Un Poste Bilingue (A bilingual post)

My Francophile friend ‘Sue-Suzette’ spends time in France every year. She is  in St. Palais-sur-mer (located between Nantes and Bordeaux) and provided this bilingual description.

The sun doesn’t always shine along the coast of St. Palais-sur-mer. But rain and cloudy skies bring a different sort of charm. I woke up to big rain drops and a chilly wind. Nevertheless, I decided to take my umbrella and go for a walk.

Il ne fait pas toujours du soleil á St. Palais-sur-mer.  Mais la pluie et le ciel couvert ont un charme différente.  Je m’a réveillé et il y avait des grand gouttes de pluie et des coups du vent.  Néanmoins, j’ai décidé de faire un promenade,parapluie en main.

At the beach, the grey sky matched the color of the waves crashing on the rocks. Some hardy soul was swimming beyond the waves. As I watched, I saw that it was a woman, a modern day Diane de Poitiers, the celebrated mistress of King Henri II, who swam every day in the Loire river.

Á la plage, le ciel gris était le même couleur des vagues qui se brisaient violemment sur les roches.  Une âme intrépide nageait au-delà les vagues.  C’était une femme, une Diane de Poitiers contemporaine, la maîtresse du Roi Henri II qui nageait tous les jours dans la Loire.

Walking into the neighborhoods, I happened up the old clock tower.  This is all that remains of an 11th century church. It is surrounded by a graveyard with both old and more recent tombstones.  Today the door was open so I wandered in to find an exhibit of modern art.  Starting at the ground floor then climbing six flights of stairs, 170 steps in all.  It was interesting to see bright, vibrant modern paintings and sculptures against ancient stone walls. The artist Kael has a gallery in town.

Le vieux clocher

En marchant dans le quartier, je suis passé le clocher.  C’est la ruine d’une église du onzième siècle qui est entouré par un cimetière qui contiens des ancien et des tombes d’aujourd’hui.  La porte était ouverte donc je suis entrée.  Il y avait un exposition d’art moderne qui est monté de la rez-de-chaussée au cinquième étage, 170 pas en tout.  C’était intéressant à voir des tableau modernes pleins de couleurs vives contre les vieux murs.  L’artist Kael a une galerie en centre ville.

After a hot chocolate to warm my bones, my fellow travelers and I drove down the coast to St. Georges-de-didonne, stopping for lunch at a seaside restaurant.  The variety of shellfish here is amazing.  In addition to shrimps such as langoustines and crevettes, there are oysters, mussels, clams, whelks and snails.

Two more friends, Sharon and Jolie, enjoy large beautiful plates of fruit de mer.

Plus tarde, mes amies et moi sommes allés en voiture le long de côte á St. George-de-didonne ou on a déjeuné au restaurant balnéaire.  La grande variété des fruits de mer ici est stupéfiante.  En plus de crustacés comme les langoustines et les crevettes, il y a des huîtres, des moules, des palourdes, des bulots, et des escargots.

Continuing down the coast, we arrived at Talmont-sur-Gironde, a charming tourist village at the Gironde, an navigable estuary formed at the mouth of Dordogne and Garonne Rivers.  It has an 11th century romanesque church built high above the rocky coast, buffeted by the storms of the  Atlantic.  We wandered the cobbled streets and into the shops until it was time to drive home.

On a continué notre séjour à Talmont-sur-Gironde, un joli village sur la Gironde, un estuaire crée par les fleuves Dordogne et Garonne.  Il a une église Romanesque qui était construit dans un colline au-dessus le littoral rocailleux et qui sont battu par les orages d’Atlantique Océan.  On a flâné les rues pavés et dans les boutiques jusqu’à l’heure de rentrer.

Ah France – the most popular vacation spot in the world.  Merci Sue for providing us a glimpse of this corner of the country.

(Ah France – le lieu de vacances le plus populaire au monde. Merci Sue pour nous donner un aperçu de ce coin du pays.)

 

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The Kindness of Strangers

I recently visited Damyanti Biswas’ post on We are the World Blogfest a blog devoted to “spread peace and humanity on social media.”

It reminded me of several incidents I will share with you regarding the kindness of strangers. The first occurred when we were living in Dunedin, New Zealand, poor as church mice and my husband lost his wallet.

Dunedin, NZ

 

 

 

 

 

To make matters worse, it was pay-day and he had just filled it with cash meant to last for at least two weeks. We never expected to see the wallet much less the cash, but later that day the police phoned with the news that a good Samaritan had turned it in. It was such a relief. Thank you kind lady, whoever you are, you saved a young couple in distress! You don’t know us, but I still think of you. Hard to imagine this happening in many cities of the world.

Some years later on our first trip to France we arrived in time  – we thought – to find our train to Charles De Gaulle.  While searching in the huge station however, we had apparently missed the one we intended to be on and now were in fear of missing our overseas flight.  In a state of agitation, I  approached a young Frenchman and asked if he knew which the track we should be on.  He cocked his head and listened intently to my inadequate French, looked around at the  signs, then held up one finger and took off at a run.  Several minutes went by and we thought he must have caught his own train and left by now.  But no, there he was running towards us, he grabbed my bag in his free hand (the other held a briefcase full of books) and off the three of us jogged to the far side of the gare.  “Voila!” he gestured with his chin, “La!”  I grabbed his hand and thanked him profusely as we got on the train.  “Oh, but I must,” he told me quite seriously. “Or you will miss your airplane!”  No, Monsieur you didn’t have to but, I will never forget how you took time to help a couple of hapless tourists.  I’ve tried to follow your act when people ask me for help.

Parisian train station

 

Wait it gets better. Last winter in our California town, a taxi cab driver picked up two teenage sisters going to a party on a Friday night. They were dropped off looking forward to their evening and asked the young cabbie to come back after midnight.

However a call came only an hour or so later and when the taxi arrived the girls were walking up the street with their arms around one another, one without her coat, the other virtually naked; they were both shivering and in tears. The driver jumped out, took off his jacket and wrapped it around the naked girl; he drove them home and walked them in to make sure an adult was there to deal with the situation. The parents went to the Taxi company the next day to express their gratitude for taking care of the girls – and to return the jacket. (The cabbie must have been cold the rest of the night.) I’m sure that family will never forget that sensitive young man either.

We all have stories like these that make us want to live up to their standards of kindness and regard for others. Note these stories and pictures are from around the world. They may seem like small acts, but they create a rippling effect and restore our faith in humanity.

A couple rescue a small dog from a culvert in Brazil.

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.

butterfly-on-flowers

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.

kitson-town-jamaica

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.

beautiful-jamaica

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.

me-starting-at-my-new-school-in-the-uk

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.

Me in Amsterdam

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.)

june-for-twitter-profile

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).