Place of birth: Northern Virginia, USA
Overseas history: England (Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire + Shefford, Bedfordshire): 1988-91.
Occupation: Research technician (basically I do data analysis) and part-time professional blogger.
Cyberspace coordinates: Smitten by Britain: Home of the Britophile (blog); @SmittnbyBritain (Twitter handle); Facebook page; and Pinterest.
What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I’m intrigued by other cultures and more specifically by the British culture. I have been fascinated by Britain since I was a young teen. I have always had the itch for travel and I knew I definitely wanted to visit the UK, if not live there. My love for travel one of the reasons I joined the military. I put England down as my first choice for duty station and I got it!
Where were you stationed?
At Chicksands air base (Chicks for shorts). It’s now Royal Air Force (RAF) Chicksands. Britain’s Ministry of Defense has since taken it over.
You ended up marrying a Brit, right?
Yes. My first husband, and the father of my son, was stationed at what was then RAF Brampton, which is in Cambridgeshire. At first we lived in Huntingdon, but then he got transferred to a base in Hitchin, which is closer to Chicks, so we moved to Shefford.
Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
Ironically, my brother was stationed at Chicks three years before, so it sort of felt like I was meant to go there. Right now, I don’t have any displaced relatives, but my son is a dual national between the U.S. and U.K. I suspect at some point he may move to the U.K. after he fulfills his dream of living and teaching in Japan for a year. We’ll see! It may be a case of like mother, like son.
So you and your son now live in the United States?
Yes. His father and I are divorced. We came back and lived in Texas for a year, then West Virginia. We now live in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, his father has gone back to Scotland, where he is from.
How often do you return to the U.K.?
My son and I, and my second husband — I am now married to an American! — try to go every year or at least once very two years, depending on funds and time off.
Can you describe the moment in your association with Britain when you felt the most displaced?
The first night I was in England the culture shock was horrible. I lived around sixty miles north of London in a small village where there were no street lights, and when I looked out the window there was complete and utter darkness. It felt as if I’d landed on a different planet with no signs of life. This was 1988 when almost everything closed much earlier than it does now and wasn’t open on Sundays. If you switched on the radio you might pick up two or three stations, the television had only four channels and of course there was no Internet. It felt much more isolating than if you moved to England today; it has changed by leaps and bounds in the last 25 years as far as conveniences go. I envy current expats who have so many wonderful resources available to help limit the culture shock and make the transition easier.
Is there any particular moment that stands out as your “least displaced”?
We had a great night back in July of 2010 when we met a Glaswegian couple at a curry house in the west end of Glasgow. They invited us to the pub for drinks where we spent the night taste testing different whiskies. I felt totally at home, like I had known this couple my whole life. The Scots have a way — similar to Americans — of making one feel welcomed and accepted. I can say this because of having once been married to a Scot and having spent a lot of time there. My ex-husband was, and still is, one of the friendliest people I know.
You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
My bag is always full of tea and sweets from England. I never return without them. I always pack a few British newspapers as well because my parents are Anglophiles, have been to England many times and enjoy reading them. Rumor has it that some of you Displaced Nation citizens are avid tea drinkers and readers, and that you rarely turn down sweets.
You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?
I will fix my favorite meal which is a nice Sunday roast that includes roast beef, roasted potatoes, carrots, peas, and Yorkshire pudding (I don’t do sprouts, thank you.) We’ll finish it off with a nice pot of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge, with jam and whipped cream.
And now you may add a word or expression from each of the countries where you’ve lived to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
I’m feeling peckish. I say that quite often and it always results in the odd look or two. It’s just not used here, at least where I live. To feel “peckish” means to feel slightly hungry.
Earlier this month, we did a series of posts on Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Incurable Britophile that you are, I presume you celebrated from a distance?
I watched the River Pageant, which was on early in the morning East Coast time, and then hosted my own Diamond Jubilee lunch (see photos on my blog). The food was great — we nibbled on leftovers for days! Even though I didn’t have a big party (it was just for my family), I was glad to do it to show my blog readers that you don’t have to be in Britain to celebrate properly. You can still enjoy yourself and take part in your own little way.
A couple of us on The Displaced Nation team thinks that the Queen deserves an Olympic medal for having survived almost being displaced by Princess Diana. Do you agree?
I don’t agree that the Queen was almost displaced by Diana; if she was going to be displaced it would have been due to her actions (or lack of) that left the British public feeling as if she was heartless and out of touch. However, I still don’t think she would have been displaced. Time heals and I think many of us now understand the dilemma she faced as a grandmother trying to protect her grandchildren who just lost their mother. However, as Head of State I do wish she had at least made a televised message to the public within the first 24 hours. Waiting five days was a bit much.
Americans seem to love the Royal Family. Do you think the United States might benefit from having one?
The idea of the United States having a royal family at this point is a silly one. It doesn’t fit our history or where we are headed as a country. Let’s leave that to the nation that does Monarchy the best.
Readers — yay or nay for letting Melissa Stoey 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 Melissa — find amusing!)
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in Libby’s Life, our fictional expat series set in small town New England. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures and/or check out “Who’s Who in Libby’s Life.”)
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img: Melissa Stoey at Stirling Castle, Scotland, then and now — in 1989, when she was displaced (and cold!), and in 2010, when she was visiting (and warmer!).