The Displaced Nation

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Tag Archives: Expat movies

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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A clueless immigrant’s 5 expat highlights for the year

I am not doing well with the passing of the years: they are over at an alarming rate. That we are already coming to the end of 2012 fills me with anxiety and dread. So perhaps I am not the best person to be in charge of one of those prerequisite “best-of-the-year” lists that fill up space this time of year. Nonetheless I have revisited my 2012 posts on The Displaced Nation to come up with my personal expat highlights for the year. Do join me on my existential journey.

1. “Travel for excitement, not enlightenment”

We started 2012 with a look at travel and moving abroad as a search for spiritual enlightenment. While I may possibly in the minority among this blog’s readers in finding the Elizabeth Gilbert idea of travel patronising, irritating, and misplaced, I do think travel is important. It (when done properly) broadens the mind; it can also be the most exciting thing you can do in your life. But — let’s be clear — in of itself buying a Virgin Airways ticket does not nourish your soul. That can be done much closer to home.

Now most of us can’t be as amazing as Pico Iyer — that’s just the burden we have to carry through our lives. We can’t just move to rural Japan and fetishize solitude. We will still spend our evenings in the grocery store, our weekends in the mall, they will still be those 2.4 children and those bloody traffic jams — as David Byrne sang, “same as it ever was.”

What I am going to do try and do in 2012 (and yes even though it’s mid-January I still feel it is early enough to mention resolutions in a post) is to take advantage of technology to find some solitude. I’m not going to posture by lighting an incense stick as if the path to personal enlightenment lies in sniffing in something called Egyptian Musk. What I am going to do is take advantage of the quiet moments that my everyday life provides by sitting and concentrating at a task and deriving satisfaction from that. It may be by learning programming, a foreign language, or taking advantage of the sheer, vast number of books that are now available for free on Google books. In this well-known brand of coffee shop while Tony Bennett plays to me and the tattooed man and the policeman and the baristas return to talking about the smaller one’s mother-in-law, I have on my iPad access to a library of books greater than the Bodleian — reason enough not to throw the iPad across the room when I’m annoyed by Iyer.

2. What to wear for an Independence Day party

Being British I always find Independence Day just a little bit awkward. Choosing appropriate clothing is always something of a dilemma.

Finding the Target employee that looked the most patriotic — the telltale signs are a sensible haircut, good posture, and a strong jaw line — I asked where I might find the most patriotic T-shirts in store. Leading me to a selection of T-shirts featuring the stars and stripes, it was difficult for me to contain my disappointment with this somewhat anemic selection.

“Hmmm, do you have anything more patriotic?” I asked.

The patriotic youth seemed a little confused, a look that made him seem increasingly un-American.

“I was,” I said, “looking for something with a little more pizzazz. Something more OTT. I was kinda hoping you’d have one where Jesus is cradling the Liberty Bell while a bald eagle looks down approvingly?”

3. London Olympics

In 2012, I was swept up by the Olympics far more than I anticipated. What I did not enjoy, however, was the poor coverage I had to put up with by NBC which revealed their own awkward world view.

The Games have made me homesick. My usual cynicism is no match for the enthusiasm of my London friends, all of whom seem to be attending events (if Facebook is anything to go by) while I sit watching it in one of the dullest towns in California. The opening ceremony elicited in me a mixture of pride and embarrassment — and as such, perfectly encapsulated for me what it is to be British. The ceremony also irritated Rush Limbaugh — so clearly job well done on Danny Boyle‘s part there.

4. Are you an imposter or a chameleon?

The release of a new documentary film about the French con man, Frédéric Bourdin, led to my favorite discussion of the year: what sort of expat are you, an imposter or a chameleon?

I know that I find myself occupying roles I had previously not thought I would before. Sometimes I am the imposter. I play a role that isn’t me. In my case, it may be exaggerating national characteristics and language that I feel people expect of me, but that I would never use back home. At other times, I find myself trying to be the chameleon. Trying to scrub away my otherness so that no attention is drawn to me because I sound different, or behave differently.

5. Donkeys and elephants: The US Presidential election

Here in the US, 2012 was marked by the presidential election. As a resident alien, a domestic election is an interesting thing as you have one foot in and one foot out.

It’s a strange feeling waking up on the morning of an election in the country that you live, and not voting. Equally, it’s a strange feeling posting your ballot in an election 6,000 miles away as I did in the last British election in 2010.

What are some of your expat highlights of the year? If you have a blog, feel free to leave links to a favorite blog post you may have written.

STAY TUNED for next week’s posts.

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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19 more films that depict the horrors of being abroad, or otherwise displaced

Readers, we have to confess, ever since horror novelist, former expat and Third Culture Kid Sezin Koehler suggested 15 horror films on travel and the expat life, we’ve become rather addicted — and have invited her back here today for another hit. Go ahead and indulge yourselves — it’s Halloween, after all!

Being the horror-obsessed film nut that I am — and loving how my expat/traveller life has collided with my scary movie self — I offer here are a few more honorable mentions within the three sub-genres I presented in last week’s post:

  1. The expat.
  2. The world traveler.
  3. The otherwise displaced.

1. Expat Horror: Caveat expat, or expat beware (or in some cases, beware of the expat!).

1) Blood and Chocolate, about an American orphan who goes to live with her aunt in Bucharest. Oh, and the orphan is a werewolf.

 

 

 

2) Drag Me To Hell, in which a Romany shaman in the US is evicted from her home and takes her rage out on the lowly loan officer who refused to give her a mortgage.

 

 

 

3) In The Hole we find an American student in a British boarding school who gets trapped in a World War II bomb shelter with a few classmates. So we’re led to think…

 

 

 

4) In The Grudge, Sarah Michelle Gellar gets far more than she ever bargained for living and working in Japan as a nurse, when a malevolent creature in her house begins an awful campaign of harassment, mayhem and torture.

 

 

 

5) Orphan finds us with a family interested in adopting a young Russian girl, only the longer she’s with them the more the mother suspects she’s not the child she claims to be.

 

 

 

6) + 7) The Joss Whedon marvels Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, both of
which feature a number of prominent expats — a few are slayer trainers sent over to California from the Old World (Britain), a few are expat vampires who’ve decided the anonymity of the United States better suits their feeding habits.

 

 

2. Traveler Horror: “Let your suitcases gather dust!”, cry these films.

8) In Shrooms, a group of young Americans go to meet their Irish friend on his home turf in order to experience the hallucinogenic mushrooms indigenous to the fairylands of Ireland’s bonnie green forests. He forgot to tell them that their chosen “tripping” site is also the home of a haunted and abandoned insane asylum. And that not all the mushrooms are the magic type.

 

 

9) In Open Water, two Carribbean cruise snorkelers are left behind, to be tormented by a shark. Based on a true story — and one of many reasons why I keep my feet on dry land despite now living in Florida.

 

 

 

10) In the same vein we have Piranha 3D, in which half-naked spring-breakers are set upon by prehistoric piranha that have been released through an underground fault.

 

 

 

11) The Hills Have Eyes features a family on a road trip through the post-nuclear testing New Mexico desert are set upon by a group of psychopaths who live in the hills.

 

 

 

12) Worlds collide in From Dusk Till Dawn when a reverend on a road trip to Mexico with his children is hijacked by two ruthless killers on the lam from the law after a series of brutal murders and robberies. They find themselves like fish out of water when their rest-stop bar turns out to be a haven for vampires.

 

 

 

13) When a group of friends go white water rafting in Appalachia, the idylic back country scene turns nightmare when a group of inbred locals terrorizes the group, and one of its members in particular. Deliverance is not for the faint of heart.

 

 

 

I could keep going with this sub-genre, but surely you get the point by now. Stay home!

3. Displaced Horror: “Think twice about moving or taking a sojourn outside the ‘hood” is the moral here.

14) Rosemary’s Baby, in which Mia Farrow discovers that her new Manhattan residence is also the home to a group of mad Satanists who’ve got their sights on her unborn baby.

 

 

 

15) The slasher musical Don’t Go In the Woods features a band on the verge of a breakthrough go camping to write some new tunes. Only, there’s something else in there with them that’s picking them off one by one.

 

 

 

16) Every incarnation of the Alien series brings us a group of Earth’s citizens in outer space, battling a wretched and basically unkillable xenomorph. Keep your feet on land. Save yourself the trouble.

 

 

 

17) In Friday the 13th, a group of summer-camp goers are stalked by a relentless killer. Man, this one makes me glad I never went to summer camp, even though growing up I always wanted to.

 

 

 

18) A writer on a summertime retreat to a supposedly peaceful cabin is brutalized by a gang of locals. One of my personal favorites, I Spit On Your Grave is a grotesque revenge fantasy come to life and suggests one might be better off simply working from home.

 

 

 

19) And we can’t forget one of the most iconic examples of Displaced Horror: The Shining, in which Jack Torrance, temporary caretaker of the historically creepy and ever haunted evil Overlook Hotel, goes mad and tries to murder his family. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, eh?

Happy Hallowe’en!

* * *

So, are you ready to burn your passport and throw away all your travel gear yet? 😉

And while we’re still at it, do you have any other films you’d add to Sezin’s best-of abroad horror list?

Sezin Koehler, author of American Monsters, is a woman either on the verge of a breakdown or breakthrough writing from Lighthouse Point, Florida. Culture shock aside, she’s working on four follow-up novels to her first, progress of which you can follow on her Pinterest boards. Her other online haunts are Zuzu’s Petals, Twitter, and Facebook — all of which feature eclectic bon mots, rants and raves.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, in which our fictional expat heroine, Libby Oliver, checks in and lets us know how she’s doing back at “home” in Merry Olde.

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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15 films that depict the horrors of being abroad, or otherwise displaced

Readers, we’re getting goosebumps and our blood is curdling. Horror novelist, former expat and Third Culture Kid Sezin Koehler is here to remind us that, however glamorous the life of an expat or world traveler may seem, it has a netherworld — one that horror movie makers are fond of depicting. To proceed is at your peril.

As if moving or traveling abroad isn’t scary enough, there is a whole host of films that would put the kibosh on even the most adventurous of people. For today’s guest post for The Displaced Nation, I’m breaking down these tales of terror into three groups:

  1. The expat.
  2. The world traveler.
  3. The otherwise displaced.

What follows is a rundown of some of the best horror films that will make you never want to leave home again.

1. Expat Horror: Caveat expat, or expat beware (or in some cases, beware of the expat!).

1) Ils (Them) (2006), dir. David Moreau and Xavier Palud.
In this terrifying French film, two expat partners, a teacher and a writer, living outside Bucharest in Romania are terrorized and psychologically tortured by an unknown group for days before their murder. Based on a true story, the villains — who were apprehended in real life — turn out to be even more shocking than the events they perpetrated.

My big question: Why on earth do you choose to live out in the middle of nowhere in Romania? Tragic story indeed, but really, they should have known better. Now you do.

2) Suspiria (1977), dir. Dario Argento.
Considered one of the classic horror films and what many now consider to be the father of the arthouse horror genre, Argento’s dark and twisted tale features a ballet school in Rome full of young girls from all around the world who live and study within walls haunted by a chilling presence that picks off the girls one by one. The score by Goblin is enough to give you nightmares and make you reconsider sending your children away to school. Ever.

3) & 4) Red Dragon (2002), dir. Bret Rattner; & The Silence of the Lambs (1991), dir. Jonathan Demme.
In Red Dragon Dr. Hannibal Lector is just a British expat living and practicing psychiatry in the United States. In fact, he’s helping the police with a brutal series of murders in which specific body parts had been taken as trophies. Detective Will Graham eventually discovers that not only is psychiatrist-to-the-stars Dr. Lector responsible for these grisly killings, he’s also eating the missing pieces.

The next time we meet Hannibal the Cannibal is in The Silence of the Lambs, where he is safely tucked away in a maximum security prison until the FBI needs his profiling assistance in uncovering the identity of a man who is kidnapping and skinning women.

Maybe Dr. Lector is a reason why locals are so wary of expats around the world?

5) The Omen (1976), dir. Richard Donner.
It’s hard enough being the wife of the American ambassador to the UK, but when Lee Remick discovers that there is something very wrong, very evil with her son, Damien, matters only get worse.

In many ways this is the kind of expat horror to which we can most relate: being in a foreign country, going through a difficult time, and not having the kind of support one might have at home. Even though the Thorns are wealthy and have a full staff at their beck and call, Mrs. Thorn cannot confide in them her misgivings that her son is the Antichrist — nor can she with anyone else since she’s the ambassador’s wife. In the end she goes mad from fear and frustration.

As expats, we’ve all been there. Luckily, though, we didn’t have the incarnation of Satan as our son. At least I hope not.

6) Freaks (1932), dir. Tod Browning.
This magnificent film follows a group of sideshow circus performers in Dust Bowl America — the majority of whom are European expats from all over the continent. As foreigners as well as displaying physical deformities of all kinds, this group is the marginalized of the most marginalized in America not just at that time, but even today.

The gorgeous German and “normal” trapeze artist Cleopatra finds out that Hans, the midget, is fabulously wealthy and sets out to steal him away from his same-sized girlfriend Frieda — with disastrous consequences as the group of freaks tries to bring the wicked Cleopatra into their embrace. Cleo finds out well and good that one does not mess with members of the sideshow.

The message here? Respect your local customs, even if you think them freakish. It could be what stands between your body as it is or being turned into a human-chicken hybrid.

2. Traveler Horror: “Let your suitcases gather dust!”, cry these films.

1) Hostel (2005), dir. Eli Roth.
A group of backpackers passing through the Slovakian capital city, Bratislava — it has no semblance to the real place whatsoever — gets kidnapped by an organization that sells young people to the highest bidders so that they can be tortured and murdered in the Slovakian outback with impunity. While the film is rife with cultural and geographical blunders, it nonetheless preys on a legitimate fear of kidnapping and/or human trafficking while traveling, especially for young women as we see in the two follow-up films in this gory franchise.

Kids, don’t fall for the local pretty girl/handsome boy who picks you up in a bar. You have no idea whom they could be working for.

2) American Werewolf in London (1981), dir. John Landis.
Two American backpackers (uh-oh) in the Scottish highlands stray from the road and are attacked by a wild beast. One dies, the other is in a coma for three days with horrible gashes across his chest. When the doctor informs him he was attacked by a madman he’s confused, claiming it was a wolf that had killed his friend and wounded him. Come full moon, young David Kessler finds out it was neither man nor wolf, and he’s becoming one.

There’s nothing like a story about a horrific accident taking place while traveling, especially when said accident turns you into a monster. Always remember, STAY AWAY FROM THE MOORS/MUIRS!

3) The Descent (2005), dir. Neil Marshall.
After the tragic death of Sarah’s husband and daughter in a wicked car accident, her fellow British extreme-sporting friends decide to take a trip across the pond to Appalachia for a spelunking expedition. Why anyone would think that crawling around in caves would be a good idea I haven’t a clue — let alone choose to take an already-traumatized woman into that scenario. But hey, they do. And not only do they find themselves in an unmapped cave system that has no way back to the surface, there are others down there in the dark who’d like to ensure the girls never leave.

Dear People Traveling to America: For Pete’s sake, avoid the US’s back country! Monsters are above and below.

4) Wolf Creek (2005), dir. Greg Mclean.
Two British tourists in Australia pair up with a local to check out a supposed alien-landing site in the middle of nowhere. All is fine until their car battery dies. Stranded in the badlands of Oz, grateful are they when a mechanic rolls up and tows them to his place to fix their vehicle. But oh, he’s not a mechanic at all. He’s a serial murderer who waits for tourists to come out to the Wolf Creek Crater, and takes his good time torturing them before their slow death.

The film is based on a true story — one of the British girls actually survived and made it to the authorities. It turned out the man had killed hundreds of people over decades, and nobody even suspected a thing. Shiver

5) Primeval (2007), dir. Michael Katleman.
During the Rwanda-Burundi conflict, bodies were dumped into the Ruzizi River at such alarming rates that the crocs began eating human flesh. One of these crocs, nicknamed Gustave by the locals, gets a taste for human flesh and begins hunting humans inland. An American team of journalists are sent to capture and bring back the beast amidst an ongoing civil conflict between warlords and villagers.

The best thing about this movie is that there really is a 70-year-old, 22-feet-long croc named Gustave who swims the Ruzizi. He was last sighted in 2008, but I know he’s still out there. I can feel him.

3. Displaced Horror: “Think twice about moving or taking a sojourn outside the ‘hood” is the moral here.

1) The Amityville Horror (1979), dir. Stuart Rosenberg.
As if moving doesn’t suck enough, can you imagine moving into a house that not only was the site of a brutal family murder but is also haunted? I don’t even know how many whammies that makes the scene. Also based on the true story of the Lutz family, who were terrorized by their house to the point where they fled without any of their belongings and never went back to collect them.

Word to the wise: Always check about the house’s history before you move in, and always remember to burn sage throughout, even in cabinets and drawers, before you move anything in anything at all. Trust me on this one.

2) Se7en (1995), dir. David Fincher.
Heralding a promotion to detective, Brad Pitt gets transferred to an anonymous city with a reputation of being among the worst in America. *Cough* Detroit *Cough*. His wife is miserable as she wants to have a family, but cannot imagine raising children in that town. The first case he lands is a serial killer murdering people based on the Seven Deadly Sins — one that quickly sucks both him and his wife into a horrific spiral of torture and murder.

Women, don’t let your husband drag you to a horrible city. Just don’t. Your life very well may depend on it.

3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), dir. Marcus Nispel.
A group of friends on a road trip through Texas and — oh crap! — their car breaks down. It’s just their luck that the person who finds them is the patriarch of the psychotic and inbred Hewett family, known for killing and cooking their victims. There are no happy endings here, people.

If you’re going on a road trip, stick to the main roads, for God’s sake! I mean, jeez, everybody knows that. And while you’re at it, stay the bloody hell out of Texas!

4) El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) (2006), dir. Guillermo del Toro.
Set in 1944 fascist Spain, the film tells the story of Ofelia, a young girl who accompanies her mother to live with her new stepfather, a barbarous Spanish general. Amidst the horror, Ofelia discovers a fairy world underneath the very grounds of their home, a place to which she escapes when the torture around her becomes too much to bear. But even fairy worlds have their horrors, as she soon finds out.

Moms, jeez, don’t marry jerks and then don’t agree to live in their military camp. Seems like logic to me, but I guess it needs to be said.

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So, are you ready to burn your passport and throw away all your travel gear yet? 😉

And do you have any other films you’d add to my best-of abroad horror list?

Sezin Koehler, author of American Monsters, is a woman either on the verge of a breakdown or breakthrough writing from Lighthouse Point, Florida. Culture shock aside, she’s working on four follow-up novels to her first, progress of which you can follow on her Pinterest boards. Her other online haunts are Zuzu’s Petals, Twitter, and Facebook — all of which feature eclectic bon mots, rants and raves.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, which has Kate Allison continuing our horror theme.

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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Images: From MorgueFile: Cinema; Hat and suitcase;  Bridge from biplane.

Photo of Sezin, from her newest FB page, ZUZUHULK, used with her permission.

The accidental repatriate

Last time Sezin Koehler wrote for us, she was bidding farewell to “strange, Lovecraftian” Prague, where she and her husband had lived for four years. Also in the Czech Republic, Koehler succeeded in producing her first (horror) novel, American Monsters. After a short stint in Germany, the couple is now saying hello to sunny, but bugbear-filled, Florida. Koehler describes the emotional transition.

When I left the US for Europe in 2002 I had no intention of ever again living in America. Violence, backwards politics, a horrible job market, and a provincial outlook on the world made an extreme contrast with my global, Third Culture Kid background. I am half American, half Sri Lankan, and my mother worked for UNICEF, so the family lived all over the world.

Not to mention I was suffering from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the murder of a dear friend when the two of us were robbed at gunpoint by a gang banger in Hollywood.

Ten years later and a forced repatriation determined by economics rather than desire, I am at a loss for how much worse off this country is since I left. I know a decade is a long time — but surely not long enough to usher in political rhetoric that would take this nation back to pre-1950s? My mind boggles.

One big dark nation

Gun violence has ever increased — to the point where we find so-called Stand Your Ground laws that allow citizens to kill each other with impunity, under the guise of “I felt threatened” — even when that threat consists merely of a young African-American boy, armed with nothing but iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

I’m back in the world of mad gunmen going on shooting sprees. Sikhs mistaken for Muslims and murdered. Women getting abducted and raped at gunpoint while waiting for a bus — this happened just recently not far from where I live.

Post-9/11 America has seen the sharpest increase in the infringement of civil liberties as matters of homeland security and anti-terrorism. The arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street events brought the US’s rank of journalistic freedom down 27 points, putting the country at 47, just behind Comoros and Romania.

Xenophobia abounds as states pass laws against the teaching of ethnic studies, and even literature written by Native and Mexican Americans, in schools. Such developments are exponentially more ironic when considering that this country’s immigrant history.

The worst (and rudest!) of times

After college it took me almost a year to get a proper job. Upon returning, I’ve had trouble securing even a retail job: all applications are now submitted online and don’t give you an option to upload a cover letter or even your full resume. Not only are American jobs outsourced to China, the application process has been tech-sourced to boot, as machines vet your application — even if you live right down the street from the store to which you’re applying.

I was shocked to find that retail jobs pay exactly what they did a whole ten years ago. Way to move forward, America.

America might have progressed in terms of technology; I see a smart phone in every hand. However, common courtesy has gone out the window as people text, Facebook, Tweet, right in the middle of an actual face-to-face interaction, without even a twinge of remorse.

Call me old fashioned, or a kindred spirit to Hannibal Lecter, in believing it’s the epitome of rude to fiddle with one’s phone (or any other such object of distraction) whilst another human being is talking to you.

The wheels on the bus go back-backwards.

Monsters are the best friends I ever had

To add insult to injury, I find myself in a particularly devoid area of Florida, easily one of the most vapid places on the planet. Plastic people who can spend an hour telling you about their lunch salad are the antithesis of the cultured individuals with whom I spent my time while living elsewhere.

Who would have thought the rabbit hole I fell down when I left Prague would lead to a place scarily resembling Hell, with its torturous circles and its staggering temperatures?

Each day I force myself to review the positives:

It seems incredible that the America I left ten years ago — the one that traumatized me so badly — is actually a better version than the one in which I live now.

So frustrated have I been by absurd American conservatism and the zombie hordes of consumerism around me, I’ve resorted to a new persona: Zuzu Grimm, a creature who writes wicked dystopic visions of where this country is headed if it continues down this current path of willful ignorance and fear mongering.

Bored now

But that’s not been the only struggle: For years I defined myself as an expat. My blog was filled with anthropological tales of living in Switzerland, France, Spain, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Germany. More than that: stories of growing up in Sri Lanka, Zambia, Thailand, Pakistan, India.

While I’m still a Third Culture Kid — never really at home anywhere — my expat identity became a cornerstone of who I was. It worked, and was so much less confusing to explain. The expat label made me feel ultimately more interesting. Writing a novel in Prague sounds infinitely more exotic than writing from an essentially retiree community of ten thousand.

Oy vey.

Accepting that this is who I am now, and this is where I am, has been even harder than the absolute culture shock upon repatriation.

Being an expat gives a person a sense of uniqueness that may or may not be deserved. Yes, you’re a foreigner who must negotiate language/cultural/social barriers. But it’s also your choice. And for many people economics determines whether you can or can’t participate.

Kind of like having kids. You can complain all you want about how hard it is, but it’s something you elected to do, not something that was forced upon you.

(Well…unless Republicans head up the White house; with their insane ideas on abortion there’ll be thousands more women forced to carry rapists’ babies to term. Disgusting. Terrifying. Yet another grotesque example of the New America I find on return.)

I’m nobody, who are you?

My former life as an expat has taken on so many more shades of meaning as I consider how it must have seemed to those in my position right now: How glamorous. How decadent. How lucky. How dare they criticize my government when they’ve jumped ship. I have to live here. I’m thousands of dollars in debt. I don’t have the luxury of leaving.

Maybe one day when my husband wins the lottery, that’s just what we’ll do. Leave. Maybe for Buenos Aires, or Addis Ababa. Maybe in the meantime we’ll find a better city in the US, one that offers more by way of creativity, culture, and history — the things I miss most about life in Europe.

Until then, I have to make peace with being plain old Sezin Koehler who lives in and writes from Florida. Hopefully some time soon I’ll be okay with that. Any minute now. It’s going to happen.

That’s fine. I’ll wait.

And pray I don’t get sick in the meantime, because even with Obamacare, I still can’t afford health insurance.

Sezin Koehler, author of American Monsters, is a woman either on the verge of a breakdown or breakthrough writing from Lighthouse Point, Florida. Culture shock aside, she’s working on four follow-up novels to her first, progress of which you can follow on her Pinterest boards. Her other online haunts are Zuzu’s Petals‘, Twitter, and Facebook — all of which feature eclectic bon mots, rants and raves.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another displaced Q from anti-foodie Tony James Slater.

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img: Sezin Koehler in St. Petersburg, Florida, by Steven Koehler (2012).

Kidding yourself over La Dolce Vita

As you are doubtless aware, this month’s theme is la dolce vita, an Italian phrase meaning the sweet life. It would be remiss of us to choose that theme without referring to Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece of the same name.

Regular readers of The Displaced Nation may not be surprised to learn that I was a somewhat pretentious teenager. A thin youth, callow and pallid, I could be found most nights ensconced in my bedroom reading the novels of Thomas Hardy or writing in a notebook my own cringe-worthy poetry. However, I would sometimes, late at night, usually on a Friday, descend from my literary lair and head down to the living room where I would turn the TV to BBC2 or Channel 4 to watch some classic foreign film that I felt I ought to know about.

Though my teenage years aren’t that far behind me (the late 90s, if you must know) they exist in another epoch, a time of old media, where nobody normal blogged, where there was no twitter and there was most definitely no streaming online of every movie you could ever wish to watch. Instead my cultural endevours were rationed. The northern town that I grew up in had no bookstore (unless we rather generously classify W.H. Smith as a bookstore) or cinema, so I found myself spending a lot of my time in my local library or scanning the Radio Times to see what (if any) interesting examples of world cinema where being shown on either of the two niche channels (BBC2 and C4). Invariably, something was being shown late most Friday nights. It was in these circumstances that I first came across Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

I can’t in all honesty say that I “got it” when watching it for the first time that night, but on a superficial level, I loved it. More particularly, I loved the effortlessly cool, brooding Marcello Mastroianni who anchors the film. This, I reasoned, was how manhood should be, how I should live my life: apertifs in the cafes, dances at the Cha-Cha-Cha Club, a midnight wade into the Trevi Fountain with an Anita Ekberg figure, two lonely souls enjoying a fleeing moment of warmth.

So I pondered about how one goes about affecting a similar style to Mr Mastroianni. The problems quickly became apparent. My clothes came from Marks and Spencer’s men’s department and gave me more the appearance of a Mormon missionary than Italian heartthrob. Then there was the impossibility of finding in Hartlepool a Cha-Cha-Cha Club that played the music of Nino Rota — now, the Bikini Fun Bar played 2Unlimited, but between you and me that wasn’t quite the same. Most disappointingly, I had no Anita Ekberg; none of the girls in school would take up my invitation to wade with me in the duck pond in Ward Jackson Park.  So the attempt to give my teenage years a Fellini spin were dashed. I couldn’t recreate the Rome of 1960 as seen through Fellini’s lens in the Hartlepool of 1998 (hardly a surprise).

But if I stopped pretending to act like I’d stepped out of a Fellini film, still I think this might have been when I was unknowingly inoculated with wanderlust — and the thought that somewhere out there is a place where cafes serve apertifs, not sausage rolls, where the club plays Nino Rota, not 2Unlimited, and where Anita Ekberg is waiting. That’s the sweet life.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, Kate Allison’s review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, by Barbara Conelli — the book that inspired this month’s theme!

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“We read to know we’re not alone”: 1st-ever litfest for expats & random nomads

The displaced writer Hazel Rochman once said that reading “makes immigrants of us all”:

Reading takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.

That must be why author interviews have played such an important role in the entertainment mix provided by The Displaced Nation since our founding one year ago.

A book that enables us to escape to a new world without buying a plane ticket? Bring it on!

A book that makes us feel at home in another part of the world? There’s nothing we crave more.

We’ve also taken authors into our confidence who, as St. Augustine once advised, treat the world as their book, rather than staying put and reading only one page. Because of their own peripatetic ways, these writers have much to say to the rest of us nomadic types about how to make sense of feelings of isolation, ennui and displacement.

As C.S. Lewis once said:

We read to know we’re not alone.

In honor of The Displaced Nation’s first anniversary, as well as in the spirit of World Party Month, I would like to propose the first-ever Displaced Nation literary festival featuring authors who have been interviewed or in some way featured on the site during the past year.

“We read to know we’re not alone”: THE FIRST-EVER LITERARY FESTIVAL FOR EXPATS AND RANDOM NOMADS
Note: The following is a tentative line-up. It includes previews of the kinds of insights we can expect to glean from such an extraordinary gathering of expat literati.

We anticipate the festival to extend from a Sunday night to a Thursday morning, with an opening night gala and a couple of closing events. Click on the headlines to go to the event descriptions for each segment:

OPENING NIGHT GALA EVENT

It seems only fitting that we offer something totally mad on our opening night. We will screen Alice in Wonderland, the 1903 British silent film directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, which was partially restored by the British Film Institute and released in 2010. (NOTE: You can see portions of the film in a video specially made by Anthony Windram during The Displaced Nation’s “Alice in Wonderland” theme month.)

The film is memorable for its use of special effects: Alice’s shrinking in the Hall of Many Doors, and then growing too large in the White Rabbit’s home, getting stuck and reaching for help through a window.

The film matches our theme of “We read to know we’re not alone” — could anyone ever feel lonelier than Alice did at such moments?

But here’s the new twist: the screening will feature a live accompaniment by Seremedy, the displaced Swedish visual kei band this is now making such a sensation in Japan, reacting musically and without any rehearsal beforehand, to the silent film in front of them. Unique, spontaneous — and perhaps even terrifying, given that the band’s (male) lead guitarist, Yohio, looks like an anime version of Alice.

DAY ONE: “We’re not alone” — We have each other

Iranian Childhoods, Inspiring Stories

TONY ROBERTS and ASHLEY DARTNELL each spent portions of their childhood in Iran. Roberts has produced a novel based on his memories of that time, Sons of the Great Satan, which we featured on this blog about a year ago. Dartnell, who has yet to be featured (we hope she will!), released her memoir, Farangi Girl, last year (it was recently issued in paperback).

Roberts and Dartnell have in common the status of being so-called third culture kids — growing up in a third culture not common to their parents (Roberts’ parents were American and Dartnell was the product of an American mother and British father). They also have in common that they were enjoying their lives in Tehran until something terrible happened — the memory of which affects them to this day.

In Dartnell’s case, it was the sudden collapse of her father’s business (her parents subsequently split up), whereas for Roberts, it was the experience of being evacuated because of the American hostage crisis — suddenly, he was back at the family’s small farm town in Kansas, having no idea of where his friends had gone.

TCKs experience such traumas in isolation (Roberts continued to feel isolated well into his adulthood). Roberts and Dartnell, who have never met before, welcome the opportunity to forge a new connection over their common displacement.

PERFORMANCE: “The White Ship,” by Ethan Kenning

Ex-folk singer Ethan Kenning — known as GEORGE EDWARDS when performing with the former psychedelic rock band H.P. Lovecraft — will give a special performance of “The White Ship,” a song based on a mystical tale by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (from whom the band took its name), about a vessel sailing on a sea of dreams. Critics have described it as “baroque, Middle Eastern-flavored psychedelia at its finest.”

Multicultural Marriage Boot Camp

Two Wendys — WENDY WILLIAMS and WENDY TOKUNAGA — will answer questions about the benefits as well as challenges involved in marrying someone from another culture.

Wendy Williams is the author of The Globalisation of Love and has coined a term, “GloLo,” to refer to this phenomenon. She was last week’s Random Nomad and has also been a contributor to The Displaced Nation with the post: “Why expat is a misleading term for multicultural couples” — a topic big enough to be a festival theme in its own right!

Wendy Tokunaga, who was one of The Displaced Nation’s 12 Nomads of Christmas, recently published Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband, consisting of interviews with 14 Western women involved in cross-cultural relationships.

GloTinis will be served — those in particularly challenging unions may wish to order theirs straight up.

Romance Across Borders: Fairytale or Myth?

JANE GREEN, a prolific writer and one of the founders of chick literature, will interview MEAGAN ADELE LOPEZ and MICHELLE GORMAN — both of whom have produced first novels exploring the idea of looking for romance in other cultures. Lopez is the author of Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers (self-published, October 2011), about a cross-cultural romance that blossoms through the asking of three questions; and Gorman, of Single in the City: One girl, one city, one disaster waiting to happen (Michael Joseph, 2010), about an American who goes to London in search of love and the perfect life.

The Displaced Nation recently featured Lopez on our site and will feature her tomorrow in a guest post. We have yet to interview Gorman but would like to — especially as she recently self-published Misfortune Cookie, about a young woman who moves to Hong Kong to be with her boyfriend.

Both women relied heavily on their own autobiographies to produce these first novels. As Lopez said in her interview with Tony James Slater:

Hey — they always say to write about what you know, so that’s what I did!

But is it the stuff of chick lit? No one is better placed to judge this than the displaced author Jane Green (she is now an expat living in Connecticut). As early readers of The Displaced Nation will recall, Green “came in” for a chat during our coverage of last year’s Royal Wedding — she had just produced a multimedia book celebrating the young royals as an example of a “modern fairytale.”

Though Kate and Will aren’t from different cultures, they might as well have been since Kate — unlike the Prince’s mother, Diana — does not come from a royal lineage. But from Green’s point of view, this is what is makes the couple modern — and why their marriage is likely to last:

I loved discovering just how unusual William and Kate are: grounded, humble, and thoroughly modern, eschewing much of the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the wedding of Charles and Diana.

One Person’s Home — Another Person’s Nightmare?

BARBARA CONELLI, who lives in Manhattan for half of the year and Milan for the other half, will interview SHIREEN JILLA, whose first novel was set in the Big Apple.

Thanks in large part to the influence of her Italian grandmother, Conelli qualifies as the ultimate Italophile. Last year she published Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita last year — her first book in a three-part series about the Italian grasp of the “good life.” When asked by Kate Allison to explain the differences between her two homes of Milan and New York City, Conelli said that New Yorkers need to learn the Italian art of taking the time to actually live:

We need to stop and smell the roses more often.

On this point, Jilla would certainly concur. After spending three years in New York as an expat when her husband was BBC’s North America correspondent, Jilla came away thinking that “New York is a city populated by control freaks.”

But, unlike Conelli, Jilla found this control freakery sinister — which was what inspired her to write a novel that depicts the city as, as one critic said, “a teeming pit of vipers, only just covered with a finely buffed veneer of sophistication.”

In the online discussion we hosted of Exiled, Jilla commented on how culturally different New York and London are — despite New York not being seen as a particularly adventurous posting among the expat crowd. She went on:

New York in fact reminds me a lot more of Rome than London. Passion is lived out on the street, for good and bad.

Hmmm… It will be interesting to see what Conelli, whose series includes a book on Rome’s joyful idleness, makes of that!

Are Expats Defined by Their Boundaries — or the Lack? James Joyce Unplugged

One of The Displaced Nation’s founders, ANTHONY WINDRAM, and the novelist JOANNA PENN will join forces to discuss the topic of whether being an expat necessarily entails producing “expat” literature. In a post published last year on The Displaced Nation, Windram noted that although James Joyce spent most of his adult life in continental Europe, he continued to write about his home, Ireland:

If we were to be glib, we might say that Finnegans Wake was conceived in Dublin, but Paris was its midwife.

Likewise, Joanna Penn, who has been a TCK and an expat, does not self-identify as an expat writer and sets her novels at least partly in Oxford, the city she calls home. She does feel, however, that wanderlust is a big part of what fuels her to write thrillers set in various countries, as she explained in a comment on a post deconstructing a post of hers on what “home” means to writers.

DAY TWO: “We’re not alone” — Global activism

Travel for a Purpose

For this event, we hope to engage the world-famous novelist BARBARA KINGSOLVER to interview ROBIN WISZOWATY, who is Kenya program director for the Canadian charity Free the Children and the author of a memoir targeted at young adults on her own experience of living in Kenya, My Maasai Life.

Kate Allison interviewed Wiszowaty during the month when The Displaced Nation explored the topic of global philanthropy.

Around the same time, Allison also wrote a post on Kingsolver, exploring the idea that her novel The Poisonwood Bible was intended an allegory for what happens when you barge into someone else’s culture thinking you know everything and they know nothing.

Notably, Wiszowaty could almost have been a Kingsolver character in the following incident that occurred during her initial two months in Nairobi, as reported to Allison:

One street man nearby…said in Swahili, “What are you doing in Kenya, if you can’t help us?”

Despite my halting comprehension of the language, I understood his question. What was I doing here? Was I here to help Kenyans? I couldn’t remember any sort of altruistic impulse as my reason for being me here. I only pictured myself three months earlier, curled up on my family room couch reading books on cultural sensitivity, or shopping in neighborhood department stores for appropriate clothing, thinking this was a chance for me to enlarge my experience and pick up others’ points of view. I’d been driven simply by a desire to escape, not to improve the lives of these poor people.

Wiszowaty, of course, came around and now thinks constantly about what she can do for Kenya. We expect that Kingsolver, who funds a prize for authors of unpublished works that support social change, will approve; but will she also offer a critique?

PERFORMANCE: “The Boy with a Thorn in His Side,” by Pete Wentz

Fall Out Boy’s PETE WENTZ will do a performance in which he puts passages from his 2004 book, The Boy with a Thorn in His Side, to music. The book chronicles the nightmares he had as a child.

Wentz is a supporter of Invisible Children, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping the cause of child refugees in Uganda. He once participated in an event called “Displace Me,” in which 67,000 activists throughout the United States slept in the streets in makeshift cardboard villages.

(Notably, Wentz has also earned his chops as world traveler. Before Fall Out Boy went on hiatus in late 2009, it made an unsuccessful bid to the only band to play a concert on all seven continents in less than nine months — unfortunately, weather conditions prevented them from flying to Antarctica.)

Why Feisty Heroines Need Not Always Be Named Pollyanna, Calpurnia or Hermione

Melbourne-based author GABRIELLE WANG writes books under the Penguin label targeted at young adults in Australia. Her heroines are always non-white, Chinese or some mix. They are culturally marginalized.

Wang, who fell into writing accidentally — she had planned to be a book illustrator — loves to use her imagination to create characters who are historically plausible yet never show up in history books. One such character is Mimi, who feels ashamed of being Chinese until she has a magical, transformative experience that makes her proud of her cultural heritage.

Another such character is Poppy, a half-Chinese, half-Aborigine girl who lived in the 19th century.

Wang told us she was able to draw on her own background to portray how Poppy might have felt:

I think I was able to imagine the Aboriginal child’s situation quite easily because I know what it feels like to be an outsider, and to suffer racial prejudice. I was the only Asian child in my school in Melbourne and I only saw white faces in the street.

The Search for Paradise

The search for paradise has been underway for as long as human history. Understood as an idyllic realm located at an exact spot somewhere on the earth, and yet as a place separated from the world, the possibility of reaching paradise has aroused the curiosity of travelers over many centuries and continues to do so.

MARK DAMAROYD, who has lived in Thailand for the past several years, subscribes to the idea that paradise is indeed what many men have claimed it to be since time immemorial: life on an exotic island, with sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees, and with an exotic, much younger girlfriend. That is why, as he told us in an interview last summer, he had Koh Samui in mind when creating the island setting for his first novel — the aptly named Pursuit to Paradise.

Coming from a somewhat different direction is JACK SCOTT, whose memoir — Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam Move to Turkey — was reviewed at the end of last year by Kate Allison.

In it, Scott tells the story of how he and his civil partner, Liam, left the rat race in London behind to live in Bodrum, Turkey. A picturesque spot on the Mediterranean with a temperate climate, the city was their vision of paradise.

Naturally, though, things were not that simple. The couple soon encountered another rat race — the expat one. To quote directly from Scott’s book:

Sad people, bad people, expats-in-a-bubble people. They hate the country they came from; they hate the country they’ve come to. This was my social life. This is what I gave everything up for. This was Liam’s bloody Nirvana. We were the mad ones, not them.

PERFORMANCE: “Red Right Hand,” by Nick Cave

NICK CAVE is a distinguished musician and songwriter from Down Under. He took the title of this song from a line in John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, referring to the vengeful hand of God. According to the lyrics: “You’re one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan.”

Cave has also occasionally dabbled in literature. As one reviewer put it, his first novel “reads like a logical extension of the dark world his music has already created.”

Ghosts of Nations Past and Future

In honor of Dickens’ bicentenary, Displaced Nation contributor ANTHONY WINDRAM will give a spirited reading of his favorite passages from A Christmas Carol (already explored in a post), followed by a discussion of whether Scrooge’s displacement could inspire the planet’s wealthiest people to behave more humanely. To quote from one of the comments made on Windram’s original post:

If such a man as Scrooge can displace his lust for money with a love of humankind — and an awareness of other people’s suffering — then does that mean there’s hope for the 1%?

Through the Looking Glass: Delhi & Bangkok

JANET BROWN, author of the travelogue Tone Deaf in Bangkok, and DAVE PRAGER, author of the travelogue Delirious Dehli, will discuss the need for travelers to do more than the usual amount of preparation when entering cultures that are very different from one’s own, on a par with Alice’s Wonderland.

As Brown explained in her interview with us, travelers to Thailand can be “tone deaf” because Thai is a tonal language and it’s easy to make mistakes. But they can also be “tone deaf” when it comes to figuring out the Thais’ communication style:

“You looked so beautiful yesterday” probably means today you resemble dog food and ought to go home and rectify that at once.

Whereas for Prager, one of the points about living in Dehli is that you may end up deaf as there are always people, animals and vehicles around.

In conversation with Anthony Windram, Prager admitted that getting used to America again — he and his wife now live in Denver — hasn’t been easy:

What’s struck me is that the US just seems so empty. It’s not that India is always intensely crowded; rather, it’s that India you’re never completely alone.

WRITING LAB: What (Not) to Write

Expat writing coach par excellence KRISTEN BAIR O’KEEFFE will explore techniques to develop your writing skills and help you find which world, of your many worlds, you want to write about, and how to get started.

Last summer’s post “6 celebrated women travel writers with the power to enchant you” was officially dedicated to O’Keeffe for delivering these pearls of writerly wisdom during her “Expat Writing Prompts” series:

Writing a multi-volume treatise is NOT the answer. Of this, I am sure.
Instead find a nugget. A moment. A single object. One exchange. One epiphany. One cultural revelation.
Find one story and tell it.
Just it.

DAY THREE: “We’re not alone” — Eat, drink, be merry & look good

Classy and Fabulous: French Style as Universal Norm

The French may be under fire for how they treat immigrants, but expats continue to thrive there. For this event, the classy and fabulous JENNIFER SCOTT, author of Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris — which has been a runaway success (it’s now under contract by a major publisher!) — will set out to prove, as she did last month in an interview with us, that no one can edit down their clothes and belongings as well as the French can.

The equally classy and fabulous ANASTASIA ASHMAN, co-editor of The Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey — and participant in our “Cleopatra for a Day” series last month — will serve as discussant. Two of the cultural influences for Ashman’s wardrobe are Southeast Asia (she once lived in Malaysia) and Turkey (she was an expat in Istanbul for several years). She does, however, adore French perfume!

Which Came First, Story or Recipe?

It’s food — so that means France again! ELIZABETH BARD, an American who lives in France with her French husband, and her opposite number, CORINE GANTZ, a Frenchwoman who lives near LA with her American husband, will explore why food is so central to the works each of them produces.

Bard is the author of the best-selling Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes. So did she ever think of writing it the other way around: recipes with a love story? Here’s what she told ML Awanohara in their conversation last autumn:

When I sat down to think about the moments that really helped me discover French life, I kept coming back to the dinner table, the markets, the recipes — so it seemed natural to structure Lunch in Paris around those experiences.

Gantz can no doubt relate. When we featured her novel, Hidden in Paris, last summer, here’s what she said when the topic of food came up:

For me, writing a novel is a barely disguised way for me to talk about food — the novel being a vehicle for food just as grilled toast is a vehicle for foie gras.

Fans of Hidden in Paris, please note: Gantz has just now released a playful cookbook featuring 20 delicious dishes that were described in mouth-watering details in the novel.

Moderating the discussion between Bard and Gantz will be the well-known novelist JOANNE HARRIS. Harris, who was born over a sweet shop in Yorkshire to a French mother and an English father, rarely misses an opportunity to bring food and drink into her novels — the most famous example being Chocolat.

Displaced Storytelling Circle

Verbal antics, stories, music and more. Highlights include readings by

  1. Displaced Nation contributor TONY JAMES SLATER, from his highly entertaining travelogue, That Bear Ate My Pants! Adventures of a Real Idiot Abroad.
  2. Displaced Nation interviewee ALLIE SOMMERVILLE, from her wry memoir Uneasy Rider: Confessions of a Reluctant Traveller. (Allie, please read the passage about the campervan being too wide for one of the Spanish streets!)
  3. Displaced Nation nomad KAREN VAN DER ZEE, from her collection of expat stories. (Miss Footloose, please tell us the ones about the crocodile and the couple in the Roman restaurant!)
  4. Founder KATE ALLISON, from The Displaced Nation’s weekly fiction series, Libby’s Life, which as you may have noticed, is now up to 46 episodes. (Kate, be sure to read the one where you introduce Sandra, Libby’s MIL from hell!)

The Art of Drink: Ian Fleming

One of The Displaced Nation’s founders, ANTHONY WINDRAM, will talk about the role of food (and especially drink) in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, on which he did a post last year:

The Bond of the novels isn’t solely a martini drinker. He’s always one to try anything local that’s on offer. In Jamaica he’ll drink a glass of Red Stripe, in the US he’ll have a Millers Highlife beer. Throughout the novels Fleming uses food and drink to convey an alien culture, demonstrate social status, show Bond’s mood and his sophistication and ease with the world.

An array of drinks — not only shaken martinis but also bottles of Heineken!– will be served. Green figs and yogurt, along with coffee (very black), will be made available to anyone who is still suffering from jetlag.

Enchanted by Wisteria: Elizabeth Von Arnim Unveiled

Displaced Nation founder (and the author of this post!) ML AWANOHARA will read her favorite passages from the collected works of travel writer Elizabeth von Arnim, on whom she wrote a post last year. As she pointed out then, Von Arnim was fond of the idea of a woman escaping her marital, motherly and household duties in the pursuit of simple pleasures such as gardens and wisteria. A magical Italian castle — such as the one featured in her best-known novel, The Enchanted April — can also be a tonic.

CLOSING NIGHT + BONUS EVENT

To close the festival, we will screen both the Swedish and Hollywood versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, followed by a critique from CHRIS PAVONE, author of the new novel The Expats. Pavone will discuss whether:

  1. it was really necessary for Hollywood to produce its own (non-subtitled) version; and
  2. all the female-perpetrated violence cropping up in film and on TV of late presages a “fourth wave” of feminism.

Pavone is well qualified to judge the latter as his novel (not yet featured on TDN!) is an offbeat spy story with a female protagonist — a burned-out CIA operative who moves to Luxembourg. Apparently, this was the kind of thing Pavone thought about when he was trailing his spouse in that cobblestoney old town.

And, just when you thought it was all over, we bring you a final treat: a chance to hear from the historian SUSAN MATT, who recently published Homesickness: An American History to much fanfare in the thinking media. Matt disputes the stereotype of Americans as westward wanderers by showing that Americans are returning to their homeland in greater numbers — that’s if they ever leave at all. (Our ancestors must be turning over in their graves!)

* * *

So, shall I sign you up? And can you think of any additional topics/authors/performers who ought to be featured? I look forward to reading your suggestions in the comments.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s guest post from Meagan Adele Lopez, on the differences between American and British wedding celebrations.

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RANDOM NOMAD: Liv Hambrett, Australian Expat in Germany

Place of birth: Sydney, Australia
Passport: Just my little blue Australian one. And I’d like to keep it.
Geographical history: Greece (Santorini): for several three-month stints since 2008; Germany (Münster, Nord Rhine-Westphalia): 2010 – TODAY, LEAP DAY! (February 29, 2012); Germany (Weiden in der Oberpfalz, Bavaria): TOMORROW onwards!!!
Current occupation: Writer and language trainer.
Cyberspace coordinates: A Big Life | An Australian in Germany (blog) and @LivWrites (Twitter handle)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
The only thing that really made me leave my home was me. I had traveled on and off throughout my studies and was ready for something a bit more … daring. I wanted to live in Europe, not just travel through it whenever I could get enough money and find enough time. I am incredibly lucky to come from the country I do. To return to it would be no problem, to have its passport is a blessing. I just wanted to try something different, and in Germany I found something more solid to assuage my constantly itching feet.

Was anyone else in your family “displaced”?
My parents are both travelers and my mother spent a year working in London in her twenties. My uncle spent four years living in South Africa and traveling through Europe, before meeting his Swiss wife and bringing her back to Australia — she’s now displaced. I think many Australians are nomadic by nature — we like to wander, we like to see what’s out there. It’s in our blood.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced since making your home in the historic university city of Münster.
Münster is one of the “nicest” cities in the world, so my displacement here is usually a case of: “What’s a girl like me doing in a nice city like this?” I’m pleasantly displaced, in other words! But while there haven’t been precise moments of aggravation, there have been parts of the ongoing adjustment process that made me want to click my heels together three times. As much as I love it, Germany has this thing with bureaucracy and paperwork and red tape; and sometimes, when I am drowning in letters from my insurance company, or wading through the healthcare system, or putting together paperwork for my visa renewal, or trying and failing to understand the language, I do think: wouldn’t it just be easier if you were at home? I’ll soon be moving to Bavaria — and all the bureaucracy that will come with a new job, a new visa and a new state (or as some Germans would have you believe, a new country) will probably have me hurling abuse at walls every so often. Just for therapy. Oh yes, and when it is -18 degrees celsius, I start thinking: what the hell am I doing in this country?

Have you also had some moments when you feel more at home in Germany than you did in Oz?
Any time I have a cup of tea in hand and am talking to a good friend, I feel as if I could be anywhere in the world, and this person and I would still have stories to share and understanding to give. It isn’t a matter of feeling more at home than in my home country, it is a matter of feeling as at home — and I think that’s as comfortable as it gets.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
Probably an enormous amount of würste in the many and varied forms it comes in.

Food is close to the heart of all Displaced Nation citizens. Are there any other special German foods you’d like to offer us besides German sausages?
Yes — Schnitzel (deep-fried veal) and rotkohl (German red cabbage).

I assume you’d drain the cabbage in your Villeroy & Boch colander? I saw a photo of it on your blog — rather whimsical and wonderful! And now you may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
From Germany: Actually, I have two: Das stimmt (that’s true) — it rolls off the tongue; and schnabel (a bird’s beak or bill) … because it is SO CUTE.
From Greece: Siga siga (slowly slowly) — it sums them up perfectly.

This month, because of Valentine’s Day, The Displaced Nation has been delving into the topic of finding love abroad. And today is Leap Day, when according to legend, women get to propose to men. Have you found a candidate in Gerany?
I met the Significant German — I call him SG on my blog — within four months of moving to Münster. I wrote about our story in a blog post last November. As I said then, if I had to give a tagline to the movie poster for my life as it currently is, it would be “she came for the adventure and stayed for love.” Sounds romantic and exciting, doesn’t it? But it’s a new one for me.

I read that on Leap Day (February 29), women are allowed to propose to men. Any plans?
Well, I’m starting my second big life in Germany TOMORROW when I move to Bavaria to be with SG.

On a more prosaic note, are German men very different from their Aussie counterparts?
Oh Lord, the differences are many. The main thing — and this applies to Australian men as compared to many European cultures, not just Germany — is that Australian men have this ongoing thing with being a “bloke”: masculinity in its conventional sense is quite important to an Australian male’s identity, even if they aren’t aware of it.

Also, this month we’ve been looking at expat and travel films, in honor of the Oscars. Do you have any favorite films in this “genre”?
Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks) — not exactly about an expat, but the character moves towns in France. It captures the essence of moving and feeling like an alien, then adapting, perfectly! And as far as the Love theme of February goes: Love Actually. Always Love Actually.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Liv Hambrett into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Liv — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. Having de-stresed with Oliver on their Valentine’s Day weekend, she thinks she may be ready to face the Woodhaven world again and its tribulations. But as we all know, it takes more than a facial and pedicure to attain such a level of serenity. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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img: Liv Hambrett with her mug of glühwein in Münster, Germany.

How NOT to review Iran’s first Oscar-winning movie, “A Separation”

On Sunday night, A Separation became the first Iranian (and Middle Eastern) film to pick up the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Although the film has already received rave reviews from mainstream critics, we asked a former expat in the Middle East who recently published a book about his adventures in Turkey, Matt Krause, to direct our attention to what’s interesting and important.

When The Displaced Nation asked me to review the Iranian film A Separation, I hadn’t seen it yet. I don’t follow film much, so even though the movie was up for a couple of Oscars, I hadn’t heard of it.

I am currently living in a very small town in California that’s far from Los Angeles and San Francisco. While I was searching for some alternative way to watch the movie, I read up on it. That was my first mistake.

Based on the descriptions I found, I thought it would be about some combination of seeking a better life abroad, caring for an elderly parent, and the strains of life affecting a marriage. These are all topics near and dear to my heart, and I looked forward to seeing what A Separation had to say about them from an Iranian viewpoint.

Before I found the movie I thought about what I would say in the review. I thought about how I would talk about seeking a better life abroad. I thought about how I would talk about caring for an elderly parent. I thought about how I would talk about the strains of life affecting a marriage. I thought about differences between American society and Iranian society. My review was practically written before I had even seen the movie.

I know, it was ridiculous for me to think I could form an opinion on this or any other movie without watching it with my own eyes, but that was Mistake No 2.

I finally located the movie and watched it. As the closing credits rolled I realized none of what I had planned to say was even remotely relevant. I sat in front of the screen slack-jawed wondering, “Whoa, what am I going to say about this one?”

A Separation is a great movie. It is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time and I would definitely recommend it.

Here are three of the elements I responded to most:

1) The theme transcends the particular to examine universal questions.

The movie’s opening scene introduces a married couple being pulled apart by the struggle between searching for a freer life and fulfilling obligations to others. I thought the movie would be about how that conflict plays out in this particular marriage. However, as the story unfolded, I realized this was not a movie about two people negotiating that conflict. It is about how both sides of that conflict duke it out inside of each one of us, how that internal conflict is an inescapable part of being human, and how, despite our attempts to quiet it, that conflict is unresolvable and will be with us until the day we die. We humans want to be free, but we also want others to depend on us.

2) The cinematography conveys the impression of a tight spiritual space.

When that struggle comes to a head, spiritual space can feel awfully tight. A Separation brings that tightness to life not only in the storyline, but also in the cinematography. The camera angles are tight and the spaces feel cramped, whether the scenes take place in a small apartment, a tiny government office, or a crowded city street. In fact, many of the movie’s scenes take place in rooms so crowded there is barely room for the characters to stand.

3) The action relies on tight story-telling, not music and special effects.

Following the movie’s storyline is excellent mental exercise. There are plot twists, and then there are twists to the plot twists, and then there are twists to those twists. Lesser movies use multiple plot twists to cover up for lazy writing, the writers perhaps hoping the plot twists will distract viewers from the writers’ own inability to tell a good story. In A Separation, however, storytelling discipline remains tight through each plot twist. The characters are as baffled by the twists as we are. The twists do not distract us, they simply allow us to view the central conflict from a new angle, before returning us to the original angle in the final scene.

A Separation uses little or no music, not until the end of the final scene when the closing credits are about to roll. Where most movies use music to guide the viewers through the building and release of tension, A Separation relies on tight storytelling to provide that guidance. The lack of music seems almost like the director accepted his own dare to raise the storytelling bar so high music would be unnecessary.

* * *

Watching A Separation was an excellent investment of my time, and I suspect you will think it is of yours, too. Don’t start out expecting this movie to represent anything except itself, though. Check your baggage at the door and listen to what this movie has to say.

Question: Have you seen A Separation and if so, what did you think?

As American from California who specializes in international trade and operations, MATT KRAUSE has spent forty percent of his life abroad, with stints living and working in China and Turkey. Last year he self-published his memoir, A Tight Wide-open Space: Finding love in a Muslim land. The book appeared on The Displaced Nation’s list Best of 2011: Books for, by and about Expats and was reviewed this month by Kate Allison. After finishing the book, Matt decided to walk 1,500 miles from Turkey to Jerusalem, a journey of about six months. You can read about it on his blog Heathen Pilgrim.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Random Nomad interview.

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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.

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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