Thursday, May 29, 2014

New Story at Prime Number Magazine


Sweet readers. I know all of you aren't Russian  and Chinese spambots. Over the last few days, you've sent me 10,000 hits a day. I hope you've had a laugh. Maybe you've learned something? I'm not really here to teach you anything (that's my day job), but I do hope to keep your eyes open, to show you a new place or two from my slightly twisted perspective.

I've been worrying and fretting about how to give you a new-and-improved I Must Be Off!, but life is hectic right now. At least until September, I Must Be Off! will have to remain old school. I've started a business in Munich. You can like it HERE on Facebook if you want. Do you like life colorful? Do you believe colorful food will save you? Maybe it's the fountain of youth?

In the meantime, I publish short stories here and there. Several will be coming out in the next few months, and one of them was published today at Prime Number Magazine (thank you, Cliff Garstang!). I explain why I wrote the story in the Q&A on the site, but I'll explain it here as well. Traveling by train each morning is like reading a sudden fiction collection. Stories get on and off the train as the doors open and close. Each person has his story, and I sit there and read them. This does involve a squirmy amount of staring, yes. Germans are less bothered by staring than, say, Americans or Britons. You can stare all you want here. Good to know, right?

Thank you, Prime Number, for publishing this story! Literary magazines need a lot of love. Please click on this: 




I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. 


Monday, May 26, 2014

A Rainy Day in Ljubljana -- Where?

The Ljubljanica River running through Ljubljana, Slovenia
I hear you. Ljubljana? Is that even a word? What's with those Js? you ask. Now, don't starting whining about not being able to pronounce it. It's pronounced just like it looks--as long as you know the Js are pronounced like Ys. But just between you, me and the fence post, I've never been quite sure I was pronouncing the name of Slovenia's capital correctly. I mean, how often do you get the chance? Before our trip there a few weeks ago, I'd never done more than drive (nowhere) near it on the interstate toward Croatia.

It's not cheap to drive to Ljubljana from Munich. First, you have to drive through Austria, which requires what the Germans call a Vignette (a cool false friend that doesn't mean they have to perform a short scene), which actually means the road tax sticker you put on your windshield (around 8 euros for 10 days). Then you'll also need to do the same for Slovenia. It adds up. The shortest period you'll get for Slovenia is a week. It'll run you around 15 euros. Petrol is fairly cheap in Austria compared to Germany, but of course driving anywhere these days digs into your travel budget.

Ljubljana isn't exactly a stone's throw from Graz, the capital of the Steiermark in Austria, where we're staying. It takes almost two hours to reach Ljubljana, but I think this is mainly owing to Andreas the Lightning Bug Taxidermist's need to see the lush green Slovenian countryside.

"Why don't we try to find those famous Slovenian caves?" I ask. We're already seven pop songs away from the interstate, careening along lonely country roads somewhere in western Slovenia. "I'm about done with lush."

"Caves?" says Andreas the Lightning Bug Taxidermist.

"You've never heard of them, have you?"

"Of course I have." He's lying.

"They're famous." I pout. "I sure do like famous things. Seeing them and such." But then the new Shakira song comes on the radio and I forget all about the famous caves. Eight pop songs off the interstate now. Jamming.

With the scenic route thoroughly checked off our list of things to do in Slovenia, we finally arrive in Ljubljana. The first thing I see when I get out of the car? Graffiti touting a band, I hope, called Star Trek Pussy. Um.OK. Right. Despite the ever-present street art and what appears to be more vandalism than art, Ljubljana has a reputation for being one of the safest cities in the world. Bike theft is pretty much their only worry.

A few random drops of rain dapple our shoulders as we wander aimlessly down to the river. Our umbrellas are in the car and I'm dressed a bit too lightly for this crisp, cool day.

As you might expect, I know nothing about the town upon arrival--every corner a potential discovery, a WOW! moment, a find. Like many European cities--or any big city in the world for that matter--Ljubljana doesn't stand out until you reach the old town. Outside these centers, European cities tend to be uniform mazes of five-storey buildings, shops on the lowest floor and apartments above. The town's character is really at its heart, usually down by a river.

The center of Ljubljana is stunning in a quaint-yet-cool way. Just from a brief stroll, you can tell this place is populated by a young arty crowd. And there's no better place to see this than along the banks of the Ljubljanica River. Oh wait. You might like the view better from the castle, accessible on foot from the alleys in the old town. Just keep walking up. And up. You can also drive to the castle, but walking is so much better for your butt.

As we start the steep climb to the castle, Andreas the Lightning Bug Taxidermist gets pissy. He wants me to carry him, I think, so I walk faster. Halfway to the top, the dappling drops of previous shoulder fame have begun to dapple much faster. If we don't hurry, we'll be soaked--a serious danger since I'm primarily made of sugar. 84%.


We make it into the castle just as the heavens open. Lazy tourists with noticeably out-of-shape butts are running for their cars. Backpackers huddle together under eaves. Cameras are getting wet. It's pandemonium (lower case p).

I shake myself off like a Cocker Spaniel and look around. "It's a museum," I say, horrified. We're stuck in a museum. Trapped.

"What shall we do?" Andreas the Lightning Bug Taxidermist looks just as horrified as I do, but he's wetter.

"I'm going to take pictures of free stuff," I say and amble off to do just that.

Apparently once the dungeon for VIPs.

We found refuge under the castle.
A map of the castle. We were somewhere under 5. I think.
Ljubljana from the Castle. Rainy day in Slovenia.

The Funicular back down for 2 euros a person

Some fun facts about Ljubljana in case you're ever on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire:

1. The city hosts over 10,000 cultural events each year. EACH YEAR. Do they have time to do anything else?
2. The city has had several names, including Laibach, Laybach and Lubiana--the latter under fascist Italy.
3. The city has been destroyed several times by earthquakes, the worst in 1895. The 6.1 quake leveled 10% of the buildings in the city.
4. One of its many twin cities is Cleveland Ohio.


I must be off,
Christopher

Have you started writing your entry for the Second Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest? Check out the guidelines HERE.

________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. 














Monday, May 19, 2014

Salz Welten at Altausee -- Not for the Claustrophobic

Mines are not for the claustrophic.
Have you ever been in a salt mine? Did you (also) lick the walls?

OK, so we're on our way back from Graz (Austria) and driving through the Salzkammergut when I turn to Herbert the Loquacious Lard Maker and say, "We should see a salt mine while we're here." And he says, "Are there salt mines here?" And I say, "What do you think a Salzkammer is?" And he says "Oh."

Now, I'm no expert on the etymology of place names, but Salz means salt and Kammer mean chamber. Either this place has salt mines or it was once a giant salt shaker. As a surrealist--the other me who writes fiction--knows, it's all possible. "I want to lick the walls of a salt mine," I say as we drive right past a sign with "SALZ WELTEN" on it. "Um." I point and slap Herbert the Loquacious Lard Maker on the shoulder until he turns the car around.

From the autobahn Salz Welten, the tourist attraction buried deep within a working salt mine, is around a 4-pop-song drive. You'll need to pay very close attention to the signs. You'll also need to drive through a couple of tiny villages and up a mountain. Is it worth the trip?

Are you a fan of salt? Salt, as you may know, is necessary for life. You and I probably eat too much of it, but we're very lucky to have ready access to it. A long long time ago, salt was so precious that it was used as compensation. That's actually where we get our word salary and the idiom He's not worth his salt. And here is where I'll stop being an English teacher and get back to the matter at hand.

Salz Welten is a walking tour-slash-museum. Finally, I've found my type of museum! To even get to the beginning of the tour, you have to walk with your group about one kilometer into the mine. But first you have to put on protective clothing in size RL (ridiculously large). When the guide handed me a shirt and trousers with a big L on them, I hesitated.

"Um."

"What?" he said in German. "Do you think I have the perfect size for everyone?" or something like that. The medium trousers and shirts were hanging right there next to the RL ones. I'm kind of small, you see. And to help you see, here's a picture of me wearing the RL get-up the guide gave me. I had to hold up the pants during the entire tour. Is walking through a mine tunnel in the dark while holding up your pants difficult? I'm glad you asked. Well, it's easier than walking with them around your ankles.

It's hard to see in the picture, but I'm standing with my feet a bit far apart so the pants don't slip down. I've cinched the drawstring up as far as possible, pulled the pants up past my navel and doubled up the material. That's why I look pudgy in the picture.  

The highlights of the tour:

The Art Chamber

The Nazis hid their stolen art in the salt mine at Altausee. As WWII was coming to an end, they are had brilliant idea of blowing up the thousands of pieces of art so that they would not wind up in Ally hands. They wheeled the bombs into the mine in boxes marked "Marble -- Don't tip" or something like that in German. It was only the curiosity of a mine worker that saved the art. Wondering why anyone would be storing marble in the mine, he opened one of the crates and found the bomb. The multimedia presentation in the art chamber is impressive. Definitely a highlight.

St. Barbara's Chapel

I'm not Catholic or a miner, so I'm only slightly familiar with St. Barbara. If you're a Catholic miner, you're certainly familiar with the legends surrounding her. The shrine to her in the salt mine here demonstrates just how important this saint is to the men and women who work here. Barbara's own father supposedly executed her for converting to Christianity.

The tour also includes a laser light show in a chamber that hosts concerts for audiences of up to 600. It's entertaining but also completely unrelated to salt mines as far as I can tell. It is, however, a good opportunity to let go of my pants and sit a spell.

The tour lasts a little over an hour and costs 16 euros for adults. It's good fun and informative. And, yes, you do get to taste the salt.
Salt tasting

I must be off,
Christopher

PS: Have you started writing your entry for the Second Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest? Check out the guidelines HERE.

_________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Neusiedler See -- the Biggest Wading Pool in Europe

Reed at Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl)
Did you know Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl) is only a bit over one meter deep? Wait. You didn't know there was a big--yet famously shallow--lake in Austria on the border to Hungary, did you? Nor did you know it's the largest lake in Austria or that the fancy scientific name for it is an endorheic lake? You can admit it. I didn't either--until I went there a few weeks ago. Did you know it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site? No? It doesn't matter. Take a deep satisfied breath: now you know.

The lake is bound by a reed belt and fed only by precipitation and drainage (and that's why the call it endorheic, which is Greek), although there are rumors of plans to help the lake survive global warming by building a canal from the Donau (Danube) to keep water levels up.

Woolly pig on the Greener side of life
While you can laze away your days at Neusiedler See aboard a boat or strolling through the picturesque villages, you might want to be a bit more active (like me). In Rust, the town not the oxidation of iron, you can rent bikes from the sweetest couple. They have hundreds of bikes to rent and two very big smiles between them. They gave us candy. You have to love people who give you candy. You can find them right in the middle of Rust. Just look for "Radverleih" (Bike rental).

On our bike ride around the lake, however, we did happen upon these woolly pigs. Have you ever seen a woolly pig? Is this a pig in sheep's clothing? This little guy had managed to get out of the grand mud patch and was grazing happily and greedily when we arrived; his brethren had apparently been too big to squeeze through the fence. Don't believe what anyone tells you; it really is--as you can clearly see in the picture--greener on the other side--when your home is a mud patch. We fed the other pigs handfuls of grass through the fence and sang "Born Free", or at least the first couple of lines before we started humming and then lost interest.

The Neusiedler Bike Path is 135 kilometers long, 38 km in Hungary, 97 km in Austria. We cycled for around four hours, but you could also go sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing; or you might choose to play beach volleyball, ride horses or go inline skating. There's no shortage of leisure/sport activities. Before, during and after or bike ride, we mostly sat in cafés and ate ice cream. Because balance is important.

The Local Stork -- He's famous!

Fantasy

Reality
Storks. That's right. If you've turned up in Rust mid-April, you'll be craning your neck at storks quite a lot. You'll be taking at least four thousand pictures. Storks are cool, not only becaue they bring babies but also because they can poop wherever they want. Bear with me on the following line of reasoning: I'm seriously entertaining the notion that a stork brought me home on the day of my birth. See, I was born on April 8 around the time the storks show up in Austria. Huh? I hear you huhing. I was born in Frankfurt Germany, so I'm thinking maybe a stork dropped me off on its way to Neusiedler See. It's not implausible.



What is implausible is that Neusiedler See will still exist in 2050. If global warming has its way, this lake--which is only about a meter deep right now--will dry up before I do. That's worrying. The villages around the lake depend on it for tourism and some industry. I'm not sure what the people do with the reed here, but they do harvest it. A delicate yet varied ecosystem depends on the lake. A community of non-humans--amphibians, reptiles, birds and 40 types of mammals--would also be homeless without Neusiedler See.

The Hungarian name for the lake, which is about an hour south of Vienna, is Fertő tó, which means swamp. And this could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy if something isn't done soon.

Have you been to Neusiedler See, or Lake Neusiedl as we call it in English apparently? Have you been to another endorheic lake? Seen a woolly pig?

I must be off,
Christopher

PS: Have you started writing your entry for the Second Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest? Check out the guidelines HERE.

_________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thanks a Million!!



I Must Be Off! surpassed the one-million hits mark today. There was a fireworks display in Munich to celebrate this auspicious day. Did you see it? Some aliens told me they could see it from, well, space and that the Roman candles were the prettiest but the Bengal fire was impressive too. They didn't see, nor were they invited to, the garden party. Aliens would have frightened people here in Munich, where UFOs are roundly considered to be an American construction, much like a loving God and Keanu Reeves' acting ability.

Milestones are gracious: they provide an opportunity to thank the people who get it, so I'd like to thank you. Yes you: the person reading this post right now. Kiss your shoulder for me. Go on. Kiss your shoulder. That's right. Then say Thank you, _______ (insert name).

I've had so much fun writing this blog. In the first two years, it muddled along with a few thousand hits a month. Today I Must Be Off! got over 8000 hits. I'm not bragging; I'm just saying that when you put a lot of content out there, people are bound to stumble upon it. And that reminds me: Thank you to the folks who follow me on Stumbleupon. You bring the most readers to I Must Be Off! I'm sure you know this. You rock. I'll follow you wherever you stumble.

So here's to lots more laughs, lots more locations, lots more learning about life. Thank you for reading. And thank you for reading my fiction, my non-fiction and my book reviews.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How I Travel -- A Mother's Day Recap

In celebration of Mother's Day, here's a trip I took with my mother and father a few years ago. We had a great time together. Thank you, Mama and Daddy, for showing me our country and for being so excited about it. Your enthusiasm for the landscape, the history and the natural wonders of our country was contagious. The following was orginally published in 2011.

__________________

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Come here. Closer. That's too close. I like to be surprised when I travel. I do very little research before I go. Try Googling, say, The Devils Tower or Mount Rushmore. You'll get thousands of pictures of these places, countless descriptions and oodles of travel anecdotes. It takes all the wonder out of seeing The Devil's Tower appear in the distance if you've already seen a hundred pictures of it (and Close Encounters of the Third Kind six times). Hee hee. Well, OK, I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I just gave you a picture from this angle.

Did you know that Lake Louise in British Columbia is the most-visited mountain lake in the world? I didn't--of course. I didn't even know there was a Lake Louise before I went there. From our campsite the first day we hiked two hours to the lake. I had no idea what to expect. Imagine if I had already had this picture in my head. The moment I actually saw the lake would have been such a let down. I hope this picture hasn't ruined it for you. I've heard that you can get an image out of your head if you shake it hard enough. You can try it. 

My parents met me in Vancouver with the intention of taking me back to Nashville by car. I knew we had to make it from Vancouver to Nashville in around 10 days, but I had no idea where the road would take us next. In fact, I insisted on not knowing. I wanted Seattle to surprise me, Wyoming to wow me, Minnesota to, uh, mince me? You get the picture. 

But my mother wouldn't stop talking about "The Badlands": "When we go through the Badlands--" "You're gonna love the Badlands." "Just wait until you see the--"

"Mom, please. I don't want to know."

"Your obsession with ignorance is--"

"Endearing? Cute? Adorable?"

"You're gonna love the Badlands."

"Say one more word."

"I'm shutting up."

When we finally came to the Badlands, I was amazed--and so happy that I was almost completely unprepared for the beauty of this wonderful and fleeting moment in our geological history. The Badlands won't be there in 500,000 years, so you'd better hurry if you want to see them. If you don't want to see the Badlands before you visit them, then don't look at this picture. I'll understand.

I sensed that we would be driving by Mount Rushmore when we veered into South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is amazing. I'll give you a dollar if you can name the four Presidents, and I'll give you another dollar if you can tell me what German comedian one of the waitresses at Peggy's Place in Keystone looks like. Obscure, but OK. It's worth a dollar. This picture is not any of the four presidents, and it's not the waitress at Peggy's Place. It's one of the guys who helped carve Mount Rushmore. I think he's adorable. A bit of trivia: Homer Simpson's face is not one of the four Presidents--despite evidence to the contrary on The Simpsons.

Thank you, again, to my mother and father for organizing such a beautiful drive through the US. I'd do it again anytime.

More surprises on my Tour Americana next week.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to X is for Expat Interview.

I must be off,
Christopher

________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, PANK, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.
 


Monday, May 5, 2014

Expat Author Interview with Regina Landor

Author Regina Landor
Regina Landor, originally from Ohio, has worked with aid organizations in Romania, Serbia and now Bangladesh, where she co-founded the organization Thrive to bring lunches to children in the slums. Her story -- and her life devoted to helping others -- is inspiring. Her book Forever Traveling Home is available from Amazon. 

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IMBO: Regina, welcome to I Must Be Off! Before we talk about your writing, I'm dying to know more about USAID in Bangladesh. What exactly does USAID do there, and how are you involved?

Landor: My husband works for USAID. They do development work in food security, health, education, and democracy and governance, including labor issues. 

IMBO: Without going into too much detail, what does one have to do to work for USAID?

Landor:  It’s a lengthy process! You need an MA, overseas experience, and a desire to help others. A lot of people who work for USAID have also served in Peace Corps.

IMBO: In your last email to me, you mentioned that just getting home in Dhaka can be harrowing. I'm paraphrasing, but is Dhaka really as dangerous as people say?

Landor: Bangladesh does not, and cannot, live by the same safety standards that we are used to in the US. As expats, we are incredibly fortunate in being under the protection of the US Embassy because we are very well protected under their care. But there is no guarantee that we will be safe all the time from the traffic, where few laws are adhered to, the construction sites that are all around our neighborhood, and the exposed electrical cords that hang loosely above all the sidewalks. A couple of times we’ve been trapped in the elevator in our apartment when the power has stopped. Even though our building is brand new, the emergency alarm was not functioning. When we reported it to the embassy, they took care of it immediately.  For Bangladeshis, there are very few safety nets to help them when there is a need. Hunger is rampant. People die of diarrhea due to contaminated water. Open sewers line the streets. Sanitation is hard to come by. So yes, it is life on the edge. For millions of Bangladeshis, they are living on one dollar a day. The danger for millions of people here, including the thousands of street children, is figuring out how to stay alive and not always knowing where the next bowl of rice will come from. 

IMBO: Have you noticed improvements since the Rana Plaza disaster?

Landor:  Minimum wage for garment workers has increased from about $39 a month to about $69 a month. There are more unions now. USAID is helping in that process. These are modest improvements, but obviously more are needed. The disparity between the wealthy and the poor is enormous. The most obvious visible hardships are right in the streets below our apartment windows where beggars stand at the intersections, cycle rickshaw drivers work for about $1 a day, and day laborers do back-breaking work – men and women who sit on the sidewalks hammering bricks into rubble.



    
IMBO: You co-founded an organization to bring free lunches to children in the slums of Dhaka. Could you tell us more about Thrive?

LandorI would love to. Two other moms, like me, arrived in Dhaka around the same time and we simply did not want to just ignore the hungry street children that we see every day. We learned of a school in a slum very near our own neighborhood that had 250 kids and that fed them a snack one day a week. We decided that the least we could do was bring them bananas so that they'd begin their day with something healthy in their bellies. We started to bring other healthy snacks -- carrots, oranges, peanuts, boiled eggs -- so that they would have something to eat every day. We posted pictures on Facebook, and without asking for donations, people started to give money. We decided that with our funds, we could expand. Our volunteer list grew, and with the help of expat and Bangladeshi volunteers, we now bring food to five schools in the Dhaka slums. We also started a hand-washing program at the schools because diseases spread quickly and people die here due to a lack of clean hands. If you'd like to see some pictures of beautiful kids eating healthy food and scrubbing their hands, here is the link to our Facebook page.  

IMBO: Let's talk about your writing. You’ve published a book, Forever Traveling Home. What’s it about?

Landor: I wrote it during our first posting overseas, in Belgrade, Serbia.  I wanted to capture the distinct difference between being a Peace Corps Volunteer and being the spouse of a diplomat. My husband and I met while serving in the Peace Corps, in Romania, so going back to Eastern Europe felt a bit like coming home, but not quite. Also, this time we had toddlers in tow! I give a bit of background, too, of why I joined the Peace Corps in the first place, after leaving my first husband, of landing in Macedonia and then being evacuated, and of that ultimately turning into a good thing – it’s because of the evacuation that I ended up meeting my husband in Romania. I move to the present and describe my feelings about being back in Eastern Europe and what a bit of a shock it is. It’s lonely at first and I cannot find a place for myself, and I have a much broader sense of responsibility with my children. I fight through the fears and the loneliness, question where home is, find humour in small things, and decide that if this is our life – of moving every few years in the Foreign Service –  then we have no choice but to make the most of it and that home is wherever we happen to be.

IMBO: Wow. What a fascinating – and quite difficult – journey. I can’t wait to read it. I love that premise: moving home, finding home, and finding home within yourself. Where is your home originally, and what have you kept – tangibly or intangibly – from that place?

Landor:  Such a good question!  Because we do say goodbye to places, but it’s true that we always keep something with us forever from places we’ve lived. I grew up in Berea, Ohio. We moved there when I was five and I left at 18. I’ve held on to an old Teddy bear (tangible) and even though I’m 49 years old, I still kind of like seeing him around. The intangible would have to be the love my father, who is no longer living, gave me.  He believed in me, and my creativity, and supported me throughout the ups and downs. He was a writer and I think he also believed in me as a writer. Wherever I lived I wrote letters home and he cherished those letters and the details they contained. He taught me about the simplicity of language: keep it simple. I try to do that in my writing, and still evoke emotion.     

IMBO: What other expat authors could you recommend to the readers of I Must Be Off!

Landor:  In the November issue of The American Foreign Service Journal there’s a list of expat writers who have published books this past year, including a short description of the books. Here’s the link. I also have friends in Dhaka who are writers and would love a chance to also share their story. I will let them know about IMBO!

IMBO: That would be great. Thank you, Regina! And thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sending you tons of respect for the work you do. And I’m wishing you success with your book, Forever Traveling Home (Amazon link to be added).

Landor:  It was my pleasure!  Thanks for listening.

I must be off,
Christopher

PS: Have you started writing your entry for the Second Annual I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest? Check out the guidelines HERE.

__________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction, non-fiction and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, PANK, Word Riot, Camroc Press Review, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He lives in Germany.