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)