This past Friday, several of my work colleagues left early to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not being much of a scifi geek, I left at the usual time.

As it happened, my husband and I went to the cinema Friday evening as well—but for a very late screening of Spotlight, a terrifically acted film based on a true story of investigative reporting by the Boston Globe.

Don't get me wrong. I may end up seeing The Force Awakens over the holidays. And I'm definitely interested in "galaxies far, far away"—why else would I spend so much time pinning wildly beautiful images of outer space onto the Displaced Nation's "Out of This Displaced World" Pinterest board?

But what really has my imagination going isn't so much the fictional Galactic Empire as it is the prospect of the first human encampment on Mars.

NASA has been vague about when its first man-mission to Mars could take place, but a group of billionaires, including the displaced Elon Musk, along with Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Richard Branson, aren't waiting for NASA. They, too, have joined the space race in the hopes of putting the first humans on Mars.

The thought of humanity becoming a multi-planetary species raises some interesting questions. Can nations claim land on other planets? Not according to the international Outer Space Treaty (1967), which forms the basis of international space law.

What about companies like Musk's SpaceX? The U.S. Congress seems inclined to think so.

It seems doubtful, however, that humans who land on Mars will want to answer to groups back on Earth. If they decide to stay, they'll be Martians, not Earthlings, surely?

Returning to Planet Earth momentarily: We've had so much mild and humid weather here on the East Coast, it hasn't really felt like Christmas is coming. But as today is December 20, it must be. And so I wish all of you who celebrate a happy Christmas. And, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, may the Force be with you!


 
—ML Awanohara

Photo credit: Mars- We are coming!!!!!, by Cyril Rana via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
What to do this week if you're in...

South Wales, UK: Keep your eyes peeled for groups of costumed Welsh men performing songs in return for gifts of food and drink as they travel from house-to-house, a kind of wassailing custom known as Mari Lwyd. Mari Lwyd in fact refers to the "white horse," consisting of a horse's skull mounted on a pole, which the men carry with them. (Apparently, this folk practice is all in fun and not mean to scare, despite the skull.)

Japan (location irrelevant): Be sure to pick up a Christmas cake on December 24. For some reason, Japanese associate Christmas Eve with eating something sweet
—and also with getting engaged! (Notably, the Japanese refer to women who do not find husbands by the age of 25 as "Christmas cake" because uneaten Christmas cake is disposed of on December 26th.)

Nassau, Bahamas: Sway to the beat of the goombay drums as Junkanoo gets under way with a parade down Bay Street in downtown Nassau on Boxing Day (December 26th). Tracing its roots to the music, dance, and spectacle of West Africa, Junkanoo is one of the oldest surviving street festivals of the Caribbean. A second, even bigger parade takes place on New Year's Day.


While we were all playing on social media...

Happily ever after? Expat novelist Helena Halme has released The Navy Wife, the long-awated sequel to her Nordic tale of long-distance love, The Englishman. Now that Finnish Kaisa has married Peter, the handsome English navel officer she first met at a British Embassy cocktail party in Helsinki, will their love stay on course? Additionally, Halme has launched a new author site, which, besides displaying her books, offers advice for new writers.

More wives' tales: The displaced writer and painter Annika Milisic-Stanley has published her first novel, The Disobedient Wife, about a friendship that forms between a poor, courageous local woman in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and her employer, a trailing expat wife married to a British diplomat. Milisic-Stanley says she based the plot on stories she heard when living in Dushanbe as a humanitarian aid worker for several years. (Born to Swedish and Anglo-German parents, she grew up in England and now lives in Rome.)

A leg up: American expat writer Christine Gilbert has launched We Create, a global community for creatives in the post- new media world. Thinking about tackling a big project, like writing a book, in 2016? Gilbert can help you get started. Her next Create Camp will be held in Destin, Florida, from January 31st to February 6th.

Nature holds the key: The magazine Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue about learning from nature. Specifically, they are "looking for well-crafted narratives that will illuminate the relationship between humans and the environment, particularly as we face the challenges of climate change." International creatives, we imagine some of you have great stories to tell, particularly if you've lived in India or China. Deadline for submissions: February 1, 2016.
Updates from The Displaced Nation:

For this precocious global adventurer, videographer and committed expat, a picture says…
Greetings, Displaced Nationers who are also photography buffs! “A Picture Says…” columnist James King promises to be back in the new year, so this may be my last column for a while. In any event, I’m super excited about today’s guest, Andrew Marston. Andrew first flashed across my screen when an exploit of his got featured on Rocket News 24, the English-language blog that reports interesting, strange, and random news items from Asia….


TCK TALENT: As 2016 approaches, Lisa Liang dares to dream big for her one-woman show, “Alien Citizen”
In a year that took her to Spain and South Africa for performances of her play Alien Citizen, columnist Lisa Liang is already making big plans for 2016. You go girl! Hello, dear readers. This month’s column is devoted to my recent experience filming my one-woman show, Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey, in Los Angeles, California....


Other recent posts:

WORLD OF WORDS: At least know the meaning of “gauche” before you travel abroad

CULTURE SHOCK TOOLBOX: Expats, when you find yourself out of tune with the local language/culture, throw back your head and laugh it off!

LOCATION, LOCUTION: Rachel Abbott, proof positive it’s never too late to become a best-selling novelist—and expat

BOOKLUST, WANDERLUST: Giving thanks for expat and repat writers whose novels have an international flavor

GLOBAL FOOD GOSSIP: Upon repatriation, a chance to hatch my first farm-to-table plan (the coop came first!)
Alice in Wonderland Obsession

An Alice Christmas: Odessa, Delaware, boasts an historic district with several well-preserved 18th- to 19th-century residential buildings. For the past 30 years, the holiday decorations for these houses have been themed to children’s literature. This year, in celebration of the 150th birthday of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, the houses are decked out in flamingos, tarts, red paint, and a giant teapot, among other Alice-related objects. A visitor favorite is a dining room set up for a garden tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter.
Matters of debate:

Trailing spouses are best described as "accidental expats." As a result, say Americans Susan Dalzell and Tracy Slater (both of whom fall into this category), they are especially prone to reentry blues: i.e., having trouble readjusting to expat life after a trip back home.

To stay in another country over the longer term, sooner or later you will need to stop asking "why". Steve McCabe learned that lesson the hard way in Japan, where he, a British expat, kept asking the lifeguard at a municipal swimming pool why he had to get out for "rest time". (He now lives in New Zealand.)

Growing up bilingual automatically provides a much broader outlook on life. In conversation with Adult Third Culture Kid Tayo Rockson, British artist Hetain Petal, who grew up speaking his parents' Indian dialect as well as English, says his art
—which consists of stage performances where he plays with identity, language and accent—springs out of his early understanding that there is more than one way to communicate or see things.


Surprising discoveries:

Vietnam is the best working destination for expats in the Asia region. According to HSBC's latest Expat Explorer survey, close to 70 percent of Vietnam-based expats in have been able to save money since relocating, thanks in large part to its lower living costs.  

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been repurposed into Rupert the Expat Reindeer for teaching British expats in the UAE about laws and customs in the lead-up to Christmas. The lyrics follow the story of a group of expatriate reindeer who get a crash course in getting to know the local laws, customs and climate the hard way; issues covered include alcohol licenses, drinking in public, wearing appropriate clothing and the use of offensive language.

The most authentic Dulce de Leche in the world can be found in Turkey. It is the product of Argentinian expat Juan Casalins and his Turkish wife, Gizem Selçuk. Their recipe calls for the original ingredients (they use the freshest milk to be found in the village of Assos, where they live) as well as hand-stirring. (It's available for order here.)
We hope you have a glorious week of international creativity. Please send any news, comments, Rupert the Expat Reindeer toys, and generous helpings of Turkish Dulce de Leche to ml@thedisplacednation.com. You can follow us on Facebook here and/or Twitter here for more frequent updates.

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