The Displaced Nation

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EXPAT AUTHOR GAME: What score does Chandi Wyant earn on the “international creative” scale? (2/2)

Readers, I’m happy to report that Chandi Wyant came up with a winning algorithm for her new memoir, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy. She is therefore proceeding to the second round of the Expat Author Game.

During this round, we’ll be trying to see how closely she measures up to the Displaced Nation’s (admittedly somewhat quirky) notion of an “international creative.”

On the face of it, Chandi has a solid claim to being “international.” Not only has she lived in Europe (Italy, Switzerland, and England) but also in South Asia (India) and the Middle East (Qatar).

That said, she recently confessed to one interviewer that after spending so much of her life abroad, she developed a huge appreciation for her native California:

I see it now as one of the most beautiful and healthy places in the world to live. Not only does it have every kind of stunning landscape you could want, it has an abundance of organic food, and an abundance of educated people who know how to think critically. I’m not too impressed with the US right now—but if I look at California just on its own, it’s a darn close second to Italy.

Furthermore, I think it’s fair to call Chandi “creative”. She was encouraged from a young age to paint and draw a lot, with the result that she often “sees photographs” in the world around her. (Notably, she shares one of her actual photos below.) Writing is also important to her. While in Qatar, she taught history at a local college and got to know a lot of young Qataris. She conducted interviews with some of them and some day hopes to turn those interviews into a book. That’s in addition to the memoir she just produced about her pilgrimage along the Via Francegena.

Even the title of her personal Website is creative: Paradise of Exiles, which is what the Romantic English poet Shelley called Italy.

But now it’s time to see how Chandi manages Round Two, where points are scored for intangible indicators of an expansive, global outlook and the ability to take a creative approach to exploring the world.

Welcome back, Chandi, and now let’s get started. Many residents of the Displaced Nation have had a moment or two when they’ve felt like a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, myself included. How about you? Or if you’d prefer, you can use a quote from another children’s book.

I’ll choose this quote from Dr. Seuss:

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”

The feet in the shoes and any direction you choose reminds me of the time I got lost on my solo pilgrimage in Italy. My feet in my shoes were not doing well. I had developed plantar fasciitis and had bought arch supports but they were sliding around in my shoes. It was super hot, it felt like there was a gremlin in my shoes stabbing my heals, and I was lost in stark wheat fields somewhere south of Siena. Then I simply chose a direction, and by making a choice, I was able to stop being anxious about how to find my way.

Moving on to the next literature-related challenge: According to George Elliot’s Maggie Tulliver, the best reason to leave her native village of St. Ogg’s would be to see other creatures like the elephant. What’s the most exotic animal you’ve observed in its native setting?

An oryx in Qatar. It’s a large species of antelope that is native to the Arabian Peninsula. It nearly went extinct due to poaching but has been reintroduced.

Last but not least on this series of literary challenges: We’re curious about whether you’ve had any Wizard of Oz moments when venturing across borders. Again, please use a quote or two.

GOOD WITCH GLINDA TO DOROTHY: “You are capable of more than you know.” Definitely the capability thing comes up a lot when I travel alone (or move alone) to far flung places, both of which I seem to do. I didn’t necessarily set out to travel alone and move abroad alone so many times in my adult life. It all started when I was 19 (that was in the 80s), when I did a budget backpacking trip in Europe with a friend. After four months of travel together, we split up in Istanbul. In my first 24 hours of solo travel, all kinds of crazy things happened and I quickly learned that as soon as you cut through the fear and embrace the world, that it embraces you back. (These stories are recounted in more detail in my book.)

Moving on to another dimension of creativity: telling tales of one’s travels through photos. Can you share with us a favorite photo you’ve taken recently that in some way relates to your creative life, and tell us why it has meaning for you?

This one I took recently in Lucca, Italy (where I now live). It has meaning because doorways like these symbolize for me an opening of consciousness, and an invitation to step into mystery.

And now for our interplanetary challenge: Can you envision taking your exploration of other modes of being beyond Planet Earth? How about a trip to Mars?

I don’t want to offend anyone who is super into Mars but I have no interest in going to Mars or any other planet. I am awed by the planet we have and how special it is, and it’s an enormous shame that we’ve not learned to respect it and take care of it. I am much more interested in how we can better appreciate and take care of planet Earth, rather than attempt to get to Mars, which clearly is vastly inferior to Earth, as far as sustaining life.

* * *

Congratulations, Chandi! Just as I suspected, you easily rose to the challenge of Part Two of our Expat Authors Game. Personally, I found your Dr. Suess citation inspired! Readers, are you ready to score Chandi’s performance on Part Two? How did she do with her literary references? And what about that animal of hers: rather unusual! And don’t you like that photo of her up top, looking so joyful in an Italian setting? She says she hasn’t mastered the technical side of photography, but that photo of the doors in Lucca suggests otherwise…

Finally please note: If you want to keep cultivating your inner glow under Chandi’s influence, be sure to check out her author site and its companion Facebook and Instagram pages.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a biweekly round up of posts from The Displaced Nation—and so much more! Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Photo credits: Photo of Paul and the ocean supplied; all other photos from Pixabay.

EMERALD CITY TO “KANSAS”: Amy Rogerson on seeing the Wizard of Expat Life and returning home (for just six months)

Amy Rogerson wrapping up warm in the UK at Christmas (her own photo); the Ruby Slippers (CC); corn path (Morguefiles).

Amy Rogerson wrapping up warm in the UK at Christmas (her own photo); the Ruby Slippers (CC); corn path (Morguefiles).

Welcome to “Emerald City to ‘Kansas,'” a series in which we focus on expatriate-into-repatriate stories. This month our subject is Amy Rogerson, an Englishwoman who blogs at The Tide That Left about trailing her husband (aka “Mr Tide”), at breathless pace, all around the globe. The couple now live in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, but in the past four years have also made homes in South Africa, Angola, Qatar, Russia, and Libya. As we catch up with Amy, she is back to the UK (as of April 7th) for a six-month stay. What is it like going “home” again after such a life of adventure? Without further ado, let’s dig into a slice of Amy’s “back to Kansas” story.

—ML Awanohara

To Oz? To Oz!

I didn’t really choose expat life. Rather, it chose me when I fell head over heels in love with a nomadic man. I met my husband five years ago in his final weeks in the UK before he moved to Libya. We continued our relationship long distance for a year, but eventually knew that one of us had to move. I was in a job that made me miserable, whilst he was welcoming new opportunities at work, so it seemed for the best that I move to Benghazi to be with him.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Moving to Libya was so far beyond my comfort zone that I shocked both myself and those who loved me most. All I knew is that I wanted to be with the man I loved. I never expected my life to become that of a serial expat. As well as living in Libya, we’ve also lived in Russia, Qatar, Angola, South Africa and Tanzania together. In fact, my home is still in Tanzania; repatriation to the UK is just a temporary move for a project I am working on, and I fully intend to return to Dar es Salaam and my wonderful husband in just under six months from now.

We’ve been gone such a long time…

I’m surprised at how much I’ve grown to love my new lifestyle. I’d never wanted to travel or live abroad before I met my husband, but now I struggle with the idea of ever “going back to Kansas” permanently (not that I don’t think I will one day!). I’ve discovered that life can be different from what I was brought up to believe. If choosing the expat life has meant I’ve had to say goodbye to any dreams I had of the picket fence, the family home, the stable job—that isn’t going to happen, at least not for a while—it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

What have you learned, Dorothy?

Living in six countries in four years, I’ve learned to adapt to change. Nothing stays the same, and I’ve had to be flexible. That flexibility doesn’t just apply to where we live and work, or what our holiday plans are. I’ve also had to learn that there is not just one way of doing something, especially once I started working for a South American company in the Middle East and now in Africa. I’ve had no choice but to get my head round different ways of doing things that I used to believe we do best “at home”. As a Brit working with people from different parts of the world, I’ve often felt as though my colleagues and I weren’t talking the same language when it came to business practices and relationships. But I’ve come to see that instead of believing the British way is right, it helps if I can open my mind to other approaches, some of which may work if you’re willing to give them a try. With time I’ve been able to overcome the differences and pick up skills that will no doubt help me in future.

No place like home?!

Repatriation is bitter-sweet for me. I didn’t really want to return to the UK right now, but circumstances have dictated otherwise. Having been gone from the UK for four years I’m really struggling with settling back in. Much of what I knew before now seems unfamiliar. My time abroad has coloured my behaviour and expectations. In a sense, I’m having to relearn some of that most basic stuff that I found so hard to let go of when I became an expat.

Oh dear! I keep forgetting I’m not in Kansas!

I once thought huge shopping centres where I could buy everything I needed in one go were the perfect solution to hectic British life. Now I find myself shying away from the crowds of people, the flashy goods, and the elevated prices for things with a short shelf life. During my life abroad, I often missed the choices that were available to me in the UK, be it in the supermarket, on the high street, even on the television, but now I just feel overwhelmed and a tad spoilt by all the options. In adapting to new ways of living and thinking abroad, I no longer completely fit in the country I was born and raised in. Perhaps I need to look at this six-month repatriation like a new expat assignment and approach it like I would any other move. I need to be open to adapting. I need to forgive myself for not “feeling at home” immediately when I wouldn’t ask that of myself anywhere else. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful connections here in the UK. I expect it won’t be long before I feel more settled at home than I do after a few weeks. One thing I do know: the call of expat life hasn’t quietened yet.

* * *

Thank you, Amy, for such an honest, heart-felt account about what it feels like to go home again, if only for half a year. It’s interesting that you’re now having to apply the adaptability you learned from expat life to feeling more at home in your native UK. Readers, can you relate to what Amy says?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s fab post!

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RANDOM NOMAD: Kirsty Rice, Freelance Writer & Blogger

Born in: Renmark*, South Australia
Passport: Australia (no one else will have me!)
Countries lived in: Australia (Adelaide & Perth): 1997-98; Indonesia (Jakarta): 1999 – 2001; Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur): 2001-02; Libya (Tripoli): 2002-04; Canada (Calgary): 2004-08; USA (Houston): 2008-09; Qatar (Doha): 2010-present.
Cyberspace coordinates: 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle (blog)
*A small town of 7,500; my parents still live there.

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I am married to a former expat child. I know the term is Third Culture Kid, but I don’t really think it applies to him. He was always keen on doing the “expat” thing. I, on the other hand, was raised in the same town that I was born in and wasn’t a great lover of change. Our first move was the result of a promotion for my husband and the fact that I was pregnant with our first child. The plan was to do a two-year posting in Indonesia and to return “home”. That was 7 countries and 12 years ago. I now thrive on change.

So your husband was already “displaced”?
My husband’s parents were expats. He was actually born in New Zealand and then they went to the Philippines for many years before moving to Sydney, then Melbourne, and finally to Brisbane.

How about your kids?
My children were all born in different countries. We were living in Jakarta when I had my first child, my second was born in KL, the third in Malta and the fourth in Canada. Although none of them have lived permanently in Australia (our longest stint has been during school holidays, so a maximum of 12 weeks), they all think of themselves as Australian. My husband and I have both worked hard for that to be the case.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced.
When we first moved to Tripoli — it was the middle of summer and I had a two-week-old baby and a two-year-old. We then had to endure months of housing hell — we couldn’t find one! For a while, I shared a “guest house” with about sixty men who were rotating in and out of the desert: there were no other women. Breast feeding amongst men who hadn’t seen a woman for a couple of months was a rather unique experience. Due to the weather, fruit and vegetables were limited and small in size. I can remember standing in a fruit and vegetable stand with a screaming baby and a restless toddler wondering how I was going to cook carrots the size of my little finger. I was continually getting lost, and the simplest of tasks seemed very overwhelming. There were many days that I considered getting on a plane — but I’m so pleased I didn’t. Three months later, we had a house, the weather was better, I made friends, and I loved our life in Libya. I was devastated to leave.

Describe the moment when you felt least displaced.
I feel like that here in Qatar. Our children are at a fabulous school, I have a place to write, and my husband works for a Qatari company and really enjoys it. There is so much here in the community for expats, and we are made to feel very welcome. I have made local friends and love heading to the local souqs. I feel that this is very much our second home. In other locations I have felt that we were passing through, but not here.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Indonesia: A jamu (traditional medicine) woman made of silver, given to me by a very dear friend.
From Malaysia: The Selangor pewter tea set I was given as a gift. Each time I use it I think of my friends.
From Libya: A wedding blanket with traditional jewellery pinned to it, which was given as a farewell present. It is such a unique gift and always a talking point when people spot it in our house.
From Canada: Nothing material, just the memory of what it was like to be back to work full time. In Calgary, I returned to the “old” me, remembering who I was pre children and travel. That was Canada’s gift — along with a huge appreciation of weather!
From the U.S. (Houston): A fantastic painting of an American flag that I picked up in San Antonio. It’s 3D and not in the traditional colors. It reminds me that America is far more layered and multidimensional that what I’d given it credit for.

You’re invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other Displaced Nation members. What’s on the menu?
We’ll have some kind of soup for starters: either Indonesian soto ayam (chicken soup), Libyan soup* (I love it!), or the Canadian version of Italian wedding soup. Though I come from an area in Australia that has a large Italian community, I’d never heard of Italian Wedding Soup — turns out it’s more of a North American thing.

For the mains, perhaps I’ll offer a choice between Malaysian curry or maybe a nasi goreng from Indonesia.

And for drinks, we’ll have margaritas. I learned to make a mean margarita in Houston.

For dessert, a caramel cheesecake — a recipe I picked up from a fellow Aussie in Houston.

You may add one word or expression from the country you’re living in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
From Indonesia: Satu lagi (one more) — I said that way to often!
From Malaysia: I just loved how you could put lah on the end of everything and automatically make a sentence sound friendlier.
From Tripoli: Shokran (thank you). It was the first Arabic word I learned and makes me think of how special the people in Libya are — so kind and helpful. Incidentally, in learning how to say “pregnancy test,” I discovered that hamil is the word for “pregnant” in Indonesia, Malaysia and Tripoli.
From Canada: Hey — kind of the same as lah in Malaysian.
From the U.S. (Houston): I found myself describing things differently. It wasn’t just “the big tree out the front” but “the big ‘ol tree out the front.”
From Qatar: Right now I’m back to learning Arabic (unsuccessfully). Oh how I wish I had a chip I could just insert into my brain to switch languages. Why haven’t they invented that yet?

It’s Zen and the Art of the Road Trip month at The Displaced Nation. Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, famously said: “Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive.” Do you agree?
I disagree. I like to arrive, settle and learn how a city/country works. You can learn so much about a place just by trying to get the telephone connected! Traveling through is just a brief picture. I love that we’ve been able to become part of a community everywhere we have lived.

Pirsig’s book details two types of personalities: 1) those who are interested mostly in gestalts so focus on being in the moment, not rational analysis; and 2) those who seek to know the details, understand the inner workings, and master the mechanics. Which type are you?
If you read my blog you’ll see there is usually a romantic viewpoint or flowery end to a posting. I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason and not always being logical. Having said that, I am a stickler for details, I hate to enter into things blindly and have to know exactly what the story is. Which personality am I in my expat life? I’m a bit of both. I don’t believe that anyone can be a successful expat without having the flexibility to change with the situation. In our daily lives as expats we need to quickly learn the rules, find out the details, go with the flow and just enjoy the ride. You have to be both.

* Libyan soup is a tomato-based soup. There are many variations. The one I loved was with lamb.

1/2 to 1/3 lb. lamb meat cut into small pieces
1/4 cup oil or “samn” (vegetable ghee)
one large onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 tomatoes
1 lemon
1/2 cup orzo, salt, red pepper, Libyan spices (Hararat) or cinnamon

Sauté the onion with meat in oil.
Add parsley and sauté until meet is brown.
Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, spices, and stir while sizzling.
Add enough water to cover meat, simmer on medium heat until meat is cooked.
Add more water if needed, and bring to a boil.
Add orzo, simmer until cooked.
Before serving, sprinkle crushed dried mint leaves, and squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste.

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

img: Kirsty Rice with her family (sans the beagle) at Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, whose rather dramatic road-trip adventure has come to an end. Time to face reality again in Woodhaven! 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. Includes seasonal recipes and book giveaways. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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