Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two Recommendations for Holiday Joy

1) Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001), German)

Focused on the story of the Redlichs, a German Jewish family forced to move to Kenya during WWII, the movie taps into the larger themes of displacement and adaptation. Having won the 2002 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the film paints the expat experience in a thorough and satisfying way. Always with the Female Expat Project in the back of my mind, I naturally focused by how the international move affected each character. Every Redlich grows stonger, but the emotional weight of losing family to the Holocaust and new debates about home psychologically stretches them thin. The locust scene poignantly echos their struggle and the destructive nature of a survival of the fittest mentality. Some critics complain that the movie is buried in a nostalgic, rose-colored haze, but the view must recognize that the story is told from Regina's point of view. In this context, what is told and not told (the natives being painted with childlike wonder and the colonists practically ignored) makes more sense. I highly recommend this film to anyone experiencing the expat experience.

2) Happiness: A History by Darrin M. McMahon

I haven't read the book, but it's on my Christmas wish list so I'm hoping to write more about it in the near future. As expats choosing to bounce around the globe, searching for a life that is more satisfying, I'm curious to know how our innate restlessness and resulting lifestyle figure into a historical account of happiness. Perhaps the author (admittedly a friend from Florida State) does not tap into our particular twist on the quest for happiness, but I'm excited to read the book and find out. A fascinating premise for a book.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

arrival-project by Susy Bielak

A friend of mine is doing a project related to the expat experience. Please help her out by emailing her at or posting your comments here. Also check out her website at


Dear friends,

As some of you know, I'm working on a project exploring moments of arrival; when people physically arrive to a new place or reach a milestone in their lives.

A story that inspired me to ask these questions is that of my grandmother, who arrived in Mexico from Poland at the age of six and stayed for the remaining 82 years of her life. She often described her wonder at arriving in Mexico and finding a world more vibrant than she had imagined, cloth more densely woven, colors more fierce, and fruit like nothing she'd tasted before. Upon emerging from the ship, a dark hand of a fruit vendor presented her with a fruit she'd never seen before—a mango, which tasted like a spicy carrot, sweeter than dew, soft and textured. Struck with the new warmth, color and language, she realized that her life would be forever changed.

This story inspires me to ask the question of when and where we experience arrival in its many forms. Moments of arrival can range from crossing a national border, to purchasing a home, to finalizing a divorce, to embarking on a new career, to falling in love.

Over the next few months I'll be collecting stories of arrival. The stories (as anonymous as desired) will be collected into a book or journal that possibly will be published. Please let me know if you have a story from your own life, or from the life of a relative, that you would like to share. I'd like both a description of this moment, in as much detail as possible, and a visual representation of the moment (a photograph from the time, a symbolic object). You can write about the moment and send it to me, or we can have a conversation--whichever you prefer.

In case you're interested, here are some questions to prompt the description. Please use as much detail as possible.
1. Where were you geographically (country, city, forest, desert, beach, suburbia, bar, etc.)?
2. What did you feel like (cold, hungry, ecstatic, sad, etc.)?
3. What were you doing?
4. Who was there?
5. What were memorable images/objects/places/colors from the event?
6. What is your sensory recall of the experience-were there any smells, sounds, touches that are part of this memory?

I hope you're interested. Please let me know. Thank you!

Happy winter.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

I just discovered a directory with many expat blogs at Please email me at about your favorites, or better yet, list your favorite expat blogs here at so we can all see your recommendations. I hope to catch up n my blog reading over the Chrismas break.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Having just moved to the South, I am occasionally reminded of my Southern relatives and the foods that I encountered in their homes. Before I go on, please realize that my relatives were not from the Deep South—although based on their accents, you might think they were more Southern that they were. They lived around Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the parts of Virginia where they still talk about the War of Northern Aggression. It always amazed me that those same relatives, although only three hours south of my father's hometown in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, believed that my mother had married a Yankee. It's that damn Mason Dixon line that although close to both sets of relatives, once divided that part of the nation.

But back to the food, my aunt in Virginia made a certain type of green beans, a flat green bean often stewed with ham and potatoes, that remind me my childhood weekends in the south. I recently randomly reencountered this green bean in Tallahassee, FL.

Contacts Near Barcelona?

I proposed to do a project for Indensitat in Spain ( since this year's theme, HOME / AWAY, connects so well with my overall body of work. The piece will be similar to the one that I did in Beijing (, but this time, it will involve a group that is rooted in the place (local Spanish people who are interested in seeing Catalonia recognized as a nation) and one that is unrooted (the expat community). I'm hoping that the event will take place in an alternative space in Mataro called Can Xalant (

Does anybody have any contacts for me in Spain? Thanks!!!!

Food and Embodied Memories

Please contribute stories to Kelly Pendergrast's story about food and memory. See description below. You can email her at


I have a request!

I am collecting anecdotes to do with food and embodied memory for a short film project. Maybe that sounds a little theory-ific...

Essentially, I am looking for stories about an occasion that was significant to you in some way and involved (or was accompanied by) the eating of a meal/food. Does that make sense at all?

Can you tell me a story?

-Describe the event/scenario
-What did you eat?
-Why was it significant to you? ( the event, or the food, or both).

(eg you were ate your grandmother's wake with your awkward extended family, eating cucumber sandwiches because they were grandmother's favorite (true story). OR you ate dried apricots and drank cheap wine with your ex-girlfriend in a park in paris while backpacking in france and then puked all over her in the train later on (not a true story)....)

Just a short paragraph worth of story is great...

I would be delighted to have your contribution. Touching, weird, awkward, disgusting - anything!

If you'd like to email me an anecdote, that'd be great. If you are willing to tell your story and be (audio)recorded, that would be even better.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

switched servers

Sorry if the blog has been strange recently. I just switched servers...

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Paradise Found by by Nicola Jane Barratt

So, we found it! It was an 8 hour drive - though we stopped and hand
fed some lemurs while they jumped on our heads and let us squeeze
their chubby tummies and thighs. They have the nicest fur I've ever
felt - long and thick and soft and it comes in so many different
colors! Their little hands are so soft - they never scratch you even
when they jump onto your head, which the brown ones seem to be quite fond of doing.

But, I digress - paradise is called Mahambo - a little village located
about 100 miles north of Tametave, on the northeast coast of
Madagascar. The place to stay in Paradise is the Hotel Recif - Six
rattan and thatch shacks on the beach 50 feet from the high tide line,
overhanging mangroves and coconut palms. Parts of the beach are coral tide pools, part volcanic tide pools, perfect for exploring from the
beach or by snorkeling - full of rockfish, urchins, brittle stars, .
Part great for swimming - water temp 80. Air temp 70 at night, 85 in
the daytime, always a breeze. There's no one here - occasionally
someone would walk down the beach or stop for a drink - but mostly it
was just us. Miles of white sand with only the occasional lemur
passing thru for company. There were a few empty houses – there are probably more people around at Christmas. But there was no one to be bothered by the boys playing wiffle or soccer or tag or be angry for
them climbing the trees. There was noone to interrupt my cocktails
and contemplation by insisting I buy something.

There only seems to be two semi commercial occupations aside form the hotel - one is the fishermen, walking or sailing across the reef looking for lobsters - the other is infusing rum with spices or herbs
- vanilla, ginger, cannelle (a fennel like herb), lemon, pineapple or
mixed fruits. Both occupations of which I highly approve of the
outcome!!! The ginger rum with pineapple juice is my new favorite
beverage and the new house drink here at chez Heitmann!

And how's the food at the Recif? Amazing!!!! Giant bowls of hot
chocolate or coffee for breakfast with crepes or fresh baguettes.
Lunch and dinner is grilled chicken or shrimp or lobster covered in
one of a number of sauces - I loved the coconut curry sauce. Sides of
home made pasta or sauteed potatoes or grilled vegetables. Salads of
tomatoes, shrimp, vinaigrette. Desserts of flambéed bananas,
chocolate mousse, coconut custard.

Is there a down side - yes - there is only cold water in the showers -
but the staff will happily make you a bucket or two of hot water for a
stand up bath. And the avocados weren't in season. And because it's
on the east coast, there is no sunset view. But it makes the beach
nice and shady in the late afternoon - good for napping.

But in the end the visa bill arrives and you usually grimace - right?
Well the Hotel Recif doesn't take Visa or Mastercard or Amex - cash
only. Yikes, right? Wrong - the best news of all is the bill! – the
bungalows with one queen size and a set of bunk beds are $15 per
night. The lobster entree which is 2 1/2 lbs is $7. The rum drinks are
75 cents. Snorkeling is free, pirogue (canoe) rides are $5. As much
as we ate or drank or played, we couldn't seem to spend more than $100 per day – for a family of six!!! Truly paradise!!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

the expat podcast

bit under the weather, but i promise to write more soon. in the meantime, visit this site and enjoy:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Afghan War Rugs and Other Objects

Recent emails from friends overseas have brought up the topic of shopping as an expat. As a maker of objects, I find our relationship to material culture of special interest. I flash back to my ex-husband's purchase of a Afghan war rug when we lived in Bahrain. (see above) Here are excerpts from the other emails:

1) Found the Motherlode of all Malagasy craft markets. the straw bags are fabulous. All different sizes from beach bags to little purses. Lots of different colors - magenta, lime green, and orange seem to be prevalent though. But there are also primary colors and earth tones. Lots of different patterns – checkerboard, stripes, herringbone for the more traditional of you! And they're all $3 to $10.

2) And all we have here in Rwanda are post-genocidal peace baskets...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Iana Quesnell, dysfunctional nomad

Please do yourself a favor and see my friend Iana Quesnell's show. The work is smart, beautifully executed, and dovetails with the questions and concerns raised by the Female Expat Project. I hope a page with her work here soon.

The annoucement for the show:

Akemi Hong & Camilo Ontiveros in collaboration with the Voz Alta Collective would like to find you at

La Gringa Turista
Iana Quesnell @ Voz Alta
October 28 – November 8, 2006

Reception: October 28, 7 - 11pm

Voz Alta
1544 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101

What does it mean to own yourself and to own the space that your body occupies in each moment?
Iana has turned what she sees as “dysfunctional nomadism” into the subject of her work. Through a process of documentation, she explores ways to own space temporally. Her large-scale drawings both depict the intimate details that she associates with owning a space while at the same time they are an act of claiming a kind of real estate through scale. The real estate of her drawings, like the real estate of her body, share the conundrum of having to borrow paths in order to physically exist.
La Gringa Turista is a documentation of living in Tijuana this past summer.
Due to the tension of being an outsider this work focuses primarily on the scene outside as viewed from the sofa inside, where she spent most of her time.

Open by appointment: | no phone

For more information, contact Akemi Hong & Camilo Ontiveros:
(916) 524-3712
(619) 398-6872

This Question of Moving

The Advanced Art Workshop has a new subtitle, namely "This Question of Moving." It's from the Charles Baudelaire quote from Paris Spleen:

It seems to me that I would always be better off where
I am not, and this question of moving is one of those
I discuss incessantly with my soul.

FEP folk, sorry for the blogging hiatus. I think I'm finally back. This first year of college teaching has sucked up all of my time and energy. Now back to the business of artmaking.

Friday, October 13, 2006

recent readings, kaplan and all

As I'm planning my Advanced Art Workshop on Mobility for Spring 2007 at Florida State, I though I should share the list of texts with the readers of the Female Expat Project. Here you go:

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press. 1964. ($10)

Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late 20th Century. Cambridge: Havard University Press. 1997. ($17)

Fitzpatrick, Robert. Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist's Eye. New York: Distributed Art Publishers. 2005. ($20)

Kaplan, Caren. Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 1996. ($23)

Kristeva, Julia. Strangers to Ourselves. New York: Columbia University Press.1991. ($21)

Robinson, Jane. Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994. ($15)

Rogoff, Irit. Terra Infirma: Geography's Visual Culture. New York: Routledge. 2000. ($33)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

powered by

use audio blogger!!!

Teaching at Florida State University has been heavenly, and my digital art students will soon start an audio project that is closely aligned to the aspirations of this site. In preparation for the project, I've been researching some of my favorite sound art project. Here's a few with more to come...

Ricardo Miranda,
Teri Rueb,
Jeff Talman,

I'd also like to encourage people to use the audioblog set up for this site. It's so easy!!! For instructions, visit:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Home: A Connection to the Land by L. Joyce Mundy

SOUVENIRS for Sept. 5, 2006
By L. Joyce Mundy
for more by L. Joyce Mundy, visit

Roots grow deep in Southern Indiana soil

I have long been aware of the strings that bind me to this particular place in the world, and to the locations that will always be "home" to me. Wherever I travel, the distance is measured from here. When I leave, I always have in mind how long it will be before I return. In the past, the bonds were entwined with the presence of my parents, but the connection to this place endures even after they are gone.

It almost seems that we have some unknown quality that centers us on the spot where we were reared. The Holler in Martin County, never lost its attraction for my father, as well as for others who were raised there. Garnett Mundy, one of the few remaining folks to grow up in the little valley, still has a longing to visit that place. The last time she was there, about 15 years ago, only the concrete porch and foundation of her parent's house could be found among the trees.

When I drive by our old home place, at the mouth of the Holler near White River, I still recognize enough of the terrain to feel a sense of nostalgia. Now the river bottom fields and hillside pastures are covered with trees, but I can imagine what was once there. And some things never change. The meandering little creek still runs into the river, and the river still flows west toward the sunset.

Our roots grew deeply into the fertile land cleared by our ancestors. Perhaps we can be compared to stubborn plants which are so firmly attached that some bit of the root still remains where it was first planted. Transplanted roots can flourish in new gardens, but there is always a memory that is never lost; a longing for the bit that was left behind. I wonder if it is only farm folks who feel these connections, or if people who grow up in the city can be similarly rooted there.

It must have been very difficult for our ancestors, to sail away from their homelands never to see them again. Owning one's own land was often the ambition of those who immigrated from places where this was not possible. They cut the strings that held them to the places of their birth in order to survive, and to find their own bit of land in which to grow new roots.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lemurs and Malagasy Rock Bands by Nicola Jane Barratt

Lemurs and Malagasy rock bands - Aug 31, 2006

Did our first excursion on Saturday. Drove out of town for about an
hour to get to a private lemur reserve. The total distance was about
20 km (14 miles) but this took an hour! The winding streets of Tana
are very crowded, especially on Saturday. There are lots of
rickshaws, small ones for carrying a single passenger and large one
for carrying goods to market, like vegetables or rice. Some carts
drawn by oxen, some scooters, motorcycles, lots of minibus and taxis -
which are mostly old 2CV's from France and a few giant SUV's like

Two or three storey brick buildings line these narrow streets. They
have steeply peaked clay tile roofs with spires at the corners, and
balconies with carved wooden or wrought iron railings. The ground
floors are mostly little shops, some with strings of sausages and
dryings chickens and ducks hanging in the doorways, others full of
spice bins, others selling mobile phone scratch cards.

The roads wind through town then go for miles along dikes built up
between the rice paddies which fill every low spot around town. The
countryside opens up, hills with gold and brown grass, scattered
trees, larger homes built in French country style, villages of
highland Malagasy homes - tall mud brick, chickens and pigs on the
ground floor - cooking and dining on the second and sleeping on the
upper floors under those same steeply peaked roofs.

The Lemur Park has 9 species living free in groves of bamboo. They
are mostly rescued lemurs as there are no lemurs native to this part
of the island. A river forms one boundary of the reserve - lemurs
don't swim so it keeps them in! We see sifaka, crowned sifaka, brown
lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs, mouse lemurs, ruffed lemurs and others.
Our favorite is the sifaka or "dancing lemur". They are called this
because they always move on two legs - but they don't walk - they
bounce or leap, up to 7 m (22 feet)! They love to bounce down the
bamboo fence railings that run along the river - leaping after each
other - wonderful to watch. Then they sit and eat leaves or the fruit
which is put out for them.

Saturday night in Tana there is a "rock concert" out in front of the
gorgeous 19th century train station. A stage is set up and two
different bands play - sounds like a combination of jazz and Santana
with Malagasy lyrics. There are stalls set up that sell snacks and
drinks. Lots of bottles rum and fruit juice combos, Three Horses
beer, beef brochettes, cookies and crackers. We listen for a while
then go out for a lovely French meal in a quaint restaurant up a
winding cobblestone street.

Friday, August 25, 2006

jetlag and nits by Nicola Jane Barratt

jetlag and nits - Aug 24, 2006

We arrived at Newark with our allotted 12 checked bags and a number of carry-ons. Then two of the carry-ons became checked bags due to the no fluids on board rule. They did let us bring the 4 oz of liquid Tylenol but what how was i supposed to survive with no toothpaste for 32 hours? no problem - international flights always include that little amenities bag as well as a glass of wine to calm the nerves, right? wrong! US carriers no longer give out amenities or free drinks! ugh! well, then it turns out that Continental has no agreement with AIr Mad so the bags can't be checked to Mad anyway - they can only go as far as Paris...

so, during take-off i find the first bug crawling around on Gabby's
head but i don't think too much - lots of bugs in the US in
summertime, right?

We land at Charles de Gaulle at 1:30 am our time - the airport has no
security at all but is a nightmare nonetheless - we retrieve the 14
checked bags and are trying to lug them to our nearby day rooms at the
Comfort Hotel. We ask several employees (in French) if the shuttle
bus is coming to the sign-posted shuttle bus waiting area at door #5 -
they all say, "Oui, la prochaine autobus, certainement"...after an
hour, someone finally tells us that due to roadworks the shuttle only
comes to door #5 in the next terminal...aaah, the french – so
helpful and informed, so dedicated to their jobs - my only hope, in
retrospect, is that during one or more of these conversations some of
my lice jumped onto their heads!!! The Comfort Inn is not, but at
least we lie down for a few hours and dig the toothpaste out of the
checked bags, the journey back via 2 buses and the wrong terminal,
thanks to some other helpful frenchmen is worse than you can imagine.

It is 11 hours to Tana from Paris - AIr Mad nas no in-flight
entertainment. Bill (who just turned 2) has no option but to raise
and lower his tray table for 11 hours. The chair cushions are one
inch thick - so no chance of me dozing off and letting Bill play with
his tray table without supervision. At last, Bill finds another
activity. He stands up on his chair, turns around to face the seats
behind and thwacks a sleeping gentleman over the head with his bottle
full of milk! The gentleman is very nice and only mumbles that
perhaps he could stop! The people in front of us are not quite as
understanding of Bill's boredom - at one point, a heavily made-up,
bejewelled frenchwoman turns around and yells "SSSSTTTTTOOPPPPP" at
bill - my only hope is that some of Bill's lice jumped onto her head!

Its about now that we all start getting really itchy - but, hey,
planes are really dry - maybe its just the dryness, right?

We land in Tana and things improve dramatically - someone from the
embassy is there to whisk us through immigration without waiting for
even a minute. All the bags arrive unscathed. Jay, our new director,
is there to pick us up and hands us $1000 in local currency. But the
currency is weird - its called Ariari - the government decided to
change from Malagasy francs to ariari several years ago – so all the
prices in the shops and the currency itself are expressed as ariari
but the local people still talk and discuss all wages and prices in
francs – the exchange rate is set at 5 francs to one ariari and there
are 2000 (fluctuating) ariari to $1 but it is certainly more difficult
doing two conversions instead of just one, especially with 8 hours of
time change!!

We get to our house and its huge and clean as a whistle – Denise, our
cook and Aimee, our nanny, have been there cleaning for a week – there
is food and milk and water in the fridge. Teak French doors , with
teak screen doors, lead from all the rooms, even the kitchen, out to
the verandahs. The floors are all teak parquet and the stairs and
banisters are teak. We've put the kids upstairs – there are 3
bedrooms, a playroom and a huge bathroom up there! Downstairs is the
master bedroom, guest room, office, living, dining rooms, the kitchen
and a screen porch. Garden isn't too big but there are two large
tortoises resident.

We hit the sack and wake up to the smell of cooking – Denise and Aimee
arrived at 8 and started preparing meals and unpacking for us while we
slept! Next morning, I wake at 6:30 – the container is arriving at 7
– and find a louse crawling down my forehead. Gross!! But what to do
– can't leave and get back before the container – just have to suffer
and scratch and itch! Container arrives with Jay – who I have no
choice but to ask for assistance with the lice – he takes a step back,
says "Wow – you were in my car yesterday – but, don't worry, I'll send
my driver out to get you plenty of shampoo" Driver arrives an hour
later – after the container is fully unloaded, the whole family gets
naked and shampoos. Since we're up all night with no TV, we sit and
pick nits out of each other's hair – the perfect jet lag activity!!!

Madagascar – great French patries!!!! Chilly at night, hilly,
architecture is sort of French, sort of asian. People seem more asian
than African, lots of French shops, a few south African. noone speaks
english!!!!!! it's a bit tiring but my french is improving

School is small, most students are Malagasy, not much green space ....

More soon – we're still picking nits!!!! Nikki

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I heart If you have a website, you can go to statcounter and have them track visitors to your sites. With a project like, it's encouraging to see that people are looking at the site and that there is interest in our activities. Please let me know if I can do anything to improve the site. Thanks and enjoy!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Cosmopolitanism: Thinking Beyond the Nation

Anyone interested in expatriate life may be interested in attending a conference at Florida State University where I'm currently teaching. Proposals for a panel or paper are due October 15, 2006. I have yet to pull together a proposal but have a few ideas in mind. If you want me to help cooridinate your plans here in Tallahassee, please let me know.

Cosmopolitanism: Thinking Beyond the Nation
February 1-4, 2007
Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

While you're here try to visit the beautiful clear water Wakulla Springs.

ah food + nostalgia

from Aleen Jendian,

One thing that i notice about my mom and other women and men I know who came from Egypt, Lebanon, etc. is the fascination they have with food. More specifically, how they remember the food to be. For example, my grandpa would always talk about how large the dates were; with major hand gestures and emphasis in his voice he would let me know that they were "this big."

Other foods they talk about: sugar cane, mangos, mango juice, the ice cream there. . . it all seemed taste different, to have larer perportions. When talking to first generation friends we all laugh about this about our parents/family. BUt there must be something there if we all have experienced it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

morning mantras

Pay yourself first

Be true to yourself / selfish of every second of your day*

Focus on purposeful learning

Believe in synchronicity

Do your morning pages / highlight / blog

And I look over this amazing advice from my neighbor, Julianna Baggot, who teaches Creative Writing at FSU (for more see,

"this is part of a speech i give to the students called "pay yourself first" ... i ALWAYS use my fresh brain cells on my own work. i actually say to the grad students: I promise you this. I will never ever use my fresh brain cells to read your work. And I never want you to use yours on your students. In this way I'm being a role model, talking about the life-long challenge of balancing art and life. i often end up reading their work late at night, sacrificing a little sleep time, but ultimately i've stayed productive here. and therefore, in the long run, a better teacher. b/c if you don't pay yourself first, you resent your students, you feel bitter and like they're the enemy. if you pay yourself first -- even if your best time is 4:30 in the afternoon and you know you will pay yourself -- you feel ebullient and generous ... or at least i do. the work gives me energy"

* Note on the being selfish thing: in the spirit of Ayn Rand (no, I don't subscribe to every bit of objectivism), this mantra doesn't mean that it's you against the world. It's the idea that if in your life you selfishly value your partner and their existance in your life, your doing things for them--giving them hugs, helping them with their projects, etc--is actually a selfish act because it helps your world be better. But it also believes that if you are in a dead end job that is sucking away your life, you should get out of it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

dear female expats, please tag along and contribute!

So I'm starting a class in two weeks (sweet Jesus) entitled The Traditional and The Digital. It's goal=to consider how the digital has influence more traditional forms of artistic production. We'll discuss not only how image editing software has effected the look of artists, the working process and heightened debates about authenticity, etc, but also how we use it as a research tool for content, involvement of audience, and an element of chaos. In preparation for the class, I'm picking up the pace on my blogging. See the following sites for great blogging tips. (scan down to where it provides a bullet list of usable content tips) and

Happy blogging.

Friday, August 11, 2006

powered by

Reentry by Nicola Jane Barratt

It always takes me a while to readjust to America. And as much as I hate flight connections, I think it's important to stop midway between the third world and the US. Not that England or France aren't the first world - they just aren't the hyper first world. If anything the Uk and France have a much more sensible approach to life, more restrained - smaller cars, smaller houses, smaller parking lots, smaller appliances...

But here I must digress and admit to my addiction to giant American appliances. I love my huge American fridge – with shelves in the doors that hold Gallon milk jugs, gallon ice tea jugs, gallon jugs of orange juice, shelves designed to hold "fridge packs" of a dozen soda... And my giant American washer and dryer that easily hold 20 towels or twenty pairs of shorts and twenty T-shirts. Because of course, what American doesn't take a fresh towel every time they shower or throw on a clean pair of shorts every couple of hours? - none in my family! No matter how many times I explain that there is no maid here, only Mommy. Of course, this laundry requires giant American laundry hampers also for the gang to throw all those towels and T-shirts towards, never in, mind you, just towards!

But landing at Heathrow is sort of halfway home. The plane often ends up parking in what I call the back lot - where you have to clamber down this steep flight of stairs onto the tarmac - dragging hand luggage and small children, then climb onto a bus that takes you to the terminal. This would never be tolerated in America. A recent BA flight attendant admitted to me that she'd never touched down in the US and not had a jetway allow her to walk straight from plane to terminal. I nodded in agreement, only adding that at some small airports in sunny locations, such as Key West, there were no jetways.

Immigration in the US is your first real smack in the face from this hyper capitalist first world nation. Both the new facilities at JFK and Newark must have cost more than the entire annual budget of Zambia. They're vast, lofty warehouses with expansive glass walls and at least a hundred counters of scowling officials waiting to check your passport. Giant flatscreen TVs blair CNN - letting you know that the capitalists are king here and only their version of world events will be tolerated.

Then there's the rain - it's a temperate climate so it rains all year round - not used to that - maybe that's why everyone is so obsessed with the weather - it's so unpredictable. You have to put the car windows up, even though the car gets roasting hot. Sometimes you have to get up in the middle of the night to close the windows, especially those sliding doors - boy can a lot of water accumulate really rapidly when you leave those open! You have to take the cushions off the patio furniture and store them inside - but, where? They're big and there's a lot of them cause its hot - u can't sit inside most of the time.

But there's the food! Wow, there's a lot of different kinds of food here. There's lots of food that comes from the ocean - crabs and clams and mussels and lobsters and all different kinds of true fish and they all taste lovely drowned in butter and garlic and wine! And there's the Italian style pork products - basil sausage, sweet sausage, hot sausage, capicola, mortadella, pepperoni - all so good on a sandwich or a hoagie or a sub. Great on pizza, great on the grill. Noone Kosher or Halaal running the markets and restaurants here!

Then there's delivery. OK we all love to internet shop, and I do plenty, especially in those first days when culture shock doesn't allow me out of the house much and jet lag has me up at odd hours. But here in Wildwood (yes, Jeff and I found a town called Wildwood to buy a house in!) you can get any kind of food imaginable delivered right to the door and usually for no extra charge. Crab cakes...

But the best part is the sunsets from the back decks. Watching the sun set over the water is what I miss most when we aren't here. Watching the colors fade from blue to violet to pink to orange to red, as the boats bring the fishermen home and the gulls circle and cry, finding their nests for the night. A warm breeze on your skin, flushed with a little sunburn from a day at the beach. Cool glass of something in hand, dripping little beads of condensation onto the deck, little music from the house next door...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

a few ways to participate

Happy summer, Female Expat Ladies!

I'm writing to share 1) quotes that inspire my female expat project and 2) a series of prompts for our community who want to contribute the project.

To contribute your responses, 1) post them to this site's blog or 2) email them to me at, and I will post them for you. Please let me know if you would like your name listed with your writing or not. If you hate to write, sketch a picture or take a photo and send.

Prompt #1:
1. Respond in writing to one of the Kristeva quotes below.
2. Highlight the strongest sections of writing. Post or email.

Kristeva quotes
Kristeva, Julia. Strangers to Ourselves. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 1991

1. Not belonging to any place, any time, any love. A lost origin, the impossibility to take root, a rummaging memory, the present in abeyance [temporarily set aside; suspension]

2. He is a devotee of solitude, even in the midst of a crowd, because he is faithful to a shadow: bewitching secret, paternal ideal, inaccessible ambition

3. For they are perhaps owner of things, but the foreigner tends to think he is the only one to have a biography, that is, a life made up of ordeals

4. A secret wound, often unknown to himself, drives the foreigner to wandering..."You have caused me no harm," he disclaims, fiercely, "It is I who chose to leave"; always further along, always inaccessible to all

Prompt #2:
Respond to the picture of map below, ideally in story form but it can simply be the first response that comes to your mind. It’s from a video still where two people are walking on a large map covering a Scandinavian city plaza.

Prompt #3:
Write about a household object of some personal significance that you are debating throwing away. If you don't have such an object, write about your favorite object in your house.

A Confession
Although I only lived overseas a total of three and a half years in Italy, Bahrain, Germany and China, I have been back in the states for the last one and a half years and feel like a bit of charlatan still making artwork out these overseas experiences. Still, it seems that there is still more stories to document, and although incredibly happy in my college teaching gig, the draw of living overseas still remains fierce. Additionally, nomadic, transnational lifestyles continue to become more and more common, and therefore, important for someone to document.

A Continued Call For Artwork
If you are a writer or artist, I would still like you to send a few samples of your work. As far as I know, no expat websites showcase the creative endeavors of their members. So that others might be inspired by your intellectual and creative rigor, please email me for more instructions.

Your responses will be part of my curriculum this fall and incorporated into artwork at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts this January. (

Thanks for participating.
Joelle Dietrick

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

blogher 06

Sorry for the hiatus, but I had to move myself and my belongings across the country. Now I'm in Tallahassee, prepping for my first year as an art professor at Florida State. With plans to have a painting and drawing class influenced by all things digital, I'm research bloggin again. Off to read more about a recent conference about blogging called BlogHer. See the following sites for more info: 1) and 2)

Friday, June 16, 2006

objects not going

On Wednesday, a man from the moving company came in to the apartment to give an estimate on the shipping. In preparation for the estimate, I had labeled objects that were staying with yellow stickies saying not going. In this middle of the night, as I stumble about the room in a sleepless daze, the objects greet me with their message, and they stubbornly insist "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going," "not going,"

I imagine them in this new painting, holding back, floating in the air, staying in their place long after their owners have left and wandered through the shelves of this bizarre library, the background of the painting, the setting for the scene. Their owners are nowhere in sight. Seven empty aisles can be seen at once, presenting themselves as options and distorting the laws of perspective.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

judith butler in undoing gender

From Judith Butler's book Undoing Gender, p1

...about the experience of becoming undone in both good and bad ways. Sometimes a normative conception of gender can undo one's personhood, undermining the capacity to preserve a livable life. Other times, the experience of a normative restriction becoming undone can undo a prior conception of who one is only to inaugurate a relatively newer one that has greater livability as its aim.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

getting lighter

Unusual bit of audio when I'm in the midst of preparation for my move, weeding through objects and in a throw-away mood. It feels good to travel light.

Monday, June 05, 2006

kristeva on freud

While in Birmingham, we stayed at a hotel with a indoor pool and windows in its ceiling. Swimming at night, I could see myself in the windows when I would float on my back. After feeling uncertain about our Alabama project ( and uncomfortable with being an outsider coming into the small town of York, I desperately needed the slight sensory deprivation that floating in a pool can provide. Something about that moment, body alone, suspended in the quietness, moving and fragmented in the ceilings window panes—the image haunted me and is now the inspiration for the piece I'm doing for Supersonic 2006 this summer in LA. (


Recent readings seem to resonate with the initial vision. Still in Kristeva's Strangers to Ourselves, on page 183, she writes the following about Freud's "Heimlich / Unheimlich"—the Uncanny Strangeness:

...Freud's Das Unheimliche (1919) surreptitiously goes beyond that framework and the psychological phenomenon of "uncanny strangeness" as well, in order to acknowledge itself as an investigation into anguish generally speaking and, in a fashion that is even more universal, into the dynamics of the unconscious. Indeed, Freud wanted to demonstrate at the outset, on the basis of a semantic study of the German adjective Heimlich and its antonym unhemlich that a negative meaning close to that of the antonym is already tired to the positive term Heimlich, "friendlily comfortable," which would also signify "concealed, kept from sight," "deceitful and malicious," "behind someone's back." Thus, in the very word Heimlich, the familiar and intimate are reversed into their opposites, brought together with the contrary meaning of "uncanny strangeness" harbored in unheimlich. Such an immanence of the strange within the familiar is considered as an etymological proof of the psychoanalytic hypothesis according to which "the uncanny is a class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar," which, as far as Freud was concerned, was confirmed by Schelling who said that "everything is unhemlich that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light"

Consequently therefore, that which is strangely uncanny would be that which was (the past tense is important) familiar and, under certain conditions (which ones?), emerges. A first step was taken that removed the uncanny strangeness from the outside, where fright had anchored it, to locate it inside, not inside the familiar considered one's own and proper, but the familiar potentially tainted with strangeness and referred (beyond its imaginative origin) to an improper past. The other is my ("own and proper") unconscious.

What "familiar"? What "past"? In order to answer such questions, Freud's thought played a strange trick on the esthetic and psychological notion of "uncanny strangeness," which had been initially posited, and rediscovered the analytical notions of anxiety, double, repetition, and unconscious. The uncanny strangeness that is aroused in Nathaniel (in Hoffman's tale, The Sandman) by the paternal figure and its substitutes, as well as references to the eyes, is related to the castration anxiety experienced by the child, which was repressed but surfaced again on the occasion of a state of love.


Why the image of myself floating, passing, fragmented in the windows above as I witness a double of myself? Not only was it a seductive sight absorbed in such a relaxed state, but in retrospect, perhaps it relates to the these things:

1) again, approaching people in York and being seen as an other and the awkwardness that followed
2) being recently divorced and imagining falling from grace in the eyes of another
3) seeing myself in the eyes of a new love a year after the divorce and concerns for repeated behavior
4) continuing with the female expat project which involves an uncanny strangeness in others both in:
a) how the women feel when the move to a new culture, and
b) how I feel when I recall my memories of that experience as they tell their expat tales
5) going through the job search and projecting a self
6) soon moving to Tallahassee to teach at Florida State and considering how colleagues, students, and other new friends will perceive me

Thursday, June 01, 2006

kristeva on the cosmopolitan

from Strangers to Ourselves, p 38

One who is happy being a cosmopolitan [, see 3rd paragraph for definition of a person described thus] shelters a shattered origin in the night of his wandering. It irradiates his memories that are made up of ambivalences and divided values. That whirlwind translates into shrill laughter. It dries up at once the tears of exile and, exile following exile, without any stability, transmutes into games what for some is a misfortune and for others an untouchable void. Such a strangeness is undoubtedly an art of living for the happy few or for artists. And for others? I am thinking of the moment when we succeed in viewing ourselves as unessential, simple passers by, retaining of the past only the game…A strange way of being happy, or feeling imponderable, ethereal, so light in weight that it would take so little to make us fly away…

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

dialogical art

Today's post desperately needs to be about community-based art projects. The genre is also known as dialogical art because of its focus on a dialogue between an artist and a community in a way that transforms artworks mid-process. (see

I first became interested in community art when I was working at Carnegie Mellon University where the MFA program required students to complete a "community-based art project" while in the program. Required reading for the students was Mapping the Terrain by Suzanne Lacy, and Lacy was on Carnegie Mellon's School of Art's board and helped to develop the school's curriculum..

Owen Mundy and I just created a community art project in York, Alabama during an artist residency at the Coleman Art Center.

I bring all of these topics up because it relates to your understanding of the Female Expat Project. Yes, I intend to use your stories of life overseas to inspire more traditional forms of art—drawings, paintings, videos, etc.—but I also think of the Female Expat Project as an art project in itself. Its especially beautiful to think of we expat women spread out throughout the world, with a tendency to a nomadic lifestyle that often tweaks our typical understanding of community, being able to come together as a community online. Floating voices and visions, if you will.

Monday, May 29, 2006

julia kristeva

from strangers to ourselves

p 5, The Loss and the Challenge from Toccata and Fugue for the Forigner

A secret wound, often unknown to himself, drives the foreigner to wandering..."You have caused me no harm," he disclaims, fiercely, "It is I who chose to leave"; always further along, always inaccessible to all. As far back as his memory can reach, it is delightfully bruised: misunderstood by a loved and yet absent-minded, discreet, or worried mother, the exile is a stranger to his mother. He does not call her, he asks nothing of her. Arrogant, he proudly holds on to what he lacks, to absence, to some symbol or other. The foreigner would be the son of a father whose existence is subject to no doubt whatsoever, but whose presence does not detain him. Rejection on the one hand, inaccessibility on the other: if one has the strength not to give in, there remains a path to be discovered. Riveted to an elsewhere as certain as it is inaccessible, the foreigner is ready to flee. No obstacle stops him, and all suffering, all insults, all rejectsions are indifferent to him as he seeks that invisible and promised territory, that country that does not exist but that he bears in his dreams, and that must indeed be called the beyond.

The foreigner, thus, has lost his mother. Camus understood it well: the Stranger reveals himself at the time of his mother's death. One has not much notice that this cold orphan, whose indifference can become criminal, is a fanatic of absence. He is a devotee of solitude, even in the midst of a crowd, because he is faithful to a shadow: bewitching secret, paternal ideal, inaccessible ambition.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

soon to send invite

Hey expat ladies,

I'll soon email you with instructions about how to writing or audio post to this website. You can email samples of your artwork or writing to me at Take advantage of the summer time to kick-start your creative endeavors and build a community among a group of women who are allover the globe.

Looking forward to your responses.
Joelle Dietrick

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bike Tour 2K6!

Bike Tour 2K6!

Hi Andrea and Ira,

Bike tour. Nice. I'm creating a blog for women travelling overseas. I'm posting to your blog to see if I can just post or if you need to invite me. I've had problems with spam on a blog that I built and I'm hoping eBlogger has a system to block spammers. Let me know if you have any tips for using eBlogger before I send an invite out to 100 ladies overseas.

Joelle Dietrick

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Thoreau, Henry David. Civil Disobedience and Other Essays. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc. 1993.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, ok taking walks, —who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked for charity, under pretence of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, —a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

pict for profile

Picture on my blog profile info. Bear with me, folks...

miwon kwon on nomadism, p 1

Kwon, Miwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2002.

p 154
Chapter 6: By Way of a Conclusion: One Place After Another

It occurred to me some time ago that for many of my art and academic friends, the success and viability of one's work are now measured by the accumulation of frequent flyer miles. The more we travel for work, the more we are called upon to provide institutions in other parts of the country and the world with our presence and services, the more we give in to the logic of nomadism, one could say, the more we are made to feel wanted, needed, validated, and relevant. Our very sense of self-worth seems predicated more and more on our suffering through the inconveniences and psychic destabilizations of ungrounded transience, of not being at home (or not having a home), of always traveling through elsewheres. Whether we enjoy it or not, we are culturally and economically rewarded for enduring the "wrong" place. We are out of place all too often. Or, perhaps more accurately, the distinction between home and elsewhere, between "right" and "wrong" places seems less and less relevant in the constitution of the self.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

alabama day 3

Monday, May 8

in the morning…
Damn foot. Damn southern slowness. Damn attitude because I can't do what I'm use to doing.

later that day…
Feeling better. We looked at the space in the center of town that we will clean up for the art exhibition. Downstairs was a grocery store. Upstairs was a hospital.

Walking through the halls and rooms upstairs, the texture of the walls demanded our attention. Decayed walls. Abject surface. Wallpaper peeling away, diving backwards, animated by the slight breeze of an open window. Alabama blue breeze.

It all seems familiar. The yellow wallpaper. The woman trapped behind. What stories came and went. The situation reminds me that I promised to give my blue-green papercuts company in the form of floating clothes paintings. All in the hopes that they too—those stories—will be properly maintained.

It's interesting to be here, for such a short time, to make a few waves—a few personal connections, a renovated retail space, a few stories saved. Many choices about where you put your energy--which place gets people's / politician's time and money. The FIMA water, a silent squad of soldiers, waiting to find out who needs them most…wondering if they might be forgotten.

Signs of better days past are everywhere. In a vacant lot sits two dumpsters, a pile of decaying furniture, and bits of a foundation breaking through the grass. Next door is a burnt down building. Signs of its former calling as a laundry mat, repeat along the inside. ...[insert bits about signs]…A sea of blue breaking through the dark innards of the dead structure.

We went for a walk—down the main street, turn left at the drug store that advertises Viagra spray starch, down the street to the public park. Red caboose supervises from the top of the hills. Not far away, a group of teenagers lean against old sedans, pulsating with low beats, all at the edge of the local cemetery. Nearby is a public pool, filled in as segregation ended so whites and blacks wouldn't have to swim in the same water. An artist has placed a concrete bench, where there was once a diving board, in an area that stretches once gave a path from solid to liquid, and now marks the location of an uglier past some would feel best be forgotten. Spring growth and lawn-mowing clippings attempt to hide other hints of that history.

Our friend, the director of the art center here, tells us a story of the board member's wife. She saw a purse in which was stitched the names of famous European cities. The woman exclaimed, "Hey ya'll, I've been to all those places. I just have to buy that purse."

We are a block from the train tracks, and the train runs right through the middle of the town. There seem to be two types of train drivers, ones that go super-slow, the speed of York, and the others who fly through the town and rattle humble abode. When picking up groceries, I watch the other people perform a slow motion dance. It makes my brain neurons fire more slowly. In some moments, the slowness seems comforting; in others, infuriating. The slight humidity has the same soothing expected, a light pressure making you more aware of your skin. Bright fake flowers on the gravestones against a damp sky.

alabama day 2

church in Alabama
turkey + dressing w pastor + members
white folks as far as the eye can see
+ heads of beasts on the wall
betty maye comes in her sunday best
to tell this crowd that she's running
running for office
old black betty, says the blue-eyed boy on a swing
there's a river
dug-up by the army core
mosquitos dot the air
they stop on my skin
to tickle and say hello
desperate for my own run
while others move as slow as molasses
on a cold day, he says
no me
I'm running
I dream of running
chased by wild dogs
with a drop of coyote in their blood
along winding roads
through a dark landscape
back to a home
that is no longer a home
just running
wannabe art stars everywhere
taking the next designer drug
breaking hearts
unsure of everything
I dream of Florida
+ China
in the same breath

tales of an ex-expat: rural alabama

Saturday, May 6

We arrrived in rural Alabama late in the evening to participated in an artist residency program at the Coleman Center for the Arts ( Here's the PR for our project:

Public Art Project Speaks of Hope

The Coleman Center is pleased to announce a new project of their Public Artworks Program by resident artists Owen Mundy and Joelle Dietrick. The project, titled The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn, is named from a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and hopes to document the optimism of the region, both past and present, by collecting objects and stories from the residents of Sumter County.

The artists are asking community members to lend them a lamp from their home that will then be installed in a vacant retail space in York, Ala. This space, formerly the York Real Value grocery store, is being renovated this week by the artists with the help of community volunteers, city employees, and Coleman Center staff.

The lamps will be installed in the finished space and set to timers. Each day around dusk the lamps will begin to turn on one by one, representing the participants in the project, as well as the possibility that collective action can impact our communities in positive and lasting ways. Dietrick remarks that the metaphor the lamps create reminds her of candles at a Christmas Eve service and says, “the underlying focus is the room full of lamps—fading in and out, pulsing at their own pace, human in the imperfections and variety, and more powerful as a collection.”

All participants will receive a handmade lamp from the artists in return for the lamp they lend to the project. If you are interested in lending a lamp from your home please bring it to the old York Real Value grocery store across from the Piggly Wiggly in downtown York from May 11th through the 13th from 1-6PM. The artists will be accepting help cleaning up the building throughout the week and volunteers are encouraged to drop by from 1-6PM on May 11th and 12th.

For more information please call (205) 392-2005, or visit