The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Karen van der Zee, Dutch/American expat in Moldova (8/12)

Current home: Chișinău, Moldova
Past overseas locations: Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia, Palestine, Ghana (again), Armenia, Moldova. (For years I was also an expat in the USA, my husband’s home country, and have dual — Dutch and American — citizenship.)
Cyberspace coordinates: Life in the Expat Lane — Foreign Fun in Exotic Places (blog) and @missfootloose (Twitter handle)
Recent posts: “Life Abroad: Of Red Undies, Sugary Pigs, and Freezing Waters” (December 31, 2011); “Expat Foodie: What to Do with Goose Fat?” (December 27, 2011); “Expat Life: Holiday Greetings from Afar” (December 26, 2011)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
In Moldova. It will be the first time ever that my husband and I will not be spending it with the rest of our family.

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
Besides spending time with family, I enjoy decorating and cooking. This year I will cook dinner for expat friends who are also not going home. We can cry on each other’s shoulders, or perhaps just have a good time.

Will you be on or offline?
The computer will be on. We may be able to Skype.

Are you sending any cards?
I send only a few snailmail paper cards. Mostly I write short personal emails, using in part a few paragraphs of prepared text, but no newsletters. Newsletters never seem to quite fit for everybody the same way.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
I wish I had something exotic to tell you about here, but actually, I just love having a good Christmas dinner and some decadent dessert. Normally I don’t eat much sugary food.

Can you recommend any good books other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
Two works of nonfiction:

1) The Last Resort: A Memoir of Mischief and Mayhem on a Family Farm in Africa, by Douglas Rogers (Crown, 2009): A tragic-comic account of the author’s (white) parents’ life in Zimbabwe in the last 15 years and the trials and tribulations of running and holding on to their resort while all around them farms of white owners are being stolen and the country is falling apart. Great read.

2) Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris, by Sarah Turnbull (Gotham, 2003): An Australian journalist falls in love with a Frenchman, moves to Paris, and culture shock ensues. I always enjoy culture shock stories, and Paris is a great setting for culture shock.

And one novel:

Finding Nouf, by Zoë Ferraris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008): A murder mystery set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with Saudi Arabian characters. I love this book because it offers an intimate look into the culture and lives of men and women in the very closed society of the Kingdom. Fascinating.

If you could travel anywhere for the holidays, where would it be?
I must be a terrible bore, but spending the holidays anonymously with strangers in some exotic place doesn’t appeal to me. However, I would love to live in the highlands of Bali!

What famous person do you think it would be fun to spend New Year’s Eve with?
What a fun question! Let me think. How about New Year’s Eve with Whoopi Goldberg? Why? Well, she’s unconventional, creative, fun, and loves to hang loose. What else do you need in a person to have some fun?

What’s been your most displaced holiday experience?
When we lived in Indonesia with our two young daughters. It was difficult to create a Christmas atmosphere in the sweltering tropics because we were used to a cold Christmas in the northern hemisphere. The year after that, while still living in Indonesia, we visited friends in Australia over the holidays. It was better, but still, it was summer there. It just wasn’t quite right!

How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
I honestly cannot pick just one. I’ve had so many Christmasses and they’ve always been good one way or another.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Usually it’s a bit of a drag to take down the tree and pack up all the decorations and the house looks so bare and boring, but then I get busy and get on with life. I do not go into a major funk or depression, fortunately.

In the past, we would be returning from the US to wherever we were living, in the tropics or elsewhere, and that sort of took care of the transition to normal life.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:
EIGHT WHOOPHIS WHOOPING,
SEVEN SKIERS A-PARTYING,
SIX SPOUSES TRAILING,
FIVE GOOOOOOOFY EXPATS.
FOUR ENGLISH CHEESES,
THREE DECENT WHISKIES,
TWO CANDY BOXES,
& AN IRISHMAN IN A PALM TREE!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s featured nomad (9/12) in our 12 Nomads of Christmas series.

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4 responses to “12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Karen van der Zee, Dutch/American expat in Moldova (8/12)

  1. Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane January 4, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Well, here we are and the season is over in the West, although not in Moldova. They celebrate two Christmasses and two New Year’s Eves, the second set is the Orthodox Christmas on January 7, still coming up as I write this, and a week later New Year’s Eve. So altogether the town looks festive for quite a long time with a huge tree and decorated streets and buildings.

    I cooked a Moldovan village goose for dinner and we had a good meal with our expat friends. Next year we’ll spend it with family again, if all works out.

  2. Anne - Music and Markets Tours January 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Enjoyed reading this Karen, and remembering our fun times together in Romania and Moldova – and Transnistria, of course! Happy New Year to you from both of us.

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