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 contenders for a monthly “Alice Award,” most of whom are writers or other kinds of international creatives who appear to have 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 as a spur to greater creative heights.
Today’s post honours February’s three Alice recipients. Starting with the most recent, they are (drumroll…):
1) MICHELLE WELSCH, writer, traveler, founder of Project Exponential
For her post: “Quitting everything to go to Nepal was the best thing I’ve done” on Medium.com
Posted on: 27 December 2013
And everywhere I went, there were EYES. Always eyes. Constant staring, asking the same questions: Where are you from? What are you doing in Nepal? How long have you been here? How old are you? Are you married? Why not?
Sometimes I just wanted to “blend in” and not be reminded of my whiteness and the privileges that come with being an American…
So no, not every day was perfect. But even the imperfect days added to the experience.
One of the monks asked me, “If there is no night, how can there be day?”
Citation: Michelle, the monk’s line of questioning puts us in mind of the cross-examination to which Alice is subjected upon encountering the Caterpillar:
“You!” said the Caterpillar contemptuously. “Who are YOU?”
Which brought them back again to the beginning of the conversation. Alice felt a little irritated at the Caterpillar’s making such VERY short remarks, and she drew herself up and said, very gravely, “I think, you ought to tell me who YOU are, first.”
“Why?” said the Caterpillar.
Also, if you were bothered by all the eyes staring at you, imagine how poor Alice felt when being scrutinized by a creature with twelve eyes. Yes, that’s what caterpillars have, a dozen eyes. That said, the Caterpillar, whose one and only job is to eat (it increases its body mass by 1,000 times or more), would undoubtedly admire your fortitude in being able to drink tea with sugar and consume lots of carbs without obsessing about food or weight or calories. All told, while your post helps us to understand the charms of this South Asian land, we are still shaking our heads at the notion of monks enjoying water balloons. As the Caterpillar will tell you, water balloons don’t rate, their potential to become psychedelic hallucinogens being rather too limited.
2) AMY R., blogger and British serial expat
For her post: “Expat Life: Love Lessons Learned” on her blog, The Tide That Left
Posted on: 14 February 2014
We ended 2013 by moving to Tanzania. It was the year of learning to be flexible; most importantly to be flexible with each other. I used to be the kind of girl who needed her life mapped out, but since we started our expat life together we’ve both had to find a way to go with the flow. We’ve chosen a lifestyle that throws up the unexpected, and we wouldn’t be able to cope if we didn’t roll with the changes.
Citation: “Roll with the changes”—Amy, that’s exactly what Alice decided to do when her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table, which turned out to contain a very small cake, on which the words “EAT ME: were beautifully marked in currants:
“Well, I’ll eat it,” said Alice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!”
As you can see, in a land where cakes can make you grow larger or smaller, there is little point in mapping out one’s life, especially when you have reasonable hope of getting into the garden eventually. We’re ever so glad you realized that, and just in time for entering your own Garden of Love! (Hope you and your hubby had a happy Valentine’s Day!)
3) MANAL KHAN, journalist, poet, essayist, photographer, and storyteller
For her post: How to Make Friends in a New City—Tip #5, on her blog, Windswept Words
Posted on: 28 January 2014
So, if you ever find yourself lost, alone and friendless in a new city, wondering why on God’s earth you ever transplanted yourself in the first place: don’t worry! It takes time for a plant to adjust to new soil, a new atmosphere. But once it gets over the wilting, drooping, moping period—”transplant shock” in botanical terms—it thrives.
Citation: Manal, imagine yourself, like Alice, having landed in a garden where the flowers can talk “very nicely,” for no apparent reason:
“Put your hand down, and feel the ground,” said the Tiger-lily. “Then you’ll know why.”
Alice did so. “It’s very hard,” she said, “but I don’t see what that has to do with it.”
“In most gardens,” the Tiger-lily said, “they make the beds too soft—so that the flowers are always asleep.”
That’s some transplant shock, don’t you think? In any event, we agree entirely that the botanical analogy goes a long way towards explaining why some of us feel displaced when attempting to put down a few roots in our new culture. Until the process is complete, there is little else we can do but indulge in the occasional wilt/droop/mope, as you say. And just think, if the soil proves sustaining, we may one day flower to the point of talking “very nicely” in the native tongue…
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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 the shortlist of Alice contenders we provide in each week’s Dispatch, which are sources of creative thought if nothing else! Get on our subscription list now!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s fab post.
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