This week, we’re starting a new series, one geared to bringing us back to the original mission of And So It Goes: to encourage curiosity in cultural differences and in the process come to know ourselves better.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear from seven women who, I hope, will help us see ourselves anew. Here they are, in alpha order by first name.
Alexis Chateau is from Jamaica and visited the US every year as she grew up. Then, two years ago, she decided it was time to see more of the world. She quit her corporate job in Jamaica, gave up her apartment, re-homed her pets, and packed her life into three suitcases. Atlanta, GA was one of the main stops on her trip, and now it’s her home.
She maintains an active blog at Alexis Chateau.com and is the founder and managing partner of Alexis Chateau PR. When she isn’t whipping up witty social media posts and writing press releases, she’s on the hiking trail, getting lost in a book, or playing video games. Alex is proudly owned by Shadow the PR Cat.
I met Alexis through the confusion that WordPress has created with its two sites (.com and .org). We liked each other’s websites and as I read some of her blog posts, I was certain she’d make an important contribution to this series. Next week, June 7, Alexis will join us to talk about “Living with Jamaican Values In America.”
Anna Coates lives in France currently, though she was born and raised in Soviet Latvia. She writes fiction under the pseudonym Zenta Brice. A journalist by profession, she is currently working on a memoir of life in her country during the years of Soviet collapse.
Anna and I met through the Facebook group, We Love Memoirs. An occasional commenter on my blog posts here, she has also given me the chance to read her work in progress, a memoir of a time in her life that also holds great interest for me. On June 28, Anna will write about “Toilets and Racism” and “Symbols and Smiles.”
Bertie Koelewijn grew up in the Netherlands and taught elementary school for 10 years before marrying an American and moving to the US when she was 30. Upon arriving in the U.S., she (with her husband Greg Brown) renovated and ran a New Hampshire Country Inn for 10 years, substituted in the elementary school her children attended, and did volunteer work in her local church and town. Currently she runs a landlord business with her husband and teaches fiber arts workshops. She now lives in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Bertie and I sing together in the North Country Chorus here in Vermont, though I first heard her name when Woody discovered she would patiently respond to his fading Dutch language.
Bertie will join us in conversation as best she can, though much of June she’ll be visiting family offline in the Netherlands.
Ella Reznikova is a meditation teacher, Transformative Mediator, translator and tireless reader and traveler. She likes to write short stories, mostly about her life in the Soviet Ukraine and her family. She lives with her husband in Vermont and works as a Scholarship Manager in a meditation retreat center.
Ella and I met here in Vermont when she joined the monthly writer’s group I belong to.
Here is a sample of her powerful writing, the opening of her guest post, “My First Appointment With Dharma,” scheduled for June 21.
How to recollect something that changed your life? The day was kind of gray, and nothing was showing any signs of importance. Ordinariness never lifted its veil. You know when people are telling stories about an unusually bright morning when something happened in your life? Well, it was nothing like that. But there was a plan that involved the map and my friendship with my father and the main changes in my entire life.
Gulzhahan Tazhitova teaches English at L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Astana, Kazakhstan and is fluent in Kazakh, Russian, English and German. Following her years as a counterpart to a US Peace Corps volunteer, Gulzhahan was accepted to present at the TESOL Conference in Seattle, WA. In addition to this conference in the US, she has also attended conferences in Germany and in Dubai. She is the author of two textbooks for teaching English and has published more than 15 papers. She and her husband Darkhan have two sons, Duman, 17, and Timur, 5.
Gulzhahan and I met in Kazakhstan when I was that PCV she mentions in her bio. Those of you who have read my memoir will certainly recognize her as my counterpart. She has written of the many differences she noticed while she was in the United States ten years ago, which you’ll read on July 9.
Hélène Tragos Stelian is a life coach, speaker, and author.
As a certified life coach, she helps people who feel stuck or lost take bold steps into a life of renewed meaning and purpose. She leads workshops on many subjects, including purpose, perfectionism, success, and goal-setting.
In her blogs, Purpose Stories and Next Act for Women, she shares inspirational stories of people who have found their life’s calling—and are living it—at any age. She also writes about purpose, midlife, women, parenting, and college for other sites, including the Huffington Post.
She’ll tell us more about all this in her guest post on June 14, “Finding Myself — Out of the Cultural Melting Pot” as she shares the struggles she encountered when she first came to the US.
Hélène and I met online through the Facebook group, Women Writers Women’s Books and I was a recent guest on her website, Next Act for Women: Reinventing in Midlife and Beyond with my story of joining the Peace Corps in midlife. She has a new site now too, helenetstelian.com, focused on helping readers find happiness through purpose.
Having trouble pronouncing Hélène? She guides us. “To pronounce it,” she writes on her website, “you say the two letters L and N in a row: L-N, with the emphasis on the N.”
Isabelle Winkler is a photographer, aspiring filmmaker, and enthusiastic world wanderer. She is the voice behind the travel blog Around the World in which she chronicles her journey through words and pictures. Originally from Germany, she currently lives in Russia and is planning her ventures into Georgia, Armenia and Iran. Her aim is to travel the globe without taking an airplane.
Here’s an excerpt from her post that is set for July 2 (Bold emphasis is mine) entitled “Colliding Worlds.”
Being an American abroad can’t be hidden. It’s in the voice, the accent, the way he carries himself, the clothes, the vocabulary, the laugh. Foreigners will associate all of those things with what they have seen in movies. In a room full of aspiring filmmakers and film collaborators this is even more powerful. Young women become flies buzzing around a light. Boys and men will take that person just a little bit more seriously than the counterpart that speaks good but broken English. Everybody wants to please the person taking up so much space, the one with the grand ideas, talking about film festivals and successful people. They want to get to know the one that seems to be in the know.
How about you? What might stand out to foreign eyes as they experience our country, often for the first time? And, for my foreign readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences of America or Americans. As always, keep it civil. Curiosity with compassion, that’s the motto.