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BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST: Best of 2014 in Expat Books (2/2)

Best of Expat Books 2014 Part 2Season’s greetings again, Displaced Nationers. And welcome back to our end-of-the-year bookfest!

Pass the eggnog!! (She takes a swig…)

Moving right along (hic!). In the first part of this BOOKLUST WANDERLUST series, posted yesterday, our BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST columnist Beth Green and I presented a list of 2014 expat books in the categories of Travel, Memoirs, and Cross-cultural Challenges.

In Part Two, we present our last three categories (hic, hic—hey, it’s the holidays!):

  1. IT’S FOOD!

A few points to note:

  • Books in each category are arranged from most to least recent.
  • Unless otherwise noted, books are self-published.
  • Contributions by Beth are in green (most appropriate, given her surname!).

* * *


Colour_of_Maroc_cover_smallColour of Maroc: A Celebration of Food and Life (Murdoch Books, October 2014)
Authors: Rob Palmer and Sophie Palmer
Synopsis: A collection of Moroccan recipes, both traditional and contemporary, interwoven with stories and anecdotes inspired by people, food and travel experiences as seen through the eyes of Rob, an Australian photographer, and Sophia, his French/Moroccan wife.
Expat Credentials: Rob first met Sophia in Sydney, who had freshly arrived in Australia from France. They were both on a food photo shoot for an ad agency. Fascinated by her half-Moroccan (she was born in Casablanca), half-French heritage, he was only too happy to join her on an extended tour of Morocco, which resulted in both marriage and this book.
How we heard about: Social media.

Cucina_Siciliana_cover_smallCucina Siciliana: A taste of the authentic Sicilian flavors (August 2014)
Author: Wanita
Synopsis: Wanita shares recipes she has collected from her elderly neighbor, her mother-in-law, and Italian friends she has made during her six years in Sicily—recipes that have passed down from generations, several of which, she suspects, have never been outside Sicily!
Expat creds: Wanita met her Sicilian husband on the Internet. After a 3-month online romance, he visited her in California; two weeks later, she accompanied him back to Sicily to get married. They now have an infant daughter.
How we found out about: We’ve pinned several of her Sicilian recipes to our IT’S FOOD! board.

My_Paris_Kitchen_cover_smallMy Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories (Ten Speed Press, April 2014)
Author: David Lebovitz
Synopsis: A collection of 100 sweet and savory recipes that reflect the way modern Parisians eat today, combined with Lebovitz’s personal stories of life in the world’s culinary capital. The book also features lush photos of Paris and of Lebovitz’s kitchen.
Expat creds: Lebovitz is an American pastry chef who has been living the sweet life in Paris for a decade. Before moving to France, he made his name at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, with celebrity chef Alice Waters as his mentor.
How we found out about: We are among his throngs of followers, keeping up with him any way we can: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, his monthly e-newletter… My Paris Kitchen (his 7th book!) has been named best cookbook of the year by Amazon.

The_Edible_Atlas_cover_smallThe Edible Atlas: Around the World in 39 Cuisines (Canongate, March 2014)
Author: Mina Holland
Genre: International cookery
Synopsis: Not just a cookbook, The Edible Atlas introduces readers to the cultures behind the flavors and looks at why people eat what they do.
Expat credentials: Mina Holland, from the UK, has lived both in the USA and in Spain. She’s the acting editor of Guardian Cook.
How we heard about: Titles about food always catch our eye, and the idea of traveling around the world a mouthful at a time? Tantalizing! A review in Guardian Books first brought it to my attention.


TheWorldsWithin_cover_smallThe Worlds Within, an anthology of TCK art and writing: young, global and between cultures (Summertime, November 2014)
Editors: Jo Parfitt and Eva László-Herbert
TCK Credentials: As the editors point out, that this is a rare book BY third culture kids, not about them.
Synopsis: Your mother is Swiss, your father is from the Philippines and you have so far lived in five countries, none of them your passport country. Who are you? Where are you from? Where is home? And what did you eat for breakfast? If you are a friend, this book will guide you. If you are a teacher, it will enlighten you. If you are a parent, it will spell it out for you and if you are an employer, it will convince you. Here they are, the cultural chameleons, the young global nomads, the TCKs—Third Culture Kids—from around the world, telling you their story.
How we heard about it: Initially from a Facebook post. Word is spreading fast on social media. One of the coolest things about this book? It features TCK art as well as writing.

The_Secret_Place_cover_smallThe Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad Book 5) (Penguin, August 2014)
Author: Tana French
Genre: Mystery
Synopsis: In Book 5 of the Dublin Murder Squad series, two detectives are given new information about a cold case—a boy’s murder on the grounds of an exclusive school for girls.
(A)TCK credentials: Tana French was born in Ireland but grew up in Italy, the USA, and Malawi during the years her family traveled with her father’s career as a development economist.
How we heard about it: I’m an avid reader of murder mysteries and fell in love with this series by French last year. In fact, I wrote about her Dublin Murder Squad series , and how it deals with issues of displacement, for my first Booklust, Wanderlust column.

Home_Leave_sonnenberg_cover_smallHome Leave (Hachette, June 2014)
Author: Brittani Sonnenberg
Genre: Expat fiction
Synopsis: In a story that mirrors the author’s own life as a TCK, an expat family’s daughters search for their own identity and confront tragedy.
(A)TCK credentials: Sonnenberg was born in the USA but lived in the UK, Germany, China and Singapore as a child and teenager. She now lives in Berlin and treats Hong Kong as her second home.
How we heard about it: ML is always on the hunt for a good book about TCKs, so when she mentioned having read a review of the book last summer in the New York Times, I agreed to write a column about it.


They_Eat_Horses_cover_smallThey Eat Horses, Don’t They? The Truth about the French (Thomas Dunne Macmillan, December 2014)
Author: Piu Marie Eatwell
Genre: Multicultural nonfiction
Synopsis: A series of entertaining mini-essays examines the stereotypes of French life, so beloved of the British in particular, only to discover that many are completely false.
Expat credentials: Eatwell, of mixed Asian and British descent, went to France for a long weekend one August summer holiday many years ago, and never left (how could she, with a surname like that?). After graduating from Oxford University, she trained first as a BBC television producer and then as a lawyer. Over the years she has worked as a documentary film maker, barrister, teacher, mother, and—most recently—full-time writer, both in London and Paris. They Eat Horses, Don’t They? is her first book.
How we heard about: Eatwell’s book is the winner of the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award in Amazon’s Multicultural Non-Fiction category.

Dutched_Up_cover_smallDutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style (November 2014)
Authors: Various
Genre: Anthology
Synopsis: A compilation of stories by expat bloggers in the Netherlands.
Expat credentials: Too numerous to relay.
How we heard about: From a tweet by one of the contributors, Australian expat in Almere Nerissa Muijs. Once upon a time, Muijs was featured on our site as a Random Nomad. (She definitely rocks—we can vouch for it!)

Moving_to_Spain_cover_smallMoving to Spain with Children: Essential reading for anyone thinking about moving to Spain (November 2014)
Author: Lisa Sadleir
Genre: Expat self-help
Synopsis: Spiced with the author’s own heart-warming anecdotes, the book aims to help you arrive at the same place her own family is now—but in half the time: living and loving family life in Spain!
Expat credentials: British born Lisa Sadleir is mother to two young, bilingual children. Educated in the UK and France, she has been a resident in Spain for over 23 years. She works as an independent relocation advisor and personal property finder.
How we heard about: Social media.

Paris_in_Love_cover_smallParis in Love (Chronicle Books, November 2014)
Author: Nichole Robertson
Genre: Photography
Synopsis: A photographic love letter to Paris from the author of the best-selling Paris in Color, capturing the hidden corners and secret moments that make Paris the most romantic city in the world.
Expat credentials: After a successful career in New York City as a writer and creative director for ad agencies, Robertson moved to Paris, which rekindled her love of photography and led to creating a series of prints and now books celebrating her relationship with the City of Light.
How we heard about: Social media.

At_Home_with_Madame_Chic_cover_smallAt Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life (Simon & Schuster, October 2014)
Author: Jennifer L. Scott
Genres: Beauty/Fashion, How-to, Home Improvements
Synopsis: In this follow-up to her best-selling Lessons from Madame Chic, Scott has divided the book into two sections: 1) Chez Vous: exploring how to get your home in order and how to love it again; 2) Les Routines de la Journée: covering the pleasures of the morning, the pleasures of the afternoon, and the pleasures of the evening.
Expat credentials: Once upon a time, Scott was a college student living with a “chic” family in Paris, France, and her books represent her attempt to translate all that she learned from that European experience into her American lifestyle.
How we heard about: I interviewed Scott about her first book just before it was picked up by Simon & Schuster, and have been a big fan of hers ever since. (Her interview still gets lots of hits!)

How_to_live_in_Denmark_coverHow to Live in Denmark: A humourous guide for foreigners and their Danish friends (July 2014)
Author: Kay Zander Mellish
Synopsis: Life as a foreigner in Denmark, one of the world’s most homogenous countries, isn’t always easy. In this book, based on her popular podcast series, Kay Xander Mellish offers a fun guide to Danish culture and Danish manners, as well as tips on how to find a job, a date, someone to talk to or something to eat.
Expat credentials: An Wisconsin-born journalist, Mellish has lived in Denmark for more than a decade.
How we heard about: Mellish’s humorous and somewhat irreverent take on expat life caught our attention about a year ago, when she posted a story about the first woman to guard the Royal Palace at Amalieborg, who was fired not for being a prostitute but for refusing to follow orders and stop moonlighting—a post for which Mellish earned her one of our coveted (?!) Alice Awards. We were pleased to learn she’d published a book, and plan to feature it soon.

SoYou're_Moving_to_Australia_cover_smallSo, you’re moving to Australia?: The 6 essential steps to moving Down Under (June 2014)
Author: Sharon Swift
Genre: Self-help
Synopsis: Swift has distilled her formula for a successful international relocation into a 6-step process, outlined in this book for those making the big leap from the UK to Australia.
Expat credentials: Since her birth in Singapore to a British father and Singaporean mother, Swift has lived across five continents, experiencing life and cultures of 14 countries. Her move to Sydney from London in 2005 was her 18th international relocation. She lives in Sydney Inner West with her husband, both now Australian citizens.
How we heard about: Pinterest.

* * *

Your turn again, readers! Have you read any of the above works and if so, what did you think of them? And can you suggest other works to add to these three categories or to the ones presented yesterday? Beth and I look forward to reading your comments below.

From Beth:
Intrigued by some of these titles? Go ahead, download a few! ‘Tis the season to support the output of other international creatives.

In closing, please note: Beth and I may repeat this exercise in six months (summer reads). But if you can’t wait until then, I suggest that you sign up for our DISPLACED DISPATCH, which has a Recommended Read every week, and also follow our Pinterest board: DISPLACED READS.

Without further ado, we thank you for making this year great and wish you a season full of mirth and good cheer, along with the odd quiet moment for a displaced read or two!

(Oh, and pass that eggnog!!)

STAY TUNED for more fab posts.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe to The Displaced Dispatch, a weekly round up of posts from The Displaced Nation, plus some extras such as seasonal recipes and occasional book giveaways. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST: Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is made in the shade for expats and Third Culture Kids

Booklust Wanderlust Collage

Left: Oleh Slobodeniuk (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0); right: Beth Green (her own photo).

Today we welcome brand new columnist Beth Green to the Displaced Nation. An American who lives in Prague, Beth is an intrepid traveler and voracious reader, who mixes booklust with wanderlust in equal measures. In other words, she has the perfect background for reviewing recent book releases on behalf of international creatives. Hmmm…but will we enjoy her reviews more than the actual works?

—ML Awanohara

Thanks, ML! Displaced Nationers, for my first column we’ll be plunging into the world of crime fiction in which a city plays a major role. As I’m sure you know, many popular crime novels are set in Los Angeles, New York, London, or Chicago, where that setting is as important as the crimes committed there.

So, let me introduce another city with an underbelly you might enjoy: Dublin.

In contrast to the shamrock-and-Guinness tourist propaganda, Dublin can have a grittier, noir aspect, at least in the hands of skilled writer Tana French.

If you’re looking for a nice read where setting bolsters plot, and where some of the themes related to the experiences of those who lead the international creative life, French’s series about the Dublin Murder Squad is a fine place to start. The series, currently consisting of four books, features the members of Ireland’s fictional homicide unit, each of whom is given narration duties for one of the books—a device by which we constantly get new perspectives on the other detectives in the team as well as a chance to see the Irish Republic’s capital city through a new pair of eyes.

Various Dublins

For example, when the narrator is an experienced cop who was born to a poor family, the city doesn’t get a glossy treatment. He describes, with equal honesty, the run-down parts of town where members of his family live and the middle-class suburb where his ex-wife now resides.

Another detective, who has lived abroad, describes Dublin with more of a tourist’s eye when it’s her turn to narrate a novel.

Yet another is obsessed with appearances; and the fourth alternately seems to love and hate the city.

Cultural challenges

Though born in the USA, Tana French grew up as a Third Culture Kid. Her father was a development economist, and she spent her childhood in Ireland, Italy, the USA, and Malawi. She went to university, and ultimately chose to settle, in Ireland. Perhaps reflecting this early experience, French has each of her main characters navigate some kind of cultural shift in addition to playing his or her role in the solving (or making) of a murder.

IntheWoods_cover_pmIn the Woods is French’s debut, Edgar-winning novel. The action centers on homicide detective Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, both of whom feel culturally conflicted. Ryan, who grew up in the same village he must now investigate, was sent away to school after a horrifying childhood experience. He returns to Ireland as an adult but retains a carefully learned prep-school accent and manner of dress that marks him as an outsider even while standing in front of his childhood home.

Maddox, on the other hand, spent part of her childhood with relatives in France. She speaks French fluently and readily adapts to new surroundings and diverse situations. While this chameleon-like quality often comes in handy, it also gives her a sense of alienation in her home country. As Maddox says in The Likeness, the next book in the series:

I take after the French side. Nobody thinks I’m Irish, till I open my mouth.

Love of disguises

TheLikeness_cover_pmIn The Likeness, Maddox narrates the story of how she must go undercover impersonating someone—a foreigner, it turns out, who in turn is impersonating an undercover role (that of a college student) Maddox had previously assumed.

Controlling these layers of identity becomes intoxicating to Maddox (and to the reader, I might add) while also putting her career, and that of her superior officer, Frank Mackey, at risk.

Reading The Likeness, I was impressed by how much detail French provides to show that Maddox undergoes a believable transformation.

The domestic expat

In French’s third book, Faithful Place, Maddox’s boss, Mackey, gets his chance to prove himself in navigating the shifting subtleties of Irish culture and society.

Set in an area of Dublin known as The Liberties— not far from the tourist highlights in terms of distance but miles away in terms of economic progress and commitment to law and order—Faithful Place requires Mackey to return to the home he grew up in and attempt to solve the disappearance of his high school sweetheart, who he had always thought simply dumped him.

FaithfulPlace_cover_pmThough Mackey is thought of as down-to-earth and street-smart by his colleagues (one of the joys of the Dublin Murder Squad books is seeing different characters from inside and out over the course of several books), his time as a cop has not endeared him to his family or neighbors. He also married “up”, and there’s a great minor plot line concerning his decision to introduce his young daughter, Holly, to his “lower-class” relations.

At the beginning of the novel, Mackey says:

Both Jackie and Olivia have tried hinting, occasionally, that Holly should get to know her dad’s family. Sinister suitcases aside, over my dead body does Holly dip a toe in the bubbling cauldron of crazy that is the Mackeys at their finest.

No safe harbors

Broken Harbor_cover_pmIn the latest book in the series, Broken Harbor, a minor character from Faithful Place, Mike “Scorcher” Kennedy, takes the lead in investigating a gruesome crime committed in a rundown (yet half-finished) housing development on the same site his family used to vacation when he was a child.

Kennedy introduces the housing site to us as follows:

I used to know Broken Harbor like the back of my hand, when I was a skinny little guy with home-cut hair and mended jeans. Kids nowadays grew up on sun holidays during the boom, two weeks in the Costa del Sol is their bare minimum. But I’m forty-two and our generation had low expectations.

Why French speaks to international creatives

Though common plot and character threads hold a detective series together, there’s always a danger the author will fall back on the same formula to help her main characters solve the crimes in question. French succeeds in weaving common themes throughout the four books while also treating these themes afresh in each work. Most excitingly for us expats, she visits and revisits the feeling of being out-of-place in a culture (or subculture) not your own as well as the clashes that can occur when working with someone from a different background. Another favorite theme of hers, which also aligns with some expat experiences, is the stress of being evaluated on one’s exterior appearance.

But one of the most important common themes in Broken, Faithful and Woods is the power that a special place from one’s childhood can have—to which French’s fellow ATCK readers can surely relate. In Woods, Ryan must solve a crime in the very forest a crime was committed against him as a child—a crime he cannot remember but desperately wishes he could. In Faithful, Mackey discovers the ties to the past can last fast and strong, even years after he thought he’d broken them. And, in Broken, Kennedy’s memories from his childhood make the seaside scenery both delightful and sad, while the importance of the spot to the victims is equally powerful and alluring albeit for different reasons.

Moreover in Likeness, perhaps my favorite of the series so far, the main character doesn’t return to a place that’s important to her, but it’s just as important for her to realize that she—like the victim—doesn’t have a particular place on Earth to call her own in memory or deed.

French’s next novel, The Secret Place, will continue the Murder Squad series but with a new set of protagonist detectives drawn from the supporting characters of the first four novels. It comes out in August.

* * *

Thanks, Beth, for such a fascinating column! I felt completely transported to the noir underbelly of Dublin. BTW, I noticed that in an interview with French that is posted on Amazon, she says she can’t imagine herself setting her books anywhere other than Dublin as she knows the city like the back of her hand. Hard to imagine she started life as an American! And I must say, her crime series sounds like perfect summer reading. What do others think? Have you read French, and if so, do you concur that her books would suit expats and TCKs?

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

STAY TUNED for the next fab post!

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For this intrepid Irish “ruin hunter,” a picture says…

Ed Mooney 1,000 words Collage

Canon zoom lens; photo credit: Morguefiles; Ed Mooney in front of the ruins of Ducketts Grove, County Carlow (photo credit: Ed Mooney).

Welcome to our monthly series “A picture says…”, created to celebrate expats and other global residents for whom photography is a creative outlet. The series host is English expat, blogger, writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King, who thinks of a camera as a mirror with memory. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out his blog, Jamoroki.

My guest this month is 38-year-old Irishman Edward (Ed) Mooney. His story is quite different from previous guests for several reasons, the main one being that he is not an expat. On the contrary, he travels within the confines of his native Ireland.

That said, Ed does cross boundaries, at least in a temporal sense. He loves nothing more than to immerse himself in an obscure historical site, exploring Irish history, lore and mythology while also photographing the surrounding ruins, to keep a record of what remains from generations past.

I really like the name Ed has given to his hobby: “ruin-hunting”. Ed tells me that ruin-hunting merges Past, Present & Future. By researching the history behind a place, he pays tribute to the Past. By writing about the experience, he brings it into the Present. And by posting his article, along with his photos, on his blog, he preserves his findings for the Future.

I have been following Ed for some months and love the way he weaves historic research into (mostly) black-and-white images.

* * *

Hi, Ed. Thanks for joining me at the Displaced Nation. I know you live with your young family in Kildare, but where were you born and what gave you the urge to travel around Ireland photographing ancient ruins?
I was born in Dublin, where I lived until flying the coop at 17. I moved to Kildare for work. I only got into photography seriously three or four years ago. With a young family, I don’t get to go abroad very often. But I am fortunate enough to travel within Ireland itself, which with its rich heritage offers an abundance of fascinating sights. And the crazy thing is, the majority of them are relatively unknown and rarely visited. It is these off-the-beaten-track places that I tend to concentrate on while traveling the country, attempting to capture them with my DSLR camera.

“I love everything that’s old…” —Oliver Goldsmith

You seem to have found an interesting niche. Can you tell us a little more about this “ruin hunting” hobby of yours?
It all started in 2011. I had just gotten my first DSLR and joined the local camera club, but had very little opportunity to get out and about shooting. I wasn’t into wildlife or landscape photography like some of the other club members. I guess I was searching for my niche, as you put it. One day a flyer came through the letterbox, which had an image of a nearby historical site called the Rock of Dunamase, in County Laois. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was the beginning of what would become an obsession. A few days later, I located Dunamase and went exploring. Now, looking back at the photos, I cringe—but at the time I thought they were the best shots I’d ever taken. Around this time I had starting blogging and decided to post a brief essay on the history of Dunamase, along with the images. Next thing I knew, I was spending all of my spare time searching out new sites. Now that the kids are a little older, I have been able to take them on some of my trips. To date I have explored sites in nine counties with plans for many more over the coming months.

When you said “a flyer came through the letterbox…,” I immediately thought of a WWII fighter pilot. I would love to know more about what inspires you to spend so much of your spare time visiting historical places.
My inspiration comes from my deep love of history. In my early twenties, I joined what was then known as the Heritage Awareness Group, or HAG. We visited sites such as Newgrange, Tara and Baltinglass Abbey. Nowadays my favourite ruins are castles and Neolithic sites such as stone circles and cairns, although I am forever coming across many ecclesiastical sites which are interesting in their own right and make for some stunning shots. It’s quite hard to find the locations so I’ve created maps for each county, and make a point of recording every site I visit on my blog along with an interactive map showing the exact location to assist other travellers.

It’s great that you record your findings in so much detail and include exact locations in case others are inspired to follow in your footsteps. Ireland is a small country, unless you get lost. Tell us, where are you now, how did you end up there and what is life like in that part of the world?
We have been in Monasterevin, Kildare, for almost seven years now and absolutely love it. It’s a different way of life to Dublin. If I didn’t have to commute daily to the City to work, I would probably return there rarely. The great thing about Monasterevin, besides the relaxed atmosphere and close community, is that I am situated almost in the centre of Ireland. I can travel to any part of the country in two to three hours, which is great considering the amount of travelling involved in “ruin hunting”.

Rock of Dunamase. Photo credit: Ed Mooney

Rock of Dunamase. Photo credit: Ed Mooney

I’ve never been outside Dublin but I hear the countryside is beautiful. Other benefits are that you never run out of Guinness and you just won the Six Nations rugby! Thank you for sharing some of your photo shots which capture a few of your favourite memories. Can you describe the story behind them and what makes them so special?
These three are from recent shoots. The first, of the Rock of Dunamase, is a special place not just for the stunning views and fascinating history but also because it’s where my journey started.

Church ruins in Laois; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Church ruins in Laois; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

The second photo is of another site I discovered in neighbouring Laois, which, with its stunning views, constitutes a ruin hunter’s paradise. This one is special on a personal level as well, being the first ruin I visited with all three children. In the chancel to the rear of the church is an old iron gate blocking the entrance to a vaulted mortuary chamber. Ryan, my eldest, had an interesting observation on the chamber: “Daddy, that’s where the Vampires live.” Now how the heck did he come up with that? Have you ever tried convincing an eight-year-old that something doesn’t exist?

Skryne Hill Church; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Skryne Hill Church; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

The third is of the church that sits on Skryne Hill, the site of an early Christian settlement. To this day my memory of Skryne remains vivid. The tower is inaccessible due to a very heavy iron gate that on examination appeared to be rusted shut. I shone my torch through the bars on one of the windows. Inside were a number of interesting stone artifacts that I wanted to capture. So I set up my flashgun and shot through the bars. On the second or third flash something physically grabbed my camera strap and pulled it into the tower. It all happened so fast, but somehow I managed to pull that camera away from the window while shouting a few expletives. At first I wondered if it might have been a draft of some kind that had caught my strap, but it could not have been as I was pressed right up against the opening and there was no wind to cause a draft. Then I thought that maybe someone was inside, but there was no way for a person to get in or out of the tower. To this day I still can’t explain what happened. But it certainly left a lasting memory.

“Memory, in widow’s weeds, … stands on a tombstone.” —Aubrey de Vere

Great memoriesand that last story is quite eerie. But I suppose you would expect the odd ghost or two in buildings so old? Now, out of these many destinations, do you have any that stand out as your favorites?
If you haven’t already guessed, old ruins are what attract my attention, be it a crumbling castle, a neolithic stone circle or standing stone, or an ancient church overgrown with ivy. Here are three of my favorite places:

Brownshill Dolmen, County Carlow; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Brownshill Dolmen, County Carlow; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Ballymoon Castle, County Carlow. Photo credit: Ed Mooney

Ballymoon Castle, County Carlow; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Cillbharrog Church & cemetery; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Cillbharrog Church & Cemetery; photo credit: Ed Mooney.

Can you explain why these particular places inspire you?
It’s kind of hard to explain but once I set foot on the site of an ancient monument, something about the atmosphere affects me, and a flip switches in my head. I feel as though I’m stepping back in time. The modern world disappears for a while and I get to experience something really special. With my photography I try to capture that experience and hopefully portray it to the viewer. Mood, atmosphere and a sense of the past are the most important elements for me to enjoy shooting at a location.

I can assure you, Ed, that, for me, you usually achieve it. Your photos make me feel as though I’m there, not you. I know people aren’t a part of your ruin hunting but I want to ask you all the same if you ever feel reserved about taking photos of people on your travels, particularly when they are conscious you are doing so?
I still enjoy getting out and doing some street photography from time to time and I have never really had an issue with shooting people, but then again I have had plenty of experience ranging from large events in Dublin down to small country festivals. I guess at the start I was a bit shy and unsure of how to approach shooting strangers, but once you learn how to engage with a subject it becomes fun. Some of the best shots I have taken were the result of strangers coming up to me wanting to have their pictures taken. Parades and street festivals are probably the best for doing this as everyone is relaxed and having a good time.

Do you ask permission before taking people’s photographs?
Most times I don’t have to. I find it amazing how people start posing once they see a camera in your hand. Obviously, with children you have to be really careful these days and should always get parental permission.

“Ireland’s ruins are historic emotions surrendered to time.”—Horace Sutton

Interesting—that last point would never be considered in Thailand, where I live. So would you say that photography and the ability to be able to capture something unique which will never be seen again is a powerful force for you?
Absolutely, I would say that most photographers constantly strive to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot. In my case the deeper motivation is to capture historic sites for posterity. As in many other countries, Ireland’s local and national heritage sites continue to disappear for good. Most people don’t care and the government is only interested in money. Take my home town of Tallaght, a suburb of Dublin. There were several castles in the area up until about 40 years ago. Now only a part of one remains. This scenario recurs with alarming regularity. So if I can capture the essence of a place before it is wiped away for good, I have done my job.

I see you use the word “job”. But I see it more as a calling and you, as a preservationist and historian. Either way you are doing an excellent “job”–one that incidentally reminds me of my last interview subject, Gaetan Green. He is trying to record China’s traditional landscapes before they fall to the forces of modernization. So when did you realize this deeper purpose?
Right from the start. The need to preserve the past was a major factor in motivating me to choose this path for my photography.

Now for the technical stuff at which I am far from proficient. What kind of camera and lenses do you use? And which software do you use for post-processing?
I still use my trusty Nikon D40 with kit lens. Yes it is outdated by today’s standards, but it has served me well over the last few years and taken a lot more punishment than it should have. I am planning to upgrade later this year and hopefully the D40 will be converted to shoot Infra Red, which is something I really want to experiment with. For my raw images ACR is a must, but my one stop shop for post processing has to be Photoshop. I currently use CS6 and it does everything I need. I still have various other programs sitting on my desktop but these rarely get a look-in.

Finally, do you have any advice for wannabe photographers who are traveling or living abroad?
If I was starting photography now I would say take the time to enjoy what you do and most importantly, research, research, research. Find out as much as possible about the place you are travelling to. Look at as many images of the place as you can, take inspiration from them and don’t go and shoot the same scene as everybody else. Look for a new angle or view. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Thank you, Ed. It has been a real pleasure to interview you. Your story so far is fascinating. I say so far because I know one day you will run out of ruins in Ireland and you’ll be dreaming up your next historical project in places further afield.

* * *

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

And if you want to know more about Ed Mooney, don’t forget to visit his excellent photography site. You can also like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, or shoot him an email.

(If you are a photographer and would like to be interviewed by James for this series, please send your information to

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, the start of a brand new column on travel and fantasy writing, by Andrew Couch.

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Thanksgiving: Shine, shine, shine, dear writers, however displaced

Today’s guest blogger, Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, is a cultural spelunker. With a husband from Ireland, a daughter from Vietnam, nearly five years as an expat in Shanghai, China, and an insatiable appetite for place, how could she not be? She’s also an author with an MFA degree in fiction writing, 18 years of experience as a writing instructor, a writerhead passionista, and the curator of #38Write, a monthly series of online writing workshops for place-passionate culture junkies around the world. Let’s listen up and hear why Kristin thinks Thanksgiving is a time for us displaced writers to shine!

— ML Awanohara

On Thursday, November 22, friends and families all over the United States (as well as oodles of displaced/replaced U.S.-ians around the world) will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. While this holiday can be traced back to the English Reformation and Henry VIII, it is now a secular holiday during which participants are expected to do just three simple things:

  1. eat turkey and pumpkin pie until we groan and bloat up like petrified puffer fish.
  2. endure our Great Aunt Pru, who smells like mothballs and passes out linty lozenges that look like they’ve been in the bottom of her purse since the Reformation.
  3. give thanks.

Writers of all ilk love this holiday. After all, it’s a day for us to shine! A day for us to show off by expressing our thanks far more eloquently than the neighbor who is slouched in front of his television in a tryptophan-induced haze.

We do, of course, have a lot to live up to:

“Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for—annually, not oftener—if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.” ~ Mark Twain

“There is one day that is ours…Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.” ~ O. Henry [except, Mr. Henry forgot to add, those damn Canadians a bit to our north, who horn in on our gratefulness territory and dare to give thanks of their own, albeit on a different day]

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” ~ Erma Bombeck

But no matter how splendid the thanks of those who came before us, this is a day on which writers can strut their best stuff!

So whether or not you’re American (U.S. American, that is), grab this opportunity to make a list of things for which you are thankful. Hurl yourself into the craft of thanks! Then, when your Thanksgiving host pauses just before cutting the first slice of turkey and says, “Would anyone like to share a thing or two for which you’re grateful?” you can whip out that slip of paper, clear your throat, and in your best writerly voice, make ’em weep in their cranberry sauce.

Here are a handful of mine:

1) Despite my great love for China, I am wildly thankful I will not be sitting face to face with the still-raw, almost-gobbling, dripping-blood, trying-to-limp-away turkey I once faced in Shanghai (ordered weeks in advance, mind you, from a fancy, well-respected, Western-y hotel and for which we paid a pretty-pretty RMB). All hail the year of mashed potatoes as the main dish! (We should have stuck with jiaozi.)

2) I am so, so, so grateful I am not living during the English Reformation and that I am not required to wear contraptions like this on my head:

Anne Boleyn

3) I am grateful that Maya Angelou called to read me a new poem. (Sorry, sorry, sorry! This is actually one of Oprah’s moments of thankfulness, not mine. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?)

4) I am thankful for my amazing family and friends from Ireland, Vietnam, Germany, India, China, the U.S., the U.K., and so many more places—all those who guide me, teach me, love me, and put up with me in my best and worst moments as a human being.

5) I am thankful and excited and inspired that writers around the world are flocking to my #38Write workshops and that my vision for contributing—and helping other writers contribute—to the global conversation of story is being realized. Whoop! Whoop!

6) I am grateful that there are writers all around the globe (like you!) who are driven to explore, write stories about the cultures and places in which they live, and connect.

Your turn! What are you thankful for?

CONNECT: If you’d like to learn more or if you’d like to register for one of Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s #38Write workshops, grab a cup of coffee and pop over to her Web site and blog WRITERHEAD. Registration for December’s #38Write workshop is now open. You can Tweet Kristin at @kbairokeeffe, friend her on Facebook, and/or check out the #38Write group boards on Pinterest.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, Part 2 of Zeynep Kilic’s search for love in her adopted country.

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Images: Kristin Bair O’Keeffe portrait; Anne Boleyn, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

THE DISPLACED POLL: Which of these 4 travel champions deserves an Olympic gold medal?

Hi there, folks! In keeping with our summer theme — we’ve been talking up the Olympics, in case you haven’t noticed — today I’ll be taking a look at some travely-types who have performed what can only be described as Herculean endeavors.

Which one of these travel worthies would you vote onto the gold medal podium for their efforts? Register your choice in our poll below.

1) THE SPRINTER: Gunnar Garfors

The 30-something Norwegian Gunnar Garfors (he’s a tech and new media guy as well as an avid traveler and former footballer) will never forget where he was on June 18th, 2012. Because he was in Istanbul (Asia), Casablanca (Africa), Paris (Europe), Punta Cana (North America) and Caracas (South America). Yup — all of ’em! He managed to create a new world record by visiting five different continents in one day!

Although the “day” was quite a long one, as Gunnar used the advancing dateline to squeeze a few more hours into his schedule.

It’s hard to believe that something like this is possible… I’m guessing he didn’t use Qantas for any of the flights. (Okay, that little dig was meant for Australians!)

Seriously, he makes me tired just thinking about it! Can you remember what you did on Monday? I think I got a hair cut…

Definitely an Olympian achievement.

2) THE MARATHONER: Jean Béliveau (no, not the ice hockey icon; we’re talking summer Olympics!)

Montrealer Jean Béliveau took a little longer to accomplish his feat than Gunnar Garfors — because Jean walked all the way around the word. No, really! 47,000 miles… It took him 11 years — and 53 pairs of shoes!

At 45, Jean went through a mid-life crisis with the failure of his neon sign business. In his own words:

“I played the game. It left me empty.”

Jean liked the idea of sailing around the world, but ocean-going yachts cost too much. Instead, he began to imagine running away as far as he could.  He started jogging and working out but told no one of his plans — not even his life partner, Luce Archambault. When he finally told Luce, she gave him her blessing — but insisted that he do it for a cause. Jean chose world peace and the safety of children, something no one could disagree with (at that point, he was after some peace of mind).

He began by running south, but by the time he’d reached Atlanta, his knees had started bothering him, so he switched to walking. He waked through the rest of America, Mexico, Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia — six continents and 64 countries.

His interest in promoting peace didn’t stop him from being mugged, as well as imprisoned (the latter in Ethiopia). But he carried on and eventually even came to embrace his cause, telling people that to achieve peace, we must see the world through “eyes of love.”

It’s an achievement so staggering it begs the question: what can he possibly do next? Where do you go from there?

“Hey honey, let’s celebrate with a holiday…”

“NO! Already been there.”

Another record, of course, belongs to Luce, who has remained loyal to Jean despite his absence of 11 years from their home in Montreal and his falling for a woman in Mexico. Once a year, she would come to him and they would spend three weeks together, in one place.

Jean walked back into Montreal in October of last year. How does the couple find it being under one roof again? Rumor has it, they’re writing a book together! Talk about Olympian challenges…


Brendan (Benny) Lewis is a polyglot who hails from Cavan County in Ireland. (No, “polyglot” isn’t a type of glue; it’s a person who speaks four or more languages fluently.) Benny earned this title — he is also a vegetarian and a teetotaler — after nine years on the road, during which he taught himself to speak eight languages fluently (with more than a smattering of half a dozen more).

I know nothing about Benny’s musculature, but it’s clear his tongue has gotten plenty of exercise.

Benny now considers himself to be a “technomad” — a full-time technology-enabled globe-trotter. His Web site, Fluent in Three Months, is a treasure trove of tips and tricks for picking up languages (called “language hacks”), as well as a tribute to his mind-boggling achievement. (I’m actually surprised that his head hasn’t exploded from the pressure of all that knowledge.)

According to him, it is no big deal — anyone can do what he has done. All they need is dedication, hard work…and more of the same. (Times a million!)

You know, I have to hand it to Benny, he’s the very essence of — sorry, I can’t resist — a cunning linguist. (Well, I said I was sorry! Please stop throwing things at me.)


The British novelist and travel writer Ben Hatch is the author of a hugely popular (and very entertaining) book about a recent adventure of his: driving 8,000 miles around Britain in a cramped Vauxhall Astra, while researching a guidebook for Frommers.

“But why is that worthy of an Olympics gold medal?” I hear you ask. “Novelists usually aren’t athletes. And he only traveled around his own neck of the woods, Britain.”

Well, there are lots of reasons I could pick: because he practically lived in his car for five months, because he purposefully inflicted dozens of tourist attractions on himself every week, because he had a car crash en route, or because he stayed in a haunted Scottish castle.

But the one I like best is the fact that he did all this with his wife and two children — aged four and two! — in tow.

Can you imagine? While the family was attempting fine dining in a posh hotel restaurant, his children engaged in food fights and eating mashed potatoes with their bare hands. There were tears and tantrums in the car — every single day. For months. It sounds like my worst nightmare! And I don’t even have kids…

The resulting trauma became his best-selling book Are We Nearly There Yet? 8,000 Misguided Miles Round Britain in a Vauxhall Astra — which I can only assume was written cathartically, in a desperate attempt to cling on to what remained of his sanity after such a grueling experience. I think he deserves a medal just for surviving the first week. And of course, once the kids are old enough to read what he’s written about them, he’ll be in for a whole new world of trouble…

* * *

Right! There’s my suggestions. What do think. folks? I just know there are loads of people out there making epic journeys, achieving the unachievable, and generally making the rest of us look like couch potatoes in comparison. Do you know of any? (Olympians, I mean, not couch potatoes — I’ve got enough of the latter in my house.) BTW, I toyed with the idea of including an older traveler, as unlike sport, there seems to be no real age limit on world travel, especially with all the recent growth in the international cruise-ship industry (see photo above).

In any event, I’d love to hear from you — let me know in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter: @DisplacedNation and/or @TonyJamesSlater

And don’t forget to vote in our poll!

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post on a historical traveler worthy of a gold medal or two.

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Image: MorgueFile

How to throw a party for a bunch of global nomads

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

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

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

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


Click on the headlines below to go to each section:

  4. MUSIC
  6. FOOD
  9. GAMES
  10. SONGS


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

Meat dishes:

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

Fish dishes:

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

Vegetarian offerings:

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


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


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

New Zealand champenoise (Vicki Jeffels)

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Ladies and gentlemen, may we present: THE EXPAT OSCARS! Um…hello? Anyone there?

TheExpatOscarsThe Expat Oscars — really? Now that would be an unusual event. What would it look like?

I live in Spain. Oscars are something that are on TV Sunday night. Basically, very late at night. You don’t watch, you just read the news after who won or who lost. — Javier Bardem

Well, for starters the Expat Oscars would be held via Skype. If we had our own version of the Kodak Theatre, it’d be big and posh and empty — ’cause folk from ’round here…ain’t from ’round here! We’re displaced — all over the bloomin’ planet. Which is kind of the point. If we had to collect our awards in person, that ceremony would have a carbon footprint the size of a football stadium.

So we’re streaming live on the Internet. The Red Carpet is a million pixels long and is digitally re-mastered in every country participating. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t be invited as she’s never been displaced, only her clothing! Indeed, you won’t want to make a slip-up — or down — as the clip would literally be on YouTube before you knew it.

But if there wouldn’t be any wardrobe malfunctions, we could at least look forward to getting that delicious hang-fire moment when the Skype picture freezes, and then it cuts back in, seconds later, like this:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner is…” PIXELATE — jittery jump — lips purse with a hint of spittle and stay like that — and pause — and pause —

Cut back in to rapturous applause, the digital wheeling of spotlights and we’ve got to sit through another five minutes of high-volume celebrating before we finally make out the individual giving an acceptance speech. (That’s if it doesn’t cut out again before we get that far!)

Who would host?

Milla Jovovich, you did a great job hosting the sci-tech awards for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so you’re being promoted — to hosting the entire Expat Oscars shebang! We’d love it if you’d wear that white-sequin, one-shoulder gown you wore for the main event last night — and leave the granny glasses you donned for the sci-techies at home (wherever “home” is!).

From Long Beach to Pacific Palisades? Sorry, Billy Crystal, but that’s not displaced enough. Jovovich is Ukrianian, has lived in Europe and the US, and acted in films in several languages. All of that counts for a lot in our book.

Should Milla request a co-host, it would have to be either Keanu Reeves (he was born in Beirut, a third culture kid!) — or why not go for the daddy of successful expat movie stars, the man who redefined the phrase “I came, I saw, I conquered”: Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself!

No? Well, it’s either him or Borat. With his penchant for embodying other nationalities rather too literally, Sacha Baron Cohen belongs more with our tribe than with the Academy’s. At the Expat Oscars he will be free to attend in his dictator’s uniform without having to get special clearance and can “ash” anyone he likes in the name of terrorizing fashion — the mess will only be virtual.

We’re talking a looooong ceremony

Besides, his antics might keep people awake. The Expat Oscars will have to be a long, LONG show — either that or we’d insist that everyone stay awake all night, and it would be 4 a.m. for someone.

Listen, you think it’s bad at the real Academy Awards sitting on the edge of your auditorium seat for several of hours, sipping champagne while you wait for your category to be announced — what if it’s being announced by someone eight time-zones away?

Charlize Theron*: “Ladies and Gentlemen, here to accept this prestigious award, please welcome Mr. Sung, live by satellite from Hong Kong! Please excuse the penguin pyjamas. And the fact that he’s drunk eight vodka-Red-bulls just trying to keep himself awake…”
Mr. Sung: “Fangssshhhverymussssh…hic!”
*With her South African pedigree, Charlize more than qualifies for the role of Expat Oscar presenter.

Best Foreign Language Film — is that second or third?

Our next category is for Best Film in a Foreign Language…but wait a minute! That’s not a foreign language! That’s my language! Ah…

So could we have Best Film in a Second Language perhaps? But would that category also include people who’ve made a film in their third language — or should they get their own category? And so on.

How about “Film in a Language So Obscure Even the Director Has No Idea What’s Going On”?

No politics/fashion, please, we’re expats

What a thrill. You know you’ve entered new territory when you realize that your outfit cost more than your film. – Jessica Yu, Academy Award Winner 1997 for Documentary Short Subject*
*Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brian, about a person with a breathing disability.

The traditional Hollywood bash is often clouded by politics not to mention gossip and verdicts on the gowns of the nominated actresses.

It wouldn’t be like that for us. The Expat Awards would be about the films.

Because we just don’t get each other’s governmental strife — we haven’t got time for sorting it all out.

For instance, I’m sure there’s plenty of fascinating developments in the politics of Milla’s Ukraine (they’re a Presidential Representative Democratic Republic, don’t you know!) — but to be honest, I don’t think that would figure in anyone’s acceptance speech.

How could it? I don’t even know what a PRDR is — do you?

And the fashion would be a bit more varied than in Hollywood. We’d have people walking down the Virtual Red Carpet in burkas, galabiyas — or board shorts and “thongs” for the Aussie nominees! And there’s bound to be a few unwashed backpacker types trying to get away with khakis and a vest…and not shaving. Okay, so that’s me.

And my speech — probably on accepting the World’s Most Ridiculous Person Award?

Tony: “I’d like to thank my Mum…”
Milla: “Well actually, we have your Mum on the phone right now! She’s asking where you are, and why you haven’t called her in the last six months…”
Tony: “I’d like to thank the Academy…and ask them to keep her talking long enough for me to get to a taxi.”

* * *

What else would go wrong with a displaced film award ceremony? Would the statuette be a little gold Buddha? Or a waving cat? Or a mermaid from “Here be dragons”? What would the categories be? And who would win?

Please share your craziest thoughts in the comments!

You could win…hmm, let’s see: the respect of the international film community?

Nah. Not even the real Oscars have that… 🙂

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s review of A Separation, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, by expat author Matt Krause. Krause’s book, A Tight Wide-open Space: Finding love in a Muslim land, was featured on our site this month.

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7 foods to seduce your Valentine (or not) — wherever your home and heart may be

As a sequel to Seven deadly dishes — global grub to die for, today’s post turns its attention to foodstuffs that might promote…well, not death, but perhaps a smaller version: the one the French call La Petite Mort.

Food and romance go hand in hand — you only have to think of the restaurant scene in the film Tom Jones — so, in case you’re already planning a special meal with ulterior motives for next Tuesday, I’ve been looking for ingredients to go on your shopping list.

I have to say, after doing the internet research, I have serious doubts about the genuine aphrodisiac properties of most of these suggestions.

But see what you think.

1. Coco de Mer – Seychelles

The picture above is of a nut from the Coco de Mer tree, a palm found in the Seychelles, and for which the ancient botanical term is Lodoicea callipyge. (Callipyge comes from the Greek for “beautiful buttocks.”)

Used in Eastern medicine and as a flavor enhancer in Cantonese cuisine, the fruit is also the basis of a liqueur called Coco D’Amour which is sold in the Seychelles.

After their honeymoon in May, Prince William and Kate Middleton were presented with a Coco de Mer fruit by the Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs. (I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that presentation.)

Budget alternative: Since the Coco’s attraction lies in its suggestive shape, try peaches, nectarines, or butternut squash. Frankly, if you’re determined to see innuendo in the vegetable section of the supermarket, anything will do.

2. Oysters – Louisiana, Galway, Prince Edward Island…

Everyone knows that oysters are supposed to be aphrodisiacs. It’s all to do with the high content of zinc, phosphorous, and iodine.

Put like that, they don’t sound romantic at all.

Budget alternative: Fish fingers, table salt, Pepsi, and a couple of cherry Cold-EEZE zinc tablets for dessert.

3. Lobsters – Maine

Presumably considered aphrodisiacs for the same reason as oysters — zinc, phosphorous, iodine — but honestly, lobsters? It is impossible to eat them without looking like the explosion at the end of Jaws. Plus you’re at the table, swathed in a plastic bib while wielding a pair of large nutcrackers — not the best picture to get a new boyfriend in the mood.

Budget alternative: Poor Man’s Lobster. It’s cod, dripping in butter, so you’ll probably still need the bib — but at least you can ditch the nutcrackers.

4. Strawberries – California

They’re red, they’re heart-shaped, they’re the perfect edible valentine.

And, more to the point, you have to buy whipped cream to go with them.

Budget alternative: Just buy the whipped cream.

5. Truffles – Alba

With white truffles costing $2000 a pound, it’s not these overpriced mushrooms per se that’s the aphrodisiac. If your date is buying you these in a restaurant, the turn-on is the size of his wallet.

Budget alternative: Chocolate truffles. Who wants to eat fungus anyway?

6. Champagne – France

Supposedly an aphrodisiac because its bouquet replicates the smell of female pheromones. However, with the expensive stuff, the Truffle Theory of Attraction (see #5) can be applied.

Budget alternative: Since, according to WebMD, there isn’t any solid proof that human pheromones exist at all, save your money. Buy anything with a Sale sticker on it at the liquor store. Anything above 10% proof will work just fine, as long as you adjust the quantity accordingly, otherwise you might defeat the purpose by falling asleep. This is where #7 comes in.

7. Chocolate – the local grocery store

In its more pure forms – I’m talking 70% cacao or more — half a bar of chocolate is more potent than a gallon of espresso. It will keep you awake for hours. For good measure, one brand actually puts espresso beans in its 72% chocolate as well!

Now there’s a company that understands the delicate connection between chocolate, alcohol, and love.

Budget alternative: There is no budget alternative. Chocolate is known as a substitute for love, but as every woman knows, love is merely a substitute for chocolate.

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s Random Nomad interview.

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12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Kate Reuterswärd, American expat in Sweden (12/12)

Current home: Lund, Sweden
Past overseas locations: Italy (Perugia) and Austria (Vienna) — both for six months
Cyberspace coordinates: transatlantic sketches (personal blog), Expat Blog (guest blog for Swedish Institute, a division of the Swedish government) and @kwise321 (Twitter handle)
Recent posts: “You’re Celebrating on the Wrong Day! — and other things you didn’t know about Christmas in Sweden” (Expat Blog: December 27, 2011); “Work makes me happy” (transatlantic sketches: December 29, 2011); “What a year!” (Expat Blog: December 31, 2011)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
Actually, it’s my first Christmas outside the United States! I’ll be in Lund with my husband and his parents, his sister and her family, and some family friends. I’m looking forward to it.

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
In the US, I always looked forward to baking Christmas cookies and getting gifts for my family and friends. Sometimes my gifts are homemade, sometimes bought at a store, but I love brainstorming the perfect thing for someone. Here, though, the season is full of Christmassy activities: attending glögg parties, decorating the house with lights and going to Christmas markets. It’s the active part of the holiday season that I like the most in Sweden.

Will you be on or offline?
Totally online and hopefully Skyping with my family and friends on a regular basis.

Are you sending any cards?
My husband and I just got married and it was a sort of spur-of-the-moment decision, so we’re sending a combination Christmas/“Oh hey, we’re married!” card. We’ll be writing thank you’s to the people who were there and a little update to people who weren’t.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
Panettone. My family eats this traditional Italian holiday bread for Christmas breakfast with fruit salad, coffee, and mimosas every year. They sell it in Sweden, too, so I’ll be introducing the tradition here.

Have you read any good books this year other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
I have really enjoyed these two essay collections (though I have to admit that I haven’t finished either of them yet):
1) The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton (Pantheon, 2002): A thoughtful contemplation on different aspects of travel. As de Botton says, “Few things are as exciting as the idea of travelling somewhere else, but the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams.”
2) A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, by David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown, 1997): His essay on taking a week long cruise in the Caribbean was so true and so funny that I laughed out loud at several points.

If you could travel anywhere for the holidays, where would it be?
No travel dreams for Christmas unless it were to assemble my family and my husband’s all in the same place at the same time. But for New Year’s Eve, I’d love to return to the countryside in County Cork, Ireland, where I went two years ago with a group of eight friends, one of whom has a cabin there. We would all hole up that cabin again to eat, drink lots of champagne, and welcome in the New Year.

What famous person do you think it would be fun to spend New Year’s Eve with?
Despite having attended some exciting New Year’s Eve parties in the U.S. and Europe, I’m not sure I would want to spend New Year’s Eve with a famous person I didn’t feel close to. That said, Dorothy Parker would be hilarious to sit next to at an event like New Year’s Eve — as long as she didn’t turn against me. I would just want to be a fly on the wall.

What’s been your most displaced holiday experience?
Two days come to mind — both having to do with the Fourth of July, not Christmas. The first was in 2010. I had flown back to the States for my friend’s wedding, and then on July 4th I had to fly back to Vienna to go back to work. I spent the entire day in the no man’s land of the Charlotte, JFK, Dusseldorf, and Vienna airports. (I am an extreme budget flyer.) Actually, I’m not sure whether this counts — I didn’t really experience a displaced holiday; I just missed it altogether.

The other time was July 4, 2009. I was spending the summer in Sweden with my then boyfriend (now husband) — my first extended stay in which I started to really get to know his friends and family. We tried to throw a 4th of July party, but something was off. We grilled, we had flags, we had Jell-o shots for a little novelty Americana, but there wasn’t any patriotism and there weren’t any fireworks. For me it felt like a regular barbecue party trying too hard to be something else rather than an actual holiday.

How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
Again, it wasn’t Christmas but Thanksgiving, in 2010. I cooked a traditional Thanksgiving feast with all of my mom’s recipes for almost 30 Swedes. We borrowed a friend’s parents’ apartment to fit everyone in, and it was the coziest, most wonderful celebration. My husband downloaded the Macy’s Day Parade for me as a surprise and streamed it while we were cooking and eating. Best of all, one of my Swedish friends asked me halfway through the meal, “Aren’t we supposed to say what we’re thankful for?” I hadn’t wanted to force them to do that, but everyone got really excited about it, and the whole group took turns saying what they were thankful for in what turned out to be really beautiful toasts to the people in their lives. It was amazing.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Rested but a little bit sad. So much energy goes into enjoying the holiday season, anticipating Christmas and New Year’s, gift-giving, baking, merry making — and then suddenly it’s all over! And you’ve got all of January and February to slog through until spring is on its way again.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, setting a new theme for the month’s posts on the connection between the displaced life and spiritual awakenings.

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12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Janet Newenham, Irish internationalist (10/12)

Current home: Dublin, Ireland
Past overseas locations: Korea, Australia, South Africa
Cyberspace coordinates: Journalist on the run | Follow my adventures around the world (blog) and @janetnewenham (Twitter handle)
Most recent post: “Dear Diary — Laughter and Crocodiles” (January 3, 2012)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
Spending Christmas at home in Cork for the first time in 3 years. (I am currently doing a Masters in Humanitarian Action at University College Dublin.) My dad has a vegetable farm so there will be Brussels sprouts galore!!

Had you gone abroad for the holidays, what would you have done first?
Look for a party!

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
I love the friend and family reunions. As everyone lives all over the world nowadays, chances are few for crossing paths with friends and even some family members.

Will you be on or offline?
Offline for the holidays — maybe curled up by the fire watching movies and drinking wine.

Are you sending any cards?
I LOVE snailmail, especially making personalized cards with photographs. Plus after Christmas I will have to hand write thank-you notes to my grandparents, aunts and uncles, as is the family tradition.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
A full tin of chocolates!!

Can you recommend any good films or books other “internationals” might enjoy?
I liked The Whistleblower (2010, directed by Larysa Kondracki and starring Rachel Weisz) — about a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia who outs a UN scandal. It portrays the kind of work I would like to get into after I finish my MSc.

While living in South Korea, I read Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by the journalist Barbard Demick (Spiegel & Grau, 2009). By following the lives of six people who escaped from North Korea, Demick provides some fascinating insights into a country we know little about. I found it deeply moving.

If you could travel anywhere for Christmas +/or New Year’s Eve, where would it be?
Somewhere hot and sunny…so maybe back to Australia or South Africa for Xmas on the beach.

What famous person do you think it would be fun to spend New Year’s Eve with?
Charlie Todd, the guy who set up Improv Everywhere. Who knows what sort of New Year’s Even mischief he and I might improvise?

What’s been your most displaced holiday experience?
Christmas in Ethiopia, where they don’t actually celebrate Christmas. And, because they use a different calendar, it’s never Christmas there when it’s Christmas everywhere else. The Ethiopians were preparing to celebrate the millennium when it was September 2007 everywhere else!

How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
Last year I was really settled into my life in Korea with a great group of expat friends, so even though we were abroad it felt like home.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Tired, hungover and broke!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s featured nomad (11/12) in our 12 Nomads of Christmas series.

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