Thursday, January 28, 2016

Expat Author Interview with Christopher James

Christopher James
Christopher James, originally from London, England, lives in Jakarta, Indonesia. Recently James has launched Jellyfish Review, an online journal devoted to innovative brief fiction.

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IMBO: Christopher, welcome to I Must Be Off! You live in Jakarta. I've been to Bali a couple times, but never anywhere else in Indonesia. Tell us about your typical day in Jakarta. 
James: Hi Christopher, thank you for having me at IMBO! I’m delighted to be here.
Your first question comes at a strange time, because only a few days ago in Jakarta we had a dozen gunmen and suicide bombers attack the centre of the city. By all accounts they mostly failed in their attempt. Some of them got lost on their way to one of the city’s busiest malls, stopped and asked for directions, and exploded themselves in the mostly empty parking lot.
Sadly, that’s not the entire story. Several innocent people were killed, and some twenty or so are in critical condition. But Jakarta has been through a lot in the last thirty or so years. They overthrew a corrupt government. They suffered bomb attacks. The entire city is literally sinking into the sea, and they keep building new skyscrapers and multi-storey malls that exacerbate the problem.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, except to say that there isn’t really any such thing as a typical day in Indonesia. People enjoy boring things here like sleeping in and visiting the shops. I teach a little every day, edit a little every day, write a little every day, swim in the sun a little every day. I grab some street meat for lunch. Everything’s covered in hot, spicy sambal. It seldom rains, but when it does it floods the streets. Most things are routine, and that extends to the things which change everything.
By the way, only a few hours after the suicide bombers came, life in Jakarta returned more or less back to normal. A line trended on Twitter – kita tidak takut. We are not afraid. 
IMBO: Where are you from, and how did this place shape you?
James: I’m from London, England. A lot of the old Londoners can, and do, complain about how their city has changed – how they can’t walk down the street anymore without hearing a thousand foreign voices. For me, that was the best thing about it. I’ve long been a traveller, and London is one of those special places in the world where you can trot the entire globe without leaving the city limits.
IMBO: I lived in London for a few years, so I was one of those foreign voices (American, very much from the South but mellowed over the years). I used to walk the Thames Path for hours and think; I miss that. What do you miss about London?
James: I get childishly excited whenever I see London in a movie. Those Georgian house-fronts. I miss the free museums and art galleries. I miss the outdoor performances. London is a cultural powerhouse, and it has something for everyone. I miss the second hand book markets along the Thames. I miss cheap whiskey and wine, and live music. I miss the graffiti and I miss walking through London after dark.
IMBO: How has being an expat in Indonesia shaped how you see the world? And how you write?
James: You’re unique and sexy in Indonesia if you have a pointy nose, and mine is especially fine in that regard. You’re popular if you’re tall. Everyone wants to be your friend if you can teach them the difference in pronunciation between beach and bitch, sheet and shit. There’s no doubt living here has been a bit of an ego-booster. But truthfully, I don’t know how it has shaped my writing. I like to think it has made me a better writer, but I couldn’t say for sure.
IMBO: I hear that from so many expats: that feeling of being exotic. I feel it here in Munich, Germany as well. But with that feeling comes also a twinge of alienation and discrimination. Not a week goes by—after 20 years—that I don’t have to field some comment about fat Americans, gun-toting Republicans, or weak coffee. What’s hard about being an expat in Jakarta?
James: I think it’s been easy for me, aside from some bureaucratic nightmares organizing visas and whatnots. But sometimes it’s hard for my girlfriend walking through the city with me. She’s Indonesian, and there’s always somebody who makes assumptions about us, which is not pleasant. However, I imagine that would happen anywhere, and Jakarta – or at least our little corner of Jakarta – is probably better for that than most places.
But there are times when anti-immigrant sentiment rears here – normally when the economy is struggling. When that happens it can feel like something to ride and hope you don’t fall off.
IMBO: You've recently started a literary journal devoted to flash fiction. Tell us a bit about Jellyfish Review. 
JamesJellyfish Review is amazing, if I do say so myself! We were interviewed recently for Six Questions For, and there’s something we said in that interview that I’d like to repeat and elaborate on here.
There’s an island in Kalimantan, nearby, called Kakaban, which once upon a time was shaped like a C and was home to many jellyfish. The earth shifted, and the C became an O, and the jellyfish were trapped in a lake cut off from the ocean and all its predators. The jellyfish had nothing threatening them, and over thousands of years they thrived in numbers. However, they also lost their sting. If you want, you can go to Kakaban and jump in the lake and let the jellyfish swarm all over your body. They’re entirely harmless. You’re advised not to wear sunscreen, as it can kill them.
Picture by Rian Castillo
We think that flash fiction needs challenge and change as much as the Kakaban jellyfish do, or it’s in danger of losing its sting. Of becoming vulnerable to sunscreen. Most flash fiction magazines are read by flash fiction writers. There are great venues – SmokeLong is one of them, of course – but even the best flash fiction venues cater to a relatively small crowd. We set up Jellyfish Review to try and publish some great flash fiction, but also to push flash fiction into places it rarely goes. 
It might work, it might not. We hope to have fun either way.
IMBO: Well, I wish you much success. You’ve already published some excellent work by some great writers. What have you been writing lately? Care to share a couple stories with us?
James: Since starting the magazine, my writing has slowed down a lot. I’m growing more aware of what I like to see in stories, and what an editor might look for. I used to write very quickly and send things out without an enormous amount of thought, and that’s something I’m doing less of.
These are a few of my most recently published pieces, from before the magazine. When I read them now, it feels like they were written by a different person!

"Of Small Talk at Parties and Everything Else"
"Jumping in and Falling Out"
"Brds, Shds, Gns, Plcmn"
IMBO: Thank you for sharing these stories with us, Christopher! And thanks for taking time to share your life with the readers of I Must Be Off!

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher James lives, works and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has previously been published online in many venues, including Tin House, McSweeney’s, SmokeLong, and Wigleaf. He is the editor of Jellyfish Review.

Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Help Eclectica Magazine Reach its Kickstarter Goal!

Eclectica Magazine, an award-winning journal of high-quality work, needs our help. From founding editor Tom Dooley: "Eclectica Magazine has been online for two decades, publishing work by authors from around the world. We're taking our 20th anniversary as an opportunity to share the work of 250 of those authors in four "best of" anthologies, including volumes for poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and speculative literature."
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Click on the K in the upper left-hand corner of the video to be redirected to the pledge page. There are only a few days left to help.

I must be off,
Christopher
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Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Nod to the Essential

Looking back at I Must Be Off! over the years, I see that I haven't written about my travels as much lately as I did, say, three years ago. I've been traveling, just not writing about it. It may have started with my being attacked in Nice, or it may just be the gravity of things going on in the world. It's hard to be light and humorous with atrocities going on all around. I feel as if I should be writing more serious posts about serious issues. The world is getting heavier and heavier. The political circus in the US is so depressing. We should be occupied with saving our country from right-wing, gun-toting racists. The world is so angry, and moderate Muslims could be doing just a bit more to stem this anger--but then we should all be doing more. Our problems are not simple. Erdogan and the Kurds; Israel and Palestine; The International Community and the Syrians: come on. I'm heartbroken about this. But I'm also looking forward to the next season of Germany's Next Top Model.

What is it about the superficial that so attracts me? I'm not so much interested in the superficial as I am in the intersection between the superficial and the essential. A superficial upbeat song can sing poetry to something inside you. It makes something in you move. Your soul? Dare I say that something as superficial as a pop song could affect something as essential as your soul? There's something about the deep structure of the beat that doesn't need to be said to have its effect. That's why I measure time in pop songs here at I Must Be Off! A town is six pop songs away; a gas station is just two. Like that. We should always measure time in pop songs.

But food is the best metaphor for the intersection between superficial and essential. During a wine-tasting 25 years ago, I told someone "You know, I get all this about peach and vanilla notes, about sulfur and wood, but we really shouldn't be snobbish about something that's going to be piss in less than an hour." I've been to hundreds of wine-tastings in lots of countries over the years, but I still appreciate a good three-dollar bottle of wine, and I'm not above opening a can of peas for dinner.

I adore food. I know quite a bit about food. I'm a foodie. I'd love to eat in all the 3-star Michelin restaurants on this planet, but I know that would be financially irresponsible. But wait. If food is art, why not support it? Food is the most essential thing on earth, after water and air. How can it be superficial? Do you remember what you ate for lunch six days ago? Has a chef ever won a Nobel prize? Maybe one should.

All this to say, I have been doing a lot of soul searching, asking myself some questions about how I see the world; I just haven't been writing about it. 

In 2016 I'm going to be exploring the essential in myself. Travel is essential because I need to understand the world and its people. I've already planned a dozen trips, and I'm going to write about these trips. In 2015 I went places I never told you about. I'm sorry for this. I was tired of talking; maybe I was just tired. This year I want to talk to people around the world who want to see a better world. I want to talk to people who appreciate the essentials.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.







Friday, December 11, 2015

Signage Gone Wrong

Yeah, I'm kind of a boring tourist. Something wild and crazy could be happening to the left or to the right, but I'm taking a picture of a sign because "its" (possessive) is spelled with an apostrophe. When it all comes down to it, there are aspects of life that are much more important, so this is just a bit of fun for my editor friends out there. Disclaimer: I have the highest respect for my fellow Earthlings; in fact, my cup of brotherly love is sloshing over its (possessive: no apostrophe!) brim. I'm sure if I were required to create a sign in, say, Thai or Hindi, I'd probably make some hilarious mistakes; they'd probably even be adorable. I'd also buy a native speaker a beer and get my sign corrected.

As a teacher of English as a second language, I know this one is hard. Non-native speakers don't always hear the difference between of and off. I like this one a lot. It takes the bossy imperative "Take off your shoes" and transforms it into a nicer, friendlier "Take of your shoes" as if my shoes are in that pot and I can take as much of them as I want. I like that. Thank you, Koh Samui, for being so generous with my shoes.


But what if I want to wear a bikini or a halter top tentatively, which would most definitely be the case? Or demurely? I'd like to think of myself as a demure clothes wearer. Don't get me started on that blue sign. What the hell is a towei? And forget the Oxford comma. What about commas at all? And do they have only one scarf? Ick: bacteria farm. On another subject, this sign borders on soft porn. I can imagine old guys staring at it for days.


I'd like to take the lone apostrophe in the sign above this one and insert it here. This sign is, as the sign says, from the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka, and the city is relatively free of litter.


OK, there is generally a problem when it comes to plurals--I get that. This sign is also from the world heritage city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, where considerably more than one foreign guest come to visit a temple that preserves one of The Buddha's teeth. 

Um, this is kind of scary actually, and I'm not only talking about the missing space after the comma. Please tell me Othopedic surgery is a thing. When I looked it up on Webster.com one of the alternatives Webster gave me was "spotted dick". Hee hee hee. That made my morning. Seriously though, wouldn't an orthopedist know how to spell his/her own profession in English? Also on Koh Samui, Thailand.

First of all, there is obvious movement going on here. You can see pages flapping and bowing. Some are leaning forward. OK, most of these magazines are indeed stationary. Those at the bottom even have a restraining strap; they must be restless. In defense of this sign-maker, native speakers make this mistake fairly often--stationary for stationery. I've seen this mistake in the UK as well.

This is a beautiful sign, and the music piped into this elevator is just as pretty. While 99% of this is perfect English--playlist not play list and soundscape not sound scape--the most glaring thing about this sign, notwithstanding the obnoxious lighting, is the mistake at the top: "A NEW WAGE". Ahhhhhhhhh. You make a beautiful sign, put it in hundreds of hotels around the world, and you translate Nouvelle Vague as New Wage. It really is a pretty sign, though.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Traveling in 2015

We have become wary travelers. News of the crimes committed in Paris was still fresh when we landed in Kochi, India. A cruise ship with 3000 people on board seemed like an easy target for hate crimes. And we were just about to get on one.

Check-in, customs and security at the cruise terminal all went so fast. Our bags were on the truck to be transported to the ship before I noticed that no one else had noticed there were no cabin tags on the bags. The guys on the truck had loaded three bags with no cabin tags, and the security guys at the scanner hadn't noticed the missing cabin tags. Everyone seemed a little tired, a bit unconcentrated. It was hot and humid and hectic.

"Take those bags down! Those there! Yes, that ugly one. Yes, that one that looks like it's been through a shredder!" I shouted and arguments in myriad dialects ensued. They couldn't take bags off the truck once they'd been loaded. But of course they had to take them down and let me put the cabin tags on them. How would they take them to the right cabin?

When I finally convinced the guys on the truck--by yelling louder--to give me back the bags, the Indian authorities started shouting at me that the bags had to go through the scanner.

"They are having to be going through the security facility conveyor machine!"

"They are having to do what? Through what?"

"They must be going through--"

"They've already been through--"

"They have to be going through--"

"Stop putting -ing on all your verbs!" I shouted back, and instead of doing the right thing--to put them through the scanner again--the authorities backed down. So lax was security in Kochi.

But let me take a step back and tell you a bit about the e-visa joke's-on-you India has going. If you are entering India only once as a tourist, you might be tempted to apply for an e-visa online. Don't do this. Go ahead and apply for the multi-entry visa. It will save you time in the long run. I thought once I applied for our e-visas online--you still have to have a picture made in the Indian format, fill out a rather long form and scan your passport into their system--that we'd sail through immigration in Kochi like a butter chicken. Sadly, if you have an e-visa, you don't go through immigration with all the other smarter people who took the time to get a multi-entry visa; instead you are shuffled off to a little room with the other e-visa dopes, and you have to sit there patiently while the immigration officer wipes down his fingerprint machine for the umpteenth time because nothing works quite right here. And he's trying to get the fingerprints from the guy who's six or seven people in front of you. The people with their multi-entry visas are already slurping their welcome drinks at their hotels.

Getting a taxi at the Kochi airport is also a bit inconvenient, but if you know what to do it should be easy-peasy. As in many countries where corruption is rampant, you can't just walk out of an airport and get into a taxi. You have to pay someone at a desk and get a voucher. It's referred to as "Pre-paid" in Kochi. And that's what the taxi drivers are saying when you are trying to talk to them. "Pre-paid?" "Pre-paid?" It sounds more like "Pripid," which is the reason you keep saying "Excuse me?" and they keep saying "Pripid?"

The drive to our hotel took about seven centuries of Indian music. I couldn't tell you where one stopped and the other started, so I can't tell you how far it was according to the I Must Be Off Pop Song distance meter. Go to the bathroom at the airport--that's all I have to say on this one.

Oh, what a tangent all that was--but of course if you're reading this post because you were considering getting an e-visa for India, I hope you found that tangent helpful. What I really wanted to talk about was traveling in 2015 when a lot of people are more wary than they've ever been. We should be wary, but we should keep traveling.

After the crimes committed in Paris recently, the Indian government was quick to announce it was doing everything in its power to keep India safe. There was a security check before we entered our hotel but not the type where they check under the car. Did I feel safe? I did--until we took a walk around the grounds of the hotel and along the Backwater. On the other side of the water there were four or five men dressed in white. I assume they were Moslem, but I wasn't really thinking about them. I live in a place where I see people dressed in many different ways. But at some point their attention was drawn to me and they started shouting. When I didn't react, they  raised their fists in unison and held that position for quite a while--which was unnerving. It took a couple of seconds for me to understand the scene. I was a white guy on the grounds of the Le Meridien hotel, a French hotel, the day after the Paris crimes. Ah, I thought. I see. There are people out there who hate what they think you stand for; and while it would be wrong to hate them in return, it's certainly smart to be aware of them. And when you're traveling in a foreign country, you should have both eyes open, know a bit about the demographics.

Kochi is 47% Hindu, 35% Christian, 17% Muslim and the rest Buddhist and a host of other religions. The city has the fourth highest crime rate in India but Kochi is obviously a community trying to get a handle on its problems. And one of them is security. 

If the lax security we encountered at the cruise terminal in Kochi is any indication of how "safe" India is, then I'm skeptical. Of course our cruise--which I'll talk about in another more lighthearted post--went well with no other security issues I was aware of. When you board a cruise, there is a scanner very much like at the airport, but it always seems to be more relaxed, like a formality. Too relaxed?

What are your feelings about traveling in 2015? Have you been more careful than usual? Have you changed plans or habits?

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. 



Friday, October 16, 2015

Is South Africa Safe?

I was apprehensive. When I told folks I was going camping in a motorhome for three weeks in South Africa, the first question they asked--always--was do you think that's safe? It made such an impression on me that I actually broke my rule about being totally ignorant of the place and did a bit of research. After all, I'm not the biggest of fan of being knifed and robbed in my sleep.

How dangerous is South Africa? I'm not going to pretend to be able to answer this question for the entire country, but I can give you a good picture of how safe I felt--as well as how paranoid I felt due to the reading I'd done beforehand.

At the beginning of our trip we traveled in a motorhome during low season in and around Kruger National Park. We were a spectacle to be sure. We got stares. When we pulled up to traffic lights we made sure our doors were locked. I'd read about carjackings at traffic lights, where you'll find young guys trying to sell anything from USB sticks to oranges. They're not criminals; they're salesmen who work all day in the hot sun. There's probably a mafia behind it; the Koch Brothers probably have a stake in them. If you don't need a USB stick or a bag of oranges, keep your windows up and your doors locked.

(What you should do, even though it has nothing to do with safety: stop and buy some avocados from the women on the side of the street. The avocados are better and cheaper than the ones in the store--at least around Kruger National Park and Grasskop. For 25 rand (3euros) we got a net of 7 avocados, and they were all great. We had worse luck with roadside avocados in the South.)

In terms of safety, you're more likely to fall and break your ankle than to be robbed.

Beware of the vendors selling what looks like figures made from various types of wood. It's all cheap wood stained with shoe polish. They'll tell you their uncle hand-sculpted the elephant, but you'll find that exact elephant in the next village. That uncle is busy. We made the mistake of buying a foldable table that this uncle had made. By the time we were ready to fly home, it had mold all over it and its coat of shoe polish was rubbing off. Even if the quality of the knick-knacks was questionable, I still felt these people were trying to make a living the best way they could. If you buy something from them just make sure you know what you're buying, which is basically crap.

Kruger National Park

The most dangerous animal in Kruger National Park is apparently the African Buffalo, although I didn't feel very threatened. Of course, I also hadn't read anything about the beast before the trip. These animals are so ornery that, though they look like cows with wacky horns, they've never been domesticated. They're one of The Big Five in the Africa because of how dangerous they are to hunt. They gang up on hunters, which is odd since they look so dumb. Stay away from the cows with the goofy horns.

Elephants can also become aggressive. The speed limit in the park is very low, and there are police giving tickets. You could drive around a corner and find yourself up an elephant's behind. As long as you drive slowly, you'll probably be safe. Elephants are used to cars.

Although hippos are considered extremely dangerous, you probably won't get close enough to one to worry about it. If you have a camera like mine, you probably won't even get close enough to get a good picture of one. The same is true for lions.

All campsites in Kruger National Park have Jurassic Park-style fences, so you're safe from large animals. Your breakfast, though, is not safe from the pesky birds. If you leave your breakfast to go into your motorhome for just two seconds, your breakfast table will be all aflurry with three or four lovely species of African birds. I'd have my camera ready If I were you.

Cape Town

The moment we arrived in Cape Town we headed for the Table Mountain with the intention of climbing up that puppy. There are a couple of options. You can take the longer 5-hour route or the shorter, much much steeper 2.5-hour route. We took the shorter route because we didn't really know how steep it was going to be. It's a very steep walk. We nearly died. Seriously. I kept waiting for the laggers (I was always in front because I'm so damn fit) to keel over from a heart attack, effectively ruining everyone's day, but by some miracle no one died).

Before the trip, I read that you need to be vigilant while hiking, that there are robbers on the trails. The guy who was parking cars on the street corroborated this by warning us not to park too far away from the other cars he was parking. "There are robbers up here," he said.

"And so you'll protect our motorhome for a few rand?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Are you going to stay close to our motorhome?" I asked.

"Yes," he lied.

There are robbers in Cape Town, and most of them are parking your cars.

The second we started up the mountain I spotted three teenagers fall in behind us. I worried the whole 3 hours (it took us 3 hours instead of 2.5) that we'd be robbed and left for dead since none of the other panting, worn-out hikers would be able to carry us off that mountain. In the end, we had nothing to worry about. They were just three teenagers going for a very steep walk. Still, stay in a group when you hike.

We felt safe in Cape Town, but then we didn't go out at night or go traipsing through townships. We were too spooked by what we'd read before the trip. Actually, travel guides say an organized township tour should be a rewarding experience. I understand that this brings badly needed funds to the residents of these communities, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. If you've done this, we'd all appreciate hearing about your experience.

The Western Cape in general is an affluent wine-growing region dappled with quaint tourist-friendly villages, wineries and shanty towns. Yes, shanty towns. There is still very much a racial divide here. It seems to me black people harvest what white people drink. 

Johannesburg

Is Johannesburg safe? No. That's the simple answer. We'd planned to have a walk around the center of Joburg on the Sunday before we flew back to Germany. We didn't get out of the car.

The center of Joburg has been destroyed by the turbulent end of Apartheid. The businesses have deserted this area, leaving it to the masses of people who flooded in from the surrounding townships.  Prostitutes linger in the doorways. Garbage is everywhere. Laundry hangs out of windows on the 20th floor of a building that was once the headquarters for a bank.

Yet if you drive just a few minutes outside the center of Joburg, you'll find a fairly normal city. There are beautiful gardens, nice restaurants and shops, churches and sports facilities--everything you'd expect in a functioning society. Then if you drive a few more miles, you come to Sandton, where all the businesses escaped to. These places seemed relatively normal and safe to me. But then there are also security guards everywhere you look.

Camping in South Africa

I worried a lot about leaving our passports in the motorhome. Usually, we kept our valuables in our backpacks, but it's also not smart to keep all your valuables in one place. Maybe we were stupid, but we often parked our motorhome at the edge of a town and spent hours browsing through shops selling the same malachite bracelets. We always returned to a motorhome unmolested, but maybe we were just lucky. When we returned our motorhome on the last day, the employee who checked us in asked us if the motorhome's safe had worked properly. "Safe?" we said. "What safe?" Yeah, we were just lucky.

We stayed in more than ten caravan parks around South Africa and felt safe in all of them. Most of them had security guards walking or riding bikes around the sites all night. All of them had secure gates at the entrances--except our first campsite. We arrived very late at night because we had trouble finding the caravan park. We had to stop and ask for directions. I even had to speak to someone, which was an awful experience. Opening my mouth and asking for directions: just awful. When we finally arrived, there was no one at the gate and the gate was open. The next morning, there was no one at the gate and the gate was open. Suckers!

Have you traveled through South Africa in a motorhome? I'd love to hear about your own experiences, whether you felt it was safe.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin.  



 










Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kaleidoscope -- Writers Abroad Anthology 2015

Did you know that 2015 is the year of LIGHT? Well, it is. And Writers Abroad, a group of talented expat writers, have just published their 2015 anthology on the theme of light. All of the stories and poems are written by writers who are living, or who have lived, in another country. As you know, I'm very interested in the expat experience. I'm an expat myself, and I interview expat authors here at I Must Be Off! so of course I've interviewed a couple of the Writers Abroad writers. Sadly, I was never able to get an interview from Jany Gräf or Mary Davies, two WA members that passed away in 2014. Kaleidoscope is dedicated to Jany and Mary.

Writers Abroad always donates their proceeds to a charitable organization. This year it's Room to Read, an organization that provides reading material and education to children around the world. When you buy a Writers Abroad book, you support early childhood literacy.

And because early childhood literacy is also very close to my heart, you can win Kaleidoscope simply by replying to this post with "I support early childhood literacy" and your email address. The first five people who respond will receive the Kaleidoscope: Writers Abroad 2015. Be patient with Blogger. It may take you a few minutes to leave a comment if you're new to Blogger. I've apologized a hundred times for this platform.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin.