Turkey

Displaced Nation calls Expat Harem a "blog tailored to the thinking expat"

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 4.04.25 PMThanks to Mary-Lea Awanohara of The Displaced Nation for these kind words! "When the Displaced Nation first started, Anastasia Ashman, an American living in Istanbul, was running a blog tailored to the needs of the “thinking expat.”

"It seemed almost too good to be true: a group of women who were passionate about telling stories that illustrated the impact of the expat life on a person’s psyche. Had Anastasia rubbed a magic lamp to conjure up a kind of foreign harem? After all, her site was called Expat+HAREM. The work she created on the basis of her Turkish expat life has lived on in her wake."

So glad to see this great interview with Katie Belliel and Rose Deniz about their upcoming anthology Sofra: A Gathering of Foreign Voices Around the Turkish Table.

See other posts on this site about Displaced Nation.

#FilmHerStory: Anicia Juliana

For women's history month,  #filmherstory, an addictive Twitter meme calls attention to female protagonists and their forgotten, ignored, or too-little-known stories we want to see on screen...there are so so many. As far as I can tell, it was started by  curator Shaula Evans, film producer Cat Cooper, Miriam Bale and film and TV creator Lexi Alexander. Read through the suggestions in that Twitter hashtag, and suggest your own.

I suggested a story I've been researching and developing for years, the story of a forgotten monumental woman builder who built the most decorated building in the world and spurred an emperor to best her.

Here's where you can see more about my Byzantine princess story in development, including images and research:

 Click on this mind map to get the scope of the story:ANICIA JULIANA & her church of PolyeuktosScreen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.04.21 PM

I’ve been developing this story since, while creating an Istanbul walking tour for National Geographic Traveler, I literally tripped over the foundations of a social grudge between my superlative-but-forgotten 6th century princess and Justinian — which prompted the Holy Roman Emperor to build his world-beating Haghia Sophia Church a mile down the road. The man needed to best Anicia Juliana. See my Pinterest board about it.

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Successor to Expat Harem Launches: Expat Sofra

So thrilled to share this expat lit news! Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 4.07.53 PM

Katherine Belliel and Rose Margaret Deniz, (Expat Harem book and blog writers you'll recognize whom I've had the privilege and pleasure of working with for many years) are now calling for submissions to their new anthology for expat women writers who've lived in Turkey.

It's called Expat Sofra: A Gathering of Foreign Voices Around the Turkish Table.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 4.18.54 PM As they explain,

"Follow in the footsteps of Tales from the Expat Harem by going deep into personal, introspective experiences that have a love and respect for the local culture and traditions.

"Sofra invites you to a second course by taking a seat at the Turkish table.

"Just as the sofra is the heart of the Turkish hearth, we want stories that are steeped in the experience of being an expat in Turkey. The editors have a combined twenty-five years in Turkey and are editing this compilation of essays to give back to the culture that has nourished their lives abroad."

If you've lived in Turkey for at least a year, or know someone who has, take a look at the call for submissions, open to April 1, 2015.

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"At the heart of every story is a flavor. Expats pack their bags with spices from home to find that incorporating it into meals, and subsequently their life abroad, can require trial and error, a sense of humor, and even failure. Relationships flop. Meals get burnt. Life abroad does not taste the same. But it evolves. Becomes enriched. And can even become decadent."

Eggshells-of-everything: fiction author Wendy J. Fox's domain

IMG_6311So pleased for Wendy J Fox, winner of the 2014 Press 53 Award for short fiction -- which resulted in today's publication of "The Seven Stages of Anger"! IMG_6312

Thanks Wendy, for the opportunity to read your collection in advance, and for your lovely note. I am likewise inspired by you!

(I had the pleasure of working with Wendy for the Expat Harem anthology.)

IMG_6313My review: "Wendy Fox's prose is strong and fragile at the same time. As she explores in these stories the hairline fractures in our relationships with life, ourselves and each other, you can't help but hold your breath for the big break you know is coming. The eggshells of everything? Fox owns the category."

Expat Harem: 9 Years On The Reading List

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 11.09.17 AM Thrilled to see Expat Harem top this list of best expat books in the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah. Thanks to Expat Harem book and blog writer Catherine Yiğit for the heads up! Leyla Yvonne Ergil writes, "Many an expat has penned their experiences of living of Turkey in captivating accounts of the beauty of the landscape and cultural divides...

"...some of the best reads to laugh, commiserate, and experience the wonder that is Istanbul through foreign eyes."

Glad to be included on this list with:

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 12.26.22 PM And thanks to Elle Loftis for recommending the book in her top 10 Turkey reads in Today's Zaman paper.

"It shows a side of Turkey and Turkish culture rarely portrayed outside of fiction, and definitely not covered by international media. Expats in particular will enjoy this anthology, where many of the stories will undoubtedly hit home," Loftis writes.

Video Director Amit Raikar's GlobalNiche Interviews

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"It's a community about possibility. I'd like to see this become a life philosophy." ~ Tiny Habits coach and environmental engineer Shirley Rivera

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 6.33.02 PM Just saw the rough cut of director Amit Raikar's video about the GlobalNiche movement shot this spring. Such great questions, and so many distinctive perspectives to fill in the mosaic of what GlobalNiche is, what it means, where it's going, how it works in our lives. I can't wait to be able to share it more widely! Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 6.18.54 PM Here are some stills from the video (Shirley Rivera, Tanya Monsef Bunger, Loreen Huddleston, Bertita Graebner, me, and Evelyne Michaut), and a few juicy quotes. More to come...Thanks everyone, and Amit and crew for the wonderful work.Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 6.31.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 6.32.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 6.18.13 PM

"This allows me to build the platform to be very consistently me in the world." ~ transpersonal psychologist and life transitions coach Bertita Graebner

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Expat Harem Writer Wendy Jean Fox Wins Literary Award And Publishes Her First Book

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 6.55.11 PMCongrats to Wendy Jean Fox (you may know her as one of the original Expat Harem writers, her piece is Coming Clean In Kayseri  [read it at that link] about a visit to an ancient hamam bathhouse in central Anatolia where Wendy was teaching). Wendy won the Press 53 award for short fiction for her collection, "The Seven Stages of Anger & Other Stories". It will be published by Press 53, a literary press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this October. I'm pleased to receive an advance reading copy and honored to blurb it!

The Denver, Colorado-based Wendy also joined the GlobalNiche program.

"The GlobalNiche program has been instrumental in helping me get focused on doing something with all random piles of pages laying around," she said.

 

"I was already sending out pretty frequently to lit mags, and getting quite a few stories picked up, but GN helped me get better - what do I really want, how do I get there, what do I already have, what do I need to make. I wanted, first, a book. Now I have to get my novel in shape.

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"I know this is not a coincidence that I began the program (I'm about halfway through) and that this is happening.

"So, thank you to you and Tara and the entire community. I appreciate your energy and what you are doing -- it's an inspiration."

Thanks a lot, Wendy, and thanks for the Expat Harem shoutout in your bio on the book cover!

Byzantine Paving Stones For My Istanbul Intern Marina Khonina

Marina KhoninaSO PLEASED to be able to provide this LinkedIn reference to my Byzantinist intern Marina Khonina on her road to applying to grad school!

And what a fun walk down memory lane on my pop cultural/historical project that remains in development...

Marina was a joy to work with in Istanbul on my pop cultural, Byzantinist research project about the Church of Polyeuktos.

Her facility with Byzantine history and exuberant curiosity helped me develop the outline for an art historical saga of interest to a modern audience about a Byzantine aristocrat, Anicia Juliana, and her architectural rivalry with Emperor Justinian which resulted in him building a wonder of the ancient world and seat of Christianity for 1,000 years (Haghia Sophia), and her forgotten.

Marina contributed valuable context and insight into the story’s most compelling themes of religious symbolism and gender roles, including the link between Jerusalem and Constantinople and

  • what it meant for a woman to be a non-royal patron of the arts
  • what it meant to equate herself with King Solomon and the emperor
  • what it meant to claim she was head of the Christian church

...all of which Juliana did in building her edifice.

 

(You begin to see why I picked this subject to develop.)

Marina added rich new perspective to how Juliana was misrepresented historically vis a vis the lesser-accomplished Empress Theodora, and the daring Chalcedonian statement Juliana made in restoring another woman’s building project.

I’d recommend Marina for inclusion in any advanced research venture.

Turkey-Related Entrepreneurs, Founders & Funders

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 5.29.29 PMOut having antique cocktails (that's the San Francisco way) at Comstock Saloon with family and friends. The international (and Turkish-related) set of startup entrepreneurs, founders and funders included Bora Sahinoglu, Burc Sahinoglu (of CratePlayer & HIVEBEATS), Rostem Hairedin (of Selfish.me) and Ersin Pamuksuzer of StartupBootcamp in Istanbul.

Ersin's latest venture was in the news this week, with TechCrunch announcing "As Investor Interest Heats Up In Turkey, Pan-European Accelerator Startupbootcamp Launches In Istanbul."

TechCrunch also reported that heat up this week. Congrats to my friend global VC Cem Sertoglu who's managing the $130 million Earlybird Digital East Fund (EDEF) "to invest in early and early growth startups in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe."

Featured By Global Living Magazine As One Of Best Expat Books

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Thanks to Shelley Antscherl for naming Expat Harem among best expat anthologies in the January/February 2014 issue of Global Living Magazine!

I'm proud the book is listed alongside the work of editors like Suzanne Kamata of "Call Me Okasaan: Adventures In Multicultural Mothering", Monica Neboli of "Drinking Camel's Milk In The Yurt: Expat Stories from Kazahkstan", Diane Dicks of "Ticking Along Too: Stories About Switzerland", and Kate Cobb of "Turning Points25 Inspiring Stories From Women Entrepreneurs Who Turned Their Careers and Their Lives Around".

And thanks to Summertime Publishing publisher, Expat Book Shop proprietress and fellow expat writer Jo Parfitt for the review. "A fine bit of not just good writing, but literary writing, and that is due to the fabulous work of the editors."

See what else is in the issue here. Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 8.38.03 AM Global Living is a luxury lifestyle magazine for global citizens and sophisticated internationals who live, have lived, or may someday will live outside their country of origin.

Designating Best And Worst Places To Be An Expat Unhelpful Because Expatriate Life Isn't Monolithic

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 10.43.02 AMI find there are so many ways to be 'an expat' (economically, socially, culturally) that studies like this one from HSBC that looks at economic opportunities and quality of life in 34 countries don't begin to address, and therefore aren't very useful.

Once a fellow expat came to my apartment in Istanbul with its view and modern appliances in the kitchen and said, "Oh I get it, this is the expat life everyone's talking about."

She lived in a village outside a minor city with the local ladies setting up a couch outside her living room window to 'watch' her like an exotic animal. That was her frugal backpacker choice.

Meanwhile, when I visited consulate- and corporate-package expats who lived in upscale, gated housing compounds and didn't know the name of the street where they lived and didn't eat Turkish food and asked me if it was wise to get involved with a Turkish man, that was a different kind of expat world.

And that range is just anecdotal, and one country. There were many more ways to be an expat in Turkey, with wildly different economic opportunities and qualities of life.

The only way to begin to get meaningful results from a survey of 'expat' experience is if equal numbers of people all along the expat/foreign national scale -- economically, socially, culturally -- participated in each country.

Turkey's Top Selling Novelist Elif Shafak Recommends Expat Harem in The Telegraph

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 9.13.43 AM Thanks, Elif!

Turkey's highest selling novelist Elif Shafak recommends Tales from the Expat Harem, the anthology I coedited with Jennifer Gokmen, in the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph.

In "Flights of the imagination: Elif Shafak on books about Turkey", she writes about Expat Harem:

"It brings out the voices of Western and Eastern women in Turkey. Travellers, students, teachers, housewives – the cultural shock that some of them went through, their personal encounters and how they made Turkey, or perhaps limbo, their home."

Elif also wrote the foreword to our book back in 2005 for the Turkish Dogan Kitap editions in both English and Turkish!

Becoming Media Literate

Saw someone on Facebook bemoaning how "the entire internet" fell for the claim that the Turkish government was using "agent orange" against its citizens in the Gezi Park uprising.

The spread of mistruths is not a reason to distrust everything you see reported on social media (nor to decry it as a "menace to society"). It's a reason to do better about parsing the information and its sources.

Just like threatening chain letters and Bigfoot hoaxes, we're supposed to grow out of this kind of dupedom.

I see the growth taking place before my eyes in the Turkish use of social media. It helps to have skillful journalistic people covering the news. (Here's a new Twitter list of English language tweeters on Turkish current events by cultural journalist Robyn Eckhardt for a one-click follow of 20+ accounts. Here's my Turkey protests Twitter list with more than 80.)

The first mention of agent orange I saw was associated with the debunking of that claim, on the twitter feed of NPR's Andy Carvin.

Becoming (social) media literate is a process, and especially messy in a crisis.

But many people have already been through major crises while using social media (for instance, Carvin pioneered the crowdsourcing of citizen journalism during the Arab Spring as I, Jillian York of Global Voices and TIME pointed out in April 2011), so to portray us all as rubes -- and social media as "untrustworthy" -- is inaccurate.

Social media is a tool. It's up to us to use it wisely. As web anthropologist Stowe Boyd says, "The single most important decision we make in a connected world is who to follow."

 

Turkish Unrest Makes My Facebook Timeline A True Interest Graph

My Facebook timeline has in past 8 months become full of irrelevant sponsored posts and ads but before that was not an activated global neighborhood posting on interrelated topics.

What's happening in Istanbul and Turkey and the Turkish diaspora around the world this week has made my Facebook timeline suddenly a relevant, activated global neighborhood.

 

  • I am seeing posts this week from contacts whose posts I have never seen in my TL. (Turks were early and enthusiastic adopters of FB so many connected with me back in 2007 as I told Intel Free Press here.)
  • I am seeing posts from people who are saying they never have posted on this topic before.
  • I am seeing groups of people I know from different locations, settings and times actively share and comment on a related set of posts.
  • I am seeing people from my high school trying to parse a topic that other people in my feed (people I've met over more than 10 years, some I worked with, others I spoke to their class, others I know socially, etc) know about intimately and are reporting first hand.

This week has been what Facebook should and could be to make it a place I want to go in the age of Twitter, but so far never has been.

This phenomenon is due to the severity of the news, and the fact that my network is seeded with a majority of people who care about that type of news.

If Facebook has been making the shift from social graph to the more valuable (commercially, and for readers) interest graph, this week my TL made that shift on its own.

 

 

Interview With Yesilist About A Global Niche As Sustainable Lifestyle

"The new era is about believing in yourself and creating your own niche," writes interviewer Ergem Senyuva of Yesilist, Turkey's guide to sustainable living, after talking to me and Tara Agacayak. "GlobalNiche helps people realize their visions and reach their dreams." Read the entire interview here. Moving to a new place can be challenging for many people. What are your suggestions for them? Build your safety net before you need it -- that means creating a global niche even before you move to smooth your transition. Connect as soon as possible with potential peers in your new location. Take care of your personal and professional needs, you’re the only one who knows what they are.

Can you please briefly tell us how you became part of Global Niche.  Even though we’re from the same San Francisco region in California, we met in Istanbul through a professional women’s group in 2009. Then we took an expat professional women life design class together and learned more about our commonalities, and noticed how our backgrounds complement each other. Anastasia is a media person with experience in Hollywood and New York, and Tara is an information tech person who designed databases for the US Department of Defense. Combining the media and info tech, we were both early adopters of social media used as a survival tool -- especially Twitter, which brings the world to you -- so in 2009 we started talking to groups of international women about becoming visible in the world through a professional web platform. That’s an online presence meant to support you as a professional person.

GlobalNiche.net was an off-shoot of Anastasia’s cultural producing work at the ExpatHarem.com site for global citizens. ExpatHarem was a group blog and discussion site, and GlobalNiche was meant to take all that philosophy and put it into practice. We wanted to give people the practical skills and tools they’d need to thrive. Tara came on as chief operating officer in 2010 and in 2011 we started having monthly webvideo conversations to discuss the issues of being at home in the world. Now we have a program and two monthly live webvideo events and a private Facebook support group for people in our program.

You live in different continents and different time zones. What are the obstacles you run into while you are running the operational aspect? We use Basecamp, an online collaboration software, and Skype for weekly conference calls. We’re connected daily on an asynchronous basis through Twitter, email, and the other social web services we use. We have an ambient awareness of the other’s activities through all that social media. Even though it’s nice to be able to work around the clock by passing the baton back and forth to each other, the biggest obstacle is often the time zone. We can’t always connect when our energies are at similar levels.

GlobalNiche operates online. Do you sometimes believe you are missing the warmth of face to face communication? How do you compensate for it? Live web video has the warmth of face to face communication. We use the Linqto app for that. We also make the effort to see each other and members of our community when we are in close proximity to each other, with planned and impromptu GlobalNiche meetups around the globe. We’ve had gatherings in San Francisco, New York, Istanbul, London. We also know that virtual life is just as real as actual life, and what’s most important is not the exchange of molecules but rather the depth of our human connection.

How do you see Global Niche evolving over time? This is a solution whose time has come, and the problem will only continue to grow as people move around and the economy remains weak. We’d like to continue to listen to the needs of our community, develop even more robust products and services to help them overcome these huge life challenges. We hope to continue creating a nurturing environment, providing tech-savvy, globally-aware, culturally-sensitive support. We’d love to add some live bootcamps to speed people through the process. Get them on their feet, and doing what they love, right where they are.

Elections When You're A Digital Global Citizen

This appeared in The Displaced Nation, November 7, 2012. Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 5.24.15 PMGlobal citizens follow the US elections closely; some even see American politics as a spectator sport. For today’s post, we asked Anastasia Ashman, an occasional contributor to the Displaced Nation, to tell us how she felt about the 2012 elections. An expat of many years and an active proponent of global citizenship, Anastasia recently repatriated, with her Turkish husband, to her native California.

Rather than drifting away from the American political process when I was far from my fellow citizens, it was during an expat stint that I became most deeply involved.

My involvement had a displaced quality, of course.

I have always been on the edges of the American experience, hailing as I do from the countercultural town of Berkeley, California. The first time in my life I owned and brandished an American flag was after 9/11. It felt like a homecoming after a lifetime of being the outsider.

Even now that I’m back in California, my political involvement continues to have a displaced quality because I know what it’s like to be a citizen on the front lines of our nation’s foreign policy. For most Americans, the issue of how the rest of the world perceives our country is distant, amorphous, forgettable — but not for those of us who’ve lived abroad.

Clark for President!

I’d discovered Wesley Clark on television after 9/11. A four-star general, he was talking about the world we’d suddenly plunged into like a polished, collected and thoughtful world-class leader. It was easy to feel a kinship with the philosopher general even though I’d grown up in a household that vilified the military. Instead of activist or escapist pursuits, I chose to join him in geopolitical chess.

During the months between September 2003 and February 2004 when Clark competed in the presidential primary to become the Democratic candidate, I campaigned for him from afar. My email inbox soon filled with security warnings from the U.S. Consul urging Americans to keep a low profile.

If I had been able to get my hands on a campaign poster back in 2003 and 2004, I wouldn’t have displayed it publicly in my Istanbul apartment window. We were invading Iraq, and Istanbul was the site of four al Qaeda-related terrorist bombings that November. Avoid obvious gatherings of Americans, the emails cautioned. No mention of red, white, and blue “Clark for Democratic Candidate” campaign posters plastered on your residence — I had to extrapolate that.

Instead, I became active in online forums and wrote letters to undecided voters and newspapers in numerous states for my choice, the former N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander Wesley Clark. That was all I could do.

Obama for Re-election!

I’ve now been back in the USA for a year and have followed this election cycle, like the last one, mostly via social media. Online is an ideal place to become disconnected from echo chambers you don’t resonate with, and to stumble into rooms you don’t recognize. Both have happened.

But for the first time in the American political process, I don’t feel displaced. I feel like I am right where I belong.

Maybe it’s the San Francisco environs, which, although they may not match my concerns, don’t rankle too badly. At least I’m not in Los Angeles being asked to vote on whether porn actors must wear condoms. (They should, obvs!)

I feel less displacement in this election because of the resonant connections I’ve made online in the last four years or more. I’m in open, deep geopolitical conversation with Americans, American expats and with citizens of other nations, all over the world.

During this election I’ve been using my web platform, my digital footprint, to gather political news and opinion, enter discussions, and raise awareness. I’ve been reconciling my patchwork politics by weaving together who I relate to, and what I care about, and what sources I pass on to my network and what conversations I start. I now know that I am

  • A woman from an anti-war town who campaigned for a general!
  • A Hillary supporter who’s backing Barack, and
  • An adult-onset Third Culture Kid who understands how and why Obama’s Third Culture Kid experience confuses the average American.

What I have chosen to share on social media during this election cycle is a processing of all that makes me a political animal. I feel I have participated in this election cycle as the whole me, and that is all I can do.

I’ve shared that I care deeply that

I am buoyed that these abominations are leaking out and being countered. I was edified to hear others share my disapproval of eligible voters who choose to throw their votes away.

I have been able to be an active digital world citizen during this election cycle, someone who votes for the bigger picture, not just at the ballot box, but in everything I do. And that feels like home to me.

Requests That Get A Yes

I get a lot of requests related to my Expat Harem book and other productions that I wish I had the time to say yes to.

Sometimes I get requests that I would have said yes to if the requester had spent a little more time setting it up. Make it really easy!

 

I heard from a travel writer developing a story about her own cross-cultural family experiences who needed expert sources to flesh out her query to an unnamed publishing venue. She gave me four questions to answer.

Four questions is a lot to ask, but her email gave me even more things to wonder.

Which venues she was pitching and by when did she need my answers?

I wondered why she was seeking an expert quote for a personal story (expert quotes in a pitch usually point to experts you're going to interview if you get the assignment). That would be like using my material to land an assignment to write about her own life! If she were to be assigned the piece, was she planning to interview me in more depth? It would have been good to hear that she only needed a one sentence answer for  -- any of -- those questions.

An expert would want to see how she was going to be described in the query. This could be done by telling me why I am being approached. For instance, "because you wrote about your Turkish in-laws in the Expat Harem book and in Cornucopia magazine." Or, it would be nice to be asked to point to a description I prefer.

Assume people want to help.  Just cover your bases and keep the ask as small as you can, so they can.

P.S. Be gracious when someone says no. When I let this travel writer know I wouldn't be able to help her out and explained what questions her pitch brought up for me, she let me know how sorry I was going to be for not doing what she asked.

My Artwork Selected For International Museum Of Women Exhibition

Anastasia Ashman - artwork selected to appear in International Museum of Women's art exhibition on Muslim topics, 2013I heard from Yasmine Ibrahim, a fellow on the museum’s next online exhibition which launches in 2013 and will explore Muslim Women’s Art & Voices.

The International Museum of Women asks to highlight my image of a door from the Topkapi Palace Harem that I've been using as my profile background all around the web for several years. For me it signifies the liminal state of being an expat woman in Turkey, a multiculturalist, a hybrid soul.

I took the original photograph in 2004 when my coeditor and I toured the harem before embarking on our creation of the Expat Harem book. Then I manipulated the image in Photoshop.

I entered it into a gallery exhibition of Istanbul photographs by members of the International Women of Istanbul and American Women of Istanbul photo club in 2005 and it was the first image of the show to sell. Penang, 1997, Original Artwork by Anastasia Ashman Even though I'm not a Muslim woman so technically may not fit the specs for this exhibit, Ibrahim writes, "Your image was selected because it is related to Islamic art. Personally it is my favorite image because it is abstracted and joyful. As a Muslim, I felt that it symbolizes many aspects of Islamic culture."

The image seems a cousin to a photo of a 19th century mansion I took in Penang, Malaysia in 1997 and also manipulated in Photoshop.

Tech Makes The Global Citizen, or Repatriation = Relocation With Benefits

San Francisco may be a tech-forward location but that's not why I've increasingly been turning to technology to help me be where and who I am today.

As a globally mobile individual, I rely on tech because of all the moves that came before this one. I rely on tech for my total, global operation.

++++

This originally appeared in The Displaced Nation, August 22, 2012.

Today’s guest blogger, Anastasia Ashman, has been pioneering a new concept of global citizenship. Through various publications, both online and in print, and now through her GlobalNiche initiative, she expresses the belief that common interests and experiences can connect us more than geography, nationality, or even blood. But what happens when someone like Ashman returns to the place where she was born and grew up? Here is the story of her most recent repatriation.

I recently relocated to San Francisco. Three decades away from my hometown area, I keep chanting: “Don’t expect it to be the same as it was in the past.”

Since leaving the Bay area, I’ve lived in 30 homes in 4 countries, journeying first to the East Coast (Philadelphia Mainline) for college, then to Europe (Rome) for further studies, back to the East Coast (New York) and the West Coast (Los Angeles) for work, over to Asia (Penang, Kuala Lumpur) for my first overseas adventure, back to the USA (New York), and finally, to Istanbul for my second expat experience.

My daily mantra has become: “Don’t expect to be the same person you once were.”

With each move, my mental map has faded, supplanted by new information that will get me through the day.

Back in San Francisco, I repeat several times a day: “This place may be where I’m from, but it’s a foreign country now. Don’t expect to know how it all works.”

What a difference technology makes (?!)

Today my work travels, just as it did when I arrived in Istanbul with a Hemingway-esque survival plan to be on an extended writing retreat and emerge at the border with my passport and a masterpiece.

I knew from my previous expat stint in Malaysia that I needed to tap into a local international scene. But I spent months in limbo without local friends, nor being able to share my transition with the people I’d left.

This time is different. Now I’m connected to expat-repat friends around the world on the social Web with whom I can discuss my re-entry. I’ve built Twitter lists of San Francisco people  (123) to tap into local activities and lifestyles, in addition to blasts-from-my-Berkeley-past.

I’ve already drawn some sweet time-travely perks. To get a new driver’s license I only needed to answer half the test questions since I was already in the system from teenhood.

After Turkey’s Byzantine bureaucracy and panicky queue-jumpers, I appreciated the ease of making my license renewal appointment online even if the ruby-taloned woman at the Department of Motor Vehicles Information desk handed me additional forms saying: “Oh, you got instructions on the Internet? That’s a different company.”

One of the reasons my husband and I moved here is to more closely align with a future we want to live in, so it’s cool to see the online-offline reality around us in San Francisco’s tech-forward atmosphere.

It doesn’t always translate to an improved situation though. Just as we are searching for staff to speak to in person at a ghost-town Crate & Barrel, a suggestion card propped on a table told us to text the manager “how things are going.”

So, theoretically I can reach the manager — I just can’t see him or her.

So strange…yet so familiar

It took a couple of months to identify the name for what passes as service now in the economically-depressed United States: anti-service. Customer service has been taken over by scripts read by zombies.

When I bought a sticky roller at The Container Store, the clerk asked me, “Oh, do you have a dog?”

“No, a cat,” I countered into the void.

He passed me the bag, his small-talk quota filled. He wasn’t required by his employer to conclude the pseudo-interaction with human-quality processing, like, “Ah, gotta love ‘em.”

What I didn’t plan for are the psychedelic flashbacks to my childhood. I may have moved on, but this place seems set in amber. The burrito joints are still playing reggae (not even the latest sounds of Kingston or Birmingham) and the pizza places, ’70s classic rock stations (Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” anyone?). The street artists are still peddling necklaces of your name twisted in wire. Residents are still dressed like they’re going for a hike in the hills with North Face fleece jackets and a backpack.

A bid for minimalism

The plan is also to be somewhat scrappy after years of increasing bloat. My Turkish husband and I got rid of most of our stuff in Turkey in a bid for minimalism. We camped out on the floor of our apartment in San Francisco until we could procure some furniture.

If it was a literal repositioning, it was also a conscious one — for a different set of circumstances. We’d expanded in Istanbul with a standard 3-bedroom apartment and “depot” storage room, and affordable house cleaners to maintain the high level of cleanliness of a typical Turkish household. In California, I intended to shoulder more of the housework.

I was soon reminded of relocation’s surprises that can make a person clumsy and graceless. I should have kept my own years-in-the-making sewing kit since I can’t find a quality replacement for it in an American market flooded with cheap options from China — and now have to take a jacket to the tailor to sew on a button, something I used to be able to do myself.

When the lower-quality dishwasher door in our San Francisco rental drops open and bangs my kneecap, I recall the too-thin cling wrap and tinfoil that I ripped to shreds in Istanbul, or the garden hose in Penang that kinked and unkinked without warning, spraying me in the face.

New purchases

“We’re getting too old for this,” my husband and I keep telling each other as we shift on our polyester-filled floor pillows that looked a lot bigger and less junky on Amazon. (We were abusing one-day delivery after years of not buying anything online due to difficulties with customs in Istanbul. Cat litter can be delivered tomorrow! Pepper grinder! Then I read about the harsh conditions faced by fulfillment workers in Amazon’s warehouses and cut back.)

One of our first purchases Stateside was a television. Not that we’re going to start watching local TV, but we did flick through some satellite channels. It’s something I like to do upon relocating: watch TV and soak up the local culture like a cyborg.

Since I last lived in the US, reality shows like COPS — where the camera would follow policemen on their seedy beats — have gone deeper into the underbelly of life, and now there are reality shows about incarceration.

The Discovery Channel has also gone straight to the swamp. That’s where I caught a moonshiner reality show featuring shirtless (and toothless) men in overalls called “Popcorn” and “Grandad.”

It’s an America I am not quite keen to get to know.

But I can take these reverse culture shocks lightly because my repatriation is part of a continuum. It’s not a hiatus from anything nor a return home. I’m not missing anything elsewhere, I haven’t given up anything for good. Being here now is simply the latest displacement. Today is a bridge to where I’m headed.

Interviewed on Bay Area Focus TV Show

Anastasia Ashman interviewed by Susan Sikora on Bay Area Focus TVToday I taped an episode of Bay Area Focus with Susan Sikora at CW 44, cable12, (KBCW) the CW Network affiliate for the San Francisco Bay Area. It'll air June 24. We talked about Tales From The Expat Harem, expatriatism, and the location independent lifestyle.

Here are some of the prep questions.

1. What factors should we all consider before moving abroad?

2. How is moving abroad different from travelling abroad?

3. What is the perception of Americans abroad? What is the image most non- Americans you met had of the U.S? Did that improve at all during the time you lived abroad? Did it change? How so?

4. What prompted you to leave in the first place??

5. What was the hardest adjustment you had to make?

6. For 14 years you've lived in three countries outside the USA (Italy, Malaysia, and Turkey). Why did you choose the countries you did?

7. How is living abroad different than travelling abroad?

8. In what ways were you unprepared for the realities of a wider world? What conventional wisdoms about the world did find to be untrue?

9. Can those differences between expats and travelers be seen in the literature they write about a place?

10. When you moved to Istanbul in 2003 you were planning to write a memoir about your life in Malaysia. Why did you create an anthology about Turkey instead?

11. What is behind the metaphor “Expat Harem” and how does it help us understand Turkey better? How did it help you understand yourself better?

12. As you compiled the book Tales from the Expat Harem you found that cultural understanding wasn’t a function of time spent in a location but rather the depth of an individual’s connection with the place. How can we foster that kind of connection to have a better experience when we travel?

13. What were you hoping to learn about yourself by moving?

14. What were your expectations of living abroad? Were they met?

15. How were you perceived as an American? How do you think most Americans are perceived?

16. You’re a Berkeley native. How do you think being raised in the Bay Area prepared you for the life abroad?

17. For people considering a trip or a move to Turkey, what would you suggest they do to prepare themselves?

18. A few years ago you launched a group blog of “neoculture discussion” inspired by Expat Harem. You called it “expat+HAREM, the global niche” and it wasn’t just about Turkey, or women, or expats. Why did you expand your sights, and to whom?

19. What came out of those neoculture discussions?

20. You’ve coined this expression “global niche”. What is your definition of a global niche?

21. Where did the idea of a global niche come from?

22. Why do you call yourself a hybrid ambassador?

23. Can you explain what you mean by 'psychic location independence'?

24. What’s the difference between location independence -- where people are looking for the freedom to travel and work and live where ever they want -- and your version?

25. So can we take advantage of your global niche concept even if we don’t leave home? That is, can we be global citizens without a passport?

26. You believe if we build our global niche we’ll have found where in the world we belong -- and also be globally unbounded. How can we be in one place, and everywhere at the same time?