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And the April 2014 Alices go to … these 4 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

If you are a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, Displaced Dispatch, you’re already in the know. But if you’re not, listen up. (Hey, why aren’t you? Off with your head!)

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 honors April’s four Alice recipients. They are (drumroll…):

1) TONI HARGIS, author, blogger, and British expat in Chicago

For her post:  “Learn to Take a Compliment, Brits in America” in Mind the Gap, a resource blog for British expats in America on BBCAmerica.com
Posted on: 18 April 2014
Snippet:

Many British teachers admitted that they and their students found it very hard to fill in applications for American colleges because they were asked for “accomplishments and strengths” as well as academic achievements. As one contributor put it, U.K. teachers “are not very good at waxing lyrical about [their] students other than in academic terms.”

Citation: Toni, what an absolutely marvelous post! Only don’t you think you should have promoted your credentials a little more? After all, you’ve written a book called The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States, the contents of which we expect could be useful to Bashful Brits. Actually, you do refer to the book in passing—but don’t provide the title or a link. Hey, never miss an opportunity to blow your own trumpet! But listen, as you insist upon being so self-effacing, we feel justified in presenting you with this inspirational passage from Through the Looking Glass, where a banquet is being held in honor of the diffident Queen Alice, who can’t quite believe she’s been made a queen:

[Alice] didn’t see why the Red Queen should be the only one to give orders; so, as an experiment, she called out “Waiter! Bring back the pudding!” and there it was again in a moment, like a conjuring trick. It was so large that she couldn’t help feeling a little shy with it…; however, she conquered her shyness by a great effort, and cut a slice and handed it to the Red Queen.

“What impertinence!” said the Pudding. “I wonder how you’d like it, if I were to cut a slice out of you, you creature!”

It spoke in a thick, suety sort of voice, and Alice hadn’t a word to say in reply: she could only sit and look at it and gasp.

“Make a remark,” said the Red Queen: “it’s ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!”

One last word of advice, if we may: Should you feel at all embarrassed about accepting an Alice, rest assured, a simple “thanks” will do. No need to curtsey… Notably, this last accords with what the point you make at the end of your excellent (as well as thought-provoking!) post:

…when someone praises you, your spouse, your children, your dog or your house, a simple “Thank you” will both suffice and move the conversation swiftly along without too much excruciation on your part.

Again, as the Red Queen puts it to Alice: “You ought to return thanks in a neat speech.”

2) Anthony The Travel Tart, Australian travel addict and blogger

For his post: “You Know That You’ve Been Living in Japan Too Long When…,” on The Travel Tart
Posted on: 18 March 2014
Snippet:

You know that you’ve been living in Japan too long when…

  • A room the size of a cubic metre feels rather large.
  • Capsule hotels feel quite spacious.
  • Wide open spaces freak you out.

Citation: Anthony, we assume you met quite a few expats during your time in Japan. Because your inference that the longer a foreigner stays in Japan the stranger he or she becomes is spot on (and one of us speaks from a too-long experience of having lived in that small-island nation). Picture for a moment what happens to Alice after she enters the White Rabbit’s house and downs the contents of the “Drink Me” bottle:

She went on growing, and growing, and very soon had to kneel down on the floor: in another minute there was not even room for this, and she tried the effect of lying down with one elbow against the door, and the other arm curled round her head. Still she went on growing, and, as a last resource, she put one arm out of the window, and one foot up the chimney.

This is actually a case where one might prefer to be Alice rather than an expat. She at least has the ability to drink potions or eat pieces of mushroom to change her body size. But many gaijin remain permanently stuck in the White Rabbit’s house (not for nothing has Japan achieved notoriety as the “rabbit-hutch nation”). Downing the contents of a bottle of Suntory whisky or taking a bite of a matsutake (pine mushroom, prized for its spicy aroma) won’t make the blindest bit of difference. Oh, and incidentally, it’s arigato, not origato, but that’s okay as it means you didn’t stay too long—though you may want to add “correcting other foreigners’ Japanese” to the list.

3) MATT HERSHBERGER, writer and blogger at A Man Without a Country, and 4) British dialect coach ANDREW JACK

For the post: “A quick video guide to the accents of the British Isles”, by Matt Hershberger on Matador Network, which features Andrew Jack’s brilliant video (produced by Philip Barker).
Posted on: 20 April 2014
Snippet: Matt, who once lived in England, says:

As an American, I can’t even replicate the accents properly, so if I tried to ask for help distinguishing an accent from a British friend later, the best I could hope would be that I’d sound sort of like Stewie Griffin, and nothing like the accent I’d heard.

Citation: Matt, we take your point that when venturing abroad to a country where they speak the same language, it is most disconcerting when you can’t understand what people are saying because of their heavy accents—a true “through the looking glass” moment. (We fear that Brits may have some of the same troubles in the U.S., but let’s face it, you’d expect that in a country of this size, not of one as tiny as Britain.) We appreciate that you highlighted the video of Andrew providing 14 regional accents from the British Isles in 84 seconds: how awesome is that? As one of the YouTube commenters says, “good for ignorant North Americans”—some of whom, me might add, may plan to be (or have already been) expats in the UK. And we appreciate it even more when recalling that Poor Alice had no interpreter for the White Queen’s methods of communication:

“My finger’s bleeding! Oh, oh, oh, oh!”

Her screams were so exactly like the whistle of a steam-engine, that Alice had to hold both her hands over her ears.

“Oh, much better!” cried the Queen, her voice rising to a squeak as she went on. “Much be-etter! Be-etter! Be-e-e-etter! Be-e-ehh!”

The last word ended in a long bleat, so like a sheep that Alice quite started.

*  *  *

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 more fab posts.

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance the contenders for our monthly 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!

Related posts:

And the March 2014 Alices go to … these 3 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

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 honors March’s three Alice recipients. Starting with the most recent, they are (drumroll…):

1) CANDACE ROSE RARDON, travel writer and sketch artist

For her interview:  “Watercolouring Her Way Around the World,” on Linda Fairbairn‘s Journey Jottings blog
Posted on: 14 March 2014
Snippet:

“In a way, my sketchbook also helps create the moments I record in it. I might head to a café to draw a street-scape, start talking with the man next to me, and then jot down a line or two from our dialogue on the sketch itself. Sketching has become both my muse and medium on the road—it creates the very stories I love to tell, stories of connection and serendipity, and I now can’t imagine ever travelling without my sketchbook.”

Citation: Candace, we think we should invent a new award for you: a “Poppins.” Your watercolors look so inviting that we want to jump right into them and share in your adventures, just as Mary Poppins jumps into Burt’s chalk drawings. (Incidentally, we refer to the animated sequence in the movie, of which P.L. Travers did not approve, only to be overruled by Walt Disney.) Poor Alice doesn’t go down the rabbit hole because of its visual stimulation; quite the opposite! She goes down the hole due to boredom with her sister’s book “without pictures or conversations.” Our sense is that, were you to receive an “Alice,” it would need to be presented by the Mock Turtle, art lessons having played a role in his superior education:

“Well, there was Mystery,” the Mock Turtle replied, counting off the subjects on his flappers, “—Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography: then Drawling—the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel, that used to come once a week: HE taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.”

Though he doesn’t mention “water” art, it seems likely he would sanction it. Definitely he would not be a fan of our alternative suggestion unless we agreed to call the prize a “Puffins” instead of a Poppins. But enough of these qualifications; suffice it to say, we are in awe of your ambition to “watercolour” your way around the world. You paint, girl!

2)”The Expat” in Korea

For his post: “The Reincarnation Lottery,” on ExpatHell.com
Posted on: 18 March 2014
Snippet:

We may be dogs, but we are dogs with memories. Memories of where we came from. Memories of hot summer days, clear blue skies, people smiling, people laughing, wind slicing through large trees with leaves whisking and shimmering in the sun like waves washing over a million shiny round stones. We are four dogs with memories of home, and somehow, we are all going back. This is what we wail about during the pitch black nights and all we dream about during the hazy grey days.

Citation: The Expat, we have been around the world a few times so are well aware of South Korea’s proclivity for dog meat consumption. This may be why we find your description of yourself and your three mates as a pack of four large wailing dogs on a dog farm “in the lonely cold mountains and valleys of the Korean countryside” alarming. But no more alarming, we suppose, than Alice’s own sense of transformation as she progresses through Wonderland:

Alice took up the fan and gloves, and, as the hall was very hot, she kept fanning herself all the time she went on talking: “Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT’S the great puzzle!” 

A good thing she doesn’t prolong her stay in Wonderland, that’s all we can say. Can she be far off from imagining herself as a caged rabbit that is about to be thrown into the cauldron of pepper soup being stirred by the Duchess’s cook? In any case, we really appreciate your honesty in telling the story, in such a creative way, of four American men arriving in Korea in hopes of a fresh start as English teachers, only to end up “starting over and starting lower.” We can certainly see why you aspire to returning to our “dog eat dog” society here in the West. Only please promise that between now and then, you won’t land in a bowl of Korean soup, which, needless to say, will be a great deal more firey than the Duchess’s.

3) ALEX BAACKES (aka Alex in Wanderland), freelance writer and New York native on the move

For her post: “My Top 8 Animal Encounters Around the World,” on Michael Hodson‘s Go, See, Write blog
Posted on: 20 February 2014
Snippet:

Today, I seek out encounters with animals that are willing participants in sharing their space with me; one where everyone walks—or swims—away happy. . . . While I’m still not quite sure how sailors once mistook manatees for mermaids, I can now attest to the fact that these bulbous creatures move with a surprising amount of grace. Braving the chilly winter waters? Worth every shiver to share a swim with these beauties.

Citation: Alex, we are struck by how quickly you have come to the realization that, while it can be fine, even fun, to encounter other human beings on your travels, you should not miss out on the opportunity to interact with new kinds of mammals—relationships with whom could end up being much more therapeutic, especially if they’re the kind you can swim with. Alice, of course, had no qualms about swimming with the Wonderland creatures:

It was high time to go, for the pool was getting quite crowded with the birds and animals that had fallen into it: there were a Duck and a Dodo, a Lory and an Eaglet, and several other curious creatures. Alice led the way, and the whole party swam to the shore.

But in Alice’s case, she was swimming in a pool made of her own tears. We congratulate you on being much more sensible in heading Crystal River, near Orlando, which plays host to the migrating manatees from October to March.

*  *  *

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 next week’s fab posts.

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance the contenders for our monthly 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!

Related posts:

And the February 2014 Alices go to … these 3 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

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
Snippet:

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
Snippet:

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
Snippet

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…

*  *  *

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.

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance the contenders for our monthly 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!

Related posts:

And the January 2014 Alices go to … these 3 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

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 honors January’s three Alice recipients. Starting with the most recent, they are (drumroll…):

1) AMBER PAULEN, American freelance writer and copyeditor based in Rome, and blogger at Descriptedlines

For her post: “Paesaggio Interiore” (Interior Passages)
Posted on: 17 January 2014
Snippet:

Dreamers are thought to be opposite of the practical, yet I see no difference. Imagining is a practicality that we use in order to survive—an imagined outcome may prevent us from a certain action—but it also makes our lives better. Imagination is the begetter of empathy and the foundation of utopias. It is also, on a minute basis, a way of interpreting the world—the wider these interpretations span, the farther the imagination sees, the more adaptable we are, one of the human race’s single best attributes. Try to find an intelligent mind with a small imagination.

Citation: Amber, we could not agree more with you about the practicality of dreaming, and about the need to put greater value on the life of the mind. Scrolling through the endless photos of man-made and natural scenery that occupy so many travel blogs and Pinterest boards these days can have a numbing effect, reducing life to a set of exterior images—in denial of the fact that each of us possesses some pretty vivid, not to say revealing, internal scenery. What’s more, we believe that the imagination is an extremely powerful, as well as much under-rated, survival tool for expats—the key to our adaptability, as you might put it. On the days when your new life in X country is looking rather grim or mundane, you can always slip into a fantasy land, pretending you’re a royal or a hungry hyena, just as Lewis Carroll’s Alice was wont to do:

And here I wish I could tell you half the things Alice used to say, beginning with her favourite phrase “Let’s pretend.”

She had had quite a long argument with her sister only the day before—all because Alice had begun with “Let’s pretend we’re kings and queens;” and her sister, who liked being very exact, had argued that they couldn’t, because there were only two of them, and Alice had been reduced at last to say, “Well, YOU can be one of them then, and I’LL be all the rest.”

And once she had really frightened her old nurse by shouting suddenly in her ear, “Nurse! Do let’s pretend that I’m a hungry hyaena, and you’re a bone.”

2) DRAKE BAER, contributing writer at Fast Company and co-author of Everything Connects

For his post: “Why weird people are often more creative,” in Fast Company
Posted on: 10 January 2014
Snippet:

In a 2003 study, Carson found that eminent creative achievers were seven times more likely to to have low rather than high latent intelligence scores. That insight prompted her to form a hypothesis: that cognitive disinhibiting allows for way more info to enter into your conscious mind–which you can then tinker with and recombine. The result: creative ideas.

Citation: Drake, we commend you for marshalling the evidence to support something that Lewis Carroll knew intuitively, without the benefit of Carson’s (or anyone else’s) study. Indeed, the world Alice discovers when she steps through the looking glass is teeming with flaming weirdos who, while they may seem rather dim witted at times, let’s face it, are super creative. Take this encounter with Humpty Dumpty, for example, in Through the Looking Glass:

“You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,” said Alice. “Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called ‘Jabberwocky'”?’

“Let’s hear it,” said Humpty Dumpty. “I can explain all the poems that were ever invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.”

3) MILDA RATKELYTE, writer, photographer and a budding filmmaker based in Singapore

For her post: “Lessons from 2013,” in her blog, Milda Ratkelyte Photography
Posted on: 1 January 2014
Snippet:

This year I am starting with one simple resolution—slow down and find the time every single day to smell the roses. Although 2013 was probably the hardest year in my life, I am grateful to all the strength it gave me and all the invaluable lessons I’ve learnt along the way…Never take your loved ones for granted, because life is so fragile that you never know if you will get a chance to see them again. Pick up the phone, tell them you love them NOW, not tomorrow or next week. Trust me it will make a huge difference.

Citation: Milda, we have appreciated your lens on the wider world ever since we featured you and some of your photographs in our monthly column “A Picture Says…” And now that you are learning the price of a peripatetic life—living far away from your loved ones, who may be suffering—we appreciate your emotional honesty. As Alice herself discovered when parted from her beloved cat, Dinah:

Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again. “Dinah’ll miss me very much to-night, I should think!” (Dinah was the cat.) “I hope they’ll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time. Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice in the air, I’m afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that’s very like a mouse, you know.”

While Alice’s concerns are trivial compared to those currently confronting you, we wish that like her, you discover a garden of red roses (only in your case, may they not smell of fresh paint!).
 

*  *  *

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 post, an interview with some American entrepreneurs in Senegal.

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance the contenders for our monthly 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!

Related posts:

And the December 2013 Alices go to … these 2 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

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 to their advantage, as a spur to greater creative heights.

Today’s post honors December’s two Alice recipients.

Starting with the most recent, and this time with annotations, they are (drumroll…):

1) LAURENCE BROWN, British expat in Indiana and blogger at Lost in the Pond

For his post: “7 British Christmas Songs That Somehow Never Made it Big in the US” 
Posted on: 27 November 2013
Snippet:

Growing up in the United Kingdom, one of the more memorable elements of Christmas was the music that bombarded the airwaves day-in-day-out from November onward. And I’m talking huge hits, many of which shot to number one and continued their popularity some twenty, thirty, perhaps forty years after their release. And yet, as I embark on my sixth Christmas in the United States, it has come to my attention that these same hits—ones I initially assumed were likely just as big in the U.S.—are nowhere to be heard.

Citation:  Frankly, Lawrence, we were so busy lamenting the lack of attention given to Carols from Kings that it hadn’t yet dawned on us that Americans are also missing out on Cliff Richard crooning “Christmas time, mistletoe and wine…” And you have a point: Why would anyone States-side wish to hear yet another rendition of Andy Williams singing “Everybody knows some turkey”—yep, that’s you, Andy!—”and some mistletoe/Help to make the season bright…” when they could break it up with Cliff from time to time? And you are so right, the song’s Christian overtones would not go amiss in this part of the world. (Forgive the aside, but does anyone in Indiana know the words to the Robert-Burns-poem-converted-to-New-Year’s-dirge “Auld Lang Syne”, or is that a lacuna as well? Genuinely curious…) We congratulate you for uncovering some prime through-the-looking-glass territory. It’s jolly difficult to have a proper holiday if the music is missing or doesn’t sound right, as anyone who spends Christmas in Vietnam will tell you—there the bands in the restaurants serenade you with things like: “Have yourself a merry little Crease-mass.” And as Alice herself found out when she joined the Mad Hatter for what she thought would be a proper tea party:

“’Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!’

You know the song, perhaps?”

“I’ve heard something like it,” said Alice.

“It goes on, you know,’ the Hatter continued, “in this way:—

‘Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle—'”

2) JULIE FALCONER, travel writer and social media consultant, Californian based in London, and blogger at A LADY IN LONDON

For her post: Lady’s Expat Holiday Blunders
Posted on: 28 November 2013
Snippet:

I picked [a cracker] up, pulled both ends, popped out the surprise gift and paper crown, and looked up to find everyone at the table staring at me in horror. It was one of a long series of expat moments when I knew that I had done something wrong, and that nobody was going to tell me exactly what.

I gently set the cracker and its contents down, flashed my most sheepish “sorry, I’m a foreigner” smile, and waited. Slowly, each person at the table picked up one end of a cracker, offered the other end to someone else, and played a little game of tug of war. So that’s what I did wrong.

Citation:  Julie, we are sorry to have to inform you of this, but it’s time to crack on with the old cracker techniques because, crackpot as it may sound, crackers have arrived over here in the United States, at Target no less! Though the difference is that you have to show your driver’s license when you buy them because they are technically “firecrackers.” Now that’s crackers, if you ask us! Now, we do hope the English friends who witnessed their rather unfortunate self-cracking episode were a little more tolerant than Alice’s Red Queen (perhaps they thought it fitting in this era of selfies?) and let you keep the surprise gift and paper crown. In which case, you can count yourself a little luckier than our poor sweet heroine:

“You look a little shy; let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,” said the Red Queen. “Alice—Mutton; Mutton—Alice.” The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.

“May I give you a slice?” she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.

“Certainly not,” the Red Queen said, very decidedly: “it isn’t etiquette to cut any one you’ve been introduced to. Remove the joint!”

*  *  *

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 post, a TCK Talent interview by Lisa Liang!

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance the contenders for our monthly 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!

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And the November 2013 Alices go to … these 5 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

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…):

1) MATT HERSHBERGER, intrepid traveler, former expat in UK, and blogger at A Man Without a Country

For his post: Why I don’t take pictures when I travel, on Matador Network
Published: 18 November 2013
Snippet:

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.

3) JOSH, blogger at Real Life English

For his post: How Your Personality Changes When You Speak in a Foreign Language
Posted on: 16 April 2012
Snippet:

…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
Snippet:

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!).

*  *  *

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!

Related posts:

And the October 2013 Alices go to … these 4 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Dreamstime.com Used under license

© Iamezan | Dreamstime.com
Used under license

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
Snippet:
Cathy_Feign_cover

[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
Snippet:

… 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.”

3) MANAL AHMAD KHAN: Journalist, poet, world traveler, and blogger at Windswept Words

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
Snippet:

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!

4) KAY XANDER MELLISH, Wisconsin-born journalist and now an expat entrepreneur in Copenhagen and blogger at How to live in Denmark: An irreverent guide

For her post: Danes and Privacy—Why public nudity is OK and public ambition is not
Posted on: 24 August 2013
Snippet:

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!

*  *  *

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!

Related posts:

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

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