Corona-confusion – What I’m doing about it.

(This has been cross-posted here from my Newsletter)

Dear Readers,

Over the last seventy-two hours I must have received at least a dozen or so emails from large companies outlining their Corona virus response, how it might affect us all, or whatever it is they wrote about. I can’t be certain what was in all the emails, because my first impulse when faced with an inbox full of unread big business newsletters is to delete them. So, I did. Bad, I know.

Even worse is that I’m adding to the barrage of email with my own newsletter today. I promise, I have a valid reason (a new release), which has been on the calendar since mid January, before the situation was as out of control as it appears to be right now. Sorry in advance.

Coronavirus. Everyone’s talking about it. And for someone like me, who flatout refuses to panic about anything at all, it’s becoming harder to ignore. So, why not take a moment and talk about it?

For those of you that don’t know, my author bio is a little bit out of date. When I started writing, I lived in the UK (Greater London, to be precise), but that’s no longer the case. For the past few years I’ve been living in India to be closer to the in-laws, who are getting on in age and need more support than they used to. I’ve never updated the bio, because I like my privacy, especially now that I’m in a country which still judges steamy fiction quite a bit. For that reason, I won’t share exactly where I am even now.

It’s a weird place to live at times. The media is quite insular, so you don’t tend to hear much about the wider world, unless it’s really newsworthy. Upon opening a newspaper in India, you might be fooled into thinking that there are only a handful of countries that matter outside our borders. The US, and perhaps the UK, occasionally the Middle East. On top of that, we don’t tend to follow the news all that religiously, adding to our isolation. In a way, we’ve been mentally self-isolating before coronavirus made it popular!

While the whole world seemingly has been consumed by coronavirus panic, we’ve mostly been shielded from it all. Sure, there’s a shortage of hand sanitiser and face masks, but we’ve been spared the toilet paper apocalypse other countries have had to deal with. (Also, on the whole, Indian people don’t care for toilet paper, so I doubt it’ll ever sell out completely, which is great, because as a European, I can’t do without it.)

Long story short, the news has finally trickled through into my own stubborn brain as well. I had to travel to the capital yesterday to pick up my new passport from the embassy, and the trains were overrun with people wearing masks. If anyone coughed, the whole compartment would steal a suspicious glance at the culprit as if to ask: ‘have you got it?’. Even if published Coronavirus cases in all of India add up to just 81 people (out of 1.3 billion), the paranoia is real. I guess people naturally assume that the figures must be inaccurate and the situation is much worse already.

Today, perhaps due to fatigue following my intense one-day up-and-down train trip, or the general Delhi-effect, I’m feeling a bit worse for wear myself. For a moment, I even asked myself ‘do I think have it?’ I’m going to go with ‘no’, unless I start developing a cough or runny nose over the next few days.

Anyway, all of this got us thinking. If things do escalate, as they have been abroad, are we prepared? My husband and I are likely going to be fine, but his parents are at risk on multiple fronts. Age, pre-existing conditions, generally being frail and susceptible to any old cough or flu that passes through; all these factors apply to them.

We can’t stop breathing, and as such, we can’t avoid potential exposure altogether. But we can avoid going out so much.

So, in the interest of prepardness, I have gone into hamster mode. Because if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s shopping.

No, I haven’t purchased every last roll of toilet paper in the city, but I have stockpiled essential food items in larger quantities than I normally would. My pantry is full of rice, wheat flour (required for the traditional flatbreads North Indians tend to eat at almost every meal), dried lentils and beans, pasta, sugar, cooking oil and other shelf stable items. I had already canned a dozen or so jars of pasta sauce back when tomatoes were cheap, so that will also help. It’s still a work in progress and I’ve tasked my father-in-law with compiling a list of medicines to keep in stock as well, but I think we’re well-positioned to have enough food for the four of us to last very comfortably for at least 2-3 months. Our stock of toiletries is looking about the same. That’s the target I’m shooting for, anyway.

As for other essentials; we don’t have much power back-up (no generator), but since we use bottled gas for cooking, and always have some spare, we’re okay on that front. Our house is set up in such a way that we have 10,000l of water collected at any given time, so we’re good there too.

So, on to my big question to you: what are you doing (if anything?). Are you concerned? Have you been stockpiling food and other pantry items? Or are you going with the flow and waiting for it all to blow over on its own?

I still refuse to panic, frankly because I’m too exhausted to after yesterday’s ordeal. And compared to previous major pandemics (like the big ones you read about in the history books), this is not going be nearly as serious, I think. It may not even kill as many people as regular flu does, anyway. But, I like the feeling of being at least a little prepared. This is one of those times I’m proud of myself for ‘adulting’ for a change. Also, while I’m not going out for grocery shopping in the foreseeable future, or socialising as much as before, imagine how much reading and writing I’ll get done!

Please, do share how you’ve been coping. I’d love to hear from you!

Oh, and I’ve got a new book out. More about Beauty (Coffee Shop Girls #3), here.

Love,

x, Lorelei

Growing up Foreign – Thoughts about Language & Culture

My ongoing efforts to streamline and consolidate my various writing and publishing activities have inspired me to to think of 2019 as the Year of Authenticity. It occurs to me that a lot of people who read my work have very little idea of who I really am, except for whatever I share in my bio. That’s about to change.

So, here goes. The first in what I envision to become a series of posts about random thoughts and situations that make me, “me”. As a perpetual foreigner, I think about national identity quite a bit, so this first post is about that.

I’m German. I don’t mean that in the “I did 23 and me, and guess what, it says I’m German!” sort of way. I *actually* am, and have the passport to prove it. But, I’ve never lived in Germany, which is kind of weird, I guess. Still, I’m more German than anything else, so I don’t really have a choice. The “Lorelei” part of my pen name is a nod towards my German heritage.

Born in the Netherlands (colloquially: “Holland”) during the 80s, to a German mother (and a Dutch father, who sadly did not live long enough to see me grow up), I’ve always been aware of my roots. She made sure of that.

I’ve also always been aware of how Germans are viewed by a lot of people in other countries across Europe. The kids who would call me a “Nazi” while growing up made sure of that. And that made me a bit prickly when it comes to how a lot of people deal with “foreigners”.

It’s a weird situation to grow up in. An in-between child. Stuck between the culture, traditions (and language) at home and the wider world we lived in. On the outside, you might think our white, Protestant Christian household, would be much the same as the white, Protestant Christian households of the native Dutch populace. Still, the difference – though subtle – were very obvious to me.

This feeling of “in-betweenness” of course wasn’t helped by the fact that my mom sent me to a private German school for the first few years of my education, because she was considering moving back “home”. We didn’t move though, and I switched to a regular Dutch school at age 11, which brought with it its own host of challenges (as well as more kids calling me a “Nazi”).

When people talk about migrants, multiculturalism and integration, it’s often aimed at people who *look* different. People with a different skin colour and religion compared to what is the norm in any given country. When I pipe up with my own thoughts, it’s often waved away. “No, not you. You’re different.” But I don’t bloody feel different. (I mean, I *do* feel different, which is kind of the point I’m trying to make).

Of course, growing up bilingually had its benefits, so I don’t regret any of it. Generally, growing up in Holland had its benefits too. Had we ended up back in Germany, I probably would have been writing this blog in German, not English. I wouldn’t have been able to express myself quite in the same way. I wouldn’t have had the experiences that formed my persionality and my thoughts as an adult. Life might have turned out very differently indeed.

I don’t want to get into politics, but I do feel people are often quite harsh about “foreigners”, “coming over here” and “wearing their weird clothes” or “speaking their funny language out in public”. The justification is often something like this: When you’re in xyz country, it’s your responsibility to speak in xyz language and do stuff however the locals do. Speak whatever you want at home, behind closed doors, if you must. Etc.

These are all things I’ve heard over and over again, often in the same breath as some statement about how that somehow makes our “multicultural society” better.

I call bullshit.

Sure, I was a weird little kid and I knew it. Initially, I spoke Dutch with a German accent, because that’s what I’d learnt from my mom. That was until I started interacting with more of my peers on the playground and in school, and then the accent went away. I obviously faced some prejudice, because *clearly* the holocaust was entirely my fault, even at age 6. Still, I’m fully aware that whatever shit came my way was nothing compared to what people who *look* different have to go through on a daily basis. White privilege is a thing regardless of nationality.

But just because I *looked* local, didn’t mean I was just going to agree to the cultural homogenisation many people like to advocate for. It didn’t matter to my mom and I that in the Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December just like in the UK or US. For us, Christmas Eve (the 24th) will always be the bigger holiday. That’s when the gifts are given in my house even to this day.

Obviously you have to learn the local language, no matter where you live. You can’t function properly otherwise. But to expect that people communicate 100% of the time in a foreign-to-them language, even when interacting with their own family is utter madness. The idea that they have to cast off their traditions, embrace only the local holidays, ideally convert to a new religion, just to fit in, is insane.

Sure, some people take things too far and favour their own traditions over the local laws. That’s clearly wrong. But I think the way that this topic is dealt with by many people is so black & white that it just pitches the two groups against each other harder.

Think about it. Have you learned a foreign language? It’s hard, isn’t it? Fumbling over your words, messing up the pronunciation, trying your best to speak one broken sentence, but forgetting that one crucial word and thus not being able to get your point across at all. Practice makes perfect, as they say, but it’s still super tiring.

Now imagine you’re with your family, after a day of doing all that. How much of a relief it will be to slip into your native tongue and express yourself freely.

Language is what makes us human. It allows us to communicate and exchange thoughts and ideas. And most importantly: it allows us to express our feelings; our love for one another.. Expression is a bit pointless if nobody acknowledges it. Why anyone would advocate to take the most important form of communication away from people, just because they decided to move to another country is beyond me. It should be up to that person to decide what they’re comfortable with. Is there really a downside if their kids learn the local language in school, and a second or third language at home? I think not.

I still speak to my mom in German, though we try to switch to another, more suitable language in case someone else is present. Since she’s the only one I get to speak German with nowadays, I’m not getting much practice. Still better than my Dutch, because although I can still pass as native during short visits, I’m super rusty and often the right words evade me. It’s because I don’t speak it much anymore, or at all.

My husband and I speak English, and the in-laws speak English and Hindi (which I am somewhat conversational in now as well).

After years and years of speaking English day in and day out, it has become my language of choice. That’s why I write in it. Language skills are fluid. It’s really amazing how preferences can change over the years. Should we ever move to Germany for any length of time, perhaps that’ll become my language of choice again. Who knows?

But the point is, it should be *my* choice what I’m comfortable speaking and writing in. Not anyone else’s. And that goes for every immigrant equally, no matter the colour of their skin, or where they’ve decided to settle down.

2019: The Year of Authenticity

A couple of months ago, I “came out” and consolidated my pen names. It’s been a work in progress, but there’s no turning back now. My main goal for doing this was openness.  Although anonymity gives me the freedom I need to write freely, I didn’t want to hide anymore either.

But it occurs to me that a lot of “me” is still hidden.

I have a Facebook page, but it’s purely about my writing. I don’t share photographs or intimate details; not even my real name or my face.

While that’s going to stay that way, for a variety of reasons related to privacy and mental wellbeing, I am going to make an effort to be more open. More real. More authentic.

Why? Because there’s really no reason not to. It feels more honest and freeing as well. I miss the freedom of expression that comes with blogging; something I’ve dabbled with occasionally over the years and which I wanted to start again with the launch of the L. Moone name and website. And I’ll have nothing to write about, if I can’t share stuff about myself.

Here are a few things that you – especially if you’re a relatively new (2015 onwards) reader – might not know about me, and which I would like to get out of the way before I add more personal blog posts.

  1. I’m not British – I’m actually German.
  2. I don’t live in London (anymore).
  3. I don’t have kids, but I do have a family.
  4. The awkward goth phase I went through as a teenager never really passed, even if you wouldn’t know it by looking at me.
  5. I self-identify as a motorcyclist, but it’s been a while since I actually rode one. (Scooters don’t really count, do they?)