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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New with Expats from Oz, the U.S., and France

This pachyderm ended the year
being crowned Miss Elephant International
Chitwan National Park (Nepal), Dec. 29.
What does it mean to be an elephant seeker? Kym Hamer, David Hufford, and Véronique Martin-Place were among the first expats to help this blog answer that question. For this year-end post, I've asked them to share their holiday highlights, new year's resolutions, and any fresh insights on their adventures.

How did you spend Christmas this year?

KYM HAMER [Australian based in London]: This year was my first Christmas visiting my family in Melbourne since 2005. I arrived here early Christmas morning and walked out of passport control wearing a big bow. Hahaha... For the last six years, I've fervently wished for a white Christmas in the UK. It actually came true this season — and I missed it! C'est la vie...

VERONIQUE MARTIN-PLACE [Frenchwoman based in Chicago]: We stayed put in the United States. As I've written recently on my blog, I'm not a fan of returning to one's home country during the holidays.

DAVID HUFFORD [American based in Tokyo]: Christmas is not a holiday in Japan, so my wife and I usually work. But since December 25 was on a Saturday this year, we both had it off. In that sense, it was an unusual Christmas.

Have you tweaked your holiday celebrations at all since living abroad?

KYM: Particularly since moving to the UK, I've enjoyed the tradition of decorating my own Christmas tree. I love revisiting my travels through all of the ornaments I've collected from various places. This year I am away over Christmas and New Year and could not face the thought of coming back and having to "undress" the tree in mid-January, so I am sans tree... I did help some good friends with their tree so did not miss out altogether.

DAVID: Neither my wife nor I is religious, so there hasn't been much of a change in how we celebrate — except that we do much, much less Christmas shopping since there is no tradition in Japan for exchanging gifts. We still put up a tree and have a special dinner. Thus far we've been able to avoid the local custom of reserving a special Christmas menu from KFC, and we only rarely buy a Christmas cake.

VERONIQUE: In the United States as in France, we celebrate by doing lots of family activities: ice skating, going to the movie theater, museums, baking, and most important of all, playing with the new toys Santa Claus brings to our two daughters... But since settling in Chicago, my family has acquired a couple of new habits. My husband bakes cookies for the girls to leave out for Santa. And we listen to Christmas songs nonstop: at home, in the car, any and everywhere!

Have you had any new insights on your adoptive land since your interview appeared on this blog?

VERONIQUE: One thing I've noticed relating to the holidays is that American people usually say "Happy Holidays," not "Merry Christmas." I wasn't aware of it until I started living here. I guess it is a way to be politically correct. For me, it was both amusing and shocking.

DAVID: Nothing especially new, except that I am beginning to believe that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the current ruling party, is totally incompetent. I blog about Japanese politics but was late to come to this conclusion.

KYM: Two big personal changes in the past months: I start an amazing new job in January, which I am insanely excited about; and I became a single girl again. The latter I wasn't so excited about, but I'm now on the mend and starting to revel in the joys of being completely selfish again!

Last but not least, have you made any news year's resolutions related to blogging and travel?

VERONIQUE: My Resolution #1 is to write, write and write — for new clients; for my blog, Expat Forever; and on behalf of personal writing projects. My Resolution #2 is to run, run and run — with the goal of doing the Chicago Marathon in 2011. And my Resolution #3 is to travel to Hawaii in 2011. Hmmm... I wish my husband will read this one!

KYM: My new job will involve some travel, so I am hoping to experience some new places/people and maybe revisit some former haunts. And Gidday From The UK will continue to chart my expatriate life no matter where it takes me.

DAVID: I never bother with New Year's resolutions. As far as Japan without the sugar goes: I never run out of things to complain — I mean blog — about. The most interesting trend at present is Japan's apparent moves in changing its defense posture towards China, and its move to become more involved with South Korea and the US alliance toward the DPRK. As far as travel plans, I hope to get back to the US for a visit next fall around Thanksgiving. I have been saying that for the last four years and haven't made it yet.

If you missed the interviews with these three expats, here are the links:
See also interviews with:
This blog has been going since May of this year and has been a success due to the participation of these five elephant seekers, along with all of you commenters and followers (the thundering herd!). Thank you, and as they say in Japan on New Year's Day, kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu [please continue to help me in the new year].

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve celebrations that include one or two pink elephants, preferably with painted toenails (see photo above). And with that thought in mind, à votre santé, cheers, kampai!


Kym Hamer said...

And what a year it's been!! Loved being part of it all at Seen The Elephant and here's to bringing expats' perspectives and all of those wonderful adventures to 2011!

Happy New Year

Kym x
(Gidday from the UK)

ML Awanohara said...

@ Kym
Thanks for checking in from Melbourne! How are you finding it Down Under--any different than you remembered? It would be fun to hear back from you on this question while you're still in "repatriate" mode.

One more question, if I may (I always have one more, at least): What are New Year's celebrations like down there? Wild and crazy, or subdued? Any Japanese influence?

ML Awanohara said...

Update on Kym:
It seems she celebrated New Year's Eve whipping up a sandstorm on Frankston Beach. (For the geographically challenged: Frankston is part of greater Melbourne, where Mornington Peninsula begins.) To be more precise: Kym went to see an exhibition created by the world's best sand sculptors on the theme of "Creepy Crawlies."

Kym recently posted some amazing pics on her blog--of ginormous yet exquisitely detailed bedbugs, beetles (that one's rather humorous), spiders, roaches, ants, frogs, and other creatures that make your skin itch and crawl, all rendered in sand.

Since then, Kym has been hitting the sales--another fine new year's tradition. (I picked it up in the UK, where I ended up with many strange outfits that I never wore...)

Her feet aching from these exertions, Kym decided to indulge in a couple of "sweet treats": a mani-pedi followed by chocolate-covered waffles with ice cream at Theobroma Chocolate Lounge in Melbourne, which subscribes to a "total chocolate concept."

Kym has just now sent me a picture of a "local" elephant sighting -- at a Thai restaurant in Carrum Downs (near Frankston).

All of this makes me wonder: why did she leave Oz in the first place? I must go back and read her interview… Seriously, her trip puts me in mind of Russell Conwell's famous speech: "Acres of Diamonds." Why did she leave when there were acres of diamond beneath her (now pretty) feet?!

Kym Hamer said...

Yes my feet are pretty (worthy of the open-toed footwear that abounds here) and having just come back from a couple of hours worth of massage/facial-ing (Christmas present from Mum), I am feeling rather chilled out. But it's a holiday and as with all good holidays they must come to an end...

Seriously though, it's been great having a family-only trip (none of that ridiculous cramming of everyone else into the schedule) but I'm looking forward to going home - where I feel energised and ready to tackle the world (or at least Life in the UK in 2011).

I have big plans for dual nationality too...and I can't do that living in Oz!

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