The Displaced Nation

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Tag Archives: Sydney

Eight months into my expat life, two roads diverged and I — I took the one home

Kat Collage_dropshadowToday we welcome back Kat Selvocki to the Displaced Nation. She wrote for us once before: a travel yarn about spending Christmas in Europe with friends. She had just been toiling in the farmlands of Iceland as a volunteer, and was about to head Down Under to begin a new life as a yoga instructor in Sydney. Now, just over a year later, she is back in the United States. What happened? Here is Kat’s repatriation story.

— ML Awanohara

As my year-long working holiday visa for Australia began to wane, I started considering my options.

Or rather, my option.

I teach yoga: a career that doesn’t generally allow for work sponsorship. I also had a rocky relationship with my Australian boyfriend.

The only I way I could feasibly stay in Sydney was to enroll in a course.

I’d heard tales from other expats of reasonably-priced options — reasonably-priced meaning anything under $8,000 a year — but knew in my heart it wasn’t going to work. I no longer had that kind of cash in the bank, and even if I had, you wouldn’t catch me spending it on some ridiculous “business basics” class.

It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to stay; I just wasn’t sure I wanted to uproot my life after spending just eight months building a new life in Australia. There were places I still wanted to visit in that vast country, things I still wanted to do. And I loved the classes I was teaching.

But then I got glandular fever — commonly known in the US as mono, or the kissing disease. A month into fighting overwhelming exhaustion, all I wanted was for things to be easy again. In the end, it was having a such a debilitating illness that drove me over the edge.

I bought a plane ticket home.

The three emotions of repatriation

First came relief:

  • No more comments about how my tattoos, taste in music, or style were “too American.”
  • No more complicated calculations to figure out when friends or family would be available to Skype.
  • No more job rejections on the basis of not being a citizen.
  • And most importantly: central heating in abundance — finally, I’d stop getting sick so often!

Self-doubt followed. I’d spent years wanting to live as an expat, and when I finally had the opportunity, I’d been utterly miserable.

Had I failed, or not tried hard enough?

Should I have fought to stay longer, or at least until the end of my visa?

Were my reasons for leaving the right ones?

Why hadn’t I applied for that job working at a roadhouse waitress in the Outback, so that I’d at least seen more of the country?

Next up: fear. As I headed off to Oxford, UK, at the end of last year, to spend Christmas with friends before returning to the States to seek work, the wheel had come full circle. As reported on this blog in December 2011, I’d spent my first Christmas away from family, in Europe, on my way to a new life in Australia.

Whereas before I’d been full of excitement and anticipation, this time I was full of worry. I worried about how welcoming people would be when I returned. So many of my relationships had disintegrated while I was away, and I wasn’t sure if that was because of distance or because people were fed up with my use of Aussie slang in our conversations … or was it all my whining about being so bloody tired? (Hm, there’s that slang again!)

I had no idea whether finding work would actually be any easier, especially considering the much higher unemployment rate in the US.

I didn’t know how to talk about my time in Sydney without sounding bitter or depressed — but was also afraid that even if I sounded upbeat, people wouldn’t care to hear about it.

Old habits die hard…

I’d always believed that if something doesn’t work, you can simply head back to the place you were before.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure about that.

I had decided to move back to Seattle, a city where I’d lived eight years earlier. But would that be a terrible mistake? I pictured trying — and failing — to recreate the life I’d loved before.

Last time I wrote for the Displaced Nation, I reminisced about the four months I’d spent living in Prague on a study abroad. What I didn’t report was the depression and reverse culture shock I battle against upon returning to the United States.

If that were true after a mere four months, what impact would a year-and-a-half away have? Would I be feeling even more out of place? I dreaded the long readjustment.

I also worried about money, and whether I had enough to get settled again quickly.

…or do they?

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. (Except for the money concerns. Then again, I’m convinced that no matter how much I’d saved before returning, I still would have worried.)

From the moment I stepped off the plane, it was as if someone had flipped a switch inside of me. Even though things had changed — something that was particularly evident in New York City, which I passed through on the way to the West Coast (I’d lived there after Seattle) — it all felt normal. Easy. Almost as if I’d never left. My internal map and compass worked again; I knew where I was and where I was going.

And I still believe that — even though, two months after returning to the States, I continue to look the wrong way when crossing the street.

* * *

Thanks, Kat, for sharing your story. I found it very moving. Readers, any comments, questions for Kat — any similar stories to share?

Kat Selvocki — badass yoga instructor, photographer, writer and traveler — is currently kicking ass and taking names in Seattle after returning from her expat adventures. Learn more about her on her Web site: KatSelvocki.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @katselvocki.

STAY TUNED for the final post in our fashion and style series, by the ever-so-stylish Kate Allison! (Well, she certainly has flair!)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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images: (clockwise, starting top left) Chelsea Market, NYC; Capitol Hill, Seattle; Circular Quay, Sydney; Chelsea Market, NYC; The Rocks, Sydney; in the air when flying from Sydney to Melbourne; Pioneer Square, Seattle. Center shot of Kat Selvocki was taken in Seattle. All photos are Kat’s with the exception of the Circular Quay in Sydney, which came from Morguefiles.

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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!)

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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: Liv Hambrett, Australian Expat in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Santi Dharmaputra, Indonesian expat in Australia (6/12)

Current home: Sydney, Australia
Past overseas locations: Germany, USA, The Netherlands, Syria
Cyberspace coordinates: Trilingual: Indonesian, French, English | world trotters raising two multilingual kids (blog)
Most recent post: “”A Woman’s Work” (my article in The Jakarta Globe)” (December 23, 2011)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
At my parents’ house in Indonesia.

What will you do when you first arrive?
Hugging and kissing my parents.

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
Spending time with family and old friends.

Will you be on or offline?
Online.

Are you sending any cards?
I usually write greetings on my FB wall or my blog.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
Any kind of Indonesian food. Pineapple tarts (a festive Indonesian cookie) and kastengel (Indonesian cheese sticks) are among my favorite guilty-pleasures.

Can you recommend any good books other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
Trailing wives — regardless of whether they are sojourners or seasoned expats — might appreciate:
1. A Broad Abroad: The Expat Wife’s Guide to Successful Living Abroad, by Robin Pascoe (The Expatriate Press, 2009)
2. A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom (Harper, 2001)
These are two among many books that have made me feel more empowered. By reading widely, I’ve come to understand that (trailing) wives everywhere and in every era have struggled to find happiness, just as I have. 🙂

What’s been your most displaced holiday experience?
I spent part of my childhood in The Netherlands. I loved it when Sinterklaas visited our school and gave us presents. When my family moved to Syria, I was disappointed: no Sinterklaas! By the time I returned to Indonesia at age 11, I didn’t believe in Santa. To this day, though, I believe that Sinterklaas is the only real Santa (LOL).

How about the least displaced experience — when you’ve felt the true joy of the season?
Tricky. I’m an adult TCK married to another adult TCK, and we’ve continued moving around the globe in our adulthood. I can feel both displaced and part of a place at the same time. But if I had to pick one occasion, it would be when I witnessed my trilingual children celebrating the holidays with their paternal relations in Alsace, France. Their granny and great-granny spoiled them, and it was lovely to see my kids so happy. I felt very at home in my husband’s French family. At the same time, though, I felt displaced — I was missing my own family in Indonesia.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Also tricky, as it depends on where we happen to be. Last year we spent the holidays on our own, just the four of us. My husband was too busy working and had only two days off. I was left to entertain the kids during their six-week school break (in Australia, Xmas break is the equivalent of the long summer break in the Northern Hemisphere). At that time, we’d been living in Sydney for less than a year, so we spent most of the time exploring the beach.

When we were living in Munich, we spent two Christmases with my husband’s family in Alsace, and it was sad each time we left. As adult TCKs ourselves, my husband and I are used to living with our nuclear families, so it was a novelty to spend those two Xmases with the extended family, including my husband’s siblings and their kids. Our kids were even happier with their grannies and cousins around, and the same was also true of us (at least during holiday seasons ;)).

When living in Chicago, we tended to use the time between Xmas and New Year for road trips. Sometimes we were traveling in snowstorms — so were happy and relieved to arrive back home safely.

While we were in Holland, I worked as a lawyer and used to enjoy the Xmas dinner held by the office along with the generous Xmas bonus. But when I had to return to the office after the New Year, I did so rather reluctantly — LOL.

The last time I spent New Years in Jakarta was in 2001. My brothers, husband and I (we didn’t have kids yet) stayed at a hotel to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It was kind of sad to leave Jakarta to return to the winter season in Europe (we were in Holland then).

This year, we traded in Australian summer for the Indonesian rainy season. Temperature wise, though, there’s almost no difference. I guess our kids will be sad to leave their Indonesian grandparents and cousins when we go back to Sydney.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:
SIX SPOUSES TRAILING,
FIVE GOOOOOOOFY EXPATS.
FOUR ENGLISH CHEESES,
THREE DECENT WHISKIES,
TWO CANDY BOXES,
& AN IRISHMAN IN A PALM TREE!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s featured nomad (7/12) in our 12 Nomads of Christmas series.

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RETURN TRIP: Random Nomad – Charlotte Day, High School Student (Sixth Former)

While our writers take off on what they hope will be enchanting August breaks, The Displaced Nation will occasionally be reissuing some posts that, for one reason or another, enchanted our readers. Enjoy these “return trips”!
As youngsters head back to school, we’re reissuing a Random Nomad interview ML Awanohara did with Charlotte Day, a displaced teenager in England. Charlotte spent a chunk of her summer taking a Russian-language course in St. Petersburg and living with a Russian family. She has produced a travel yarn on her adventures, which will appear on Monday.

Born in: Sydney, Australia
Passports: Australia, UK and US Green Card
Countries lived in: Australia (Sydney): 1994-2001; United States (New York, New York): 2001-2010; England (Sevenoaks, Kent): 2010-present

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
My father is Australian and my mother English. They split up when I was two. When I was six, my mother met and married an Australian who had been living in New York for thirty years. I was rather disgruntled about moving to the United States and for two or three years, remained determined never to accept it as “home.” At that time, I was deeply patriotic to my native country — though this sentiment has dissipated since.

Is anyone else in your immediate family a “displaced” person?
My mother’s family, originally from England, has long been displaced. My mother herself was born in Kenya, in 1961. Following the Mau Mau Uprising, her parents were forced to relocate, and my grandfather, presented with a choice between Australia and Canada, chose the warmer of the two countries. My mother spent her childhood bouncing between schools in England and Australia. She eventually grew so fed up with packing and unpacking, she decided to leave school at the age of 16. Her father agreed to the plan provided she spend a final year at the school in Switzerland his own mother had attended as a girl. My mother moved on from Swiss finishing school to work in London, Paris and Sydney. But she appears to have made New York her last port of call. Indeed, we had a fairly solid life in the city until I decided to take myself off to boarding school in England.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced over the course of your many displacements.
It must have been when I first arrived in New York as a six-year-old. I stepped out of the JFK arrivals terminal into a snowy March night. My stepfather was wearing a leather coat, the interior of his car smelled of leather — and the world outside the car window seemed an undulating stream of black and silver. Though it was the end of 2001’s warm winter, my Australian blood froze beneath my first-ever coat. And their apartment — that was all leather as well. It smelled of musk and cologne. Since that time, I have felt similar pangs of displacement, some of which lasted for considerable periods. But those first few moments in New York stand out as the most acute concentration of “displacedness” I have ever known.

Describe the moment when you felt least displaced.
For the last five or so years in New York, I have felt more at home than I ever did in Sydney. I ascribe this to growing up: at a certain age, one can take possession of a city, know its streets, bridges, tunnels and transportation system. I was too young when I lived in Sydney to reach that kind of comfort level. But when have I felt the most like a New Yorker? Perhaps it was the last time I came home for the holidays, and took the 4 train uptown for the first time in months. At that moment I realized how much this train had been a part of my life — conveying me home from school every day for two years. My old life would always be waiting for me on the subway, ready for me to pick it up again. That’s something only a New Yorker could say!

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve lived into the Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Australia: A miniature wooden wombat figurine — a gift from my grandfather. It conjures memories of a childhood spent beating about the bush (literally) and fishing for yabbies at the dam in the company of audacious dogs who stuck their heads down wombat holes, to no good end.
From New York: A pair of fake Harry Potter glasses. These defined my first six months in New York — I even wore them to my first day of school. I think it is telling that even at the age of six, I was unwilling to give all of my real self to this new home.
From England: My school tie — representative of the alternative universe I seem to have entered. At boarding school, the sense of removal from reality can be disconcerting — especially after having spent a decade in the city I regard as the world’s capital.

You’re invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other Displaced Nation members. What’s on your menu?
I’d like to make you a Sydney breakfast: scrambled eggs, made with cream, salt and pepper and served on a bed of Turkish toast, with avocado and stewed tomato on the side (is this being greedy?). Our meal will be accompanied by a large “flat white”: what we call perfectly strong, milky coffee without excessive froth. I suggest we consume it overlooking a beach on a Sunday morning. At least, I assume The Displaced Nation has beaches?

You may add one word or expression from each of the countries you’ve lived in to The Displaced Nation argot. What words do you loan us?
From Australia: Daggy. I use this word all the time — and did not realize it was exclusively Australian until I was informed of the etymology. Apparently, it comes from trimming the soiled wool around a sheep’s bottom. Which part of this repugnant whole is actually the “dag,” I do not remember. (No, I’m not a proper Australian!) But as I understand it, “daggy” means sloppy in appearance or badly put together.
From New York: There are so many words, and most are second nature by now. However, I will choose grande-soy-chai-tea-latte because I still shudder to think of myself as the kind of person who can utter such a phrase, at great speed, with great insistence. In fact, I’m still in denial about my love for Starbucks: having known Sydney coffee, my standards should be higher.
From England: Banter. I still do not know the precise meaning of this word, but it seems to encapsulate everything that makes someone my age feel socially acceptable — and, of course, I have no banter whatsoever. I think it means the capacity for combining wit with meaningless conversation. But there are other components, too, which seem to me unfathomable.

Question: Readers, tell us what you think: should we welcome Charlotte Day to The Displaced Nation and if so, why? (Note: It’s fine to vote “no” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms you think we all — Charlotte included — will find amusing.)

img: Charlotte Day at her boarding school in southeast England

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RANDOM NOMAD: Charlotte Day, High School Student (Sixth Former)

Born in: Sydney, Australia
Passports: Australia, UK and US Green Card
Countries lived in: Australia (Sydney): 1994-2001; United States (New York, New York): 2001-2010; England (Sevenoaks, Kent): 2010-present

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
My father is Australian and my mother English. They split up when I was two. When I was six, my mother met and married an Australian who had been living in New York for thirty years. I was rather disgruntled about moving to the United States and for two or three years, remained determined never to accept it as “home.” At that time, I was deeply patriotic to my native country — though this sentiment has dissipated since.

Is anyone else in your immediate family a “displaced” person?
My mother’s family, originally from England, has long been displaced. My mother herself was born in Kenya, in 1961. Following the Mau Mau Uprising, her parents were forced to relocate, and my grandfather, presented with a choice between Australia and Canada, chose the warmer of the two countries. My mother spent her childhood bouncing between schools in England and Australia. She eventually grew so fed up with packing and unpacking, she decided to leave school at the age of 16. Her father agreed to the plan provided she spend a final year at the school in Switzerland his own mother had attended as a girl. My mother moved on from Swiss finishing school to work in London, Paris and Sydney. But she appears to have made New York her last port of call. Indeed, we had a fairly solid life in the city until I decided to take myself off to boarding school in England.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced over the course of your many displacements.
It must have been when I first arrived in New York as a six-year-old. I stepped out of the JFK arrivals terminal into a snowy March night. My stepfather was wearing a leather coat, the interior of his car smelled of leather — and the world outside the car window seemed an undulating stream of black and silver. Though it was the end of 2001’s warm winter, my Australian blood froze beneath my first-ever coat. And their apartment — that was all leather as well. It smelled of musk and cologne. Since that time, I have felt similar pangs of displacement, some of which lasted for considerable periods. But those first few moments in New York stand out as the most acute concentration of “displacedness” I have ever known.

Describe the moment when you felt least displaced.
For the last five or so years in New York, I have felt more at home than I ever did in Sydney. I ascribe this to growing up: at a certain age, one can take possession of a city, know its streets, bridges, tunnels and transportation system. I was too young when I lived in Sydney to reach that kind of comfort level. But when have I felt the most like a New Yorker? Perhaps it was the last time I came home for the holidays, and took the 4 train uptown for the first time in months. At that moment I realized how much this train had been a part of my life — conveying me home from school every day for two years. My old life would always be waiting for me on the subway, ready for me to pick it up again. That’s something only a New Yorker could say!

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve lived into the Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Australia: A miniature wooden wombat figurine — a gift from my grandfather. It conjures memories of a childhood spent beating about the bush (literally) and fishing for yabbies at the dam in the company of audacious dogs who stuck their heads down wombat holes, to no good end.
From New York: A pair of fake Harry Potter glasses. These defined my first six months in New York — I even wore them to my first day of school. I think it is telling that even at the age of six, I was unwilling to give all of my real self to this new home.
From England: My school tie — representative of the alternative universe I seem to have entered. At boarding school, the sense of removal from reality can be disconcerting — especially after having spent a decade in the city I regard as the world’s capital.

You’re invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other Displaced Nation members. What’s on your menu?
I’d like to make you a Sydney breakfast: scrambled eggs, made with cream, salt and pepper and served on a bed of Turkish toast, with avocado and stewed tomato on the side (is this being greedy?). Our meal will be accompanied by a large “flat white”: what we call perfectly strong, milky coffee without excessive froth. I suggest we consume it overlooking a beach on a Sunday morning. At least, I assume The Displaced Nation has beaches?

You may add one word or expression from each of the countries you’ve lived in to The Displaced Nation argot. What words do you loan us?
From Australia: Daggy. I use this word all the time — and did not realize it was exclusively Australian until I was informed of the etymology. Apparently, it comes from trimming the soiled wool around a sheep’s bottom. Which part of this repugnant whole is actually the “dag,” I do not remember. (No, I’m not a proper Australian!) But as I understand it, “daggy” means sloppy in appearance or badly put together.
From New York: There are so many words, and most are second nature by now. However, I will choose grande-soy-chai-tea-latte because I still shudder to think of myself as the kind of person who can utter such a phrase, at great speed, with great insistence. In fact, I’m still in denial about my love for Starbucks: having known Sydney coffee, my standards should be higher.
From England: Banter. I still do not know the precise meaning of this word, but it seems to encapsulate everything that makes someone my age feel socially acceptable — and, of course, I have no banter whatsoever. I think it means the capacity for combining wit with meaningless conversation. But there are other components, too, which seem to me unfathomable.

Question: Readers, tell us what you think: should we welcome Charlotte Day to The Displaced Nation and if so, why? (Note: It’s fine to vote “no” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms you think we all — Charlotte included — will find amusing.)

img: Charlotte Day at her boarding school in southeast England

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