EXPAT HOUSING: WHAT’S YOUR VIEW?

by missfootloose on May 15, 2010 · 26 comments

in expat, Expat life

What do you see when you look out of your window? In my globetrotting expat life I end up having interesting views from many windows and I thought putting some pictures together might make a rather ecclectic collection. Let’s start with

ITALY

No, I did not have too much wine with my lunch when I took this photo. I was only trying to be creative, for what it’s worth. It was taken a few years ago from the balcony of a tiny but marvelous little apartment in an ancient building in the centro storico, the historic center, of the town of Salerno. The view, I thought, was straight out of the movies and I kept waiting for Sofia Loren to come out onto one of the balconies and start yelling at somebody down below in the courtyard. Unfortunately she was otherwise engaged and did not show up.

However, I heard a cacophony of other sounds: televisions at high volume, a mother yelling basta! at her fighting bambini, the sounds of clanging pots and pans from the apartment above when la signora was cooking. And yes, I smelled the food and it smelled like . . . . Italy! With all the windows open because there was no airconditioning anywhere, the sounds and smells of life spilled out from all the apartments for our entertainment.

And no, I did not actually live my expat life there: My man and I were on vacation for a few weeks. I had found this place on the Internet and it was wonderful because it put us right smack in the middle of real Italian life with not a tourist to be found on any of the balconies.

PALESTINE

The photo below might surprise you. I certainly had never expected a view like that in the Holy Land. Snow? You’re right, that’s what it is!


My mental images were those of desserts and heat and sand and dust, and yes, that’s all there too, but this was the view we found from our window one winter day in Ramallah where we lived for a year and a half. Ramallah lies on the crest of a mountain range and its elevation makes for a cooler climate than what you find down below in those biblical desserts of Samaria and Judeah and on the Israeli coast.

Our apartment was in a neighborhood high up on a hill and gave us this stunning view, but it also caught winds and breezes from everywhere which had some unfortunate effects as you can read in an earlier post, THE JOYS OF EXPAT HOUSING.

ARMENIA

Behold an early spring view with tender green, pale peach blossoms and a sad-looking dwelling place. For six years we lived in Yerevan, Armenia in a lovely little house, very bright and light on the inside. This photo is the view from our front door, which was actually at the back of the house where we also had a garden. (You arrived from the street through a gate, up some stairs and around the back of the building.)

The neigborhood was a terraced affair, meaning it was built against a hill and the next street over was higher up. The view is of the back of a house on the next level up and it looks rather ramshackle but it’s possible that it’s nice and comfy inside. No way of telling. See the thick branches at the bottom of the picture? Our very own grape vines. Have a look at the same view in the summer:

With everything green the view is much better. We had lots of grapevines, and more grapes than we knew what to do with. No, we did not make our own wine, but I suppose we could have, just like all those expats in Tuscany and Provence.

GHANA

The view from my African front door. We lived in Ghana, West Africa twice, the second time for almost four years. We had a modest house with a tropical garden full of exotic (to me) plants and trees. Everything grew abundantly, lovingly watered and tended by our gardener, not me. The inside of the house was not tended by me, either, but by Leah, who is in the picture. (I mostly did nothing in Ghana except write romance novels and play food goddess in the kitchen, but that’s another story.)

The view from the front door was normally the gate and gravel driveway, but with Leah in it is definitely more interesting, don’t you agree? It was her day off from her labors in our house, and she had just returned from the market where she had purchased food for her own family. They lived in a little place right in our compound. (Originally from the country of Benin, Leah is wearing an outfit probably more characteristic of the clothes worn there. It does not look Ghanaian.)

INDONESIA

Don’t you just love big verandahs and panoramic views? The view below is one I enjoyed in the town of Semarang on the north coast of the island of Java, where the huge verandah served as our living room. It was covered, so even in the tropical afternoon downpours during the rainy season, we still lounged there in our easy chairs, tea or drinks in hand. We had lamps there and an overhead fan. It was a fabulous place.

The view shows the nearby kampong or village. Many evenings after dark someone in the village below played a flute and it was lovely to hear. In the far distance shimmers the Java Sea. Apologies for the bad quality of the photo. It was taken in prehistoricdigital times and even PhotoShop is not all-powerful.

ALBANIA

Some of you loyal fans have seen this photo before, but I like it so I’m going to show it again.

I spent a short time in Albania living in a 10th floor luxury apartment and this is the right-s
ide view from the big balcony. Albanians love painting their buildings cheery colors and looking at the sugary pink confection from our big balcony was sweet. The left-side view offered a wider vista of the town and the empty residence of Albania’s late communist dictator Enver Hoxha. Oh, what the heck, here’s the picture.

The spacy building complex in the foreground across the street is Hoxha’s former hangout. I never lived across the street from the residence of a (brutal but dead) communist dictator. Saying it does sound kind of cool though.

And now from brutal communist dictator to psycho attack bird:

USA


This, dear reader, is the view from the bedroom of my present abode in West Virginia, USA. No, that’s not quite right: it was the view — for days and days last summer when this crazy woodpecker kept attacking his reflection in the glass assuming it was a rival intruding on his territory. Every few minutes he’d be back banging at the window, driving me nuts because I could hear him going at it from my office across the hall. Check out the damage he did to the tree behind him.

What did we do? Finally we covered the tree trunk with a black plastic garbage bag so he wouldn’t be tempted to settle there and see his enemy in the window. The psycho bird moved across the road to our neighbors, where he managed to crack two car rearview mirrors. One belonged to a rental car and the damage was covered by insurance. They covered it under “vandalism.”

This spring the plastic bag is still flapping from the tree, and the bird is back across the road, destroying an old tree trunk. I can see him from my office window. What a view!

* * *
What do you, or did you, see through your window or from your porch?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Mara May 15, 2010 at 8:22 am

Wow, those are some views!

Last summer as I was quietly enjoying peace, I looked up and had a fantastic view: the Polish neighbour from across the path was undressing himself. I could only see from the middle up (more’s the pity), but it was a really nice view!!! They’ve put a curtain up now…

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Freedom Offshore May 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

That is some very cool pictures. Looking out of our window, we have been able to watch the progress on the building of Trump Tower in Panama and see the ships lining up for the canal.

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Teri May 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Love your views! When I travel, I take photos of the views from our rooms. Fun remembering.

I feel for you with the nutso pileated woodpecker! We had one bring down an old tree in our yard. Thankfully he hasn’t gone after anything of value!

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Wendy aka Quillfeather May 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm

What an extraordinary life you lead. Not to mention the extraordinary views!

Wonderful post.

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Lauri May 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Thanks for the fantastic views out your many windows. I think the story of the woodpecker is very funny.

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The pale observer May 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Excellent photos – and some great memories!

I can vouch that the lady’s outfit from Ghana didn’t look Ghanaian. Especially the style it was sewn in.

Did you bring back any West African cloth?

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Carolina May 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Great idea for a post. My favourites are the Italian view and the woodpecker. It must be a very unusual angle for a woodpecker photo. I mean, not many wildlife photographers will have had the chance for a shot like this. It could be worth millions πŸ˜‰ Great story too.

If I look out of my window now I can see the garden, dressed in a thousand shades of green with a hint of blue and some yellow and pink to liven up things. And I can see three horses, looking back at me from their stables. Bliss. Would I look through the window at the front of our house, I would see fields with a couple of cows. And behind them I’d see the fringe of the woods. Perhaps that’s why I love the Italian view so much. You always want what you don’t have πŸ˜‰

Wordverification: snotr

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Vagabonde May 16, 2010 at 11:57 pm

I enjoyed all your views – you have lived in some interesting places. When I look outside I see trees and a wild rose which has climbed one of the trees and covered it with many roses.

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Mama Shujaa May 17, 2010 at 10:45 am

Fantastic, diverse array of photos.

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Candice May 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Wow, that bird is scary.

I can’t tell which one is my favourite…perhaps the kooky Armenia house.

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Land of shimp May 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Lovely and varied views you have there! I rather like the lunatic bird, by the way.

Let’s see, if I go out the front door and turn to my left, I will see the foothills of the Rocky mountains, if I look straight ahead, I will see our neighbor’s house, not unlike ours. He laughs whenever he sees our dog, we don’t know why. Might have something to do with her muppety silliness.

If I look out my back windows, I can see the mountains, or our pool. I just turned and looked behind me, and howling wind is shaking the three trees in my sight line…as the dog snores at the end of the couch…which makes me laugh πŸ™‚

Did you have a favorite place? Did you have a place where you thought, “Oh, if there is a heaven, let it contain this…this view, these smells, this feeling”?

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Mireille May 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

I had a woodpecker once who was obsessed with pecking holes in our cedar wood house in Connecticut… these animals can be a nuisance!
By the way; I just bought your ebook: You are moving where? Can’t wait to read it! Can I also download it to my Kindle, do you know??

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Miss Footloose May 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm

@ Mara, what a view! Too bad it about the curtain. It reminded me of the first sentence of a romance I once read: “He looked great from the waist down.” (The rest of him was under a car he was fixing!)

@ Freedom Offshore, not everybody has a view of a Trump Tower. Cool!

@ Teri, those woodpeckers are great birds as long as they don’t come too close!

@ Wendy aka Quillfeather: Yes, an interesting life I have, but not every day . . . today I have to clean the house and do laundry — myself. No maid. Sigh.

@ Lauri, funny yes, and it took me a thousand tries to get that picture. Every time he saw me move even from across the room, he flew away. But I got him!

@ Pale Observer: Did I bring back any cloth from Ghana? Piles of it! And I still have long skinny skirts made from them that I even sometimes wear with a plain T-shirt. Of course paired with one of T’s necklaces!

@ Carolina,if you know where I could collect the millions for the woodpecker photo, please let me know! πŸ˜‰ It took me many many tries! He kept flying away.

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Val May 18, 2010 at 8:09 pm

that was so so interesting! wow! that pink building..sheesh! so many fascinating views – rivetting to see the difference in all these exotic places, styles of building; that appartment i Italy looks fab; and Java – and everything. What an interestinglife!! I have some pictures throughour windows – i will put something togethr for you. The most interesting was a whole pride of lions looking in the window once – but no pictures of that – i couldnt move!!

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Val May 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

oh and i love the woodpecker though i am happy he is not banging on my window πŸ™‚

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Sayan May 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm

In my case the quality of the view matched quite well the quality of life in countries I have been to. The one I liked best was the view I had over the Mekong river. The one I disliked most was facing highrise buildings where people use binoculars to watch the neighbors. The best view is a nice neighbor.

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doris May 18, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I couldn’t believe that was a woodpecker! It looks evil. I thought it was a Halloween or Thanksgiving turkey decoration. Those things are destructive as you found out. Great post on your housing situations. Doris

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Mary Witzl May 19, 2010 at 11:00 am

From our front window, we can see a small farm complete with a goat pen with sagging corrugated tin roof, spreading grape vine over a slab of cracked concrete, and chicken run. We have great fun watching the goats and chickens in the morning. From the other side of the house we can see the minarets of a mosque and a massive cemetery with bleached-white tombstones and masses of roses.

In Tokyo, we lived just across from a dead car lot. We could see rusting and crunched-up cars leaking battery fluid, and old upholstery with springs coming out.

Wish we had a woodpecker!

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Reya Mellicker May 21, 2010 at 12:05 am

Wow, wow and … wow! You get around! Love all the views. Snow in Palestine? Incredible?

As exotic as any of the shots is the crazy woodpecker pic. I love W. Virginia – it is a completely exotic landscape.

I see a lovely lush streetscape with Victorian rowhouses from my window in Washington DC. Nice indeed.

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Writing Without Periods! May 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm

What wonderful pictures. Reading your blog posts is like traveling around the world. Thank you.
Mary

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Brenda May 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Love your blog and loved this post with the fantastic pictures! What an amazing life you live — what interesting experiences you’ve had! I, too, enjoy taking pictures of the view from places I visit, but you have inspired me to take more pictures of the view out my own windows. Like with so many things we have a tendency to ignore our “own backyard”. From my upstairs computer room I see blue sky and swaying pepper trees — simple but peaceful.

When we lived in Washington State we had an annoying woodpecker that woke us up every morning working on the side of the house. I don’t remember how we got rid of him.

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Miss Footloose May 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

@ Val, I’d love to see some of your views, and too bad you didn’t get the lions looking into your windows. Now wonder you were frozen, but boy that would have made a good shot!

@ Sayan: You said, the best view is a nice neigbor. Very Zen!

@ Doris, you must have had some very unique views out of your many windows! You could do a post about that on your blog πŸ˜‰

@ Mary Witzl: Those are some interesting views! A cemetery, no less! Even so, trust me, you don’t want to look at a woodpecker hammering at your window!

@ Reya Mellicker: Your view of “A lovely lush streetscape with Victorian rowhouses from my window in Washington DC” sounds very nice indeed. I’ve seen similar ones.

@ Ginger, yes, it’s in my blood. I’m getting itchy again and want to take off to somewhere new.

@ Brenda, your view of pepper trees sounds exotic because I have no idea what pepper trees look like! Must check it out.

Glad you’ve been inspired to take pictures of your views. I am too, now that I managed to patch together this post. It was fun, but next time around I’ll have more and better pix.

@ Everyone. Thanks for sharing your views. Maybe I should ask for your photos and make a collage of them on one of my posts, what do you think?

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LadyFi May 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Fabulous fabulous views! I really loved this glimpse into the different parts of the world.

Wouldn’t it be great to organize some kind of blog carnival where we all post our views? Or your idea of a mosaic is great!

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Gaby July 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Funny again! But… you could have taken a picture of your neighbors house who lived on the right of you )me:) in Armenia too! My house wasn’t all that ugly I think! πŸ™‚ I sure liked looking into your garden.

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Sarah-Jane September 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm

The view of Ramallah is magical!

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missfootloose September 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm

It’s what I saw every day when I looked out my window. Fabulous.

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