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.