Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad

edited by by Christina Henry De Tessan

This is a nice selection of works, with different styles of writing and all sorts of places represented; from trendy Paris to boa-filled jungles and everything in between. (I was thinking of saying “all continents represented”, but then realized that somehow there is no homesick letter from South America, just Mexico and Berlize.)

My favorites are the Before and After Mexico, of a family uprooting themselves to move to a remote Mexican village for a break from the frenzied San Franciscan life. Watching Them Grow Up, of a mother noticing how different the child rearing philosophy is for her husband’s Eypgtian relatives: instead of raising a child, you sit back, relax, and watch them grow. Never-Nnever, a humorous growing up story of a child being teased for being a Yank in Australia, then suffered through the pains again when the family returns to America. Desperately, she wrote to the Australian Embassy in hope that she can go “home”. A Mediterranean Thanksgiving, Take Two, is a woman’s attempt to cook a Thanksgiving dinner in France. Her guests were overwhelmed, not by the quantity of food, but by how all dishes are served together and everything heaped onto one plate, rather than an endless meal of one course after another.

The book reminds me of one episode. Once on vacation visiting my parents back home, my mom asked my husband and I to prepare a salad as part of a feast. On the assumption that Americans eat salads and that we are sort of vegetarians (she once lamented, If you haven’t gone to America, you won’t have become vegetarian!! in her belief that no one, fed on her excellent cooking, could have turned against meat.)

So we thought we had an easy task until we get to the supermarket (one supposedly caters to foreigners). We couldn’t find white mushroom! I held up a fresh shiitake, but my husband insisted it won’t work. Even vegetables by the same name look different. Pampered by aisles of selection, I was shocked to find only Kraft Thousand Island and Miracle Whip for dressings. I wandered all over the supermarket, hoping to find one lone can of olive misplaced somewhere… And I realize that, after spending half of my life each in two different countries, I have became a perpetual expat, a sucker forever paying outrageous price for that taste of a home half a world away.

Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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