Posted in blogging, expatriate, hassle, re-blog, re-blogging, reblog, reblogging, repatriate, travel

COVID in Portugal: Dark Days

New year, same s—, apparently. Still waiting to travel. In the meantime, here’s how things are going in another country.

Piglet in Portugal

If last week was one of those weeks I would like to file in a box, firmly shut the lid, lock then hide the key on the top shelf of my bookcase, this week I have wanted to throw the key away.

At the beginning of January I made the conscious decision (NYR): not to listen to the news, read newspapers or Facebook to follow COVID deaths and new infection rate etc. I was also fed up of people still promoting COVID as a hoax, refusing to wear masks or respect the social distancing rules.

But as with most New Year resolutions, by the third week of January I succumbed to curiosity after a chance conversation on WhatsApp with the family who reported COVID figures here were rocketing.

I had a quick peep at the FB Groups: SafeCommunitiesPortugal and CORONA VIRUS UPDATES – PORTUGAL and was horrified by the number…

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Posted in blogging, expatriate, repatriate, travel

Once upon a time…

I used to write in this one blog. I pretty much abandoned it after I moved overseas, and especially abandoned it once I became a repatriate. Most of my writing has been done on this blog, so I mostly forgot about my first blog.

But lately, my travel nostalgia has increased because we can’t really go anywhere. (Gee, I wonder why.) I long for the days when I can travel again (but won’t hold my breath either). So a few days ago, I remembered my long-forgotten first blog and started reading through my first entries, and decided to share the blog here with you.

The writing on there (similar to this blog’s earlier years) is more reflective of a younger Spinster – more explanatory, long-winded and somewhat unnecessary; while also descriptive and younger, like a younger Spinster (maybe) should be.

If you decide to look at it, may it help quench your own wanderlust unless/until things return to “normal”.

And She’s Off! – Spinster’s Travels

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Posted in blogging, hassle, repatriate, travel

More turbulence ahead. (#Algiers #Algeria)

(March 2019 trip. Better late (blog post) than never…)

A few days before I left for Algeria, an unexpected bill popped up because why not. This is Spinster after all. 😑 So instead of the original accommodation I booked with my flight, and to keep a few coins, I decided to book cheaper accommodation at Hotel Samir via Booking.com.

After the interrogation, a police officer hailed me a taxi that took me to the hotel. I got there and the first floor was okay – quite narrow with just a reception desk and 1 couch, but I figured there was more upstairs. One of the front desk staff spoke enough English to tell me that my name was there, but my credit card was declined.

*record scratch* Pardon?

“Impossible”, I said. “My credit card company knows I’m out of the country and there aren’t any foreign transaction fees. Please check your system again, and I’ll even call the card company to confirm this.”

I called the company in front of the desk and confirmed that the card was available for use, and nothing was keeping the hotel from booking me.

I also called Booking.com to find out why my booking was being rejected. The representative with whom I spoke couldn’t really figure it out either, and told me to re-book and see what happens in 24 hours.

I offered to pay with my credit card right then and there. All of a sudden I’m told by the front desk staff,

“Our credit card machine isn’t working. You’ll have to pay in cash.”

(Here the hell we go…)

“I’ll have to go to the bank. Where’s your nearest ATM?”

They gave me directions to the nearest ATM, which turned out to be 1 mile away, each way. Now, I walk a lot for exercise so I normally don’t mind doing that. But after hours of traveling, customs, pain, and a f****** interrogation, I didn’t feel like walking that far to an ATM. They held my luggage and I went and of course, as is my luck, the ATM was down and I couldn’t take out any money.

Splendid.

I returned and told front desk staff what happened. They assumed I wasn’t bulls***ting, said I could stay the night and to try again in the morning. In the meantime, my room was located on the top floor and there isn’t an elevator… even though an elevator is listed as one of the hotel’s amenities on Booking.com.

Brilliant.

(Hotel staff carried my luggage to my room so I guess that helped a tiny bit.)

The room was so-so. Uncomfortable bed; broken toilet seat; shower looked to be in poor condition. All great for my pain condition. 😑

The next day, after more calls to both Booking.com and my credit card company to confirm that it wasn’t me with the problem, I decided that if my card continued being declined, I was leaving and booking elsewhere. I found another ATM that worked and took out enough cash to pay for 2 nights at Hotel Samir, just in case my card was declined again. The card was declined at least twice more; I got fed up and checked out the next morning.

Come to find out later on, Hotel Samir uses a company in another country (I think it’s Spain) to take payments and for some reason, the company kept declining my card. The hotel also lists a credit card machine as one of its amenities, but it actually doesn’t have one and, if your booking is declined, demands cash upfront. This apparently happens/has happened to other hotel guests there. 

And guess where I booked my new accommodation? The same place I’d originally booked when I first bought my plane ticket 6 months beforehand. I wish I’d never changed my accommodation from there in the first place but, as you’ll see later, I’m glad I wound up booking it again after all.

Then came the crash. Stay tuned…

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Posted in blogging, expatriate, hassle, moving, repatriate, travel

7 year itch.

7 years ago today, I returned to the United States. It wasn’t something I wanted to do.

It’d been a lifelong dream of mine to live overseas. Unfortunately, that dream was dashed when I received notification from the Home Office that I overstayed my work visa (it was an accident on my part, but nonetheless). My now-former employer hadn’t provided me with proper guidance around renewing my work visa, along with numerous other shady things and, as a result, I was placed on unpaid leave, forced to attend the Home Office every week like a criminal, evicted from my beautiful apartment, and (voluntarily) involuntarily left my second home on this day 7 years ago. I had all intentions of returning overseas, but that didn’t work out and I gave up. And coming home, not everything was the same.

Time sometimes heals all wounds. After 7 years, many things have happened – good, bad, and everything in between – that gave me perspective and made me glad that I was forced to return home. But every once in a while, I’ll hear or see something or someone related to the United Kingdom that provokes negative emotions inside of me – anger, defeat, disappointment, jealousy, longing, great sadness. And I’ve come to realize that this god-forsaken pandemic has only exacerbated these feelings this October, which tends to be a difficult month because of the forced repatriation and other things.

But on the other hand, I want to go (to my second) home and visit my loved ones. Most of my time living there was alright, and I try to remember the good times.

But I can’t travel. And I won’t. I don’t want them to be at risk, and I don’t want to put myself at risk. But as annoyed as I am about these travel restrictions, I want to ensure that things are somewhat okay before I get back to globetrotting.

I want to travel more than I ever have because of this f***ing pandemic. Being unable to do so, not having any real control over that, the uncertainty, this invisible thing causing so much chaos and death and sickness all over the world… I’m over it.

Call all of this s***, the 7 year itch.

You sure about that lately?
Posted in blogging, expatriate, hassle, repatriate, travel

Grandparents Live in the Mobile Phone

Yep, understood. Wishing all of us/you the best.

Piglet in Portugal

I am convinced our youngest grandson thinks we live in his Dad’s phone. Thanks to the Coronavirus, we haven’t seen him since November 2019 when he was just nine months old. I doubt, given his age, he can relate to us in terms of flesh and blood – we are just characters like people on TV. We live in Dad’s phone. There but not there; people who disappear when he has the pleasure of pressing the ‘end call’ button.

It’s been tough witnessing his development via video calls through a screen 50 x 160mm. At his end, we are probably even smaller. His progression from crawling to taking his first steps, clapping hands, playing with his toys, reading books, bath time activities, and even his first words. 

I still remember the time our little granddaughter in France first saw us on the computer screen after a recent visit. Our daughter…

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Posted in blogging, expatriate, repatriate, travel

Ask Lonely Planet: how do I cope with little to no travel?

This came to my inbox right on time.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been extremely nostalgic about my travels, especially my trip to South America a little over 3 years ago (which I still need to blog). I’ll admit while I can accept having to stay home because of this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I’m frustrated and saddened about being unable to move about – leave the country, travel solo, quench my thirst for history, relax somewhere else other than home. And yes, exploring locally is an option… but for me, it isn’t the same, especially when so many places are still closed.

So it’s a coincidence that this came to me a few days ago. It hasn’t completely gotten rid of my frustration and sadness about having to stay put, but it can help put things into perspective. If you feel the same way, maybe it can help you too.

Click here >>> Ask Lonely Planet: how do I cope with little to no travel?

Posted in blogging, hassle, repatriate, travel

Staying put. #travel #expatriate #repatriate

Yeah… it’s really that simple.

I don’t know when I’ll travel again. It’s bad enough I’ve not properly traveled since Algeria (still need to finish that series of posts…). I’m resentful/annoyed/pissed that I can’t travel. I had plans to go back visiting (to my other) home. I wanted to take a vacation just to relax… one of those rare vacations in which I’d maybe just lay on a beach or in a hammock and read and/or sleep, and not go off the beaten path at all (like I usually do and wind up coming home, needing a vacation from the vacation). I wanted to explore a few new states and check out some things off the beaten path. I wanted to see a few loved ones – spend time with them. Hug them. Normal human contact things… things we seem to be forgetting.

F*** you very much, COVID-19. (And not just because of my inability to travel either.)

I’m not going anywhere for a good long while. Am I happy about it? Absolutely not. Would I like to stay alive and healthy for a good long while? Absolutely.

So there you have it – gonna continue to mask up, stay home (except when necessary), and stay healthy/safe. (Maybe this will give me time to finish up a few blog posts on here for once, in between pandemic stress management and baking as part of said stress management. Time will tell…)

Posted in blogging, hassle, repatriate, travel

Turbulence. (#Algiers #Algeria)

Finally. It was time to go.

I booked this flight about 6 months before departure. Accommodation sorted. At least 1 tour sorted. Basic foundation was already set.

But since this is me we’re talking about, nothing goes smoothly. So of course, bulls*** started just a few hours before my flight. Money, of course, because why not. But I wouldn’t let it deter me. It’d been almost 2 years since my last proper vacation (and I still have to finish those blog posts from that trip… so ashamed of myself.). Yes, there have been a few short jaunts in between, but nothing as long and far away as this. So no matter what, I was leaving. I needed a break from work, from life.

From New York City to Paris, France; a 5 hour layover there; then from Paris to Algiers, Algeria. I know that going through customs in a different country is annoying, but it’s to be expected everywhere and I deal with it. However, I wasn’t expecting to be interrogated by Algerian police.

You read correctly. I was interrogated by Algerian police.

I handed over all of my travel documents at the customs desk and thought that all was well, until I was told to “hold on for a moment”. I knew that some bulls*** was bound to happen because again, that’s just my luck.

Here we f***ing go…

Along with being exhausted, tired/sleepy from limited sleep, and in some pain, I was also angry and kinda scared. My French language skills are very limited, despite my attempts to practice before I left for this trip, and I don’t have any Arabic language skills. So while an officer was telling me that I’d be fine, my face clearly showed that I knew otherwise.

(As an aside, it “helped” a bit that another American woman – a government worker at that! – was also being interrogated. She said to me, “This is terrible, isn’t it?” I nodded with a scowl on my face.)

They opted to interrogate me outside of the officers’ quarters. A female officer who spoke English interpreted & translated for her fellow officers, and asked surprisingly specific questions about why I was in Algeria, what I do for a living, who I see and the age range of the population, etc. ad nauseam. Thank goodness, I didn’t have any reason to lie and was also smart enough to have access to certain things on my mobile phone to prove myself.

TIP: if your mobile phone allows, store your most important documents on something like Google Drive, and make those documents available offline while traveling. It may make a big difference for you in case of emergency.

After what seemed like forever, they let me go. One of the officers hailed a taxi for me and I went to my hotel. But alas, as is my luck, there was more turbulence ahead.

To be continued…