Realizations (part III).

With the amount of time I spent at home, I did what I usually do – think too much. Or maybe it isn’t a matter of thinking too much; that I have a 2nd home & traveled to my always-1st home gives me plenty of material to compare & contrast. I decided to compile a list of most of these thoughts for your reading pleasure. (Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2.)

13. I really just can’t with the TSA. Ever since 09.11.2001, the United States have been on an elevated terror alert. As a result, civil liberties have been slowly but surely eroded, and TSA is one of the avenues through which this occurs. Taking off shoes & belts & coats/jackets & hats, the inability to carry liquids over 100 ml. (3 oz.), fingerprinting, constant questioning….. I’m sick of it. When I went home on vacation, I remembered the reason I’m not fond of TSA: 3 different TSA agents questioned me 3 times and, with all the clothing & shoes I took off for the metal detectors, I should have just stripped butt-ass-naked. This is in spite of the fact that I have a U.S. passport and work visa. This is also in striking contrast to Australia, where I didn’t have to take off anything going into or coming out of the country. Maybe if the United States minded its….. Never mind, won’t even go there. Another complaint for another day. :-/ Next time I return home, I want to enroll in the global entry program to avoid all or most of this TSA bullshit.

This = American civil liberties.
This = American civil liberties.

14. I need to find at least 1 hobby to keep myself busy, especially since my 2 friends (co-worker & wife) are returning to the States for good in just a few days. I’ll miss them and I don’t want to fall into a long funk. I have other acquaintances/friends in & outside of work, but they’re married/partnered and have their own lives. I’ll keep looking for something affordable; hopefully I’ll find something soon – whether it be a book club, photography class, language class, some form of exercise, etc.

15. In keeping with #14, this will force me to meet other people. It’ll be hard because of my nature & age (it’s hard to make new friends as one gets older), but my only other option is staying in my house all the time. And while I don’t mind spending time at home alone, I’d rather not be a total recluse, especially during warmer months. (Side note: Have you ever taken a personality test? If so, what’s your personality type? And here’s some history behind it.)

16. Without going into too much detail, I know that I made my exit from my last job at the perfect time. While I don’t subscribe to any religion or deity, I know that the universe works things out in its own way sometimes.

17. I’m glad that I expatriated. While I miss some familiar comforts of home, there are other things that I can do without: damn annoying A-merry-can accents (except certain regional accents, like mine), American-centrism, racism/prejudice, fake diversity, the state of romantic relationships in my specific community (so sick & tired of that conversation), American poli-tricks & poli-trick-tians, chemical-laden & genetically modified foods….. and many more. England is nowhere near being a utopia, let me make it clear. But some of the things that cause concerns back home aren’t even a thought here because it just makes sense. In this country, pragmatism seems like the rule and not the exception.

18. It’s taken a while to get my house together. The move took a toll on me to the point that I neglected my house and myself. Thanks to my 2 friends (co-worker & wife), my house is not cluttered anymore and I’m going to keep it that way. It’s coming along slowly but surely; I just need a little more furniture, and some artwork (something like these beautiful pieces created by my colleague back home) for my bedroom & living room.

19. I’m done with direct debit in this country. I really just can’t with the banks here; even straight cash takes forever to clear here, and it causes problems when paying bills. I’m gonna pay all my bills on my own just like I did back home.

20. I’ve begun settling in & adjusting here. I’m beginning to feel at home. I hope that this is a signal of things to come. It’s good being back in my 2nd home.

My thoughts are many….. too many. But 3 parts is enough, don’t wanna bombard you. Until next time.

Welcome home.
Welcome home.

Realizations (part II).

With the amount of time I spent at home, I did what I usually do – think too much. Or maybe it isn’t a matter of thinking too much; that I have a 2nd home & traveled to my always-1st home gives me plenty of material to compare & contrast. I decided to compile a list of most of these thoughts for your reading pleasure. (Here’s part 1 for those who didn’t catch it.)

7. Sometimes, clothes do make the person. Putting my focus on clothes that fit my frame, as opposed to focusing on weight gain & body image, helped me feel a bit better about myself (check out this entry for details). I also purchased a small amount of make-up to add to my collection & accentuate my natural features, and I’m making more of an effort again to put it on, even if it’s just a little lipstick every day or every other day. Next step: enrolling in at least 1 activity that’ll keep me healthy & tone up my body in the process.

Make-up.
Make-up.

8. If I move again, no matter where that is, it should be to a temperate climate. I’m sick of dealing with bitter cold, snow, blizzards, black ice, etc. I’m settling in here and I also grew up with somewhat-harsh winters, but this gloomy weather (rain, snow, clouds, fog) is utter shit. Thank goodness that England has decent summer weather.

Tired of this.
Tired of this.

9. I can’t deal with New York City public transportation anymore. Lacking a car for most of my time at home sucked big time. I don’t own a car here (yet) and public transportation here has taken some getting used to, but for some reason it seems even more aggravating to manage back home. It’s easier to get around with a car, even in a metropolis as huge as New York City. Next time I go home, I’m gonna save enough money to rent a car for the length of my trip.

This makes England public transportation very fun.
This makes England public transportation very fun.

10. I love New York City. When it comes to each borough however, I hate Manhattan. It’s so overrated. It’s just not the same anymore. We can thank the very-well-off & the invading hipsters for that (as well as their Brooklyn invasion). I’ll take the other boroughs over Manhattan any day. (I have to admit though….. I’ll head uptown to Harlem for some good fried fish or Senegalese food, or Washington Heights/Inwood for delicious Dominican food. Besides those small areas, I’m over it.)

11. I can’t hop around from state to state like I used to when I was younger – road trips, catching flight upon flight, etc. I was supposed to visit family members in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida, with possible trips to Georgia, Arkansas and Washington State. My cash isn’t that disposable (never really has been); I’m not that young anymore; and last but certainly not least, I need people to meet me halfway. My great-aunts, who are in their 80s, are exempt from this for obvious reasons. Everyone else should meet me halfway at least once during my visit.

12. I’m getting used to, and appreciating, some things about this country. I’m thankful for universal healthcare, broad cultural diversity, tons of things to do around town if I so please, and all the different foods available to me, among other things. I even appreciate things as small as not ever having to pay ATM fees when I withdraw money from a bank that’s not my own. (I can’t stand the banks here in general, but that’s another rant for another blog entry.)

My thoughts are many….. too many. Part 3 coming soon.

Thoughtful.
Thoughtful.

Realizations (part I).

Peace be still.
Peace be still.

With the amount of time I spent at home, I did what I usually do – think too much. Or maybe it isn’t a matter of thinking too much; that I have a 2nd home & traveled to my always-1st home gives me plenty of material to compare & contrast. I decided to compile a list of most of these thoughts for your reading pleasure. Maybe this will help someone who is thinking about expatriation or, like me, has already expatriated and grapples with the many emotions & thoughts & feelings that come with it. (Here’s a semi-amusing link re: expatriation.)

1. Maybe I’m stronger than I thought I was. I’ve stated on this blog, and in real life, many times that moving is not for the faint of heart & spirit. This is especially true if you’re moving solo. You’re hundreds or thousands of miles/kilometers away from your loved ones & friends. It becomes harder to visit your homeland because of distance & finance. Culture shock can be painful – different foods, possibly a different language, different customs/norms/mores, etc. It’s easy for good old-fashioned homesickness to set in. (My co-worker, with whom I’ve become very close, succumbed to homesickness. He & his wife are returning to the States in the beginning of February. Possible blog entry about it later.) Anyone who can make it at least 6 months in a foreign land without packing up all one’s shit & returning to the comforts of home(land) is a damn strong person. For those of you who’ve done it, you deserve a toast and so much more.

2. Although there are some things that I miss about my 1st home that’ll always be authentic to it, I saw that I haven’t missed much of anything. The old neighborhood looks the same. Many people are doing the same things they did (if anything at all) before my departure. There’s a lot that remains stagnant. Hopefully this realisation will help me to refrain from being stagnant.

3. “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” –George Burns (His life & his quotes)

George Burns & Gracie Allen
George Burns & Gracie Allen

Having been on my own for some time, I’m used to solitude. My home, no matter where it is, is my sanctuary. I crashed with my (youngest) aunt & uncle & cousin, and their home is usually quiet. A few days before returning to England, however, my oldest aunt surprised me by visiting from the South because she wanted to see me before my departure. Oldest aunt tends to turn things up at least 10 notches when she’s in town….. including and not limited to noise levels. She prefers constant movement, while I prefer serenity & solitude. So although I love my oldest aunt, I can do without the noise.

In addition, I’m the only woman in my immediate family with only brothers & male cousins. Being the only girl has its perks, but it can also be a pain in the ass. Over-protection, attempting to dictate my life, etc….. Sometimes I have to remind my family that I’m ___ years old and not 15, and doing that can be difficult sometimes. I’m getting better at it in my old age.

Moral of the story: I love my family. I also love having a 2nd home to return to.

He was telling the truth.  That's why he lived to age 100.
He was telling the truth. That's why he lived to age 100.

4. I hate to say this at my age, but it still rings true for me: I think I’ve learned who my real friends are. Not all of them keep in touch with me as much as my 2 or 3 closest friends in the entire world, nor do they know every single thing about me like my 2 or 3 closest friends; however, while I was in town these folks made efforts to see me. They asked me genuine questions about my experience as opposed to asking about the parties I’ve attended (less than the amount of fingers on 1 hand), dating/relationships with men & how many gentlemen callers I have (*laughs*), and if I’ve shagged any men (*laughs*). The acquaintances/associates revealed themselves even more than before my departure; I know where I stand with them, yet it’s all good. Some people are in our lives for a season, and others are in our lives no matter the reason or the season.

5. American fast food is gross, and I don’t just mean in terms of taste. American fast food has so many chemicals & other synthetic products. I needed pocket change to ride public transportation, so I bought some Burger King fries to get change. I ate 1 fry and it was disgusting; I threw out the rest of them. I can definitely tell the difference. (This is not a pronouncement to eat fast food overseas all the time, nor am I saying that all overseas fast food is healthy.) The only fast food I ate was Wendy’s (once) because Wendy’s doesn’t exist here (that I know of).

6. I’m even prouder to be a New Yorker. There’s just something about New York City for me….. I can’t fully put what it is into words; it just is. I don’t think I could be from anywhere else. I also have a stronger love for my borough – like anywhere else, it’s imperfect & flawed, but it’s like no other in the world.

My thoughts are many….. too many. Part 2 coming soon.

Home.
(1st & always) Home sweet home.

Hot mess.

Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on
That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong…..

Drake – Best I Ever Had

Before.
Before.

I don’t think I’m ugly at all, but I’m by no means a beauty queen. I’ll never be the main “character” in a music video. I’ll probably never be a rich man’s trophy. I’ll never win Miss America, Miss World or Miss Universe. Letting myself go makes me feel worse about these (possible) facts.

As a little girl, I didn’t have much say over what to wear, so Mother Dear dressed me in pink & flowers & ribbons, oh my. :-| Add to that the ritual of getting my hair done, and all of those things added together just gave me more to mess up when playing outside games & climbing trees. So the road to being a tomboy was pretty easy to find. Navigating that road got even easier by fashion trends of the day. A girl/young woman/woman could wear boyish clothing and not be automatically typecast as a particular type of lesbian. (Nowadays it seems the opposite – if one dresses in boyish clothing, it usually reflects one’s sexuality. This is a broad generalization only for the purposes of this entry, so please don’t take this personal.)

Fast forward to college, and though I still had some elements of boyishness about me, I dressed a little more like a girl (no) thanks to my then-boyfriend. His sister was a girly girl and always had guys milling about, so I guess he wanted me emulating her. As time went on, I had to learn how to come into my own.

Fast forward again and although I don’t prance around like the belle of the ball, I became a little more focused on better caring for myself – different forms of exercise (health is important to me), manicure & pedicure once every 1-2 months, hair done every 2-3 months, clothing with a more feminine edge, a little make-up from time to time, a little jewellery from time to time. I was more mindful of taking time out for my Self, pampering my Self on a small budget, so to speak. For those who know me well, I’ve never been a vain/shallow/superficial person even though I took better care of myself; therefore, my appearance is near the bottom of my list of priorities.

I got my hair done right before I moved overseas. I wanted it to last a long time (which it did) so that I’d have time to find a hair salon in this foreign land (which wasn’t hard but took some time). I remember getting a manicure & pedicure before moving over here; after all, it was summertime and dressing nicer was in full effect.

Summertime came and went. And I still hadn’t gotten a manicure or pedicure. Eagle’s claws would best describe my fingers & toes. :-|

In addition to work, I’d moved into my own flat, which came unfurnished. Although it’s nice enough that it doesn’t need a lot of furnishing, it’s still something that only I can do as I’m on my own. That meant more money toward furnishings and less disposable income. In addition, I still have financial obligations in the States along with new bills in this country, and a weak economy that weakens all worldwide currencies makes keeping those obligations even harder. Add to that the unexpected expenses that come with any major move, such as illness & prescriptions & customs taxes from shipping my goods and etc. (more entries about those things in the near future), and the last thing I worried about was how good I looked on any given day.

Then the brisk cold weather came. When it was warm, I walked all over the place. Call it an excuse, but cold weather doesn’t inspire me to walk. Gym memberships are not cheap in my area either. Although I don’t eat much, I didn’t move around as much as I did during the summer and….. I began to notice rolls & creases in different places. Clothing got a little tighter. I can’t go clothes shopping all willy-nilly with my financial obligations, so I returned to my tomboy days of wearing big clothes. The only thing that demonstrated that I wasn’t a boy is my long hair….. and with the new hair on my chinny-chin-chin, maybe the long hair didn’t help after all. :-|

All of this, coupled with the challenges of moving, makes me feel & look less than. I’m used to looking like a boy now and I don’t have enough energy to make myself look nice. Or maybe I’ve become complacent, who knows. I just know that I’ve given up.

I got my hair done a few days before going home, and it was a lucky shot because a new salon opened in my area and the prices are right. Besides that, I’m feeling low about my appearance (and a few other things). I’m gonna get a manicure/pedicure whilst at home, and I’ve set aside a little cash to go clothes shopping – shoes, boots, sneakers, jeans, pants, whatever it takes. Hopefully new clothing will have at least a small impact.

Epilogue: I’ve purchased some nice clothing and, thanks to myriad post-holiday sales & clothes being cheaper in the States, my pockets aren’t hurting as much as I thought they would. But even if my pockets took a hard hit, I’m happy that I can finally begin feeling better about myself. It’s about time I do something for myself; the corporations can wait for once.

How have others in my situation, especially those who have expatriated, handled it? How do you keep up appearances, if at all? How do you keep your spirits lifted, if at all? What are your cost-cutting strategies for keeping up your appearance?

PostADay/PostAWeek.

I want to blog more but often lack the time, energy and resolve. I want to just do it instead of beating myself up about it. I received a WordPress News post which challenges bloggers with a New Year’s resolution: post once a day or once a week. I’m challenging myself and will be posting on this blog once a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it could be fun, inspiring, awesome and fulfilling. Therefore I’m promising to use The DailyPost, and members of the blogging community with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it (I’ll definitely need it) and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way. I also invite you to share your blogs with me so that I can return the encouragement and add you to my blog roll.

Let’s get this going in 2011. Make it a good one.