Love, me.

Heart.

Heart.

Love is “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. …Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention & an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” –Erich Fromm, taken from bell hooks’ book All About Love: New Visions.

I figured I should write an obligatory Valentine’s Day post. Why not.

I’m a solo expatriate. I’m sure that there are some around me who know that and probably feel sorry for me. I mean, how could I possibly be in another country (or anywhere, for that matter) by myself and not be lonely or miserable? How could I not be bitter, frustrated, angry even, about being solo on a day like this? And if I were back home, it’d be even worse; that I’m single in a community that has fairly low marriage rates and expects me to compete for what’s considered “the best” in that community, likely causes even more people to have pity for me.

Well, au contraire, sisters & brothers worldwide. I’m alright. This isn’t the 1st time that I’ve spent Valentine’s Day alone, and it likely isn’t the last. But that’s alright. Although there are things about myself that I’m working on or have already worked on, as life is a journey in & of itself….. overall, I’m alright with me. In addition, I’ve often treated myself nice on this particular day with a small ritual. I’ll wear at least one red item of clothing, treat myself to something involving lots of chocolate, order in some dinner, play nice music and just relax. And finally, I believe that we should celebrate love every day, not just this particular day; although celebrating with a partner today is nice, there are 364-365 other days of the year that all kinds of love (not just intimate/romantic love) abound.

Roses are red.

Roses are red.

I feel sorry for 2 groups of people today:

- those who are bitter (but are probably envious of those getting a gift and/or shagged today)
Bitterness doesn’t solve anything and hurts no one but oneself. Take it from someone who knows firsthand.

- those who can’t fathom the idea of being single today (or any other time of the year)
Having a woman or man around or, even better, having easy access to sex, doesn’t make one person better than another, nor does it make a person complete. In my humble opinion, it speaks volumes when a man or woman has to have someone around due to their own insecurities (or whatever other issues abound). Whoever said “I can do bad by myself” was telling the truth.

This is a day like any other. Spend it as you would any other day. Celebrate you. Love you. And in the end…..

Love, me. ;-)
___________________________

Love links:

Baggage Reclaim – Valentine’s Day: Notes On Love From Me To You

Solo Traveler – Romantic Destinations For Solo Travelers

Work here = Work everywhere.

I guess now is a good time to talk about what I do for a living.

I work in social services. It’s something I decided to do as a teenager, when I saw the work that my father did. He wasn’t a social worker by trade, but his community work was admirable – working with drug addicts, people with HIV/AIDS (who were also often drug addicted), mentally challenged teenagers, etc. I wanted to become a doctor or find a cure for HIV/AIDS, but then I decided that I might make a bigger difference by doing the same things as my father. As a result, I studied a few different social sciences in college and went on to graduate school.

The United Kingdom, especially England, has a historic shortage of people willing to work in social services. The reasons are varied & complex, but to make it simple for you:

- underpaid
- underappreciated
- overworked
- overwhelmed
- bureaucracy on a massive level
- challenging families – poverty, deprivation, desperation, etc.
- burn-out and, as a result, high turn-over rates

(In 2009, the Local Government Association basically begged retired/ex-social workers to come back because of the shortage.)

To remedy this, one of the ways that the United Kingdom tries to fill in vacancies is by recruiting overseas on a heavy basis – the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. That’s how I got here. Overseas recruiting worked for a while, until now. With the world economy already up Shit’s Creek, the United Kingdom, like most or all of continental Europe, has taken many austerity measures to close gaping budget gaps. One of these measures will likely target overseas recruiting (if it hasn’t already – depending on what part of the United Kingdom one resides in), which will likely lead to an increase in social service vacancies….. Why? Because despite heavy PR campaigns in & outside of the United Kingdom, the image of social workers by the public is quite tarnished due to high-profile child abuse cases that took place over the past 10-15 years – Victoria Climbie (detailed story – Wikipedia) & Baby P (detailed story – Wikipedia) are glaring examples. As a result, there aren’t many people willing to attend school for & work in the profession. And honestly, I’m not sure why in the world I keep doing this because all the above reasons apply to me too. :-|

And as you might imagine, the many vacancies will affect families, as well as the way that social care agencies provide services. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that it’s a vicious cycle that occurs everywhere, worldwide.

To be more specific to my experience, I work for the local government in children’s services with the aim of keeping children ages 11-17 out of (foster) care. Although cases of child abuse and/or neglect aren’t part of my department’s services (that’s the job of child protection), the area in which I work is pretty deprived. Here are some statistics:

- According to the 2001 census, the area is 63% white, 16% black African and 8% black Caribbean
- Broken down further, this particular area is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the United Kingdom
- High-crime area with high levels of gang violence, for which it has a notorious reputation
- Most crimes here (and throughout the United Kingdom) occur as stabbings since guns are illegal here
- Great Britain overall has seen an increase in gun crime & gangs in recent years even though guns are illegal here
- The area has the highest teenage (under 18) conception rate in the United Kingdom (and if I remember correctly, in Europe)
- The area has high STD (or, as they’re known here, STI) infection rates

(The only reason that I’m not specifying from where I obtained these statistics is for privacy & personal concerns; hopefully readers will understand.)

Well, there you have it. Welcome to my (work) world.
______________________

For further information about the aforementioned topics, check out the following links:

Europe hit by wave of anti-austerity protests – The Guardian
Austerity in Europe – Financial Times
Workers in Europe protest austerity measures – New York Times

Operation Trident – BBC News
10 years of Operation Trident – Time Out London
Operation Trident may be ditched in spending cuts – The Guardian
Gangs in the United Kingdom – Wikipedia (pardon me for posting a Wikipedia link)
Drop The Weapons/Stop The Guns
London Street Gangs – Blogspot
Los Angeles (California, United States) gangs take over UK streets – The Sun (warning: a bit sensationalist)
Teen gangs of Britain – The Mirror (warning: a bit sensationalist)
Police identify 169 London gangs (as of 2007) – Current TV

Images for Victoria Climbie (WARNING: GRAPHIC)
(Victoria) Climbie report urges childcare reform – BBC News
Baby P & Victoria Climbie tragedies synonymous with reforms to system – The Telegraph
Timeline: Victoria Climbie – BBC News
Baby P: The official files – The Independent
Couple behind Baby P death named – BBC News
Bonus link – Timeline: Khyra Ishaq’s death – BBC News

yTravelBlog interview.

Every Friday, yTravelBlog gives people the opportunity to post the URL of their own travel blog on its Facebook fanpage wall, and they randomly draw a winner from the URL posts submitted to be featured on its travel blog, fanpage, and yTravelBlog Twitter. It gives travellers from all walks of life a chance to get free exposure for their blogs (and anything else they may promote with the exposure).

I posted my blog URL on Friday 01.20.2011 and didn’t really think anything of it….. until Craig, yTravelBlog co-founder, left a comment on one of my posts to tell me that I was the winner. :-) I want to thank Craig and his wife/partner Caz for featuring me. Although I’m private by nature, I hope that opening up about my experiences will inspire others to see the world.

Without further ado, take a look at my 01.28.2011 interview. Feel free to comment here (and/or on yTravelBlog).

Come meet me: Winner of “Post Your URL Day”.