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Top 60 books for, by & about expats and other global creatives in 2016 (1/2)

top-60-books-2016-part-one-fiction

Are bookworms like earth worms: do they come to the surface during the spring rains? In which case, the Displaced Nation’s timing—we publish our yearly roundup of recommended books for, by, and about expats and other global creatives in late February and early March—may not be as eccentric as all that. And at least we’re not competing with lots of other “best of 2016” lists that came out in December!

Without further ado, we’re calling on all of you displaced bookworms to come out and start feasting! This year there are 60 books on our list, a first. Hopefully it means you’ll find a title or two that you missed. Or perhaps you’ll see books whose titles sound familiar—especially if you subscribe to our Displaced Dispatch—but of which you forgot to make a note.

Part One, published today, presents 36 works of fiction, both novels and story collections, indie as well as traditionally published works. Part Two will add 24 works of nonfiction, bringing the total to 60. As in years past, the books appear in reverse chronological order.

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Fall 2016

the-good-officer_coverThe Good Officer: Can they love again? (Newhurst Press, November 18, 2016)
Author: Helena Halme
Expat credentials: Born in Finland, Halme lived in Sweden as a child and felt displaced when her family moved back to Finland when she was 14. She left Finland to live in England (now London) after meeting and marrying a British man (yes, he was in the military!), but she still celebrates Finnish customs.
Synopsis: Kaisa has betrayed her husband, the handsome English naval officer, Peter. What can she do but move back to her native Finland? But then she takes a job in London and meets Peter again by chance. Can they love each other again? The third novel in The Englishman series following the tumultuous 1980s love affair between a Finnish student and a British naval officer, based loosely on Halme’s own life story.
How we heard about: Halme has been featured several times on the Displaced Nation: see, for instance, her Random Nomad interview, still one of our best!
Why we recommend: How often do you get to read a Nordic military romance?


a-year-and-a-day_coverA Year and a Day (Penguin Books, Nov 17 2016)
Author: Isabelle Broom
Expat credentials: Broom travelled through Europe during her gap year and went to live on the Greek island of Zakynthos for an unforgettable and life-shaping six months after completing her degree in media arts in London (her first novel, My Map of You, is set on that island). Since then, she has travelled to Canada, Sri Lanka, Sicily, New York, LA, the Canary Islands, Spain and lots more of Greece. She loves to write books set in far-flung locations.
Synopsis: Three different couples find themselves staying in the same hotel in Prague, and we follow them as they mingle and get to know each other and form a bond.
How we heard about: Trip Fiction review,with Prague promo.
Why we recommend: According to several of Broom’s Amazon reviewers, the Prague of this book is “magical” and becomes an “additional character.”


swing-time_coverSwing Time (Penguin, November 15, 2016)
Author: Zadie Smith
Expat credentials: Smith is the product of a black mother and a white father, whom her mother married after migrating to England from her native Jamaica. Now a professor of fiction at New York University, Smith has traded London for New York City for at least part of the year.
Synopsis: Set in England and West Africa, the story concerns the friendship of two mixed-race girls who meet in a tap dance class in London in 1982. One has talent; the other has ideas.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: Particularly when the action moves to West Africa, the novel parses race and global politics in a way only a writer of Smith’s caliber can.


tokyo-short-stories-book-1_coverPostcards from Tokyo, Book 1 (November 3, 2016)
Author: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Expat credentials: Born in San Francisco, Tokunaga has lived in the Bay area all her life except for when she lived in Tokyo during the early 1980s. Her husband is Japanese.
Synopsis: Six stories that are all inspired by Tokyo, a place that writer Tokunaga has observed both first-hand and from afar. Highlights include a story about a young American who leaves her hostess job to become a kept woman but instead of finding solace is unable to escape her own demons, and a story about an American cat that becomes a stowaway with the intention of becoming a social media sensation in Japan.
How we heard about: We have featured Tokunaga a couple of times on the Displaced Nation (see, for instance, this interview) and follow her on social media.
Why we recommend: Tokunaga has a knack for telling stories about Japan that are culturally insightful while also being highly entertaining.


je-taime-maybe-book-coverJe T’Aime…Maybe? (TGRS Communications, November 3, 2016)
Author: April Lily Heise
Expat credentials: April Lily Heise is a Canadian writer and romance expert who has been living in Paris for over a decade. This is her second novelized memoir on her romantic misadventures.
Synopsis: After barely surviving a turbulent series of relationships in the City of Love (shared in the first volume of the series, Je T’aime, Me Neither), our heroine Lily is ready to throw in the towel on amour. That is, until she receives a very unexpected email—one which revives her hope in finding true love…yet at the same time awakens the mischievous, passionate energy of Paris. Will she manage to connect with her potential soul mate, located on the other side of the globe?
How we heard about: We follow the HIP Paris Blog.
Why we recommend: Readers of Heise’s blog and book appreciate her for being “hilarious,” “brutally honest” and “badass” about love in the city that celebrates that emotion. As one of them puts it, this book is a “sort of Parisian-style Bridget Jones’s Diary.”


a-portrait-of-emily-price_coverA Portrait of Emily Price (HarperCollins, November 1, 2016)
Author: Katherine Reay
Expat credentials: After living all across the United States and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago. It’s also the first book Reay has written that’s based in a place where she hasn’t lived, though she did visit Italy multiple items when living in Europe.
Synopsis: Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. They marry and Emily follows Ben home to Italy, where she finds she can’t quite adjust to his family and culture.
How we heard about: From Publishers Weekly listing
Why we recommend: It’s interesting that an author who usually takes her inspiration from Jane Austen has entered Henry James territory, portraying clashing worldviews and other cross-cultural miscommunications. What’s more, the book includes sensually evocative descriptions of Italian food and scenery, for which it has earned comparisons with Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun.


the-boat-rocker_coverThe Boat Rocker (Pantheon, October 26 2016)
Author: Ha Jin
Expat credentials: Xuefei Jin, who publishes under the nom de plume Ha Jin, is a China-born but United States-based author. A former Chinese army soldier, he chose to stay in the United States after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Synopsis: Chinese expatriate Feng Danlin is a fiercely principled reporter at a small news agency that produces a website read by the Chinese diaspora around the world. Danlin’s explosive exposés have made him legendary among readers—and feared by Communist officials. But his newest assignment may be his undoing: investigating his ex-wife, Yan Haili, an unscrupulous novelist who has willingly become a pawn of the Chinese government.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: At a time when the press is under attack, it is interesting to read a novel by a writer who has lived under two very different sets of rules: the Communist Party’s elaborate control of mass media and the free market’s complicated influence on what we read and watch.


how-to-pick-up-a-maid_coverHow to Pick Up a Maid in Statue Square: Stories (Thistledown Press, Oct 16, 2016)
Author: Rea Tarvdas
Expat credentials: When her husband, a management consultant, was transferred to Hong Kong in 2000, Tarvdas placed her job as a psychiatric emergency-room nurse on hold and packed up the house and moved for two years to Hong Kong. She has since repatriated to Calgary, Canada.
Synopsis: A collection of stories that creates a fictional community of hardworking men and women, bankers and brokers, maids and househusbands, who are, in the author’s words, “all trying to find their way through the space in which loneliness and alienation intersect.”
How we heard about: From Tarvdas’s personal essay in Quill & Quire.
Why we recommend: Tarvdas has used fiction to channel the intense feelings that come up when you’re an expat, particularly a trailing spouse, in Southeast Asia, including dislocation, loneliness, alienation, and even sexual redundancy.


from-pavlova-to-pork-pies_coverFrom Pavlova to Pork Pies: From New Zealand to England searching for love, laughs, and the way home (Writer’s Cat, October 2, 2016)
Author: Vicki Jeffels
Expat credentials: Jeffels has lived in four countries, both hemispheres and has travelled around the world only to end up back where she started, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Synopsis: Based on a true story and an award-winning blog, the plot concerns a divorced mother-of-three from New Zealand who goes on a European tour and meets the man of her dreams, an Englishman, in the City of Light; starts a long-distance relationship with him; and then moves with her family to live with him in the UK, only to have disaster strike when she and her kids are threatened with deportation.
How we heard about: We have known Jeffels back in the day when she was blogging about being an expat in Britain, married to a Brit she met in Paris—she was one of our early Random Nomad interviewees.
Why we recommend: Jeffels has a droll sense of humour and loves travel, chocolate, food, and wine. You can’t go wrong with an author like that.


conquest_coverConquest: Daughter of the Last King (Impress Books, October 1, 2016)
Author: Tracey Warr
Expat credentials: Warr was born in London and lives in the UK and France.
Synopsis: The first in Warr’s new Conquest trilogy, the book is set in the early middle ages when Britain was invaded by William the Conqueror. It concerns the fate of Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last independent Welsh king, after she is captured by the Normans following their assault on her lands, taken to their lair in Cardiff, imprisoned in the motte, and forced to learn Norman.
How we heard about: Warr is our Location, Locution columnist.
Why we recommend: With so many people being displaced by war in the present era, it seems strange to think that this kind of thing was going in the 12th century as well. Is forced displacement an inevitable part of the human condition?


cartes-postales-from-greece_coverCarte Postales from Greece (Hodder, September 22, 2016)
Author: Victoria Hislop
Expat credentials: Hislop has nurtured a passion for Greece for more than three decades. She speaks Greek and keeps a second home in Crete, where she spends several months of every year.
Synopsis: Englishwoman Ellie mistakenly receives a series of tantalizing postcards from Greece. Once the cards stop coming, she spontaneously organizes her own trip to Greece and, with the help of a mysterious notebook she receives just before her departure, discovers a wonderful world of tradition, folklore, love and betrayal—a world not usually accessible to first-time visitors.
How we heard about: TripFiction’s interview with the author
Why we recommend: Hislop traveled in Greece with a Greek photographer and has used his photos to illustrate the book. In some cases, the stories developed because of the photos; in other cases, it was the other way around. The idea was to have the words and pictures work very closely together. The idea sounds super creative, and we’re curious how it turned out.

Summer 2016

the-pull-of-it_coverThe Pull of It (Underground Voices, September 21, 2016)
Author: Wendy J. Fox
Expat credentials: Fox was raised in rural Washington state, and lived in Turkey in the early 2000s. She was still living in Turkey when she started the manuscript. She now lives in Seattle.
Synopsis: The story of a young wife and mother who takes a solo vacation in Turkey to recharge, and ends up diving into a new culture. She skips her flight home and boards a bus to the interior of the country, where she will stay for another six months, until her previous life pulls her home and she must confront her demons.
How we heard about: Writer Lisa Morrow quotes from Fox’s novel in Part One of her interview with us, published in November of last year.
Why we recommend: The premise of the story sounds interesting. As Fox told reviewer Mark Stevens, she thought her protagonist would need to be immersed in a “realm that was totally foreign” as only then could she “get down to the core of herself and understand what she wants.”


the-other-side-of-the-world_coverThe Other Side of the World (Atria Books, September 20, 2016)
Author: Stephanie Bishop
Expat credentials: Her grandparents migrated from England to Australia in the 1960s. Although her grandmother lived more than half her life in Australia she still thought of England as home and Bishop grew up listening to her complain about how much she missed Britain. As a young adult, Bishop herself experienced “dual homesickness” as she moved back and forth between England and Australia for her education (she got her Ph.D. from Cambridge and will soon have a visiting fellowship at Oxford).
Synopsis: A novel set in England, Australia, and India in the early 1960s. Charlotte is struggling with motherhood, with the changes brought on by marriage and parenthood, and with never having the time or energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, an Anglo-Indian, cannot face the thought of another English winter. A brochure slipped through the mailbox—Australia brings out the best in you—gives him an idea. Charlotte is too worn out to resist, and before she knows it they are traveling to the other side of the world. But upon their arrival in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on the couple and gradually reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for.
How we heard about: Nina Sichel promoted it on the Writing Out of Limbo Facebook page.
Why we recommend: The novel explores Bishop’s fascination with a dual sense of longing and nostalgia about two places one considers to be “home.”


him-me-muhammed-ali_coverHim, Me, Muhammad Ali (Sarabande Books, September 19, 2016)
Author: Randa Jarrar
Expat credentials: Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and Egypt. She moved to the United States after the first Gulf War, at the age of 13.
Synopsis: Stories about Middle Eastern women much like Jarrar herself, strong girls and women who’ve somehow landed in the United States, interlaced at times with magic. We travel from Cairo to Yonkers, from the West Bank to Wyoming.
How we heard about: From a tweet by M. Lynx Qualey (@arablit).
Why we recommend: This is Jarrar’s first story collection, following the debut of her first novel, A Map of Home, which won an Arab-American Book Award. As one critic writes, the anthology reflects Jarrar’s own experience of moving between continents and cultures through characters that always seem to be searching for that one place where they fit in: “Often, they don’t, so it’s the nebulous in-between space where their lives unravel.”


tea-planters-wife_coverThe Tea Planter’s Wife (Random House Broadway Books, September 13, 2016)
Author: Dinah Jefferies
Expat credentials: Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there—first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel.
Synopsis: An historical family drama set in Ceylon in the 1920s. Gwendoline, a young Engliah woman, fresh off the boat who has come to join her new husband at his tea plantation. She faces a big culture shock and then a mystery surrounding this man.
How we heard about: Tracey Warr’s interview with Jefferies in her Location, Locution column (published 3 December 2016).
Why we recommend: One of Warr’s other interviewees, Hazel Gaynor, chose this book by Jefferies for its “wonderful sense of location.”


singapore-love-stories_coverSingapore Love Stories (Monsoon Books, September 2016)
Author/Editor: Verena Tay (she contributed “Ex” )
Coordinator/Compiler: Raelee Chapman (she contributed “The Gardener”)
Expat credentials: Tay is based in Singapore but was educated internationally. Chapman is an Australian writer living in Singapore.
Synopsis: Leading Singaporean and Singapore-based writers explore the best and worst of the human condition called love, including grief, duplicity and revenge, self-love, filial love, homesickness and tragic past relationships.
How we heard about: Valentine’s Day post by Trip Fiction, replete with travel tips and giveaway
Why we recommend: The writers are a diverse group, including Singaporeans and expats, both Western expats and expats from within Asia, and also established writers and those published for the first time.


behold-the-dreamers_coverBehold the Dreamers (Penguin/Random House, August 23, 2016)
Author: Imbolo Mbue
Expat credentials: Mbue moved from Cameroon to New York City ten years ago.
Synopsis: The story of a Cameroonian couple and their son who settle in Harlem hoping to capture their piece of the American dream amidst the 2008 financial and housing market crisis.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: Inspired by Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon, Heinemann’s African Writers Series and British classics she read growing up, Mbue told one interviewer that she decided to write about what she knows best: the Cameroonian immigrant experience.


monsoon-summer_coverMonsoon Summer (Simon and Schuster, August 9, 2016)
Author: Julia Gregson
Expat credentials: Gregson has worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent in the UK, Australia, and the US. She grew up a military brat as her father was in the Royal Air Force. She has worked as a jillaroo in the Australian outback as well as a model for Hardy Amies in London.
Synopsis: An epic postwar love story moving from England to India. English nurse Kit meets Anto, a young Indian doctor finishing up his training at Oxford. They secretly marry and set off for South India—where Kit plans to run the maternity hospital she has already been helping from afar. But life in India does not turn out as she imagined.
How we heard about: From Tracey Warr’s Location Locution interview with Dinah Jefferies, who said she loved Gregson’s East of the Sun for the way it evokes a particular time in India,
Why we recommend: Critics praise Gregson for understanding both the harshness and beauty of India, its land, culture, and history. When researching this novel, Gregson went to Kerala and lived with an Indian family. She traveled in a rice boat up many of the back waters she describes in the book.


still-here_coverStill Here (Hogarth Random House, Aug 2, 2016)
Author: Lara Vapnyar
Expat credentials: Russian-born author Lara Vapnyar moved from Moscow to Brooklyn in 1994 as an adult, picked up English quickly, and started publishing short stories about the daily-life concerns of Russian émigrés like herself.
Synopsis: Vica, Vadik, Sergey and Regina met in Russia in their college days but remained in touch. They now have very different, yet intertwined, lives as immigrants in New York City. The story follows them as they grapple with love and tumult, the challenges of a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: One reviewer has praised it as “minutely observed, razor funny and wholly wonderful.” That’s a spectacularly high endorsement!


this-must-be-the-place_coverThis Must Be the Place (Knopf, July 19, 2016)
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Expat credentials: O’Farrell is a domestic expat of sorts. Born in Northern Ireland, she was brought up in Wales and Scotland, and now lives in Edinburgh.
Synopsis: A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, Daniel Sullivan has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive French-English ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema, she orchestrated her own disappearance, retreating to the seclusion of an Irish farmhouse. All seems well enough until the couple must struggle to hold things together in the face of a secret from Daniel’s past.
How we heard about: New York Times Book Review
Why we recommend: As one Amazon reviewer says, O’Farrell has created a set of “misplaced and lost characters, searching for an authentic place within themselves.” She notes that their “searching leads to external travels and internal jaunts. They are searching: for love, for connection, for identity, for affirmation, for understanding.”


dancingwiththetiger-_coverDancing with the Tiger (Putnam, July 12, 2016)
Author: Lili Wright
Expat credentials: A former journalist who has lived a year in Paris, a year in Italy and two years in Mexico, Wright, who recently earned an MFA, is now a professor at DePaul University in Indiana. During her many trips to Mexico, she has studied Spanish, lived with Mexican families, and had many adventures including watching dancing tigers parade down the streets.
Synopsis: Anna flees her dead-end life in New York City (she has just broken up with her fiancé) to hunt down what her father, a mask collector, believes to be the death mask of Aztec King Montezuma, from an American looter in Mexico.
How we heard about: A press release
Why we recommend: Wright says she tends to mix French, Italian, and Spanish together, but critics say she gets her cultural references just right in her debut novel, set in Mexico.


intrusion_coverIntrusion (Little A, July 1, 2016)
Author: Mary McCluskey
Expat credentials: Born in Warwickshire, McCluskey lived and worked in a number of cities in Europe—London, Brighton, Vienna, Munich, Athens—before finding a home in Los Angeles, California, where she married and gave birth to two sons. She now lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, twenty miles from where she was born, though still spends time in LA. She considers both LA and Stratford “home.”
Synopsis: A psychological drama about a couple dealing with the hardest of losses: the death of their only child, set against the backgrounds of Southern California and Sussex, UK. The marriage is thrown into a tailspin when the wife’s old schoolmate from England shows up, ostensibly to help the couple get over their grief.
How we heard about: TripFiction interview with the author
Why we recommend: McCluskey has lost a child (an experience a couple of authors on our site have had) and knows how it feels. She also has a nuanced view of the differences between the UK and the US.


the-lovers-portrait_coverThe Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery (Traveling Life Press, June 22, 2016)
Author: Jennifer S. Alderson
Expat credentials: After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, Alderson moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband and their son.
Synopsis: In the second of a series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, When two women claim the same portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history.
How we heard about: Alderson’s first Zelda Richardson novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu, was one of Booklust Wanderlust columnist Beth Green’s three book picks in honor of Mother’s Day this past year. (Notably, Alderson also contributed to Green’s column canvassing several writers on their recommended reads for the not-quite end of summer.)
Why we recommend: The novel draws on the author’s experiences gained while studying art history in the Netherlands and working for several Dutch museums.

Spring 2016

the-girl-and-the-sunbird_coverThe Girl and the Sunbird: A beautiful, epic story of love, loss and hope (Bookouture, June 17, 2016)
Author: Rebecca Stonehill
Expat credentials: Stonehill is from London but currently lives in Nairobi with her husband and three children where she teaches creative writing to school children. Synopsis: East Africa 1903: When 18-year-old Iris Johnson is forced to choose between marrying the frightful Lord Sidcup or a faceless stranger, Jeremy Lawrence, in a far-off land, she bravely decides on the latter. But when Iris meets Jeremy, she realizes in a heartbeat that they will never be compatible. Determined to make the best of her new life, she begins to adjust to her surroundings; the windswept plains of Nairobi and the delightful sunbirds that visit her window every day. And when she meets Kamau, a school teacher, Iris finds her calling, assisting him to teach the local children English.
How we heard about: TripFiction’s interview with Stonehill about her adopted home city of Nairobi
Why we recommend: Many readers compare Stonehill with Victoria Hislop, who has also made our list. Her first book, The Poet’s Wife—based on the 18 months she spent living in Granada—was a big hit with readers.


i-promise-you-this_coverI Promise You This: Book Three in the Love in Provence Series (Lake Union Publishing, May 17, 2016)
Author: Patricia Sands
Expat credentials: A Canadian, Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, but her heart’s other home is the South of France. An avid traveler, she spends part of each year on the Côte d’Azur and occasionally leads groups of women on tours of the Riviera and Provence.
Synopsis: The series follows the adventures of Katherine Price, a sensible Canadian woman who is undergoing a midlife crisis, a symptom of which is falling for a Frenchman named Philippe. She follows Philippe to his idyllic home in Provence but worries it’s a fantasy life. So, is Katherine ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? We find out in the conclusion to this trilogy about second chances.
How we heard about: TripFiction’s giveaway of Sands’s trilogy
Why we recommend: Sands herself is a good example of second chances, having taken up writing in her 60s. She chose a theme close to her heart: France, which she first fell in love with when she backpacked around the country for a year when she was 21, a love affair that has only grown throughout her life. She considers herself to be a “possibilatarian” and encourages the rest of us to do the same.


the-mirror-thief_coverThe Mirror Thief (Penguin Random House, May 10, 2016)
Author: Martin Seay
Expat credentials: As Seay put it in an interview, one of the sparks that led to the book was his memory of “a couple of misty Lenten backpacker days” in Venice: “at the time and still today the strangest place I’ve ever been.” He now lives in Wheeling, Illinois.
Synopsis: The novel consists of a series of nested stories telling of three Venices in three locations and eras: the Venetian casino in Las Vegas in 2003; Venice Beach, CA, in 1958; and the original city-state, in 1592, the time when its mirror-making industry was at its peak. Seay weaves all three stories together in a tour-de-force.
How we heard about: Made the Publishers Weekly list of most anticipated debut novels of Spring 2016
Why we recommend: The book came out to huge critical praise and has been called, among other things, a “masterpiece,” a “startling gem,” a “beautifully plotted potboiler,” and a “true delight.”


back-to-moscow_coverBack to Moscow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 3, 2016)
Author: Guillermo Erades
Expat credentials: Guillermo Erades was born in Málaga, Spain. As a career diplomat for the European Union, he has held posts in Moscow, Berlin, Baghdad and Brussels, where he is currently based. He has also lived in Leeds, Amsterdam, and Luxembourg. He wrote this book, his first novel, during a two-year posting high-security compound in Baghdad, where there were few distractions.
Synopsis: Martin came to Moscow at the turn of the millennium hoping to discover the country of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and his beloved Chekhov. Instead he found a city turned on its head, where the grimmest vestiges of Soviet life exist side by side with the nonstop hedonism of the newly rich. Along with his hard-living expat friends, Martin spends less and less time on his studies, choosing to learn about the Mysterious Russian Soul from the city’s unhinged nightlife scene. But as Martin’s research becomes a quest for existential meaning, love affairs and literature lead to the same hard-won lessons. Russians know: There is more to life than happiness.
How we heard about: Made the Publishers Weekly list of most anticipated debut novels of Spring 2016
Why we recommend: The novel draws on Erades’s life in Moscow at the beginning of the Putin years. It was his first EU posting, and he was in his twenties. He found it to be a special time: “There was a lot of fun and adventure and a Wild West feeling.” His book is the expat version of a Bildungsroman. He intended it as an ode to the city of his (mis?)spent, as well as displaced, youth, a motive that those of us who spent our formative years in foreign countries can well understand.


amotherssecret_coverA Mother’s Secret: A beautiful, heartbreaking novel of love, loss and hidden tragedy (Bookouture, April 6, 2016)
Author: Renita D’Silva
Expat credentials: Now living in the UK, D’Silva grew up in a coastal village in South India.
Synopsis: Jaya, the British-born daughter of immigrants, struggles with the unexpected death of her mother, Durga, followed by the loss of her baby son in a tragic cot death. Looking through her mother’s belongings, Jaya finds diaries that unlock the secrets of her mother’s unhappy past, before she emigrated to England. Part of the story is told by Durga, through diary excerpts, and part by Kali, a mad old lady who, like Durga, was doing her best to survive and succeed in traditional Indian culture.
How we heard about: D’Silva’s latest novel was featured in Beth Green’s Booklust, Wanderlust post last May, celebrating displaced female protagonists in honor of Mother’s Day
Why we recommend: D’Silva’s debut novel, Monsoon Memories, about an Indian woman who’d been exiled for more than a decade and is living in London, was a Displaced Nation pick for 2014.


reader-i-married-him_coverReader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre (HarperCollins, March 22, 2016)
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Expat credentials: American by birth, British by geography, Chevalier lives in London with her husband and son. Her first novel, which made her famous, was The Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Synopsis: A collection of short stories by writers across the globe whom she’d asked to respond to the famous opening line of Jane Eyre: “Reader, I married him.” Turkish author Elif Şafak, for instance, contributed a story about an Islamic woman who becomes infatuated with a young Dutchman who has arrived in her town to learn Turkish. Hm, but does she marry him? Linda Grant’s “The Mash-Up” tells of a disastrous wedding between a Jewish woman and a Persian man. (Yes, she did, unfortunately!)
How we heard about: The book release was commissioned as part of the commemorations for Charlotte Brontë’s 200th birthday, for which Chevalier also curated an exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
Why we recommend: It’s one of literature’s best-known lines, and we love the idea of having it interpreted by a group of global creatives.

Winter 2016

shelter_coverShelter (Picador, March 15, 2016)
Author: Jung Yun
Expat credentials: Yun was born in South Korea, grew up in North Dakota, and was educated at Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She now lives in western Massachusetts.
Synopsis: The story of young Korean American professor Kyung Cho and his Irish-American wife, which leads to the story of the complicated relationship that Kyung has with his wealthy parents. Kyung’s parents immigrated from Korea to the US as his father went to graduate school in engineering. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: It’s a family drama with a cross-cultural dimension: Kyung chose a white woman in part to distance himself from the rules of his own Korean upbringing, but can he make all of these relationships work?


forty-rooms_coverForty Rooms (Penguin, Feb 16, 2016)
Author: Olga Grushin
Expat credentials: Grushin was born in Moscow but is now based in the United States. She is an American citizen but retains Russian citizenship.
Synopsis: A Russian-born woman aspires to be a poet but ends up becoming Mrs. Caldwell, a housewife and mother in suburban America.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: Displaced writer Alexandra Fuller, who made my own list for 2015, was favorably impressed.


ways-to-disappear_coverWays to Disappear (Little, Brown and Company, Feb 9. 2016)
Author: Idra Novey
Expat credentials: Born in western Pennsylvania, Novey has lived in Chile, Brazil, and New York.
Synopsis: A noirish literary mystery with a translator at its center. Deep in gambling debt, the celebrated Brazilian writer Beatriz Yagoda is last seen holding a suitcase and a cigar and climbing into an almond tree. She abruptly vanishes. In snowy Pittsburgh, her American translator Emma hears the news and, against the wishes of her boyfriend and Beatriz’s two grown children, flies immediately to Brazil and tries to unravel the mystery.
How we heard about: Made the Publishers Weekly list of most anticipated debut novels of Spring 2016
Why we recommend: Novey is an award-winning poet. This is her first novel and it draws on her experience of working as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese literature.


the-photographers-wife_coverThe Photographer’s Wife (February 2, 2016)
Author: Suzanne Joinson
Expat credentials: For ten years Joinson worked part-time in the literature department of the British Council, traveling regularly in the Middle East, China, Russia, and Eastern and Western Europe. She has worked in and explored Yemen, Egypt, Syrian, Greece, and many other countries.
Synopsis: The casually glamorous Eleanora Ashton scandalizes the British expatriate community in Jerusalem by marrying a famous Arab photographer. But then she falls for William Harrington, a British pilot who is working for the architect Charles Ashton. The affair threatens her marriage, particularly when William discovers that her husband is part of an underground nationalist group intent on removing the British. Years later, in 1937, Ashton’s daughter Prue is an artist living a reclusive life in Shoreham, Sussex, with her son. Harrington arrives and what he reveals unravels her world.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: Like Joinson’s first novel, A Lady ­Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, set in Central Asia, the book is concerned with people who feel displaced; as the New York Times reviewer puts it, “they are looking for a guide, a map, some thread to lead them through the maze of their own lives.”


black-deutschland_coverBlack Deutschland (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 2, 2016)
Author: Darryl Pinckney
Expat credentials: A black writer from Indiana, Pinkney somehow ended up in the divided Berlin of the seventies and eighties and fell in love with it. Currently he divides his time between New York City, and Oxfordshire, UK.
Synopsis: It’s the early 1980s, and Jed, a young gay black American from Chicago who suffers from an addiction problem, has just finished reading Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories. He is inspired to flee to Berlin in the tradition of other black writers and musicians: he hopes to escape American racism and homophobia.
How we heard about: New York Times Sunday Book Review
Why we recommend: For black writers and musicians in the postwar era, Europe’s cultural capitals provided a space for people like Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Dexter Gordon, Nina Simone and many others to practice and be appreciated first and foremost as artists, rather than be caught up in America’s race tragedy. Pinkney’s second novel imparts an appreciation for this history.


what-belongs-to-you_coverWhat Belongs to You (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 19)
Author: Garth Greenwell
Expat credentials: Greenwell moved to Bulgaria to teach at the American College of Sofia in 2009. Because of his non-fluency in Bulgarian, he lived “between languages” but claims to have liked that experience.
Synopsis: An American teacher in Sofia, Bulgaria is barely able to keep up a conversation in Bulgarian or ascribe concrete value to the leva and stotinki he keeps in his wallet. But then he enters into a transactional romance with a handsome and enigmatic Bulgarian male hustler named Mitko. His love for Mitko remains unrequited, but the relationship forces him to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in.
How we heard about: Made the Publishers Weekly list of most anticipated debut novels of Spring 2016
Why we recommend: As Jeffery Zuckerman puts it in his review for The New Republic:

“Garth Greenwell’s writing is alive to the foreign and the unknown; he opens our eyes to worlds we had not realized existed alongside our own. Even the landscape of Bulgaria, one of the poorest and least-known countries in Europe, is made vivid and vibrant.”


the-expatriates_coverThe Expatriates (Penguin Books, January 12, 2016)
Author: Janice Y. K. Lee
Expat credentials: Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong. She received a BA in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard College. A former editor at Elle magazine, Lee lives in New York with her husband and four children.
Synopsis: Lee explores with devastating poignancy the emotions, identities, and relationships of three very different American women living in the same small expat community in Hong Kong.
How we heard about: From the special “Border Crossings” edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review, focusing on books about global migration.
Why we recommend: As novelist Maggie Pouncey put it in her review of the book, Janice Y.K. Lee is a “female, funny Henry James in Asia.”

* * *

And so we have it: our top picks for displaced fiction that came out in 2016. What do you think, dear reader? Are we missing something you think deserves to be on the list? Kindly let us know in the comments!

ML Awanohara, one of the Displaced Nation’s founders and its current editor, has a section in the weekly Displaced Dispatch where she mentions the latest expat books. Why not subscribe as a treat to yourself during the winter doldrums?

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab 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, and much, much more. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Photo credits: All photos via Pixabay or Morguefiles.

BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST: Beach bound? Check out summer reading recommendations from featured authors (2/2)

booklust-wanderlust-2015

Attention displaced bookworms! Our book review columnist, Beth Green, an American expat in Prague (she is also an Adult Third Culture Kid), empties the remainder of her treasure chest that she brought to us two days ago, stuffed with recommended reads to take you through the summer.

Hello again. As explained in Part One of this post, I reached out to some of my bookish friends as well as a few of the authors whose books I’ve recently reviewed to see what books they recommend taking on vacation. I asked them to tell me:

Summer Reading 2015

Photo credits: Amazon Kindle PDF, by goXunuReviews via Flickr (CC BY 2.0); beach chair and sandy feet via Pixabay.

Here are the rest of the recommendations I received, including a few from yours truly and ML Awanohara (Displaced Nation’s founding editor) at the end. Enjoy!

* * *

MARK ADAMS, best-selling travel writer and author of Meet Me In Atlantis (which we reviewed in May): My recommendations are a classic travelogue, a biography of an intrepid traveler, and an adventure novel.

The-Snow_Leopard_cover_300xThe Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen (Viking Press, 1978)
Shortly before he died, I had the honor of interviewing Matthiessen at his home on Long Island. I was surprised by how concerned he seemed, knowing that his death was rapidly approaching, that he would be remembered less as a novelist than as the author of The Snow Leopard. I went back to reread it for the first time in twenty years and was amazed by how good it was—a moving story about a man’s search for meaning through Zen Buddhism after the death of his young wife, intertwined flawlessly with a thrilling narrative about an incredible journey through the Himalayas. So fresh and evocative it could have been published yesterday.

Bruce-Chatwin_A-Biography_cover_300xBruce Chatwin: A Biography, by Nicholas Shakespeare (Anchor, 2001)
Chatwin, of course, is one of the great travel writers of all time; he practically reinvented the genre with books like In Patagonia and The Songlines. But as Shakespeare’s brilliant biography demonstrates, Chatwin’s greatest creation may have been the globetrotting persona that he carefully presented to the world. The descriptions—decodings might be a better term—of how Chatwin assembled his literary works will be absolutely riveting to anyone who has tried his or her hand at trying to pin down the essence of a place using only words.

State-of-Wonder_cover_300xState of Wonder, by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins, 2011)
I once heard Ann Patchett on the radio, talking about the job of a novelist. She described it as “creating a world.” No one creates worlds with quite the skill that Patchett does. Reading her descriptions of pharmaceutical research being conducted in the Amazon is like being dropped into the jungle—you can feel the sweat beading on your forehead and the buzz of malarial mosquitoes preparing to land on the back of your neck. And you know what? Patchett’s Bel Canto, which takes place in Lima, Peru, is an equally brilliant tale that performs the magic tricks that only great fiction can, allowing you to read minds and travel through time and space.


MARIANNE C. BOHR, Displaced Nationer and author of the soon-to-be-published Gap Year Girl: A Baby Boomer Adventure Across 21 Countries: My summer reads are usually of the meaty kind because as a teacher, I have more time in July and August to pay close attention and savor every word. As one who suffers wanderlust daily, my three choices all have to do with travel. They are very different books, but each grabs my heart in a different way and I could read them over and over, each time discovering something new.
Bohr Collage

The Drifters, by James A. Michener (Random House, 1971)
This book takes me back to my youth and the thirst for exotic adventure that goes along with being young.

Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone, by Mary Morris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998)
I wanted to head straight to Mexico when I read this heart-wrenching book and also felt like the author was a new friend when I finished.

An Italian Affair, by Laura Fraser (Vintage, 2001)
What a guilty pleasure immersing myself in this book of islands, romance, lust and longing is. I could read it again and again.


SHIREEN JILLA, adult TCK and former expat and author of The Art of Unpacking Your Life (which we reviewed in May) and Exiled (which we featured in 2011): I would pack three very different books:
Jilla Collage

Red Dust: A Path Through China, by Ma Jian (Vintage, 2002)
Dissident artist Ma Jian’s diary of his walk across China in the wake of his divorce and threatened arrest is utterly enlightening, moving, profound and playful. Walking is clearly an under-rated pastime.

Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan (Anchor, 2009)
A powerful, beautiful novel about the crazed nature of modern urban life, it elevates Egan to one of the greats of American literature.

Paris Stories, by Mavis Gallant (NYRB Classics, 2011)
A regular writer for the New Yorker, Gallant penned these short stories about expats and exiles in Europe particularly Paris. They are brilliantly laid bare. (Born in Montreal, Gallant moved to Paris when she was 28 determined to be a full-time writer. She lived there until her death in 2014.)


BETH GREEN, writer, expat, TCK and BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST columnist: Here are my three picks, one of which I’ve not read and two that I have:

The-Messenger-of-Athens_cover_300xThe Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi (Reagan Author Books, 2010)
Summer is the best time to really sink into a mystery series. I love taking a few titles from an established series and binge reading them on the beach or by the pool. Previously, I’ve done this with Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley novels, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books and Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire mysteries. This year I’ll be spending some time on the beach in Greece, so I’ve got my eyes set on British writer Anne Zouroudi’s Greek Inspector mysteries, which depict ugly crimes based on the seven deadly sins in beautiful Mediterranean surroundings. The series now has seven books, of which Messenger is the first. (Born in England, Zouroudi worked in the UK and the USA before giving it all up to live on a Greek island. She married a Greek as well.)

swamplandia_coverSwamplandia! by Karen Russell (Vintage, 2011)
This darkly fascinating and somewhat magical story of a girl and her siblings abandoned in a run-down theme park in Florida fascinated me when I read it a few years ago. It’s both a chilling odyssey into a swampland netherworld and an exploration of subcultures of the kind rarely seen in American books. For me it had the right amount of tension to keep you turning pages and the right amount of whimsy to keep the potentially depressing material light enough for a summer read.

Daughter-of-Fortune_cover_300xDaughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende, trans. by Margaret Sayers Peden (Harper, 2014)
Summer is a time for voyages—or at least reading about them! I can name a whole bagful of road trip books I’d happily re-read over summer, but for pure swashbuckling joy I have to recommend Isabel Allende’s historical cross-cultural adventure Daughter of Fortune. An upper-class girl raised in an English enclave in Chile in the 1800s stows away to follow her lover to the gold fields of California. I haven’t read the sequel, Portrait in Sepia, yet, but I’m guessing it’s also worth adding to that beach bag. (Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Allende lives in California.)


ML AWANOHARA, former expat and Displaced Nation founding editor: We are constantly reporting on new displaced reads in the Displaced Dispatch, which comes out once a week. Just to give you a taste of the kinds of things we feature, here is a selection. As you can see, it comprises a work of historical nonfiction that reads like a novel, a memoir with elements of Nordic myth, and a novel by a once-displaced poet, all with beach-bag potential.

Daughters_of_the_Samurai_cover_300xDaughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back, by Janice P. Nimura (W.W. Norton, May 2015)
Call it the early Japanese version of our gap year or junior year abroad. The story begins in 1871, after Commodore Perry’s ships opened Japan to the outside world, when five young women were sent to the United States on a mission to learn Western ways and help nurture a new generation of enlightened Japanese leaders. Three of them stayed for ten years and returned to Japan determined to revolutionize women’s education. Several critics have said the book reads like a modern fairy tale. But if the women faced many hurdles in the course of their unusual journey, the tale doesn’t necessarily end happily ever after. “I cannot tell you how I feel,” one of them remarked upon her return to her native land, “but I should like to give one good scream.” Janice Nimura, an American who is married to a Japanese, has spent time living in Japan.

Passage-of-the-stork_cover_300xPassage of the Stork: One Woman’s Journey to Self-Realization and Acceptance, by Madeleine Lenagh (Springtime Books, March 2015)
Madeleine Lenagh is American but spent her first five years as an expat child in Europe, after which she grew up in Connecticut. Rebelling against her mother’s interference in her love life, she set out to travel across Europe alone. Arriving in the Netherlands broke, she took a job as an au pair—and the rest is history. She has now been living in the land of cheese and tulips for over four decades and speaks fluent Dutch. But that’s her travel history. Her own personal history remained repressed until she wrote this memoir. One of the things that interests me about it is that Lenagh chose to weave together the narrative using Nordic mythology. (As long-term followers of the Displaced Nation will know, we are fond of doing the same with the Alice in Wonderland story.) Passage of the Stork is a publication of Springtime Books, the new fledgling of Summertime Publishing, which specializes in books by expats and for expats and is the brainchild of global nomad Jo Parfitt.

hausfrau_coverHausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum (Random House, March 2015)
This novel by Texas-born American poet Jill Alexander Essbaum, her first, depicts an American woman in a cross-cultural marriage to a Swiss banker. They are living with their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. In the spirit of Essbaum’s erotic poetry, Anna (yes, the name is a nod to Tolstoy’s heroine) engages in a series of messy affairs. Now, is this book the expat answer to Fifty Shades? Actually, the answer to that question interests me less than the fact that Essbaum herself was once a hausfrau in Dietlikon, near Zürich, where she moved with her first husband, an American interested in studying Jungian psychoanalysis. Like Anna, she experienced intense loneliness and isolation—albeit no torrid affairs. Who would have guessed?

* * *

Thank you so much for your recommendations, ML and everyone else! Readers, it’s your turn now. What books are you looking forward to popping in the book bag this summer? And, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, what books are getting you through the winter?

Also, can I echo ML’s contribution by urging you to sign up for the DISPLACED DISPATCH, which has at least one Recommended Read every week. And please feel welcome to make recommendations for books to be featured in the Dispatch, and in this column, by contacting ML at ML@thedisplacednation.com.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

Beth Green is an American writer living in Prague, Czech Republic. She grew up on a sailboat and, though now a landlubber, continues to lead a peripatetic life, having lived in Asia as well as Europe. Her personal Web site is Beth Green Writes. She has also launched the site Everyday Travel Stories. To keep in touch with her in between columns, try following her on Facebook and Twitter. She’s a social media nut!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe to The Displaced Dispatch, a weekly round up of posts from The Displaced Nation and much, much more. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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For this wanderlusting Californian for whom photography and travel are a perfect fit, a picture says…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King is back with his latest interview subject.

Jenny in Ireland

Jenny Schulte in front of an old church window ruin near Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.

Hello again, readers! My May guest is 38-year-old Jenny Schulte. who never had any thoughts of leaving her Northern California home until she travelled to Ireland in 1999 to explore her Irish roots. Now she is an ardent traveler who combines her love of photography with her travel experiences in her captivating blog Bulldog Travels, subtitled “Everything and Nothing Plus Some Pretty Photos.” Jenny is wrong to call it “nothing”: her blog is her her outlet for sharing her travel adventures along with the kinds of “photographs my friends have always enjoyed,” as she puts it.

On her About page, she says:

[Those] two wonderful hobbies of travel and photography fit perfectly together.

A woman after my own heart!

* * *

Hi, Jenny, and welcome to the Displaced Nation. Thank you for getting in touch and offering to share your photo-travels with us. Can you tell us where you were born and when you spread your wings to start travelling?
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California, and consider myself fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world. San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, the gorgeous California Coast, Redwoods, Yosemite, Napa Wine Country—all are on my doorstep. But while I have always loved to travel within the United States, when I was twenty I decided I really wanted to delve into my Irish heritage and see Ireland first hand. I had a very romantic vision of the country and figured I would be disappointed if I never went. Well…the moment my tennies hit the ground, a restlessness took over and I have been globetrotting ever since. I made a good friend in Ireland who is from Germany. and together we have seen much of western Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, Monaco, Spain, Andorra, England and Scotland). In more recent years I have been fulfilling an archaeological interest of mine exploring Mexico and Central American sites and ruins.

If you’re lucky enough to be Irish…you’re lucky enough!

So once you finally got the travel bug, you were up and running in those tennies of yours. I have only managed the UK and France from your entire list. I’m envious. Can you share with us some of the highlights of your travel adventures?
I really enjoy history and from Ireland I went to my first European countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, where I could not only delve into history but also enjoy great food, culture, and scenery. From there I went on to other destinations such as France, Scandinavia and the UK. My search for ancient ruins took me to the Yucatán, Belize, and Guatemala. The animals and the raw nature of Costa Rica stole my heart. At home, where I have travelled California and the entire west on shorter trips, I really love Joshua Tree National Park, Portland, Southern Utah, San Francisco and Mendocino.

Now that you have gained so much real travel experience, I would love to hear more about what inspired you to travel originally and sustains you on your many trips.
No one in my family has ever travelled very far, with the exception of a few who travelled for Uncle Sam’s benefit. They tend to stick close to home preferring to take a drive rather than fly somewhere exotic. My family built a cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and we still enjoy it whenever we can. But my grandmother had told me stories of Ireland since I was a child, and I always dreamed of seeing it one day. After that initial Irish adventure, every trip has left me wanting more. I have averaged one or two main trips per year and as many small trips as I can fit in. As a photographer I tend to focus on areas I know will be wonderful to capture. But I am always surprised and pleased when I get great photos I never expected.

So tell us about where you have travelled most recently.
I recently returned from a trip to Belize and Guatemala. I tend to spend my home time in Sacramento, San Francisco, California Coast, the Lake Tahoe area, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I will probably stay in California until I retire and then I plan to be more nomadic, visiting places that are difficult to visit on a two-week trip. Then I hope to live in areas longer, to fully appreciate the culture and the environment.

Don’t leave it too late like I did. You need a lot of energy for the expat life.

“Laughter is the brightest where food is best.”

Now let’s move on to a few of your shots that capture favourite memories. Thank you for sharing and for describing the story behind each one and what makes them so special.  
Of course! For my first photo, I present you with a little boy cleaning a fish out front of his grandmother’s restaurant, Maggie’s Sunset Diner, in Caye Caulker, Belize. His family’s BBQ was fired up just out of the frame. The boy so badly wanted to be like his grandmother. He was begging to BBQ his own fish like an adult. My husband and I observed this charming scene while having dinner. I believe that good, inexpensive food in a place full of local ambiance is better than a five-star restaurant anywhere in the world. The photo was taken only with my iPhone but I think it captures the mood and the vibe of this small island off the coast of Belize.

Q9.1 Boy cleaning fish

Boy in Belize cleaning a fish. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

The second photo is of some donuts my husband I consumed in Maui, Hawaii. I was driving around the rural part of the island looking for something to eat for breakfast when I stumbled upon a locally owned and run donut shop. The donuts were glorious and became a highlight of our visit. We have actually contemplated going back to Maui just for the donuts! Then again, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm very hard to go back to Maui. The older I get the more food tends to be an important part of my travels.

Maui donuts

Donut feast in Maui. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

The last photo is of a two-headed jaguar you can see in the ancient Mayan city of Uxmal, which is located in Yucatán, Mexico. Something about Uxmal really spoke to me. I think what makes it so special is that the architects for these structures were so clearly artists. They went beyond function and focused on form in a way not seen elsewhere in the Yucatán. Their work is magnificent and the detail is phenomenal. I never grow tired of looking at photos from this visit, and I offer this one in hopes of transporting readers to these spectacular ruins.

Uxmal

A Mayan jaguar. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

I am really impressed by the picture of the boy cleaning fish. And I agree that the experience of eating wholesome home cooking in basic local surroundings is better than any clinically manufactured setting. I am sure you take a lot of photos but where, so far, are your favourite places to shoot and can you explain why these places inspire you.
Photography is an integral part of travel for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m travelling to a faraway exotic location or hitting a local California beach—taking photographs helps me recall the trip in a way my memory alone doesn’t, and inspires me to be creative in a way I find difficult at home. I have many favourite places to take photographs, including zoos, gardens, and historical sites. In recent years, I have photographed the San Diego Zoo and the Belize Zoo. I am looking forward to a weekend-long photography expedition at Safari West in Santa Rosa in the fall. I enjoy shooting botanical gardens like Mendocino, DuPlooys in Belize, San Diego, Lake Constance (Germany) and the Maui Garden of Eden. One of my favourite architectural structures is the Eiffel Tower at night. I’ve had fun attempting to shoot it from angles not often seen.

Well, Jenny, since you left it up to me to choose three photos that represent your favourite spots, here my selection. My first choice is your photo of a rickety old building in Paris, which houses a gallery of some kind. I think your capture is wonderful because it looks as though the building won’t be standing much longer, and the shop is a relic of a bygone era.

Business in Paris

A rickety Parisian gallery. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

Next I’ve chosen one of your Eiffel Tower shots. This one is not immediately recognizable as most shots of this iconic landmark are. So it asks a question—who am I? And the photo of the lighting on the structure in the night sky is beautiful.

Eiffel Tower

A new angle on a famous angular building. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

Finally, I love this nature shot of yours, taken in Du Plooys Botanical Garden in Belize, with its contrast of the crimson flower, green leaves and shadows. I think it would make fine wall-art.

DuPlooys Botanical Garden Belize

Botanical blossom in Belize. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

“Better good manners than good looks.”

So do you feel reserved about taking photos of people, particularly when they are conscious that you are doing so?
I definitely do. I try to live my life in a considerate way. I would never feel comfortable embarrassing or offending anyone. I would never be able to look at the photo afterwards with a clear conscience. Sometimes I shoot images of people from an angle where they might not be aware. This is because I prefer candid photos versus asking for permission and taking what I would consider more of a portrait. I admire photographers who do portrait photography, but I suppose it makes me uncomfortable. It can also take the fun out of it.

On occasions where you do ask for permission, how do you get around any problem of language?
Sometimes what I do is show the person the photos I have taken of them. Recently, for example, I photographed a little girl in Belize whose mother owned the dive shop we were visiting. The girl was coloring a picture and smiling at me. I held up my camera and made an O.K. sign with my fingers. She immediately started hamming it up for the camera and then begged to see the image of herself on the camera. The girl and her mother spoke some English, but in this case it was more fun to ask without words. Miming can work pretty well. Holding up a camera or pretending to take a selfie generally gets a smile from a stranger.

Would you say that photography and the ability to be able to capture something unique which will never be seen again is a powerful force for you?
For me, photographing events or moments has the power to capture something that is both crisper and more emotional than if I wrote about the place or just relied on my memory. My photos represent what is in my heart and mind better than any other means of communication. Sometimes I will look back on an old photo and remember a moment or a place that I had completely forgotten about. The memories that come flooding back are what keep me planning for the next trip.

Clearly, a picture says a thousand words for you. When did you realize that, and how has it changed your perspective?
I don’t think there was a particular moment. I have always been that way since I had enough money to buy and develop film—I always took too many photos. But for me, and ultimately for my subjects, it is worthwhile to capture a special moment. That said, I sometimes have to force myself to put the camera down so that I can be in the moment.

“May the blessing of light be on you—/light without and light within.”

Now for the technical stuff. Can you tell me what kind of camera and lenses you use?
I use an iPhone 5s, Nikon D800 and Nikon D700 cameras. Nikon Nikkor DX 18-135mm and Nikon Nikkor AF 70-300mm lenses.

That’s quite a collection. And which software do you use for post-processing?
I just use Lightroom for post processing.

“Your feet will bring you where your heart is.”

Finally, do you have any advice for wannabe photographers who are traveling or living abroad?
Be responsible, show respect, be a good advocate for your home country and for the human race and, if you can, travel while you are young. If you aren’t young anymore travel anyway and it will make you young! Follow your instincts, have fun, stay inspired, take breaks from your art when necessary to keep the spark, try new things, talk to people, eat the food, take the back roads and get lost…the world will all of a sudden become very very wonderful.

That is very good advice, Jenny, and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to tell your story in this interview.

Editor’s note: All subheds are from Irish sayings or blessings.

* * *

Readers, what do you make of Jenny’s experiences and her photography advice? And do you have any questions for her on her photos or travels? Please leave them in the comments!

If you want to get to know Jenny and her creative works better, I suggest you visit her travel site. You can also follow her on Instagram or contact her at PhotosbyJenny@aol.com.

Born in England, James King is now semi-retired in Thailand. He runs his own photography-based blog, Jamoroki. If you are a travel-photographer and would like to be interviewed by James for this series, please send your information to ml@thedisplacednation.com.)

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab 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 and much, much more! Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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TCK TALENT: Gene Bell-Villada, literary critic, Latin Americanist, novelist, translator and TCK memoirist

Gene B-V TCK Talent

Professor Gene Bell-Villada (own photo)

Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang is here with her first column of 2015. For those who haven’t been following: she is building up quite a collection of stories about Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs) who work in creative fields. Lisa herself is a prime example. A Guatemalan-American of Chinese-Spanish-Irish-French-German-English descent, she has developed her own one-woman show about growing up as a TCK, which is receiving rave reviews wherever it goes.

—ML Awanohara

Happy New Year, readers! Today I’m honored to be interviewing Gene Bell-Villada, author of the Third Culture Kid memoir Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics and co-editor of my first published essay in the TCK/global-nomad anthology: Writing Out of Limbo. Gene grew up in Latin America and “repatriated” to the USA for college and beyond; he is a Professor of Romance Languages (Spanish), Latin American Literature, and Modernism at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is also a published writer of fiction and nonfiction.

* * *

Welcome to The Displaced Nation, Gene. Like me, you’re an Adult Third Culture Kid of mixed heritage. Since you were born in Haiti and grew up in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela as the son of an Asian-Polynesian mother from Hawaii and a WASP father from Kansas, your identity development was complex and nuanced, as you make clear in your memoir.  Can you tell us how you identify yourself these days?
Like the title of my memoir, I identify myself as an Overseas American, of mixed WASP and Chinese-Filipino-Hawaiian ethnicity, with a Caribbean-Hispanic upbringing. I wrote my memoir in great measure to disentangle and explain that background—for myself and others! More broadly, in my middle 20s, it dawned on me that, by default, I happened to be a cosmopolitan, and that I couldn’t feel “local” even if I wished to. And so, I set out to make the best of that cosmopolitanism and build on it.

OverseasAmerican_cover

Tell us two things you miss about each of your childhood countries.
From my three childhood countries, I miss mostly the Latin informality and warmth…and salsa dancing! From Puerto Rico, I’ve fond memories of the University campus that was next door to my first home in Río Piedras, and where my mother would take us for walks. From Cuba I miss the richness of the music and folk culture. About Caracas, 3,000 feet above sea level, I remember its mild climate and “eternal spring.”

“Puerto Ricans do a lot of hugging, Dickie reflected. His parents and relatives almost never did.”

Your TCK childhood had extra upheaval due to your parents’ divorce and your two years at a military school in Cuba while your parents each lived in other countries. I imagine that affected your feelings about where you lived.
I must admit, I don’t “miss” most of what I lived in my 17 years in the Spanish Caribbean. I had a very difficult childhood, in which I never really “belonged” to any of those countries, had little contact with the expat community, and was leading a painful, dysfunctional family life. Since my brother and I were put away in a military school in Cuba, it’s not a place that I would “miss.” The circumstances of my upbringing have made childhood nostalgia an elusive sentiment for me.

After a young adulthood in New Mexico (briefly), Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and New York—and some trips to Europe—you settled in Williamstown, MA.  When did you come to feel that it was home, inasmuch as any place can be for an ATCK?
My wife and I actually have had homes in two locations in Massachusetts: Williamstown and Cambridge. So we lived both in the city, where we had our home life, and the country, where I taught. And I guess I realized sometime in the 1970s that New England had become my home. The place had enough cultural density, layered history, and overall cosmopolitanism for me to feel at ease in those parts. (I’d also earned my Ph.D at Harvard.) I even turned down a job offer from UCLA in 1976 because by then I felt attached enough to Massachusetts to stay there. Plus, I didn’t look forward to living in my car on the LA freeways, or putting up with Los Angeles pollution, which was fairly serious back then!

“‘Ah, but you speak such good Spanish…'”

Have you returned to any of the Latin American countries in which you grew up? 
I’ve been back to Puerto Rico and to Venezuela, always experiencing those mixed feelings. When I visited my old neighborhood in Hato Rey, PR, in 2012, I found it largely changed. Moreover, during a previous visit to San Juan in 1985, I went for a stroll at the University grounds. At the sight of the palm trees at the entrance and the tower looming above it all, I fell to the ground, crying. It was a reminder that much of my youth there, when I’d believed that I was an “American” boy in the tropics, had been illusory.

As for Cuba, I could only go back under very specific conditions—not because of the regime, which I’m not against, but owing to my painful personal memories of the place. I worry that seeing certain streets and buildings might elicit a wrenching sadness in me.

Since you’re a professor of Latin American literature and have written about the heavyweights in the field, I presume you’ve also visited quite a few countries in the region at this point. What were your impressions?
Inasmuch as I’ve written books and articles about Borges, García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, and Mexican literature, I’ve been more than once to Argentina, Colombia, Perú, and Mexico. Going to and traveling in those countries brought insight into their literary works that one cannot get simply from reading them in one’s study. On the other hand, my Latin American and Caribbean background proved enormously helpful in accessing the culture and the society of those places. Indeed, García Márquez’s world is the Caribbean coast of Colombia; exploring that area in 1982 and 1988 was a lot like being back in San Juan and Havana! Writing about it was fun, a bit like a return to my childhood, without the pain.

“She was from New York. Didn’t people from New York listen to classical music?”

Although you have always had a passion for classical and Latin music, you ultimately found ways to express yourself through writing fiction and nonfiction. Does music still play a big role in your life? 
Music is my first love. If I hadn’t had a late start at the piano (a fact that unfortunately set me back several years), I might have stayed with it. I turned to literature, in some measure, because it didn’t require advanced hand-muscle skills! But once I got involved with the written word, I strived to make my prose style as artistic, expressive, and fun as music can be, and I worked to give it rhythm and melody. (Someone has remarked that I write like a musician.) I still play piano, though.

Is there a particular work that you are most proud of having written, and if so, why?
I feel equally attached to all of them! Each one has had its role in my life. My books on Borges and García Márquez (which have sold well and gone through second editions) are used in AP courses, and are consulted by general readers, here and abroad. From early on, I had set out to be a “cultural mediator” between Latin American literature and U.S. readers, and those volumes serve that purpose.

My book Art for Art’s Sake and Literary Life, on the other hand, grew out of my cosmopolitanism and my desire to deal with the uses of art as both escape and expression. (In some subliminal way, it’s autobiographical.) The volume covers the phenomenon of aestheticism in Europe, the U.S., and Latin America. I felt vindicated when the thing was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award (there I was, sharing space with Cynthia Ozick and William H. Gass). It also got translated into Serbian and Chinese! When I asked my two translators just what had drawn them to the book, they both replied that what I’d said about Latin American aestheticism was also applicable to analogous 19th-century movements in Serbia and Taiwan. So my cosmopolitanism had shed light on some corners elsewhere in this world.

My two books of fiction focus in part on TCK issues, plus such cultural-specific matters as American relativism or the seductive influence of Ayn Rand.

But I finally turned to memoir because I felt it was the way to confront head-on the question of my crazy, mixed-up background, to make sense out of it all and give it a living shape. The process of remembering that past, and crafting it and getting it out there, has proved enormously therapeutic. It also led to my meeting Nina Sichel and, then, you, Lisa, via our essay collection, Writing Out Of Limbo!

My latest volume is a kind of experiment, starting with its very title: On Nabokov, Ayn Rand and the Libertarian Mind: What the Russian-American Odd Pair Can Tell Us about Some Values, Myths and Manias Widely Held Most Dear. Besides dissecting the two authors, I tease out my troubled relationship to them, delve once again into my own life history, and finally move on to the larger problem of a rising, spreading libertarianism in this country. There’s even an Appendix in which I throw in a number of spoofs of my own of hard-line libertarians! (I’ve been playing with satires of something or other ever since I was in middle school in Puerto Rico…)
on-nabokov-ayn-rand-and-the-libertarian-mind_cover

You’re a true international creative, with works that run the entire gamut! Tell us, what’s next? Fiction? Nonfiction? Something else?
I have stuff in the works, but am in the process of rethinking my projects in the wake of my wife’s death in 2013. (Widowerhood does things to your mind and spirit, alas.)

Where can people find your works?
All my books are available from Amazon and local bookstores, as well as from any good library!

Thank you, Gene, for sharing your wonderfully inspiring story with the Displaced Nation. So, readers, any questions or comments for Gene? Be sure to leave them in the comments!

Editor’s note: All subheadings are taken from Gene’s book The Pianist Who Liked Ayn Rand: A Novella & 13 Stories.

STAY TUNED for our next fab post.

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Getting carried away with author Lisa Egle on a magic carpet, or is it a chicken bus? (Win a copy of her travel memoirs!)

Lisa E Collage for TNBack in the days when my nieces were small—and I’d just repatriated to the United States after quite a few years abroad—I got to know them again through long bouts of playing make-believe at my mother’s (their grandmother’s) house.

We particularly enjoyed Magic Carpet. We had our own home-made version. Adorning ourselves in Grandma’s silk scarves, we would plonk down on her quilted bedspread for a flight of fancy, à la Arabian Nights (not for us the Disney version!):

Whoever sitteth on this carpet and willeth in thought to be taken up and set down upon other site will, in the twinkling of an eye, be borne thither, be that place nearhand or distant many a day’s journey and difficult to reach.

I trust this anecdote will explain why I’m so excited about hosting new author Lisa Egle today. It’s Magic Carpet time again, and this time I get to be the kid, listening to Egle tell of the off-the-beaten-track adventures that are captured in her travel memoirs, Magic Carpet Seduction.

Hey, we even have prizes! Two of our readers will be the lucky recipients of a copy of Egle’s book (see giveaway details below). The giveaway is now over! 😦

Hmmm… The only thing is, I suspect that before we board the Magic Carpet, Egle will ask us to ride on a chicken bus. (Leave the silk scarves at home, girls!)

* * *

MagicCarpetSeduction_cover_pmHi, Lisa! I won’t need too much persuasion to be seduced by your writing. I’m already a follower of your travel blog, ChickyBus. And I know you’re an American like me, living in New Jersey. Why made you decide to travel in the first place?
After taking short solo trips in the U.S. back in the 1990s, I went on a two-week group tour of Egypt and thought it was the most exciting thing I’d ever done. I then went on another tour, of Ecuador, which turned out to be a life-changing experience (for many reasons, including the fact that I moved there a few months later). While living in Ecuador, I began to travel independently and realized how much I enjoyed it. From that point on, I entered the ranks of “travel addicts.”

How many countries have you been to at this point?
In total, I’ve been to 36 countries, on five continents. I was an expat twice: in Ecuador for a year and half and in Spain for a year. Recently, I spent two months in Indonesia.

And home is now New Jersey?
Yes. I’m a full-time ESL professor at a two-year college in Bloomfield.

I don’t get it. Is a “chicken bus” magical?

Where does the epithet “Chicky Bus” come from?
“Chicky Bus” is the name of one of the stories in my book. It’s about a quirky 12-hour “chicken bus” ride I took in Central America that led me to have epiphanies about living in the moment. When I started my blog, I thought “ChickyBus” would be a cool domain name—one that related to travel and one that people would remember. I also liked it as a blog concept. I’m the “driver” taking readers—”passengers”—on “rides” with me, allowing them to experience the same random moments and unexpected journeys that I do.

There’s also a deeper meaning, however. “Chicky bus” is a metaphor for my unique style of travel—being in the moment while venturing off the beaten path and taking risks (nothing too crazy, of course). It refers to that place of magic and self-discovery that I find wherever I go.

Why did you decide to publish some of your travel stories as a book?
Years ago, while blogging about general topics on a site called http://www.gaia.com, I began sharing travel tales. The feedback was incredibly positive; people were inspired and entertained by what I wrote and said they felt like they were right there with me. After a while, I decided to go all the way with it, to write more stories and to compile them into a book—four major “rides” to different regions of the world (and a total of 9 countries: China, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon).

Are any of your chapters based on blog posts?
Interestingly, none of the stories are based on blog posts. I wrote most of the book before I started ChickyBus. There are, however, a few stories (simplified versions) on the blog that came from the book.

Mostly magical connections

We like to talk about “displaced moments” on the Displaced Nation. We can see you’ve experienced your fair share: from close encounters with Carpet Casanovas in Turkey, to meeting with a hermit in the Lebanese mountains, to experiencing political intrigue in a Chinese classroom, to receiving a marriage proposal on that infamous chicken bus in Nicaragua. But we still have to ask you: which is the MOST displaced moment that you’ve included in this book?
The moments you mention were truly unique ones and—believe it or not—I didn’t feel as displaced as one might think. Because I was in the moment and going with the flow, I felt quite comfortable and that I was where I needed to be.

There were a few instances, however, in which I did have that “displaced” feeling—the most extreme of which occurred in China.

It was 1999 and I was teaching English at a university in Changsha in Hunan Province, which was definitely considered off the beaten path back then. For most of my time there, I was in a deep state of culture shock. I struggled with many things, from freedom of speech issues to getting to know my students. There were many “displaced moments”—and even days. Fortunately, after a while, things leveled out and went more smoothly.

So from what you’ve just said, I guess there is a lot of competition for your LEAST displaced moment, when you felt you actually belonged with all of these characters you discovered off the beaten track?
One of my least displaced moments (and possibly favorite) was when a friend and I ended up spending the night with a Mexican family we barely knew. They’d invited us over for lunch. We were planning to take a bus to another city that night because we had to fly home from there the next day. It got later and later and because we were so comfortable, we didn’t want to leave. We ended up staying (and sleeping in two very tiny beds, slightly larger than coffins) and having a wonderful time being part of the family.

P.S. A little Boone’s Farm wine went a long way in helping make us even more comfortable…

Don’t exit until the rug has made a complete stop!

Okay, time to get off that chicken bus and onto that magic carpet. On your post announcing the book’s publication, you say:

So imagine that my book is the equivalent of an invitation to a Bedouin lounge of sorts. If you decide to join me, we’ll get comfy on the cushions and share some tea (or coffee or whichever beverage you like). When you’re ready, I’ll start telling you my favorite travel tales—and together, we’ll take a magic carpet ride.

Why did you choose this metaphor, and indeed use “magic carpet” in your title?
When I was a kid, my friends and brother and I used to sit on the front porch and listen to my mother telling us stories. Years later, I found myself doing the same thing with friends and later, on a blog. Then, I spent time with the Bedouins in Wadi Rum, Jordan. We told our own stories while sharing tea and sitting on the sand under a tent or on a cushion inside a house. In retrospect, I believe that the “invitation” into the Bedouin lounge has something do with each of these experiences.

Re: the title, when people see the words “magic carpet,” the freedom to travel anywhere, magically, usually comes to mind. Also, “Magic Carpet Seduction” is the name of one of the stories in the book. It’s about two men, seemingly different, trying to sell me a carpet and what happens I see through their each one’s sales pitch/ploy.

Also in your blog post announcing the book’s publication, you confess to being exhausted. (I confess to having had similar feelings after long games of Magic Carpet with my nieces!) What was the most challenging part of the writing process?
Mostly, it was finishing the book, editing it and formatting it while maintaining my blog and my full-time teaching job, and being on social media. At times, it was difficult to prioritize and I often felt burnt out.

Overall, however, I would say that editing took a lot out of me. There were a few times when I thought I was finished with a certain stage of the process; then, I’d realize that I wasn’t. Having said this, that is where I learned the most and what helped me become a better writer. So, in the end, it was a positive experience.

Capturing the magic of self-publishing

Why did you self-publish the book?
I took this route mostly because I wanted creative control; I believe the book is unique and slightly nichey. Also, I didn’t want to have to spend a lot of time pursuing an agent and traditional publisher. Mostly, I wanted to get the book done my own way and on my own schedule.

Can you offer any tips for others who are contemplating going down this path?
My best tips for anyone who’d like to self-publish are:

• Hire a professional editor and a proofreader—two (even three) people. Also, get a critique done before you pass the manuscript on to an editor. It’s important because each editor has his/her own specialty and will probably catch something another didn’t.

• Have a cover professionally designed. I know there are ways to do this cheaply or yourself, but it’s worth spending money to do this right since the cover is first thing that people see when searching for a book.

• Have your blog (and social media accounts) set up/established before you publish the book. I’ve seen many people do it the other way around. They finish and publish their book, then set up a blog and join Twitter. Many aren’t sure what to do—they just tweet about their book and don’t interact with others. This tends to hurt them more than help them.

• Don’t give up. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I wanted to quit just because of the sheer amount of work (blog, social media, the book itself, etc.) You can burn out very easily and, if you’re not careful, your health can suffer. Keep going, though, and you’ll cross that finish line!

What audience did you have in mind when writing the book?
I’ve always envisioned the audience as:

  • armchair travelers and those who take tours and fantasize about breaking away
  • other independent travelers/expats
  • non-travelers with an interest in countries often in the news
  • anyone curious about the cultural perspective/insights of a female American traveler.

Is it reaching those readers?
I don’t know the customer demographics yet, but I know that a few men have written reviews on Amazon—and that makes me happy. As is the case with ChickyBus, the book is for people of all ages and both genders. It’s definitely not just for women.

I see you’ve opened your own publishing company and are working on some more ambitious travel-cum-writing projects. Can you tell us some more about that?
I set up a small publishing company for a number of reasons, including accounting and taxes. More than that, I thought it made sense because I will be publishing more books and hopefully, a collection of travel tales written by others. This is a longer-term goal, but definitely something I’m considering for the future.

Are you already working on your next book?
I’m currently working on a trilogy about Native American-style healing journeys in the U.S. (in the Northeast and the Southwest). After that, I’ll hopefully wrap up the rough draft of a book about life-changing experiences I had in Ecuador. That, like the trilogy, would fall under a “spiritual travel” genre.

10 Questions for Lisa

Finally, I’d like to ask a series of questions that I’ve asked some of our other featured authors, about your reading and writing habits:
1. Last truly great book you read: Grey Wolves and White Doves, by John Balian
2. Favorite literary genre: Political thrillers; travel literature.
3. Reading habits on a plane: (what kinds of things do you tend to read and by what means?) Now, because I own a Kindle, this is much easier. I usually have several books to choose from: one I’m sure I’ll love and lose myself in and—a few that I’m curious about. One thing I love to do on a plane (and during my trip) is keep a journal. During my return flight, I re-read the journal and re-experience the trip. I almost always do that and love it!
4. The one book you’d require President Obama to read, and why: Hmmm. That’s a tough question. Maybe my book? I’d want him to see that there are Americans who embrace the rest of the world, despite the media’s distortions of it. Also, I think my book would show him how travel, the way I approach it—focusing mostly on meeting the locals—can help people to connect in a very real way and to overcome cultural misconceptions, ultimately helping make world peace more attainable. Another reason I’d want him to read it is because I think it would provide good escapism since it’s quite humorous. He’s got a tough job and might enjoy it for the entertainment value alone.
5. Favorite books as a child: The Outsiders, a coming-of-age novel by S.E. Hinton; and Go Ask Alice, by Beatrice Sparks.
6. The writer, you’d most like to meet, who is no longer living: Aldous Huxley
7. The writer, you’d most like to meet, who is still alive today: Daniel Keyes
8. Your reading habits: I have a pretty short attention span, so there are many books that I start to read that I don’t finish. However, if a book really gets my attention, then I can’t stop. It becomes something I look forward to and put aside other things to do. Unfortunately, since I started my blog a few years ago, I’ve been reading less than previously. I spend more time reading other blogs and articles than reading actual books. When I seem to read the most is when I’m traveling and find myself without Internet. I end up loving it, too.
9. The book you’d most like to see made as a film: A cyber suspense I’ve written about two women who “meet” on the Internet and what happens when the bond they’ve formed takes a dysfunctional and frightening turn. It’s now in rough draft form (about 15,000 words), but I’m hoping to publish it on Amazon (just for Kindle) in a few months.
10. The book you plan to read next: Actually, there’s a book I’m itching to finish reading—and that’s Shantaram. I always start it and then get interrupted. It’s a very long book (over 900 pages). I think Gregory David Roberts is an awesome writer. His storytelling ability—the way he writes dialogue, how he describes characters, settings and situations, and the way he uses metaphor—makes his experiences incredibly real to me.

* * *

Thanks so much, Lisa! That was absolutely magical, a carpet ride to write home (to my nieces) about! And that chicken bus? It wasn’t half bad! 🙂

What about you, readers? Has she seduced you?

Lisa Egle writes a blog, Chicky Bus, the concept of which is “finding yourself off the beaten path.” Over the past three years, it has been recognized on two “Top 100” lists of independent travel blogs. Egle is also Assistant Professor of ESL at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey, where she teaches students from all over the world, especially Latin America and the Middle East. She holds a BA in Social Sciences from New York University and an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Lisa recently published a humorous piece in OH SANDY! An Anthology of Humor for a Serious Purpose (sales of which help victims of Hurricane Sandy), and an article on one of her quirkier adventures in Indonesia in LifeLift, the Oprah.com blog. She received an honorable mention in the 77th Annual Writer’s Digest Contest, in the Inspirational category.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, by guest blogger Elizabeth Liang, who will be updating us on her one-woman play about the TCK life, Alien Citizen.

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 (clockwise, starting top left): Lisa at the home of her Cirassian-Jordanian friend, Souzan, with whom she was staying before the latter’s move to New Jersey(!) [this photo is in the book]; Lisa at a wedding in a Minangkabau village in Sumatra (hey, you can’t attend without posing with the bride and groom); Lisa camping in San Blas, Panama, during rainy season and a full moon (a displaced moment, to be sure, as the local Kuna indigenous believe that a full moon equals a curse); and Lisa after being recruited to be on a famous TV show in Damascus, which aired during Ramadan afforded an opportunity to meet one of the most famous actors in Syria—Qusai Khouli (she is wearing a late 1800s outfit, in case you were wondering). The painting in the center is “The Flying Carpet,” by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880), courtesy Wikipedia.

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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Which country produces the people who travel the farthest, the longest — and with the most credit cards?

The Displaced Nation was contacted about doing a post on a recent survey by Travelex on “How the World Vacations” — the results of which are summed up in a cool infographic (see bottom of this post).

Since Travelex helps travelers with their foreign currency needs, they were particularly interested in finding out not only where people are traveling internationally but also how they are financing their vacations.

I thought I’d go over some of their findings and see if it helps me to understand this Big Wide World of Travel.

Really? Did I? Or did I do something altogether more irresponsible, and just pull it apart for my own amusement? Well, you all know me by now. You decide…

What’s up with international travel?

More people are doing it now than ever before. Even in the most parochial parts of England, folk are pulling the ferrets out of their trousers, staring at glossy magazine adverts and dreaming of something more glamorous than a weekend caravanning in Skegness.

Rumor has it that almost ten percent of Americans now own a passport; even more significantly, some of them have actually used them!

Yes, travel beyond one’s borders is growing — but so is the human race. So it’s only to be expected, right? (The numbers of people going abroad did decline, however, in 2008 due to the global recession, but in 2009 the upwards trend resumed.)

And now for some stereotype-busting!?

I’m not sure how much the survey tells us that we didn’t already know, to be honest — but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, if one of you is a better statistician than I am.

Where do the Brits go on holiday? Hmm. Tough one.

If you guessed Spain, you can give yourself a pat on the back. It is Spain. For two weeks. The survey doesn’t tell us this, but most of them spend the entire fortnight lying lobster-red on the beach before heading for the nearest bar. Had the survey asked what they ate, the finding would have been 85 percent fish and chips, of which most would have been washed down with beer — the local variety of course, because it’s so staggeringly cheap.

The destination that comes in second for the Brits? Right again! France. The main surprise is how few are going to the United States nowadays: just nine percent (versus over fifty percent to Spain and France).

The Americans? They head to Mexico and Canada. Goodness, that’s a revelation! And if they venture any further, it’s usually to Europe, especially the UK and Italy, or to the Caribbean. That said, there are a few brave American souls visiting China these days.

The survey doesn’t report this, but most Americans when they go abroad eat burgers and fries, even when sitting in an Italian restaurant. They drink beer, too — but the good stuff, because it’s still cheap, and imported, which makes everything taste better!

Noticed any Chinese tourists lately?

Thanks to its booming economy, China gets pride of place in this survey. (The Japanese used to be the most well-traveled of all Asians, but I’m afraid they’ve been displaced!)

Interestingly, the 1.3 billion Chinese are represented by a sample of 20,000; anyway, for most of them the average length of holiday is six days. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that they end up going to Hong Kong — which I’m not sure counts as foreign these days. (Didn’t my country transfer sovereignty to China in 1997, or have I misremembered something?)

Chinese mostly use credit cards to pay their way, despite almost a third of those being refused. Which is a shame, though I can’t say it surprises me. Would you take a Chinese credit card? Be honest.

And a surprising number, about a third, travel by boat. Still trying to puzzle that one out, given how short their vacations are. Fear of flying, perhaps? I’ve heard some nightmare stories about China Airlines.

How about Brazilians?

Another booming emerging economy is Brazil, which is the fourth country to be featured in a big way in the survey. Guess where most Brazilians go? You got it, their wealthy neighbor to the North, the United States!

But what I’d really like to know is whether the five percent of Brazilians who had their bank cards stolen were the same ones that said they traveled by rail — in which case, it serves ’em right. Everyone knows that if you take a train in Brazil, you get robbed — it’s, like, common knowledge.

International holiday central

Australia, my adopted and much beloved homeland, makes a brief appearance in the statistics for “how long they stay.” We’re at the top of the charts. Did you know that Aussies having the longest holidays IN THE WORLD, by almost a week?

The survey doesn’t tell you how often we go abroad and where we go, however.  Because if you knew that every man, woman, child and most of the sheep here take a foreign holiday every single year — and that the vast majority spend it in Bali — you’d have perished of jealousy by now (or else looking into emigrating!).

As it is, I’m worried that if the Chinese see that Aussie vacations are almost three times longer than theirs, it will trigger a revolt, for which Australia will somehow be blamed! 🙂

Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

In their write-up of the survey findings, Travelex said:

We were surprised to find that the most consistent destination for international travel seems to be Germany. That’s right! Germany. We guess lederhosen and lagers hold a certain amount of appeal no matter what native language you speak.

It’s a fair point — who’da thunk it? Even the Chinese went to Germany. Well, 1.9 percent of them did. (Which, out of the 20,000 vacationers surveyed, means at least 382 out of a country of 1.3 billion.) Germany must be thrilled at this news of its new-found popularity across cultures.

I suppose another surprising finding is that while Chinese are busy having their credit cards turned down, Brits tend to err on the side of caution, doing their money exchanges before they leave, while many Americans are still getting away with using dollars — despite the recent talk of abandoning the U.S. dollar as the single major reserve currency.

* * *

It’s often said that statistics can be made to say whatever you want them to say. And then of course, there’s the old truism that 97.6 percent of statistics are made up on the spot…

Not that I’m saying Travelex did any of this, of course. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on their information-gathering tactics. I’m just wondering if something like this can tell us much. Still, it’s a pretty infographic — the designer of which has certainly earned a vacation overseas, in my opinion!

Please talk to me in the comments. Are you into travel surveys? Have I missed something earthshaking in this one? Am I being too flippant? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Additionally, you can hit us up on Twitter: @DisplacedNation and/or @TonyJamesSlater

And now for that fabuloso infographic:

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post reviewing some books by expats in Dubai.

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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Infographic courtesy of Adria Saracino, Distilled Creative.

How to throw a party for a bunch of global nomads

One year has passed since our first random nomad, Anita McKay, crashed through the gates of The Displaced Nation, bribing the guards with chicken tikka masala and cranachan and shouting “bollocks” at several of us who tried to stop and question her.

And now there are 40 such nomads within our ranks — the latest being Annabel Kantaria, who insisted on bringing an alarm clock that looks like a miniature mosque — it rings every morning with the call to prayer. (Note to other founders: perhaps we need to find guards who aren’t so easily intimidated when travelers show a bit of temerity…)

Still, as we now have 40 nomads, randomly selected, why not make the best of the situation and throw a party? And what better excuse than The Displaced Nation’s 1st birthday — which, as announced by Kate Allison in a post a couple of days ago, took place on April 1 (no fooling!).

Further to that end, I’ve come up with a Party Primer that I think should work for this group — as well as for similar gatherings.

PARTY PRIMER FOR DISPLACED NOMADS

Click on the headlines below to go to each section:

  1. INVITATIONS
  2. DRESS CODE
  3. DECORATIONS
  4. MUSIC
  5. TABLE ASSIGNMENTS
  6. FOOD
  7. TOPICS FOR SMALL TALK
  8. PHOTOGRAPHY
  9. GAMES
  10. SONGS

INVITATIONS

As this party marks a special occasion (who ever thought we’d make it to be one year old?), a deluxe printed invitation is in order. The only thing is, our invitees are a bunch of nomads! We’ll be lucky if we can catch them on email, let alone at a fixed address. Let’s compromise on an attractively designed message: see mock-up at top of this page.

DRESS CODE

As some of you may know, Cleopatra recently paid a visit to The Displaced Nation. Based on her observations of today’s international travelers, we’ll be doing well if we can get the men to shower and change before joining us. As for the women, well, allow me to offer these pearls of wisdom from Jennifer Scott — the American guru of Parisian chic who was featured on this blog last week. Jennifer says:

There are certain occasions that always warrant dressing up. Generally any gathering … where others went to a lot of effort for your sake.

DECORATIONS

The theme is easy: the wide wide world! (Rather the opposite of Disney’s “It’s a small world after all” concept.) This calls for tablecloths imprinted with the world map (to make it easy for guests to point out where exactly “Moldova” etc is); globe-patterned balloons (can we coin a new term: globalloons?); and for the centerpieces, flags from each of the adopted country represented at the table in question.

Optional extras include party hats, noisemakers and loot bags. It’s fun when the loot contains some surprises. Given all the items our nomads have insisted upon carrying into The Displaced Nation, we should have plenty to choose from, eg:

  • mosque alarm clocks (thanks, Annabel!)
  • hairy coo fluffy toys (thanks, Nerissa!)
  • fake Harry Potter glasses (thanks, Charlotte!)
  • boomerangs (thanks, Kim & Vicki!)
  • brie bakers (thanks, Toni!)

MUSIC

As Todd Lyon, author of a number of party and lifestyle books, puts it:

Without music, a party isn’t a party. It might be an assembly, a meeting, or a bee, but it can never be a shindig, a bust-up or a ball unless there’s fine tunes that never stop.

Not being a party tunes buff myself, I’ve consulted with The Displaced Nation’s resident music expert, Kate Allison, about the kind of soundtrack that would cultivate just the right ambience. Her suggestions include:

Everybody all around the world, gotta tell you what I just heard
There’s gonna be a party all over the world…

TABLE ASSIGNMENTS

8-10 person tables work well. Since we’ll have 40 guests, I’ve decided on five tables of eight people each, and to mix everyone up as much as possible. Hostesses must also, of course, take steps to reduce the risk of a “silent table,” where people just eat and don’t talk. To be honest, I don’t there is too much risk of that with this crowd — have you ever watched a bunch of expats try to outdo each other with stories of their (cross-cultural, linguistic and travel) adventures? But just in case, I’m offering some “hostess notes” for each table (the hostess’s job being to introduce everyone and make sure the conversation keeps flowing!).

TABLE 1
Matthew Chozick (American expat in Japan)
Tom Frost (American expat in China)
Lyn Fuchs (American expat in Mexico — Sacred Ground Travel Magazine)
Turner Jansen (American canine in Holland)
Annabel Kantaria (English expat in Dubai — Telegraph Expat blog)
Kirsty Rice (Australian expat in Qatar — 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle)
Jack Scott (English expat in Turkey — Perking the Pansies)
Karen van der Zee (Dutch/American expat in Moldova — Life in the Expat Lane)
Hostess notes: Introduce Tom Frost to Matthew Chozick — Tom used to live in Japan and speaks Japanese. Kirsty Rice should sit next to Turner Jansen, as she travels around with a beagle. Annabel Kantaria, Jack Scott and Kirsty all have in common life in the Middle East. Karen van der Zee and and Lyn Fuchs should find each other fascinating, as both have had some extraordinary adventures (Karen could entertain Lyn with her crocodile tale and Lyn, keep Karen amused talking about the time he went paddling with orcas.)

TABLE 2
Balaka Basu (Indian American in New York City)
Santi Dharmaputra (Indonesian expat in Australia)
Michelle Garrett (American expat in UK — The American Resident)
Robin Graham (Irish expat in Spain — a lot of wind)
Anita McKay (Indonesian expat in Australia — Finally Woken)
Brian Peter (Scottish expat in Brazil — A Kilt and a Camera)
Kate Reuterswärd (American expat in Sweden — Transatlantic Sketches)
Wendy Tokunaga (Former American expat in Japan)
Hostess notes: You might want to break up Santi Dharmaputra and Anita McKay, who are the same nationality (Indonesian) and already friends. Anita should definitely be introduced to Brian Peter, who like her hubby, is Scottish, and will probably be amused by her stories of toasting oatmeal in whisky. And make sure Anita also talks to Wendy Tokunaga — I know from personal experience how intrigued Anita is by stories of Western woman marrying Asian men. To be honest, everyone at this table should really be socializing with everyone else, as each and every one of them has a partner of a different nationality! (Now if that isn’t a talking point, I don’t know what is…)

TABLE 3
Kim Andreasson (Swedish expat in Vietnam)
Jo Gan (American expat in China– Life behind the wall)
Jennifer Greco (American expat in France — Chez Loulou)
David Hagerman (American expat in Malaysia — SkyBlueSky)
Helena Halme (Finnish expat in UK — Helena’s London Life)
Vicki Jeffels (Kiwi expat in UK — Vegemite Vix)
Janet Newenham (Irish internationalist — Journalist on the run)
Adria Schmidt (former Peace Corps worker in the Dominican Republic)
Hostess notes: Seat David Hagerman next to Jennifer Greco — since his wife is a well-known food writer and expert cook, he’ll find nothing strange in her quest to sample all the known French cheeses. Janet Newenham should be near Adria Schmidt and Kim Andreasson as they are all interested in international affairs. Vicki should be introduced to Helena as I’m sure the latter would love to hear about her recent spa experience in Cyprus. Jo Gan, too, should meet Vicki as she is now experiencing visa problems with the Chinese authorities — on a level that may even surpass Vicki’s own nightmare experience in Britain.

TABLE 4
Aaron Ausland (American expat in Colombia — Staying for Tea)
Emily Cannell (American expat in Japan — Hey from Japan)
Charlotte Day (Australian expat in UK)
Toni Hargis (English expat in USA — Expat Mum)
Vilma Ilic (Former aid worker in Uganda)
Jennifer Lentfer (Former American expat in Africa — How Matters)
Camden Luxford (Australian expat in Argentina — The Brink of Something Else)
Piglet in Portugal (English expat in Portugal — Piglet in Portugal)
Hostess notes: Aaron Ausland will naturally gravitate towards Jennifer Lentfer as they are both deeply involved in global aid and development. Make sure you introduce the pair of them to Piglet in Portugal — she’ll ask them some thought-provoking questions about whether it’s better to save the world or cultivate your own garden. Jennifer should also be near Vilma as the two will want to share their Africa experiences, and you might urge Emily Cannell to join that conversation as well — she has such an adventuresome spirit! Along with Toni Hargis, who runs her own charity supporting a school in Ghana. As for Camden Luxford, she’s an easy one: a social butterfly! Perhaps she could take fellow Aussie Charlotte Day under her wing (ha ha) and make sure she gets plenty of material to write about for her courses at Oxford next year!

TABLE 5
Lei Lei Clavey (Australian expat in New York City)
Matt Collin (American expat in UK)
Megan Farrell (American expat in Brazil — Born Again Brazilian)
Liv Hambrett (Australian expat in Germany — A Big Life)
Mardi Michels (Australian expat in Canada — eat. live. travel. write | culinary adventures, near and far)
Iain Mallory (English adventurer — Mallory on Travel | Making Everyday an Adventure)
Nerissa Muijs (Australian expat in Holland — Adventures in Integration)
Simon Wheeler (English expat in Slovakia — Rambling Thoughts of Moon)
Hostess notes: As soon as Lei Lei Clavey, Liv Hambrett, Mardi Michels and Nerissa Muijs discover they all have Australia in common, they will be blabbing away — just hope it doesn’t turn into an Ozfest! Also, make sure Mardi connects with Matt — I suspect he may need her counseling about how to seek creative refuge from academia. Iain Mallory and Simon Wheeler will form a natural pair, exchanging stories of their travel adventures and perhaps even breaking into a rousing chorus of “Jerusalem.” But should their antics get too raucous, ask Mardi to step in: she teaches cooking classes to 9-11-year-old boys in Canada. Megan Farrell should connect with Nerissa and Simon on the topic of what it’s like to raise a child in a nationality (and language) other than your own.

FOOD

One of the purposes of gathering together nomads from the four corners of the earth has to be eating, especially if each of them brings along some of their favorite dishes. For our party, we will have a dazzling tableaux brimming over with rare and exotic foods. (We know that because our Random Nomads have already described their faves to us in their interviews.)

Shall we go over the list? (Warning: Don’t read on an empty stomach, or if on a restricted diet!)

NIBBLES/STARTERS

  • Guacamole & chips (Kim — recipe provided)
  • Selection of mezze with pita bread (Annabel Kantaria)
  • Assorted pinchos (Megan Farrell)
  • Avocado & mango salad (Matt Collin)
  • Bhelpuri (Tom Frost)
  • Satay sticks (Nerissa Muijs)
  • Four kinds of eggs: tea eggs, thousand-year-old eggs, fried eggs with tomato, and boiled salted eggs with a chicken embryo inside (Jo Gan)
  • Shrimp & grits (Lei Lei Clavey)
  • Vietnamese caramelized chili prawns (Mardi)
  • Ceviche (Camden Luxford)
  • Bluff oysters from New Zealand (Vicki Jeffels)
  • Gravad lax with Finnish rye bread (Helena Halme)
  • Tuna sashimi with ponzu sauce (Emily Cannell)

COCKTAILS

  • Traditional Bloody Marys (Lei Lei Clavey)
  • Caipirinhas (Megan Farrell)
  • Margaritas (Kirsty Rice)

WINE

  • Rich red wines from Lebanon (Annabel K)
  • Red wine from Macedonia (Vilma Ilic)
  • Malbec wine from Argentina (Camden Luxford)
  • Shiraz from Australia (Vicki Jeffels)
  • White wine from Australia (Simon Wheeler)
  • Chilled sake (Tom Frost)
  • Rice wine (Jo Gan)

BEER

  • Carlsberg browns (Matt Collin)
  • Cusqueña beer (Camden Luxford)
  • Mexican Pacifico (Tom Frost)
  • Harbin beer (Jo Gan)
  • Coopers beer (Simon Wheeler)

MAINS
Meat dishes:

  • Carne de Porco a Alentejana (Piglet in Portugal)
  • Schnitzel served with rotkohl (Liv Hambrett)
  • Bondiola-chevre-basil wraps and nattō (Tom Frost)
  • Fried chicken sandwiches with hand-cut fries (Lei Lei Clavey)
  • Chicken tikka masala (Anita McKay)
  • Libyan soup (Kirsty Rice — recipe provided)
  • Cuban ropa vieja (Mardi)
  • Argentinian steak cooked rare (Camden Luxford)
  • Tapola black sausage with lingonberry jam (Helena Halme)
  • Barbecued steak, snags & lamb chops (Nerissa Muijs)

Fish dishes:

  • Paella Valenciana (Megan Farrell)
  • Llish in mustard and chili paste, smoked in banana leaves (Balaka Basu)
  • Chambo curry with nsima (Matt Collin)
  • Moreton Bay bugs (Vicki Jeffels)
  • Grilled salmon on a plank (Emily Cannell)
  • Sushi (Simon Wheeler)

Vegetarian offerings:

  • Peanut butter vegetable stew (Jennifer Lentfer)
  • Overcooked spaghetti with carnation milk, canned tomatoes and corn (Adria Schmidt)

DESSERTS

  • Summer pudding (Toni Hargis)
  • Apple crumble (Matt Collin)
  • Cranachan (Anita McKay)
  • Hot fudge sundaes (Lei Lei Clavey)
  • Blackberry gelato (Balaka Basu)
  • Caramel cheesecake (Kirsty Rice)
  • Bread pudding with Bourbon sauce (Jennifer Greco)
  • Île flottante (Mardi)
  • Molotof cake (Piglet in Portugal)
  • Mouse de maracujá (Megan Farrell)
  • Tiramisu (Camden Luxford)
  • Homemade Slovakian cream cakes (Simon Wheeler)
  • Dutch waffles (Turner Jansen)
  • Oblande, tulumbe, kadaif & krempite (Vilma Ilic)
  • Umm Ali (Annabel Kantaria)
  • Sigara borek (Jack Scott)
  • Juustoleipä with fresh cloudberries and cream (Helena Halme)
  • Yangmei fruit (Jo Gan)
  • Languedoc cheese: Roquefort, Pélardon and Tomette des Corbières (Jennifer Greco)

AFTER-DINNER DRINKS

  • Chlicanos (Camden Luxford)
  • Rakija (Vilma Ilic)
  • Fernet (Tom Frost)
  • Homemade Slivovica (Simon Wheeler)
  • Dragon-wall green tea (Jo Gan)
  • Espresso (Balaku Basu)
  • Large “flat whites” (Charlotte Day)

FOR THE TOAST(S):
New Zealand champenoise (Vicki Jeffels)

NOTE: Charlotte Day will be cooking a Sydney-style breakfast for diehards who care to linger to the next morning. (And Nerissa Muijs will be frying up some bacon!)

TOPICS FOR SMALL TALK

There are some topics that should be avoided at all costs. As style writer Rita Konig puts it,

It is very dull to talk about journeys. Once you have arrived somewhere, try to keep quiet about how long it took you to get there.

Should you notice anyone engaging in this, put the kibosh on it by asking them to help with pouring drinks, or with putting away coats in the spare room.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Fortunately, there’s usually one great photographer or two in a group of global nomads, thereby saving unnecessary expenditure. (We will ask David Hagerman — he’s sensational!)

GAMES

Games are a great ice breaker. Here are a few that might be appropriate for a well-traveled crowd:
1) Musical countries: Draw a big map on a piece of vinyl (back of a Twister mat might do), and give everyone a flagpole. When the music stops, they must place the flagpole on a country, Anyone whose flagpole ends up in the ocean is out.

2) Variation on “Pin the Donkey”: Pin the rudder on the 747! (Contributed by Kate Allison.)

3) Word games: As we’ve found out from our interviews, global nomads pick up words and expressions from here and there. Taking some of these and mixing them together, we can come up with some pretty strange exchanges. (Prizes for anyone who manages to decipher!)

A: Prego, could you get me a ba ba ba? Kippis!
B: Inshallah, a barbie would also be awesome. And how about la ziq?
A: Avustralyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınızcasına.
B: So desu ne!

A: Tudo bem? You look a bit daggy.
B: Life can be arbit sometimes.
A: Zvakaoma.

A: Hey.
B: Hey. Das stimmt, sorry to be such a Debbie Downer but I’m knackered after all this work.
A: Bless!
B: Zikomo.

A: Oh la vache! You are lost. Siga, siga. Ni chifan le ma?
B: Bollocks! [Sucking air through gritted teeth.] I think I got lost in the wopwops.
A: Well, there’s the big ol’ tree out the front.
B: Bula! Okay-la. Le bon ton roule!

TOASTS

Toasts should be made repeatedly throughout the latter half of the dinner. Just in case no one feels inspired, prepare one or two classics for the host or hostess to offer, eg:

I’d rather be with all of you than with the finest people in the world.

SONGS

Songs can be sung in several languages. In this case, a stirring rendition of “Happy Birthday” is called for, sung not only in English but in:
Dutch (Karen, Nerissa)
Finnish (Helena)
French (Jennifer, Mardi)
Indonesian (Anita & Santi)
Japanese (Emily, Matthew, Tom, Wendy)
Spanish (Aaron, Adria, Camden, Lyn, Megan, Robin)
Swedish (Kate, Kim)
Woof-woof (Turner)

Finally, the party should end with the Displaced Nation founders treating the guests to a round of:

For you are all jolly good fellows, for you are all jolly good fellows,
For you are all jolly good fellows…
Kate, Anthony, Tony: And so say all of us!
ML: Which nobody can deny!

* * *
Have I left out any important details? Any tweaks you can suggest? Your turn!!! Let’s work together to make this the most awesome gathering of global nomads ever. Onegaishimasu, shokran — and all that!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. She is expecting a visitor: her own mother, who is — in theory — coming to help as her due date gets closer. Will Granny Jane be an improvement on Sandra, the MIL from hell — or will she prove to be one more spanner in the works for our poor displaced heroine? (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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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In honor of Valentine’s Day, top 10 travel and expat posts on finding love abroad

My mother used to disapprove of Valentine’s Day. Although she would indulge our need to cut out elaborate paper valentines and bake heart cookies, she always made sure my sisters and I knew what she thought — that it was a fabricated consumer holiday for boosting sales during the winter doldrums.

Despite her remonstrations, I always used to look forward to February 14 — even (especially!) when living outside the United States.

For a start, they have much better chocolate abroad. Plus you get to try new foods that other cultures find seductive — see Kate Allison’s scrumptious post of a couple of days ago.

And your idea of what constitutes romantic adventure changes, too, as you expand your visual repertoire to include the world’s most stunning settings. Indeed, why not pop the question as the sun sets over the City Palace and Lake Pichola in India’s Land of the Kings? (For this and nine other exotic locations for marriage proposals, see Annie Fitzsimmons’ recent article for Forbes.)

In that connection, I was distressed to learn that couples who are thinking of heading to Venice, that magical city of watery landscapes, for a Valentine’s escape may need tips from Guardian Travel on how to avoid feeling ripped off. From the sound of things, it may be safer, and perhaps a good deal more enjoyable, to stay at home and watch The Tourist

But let’s leave the film discussion for later in the month, when we’ll be doing a series of posts in honor of the Oscars. Right now we’re honoring Valentine’s Day, and I’m urging you all to get into the Valentine’s spirit. To aid you in that aim,  I’ve compiled a list of 10 online articles that address the specific needs of those who are looking for romance abroad. As usual, and as befits our blog’s slightly irreverent tone, they’re from a mix of indie and conventional publications.

Click on any or all categories that apply:

Stories of love on the road

In addition to the story told by TDN’s own Tony James Slater of his own love affair — which sparked off no end of wonderful romantic tales in the comments — I enjoyed these two posts:

1) Modern Love — A Place to Lay My Heart (8 January 2012)
Author: Elisabeth Eaves (@ElisabethEaves)
Publication: New York Times, Sunday Style section (@nytimes)
Synopsis: Two single journalists in their 30s meet up in Mexico to write about tequila. At first, romance seems off the table. Both are commitment phobes: they see travel as their first love and like nothing better than plunging into a foreign culture. But then…something happens, and for the first time, instead of opting for a distance relationship, they take the leap. (Tequila will be served at the wedding.)

2) 10 Reasons Why You Should Marry a Foreigner (Like I Did) (Archived: 10 November 2010)
Author: Corey Heller (@MultiLingLiving)
Publication: Multilingual Living blog
Synopsis: Chances are, if you spend a lot of time abroad, you may end up marrying, God forbid, a foreigner! Hey, it’s not the worst thing that can happen. Some of us have done it multiple times and lived to tell the story. Still others, such as this week’s Random Nomad, Toni Hargis, fell for a foreigner in their home countries and followed him/her abroad. Heller, who met her husband in Ireland (he trailed her back to the US), lists her own ten reasons for committing such a foolhardy act — everything from his “glorious accent” to her enjoyment of a challenge to the fact that he is her true love (now fancy that!). Actually, the one that sticks with me is #3: being a German (no, he’s not Irish), he craves good chocolate just as much as she does! (But perhaps that says more about me than it does about them?)

The practicalities of dating abroad

If you do decide to make someone you meet in another culture the object of your affections, there may still be some practical concerns. These four posts should help you finesse these sometimes awkward moments:

3) Dating expectations worldwide: Who pays? (4 February 2011)
Author: C. Noah Pelletier (@flyingknuckle)
Publication: Matador Network (@matadornetwork)
Synopsis: From Pelletier’s unofficial survey of dating etiquette across nine cultures, we learn that German men excel at subtle flirting whereas Turks are much more direct; French don’t really “date”; Mexican men wear clean suits; and Japanese are into group dating. But on the all-important question of “who pays,” all nations are in agreement: THE MAN!!!

4) Don’t pull out the chair — but do hold open the door! (Archived: 26 October 2011)
Author: Tanja from Germany
Publication: InterNations blog (@InterNationsorg)
Synopsis: Notably, one of Tanja’s top concerns is:

Who pays for the meal? Does one split the bill, or does he expect to pay — or even worse, must I pay?!

Too bad Noah Pelletier’s post for the Matador Network wasn’t yet available for Tanja’s perusal (see #3 above), or she needn’t have fretted — especially as it’s Mexico, where men have been known to TAKE OFFENSE if a woman offers to pay. Also, she might not have been surprised when she received more flowers on first dates in Mexico than in her entire life in Germany. Still, Tanja’s story (which ends very happily) is a tribute to the power of persistence and the efficacy of muddling one’s way through. Just one thing I’m still not clear on: do Mexican men expect you to open the door for them, rather like Japanese men expecting you to let them exit the elevator first? (See her post title.)

5) Ten Foreign Words for a Romantic Valentine’s Day (9 February 2012)
Author: Justine Ickes (@justineickes)
Publication: Culture Every Day blog
Synopsis: So as not to be totally culturally clueless, it’s important to master a few other romantic terms/concepts. In Japan, for instance, if you hear someone say bakushan as they look you in the face, then they’re probably not a romantic prospect. The expression is used when you think someone looks cuter from behind! (If, on the other hand, you hear the word kawaii, things may be looking up!)

6) Sex when traveling: location, location, location (29 January 2012)
Author: Laurence Norah (@lozula)
Publication: Finding the universe blog
Synopsis: Norah illustrates (literally — yet tastefully, I hasten to add) various options that travelers have for “getting jiggy on the road”: dorm rooms, tents, showers, beaches, backs of camper vans, and (best of all!) private rooms.

Lonely hearts in foreign lands

When all the world is going gaga for romantic love, it can be lonely if you’re not doing so well in that department, particularly if you’re already feeling isolated because of being so far away from your homeland. The following four posts should help with that predicament:

7) 8 Empowering Ways a Traveling Single Female Should Celebrate Valentines Day (Archived: 13 February 2011)
Author: Lainie Liberti (@ilainie)
Publication: Raising Miro blog
Synopsis: From LA, Laine has been traveling with her son, Miro, since 2009 in search of a simpler life. When still in the States, spending Valentine’s Day on her own was no big deal:

it was easy to ignore the day all together or grab a group of my amazing single girl friends and have an AbFab marathon complete with bottomless cosmos.

But what about now that she’s on the road? Though the post is a year old, her suggestions — some aimed at those who enjoy solitude (movies, nature, dinner-in for one), and others, at those who would prefer being with people (volunteering, meet-ups) — won’t go out of style any time soon, and are good for any day of the year.

8) Help! Nobody Wants to Date Me! (Archived: 15 December 2011)
Author: Chris Laub (@Travel_rtw)
Publication: Backpacker Savings blog
Synopsis: Chris claims he’s “undateable” because of his need to spend almost half of the year traveling. He’s not proud of that fact:

The truth is I want to be in relationship, but my deeper desire to travel and have fun makes it seemingly impossible.

Still, the travel addict’s life does have its compensations. He’s moving to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, leaving him free to hook up with a Brazilian woman. As he sees it:

…running around chasing women in exotic countries and enjoying no-strings-attached travel romances isn’t a bad alternative

— though methinks he doth protest too much!

9) Offbeat Traveler: Unromantic places around the world (6 February 2012)
Author: Jason La
Publication: Los Angeles Times travel section (@latimestravel)
Synopsis: Kissing a well-kissed stone in Ireland, encountering the venomous Komodo dragon in Indonesia, peering into the Gates of Hell in northern Turkmenistan — after such experiences, being wounded by Cupid’s arrow may seem like light relief. (In addition to his seven unromantic suggestions, La thoughtfully provides a link to the LA Times‘s post on 10 romantic cities, in case you get lucky at some point! Chris — see #8 above — may be in with a chance: Rio is on the list. Venice, however, doesn’t make it — not even as a “dishonorable mention.”)

10) Valentine’s Day — the perfect holiday for one (4 February 2012)
Author: Amy Chavez (@JapanLite)
Publication: The Japan Times (@japantimes)
Synopsis: On Valentine’s Day in Japan, the custom is for men to get showered in chocolates by women — women have to hold out for “White Day” when men allegedly return to the favor. But as Chavez points out in her Japan Times column, Japanese women tend to buy just as much chocolate for themselves as they do for the guys, while also indulging themselves with a Hello Kitty trinket or two. I believe that Chavez intends the title of her column — “the perfect holiday for one” — to sound ironic as she finds the Japanese interpretation of Valentine’s Day a little twisted. Perhaps I lived in Japan too long, but I don’t agree. Or maybe it is twisted, but I can hardly blame the Japanese for that. (The other day I noticed that an Asian publication was carrying a story about how the Bronx Zoo encourages people to pay money to give their sweetheart’s name to one of its Madagascar hissing cockroaches, in time for Valentine’s day. After being bombarded with information like this, is it any wonder that Asian women would prefer to buy their own Valentine’s gifts?) What’s more, all women (and not just those who are single) stand to learn a lot from our Japanese sisters: 1) if you can’t rely on the men, then eat chocolate; and 2) never mind diamonds, Hello Kitty charms are a girl’s best friend!

Bonus feature: “Valentine’s Day and the displaced life”

Living abroad can have other benefits besides finding your perfect mate. It can also help you adopt a more expansive vision of life’s rich tapestry and where “love” fits in. To take but one example, the Sufi notion of love entails falling in love with ideal attributes rather than particular people — which, as Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol points out in his article “The Shariah of Love”, leads to a great deal less heartache than Western “romantic love.” (Hmmm…the idea that love shouldn’t hurt — how novel!)

Another potential benefit of the displaced life is the joy in discovering what it feels like to love an actual place, as was the case for British journalist Jane Alexander when she visited Jerusalem. Despite not being religious, she fell smack dab in love with the city and all it stands for:

Love. Total overwhelming Love. Unconditional love that sweeps away all prejudice, all difference, all wanting, all needing, all sense of I, of ego.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? And no need to worry if it’s unrequited…

What’s more, travel can also open your mind to rebooting Valentine’s Day itself. This year Causes.com is on a mission to rename it as Generosity Day, and I noticed just now that one of the causes we featured on this blog during Global Philanthropy Month, Free the Children, is asking for donations to empower Kenyan women in bee-keeping businesses. “Bee my Valentine!” sounds a great deal less corny when you know it’s for the sake of others on the globe whose lives are less fortunate…

Come to think of it, could my mother have been right about Valentine’s Day being overly commercial? Best to make that up to her on Mother’s Day — except she doesn’t believe in that either! 😦

* * *

Question: Can you suggest any other posts that should have made the list?

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, when Tony James Slater, who is rapidly becoming our in-house expert on searching for love in foreign lands, takes up the timely topic of transcending language barriers with potential partners.

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Lyn Fuchs, American expat in Mexico: A raider of the lost art of philosophizing

As January comes to its close, our theme of Spiritual Enlightenment Through Travel would not be complete without a reference to Lyn Fuchs, author of Sacred Ground and Holy Water, and publisher of Sacred Ground Travel Magazine.

Lyn, of course, was our 5th Nomad of Christmas, where he stated his Most Displaced Christmas Moment was:

On December 24th 2008, [when] I was displaced from the palace of an elegant and voluptuous Saudi princess, after I attempted to demonstrate a “traditional Christmas goose.” I still fantasize about returning and showing her how to do a “traditional Christmas stuffing.”

From this, we can gather that the Political Correctness Movement is something that doesn’t bother Lyn a whole lot. Probably that’s the reason I fell in love with his first book, Sacred Ground & Holy Water, and will be buying his second, Fresh Wind and Strange Fire, when it is published.

If your only knowledge of Lyn is via his Christmas Nomad answers, it would be easy to assume that this un-PC, flippant personality is who he is. You may be wondering why someone with the nickname of Lyndiana Jones is the subject of a post about spiritual enlightenment.

To answer this, let me refer you to the Chique Show on Blog Talk Radio, where author Barbara Conelli interviewed Lyn this month.

In forty-five minutes, Lyn talks about his books, his writing, his philosophy on life – and how they came to be that way.

As the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.

Or a deep thinker by his Christmas Nomad answers.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

On Mexico:

Lyn has lived in Mexico for a total of six years, and is currently Professor at the University of Papaloapan.

Mexico is probably the best place on earth to learn how to practice nirvana. India invented the theory of nirvana but Mexicans…invented the practice of it.

Mexicans are some of the happiest people in the world…You learn a lot here about how to live in the moment…Sometimes you really start living when you lose your fear of dying.

I would say that one of the things about Mexico I love the most is that philosophically they’ve taught me to be happy.

On writing:

Writing really started for me about ten years ago… I was in a remote valley [in Canada] for several months and basically I had nothing to do but exercise, cook, pray, listen to the wolves howl, and watch the snow fall…

I went from being a person that talked all the time to a person that actually had something to say.

So I grabbed a pen and I started reflecting on my life, and my life stories turned into magazine articles. Sometimes your destiny discovers you.

On travel and spirituality:

Travel brings you in contact with global spirituality, and whatever your religious label, if you travel, you begin to discover the spirituality of the universe…if that doesn’t sound too cheesy.

Deeper than just the [physical] movement from this place to that place is really what’s happening to our spirit when we travel.

On academia:

Books alone do not make a human experience.

Intelligence is what God did for you; the real question is “What did you do in return?”

On people’s fixation with politically correct vocabulary when the facts of the big picture are more important:

Sometimes North American hypersensitivity isn’t very sensitive. My books are for people who want to see a part of the world that is beyond their comfort zone.

On his own blunt writing style:

I think I have a responsibility to report the world as I experience it. I may not be right, but at least I’m telling you what I think I saw.

My writing blends spirituality and sexuality which often offends pretty much everybody, but writing honest books helps me sleep at night.

Click here to listen to the full interview on the Chique Show

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