50 Signs You Grew Up In New York City

Spinster:

I love my city. There’s none out there like it. Check out this list for my hometown. Are there any lists out there like this for your respective cities, and if so, are those lists right? If you’re a fellow born & raised New Yorker, what do you think of this list?

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

1. When you meet people and they say they’re from “the city” you immediately interrogate them on what exact borough, avenue, and cross streets they lived on to see if they really mean “the city” or somewhere “20 minutes from the city.”

2. You went to schools that actually had racial diversity.

3. You would spend hours browsing CDs at Tower Records.

4. You learned how to ride the subway and take public busses at a very young age.

5. You NEVER had to rely on your parent’s car.

6. When you watch mainstream movies about high school, you simply can’t relate.

7. You had friends from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

8. When you travel abroad, you always say “I’m from New York City,” and never “the States” or “America” or “USA.”

9. You have fond memories of FAO Schwarz, the Bronx Zoo, and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

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Thanksgiving.

My recent posts have been heavy (and for good reason). But since it’s Thanksgiving holiday season over here, I’ll post a few things for which I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for:

- reaching my fundraising goal to re-apply for a new work visa (more updates in my next post).

- the people who were kind enough to give. They may have said “No… how do we know she’s not lying about this?” or “No… she’s probably gonna use the money for something else”, but they read my story and trusted me enough to help. That humbles me even more than usual.

- the many people who’ve provided non-financial support. Priceless.

- being home for the holidays, as I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving at home since 2009 (lived in England soon afterwards). It’s good to simply call or see people, instead of Skype-ing everyone and hoping that they’re available with a 5 hour time zone difference.

- having a place to lay my head every night. I don’t have a fixed abode, but I always have at least 3 places to lay my head at night and sadly, that’s more than what some people have.

- knowing the difference between family and relatives. Trust me, there’s a difference.

- the same above about friends. The list gets smaller almost every year, but at least the genuine ones are still here.

- having bare necessities handled by those who love me.

- having a couple of interviews. I’ve applied for countless jobs, and I interviewed for 2 full-time jobs and 1 part-time job. Hoping to hear something from some employer by next month; if not, I’ll have to keep on trying.

- perspective. Little by little, I’m gaining more of it when it comes to some things, including things I never thought would happen to me.

That’s all I’ll say for now. For those of you in the U.S. with me, enjoy the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving.

What it’s Like Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Spinster:

I volunteered in Uganda almost 10 years ago. It was a wonderful experience, and I wish I could go gorilla trekking during my volunteering, like this blogger just did. If this is something you’d consider doing or that’s already on your bucket list, check this out.

Originally posted on The Nomadic Beat:

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In the jungle

Standing in the mess of twisted vines and jungle overgrowth in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, our little group of explorers — myself, my friend, a middle-aged Swedish couple, our guide, scouts, and trackers — stood in silence as we stared at a family of silverback gorillas in front of us. They stared back, equally curious. A loud, humming sound broke the silence, and one of the Swedes turned to our guide and asked, “what was that?” in a voice that suggested wonder and excitement.

Our guide, the only woman working as a guide in the park, smiled and began to giggle like the schoolgirl she must have been years ago. “Hehehe – they are farting,” she said and we all began to smile and laugh softly. Even the scouts and trackers, who never spoke enough for me to know just how much English they knew, began to…

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Montenegro 06.29.2013.

Montenegro is a tiny country in southeastern Europe that’s bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia & Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the southeast. With a little over 620,000 citizens, its population is one of the smallest in Europe. During my short trip to Croatia, I had the privilege of going on a day trip to Montenegro, and I had a nice day.

From our base in Dubrovnik, the Croatia-Montenegro border is about an hour away and, therefore, easy to reach by car or tour bus (we used a tour company).

Croatia-Montenegro border.

Croatia-Montenegro border.

Montenegro has a storied history, but those of us familiar with the country’s recent times may know about the turbulence it experienced during the 20th century, especially toward the end of the 20th century. I won’t go into it on this blog, but you can read about it on Wikipedia (more accurate than many Wikipedia links). Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia on 3rd June 2006 and reached European Union candidate status in 2010. Montenegro used German marks for currency at one point – it never had its own currency – but now uses the euro.

Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, which affords it a nice coastline – 183 miles (295 kilometers) – with temperatures averaging over 80º Fahrenheit (27º Celsius) during summer months. It was hotter than average when I went. Our tour bus drove along the coast, and the photo below shows one of the first towns we stopped in to take photos. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was close to Herceg-Novi, near the Croatia-Montenegro border.

Lots of water.

Lots of water.

We took a short break on the way to a guided tour. Check out the view.

Our guided walking tour was in the old town centre of Kotor, Montenegro, situated on the Gulf of Kotor. It’s recognised as a World Heritage Site and chock full of history. It’s now popular with cruise ships; when we went, there were many ships, boats & yachts docked in port. Since Montenegro shares the Adriatic Sea with Italy (among other countries), visitors interested in history will notice the heavy Venetian influence embedded in Kotor’s architecture and overall atmosphere.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

And check out the view from the top – an outside restaurant & bar.

After leaving Kotor, we drove along the coast to Budva, which is making a name for itself as a Riviera town. Before we got to Budva city proper, though, we made a quick rest stop to photograph the following beautiful sight on the Riviera – Sveti Stefan town-hotel.

The Budva Riviera is popular during the summer months; there’s plenty of sun, sand & sea mixed in with casinos & vibrant nightlife. Montenegro, in general, is popular with Russians, and this is more so with Budva. There are signs translated into Russian, and Russians finance a sizeable amount of house (and other) construction projects along the Budva Riviera.

I couldn’t get many photos of Budva because my main camera died :-| but at least I have memories. For you the readers, however, here’s a snapshot of my late lunch in Budva.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can't find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can’t find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

We made our way back to Croatia soon after Budva.

I enjoyed myself, especially in Kotor since I like history and old structures. I’d consider returning to Montenegro on my own, staying for no more than 2-3 days to explore historical sites. If you’re more into sun, sand & sea vacations, consider staying anywhere along the Budva Riviera for longer than that.

How To Have The Most Kick-Ass Road Trip Of Your Life

Spinster:

Have you ever taken a road trip? If so, how was it? If not, would you consider taking one? Why or why not? Check out this post, and feel free to comment.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

People fuck up opportunities to have great experiences all the time. I want you not to do that.

I’m a road trip fiend and I think I finally cracked the code.

We have a romantic idea of road trips. The wide open road and all your worries behind and having those life experiences that you need to have before you’re old. We ruin these romantic ideas by acting unromantically (trying too hard).

These were my rules for my most recent cross-country road trip and they made it a life-changing experience. For the first time, I had a road trip that was everything it was cracked up to be.

1. Plan extra time

If you feel pressed for time then the whole thing won’t work. The wide-open road becomes another check on your to-do list. What could be a freeing experience becomes a practice in practicality.

Not having enough time by…

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In Memory of …

Spinster:

Nothing else to add right now. This is my hometown. Enough said.

Originally posted on D'NALI:

the three thousand plus lives lost,

the feeling of uncertainty while in the smoky subway station directly under the first tower after it was hit, not knowing my own danger,

the terror of standing in the street and watching the first tower crumble,

knowing that life had been changed in a way that I’d never experienced before,

confusion at the volume of hate and deception that caused this to happen to innocent people,

the trauma and paranoia that led to the counting of every single man-hole exit on my subway journey post attack … just in case …

9 – 11 – 2001.

source

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3 years (part 3).

(If you didn’t read the other parts, here you go: part 1 & part 2.)

Last but certainly not least, what else have I learned here so far?

11. If you can make it in another country, you can make it anywhere. Add a bonus if you live in a big city within another country. Becoming an expatriate is not for the faint of heart. Many people can’t make it for many reasons. That doesn’t automatically make those people weak, so don’t assume that that’s what I mean. What I do mean is that some people have illusions about what it’s like to expatriate. I’m sorry to break it to you, but Eat Pray Love is not real for anyone except Elizabeth Gilbert (or other [Caucasian] people who can afford it, and since the economy has been garbage for the past few years, maybe they can’t either). So if you can put aside your bullshit illusions, accept what you aren’t familiar with, and be as patient as a saint, maybe then you’ll survive with just a bruise or two.

12. I need to live in or near a big city. I already discussed this here.

13. I appreciate living near the European mainland. It’s easier & cheaper to get to other cities & countries; sometimes it feels like the center of the earth for that reason. Even for me, getting home is as simple as a direct flight without any layovers or plane changes. It’s unfortunate that I’ve not taken as much advantage of this as possible, but real life got in the way. I hope to take more advantage of this next year; I’m well overdue for a long trip somewhere far away.

14. You’ll have to do almost everything (if not everything) on your own. One of the annoying things about living here is the amount of red tape one has to cut through to get anything done. For example, if you need a technician to check your boiler and the expected wait time is 1 week, just go ahead and add an extra week to your wait time. You may as well buy a book for dummies and check the boiler yourself because you’ll get it done quicker that way. There’s another way that people get things done around here – either threaten to cancel a service like I did or raise hell until you get what you need.

15. No matter where I am on this planet, I’ll look back at experiencing expatriation with indescribable feelings and a wiser mind. I’m glad that I made my dream come true.
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There are more, but that’s it for this series. I think too much sometimes, and I don’t want to make this any longer than necessary. Thanks for reading.

Keep calm and drink tea.

Keep calm and drink tea.

While each expatriate’s experience is unique, have I missed anything that you’d put on your own list?

3 years (part 2).

(Did you miss the first part? Well, here you go.)

What other things have I learned so far?

6. There are a few enlightened Caucasians in the world who fully acknowledge systemic & institutionalized (or overt) racism/prejudice. “What do you mean?”, you say. Follow me for a moment:

As a person of color growing up in the most racist country on the planet (based on my personal experiences travelling and living abroad), everyday life is often colored by, and viewed through the lens of, race. Honest conversations about race & privilege – historical, current, and future – are rare in the United States. Conversations about race (and sometimes privilege) usually turn ugly and more often than not, those in the majority (or those who identify more with the majority) don’t understand where people of color are coming from. (Some don’t care to understand, but that’s another topic for another day.) I admit that when I first arrived here, one of the first things I asked my colleagues of color was “So… how racist are the White people here?” I admit that because I’m willing to look back, personally and for this blog’s purposes, and see how presumptuous that question was. But understand that coming from where I’m from, race & privilege are part of our daily lives.

I’ve been very lucky to work with, and meet, non-American white people who are open to these sorts of conversations and have them in a frank, honest & calm way. I’m not saying that there aren’t racists or racism in this country. As a matter-of-fact, stop-and-search (as it’s called in the United Kingdom, like stop-and-frisk in the U.S.) and outright racism especially in suburban & rural areas are just two of a few problems in this country when it comes to Black and minority ethnic groups. I’m saying that I have been lucky to work with & meet British (and other non-American) white people who are more open to discussing these issues. It is refreshing, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m ambivalent about returning to the U.S. for good – the United Kingdom is the lesser of 2 evils for now.

7. Contrary to popular belief, the United Kingdom – like the rest of Europe – is not a (socialist and/or liberal) utopia. As a matter-of-fact, with the recent benefits reforms and other changes now afoot, the United Kingdom is looking more like the U.S. as time goes on.

8. I appreciate having access to universal health care. There are some in the business classes who want to privatize the NHS (Wikipedia), and while it isn’t perfect (what health care system is?), I prefer it over U.S. health care. Health care is a right, in my opinion, and shouldn’t be a privilege. It’s a shame that those in the business classes want to take that away from people.

9. British humor is different from American humor. It’ll still take me some time to fully understand it, but the little I understand so far is pretty damn funny.

10. Aside from tea, which I’ve always loved, I now like a few different foods and/or food combinations. I like chutney on sandwiches, digestives (even better with chocolate), condensed milk in my tea, and my renewed love of bacon. Now granted, I need to cut it out because I’m not in the best of health :-|, but those are just a few things I’m now used to.

Consider this part 2. I think I have enough for a (last?) part 3; I could do more parts, but I don’t want to bore anyone. To be continued…

3 years (part 1).

Time flies when you’re having fun.

3 years ago (06.28.2010), I landed in the United Kingdom as a new expatriate (after a few road bumps). I dreamt of living abroad ever since childhood, when I’d look at my atlas for hours at a time. I’d daydream about the places I wanted to see, envision where I’d live one day. (For many years as a kid, I wanted to live in Nauru or a remote place like it.) I had child-like fantasies of meeting my pen pals – one in France, one in Germany, one in Ghana, and one in Guyana. But at the end of the day, I always thought this was it – just daydreaming. I thought it was impossible never thought it’d come true, but sure enough, it did. Even now sometimes, I think to myself

I can’t believe I live in another country. WTF was I thinking? Will I ever do this again? Even after all this time, it’s still so surreal.

I blogged very briefly on the 1st anniversary of my move, but never made time to write anything for the 2nd anniversary. Now that I’ve been here long enough to feel a bit settled in, this post will be more “meat & potatoes”, than the 1st anniversary post. (Depending on how long it is, I may break it up into a couple of posts.)

So what have I learned so far?

1. No matter how many times they tell you, your relatives are not gonna visit you. In general they mean well, but for whatever reason(s) – no matter how many times they say it – they never make it. And with the current economic climate, it’s hard to be too angry at them about it. For example, one of my relatives wants to visit in September or October, but the cheapest ticket I found was U.S. $893.00. It’s actually cheaper for me to visit home than it is for them to visit here.

2. No matter how many times they tell you, your friends are not gonna visit you. And I don’t mean acquaintances or flaky friends either… I mean real we’ve-been-friends-for-years friends. Please see comment #1.

3. Did you have friends in your new country before moving there? Well, if you keep those friends after moving, count yourself lucky. You’ll be lucky if you see them once per year. I know someone who lives in the neighborhood next to mine. When was the last time I saw the person? 2011. I reached out countless times – phone calls, texts, e-mails – but no response, so I sadly gave up trying. I don’t stay where I’m not wanted. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only person to whom I reached out with no response. Hopefully you have good enough friends in your home country to sustain you (or be like me, join Meetup, and gain a few starter acquaintances).

4. You may not make real friends in your new country. Meetup has done a world of good for me overall; I’ve written about its positive aspects on this blog. In my experience though, it has been difficult to make real genuine friends despite trying. In the same vein…

5. You may not find romance in your new country either. I can count the number of men who’ve expressed even a bit of interest in me on 1 hand in 3 years. I’m not exaggerating, so please don’t reassure or chastise me. Goodness knows I tried putting myself out there (and those who know me well, know how difficult that is for me), but such is life. I’m used to it, and I’m over it. (I always wonder, though, how in the world people get coupled up here. Mind=boggling.)

Because I accidentally published this without finishing it, I’m gonna break this up into 2 or 3 posts. (Don’t worry… it’ll be a mix of positive & negative. I don’t wanna turn anyone off from becoming an expatriate.) Consider this part 1. To be continued…