By Annie Bacher

I thought I was bold for moving more than 6,000 miles south to Buenos Aires, Argentina, following my college graduation and starting a new life in an enormous city in South America. I felt a little less hard core, though, when through some weird coincidences and strategic Googling, I discovered that my great-great-grandmother had done just the same — in reverse — 127 years earlier.

Let me back up. When I moved to Buenos Aires following my May 2014 graduation from my small college in the middle of Maine, I did it for the culture, the asado (mountains of juicy grilled Argentine beef), the wine — oh, the wine — the friends, the romance and the excitement of this chaotic city in the heart of South America. I had no family and no close friends there — everyone I had met while I was studying abroad the year before was long gone.

I didn’t move there for a “real” job, either. I taught English for a few months and soon found a journalism internship with a local English-language newspaper.

It was while working for the news publication that I planned a trip to Chile and started doing a little research to see if there was a story to cover while I was there. I also remembered that my mother had mentioned some vague far-off family connection to Chile.

Through extensive internet searches and countless emails to relatives, I discovered more than I ever expected. It turns out that David Trumbull, my great-great- great-grandfather, had been sent to Valparaíso, Chile, on Protestant missionary work in 1845 following his theological studies at Yale. He became so dedicated to the community that he decided to create his life there, soon bringing over his wife, Jane, from New Jersey, raising their nine children in the coastal city and fighting for religious freedom in the strictly Catholic country.


“Our lives are obviously so different, but I found a kind of comfort reading of her struggles and observations of this odd new experience.”


Trumbull’s contributions to Chile and especially to the rights of the non-Catholic population were so great that the country bestowed Chilean citizenship on him out of thanks for his efforts to promote the civil register and allow non-Catholics to have civil rights. And when he died in 1889, the Chilean national congress honored his life with a moment of silence.

His story was fascinating, but what truly intrigued me was the story of Trumbull’s eighth daughter, Anita, my namesake. Her granddaughter, also Anita, is my grandmother. Through a chain of emails to aunts, uncles and twice-removed cousins, I finally received a transcription of the first Anita’s diary.

At 26 years old, she wrote in the diary almost every day, starting on September 7, 1889, the day she boarded a boat from Chile to start a new life in New York.

Accompanied by a cast of entertaining friends and assorted men who tried to steal her heart (but didn’t succeed), Anita journeyed up the coast of Peru, through Panama and the southern U.S. to New York, where she would make a new home far from her family while still keeping alive the traditions of her childhood home in Chile.

My journey to Argentina only took 15 hours compared to her weeks aboard the ship. I traveled in economy class; she on The Imperial, a boat fitted with a social hall, organ and piano. She sent 16-page letters to her mother back in Chile; I call mine in California using Skype. Her friends sent telegrams throughout her journey telling her how brave she was to start a new life in such a faraway city; mine say the same, but comment on my Instagram photos and on my blog. I complain about the tasteless catcalls in the streets of this city. She complains about boys aboard the boat with her: “The male portion are restless and impatient to get some ‘decent beer’ etc. Such slaves men are!”

As I read about her encounters with Eric, a persistent suitor, her fierce defense of her own independence and happiness inspires me: “All through the meal he spoke of his love for me. Implored me to engage myself and try to love him… Funny man! He kept saying: ‘You would have to be happy because of my joy in possessing you.’ My own joy seemed to be of little consequence.”

Our lives are obviously so different, but I found a kind of comfort reading of her struggles and observations of this odd new experience. Reading her diary helped me justify my living abroad and the challenges that came with it. I sometimes felt guilty, putting so much distance between my family and me, but Anita’s words kept me company and reminded me that I was not the first one to be far from her family. I looked forward to having part of her story to come home to read every night for a few weeks.


“She documented her journey in handwritten words; I documented mine in typed Word Docs and Instagram photos.”


When Anita moves into a boarding house after her first few months in the U.S., her maturity astounds me. She is thousands of miles away from her family and must wait weeks for letters and telegrams, but instead of being impatient or intolerant, Anita is appreciative. She concluded, “Why was I ever so spoiled? This is the first time in my life that I have been actually alone, and we shall see how I stand it.” A friend tempts her to give up on her quest for total independence and move in with her, but she resolves, “I will not succumb quite so soon. I must give it a fair trial.”

She certainly gave it a fair trial. She soon made friends with the Van Lennep sisters, who gradually introduced her to their brother, Frederick, who became my great-great-grandfather. The diary ends just as Fred and Anita are choosing a wedding date.

This photo was taken the morning of my first full day in Valparaíso. I traveled to this beautiful coastal city just for a few days, but even in such a short time I was able to retrace some of the steps of this faraway family, visiting Anita’s father’s church and finding her parents’ gravestones in the Dissidents Cemetery. She documented her journey in handwritten words; I documented mine in typed Word Docs and Instagram photos.

I wonder why she decided to write every single day. I wonder if she ever imagined that anyone else would see her words and her amusing conclusions about the daily happenings and social drama of her 26-year-old life in a new country. The diary seems written the way that a Facebook status or Instagram post would read these days, documenting the social events, scandals and gossip.

I remember reading this diary just about a year into my life in Buenos Aires. I was far from alone, but my plans were uncertain, and with my internship finished, I wasn’t quite sure where my next step would take me. I’m still not completely sure.

I found a job I enjoy, a boyfriend I love and slowly made Buenos Aires my home. I still don’t know exactly what lies ahead, but I like Anita’s attitude. She said, “As I close this journal and take up my new one I cannot help looking ahead with wonder and almost a certain degree of curiosity as to what this year has in store for me.”

I don’t know about the practicality of taking advice from a 20-something in 1889, but I found comfort in this realization of the repetition and unremarkable nature of my cross-continental move. I’ve now been living here for more than two full years, and I can say the same as Anita. On the last page of her journal, the conclusions are poignant yet unpretentious: “The experience has made me more self reliant and I hope less selfish. What will this next year bring?”

Annie Bacher (still) lives in Buenos Aires, working as a copywriter and freelance journalist. She loves Malbec, quality grilled meat and good conversations over strong coffee.




By Renee Dunn

My boyfriend rolls his eyes, eager to eat before the food gets cold, while I curate the perfect picture (or the best I can get on an iPhone 5C). Get the pesto drizzled just right, the egg yolk oozing, the nut butter glob glistening in the center of the smoothie bowl. If you know me, you know food lights me up. Scouring grocery store aisles for the newest products; reading restaurant menus and food blogs for fun; hell, I wanted in so badly that I decided to start a food business myself.

Ah, food. I love it. It nourishes me. It comforts me. It fuels me. It inspires me. The taste, the smell, the sound  —  pan sizzling, processor whirring, kettle boiling, knife chopping. It conveys connection, tradition, affection and affirmation in ways that sometimes words cannot.

But, food, man. I hate it. It consumes me, just as I consume it.

Living in an Eastern European, Jewish, second-generation Holocaust survivor household, I was always well-fed. My mother and grandmother never hesitated to offer me seconds or pack me extra snacks. I have fond memories of my Oma's cheesy tuna fish casserole piled in heaps on my plate, brie cheese that I had scoured when my mom hosted book club, endless Shabbat dinners and my after school "snacks" of veggies, an avocado-hummus sandwich, chocolate milk and string cheese.

I don’t remember when exactly the negativity developed, but I know that by the time I was in middle school, my relationship with food was a minefield that even I couldn't navigate. Maybe it was at this point that I had internalized that I was rounder than the other girls my age, that I was a "fat kid." My eating habits had morphed into a strict moral code. Counting, restricting, arbitrary “shoulds” and “should-nots.” A single bite determining my entire self-worth.


“By the time I was in middle school, my relationship with food was a minefield that even I couldn't navigate.”


In particular, I struggled with binge eating. Hiding in the dark, jar of peanut butter in hand  —  a regretfully familiar scene. Forget the spoon, I’ll just use my fingers; damage is done, no turning back now, fridge and pantry doors agape. I’ve hit the bottom of the jar. "I’ve done bad."

This continued through college, and in the years following I'd brush isolated incidents aside, reassuring myself that I’ve “gotten a grip” since my dark daily hoards and binge sessions.

Until more recent enlightenment, "getting a grip" meant that I had dropped the calorie counting, obsessive tracking and rigid restrictions; that I'd grown into greater acceptance of myself, telling myself I was free from judgment because I “let” myself eat formerly forbidden foods. I moved away from the “eat to burn, burn to eat” attitude I once had.

… And then I would find myself once again inhaling everything. In the dim light of the open fridge, at night, alone. Judgment rearing its ugly head.

In January, in a moment of debilitating discouragement after an unexpected affair with my chocolate collection, I realized something: I can remove the rules, but the encompassing moral framework within which I created these guidelines remains. My speech and thoughts pertaining to food are peppered with words like “earn,” “deserve,” “treat.” Each phrase carries merit, value judgment; it harbors criticism and an inherent need for qualification.

I have since come to understand that I am always thinking about what I should be eating next, or whether I'm doing enough. It takes up so much brain space, so much energy. As a busy, budding entrepreneur, that frustrates me — ain't nobody got time for that. Why do I keep getting caught up in this constant chatter?


“Food is a lot of things, but food is not a measure of worth.”


I found that my relationship with food mirrors my relationship with myself: If something is "wrong," if I am feeling negative or facing an impending obstacle, it shows up in my eating. Food is my mask. Instead of addressing my mind’s stories of I'm not doing enough, I don't know what I'm doing, or simply, I am not enough, I let myself get distracted by stories of food.

As a detail-oriented individual, it's easier for me to hone in on my little food-related moral code because it's simpler than fixing the larger issues of self-doubt, anxiety, even body image. These issues won’t be resolved with a quick fix, a “remove this” or “add in that.” They involve a constant conversation, an in-depth analysis.

And the good news is that there is power in conversation and declaration — in word choice — especially in the conversations we have with ourselves.

What would happen if I dropped the arbitrary morality, removing poisonous words from my vocabulary? What would happen if I stopped evaluating whether I “earned” my nightcap (and not in the “Did I burn enough calories?” sense, but in the arguably more dangerous “I had a hard day, I earned this” sense)?

Food is a lot of things, but food is not a measure of worth. I don’t have to earn it. I don’t have to do anything to deserve it. And the obstacles I face in life need not be solved in yet another spoonful of peanut butter — the choice for extra PB remains just that: a choice and nothing more.

This begs the question: What if I let go of this baggage? If I consciously worked toward finding freedom in food? Chose self love and rolled with it? Opened myself up to the freedoms that may follow? I am putting in the work to find out.

Renee Dunn is a Washington, D.C., based twenty-something, yoga teacher and entrepreneur, introducing hand-crafted Ugandan Organic and Direct Trade snack products to the U.S. market.



By James Hootsmans

Here I am, about to turn 25 in August, and eight months into my latest relocation. This time I’m in the Washington, D.C., area, where I started my first job out of graduate school.

But this isn’t the hardest transition I’ve ever had to make.

Born to a South African-American mother and Dutch-American father in Boston, my life was always going to be about moving, exploring, and planned and unplanned adventure. My father has a doctorate in engineering and my mother has a juris doctor degree; with both of them speaking multiple languages and wanting our family to spend time with relatives abroad, travel was inevitable.

My international living started with my father’s first job out of his doctoral program in Japan when I was less than a year old. From there I moved to other parts of Asia, Africa and Europe throughout my childhood, as well as college and graduate school.

Through all those moves, I’ve gradually learned what it takes to muster the energy to make a fresh start over and over again — and what it means to be “home.”

One of the stops on my journey was Shanghai, China, where I attended the English-speaking Shanghai American School from my freshman year through my junior year of high school. I was coming from having spent quite a few years in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a lovely New England town. Being a freshman in your own established community is hard enough, but being one in a brand new country, culture and environment was a whole different beast.


“I found it hard to adjust to life in a community where neighbors know just about everyone in town.”


That’s when I learned an important lesson that I’ve carried with me through subsequent moves: Getting involved in activities can be a key to making a new place feel like home.

Luckily, attending school allowed me to make friends, join sports teams, be in plays and participate in music groups. But the real adventures took place outside the school’s confines, as my family lived downtown, instead of in the typical international compounds on the outskirts of the city. (These privately-owned compounds, which feature large houses, swimming pools, tennis courts and other higher-end amenities, usually were filled with expatriates from the Americas and Europe. My parents, however, had little desire to live expensively as expats.) So, from taking bike taxi rides to staying up late at concerts — and trying to behave to the best of my young self’s ability — I slowly learned how to manage both the excitement and terror of a big, new city, then with a population of 18 million people.

We ended up moving back to Connecticut for my senior year, mostly because it was the end of my father’s latest employment contract.

Just as I was initially nervous moving to Asia, by the end of my three formative years in China, I was far more apprehensive about returning back to the very different U.S. East Coast and its accompanying suburban lifestyle.

I wasn’t used to driving much, but it was a necessity in Connecticut; there were fewer restaurants around, which meant I had to learn more about cooking. I found it hard to adjust to life in a community where neighbors know just about everyone in town, and nothing these neighbors do goes unnoticed. Anonymity was certainly an advantage of a large city that I missed.

With the help of my childhood friends, I rekindled friendships and joined the varsity swim team, water polo, orchestra, chorale, church groups and club soccer.


“My policy is to be outgoing, friendly and positive, and life will work itself out.”


A year later I was off to attend Colby College in Waterville, Maine. There, I did what I knew best: I became involved in as many things as I could on campus and in our college town, starting as a volunteer soccer and swim coach at the local leagues. By senior year, I had been a member of the varsity swim team, club water polo team and intramural soccer team, among other sports, chorale, collegium and string ensembles, and I had helped found an a cappella group. I had traveled to Kenya and Spain.

Becoming actively involved in my community was also my tactic when I decided to go to College Station, Texas, for graduate school, a very different place from anywhere I’d experienced before.

Of course, I understand not everyone wants to go through life at this run-and-gun pace. But for me, it had become essential to my assimilation. My policy is to be outgoing, friendly and positive, and life will work itself out.

Still, I have struggled at times to adapt to my new surroundings and make a place feel like home. When I first moved to the Washington, D.C., area, I decided to live close to work, farther outside the city, and it was tough to maintain friendships with those I met through various activities who lived in the city. I had to adjust my usual course of action and slowly build up my connections. But again, life is working itself out.

Ultimately, home is what you make it. For me, that has meant getting involved in anything and everything that piques my interest, making friends along the way. For others, it might mean solitary walks along waterfalls or a solo museum tour. (I’m still learning to embrace exploring in such solitude.) Either way, it’s about giving your new city a chance.

It can take a while for a new place to truly feel like home. But practice makes perfect.

James Hootsmans is a hydrogeologist for Tetra Tech in Sterling, Virginia. His tri-citizenship and international experience allows him to enjoy conversations with people of various backgrounds throughout the world. He sings, plays violin and appreciates all kinds of sports.



By Jessica Dell

It’s fairly safe to say that I hardly look before I leap.

Six years ago, I loaded up my Nissan with way too many pairs of shoes and drove to San Diego, California, with only the promise of a minimum-wage job and a cheap room to rent from a couple I had met on Craigslist. I had never been to California, or west of Pennsylvania for that matter, but the time had come for me to get out of my one-stoplight town, and so west I drove. San Diego seemed nice enough. The son of my mother’s close friend moved there from our town after college and was still there after about eight years, so I figured it was as good of a place as any to start my new life.

I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t easy. I almost quit my job and just came home many times during that first year, but my stubbornness refused to let me retreat back to the safety of my small town. I remember thinking, I haven’t tried surfing yet. There’s no way I can go back to Connecticut without going surfing.

After stints at a few other slightly more-than-minimum-wage jobs — working at a group home for kids in the foster care system, being a substitute teacher, working at a call center — and living in five different apartments (as well as spending a month in my car), I had finally settled into a life of making just enough to pay my bills, shop in the Old Navy clearance section and go out for drinks every other week. But after five years in San Diego, my deep-seated disdain for contentment and security forced me into a new life. Ever since suffering a family tragedy when I was 21, safety has been something I have been both constantly chasing and avoiding. As a result, whenever I start to feel comfortable, I tend to make a deliberate and drastic change before one can be made for me.

So here I am in China.


“I almost quit my job and just came home many times during that first year, but my stubbornness refused to let me retreat back to the safety of my small town.”


Six months ago, I took this picture of myself enjoying a celebratory cocktail and breakfast at John F. Kennedy International Airport before I boarded a 16-hour flight to Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China, boasting a population just shy of 15 million people. Coming from a small town that essentially lacked any type of cultural diversity and a family that had just enough money to get by but not enough to travel, I had always envied (and continue to envy) my peers who seem to be constantly jetsetting.

I was approaching my 30th birthday, and I hadn’t been outside of the country since my senior class trip to London in high school. All of my friends in San Diego were spending weeks and months abroad, in Bali, Thailand, Croatia, Japan, and I was lucky if I earned enough airline miles to fly home once a year.

As much as I liked (though not loved) my life in San Diego, I knew that if I wanted the opportunity to live abroad — and I did — it was now or never. My obligations would only increase with age, and soon, I would start to feel “too old” to do this sort of thing. So I applied for a program teaching abroad, and before I knew it, I was applying for a visa and packing my bags.

When I first arrived in China, as was the case in San Diego, I was full of excitement and curiosity, exploring my new surroundings, meeting new people, soaking up everything at my new job. But soon reality sets in, and you quickly realize you are not on vacation — you are living in a completely unfamiliar place. I can’t help but feel like I am having a bit of déjà vu.

Every day I walk 15 minutes to the metro station, my entire body covered in sweat by the time I arrive because although it is only 10 a.m., it is already 95 degrees out.

I wait for the train to come, hoping it won’t be that crowded today, but it always is. I squeeze into the carriage, sandwiched between dozens of people who may or may not have been introduced to the miracle of deodorant. I get pushed in and out of the train at the next two stops, as the carriage empties and refills again, everyone fighting for their space aboard. I spend the next 9–10 hours at work, repeating the same grammar lesson five times, planning more lessons and speaking with students. Then back to the metro.

It is often raining on my walk home. I arrive back to my apartment, which always smells like mold regardless of how much I clean. I have my dinner by 10 p.m. if I’m lucky. I try to check my email or log onto Facebook, but both sites are blocked by China’s Great Firewall and the internet is spotty at best. Most foreigners use a special app that allows us access to blocked sites, but that can be unreliable as well.


“Soon reality sets in, and you quickly realize you are not on vacation.”


So I just go to bed, prepared to repeat this weekday routine four more times. My weekends, which are actually on Mondays and Tuesdays, consist of grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and other miscellaneous errands, which mean more time on the metro and lots more sweating. I may go out with some friends and coworkers for dinner or drinks, and try desperately to avoid the horrendous hangovers that accompany drinking the bootleg liquor served here.

And I do all of these things in a place where I do not really understand the language. I’ve started to learn some Chinese, but I’m at survival-level at best — I can direct the cab driver, order coffee and pay my bill at dinner.

I wish I could say my days are full of adventure — that I am hiking the Great Wall, or visiting ancient temples and sipping tea beside a rural rice paddy, but none of these things are true. My life abroad is not a postcard or an episode of some travel channel special. The reality is that I live in a really big city with a lot of people (nearly twice as many people as New York City), which can be a little overwhelming at times, and that it’s really, really hot.

I’m still adjusting, still getting used to being an expat. I’m hoping to take proper Chinese lessons in the fall, which I think will help a lot. I also just bought a bicycle, which will get me to and from the metro quicker and make running to the grocery store easier.

It’s not all bad, of course. There are certainly perks to being here. I live more comfortably now than I ever did in the U.S. because the cost of living combined with my skill set as an American teacher made it relatively easy for me to get a job and make decent money. Because of public transportation and my location in southeastern China, I can travel to some amazing places easily. I never had the chance to travel when I lived stateside. Since I’ve been in China, I’ve been to Hong Kong twice, Shanghai, the Philippines and a handful of nearby cities. A few weekends ago, I went whitewater rafting in the rain and then sang karaoke. It was amazing.

Sometimes I look around and think, Wow, I can’t believe I live in China. I know when I’m old and gray — or even just a few years from now — I will look back and be so proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone — way out — and doing something I always wanted to do.

Maybe someday I’ll learn to look before I leap. But stepping over the edge, eyes squinted shut, isn’t always reckless. Despite the hardships, I am fulfilling a dream and learning along the way.

Jessica Dell is a 30-year-old expat. Originally from Connecticut, she spent five years in San Diego, California, before moving to China to teach English. She loves music, writing and travel.



From the Editors:


Cropped is back! And Issue 7 was worth the wait — trust us. It’s one that you foodies, world travelers and aspiring expats will especially appreciate.

We’ve had a great summer break, full of weekend getaways, quality time with family and friends, and of course, some Cropped R&D. Thank you for sticking with us as we took a couple months to reflect and relax.

This week, while putting the finishing touches on Issue 7, we’ve been thinking about Frank Ocean — and not just because (like us) he likes to take his time with his art, creating on his terms.

Frank means a lot to us — his album “Channel Orange” was the soundtrack to the summer when we met, as interns in Atlanta in 2012. Hearing the first few notes of “Thinking Bout You” or “Super Rich Kids” or “Forrest Gump” immediately takes us back to Georgia highways, in Marina’s car with the windows rolled down and stereo turned up, on some weekend adventure.

Marina had been a Frank Ocean fan since his Odd Future/“Nostalgia, Ultra” days and that summer was eagerly awaiting the release of his new album. When she found out Frank would be playing a show in ATL, she rushed to buy a pair of tickets — she wasn’t sure who would go with her but figured she could find someone to join.

Of course, she asked Maria first. Maria’s love for Frank was still blossoming — “Channel Orange” had then only been out for about a week — and, for reasons of thrift, Maria decided to pass on the ticket. This remains one of her biggest life regrets. (Kidding… sort of.)

“Channel Orange” was on repeat the rest of the summer.

As many of you likely know, Frank’s latest album, “Blonde,” has been a long time coming, and we’ve certainly felt the weight of anticipation and dashed hopes after every speculated release date. But, finally, it’s here. And we’re LOVING it. The track “Facebook Story” is particularly relevant — an interlude in which a man describes telling an ex-girlfriend, "I'm in front of you, I don't need to accept you on Facebook."

So while you read Issue 7, consider turning on “Blonde.” You know that’s what we’re listening to. It feels good to have another Frank Ocean summer (it’s not over yet!) soundtrack to get lost in.

Marina and Maria



“The Circle,” by Dave Eggers: As our Instagram followers may have seen, I read the book “The Circle” this summer. It had been on my reading list for quite a while after my former coworker, Kirsten, recommended it when we were both discussing work culture in general and how we were navigating our first jobs post-grad. I highly recommend this book to anyone else who thinks about happiness and how to find fulfillment at work. It's fictional but provides an interesting critique of modern work culture, particularly in the tech world. I loved it, and I'm staying tuned for the movie version starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and John Boyega — whenever that comes out!

Don't Think Twice:” The comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote, directed and starred in this movie about an improv comedy group. My friend Sean and I saw it last week. (Side note: There's nothing like seeing a movie in the summer. Getting to sit in the cool air for two hours is worth the ticket price, in my opinion. During that Frank Ocean summer, Marina and I saw two great movies, “Your Sister's Sister” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”) My favorite thing about “Don't Think Twice” is something Cropped readers will likely appreciate. The movie takes us behind the scenes of what happens when a friend experiences success and the way that can sometimes change how we think about ourselves. It gave me a lot to think about, and I think the themes are relevant, no matter what your work or passion is.


Although we can find similarities among the experiences of 20-somethings growing up across continents and across generations, some of the differences are stark. This hit me as I read the story of a mother and daughter who both attended university in Kabul, Afghanistan — but decades apart. I'd never heard about the Kabul of the 1970s or considered how much more progressive it was than the Kabul of today. “This is not the country my mom told me about every morning as she made tea, every night as she tucked me into bed.”

I had my first tarot reading a few weeks ago, and I'm still raving about it. I certainly drink the metaphorical Kool-Aid when it comes to horoscopes, personality tests and the like, so it's surprising I hadn't gone to a psychic sooner. I asked about my career, about love, about travel, as my reader flipped over cards and offered tidbits about my future. It wasn't hokey or scary (before the reading, I couldn't help but worry, What if she tells me my days are numbered?!); it was actually pretty reassuring.