Friday, April 25, 2008

Someone I'd Like You to Meet: Elizabeth from Planet Nomad

Planet NomadIf you haven't already guessed I have a fondness for expatriate blogs--my favorites are listed at the very bottom of this page under the "Blogs I Love" link. I can't travel much right now and reading about their lives abroad is the next best thing to going on safari or cruising the Loire.

The very first expat blog I ever read was Planet Nomad and Elizabeth's amazing life coupled with her eloquent writing guaranteed that I read her riveting posts word for word. As a brief introduction Elizabeth and her husband Donn are parents to three children: Elliot, age 12 and twins Abel and Ilsa, ages 10. Donn got a job in Noukchott, Mauritania (yes, go Google it so you'll have a point of reference) in Africa back in 2001 and their family basically lived there for seven years until last sumer when they returned to the United States for a year before heading back to The Dark Continent.

I think the reason I like Planet Nomad so much is that it entertains, teaches and shares--three things a successful blog has to do, in that order. I connect with her posts and feel that not only am I learning something fascinating but her writing is personal and honest enough that I trust her interpretation of the world she's experiencing.

The photographs she posts are amazing--Donn is a photographer (you can read about a showing he had at the national museum in her post "The Road Not Taken") and my only complaint is that I wish she posted more photos. Her posts read like National Geographic but with personality and softness. Some of my favorites are:

Adventures in Eating
Adventures in Eating Part 2
Beauty; NOT Just in the Eye of the Beholder Anymore
Her Brother's First Wife
Love Is In the Air

But before I spend all my time gushing over her blog here are a few questions I put to Elizabeth recently:

If you could pick somewhere else to live and experience like you did Nouakchott where would it be?

This one is easy—Rabat, Morocco. We’re hoping to move there in July. I’m really excited because Rabat is much more modern and developed than Nouakchott is so I’ll enjoy having access to shops and things while at the same time learning and experiencing a beautiful and ancient culture.

If you had a dream job what would it be?

I would like someone to pay me money to lie on the couch and read books. Once, for a while, I tried to become a literary agent which I realized would entail just that. I actually worked as an assistant for a couple of months but what I was given to read was such pap that I gave up. Also the actual agent was even flakier than I was which was really saying something considering my organizational level at the time.

What do you miss most about Africa?

The people. I miss my friends. I don’t miss the weather—unlike most Oregonians and even my own husband I love the rain.

What did you miss most about the United States when you were abroad?

The people, again. Also esoteric things like being so comfortable in a culture that I pick up on unspoken clues and know how to communicate subtly. And I miss the rain and the green and the flowers.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

Probably camel’s hump. It was what you’d expect—pure lard. I was served a plate of meat and vegetables and there were these white lumps in it that I thought were potatoes. They weren’t. I nibbled a corner and then put it back, which is very rude, but sometimes you just don’t care. Afterwards there was a coating of grease around my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of for hours.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Probably moving to Mauritania. I’m really not that adventurous—I have never sky-dived, or bungee-jumped or done extreme sports. But I must admit I felt rather nervous when we got on that plane and moved to Africa. Donn always wanted to go live in a tent in the desert for a year, which I would view as adventurous, but I was not willing to leave my computer or my flush toilet for longer than a month at a time. Also, homeschooling in the desert? I don’t think so.

[A month?? You've got to be kidding!]

What’s the biggest misconception Americans have about Africa?

Hmmm . . . well, not to put too fine a point on it, I am often surprised at how little Americans know about the continent of Africa. Some people apparently think of that huge continent as just one country when in actuality there are 53 countries with very different languages, cultures and climates. (I’ve only seen a tiny part of it myself and am in no way an expert on it) I think that Americans think all of Africa is undeveloped, and desperately poor. But Nairobi, Kenya; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; Cairo, Egypt; or Rabat, Morocco are very modern cities. I notice that people tend to be surprised both ways, they expect Africa to be less developed than it often is and yet really don’t understand that you can’t get everything there that you can get here. It’s a funny mix.

Thanks so much Elizabeth for judging the contest this month—good luck to you and your family in their upcoming adventures.

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Robin said...

I love Elizabeth's blog. Her writing is wonderful and her glimpses into other cultures (including her own) are priceless.

Shalee said...

Oh, I read Elizabeth too. There's something so beautiful about her view and her words that makes me want to be her real life friend so that I can visit her in Africa one day.

And her pictures are gorgeous.

Beck said...

I love Elizabeth, too - she has such a gorgeous, fluid writing style and such a unique voice.

angie said...

I can't wait to check her out!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Bravo Michelle. Elizabeth is warm and funny and fascinating. I love her writing. She'll be a great judge.

Janet said...

camel hump. Maybe I don't want to travel as much as I think I do.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I also love reading blogs outside of the US. It is like taking a mini vacation everytime I read them.

This is fascinating. I will have to check out her blog.

grace said...

I thought the camel was familiar! :-)
Sounds like a great adventure indeed. I will check out her blog right now!

Jena said...

Thanks for introducing her to me. My family travels quite a bit--mostly India--and we love learning about new cultures. I'll have to check her blog out.

Scribbit said...

One update--apparently Africans find it irritating or offensive to hear Africa called "The Dark Continent." I thought about taking out that reference to Conrad's famous writings but the I decided to let it stand. First, it's a legitimate literary allusion that fits. Second, it's not meant to be racist or offensive ("dark" refers to the mystery surrounding the area rather than the color of skin) and third, the vast majority of my readers would take it as it was intended rather than as an insult.

But I thought it was interesting and maybe you will too.

Hope that works.

RunninL8 said...

Hey there from another Alaskan! I stumbled upon your site and plan to peruse further as time permits-I think we're headed outside instead of naptime today due to THIS RIDICULOUS UNRELENTING SNOW!!!

We'll make one last snowman(I HOPE).
Might as well make the best of it... OR GO APOPLECTIC.
Thanks for the very interesting post-can't wait to see the photography!

Sonja said...

Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful person. I have enjoyed this interview so much and look forward to learning more about Elizabeth from her blog.

tarable said...

I recently found this blog about a family living in France for a year. They're just doing it for the fun and culture, rather than altruistic reasons, but it's still interesting to me.

BTW, I've never left a comment before but have been enjoying your blog for a month or two - it's great!