The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: David Hagerman, American expat in Malaysia (11/12)

Current home: Penang, Malaysia
Past overseas locations: Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), Thailand (Bangkok), Malaysia once before (Kuala Lumpur), Hong Kong, China (Shanghai, Chengdu), Philippines (Los Baños)
Cyberspace coordinates: David Hagerman Photography (business site), SkyBlueSky (blog) and @DaveHagerman (Twitter handle)
Recent posts: “My Date with the Bachelorette” (December 17, 2011); “Day Dreaming” [includes a work-in-progress: “The Ferry Boats of Istanbul”] (November 29, 2011)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
Chiang Mai, on assignment.

What will you do when you first arrive?
I’ll be scoping out shots as soon as I drop my bags.

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
Eating. My wife, Robyn Eckhardt, is a great cook and she always makes something a bit special, if not necessarily traditional, around Christmas and New Year. (She writes about food and food culture, and has a food blog, EatingAsia, for which I take the photos.) For example, she might make devil’s curry, or curry debal, which is part of the Eurasian Kristang cuisine of Singapore and Malaysia, and is often served during Christmas.

Will you be on or offline?
This year I will be working during the holidays. I’m shooting a hotel in Penang and a travel story in northern Thailand with edits in between. I’ll need to be online for most of that time to send images and file the story.

Are you sending any cards?
I’ll admit that I’m terrible about mailers, promotional and personal. Getting better about doing that is a New Year’s resolution.

Can you recommend any good films or books other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
The BBC mini-series Michael Palin: Himalaya. Palin has a wonderful way of having fun with a place without making fun of a place. I like it when an actor or a writer can transport you to a place and have you meet the people while not making themselves the center of attention in the narrative.

If you could travel anywhere for the holidays, where would it be?
Turkey. I’ve been three times in the past 18 months and it’s become a bit of an obsession.

What famous person do you think it would be fun to spend the holidays with?
The Ventures‘ guitarist, Nokie Edwards. His version of “Frosty the Snowman” is a reason to listen to Christmas music, and if I could talk him into playing “Telstar” as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve then I’d be a pretty happy guy.

What’s been your most displaced holiday experience?
Christmas in Southeast Asia always feels wrong to me. Too much heat, too much sun, too much Christmas for the sake of nothing but shopping. Except for the Philippines. Filipinos know how to do Christmas better than any people I know.

How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
In rural northern Italy, where I’ve spent three Christmases, the holiday felt just as it should: a time for eating and drinking and being together with family and friends. The consumerist frenzy was minimal, and everyone was in a great mood, showing kindness to each other and to me. Even on Christmas Eve, when everyone was out food shopping, there was no pushing, no rudeness, no impatience. I’d like to be in Italy again for the holidays.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Robyn and I don’t make a big deal of Christmas or New Year’s, so January 2nd feels pretty much like any other day.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:

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

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3 responses to “12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: David Hagerman, American expat in Malaysia (11/12)

  1. Kristin Bair O'Keeffe January 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    As a repatriated expat from Shanghai, I’ve got a soft spot for all things Asian. Beautiful photographs, David. Made me want to hop on a plane.

  2. ML Awanohara January 7, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I would echo Kristin’s comment. As a repatriated expat from Japan, who spent most of my Christmas holidays in Southeast Asia, I love hearing about — and better yet seeing — that part of the world again.

    But I’m also thankful for your obsession with Turkey. I’ve only been to Istanbul once, a few summers ago, but that was enough to draw me in. I very much enjoyed your multimedia presentation of the ferries of Istanbul. Are you planning to do more of that kind of work?

  3. David Hagerman January 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks, Kristin! I find that the camera takes me on journeys (as opposed to me taking the camera). It has gotten me into more situations (more good than bad) than I can count. It is the ‘silent partner’ that is somehow telling me to push myself and get closer.

    ML – Glad you liked the Istanbul ferries piece. I do hope to do more multimedia work in the future. It can be time consuming to capture and produce but I think the end result creates something that is more than just the parts. With the ferry boat piece I wanted to create a ‘desktop’ experience that would place the viewer (OK – me) in the journey kind of like one of those stress relieving ‘visualization’ tools (the ‘calm blue oceans’). It works for me..but I’m biased.

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