Saturday, 11 July 2009

2009 Kindness of Strangers Tour- Introducing Mike Harling

One day a few months ago, a new follower showed up on my blog. Having glanced into his profile I noticed this guy was a writer. Wow, I thought to myself, how cool is that, a real writer is following my blog! So, I sent him an email. That’s how I got to know Mike Harling.
It is one of those virtual friendships I began via blogging that I value a great deal.
So, when Mike asked if anyone wanted to host his Kindness of Strangers Tour, I did not hesitate for a second. It is a pleasure to be hosting Mike on my blog. He has been supportive and encouraging, always happy to give advice when I needed it, and share his experience of becoming a writer in the UK.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

Michael Harling,
the author of
“Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat”

Life in the London 'burbs
Back on home turf, sort of. I live not far from London and attend there frequently, but today I am visiting Scary Azeri and her Not So Scary British husband out in the suburbs. (Scary, by the way, is not really scary; she’s a lovely woman who kindly invited me to guest post on her blog.)

The suburbs Scary and Not So Scary live in are—to make an American comparison—somewhat short of the Hamptons on Long Island but a step or two above Hoboken, New Jersey, which is to say the area is nice enough without being pretentiously posh. That’s the most information I can offer without risking giving away their secret location.

As with other stops, my hosts were going to take me on a tour of the local amenities (pubs) but with me being such a famous author and all, we didn’t want to risk anyone spotting me with them and, thereby, “outing” her. So we’re staying indoors, drinking a popular Azerbaijanian drink (you’d call it “Budweiser”), eating a lot of yogurt-based foods and playing Parcheesi, which Not So Scary calls “Ludo” and Scary calls “something I’ve never heard of before.”

This has been quite a treat for me—I’ve never met anyone from Azerbaijan. In fact, the first time I heard of it was in the 2007 EuroVision Song Contest, and even then I had to go to a map to find it. Hint: it is not—as the aforementioned contest inclusion would have you believe—in Europe. I was a little confused by this but after checking the Official EuroVision Song Contest Website I found the codicil that allows countries like Israel and Azerbaijan to join in while still keeping the Americans out. (I don’t know why, you’d think at least the British would be in favour of including a country that people hated more than them.)

I’m visiting Scary, and posting on her very fine blog, in order to pimp my book, “Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat,” which chronicles my misadventures in coming to terms with my new country. In July of 2001 I was a contented, second-generation Republican bachelor living in a nice apartment in the suburbs of Albany, New York. Six months later I was married and living in Sussex. You wouldn’t think there would be many differences between the US and the UK (well, I didn’t, at any rate) but there were many. So I wrote about them and published them in a book. It’s really funny and you ought to buy it. There, sales pitch over.

Scary is a kindred spirit—someone who married a Brit and ended up in this quirky but endearing country. If an American found so many humorous differences in the culture, I’m sure an Azeri would have no trouble, so maybe you’ll be treated to a “Postcards From Across the Caspian Sea” book in the near future.

I need to sign off now, they just passed the dice to me and I’m still trying to get my last man into home base.

Would you like to participate in the
Visit the Tour Page to sign up or to view the latest Tour updates.

Michael Harling is the author of
“Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat”

“Laugh out loud funny regardless of which side of the pond you call home. Bill Bryson move over, there’s a new American expat in town with a keen sense of humor.”
-- Jeff Yeager, author of “The Ultimate Cheapskate”

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  1. I noticed that strange relationship between Geography and Americans. Don't remember who said that but "the only way to teach Americans geography is WAR:)" The author meant that Americans now have some idea what Georgia (an independent country in Europe)is. I remember that Bush didn't know the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia and called Greeks Grecians.

  2. To be honest, if you lived in a country like that, where you have everything: mountains, oceans, food, entertainment...would you worry too much about depth of your knowledge of somewhere like Azerbaijan or Georgia? Saying that, most of my American friends are impressively curious about different countries and cultures.
    And I am impressed that people like Mike here, who has no connection or experience with back home, still finds it interesting to read about it.
    I think it is important to have realistic expectations about our own importance in this world, I guess.

  3. I have to agree that many Americans don't know a lot about the other countires of the world. But, to be fair, there are a lot of them. I've never hear the WAR quote before, but I don't doubt it's true; there's nothing like invading someplace to focus your attention. ;)

  4. I don't have any complexes of inferiority, and I think it is the American school, not the Azerbaijani or Georgian importance that causes the problem. Don't you remember, ScaryAzeri, how your teacher demanded that you learn all countries and capitals on the African continent or in Latin America? Mine did. I personally have known that there are two Congos in Africa since I was 12. Azerbaijan and Georgia have been on the world map for over 15 years, so they are not that new. All families from the former USSR that I know here (Australia), have world maps on the wall to have the kids know what is where. Americans, even educated ones, just don't bother. A 55 year old person from Spain told me that the first time he heard of Baku was in his childhood from his geography textbook in the context of oil mining.

  5. Dude, chill already. I bet my 11 year old American child will give you a run for your money in geography, history & world languages and cultures. Do not assume all Americans are ignorant fools, after all we elected Obama as a President.
    Besides, this is not what Mike’s post was about. Good luck with the book, Mike.