Movable families – movable homes.

Life and work bring more and more professionals – and their families – from country to country and from home to home. It starts as a challenge and as way to gain experience, but it can also be, sometimes, the only way to continue to work in this precarious world. More and more academics have to move indeed with little prospects of settling down. For them, the home and the family become a movable unit.

So what is the physical and imaginary idea of ‘home’ in a globalised and mobile environment? Is it a place of  ‘brief permanence’, a place where one live but to which one don’t really belong to, a place of (dis)location, where the recurrent displacements mix identity with diversity? It seems that the idea of ‘home’ evolves when occupancy is temporary and when national and cultural boundaries are recurrently blurred. We may indeed have to distance ‘the home’ from the concept of place and location.

Genevieve G.


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Mobility, once launched, is a movement that can’t be stopped and it is a global phenomenon.


Ingrid, photomontage © Genevieve Guetemme 2013

Cut and compressed by two sides, perfectly aligned, of a radiator. Truncated and lost in a non-place with no depth, nothing aside and no background, she doesn’t have any personal space and although she may have outlooks in front of her, it feels very empty.


Shalle, photomontage © Geneviève Guetemme 2013

American journalist, she sit on a sofa that is not hers to breastfeed a child who will grow up elsewhere. She has three children born in Holland, Scotland and England. She doesn’t know how long she will have to move and if she will ever get a job related to journalism again. Her only goal is to find a way to raise her children in a world where the temporary is more or less permanent.


Agata, photomontage © Geneviève Guetemme 2013

Here are the homes of the members of a multinational and multilingual community.

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Moved                                                                                                                 visit: expat women

We´ve just moved here. He started saying instead of her to people who did not
even ask. She was moved hearing him say: we´ve just moved here to people not
even asking him. Asking him about his age. And if he was already going to
school. And how old his little brother was. We are from Cambridge, he said. No! That’s not true, she
wanted to scream. But wasn’t it true after all, at least for him?

Why haven’t we found friends yet, he started asking her in the language they
were talking to each other. And his little brother started repeating the
question. We´ve just moved here, she said in the language they talked to each
other. Is it true? When she moved first she counted the days in the new place.
And she did so when she moved for the second time. She does not do that
anymore. As it is with children. One stops counting days, isn’t that true?
Moving takes time (away? To give it where?) and friends (away?), she was
thinking. Why say it so them. And what does just mean to them? And to her? Is
it really about just?

Elke Papp

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An italian café. Me and old men old men and me having coffee. Latino music. Donne sur. Not la mer. Not even the river. A charity shop on the other side of the road. La strada. British flags in the windows. The café owner seems fragile. He is a bit younger than
the men coming in the café having coffee. Reading their papers. But not a lot.
He seems Italian. Not heard him talking Italian. Not English for sure. Shy.
Father of a small child. Perhaps. But might be friends only. Exchanged kisses with the child’s mother and talked Spanish with a slight accent. But then she paid her meal. The coffee tastes Italian. An open window. Smoking is not allowed. Only outside. A chocolate cake is waiting to be cut into pieces. People take their children over the road. La strada. El sol. Gone. This summer has never been. French music with a bit of Portugese. A man is balancing a pile of books over the road and disappears in the charity shop.

Me and old men, old men and me in my Italian café having coffee. Me and my old men having my coffee. No I better stay in my corner at the window. Turning my back to them. Plugging in my thoughts. ..

Everything is small. Even the name of the café. The shop owner may have wanted  to make it grow when he opened the café. What?

I rather see the shop owner in a French film. Italian perhaps. He has a bit of Picasso. But not enough to destroy such a lot of women.

It’s nice to have a café near-by, the grandparents say to each other. Or is it mother and son. Nice for the daughter in law which has a different colour and a son of a bit lighter colour. All looking at the colourful painting on the wall showing a garden with playing children in it. Laughing. Eating (sharing) the chocolate cake.

Almost all old men have left by now. Only one behind me still here. Reading his papers. Elderly couples instead. Middle aged friends. Not a single table left. Only two chairs. Who will want to share his/her table with a stranger. I rather look out of the window. Which donne sur la strada. Watch people crossing the road. Giving a quick look into the charity shop. The shop owner could need help at this time of day. Would he want me to help him. It is just a thought of mine. I am drinking my Morrocan mint tea. I rather take the empty shop next door. Having my own café. Having my own old men drinking my coffee in my

Our countries are neighbours anyway. No way. I rather look out of the window qui gives sight (view) sur la rue. With its Zebrastreifen. The sun is coming and going like the cars. Disappearing around the corner.

The shop owner looks as if he hasn’t slept enough and smoked too much. Once. Some time ago. He does not seem to smoke any more. He does not look like somebody who want to own a lot. Not even a packet of cigarettes. He seems like someone always having a few coins in his pockets to give to the one not owning anything.

The daughter in law and her son the grandmother and her son..

He puts the tables outside. This summer comes and goes quickly.

Two days later. I do know most. I didn’t even ask. I was told. I was shown. I wish I didn’t know. I wish I didn’t see. Where. When. How it all happened.

The old men are still reading their papers. Not talking to me. When I enter the place take my hat off and plug my thoughts in. Showing my back to them. Looking out of the window. I know what the Italian name means in English. Everything starts to make sense. Sadly? I can still make my assumptions. I am free to write the plac I come to write. And after all it’s a business. Not made to make me survive. The Hungarian waiters smiles at me. I don’t know a single word in his language. I even get to know his wife. Staatenlos (a word that does not exist?) for years. Not complaining about her job at a student’s place that does
not approuve her holiday after years of working there day after day.

A young couple is bringing (taking?) bags into the shop. They might split up and move into different houses. I will have a look at the lamp they carry. They leave the shop taking the lamp with them. It is not supposed to enlighten my life. They are crossing the Zebrastreifen. Faces looking freed. Hair blowing in the wind.

Disappearing around the corner into their ever and ever so happy life.

Nobody seems to be able to pass the shop without looking. Much less seem to have time to sit down. Have a coffee tasting Italian.

A very tall man with a very small push-chair. Stroller an American woman told me and how she made an effort to get away from her words to get closer to the people here.

Me and one old (fat I am tempted to write, why not I think it anyway) man in
his tiny corner making business calls. Oh no. People are always… my assumptions here.

Some come for the Italian. Some because the Italian is not here at the moment. Some come here every day. Me and an old woman in her electrical ….she parks outside. Drinking coffee her husband would not have tasted (had) once in life. I haven’t seen her for a while.

The music makes me think of the Italian that is off to his country. Which he might
have left for a very long time. I do not ask. I do not ask.

Elke Papp

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The only thing she kept during all these years. She says. Writing numbers on a tissue. In blue like her name sounds. They have lived there and there. And here. Not exactly here. But not too far. Over the bridge. For long. Forever? Don’t ask. Take the number.
You have put yours on the table. Written down quickly at the empty end of a shopping receipt. Hesitating a little while. Not too long. You’ve learned to give your details. It’s not for getting loved, desired. It’s only for surviving. And who would not do anything for surviving. You were smiling when putting your details on their table. That kind of detached smile you have learned. Without a hint of hope. Not even a hidden one.

It is still in your bag you had with you on this day. You’ve changed bags. It got too full. As all bags get too full and changed after a while. Emptied only when you go on a longer trip or when you move places. But you won’t go on a longer trip for a while and you have only just moved here. You better put the tissue in your wallet. Inside out. So that the blue is not disappearing. Like it does on days like these.

She changed her number a lot, the other woman whose name you will forget – only
remember the English version you will keep that did not suit her at all – she is laughing. But she could tell you all her postcodes ever. You might have even had a similar one she adds. As she knows where you come from. You said it with a proudness that surprised you. Not that you come from there. But you suddenly feel like coming from there. I have just lived there. You wanted to add. But everybody can hear that anyway. The two women on one table. And you on another.
You have got one number. And they have got one number. Isn’t that a fair deal.
You have even exchanged names. Isn’t that a start of a friendship.

You. Who is the first person. And why not be the third. The odd one. The one not looked at talking to herself. You! Name yourself as you wish. You have got an accent one might place right or wrong.

Write in your own language. You might loose it while living here for. No.
Never. Ever.

You keep saying. The only thing you keep. Keep saying. Not forever. Be careful to say it. It might not be easy to get numbers you can keep in your many bags.
To look at on numberless days that started passing too quickly. You keep coming to the place where you met. More for the place than for her. She might have gone on holiday. Where is she keeping your number? Has she still got it? Has she given it to the other woman who said she would only come back after the summer? Has she taken it with her on her holiday? She hasn’t probably gone to her country that sounds even wilder than her name. You will meet her and then you will have to decide whether to call her or not.

It got all about making them match. The children and their characters you somehow feel all so guilty about.

You have got time. She will keep her number. Remember. That’s what she said.

Elke Papp

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Leave! Stay!
When you have lived here for a bit you will start going to other people’s
houses. Other people’s houses which they are going to leave sooner or later.
Sooner more likely than later. You might not be sure how long to stay in a
house of a person who is going to leave her house sooner or later (sooner more
likely than later). Stay! Only the staying people want you to leave earlier
than you would like to leave or than you would like them to stay in your house
which you are going to leave sooner or later (sooner more likely than later).
Leave! You are telling yourself from the first moment on you enter a house of a
person who looks like staying there forever. (Who might leave / move
/disappear? sooner or later who knows, you who has just entered their house?)

Would you have ever left your place if not to stay with somebody you thought
wanting to stay with forever and still want to stay with forever (most of the
time)? Those who came with you to the person’s house (which she is going to
leave sooner or later) will want to stay, you know that even before you entered
the person’s house. You might have told them to leave the house when you tell
them to do so. They will want to stay and do anything so not to leave. In the
beginning you will feel ashamed because the person might think they who will
not want to leave even you tell them to leave don’t want to go back to your
house (the person does not even know that you have left it already in the
morning) and you think so but they probably don’t think so, they just don’t
want to leave. They just want to stay.

And here you are. Still here. Not wanting to leave. Only wanting to stay. You
who came here not to stay. Wanting to leave even before you came here to live
and leave.

Leave! Stay!

P.S. The shop (the shop being made into a staying place recently, tables,
sofas, plugs) owner’s wife is brooming (??) you away. Please! She usually being
(miming?) the grumpy sphynx behind the counter is tired of staying all day long
behind the counter. She’d rather disappears in the part of the shop that no one
has ever seen, not even CCTV. Only when you accept not to be smiled at she
suddenly smiles at you. Even jokes with you. Her smile is shiny like the yellow
scarf on her head. But it happens only once. Then she freezes again for ages.

You are leaving. Will you be leaving! Plug out your being here and off you are.

You are leaving.




Left (“there”)

a belly with two breasts (slightly cracking on the bottom Rand)
to be stored in an attic (for how long? Will it fit in? Still stored in the
garage of best friend)

a few books (gave them to friends, to the charity shop)

clothes (gave them to friends, to the charity shop, sold some at the boot sale
on a frosty Frühlingsmorgen) with best friend puffing “like in the old days”
into the cold air (the friend)

baby clothes (gave them to a friend (some did belong to her anyway), to her
partner’s (love, boyfriend, quasi-husband) working colleague’s wives (?) (one
very due (asking “when are you due?” though hating this question) the other one
“only” in the first stage (happily taking everything home (never been to their
home, probably never see the child (girl/boy?) wear the clothes (they might go
back to their country before, got invited to visit) and to a friend from a
former almost neighbour country being in tears losing somebody not to replace
while carrying a baby in her, feeling a (forbidden) longing in her breasts
while giving the baby clothes to all those people

stones (on the road, on the patio, looked at, some picked up, carried home in
pockets (the boys, she) or piled on the push chair, from the front gardens
(leave them! it’s other people’s stones!), some from the sea side, two (?) left
in the neighbours’ back garden (didn’t have a front garden, didn’t go to the
seaside a lot) stones got thrown into the back garden by the boys and stayed
there put somewhere high up thought collecting them but didn’t, thinking about
them (two?) from time to time (thinking about the neighbours if they will leave
them when they will be leaving or put them on the road, in the bin) put some
stones (even coloured ones!) in the bin

a house (the, their! house), in shiny sparkling emptiness, making some feel
like wanting to move in themselves (wanting to move out of their own houses or

people (some of the friends, most of them passers-by though familiar to some
extent) passing by looking into the shiny sparkling emptiness until other
people will be filling it with morning faces and evening laughters people will
get used to look at

after a little while

Something a friend (?) left somewhere where she took it to give it to the
friend (?), something very domestic, making her always smile thinking it not
being in a house but on the go / move to somewhere, in the end she had to
decide to take it either with her, send it or leave it with another friend (!)
telling her she should pass it on to another friend (art friend) so that this
art friend could pass it on to the friend (?) who once left it somewhere not
domestic at all wrapped in a plastic bag to big to fit in a letter box

Art in German means “a kind of” – yes all these friends are kind indeed and
they become art if they like or not (that is not too kind!)

A thing as domestic as the one above be put in an art environment won’t (would
not) be classified as “entartet” any more….

thyme: got it from a friend that got it from a friend that… a whole bunch of
it, growing fast an wild like a neglected child in the very edge of the
vegetable bed, on his own for quite some time as all has been torn out of the
flower bed as there was nothing to be grown any more, never ever in this
flowerbed!, the next ones might plant parsley, sage and rosemary and not
remember us as they have never known us? Who knows?

Elke Papp.

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Where to go when you can’t really go somewhere?

Where to go when you have to go somewhere to forget you can’t really go

Where to go when there is somebody who wants you to go somewhere because only
then s/he can also go somewhere and you can only go if this someone also wants
to go there.

Where to go if you just have to go somewhere because this somebody is not just
any body but almost your own body.

Go to groups!

You might have never gone to groups before you came to live here. Most of the
people like you don’t go to “groups” before they come to live (and leave) here.
Some of them might have gone to “Selbsterfahrungsgruppen” (gatherings supposed
to learn more about oneself), or any other group empowering the self.

Most of them have visited this or another evening class to learn something that
the day has not taught them. Now that they have come to live here (and left
days and evenings behind them) they go to groups almost every day. Some of them
even go to groups twice a day as there are plenty of groups – one could make a
group tour instead of a city tour. Go to groups! You don’t know what that
means? Live here for a bit and you’ll know.

Ah, you want to go somewhere on your own? Just for? Come back with your little
ones and I tell you where they have big fun! Go to groups! ….. I don’t go to
groups anymore. I went to groups I tell you. I know them all. I don’t go there
any more. I just can’t.

Elke Papp

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