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 November’s five Alice recipients.
Starting with the most recent, and this time with annotations, they are (drumroll…):
For his post: Why I don’t take pictures when I travel, on Matador Network
Published: 18 November 2013
If you’re a good photographer, by all means, keep taking pictures. I need something to fuel my nostalgia addiction when I’m trapped in my cubicle at work. But if you’re not a great photographer, put down the camera. Enjoy the giraffe.
Citation: Matt, as you may know, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, fancied himself as something of a photographer, even toying with the idea of making a living from his photos. But it’s a good thing for posterity that he decided to turn to words instead (while still leaving us with a photo or two of his youthful muse, Alice Liddell). And probably also a good thing that he left off illustrating the book; otherwise, we’d be deprived of the extraordinary drawings of Sir John Tenniel. (That said, Carroll’s own drawings of Alice aren’t half bad.) We suspect that Charles/Lewis would chime in with you and say: “Like me, you moderns should find your niche and stick to it; practice your craft and stop faffing about.” Unfortunately, though, we suspect that even (especially?) Mr. Carroll would be fatally attracted to some of our modern-day gadgetry and communications techniques, the ubiquitous cell phone having turned us all into Victorian tinkerers of a sort, who attempt to do everything from blogging to design to photography to videos without much (if any) training—a case of doing many things badly instead of a few things well. And the presence of social media encourages us to share the rather meager fruits of our labors with everyone else, as though they were works of staggering genius. Still, we unreservedly endorse your “enjoy the giraffe” campaign—so much more creative.
2) Architectural historian JANIE RICE BROTHER, American expat in UK and blogger at FH & FAG
For her post: “The Geffrye Museum and the History of the Almshouse” for the Smitten by Britain blog
Posted on: 22 November 2013
Snippet (after noting that the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch occupies the building and grounds of a former almshouse, or poorhouse):
The Geffrye is the only museum in the United Kingdom dedicated to the history of the domestic interiors of the urban middle class. . . . [I]t took an excellent collection of buildings—home for many people over the generations—and preserved not only the structures themselves but the fleeting and changing sense of home and its traditions over the years.
Citation: Janie-Rice, we love the sense of wonder with which you approach this almshouse-turned-museum. It reminds us of Alice’s excitement when showing her black kitten, Kitty, the “little PEEP of the passage in Looking-glass House”:
Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty.
A Looking-glass House, an almshouse, a museum of houses…whatever floats your (house)boat and spurs your creativity, we heartily approve.
For his post: How Your Personality Changes When You Speak in a Foreign Language
Posted on: 16 April 2012
…what happens when you speak a foreign language using the rhythm from your native language? The effect is that even if everything else is perfect, the listener might not understand everything you say because it still seems like you’re speaking a foreign language. The following video demonstrates this concept quite well. In it there are a group of Italians singing in what seems to be English, but if you listen carefully you will realize that they are speaking gibberish. . . .
Citation: Josh, we love the idea of developing another personality when living in another culture. Far too many of us internationals cling to the naive belief that we can go around the world just being ourselves. As you point out, the only way to be yourself is to adopt the rhythms of the other language/culture, which paradoxically entails acting like someone else. And here is where Alice comes in: she tries to use reasoning suited to the above-ground world, only to find that no one understands her, and some even feel quite offended by what she says. (Mind you, it was a tad culturally insensitive of her to mention her cat, Dinah, in front of Mouse, and to go on about Dinah’s hunting skills to the creatures in the Caucus Race.) Gradually it dawns on her that she must adopt Wonderland’s logic of nonsense, even if that means risking becoming someone she doesn’t recognize:
But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!
International creatives, if you take nothing else from this citation please remember that having an identity crisis is a positive sign. At some point, you will find it an asset to have multiple personalities to draw on.
4) DAWN RUTHERFORD MARCHANT, American expat in London and Quora community member
For her post: US Expat Describes The Best And Worst Things About England (a re-publication of her answer to a Quora question: What is it like to move to England from the United States?)
Posted on: 2 November 2013
Houses are very expensive and you will live in a house half the size you’d expect in the US, often attached to your neighbour and with a one car garage (if you are lucky). There are no basements, so you feel cramped and everything is cluttered—I’ve never seen a walk-in closet to date. You will cram everything into a ‘wardrobe’ the size of your coat closet.
Citation: Dawn, at this point in your narrative, we began to picture you as Alice when, after drinking an unmarked bottle of liquid, grows into a giant with her arms and legs shooting out the windows and doors of the White Rabbit’s house. Perhaps the only consolation is that with one of your arms out the window, you should find it easier to hang the laundry out to dry (another of the bugbears you mention about life in the UK). Further to which, we wouldn’t advise “giving up your arm” for an American washer and dryer. That said, you do have a point about the ironing. It can’t be easy bending an elbow under such conditions! In any event, thank you for painting such a vivid portrait of life in the UK, cramps and all.
4) AISHA ASHRAF, Irish expat in Canada, freelance writer and blogger at Expatlog
For her post: My mother was a nun
Posted on: 7 March 2013
Snippet (pertaining to the times she and her sisters would accompany their mother on visits to her former convent):
Looking back, I see that we were also entering a different culture, an insulated bubble within the larger alien culture of middle England. Like Inception—a dream within a dream. It was all very different from the Irish farm, but it felt like being part of a family, something I came to idealise later on when mine turned out to be so dysfunctional.
Citation: Aisha, leave it to you to bring us to even greater depths by suggesting that expats can find alien worlds within alien worlds, wonderlands within wonderlands, ad infinitum, rather like the mirror reflecting the mirror in Velázquez’s baroque masterpiece, Las Meninas. What’s more, you’ve suggested that a person can come to appreciate the relationships formed within these wonderlands even more than their original relationships with family. If that isn’t going through the looking glass, we’re not sure what is! Thanks for such a cosmic post, from which we’re still reeling (in a good way, of course!).
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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!