Today’s gratitude.

Today 08.06.2014:

I’m feeling: okay.

I’m listening to: mostly silence (for once).

I’m grateful for: seeing my sister & stepmother this past weekend.  Having Friday off to visit them.  All of the gluttonous food I ate while there.  A weekend of relaxed fun.  The ability to travel again for the first time in over a year.  Employment.  Being true to myself. Ridding myself of toxic people online (and offline).

Bacon cheeseburger pizza

Bacon cheeseburger pizza

If this is a medium-sized cone, imagine the large.

If this is a medium-sized cone, imagine the large.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream (cup); tropical orange flavor burst (cone)

Strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream (cup); tropical orange flavor burst (cone)

I’m creating: a newer physical body (hopefully).  An improved & stable life (hopefully).

I’m enjoying: the silence.

I’m thinking about:  how I can help a loved one medium- to long-term.  Calling someone back about my professional hours because they haven’t called me back yet.  My next professional steps.  Whether or not to sit tight at this job for a bit longer; don’t want to upset my current semi-stability until necessary.  Getting a ticket to go back to England to handle unfinished business (hopefully November, if the price is right).  Visiting my stepmother & sister again in a couple of months.  At least one leisure trip to take later this year (hopefully).  That recent tarot reading (yes, still) because it was that insightful.

I’m reading: the same book from the last post.  Should finally be able to get a Kindle by the end of this month.

I’m looking forward to: relaxing a bit this weekend.

I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracingbeing independent & self-sufficient again.  My professional credentials (slowly but surely).  My debts.  My boundaries.  Embracing myself.

Around the house are: bags of recycling due for pick-up tomorrow.

In my kitchen: some pasta that aunt made.  Some pizza that uncle ordered (and I haven’t touched).

I’m planning later in the coming week to: research another professional credential.  Call the person back about my professional hours.  See what kind of Kindle I want.  Check flight prices to London.  Attend that doctor’s appointment.  Continue working out.  Buy a measuring tape to keep track of inches lost (if any).  Find a book-bag/backpack to hold my gym clothes, instead of my current flimsy bag.  Cook – haven’t done so in over a week.  Group gathering with a Facebook person who became a real life acquaintance/friend to a few of us in the Facebook group.

My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: If we are to have true peace in the world, we must find it within ourselves. DailyOM

I’m wishing you: a good & healthy week ahead.

Delaware Water Gap

Delaware Water Gap

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.

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…

View original 1,294 more words

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…

City girl.

(My From Above post inspired me to write the following post.)

I’m a New York City girl. I was born & raised there, it’s part of my identity, and it reverberates through my heart & soul. No matter where I go, it’ll always be my first home.

So when I began receiving e-mails some years ago from different agencies & organisations, recruiting Americans to work overseas, I refused many of them. Why, you ask? Among other reasons, I just couldn’t see myself living that far away from a city centre. It was only when I was ready, and only when I received e-mails from bigger places, that I decided it was time to make my move.

So here I am, solo, almost 3 years later. Although I know people here, they either don’t like doing the things I do and/or they’re flakes. Also, although there are lots of couples here (which is a feat in itself, in my opinion), dating in this country is different from dating back home. Since moving here, no one likes me, no one approaches me, and despite my many efforts at being open to dating/relationships here, nothing ever happened. As a result, I do things solo 98% of the time.

This is where being a city girl comes in handy. There are so many things to do here, I can get on solo with no problems. For example, in the From Above post, I went to the food festival on my own. I asked a couple of people if they wanted to go, and they either never responded or they flaked out on me at the last minute… which is why I often don’t bother inviting people with me anywhere. Since my friends are back home and they’re the only ones who like at least some of the things I like, I just do things on my own over here. What better place to do that than in a big city? (And as I’ve said countless times, thank goodness for Meetup.) I know I wouldn’t do well solo if I was far outside of a big city. I probably would’ve moved back home by now, honestly, if I lived that far away.

¡Viva la revolución!

¡Viva la revolución!

So for me, living in or very close to a big city suits me best. I need access to many different venues & activities, and a big city usually has these things easily accessible to its inhabitants & visitors. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate suburban & rural areas for escaping from the negative aspects of city life, including stupid self-entitled neighbours with loud, crying, whining ass children noise & rude people. But even in a big city, I can find (and have found) a quiet place to call home.

So expatriates, in what environment did you grow up? In what environment are you currently living, and which one do you prefer & why?

See? There's peace & quiet & greenery here too.

See? There’s peace & quiet & greenery here too.

Pin It Forward UK.

Pin It Forward UK 2013

I received an e-mail a month ago from Tina over at Pinterest, asking me if I wanted to be part of the new Pinterest United Kingdom campaign. It surprised me because I didn’t think that anyone paid much attention to my Pinterest boards, but it was a pleasant surprise. Since I like Pinterest, and since a little extra blog exposure is also nice, I said “yes” to participating.

I’m often late (on purpose) when it comes to any & all trends, so when I began seeing people talk about Pinterest on different social media websites, I didn’t jump on it straight away. (This is from someone who didn’t join Facebook until 2008 (I think) and ignored Twitter until very late 2009.) But then, I got lots of invitations to join and since my inbox got filled with invitations, I said to myself, “To hell with it. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised.

Recipes. Do-it-yourself tips. Home decoration. Fashion. Beauty. Health & wellness. Quotes. Food. Food. Food. Did I say food? Travel. Travel. Travel. Did I say travel? Expatriate stuff. Child-free stuff. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s there in living color.

Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things you love. You can “pin” things from around the web on boards you create, on any topic you’d like. I pin about a few things, but for my blog’s sake, I especially pin things about travelling & expatriation. I have a board devoted to cities or countries I want to visit, interesting sights to see, and anything relating to expatriation.

What’s so great about pins is that I can go back to my boards and, say, find a recipe to try for dinner, or dream about a country or city on my travel/expatriate bucket list. The pins also link back to the source so I can get more details about that recipe I want to try, or that country or city I want to visit.

I’ve used Pinterest for a few months now, and it’s pretty decent. Once you see things you like, you’ll start building up your boards & dreams/wishes/fantasies. Follow me over there, and if you don’t have an account yet, start pinning by clicking on my registration link.

While you’re exploring your newfound addiction checking out Pinterest, check out a Pinterest UK trailblazer – Emma Rose Black of Gohemian Travellers (Pinterest page).

Welcome to Pinterest, inhabitants of the United Kingdom. :-)

Pin It Forward UK 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above.

For more about how the Weekly Photo Challenge started, take a look at this link. For more about this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

05.05.2013 Real Food Festival (click on photos for full size)

As usual, I went by myself. Time waits for no (wo)man. I’ll elaborate in an upcoming post, connecting it to my experience as an expatriate.

Related: Flickr Comments http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/weekly-photo-challenge-from-above/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture.

For more about how the Weekly Photo Challenge started, take a look at this link. For more about this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

UPDATE 05.05.2013: Thank you for the pingback. Returning the love. http://humbledpie.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/weekly-photo-challenge-culture/

Mauritian/French family.  My Mauritian friend's husband is French and a baker/chef.  Here he is, making me crepes.

Mauritian/French family. My Mauritian friend’s husband is French and a baker/chef. Here he is, making me crepes.

End result.

End result.

Thin yummy goodness. You know you want some.

Thin yummy goodness. You know you want some.