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…

Then and now.

Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side. –The Talmud

(NOTE: this is a long one, with a bit of cursing, disclosure, no punches pulled, and vulnerability. Don’t like any of that? Don’t bother reading any further.)

Picture it: October 2013.

Aside from a few pieces of luggage filled to the brim with whatever I could carry, I returned home with almost nothing. The life I was trying to build in the United Kingdom was snatched from me.

I’d been placed on unpaid leave on August 9, 2013 – in contemplation of dismissal – by a shady employer that misinformed me about my work visa, among other things. Because of the employer, I accidentally overstayed my work visa by about 2 months by the time I received notification from the Home Office on August 8, 2013. I then had to report to the local immigration office like a criminal – once per week initially, then once every 2 weeks. I was evicted from my beautiful apartment in October by what turned out to be a shady landlord (I’ll never forget, Gary Sheppard of southeast London). I’d been his tenant for over 3 years and even offered him my security deposit, but money over everything, right? For 3 weeks before leaving the United Kingdom, I stayed with someone who insisted that I stay with her after my eviction. (I won’t mention her name here, but can’t thank her enough.)

I asked the male DNA contributor to please help me get a ticket home; there was no real response. Things were so bad that an American colleague took the male DNA contributor’s number from my phone to call and explain how bad things were. (Even though I knew it was a waste of time, she insisted.) Male DNA contributor begrudgingly bought a ticket, didn’t accept my thank yous, and treated me like shit. After almost 3 months of no contact (didn’t even check to make sure of my safe arrival to the U.S.), the male DNA contributor e-mailed me – not to say “hello” or “how are you?”, but to tell me that “you owe me (insert U.S. dollar amount here)”. No exaggeration – that’s what the e-mail said. When I responded that I was living from couch to couch, the male DNA contributor stated that I was exaggerating and need to look for work to pay back the money, along with some other really fucked up things that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Male DNA contributor would’ve known that I was looking all day every day, including weekends, at employment opportunities, had there been any effort to check on me. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good.

Bye.
Bye.

The female DNA contributor isn’t much better. (Boy… if there’s a higher power, he or she sure knows how to pick the people whom they want to create new human beings. 😐 ) Complete narcissistic waste of time & energy. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good a while ago. At least I don’t discriminate, right?

Another person from England, whom I’d known for 10 years, insisted that I pay her back $50.00 I owed her in spite of full knowledge of my situation. Yes… $50.00. I was so stunned that she had the nerve to ask me for money she knew I didn’t have, that I just responded with “not a problem”. I gave her the bit of money (and boy, was it just a bit) I got from the former employer about 5 weeks later and after that… *crickets* –  no “hello” or “how are you?” or even “f*** you” after that. I waited 1 year for her to say something to me on any form of social media or technology… still *crickets*. I was there for her during some really difficult times (including an abusive relationship), before and after my move to England, and she threw everything away for 50 U.S. dollars. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good.

Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)
Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)

At one point, I don’t think that even my aunt & uncle – who are like real parents to me – realized the gravity of my situation. And I’ll admit, I was angry at & frustrated with them for a bit before my return home. But once they realized how bad things were, that was it. I began staying with them before Xmas 2013.

I forgot to mention that since I accidentally overstayed my visa because of the former employer, along with reporting to the local immigration office, I was banned from returning to the United Kingdom for 1 year. Once I gave up all chances of returning after being shafted by recruitment agencies, I gave up trying to get back to the country and sat out my 1 year ban.

And so many other painful stories of betrayal and outright dismissal, from so-called colleagues, friends & relatives, that I could recount since I hit my rock bottom. (I’m not sure if those people deserve my energy, though.)

But then there are people such as:

  • my (ex-)stepfather who, in spite of us not speaking for 1 year because of an issue, picked me up at the airport upon my arrival home even though he lives in another state and carried my luggage – no questions asked – and gave me money for public transportation to get to interviews without me asking.
  • Joana, who insisted that I stay with her upon my return home, free of charge and refused any of my offers to help otherwise. I didn’t stay long due to other reasons, but for that and her I’m eternally grateful.
  • my aunt & uncle, who’ve housed me, which has helped me rebuild my life slowly but surely. Among countless other things, aunt bought me a coat and interview clothing also.
  • Dashima, who supported my fundraiser and sent me flowers when I finally got a job after almost 8 months of no luck.
  • Juma, who gave me his old coat until I got a new one, and provided other support.
  • those who gave me emotional and/or financial and/or other support and didn’t have to – Ellen & her husband storing my stuff in England, Sherri helping me pack, Sherri (again) & her husband cooking for me, Nadine helping me pack, Dacia, Gary, Johanna, Uzma, Twana, Sharon S., Natalie & Emmon, Ruth, Atiba, my 2 main Facebook group members, and so many others I wouldn’t expect.
  • the many people who sent me job postings.
  • the people who don’t know me in real life or online but believed me and believed in me more than enough to help, no questions asked.

I know I’ve forgotten some names, but I hope those people know my heart.

I think things are beginning to look up.

  • I’ve worked since March 2014, after almost 8 months of unemployment with no benefits of any kind.
  • I’ve paid down some debt.
  • I joined a gym to return to healthier living.
  • I’m studying for my next highest credential (or qualification, for those of you overseas).
  • My aunt, uncle and I get along very well overall, which is definitely a challenge for an introvert like me.
  • I have travels coming up within the next 2 months; my travel bug is finally back. (I’ll leave the travels as a surprise for now.)
  • And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been able to help others with no strings attached. It warms my heart to help those who can never pay it back (nor do they have to try). I’m just grateful to be able to do it. (I’m very selective, however.)
Finally (little by little).
Finally (little by little).

I sit here, typing this with tears in my eyes. (A few of ’em even fell.) Some feel like sad tears, but more feel like grateful tears. For those who left me when I needed it most, farewell. For the rest of you, I’m eternally grateful. I thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

Little by little, step by step, day by day.

The world returning to my fingertips.
The world returning to my fingertips.

Delayed gratitude.

Today 10.01.2014:

I’m feeling: busy.

I’m listening to: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I’m grateful for: my new Kindle, purchased exactly 1 month ago. The ability to read for pleasure again; while I love regular books, carrying them around only made my back & neck issues worsen. Paying off another debt in September. Filling out, and mailing off, the paperwork/application needed for my next highest professional license eligibility to take the professional exam for said licence. Health insurance. Having my oldest nephew not only come up to the U.S. for school, but living just a 5-10 minute drive away from me. Getting to see a friend of mine and her husband visiting from England (family wedding).

I’m creating: possibly another group at the job. A good future for myself, hopefully.

I’m enjoying: reading. How To Get Away With Murder. Being single – been single for a very long time, but enjoying it even more lately, as it allows me to focus on rebuilding my life without any male distractions.

I’m thinking about: the things that have come to fruition since that tarot reading. What’s next for me after getting the next highest professional license. My next steps in terms of handling business in England. How damn high plane ticket prices are to England. How damn high plane ticket prices are to visit my aunt in Kentucky. WTF do these airlines want, a mortgage payment? 😐

I’m reading: The Alchemist. Also just finished To Kill A Mockingbird a little over 1 week ago; read it as a youngster, but read it with wiser eyes this time around.

I’m looking forward to: the weekend.

I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracing: be grateful because even though things aren’t perfect, I can’t really complain now. Take things one small step at a time; sometimes that’s hard to remember. Remember that while seeing others doing well sometimes gets me down, their journeys aren’t mine – my day will come.

Around the house are: my exercise sneakers.

In my kitchen: a few new grocery items.

I’m planning later in the coming week to: continue checking flight prices to Kentucky and England. Follow up with a few questions about handling my business in England. Follow up with the doctor for another appointment. Continue working out. Cook – we’ve now delegated cooking for each person on certain days, and the weekend is now delegated to me to cook weekly. Check that my license paperwork/application made it to the state board offices. Research study guides for the licensing exam. Hopefully see my oldest nephew – you know teens don’t like hanging out with old folks, but damn it, he better see me this coming week. 😐

My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: Everyone has a story. http://www.dailyom.com/articles/2014/45272.html

I’m wishing you: a good week. Wholeness. Peace.

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.

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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.

Thin line between love & hate (Part 1).

…I’ll start off with the things I hate about the country. My next post will list the things that I miss about the country.

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I’ve meant to do this series for a while, but I’m glad that I waited until now. I’m not fully “there” yet, but I now feel comfortable enough to write.

As I’ve said countless times, living as an expatriate is a mix of the good, bad & ugly. I’ve been back in the U.S. for over 5 months now, and I’ve had many moments of clarity. A few of those moments entailed mental lists of things I love & hate about the United Kingdom from my experiences living there. Since the country (and its people) basically did a number on my life as I knew it, and it’ll take me a long time to recover, I’ll start with the things I hate about the country. As with any of my lists, they aren’t exhaustive; this is due to concerns about my privacy, possible future developments, and my hate can only last but so long. 😐

Please note: if you’re from there and easily offended, don’t bother reading further than this. The following points will be raw & bitter. These points are my truth, as well as the truth of a few others who’ve had a similar experience to mine. I’ll say what I have to say, and that’s it; if you don’t like it, walk away now. I don’t battle trolls or keyboard gangsters.

1. Dark parts of its history – currently, Britain has invaded all but 22 countries on this planet. All but 22. If you don’t understand how much that is, I’ll make it simple for you: that’s almost 90% of the planet… that means if there were only 10 countries on this planet, Britain would’ve invaded 9 of ’em. That means Britain gave zero fucks about anyone or anything but itself & its interests. And because of my experience, I learned that Britain is still very much a shady, conniving, low-down country not only on a macro level, but also on a micro level toward people. Its populace inherited the country’s conquering & brutalizing spirit, as shown by the way that they treat people who don’t fit their agendas, whether the affected people know it or not.

2. Sweeping things under the rug – Britain (and some of the United Kingdom’s inhabitants) likes fancying itself as a diverse utopia. While the United States and the United Kingdom have somewhat different stories in terms of slavery & immigration, one thing that’s similar about both countries is their love of sweeping things under the rug – making believe that things did or didn’t happen or, when admitting fault, downplaying it as much as possible. It’s as if they say

There, there now. Fair enough, we conquered & destroyed & disemboweled & killed & pillaged & raped millions of people… but that’s all in the past! No need to bring it up again. Come on, let’s have a cup of tea (United Kingdom)/grab a beer (United States) and forget all about it.

Until Britain (and any other major conquering country) fully acknowledges its part in fucking up most of the planet in some way or another, it’ll not only continue affecting other countries in a negative way, it’ll also continue shattering the lives of people who live there. I mention the lives of people living there because the same characteristics that Britain used/uses to destroy countries got passed down to its populace and they, in turn, affect each life and later make believe that nothing ever happened. Whether they like it or not, some of us may forgive but never forget.

3. Rude people – I’m sure I’ve written about this before (here & here & here). The people are some of the rudest I’ve ever met in my lifetime. Do you have a question or need help with something? You’ll be lucky if anyone hears you and/or gives a straight answer. Are you used to saying “good morning/afternoon/evening” to people around you, no matter who they are? Don’t bother doing that because it’s as if courteous people are aliens from another planet. Do you need to sit down because of an injury, ailment, illness, pregnancy or being elderly? Don’t expect anyone, especially the men, to offer you a seat (or anything else to make things more comfortable for you). As a matter-of-fact, a female is more likely to help you than a male. I’ve traveled to 12 or 13 countries so far and, hands down, people in the United Kingdom are the rudest I’ve ever met.

4. Child welfare – I’ve worked in social services for many years, and I can say with confidence that while the United States can improve upon its services, the United States is more advanced than the United Kingdom in that regard. I prefer it here because one can work in various fields, learn different practice methods, and safeguard better. I also think that social work education is better in the United States. The United Kingdom has a long way to go to improved social services not just for child welfare, but all aspects of social services (including educating & training potential social workers).

5. Cost of living – If I remember correctly, London is more expensive than my city… and that’s saying a lot. And don’t get me started on the increase in wealthy people from all over the world buying properties in London for various reasons (if you’re smart, you’ll figure it out). It’s getting so bad that many native Londoners get forced out of their city, and I bet that’s by design (just like my city).

6. Narrow roads – I’ll admit that this one is silly, but come on. Why are the roads so narrow? Were they purposely designed to get people into accidents and road rage incidents? Even when America wasn’t filled with fat asses like me (and even when I wasn’t fat), damn near everything got built big. I’ll take the wide 3-7 lane streets & highways here over those narrow ass streets any day. The same goes for the sidewalks.

7. English breakfast – this is another silly one, but it’s one that many people over there take seriously. I’m sorry, but I can’t get with English breakfast. That link calls it “splendid”. I’m not fond of beans or fried tomato with eggs, but whatever… I can tolerate that if I had to. But anything containing mushrooms or black pudding… not one bit splendid. 😐

I think that’s it for now… I think. If you live in/lived in/visited the United Kingdom and there were things that bothered you, what were they? Is there anything I may have missed? I’m getting forgetful in my old age. 😐

My next post will list the things that I miss about the country. In the meantime, check out the video below and pay attention to the chorus. To be continued…

Staying put.

In the words of the Prophet, “It is finished.”

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In the words of the Prophet, “It is finished.”

Everything they've done since August has led up to this.
Everything they’ve done since August has led up to this.

(PLEASE NOTE: I’m using the picture to make my point, not for any religious purposes.)

After giving this some thought recently, and after reviewing the requirements for a work visa application, I’ve decided to stop looking for employment opportunities in the United Kingdom.

The visa application website requires potential applicants to qualify for a certain amount of points before moving forward. I hadn’t looked at it since 2010, so I didn’t remember what the requirements were. I took the preliminary test to see if I could go ahead with the application, and I met each requirement… except the sponsorship part. Therefore, I couldn’t go ahead with the application.

I don’t think it’s too difficult to get sponsorship in my profession from employers over there. What is difficult, however, is finding a reputable recruiter/recruiting agency to find a decent employer willing to offer sponsorship. Unfortunately, my experiences over the past few months led me to believe that most recruiters/recruiting agencies over there are shady. They’ve shat on me from the start, making shoddy promises and displaying a major lack of professionalism. Here are 2 examples of their “professionalism”:

Hi (Spinster),

I am looking to see if i can find a worksponser for you in London, will keep you posted ASAP

Regards

Recruiter Name

(P.S. I copied/pasted the e-mail exactly how the recruiter sent it to me.)

(P.P.S. The e-mail subject was “.” Yes… a period – that thing with which we end sentences.

)

Another one never spelled my government name correctly and used smiley faces in e-mail correspondence. (And no, it wasn’t a woman.)

I got so fed up with recruiting agencies over there, I decided to change the settings on 1 employment website such that recruiters can no longer contact me. I also changed the settings on another employment website such that neither my former employer nor another shady employer – which flaked out on me 3 times – can ever contact me again. If I work over there again, it’ll be on my terms and to hell with recruiters/recruiting agencies overall.

I’m also still experiencing the negative effects of what the former employer did to me. Now don’t get me wrong… overall, my time living in the United Kingdom was alright, but the last few months of my time there – along with my current challenges – left a really bad taste in my mouth. I try not to let those months color my whole view of the country, but I admit that it’s very difficult.

Will I live/work there – or any other country outside of the United States – ever again? I don’t know. After this experience, I don’t think I want to expatriate again. (I’ll always love travelling, though – that’ll never change.) But I’m not 100% certain about this, so who knows what the future holds. I’ve applied & looked for jobs all over so I’ll go wherever the money is. And if that means leaving the country again to get back on my feet, then so be it… even if – since I know that expatriation isn’t all cupcakes & roses – I go kicking & screaming for 1-3 years. However, I’d prefer getting my life back on track here, not in another country.

When I returned to the States, the ticket was round-trip because it was cheaper than a one-way ticket, and I scheduled to return sometime in Spring 2014. I plan on changing the ticket date to later this year. (Hopefully my life will be drastically different by then.) If I still feel a certain way about the country (and it is possible that I may feel the same way in the future), I’ll cancel the ticket altogether. But I think it’d be good to see a few of my old colleagues and a couple of friends, so I’ll likely just change the date instead of cancelling altogether.

There’s a lot more, but I’m going to end here. I don’t want to pass on my doom & gloom to anyone reading this, and many things are better left unsaid (until later?). It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. I’m fat, but I’m not singing… yet.

(WARNING: the following song has curses and derogatory words)

I will not lose…

Related posts:
Home (bitter)sweet home.
https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/home-bittersweet-home/

Hard knock life. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/hard-knock-life/

This sounds familiar. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/this-sounds-familiar/

Reset my life. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/reset-my-life/

Jobseeker(s). https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/jobseekers/

Some things change… https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/some-things-change/

Limbo. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/limbo/

3 years (part 3).

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

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(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.
———
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).

What other things have I learned so far?

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(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…

Rock the vote.

Are you a U.S. expatriate who wants to vote in this year’s elections? If so, check out the following information sent to me about voting via absentee ballot.

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In transit.
In transit.

Are you a U.S. expatriate who wants to vote in this year’s elections? If so, check out the following information sent to me about voting via absentee ballot. For best accuracy, I’d suggest checking with your home state and your local embassy in your resident country for details, as it’s possible (I’m not sure, don’t wanna give out incorrect information) that different embassies in different countries have different instructions.
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Absentee ballots already delivered to overseas voters: Every U.S. citizen who requested an absentee ballot and selected the fax or email delivery option should have received it by now. Please cast your vote and take steps to return your completed ballot promptly so that your vote will count. See instructions below.

Returning your ballot by mail: Place your completed ballot in a U.S. postage-paid envelope containing the address of your local election officials. Place the completed ballot in a sealed envelope and take it to (my local embassy). We will send it back to the U.S. for you without the need to pay international postage. If it’s easier for you to use the (resident country) postal system, be sure to affix sufficient international postage, and allow adequate time for international mail delivery. If time is tight, you may want to use a private courier service (e.g., FedEx, UPS, or DHL) to meet your state’s ballot receipt deadline.

U.S. citizens can submit their completed ballots to the (resident country) Embassy’s Consular Section between the hours of (check yours locally), Monday through Friday, with the exception of (resident country) and U.S. holidays. No appointment is necessary. Please bring your ballot in a sealed envelope, and your U.S. passport. Your ballot will be sent to the United States via pouch, which takes approximately 10 working days.

Returning your ballot by email, fax, or upload: Some states allow these options, but may also require you to mail in the signed paper ballot. To find out more about your state’s specific requirements, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website at www.FVAP.gov.

Haven’t received your ballot yet? Use the emergency write-in ballot: U.S. citizens who requested an absentee ballot but haven’t received it should go to www.FVAP.gov to complete a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. Follow the above guidance for returning your ballot. If you later receive your regular absentee ballot, vote and return it immediately. Local election officials will count just one ballot per voter, and will use the regular ballot if received by your state’s ballot receipt deadline.

Forgot to register or request an absentee ballot? Act immediately! There are three options:

Option #1: Register and request a ballot today using the Federal Post Card Application form at www.FVAP.gov. Select the electronic ballot delivery option, include your email address (and fax number, if applicable) and send it to local election officials in your state. Almost every state lets you submit a ballot by email or fax. Once your application is processed they will send you your ballot via fax or email depending on your state. Vote as soon as you receive the blank ballot. Registration deadlines vary and some are as early as October 7, so check your state’s requirements carefully.

Option #2: Follow the instructions in Option #1, but also complete and send in a Federal Write-in Ballot at the same time to make sure your vote is counted. This option may be the best one for first-time voters if your state requires you to submit your Federal Post Card Application by mail. Vote and submit your regular absentee ballot if/when it arrives. Local election officials will count just one ballot per voter, and will use the regular ballot if it’s received by the ballot receipt deadline.

Option #3: Voters from the following states can use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot as a combined voter registration form, absentee ballot request, and absentee ballot: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. (NOTE: This form must reach your local election officials by your state’s absentee ballot request deadline or voter registration deadline, whichever is first.)

Returning your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot by mail: Follow the guidance above for returning your ballot by mail.

Returning your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot by email or fax: The following states allow voters to email or fax their signed, voted Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots back to local election officials: Arizona, California (fax only), Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. (NOTE: see instructions at http://www.FVAP.gov for faxing or emailing your voted ballot.)

Confirm your registration and ballot delivery online: Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website at www.FVAP.gov.

2nd home sweet home.

Got back to England earlier today. It’s good to be back.

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Got back to England earlier today. (Related post: Time off & out.) It’s good to be back. I had a great time back home of course, but I’m exhausted and this is how I feel after being home.

Back to sleep. More blogging later.

Sleeping as hard as me.
Sleeping as hard as me.