If this doesn’t reflect expatriate, repatriate and/or travel life, I don’t know what does.
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…
View from above. And don’t worry, blog posts are coming…
So nice, I visited twice… in 5 months. First time was in March of this year for my birthday, but I was sick and couldn’t fully enjoy it as planned. The 2nd time was in August and I definitely enjoyed myself. Here are a few photos from August.
P.S. I prefer Portland, Maine over Portland, Oregon.
P.P.S. Until I get a proper computer or laptop, I’ll stick to short posts like this to showcase my jaunts. I have a few more in my drafts that are well overdue; stay tuned.
Last month, I visited England for a wedding. I was there less than a week.
Because of the nature in which I left England 4 years ago, I wasn’t sure what feelings would come up for me. England was my 2nd home. I’d begun building some semblance of a life there – building my career, traveling, visiting my 1st home at least twice yearly, trying to obtain dual citizenship, possibly venturing into the world of (British) dating, slowly growing friendships, etc. – when it was snatched from under me faster than the time it took for me to move there in the first place.
I was left reeling. That shit hurt. It hurt so bad. I had dreams, plans, wishes… and on August 8, 2013, everything fell apart. I cried almost daily. My landlord became a scumbag soon after. Support from work? Yeah… right. On the day I moved out of my flat (I think it was October 2 or 3, 2013), I sobbed the whole time. I left England for good 3 weeks later – October 22, 2013.
To this day, I can’t forget it. And oftentimes, since I left there, the months of August through October are sometimes hard for me because I remember the sequence of events that happened once I got the Home Office letter stating that I was an over-stayer. Time kinda froze.
So with that in mind as I flew to England for the wedding, I expected my emotions to be on the negative side. I got some advice before leaving to go there, from a few people in my small circle, to go with no expectations and cross bridges whenever I got to them. So I tried to do that. And to my surprise, I succeeded.
I had a very nice time.
I recently had medical issues and probably shouldn’t have traveled when I did; therefore, I couldn’t see everyone who wanted to see me, nor could I get around how I wished. But all in all, I truly enjoyed myself. I actually thought about moving back there again… almost. Hell, I won’t even lie… I’m still thinking about it on & off…
Anyway, while there I stocked up on cheese, tea and crumpets.
Although I couldn’t see everyone, I saw a few people whom I was meant to see. I won’t show their faces, but I’ll show some of what we ate. 😐
I had proper henna done for the first time ever, as part of the wedding.
I visited my old neighborhood, twice. The first time, I took a friend there who – believe it or not – just moved to England 2 months ago and wanted to explore a different neighborhood and borough. I took her to the local market I used to frequent.
And the second time was to visit my old flat. My downstairs neighbors still live there – as a matter-of-fact, they took over my old flat and the home is now fully theirs. After my departure, they didn’t want to risk any troublesome tenants moving in, so they took it for themselves. That humbled me then, and still humbles me now. Anyway, approaching my old door – as well as the street and neighborhood – was emotional.
(That’s a new door, by the way. It used to be a red door.)
I ate and conversed with them for a couple hours. Afterwards, I visited my old self-defense class and instructor. I couldn’t participate, but I enjoyed living vicariously through the students. Side note – only 1 of the original students from my class is still there.
And of course, I attended the wedding. I won’t show faces, but it was a nice one.
I appreciate the family inviting me. They’re like a 2nd family to me; I’ve discussed them here once or twice before.
Looking back, the visit was better than I expected. I saw a few loved ones, nervously returned to my old neighborhood, got my hair done, and brought home some very-missed British cheese, tea and crumpets. I couldn’t handle all of the business I wanted, but the major stuff was done and brought back. I’ll handle the other business (hopefully) next year.
I planned to never return to England again because although most of the time there was alright, the ending was horrible. But now, I’m glad I went, and I plan to return again. To visit or to live? That remains to be seen.
(P.S. By the time you read this, it’ll be 4 years since I left England. I scheduled this post like that on purpose.)
My trip is over. I had a wonderful time overall, and I hope to return to Chilé – and that other country that will remain a surprise – again in the (near or far) future. There’s so much to explore, and the landscapes are otherworldly and absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately, there was 1 major blip during the trip…
I forgot my laptop on one of my flights in-country. I realized it a few minutes later, but of course, there are very few honest people on this planet so the laptop was never returned. Despite the laptop’s age, it was my only way to connect with the world in general. Yes, I have a phone, but it’s more difficult to do things on phones due to text size, lighting, etc.
So until I get myself a new laptop or tablet, I’ll hold off on posting anything about the trip. The blog posts would be so much better with the photos, so you can get an idea of the beauty that abounds in Chilé and that other country. I hope that you stayed tuned, in the meantime, until then. (I already started 1 post, so I’m not playing around.)
Thank you for your consideration.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
…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.
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…
This link resonated with me so much that I decided to post it on my blog.
This link resonated with me so much that I decided to post it on my blog. It resonates with me more than most people will ever know (but may discuss at a later date?). You never know who’s going through what under the surface.
The portraits are from the United Kingdom (London, to be exact). Thanks to Alternet for this link.
13 portraits of homeless people as they want to be viewed http://www.alternet.org/culture/13-portraits-homeless-people-they-want-be-viewed-slideshow