As subscribers to our weekly newsletter will hopefully have noticed by now, each week our Displaced Dispatch presents an “Alice Award” to a writer who we think has a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of the displaced life of global residency and travel. Not only that, but this person has used their befuddlement as a spur to creativity. He or she qualifies as an “international creative.”
Today’s post honors May’s four Alice recipients, beginning with the most recent and this time including citations.
So, without further ado: The May 2013 Alices go to (drumroll…):
1) ADAM GROFFMAN, travel blogger and expat
Source: “How a children’s book inspired my wanderlust” in Travels of Adam
Posted on: 13 April 2013
You see, what I loved about this book as a kid is the focus on architecture and food in this utopian society. Each family is responsible for bringing a country’s culture to the island nation.
Citation: Many of us at the Displaced Nation attribute our abilities to tolerate and even embrace life abroad (the strange foods and drinks, the loneliness, the largely incomprehensible rules) from having taken to heart Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, as kids. A good dose of literary nonsense has taken us a long way, and even to this day, we appreciate having recourse to Lewis Carroll’s great works to make sense of our rather curious lifestyles in countries other than those in which we were born.
Adam, we understand that you quit your job in Boston to travel the world and that you trace your own wanderlust to the 1947 American children’s book The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois, a story that in some ways is even more fanciful than Alice’s.
For those who don’t know it: The book begins when a schoolteacher, Professor William Waterman Sherman, becomes bored with his life and sets off on a journey in a hot air balloon called The Globe. He hopes the wind will blow him and his balloon all around the world. But instead he has a crash landing on the mysterious island of Krakatoa (Indonesia), where he discovers a utopian society started up by a group of wealthy families. Each family owns a restaurant of different types of foreign foods and all members of the island eat together at a different house, full of fantastic inventions, every night. Krakatoa being a volcanic island, the families are aware of the danger that the volcano could erupt at any moment (in fact its volcanoes erupted in 1883). Their escape plan consists of a platform made of balloons…
Adam, we love the idea of emulating a fictional character who favors balloon travel—the kind that begins without regard to speed and without a destination in mind. It’s also romantic to think that you expect to find, at best, utopianism, at worst, good food, in the course of your world wanderings. Perhaps it accounts for why you’ve landed your own “balloon” in Berlin, Germany’s creative capital and a city renowned for its architecture (only, how is the food there?).
2) TRACY SLATER, expat writer, author and blogger
Source: “What Does Home Mean When You Live Abroad?” in The Good Shufu
Posted on: 8 May 2013
I know how easy it is, when we live overseas, to lose our gimlet eye about home: to romanticize it, to see it as a kind of lost Eden, a place where we wouldn’t suffer the same disappointments or lonelinesses or defeats that we suffer in our expat lives.
Citation: Tracy, we would add to that something we learned from Alice, which is that part of the reason for cherishing the memory of home so much is that you can’t easily share what you love about it with the people you encounter in your new place. Alice experiences this when trying to talk about her beloved cat, Dinah, with the Wonderland creatures:
“I wish I hadn’t mentioned Dinah!” she said to herself in a melancholy tone. “Nobody seems to like her, down here, and I’m sure she’s the best cat in the world! Oh, my dear Dinah! I wonder if I shall ever see you any more!” And here poor Alice began to cry again, for she felt very lonely and low-spirited.
We also find inspiring your quote from the Egyptian writer and thinker André Aciman, that all exiles impulsively look for their homeland abroad. Even poor Alice suffered from that affliction—recall her trying to make herself at home at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, only to discover it is a less than civil gathering to what she is used to. First she is told there is no room for her at the table; then when she sits anyway, that her hair needs cutting. She is offered wine even though there isn’t any, and told to take more tea even though she hasn’t had any.
In fact, some of us can relate quite directly to this need to feel at home via a good cup of tea. TDN writer Kate Allison, for instance, has lived in the United States for many years but to this day fails to understand why Americans give her a cup of lukewarm water and a tea bag when she orders tea. And ML Awanohara, who lived in England before becoming an expat in Japan, often longed for English tea while sitting through the Japanese tea ceremony.
Tracy, we very much look forward to your forthcoming book, The Good Shufu: A Wife in Search of a Life Between East and West (Putnam, 2015), to help us make sense of such classic expat predicaments.
3) DANIELLA ZALCMAN, photojournalist
Source: “London + New York: A double exposure project”—an interview with Daniella by Austin Yoder on Matador Network
Posted on: 22 April, 2013
When [Daniella] moved from New York to London, she decided to create a series of double exposures to marry the spirit of both cities based on a combination of negative space, color, and contrast. Daniella’s double exposures create beautiful imaginary landscapes, and are captured entirely with her iPhone 4s.
“When I got to London, I knew that I wanted to capture not just the sensation of leaving NYC, but also of exploring a new city and making that environment feel like home.”
Citation: Daniella, we are enchanted by your idea of creating a composite of your beloved home city (New York) with your adopted city (London) to come up with an imaginary landscape. Indeed, we think it must be akin to the process Lewis Carroll used when creating Alice’s Wonderland—blending the bucolic English countryside surrounding Alice (she is sitting on the river bank considering making a daisy chain when the White Rabbit first appears) with the curious world that exists at the bottom of the rabbit hole, the familiar with the unfamiliar. When Alice awakens and reports her dream to her sister, the sister “half-believes” herself to be in Wonderland—if only she can suspend her disbelief for long enough to the sheep-bells tinkling in the distance as rattling teacups, the voice of the shepherd boy as the Queen’s shrill cries, and the lowing of the cattle in the distance as the Mock Turtle’s heavy sobs…
4) “SARAH SOMEWHERE”, world traveler and blogger
Source: “On Freedom” in Sarah Somewhere blog
Posted on: 29 April 2013
I am not, by nature, a free spirit. I’m a worrier, a control freak and a chronic people pleaser. Letting go and trusting in the universe’s plan for me is not my default setting, nor is being content with what I have rather than continually striving for more. I still need some practice.
Citation: Sarah, your struggle with living life in the moment in Mexico puts us in mind of Alice, who, is constantly worrying about the impression she is leaving on the Wonderland residents, and finds it a challenge to enjoy the moment in a place as curious as Wonderland. We wish you luck in finding that sweet spot between total personal freedom and societal obligations. And, taking our cue from Alice’s sister, we envision a day when you’ll be telling stories about your adventures in Southeast Asia, China, Mexico and India to a group of children and inspiring them to follow their unique destinies:
she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.
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So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, and do you have any posts you’d like to see among June’s Alice Awards? We’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t miss out on these weekly sources of inspiration. Get on our subscription list now!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another Jack the Hack column…
Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance whether you’re one of our Alice Award winners, sign up to receive The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with news of book giveaways, future posts, and of course, our weekly Alice Award!. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!
Hey, thanks Displaced Dispatchers! I’m honored by your Alice award. And I love the image of ML Awanohara longing for English tea while sitting through a Japanese tea ceremony. It reminds me of how in Osaka I always long for good old American sushi (spicy tuna rolls, avacado and shrimp tempura rolls, etc.), much to the horror of my Japanese husband… In any case, really appreciate your thoughtful response to my post and your generosity in highlighting it. And your kind words about my forthcoming book! Sending you all my best from Japan,
Tracy, it’s an honor to have you here at the Displaced Nation! Good story about the American sushi — I guess we always long for the thing we can’t have? I have to admit, during my years of living in Japan, I could never quite take tea ceremony as seriously as one is supposed to. Something about twirling the cup around three times — it always made me think that Japan was a culture turned in on itself! That said, I eventually acquired the taste for the mix of the bitter green tea with the Japanese sweets, and sometimes even crave it, not that I’ve repatriated. Go figure!
ML, the only time I ever attended a tea ceremony, I stupidly wore a short skirt, so I really did have to kneel the entire time, b/c sitting cross-legged was out of the question. My knees were killing me!