7 Reasons to read Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style

So, something pretty cool has happened. I’ve become a published author!

Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style is an anthology of stories written by women expat bloggers living in the Netherlands, which I wrote an essay for and helped edit.

After months of work by publishers Olga Mecking and Lynn Morrison, as well as the community of bloggers who helped put the book together, I’m proud to announce that Dutched Up! is now available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon and on iTunes.

Dutched Up Rocking the Clogs Expat Style

The fact that I’m in this book is reason enough for my mom and husband to buy it, but I realize you guys might need a little more convincing. So I’ve thought of 7 reasons you should go and get Dutched Up!

You’ve got a Dutch connection. If you currently live or have ever lived in the Netherlands, this is the book for you. You’ll discover you’re not the only one who’s been mistaken for a lady of the night, peered into your neighbor’s wide-open windows, or left dumbstruck by Dutch directness. Or perhaps you have a Dutchie in your life—spouse, boyfriend, or in-laws. You’ll recognize bits and pieces of them here, and perhaps learn a few new tips and tricks for living with their, ehem, unique way of being.

You’re living the expat life—or are contemplating it. From your first confrontation with a foreign supermarket shelf to being the eternal Other at your workplace, these are experiences you can relate to all too well. Contemplating a move overseas? You’ll benefit from an insider’s look at all the little nooks and crannies where culture shock resides, waiting to leap out and ambush you. Call it an early warning system.

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Life is beginning again

Doreen Fernandez

It’s oddly prescient of our food-loving relationship that Marlon and I met in the freshman English class of Doreen Fernandez, the Philippines’ foremost food scholar, food writer and food critic.

Both of us loved Doreen, although perhaps we didn’t appreciate her as much as we did after we left her class, and especially after she passed away in 2002. Maybe because in our classroom, she wasn’t the Philippines’ foremost food writer, scholar, critic and all those amazing things—she was simply Ma’am Doreen.

Her Facebook page, run by her relatives after her death, says:

She has taught us that food writing can be a scholarly pursuit, eating an erudite experience, and the celebration of Filipino cooking an affirmation of our national identity.

But what she taught me was that I was good at writing, that I could take it beyond the formal theme books of high school, and do more with it than impress teachers with my precociousness. I’m a writer today because of her generous marks on my essays; because she called me to read my writing out loud in front of the class; because when I wrote about a creepy supernatural thing that happened to me, she believed me (and told me to contact Danton Remoto and join the Spirit Questors); because of her gentle ways and ever-present smile.

It was a delicate time in my life, but I didn’t know that then. At the time I needed it most, she gave me the stimulus I needed to write, a structure within which to write regularly, and the gentle encouragement to keep writing well.

As chair of the Communication department, her door was always open for a chat. I remember talking to her about wanting to live in Europe, and if I should do it as a singer or as an English teacher. “Sing!” she said without hesitation. “If I could sing, I would! You can teach English when you’re old, like me.”

I’ve been rediscovering her food writing, or at least trying to. Her books are hard to get hold of outside the Philippines, but some of her wonderful essays are excerpted in this blog. That’s how I found this quote, which I think is a wonderful way to start the week—or any day for that matter. The reference to food makes it uniquely Doreen, and resonates with a foodie like me.

So, happy start of the week, everyone! I wish you a fresh and hopeful day, an upbeat spirit, and life that begins anew. Oh, and good food, too.

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Rested, refreshed and ready to blog

I’m back!

Riga and Jurmala Instagram summer

I’m back from a two-week trip to Latvia, and a quickie city trip to Vienna just before that. Now I’m happy to say I’m not just back from my holiday, but I’m back to blogging, too. Thanks for waiting for me, encouraging me, and maybe even missing me!

Time away from the computer has done me good. I managed to accomplish an important career milestone (landed my first Dutch client!), enjoy the beautiful summer we’ve been having in Amsterdam, allow thoughts (future ideas for blog posts?) percolate in my head. I’ve had time to read, rest and refocus. And of course, travel.

Travel is such a re-energizing force for me. I enjoyed my Latvia trip so much, and feel so inspired to share more about this underrated travel destination. Because I traveled to Latvia to spend time with dear friends from back home, this trip also allowed me to reconnect with a part of me that I left behind when I moved abroad seven years ago.

Finally, choosing to travel at a slow, relaxed pace gave Marlon and myself the space to savor long conversations and comfortable silences, to talk about our future and dream together. This is exactly the kind of thing that keeps us going.

And these are the exactly the kinds of things that keep me going (and writing): music, friends, food, travel, laughter, love, life. So I’m back. I’m not hopping back onto the relentless hamster wheel of the editorial calendar, but I’m back and I’m here to stay.

In my next few posts, I will share about my time in Vienna, Riga and the Baltic coast—and perhaps a few things I’ve realized along the way. Time to get writing!


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When blogging fatigue strikes

Getting over a blogging slump

You may have noticed that it’s been quiet around here lately. You may have also noticed that the blog’s been sporting a new look, but that I haven’t said anything about it yet.

I suppose I wouldn’t be a blogger if I didn’t get to the point where I wanted to stop blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2003, and I never really thought it would happen to me, but here it is: the dreaded blogger’s fatigue. Perhaps it’s inevitable in a blogger’s life, like a rite of passage.

For the last couple of weeks I haven’t even wanted to look at my blog. I’ve ignored the drafts on my editorial calendar, the folders of carefully selected photos on my desktop, the unwritten posts from New York, which was three months ago. It’s not that fun things haven’t happened to me in the last few weeks, or that I haven’t had great ideas; I just haven’t wanted to write about them.

What’s really sucked the soul from my blogging self is that my redesign didn’t end the way I hoped it would. After finishing my new logo and branding, and putting up a basic, functional blog in time for The Hive, the U.S.-based designer I hired just… disappeared. POOF! With a few hundred dollars of (fully paid) design work left to go.

No response to emails, no updates on social media, total radio silence for more than a month. (As a professional providing a service to a paying client, can you really ignore them for a month?!) I tried to be understanding and accommodating; I was actually worried, until I discovered that her LinkedIn profile was deactivated about a week ago. That sends quite a different message, doesn’t it?

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Filipinas: an interview with photographer Isa Lorenzo

The second article I wrote for the Philippine Star‘s YStyle section has been published. I’m posting the full text below, since the link that’s up here likely won’t be around for long.

I can type fast without looking at the keyboard, and I was really grateful for that skill when I interviewed Isa (who happens to be Rina‘s aunt). If I’d been hunched over my laptop, I might have missed how fun and inspiring Isa was. I was blown away by how firmly she stood for her artistic vision in the face of discouragement, indifference, difficulty and even—drumroll please—offers to buy her work. Yes, money. (I may have sold out.) Isa had become what she’d intended the women in her photos to be: real and inspiring.

Her staff had given me a comprehensive media kit and press release, so I could have just done a couple of nips and tucks and turned my article in well before my deadline. But I enjoyed my conversation with Isa too much to be a sly, cheating shmuck.

Incidentally, I’ve actually performed at the UNESCO House in Paris, during ACS’ tour last October.

Here’s the article. See if you can guess who the “false start” was.

Filipina greats

By Deepa Paul
The Philippine STAR 03/02/2007

To the public at large, Filipinas is a series of photographs of 30 Filipina women. Having first opened in February 2006, Filipinas, the exhibit, shows the faces and stories of women who are pioneers in their respective fields, whose example paved the way for other Filipina women to become more than what was expected of them. But to photographer Isa Lorenzo, creative director of Silver Lens Photography, Filipinas is a four-year journey.

The journey began, as most do, with an idea; for Filipinas, it was Isa’s idea of an “homage to women who have reached lifetime successes.” Having heard about some of these women since childhood, Isa set out to put together a list of women who had, in some way or other, gone beyond themselves in areas that were difficult. “My qualifications for inclusion in this list were accomplishment and age—they must have done a lot in their lives and they must be old enough to not screw up their achievements.”

She intended her list to include only 12 women, but Isa soon realized that the Filipina’s power to inspire, and the number of lives that deserved acknowledgement, could not be limited to such a small number. “We have a lot of Filipinas who are firsts in Asia, like the first female mayor in Asia, the first Asian graduate of the Harvard school of medicine. By the way, she’s 97 and still practicing!” Isa says.

Getting started

List in hand, Isa’s journey had barely begun. There was the task of learning about each of the 30 women on the list and hunting down people who knew them—children, grandchildren, relatives, students, and friends—and would agree to deliver Isa’s letters of introduction and samples of her work. There was dealing with rejection for reasons of health or vanity; an unnamed patron of the arts promptly and firmly declined upon learning that she would be photographed without makeup. There was the logistical nightmare of scheduling the shoots, despite the fact that Isa only required a maximum of 20 minutes of actual shooting time. “These women are so busy, it’s insane!” Isa exclaims “The most difficult was (National Bookstore founder) Socorro Ramos – we had to schedule her 15 minutes of shooting time six months in advance!”

There were false starts, too – such as the very first subject Isa chose to photograph. “As soon as I began shooting, I knew I had the wrong woman. I felt like running away! Hindi ko siya kaya!” Isa says, laughing. “I didn’t shoot for three months after that.” Traumatized? Perhaps, but Isa is quick to say that she used the time to thresh out her artistic vision for the exhibit, and to focus on what she wanted to achieve with the photographs she would compile. The subject of Isa’s first shoot (a larger-than-life, controversial historical figure) never made the final cut – a conscious exclusion that Isa feels “changed the nature of the project completely.”

Then came the processing of the film, the edits, the search for the paper to print the mural-sized images on, coordination with the printer, meetings with various national institutions as venues for the show, and so on. The project took roughly three years to complete.

Hitting the road

Filipinas’ opening night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) almost exactly one year ago was not the end of the road, but the beginning of a new and unimagined path beyond the gallery. Filipinas traveled to universities all over Metro Manila, where it faced the puzzled scrutiny of students who goggled at the size of the photos and wondered what the big fuss was about these bare-faced, deeply lined, and in many cases, completely anonymous women.

What they discovered beyond the bafflement and curiosity blew them away, much to Isa’s delight. “We brought the show to Far Eastern University, where one girl remembered that she had totally hated high school. But she had one teacher, just one that she really loved, who made all the difference and kept her from just suffering through high school,” Isa recounts. “These women are like that. It then became very real to these students that just one woman can make a world of difference.” More importantly, Isa says, once students saw that, they began thinking beyond “I can never be like that, I’m not from where they’re from, I don’t have what they have” to “I can make a difference, too.”

From gallery to university to retail spaces and malls, Filipinas continued to move and inspire with its clean, stark images and powerful message. It was only a matter of time until its journey proved to be unstoppable. So unstoppable, in fact, that in December last year, one of the world’s biggest organizations came knocking with an invitation.

Paris and beyond

Upon the suggestion of Filipinas curator Deanna Ongpin-Recto, Isa had tossed off a letter to UNESCO in July 2006 – and had promptly forgotten about it. The invitation to exhibit at the UNESCO House in Paris came as a total, yet welcome, surprise. Filipinas was chosen by the UNESCO Section on Women and Gender Equality to be shown for a full week, in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8. Isa was also asked to speak about the photographs and bring her UNESCO audience face to face with a few of the women whose photographs were part of the exhibit.

Paris marks Filipinas’ first step outside Philippine borders – and that, Isa feels, makes a huge difference not just to the photographer and her subjects, but to Filipinas and the Philippines. “The face of the Filipina known to the world is the OFW (overseas Filipino worker). But these women are not that. Not many people know about this side of the Filipina,” Isa emphasizes. “People will see that the Philippines has something more to show. It will be acknowledged on a different level, on a global platform.” It is Isa’s belief that that global recognition will pave the way for greater acknowledgment and appreciation where it truly counts – back home.

After being parked in Paris until late spring, Filipinas will continue its journey across Europe in May 2006, visiting Madrid, Rome, Geneva and “somewhere in Germany, maybe Berlin.” The Department of Foreign Affairs has taken Filipinas under its wing and put Philippine embassies to work finding places to show it in Europe; no mean feat, considering the difficulties posed by an election year. “The embassies’ minds are on anything but arts and culture,” Isa says wryly. “But Filipinas is apolitical, neutral, it’s para sa bayan (for the nation)–and they get that. That made it easier, in a way.”

The photographs have been compiled into a book to be published in June, and arrangements are being made with the Undersecretary for American Affairs to bring Filipinas to the United States later in the year. Having enjoyed a lengthy run uncommon to most local exhibits, Isa is committed to propelling Filipinas as far into the future as it can possibly go – a commitment that stands in the face of offers to buy or borrow select photographs. “This is not a selling show, where the work gets broken up into pieces for sale,” Isa emphasizes. “It was so difficult to gather all of these women. Why would I ever take them apart?”

After traveling abroad and going down the publishing route, what else lies ahead in Filipinas’ path? Isa thinks back to the beginning for the answer. She remembers assembling the list, being extra careful about inclusions or exclusions, combing through fields of society and far-flung communities for exceptional lives, and scrutinizing these lives for ethical value. “It was so hard to find good people who are still good and still at it,” Isa says. “But there are more out there. I just haven’t had an opportunity to meet them, and photograph them, just yet.”

* * *Filipinas is open for public viewing at UNESCO House, 7 Place de Fontenoy, Paris, until March 9. It is presented in cooperation with the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and Cultural Center of the Philippines. For more information, visit www.filipinas.silverlensphoto.com/about.htm

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