Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt is a celebration of expat life. I came to this book knowing a little bit about Kazakhstan because my aunt lived and...moreDrinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt is a celebration of expat life. I came to this book knowing a little bit about Kazakhstan because my aunt lived and worked there for many years and I myself am an expat who has lived overseas for five years, although in warm, tropical countries. Reading this book, I learned so much about Kazakhstan and was so charmed by many of the stories that I’m going to suggest it as a future destination for my family. A common theme among expats is that regardless of our country of origin and our current location, life in a different country is difficult but not without its rewards. The essays in Drinking Camel’s Milk illustrate both sides of this life beautifully. I found myself nodding in agreement to the passage, “Does she [the housekeeper] know this isn’t really me? Overseas I live in borrowed apartments, never fully committed to people or places. After the thrill of a new country wears off, I find myself searching for the comfort and regularity of a normal life, which often means I stop trying to understand or belong.” I also identified with the quest to find a rare, local piece of furniture, having had a few of those sorts of adventures myself in India and Africa.
This book is a great introduction to Kazakhstan for expats, travelers, or anyone else who’s interested in the culture, geography, and history of the region. There is also extensive talk about discovering the wonderful food in Kazakhstan; it was surprising to learn that the food is so delicious. Drinking Camel’s Milk is a collection of essays by expats of different nationalities; it’s nice to hear so many different points of view on Kazakhstan. With so few resources about this country available, this is a must-read for anyone who’s eager to learn more. (less)
I was hoping for more of a funny or poignant fish-out-of-water story and maybe that was the author's intent, but the writing was flat and I couldn't g...moreI was hoping for more of a funny or poignant fish-out-of-water story and maybe that was the author's intent, but the writing was flat and I couldn't get a sense of whether the author was enjoying himself or not. Some of the stories seemed to miss the point of what might have actually been humorous or interesting. The book started as a series of emails the author sent to his family while living in China. I'm sure his family and friends found it very informative, but it was difficult for me as a stranger to get to know the author at all.(less)
I'm a frequent reader of the Expat Women website. When the founders of the site contacted bloggers to read and review their new book, Expat Women: Con...moreI'm a frequent reader of the Expat Women website. When the founders of the site contacted bloggers to read and review their new book, Expat Women: Confessions -- 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions About Living Abroad, I was excited and couldn't wait to start reading.
The founder of Expat Women has been compiling letters and answers from the popular Confessions column on the website and has put the most common subjects and frequently returned to topics into one book for easy reference. What I think everyone will take away from this book is that "You are not alone." Moving within your own country, even within your own town, is hard. Moving to a new country is very hard, no matter how prepared, organized, determined, or open-minded you are. It helps to hear others' stories for inspiration.
The book is organized into different topics, such as culture shock, raising children, death and divorce overseas, and moving back to your home country. There are questions from single women, women who are the working partner, and women who are the "trailing spouse." The women featured come from a range of different countries and backgrounds, not just the United States, which emphasizes the fact that we can all relate, because we all have some of the same thoughts from time to time.
I don't consider myself a seasoned expat, but I found myself already knowing the answers to some of the questions. One problem I found with the book is that regardless of the problem, the answers were similar or overlapped. There is a lot of advice geared around getting professional counseling, which seems like a difficult thing to do if one of your issues is a language barrier and there are no counselors or therapists practicing in your native language. There is apparently a huge market for life coaching, especially those who practice expat life coaching, of which I was unaware. Most of the advice is to relax and think through the problems and decisions and to have a positive attitude. Exercise and try to make friends. The same pep talk was repeated several times. I think there's more value in the variety of questions, knowing that whatever problem you have there's one other person out there with the same problem. The answer isn't always as important as knowing someone else already asked the question.
There is a lot of practical advice on what sorts of documents and paperwork we should all have in order, especially for when emergencies arise, such as financial papers, health records, wills, and documents pertaining to legal issues in your host country.
After reading this book my feelings that as a State Department expat I think we have it much easier than other expats were confirmed. As much as we grumble sometimes, we have an automatic network in place if we choose to use it. Much of the advice given in this book is similar to what you'll get from the Family Liaison Office. Our housing is mostly taken care of, we have medical personnel and security officers on-call a lot of the time. We have mail service. We jump in to a new assignment filled with people that have just gone through the same move and we have instant access to those people to show us the ropes of a new city.
I think the book can be a valuable resource for some women. It's easy to get so involved in our own little worlds that we forget there are others out there like us but sometimes it's nice to identify with someone.(less)
I'd been feeling a little down lately and I took great comfort in the curmudgeonly travel writing of Paul Theroux. I'm moving to India this year and a...moreI'd been feeling a little down lately and I took great comfort in the curmudgeonly travel writing of Paul Theroux. I'm moving to India this year and also have plans to either visit or live in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Japan. Theroux does not sugarcoat his travels, and reading of them did not dampen my spirit in any way.(less)
Not only did I enjoy this because of the food and cooking notes, but because of the Foreign Service aspect. So many books and articles by Foreign Serv...moreNot only did I enjoy this because of the food and cooking notes, but because of the Foreign Service aspect. So many books and articles by Foreign Service spouses talk about the negative aspects of living overseas. It was refreshing to read the experience of someone who loved it (most of the time). I know that wasn't the main point of the book, but it played a major part in her life and the reason she was overseas in the first place.(less)
This book seems to bring out some strong feelings, either you love it or hate it. I'm in the middle. I just didn't care enough to feel either way. How...moreThis book seems to bring out some strong feelings, either you love it or hate it. I'm in the middle. I just didn't care enough to feel either way. However, there were some interesting travel tidbits and some genuinely funny moments. At the beginning of each section, I was ready to enjoy each new part of the journey. But by the end of each section, I was bored. I feel kind of sorry for the author, that she struggles so much with depression. But I kept getting impatient with the writing and after a while it even felt inauthentic.