A very late Happy 2016.

Happy 2016. It has been way too long. Life happens.

Last year was eventful, in good and bad ways. Let’s see, where to begin…

  • I traveled 7 times in 2015 (February, March, May, June, July, October, November). That’s the most I’ve ever done in 1 year. United Arab Emirates. Puerto Rico. Houston, Texas. Boston, Massachusetts. Chicago, Illinois. Detroit, Michigan. Portland, Oregon. (I may post a few photos from the different trips. I also have 1 more United Arab Emirates blog draft, that I should’ve completed months ago, that’ll be posted for sure.)
  • I left my job – the first one I got after returning from England – and started a new one in September 2015. You can blame the new job and ensuing commute for most of my absence from the blog.
  • I studied for my professional license exam… and had to reschedule it a few times. I’m now set to take it this spring. There were a few things that came up which forced me to push it back. Would you like to know 1 of the reasons why I had to push it back?
  • Because we got bed bugs. Yes, a f***ing g**damn bunch of bed bugs, in the beginning of summer 2015. I won’t even go into the horror & trauma they caused me. I now hate bed bugs even more than roaches.
  • Along with a new job and long commute, I was apartment hunting. I now hate New York’s real estate market. I didn’t even have this much trouble finding a flat in England, and that market is probably as expensive & popular as the market here. Not having a car to drive to all of these apartment viewings, made the search even more exhausting, grueling & tiring.
  • I had to stop going to the gym after I started the new job because of the commute, so I’m back to where I was when I started. But I’m starting again in a few days (if not sooner) since my commute is much shorter now.
  • I completed a Couch To 5K program before I started the new job though, so that was a bonus. Since I’m starting over, I’m gonna re-do the program because as a result of doing it, I began developing a like/love for running and I want to get back to running again.
  • It took long enough, but I finally found my own place. (My original commute was killing me, so I had no choice but to look for a place closer to the new job.) After over 2 years of living with family, I’m slowly but surely getting back on track. I’m forever grateful to them, but I’m also very glad to be back on my own again. I’ll also be forever grateful to those who helped me post-England.

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. How are you doing, dear readers?

Teaser photo: El Yunque National Forest - Puerto Rico.

El Yunque National Forest – Puerto Rico.

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Life and Death While Traveling: Are you covered in the case of an emergency abroad?

This post is from a friend of mine. Excellent information about emergencies abroad and travel insurance. Pay attention.

Tanai Benard

If you follow the journey of 4 Deep Around the World, you know I’m a huge advocate of international travel. I constantly promote taking advantage of  every opportunity to see the world. World travel is the new “it” thing that’s taking the world by storm. This is evident by a simple peruse of the multitude of travel related Facebook groups and travel deal websites that have developed in recent years.

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Wall Street Journal article: Repatriation blues.

As a repatriate, some of the points in this article hit home, especially since my return was (mostly) involuntary. Take a look at the article below and feel free to comment. Hopefully, other repatriates will comment too.

Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With The Dark Side Of Coming Home

http://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2015/04/15/repatriation-blues-expats-struggle-with-the-dark-side-of-coming-home/

United Arab Emirates – Dubai in 36 hours or less.

Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I’d be there, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates. While booking & planning, I initially planned to spend 2 days there – hopefully enough to get a feel for the city. I changed my mind and decided that less than 2 days should suffice, and I’m glad I made that decision. I’ll explain why later.

We left Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon for a short jaunt to Dubai for a little over 24 hours. Dubai is 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi without traffic, and easy to reach by bus or car (rental, taxi, etc.). We took a cheap Greyhound-style bus for 25 AED one-way.

Emirates Express.

Emirates Express.

It took us longer than 90 minutes because there was a dust storm that caused multiple accidents; we saw at least 30 damaged or destroyed cars on the roadside.😐

Upon arriving to Dubai, we took a taxi to Citymax Bur Dubai. There wasn’t much time to spare before we had to leave to head to Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world for our evening viewing.

We planned to meet afterwards with a travel group member, but Dubai Mall (located next to Burj Khalifa and the largest mall [by total area] in the world) is so big that we couldn’t find him, and my phone died. We (minus step-dad) were also supposed to see other people from the same travel group for a party. But by then, I’m exhausted & sleepy from jet-lag and walking around; we’re annoyed about not finding the person in that humongous mall; and we were hungry. So we returned to the hotel instead. I messaged the travel group members to explain what happened, we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants (Indian Claypot), and stayed in until check-out time Sunday afternoon.

Another person from my travel group met us at check-out. He knew where the Gold Souk was, so he led us there.

NOTE: The United Arab Emirates heavily regulate their precious metals, so unless one buys jewelry on the street (NOT recommended), one is assured that the gold (or other precious metal[s]) is of top quality.

While me and my friend walked around, step-dad and Travel Friend sat down. Step-dad didn’t tell us right away that he wasn’t feeling well (typical man), so I got annoyed when I found out. Luckily, Travel Friend had a hotel room nearby and step-dad rested there while the 3 of us went to eat. (To make a long story short – step-dad loves spicy food but this time, the food at Indian Claypot was extra spicy and tore up his stomach the next day. I bought him a couple of medications, but bread, crackers & ginger ale did the trick and he was better by the next evening.)

Shameless plug – if you travel, especially abroad, make sure that you buy travel insurance. Annual travel insurance is cheaper than per-trip insurance. Along with step-dad getting sick (thank goodness it wasn’t worse), 2 members of my travel group died in Panama a little over 2 months ago. Their deaths gave me the needed push to buy travel insurance from now on.

After we ate, we hung out a bit while step-dad rested. We left Travel Friend’s hotel a little after sunset to return to Abu Dhabi; we’d see him the next day. We got a taxi to the bus station, where we caught a bus back to Abu Dhabi and stayed with another travel group member for the rest of our stay.

______________________

Dubai is a lively city and reminds me of Manhattantimes 10.😐 For me – a born & raised New Yorker – to say that, means something. I can also speak for my friend and step-dad (also born & raised New Yorkers) when I say that while we think Dubai is a beautiful city, it was quite overwhelming (especially as an introvert) to be around so many people, lights, and tall/large buildings & structures. So as I said in the beginning, I’m glad that we stayed for only a little over 24 hours.

Stay tuned – desert safari next

Let it snow.

Let it snow. (my photo, added to Instagram)

Let it snow. (my photo, added to Instagram)

It snowed a little less than a week ago, but aside from that, it hasn’t been a white Xmas/winter so far. It’s quite cold here otherwise.

How are the weather & temperature in your part of the world?

The end. (Or the beginning?)

Exactly 1 year ago today, I left the United Kingdom after living there for over 3 years. It’s hard to even type that.

One of my dreams as a kid was to live abroad, whether for a long time or for good. That dream came true when I was given the opportunity to work in the United Kingdom. That dream came to an end, and not in the way in which I wanted. I even planned to return, but to no avail.

Were it up to me, I’d still be there. I wanted to get extra professional experience, dual citizenship, extra chances to travel, and a new life. I wanted things to end on my terms; I wanted to leave when I was ready. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I lost almost everything; my dream went down the drain. I came back to the United States with only a few suitcases holding a bit of clothing, a few books, and a few treasured items. Meanwhile, those that fucked up my dream continue on as if nothing happened.

I was ashamed because even though it wasn’t my fault, I came home with nothing to show for my time there (or that’s how it seems). I came home to couchsurfing, no job in sight, and very little support – family included. I lost a lot (and gained nothing but pounds). Family turned on me. Friends – scarce. And retelling my story over again – not an option. I have to live it and that’s painful enough, so why the hell would I want to repeat it?

1 year ago today marked the end of an era, the end of my dream as I had it planned and hoped it’d turn out. It’s still a bit painful, still bittersweet. I miss traveling. I miss my Meetup groups and the experiences that came along with them. I missed living abroad. I experience nostalgia sometimes, and I miss the few dear friends I made, so much. I miss what could’ve and should’ve been.

But maybe… just maybe… the end was the beginning of a new part of my life journey. Only time will tell. And as far as that country, I’m not yet done with it. I still have unfinished business there to handle, and most importantly, I still have a few dear friends there.

I needed to get this out. Thanks for reading/listening. And please stay tuned; I still have a long road ahead.

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Gratitude? (Not much for August.)

Today 08.26.2014:

I’m feeling: exhausted. Drained. Tired. Sleepy.

I’m listening to: mostly silence.

I’m thinking about/wondering why: traveling. Going on a real vacation. Sleeping. Anything other than paperwork. This month being over.

I’m reading: not much now, but already looking at Kindle prices & models to decide which one to get.  That’ll hopefully happen by the end of the month.

I’m looking forward to: reading again once I get my Kindle. Having this Friday & Monday off. August being over.

I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracing: properly delivering bad news from a SW perspective. Paperwork for credentials. Myself, always.

I’m enjoying: The First 48.

I’m creating: …

I’m grateful for: second chances at life. The lives of those who are no longer with us. Employment. Observation. Discernment. Social support.

Around the house are: uniquely flavored Oreo cookies to mail to a friend of mine in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the kitchen: tilapia & rice noodles. The tilapia recipe is from SparkPeople.

I’m planning this week to: take time for & to myself. Distract myself over the long holiday weekend. Continue exercising (even though it doesn’t seem like anything is changing). Possibly meet up with an old friend who I haven’t seen since my time overseas.

 

I don’t have any quotes this week. I’m not inspired enough because this hasn’t been a good month.  Since 07.30.2014, I’ve had a family member die, another family member have 2 major medical emergencies, another family member attempt suicide, and a client death last week (likely by suicide).  Add to that Robin Williams’ suicide, Eric Garner (my hometown, by the way), Michael Brown and the disgusting yet unsurprising racism & racists (which I refuse to read; why give myself a stroke?), and countless other issues going on worldwide, and you can stick a fork in me because I’m done.

So instead, I’m dedicating this to the memory of my family member instead. Rest in peace, Aunt Jean 1926 – 2014.

Here’s to hoping that September – hell, the rest of the year – is better than this.  Take it easy & take care.

Life-changing day.

Exactly 1 year ago today, I received a letter in the mail that’d change my life for a long time, if not for good.

It was a Thursday evening, and I came home from a long day at work, with my team on duty for 3 days straight. I was glad to be home. It’d been my home for a little over 3 years, and I thought I’d be there for a long time to come.

There was mail in front of my door. I picked it up and saw that one piece was from the Home Office. I thought to myself

Oh, good. The Home Office will renew my visa. I’ll get to stay here a bit longer, save money, travel a bit, and even look into dual citizenship.

I put away my belongings, settled in to read my mail and maybe watch a little television – likely something I DVRed, no doubt. I opened the Home Office mail and read it. Then my heart sank deep into my stomach. The Home Office denied my visa application. I was a overstayer.

I re-read the letter a few times to make sure that it wasn’t a joke. But nothing in the letter changed. I was an accidental overstayer. I was speechless for a bit, and even fought back tears. (I can’t remember who won – me or the tears.) I called my aunt and let her know, and I told her I’d keep her posted.

Little did I know that this was the beginning of the end – the end of my expatriate life, the end of my independence, and the end of my life as I lived it for ___ years. And to this day, I’m still feeling the effects – they aren’t as strong as 1 year ago or even a few months ago, but they’re still there.

I hope my day is so busy that I don’t dwell on the anniversary. I hope that the bitterness goes away completely one day – some of it is gone, but some still remains. I hope that I can handle unfinished business over there. But in the meantime, for the way my expatriate life ended over there, that place can go straight to hell.

Late gratitude.

Today 07.25.2014:

I’m feeling: contemplative.

I’m listening to: one of my co-workers blasting music in Spanish.  It’s the end of the work week and big bosses took the day off, so why not.

I’m thinking: I’ve come a long way, but still have a very long way to go.  I shouldn’t let life get in the way of blogging weekly or so.  I need a real vacation.

I’m reading: The Social Work Interview. Only a few pages in, but at least that’s a start?

I’m looking forward to: getting my hair done; it has been over 3 months.  Having next Friday off for seeing my stepmother & sister next weekend.  Getting away for that weekend.  The time when I’ll be able to really travel again.  The time when I’ll finally be back on my feet, independent again.

I’m learning that: I’ve come a long way, but still have a very long way to go and more self-work to do.  Sometimes, just listening is all a person needs to begin healing.  (Luckily as an introvert, listening is one thing I do alright.)  I don’t have to allow someone else’s negativity to affect me.  I’m seeing how some people give without expecting anything back in return.  I may have to do even more than I’m already doing to lose weight (and trust me, I’m tracking & doing everything possible).  Expecting less = less disappointment.

I’m enjoying: my aunt’s NutriBullet juices & smoothies.  The experimentation has been quite tasty.

I’m grateful for: being employed in spite of the job being imperfect.  The ability to buy a bus ticket to see my stepmother & sister.  Paying off 3 debts so far this year.  Doing the tarot reading that my friend kept insisting I should try; it was a new experience and gave me lots of food for thought.  My aunt & uncle.  My stepfather.  Learning something new every day. Dodging literal bullets.  Joining the gym.  Finding a Groupon deal for the local kickboxing gym; it helps me mix up my exercise/workout while saving a few bucks.  Finally making & completing one of my doctor’s appointments.  Living in a peaceful home with aunt & uncle from the very start – they say it’s my energy/spirit/aura, but surely it isn’t just me contributing.  Chatting with my friend’s daughter in England on Whatsapp – she’s getting married next year, very happy for her and will definitely attend.  Getting a call from another expatriate who’s still in England but hopefully returning here soon – it was so good to hear from them.

Around the house are: fans and an air conditioner.

In the kitchen: fruits that aunt bought to experiment with juices & smoothies.

In the coming week, I plan to: follow-up with one more doctor’s appointment. Cook once or twice. Work out (as usual). Get a lock for the gym locker. Weigh myself (for better or worse, it hasn’t been done in over a month and it needs doing).  Work late to have Friday off to see my stepmother & sister. Speak with someone who can verify my hours for my next professional license paperwork & test.  Think even more about my tarot reading – so much food for thought.

My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: Growing Pains

Weekly update 06.29.2014.

Today:

I’m feeling: neither here nor there.

I’m listening to: blowing fans keeping us cool. The TV – FIFA World Cup Costa Rica vs. Greece with my uncle. (Haven’t followed the World Cup aside from this, to be honest. Basketball is more my game.)

I’m thinking: I’m so glad that this is a short work week. I want to re-start studying Portuguese again. I need to brush up on my Spanish; I took it for too many years (even minored in it in college) to just let it die. I need to update my résumé, fill out some paperwork for the next highest professional license, and apply for another credential. I wonder if I should take up my friend’s offer of getting a psychic reading? Never did one before…

I’m reading: nothing now, but that should change this coming week, as my now-former supervisor gave me 2 more reading books for my profession. I should be able to get myself a Kindle in July.

I’m looking forward to: having a short work week. Going to the gym; it really impressed me and I look forward to going regularly. Paying off 1 debt. Having something to do for the weekend (hopefully).

I’m learning that: I must stop always feeling the need to explain myself. Losing weight won’t mean much if my self-confidence is negative. Nothing will get done unless I do it – someone on my social media news feed said “Never ask for help. The ones who tell you don’t be afraid to ask are the same ones who claim they can’t help.” and sadly, I must agree. It isn’t even from a place of frustration anymore; it’s just a resigned acceptance and the story of most of my life.

I’m enjoying: these pita chips, which are healthier than buying & eating a bunch of cookies.

I’m grateful for: taking a free Krav Maga class last week, although it made me quite nostalgic about taking it while overseas. (I can admit that sometimes, I miss that place in spite of what they did to me. Blog post about that coming soon.) Joining the gym. My stepfather. My aunt & uncle. The ability to choose to stay away from (potential & definite) toxic situations with toxic people. My work team (minus upper management). Speaking to my friend’s daughter in England earlier today – I miss their family so much.

Around the house are: lazy folks enjoying a lazy weekend.

In the kitchen: new groceries.

I’m planning this week to: follow-up with the doctor’s office – doing the job of 3 people at work makes me quite forgetful, and it is time for me to just write a note so that I don’t keep forgetting because my health is more important that any job. Cook once or twice. Go to the gym. Get extra workout clothing and a lock for the gym locker. Do something for the long weekend. Look for a ticket to see my stepmother & sister since I couldn’t see them this weekend after all (long story).

My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: none that I can think of for this week. However, I suggest DailyOM for wise words when you want.