The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Tag Archives: Celebrity expats

Highlight of 2012: “Pinning” down expat, TCK, travel & other displaced themes on Pinterest

Would it be mixing my metaphors too much to say we stumbled upon Pinterest in 2012? I suppose so. But that’s really what happened.

By the end of last year, Kate Allison and I were debating about Pinterest: should the Displaced Nation be participating in a pinboard-style photo-sharing site that some commentators were predicting might surpass Facebook in popularity? Kate felt cautious about making another major commitment to social media, whereas I was gung-ho to give it a whirl.

Kate also pointed out, very sensibly, that the Displaced Nation isn’t trading primarily in food, fashion and weddings — the most popular Pinterest topics. Not wishing to be dissuaded, I reminded her of our “IT’S FOOD!” category, adding: “We also do fashion, and multicultural marriage…”

It came to pass that one day in early April, Kate, for reasons still unknown to me, took the Pinterest plunge. She told me about it afterwards and said we’d been missing out on a whole lot of fun! As anyone who reads Kate’s posts will know, for her to say something is fun is a high recommendation. “I wanna get me some of that,” I said to myself.

The bubble tea of the social media world

The first time I pinned, I was reminded, in a strange kind of way, of my first experience with Taiwanese bubble tea. Just as I wasn’t sure what to do with all the tapioca balls or pearls, I wasn’t sure what to do with all the images on a Pinterest page. But as with the tapioca balls, which proved to be chewy and addictive, so with Pinterest. It was not long before I was pinning with the best of ’em.

This pinning business is amusing, that’s for sure, as well as mildly addictive. But let’s not overlook the fundamental question. Do collections of photos that are archived on Pinterest bring more attention to issues that are important to the Displaced Nation? We’re talking not only food but expat stories, TCK experiences, travel yarns, books about the displaced life, movies about said life, and so on.

As New York Times senior writer C.J. Chivers said in a Poynter article listing the ways journalists are trying to use Pinterest:

Used poorly, [Pinterest] would be just as much as a time suck on work and on life as the rest of the Internet can be.

Two dozen boards and counting…

The Displaced Nation currently has 28 boards and has accepted invites to several shared boards, including the one for #hybridambassadors, a group put together by Anastasia Ashman, and two on travel.

The boards that get the most traffic, by far and away, are the shared boards on travel.

Why is it that comparatively few have discovered our other collections? Especially as five of those boards would qualify as a useful “visual index” of themes I would posit to be the core of the shared displaced identity.

Here is just a small sample of what people in our circles may be missing:

1) Displaced Reads
Purpose: Originally created to keep track of all the books by and/or about expats we’d been featuring on the Displaced Nation, this board has become a repository for any books we happen upon that involve global voyages or living in other countries.
Recent pins: Tequila Oil: Getting Lost in Mexico by Hugh Thomson; Beirut: An Explosive Thriller, by Alexander McNabb; and To Hellas and Back, by Lana Penrose.
Recent repin: An Inconvenient Posting: An expat wife’s memoir of lost identity, by Laura Stephens (via BlogExpat, their “Expat Books” board).

2) The Displaced Oscars
Purpose: To keep track of the films we’ve been reviewing since launching our Displaced Oscars theme last March. As with Displaced Books, Displaced Oscars has morphed into a record of all the films we hear about that involve expats, displacement and/or global travel.
Recent pins: The Iran Job, a documentary about an American pro basketball player who signs up to play for an Iranian team for a year; Infancia Clandestina (Clandestine Childhood), a cinematic memoir about a family returning to Argentina after many years in political exile; and Tabu, an experimental fiction that ranges from contemporary Lisbon to an African colony (Portuguese Mozambique) in the distant past.
Recent repin: Notting Hill from the Jetpac blog — they’d pinned it to their “Movies to Fuel Your Wanderlust” board.

3) Third Culture Kids
Purpose: To highlight the third culture kids who’ve contributed to this blog, along with other accomplished people who fall into this category.
Recent pins: Fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra, who was born in Paris to a French-Basque father and Chinese American mother, and now lives in the U.S.; Maggi Aderin Pocock, who was born in Britain to Nigerian parents and is now the BBC’s “face of space”; and Isabel Fonesca, a writer born to an American mother and Uruguayan sculptor father, who ended up living in London (she is the wife of Martin Amis, and they’ve now moved to Brooklyn).
Recent repin: President Obama, via Kristin Bair O’Keefe (her Inspiration board).

4) Multicultural Love
Purpose: To continue one of the blog’s most popular themes, especially after the momentum gained this past February, when we did a whole slew of posts in honor of Valentine’s Day.
Recent pins: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton; Carla Bruni and Nicholas Sarkozy; Martin Amis and Isabel Fonesca.
Recent repin: Becky Ances and her Chinese boyfriend, in Shanghai, via Jocelyn Eikenburg (pinned to her board “Chinese Men and Western Women in Love”).

5) Displaced Hall of Fame (Historical) & Displaced Hall of Fame (Contemporary)
Purpose: To flesh out a category that has been somewhat neglected on our live blog — not for want of examples.
Recent pins: Historical: Robert Sterling Clark, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune except that he preferred to explore the Far East; Josef Frank, the Hungarian-born architect and designer who became a Swedish citizen and lived in New York; and P.L. Travers, the Australian-born author who moved to Britain in her twenties and composed Mary Poppins in a Sussex cottage. | Contemporary: Writer and literary critic Francine du Plessix Gray; Pakistani writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif; model and actress Diane Kruger.
Recent repins: Historical: Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies, a West African royal who was taken to England and presented as a “gift” to Queen Victoria, from #hybridambassadors. | Contemporary: David Beckham, via Smitten by Britain (her “My Favourite Brits” board).

Is Pinterest Pinter-esque?

There’s such a wealth of images on Pinterest that I sometimes feel that, as in a Harold Pinter drama where what the characters don’t say speaks volumes, it’s what you don’t pin that’s more important than what you do, in shaping your Pinterest presence.

Right now we are in a period of excess — it was just so right-brain-stimulating to become immersed in the Pinterest world. Or, to put it another way: I’ve done so much pinning, my head is now spinning!

But might we move to more curated collections in 2013? Instead of pinning all of our Random Nomads onto a single board, for instance — with their food choices in another board and their favorite objects in yet another — could we give each one a board of their own, with all of these items?

Readers, we are dizzy and would appreciate your help in getting our balance back. Can you answer these questions please:

  1. What are the rules of the Pinterest game?
  2. What’s a “secret board”?
  3. Should we have fewer boards, more boards?
  4. Are there any other topics we should be covering?

I apologize if you’re fearfully bored (hahaha) but I’m on pins and needles awaiting your advice. What’s more, if I don’t hear from you soon, I may go back to pinning (yes, I’m pining away!).

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post from the author of a displaced read (yes, her works have been pinned to our “Displaced Reads” board!).

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Lessons from Two Small Islands — 4) Keep Calm and Focus on Your Core

Keep calm and focus on your core — it sounds as though I’m about to lead a Pilates class!

Is that what life on two small islands taught me — the value of doing daily sit-ups and push-ups?

Hardly. I wasn’t into exercise routines in either England or Japan, the two small islands where I lived for almost as long as I’d (consciously) lived in my birth country, the United States.

It was only after repatriating that I ventured into my first Pilates class — and ended up cursing Joseph Pilates for developing, in essence, a set of military exercises for civilians. Hup two! Hup two!

I asked around at the class but no one seemed to have a clue who the founder of this torture had been. I did some investigation and discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that Mr Pilates had led a displaced life not dissimilar from mine.* He was descended from a family of Greeks who’d emigrated to Germany — German kids would taunt him for being “Christ’s killer” because they thought “Pilates” sounded like “Pontius Pilate.” Still, he had something going for him: an athletic physique. His father having been a prize-winning gymnast, Pilates Junior was a gymnast, a diver and a body-builder. He moved to England in 1912 to earn a living as a professional boxer and circus performer. Eventually, he would emigrate to the United States, where he set up his first exercise studio for professional dancers and other performers, offering them a routine that focused on core postural muscles.

What impressed me the most about Mr Pilates’s life, though, was that at his most displaced moment, his instinct was to think about his core. That moment occurred few years after he arrived in England. World War I broke out, and because of being German, he was rounded up and sent to an internment camp on the Isle of Wight. In great physical condition himself, he wanted to help the other prisoners, who included some wounded German soldiers, stay in shape, too. He thoughht it would lift their spirits. The exercises he developed for them, for strengthening the core, were the precursors of what we now call the Pilates routine. (See, I wasn’t so far from the mark: military exercises for civilians!)

No core, no cry

I thought about my core a lot, too, when leading my life of displacement first in England and then in another shimaguni (island country), Japan.

To begin with, I was convinced that it was my very lack of a cultural core that enabled me to live in other cultures for as long as I did. What does it mean to be an American from Delaware, of all places? I didn’t have any clear cultural identity — yet it didn’t really bother me. It meant I could go with the flow.

I still remember my first job in Tokyo, which involved working as an editor in the research department of a British stockbrokers that had been taken over by a major Swiss bank.

Being a displaced person myself after several years of living in the UK, I looked forward to working in what I thought would be a mini-UN: Brits, Swiss and Japanese.

It did not take long to disabuse me of that fantasy. The Brits and the Swiss were always clashing, and the Japanese kept themselves to themselves (they probably wished they’d never allowed foreign bankers into their country!).

There were three or four of us Yanks in the department, and we tended to be the ones who tried to be pleasant to everyone else and didn’t bear grudges. A couple of us (not including me) were great speakers of Japanese so were often called on to facilitate when “war” broke out.

“Why can’t we all get along?” was our motto. “Go with the flow.”

But that was then…

By the time I got back to the United States, however, I envied the residents of the two island nations where I’d lived for knowing what they were about — for having such a strong sense of core, or self. Which, when you think about it, is no easy feat in the face of globalization!

Not only did I envy them, but I was grateful for the bits of each nation’s core that I’d picked up on my travels. These are the principles I keep going back to in times of stress, particularly when I’m struggling to readjust to life in my native U.S. — which is what this series is about.

Indeed, if it weren’t for those core pieces I’ve borrowed from other countries, I think I’d now feel like the tin man wishing for a heart, the scarecrow wondering what it would be like to have a brain, the lion yearning for courage… (Boy, did L. Frank Baum ever understand his native country!)

England would not be England without…

A couple of months ago, a group of Britophiles and Brits were debating the essence of Britishness on our site. They were responding to a list created by the gardening journalist Alan Titchmarsh (could there be any more British name than that?) beginning with “England would not be England without…”

Some were disputing the items on the list as being hopelessly out of date and romanticized — Miss Marple, daisies in the lawn, and cucumber sandwiches without crusts. Come on, what century is he living in?

Meanwhile, the author of the post, Kate Allison, maintained that Britain had become more like a mini-US in recent years.

But I didn’t agree with any of that. After spending so many years in the UK, I am ALWAYS overjoyed when encountering someone else who “gets” the part of me that’s anglicized. It means they share my need to discuss politics over a beer, my love of creamy desserts, my preference for baths not showers, my excitement at seeing fresh rhubarb and gooseberries at the green market, or my passion for public transport and national healthcare.

Now if I, a quasi-Brit, feel this way, how much more so must the true natives feel?

Japan would not be Japan without…

Likewise in Japan — or perhaps even more so, as that nation adopted a policy of isolating itself from the outside world, which lasted over two centuries. Plenty of time to develop a core of Japanese-ness.

Again, I am not a true Japanese — but I was the only foreigner in a Japanese office for four years, when I was more or less adopted by the group and taught their code of ethics. I used to joke with my colleagues and say, “I’m a bad Japanese,” as they often had to nudge me about some protocol I’d forgotten.

Still, they trained me well. To this day, I can rattle off a long list of what it means to be Japanese. Surely, Japan would not be Japan without sakura (cherry blossoms) set lunches, soba, slurping soba, sushi, sashimi, shiatsu, shinkansen, and sumo? And that’s just the “s”es. Japanese traits run the gamut from A (amae) to Z (“Zen”).

Even tonight, when I was walking down 9th Street in the East Village and heard the sound of obon music in front of one of the Japanese restaurants, I longed to hear the beat of taiko and join in a traditional dance… Now that’s at the very core of Japanese culture — and I happily went there, still would!

America would not be America without…

What is the American core? Despite Joseph Pilates’s efforts, I don’t see much of one. Here is my attempt to brainstorm a list.

America would not be America without:

  • wide highways chockerblock with traffic (at least here on the East Coast, where it’s one person, one car)
  • gas-guzzling cars
  • poor people using the Emergency Room for their health care
  • shooting sprees every so often by young men who are too easily able to buy guns
  • racial incidents/slurs (even against the president — we still seem to be fighting the civil war)
  • rudeness and the blame game (there’s so much rage here!)
  • supersized food portions
  • junk food of all kinds
  • children with obesity/diabetes
  • mindless popular culture as represented by Kate Perry, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears…
  • gridlocked politics and a Supreme Court with a political agenda
  • men in power who think they know what’s best for women
  • men in power who act like cowboys
  • religious nuts who home-school their kids so that they won’t learn evolution

Of course I know there are good things about being American — such as the freedom and openness we represent to oppressed people, our generosity in helping strangers, our inventiveness, our can-do attitude (not for us “ten reasons why not” as it was for many of the people in both of my small-island homes), Hollywood, jazz, and of course the old stand-bys of baseball and apple pie — can we also throw in some Sonoma Valley wine?!

But several of these positive aspects were breaking down when I left this country to live abroad, and now the situation seems so much worse! Indeed, our much-vaunted openness to outsiders seems to be in question now that so many states are threatening to send hard-working  immigrants back to their countries. (Strange, given that such immigrants are among the few left who carry some core-building potential…)

Why don’t we have a proper core, on which we continue to build an identity? Is it because we are too big or too new? Size probably has a lot to do with it — and the fact that we are divided into states.

Several cities/states/regions have stronger cores — I’m thinking of New York, Vermont, Texas, Silicon Valley, the Deep South — than the nation as a whole.

But our national core seems to be as hallow as the European Union’s is proving to be.

Newness, too, could be the reason our core is underdeveloped. Both England and Japan have lived through hard times, which have given their people a sense of who they are. Thus far our hard times — e.g., 9/11 — bring us together only for a brief respite, after which we are more divided than ever.

Readers, please tell me that I’m wrong — that America has a sound core, but I just haven’t seen it?

Next time I do Pilates, I’m going to breathe in thought the nose, out through the mouth, so that I can keep calm, and focus not only on strengthening my own core, but on what we citizens can do to strengthen that of our native land…
* I herewith nominate Joseph Pilates for the Displaced Nation’s Displaced Hall of Fame!

STAY TUNED for Thursday’s post, another in our “Expat Moments” series, by Anthony Windram.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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LESSONS FROM TWO SMALL ISLANDS — 2) Keep calm and learn to enjoy imperfection

I must have been born with a melancholy nature, because it didn’t take me long to work out that we live in an imperfect world.

Imagine my discomfort, then, when I realized that many of the people who surrounded me in my nation of birth — my fellow Americans — were obsessed with having perfect teeth, perfect bodies and a perfect appearance during their brief time on this earth.

“What’s that about?” I thought to myself at a relatively early age (I was around 6, already on the way to driving my mother, an eternal optimist, crazy). “We’re all going to grow old and die regardless.”

By the time I reached adolescence, I decided that the need to be flawless was my birth nation’s fatal flaw. It was our best feature — hey, no one can deny how good we look flashing those orthodontically-enhanced smiles — but also our worst. The list is long of fabulously talented Americans who have perished in the pursuit of physical perfection.

That lists always begins with Marilyn Monroe — a pretty and bright young thing who ruthlessly remade herself into a sex symbol, and died at age 36. (Among other things, she got work done on her nose and chin to create her classic, timeless look.) And culminates in Michael Jackson, for whom it apparently wasn’t enough to be blessed with good looks and an extraordinary musical talent. No, the King of Pop felt compelled to have lots of plastic surgery — even if it meant destroying his career and himself.

Endearing little imperfections (England)

It’s a pity Marilyn and Michael were never offered the chance to study abroad in England, that’s all I can say. My prolonged stint as a graduate student at a British university soon cured me of any lingering fixations on fixing my looks.

Why bother when the people around you seem so oblivious? None of the Brits I knew seemed to mind that the politicians who were gracing their TV screens had funny eyebrows (cue Michael Heseltine), dowdy outfits (cue Shirley Williams) or speech impediments like rhotacism, pronouncing the sound r as w (cue the now-departed Roy Jenkins).

And not just politicians but also British actresses seemed much less interested than their American counterparts in their looks. On the contrary, such glamorous types appear to thrive on their imperfections — Kate Winslet proudly flaunting her curves, Helen Mirren daring to be sexy despite having wrinkles.

And now we have the English singer Adele (Laurie Blue Adkins), who is fond of saying things like: “Fans are encouraged that I’m not a size 0 — that you don’t have to look a certain way to do well.”

Have I mentioned teeth yet? An American journalist once complimented the comedian Ricky Gervais on being prepared to wear unflattering false teeth for his role as an English dentist in the film Ghost Town — only those were his real chompers! As Gervais told a BBC reporter:

He was horrified that I could have such horrible real teeth. It’s like the biggest difference between the Brits and the Americans, they are obsessed with perfect teeth.

Imperfection is perfection (Japan)

And then I reached my second small island, Japan, which I soon came to see as the Land of Melancholy — and hence as a kind of spiritual home for someone of my proclivities. I instantly appreciated the fact that Japanese revere the cherry blossom not so much for its beauty as for the brevity of that beauty. The blossom lasts just a few days before its petals scatter to the wind.

The Japanese aesthetic that attracts so many of us in the West is based on this notion of flawed beauty. We’re talking wabi-sabi here — the value derived from the Buddhist teaching on life’s impermanence. Wabi-sabi stands in stark contrast to the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection found in many Western countries. (Hey, those Greeks have a lot to answer for, besides their spendthrift ways!)

A good example is the tea ceremony bowl: not quite symmetrical, rough in texture, and often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom. You turn it around slowly to appreciate its hidden beauty, a kind of diamond in the rough…

And did I mention teeth yet? Japan is the land of REALLY crooked teeth. Even some young girls who don’t have crooked teeth apparently are asking their dentists to give them a fang-like yaeba (snaggletooth) as they think it’s charming to be imperfect. Japanese celebrities too, are imperfectly perfect.

Don’t overcultivate your garden

On the face of it, the English cottage garden has very little in common with the Japanese garden — the former full of flowers and exuberance, the latter much more subdued and restrained.

But I think they are alike in one important respect: both embrace imperfection. As California horticulturalist and lover of English gardens Mary Lou Heard once said:

The thing about a cottage garden is that it is not perfect. It is not a sterile place; there is always a lot happening and changing.

Not sterile — I like that. It means that something is breathing, growing, alive…and probably imperfect. To my way of thinking, as informed by my long expat life, a row of perfect brilliant white teeth looks a bit like a row of tomb stones, and a facelifted face, like a death mask.

A Japanese garden celebrates imperfection as well — but by using elements that have a natural, rough finish. If the garden features a wooden bridge, for example, it will be made of planks of different sizes, and the wood itself will have crooked edges or knobs.

For the Japanese, the point is not to restructure reality but to embrace its quirks. That’s why they’d rather see pile of rocks in different colors and sizes than a statue surrounded by carefully landscaped bushes.

My takeaways

As I mentioned in my first post in the series, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” repatriating to the United States has been a feat of Olympian proportions. Clearly I left it a little too long! But at least I stayed away for long enough that, upon coming home again, I have conquered the part of me that says I must always be striving for physical perfection. I no longer fear looking imperfect.

Thus, while my countrymen and women engage in excessive exercising, crash dieting, and surgical enhancements, I am free to sit back and enjoy the beautiful — precisely because it is imperfect — world we live in.

This means I’m not keeping up with the Kardashians. And for a long time, I assumed Mitt Romney was from central casting, not an actual presidential candidate. (I understand he has a problem of coming across as real enough, even among mainstream Americans, which is saying a lot. If I were his image consultant, I’d suggest growing his eyebrows to look more like those of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Now that would give him some character.)

If you are a fellow American and are reading this, I suggest that you, too, try weaning yourself off our nation’s physical-perfection kick. Here are a few scenarios close to some I’ve experienced, with pointers on appropriate responses:

1 — The dentist says that in his opinion, you’d look a lot better with straight teeth. Keep calm and inform him that you’ve learned to enjoy nature’s little imperfections. If he persists, then say you were actually thinking of getting a snaggletooth, and does he happen to have any expertise in that area? If not, then whip out a photo of Ricky Gervais’s fangs to show him. (Notably, I did not take my own advice on this. Shortly I returned to the Land of the Straight Teeth, I succumbed to my dentist’s suggestion that I get braces again!)

2 — A woman stops you on the subway to point out you have a run in your stockings, or a work colleague comes up to you to tuck in the label hanging out the back of your blouse. Keep calm and tell them you’ve learned to appreciate life’s little imperfections, and they, too, may wish to get some wabi-sabi in their lives.

3 — You’re picking a mini-labradoodle puppy, and your husband wants to get the one that looks “normal,” but you like the one whose markings have asymmetry, because of her parti-colored poodle father. Keep calm and instruct your husband that the one with the strange spots is much more beautiful, and that one day people will make offers to take her away from you. (True story — my imperfect dog is perfection itself! And no, that is not her in the photo…)

* * *

So, tell me: does any of this make sense, or has living abroad for so long rendered me totally bonkers?!

STAY TUNED for Thursday’s post, another in our new “Expat Moments” series, by Anthony Windram.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Image: MorgueFile

EXPAT MOMENTS: Two Englishmen in New York

Following last month’s post on expat moments, we start a new series focusing on little moments of expat experience — moments that at the time seemed pifflingly insignificant. This week involves a celebrity encounter. No prizes for guessing the name of the celeb.

At Columbus Circle, for a fleeting moment, an opportunity presents itself.

A sidewalk collision between two pasty-faced men is avoided as both intuitively, if ungracefully, swerve to avoid bumping into each other. They are both headed towards the same crosswalk where they wait, shoulder-to-shoulder, for the traffic to stop. An observant onlooker might guess — correctly, as it turns out — from their uncoordinated, somewhat flailing gaits that both men are, in fact, English. The onlooker might also note, despite the difference in ages between these two men, that they are dressed similarly; both wear brown brogues, blue jeans, white shirts and blue velvet jackets. However, having established that this onlooker is particularly observant he or she notices more than that; they can see that though they are dressed similarly, the clothes of one of the men — the older man — are expensive and designer label whereas the younger man’s are from a department store.

As these two men wait at the crosswalk the younger man glances at the older and, though he has never before met him, recognizes him immediately. If you were to ask the younger man, he would confirm that he holds very strong views of the older man he is stood next to. If you were to press further, the younger man would admit that he has long judged the moral character of the older man stood next to him. If you were to have asked the younger man only an hour before how he would define “unctuousness,” he would merely would have replied with the name of the older man.

The younger man considers that he could lean in towards the older man and tell him that he thinks he should go “f**k himself.” But the younger man, though he would not admit it, is enthralled enough by the older man’s celebrity that he is striken momentarily dumb.

Instead, the younger man — who in his more vainglorious moments views himself as a modern-day Frank Capra everyman — thinks homicidal thoughts. As they keep on waiting at the crosswalks for the pedestrian light, and car after speeding car passes them, the younger man thinks about how the most … “accidental” … of nudges would send the older man under a New York cab.

And those few seconds, as they wait for the pedestrian light, last for the younger man the thinking and execution of a thousand “accidental” deaths, until finally there is the glow of the pedestrian crossing light and they safely cross the road before separating to go their own ways and the younger man can go back to pretending that he’s at heart a decent chap.

This post was first featured on Culturally Discombobulated

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Image: MorgueFile

Displaced Poll: Which one of these celebs should take a gap year, and where?

A couple of weeks ago, we interviewed Random Nomad Jeff Jung, a specialist in career break travel. For anyone who is considering taking time out of the cubicle — or even just daydreaming about taking a baseball bat to the printerhis site is a good place to start looking for inspiration.

But what about people who aren’t in a cubicle? What about those who already lead charmed lives that, frankly, turn the rest of us a delicate shade of pea-green?

Naturally, it depends who they are, and what they want out of a gap year.

Another career breaks website recommends you “think about what effect you want your career break to have on your career. Do you want to develop your teamwork ability, or leadership skills?” It lists ideas that will have a “positive professional impact”, such as volunteering in an orphanage, or participating” in a community development project teaching your professional skill to underprivileged people”.

The Princes William and Harry obviously took this advice to heart, and picked activities that would further their careers of following in their parents’ footsteps. Prince William volunteered in Chile with Raleigh International during his gap year, while Prince Harry worked on a cattle farm in Australia and with orphaned children in Lesotho. Similarly electing to follow her own parents’ chosen paths, their cousin Princess Eugenie furthered her career by sunbathing on the Goan Coast and slumming it in Mumbai’s five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Nevertheless, I think we can agree that the purpose of a career break is to do something out of the ordinary.  Something that you would not otherwise do, and something that will further your professional life when you come back.

With that in mind, I have some individualized suggestions for various celebs, should they decide their present ways of life lack meaning.

Snooki: Star of Jersey Shore, and now a devoted mother-to-be. Once she has birthed Little Pumpkin, though, Snooki might find it hard to remember that she was once the bestselling author of three books. (That old saying about leaving half your brain cells in the maternity ward is unfortunately true.) So a stint  of being Writer-in-Residence at Princeton University might be just what the doctor ordered. What better way for Princeton to support the state of New Jersey than to select a successful home-grown author?

Russell Brand: A bit of an unknown on the west side of the Pond until he married singer Katy Perry, Brand is again single after he filed for divorce at Christmas. Once a hard-partying bachelor and self-confessed sex addict, Brand is said to have disapproved of his wife’s party animal lifestyle. For him, I suggest a stint in a monastery, or failing that, in an ironware factory painting the bases of pots and kettles with black paint.

The Kardashian clan: A complete retreat, for everyone’s mental wellbeing, far away from the reaches of paparazzi, TV, and Twitter. However, until the Virgin Galactic program becomes more adventurous and has destinations further afield — like Saturn or Alpha Centauri, for example — this will remain merely a pleasant fantasy.

Gwyneth Paltrow: No, I like Gwyneth, really. She was great in Shakespeare in Love. I just wish she’d stop pretending to be ordinary when she isn’t. Reading her blog on how to be a regular working mum is like reading a Google translation of a Martian website, she’s so much on another planet. Her credibility as Ordinary Mum would be greatly enhanced if she did something…well, ordinary. As she lives in England, where in summer every third vehicle is pulling a mobile dwelling, and her English husband’s parents made their fortune out of selling caravans, Gwyneth should raise her Ordinary profile by spending some time going back to hubby’s roots. Might I suggest a few weeks on a stationary camp site — this one near Clacton offers an 8-berth caravan from £171 per week, so plenty of room for hubby and two kids, plus a hair stylist if she’s desperate.

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Ladies and gentlemen, may we present: THE EXPAT OSCARS! Um…hello? Anyone there?

TheExpatOscarsThe Expat Oscars — really? Now that would be an unusual event. What would it look like?

I live in Spain. Oscars are something that are on TV Sunday night. Basically, very late at night. You don’t watch, you just read the news after who won or who lost. — Javier Bardem

Well, for starters the Expat Oscars would be held via Skype. If we had our own version of the Kodak Theatre, it’d be big and posh and empty — ’cause folk from ’round here…ain’t from ’round here! We’re displaced — all over the bloomin’ planet. Which is kind of the point. If we had to collect our awards in person, that ceremony would have a carbon footprint the size of a football stadium.

So we’re streaming live on the Internet. The Red Carpet is a million pixels long and is digitally re-mastered in every country participating. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t be invited as she’s never been displaced, only her clothing! Indeed, you won’t want to make a slip-up — or down — as the clip would literally be on YouTube before you knew it.

But if there wouldn’t be any wardrobe malfunctions, we could at least look forward to getting that delicious hang-fire moment when the Skype picture freezes, and then it cuts back in, seconds later, like this:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner is…” PIXELATE — jittery jump — lips purse with a hint of spittle and stay like that — and pause — and pause —

Cut back in to rapturous applause, the digital wheeling of spotlights and we’ve got to sit through another five minutes of high-volume celebrating before we finally make out the individual giving an acceptance speech. (That’s if it doesn’t cut out again before we get that far!)

Who would host?

Milla Jovovich, you did a great job hosting the sci-tech awards for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so you’re being promoted — to hosting the entire Expat Oscars shebang! We’d love it if you’d wear that white-sequin, one-shoulder gown you wore for the main event last night — and leave the granny glasses you donned for the sci-techies at home (wherever “home” is!).

From Long Beach to Pacific Palisades? Sorry, Billy Crystal, but that’s not displaced enough. Jovovich is Ukrianian, has lived in Europe and the US, and acted in films in several languages. All of that counts for a lot in our book.

Should Milla request a co-host, it would have to be either Keanu Reeves (he was born in Beirut, a third culture kid!) — or why not go for the daddy of successful expat movie stars, the man who redefined the phrase “I came, I saw, I conquered”: Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself!

No? Well, it’s either him or Borat. With his penchant for embodying other nationalities rather too literally, Sacha Baron Cohen belongs more with our tribe than with the Academy’s. At the Expat Oscars he will be free to attend in his dictator’s uniform without having to get special clearance and can “ash” anyone he likes in the name of terrorizing fashion — the mess will only be virtual.

We’re talking a looooong ceremony

Besides, his antics might keep people awake. The Expat Oscars will have to be a long, LONG show — either that or we’d insist that everyone stay awake all night, and it would be 4 a.m. for someone.

Listen, you think it’s bad at the real Academy Awards sitting on the edge of your auditorium seat for several of hours, sipping champagne while you wait for your category to be announced — what if it’s being announced by someone eight time-zones away?

Charlize Theron*: “Ladies and Gentlemen, here to accept this prestigious award, please welcome Mr. Sung, live by satellite from Hong Kong! Please excuse the penguin pyjamas. And the fact that he’s drunk eight vodka-Red-bulls just trying to keep himself awake…”
Mr. Sung: “Fangssshhhverymussssh…hic!”
*With her South African pedigree, Charlize more than qualifies for the role of Expat Oscar presenter.

Best Foreign Language Film — is that second or third?

Our next category is for Best Film in a Foreign Language…but wait a minute! That’s not a foreign language! That’s my language! Ah…

So could we have Best Film in a Second Language perhaps? But would that category also include people who’ve made a film in their third language — or should they get their own category? And so on.

How about “Film in a Language So Obscure Even the Director Has No Idea What’s Going On”?

No politics/fashion, please, we’re expats

What a thrill. You know you’ve entered new territory when you realize that your outfit cost more than your film. – Jessica Yu, Academy Award Winner 1997 for Documentary Short Subject*
*Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brian, about a person with a breathing disability.

The traditional Hollywood bash is often clouded by politics not to mention gossip and verdicts on the gowns of the nominated actresses.

It wouldn’t be like that for us. The Expat Awards would be about the films.

Because we just don’t get each other’s governmental strife — we haven’t got time for sorting it all out.

For instance, I’m sure there’s plenty of fascinating developments in the politics of Milla’s Ukraine (they’re a Presidential Representative Democratic Republic, don’t you know!) — but to be honest, I don’t think that would figure in anyone’s acceptance speech.

How could it? I don’t even know what a PRDR is — do you?

And the fashion would be a bit more varied than in Hollywood. We’d have people walking down the Virtual Red Carpet in burkas, galabiyas — or board shorts and “thongs” for the Aussie nominees! And there’s bound to be a few unwashed backpacker types trying to get away with khakis and a vest…and not shaving. Okay, so that’s me.

And my speech — probably on accepting the World’s Most Ridiculous Person Award?

Tony: “I’d like to thank my Mum…”
Milla: “Well actually, we have your Mum on the phone right now! She’s asking where you are, and why you haven’t called her in the last six months…”
Tony: “I’d like to thank the Academy…and ask them to keep her talking long enough for me to get to a taxi.”

* * *

What else would go wrong with a displaced film award ceremony? Would the statuette be a little gold Buddha? Or a waving cat? Or a mermaid from “Here be dragons”? What would the categories be? And who would win?

Please share your craziest thoughts in the comments!

You could win…hmm, let’s see: the respect of the international film community?

Nah. Not even the real Oscars have that… 🙂

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s review of A Separation, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, by expat author Matt Krause. Krause’s book, A Tight Wide-open Space: Finding love in a Muslim land, was featured on our site this month.

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10 expat books ripe for movie adaptations

Those who have been following this blog for some time are probably all too aware of my unhealthy preoccupation as to what constitutes an expat or travel book.

Is it, as often seems the case when I browse the expat blogosphere, that expat books must occupy themselves with the oh-so-amusing hi-jinks of expat life? The result almost invariably of such approach is that we are depressingly left with another third-rate knock-off of Bill Bryson for us to throw on the bonfire.

So when considering which expat books are ripe for movie adaptations, my first thought is that the film world, not to mention the world in general — at least, the one I want to live in — really doesn’t need any more travesties such as Under the Tuscan Sun, A Good Year or — most horrifying of all — Eat, Pray, Love. So with that in mind I will nominate the following 10 expat books as being ripe for interesting adaptations.

10. A Moveable Feast (1964, revised 2009)

Author: Ernest Hemingway
Synopsis: Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir detailing his years as a young American expat in Paris socializing with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.
Film pitch: Perhaps now is the perfect time for an adaptation of A Moveable Feast. The surprising success of Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris will perhaps have whetted Hollywood’s appetite for a more serious take on the same subject matter.

9. One Fat Englishman (1963)

Author: Kingsley Amis
Synopsis: Inspired by a year Amis spent teaching at Princeton, One Fat Englishman follows the badly behaved Roger Micheldene with Amis’s typical brio. An English gentleman who is affronted by everything on the American scene, Roger fails to see how his presence might adversely affect Anglo-American relations.
Film pitch: Cast Timothy Spall as Roger and watch the fireworks.

8. A Burnt Out Case (1960)

Author: Graham Greene
Synopsis: A man named Querry arrives at a leper colony in the Congo. He assists the colony’s doctor, who diagnoses him as suffering depression. It is revealed that Querry is in fact a world-famous architect, though he is hiding other secrets, too.
Film pitch: Perhaps Greene’s bleakest work — which may explain why it hasn’t been filmed previously despite being optioned twice by Otto Preminger (Greene was said to be thankful that it was never made). I would argue, however, that it has all the material for a fascinating film.

7. Travels through France and Italy (1766)

Author: Tobias Smollett
Synopsis: After the sad death of his daughter, Tobias Smollett and his wife left England for a tour of France and Italy. Detailing the quarrels Smollett has on his journey with those pesky Continentals, this is a very funny book.
Film pitch: Yes, I am suggesting that someone should make a movie based on an 18th-century travelogue. If Robbie Coltrane and John Sessions can turn Boswell and Johnson’s tour of the Hebrides into a delightful TV movie then I think the same could be done with this.

6. The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy (1956-59)

Author: Anthony Burgess
Synopsis: Burgess’s first three novels are concerned with the character of Victor Crabbe, a teacher in a village in Malaya (now Malaysia). Based upon Burgess’s own experiences as a British civil servant in Malaya, the three novels that make up The Long Day Wanes detail the death of Empire and the birth pains of a newly independent nation.
Film pitch: Other than A Clockwork Orange, whose adaptation Burgess had strong misgivings over, Burgess’s work often seems overlooked for movie adaptations. It really shouldn’t be.

5. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010)

Author: David Mitchell
Synopsis: Until Commodore Perry in 1853 anchored four warships off the Japanese coast and so opened up Japan to western trade, Japan had been a “locked country” (sakoku) where it was illegal for a foreigner to enter Japan and for a Japanese subject to leave. The exception to this was at Dejima, in Nagasaki, where trade with some select foreign powers was allowed. This fascinating piece of history is the basis for David Mitchell’s latest novels. Set in 1799, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet details a young Dutch trader who has come to Dejima to make his fortune though he discovers a lot more.
Film pitch: The book has all the makings of a wonderful historical epic.

4. Up Above the World (1966)

Author: Paul Bowles
Synopsis: Dr and Mrs Slade are an American couple touring Central America. A chance encounter with an elderly woman leads to a tense and gripping chain of events.
Film pitch:A disturbing and intense work typical of Bowles, it would make for a deeply compelling thriller.

3. Burmese Days (1934)

Author: George Orwell
Synopsis: Similar to Burgess’s The Long Day Wanes, this novel is concerned with the dying days of Empire. Orwell, who was himself an officer in the Indian Imperial Police Force in Burma, paints a depressing picture of expatriate life that is based around the stultifying social hub of the European club.
Film pitch: Orwell’s first novel and while certainly not his best work, even a bad Orwell novel is still worthy of consideration.

2. Henderson the Rain King (1959)

Author: Saul Bellow
Synopsis: Eugene Henderson is a rich American with an unfulfilled desire. Not knowing quite what it is, he hopes he will discover it by going to Africa. Through a series of misadventures Eugene Henderson finds himself away from his original group and in the village of Wariri in Africa. After performing a feat of strength, Eugene is adopted by the villagers as the Wariri Rain King.
Film pitch: Bellow’s funniest book, Henderson the Rain King could be pitched as an intellectual Joe Versus the Volcano (or maybe not — that’s a terrible pitch).

1. Turkish Embassy Letters (1763)

Author: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Synopsis: An important writer in her own right, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was the wife of Edward Wortley Montagu, who was appointed as the ambassador at Constantinople. Accompanying her husband just after recovering from contracting smallpox marring her famed beauty, Lady Wortley Montagu wrote about her observations in numerous letters. These letters form a fascinating look at the Ottoman Empire — from how they inoculated against smallpox to the zenanas, special areas of the house reserved for women — as observed by an aristocratic English woman of the time.
Film pitch: Just think what a great biopic you could make about her.

Note: If you click on the book titles in the above list, you’ll be taken to Amazon, where the books can be purchased — except in the case of Tobias Smollett’s travelogue, which goes to Gutenberg, where he can be read FOR FREE!!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an interview with first-time novelist Meagan Adele Lopez, and her plans for turning the book into a film.

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All hail Sir Richard Branson, along with global nomads who delve into global misery — and welcome to November

The catalog for Heifer International has just landed in my mailbox, encouraging me to donate a sheep in honor of my nearest and dearest, to a family in need in Nepal, Romania, or Brazil. That family will in turn give away the sheep’s female offspring to other families in need, and so on — a benevolent pyramid scheme known as Passing on the Gift.

I get it. What’s more, as it’s All Saints’ Day, I sense I would feel considerably more beatific if I gifted a sheep on behalf of my loved ones than if I bought them yet another pair of Merino wool gloves they don’t really need. (Hey, but it wouldn’t have been any old gloves but a touchscreen pair from Muji, for using one’s iPhone in the dead of winter…)

Yet for some reason, the Heifer appeal doesn’t. Call me a hard-hearted skeptic, but I’ve always had trouble with the kind of philanthropy that poses simple solutions to complex, deep-seated problems — alleviating world hunger and poverty being at the top of the list.

A candid — or do I mean Candide? — appraisal

When it comes to philanthropy, I always wonder — is this more about you (and your need to assuage your guilt about having so much) or about them? And how much do you actually know about them?

That is probably why, when I went to live abroad, I didn’t go as an aid worker or a Peace Corps volunteer. In the UK I was a postgraduate student; in Japan, a trailing spouse.

That said, my expat life was never just about exotic travel. On the contrary, I aimed to broaden my horizons and educate myself about other cultures by becoming immersed in the everyday life. I got to know the “natives” — and even married a couple of them (in not-very-rapid succession). Ultimately, I tried to become more of an informed citizen — of the world as well as of my country (assuming I eventually returned — I did).

But saving the world? That wasn’t in my plan. Like Voltaire’s young man, Candide, I would start by cultivating my own garden and branch out (so to speak) from there.

The importance of being earnest

I suppose you could say I’ve never been that earnest.

Earnest people have a calling. They don’t have time for frivolity.

I always have time for frivolity. What’s more, I’m genetically predisposed toward light-hearted nonsense. (Despite what the Heifer International Catalog says, my mother is not the sort to enjoy having me donate a sheep to someone she’s never met. She’d rather I gave it to her as a pet!)

From my expat days in the UK, I remember a joke sometimes told of Princess Diana, that when she would arrive on one of her unannounced visits to a hospital, patients would hide beneath their beds, not wanting to be the next “victim” of her need for making the Grand Philanthropic Gesture.

I find that image amusing to this day.

Do you really want to make me cry?

But lest this post become all about me and my peculiar hang-ups, let’s move on to Richard Branson and TDN’s November theme.

Cue in 1980s Culture Club music. Rockstar businessman Sir Richard Branson has just now touched down on the shores of The Displaced Nation in his hot-air balloon, the Virgin Atlantic Flyer.

As the leading exemplar of a fun-loving philanthropist, he is about to disprove my theory that these two qualities, earnestness and fun, can’t be combined in one individual.

As anyone who’s had the privilege of traveling on Virgin Atlantic in upper class (as I did when I was a spoiled expat in Tokyo) will be aware, here is man who knows how to throw a good party.

But if letting the good times roll is a huge part of Sir Richard’s appeal, it’s not his whole story. As one of the world’s wealthiest people, Branson also believes in giving back:

Ridiculous yachts and private planes and big limousines won’t make people enjoy life more, and it sends out terrible messages to the people who work for [such people]. It would be so much better if that money was spent in Africa — and it’s about getting a balance.

Branson, of course, has spent has spent much of his adult life displaced in ways most of us can’t even imagine — in private jets, on a private island in the Caribbean, in boats and balloons in pursuit of daredevil adventure.

But then some years ago, with his 60th birthday approaching, he began diverting some of his formidable energy and funding resources to countries in need — particularly in Africa. He left behind rock bands to form a band of Elders — consisting of, among others, British rock musician and human-rights activist Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson — to work on the African continent’s intractable problems.

At Ulusaba, the private game reserve that Branson now owns in South Africa, visitors are encouraged to get involved with the initiatives he has launched to help local villages that have been ravaged by unemployment, HIV and drought. As Branson told a Daily Mail reporter:

To come to Africa and not see Africans is just wrong. A lot of the game reserves don’t really allow you into the villages but I think it’s important.

In addition, Branson is using his business knowhow to incubate and seed promising business proposals from aspiring South African entrepreneurs.

Now, Sir Richard would have earned the right of entry to our Displaced Hall of Fame by virtue of his derring-do alone — have you heard of Virgin Galactic? (It’s not too late to book a seat on the first sub-orbital space flight.) But we’ve chosen this moment to honor him as we plan to spend November looking at the kind of global nomads with the courage and the fortitude to delve into global misery.

Such travelers have displaced themselves, often to far-flung corners of the globe, not for the sake of good times or narrow personal goals but for the sake of helping others — many of whom have been displaced from their homelands through tragic circumstances beyond their control.

Not the final word

The announcement of this month’s theme is not, however, tantamount to imposing a ban on skepticism — we skeptics still have a place at The Displaced Nation’s table. What’s more, our ranks will soon swell to include some of the very people who belong to the volunteer and aid communities. They, too, can have their doubts about the effectiveness of their work — and of the involvement of celebrities in global problems.

But for now, let’s save such issues for future posts.

Which means I can now go back to cultivating my little patch of grass. Hmmm… I wonder if it could use a sheep or two, after all?

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s post, featuring the first of our philanthropic Random Nomads.

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5 proverbs on cross-cultural relations, by Pocahontas

June was Alice-in-Wonderland month at The Displaced Nation, when we discovered that Alice’s “curiouser and curiouser” adventures have something akin to the situations expats and travelers often find themselves in.

But how do local people feel when global nomads land — kerplunk! — on their soil? During July, we’ll be looking at cross-cultural communications (or the lack) with the help of the legendary Pocahontas, one of the world’s foremost experts on fostering intercultural understanding.

As everyone knows — even kids, thanks to Disney — Pocahontas was the human bridge between foreign and local cultures. She helped to connect two groups that were about as different, and as opposed in their aims, as could be imagined: the Algonquin Indians of the Tidewater region of what is now Virginia, led by her father, Chief Powhatan; and the English settlers who’d been sent by the Virginia Company of London to found Jamestown, led by John Smith.

Earlier today, The Displaced Nation performed a special ceremony to invoke the spirit of Pocahontas. She has paid us a short visit, during which she had the following to say:

Chama Wingapo. That’s “Welcome, friends” in the language of my tribe, the Powhatan. “Powhatan” by the way means waterfall.

As you may know from your studies of history, ours was an Algonquian Indian tribe that lived in the Tidewater region of what I understand is now known as Virginia. My father was their king.

Chama Wingapo. I must say, it’s a little strange to speak these words of welcome aloud. Did you know that no one has spoken our language for more than two centuries? It became extinct as we Indians declined in number, dispersed and lost our cultural identity.

Still, I know you’re not interested in the topic of our displacement. It’s just that it was on my mind when I saw you’d just been discussing what some of our descendants irreverently call White Independence Day.

But to return to my mission for The Displaced Nation: I’ve come back to give you some ideas on what building bridges between so-called “local” people and their foreign visitors entails.

Allow me to offer these five proverbs, which represent the distillation of my own experiences:

1. Not everyone you meet in a foreign land will be over the umpsquoth (moon) about your presence in their territory.

I understand you’ve all chosen to travel overseas for your own self-edification, not on behalf of your government’s colonization campaign. And I applaud you for that.

But some of the people you’ll encounter on your travels don’t give two feathers what brought you there. They will always see you as an outsider — not so much displaced but out of place. Nothing would make them happier than if you returned to your own tribe and ceased taking up space in theirs.

Still others will tolerate your presence — but only as long as they can profit from you in some way.

My people, for instance, offered John Smith land for his colonists to live on, in addition to providing the settlers with food — bread, corn and fish — all for an opportunity to trade with them.

Ideally, you will also at some point find someone like me who is interested in forging a genuine friendship across cultures and (where applicable) races. Someone willing to take the time to serve as the intermediary, go-between, guide, translator — I’ve been told that our brethren on the Japan Islands have their own unique term, iki jibiki (walking dictionary) — between you and local residents, with enough skill to ward off the impact of any poison arrows sent your way.

(While on this topic, I have a slight confession to make. I didn’t really save Captain John Smith’s life. Goodness, I was only ten years old at the time we met. What’s more, we were welcoming him into our tribe during the ceremony when I allegedly performed this feat. Talk about cross-cultural communications gone badly wrong! His life was never endangered…)

2. In adapting to another tribe’s ways, you will constantly struggle between respect and disrespect.

Our esteemed descendant Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan Renape Nation said the Disney movie of my early life “distorts history beyond recognition.”

While I largely agree with him, there’s one thing that this film got exactly right. I can’t tell you how many times I had the following exchange, not just with Captain Smith but with many of the other palefaces:

JOHN SMITH: We’ve improved the lives of savages all over the world.
POCAHONTAS: Savages?
JOHN SMITH: Uh, not that you’re a savage.
POCAHONTAS: Just my people!

Of course he (and the others) saw me as a savage, too — I was a heathen, after all!

But just like the wind that can blow hot or cold, this strong aversion to our people would sometimes change into something approaching deep love. In particular, the English respected us for respecting nature.

On this point, the Disney movie went a little too far, portraying me as the original — Aboriginal — tree hugger:

JOHN: Pocahontas, that tree is talking to me!
POCAHONTAS: Then you should talk back!
JOHN: What do you say to a tree?
POCAHONTAS: Anything you want!

Still, there is a grain of truth in that exchange. Our animism was something our foreign friends envied, and hoped they could pick up by association.

3. Romantic love for a person of another culture often has tangled roots.

I should know as I was married twice — once to a fellow Algonquian, and the second time to an English settler by the name of John Rolfe. (No, I was not in love with John Smith — another Disney distortion. I loved him as a father, though.)

Did you know that John Rolfe fretted for several weeks over whether to marry me because I wasn’t a Christian? In the end, I converted and gave myself a Christian name, Rebecca.

At the same time, though, John worshiped the ground I walked on. I was his exotic Indian princess. But sometimes I thought he was more in love with the idea of me as a Noble Savage (rather literally!) than with who I was as a person.

4. When a man or woman moves away from his tribe, opportunities await.

I offer up this proverb for any locals who are considering marriages to foreign visitors.

Thanks to my marriage to John Rolfe, I was able to expand my world far beyond its original boundaries. In the spring of 1616, I, Rebecca Rolfe, took a sea voyage to London as a guest of the Virginia Company. They presented me in all my finery to King James I and the best of London society.

But what is life? The flash of a firefly in the night. I fell ill and died just as we set out on the voyage home. In my memory, the English erected a life-size bronze statue of me at St George’s Church — which you can visit to this day.

Not bad for someone who trod upon this earth a mere 22 years… As I understand it, most people must wait many many umpsquoth before being appointed as the ambassador for their nation.

5. Be ever-watchful of the child whom others may judge harshly because of a mixed heritage.

I had just one child, Thomas Rolfe, who was born to me and John just before we left for England. It’s to my regret that I didn’t live long enough to shield him from the inevitable prejudices shown against Indian-white “mixed-bloods.”

That said, he appears to have thrived, even without my help. Among those who claim descent from Thomas today are several of Virginia’s First Families and the wife of one of your presidents, Nancy Reagan — a strong woman if there ever was one.

The limb doesn’t fall far from the tree!

+ + +

Cheskchamay (all friends), I wish you well on your travels, and I bid you, go in e-wee-ne-tu (peace).

There is one Native American precept that lies beneath all five of these proverbs:

“Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins.”

If you remember only this from our encounter, your journey will be a fruitful one.

* * *

Thank you, Pocahontas!

Question: Readers, do you have any responses to Pocahontas’s proverbs — anything to add from your own experiences?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s RANDOM NOMAD interview, in which our special guest will answer a Pocahontas-related question.

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In search of 007th heaven: A travel yarn in three parts (Part 3)

We welcome back Sebastian Doggart for the final installment of his story about the pilgrimage he made to Goldeneye, the Jamaican coastal retreat where Ian Fleming wrote all the James Bond novels. In Part 1, Sebastian reports on his clever ploy to gain admission to the birthplace of James Bond. In Part 2, he registers disappointment at the conversion of Goldeneye into GoldenEye, a soulless bolt-hole for the rich and famous. In this final part, he tracks down the original locations where some famous scenes in two early Bond films were shot.

Back on the cactus-studded road, fortified with a cup of 007’s favorite Blue Mountain coffee, I — along with my two Bond girls: my lovely girlfriend, Emily, and our cheeky six-month-old daughter, Alma — renewed the quest to find some legitimate traces of Britain’s greatest spy.

The movie that pays greatest tribute to Fleming’s love for Jamaica is Dr. No (1962). Filmed just outside the island’s capital city, Kingston, on the south coast, Dr. No features the first Bond car chase, as glimpsed in the film’s original trailer. (Notably, I did not encourage our red-eyed Jamaican driver to hit the accelerator and, for Alma’s sake, was relieved to see a large blue traffic safety sign saying: “SPEED KILLS. Don’t be in a hurry to eternity”.)

Also as glimpsed in this trailer, Dr. No also introduced the world to the first Bond Girl: Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder — emerging from the waves, cuddling a conch shell.

No matter that her voice was dubbed in the final film, Ms. Andress in a bikini was a vision that launched a million erotic fantasies, including my own. The beach where this iconic scene was filmed is as hard to reach today as it was for Bond in the movie. Located four miles west of Ocho Ríos, behind the Roaring River generating station, on a privately owned, rentable estate, it is approached by an unmarked track that ends at a security gate. The Laughing Waters stream — in which Bond and Honey concealed themselves — still pours into the sea.

But Bond and Honey’s actual hiding place is now a very unromantic drainage ditch.

In both the movie and the book, Honey’s beach lies on the island of Crab Key, which is Dr. No’s well-appointed hide-out. Bond and Honey make their way from the beach, through a lush forest, where they find a stunning waterfall in which to wash off.

I would do the same thing…

The cascade used for the movie is now one of Jamaica’s top tourist attractions, Dunn’s River Falls. As we reached this reputedly picturesque spot, the first thing we noticed were grotesque conga lines of cruise-ship passengers — mainly American, but with a large smattering of Chinese — clambering over the rocks. How I wished I’d had a Walther PPK pistol to silence the tour-guides as they orchestrated raucous football chants.

(Afterwards, Alma exacted her own ruthless revenge on the commercialized desecration of the waterfall. As we were waiting for our driver to pull up, a septuagenarian American couple, all sunhats and positive energy, approached us. Alma served up her gummiest, sweetest grin to the lady, whose tired face melted. “Awww,” she cooed, “you are the cuutest ba–“, at which moment she stumbled sharply and fell face first on to the asphalt. A blackish red liquid oozed from her mouth. Emily shielded Alma’s gaze from the horror. The husband yelled for help. A call went out to out to an ambulance, which — do they have one permanently stationed at the Falls to handle tourists tumbling down the rocks? — arrived within minutes. The lady was carried into the back of the ambulance, as her husband asked a fellow cruise passenger to tell the captain not to leave until she had been patched up and discharged.)

Dr. Julius No’s lair was where he entertained Bond and Honey for dinner…and concealed the laser that could disable American missiles. It also contained the nuclear reactor where he would meet his death, sinking into the boiling liquid from which he was unable to escape because of his metal hands.

The building used for the reactor’s exterior is a bauxite plant that sits beside the main road on the crescent harbor of Discovery Bay. It’s owned and operated by the American company Kaiser. Beneath its russet-stained dome is where the “red gold” that is Jamaica’s second-leading money earner after tourism is transformed into aluminium for export to U.S. refineries.

The other movie where Jamaica plays a major role is Live and Let Die (1974), the first film to star Roger Moore as James Bond.

Jamaica stands in as the Louisiana bayou for the classic scene in the crocodile farm owned by the evil Mr. Big. In the film, Mr. Big’s real name is Kananga, which was taken from real-life crocodile wrangler Ross Kananga, who was the double for Moore in the scene where Bond escapes by running over a phalanx of crocodiles.

In this clip you can see all five takes of Kananga performing this perilous stunt for Moore. The location was an actual crocodile farm called Swamp Safari, near the town of Falmouth. (It was being refurbished when we visited and is due to re-open next year.)

In Live and Let Die, Jamaica is also the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique. In the original novel, Bond comes here to track down what his MI6 boss, M, believes to be a stash of gold that was originally amassed by the notorious pirate Henry Morgan, himself an early foreign resident of Jamaica. That gold was being used by the criminal network SMERSH to fund nefarious activities in America.

In the movie, Kananga’s base was conceived of as a cathedral-like cave beneath a cemetery. It was here where the infamous drug lord kept his submarine. And it was here, in a shark-infested lagoon, that Moore kills Kananga by stuffing a bullet of compressed air down his throat, causing him to explode.

The Kananga scenes were shot in the real-life Green Grotto and Runaway Caves near Discovery Bay. They comprise a network of limestone caves and a limpid lake, 120 feet below sea level. Originally a Taíno place of worship, the caves had a recent incarnation as a nightclub — but after revelers damaged the stalactites, it was closed down. Today, tour guides are scrupulously protective of the green algae on the walls.

As my Bond girls and I wound up our 007 tour and headed back to New York, I was re-energized to write my own Bond novel. It will begin with our hero discovering that his mother, whom he has not seen since he was very young, is alive but has been kidnapped by a mysterious criminal gang.

With Bond’s fascination for women clearly linked to an Oedipal complex and an impossible love for his mother, this will set up the highest stakes of any 007 story ever. In an extraordinary final twist, his mother will be revealed as none other than…M herself!

M for Mummy! Genius!

What do you think? Will this effectively reboot the Bond franchise?

img: The intrepid Sebastian Doggart with his equally intrepid “Bond girls,” girlfriend Emily and their daughter Alma, snapped in front of Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica, with conga lines of cruise-ship passengers in the background.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, who, having just said good-bye to her London home, is about to embark on her long-anticipated relocation adventure.

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