I’m gonna lay down that atom bomb Down by the riverside down by the riverside Down by the riverside I’m gonna lay down that atom bomb Down by the riverside study war no more
I ain’t gonna study war no more Ain’t gonna study war no more — Pete Seeger
Hug me, squeeze me, love me, tease me ‘Til I can’t, ’til I can’t, ’til I can’t take no more of it Take me to the water, drop me in the river Push me in the water, drop me in the river Washing me down, washing me down — Al Green via Talking Heads
An Englishwoman in India, The Memoirs of Harriet Tytler 1828-1858 Edited by Anthony Sattin
Harriet wrote her memoirs when she was in her late 70’s. She was a Victorian woman and represented her class and period well.
Her grandfather and uncle were prisoner’s of war in France under Napoleon. Her grandmother and mother lived nearby for 15 years so the family could be together. After the battle of Waterloo, they were released and returned to England. That is where her mother met her father while he was on furlough from India.
Harriet was born in 1828 to a British military family in India. At 11 years old, as was common practice at the time, she was shipped off to England with two younger siblings to continue her education. When they landing in England, their clothes were so outdated everybody laughed at them. Her brother was immediately sent on to boarding school where two older brothers were waiting for him. She and her sister lived with a family they had never met before for about a year, until her aunt came to collect them. Her aunt was strict and cruel and Harriet hated every minute of her time there.
At seventeen she started her journey back to India to be reunited with her parents who she had not seen for 6 years. She traveled by steamer and by land until she reached Aden just off the Red Sea. The group traveling with her were friendly and she had a happy time. At Aden she received a letter from her brother-in-law in India and feared her sister was sick. It was worse, her father was dead. When she finally reached Calcutta, there was nobody to meet her. She saw her mother two weeks later only to discover that she was on her way back to England with the younger children. Harriet was to stay with another aunt and uncle who was serving the in Punjab Campaign.
At 19, she met and married Robert Tytler, a Captain in the British Army who was also a widower with two children.
This woman did not have an easy life.
On May 11, 1857, she was living in Delhi, eight months pregnant with two small children at home. That was the day of the Great Sepoy Mutiny. The “Sepoy” was the Indian soldier serving in the British Army.
“It is wonderful to think how unanimous they were, Hindus and Mohammedans, in the one object of exterminating the hateful Christian in India. On this occasion the Mohammedans and Hindus were one, their bitter antagonism to each other, which had always been our safeguard so far, was for the time overcome. The gullible Hindus, two to one in each regiment, firmly believed Prithee Rai’s raj would return and then they would be masters of India. The wily Mohammedans, who were using these poor deluded men as a cat’s paw, encouraged the belief, knowing all along that they would soon find their mistake, for the Mohammedan meant to reign by the edge of his sword, which would also be used to proselytize the poor idol worshippers.”
However Philip Mason notes in the Introduction: “Harriet, of course, like everyone else, has heard of the cartridges (smeared with pork and beef fat) but does not seem to have known that the original offensive cartridges were withdrawn (therefore confirming that the rumor was true). Like every other young wife in India at the time, she thinks that the Mutiny was a deep-laid plot, instigated by the sons of the king and spread by wicked Muslims who played on the fears of the simple gullible Hindus.”
Harriet ran for her life that day. She, pregnant, with her two children, 2 and 4 years old, eventually loaded themselves onto an already overloaded carriage and rode hard out of town. Her husband riding back and forth checking on other people. The carriage broke to pieces. They found another one, it also broke down. They ended up walking to the next outpost where luckily there was no uprising.
Eventually the British took back Delhi. Harriet bore 10 children, 8 of whom lived, and spent the rest of her life and expat in India.
Here We Are & There We Go: Teaching & Traveling with Kids in Tow by Jill Dobbe
Jill and her husband were school teachers in Wisconsin USA when one day they moved half way around the world and their lives changed drastically.
What truly amazed me about this book was that they just jumped headlong into it with no safety net and blinders off. They made the decision to move to Guam almost on a whim. They didn’t even know where Guam was. That was either very gutsy or completely crazy. And what was even more interesting was that they stuck it out, learned, and grew through it all.
It didn’t sound like Guam was the dream South Pacific location we all imagined. It actually sounded pretty challenging. But they worked through it and learned a lot. That made their next posting to Singapore a bit easier. Of course Singapore was probably not a hardship posting. But they were still half way around the world from family and friends in a place with a different culture. They seemed to breeze through that one.
By the time the got to Ghana they were seasoned travelers. Although, having lived in Nigeria myself, I know that Ghana was probably not paradise either. But as they came to understand, there are wonderful things all over the world. You just have to be open to them. Jill and her family discovered the joy, frustration, sorrow, and unending surprises one finds when traveling.
I might be reading something into this but it seemed to me they decided to return to the USA for the sake of the children. Their children spent their high school years (or most of them) in the USA learning to be US citizens. This probably made it a much easier transition for them in the long run. It might have given them a clear identity at a young age. However, from my experience, it doesn’t work. My son returned to the USA when he was six and now that he is about to enter college all he dreams about is going overseas. And it seems their children were the same. They were happy to continue traveling.
Returning to the USA was a difficult transition for all of them. Jill says she realized people were not interested in her stories and could not relate. I know exactly what she means. It is so far from what people know, it is difficult to imagine and therefore not interesting. Re-entry is a challenge for all expats but travelers know how to adjust and tweak and adapt. Jill and her family were no exception. They had a good few years back home with friends and family but the itch was still there.
At the end of the book they leave the USA again for distant lands and new experiences. Jill has written two more books: Only in India: Adventures of an International Educator and Kids, Camels & Cairo.
When I had the genius idea to move my blog away from WordPress and it all blew up on me, I lost a bunch of stuff. One thing I finally got around to working on was the TCK/EXPAT Films and Books Page. A lot of my book reviews were no longer linked to anything. Amazingly enough, I do have some of them backed up on my computer. I wrote this a while ago but I am resurrecting it because I just finished her second book, Five Flights Up. I will write a review of that later.
There has been much discussion lately about the term “trailing spouse” and whether it is appropriate or even polite. It projects a sense of “other” rather than something that makes up a whole. I usually conger up a vision of a dog’s tail. Other terms being used are “accompanying partner”, “expat wife”, “support partner”. One blogger says she had been called a ‘stakeholder at home’.
But in the end, whatever you call it, the trailing spouse is usually the support system, the glue that holds it all together. Sometimes the glue falls apart and life can be rough.
In Trailing: A Memoir by Kristin Louise Duncombe, things fall apart. Kristin grew up all over the world so when she met her Argentine husband, the thought of moving overseas didn’t seem so strange. Although she did have her reservations about putting her career on hold, she didn’t have a passion about what she did and had not clearly defined what she wanted to do. Her husband, a doctor with Doctors Without Borders was passionate about what he did and had no questions about what he was going to do. She was in love. She married him and went to Kenya.
Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) myself, I also thought following my husband overseas would be no problem. Even though you have lived in many places around the world, the child TCK and the Adult TCK have different experiences and challenges. I had no support system behind me as we just up and moved. Kristin had a small “family” of doctors but it did not help much since most of them were single and always on the road. Her husband was gone much of the time.
On the other hand, I think she showed remarkable resilience. She found herself some work at a Nairobi hospital helping teens and eventually found a position with USAID at the US Embassy. Unfortunately the Embassy was bombed and she lost her job but by that time her husband had taken a position in Uganda. After having a baby, she finds a job in a small village outside Kampala. She never sees her husband and the marriage starts to unravel.
The happy ending is they move to Paris and she manages to set up a successful counseling practice working with expat families who are trying to cope with life overseas. She now has all the tools after having gone through the worst of it in order to be able to help others in similar situations.
I found myself identifying with this book on several levels. I had a difficult adjustment when I moved to Russia. I had to find my own way as my husband was out much of the time and I didn’t speak the language. I managed to find work, I had a child, my marriage started to unravel. I found my way and started writing and wrote a memoir.
Trailing: A Memoir is well written and engaging. It makes me want to know more about her. It is available on Amazon.com.
I read a couple of books this week and enjoyed them.
Girl Uprooted By Lena Lee
Girl Uprooted is a memoir about a woman who grew up internationally mobile. Her father was a Korean diplomat and they moved every three years. She lived in Korea, Malaysia, USA, France, Norway and went to University in UK. Not only did she have to deal with the constant moves with new schools, new culture, new friends, but she was also dealing with trying to uphold and relate to her parents’ culture and all things Korean. A true Third Culture Kid. It is hard enough to cope with all the changes but when your passport culture is constantly creating contradictions, it becomes hard to know who you are or what to do.
Lena Lee tried to be a good Korean girl and live up to her father’s expectations but she was not a product of his environment. She didn’t understand what made him tick. The culture he grew up in was very strict and almost oppressive. She was used to running around New Jersey doing the teenage girl stuff Westerners indulge in. When she goes back to Korea, she feels like she is in prison, constantly studying and controlled.
For me the best part of the book was her “aha” moment when she googled frequent moves during childhood and depression. I had a similar “aha” moment when I realized I was not crazy and not the only person in the world who had difficulty relating to my passport country. Moving is hard enough, but moving countries, cultures, schools, and languages can really confuse a child. Plus in some of her countries he also had the racism card to deal with. People have different coping mechanisms. Some are alcohol and drug abuse, some are god, some are sports, some are withdrawal.
As we get older and start to understand who we are and what it means to be a Third Culture Kid, it does start to get easier. Lena Lee eventually found her center and as she states in her book, writing her book helped her a lot. When I wrote my book I found it very cathartic.
This book is well written, easy to read and relatable.
Pick up a copy!
Another book I read recently was
Black Cake By Charmaine Wilkerson
This one was fiction about a girl who grew up on the “Islands”, somewhere in the Caribbean. It is really a mystery. The girl’s mother disappears when she is young and she is left with her father who is constantly racking up gambling debts. When she is forced to marry a rich man in order to save her father, the man drops dead at the wedding reception. She flees the scene and everybody assumes she killed him. From then on she is on the run looking over her shoulder. There are lots of twists and turns, some good, some bad. Some unbelievable.
It is easy to read and moves along quickly. I read it in one sitting. It starts out in the mid 1950’s and goes to present day. The girl’s father was ethnic Chinese and her mother was African. Apparently there were a lot of Chinese who settled in Jamaica and other islands. The Chinese arrived as indentured servants around the mid 1800s. In the 1960’s the Chinese owned land and shops but endured racial tensions.
The Black Cake is a traditional fruit cake made for special occasions. The recipe is included at the back of the book.
As the Mississippi River flows south it bends and turns. At Red Wing, it flows around a wide corner and down into Lake Pepin. Fun fact: Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Pepin, Wisconsin and in her books she and other members of her family visit Lake Pepin. In one book they cross the frozen lake in a covered wagon.
However, yesterday was a beautiful summer day and we had a great view of the river and surrounding countryside from the top of a bluff.
Downtown Red Wing is full of sculptures and interesting old buildings.
Eloise Butler was born on a farm in Maine in 1851. In 1874, she moved to Minneapolis to teach botany and took her students on field trips “botanizing”. In 1907, she persuaded the Minneapolis Park Board to set aside three acres for a wild botanical garden. After 36 years of teaching she retired and became the curator of the garden. In 1924, she spent $700 of her own money to expand the garden to a five acre fenced off area. The garden was re-named the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in her honor in 1927. She died at 81 tending the garden.
The King in Exile, The Fall of the Royal Family of Burma by Sudha Shah I just finished reading this excellent book about the last king of Burma (Myanmar). It is well researched and full of details about the times and about the family up until modern day. The last King of Burma, King Thibaw, was deposed by the British in 1885, and exiled to Ratnagiri on the west coast of India. He, his two wives and four daughters lived in a small palace basically as prisoners. He was not allowed to leave his house without permission. He was given a small allowance to live on and pretty much ignored. His sad life ended in 1916. Three years later his queen (his second wife died before him) and daughters were allowed to return to Burma but only to the capital of Rangoon, not to their former home in Mandalay. Two of the daughters remained in India and two went back to Burma with their mother. The saga continues through their children and grandchildren. It was not a happy life and a constant struggle to meet their debts. Although it is non-fiction and historical, it is not dull. The author does a good job to hold your interest.
Other books about Burma: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh This book is historical fiction about the same time period as The King in Exile. It goes into the fate of the king but also tells the story of colonialism in the area covering Burma, India and Malaya. I read it a while ago and remember I did skim over parts of it but I also remember it really captured the deposed king’s despair. If you like historical fiction sagas that have it all, you would probably love this one.
The Golden Land by Elizabeth Shick This is pure fiction about a Burmese American woman who goes back to Burma in search of her roots, her childhood, her family. She has memories of spending time in Burma twenty five years earlier and a boy who influenced her. She returns looking for her sister but also for him. It has suspense, intrigue, love, history, politics. It is a good read. Interestingly enough it is the first book written by a serial expat who lived in Burma for six years.
Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig This one came highly recommended to me. I have not read it yet. It tells the story of a family and their eldest daughter who wins the first Miss Burma beauty pageant. The beauty pageant was held from 1947 to 1962 when the government banned it. (Interesting fact, one of King Thibaw’s grandsons started the beauty pageant. I learned about that in The King in Exile). This book is about an ethnic Karen woman who struggles with her new fame, civil war and unstable politics of the time.
Golden Earth: Travels in Burma byLewis Norman Shortly after World War II, Lewis Norman travels throughout Burma documenting all he sees. It was a very unstable time in Burma with insurgents running around killing people. He writes about the politics but also about the people and the beauty of the land. He went there specifically because he was afraid it was a county that would be closed to outsiders at some point soon. He was right.
The Lady from Burma by Allison Montclair This is a murder mystery I came across by accident. It probably doesn’t have anything to do with Burma but looks like a real nail biter.
And if you are interested…. Aung San of Burma: A Biographical Portrait by His Daughter by Aung San Suu Kyi Aung San was the man who made Burmese independence from the British possible. He is a revered hero in Burma. This is non-fiction.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader and Nobel Prize winner has written several books about her plight and that of Burmas itself.
You can now travel to Burma as a tourist and many tour groups have trips going there. They mostly go to Rangoon (Yangon), Mandalay, Inlye Lake, and Pagan (Bagan). I was born in Burma to a expat parents and my family lived there off and on until the coup of 1962.
As of July 2023, the US State Department travel advisory page states: Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict. Reconsider travel to Burma due to limited and/or inadequate healthcare resources. Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions and areas with land mines and unexploded ordnance.
We flew back to Buenos Aires on New Year’s Eve. We arrived late afternoon and since we had no dinner arrangements, we ran down to the neighborhood bakery and picked up some empanadas. We already had a bottle of champagne. We stayed up very late watching the fireworks.
Having traveled most of my life and being a Third Culture Kid, I know it usually takes a couple of days in a new place to get adjusted and figure things out. Since we had already spent some time in Buenos Aires, when we returned, we felt at “home”. We were comfortable. We owned it. It felt good.
On New Year’s Day most things were closed so we spent the day walking around town. Saw the Congress building, the Obelisk, a statue of Don Quixote and a large image of Evita on the side of a building. The next day we went to the Museum of Decorative arts which was in an old palace that an aristocrat had donated to the Argentine government. The highlight was an El Greco painting.
That afternoon we went to a wine tasting where we tried six different Argentine wines. We learned about the different wine regions and found out that the Malbec grape came from France. Our host said France only produces about 13,000 bottles of Malbec where Argentina produces about 76,000 bottles. We tasted sparkling, white and a couple of reds. The Malbec was the best.
We had a nice lunch at Cafe Tortoni which originally opened its doors in the mid 1800’s and was fashioned after a famous Bohemian drinking establishment in Paris. It was frequented by many intellectuals over the years including Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Arlt among others. It is still going strong today and houses the Academia National del Tango on its second floor.
The rest of our stay was mainly about shopping and eating. We walked to an area that had leather shop after leather shop. They had some nice things but we had read about a particular store that was recommended. It happened to be in the Galeria Pacifico which is a very upscale shopping mall with murals on the ceilings and large skylights. The leather store did not disappoint. Beautiful stuff at very reasonable prices.
We also ran across a store that was all original art and artifacts produced by local artists. They had drawings, jewelry, leather goods, among other things. We spent a lot of time in there and came away with some interesting things. I bought a small drawing and some jewelry, my son bought a belt.
Before we left the US, we made reservations at Tegui, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. We were going to a nine course tasting menu with wine pairings. I received several emails asking me to confirm my reservation. They all said to arrive on time. So we arrived on time. The door was locked. We weren’t sure what to do but after a few minutes, we rang the bell. They opened it and welcomed us in. Every guest had to ring the bell, the door stayed locked. We were asked to put our cellphones away and not take pictures.
Our dinner started with champagne and a couple of appetizers that were not on the menu. First course: Ricotta cheese with crispy flowers and a light sauce. This was accompanied by a small loaf of bread made with Mate (the local Argentine tea everybody drinks). It was warm and delicious. Course two: Grilled oyster with shaved green apple and sea roots. Three: Sardine cured in sugar with watermelon and radish accompanied by a watermelon “shot” (one of the best things I have ever eaten). Four: Nandu (rhea- relative of the ostrich). Five: Tortellini served al dente with fig stuffing in an almond cream sauce (to die for). Six: Skate fish wings in two parts – part one we were told should be taken in one bite. It was accompanied by a quinoa cracker. Part two came with a sauce and lemon. Seven: Duck served rare with pineapple slice and a bbq sauce (incredibly good). Eight: Begonia with Yaki (honey). Nine: Peach with corn and ice cream. The evening ended with coffee and small petit fours. We had a homemade vermouth with the appetizers which was followed by six different wines. All a very positive experience.
One of our last days in Buenos Aires, we found an awesome art museum. It was a spacious modern building at Port Maduro. Amalia LaCroze de Fortabat was a businesswoman, philanthropist and art collector who was the richest woman in Argentina at the time of her death in 2012. She left her collection to this museum named after her. There was a special exhibit of Mexican, Argentine, and Colombian art. There were also some European paintings including a beautiful Chagall. At Port Maduro we also came across the Woman’s Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Our last day in town was the only time it rained. That night we found an Armenian restaurant in our neighborhood. I went to open the door and found it locked. They opened it for me and let me in but locked it behind me. It was great food and a nice atmosphere but it was not full and we did not have a reservation so I didn’t really understand why the door was locked. Must be a thing.
We were very sad to leave and hope to make it back to South America soon.
……As it turns out I will be back in January. Looking forward to it.
As we flew into Ushuaia airport I could tell the pilot was having to do some maneuvering swooping down in-between the mountains and dealing with the heavy winds. A province of Argentina, Tierra del Fuego is an island that sits at the southernmost tip of South America. Ushuaia, its capital, is on the Beagle Channel about half-way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, 620 miles from Antarctica. The meeting of the two oceans along with the mountainous terrain creates a strange weather pattern. It was usually very windy and could rain, be sunny, be stormy, windy raining, all within the same hour. It never rained for long and usually not very heavily. We could be out walking in the rain and never feel wet.
Once we hit the ground, I started to cry. It had taken me more than 30 years to get there but I was finally there. It was an amazing feeling. And the beauty of it did not disappoint, it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. The light and color was like nothing I had seen before. The area was dominated by snow covered mountains all around. Before arriving I had been worried that the excursions I had reserved would be cancelled because the weather forecast called for rain every day. I soon realized, rain meant nothing in Ushuaia. Life went on no matter what the weather was. One of our tour guides said the only people carrying umbrellas in Ushuaia were tourists. Because of the winds, umbrellas were useless.
We visited the prison museum our first day in Ushuaia. It was a good introduction to the island as it included anecdotes about the prisoners, some of the escapees, the history of the area, and even had a small art museum.
In 1902, the Argentine government formed a penal colony on Tierra del Fuego just outside of the small village of Ushuaia. At the time there were only about 40 houses on the island. The worst repeat offenders were sent to serve out their time, sometimes for life, building a prison and infrastructure to go with it. At one point they had more than 600 convicts living there. The cells were meant to be for one person but they would often have to double up.
The only heat was a wood stove in the middle of the building. It was cold. The prisoners built a small railroad going into the forest to help them haul wood back to their buildings once they had chopped down trees. Now it is a popular ride for the tourists. The prison closed in 1947 for humanitarian reasons and a Naval base was installed in 1950.
By then the area had grown and since there were no land animals to speak of, the government decided it would be a good idea to import some beavers from Canada. They could farm them for their pelt and create an industry. The problem was the climate in Tierra del Fuego was very different from Canada. It was not cold enough and the beavers did not grow the extra fur needed to make them profitable. The Argentines gave up and let the beavers go. They multiplied and created major problems to the point where today there are about 100,000 beavers with no predators. The beavers have cut down trees and built dams all over the place. Some of the forest in the area has been completely stripped. The government now has a plan to cull the animals over the next 10 years by bringing in specialized hunters.
Ushuaia is now a small city of about 70,000 people. The Navy base is still there, along with a small electronics industry, but tourism is the largest money maker. All the ships going to Antarctica leave from Ushuaia. People go to camp, hike, fish, ski, and enjoy nature. We ran into a bird watcher with the biggest camera lens I had ever seen.
I had arranged for several day trips while we were there. The first one was in a 4-wheel drive jeep. We piled in along with two other women, our 76-year-old driver, and an English speaking guide who had been there a month. The driver laughed when he heard that, he had lived in the area for nine years. They were both from Brazil. The guide was earning a little money before starting a trip from Ushuaia to Alaska on the Pan American Highway. His girlfriend was a chef and they were going to blog about their trip and the food they encountered on the way. I wonder if they ever left Ushuaia.
Our jeep took us over the Garibaldi pass to the north of Ushuaia. We stopped just over the pass to take a look at Lago Escondido. It was named Hidden Lake because sometimes the clouds come down and cover it completely and you wouldn’t even know it was there. We made our way down the other side of the mountain and took a dirt road off the main highway just past Rio Milna. Along the way we came across a police car that stopped and they had a chat with our driver. A car up ahead had gone off the road head first into a ravine and was stuck there. The driver was not hurt, unbelievably, but as we passed, there were several rescue workers looking puzzled as to how to extract the car.
Not far from there we tuned off the dirt road onto an old logging trail that was more of a path than a road. We were going deep into the forest. We saw beaver dams and damage, but also undamaged pristine areas. The air was crisp and clean and the nature was raw and beautiful.
Because of the terrain it took us about an hour to reach Lake Fagnano which I am guessing was less than 5 miles away. The lake is one of the largest in the world. It is about 60 miles long and nobody knows how deep it is. It is a glacial lake and sits in a basin on the Magallanes-Fagnano Fault. We stopped for coffee and pastries on the shore of the lake. Along the lake, there was no road. We drove along the shore of the lake and often in the lake and then back up looping to the dirt road we started from.
Back onto Route 3, aka the Pan American Highway, we retraced our steps over the Garibaldi Pass and turned off toward the Valley of the Wolves. This was mainly a winter recreation area where they offered dog sledding, ATV and UTV rides. In summer people hiked down to the Emerald Lagoon. We were there for lunch. Inside a round hut, that looked kind of like a yurt with grass growing on its roof, was a cozy room with tables surrounding a wood fire heater. At the back was another small room where meat and vegetables were being grilled on a wood fire. It smelled amazing. We had wine, bread and a delicious parilla (grill) Argentine meal.
The driver dropped us in town at the end of the trip and we wandered around the main street looking at the shops. We bought stamps at the post office and were pretty surprised when we found out it cost 4 dollars to send a postcard to the USA. I hope people will actually get them some day. A friend of mine works for Hard Rock Café so we always have to stop in when we see one. Ushuaia had one. Since we live in Minnesota we were happy to see one of Prince’s outfits on display in the Hard Rock at the end of the world. After drinking a lot of wine in Buenos Aires we shifted gear a bit in Ushuaia and tried some of the beers. They were actually pretty good and we found Patagonia, Cape Horn, Otro Mundo and Quilmes to all be drinkable. Patagonia was one of our favorites and readily available.