How do you find calm in a world gone mad? How do we stay sane amid border closures, flight cancellations, total lockdown, panic buying, and an invisible enemy that’s ruthlessly and indiscriminately claiming lives, breaking down healthcare systems, and bringing the world economy to its knees? I took the photo above in a town by the coast last week, day 2 of what was supposed to be a two-week holiday that had to be cut short that very same day. How blissfully unaware that little boy was to the chaos and madness fast unfolding in the wider world. Must be nice, I thought. The tense atmosphere and drastic disruptive changes to daily life brought about by the Covid-19 global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have been rude awakenings. I cried the first two days upon our return from that long-anticipated trip that ended almost as soon as it started. The wave of emotion felt like an all-encompassing, overwhelming force that I couldn’t quite break down into comprehensible pieces. That’s the most difficult part of this pandemic …
While this is my fourth major move as an ‘expat,’ I have to admit there are some things that may seem basic to others, but that I’m still learning with each new move. I’ve gotten much better at negotiating, getting what I deserve (and want), and making sure I’m valued for what I’m worth. Having said that, maybe it’s social conditioning or it could be biological… but I’m well aware that I, like many women, still have the tendency of being ‘too nice’ or not being aggressive enough in communicating my demands and making sure they are met. Here are a few things I’ve learned in a career of 15 years (so far):
Dépaysement (nm)—an untranslatable French word that “can mean anything from disorientation to culture shock. The word is formed from the word pays or ‘country’ and would literally mean something like ‘to be uncountried’. Dépaysement is the feeling one gets of not being in one’s own country, of being a foreigner.”
While the concept of brunch can apparently “be partly traced back to the upper-class British tradition of hunting luncheons,” it’s the Americans who popularised Sunday brunch, complete with boozy drinks. I’m neither British nor American, but I’ve always enjoyed the idea of having a laid-back morning somewhere between “very early” and “oh no the day is half over” while enjoying a spread of eggs, pancakes, coffee, and juice while musing over life with good friends.
It’s a natural response when encountering the new or unknown, be it a person, place or thing—human beings size up whatever is before them, instinctively deciding whether it’s a friend or foe, a threat or an opportunity.
I am a so-called ‘third-culture’ kid. I am one type of Asian with mixed ancestry, raised in another Asian country with a completely different culture, studied in Chinese, British, American, and Canadian schools, speak four languages and later worked and lived in Russia and Europe.
When wine is served in beautiful crystal glasses by Swiss-trained waiters in three-Michelin-star restaurants, it’s difficult to let the imagination travel back to this fermented beverage’s humble beginnings. Long before it became a bubbly that can push a cork out with a hearty pop, and long before it acquired the grace to flow smoothly out of an expensive bottle, it hung loosely and peacefully on a grapevine, constantly handled by rough suntanned hands in a family vineyard halfway across the world.