Ah, summer — what power you have to make us suffer…and like it?!
I don’t know about you, but I’m not liking the mid-August dog days very much. For a start, I’m getting tired of watching my own two dogs panting instead of playing.
Thus I’ve turned to The Displaced Nation’s Random Nomads to help me find things to like during the remaining weeks of Summer 2011, which doesn’t technically end until September 23.
Besides asking them to report back on how their own summers have been, I begged them to share some tips for escaping one’s surroundings at times when one can’t manage a physical escape. I recall from my own expat days (in the UK and Japan) that global residents develop superhuman-reserves of stamina (the Japanese call it gaman, or “enduring the seemingly unendurable with patience and dignity”) to sustain them during less-than-pleasant interludes.
And I wasn’t disappointed — no less than five USA/Europe-based Random Nomads have come to my rescue! They’ve answered these three questions:
1) What has been your most enchanting moment of Summer 2011 thus far?
2) What has been your least enchanting moment?
3) Do you have any survival tips for people who can’t escape?
And next week, we’ll hear from three more, all of whom hang their hats in Asia.
NOTE: If you haven’t read the interviews with these five people about their “displacement,” be sure to do so by clicking on their names. They, and their lives, are fabulously inspiring regardless of what season it is!
BALAKA BASU — USA passport; current home: USA (New York City)
Swimming at Sandy Hook in New Jersey. The water out there at Gunnison Beach is green and gorgeous; the waves are gentle and warm, and they lap round you like a soft embrace. Over in the distance, you can see the skyline of NYC, wrapped in haze. It’s truly lovely, the closest you can come to the Caribbean in the metropolitan area, I think.
WASPS (the insects)! They built five(!) hives in our car, and we had to suit up in full sleeves, veils and boots — full-on winter armor in heat-stroke inducing weather — to kill them with poison as they boiled out of their hives. Not cool. Not cool at all.
Find a cheap(ish) hotel with a bar and an outdoor pool — someplace no tourist would ever visit. Bring towels, bathing suits, a great beach read, and plastic cups — and pretend you’re on beachfront property in some place awesome: e.g., “Jamaica” without the plane ticket.
VICKI JEFFELS — New Zealand passport; current home: England (Tadley, Hampshire)
England had a couple of days of really tropical weather back in July — I loved it. For a brief time there was the lingering smell of BBQ wafting around our neighborhood, and I was even able to lie down on a towel in the garden and safely fill up my vitamin D reserves. Ah, bliss!
The following week the temperatures plummeted and it looked as if that was all the summer we were going to get.
Ah yes, right down my alley! Many of my neighbors and friends were finding it really difficult to sleep in the humid weather, not helped at all by the BBC advising everyone to close their curtains! Whaaat? When you find it difficult to sleep, I advise a tepid (not cold!) shower to lower the body temperature before sleep. If possible (I know it’s not always possible), take a dip in a swimming pool — that’s ideal.
PIGLET IN PORTUGAL — English passport; current home: Portugal (Algarve)
To date, there are two special moments. Can I have two?
Yes, OK. Great!
Actually, one is magical and the other enchanting. Both slightly predate the summer months, but the effects still linger.
The most magical moment was the birth of our first grandchild, Lily-May, on the 28th of April in France. We drove as if possessed for two days from Portugal across Spain to the South of France to see her. Although I am not maternal by nature (I’m more of a practical Mom), when I held her in my arms for the first time, my heart melted. As recorded on my blog, she’s adorable!
The most enchanting moment was when I was singing to her and she gave me a big smile. Poor little thing — my singing is not that tuneful; I think she felt sorry for me!
The least enchanting because most worrying moment of Summer 2011 was the way our daughter’s health deteriorated after giving birth. Despite various consultations with doctors about the excruciating pain and the ongoing urine infections she was experiencing, they just prescribed antibiotics rather than trying to find the root cause. The local GPs were totally clueless! However, the answer quickly became apparent once her husband insisted she go to hospital for a proper examination. The maternity ward doctor, upon examining our daughter, quickly discovered that medical compresses, now rotting, had been left inside her! Once these were removed, she began to recover. But had they remained, I have since been informed septicaemia would have set in, with devastating consequences for both our daughter and breastfed baby granddaughter.
This is difficult because adverse weather conditions to some could be absolute heaven for others. Weather, I tend to take as it comes as it is out of my control.
My own great escape would not be from the weather but from tourist areas. Living in a tourist area myself, I have renamed tourists “terrorists” because many leave their manners and consideration for others at home. They literally do “terrorize” the locals!
Personally, I love wild and natural places far away from the mass concrete high-rise hotels, with rows of sun beds and parasols lining the beaches.
My idea of heaven is to take a picnic, a bottle of chilled white wine, our comfy chairs and a parasol down to one of the unspoilt beaches for a “sun-downer.”
Yes, there are other people there in July and August, but we all seem to appreciate the luxury of freedom from tourists, and peace…
So, if you are coming to the Algarve on holiday please check out some of my
“secret beaches.” I can show you how to escape the “maddening” crowds!
JACK SCOTT — British passport; current home: Bodrum, Turkey
Bodrum is the most secular and modern of Turkish towns. It’s where people come to escape the conformity of everyday Turkish society. Normal social rules don’t apply. However, scrape the surface and you will find magic of a different kind.
This summer, we were visiting a friend, a thoroughly modern Millie, who lives just a few hundred meters behind the bustling marina with its luxury yachts and raucous watering holes. Her home is set within a traditional quarter of whitewashed buildings huddled together along narrow lanes.
As we approached her door, we noticed an elderly neighbor dressed in traditional livery of floral headscarf, crocheted cardigan and capacious clashing pantaloons. She sat cross-legged in a shady spot of her bountiful garden and was busy plucking a fleece.
Being city boys and largely ignorant of country ways, we asked our friend what the old lady was doing. She was preparing the wool for hand carding, straightening and separating fibers for weaving on the spinning wheel she kept in her house.
She hummed as she plucked, happy under the cool of an ancient knotted olive tree and doing what women have done in Turkey for millennia.
Now you don’t get that in Blighty.
We were wandering down Bodrum’s bar street, a procession of cheap and cheerful bars and hassle shops.
We normally rush by; casual shopping in Turkey can be a bruising experience best only tried by the foolish and heroic. The cheaper outlets employ aggressive teenagers in tight, bright, white shirts to drag gullible punters in from the street. A firm refusal elicits a bellicose riposte. The posher shops employ mostly female staff whose sales technique is softer but no less annoying. Speculative browsing is unbearable when tailed by KGB-trained assistants and you are made to feel like a serial shoplifter.
On this occasion my partner, Liam, popped into a corner shop to buy some cigarettes. Keen to use the local lingo, he asked for them in very passable Turkish. The po-faced assistant looked at him blankly. Liam repeated the request. Another blank look. After a brief standoff, the assistant relented and repeated the order in English. He threw the cigarettes at Liam, snatched the payment and slammed the change on the counter.
Welcome to Turkey, where hospitality greets you at every corner. I know there are arse-holes in every country — but next time we’ll just shout loudly in English.
During the height of the summer we’re like camp vampires and only venture out after dark. Earlier in the season we found ourselves sweltering in 40+C (104+F) heat with no air conditioning. Because our pretty little cottage has 18-inch thick stone and concrete walls it took us weeks to find a technical solution. In the meantime, I received a host of suggestions to help us through the sleepless, sweaty nights. I’d like to share a few:
• Wrap a gel-type freezer pack in a wet tea-towel and apply it to your hot bits (and watch them shrink).
• Buy a floor-standing industrial fan (but nail everything down).
• Bathe your feet in an ice bucket (and develop frostbite).
• Take a cold shower (except the cold water is hot at this time of year).
• Sleep on a wet towel (and rot the mattress).
• Decamp to the roof (and get eaten alive my mozzies).
• Emigrate to Sweden?!
SIMON WHEELER — English passport; current home: Slovakia (Plavé Vozokany)
I love the sound of the crickets chirping. Whenever I left for holidays from England as a kid, that sound always meant I was away and exploring. Now I have them every summer’s night, and I still cannot get used to it. I still get that thrill of being in a new place…
Mosquitoes — they love every bit of me!!!
I’m afraid I need a physical escape from our 35C (95F) “phew, what a scorcher!” summer. Fortunately, one is available in North Slovakia — in the Tatra Mountains, on the border between Slovakia and Poland. Just a stunning part of the world, very quiet, largely undiscovered, a place that exudes old-fashioned peace. Being that bit higher in altitude, the temps are perfect.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Displaced Q on enchanting expat summers.
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