with sequined logos on it. This is the kind of thing my Turkish family and I would all wear on a plane or road trip. Comfortable and sporty, but not entirely unaware of being in public (and not at the gym). Coming from dressed-down Northern California, it was difficult to get used to being surrounded by glitzy branded tennis shoes and people wearing watches as jewelry, but I hope I’ve been able to take some of the better innovations away with me. I know I’m more likely to wear a glittery eye shadow now that I’ve lived in the Near East.

4) The need for sun protection: It was a shock to go from bronzed Los Angeles to can’t-get-any-paler Asia and then to the bronzed Mediterranean. In Asia I arrived with sun damage and then had lots of people helping me to fix it — I even used a parasol there. Then in Turkey everyone thought I was inexplicably pale and I let my sun protection regimen slip a bit. I’m back on the daily sunblock.

5) What colors to wear: I also used to get whiplash from trips back and forth between California and Southeast Asia in terms of color in clothing. In Malaysia the colors were vivid jewel tones — for the Malays and the Tamils especially. The louder the print, the better. Around the same time I was living in that part of the world, I witnessed a scuffle between shoppers at C.P. Shades in my hometown Berkeley, fighting over velvet granny skirts in moss, and mildew and wet cement colors. That kind of disconnect wreaks havoc on your wardrobe, and your sense of what looks good. Right now I’m trying to incorporate bright colors into my neutral urges. I’m still working it out.

Anastasia Ashman is founder of GlobalNiche.net, a work-life initiative for cultural creatives and mobile progressives that she calls “creative self enterprise for the global soul.” (Global Niche recently held a Webinar “Dressing the Inner You,” featuring psychologist and author Jennifer Baumgartner talking about the cultural displacement that shows up in one’s dressing style.) A Californian with 14 years of expatriatism under her belt, Ashman was the director of the online neoculture discussion community expat+HAREM and coeditor of the critically- and popularly-acclaimed expat lit collection that inspired this community, Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey. Catch her tweeting on Pacific Standard Time at @AnastasiaAshman.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a contrarian perspective by Anthony Windram on this month’s fashion and beauty conversation.

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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Images: (clockwise beginning with top left): Anastasia Ashman holding her own with the ever-glamorous Princess Michael of Kent, in Turkey; with her sister Monika, rocking the traditional Turkish Telkari silver jewelry, Anatolian shawl and requisite deep Bodrum tan; displaying her hamam collection — including traditional silver hamam bowl and hand-loomed linen pestemal towels; and sporting ringleted hair (along with some fashion flair!) at the Istanbul launch of Tales from the Expat Harem.

BOOK REVIEW: “Asian Beauty Secrets,” by Marie Jhin

TITLE: Asian Beauty Secrets: Ancient and Modern Tips from the Far East
AUTHOR: Marie Jhin, M.D.
PUBLICATION DATE: July 2011
FORMAT: Paperback and Kindle e-book, available from Amazon
GENRE: Health, fitness & dieting, beauty
SOURCE: Paperback purchased from the Korea Society, New York City

Summary:

Drawing on her experience as a Cornell University-trained dermatologist, combined with a knowledge of Asian beauty remedies, both ancient and modern, Dr. Marie Jhin delivers an East-West guide to vibrant skin and beauty. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Jhin emigrated to Hawaii with her family when she was six (they settled eventually in New York City). She now lives in San Francisco, where she runs her own practice, Premier Dermatology. She has been rated as one of America’s top doctors for the past three years.

Review:

The first time I visited Seoul, my husband, who is Japanese, insisted that I try a spa treatment, as Koreans do this sort of thing better than other Asians, he said. Before I knew it, I was lying naked on a table with an older Korean lady scrubbing every inch of my body. Eventually, she took my hand and put it on my stomach. At first I thought I was touching a piece of terry cloth but no, it was my skin — it had come off in shreds!

I lay there thinking, “Can this be healthy?”

Having pondered these issues quite a lot — also during my years of living in Japan, where I could hardly fail to note how obsessed Japanese women are with skincare — I was intrigued to come across a new book on Asian beauty methods, by San Francisco-based dermatologist Marie Jhin.

Born in Seoul, Jhin is now settled in California. She is not an expat, which makes the title of this post a little misleading; but is she “displaced”? Yesterday she told me in an email exchange that while she doesn’t think of Korea as “home” any more, her birth country remains something of a lodestar. She specializes in Asian skincare, lived in Seoul for two years after college to teach ESL, and has been going to Korea on business of late.

But what really convinced me of Jhin’s “displacedness” is that like me, she was uncertain of the benefits of Korean skin scrubbing but unlike me, let it get under her skin, so to speak:

I grew up doing certain things beauty-wise that I wanted know the truth of. For example, … my mother used to take me to get my skin scrubbed at a Korean sauna. Back then I didn’t understand what the point was, but now, as a dermatologist, I realize that it was basically whole body microdermabrasion that they have been doing for centuries that is great for the skin.

(Good to know!)

Jhin called her book “Asian Beauty Secrets” because it covers the beauty habits of not only Korean but also Chinese and Japanese women. Her key finding is that while women in all three countries have been caught up in the quest to look more Western, they have plenty to be proud of in their native beauty traditions.

The influence of Western beauty ideals

The last time I visited Tokyo, I couldn’t always tell who was a foreigner and who wasn’t since so many Japanese youth had dyed their hair a reddish blonde (I no longer stood out in the crowd!).

Thus I was glad to see Jhin tackle the issue of Western beauty ideals. In addition to dying and streaking their hair, many Asians are getting plastic surgery in the quest to look more Western.

Jhin notes the popularity — especially in Korea, cosmetic surgery capital of Asia (and the world?) — of procedures such as blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and surgery to correct what Japanese call daikon-ashi (radish-shaped calves).

And when Asian women do Botox, she says, it’s not to reduce wrinkles but to soften square jaw lines and/or to atrophy cheek muscles and thereby shrink a too-round face.

Jhin draws a line, however, between these procedures and the value traditionally placed by women in all three cultures — Chinese, Japanese and Korean — on having white skin. She cites Chinese Canadian consumer research professor Eric Li in stating that the preoccupation with whiteness predates colonialism and Western notions of beauty. In fact, the Japanese see their own version of whiteness as superior to the Western one!

What Asian women bring to the vanity table

We Westerners are notorious for mistaking one Asian culture for another. Jhin helps us negotiate this sometimes-fraught territory by listing some of their distinguishing elements when it comes to notions of beauty:

1) KOREA

  • Who’s the fairest of them all? In the Far East, it’s Korean women, by common consensus.
  • Korean women like to exfoliate the skin to keep it glowing and healthy.
  • Koreans have long revered the ginseng plant, a vital ingredient in health and beauty potions.

2) JAPAN

  • Going back at least to the Heian period, Japanese have celebrated long tresses — the record of that era being 23 feet! Their favorite conditioning treatment is camellia oil, thought to promote glossy hair growth without making it greasy.
  • Japan spa culture, which dates back thousands of years, favors the use of natural ingredients for cleansing the skin: eg, volcanic mud, wakame seaweed and even nightingale droppings(!).
  • Though Japanese are known for rushing around, they in fact have a tradition of enjoying “empty moments.” Such meditative practices contribute to well-being and bring out a woman’s natural beauty.

3) CHINA

  • In ancient China, pearls were a girl’s best friend: ground pearl powder was taken internally and applied topically. (Hmmm…did they get that habit from Cleopatra, or vice versa?)
  • Chinese have a saying that “a woman’s second face is in her hands” — to this day, Chinese women are meticulous about moisturizing their hands and feet.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasizes certain foods for balancing yin and yang within the body. This inner harmony is thought to contribute to outer radiance.

There is also, of course, much overlap among the three cultures.. All subscribe to the belief that by eating healthy foods, releasing stress (e.g., by getting an accu-massage), and pursuing nature-based healing (TCM) on a regular basis, a woman can enhance her best assets.

The “skinny” on beauty tips and secrets

One of the reasons to pick up a book with the word “secrets” in the title is to find out what one is missing out on. On this score, Jhin’s book is a bit of a mixed beauty bag. Some of her suggestions struck me as being far fetched — and I have a reasonably high tolerance for Asian cultural quirks.

Bird’s nest soup or soup containing hasma (frog fallopian tubes), anyone? Both are ancient Chinese foods thought to nurture glowing skin (Jhin provides recipes). Um, thanks, but no thanks. I’d almost rather eat fugu (which likewise has stimulating properties).

Even more offputting is the Chinese custom of spreading sheep’s placenta on one’s face. (It’s a mercy they’ve moved on from ingesting human placenta, that’s all I can say…)

As for V-steaming one’s chai-york (Korean for vaginal tract) with medicinal herbs such as mugwort (common wormwood) — it will take more than a reassurance by a Beverly Hills doctor to convince me that such a practice doesn’t lead to other problems such as UTIs.

On the other hand, I might actually consider soothing my skin with a high-quality ginseng cream. That sounds nice. Or perhaps I’ll try facial acupuncture. It’s noninvasive and, according to Jhin, can have the effect of a mini-facelift.

Note: More secrets can be found on Jhin’s book site.

Verdict:

For me, the most interesting portion of Asian Beauty Secrets is when Jhin addresses her area of specialization: the conditions peculiar to Asian skin, such as eczema (they are more prone to it than we are) or sun damage that manifests itself not in wrinkles but in brown spots. I also found fascinating the chapter on the latest skin renewal techniques being pioneered by Korean doctors. Acupuncture meets nanotechnology with the “INTRAcel laser” treatment! (The laser reaches “deeper into the dermis for more lasting collagen production and overall skin rejuvenation,” Jhin explains.)

That said, I’d hesitate about recommending Jhin’s book to anyone who isn’t yet oriented (no pun intended!) to beauty practices in this part of the world. Instead you might try experimenting with some of the brands Jhin recommends — e.g., Sulwhasoo cosmetics (now being carried at Bergdorf Goodman here in New York) — by way of familiarizing yourself with Asian skincare methods. As it happens, I got some Sulwhasoo samples when I bought the book — and would be more than happy to report back on the effects, if anyone’s curious! :)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.).

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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CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of expat Helena Halme

Today we introduce a new feature: “Cleopatra for a Day.” Displaced citizens open their little black books and spill the fashion and beauty secrets they’ve collected on their travels. First up is Helena Halme. One of TDN’s Random Nomads, Halme is a Finnish expat in London and a self-professed fashion maven.

BEAUTY

When my husband (“The Englishman”) and I did a house-swap in Los Angeles in the nineties, I discovered Origins, then a skin care range that wasn’t universally available here in the UK. Anything close to nature was an upcoming trend, and the Origins shops in LA looked quite revolutionary — all wooden flooring and straw shopping baskets. I still use a lot of Origins products and couldn’t live without their foot cream, Reinventing the Heel.

Some time ago, an English friend recommended that I try Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour cream — I couldn’t live without it now. If I’d ever end up on a desert island, this would be the one luxury item I’d crave for.

HAIR

When I’d only lived in the UK for a matter of months, I cut my hair very, very short. The Englishman was away at sea and when he came back he was quite shocked to see my blonde locks all gone. But, gentleman that he is, he told me the new style suited me. (I’m not so sure it did!) Much more recently, I’ve discovered the the Brazilian blow dry, a luxurious treatment that makes my thick Nordic locks gleam. I feel like a film star!

FASHION

A few years ago on an annual girls’ trip with my school friends, this time to Rome, I bought a long down coat which has been my winter staple ever since. It was weird shopping for warm winter wear in the humid late summer heat in Rome, but it was great to have the style advice of good friends. I understand that the Displaced Nation has been been debating whether down coats can be fashionable. I’d be curious to hear your verdict on my Roman find!

LINGERIE

I seem to always run out of underwear when on holiday, so I have bought some in Rome, New York, Stockholm, Seville… Now what I bought — that would be telling!

JEWELRY

When on holiday in Puglia, Italy, a few years ago, I bought a set of plastic beads. I love them so much I still wear them. They’re a wonderful color that goes with everything.

WEARING RIGHT NOW

Crickey! It’s a miserably cold and rainy Sunday here in London so I’m in my favorite beige-colored Uniqlo jeans, an All Saints double layer t-shirt (bought at their London store in Spitalfields) and my blonde cashmere poncho from Plum. Underwear is Marks and Spencer (it is the one and only store for underwear for me) and there are warm & cozy Ugg boots on my feet.

DAILY FASHION FIX

There are two magazines I cannot live without: Vogue and Grazia. Vogue is for trying to keep up to date with high fashion, Grazia for street style and gossip. I’m also an avid follower and reader of blogs. My favorites are:

STYLE ICON

I don’t really have style icons — I believe that style is a very individual thing; but one person who I really admire is Helena Bonham-Carter. She used to come into the bookshop I worked at in North London and always looked wonderful, in her extremely unique way. However, I could not pull off her style.

STREET FASHION

Two great places to people watch are Selfridges on Oxford Street and Liberty’s on Regent Street. There are lovely cafes in both stores where you can sip your latte and feel as though you’re on the front row of a Mulberry or McQueen show.

TOP BEAUTY/STYLE LESSONS FROM TRAVELS

1) When on holiday to Greece, I learned to try saving my fair skin from burning through the application of sunscreen and after-sun moisturizer.
2) From watching French and Italian women on my trips to Paris or Rome, I learned about how to use a splash of color when wearing neutrals.
3) From my trips to New York I learned about simple lines, neat tailoring, and the chicness of one color (black) or two (eg, beige turtleneck with black trouser suit) — as perfected by designers like Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren.

Helena Halme blogs at Helena’s London Life and tweets at @HelenaHalme. She will soon be releasing a digital book based on a popular series of her posts, “How I came to be in England,” entitled The Englishman.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a male perspective on how to travel and look good.

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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Images: (clockwise beginning with main photo) Helena Halme modeling her Italian down coat in Harrod’s food hall; posing with The Englishman in Italy, just after picking up the beloved beaded necklace; showing off her hair after a Brazilian blow dry in London; staying warm and stylish in London in her blonde cashmere poncho, just a few days ago.

RANDOM NOMAD: Lei Lei Clavey, Australian Expat in New York

Place of birth: Melbourne, Australia
Passport: Australia + USA
Overseas travel history: France (Paris): 2005; USA (Santa Barbara, California): 2008-09; USA (New York, New York): May 2011 – present.
Current occupation: Casting director for StyleLikeU, an online fashion magazine based in New York City.
Cyberspace coordinates: Style Like U | Freedom of expression through personal style (work) and @LeiLeiClavey (Twitter handle)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I’ve had the travel bug for as long as I can remember. A lot of it came from my parents, who took me around the world shortly after I was born. The excitement of being in a different country, immersed in a new culture and environment — it’s something I now crave.

Of course, travel is one thing; living in a place for an extended period is another. To make a home amongst strangers takes you out of your comfort zone and tests your courage in new ways. I enjoy the challenge. I always learn new things about myself as I open my eyes to different people, perspectives, and ways of life.

Was anyone else in your family “displaced”?
My father is what you might call permanently displaced. Born in Chicago, he attended Colorado State University and then left the US to live in Taiwan and study Chinese language and herbal medicine. Taiwan was where he met my mother, who was likewise displaced (she is Chinese Australian). My parents lived in Taipei for five years and then moved to Mainland China for two more years before settling permanently in Melbourne, Australia, where my mother was born and grew up — my father now practices there as a Chinese herbal doctor. (Incidentally, The Displaced Nation interviewed my mother, whose name is Gabrielle Wang, last summer about a book she had written on a half-Chinese, half-Aborigine girl who lived in 19th-century Australia.)

A couple of my cousins share my passion for travel and have recently embarked on an adventure in the UK, where many Australians choose to live (the two-year work visa for Australians under 25 is a relatively straightforward process).

Another of my cousins recently shaved her head and embarked on a solo, life-changing adventure in India. I have yet to hear her tales firsthand. All I know is that she has more guts than I ever will to have done that by herself.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced since making your home in New York City.
I don’t believe anything could surpass how I felt on my first night in New York City. Before leaving Australia I had arranged to stay with a friend of a friend for a month. He told me: “When you arrive, come to 10th, between A and B, and up to the third floor.” A and B: what country uses letters as street names? Surely they must be abbreviations for something!

It was close to midnight by the time I arrived at East 10th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B (thank you, taxi driver, for clearing that up!).

But then I had another challenge. I was exhausted and ready to collapse after my 22-hour plane flight from Melbourne to LA and another five hours to New York City. After dragging my 32kg (70lbs) suitcase up three flights of stairs — yes, it was a walk-up! — bed was the only thing I had in mind. I knocked and waited. No answer. I knocked again. Still no answer. I sat on my suitcase and was feeling very sorry for myself, wondering why I had ever decided to move to NYC, when three young men walked up the stairs. They were surprised and a little bemused to see me sitting outside the door to their apartment. After exchanging glances, they informed me that I was on the 4th floor, not the 3rd. (In the US there is no such thing as a “ground floor” like we have in Australia. The ground floor is the first floor.) So I struggled my way back down one flight of stairs and walked into an artist’s hazy East Village apartment.

People, music and smoke filled the room. It was community open-mic night, held weekly in this man’s apartment in exchange for rent (a great deal, I now realize!). The owner was asleep on the couch, despite the noise of someone playing the Asian zither.

My eyes scanned the audience, and then I saw Will, the friend of my friend. I could finally relax.

I had entered an alternative universe, an environment utterly foreign to me. But I knew at that moment, my New York adventure had begun and my life would be changed forever.

How about the moment when you have felt least displaced?
When I first came to New York City as a tourist, in 2008, it was as if I had lived here before, perhaps in a past life. I loved the city’s multicultural feeling. So many different faces, cultures and languages — I immediately felt at home. Since coming to live in the city ten months ago, I will occasionally bump into the few people I know in the street. That this can happen even in a city of over eight million gives me a buzz.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of your adopted countries into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Paris: The 2-hour lunch break. Unlike Parisians, New Yorkers work too hard and I believe with no better results than if they were to have a decent break, get refreshed and go back to work. Australia, unfortunately, is following in America’s footsteps. Surely, citizens of The Displaced Nation could enjoy a reasonable work-life balance?
From New York City: The concept of convenience. For most New Yorkers, it is only a short walk to the grocery store, bank or coffee shop. In fact, I have all three on my block — I love it! On the other hand, New Yorkers like to push those convenience boundaries and have EVERYTHING delivered. Convenience has never been so lazy! The Displaced Nation should find a way to have convenience without the laziness.
From Santa Barbara: The practice of recycling. Santa Barbara does a great job of keeping the University of California-Santa Barbara campus, city streets and beaches clean. They understand the need for it and how trash impacts the environment. I cannot stand how dirty the streets are in New York City. I would therefore urge The Displaced Nation to institute Californian-style recycling policies (if you haven’t already!).

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

My menu is inspired by New York City brunches*. I always crave a nice weekend brunch when I fly back to Australia on holiday!
Appetizer: Shrimp and grits, based on a recipe from Peels** with two (allegedly) secret ingredients: a little Budweiser and a lot of tasso, a Cajun-spiced ham.
Main: Fried chicken sandwich, with chilli lime aioli & pickled egg on sweet-potato focaccia with hand-cut fries — based on a recipe from Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Dessert: Chocolate sundae consisting of vanilla and malt ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, brownie bites, nuts, and pretzels — based on a Peels** recipe.
Drinks: Traditional Bloody Mary, a solid brunch favorite!
*This is an imaginary meal so ignore the high calorie count and just enjoy it!
**Peels is an American diner with a Southern-inspired menu in NYC’s East Village. I used to host there.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
From New York: Debbie Downer, slang for someone who frequently adds bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thereby bringing down the mood of everyone around them. I hear it being said all the time in the streets of New York. (It was also the name of a fictional character from Saturday Night Live.)
From Paris: La ziqmu/la ziq (music) — an example of verlan, which, similar to Pig Latin, transposes syllables of individual words (la musique) to create slang words (la ziqmu, often shortened to la ziq). Verlan combinations are endless and have become a part of everyday French, especially for younger people.

This month we are looking into beauty and fashion. What’s the best beauty treatment you’ve discovered while abroad?
New Yorkers are crazy about spa treatments, facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. It seems to be everyone’s de-stressing fix, and I have to agree there’s something very relaxing about someone picking dead skin off your feet. Last September, on the weekend when Hurricane Irene was threatening to hit NYC, can you believe that the places that were most packed out were the nail salons? (Besides liquor stores and bars, that is.) There are also speciality barber shops for men in New York. Australian men, take heed! Men in this city have no shame in caring about their looks as much as women do: they see it as a masculine thing.

What about fashion — can you tell us about any beloved outfits, jewelry, or other accessories you’ve collected in your adopted country or countries?
Living in New York and working at an online fashion magazine, I’ve been exposed to the the cutting edge of weird and wonderful styles. Really anything goes, unlike in Australia! No matter how far-out the boundary you feel you are pushing, someone else will always out-do you. I love that! The city has inspired me to accessorize more: to jazz up an otherwise regular outfit with hats, statement jewelry and/or shoes. Also, New York is a walking city, so clothing also has to be practical — a hat to keep your head warm in winter or the sun off your face in summer, and shoes you can actually walk in (more than cab-to-curb, that is!).

Readers — yay or nay for letting Lei Lei Clavey into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Lei Lei — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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: Lei Lei Clavey outside a favorite coffee shop of hers in the East Village, New York City.

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