The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

RANDOM NOMAD: Kirsty Rice, Freelance Writer & Blogger

Born in: Renmark*, South Australia
Passport: Australia (no one else will have me!)
Countries lived in: Australia (Adelaide & Perth): 1997-98; Indonesia (Jakarta): 1999 – 2001; Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur): 2001-02; Libya (Tripoli): 2002-04; Canada (Calgary): 2004-08; USA (Houston): 2008-09; Qatar (Doha): 2010-present.
Cyberspace coordinates: 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle (blog)
*A small town of 7,500; my parents still live there.

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I am married to a former expat child. I know the term is Third Culture Kid, but I don’t really think it applies to him. He was always keen on doing the “expat” thing. I, on the other hand, was raised in the same town that I was born in and wasn’t a great lover of change. Our first move was the result of a promotion for my husband and the fact that I was pregnant with our first child. The plan was to do a two-year posting in Indonesia and to return “home”. That was 7 countries and 12 years ago. I now thrive on change.

So your husband was already “displaced”?
My husband’s parents were expats. He was actually born in New Zealand and then they went to the Philippines for many years before moving to Sydney, then Melbourne, and finally to Brisbane.

How about your kids?
My children were all born in different countries. We were living in Jakarta when I had my first child, my second was born in KL, the third in Malta and the fourth in Canada. Although none of them have lived permanently in Australia (our longest stint has been during school holidays, so a maximum of 12 weeks), they all think of themselves as Australian. My husband and I have both worked hard for that to be the case.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced.
When we first moved to Tripoli — it was the middle of summer and I had a two-week-old baby and a two-year-old. We then had to endure months of housing hell — we couldn’t find one! For a while, I shared a “guest house” with about sixty men who were rotating in and out of the desert: there were no other women. Breast feeding amongst men who hadn’t seen a woman for a couple of months was a rather unique experience. Due to the weather, fruit and vegetables were limited and small in size. I can remember standing in a fruit and vegetable stand with a screaming baby and a restless toddler wondering how I was going to cook carrots the size of my little finger. I was continually getting lost, and the simplest of tasks seemed very overwhelming. There were many days that I considered getting on a plane — but I’m so pleased I didn’t. Three months later, we had a house, the weather was better, I made friends, and I loved our life in Libya. I was devastated to leave.

Describe the moment when you felt least displaced.
I feel like that here in Qatar. Our children are at a fabulous school, I have a place to write, and my husband works for a Qatari company and really enjoys it. There is so much here in the community for expats, and we are made to feel very welcome. I have made local friends and love heading to the local souqs. I feel that this is very much our second home. In other locations I have felt that we were passing through, but not here.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Indonesia: A jamu (traditional medicine) woman made of silver, given to me by a very dear friend.
From Malaysia: The Selangor pewter tea set I was given as a gift. Each time I use it I think of my friends.
From Libya: A wedding blanket with traditional jewellery pinned to it, which was given as a farewell present. It is such a unique gift and always a talking point when people spot it in our house.
From Canada: Nothing material, just the memory of what it was like to be back to work full time. In Calgary, I returned to the “old” me, remembering who I was pre children and travel. That was Canada’s gift — along with a huge appreciation of weather!
From the U.S. (Houston): A fantastic painting of an American flag that I picked up in San Antonio. It’s 3D and not in the traditional colors. It reminds me that America is far more layered and multidimensional that what I’d given it credit for.

You’re invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other Displaced Nation members. What’s on the menu?
We’ll have some kind of soup for starters: either Indonesian soto ayam (chicken soup), Libyan soup* (I love it!), or the Canadian version of Italian wedding soup. Though I come from an area in Australia that has a large Italian community, I’d never heard of Italian Wedding Soup — turns out it’s more of a North American thing.

For the mains, perhaps I’ll offer a choice between Malaysian curry or maybe a nasi goreng from Indonesia.

And for drinks, we’ll have margaritas. I learned to make a mean margarita in Houston.

For dessert, a caramel cheesecake — a recipe I picked up from a fellow Aussie in Houston.

You may add one word or expression from the country you’re living in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
From Indonesia: Satu lagi (one more) — I said that way to often!
From Malaysia: I just loved how you could put lah on the end of everything and automatically make a sentence sound friendlier.
From Tripoli: Shokran (thank you). It was the first Arabic word I learned and makes me think of how special the people in Libya are — so kind and helpful. Incidentally, in learning how to say “pregnancy test,” I discovered that hamil is the word for “pregnant” in Indonesia, Malaysia and Tripoli.
From Canada: Hey — kind of the same as lah in Malaysian.
From the U.S. (Houston): I found myself describing things differently. It wasn’t just “the big tree out the front” but “the big ‘ol tree out the front.”
From Qatar: Right now I’m back to learning Arabic (unsuccessfully). Oh how I wish I had a chip I could just insert into my brain to switch languages. Why haven’t they invented that yet?

It’s Zen and the Art of the Road Trip month at The Displaced Nation. Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, famously said: “Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive.” Do you agree?
I disagree. I like to arrive, settle and learn how a city/country works. You can learn so much about a place just by trying to get the telephone connected! Traveling through is just a brief picture. I love that we’ve been able to become part of a community everywhere we have lived.

Pirsig’s book details two types of personalities: 1) those who are interested mostly in gestalts so focus on being in the moment, not rational analysis; and 2) those who seek to know the details, understand the inner workings, and master the mechanics. Which type are you?
If you read my blog you’ll see there is usually a romantic viewpoint or flowery end to a posting. I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason and not always being logical. Having said that, I am a stickler for details, I hate to enter into things blindly and have to know exactly what the story is. Which personality am I in my expat life? I’m a bit of both. I don’t believe that anyone can be a successful expat without having the flexibility to change with the situation. In our daily lives as expats we need to quickly learn the rules, find out the details, go with the flow and just enjoy the ride. You have to be both.

* Libyan soup is a tomato-based soup. There are many variations. The one I loved was with lamb.

Ingredients:
1/2 to 1/3 lb. lamb meat cut into small pieces
1/4 cup oil or “samn” (vegetable ghee)
one large onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 tomatoes
1 lemon
1/2 cup orzo, salt, red pepper, Libyan spices (Hararat) or cinnamon

Directions:
Sauté the onion with meat in oil.
Add parsley and sauté until meet is brown.
Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, spices, and stir while sizzling.
Add enough water to cover meat, simmer on medium heat until meat is cooked.
Add more water if needed, and bring to a boil.
Add orzo, simmer until cooked.
Before serving, sprinkle crushed dried mint leaves, and squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Kirsty Rice 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 Kirsty — find amusing.)

img: Kirsty Rice with her family (sans the beagle) at Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, whose rather dramatic road-trip adventure has come to an end. Time to face reality again in Woodhaven! 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. Includes seasonal recipes and book giveaways. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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19 responses to “RANDOM NOMAD: Kirsty Rice, Freelance Writer & Blogger

  1. linda@adventuresinexpatland.com September 21, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Oh she’s staying, definitely. Anyone who loves both the gestalt and the inner workings is needed in The Displaced Nation (whether you all realize it or not!).

  2. Rachel September 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    YAY- Lovely interview and very interesting person. Maybe their travels will one day bring them to Brazil and I can invite her over for a playdate and some Brazilian coffee🙂

  3. expatlogue September 23, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Definite Yay! I’ve been following Kirsty’s blog for a while now, it’s the kind you can dip into at any time and come away feeling cheered but also with something to ruminate over. She makes me laugh, think and reconsider – and she makes it seem easy (which I know it’s not!!) Hat’s off to you Kirsty🙂

    • Kirsty Rice September 25, 2011 at 7:41 am

      You have just made my day. Thank you so much for you very kind words. I agree, not easy at all. It’s hard to explain how or why a succession of little incidents can suddenly have the most experienced expat in a fetal position rocking in the corner. Once again, thank you. Kx

  4. hisqueen September 24, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I love reading Kirsty’s blog. She is a definite Yay..
    Her blog is entertaining, thoughtful and educational all at the same time. I truly hope she is still in Doha in another year or so when we make our big move there.

  5. Kate Allison September 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    How could the answer be anything but Yay? I feel quite humble. A displaced friend of mine once said that people who moved from UK to US shouldn’t call themselves ‘expats’ because there wasn’t enough of a cultural difference to *make* a difference. While I feel this was perhaps a little harsh(!), in the light of stories like yours I can see where she was coming from.

    The soup sounds delicious, by the way. I shall add it to my recipe box forthwith🙂

    • Kirsty Rice September 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

      Kate you have just raised such an interesting point, one that I think is often thought about but not articulated. You’ve inspired me to write a post about this as I think there is often a badge of pride worn with the “hardship” of a location, when really who are we to judge on how difficult each individual finds each experience. Eg. if you are posted in Algeria but also have the help of a relocation person – is that harder than arriving in San Francisco all on your own?

      I have only once felt like your friend. It was after I wrote a post about jetlag and how difficult travelling with children can be when the entire family is jetlagged. I was talking about arriving at a new location. A “gentleman” who shall remain nameless and had travelled from the UK to Australia with his dog made a comment that perhaps I needed to “suck it up”. I commented that perhaps I needed to learn how to just pop the children in quarantine for a few months while I got myself adjusted.🙂

      Kirsty

      • Kate Allison September 25, 2011 at 8:53 am

        How utterly rude and blinkered of him. Even if you’re only going on vacation while travelling with small children – and you have four, for goodness’ sake! – jet lag is no joke.

        The quarantine for children, however – I think you may have uncovered a gap in the market. Unless, of course, it’s already filled, under the name of ‘boarding school’…

  6. ML Awanohara September 24, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Well, I hate to go against the tide of popular opinion, but I’m inclined to say nay. Not because I disagree with any of the above assessments. I don’t. I think Kirsty is extraordinary. She has amazing energy and gives off nothing but positive vibes — an inspiration to us all!

    What bothers me, though, is that I’ve already embarked on making the Libyan soup (bought the lamb at Manhattan’s greenmarket today) — only to realize that I’d love to be supplementing it with mean margaritas and caramel cheesecake.

    Hey, Kirsty, satu lagi satu lagi. And pls don’t tell us we have to wait for the 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle book — which I for one hope is coming soon!!!🙂

    • Kirsty Rice September 25, 2011 at 7:53 am

      enjoy the soup – I want to hear all about it!

      I’ll let you know the minute the book goes to the printers.

      Kx

      • ML Awanohara September 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm

        It’s absolutely delicious — a meal in itself! Plus the smells wafting thru my apartment have my imagination going. Right now I’m wandering thru a souq in the Middle East…wondering if I’m getting lost…

        Sigh… What state is the manuscript in right now? (Question inside my question: how much longer do I have to wait for the other recipes?!)

  7. An expat Wife September 25, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    We have only ever had to call an Ambulance twice – both times my husband was on the other side of the world in an airport!

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