If you are a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, Displaced Dispatch, you’re already in the know. But if you’re not (and why aren’t you? off with your head!), listen up. Every week, when that esteemed publication comes out, we present an “Alice Award” to a writer or other kind of creative person who we think has a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of being a global resident or voyager. Not only that, but this person tries to use this state of befuddlement to their advantage, as a spur to greater creative heights.
Today’s post honors October’s four Alice recipients.
Starting with the most recent, and this time with annotations, they are (drumroll…):
1) CATHY TSANG-FEIGN, American psychologist in Hong Kong, specializing in expat psychology and adjustment issues
For her book: Keep Your Life, Family and Career Intact While Living Abroad
Published: September 2013
[Benjamin is a marketing buyer who was transferred to Hong Kong on a two-year contract. Having been through the phase of “elation,” he now finds himself in phase of “resistance,” with “transformation” and “integration” yet to come.]
Benjamin is getting annoyed by the frantic pace of life in Hong Kong, the indirectness of Chinese people in business, the crowds and difficulties in being understood. He is frustrated at the narrow choice of English-language entertainment on television or in cinemas and theaters. He finds himself missing his old friends, favorite foods, and the ways of doing things back home. Many foreigners in this [resistance] stage tend to associate only with others from their own country. They constantly compare everything to “back in England” (or New York or Frankfurt). Such people remain separate from the local community and establish their own secluded, privileged society. Many expatriates remain in this stage until the day they move back home.
Citation: Dr. Tsang-Feign, we wonder if in addition to Benjamin (who is presumably fictional) you might consider treating Alice in Wonderland as a textbook example of the four phases of acculturation? As you may recall from your own reading of Lewis Carroll’s story, Alice’s elation at falling down the rabbit-hole is rapidly followed by a period of resistance to the wonders found beneath. Down, down, down—Alice’s fall eventually culminates in unlocking a door to a passage through which yields the sight of the most fabulous garden. And her first taste of Wonderland is equally delightful: a drink that has “a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast.” However, it is not long before Alice begins to resist the local community:
“It was much pleasanter at home,” thought poor Alice, “when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole—and yet—and yet—it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!”
Still, and as the latter statement attests, even at the height of her resistance Alice shows some potential for “transformation.” And though she never quite achieves “integration” before leaving Wonderland—she always feels a bit what we like to call displaced—her sister predicts that she will forever cherish the memories of her adventures. We can only speculate, not being psychologists ourselves, that this progress is owed to her not having had the opportunity to isolate herself with other Alices, to her having had a solo, and singular, set of experiences. Does that seem a fair assessment?
2) ANONYMOUS BLOGGER at Midwest to Midlands, who describes herself as “an American from the Midwest married to a Brit living in the English Midlands”
For her post: “First a Revisit in England”
Posted on: 23 September 2013
… it has taken me a while to get back on track since returning to England from out visit in the States. What do you do when you need to get yourself in gear? This time for me, some action was needed, or rather lack of action and enjoying the English countryside.
Citation: M-to-M, we love the idea of getting over the often-rough transitions from homeland to adopted land by doing nothing and simply immersing yourself in your surroundings—we only hope you realize how lucky you are to have landed in the Cotswolds, which has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. (If you lived in, say, smog-covered Shanghai, this technique would have required more imagination.) In fact, your photographic record of your desultory wanderings—first stop, a magnificent house or two made of Cotswold stone; next stop, a tea room; next, a window-box; next, a shop; next, a tree covered in golden leaves; next, an 18th-century house with an American letterbox—put us in mind of this charming passage from Lewis Carroll’s classic:
“I should see the garden far better,” said Alice to herself, “if I could get to the top of that hill: and here’s a path that leads straight to it—at least, no, it doesn’t do that—” (after going a few yards along the path, and turning several sharp corners), “but I suppose it will at last. But how curiously it twists! It’s more like a corkscrew than a path! Well, THIS turn goes to the hill, I suppose—no, it doesn’t! This goes straight back to the house! Well then, I’ll try it the other way.”
For her post: “Thoughts on Leaving Pakistan” (her first post in a year-and-a-half, since she and her husband moved back to Pakistan from the United States, and just before they left for a new adventure in Spain)
Posted on: 4 October 2013
It was a parallel universe, where we all lived free, modern lives, like citizens of a free, modern country, utterly disconnected from the “other” Pakistan, the bigger Pakistan, and for all intents and purposes, the “real” Pakistan. Yet perhaps it was our only survival, the only way to keep sane and creative and happy for those of us who chose to live in our native country.
Citation: Manal, your deep love for your native land shines through your many beautiful photos and stories—as does your frustration about its “overwhelming religiosity and self-righteousness.” We are glad that, unlike Alice, you were able to get out of “that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains” from time to time. And a very pleasant little Wonderland it sounds, that part of Lahore where people meet up in New York-style cafés for mocha cappuccinos, and have children who dress up for Halloween and parties where alcohol flows freely. By the same token, we can appreciate how happy you were to leave this “schizophrenic” life for Madrid. Readers, we will hear about Manal’s latest adventures this month as she has agreed to be one of November’s featured authors!
For her post: Danes and Privacy—Why public nudity is OK and public ambition is not
Posted on: 24 August 2013
Shortly before I arrived in Denmark in 2000, one of the famous guards outside the queen’s palace at Amalieborg was fired.
… She was the first woman to guard the Royal Palace at Amalieborg. … Unfortunately, this young lady also had a part-time job. She was a prostitute. She would guard the palace by day and run her business out of the royal barracks in the evening.
… But she was NOT fired because she was a prostitute. She was fired because she’d been ordered by her commander to stop moonlighting after her side-job was first discovered, and she did not stop. … She was fired for not following orders.
Citation: Kay, we don’t know which experience is stranger: Alice’s discovery that the Queen of Hearts has cards for guards, or yours that Margrethe II had a prostitute for a guard. But leaving that matter aside, what’s even stranger in both cases is that the rules by which a guard’s behavior is judged are far from transparent, even after an explanation is offered. The Danes you queried about the incident told you that as far as they were concerned, even a Queen’s guard can do what she wants in her private time; but insubordination is unacceptable: off with her job! Likewise, when Alice asks a couple of the Card Guards why they are painting the roses, she gets this response:
Five and Seven said nothing, but looked at Two. Two began in a low voice, “Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a RED rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off, you know. So you see, Miss, we’re doing our best, afore she comes.”
We expect you can empathize!
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So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, or have you read any recent posts you think deserve an Alice Award? 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 installment on blogging from JACK THE HACK.
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!