Off the Coast of Africa… Expat File # 18

I’m delighted to welcome my guest today, Julz Ma Poon who has lived in eight different countries – but who’s counting? A lifestyle not for the faint-hearted. Here is a buoyant account of an adventurous woman.
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I have been what one would call an expat my whole life – well not completely true… I was born in 1976 in a small town close to Copenhagen, and my first ever resident/visa stamp in a passport is from February 8th 1982. I moved to south of France in March that year. My parents and bigger sister had already moved and I stayed with my maternal grandparents at that time. I missed my sister dearly. I remember the winter of ’81-’82 I was waiting for them to arrive from France one night. There were no mobile phones back then, so we never knew when they would arrive. Of course I fell asleep on the couch waiting. I woke up in the middle of the night and my sister had gone to sleep in the same bed as me. We went to my GrandMa’s kitchen and had a cup of chocolate. I still remember the happiness of seeing her again. Fun memories.

Little Julz with her father in France

If you ask me where I am from (and many people do) – well I say Denmark. I am proud to be Danish. I speak it fluently (if a little old fashioned, my friends would say), I love the Danish traditions and I do my best to keep them with my own children today.

I have never thought of myself as being a Third Culture Kid – Denmark, France – there isn’t that big of a difference – at least there never was for me. I used to live in one and moved to another. That was that. I grew up in France and had a pretty normal life – except we drove to Denmark twice a year and I used to love all the places I would see from the car, the hotels and the restaurants on the motorway. The chocolates we would buy.

After studies in Switzerland and a few moves across the Atlantic – I finally settled down with my husband in the UK. In the early 2000’s nobody spoke about ‘expats’ the way we do today. I always considered myself an immigrant, until our first big move for my husband’s work. I suppose then we became expats.

Citadel in Amman, Jordan (the Roman temple of Hercules is on the far right)

That move took us to Amman, Jordan. We moved (as with all our moves) without having visited . We landed in the middle of the desert on a cold January evening, with a 5 month old baby. There were holes in the road and no lights on the highway – but people were friendly, very friendly. We spend 2 and a half years in that amazing country. Jordan has culturally, religiously and historically so many things to offer: the baptismal site of Jesus, Mount Nebo (where Moses looked out over the promised land); Petra, the famous Nabataean site (known from the Indiana Jones movies), and the largest Roman ruins outside of Italy in Jerash – just to name a few examples. We left Jordan with a soon-to-be 3 year-old and a little baby boy – grateful for all the things Jordan gave us, but leaving great friendships behind.

Temple of Mengwi, Bali, Indonesia

Then came a couple of years in Indonesia, with a move to Bali. The Island of the Gods – and it truly is. Never have I been in a place where Spiritualism is so widely present. If one doesn’t believe in spiritual matters, all that is needed is a bit of time with the Balinese – and everyone changes their minds. How can I say this? Everyone believes so strongly that things happen…

Julz with her children in the Maldives

Another move, another country. This time, life took us to the Maldives – the small island country in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. Beautiful islands, nature and amazing underwater wildlife. But a hard life: one small island, one hotel – and that’s it: no shops, no schools, no friends.  Thus when we stayed longer than planned, I decided to take our 2 children to Mauritius, my husband’s home country.  I had to leave my husband behind until he could join us and we could be together again as a family. That is where we are today, reunited and happy.

Although I never thought of myself as a Third Culture Kid, my children are exactly that: they have been exposed to more cultures than most people will ever be. I often wonder if I did (do?) the right thing as parent, with this very nomadic lifestyle. My daughter is now 7 and has lived in five countries, my son in 4. But then I look at my children and see what this has brought them. They have lived in Christian, Muslim, Hindu and multi-religious countries. People  have cared for them on (more than) four continents. They never refer to anybody per the colour of the skin (except the one time when my daughter tried to wash her Balinese nanny’s arm!), the financial situation, the religion or even the nationality – for them it simply does not matter – it’s the girl in the white dress or the boy with the red shorts, it’s our friends from Singapore or London, Melbourne or Doha. They have a thirst for adventure, a true will to protect nature, a need to learn about their environment or new culture and so much to give, to share. And for all that I hope I am doing the right thing.

The Ma Poon kids on beach in Mauritius

 I always wanted to see what was beyond the next mountain, across the river, over the ocean. I guess that what I wanted as a kid is what I have created for my own children. That’s actually very selfish and I hope they will not be too hard on their mother for the lifestyle I have imposed on them as children.

The world I grew up in, was already a world in movement. The world we live in today, as no real borders. It becomes harder to keep traditions, it becomes harder to say I am from Denmark or Mauritius, but I knew where I was from; for my children it is a little harder than that.

I (CCM) confess that I had to look at a map to confirm exactly where Mauritius lies.  I learned that it has retained some of its French heritage but was also settled by the Dutch and British – among others.  Leave questions and comments for Julz below. To learn more about Julz and Mauritius visit: https://wanderingexpatfamily.wordpress.com/

“Untranslatable” Words from other Cultures

The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it,  trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify. This post is from Ella Frances Sanders, writer and illustrator.

Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated some of these wonderful, elusive, words, which have no single word within the English language that could be considered a direct translation. We hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.

1. German: Waldeinsamkeit

A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connection to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.

2. Italian: Culaccino

The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic.

3. Inuit: Iktsuarpok

The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.

4.Japanese: Komorebi

This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees – the interplay between the light and the leaves.

5. Russian: Pochemuchka

                    Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.

6. Spanish: Sobremesa

Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.

9.French: Dépaysement

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.

10. Urdu: Goya

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The suspension of disbelief that can comes when reading a good tale.

The idea that words cannot always express everything has been written about extensively. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.”

‘Through The Language Glass’ by Guy Deutscher, goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes; the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures. But wait! Ella Frances Sanders,  author of Lost in Translation (a New York Times bestseller)  has now published a charming illustrated collection of more than fifty expressions from around the globe that explore the nuances of language: The Illustrated Book of Sayings For more see: http://ellafrancessanders.com/the-illustrated-book-of-sayings

I love words don’t you?  One of my favorites is “callipygous” as in a callipygous young lady; Aphrodite was callipygian i.e. “had beautiful buttocks.”   😉  Do you have any to share?

Uprooted and Relocated: Expat File#17

My guest for the Expat Files today is author, copywriter and blogger for hire: June Whittle. At age eleven, June was uprooted from tropical Jamaica to England to live with her parents whom she had not seen since she was four years old. Here is her story.

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Tiger-swallowtail on tropical blossoms

The day started normally like any other. Sunshine beamed down on us. My sisters and I played happily under the large overhanging mango tree. We hunted butterflies to catch and store, in our bottles before releasing them to fly off into freedom.

I loved living in the countryside. We lived humbly. Although we didn’t have much material wealth, we had an abundance of love between us. Our simple lifestyle in Kitson Town, St. Catherine was similar to the butterflies. Free, easy, carefree, happy and fun. Not that I know how butterflies feel. But I imagine they’re happy and have fun flying, taking rest breaks perching on the array of beautiful flowers of their choice.

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Housing Complex, St Catherine, Jamaica

Later that afternoon, an elderly lady walked up the path towards our wooden house. Smiling, she introduced herself as our grandmother, my dad’s mom. I had never seen her before, but my grandmother who we lived with, sometimes spoke about her. She hugged each of us. However, she gave me a lingering hug.

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Local area where I grew up

She went into the house with Sis, my grandmother. My sisters and I carried on playing in the yard. Shortly afterwards they called me to come inside. The decision they made that sunny afternoon changed the course of my life forever.

Sis told me to pack my grip (suitcase) because I was moving to Spanish Town to live with my new grandmother (called Granny). Shocked and unhappy, I packed my clothes fighting back tears. Shortly afterwards, I waved goodbye to the close family I had known all my life. I walked off hesitantly with a woman I had never met before. Disbelief ripped through my whole being and pain tugged at my heart.

How could an 11-year-old girl rebel against decisions adults make? I did as I was told. So, I moved to a new school and a whole new area. A few months later, I began to settle down into my new lifestyle.

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Nevertheless, two years later, another bombshell dropped. Granny told me she was going to the UK and, instead of sending me back to St Catherine’s, I was traveling with her.

I waved goodbye to my familiar family. Three weeks later, I stepped off the boat onto the cold shores of Southampton, England. My mom and dad who left me in Jamaica when I was four came to meet us. And, my little sister who I never met before welcomed me to the cold, damp, grey country. The dreary day matched my mood.

While my dad was driving us to London, the first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Cars didn’t beep their horns like they did in Jamaica. The houses were joined up and they didn’t have verandas. Plus, for the first time I saw snow.

Soon, I adapted in my new life, new school, new friends and new family in Fulham, London. However, I missed Jamaica, my sisters, friends, Sis and the sunshine. My little sister didn’t help the homesick feeling. She was amazed by my strong Jamaican Patois accent and believed it was her job to teach me to speak the Queen’s English. She corrected my every word. Within six months, I had lost most of my then lifelong accent.

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Me starting my new school in the UK

Life at school, Hurlingham Comprehensive, and in the UK was challenging. I encountered a lot of racism. At school, the girls teased me because I was different from them. I was extremely timid and didn’t have many friends. They mistook my shyness for aloofness.

So, I truanted a lot from school. After mom dropped me off in the mornings, I caught the bus back home. But, one day she came home early and caught me. I was grounded and wasn’t allowed to see anyone outside of school. Anyway, after that incident, I stopped taking unauthorized time off and carried on with my studies. When I finished school at 16, I worked at a few jobs for different companies.

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Me in Amsterdam in the 80’s

I saw my grandmother Sis again. She visited the UK once before she died in 1989. It was blessing to see her and spend quality time with her. She was a strong woman all the way and taught me a lot about the values of life.

My other grandmother, Granny, developed dementia in her 60s and had to go into a home. It broke my heart because she didn’t recognize me the last time I saw her. Sadly, she died in the care home.

Although I felt like I came to the UK by force, as I grew up, I knew it was the best decision my family made for me. I had a wonderful relationship with my mum, dad, grandmother and little sister. And, eventually my two sisters also came to the UK to live.

On reflection, changes in life are not always welcomed. Nevertheless, sometimes that is our destiny, even though we may not be aware of it at the time. If I hadn’t come to the UK, I wouldn’t have had my three beautiful daughters and grandchildren. They are my world.

Like so many expat children (TCKs**) June experienced culture shock, but she also was uprooted from family twice: once from her parents and then from the grandmother who had raised her as a young child and her sisters;  on top of that she had to deal with racism. She also writes about difficult  times, in relationships as a young adult in her book:  Deep Within my Soul: Finding Hope After Abuse           (**TCK is the acronym for “Third Culture Kids” – raised in different cultures, they may end up living in their own “third culture” as an expat.)

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June Whittle

June would be glad to answer any questions you have. Please leave your comments below.

You can also connect with her at the following Links: Miraculous Ladies; Divine Copywriter ; https://www.facebook.com/MiraculousLadies?ref=hl

Wishes for the New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND VERY BEST WISHES TO YOU FOR 2017!

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“LET US RESOLVE TO PUT PEACE FIRST”

new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ first message

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sweetclipart freeFeliz Ano Nuevo                               Bonne Annee

(May the force be with us … we’re going to need it.) Please add your wishes for the New Year!

Living History Interview – Far East Prisoners of War – by Hilary Custance Green

I’ve been following Hilary Custance Green as she extensively researched and wrote this book.  I have read other books by her and am especially excited to read this one.My own father was shot down twice in the jungles of Burma and might have known these men had he been captured.  (He even looks like Hilary’s father on the book cover – mustache and all!) My mother had no word from him for months and then he staggered out, starving and was hospitalized for some time after.

The source for this post is from writer Sally Cronin: Sunday Living History Interview – Far East Prisoners of War – Hilary Custance Green

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My guest today is author Hilary Custance Green and she will be sharing the story her father’s imprisonment by the Japanese during World War II and the letters that were written to her mother …(and other wives… click above for the full article).

 

The Latin Sound: How the Rumble became a Roar

When I visited the US as a little kid the only Latinos famous there (now “here” to me), were Desi Arnaz and Rita Moreno. Like many people I recognized him from “I Love Lucy” on TV, which was “Yo Quiero a Luci” in Colombia on Friday nights (boy were we surprised to find out Americans watched what we thought was a “Colombian” program!).  But Desi Arnaz was a famous bandleader in Cuba before he married Lucille Ball, before I was born, his conga “Babalu” was well known.i-love-lucy

A lot of Latin music, especially from the Caribbean incorporates an African beat; the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz personified this. She recorded many gold albums with the celebrated bandleader Tito Puente in the ‘60’s.Going farther back to the 1930s, dance halls in New York City embraced the sound of big band Cuban music – the salsa cha-cha and rumba. By 1950 mambo was all the rage and Tito Rodríguez, Tito Puente, and Machito were among the early bandleaders.

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J-Lo-by-deadline

Then Rita Moreno starred in West Side Story and went on to win an Academy Award.  Moreno had no one to emulate, but famous American Latinas today, such as Jennifer Lopez, credit her as their role model.

The “unsung” singers: Latino music appeared to disappear in the 60s but in fact the artists were merely camouflaged under English names. Ritchie Valens (born Richard Valenzuela) hit it big with “La Bambahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp6j5HJ-Cok; (He died along with Buddy Holly in plane crash; he was only 17 years old, but is remembered especially for the song.) cover170x170

Sam the Sham’s real name was Domingo Samudio – here he is singing “Wooly Bully” :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE_MpQhgtQ8; Rudy Martinez sang “96 Tears” with a Latino band – the children of migrant farm workers; “Wasted Days and Wasted nightshtps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUVgkXVDkBA       was performed by Freddie Fender aka B. Garza Huerta.  (For some reason this was first a big hit in New Zealand in the 70’s!).  The list goes on.

And then Jose Feliciano, a Puerto Rican who refused to change his name, appeared.  I loved his rendering of the Doors’ “Light My Fire”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lk-5s17L5U  before I knew who the Doors were. That song shot him into mainstream pop fame. j-feliciano

Next on the scene was Carlos Santana.  When I came to college in the States I was pleasantly surprised to find Americans listened to Santana, because I assumed he was a Costa Rican I’d been listening to there! In fact he is a “Chicano” from L.A. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NsJ84YV1oA

Okay so maybe you weren’t alive in the 60s …or the 70’s – you may not know the songs much less the names of these artists.  If you want to hear the music click on one of their songs above – betcha’ you’ve heard it before.

Since the second half of the 20th century a number of artists popularized the romantic Latin ballads, such as Julio Iglesias, his son Enrique Iglesias, Selena, Marc Anthony (Marco Antonio) and Cristian Castro. In the latter half of the 20th century, with immigration from South America and the Caribbean increasing every decade, Latino sounds influenced popular music from jazz, rock, rhythm to blues.

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rickymartin-by-m-windle-getty

 Puerto Rican Ricky (Enrique) Martin hit fame with “Livin’ La Vida Loca“; Cuban icon Gloria Estefan fused pop with Cuban music starting with “Conga.”

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Gloria Estefan

Top of the charts Jennifer Lopez, became a pop diva and then an actress (first playing Selena)… but there are too many Latino actors to name…

I’d have to start with Cantinflas and we’d be here all day! images

(And I already have to apologize to all the Latino artists I have failed to mention in this limited space.)  Viva la Musica!

Did I leave out someone you liked?  I love your comments. Please leave one below.

A Cherished Object (my contribution to the Cherished Blogfest )

My most prized possession is a painting. When I was a baby we lived in Thessaloniki, Greece and my mother bought a lovely watercolour depicting the harbour. That painting hung in my parents’ bedroom all the years I was growing up and well beyond. I used to stare at it and imagine being there – it seemed like a magical place. ct_Image

One day our parents showed us some old black and white photos of our time there. Standard family pictures of the day: my parents so young, me  in my first year (unrecognizable to myself) and then as a toddler playing at the beach with my older sister.   Mother commented,  “That water was so blue.”

Then another old photo of the waterfront, “Look!” I said, “It’s the same harbour with that round tower!”
“It is a famous building,” she told me, “Called The White Tower.”

It was built, probably in the early 1500’s by the Ottomans and was once part of the old city walls. When Greece regained control of the town it was restored and became a symbol of the city.  I vowed to go there someday. As a young adult I asked if I could have that little 2 x 3-inch photograph.  I framed it and set it on my piano. 

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The ancient White Tower and promenade

After my father passed away, Mother wanted one of us to go on a cruise of the Mediterranean with her and I jumped at the chance because one of the ports of calls was Thessaloniki. She was approaching eighty and I was middle aged and I ‘d never been on a cruise. We started in Athens and saw the Acropolis, we went to Rhodes, Ephesus and Istanbul. All marvelous and memorable places I will never forget. The highlight for us, however as you might imagine, was Thessaloniki. We sailed into the harbour and there was the White Tower on the left; to my great delight the scene looked just like the artist’s depiction decades earlier. The painting I knew and loved so well. We toured the city and visited the wonderful Archaeological Museum, but the magical moment for me was just the two of us walking around the tower, touching the stones.

The White Tower, Thesalonika harbor

The White Tower, Thessalonika harbor

Visiting my mother ten years later, I noticed the watercolour on the floor, the glass cracked and the frame broken.  “Would you like me to fix it for you?”  “No,” she said, “You take it, to remember our trip.” She was about to move into assisted living and had to down-size. I had the frame matted in blue to pick up the blue water. The painting now hangs over my piano next to the little black and white photograph where I can look at it everyday. It has become a family heirloom and when my little granddaughter is old enough I will tell her its story and someday she can hang it in her own home.

Thanks to (very popular blogger and talented writer) Damyanti for the invitation to share this memory.  How about you  – do you have a cherished object?