Expat Life: A Quilt of Foreign Bits and Pieces

by Miss Footloose

Is your globetrotting life full of little incidents, insights, views, colors, smells and other bits and pieces that don’t stand alone as a big adventure or an amusing story, but are fun or interesting just the same? I have lots and for this post I’ve stitched together a few random ones fished out of my treasure box of odds and ends.

This photo is of the vendor who, in INDONESIA, used to walk by our house with his enormous load of plastic ware and assorted housecleaning paraphernalia. Sort of like Walmart on legs. He was a nice, smiling man, but when I asked if I could take a picture, he turned instantly serious. The same story with the flower vendor who would come to the door every week with huge baskets full of gorgeous tropical flowers. It’s a common reaction of people in many countries. The cheeriest person looks instantly funereal when faced with a camera.

Dolls found in Turkey

A couple of years ago, on vacation in TURKEY, I came upon a shopping cart (trolley) full of dolls in front of a shop. It was late at night and I found it a rather creepy sight in the semi-darkness.

Tribute to working men and women aka Son in law tossing out mother in law_600x478

All over ARMENIA you find statues and monuments hailing from Soviet times. I like this one especially because an Armenian friend told me it’s affectionately called “Throwing Mother-in-Law Out of the House.” It was probably erected to the glory of working men and women. Or something like that.

In Armenia, young men and women do not usually strike out on their own when they become adults but live with their parents until they marry. Then the lucky bride moves in with her husband’s family. You can imagine your mother-in-law plays an important part in your life as a married woman and you’d better like each other. When couples at some time or other do move into their own digs, they often end up with aging parents living with them until the oldies get called up to their home in heaven. When I told an Armenian friend about retirement communities and nursing homes in the West, she was appalled. How could you possibly send your parents to live by themselves and be taken care of by strangers! (Okay, you answer that one.)

France, old and new

Recently in FRANCE I walked through an ancient village and found this sign of modern habitation. In foreign countries I always love seeing the contrasts between old and new, traditional and contemporary, etc..

I was quite taken with this building in downtown Tirana, the capital of ALBANIA. Every time I looked at it from the balcony of my tenth-floor apartment across from it, I had the impulse to lick it. I can’t decide if it looks like a frosted cake or a funky kids’ toy, but I always appreciate architecture that has at least the guts to be different. Tirana has many colorful apartment buildings, oceans of paint covering up the drab colors of communist-era architecture.

Albania is a poor country, but the center of Tirana is very nice and blooms with sidewalk cafes and restaurants abuzz with people drinking espresso. It is said that half the population of the town brews coffee and the other half drinks it. I only spent a short time in Albania and the country was a big surprise to me. The people are open and friendly and full of curiosity about the rest of the world. It’s amazing they have so much spirit left after having been suppressed under a cruel communist regime that lasted almost half a century.

Rome Street Scene

Just a little street scene in Rome, Italy. Just sitting in my files, so here it is, for what it is worth.

GHANA. The cheeriest country of them all.  I lived the expat life there on two occasions, for a total of 8 years. There’s always something fun to see by the side of the road. Billboards like this one for cough medicine, and small shops and businesses with names like MY WIFE LOVES ALL ENT., GOD IS GREAT HAIR CUT, HOLY TRINITY FAST FOOD, DRESSED TO KILL BOUTIQUE, and so on. Who needs TV I ask you.

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And now, dear reader, it’s your turn. Please tell me about your bits and pieces – colorful vendors, interesting statues, fun buildings, anything entertaining.

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The Armenians sound a bit like us.

Wonderful stories and pictures–those Turkish dolls will haunt me all day. My mind is reeling, trying to recall all the funny, crazy, fascinating snippets of expat life I have stored up: a shepherd, dressed in a white, flowing robe out in the middle of a totally deserted field in Cyprus, surrounded by nothing but his sheep–and punching away at a cell phone; the elderly man in our neighborhood who has, for some reason, dyed his hair green on one side, pink on the other–and done the same for his little poodle; the puzzling sign at our local pool in huge… Read more »

Back in the early 1970s we lived and worked in the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu, in the South Pacific near Fiji. It was a string of islands inhabited by Melanesians and administered by Britain and France – *jointly*, if you can imagine such a wild improbability. As it happens, my latest blog-post (“A wedding to attend”) reports some of the strange practices relating to the British jail for the natives. (Expats were deported out of hand and without a trial, if they did anything wrong.) The fence around it was built not to keep the prisoners in but their families… Read more »


You know why those dolls were there? They were waiting for a hair transplant! Or hair plugs or whatever they are called! Sadly when I was off journeying in weird but often wonderful places, I did not possess a camera or see the need for one, my father said “You’ll regret that one day” and now, of course, he is right and places have changed so much in the past 45 years that everything that I remember is, of course, no longer there. One of my favourites of your photos was the one of the mannequins in the window, there… Read more »

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