Saturday, April 6, 2013

Living in an Alien Environment




Have you ever lived in a foreign country, tried to learn a foreign language, go to school there? Do you remember what it was like? How did the other kids treat you? Were they friendly or did standoffish?

When Keth, the main character in my novel Relocated, arrives on Aleyni, he already speaks the language fluently, thanks to his father's insistence. Yet when he finds himself living with an Aleyni, studying with Aleyni kids his age, he finds he's got some gaps in his language.

Both my parents spoke French, and I studied the language in school. I spent several summers in France, and another working as a student co-op in the Netherlands, and I experienced a lot of what my main character did. The Netherlands really are flat, with windmills, and people do wear clogs (wooden shoes). Everyone rode bicycles, and wore socks with their sandals. The friends I made all spoke four languages, while I was lucky to be able to express myself in two. And I learned to call my country the United States after meeting an American from Nicaragua.

But I also made some good friends and saw a lot of a beautiful country, including a visit to the Van Gogh museum outside Arnhem. I corrected math exams for the professor I was working for; he supplied me with a list of phrases in Dutch to use in my comments. And when he visited New York, my parents and I showed him around.




When fourteen-year-old Keth's dad is transferred to planet Aleyne, he doesn't know what to expect. Certainly not to discover Dad grew up here, and studied with Ardaval, a noted Aleyni scholar. On Aleyne, Keth’s psi ability develops. However, psi is illegal in the Terran Federation. After a dangerous encounter with two Terran teenagers  conflict erupts between Keth and his father. Keth seeks sanctuary with Ardaval.  Studying with the Aleyne scholar Keth learns the truth about his own heritage. After Keth's friend's father, Mazos, is kidnapped, Keth ignores the risks and attempts to free him. Little does he realize who will pay the cost as he becomes involved with terrorists.

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13 comments:

Rebecca Zanetti said...

Great post! I did spend a semester of college abroad and had a ball...though I got lost trying to explore more than once. :)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

As it happens, Maraget, my husband feels your (and Keth's!) pain. He has written a book to help those who find the USA "foreign" or "alien." Emigrans (even second generation), international students, those who must do business with Americans either in the US or in other countries. It is What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z (http://amzn.to/ForeignersAmericaUS. It's available on all the Amazons worldwide. Your Keth is a perfect example that it isn't only people who don't know the language or who are unfamiliar with the culture who need to know more. A culture is far too intricate to absorb in even years and not knowing the one you are dropped into can sure work against you.

Best,
Carolyn
PS: I love your Pinterest boards--the way you've used them to help with developing your characters. I'd love a short article on that for my blog if you have the time. HoJoNews (at) AOL (dot) com.

Margaret Fieland said...

Carolyn and Rebecca, thanks for stopping by. Carolyn, your husband's book would have been a life-saver years ago. I still have a mental collection of what NOT to say in French, none of which, needless to say, I ever heard about in French class.

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hi, Margaret,

Gee. I think I've found the perfect country for my husband thanks to you. He loves, loves, loves to wear socks with sandals and it just doesn't fly so well here in Florida.

Growing up, I was a Navy "brat" and no matter where we moved to, it always seemed a little "foreign" at first, but it was also exciting, too. Thanks for reminding me of all those good times.

Suzanne

Suzanne's Thoughts for the Day said...

Well now that was a very interesting part of your life I never knew! This book is on my to-read list.

Susan Hornbach said...

Wow! What an interesting life you have lead Margaret. Thanks for the great post. Best wishes and success with Relocated.

Wendy said...

Relocated sounds like a thrilling book, Margaret and the author obviously knows the emotional impact of being Relocated. My husband came across the world as a youth, by himself, without knowing English. He found a place to rent and a job, bought a car and taught himself to drive. Less than two years later, he met me and spoke English like a native...with an accent. Where there's a will there's a way, eh?

D. Jean Quarles said...

Great post! Interesting premise.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Great post. Interesting to read how Relocated was inspired. Explains why Keth's experience comes to life in this story.

Margaret Fieland said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Yes, kids do pick up languages quickly. Wendy, your husband's story sounds inspiring.

Kai Strand said...

I spent my 13th summer in France. By my self. With a strange (to me - not my mom) family. The first time I went out with the daughter we ran into some of her friends. She introduced me (or so I gathered from the hand gestures since I didn't speak French). The 16 yr old boy leaned forward and kissed me on both cheeks and I thought I was gonna die. Customs can be disarming!

Great article!

Margaret Fieland said...

Kai, What a great memory. Thanks for sharing.

Lin said...

I think for me the culture shock came when I found out how different state agents are from federal agents. My ex husband was a State undercover narcotics agent when we married but became a federal ATF agent not too long after we married, and ther is a difference in the attitudes.. Very much like differnt solar systems, Well done Margaret.