Spinster’s travels.

Hello ladies & gentlemen. I have an announcement to make.

Even before being crazy enough to move to another country, I always had a deep love for travel. (Please see my Hello world! entry.) Last year, I made one of my travel dreams come true, thanks to a dare that I looked into for kicks & giggles but wound up becoming all too real. I definitely don’t regret it because it was something I always wanted to do, but if anyone told me in the past that this would happen so early in my life, I wouldn’t take the person seriously. As a result of my trip, I blogged about it afterwards, entitling the blog And She’s Off!: Spinster’s Travels, but abandoned it a while later. (Believe it or not, I entered all but the last 2-3 days of the trip into that blog. Not to worry though – for those of you who’d be interested, that blog will resurrect again for my future travel jaunts. It’s hidden for now and under construction.)

When I started this blog last month, I received positive feedback from George, whose main site is CheapOair, a website/search engine for cheap airline tickets. Because he liked what he read, he asked if I’d be willing to do a guest post on his site. I said yes. A few things got in the way but now it’s finished.

So without further ado, please take a look at my guest post for CheapOair about my trip to Oz. Click on the link below. Please leave feedback on my blog (and CheapOair too, if you want). Get a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy reading it. ;-)

My humble thanks goes to George for giving me this opportunity.

My CheapOair guest post >>> Spinster’s Travels: The Wizard of Oz

Oz.

Damn foreigners.

It was my 2nd day at the new job (July 6th). Aside from meeting with my supervisor to learn the ropes for the non-computer aspects of the job, lots of reading, and help from my team members, I didn’t do too much. That was fine because there was a LOT of reading – laws & rules & statutes, oh my. :-| I got to know my team members little by little, in addition to colleagues on other teams somewhat related to my work. Some of them asked lots of questions about home, told me about their visits to the States, and stated their opinions about the many goings-on in the States. These were nice conversation starters because I wouldn’t have initiated conversation.

My work e-mail worked, so I checked it to see if I’d gotten anything. One of the first e-mails I saw was from a newly hired recruiter at the agency that brought me over here. In it she stated that a new group of Americans just arrived, and she requested my attendance at an informal dinner on Thursday to meet the new recruits.

*scratch record*

*REWIND*

What? Meet people? People I’ve never met before? For dinner? For a long period of time?

Why? :-|

For those who know me well (and I’ve mentioned it here a couple of times), I’m an introvert. A proud introvert. For most of my life, people (including family members) made me feel bad about this, saying there was something wrong with me since I’m not a social butterfly. Social interactions, especially for long periods of time, deplete my energy and cause me to withdraw into a cocoon (whether living solo or paired up). It’s my way of recharging (albeit nowhere near as recharged than the average social being). In the past this caused me lots of angst because as a teenager (and like most teenagers), being this way made people misunderstand me even more, which led to a vicious cycle of wanting to please people but not being able to, being angry at the world and hating myself. But now, as an adult, I’ve come to accept the fact that I can’t please everyone and I’ll never be an extrovert. I like that I appreciate one-to-one & small group interactions the most; I prefer more intimate connections with people as opposed to shallow & superficial interactions with tons of people. Besides, bad girls move in silence. ;-)

So, I was wary of this e-mail but said to myself, “To hell with it. I’ll force myself to go. Maybe these new people aren’t too bad.” But then I remembered something else about myself:

Because of my past travels, I’ve come to avoid most other Americans when travelling. I’m sorry fellow Americans, but some of you make us look bad worldwide. You have that damn A-merry-can Sarah Palin-esque accent, which annoys me to no end. (American accents vary by region, but more often than not, this is the most common accent I’ve heard during my travels.) And your clothes, for the love of whatever deity might exist… Buy some new clothes! Do you have to wear the same tourist outfits – track suits or mountain gear? And don’t get me started on the terrible American-centric Caucasian-centric superiority complex that many of you have, which makes America/Americans look even more stupid in the eyes of the rest of the world. Don’t you realize that we’re seen as a joke across the world? :-| Hell, it embarrasses me to the point that when people ask me where I’m from, I just mention my city to look better in the eyes of others. :-|

Anyway, I replied “yes” to the e-mail knowing that I’d regret it later. Over the 2 days that preceded the dinner, I thought of every excuse possible to get out of going – I was still jet-lagged, I needed to go to the internet cafe, it was hot outside… whatever it took.

The day came and as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise, I decided to go. This would save me from cooking or buying dinner. I was a little late because although it’s easy to get to London Bridge, the place was hard to find once I got there. A few minutes later I found it, asked for the reserved table and walked over to it.

I had a bad headache and I was hot & grumpy. I said a polite hello and sat down. I sat in the corner seat, deciding that I’d eat & leave within an hour. I didn’t know these people, and they were A-merry-can, which meant that I probably wouldn’t like them anyway (or so I thought). I wasn’t getting up to introduce myself. That’s not what I do. :-|

In the group was a married couple from Texas, a young woman from Texas via Colorado, a man from somewhere in the New York tri-state area, and the 2 women from New Zealand who sat on the other end of the table. I was sitting at the A-merry-can side of the table. Fuck. :-| I was even more chagrined when I learned that most of them never left the United States until now. (The only thing I’m a snob about is travel.) I said to myself (something to the effect of):

“Christ. These people have never left the country? Here we go. More ignorance and bullshit.”

I ordered my food & drink, hoping for this to end soon. The new recruits knew I got here a couple of weeks before them, so the questions started pouring in:

1. Have you ever been here before? (Yes.)
2. What’s the job like? (I just got here just like all of you. I don’t know.)
3. Where are you staying? (My friend’s house.)

Sigh. And too many other questions. They probably didn’t realize it, but I couldn’t deal with all the social interaction yet I forced myself through it.

After a while, I relaxed a little. I began talking a bit more when the husband in the married couple whispered to me,

“Hey, are there any Black people here?”

Sigh. Why me, whatever deity might be in the sky, WHY?

I said, “Are you kidding me? England has the largest population of Black people in Europe. You really haven’t left the States, have you?”

Him: “No. I didn’t know there were Black people here.”

Sigh, help us all. :-|

I began telling him about the different groups of Black people here, cultural events & activities, and told him something that I don’t think he ever heard before:

“As a Black American, you’re part of a very small elite group. Many Black Americans… hell, many Americans in general… have never left the United States, much less lived in another country. Don’t limit yourself to just ‘Black stuff’. There are too many cultures here for you to do that to yourself. Take advantage of everything that this place has to offer.”

He listened intently, and I think its importance hit him after that statement. I began to feel a little more comfortable, mostly because I was only speaking to him at this point, but also because the group wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. I didn’t leave within an hour like I said I would; we didn’t leave until at least 22.00. We all exchanged phone numbers and I told everyone that I’d see them next week (like me when I arrived, they had 1 week to settle in before beginning work).

I still had a headache, but I was happy that I went. Recruitment staff paid for dinner and everything tastes better when it’s free. ;-) I headed home exhausted and although I wasn’t ready to embrace them just yet, I was happy to make a couple of potential connections. I told N about the new folks and she shook her head at their lack of travel experience too, but she was glad that I clarified some things.

One of the new people wound up returning to the States 2 days later (I may explain that in another entry, but don’t hold me to it). The rest of us are still here and our connections are stronger; this is especially so for me & the married couple. They’re great and, as a solo expatriate, I’m glad that they’ve accepted me into their lives.

Until next time, ladies & gentlemen.

New employee.

Despite still being under the influence of jet-lagged stupor, on July 5th it was time for work in a new country, new neighborhood, and maybe new mindset. My last day at my full-time job was June 8th; my part-time job’s end date was June 16th, so to many it seemed like a long vacation before returning to the world of work. That wasn’t the case.

Moving is not for the faint of heart & spirit. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t relax, party, & dance in flowery pastures. Those last weeks before my departure were busy, nerve-wracking, and exhausting. There were goods that needed shipping, accounts to close, friendships in limbo, and a car sale….. and that was only the beginning. So despite the weeks that I was “off”, my feelings about returning to work were of excitement & exhaustion. I was, after all, still trying to catch up on sleep and get adjusted to the kinda big time difference.

Soon after my arrival, my friend helped me with learning different bus/train/tube routes. It was a bit confusing, but the fact that I’m from one of the biggest cities in the world gave me an edge over my other foreign colleagues, who don’t have the “privilege” of being from a large metropolitan area. Anyway, I found my way to the new job’s headquarters for human resources (HR) induction, where I’d learn about benefits, dress codes, and pay stubs oh my. Although it was boring, it was nice to learn that workers seem a little more valued here than they are back home. As an example, compared to home, my vacation leave at least doubled and began immediately. Paid sick leave began 1 month after my arrival and although it wasn’t much, there are plenty of Boxing Days to supplement that. Universal health coverage began for me immediately and prescriptions are at a fixed price; for those who have health insurance back home, it doesn’t kick in for an average of 3-6 months and the consumer is responsible for co-payments within the limits of different insurance providers. Those were just a few of the benefits that mattered to me the most.

Afterwards, I went to one of the major banks to sort out my account. (My experiences with the banks will come in another blog entry. Yes, it’s that serious.) My new supervisor & co-workers were waiting for me at what would be my new office building, so I caught the bus and headed there.

I took the correct bus, yet the bus driver told me that I was going the wrong way. As a result, I got off the bus earlier than I should have. I walked for a while (in what I realized was the correct direction) and came across a BP gas station, where I asked the attendants to point me in the correct direction. They claimed to not know the way to the neighborhood (liars), so I walked out while cursing under my breath. I kept walking and saw a police officer who helped me, and soon enough I was at the new job.

I dressed business casual in case there was a strict dress code since the organization is quite big and, therefore, dress codes differ from office to office & department to department. I went to the reception area, where my new supervisor met me and took me upstairs to the office. It delighted me to see, upon entering the office, that I could dress as casual as I liked (within reason of course). As a reformed tomboy-turned-lady (which I’ll address to a certain extent in a future entry), it was nice to know that I had a choice in what to wear. With the work that I do, sometimes it’s in my best interest to dress in a more relaxed manner.

After being introduced to my team, the supervisor met with me to give me a basic rundown of what to expect. (My now-former supervisor is Korean-American, which was nice because she understood the challenges with my move since she’s a fellow expatriate.) Because of my late arrival due to the HR induction, she could only cover but so much with me that day since I had another induction for the data entry system I’d be using for the job. You’ll be amused to know that I was so under jet-lag‘s influence that I nodded off during the data entry system induction. The IT person conducting it wasn’t boring, so to speak; I was just still exhausted. :-| I knew I’d get further (day-long) training on the system anyway so my sleepiness didn’t waste the day.

As an aside, even though it concerned me how I’d get along with new co-workers/colleagues, I was slowly put at ease. Two of my new co-workers on my new team were on vacation, so I didn’t meet them until the following week; however, the team told me good things about them, including the fact that one in particular was a prankster. (The team were correct.) Overall, I figured that things would go well with the new team.

The data entry system induction finished and that ended my day. (NOTE: While I can’t remember every single day of work since moving here, I’ll continue to discuss work in a date-progressive, subject-centered fashion a bit – different topics related to my work, etc.)

I headed toward my friend’s house (I’ll refer to her as N from now on) and I can’t remember everything, but I probably went to the internet cafe near her house to check e-mail. I probably went back to the house afterwards, told her about the 1st day of work, and turned into Rip Van Winkle. :-| Tomorrow would be a new day.

Unexpected stuff.

Hello readers. I’d like to apologize for a lack of posting lately. If you follow me on Twitter @spinstercompass, you know what’s up. Just in case you don’t follow me, here’s what’s up:

Last weekend whilst on Skype with my aunt, the laptop crashed. I bought the damn thing exactly 1 month before, which is why I don’t understand why the hell it crashed. If I had the money, I’d purchase a Mac immediately because I’m sick of everything Microsoft. :-| Thank goodness I (reluctantly) took the laptop insurance the computer store offered me because I don’t have to pay for any repairs. The laptop crashed on Saturday night; the tech people had it picked up by Tuesday. Unfortunately for me, everything in this country takes forever to get done, so I may not have it back for at least another week….. hence my lack of posting. I can only do but so much on an iPhone. :-|

2 days after my laptop crashed, I woke up for work and felt like complete shit. I had sinusitis exactly 2 months beforehand, so I thought I’d be alright within 2 days. I took Monday off in the hopes that I’d be better by Tuesday or Wednesday. I woke up on Tuesday and felt even worse. I called in sick again and went to the doctor’s office, where I was told that I have a nasty viral cold. She told me to continue taking decongestants, buy Vick’s, and breathe in steaming hot water vapors to open up my nasal passages. Wednesday….. Thursday….. Friday….. still sick. Headaches, blocked sinuses, coughing, sneezing, phlegm….. Oh my. :-/ I’m still under the weather but feel better than I have in the past 6-7 days. I’m gonna go back to the doctor’s office and see if I can get something to break up all this nasty phlegm. :-|

On Saturday I received some terrible news – one piece of news after the other. My friend has a major situation going on with her son, to the point that it actually made me break out into hives. Afterwards, I found out that a younger cousin of mine died a few days ago in his sleep. Since I’m so far away and pretty much broke, I can’t go home for his services. As bad as 2010 has been, I was hoping that my family wouldn’t be struck with any deaths this year.

Needless to say, I haven’t had the capacity to blog even though I have lots of material to blog about. I know that I don’t have to explain myself, but I felt that since this is a new blog and I haven’t written anything new in over 1 week, I owed anyone who reads this an explanation.

Please be patient with me. I should be back in full effect (hopefully) in a week.