LIFE IN CHINA WITH ITALIAN FLAVOR

Parsley & Coriander is a new novel by Antonella Moretti. It was originally published in Italian and has just been released in English.

The story gives us a peek into the lives of a group Italian women living in China over the course of a year.

Luisella left a good job in Italy to follow her husband to Asia. She has a 12 year old daughter in the International school who now speaks perfect English. As the story begins, Luisella has been living in China for several years. She has re-invented herself and is now a blogger and writer. She is in the process of publishing her first book. She enjoys her life in China and is the go-to person for the group. In a way she is a mother figure. She takes the time to help those in need and tries to engage the ones that are lost.

Astrid is a newcomer with two small children. Her husband arrived six months earlier and she found it difficult to take care of the children on her own. She was happy to be reunited with her husband but very anxious about her new environment. Luckily she makes friends and has a very supportive husband. Her best friend turns out to be a Malaysian woman and at the end they venture out into the countryside to see another side of China.

Emma, on the other hand, arrives hoping to save her marriage. Big mistake. It only goes from bad to worse, but her outcome is the most surprising of all, even to her.

Other women are weaved into the story. Some need to resolve medical issues, others have trouble with their children, some don’t adjust at all and return home, and some are highly successful. One young woman is there to study Chinese language and culture and wants to immerse herself completely. They make fun of her and say it isn’t possible. She proves them wrong.

We see an ugly side of expat life when we meet the unhappy women who hate everything about their host country and are very cliquish. But mostly they support each other and grow and learn from their experience.

The author, through Luisella’s character, emphasizes the opportunity they all have to experience and learn about a new culture. The children attend the International School and speak fluent English as well as have friends from all over the world. She also recognizes that her child is constantly saying good bye to people and adjusting so there is a down side but overall the outcome is a positive one.

This is a good glimpse into the trials and tribulations of a trailing spouse. Anybody living in China or moving to China would benefit from reading this book. 

You can read Antonella’s blog at Parsley and Coriander.

 

Happy New Year…

The holidays are over. Another year gone.

Spent the last week in the deep freeze. Below zero. Windy. Cold.

My Apple TV went on the fritz so no Netflix during my hibernation. Well, not on the TV, anyway. Been huddled over my iPad. Watched mainstream TV last night. The Golden Globe awards. Don’t think I have ever watched them before.

Just by coincidence I went to see LaLa Land last week. They won a lot. Well done.

Meryl Streep accepted a lifetime achievement award and took the opportunity to comment on our present state of affairs in this country. Fear, hate….

Meryl ended with a quote: “Take your broken heart and make art.” Princess Leia aka Carrie Fisher

I posted the video of her speech on Facebook because I liked what she said. We are all equal and should be treated with respect and have empathy for each other. No matter where we come from or who we are. It is something we should live by and expect from each other. Kind of relates to the TCK thing. Pretty basic.

I immediately received ranting hate messages from people who couldn’t even be bothered to watch the clip. Auto matic.

Both their response and the Tweeter-in-chief’s response were the same. What right does some over-rated Hollywood actress have to say such things? She was using entertainment to discuss politics. And of course, buying into media myths. Outrageous.

Wait. Wasn’t there a TV personality who used his position to push forward the birther conspiracy?  Or something like that?

Never mind. Doesn’t matter. I could blather on about it but what does entertainment have to do with politics? Nobody cares. Business as usual. And groping women? When was that ever not okay?

So what is it all about?

So what if Russia hacked our election? So what if people think it’s okay to treat each other with disrespect and nastiness. Nothing to be done about it. It’s all ok.

2016 was not a fun year. The elections dominated. Many icons of my youth died. Time is passing. Another year gone.

So what is it all about?

It will pass. — — Or not….

I plan to march with the women on January 21. I won’t make it to Washington but I will participate locally.

“The Women’s March on Washington aims to send a message to all levels of government that we stand together in solidarity and we expect elected leaders to act to protect the rights of women, their families and their communities.” From the Womensmarch.com website

I have been hearing “defund Planned Parenthood” a lot. Why? They do so much good and help so many women. It’s not about abortion, it’s about life. If you are pro life and pro health, you would fight for Planned Parenthood. If you are a woman, have you ever been disrespected? Has a man ever grabbed you without invitation, leered at you, made comments, raped you? Is that okay? Women have to watch the bills, tend to the children, do the housework, and many need to hold down jobs as well. Yet they are not worth the same as a man. Is that okay? We fought for so many things over the past 50 years and frankly, didn’t make a lot of progress, but we did make some progress. And now that is in jeopardy. Wake up people.

Okay, that was my rant. Women are awesome. Go to the march.

HaHa – just saw this:

January 4, 2017 2:21 AM EST – Organizers from the D.C. Cannabis Coalition are preparing to give away thousands of joints in DuPont Circle in a protest to “stink up” the inauguration. (WUSA9)

and – 
Alec Baldwin posted a photo on Instagram of himself wearing a red cap with “Make America Great Again” translated into Russian (Cyrillic). He just doesn’t quit.

People are doing funny things, poking fun. But it really isn’t funny, is it?

So what’s it all about?

Doesn’t matter. It’s all okay.

Things are not what they appear to be. Smoke and mirrors.

Hey maybe it will be America’s best year ever. Maybe America will be great. Yay. Being who I am, I always had a different perspective so just waiting to see what happens next. Seatbelt is secure.

It will pass….

It’s another year.

Life is never dull….

Cheers!

Adventurous Women

I recently read ‘Too Close to the Sun’ about Denys Finch Hatton and it reminded me of the amazing women through the ages who chose to spend their lives in foreign lands. Here area few of my favorites.

Karen Blixen and her brother

Karen Blixen and her brother

Karen Blixen was Danish.  She married Baron Bror von Blixen and moved to Kenya in 1914.  Unfortunately he gave her syphilis and she returned to Denmark after only one year for arsenic treatment.  She lived through it, however, and returned to live in Kenya for another 16 years. She ran a coffee farm for a while but always struggled with it and eventually was forced to sell the land.  Her lover, Denys Finch Hatton, was a big game hunter who died in a plane crash just as she was dealing with the loss of her farm.  She returned to Denmark and lived there for the rest of her life.  She wrote under the name Isak Dineson as well as a few others and a couple of her more famous books are:

Out of Africa  (1937); Anecdotes of Destiny  (1958) – includes Babette’s Feast which was made into a movie; Letters from Africa 1914-1931  (1981 – posthumous)

 

 

Beryl Markham

Beryl Markham

Beryl Markam was English.  Her family moved to Kenya when she was 4 years old in 1906.   She became friends with Karen Blixen even though there was an 18 year gap in age.  Beryl also had an affair with Denys Finch Hatton and was due to fly with him the day he crashed.  She had some kind of premonition and did not go.  However she did go on to fly extensively in the African bush and was the first women to fly across the Atlantic from East to West.  She briefly lived in California married to an avocado farmer but eventually retuned to Kenya and became a well known horse trainer.  There is a new book out about her life called “Circling the Sun”.

Her memoir (a very good read) is: West with the Night  (1942, re-released in 1983)

 

 

Alexandra David Neel

Alexandra David Neel

Alexandra David-Neel was French.  She became an explorer at a young age running away from home at the age of 18 to ride her bicycle to Spain and back.  In 1904 at the age of 36 she was traveling in Tunis and married a railway engineer.  That didn’t last long since she immediately had itchy feet and set off for India.  She told her husband she would be back in 18 months but did not return for 14 years.  Her goal was Sikkim in the northern mountains.  She spent years studying with the hermits and monks of the region and eventually, dressed as a man, snuck into the forbidden city of Lhasa.

Her account of her trip to Lhasa is a fascinating read: My Journey to Lhasa (1927)

 

 

 

Gertrude Stein by Picasso

Gertrude Stein by Picasso

Gertrude Stein was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in California, attended Radcliff and Johns Hopkins University, discovered her sexual awakening while in Baltimore and fell in love with another woman. She moved to Paris in 1904 where she collected art and held “Salons” promoting modern unknown artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne.  During World War I she learned to drive and drove a supply truck for the American Fund for French Wounded. Her writing was revolutionary and influenced many modern writers including Hemmingway.  She was a strong, opinionated woman and a copious writer with a great sense of humor.  Her lifelong companion, Alice B. Toklas cooked and ran the household. Two of my favorite books by Stein are:

The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas  (1933); Ida, A Novel (1941)

 

 

James Joyce and Sylvia Beach

James Joyce and Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach was a contemporary of Gertrude Stein and also lived in Paris.  She was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  Her father was a minister and she grew up in Europe.  She owned the bookstore Shakespeare and Company and published James Joyce’s Ulysses when nobody else would touch it, even though she had no money herself.  She lived in Paris most of her adult life.

Her memoir is: Shakespeare & Company (1959)

 

Catherine II by Johann Baptist von Lampi

Catherine II by Johann Baptist von Lampi

And just for fun… Catherine the Great.  She was born in Stettin, Prussia (now Szczecin, Poland), and traveled to Russia in 1744.  In 1745, at age 16, she married Grand Duke Peter of Russia and became the Russian empress in 1762.  She did not get on well with her husband and managed to “convince” him to abdicate so she could take the throne.  Soon afterwards he was mysteriously killed.  She continued to rule Russia until her death at age 67.  I visited her palace outside St Petersburg a couple of times when I was living in Russia.  One room I particularly liked was the Amber Room.  The walls are covered in amber and other precious jewels.

A good book about her life is: Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie (2011)

 

Who are your favorites??

 

Equality for women is progress for all

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“Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

 

 

 

The United Nations theme for 2014 International Women’s Day is “Equality for women is progress for all”.

In 1908 15,000 women marched in New York City to demand better working conditions, more pay, and the right to vote. This was the birth of the woman’s movement. In 1911 more than a million women marched throughout Europe to end discrimination. On March 25th of that year 123 female garment workers aged 16 to 23 died in a fire in New York City. Many fell or jumped to their deaths to escape the fire. The doors were locked. Most of them were Italian and Jewish immigrants. The outcome was legislation mandating better working conditions.

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The first Women’s Day was held in 1911 and in 1914 March 8th became the official International Women’s Day.  In 1917 the women of Russia staged a protest for “Bread and Peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers. They protested for four days until the Czar abdicated and the provisional government granted them the right to vote. Their protest started on March 8th.

Over the years the movement grew and today 27 countries around the world celebrated March 8th as an official holiday. Women in the 1970’s again rose and fought for women’s rights and equality. In the West much was accomplished and women entered the workforce and gained more equality and legislative rights.

However, there is still considerable inequality. Women do not have equal rights or equal pay. Many women around the world are still dealing with forced marriages, slavery and horrible working conditions. In 2012, 257 people died in a textile factory in Pakistan. It is suspected the doors were locked.

In Russia March 8th is a big deal. Women receive flowers and small presents. Families gather for celebrations. Everybody has the day off work. It is nice.

But it is also a time to reflect on how much more there is to do. Look out for your sisters, mothers, daughters and friends.

Happy Women’s Day!

African Marriage Proposals

Ibadan-2

Ibadan

One summer I was living in Ibadan, Nigeria, working for my father at an agricultural research institute.  Ibadan was the largest village in Africa and sprawled across the countryside without any particular order.  There were a few hotels and “proper” restaurants but not many and we rarely went to them.

My British and American friends, Simon, Ed, David, Francis, and a couple of others decided to have a night on the town. We went to a rooftop Lebanese restaurant for a filling dinner of kabob and hummus and then on to a proper Nigerian nightclub.  It had a fence around it and a large grass roof and a dirt floor but no walls.  There was a very loud band playing at one end of the room and an area to dance.  We took over a table at the other end of the room and ordered beer all around.

Francis was being very protective of me and it kind of made it look like we were “together”.  Francis was married with five children.  A Nigerian came over to our table and asked Francis if he could dance with me.  Francis, quite embarrassed, told him he would have to ask me himself.  Of course he came right over asked me to dance. I had been in Nigeria long enough to know that this could only lead to trouble.  I was getting ready to say no, thank you very much, when Simon started kicking me under the table and making gestures like I should really go have a dance.  Simon, of course, was a trouble maker himself, but I got up and danced with the guy.  Keeping in form with most of my other white American girl/ black African boy experiences, by the end of the dance he had asked me to marry him.

About half way through the evening I really had to go to the toilet.  Everybody said I should just forget about it.  I said, “no really, I gotta go”.  So David escorted me to the ladies’ toilet. We went through a beaded doorway where women were just hanging around and inside there were two stalls with holes in the floor.  There were no doors to the stalls.  I went in and squatted and David stood guard.  It wasn’t that terrible, partly I’m sure because I was a little tipsy by this time, but it was interesting.  The women were obviously just waiting for business.  I didn’t get a chance to look around but I assume there were other rooms in the back for other activities.  David seemed very nervous about the whole thing and said I was not allowed to drink any more beer.  I think David might have been back there before.

Back at the table my dance partner had re-appeared, apparently not finding any other takers for his marriage proposal.  I was the only white girl in the place.  He insisted that he would be a good husband and would have no problem accompanying me back to the United States.  When we got up to go home, he said he could come with us.  He had no plans for the night and was happy to stay with us.  He followed us all the way out to the car and the guys acted like they were going to let him in.  I was totally appalled.  How could they be so mean?  Finally they got tired of him and kicked him out.

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Friendly me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that summer I had a stalker show up at my office.  He knew who I was and all about me and said he worked in the building.  I asked around but nobody seemed to know him.  For a couple of weeks he was standing at my door at the end of the day and wanted to walk me home.  I never led him on or agreed to anything.  He kept asking to take me for a drink or to walk me home.  Finally I said I would have a drink with him.

He said he wanted to marry me and he had it all planned out.  We would be married and he would return to the United States with me and he would go to school with me and we would always be together.  I told him politely all the reasons why it was just not possible, the least of which was that we did not know each other at all and I was leaving the country shortly. And he had a counter proposal for every one of my reasons.  Finally I just became quite rude and told him to leave me alone.

I was sad to see the summer end but I was very happy to leave that situation behind when I returned to college in the fall.  Nigerian women were very blunt and straight forward.  They didn’t care if they hurt men’s feelings, they gave it to them like it was.  I think Western women had difficulty being so cold about it and in turn perhaps were more approachable.  On my next trip to Africa, I was much more Nigerian than Western when dealing with African men.  Its all about adapting to new cultures.

 

Food Friday: Women’s Day and Pirozhki

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March 8

Happy International Women’s Day!!

 

In Russia International Women’s Day is a big deal.  Everybody gets the day off!  Women receive flowers and chocolates and have a day of rest.  The day before, co-workers give presents and have parties bringing cakes and snacks to work.  One yummy snack the Russians make is Pirozhki.

These are small pies made with bread dough.  They can be eaten as a snack, a light lunch, or an appetizer.  This is the traditional version, however, my mother in law taught me a shortcut.  Here in the USA, she buys the Pillsbury Grand biscuits in the refrigerated section of the super market.  She splits each biscuit dough section in half, flattens it out, puts filling in it, and folds it over.  I have to admit, it is much easier!  But the real thing always tastes the best.

 

Basic dough

1 package active dry yeast (1 Tbsp.)

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup milk

8 Tbsps. butter, cut into bits

1 tsp. salt

2 tsps. sugar

1 whole egg

2 egg yokes

4 1/2 to 5 cups flour

1 whole egg, beaten

Yield: 4 dozen

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the butter to it. Stir the milk and butter mixture into the yeast. Add the salt, sugar, egg and egg yolks, mixing well. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it lightly until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning dough to grease the top, and cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 48 balls of equal size. On a floured board roll each ball out to a circle 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

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Place a heaping Tbsp. of filling on each circle, then press the edges of the dough together firmly to seal. Gently shape the pies into elongated ovals.

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Place the pies seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until they are just doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush each pie with the beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

FILLINGS

Beef

2 large onions, minced

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2 Tbsps. butter

1 lb. lean ground beef

2 tsps. salt

pepper to taste

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Sauté the onions in the butter until transparent. Stir in the beef and cook until done. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Cool.

Cabbage

4 Tbsps. butter

2 large onions, minced

1 lb. cabbage, finely shredded

1 tsp. dill

2 tsps. salt

pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter. Add the cabbage and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the cabbage is tender but not browned. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cool.

Mushrooms

2 Tbsps. butter

2 medium onions, minced

1.5 lbs mushrooms, chopped  (wild or tame)

6 Tbsps. minced fresh parsley

2 tsps. fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft but not brown. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing well.

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Cool and Enjoy!

 

 

Famous Expat Women

I have added a few to this post which first appeared last year.

 

 

Karen Blixen’s farm in Kenya

I watched Out of Africa last night for the umpteenth time and it got me thinking about all the amazing expat women through the ages.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Karen Blixen was Danish.  She married Baron Bror von Blixen and they moved to Kenya in 1914.  He was kind enough to give her syphilis and she returned to Denmark after one year for arsenic treatment.  She lived through it and returned to Kenya for another 16 years. She ran a successful coffee farm for a while but always struggled with it and eventually was forced to sell the land.  Her lover, Denys Finch Hatton, was a big game hunter who died in a plane crash just as she was dealing with the loss of her farm.  She returned to Denmark and lived there for the rest of her life.  She wrote under the name Isak Dineson as well as a few others and a couple of her more famous books are:

Out of Africa  (1937)

Anexdotes of Destiny  (1958) – includes Babette’s Feast which was made into a movie

Letters from Africa 1914-1931  (1981 – posthumous)

 

Beryl Markam was English.  Her family moved to Kenya when she was 4 years old in 1906.   She became friends with Karen Blixen even though there was an 18 year gap in age.  Beryl also had a brief affair with Denys Finch Hatton and was due to fly with him the day he crashed.  She had some kind of premonition and did not go.  However she did go on to fly extensively in the African bush and was the first women to fly across the Atlantic from East to West.  She briefly lived in California married to an avocado farmer but eventually retuned to Kenya and became a well known horse trainer.  Her memoir (a very good read) is:

West with the Night  (1942, re-released in 1983)

 

Alexandra David-Neel was French.  She became an explorer at a young age running away from home at the age of 18 to ride her bicycle to Spain and back.  In 1904 at the age of 36 she was traveling in Tunis and married a railway engineer.  That didn’t last long since she immediately had itchy feet and set off for India.  She told her husband she would be back in 18 months but did not return for 14 years.  Her goal was Sikkim in the northern mountains.  She spent years studying with the hermits and monks of the region and eventually, dressed as a man, snuck into the forbidden city of Lhasa.  Her travels were extensive and you can read more about her here:

http://www.alexandra-david-neel.org/anglais/biog.htm

Her account of her trip to Lhasa is:

My Journey to Lhasa (1927)

 

Gertrude Stein was an American Jewish lesbian writer who moved to Paris in 1904.  She held “Salons” promoting modern unknown artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne.  During World War 1 she learned to drive a car and drove a supply truck for the American Fund for French Wounded supplying hospitals in France with her life long companion Alice B Toklas.  Her writing was revolutionary and influenced many modern writers including Hemmingway.  She was a strong minded woman with strong opinions and a copious writer with a great sense of humor.  She was a real character as all these women were.  One of the easiest books of hers to read is:

The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas  (1933)

Another one I like very much is:

Ida, A Novel (1941)

 

Sylvia Beach, 1927

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvia Beach was a contemporary of Gertrude Stein and also lived in Paris.  She was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  Her father was a minister and she grew up in Europe.  She owned the bookstore Shakespeare and Company and published James Joyce’s Ulysses when nobody else would touch it, even though she had no money herself.  She lived in Paris most of her adult life.  Her memoir is:

Shakespeare & Company (1959)

 

220px-Johann-Baptist_Lampi_d._Ä._007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just for fun… Catherine the Great.  She was born in Stettin, Prussia (now Szczecin, Poland), and traveled to Russia in 1744.  In 1745, at age 16, she married Grand Duke Peter of Russia and became the Russian empress in 1762.  She did not get on well with her husband and managed to “convince” him to abdicate.  Soon afterwards he was mysteriously killed.  She continued to rule Russia on her own until her death at age 67.  I visited her palace outside St Petersburg a couple of times when I was living in Russia.  There was one room I particularly liked was the Amber Room.  The walls are covered in amber and other precious jewels.  A recently published book about her life:

Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie (2011)

 

Who are your favorites??