Month: April 2012

My ABC’s

About three days ago a fellow

Blogger nominated me for the Awesome Blog

Content award.  Her name is Maggie and she loves

Dogs and

Even wrote a book called

Fly Away Home.

Goodness Gracious, I said.

How can this be?

I wondered.

Just then I thought about

Kindred spirits and how easy it is to

Lose sight of

Many

New

Opportunities when

People

Question how things happen.  Does there need to be a

Reason for

Such

Things or can we enjoy our

Unique

Views of the world with

Wonder?

Xanadu can not be far off when we appreciate the

Years we spend together in this

Zoo

I nominate MoonBeam McQueen for this award because she is cool.

Happy Monday!!

Anniversary

Last week was my parents’ 69th wedding anniversary.  My brother was there to help them celebrate and my sister in law suggested we start planning for the 70th.  I suggested a round the world trip.  Both my parents are 92.  My father tells me that he had been to 90 countries by the time he was 90 and still has a few on his list.  I know the wine country in South Africa is one place he wants to go.  That would be fun!

My parents met when they shared a ride back to college after Christmas break.  My mother was not feeling well and my father thought she was probably hung over.  If you knew my mother you would understand how absurd that sounds.  He soon learned this was not the case.  My mother didn’t drink.  My father was dating a woman named Lois at the time and my mother knew it.  She was not so very impressed with him.

However, my father pursued her and they became friends and enjoyed spending time together and did spend time together.  After he joined the Navy and saw his friends start to get married, he thought it might be a good idea to marry.  In 1943 he got appendicitis and had a few days of R&R.  For some reason he thought that would be a good time to ask Virginia to marry him.  He sent her a telegram asking her how quickly she could get a syphilis test.  In those days you had to have one in order to get married.  Luckily he followed up with a phone call and said he thought it might be a good idea if they got married.  Amazingly she agreed.  What a wacky woman!  She had no idea what was in store for her.

Nine years later my father went to work for the US Technical Cooperation Agency and he was assigned to the Burmese State Teacher Training College where he worked with students in agriculture.  My parents and my two brothers who were 4 and 6 years old started their great expat adventure in 1952.  Their friends and relatives thought they had lost their minds.  This was before jet airplanes, email or polio vaccines.  From Burma they went to Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Netherlands.  They did not repatriate until 1985.

Sixty nine years later they are still speaking to each other.  And all due to a ride they hitched back to school.

An Award!

The Wanderlust Gene has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you Ms Gene.  I enjoy her posts very much as well.  Be sure to visit her.

I started this blog only a couple of months ago and find it both inspiring and soothing.  I spend my days working  and then I spend my evenings wandering around the right side of my brain in a place where time doesn’t exist.

I am traveling the world, meeting new people and seeing new places or sometimes revisiting places.  Plus learning all kinds of new things about the world and about the Internet.  It is Fun!

So seven things about me:

I seriously believe that chocolate should be considered one of the major food groups.

I like cheese – any kind.

I love color, bright colors.   But I mostly wear black.

I like red wine but white wine is nice too.

I used to cook all kinds of complex things from scratch.  Now I don’t anymore.

I want to go to Tierra del Fuego.

I had five first languages.

Thank you (English)  Che zu tim ba deh! (Burmese) Dhanyavad (Hindi)  Nandri (Tamil)  Da blu (Karen – a Burmese dialect)

My nominations for this award are:

  • DrieCulturen
  • A Dutch woman who grew up in Africa.  Fellow TCK.
  • I was an expat wife
  • Born in England and raised in Canada, lived in France, Australia, and Singapore now repatriated to Canada.
  • Expatlogue
  • Irreverent observations from an accidental expat in Canada

An Afternoon in Paris

 

 

In 1973 I went to boarding school in Switzerland, my parents had moved to Nigeria and the school options were limited.  A friend of mine from grade school days was living in Paris so when our first long weekend break came up I headed to Paris.  It was my first trip to Paris.  It was November and snowed lightly the whole time I was there.  My friend was in school and her mother insisted I take a bus tour of the city to get an overview.  After that I was on my own.  I was 16.  There were two things I wanted to see, one was Notre Dame and the other was the Louvre.  I found Notre Dame with no problem.  I walked in to an empty building.  It was dark and took me a while to get my eyes used to it.  It was quite and peaceful.  I made my way down towards the apse and as I reached it,  light flooded in.  I looked up and saw the most beautiful rosette stained glass windows I had ever seen.  I sat down and meditated on them.

From there I headed to the Louvre.  It took me a while to find it and the entrance didn’t seem to be very clearly marked but I did manage to buy a ticket and start my tour.  I didn’t have much time so I decided to just see three things and then leave.  I found the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo right away but I could not find the Mona Lisa.  I walked up and down an entire wing of paintings.  I saw painters set up with their easels copying the famous artworks, something I had never seen before in a museum.  Lots of great art, but no Mona Lisa.   I wandered into a room that was full of old jewelry.  No Mona Lisa there.  I was just about to give up and leave when I happened upon a small room off to the side that had a lot of paintings all hung up together on one of the walls.  I was looking at these various, random paintings when right in the middle of them, the Mona Lisa jumped out at me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I stood there transfixed.

It was a magical day.  I have been back to Paris many times but Notre Dame has always been very crowded and stifling.  The Louvre now has a grand entrance and signs all over the place directing you to the Mona Lisa which has such a big protective case that you can barely see it. I was very lucky.

Recycling

I spent a couple of weeks last summer visiting my brother who was living just outside Zurich, Switzerland.  One of our activities was to take a trip to the recycling center.  We gathered up all the (cloth) shopping bags we could find and loaded them with the glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum that had been collecting in the kitchen and headed out to the shopping center.  At one end of the parking garage were large bins labeled for all the different types of items.  We managed to get rid of everything although some of the pictures were a little confusing.

According to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs:

The Swiss are champion recyclers. In 2003, 47% of all urban waste was recycled – a new Swiss record. They recycled 70% of paper, 95% of glass, 71% of plastic bottles, 85-90% of aluminum cans and 75% of tin cans. 

So recycling has become a Swiss way of life.

However, the really interesting thing we found were bags.  Purses, messenger bags, tote bags, wallets, backpacks and even iPhone sleeves all made from recycled goods under the Freitag name.  This is from the Freitag website:

In 1993 the Freitag brothers…developed a messenger bag using old truck tarpaulins, used bicycle tires and seatbelts in the living room of their shared apartment. The old tarps were washed in the bathtub, then cut between the sofa and the television and sewn into the first FREITAG messenger bags on Mom’s sewing machine. Even today, every bag is handmade and unique. Unbeknownst to them, the brothers’ creation released a wave of innovation in the world of bags, and the Individual Recycled Freewaybags from Zurich have been conquering the world ever since.

 

These bags are a common site all over Switzerland.

The main Freitag building is housed in recycled containers.

 

This is my purse.  They are not cheap but they are very cool!

Happy Earth Day!!

Books

I stole these pictures and summaries from Amazon.  I know, shame on me.

I am currently searching for memoirs on Third Culture Kids/ Global Nomads/ Cross Culture Kids/ or whatever label you prefer.  I have found that there are quite a few Missionary Kids with books.  I find them compelling but I can’t always identify with them.

When I first discovered who I was and had my ‘aha’ moment (see About), I tried to find anything I could to read on the subject of Third Culture Kids.  At that time it was very limited.  This was in the mid-90’s and I was living in Moscow.  I didn’t have a library or a local English bookstore.  I trolled the internet and I found these two books:

Hidden Immigrants: Legacies of Growing Up Abroad

Linda Bell

Entering the foreign service in 1965 as a relatively new bride, the author accompanied her husband, Charles, on a 26 year odyssey that took her to Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Norway, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Both Bell daughters were born in Africa and brought up in different parts of the world. This book is a story of their growing up in foreign lands.

Letters Never Sent, a global nomad’s journey from hurt to healing

Ruth Ellen van Reken

Born and raised in Nigeria as the daughter of American missionaries, at age 39 Ruth needed to understand why, despite a life filled with rich experiences, a meaningful spiritual component, and family and friends who loved her, she often battled a secret depression. Through the journaling that became this book, she discovered that the very goodness of her life kept her from dealing with some of the challenges that also come with a global lifestyle – the realities of chronic cycles of separation and loss, reentry, and questions of identity. How could there be any struggles when she loved her childhood world so much? As a way of examining this ‘other side’ of her story, Ruth’s began to write many letters home such as the girl known as Miss Question Box might have written. This book contains her story from ages six to thirty-nine. Today, in her mid-sixties, renowned internationally for her compassion, knowledge and insight into what it means to be a child growing up among worlds, van Reken, looks back over her life and adds a fascinating and reflective epilogue to a memoir that has already sold 32,000 copies and has helped and inspired its readers.

Letters Never Sent has just been re-released and I am told has additional information and photos.  They were both good books and I was happy to have found them.  It was the beginning of my education.

Several years later I met Ruth Van Reken at a Global Nomad conference and she signed my Third Culture Kids book written by her and David C Pollock.  Now that was a real eye opener!  It is kind of like the bible of TCK’s.

Now that I am working on my own memoir, I am searching for books to read.  Research!  So here is a list of books I have read, am reading, and want to read.

Do you know of any good memoirs?  I would love to know about them!!

BOOKS I HAVE READ

 

For The Souls and Soils of India

Helen C Maybury

Helen Maybury (ne Conser) was born in India in 1924 and attended two international schools in India, Kodaikanal and Woodstock, before coming to the United States for university studies in 1942. She has produced a heartwarming profile of her mother and father, two courageous individuals who were confirmed in their resolve to serve God and His people. In all, Helen’s parents spent 37 years in India, as well as 9 years in home missions in the United States after their retirement. Alongside the personal history, the letters tell the story of India during a time of tremendous upheaval and historical significance, as the country fought its way to independence. There are letters that tell of meetings with great leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and Vinoba Bhave, the author of the land-gift or “sarvodaya” movement. A non-violent revolutionary in the tradition of Gandhi, he collected millions of acres of land to distribute to the landless. Helen’s parents were an American couple who clearly cared deeply for equality, human dignity and social justice.

In the small world department… This woman lives in my apartment complex and I found out about this book though our monthly newsletter.  When I told my parents about the book, they told me they know somebody in their apartment complex who went to school with Helen! –expat alien

Fly Away Home

Maggie Myklebust

‘Clean freak’ Maggie tries so hard to keep her life in order but is foiled at every turn. The descendent of second generation Norwegian immigrants to America, she grows up in New Jersey, spending her summer vacations on an idyllic island in Norway. Later, in the wake of an abusive marriage, she and her three young children leave America and return to the Nordic Island of her ancestors, where she rekindles a relationship with her childhood sweetheart. Pulled between two worlds, her life continues as she seeks meaning, identity and happiness. With her true love by her side and three more children to care for, Maggie discovers her traveling days are far from over. Life’s unexpected twists see her return to America before being catapulted to the Netherlands. At last she can begin to make sense of her experiences until, that is, she is on the move again. In the process she learns that life comes full circle, from the hopes and dreams of her forebears to the place where she can finally find peace and come to terms with her past. Follow this Jersey girl as she flies back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean looking for love and a place to call home.

See my blog about this at A Good Read –expat alien

Expat Life Slice by Slice

by Apple Gidley

From marauding monkeys to strange men in her bedroom, from Africa to Australasia to America, with stops in Melanesia, the Caribbean and Europe along the way, Apple Gidley vividly sketches her itinerant global life. The challenges of expatriation, whether finding a home, a job, or a school are faced mostly with equanimity. Touched with humour and pathos, places come alive with stories of people met and cultures learned, with a few foreign faux pas added to the mix.

This has some good insight and lessons learned –expat alien

Home Keeps Moving

Heidi Sand-Hart

Home Keeps Moving follows Heidi and her missionary family on their many moves through the eyes of a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and the unique phenomena of having four very different home countries to relate to. It tells the true story of being catapulted from continent to continent constantly: leaving friends and starting all over again, her unquenchable search for a home and sense of belonging in this world, her desire for a life-partner with the odds all but against her due to constantly relocating (even into adulthood). You will laugh and cry along with Heidi as she recounts hilarious and heart-breaking tales from her childhood as West blends with East.

That is the true beauty of Heidi s upbringing, it crossed borders and defied logic but she lacked for nothing.

This is a very short MK book that touches on some important points.  It also incorporates other people’s experiences so gives more than one perspective. –expat alien

Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global

Faith Eidse, Nina Sichel

A fusion of voices and deeply personal experiences from every corner of the globe, Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global presents a cultural mosaic of today’s citizens of the world. Twenty stirring memoirs of childhoods spent packing, written by both world-famous and first-time authors, make the story of growing up displaced feel universal. Best-selling fiction and non-fiction authors Isabel Allende, Carlos Fuentes, Pat Conroy, Pico Iyer and Ariel Dorfman contribute powerful and deeply personal accounts of mobile childhoods and the cultural experiences they engender. The memoirs touch on the opportunities and difficulties of growing up in the ever-changing landscape of expatriate communities.

NOW READING

Potato In A Rice Bowl

Peggy Keener

In the memoir Potato in a Rice Bowl, Peggy Keener shares her wacky misadventures as a sincere-though misguided-Minnesota housewife struggling to create normalcy for her family while living in Japan during the 1960s. Through charming vignettes, Peggy takes a look back at her bewildering foray into the Japanese culture after her husband accepts a military assignment in a country thousands of miles away from the small prairie town of Austin, Minnesota, where she was born and raised. The mother of three boys, Peggy chronicles how she managed to settle her disoriented family and flounce headfirst into the thorny, baffling culture while her husband was miles away on military missions. As she bungles through her boys’ Japanese school, grapples with the eccentricities of her home and neighbors, and reconstructs the language to her liking, she somehow ends up as a personality on Japanese national television-all with the earnest hope of melding with her new country. In this humorous, irreverent, and even soul-searching collection of anecdotes, Peggy provides an entertaining glimpse into the enigmatic Land of the Rising Sun.

Voluntary Nomads: A Mother’s Memories of Foreign Service Family Life

Nancy Pogue LaTurner

Nancy LaTurner’s engaging memoir begins in 1974 as her young family struggles without a livelihood in rural New Mexico. When a welcome stroke of luck lands her husband Fred a job with the State Department, Nancy eagerly packs their few belongings and bundles up their 20-month-old son and 12-month-old daughter for the journey from Los Lunas, New Mexico to Washington, DC and onward to any of the 200 U.S. Embassies around the world. 

Empowered by Nancy’s enthusiasm and Fred’s optimism, the naive little family embraces their first assignment in Tehran during the final days of the Shah’s regime. Dropped straight into a different culture and language in a country suffering the turmoil of revolutionary unrest, the LaTurners learn how important adaptability is to their new way of life.

Throughout Voluntary Nomads, Nancy’s recollection of raising two children in extraordinary conditions demonstrates that the triumphs and heartaches of family life go on, no matter how exotic the locations or unique the experiences. Nancy’s stories of Foreign Service family adventures in Iran, Cameroon, New Zealand, Somalia, Dominican Republic, Austria, and Bolivia, told with warmth, insight and candor, celebrate the resilience and resourcefulness of a spirited American family.

Ride the Wings of Morning

Sophie Neville

A conventional English girl arrived in South Africa, to help a friend run horseback safaris on a game reserve in the Northern Transvaal.

It was 1992. There were yellow road signs declaring “Dit is die Volkstaat”.

Sophie had heard of “biltong” but knew nothing of Afrikaans culture. She was aware of poachers, but not of the danger of sausage trees. Nor how to cook a gemsquash on the campfire without causing an explosion. She understood there were rhino on the reserve, but not that she would end up working as the safari guide. In the dark. On a stallion. Lost. With completely innocent tourists on other horses.

This upbeat true story, the sequel to her book ‘Funnily Enough’, is told through correspondence sent back and forth between Sophie Neville and her family in England.

ON MY LIST

Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics

by Gene H. Bell-Villada

Born in 1941 of a Hawaiian mother and a white father, Gene H. Bell-Villada, grew up an overseas American citizen. An outsider wherever he landed, he never had a ready answer to the innocuous question “Where are you from?”

By the time Bell-Villada was a teenager, he had lived in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba. Though English was his first language, his claim on U.S. citizenship was a hollow one. All he knew of his purported “homeland” was gleaned from imported comic books and movies. He spoke Spanish fluently, but he never fully fit into the culture of the Latin American countries where he grew up.

In childhood, he attended an American Catholic school for Puerto Ricans in San Juan, longing all the while to convert from Episcopalianism so that he could better fit in. Later at a Cuban military school during the height of the Batista dictatorship, he witnessed fervent political debates among the cadets about Fidel Castro’s nascent revolution and U.S. foreign policy. His times at the American School in Caracas, Venezuela, are tinged with reminiscences of oil booms and fights between U.S. and Venezuelan teen gangs.

At Home Abroad: An American Girl in Africa

Nancy Henderson-James

At Home Abroad is a stunning autobiography of Nancy Henderson-James’s youth in Africa. Heart-wrenching is her uprooting at age 15 when the war for independence began, from Angola, whose natural world, people, customs, languages she so loved. Nancy bravely and articulately recounts a true saga of personal loss and bereavement. But out of the crucible of conflicts between herself and her parents, the Africa she loved and the America from which she felt estranged, comes crystalline strength, confidence, humor, and self-knowledge. Her journey to wholeness, with its exquisite analysis and detail, enlightens us, so that we, too, see our own lives with new understanding and compassion and recognize better our place in the 21st century as citizens of the world.

Judy Hogan, Founding Editor of Carolina Wren Press, 1976-91.

Mills Hall

Mills College

Mills College was originally founded in 1852 as a young ladies’ seminary.  It was the first women’s college west of the Rockies.

Aurelia Reinhardt, PhD, was born in 1877 and served as President of Mills College in Oakland, California, from 1916-1943.  My grandmother was born in 1886.  Somehow or other, my grandmother knew somebody who knew Aurelia Reinhardt.  When she learned that I was going to Mills College she gave me a photograph album.  Here are the photos.  Some of these places are still there today and some are not.  Mills made headline news in the 1990’s when economic troubles threatened to force it to go coed.  The students and alumni rallied, protested, and raised enough money to keep it all women.

 

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Cookbooks Around the World

Building on the International/Expat/ local cookbook theme, today we have the Ibadan “Chopping” Guide from Ibadan, Nigeria.

“All recipes, hints and substitutions were chosen primarily for use in Ibadan and areas where ingredients are limited.

October 1969”

The “Chopping” refers to Nigerian pidgin English.

According to Babawilly’s Dictionary of Pidgin English Words and Phrases:

Chop: 1. Food 2. Income 3. Bribe 4. Embezzle money

e.g Dat Oga chop belle-full bifor e retire.

Chop bottle: Eat glass. Part of pre fight preamble during which various threats and questions are asked to measure of toughness of the opponent

e.g. you dey chop bottle?

Chop bullet: Get shot.

Chop life: Enjoy life.

Chop money: Monthly or weekly house keeping allowance.

Chop mouth: Kissing.

Chop-remain: Leftovers of meal.

It is a colorful language with a sense of humor.

Here is one important recipe I extracted from this book and used often in Moscow.  My son still reminisces about it.

Maple Syrup

  • 1 bottle Sprite or 7-UP
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • Boil until syrupy

If I had any maple flavoring, I would put in a teaspoon.

My favorite Nigerian dish does not appear in this cookbook but one of my mother’s friends did provide a recipe:

Ground Nut Stew

  • Cover with water 1 ½ lbs. of chicken (in pieces with bone) or beef cut into chunks, bite sized, and cook until meat is done.  Salt for cooking.
  • In blender:  3 medium onions, equal volume tomatoes, and 2 or 3 little hot red peppers.  Blend.  Add to meat sauce.  Cook 10 or 15 minutes.
  • 3/4 to 1 cup roasted toasted peanuts liquidized in blender (separately) or readymade peanut butter (less messy)
  • Add peanut mixture to meat & vegetable sauce and stir out the lumps.  Simmer for 15 min. or so and taste.
  • Add salt, pepper to taste
  • At this point if you haven’t added hot peppers fresh, canned dried red hot ground peppers to taste.
  • Serve with rice.  Serves about 6.

A good read

I used to be an avid reader.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  Growing up overseas it was the only real entertainment I had.  Books could be hard to find so I wasn’t all that picky.  I read whatever came my way.  As an adult I always had a book going.  I would usually read before bed just to relax and get my mind off things.  People recommended things or gave me things or I would pick something up at the bookstore or library.

After I had my child I stopped reading.  I just didn’t have the time or the energy anymore.  I could not focus on reading at night.  Several years went by and I only read a handful of books.

When I was ready to start reading again, I noticed a shift.  Either the quality books that were coming out had deteriorated considerably or my tolerance level was way down.  I would start books that I thought looked interesting and after a while I would stop reading them and put them back on the shelf.  I just couldn’t be bothered with a book that didn’t really hold my attention.  And sadly many of them didn’t.

In the past couple of years I have started reading again.  I still have problems with books I just can’t finish but I have found some really good ones.  Last year I read the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy in two weeks.  And those are big books.  I couldn’t put them down.

Maybe there is something in the Scandinavian air but I came across another good one the other day, this time out of Norway.  I am writing a memoir and recently I have been trying to read as many memoirs as I can.  In the past two weeks I have started three.  One I doubt I will finish.  Another is interesting and I will probably finish it eventually but it isn’t gripping.  The third one I read in two evenings.  I started it in the evening after work and read until midnight.  I toyed with the idea of taking it to work with me next day since it was on my iPad but decided against it.  I finished it when I got home.

It is a story teller’s story.  Remember The Princess Bride?  My all time favorite movie.  The grandfather comes into the sick boy’s room and starts to read and the boy doesn’t ever want  him to stop.  There are no giants or pirates or six handed men in this book.  But there is love, adventure, confusion, hope, disappointment, challenge, sorrow, contentment, and joy.  All the elements of a good story.  It is about living a life and I am sure most people will find they can personally identify with at least some of the things that happen in Maggies’ life.  I know I could.

Fly Away Home by Maggie Myklebust is a good read.  Put it on your list!