The Displaced Nation

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Tag Archives: Random Nomads

RANDOM NOMAD: Bart Schaneman, Experience-hungry Newspaper Editor in Seoul

Place of birth: Scottsbluff, Nebraska, USA — I was raised on a farm nine miles east of town. I had an incredible childhood.
Passport: USA
Overseas history: South Korea (Jeonju, Seoul, Jeonju, Seoul): 2006-08; 2008-09; 2010-11; 2011 – present.
Occupation: National editor for the Korea JoongAng Daily, an English newspaper in Seoul; and author of Trans-Siberian, a travelogue about a trip on the the world’s longest railway.
Cyberspace coordinates: Bart Schaneman (Tumblr blog) and @bartschaneman (Twitter handle).

What made you abandon your homeland for Korea?
I left because I wanted experiences. I wanted material to write about. I wanted to travel and get out of America. I didn’t want a mortgage. I didn’t want to get trapped. I didn’t want to wait until I was too old to see the world.

Was anyone else in your immediate family displaced?
I’m the only person in my immediate family who doesn’t live in the region called the Great Plains.

Tell me about the moment during your stay in Korea when you felt the most displaced.
I don’t really have a moment like that. Korea’s an exceptional place. It’s safe. The people are kind and educated. It gets easier to live here as a Westerner all the time. I’m here by choice — it gets lonely, and I miss my family, but I don’t really question why I’m here. There were minor annoyances about how things are done differently than what I was used to when I first got here. I don’t really notice those anymore. People here move to their left on the sidewalks. That’s not too hard to get used to.

When did you feel the least displaced?
Every time I go home I remember how lucky I am to live in a foreign country. Not that Nebraska or the Midwest is a bad place. I love it and I hope I’ll be lucky enough to get to live there again someday. It’s just very familiar. Difficult to find interesting. In Asia, I’m rarely bored with my surroundings. I value that more and more as I get older.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve traveled or lived into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
Kimchi. But only from Korea. It’s not right anywhere else.

We are therefore looking forward to the meal you are invited to prepare for Displaced Nation members, based on your travels. What’s on the menu?

I’m going to serve you all a bowl of chamchi kimchi jjiggae: tuna and kimchi soup. It will make you feel like you can flip over cars after you eat it. Great when you’re sick or hungover.

And now can you offer a Korean word or expression for the Displaced Nation’s argot?
The most important word to understand in Korean culture, to my mind, is jeong. It doesn’t translate directly, but the closest way to describe it is as a type of deep bond that is formed between people over time that helps you care for someone. You might not see an old friend frequently any more, or you might not be romantic with your partner, but you have jeong for them so you still want to help them when they need you. It explains a lot about the Korean mind and Korean society.

Earlier this month we did a poll on expat voting. Do you still follow your home-country politics?
I work as a journalist so I pay attention to American politics. Koreans pay attention as well. I’ve heard it said by people here that when the U.S. coughs the whole world gets sick. Most of my co-workers are from the U.S. and very well informed.

Do you vote despite living abroad?
I vote when I like the candidates, but I don’t vote if I don’t like what’s offered.

Were you surprised at the 2012 outcome?
I’m always surprised at how divided America seems around election time. People I love and trust can think about the world in an extremely different way than I do. That’s more surprising to me than who won the election.

The American Thanksgiving took place last week. What do you feel most thankful for in your life right now?
I’m lucky to have the life I have. I’m healthy. I’m alive. I don’t need much more than that. No complaints from me.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Bart Schaneman into The Displaced Nation? He may have us all eating kimchi, but at least he can amuse us with tales of the Trans-Siberian! (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Bart — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for another episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby.  Yes, this time she really is posting! Last week, the washing up after her Thanksgiving dinner took longer than expected…! (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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Img: Bart Schaneman in the Boseong Tea Fields in Boseong, South Korea (May 2011).

RANDOM NOMAD: Patricia Winton, Crime Writer, Expat in Rome & Lover of La Dolce Vita

Place of birth: In a farmhouse belonging to my paternal grandparents near Pelham, Tennessee, on a snowy December night
Passport: USA
Overseas history: Italy (Marina di Pisa, Livorno, Rome): 1969-70; 1970-71; 2002 – present.
Occupation: Crime Writer. My protag is an Italian American journalist rebuilding a career as a food writer in Italy. She first appeared in “Feeding Frenzy,” one of the mystery stories in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long (Wildside Press, 2011). She’s waiting in the wings in an as yet unsold manuscript, set in Rome. She will solve another crime in the novel I’m beginning next week (for National Novel Writing Month), set in Florence.
Cyberspace coordinates: Italian Intrigues — Notes about life in Italy, food and wine, mysteries and crime (blog); Novel Adventurers — Seven writers blog about their passion for culture, travel, and storytelling (collaborative blog); @patriciawinton (Twitter handle); and Novel Adventurers (FB page).

What made you abandon your homeland for Italy?
I had the opportunity to come live in Italy when I was quite a young woman, and I lost my heart to the land, the people, and the cuisine — not to mention the wine. I talked about coming back to live for years, but life intervened. Following 9/11 (I worked a block from the White House at the time), I really felt my mortality and decided it was time to make the move. Or to stop talking about it.

Was anyone else in your immediate family displaced?
One of my sisters lived in Panama for three years. Another lives in New Mexico, a state that many people think is a foreign country. One classic example: New Mexicans had trouble trying to get tickets to the Atlanta Olympics and were told to go the the Mexican consulate. The situation is so ridiculous that New Mexico Magazine runs a monthly column called “One of Our 50 Is Missing.”

Tell me about the moment during your various stays in Italy when you felt the most displaced.
“Bureaucracy” may be a French word, but the Italians invented it. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to consider the Biblical story of Christmas: a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed, each to his own city.

Getting together the paperwork to file for permanent residency was a nightmare. After almost a year of compiling documents, it all came down to what the Italians saw as a discrepancy: my passport lists my place of birth as Tennessee while my birth certificate, issued by the state of Tennessee, listed my place of birth as Pelham. Getting that sorted out took six months. During the interregnum, every document including my permission to stay expired. I couldn’t renew anything until the residency question was settled.

When did you feel the least displaced?
It’s always at table. On the edge of a Tuscan vineyard enjoying homemade pasta and good wine, sharing laughter with friends. Before a roaring fire in a chilly stately home with simple chicken and salad, but more laughter and wine. With a group of strangers in at a local market luncheonette, querying a table-mate about her meal and being offered a share.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve traveled or lived into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
A morsa di prosciutto (prosciutto holder). While most prosciutto crudo sold in Italy as elsewhere is machine-sliced, traditional purists want it cut by hand. To hold the ham steady, it’s placed in the morsa, a large clamp that hold it, while a knife is used to slice.

Hmmm… I hope it won’t be deployed by the murderer in one of your crime novels as an instrument of torture! I understand that when you first went to Italy, you learned to make pasta by hand, and then took a pasta machine back to the United States, where you taught many others how to make it, while also writing a food column for a newspaper. We are therefore looking forward to the meal you are invited to prepare for Displaced Nation members, based on your travels. What’s on the menu?

Indeed, I’ll be serving a traditional Italian meal:
Antipasto (appetizer): Fiori di zucca faraciti (zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies, dipped in batter and fried)
Primo piatto (first plate — traditionally the pasta, rice, or soup course): Gnocchi di Zucca alla Gorgonzola (pumpkin dumplings with gorgonzola sauce)
Secondo piatto (main course): Grigliata Mista di Pesce (mixed fish grill)
Contorni (vegetable accompaniment): Finocchio (fennel)
Frutta: Pesca (peach)
Dolce (dessert): Tiramisù
Bevande (drinks): Acqua minerale frizzante (fizzy mineral water); and Falanghina (white wine made from one of the oldest grapes grown in Italy)
.

And now can you please suggest an Italian word or expression for the Displaced Nation’s argot?
One that I’m currently enjoying is in gamba, meaning “in the leg.” In general, it means “to be an expert” or “to be good at what you do.” But it means so much more. I wrote an extensive piece about the phrase at Novel Adventurers recently.

Halloween is nearly upon us, and many of our posts of late have been about horror and that sort of thing. Tell me, do you keep up American Halloween celebrations in Rome?
I haven’t really celebrated Halloween since I was a child. I spent much of my adult life working on political campaigns. With Halloween falling days before the election, I never seemed to get organized for it. Here in Italy, it’s a relatively new holiday and more for adults than children, really. Children dress up for carnival, wearing their costumes to school for days before Martedì Grasso (Italian for Mardi Gras).

There are Halloween-related items for sale (plastic Jack O’ Lanterns and such), but no pumpkins for making Jack O’ Lanterns. Those are reserved for cooking. If I do anything to celebrate, I cook pumpkin, either as a vegetable or as part of the primo piatto.

Also in keeping with the season, we’ve started exchanging expat horror stories on the site. What’s the creepiest situation you’ve encountered on your travels?
The creepiest thing that ever happened to me occurred many years ago on a train from Munich to Florence. It started off pleasantly enough. I shared a compartment with five or six other people. A couple of them spoke only German. One woman spoke Italian and German, a man spoke German and English, and I spoke English and Italian. We had a polyglot conversation, with people translating for others and listening to see how much of the foreign tongues we could decipher. It was lots of fun. They all left the train before I did, and each warned me to be careful on my long journey as they descended one by one.

Alone, I moved near the window, and the rocking of the train lulled me to sleep. Quite some time later, I was awakened by the conductor turning on the lights to check tickets. I discovered that I had been joined in the compartment by a man who was in the act of pleasuring himself in the dark while I slept.

Now THAT’s creepy! Readers — yay or nay for letting Patricia Winton into The Displaced Nation? Not only can she cook, but she can tell a shocking story! (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Patricia — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another horrifying Displaced Q by Tony James Slater!

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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Img: Patricia Winton (author photo)

RANDOM NOMAD: Larissa Reinhart, Former Expat, Midwestern Southern Belle & Crime Novelist

Place of birth: Silvis, Illinois USA (I’m actually from nearby Andover, but it’s too small to have a hospital!)
Passport: USA only — but I’m on my third edition!
Overseas history: Japan (Yokohama, Kameoka, Nagoya): 1995-96; 1998-99; 2008-10.
Occupation: Mother and author of the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series. I’m also working on a mystery series set in contemporary Japan.
Cyberspace coordinates: The Expat Returneth — Sharing my life overseas, my life at home, and the other world that lives between my head and paper (blog); Larissa Reinhart: Writing mysteries and romance south of the sweet tea line (author site) @riswrites (Twitter handle); Larissa Reinhart (FB page); and Larissa Reinhart (Good Reads).

What made you leave the United States to live in a faraway land?
I’ve always wanted to live overseas. Before I got the chance to do it physically, I traveled through books — for instance, The Crane Maiden, by Miyoko Matsutani, and The Laughing Dragon, by Kenneth Mahood (I have passed them to my children). When I got older, I loved Elizabeth Peters mysteries, which are set in Egypt.

Was anyone else in your immediate family displaced?
My family is firmly rooted in Illinois, but was always interested in other cultures. My father was a history teacher, and I had a good understanding of geography and world history from him. I also had a grandfather who loved to travel. As a kid, I read his National Geographic collection and was fascinated by the countries he visited, particularly Egypt. He probably would have loved to have been displaced, but had to wait until retirement to travel.

Tell me about the moment during your various stays in Japan when you felt the most displaced.
My husband had a scholarship from the Monbu-shō to study at Keio University, so I applied to the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme — and ended up getting to Japan a few weeks before he did. I lived with a homestay family. They spoke no English. I spoke no Japanese. They were very sweet, but they swung between helicopter-parent smothering and leaving me for long periods of time alone in a tatami room. I had horrible jet lag and felt so isolated and helpless. Once I moved into an apartment, my jet lag abated and I began enjoying myself. I had traveled to Egypt previously — but hadn’t experienced that kind of debilitating jet lag that comes with a 13-hour time difference. It’s a killer!

When did you feel the least displaced?
We have two young daughters from China. Four years ago, we took them to Nagoya to live for a couple of years. We saw it as a chance for them to experience life in Asia at a time in their lives when it was still easy to move around and adjust. They loved Japan. By the end of our two years, we all wanted to stay, but unfortunately couldn’t. There is no one particular instance, but lots of little, everyday moments we hark back to and can’t seem to reproduce back here — our family living comfortably in our tiny house, walking to shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, my children riding their bikes with the local kids to play at the neighborhood park…

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve traveled or lived into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
A ceramic tanuki (Japanese raccoon-dog). Japanese families and businesses keep them in front of their doors to welcome guests. It’s similar to the Maneki-neko (beckoning cat), but more fun because of their sake bottle and large kintama (golden testicles), which are meant to bring good fortune.

Hmmm…moving right along: You are also invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on the menu?

I like Japanese bar food, so we’ll have a meal based on that.
Appetizer: Edamame (boiled & salted green soy beans) and a Grapefruit Sour to drink. My favorite bars in Japan will give you a glass of ice, seltzer, and shōchū (grain alcohol) and a half-grapefruit with a strainer for you to squeeze the juice into the glass. Really refreshing.
Main: A bunch of Japanese tapas dishes — yaki-gyōza (fried potstickers), tebasaki (grilled wings), pari pari renkon chips (spicy, deep fried lotus root), tsukune (grilled chicken meatballs), and yakitori (skewered grilled chicken)
Dessert: Japan isn’t big into dessert, so we’ll have a savory bowl of ramen instead. And maybe another Grapefruit Sour. Or two.

Yum, you’ve brought me back to my own izakaya days… And now can you please suggest a Japanese word or expression for the Displaced Nation’s argot?
Chuto-hanpa. It literally means half-measure, but is used to describe doing something half-assed. I love this word.

We’re getting into a bit of a Halloweeny mood at the Displaced Nation. Tell me, did you keep the American Halloween tradition alive while living in Japan?
We did celebrate Halloween in Japan with our children. It’s becoming popular there in terms of decorations and parties (we even found an American-type pumpkin for $20), but trick-or-treating is an oddity. You don’t request gifts from people — certainly not door-to-door. Our neighbors would deliver snacks in a plastic jack-o-lanterns to our house instead. One expat friend arranged a trick-or-treating excursion for the children as part of a Halloween party. But first we mothers delivered bowls of candy to the businesses and homes in the area so that, when we brought the children round to trick-or-treat, they would have something to give them. People probably thought we were crazy, but at least they found the children in costume adorable.

Also in keeping with the season, we’ve started exchanging expat horror stories on the site. What’s the creepiest situation you’ve encountered on your travels?
It was on a trip to Thailand. My husband and I hung out on a beach at Koh Samui for a few days. To get back to the mainland, we had to hike across the island to catch a boat. We were proceeding along the dirt road, chatting…when I felt something grab my arm. Without breaking stride, I glanced down and saw a monkey, teeth bared, ready to bite me. Suddenly it flew off my arm, and I screamed. It had been chained to the side of the road, and was ripped away as it reached the end of its tether. Its vicious eyes and sharp teeth will forever be burned in my memory. That nasty monkey must have been someone’s pet. My husband saw it standing next to its stake before it jumped on my arm. Too busy talking, I totally missed it and walked within its perimeter. You can bet I have remained vigilant for monkeys ever since. I had a close call with some snow monkeys in Nagano, as well. I am not a fan.

The first book in your Cherry Tucker mystery series is called Portrait of a Dead Guy. That sounds a little creepy. Is it?
It’s actually a humorous mystery, but the idea of painting a coffin portrait is creepy even for my heroine, a sassy Southern artist named Cherry Tucker. However, she’s desperate for a commission, which is why she offers her services. The dead guy has been murdered, and his stepmother felt that a final portrait would be a fitting commemoration. Cherry ends up as another potential victim of the murderer because of her proximity to the corpse. That said, she does have one spooky scene at night in a funeral home, alone with the dead body, which ends badly.

Painting a portrait of a dead man — how did you think that one up?
In truth, coffin portraits are not all that unusual, depending on your culture. Many cultures use a portrait of the deceased with their memorialization. I know a family friend who was asked to photograph a coffin portrait to send to the deceased’s family in Asia. They would probably place the photo in a family shrine and burn incense for a specific number of days along with other rites.

Tell me about your plans for the Japanese mystery series.
I’m a humorous mystery writer, so I look at the lighter side of crime. Did you know that the Japanese love mysteries? I think it’s because they have so little crime. I have another Southern heroine for the Japanese series, which will bring an interesting cross-cultural twist. I love the interplay of cultures.

Say, what is this thing about you and Southern ladies? Aren’t you an Illinois girl? Is this another displacement?
It is another displacement! We moved to Georgia between trips to Japan, about fifteen years ago. Small town South is very similar to small town Midwest, except for the Southerner’s extravagant use of hyperbole and simile in conversation. I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the U.S. now, although I can place myself in some foreign spots quite easily. 🙂

Readers — yay or nay for letting Larissa Reinhart into The Displaced Nation? She has an affinity for dead bodies, true — but in a humorous sense! And she doesn’t monkey around… (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Larissa — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an interview with another former expat author.

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: Larissa Reinhart inside a subway station in Nagoya; her favorite tanuki (cute or creepy?); her book cover.

RANDOM NOMAD: Jessica Festa, Backpacker, Offbeat Traveler & Locavore

Place of birth: Long Island, New York, USA
Passport: USA — but I’m planning on starting the papers for my Italian passport soon (my grandparents were born there).
Overseas history: Australia (Sydney): 2008. I’ve also backpacked through western Europe (for partying and food!), South America (for surreal landscapes and hiking trails), and Southeast Asia/China and Ghana (for volunteer projects).
Occupation: Freelance travel writer. I have my own site and also write for Gadling, Viator and Matador, among others.
Cyberspace coordinates: Jessie on a Journey — Taking you beyond the guidebook (travel-zine); @JessonaJourney (Twitter handle); Jessie on a Journey (FB page for backpacking community); and Jessie on a Journey (Pinterest).

What made you leave the United States for the Land of Oz?
I chose Australia for studying abroad because I wanted to be able to communicate in English — it was my first time going abroad alone.

On your site you describe yourself as a “natural backpacker.” How did you find living in one country?
It’s so different living somewhere than just traveling to it. When you have a part-time job, class schedule, gym membership, local hangout, go-to grocery store, etc, you really begin to feel a strong connection to a place. Sydney is such a great city. That said, I did not give up my backpacking habit entirely. I also traveled a lot through Australia when studying!

Tell me about the moment on your travels when you felt the most displaced.
I had many moments like that when I did a homestay for a month in Ghana, in West Africa. I was doing orphanage work, and absolutely loved the experience — but the culture is just completely different. Especially in city areas, it’s very loud and chaotic, and people will shout at you and grab your skin to feel if it’s real. They don’t get many tourists, so they’re just curious and wanting to get to know you — but sometimes it got a little too intense.

When have you felt the most comfortable?
In Sydney. I actually called my family crying the night before my flight back to New York, saying I had a new home and would not be returning. I had this camaraderie with my neighbors and so many connections to the community, I really felt like a local.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve traveled or lived into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
My collection of paintings, jewelry and handcrafted items:

  • Ghanaian artwork and wooden masks
  • Handmade jewelry from Sydney and Bolivia
  • A handwoven purse from Peru
  • Alpaca socks from Ecuador
  • Banksy artwork from the UK
  • Masapán (bread dough art) from Calderón, Ecuador
  • A hand-sewn water-bottle holder from Thailand

You are also invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on the menu?

Appetizer: Locro, a thick soup with potatoes, avocado, cheese and vegetables from the Andes.
Main: A pesto pasta with some kind of meat mixed in from the Cinque Terre in Italy.
Dessert: Salzburger Nockerl, a sweet soufflé from Austria.
Drink: Malbec wine from Argentina.

I wonder if you could also add a word or expression from one or more of the countries you’ve visited to the Displaced Nation’s argot.
“No worries” from Australia. Such a great phrase for life. I have it tattooed on my foot!

This week you received a “Food Alice” from the Displaced Nation for your post about the first time you tried cuy, or guinea pig, in Ecuador — you said your dinner reminded you of your pet guinea pig, Joey, named after a school crush. So, does food play a big role in your travels?
For me it’s about trying new things. It doesn’t need to be in the fanciest restaurant or prepared by a Michelin chef, just something truly local. For example, in South America while many of the other backpackers went to guidebook-rated restaurants, I always opted for the tiny, simple, dimly-lit local hangouts. I ate 2- and 3-course meals for a $1, and the food was fresh and local. It was exactly what everyday people in the community were having, and that was important to me.

If you were to design a world tour based on food, what would be your top five recommendations?
1) Mendoza, Argentina — try asado (barbecued meat) with a glass of Malbec.
2) Cinque Terre, Italy — try the pesto pasta that I served to you in my meal!
3) Naples, Italy — try the pizza.
4) Cuzco, Peru — try the cuy (guinea pig) or, if you’re too squeamish, the lomo saltado: strips of marinated steak served over white rice and with French fries.
5) Munich, Germany — try the brätwurst. It is like no other sausage I’ve ever tasted, and tastes so much better in Germany!

To be honest, I’m not so sure about going to Cuzco for cuy.
Really? I love it. I’m planning to go back, and possibly move, to Peru or Ecuador in March. I’m already looking forward to getting my fill of cuy again!

Readers — yay or nay for letting Jessica Festa into The Displaced Nation? At least she’s not planning to serve us guinea pig for dinner — that’s a mercy! (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Jessie — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, which will most likely be on food. (No, we haven’t finished gorging ourselves yet!)

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!

Related posts:

img: Jessie Festa enjoying one of the biggest and best empanadas in all of Peru, at the Point Hostels in Máncora (May 2012).

RANDOM NOMAD: Mark Wiens, Traveling Entrepreneur and Street Food Addict

Place of birth: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Passport: USA
Overseas history: France (Albertville): 1990–91); Democratic Republic of Congo (Tandala): 1991–94; Kenya (Nairobi): 1995–2004; Thailand (Bangkok): 2009 – present.
Occupation: Freelance writer, blogger, video blogger, and food lover.
Cyberspace coordinates: Migrationology — Cultural Travel and Street Food Around the World (blog); Eating Thai Food (blog); @migrationology (Twitter handle); Migrationology (Facebook); and Migrationology (YouTube channel).

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I grew up traveling and living overseas with my parents, who are Christian missionaries. So after returning to the United States to attend university, I was ready to get back to traveling again.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
My parents are now residing in Tanzania. My father is now in leadership so he ventures into remote parts of Africa frequently and gets to see some pretty cool things!

As a Third Culture Kid, you’ve grown up living in several different countries. Tell me about the moment when you felt the most displaced.
What makes me feel out of place? Showing up at the airport, train station or bus station of a new city and not knowing how to get to the city center. That happened a lot when I first began solo traveling. I didn’t do enough initial research before arriving in a country.

One time I flew into Clark Airport in the Philippines thinking it was in Manila, but in reality it’s located about three hours from the city, and there’s no easy way to get to Manila center. I should have known this before arriving and getting lost!

I now still don’t do a lot of planning, but I always do a bit of research to figure out the best way to get from the airport (or station) to the city center!

Wow, you sound pretty comfortable in the big wide world out there, if you don’t even bother doing research before a trip. When have you felt the most comfortable?
Whenever I’m eating delicious food cooked by a local — that’s when I feel the least displaced. In Sri Lanka, for instance, I got into the habit of stopping to eat food along the side of the road. I would always be greeted by genuinely friendly and hospitable people. So in addition to delicious food, I would be connecting with others. That’s how I feel at home in a foreign place.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your travels into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
Durian from Southeast Asia — the most amazing fruit in the world! It makes me very happy!

And now you are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on the menu?

Appetizer: Poke, the Hawaiian sashimi: cubed pieces of raw fish marinated in onions, soy sauce, and sea salt.
Main: Sichuan fish hot pot, known as Shuizhuyu. It’s the signature dish in Sichuan cooking.
Dessert: Either Thai-style sticky rice with durian, or just plain durian fruit.
Drink: Stoney, a strong ginger soda from East Africa that burns going down.

I wonder if you could also add a word or expression from one or more of the countries you’ve lived in to The Displaced Nation argot.
From Kenya: Sema boss, a slang term for greeting the person who is in charge. It’s a good way to connect.
From Thailand: Mai pen rai, how Thais say “don’t worry about it” or “no problem.” It’s a polite phrase.
From Mexico: Pansa llena, corazón contento: “Stomach full, heart is happy.” When I lived in the US, I had many friends from Mexico who would use that expression with me as they knew I loved to eat. I also have visited northern Mexico a number of times.

This month we’ve been exploring the idea of organizing one’s travels around the wish to try particular foods. I understand that many of your travels are motivated by food interests?
Yes, nowadays just about all my travels are motivated by food. I do travel to see other countries and meet new people, but my main passion is food and that’s what I enjoy searching for. I would be very happy to fly to a destination and not do any of the normal tourist attractions, but just eat. A few months ago I took just a short 24-hour trip to Malaysia with a strict mission to eat. It was an amazing food binge!

Are you more motivated by the idea of trying new foods or by finding the very best of particular foods?
I’d say I’m equally motivated to try new foods and to find the very best foods that I’ve already eaten previously. I’m always excited to try something I’ve never seen or heard of before, but at the same time if I hear about the best bowl of Thai boat noodles, or the most amazing seafood restaurant, I’m quite tempted too!

If you were to design a world tour based on food, what would be your top five stops/foods to try?
I couldn’t narrow it down to five, so here are six:
1) Thailand — try the gaeng som (sour spicy soup), som tam (green papaya salad), and boo pad pongali (crab yellow curry).
2) Malaysia — try the nasi campur (mixed curry and rice), nasi lemak (rice and toppings), and roti canai (roti bread with curry).
3) China — try the Sichuan hot pot and all kinds of exotic delicacies.
4) India — try the thali (rice with a variety of curries), dhosa (pancake with curries) and home-cooked curries.
5) Mexico — try the tacos, burritos, mole (chocolate curry), carne asada (grilled meat), and ceviche (seafood salad).
6) Ethiopia — try the mahaberawi, a platter that includes injera (white spongy bread) topped with a variety of spicy curries.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Mark Wiens into The Displaced Nation? He’s an adventuresome eater, that’s for sure, but can you stand the smell of what’s in his suitcase? (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Mark — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (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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img: Mark Wiens in the act of trying, for the first time, to cut open a durian fruit, on his balcony in Bangkok.

RANDOM NOMAD: Liv Gaunt, Accidental Serial Expat and Feeder of Sharks

Place of birth: Luxembourg
Passport: UK
Overseas history: England (Sevenoaks, Kent): 1981–98); Turkey (Fethiye, Ölüdeniz, Fethiye again): 1998–99, 2001–02, 2004; Kenya (Watamu): 1999–2000; Egypt (Dahab): 2000-01, Bahamas (Nassau and Family Islands): 2002–03; Barbados (Bridgetown): 2004–05; England (London): 2006–10; Australia (Cairns, Brisbane, Esperance): 2011 – present. (Gosh, I feel like a serial expat listing so many places!)
Occupation: Journalist and scuba instructor
Cyberspace coordinates: The World is Waiting — Expat humour, travel tips, handy hints, photos and inspiration for travellers (site); @worldswaiting (Twitter handle); The World is Waiting (Facebook); WorldsWaiting (Pinterest); and Liv G (foursquare).

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Though I am fond of Britain, I left because I was seeking work as a scuba diving instructor and underwater photographer. The jobs available overseas offered a better diving experience and a better lifestyle. Photographing sharks, filming turtles, and teaching people to dive in an island paradise conditions are not things you can do in Britain.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
My parents were expats in Luxembourg, which is where I was born. For a few years my father was based in Barbados for work, so I guess it runs in the family — but nobody other than me is displaced at this moment.

Your chosen profession of diving and underwater photography has led you to settling, at least for a time, in quite a few different countries. Tell me about the moment when you felt the most displaced.
I believe it is the people who make the place. I feel most displaced when I am surrounded by people who do not treat others with what I consider to be the most basic level of respect — basically, as they would wish to be treated. Discovering cultural differences can be fascinating; but living with discrimination day in day out is frustrating and awful. Living in Egypt I found it really frustrating that men would not take me seriously simply because I am female. They completely disregarded the fact that I had more experience and was more qualified than they were. Of course I understand there are significant differences between Arab and Western culture. But being in a male-dominated industry (scuba diving) in a paternal society (Egypt) was simply not for me.

Was there one specific moment during your time in Egypt that catalyzed this feeling for you?
No, I think it was more the growing realization that I would never be taken seriously.

Describe the moment when you felt your least displaced — i.e., when you felt more or less at home in one of your adopted countries.
The first time I lived somewhere other than with my parents, was in Turkey in my late teens. I took on the responsibility of earning enough to pay rent, bills and to feed myself — and it was all in Turkish. It was a classic example of me diving in at the deep end, so to speak. As a result, I quickly gained a working knowledge of the Turkish language as well as an understanding of the country, culture and its people. Initially I thought that my Turkish friends would be horrified by my near constant butchering of their language. But they only ever encouraged me — and even nicknamed me “the Turkish-English girl.” Nowadays, whenever I visit Turkey I feel very at home there. I don’t have the normal visitor’s questioning of things. I still have quite a few Turkish habits like always removing my shoes indoors, being quick to hit the horn whilst driving, and showing hospitality to visitors.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of your adopted countries into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Turkey: An evil eye. Evil eyes are so-called, rather misleadingly, as they are believed to ward off evil. They are usually made from glass or ceramics and are often seen hanging over entrances to offices and people’s homes.
From Kenya: Some beaded sandals made from leather and old car tyres. They are the most comfortable sandals I ever had.
From Egypt: Egyptian hibiscus tea. They serve it warm with a classy piece of foil over the top of the glass!
From the Bahamas: Pink sand from Harbour Island. All Bahamian sand is silky soft and impressive frankly but on Harbour Island it is even more beautiful for being a dusky pink.
From Barbados: An amazing reggae soundtrack.
From Australia: Can I bring a quokka? They are small marsupials, a bit like a large-bottomed mini-kangaroo. I find them endlessly amusing.

And now you are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Starters: A huge plate of Turkish meze including filled filo pastries, various dips, Turkish bread, olives, cheese and some köfte.
Main: Bahamian conch fritters — the conch will be fresh from the sea and delicately fried — served with lime coconut dip and salad.
Dessert: An Australian pavlova, covered in fresh fruit.
Drinks: To include Caribbean piña coladas and mojitos, and Turkish cherry juice.

It would be a strange meal perhaps, but very tasty!

I wonder if you could also add a word or expression from one of the countries you’ve lived in to The Displaced Nation argot.
Ubuntu, which is an African ethical philosophy. Nelson Mandela explained it thus:

A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

Your life thus far has been quite an odyssey. You’ve traveled to 42 countries and lived in six. Do you think of yourself as a travel pro?
I don’t consider myself a professional traveler. To me, that term implies that I am paid to travel, which is certainly not the case. I am inspired to continue traveling to new places because I enjoy learning about people’s lives and cultures, and seeing the world through their eyes. I find the different foods interesting as well. Travel also allows you to see where you have come from in a whole new light.

What’s still on your bucket list?
Oh, it’s endlessly growing! Top of the list currently are the Philippines and the Galápagos.

But you are a professional scuba diver. Did you watch the diving events in the London Olympics?
I wasn’t able to watch most of the Olympics because of the time difference between Australia and Britain and a recent spate of overtime at my job. However, to answer your question, no, I have little interest in competition diving. I am not a competitive person generally and rather believe that at the end of the day the only person you ever truly compete with is yourself.

What made you so certain you wanted to be a scuba diver?
I enjoy interacting with the creatures of the deep. Watching as a shark cruises out of the blue towards you, having a curious manta ray investigate you, or sharing a moment with a cheeky turtle is far more fun to me than being faster or more coordinated than someone else. I also enjoy the challenge of capturing the underwater critters on camera.

As it happens, this week marks the 25th anniversary of Shark Week, the Discovery Channel’s longest-running programming event. The purpose is to draw the attention to the shark species, one third of which is at risk for extinction. (We must all stop eating shark fin soup — up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins!) I understand that you love to video and photograph sharks. Is that the riskiest thing you’ve done under water?
Most people would say the riskiest thing I have done underwater is feed sharks. It’s not about thrill-seeking, though, but about providing divers with an up-close encounter, which I think is the best way to educate people about and ultimately protect the sharks.

But while you are a shark lover, you have an aversion for sea urchins. Why is that?
If you ask me that question, I have to assume you have never accidentally brushed past one and received an ankle full of their bloody painful spines?!

But have you ever eaten uni in a Japanese restaurant?
No. I love sushi but haven’t managed any sea urchin yet. Have you, is it good?!

Readers — yay or nay for letting Liv Gaunt into The Displaced Nation? Is she above water or is there something fishy about her application? (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Liv — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s compendium of books on travel to Tuscany.

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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img: Liv Gaunt videoing a shark feed in the Bahamas.

RANDOM NOMAD: Brian MacDuckston, American Expat in Tokyo & Expert Ramen Slurper

Place of birth: San Francisco, California USA
Passport: USA
Overseas history: Japan (Saitama, Hiroshima, Tokyo): 2006 – present.
Occupation: Food consultant and freelance English teacher (available for high school classes, after-school programs, private lessons, children’s events…)
Cyberspace coordinates: Ramen Adventures (blog); @macduckston (Twitter handle); and Ramen Adventures (Facebook).

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Around 2004 I took a colloquial Mandarin Chinese class, hoping to learn a bit to help with the massive amounts of Kung Fu movies I was into at the time — I soon learned that Cantonese, not Mandarin, is used in these flicks. One of my classmates was going to China for a year to teach English. I did some Internet searching and decided I really wanted to check this out. I was stressed with my computer job, and a year abroad seemed like a good idea. Opportunities abound in China, Korea, and Japan. Japan just seemed like a good choice to me.

You’ve now lived in Japan for more than five years. Tell me about the moment when you felt the most displaced.
My first day of work in Saitama, I somehow managed to get on an empty train that had reached its last stop. A minute later and I was in the depot storage yard with an attendant yelling at me in a language I didn’t understand. I was late to my very first English lesson. I wanted to quit right away. Things got better, obviously.

Is there any particular moment or moments that stand out as your least displaced?
Whenever I’m on the road here in Japan. I ride a motorcycle — very few foreigners do that. Something about being able to navigate across mountain ranges on poorly marked roads fills me with a great sense of accomplishment.

Hmmm…are you sure it’s safe? And now you may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
A curiosity? I am actually quite a minimalist, collecting only photos. My Nikon camera is technically a Japanese thing. I guess I would choose that. Or perhaps I should consider bringing a few of my Japanese cooking knives. Beautifully crafted and razor sharp, they are amazing things.

Ah, cooking! I’m glad you mentioned that. You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Ramen of course! Let’s go ahead and serve it after the drinks. After many drinks. Ramen is one of the best hangover prevention foods. All that fat and all those carbs do wonders for the next morning.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
Umai is a great food word in Japanese. Most people first learn oishii to mean delicious, but umai is a bit stronger, a bit more cool. It’s mostly a guy word, though. I hope that’s okay with the female occupants of the Displaced Nation?

Perfectly okay! This summer, thanks to the London Olympics, all of us Displaced Nation residents, whether male or female, have become obsessed with displays of machismo and strength. In fact, this may be a good time to bring up your hobby of eating ramen in as many Tokyo venues as possible. How did you get launched in such a curious culinary sport — and become so accomplished that you and your blog were featured in the Travel section of the New York Times?
After living in Hiroshima for a bit, I knew that I needed to live in the big city.  So I finished my contract, signed up for unemployment insurance, and moved to Tokyo. Suddenly I found myself with a massive amount of time on my hands — and not a lot of money in my pockets. I decided to wait in the ridiculously long ramen shop line that I had seen many times across the street from a massive bookstore in Ikebukuro, one of Tokyo’s multiple city centers.

I was shocked how good it was. Completely worth the hour wait outside in the cold. A bit of research later, and I had a list of the 30 best shops in Tokyo…a nice place to start.

Thirty shops sounds rather daunting, particularly if each one involves standing in line for hours! What keeps you going, and do you still like ramen after the upteempth bowl of it?
What keeps me going? A job that doesn’t pay much! In fact, it’s the kind of random fun that comes with this obsession that keeps me going. When I can somehow influence someone to have the best bowl of ramen they have ever had, I feel like it is worth it.

Would you say that you’ve now graduated from amateur to pro?
Becoming a pro in such a niche corner of the food world is tough, but I suppose the few guidebook articles or magazine pieces I have worked on would put me up there.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Brian MacDuckston into The Displaced Nation once he’s finished slurping up his latest bowl of noodles? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Brian — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Displaced Q, about nationalism and the Olympics.

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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img: Brian at a ramen-ya in Tokyo, pursuing his favorite “sport.”

RANDOM NOMAD: Antrese Wood, American Expat in Argentina and Artist on an Epic Expedition

Place of birth: Pomona Valley Hospital. I grew up in Claremont, California — in fact, my mother still lives in the house she brought me home to.
Passport: USA
Overseas history: Honduras (San Pedro Sula): 1986; Argentina (San Antonio de Arredondo + Villa Carlos Paz), 2010-11 + 2011 – present.
Occupation: Artist (painter).
Cyberspace coordinates: Antrese.com (art site + blog); @antresewood (Twitter handle);  Antrese Wood Artist Page (Facebook); and Antrese Wood (Pinterest) — see “A Portrait of Argentina” board.

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
A friend of mine in high school asked me to go with her to an American Field Service (AFS) meeting. I went because she didn’t want to go alone. I had no idea what it was, but after the meeting I thought, “Awesome! I’m in!!” I ended up going to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for six months. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish when I left. I memorized the three questions I thought I would get asked most: What is your name, where are you from & how old are you? Unfortunately, I got them mixed up. When someone asked “What is your name?,” with a huge smile I would answer: “I’m 15 years old!” By the time I left, my Spanish was pretty good.

I didn’t travel much until after college, and I didn’t practice my Spanish, so I lost most of it. After college, I got bit by the travel bug again. I would go anywhere if I had the chance. I worked in the video game department at Disney for years, and got to travel a lot with them — all over the US, Vancouver, Montreal, London, Paris, even to the South of France. On my own, I went to South Korea. I also lived in Alaska for a short while (not a foreign country but compared to the Los Angeles culture, it might as well be). At one point I decided I wanted to do a semester with NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School). I choose their semester in Patagonia, and thinking this was my last chance to see South America, I spent a few months exploring Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador.

Indirectly, that is how I met my husband. A friend was worried about my traveling alone, so she introduced me to her friend from Argentina (“even though she doesn’t live there, she can at least give you a few phone numbers just in case…”). Years later, my new Argentine friend introduced me to my future husband.

Which brings me to why I left Los Angeles to live in Argentina: I fell in love.

Wow — that’s some wanderlust! So is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
No one else in my family is displaced. My mother and I both travel as much as possible, but my brothers and sisters are happy where they are.

Can you describe the moment in your Argentinian life when you felt the most displaced?
My husband and I first lived in a tiny town called San Antonio de Arredondo. It’s in el campo — literally, the countryside. But when you move from Los Angeles to a town of barely 5,000…you call it the boondocks. Some friends rented us their quincho (guest house) while they were out of the country. It was in a new neighborhood with few other houses and lots of empty lots. Green and beautiful, but no natural gas, no phone lines…and worst of all, no Internet!

I was used to 24-hour access to everything. The Internet, grocery stores, restaurants…everything. Another thing: San Antonio and Carlos Paz (where we currently live), both honor the siesta. Everything closes between 1:30 and 5:00 p.m.

It was quaint and beautiful at first, but I got tired of riding my bike to the next town to check my email. I’m completely dependent on the Internet. It was in those moments when I admittedly thought “Oh my god, what have I done!?” When we moved to Carlos Paz, the first question I had about the apartment was: “Does it have high-speed Internet?”

And does it?
YES IT DOES!!!….yay!

Now that you have Internet access and are feeling more at home, is there any particular moment that stands out as your least displaced?
As I contemplate this question, a series of images and moments flashes through my head: our house filled with friends for an impromptu dinner; the huge smile on my husband’s face when he cooks for a crowd (he loves it!); looking at the clock and being surprised that it’s already 4:00 a.m…. A big cultural difference is that you can call friends for a dinner, and within an hour or two, your house is filled with all your friends and all their kids. There is always room for just one more.

If I had to pick one event where I didn’t feel displaced, it would definitely be our wedding. It was the best of both worlds. Friends and family from the US, along with about 200 of our “closest” friends from Argentina, came to celebrate. We had a huge asado (barbecue), lots of wine, dancing until 6:30 a.m.

Sounds amazing. And now you may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
Really? only one!?

I’m tempted to pack some fernet, but I’ll bring my mate instead.

Drinking mate is a national pastime in Argentina. The mate is a hollowed out gourd that you fill with tea leaves called yerba. You add hot water and drink the tea from a bombilla (a kind of straw with a filter at the bottom). Typically, it’s shared with other people — one person serves the mate to the circle. Drinking mate plays an important social role; it’s the preferred excuse to get together and hang out. “Let’s have a mate” really means “Let’s hang out and chat for a while.” Most gas stations have a hot water dispenser at exactly the right temperature, and almost any restaurant will fill your thermos regardless of whether you eat there. They understand the importance.

There are various subtleties to preparing mate (sugar, no sugar, with mint, water temperature, etc.), and the opinions on how to properly prepare mate are strong and sometimes fiercely debated. When a person drinks mate alone for the first time, its like a right of passage into adulthood. When my husband came home and found me drinking mate by myself, he said: “AHA!! now you are an Argentine!!”

Let’s move on to food. You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Now we’re talking! This one is pretty easy:

Appetizer: Empanadas — dough filled with just about anything and then baked or fried. They’re a staple here. A common filling is ground beef, olives, hard boiled egg, paprika, cumin and salt. My favorite is the árabes, which is ground beef “cooked” with lemon and aromatic spices.

Main: Definitely an asado: various cuts of Argentine beef, and lamb. The meat here is so good, people are surprised how much flavor it has. Typically the only condiment used is salt. (Argentina would be a difficult place for vegetarians!)

Dessert: We could have ice cream — call and have it delivered (yes, they do!!); but I think I’d prefer to introduce you to alfajores from Las delicias de Mamushka. An alfajor is like a cookie sandwich: two cookies made from cornmeal, filled with dulce de leche. I never liked them until I tried Mamushka’s. Now I’m addicted.

Wine & after-dinner drinks: A nice Malbec wine. I like Trapiche. A few hours later, after dessert and coffee, an ice-cold Fernet con Coka.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
There are so many — again, hard to choose.

Che and “más vale!” are among my favorites.

Che is used all the time here, especially in the province of Córdoba. Depending on the context, it means “hey…” or “umm…” Sometimes, it seems to be used in the same way we Californians use the word “like.” Che Guevara is from this area. He is actually called Che because when he went to Cuba, he used the word so frequently, people just started calling him “Che.”

Más vale is equivalent to “Hell, yeah!!” — and also has a bit of “Let’s do this!!”

This summer we’ve been doing some posts with an Olympics theme. Are you planning to watch the Summer Olympics in London? If so, who will you be rooting for: Americans, Argentines, both, or neither?
I’ll be rooting for them both. In the event that the U.S. squares off against Argentina in a soccer match, I will be wearing a helmet and full body armor — and cheering for the US!

Are Agentines excited about the Games?
In general, Argentines are fanatical about sports. Especially soccer. Messi is a God. During the World Cup, It seemed like every man, woman and child in this country was wearing a blue-and-white striped #10 jersey. We went to a  friend’s house to watch a game. Normally busy streets were completely deserted. The city had literally shut down. There was an eerie silence occasionally broken by simultaneous cheers erupting from the houses and (closed) shops. During national playoffs, you see grown men sobbing uncontrollably after their local team has lost. The first time I saw this, I was flipping channels on TV. As the camera switched from one sobbing man to another, I thought there had been a national disaster. So, yes, I think it’s safe to say that there will be plenty of excitement about the Games!

The Olympics gives me a segue way into your 8-month project to paint Argentina. That strikes me as being an Olympian feat. Can you say a little bit more about it?
Now that you mention it, it is an Olympian feat! The project is called “A Portrait of Argentina.” I will spend eight months visiting the country’s 23 provinces, traversing something like 15,600 miles, painting portraits of the people I meet. I’ll listen to their stories and then paint en plein-aire, the scenes from their daily life. I’m hoping to deliver a cultural portrait of my adopted home.

When did you first conceive of the project?
The idea came out of a period of misery after I left Los Angeles to live in Argentina. The first year I lived here, I saw everything from a touristic point of view. It was quaint, beautiful and…a little quirky. But the second year was more difficult. It was no longer cute and quirky; the honeymoon was over. I made unfair comparisons and was judging everything. My normally optimistic and upbeat attitude shifted to “This sucks.”

I had two obvious choices: go back to California — or change my outlook, appreciate all that is good, and stay. My husband (fiancé at the time) left it up to me (no pressure, eh?). We could pack everything up and head back to Los Angeles, or I could give Argentina another try.

I realized that much of my misery was self imposed. It came from the fact that I had not integrated and was spending the majority of my time alone, working out of the house. You can’t love anything until you take the time to develop a relationship with, and really get to know, it. Here I was, on an adventure of living in another country, and I wasn’t even willing to give it the time of day. What a wasted opportunity!

As I integrated myself more and became determined to learn as much as I could about Argentina, I started taking classes at the university and began developing this idea about painting my way across the country. Painting has always been my way of making sense out of the world. It forces me to pause and really look at my subject.

Is the project having the effect that you’d hoped — is it improving your attitude?
Just by researching the project, looking for “known” and “unknown” people and places, I have a new-found appreciation for this country. I’m realizing how easy it would be to say I know Argentina because I’ve lived here for two years. The fact is, I know a lot about one region in one province of a very large country, and a little bit about a dozen other places. A native New Yorker and a native Alaskan may live in the same country, but they are culturally worlds apart. The same can be said for a Porteño (a person from Buenos Aires) and a person from La Quiaca near the Bolivian border. Same country, worlds apart.

I’m also overjoyed that so many people here seem excited about my project. Obviously, I’m super excited about it (it’s my baby, after all), but when I share my vision with Argentines and their response is equally enthusiastic, it’s just amazing.

I’ve barely started, and already my outlook has changed. I’m owning the project in a way I didn’t at the start.

What do you hope the project will ultimately accomplish?
“A Portrait of Argentina” is both a personal and a professional journey. I expect to be surprised, challenged, and profoundly affected by it. I’ll be seeking out people from diverse backgrounds, looking to honor those who have dedicated their lives to their passion and whose work positively impacts others: scientists, athletes, artists, musicians, teachers, even the abuelita (little old lady) on the street corner. It’s a collaborative project, and I hope to involve as many people as possible. Luckily, the people I’m meeting are quick to offer help and introduce me to others who might want to participate.

Do you ever feel daunted by the scale of the project?
Argentina is a huge country so I’ve set myself a very ambitious goal to cover this much ground in just eight months. When I break it down into small chunks, it feels manageable. When I think about its entirety, it’s overwhelming.

Finance was another daunting prospect. When I first thought about the funds it would take to get me to and from so many places, it seemed completely insane and impossible. I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign with a $25k goal. Kickstarter is all or nothing, so if I didn’t hit the goal, my five-week campaign would end with $0.

There were days when I did let the campaign get to me and was sure it would fail. To keep going, I would sometimes just think, okay, how can I raise just $100?

In addition to a herculean effort by family and friends, I was fortunate to have some key influencers get excited about the project and promote it. In the end, with just 17 hours to spare, I made my goal!

I’m sure I will have some of these same feelings on the road, but I’ve developed a number of tactics to deal with it. I don’t give up easily. Besides, there are too many people supporting me and cheering me on. I know it will be hard, but am I ready for it? Más vale!!

Readers — yay or nay for letting Antrese Wood into The Displaced Nation once she’s finished her travels for her project? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Antrese — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in Libby’s Life, our fictional expat series set in small town New England. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures and/or check out “Who’s Who in Libby’s Life.”)

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!

Related posts:

img: Antrese Wood displaying her intrepid travel skills on the Machu Picchu trail in Peru. Her comment: “I thought the Follow the Arrow sign was hilarious because 1) the trail is so well marked I cant imagine anyone getting lost; and 2) this was the one and only sign on the trail and it was near the end of the four-day hike. The other hilarious thing about the photo, at least to me, is that if you look closely, you can see my knee is bleeding. I had just spent 80 days carrying a backpack two-three times as heavy in seriously remote back country, no trails, no markers, nothing. We had to sign a waiver acknowledging the understanding that if something should happen, it could take a helicopter up to a week to arrive. I made it through without a scratch. Here, on this comparative cake-walk, on a perfectly even trail, I fell for no apparent reason and totally skinned up my knee.”

RANDOM NOMAD: Melissa Stoey, Former Expat in UK and Incurable Britophile

Place of birth: Northern Virginia, USA
Passports: USA
Overseas history: England (Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire + Shefford, Bedfordshire): 1988-91.
Occupation: Research technician (basically I do data analysis) and part-time professional blogger.
Cyberspace coordinates: Smitten by Britain: Home of the Britophile (blog); @SmittnbyBritain (Twitter handle); Facebook page; and Pinterest.

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I’m intrigued by other cultures and more specifically by the British culture. I have been fascinated by Britain since I was a young teen. I have always had the itch for travel and I knew I definitely wanted to visit the UK, if not live there. My love for travel one of the reasons I joined the military. I put England down as my first choice for duty station and I got it!

Where were you stationed?
At Chicksands air base (Chicks for shorts). It’s now Royal Air Force (RAF) Chicksands. Britain’s Ministry of Defense has since taken it over.

You ended up marrying a Brit, right?
Yes. My first husband, and the father of my son, was stationed at what was then RAF Brampton, which is in Cambridgeshire. At first we lived in Huntingdon, but then he got transferred to a base in Hitchin, which is closer to Chicks, so we moved to Shefford.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
Ironically, my brother was stationed at Chicks three years before, so it sort of felt like I was meant to go there. Right now, I don’t have any displaced relatives, but my son is a dual national between the U.S. and U.K. I suspect at some point he may move to the U.K. after he fulfills his dream of living and teaching in Japan for a year. We’ll see! It may be a case of like mother, like son.

So you and your son now live in the United States?
Yes. His father and I are divorced. We came back and lived in Texas for a year, then West Virginia. We now live in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, his father has gone back to Scotland, where he is from.

How often do you return to the U.K.?
My son and I, and my second husband — I am now married to an American! — try to go every year or at least once very two years, depending on funds and time off.

Can you describe the moment in your association with Britain when you felt the most displaced?
The first night I was in England the culture shock was horrible. I lived around sixty miles north of London in a small village where there were no street lights, and when I looked out the window there was complete and utter darkness. It felt as if I’d landed on a different planet with no signs of life. This was 1988 when almost everything closed much earlier than it does now and wasn’t open on Sundays. If you switched on the radio you might pick up two or three stations, the television had only four channels and of course there was no Internet. It felt much more isolating than if you moved to England today; it has changed by leaps and bounds in the last 25 years as far as conveniences go. I envy current expats who have so many wonderful resources available to help limit the culture shock and make the transition easier.

Is there any particular moment that stands out as your “least displaced”?
We had a great night back in July of 2010 when we met a Glaswegian couple at a curry house in the west end of Glasgow. They invited us to the pub for drinks where we spent the night taste testing different whiskies. I felt totally at home, like I had known this couple my whole life. The Scots have a way — similar to Americans — of making one feel welcomed and accepted. I can say this because of having once been married to a Scot and having spent a lot of time there. My ex-husband was, and still is, one of the friendliest people I know.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
My bag is always full of tea and sweets from England. I never return without them. I always pack a few British newspapers as well because my parents are Anglophiles, have been to England many times and enjoy reading them. Rumor has it that some of you Displaced Nation citizens are avid tea drinkers and readers, and that you rarely turn down sweets.

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

I will fix my favorite meal which is a nice Sunday roast that includes roast beef, roasted potatoes, carrots, peas, and Yorkshire pudding (I don’t do sprouts, thank you.) We’ll finish it off with a nice pot of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge, with jam and whipped cream.

And now you may add a word or expression from each of the countries where you’ve lived to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
I’m feeling peckish. I say that quite often and it always results in the odd look or two. It’s just not used here, at least where I live. To feel “peckish” means to feel slightly hungry.

Earlier this month, we did a series of posts on Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Incurable Britophile that you are, I presume you celebrated from a distance?
I watched the River Pageant, which was on early in the morning East Coast time, and then hosted my own Diamond Jubilee lunch (see photos on my blog). The food was great — we nibbled on leftovers for days! Even though I didn’t have a big party (it was just for my family), I was glad to do it to show my blog readers that you don’t have to be in Britain to celebrate properly. You can still enjoy yourself and take part in your own little way.

A couple of us on The Displaced Nation team thinks that the Queen deserves an Olympic medal for having survived almost being displaced by Princess Diana. Do you agree?
I don’t agree that the Queen was almost displaced by Diana; if she was going to be displaced it would have been due to her actions (or lack of) that left the British public feeling as if she was heartless and out of touch. However, I still don’t think she would have been displaced. Time heals and I think many of us now understand the dilemma she faced as a grandmother trying to protect her grandchildren who just lost their mother. However, as Head of State I do wish she had at least made a televised message to the public within the first 24 hours. Waiting five days was a bit much.

Americans seem to love the Royal Family. Do you think the United States might benefit from having one?
The idea of the United States having a royal family at this point is a silly one. It doesn’t fit our history or where we are headed as a country. Let’s leave that to the nation that does Monarchy the best.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Melissa Stoey 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 Melissa — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in Libby’s Life, our fictional expat series set in small town New England. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures and/or check out “Who’s Who in Libby’s Life.”)

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!

Related posts:

img: Melissa Stoey at Stirling Castle, Scotland, then and now — in 1989, when she was displaced (and cold!), and in 2010, when she was visiting (and warmer!).

RANDOM NOMAD: Lynne Murphy, American Expat in UK & Champion Linguist

Place of birth: Western New York State, USA
Passports: USA + UK
Overseas history: South Africa (Johannesburg): 1993-97; Texas, USA (Waco): 1997-99 — definitely a different country!; England, UK (Brighton): 2000 – present.
Occupation: Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Sussex
Cyberspace coordinates: Separated by a Common Language — observations on British and American English by an American linguist in the UK (blog); @LynneGuist (Twitter handle).

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
What made me move were jobs. I am a theoretical lexicologist. Not many places want a theoretical lexicologist, so I applied far and wide and have been rewarded with some very interesting jobs and living experiences.

Is anyone else in your immediate family “displaced”?
I was the first person in my immediate family-of-birth to own a passport.

Can you describe the moment when you felt the most displaced?
The night after the American student Amy Biehl was killed in South Africa, in August 1993. At that point, I lived in a granny flat — an outbuilding behind a house in a Johannesburg suburb. I came home to find my neighbours in the main house packing up and leaving for a safe place to stay, as they’d been robbed during the day. As they left, they told me the thieves had taken the spare keys to my flat — and had already come back to steal the bicycles from the garage. At that point, I had no car, no telephone (setting one up there took FOREVER), nowhere to go and no way to get there. I stayed up all night with the lights on and with a newspaper with the story of Biehl’s murder on the front page, feeling very alone and very scared.

Is there any particular moment that stands out as your “least displaced”?
Sometimes it’s funny to reflect on the fact that my own child speaks with an English accent, and I feel most absolutely at home with her. But I also often feel really divorced from the US when I read the news. When the hullabaloo about “Obamacare” was going on, I just couldn’t believe that I came from a place where many people seem not to see good medical care as a basic right for all. And it especially galled when I saw some Americans spreading lies about how British healthcare works and others willing to believe those lies. The National Health Service isn’t perfect, but it has saved my life, and I have more confidence in its care for me than I had in the insurance-industry-driven care I had in the US.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From South Africa: It’s the art that’s lasted! Two pieces by Ezekiel Madiba, a print and one of his printing blocks — which is nice because it’s sturdy enough to put in a suitcase and to hug every once in a while.
From Texas: My doctor’s instructions on what to do the next time I’m stung by a fire ant (to try to avoid being bed-ridden for a week, like the first time).
From England: My wedding ring. It’s a one-off, made by a Brighton goldsmith, and it’s a curiosity, because I hadn’t thought I was the marrying type.

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Starter/Appetizer: South African biltong. A nice peppery one—but I don’t mind if it’s beef or game. Maybe a selection.
Main course: For this, I’ll bring together the British and the American — not fancy but delicious. I haven’t given it a name, but here’s the recipe: Toast crumpets. cover with cheddar cheese and put under the broiler/grill. Slather on A1 Steak Sauce. Eat with knife and fork.
Dessert: Eton mess with raspberries instead of strawberries.
Drinks: South African wine (I never had a South African wine I didn’t like while I was in South Africa– the exported stuff is of more variable quality, in my experience); Castle Lager (a South African beer); and Schweppes Bitter Lemon (a popular soft drink in South Africa, no longer being produced in this part of the world as far as I know).

And now you may add a word or expression from each of the countries where you’ve lived to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
From South Africa: Putting hey? on the ends of sentences. It was so easy to start doing, since I’d grown up using the “Canadian” eh? (Though I hadn’t realized I said it till I moved from upstate New York to Massachusetts, where they don’t say it.) It’s been a while since I lived in South Africa, but I still find myself doing it.
From the UK: There are so many great expressions, but the thing that’s invaded my language most is lovely. When I write emails, I have to go back at the end and take out half of the lovelies because I say it so terrifically much.

This month we have been doing some posts on Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. How did you spend the Bank Holiday weekend? Did you celebrate?
We’re not much into the monarchy in my house, so we just enjoyed the extra time off. But we did go to a friend’s house and eat red-white-and-blue cupcakes — which we should probably have called “fairy cakes” if we wanted to take the whole Rule Britannia thing seriously.

A couple of us on The Displaced Nation team thinks that the Queen deserves an Olympic medal for being on the throne for so long. Do you agree?
I respect the queen for handling many awkward situations with grace, but all she has done to be on the throne so long is not die yet. She got a national holiday for the occasion—I think that’s sufficient!

Readers — yay or nay for letting Lynne Murphy 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 Lynne — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in Libby’s Life, our fictional expat series set in small town New England. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures and/or check out “Who’s Who in Libby’s Life.”)

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!

Related posts:

img: Lynne Murphy looking rather other-worldly — or  “out of this displaced world,” as we like to say — in a Brighton pub.

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