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…

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life.

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

I like this Weekly Photo Challenge because it makes people tell a story with photos. Sometimes, words aren’t necessary; as the famous saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So although I added a few words to the following photos, the photos should tell enough of a story for you to see a day in my life. I suggest viewing the photos from left to right, and hovering your mouse over them for captions (all but 2 or 3 have captions). Enjoy.

04.02.2013 (with a couple thrown in from 04.03.2013 & 04.04.2013)

As usual, the system takes forever to load, so in the meantime...
As usual, the system takes forever to load, so in the meantime…

(Since I switched teams, though, I don’t conduct visits as much as I used to. That has its pros & cons.)

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So every once in a while, something like this is nice.  (Unlike many Britons, though, I rarely drink.)
So every once in a while, something like this is nice. (Unlike many Britons, though, I rarely drink.)

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I try breaking up my week (or weekends) to keep from going insane in this career field to keep myself a little grounded. For example:

So there you have it. Hopefully you’re not too bored with a day in my life. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Keep calm and drink tea.
Keep calm and drink tea.

Hell hath no fury.

No one paid attention to her warnings; she said she’d be back. Many brushed her off.

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No one paid attention to her warnings; she said she’d be back. Many brushed her off. The man sat around, laughing with the other non-believers, and ignored his ex’s warnings. After all, she’d made threats before and never followed through, so why should he or anyone else believe her now?

There was 1 consistent thing about her, though: She didn’t always follow through, but she always gave a warning. Hindsight is 20/20.

So when she struck, boy, did she strike. She threw, flipped, and broke everything in her path. And when she was all finished, the man would have to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and start over from scratch. He’d know better next time – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Like this woman, Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States with strength and furore. Meteorologists gave warnings which – unlike in the above scenario – most people heeded, and they did what they had to do to prepare and/or get the hell out of the way. Sandy started in the Caribbean, leaving death & destruction in her wake, and made her way up to the United States, where she first caused some problems in the southeast. But even that wasn’t the beginning. Over 2-3 days, Sandy lost a little strength but quickly made up for it as she went further northeast. The Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, northward… most states weren’t spared Sandy’s wrath.

Sandy was a bit temperamental, though, hitting some areas harder than others, as if some were less deserving of her wrath than other areas (even though they still felt her wrath). One of those areas is my hometown, New York City, and especially my borough. And watching everything from 3500 miles away is hard.

I’m one of those people who, when disaster strikes, wants to do whatever it takes to help – whether it’s a small cash donation or a big volunteering effort. 3 years after Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with HfH for a day to help build a house. I couldn’t volunteer when Hurricane Katrina hit, so when I got the chance, I took it even though it was 3 years later. So being 3500 miles away from home, worrying about my loved ones and being unable to help, weighed down on me.

Along New York City’s coastline, people lost their homes, cars, and businesses. Trees and electrical live wires came down. Some schools and banks are still closed for a while. Public transportation shut down for a while (still experiencing a few glitches). And worst of all, some people lost their lives, with the youngest victims being 2 little brothers (photo). There are people who still don’t have electricity, heat and/or water in the middle of December.

I’m glad that my loved ones are safe, but my hometown is forever changed and my next visit will be bittersweet.

My hometown is still in dire need of help. Please give to reputable charities & causes so that we can rebuild again. (But please stay away from American Red Crosshere’s just one of many reasons why. And here’s yet another reason why. ) Thank you.

Links:
Volunteer and/or give responsibly (again, please stay away from American Red Cross – please see links in the last paragraph) http://www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly

Personally, I donated to this organization because they have earmarks for Sandy’s devastation in Haiti, the United States, and general charity causes. They’re also ethical, and my currency converted to U.S. dollars. http://www.ftsociety.org/sandy-relief-fund/

I also like HfH. Donate to the one in my hometown – it’s rated 4 stars. https://www.habitat.org/cd/giving/one/donate.aspx?link=470

I’ve also heard great things about Occupy Sandy. Help them out – I may join their efforts when I visit home. https://www.wepay.com/donations/occupy-sandy-cleanup-volunteers

Bodies of missing Staten Island boys found http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121101/south-beach/body-of-two-year-old-missing-staten-island-found-thursday-police-said

Staten Island boys laid to rest http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121109/dyker-heights/thousands-mourn-boys-killed-when-flood-tore-them-from-moms-arms

Comprehensive, ongoing & local Hurricane Sandy coverage http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/tags/hurricane-sandy

President Barack Obama surveys New Jersey storm damage http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/11/01/president-obama-tours-storm-damage-new-jersey

President Barack Obama tours storm damage in New York http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/president-barack-obama-tours-storm-damage-new-york

Hurricane Sandy in pictures – D’NALI http://dnali.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/sandy-in-pictures/

So much on my mind that I can’t recline – Jose Vilson http://thejosevilson.com/2012/10/30/so-much-on-my-mind-that-i-cant-recline-on-hurricane-sandy

Stop stupid. Vincenzo screams – Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge http://philosophermouseofthehedge.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/stop-stupid-vincenzo-screams/

WebMD blog post: managing through a storm http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2012/10/managing-through-a-storm.html

WebMD news post: riding out a storm http://www.webmd.com/news/20121030/riding-out-the-storm-safely

Re-blog: In Santa’s eyes.

Here’s another one that expresses what many of us can’t about the Connecticut massacre. Pay attention to the story, and always look into the eyes.

Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

My dad was Santa. Really.

It was a secret

And I couldn’t tell anyone.

Pretty hard for a little kid.

It wasn’t a cheap suit, but one in heavy rich red velvet

Kitten-soft when you hugged.

There wasn’t any sign that the curly white beard wasn’t real.

It was obvious by the way he focused and really listened to each child explain his or her heart’s desire, that this really wasn’t an act.

But he was Santa, right?

He wandered around JMH, a small local grocery, with a bag of candy canes and merrily exclaiming Ho-ho-ho!

Asking each if they had been naughty or nice…even some of the grown-ups!

Convincingly jolly.

Mom was doing the weekly shopping.

And we skated down the polished aisles searching.

Once Santa was in sight, older brother held my hand – just in case I started to blurt anything out.

Once the intense conference with a…

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Nothing else to say. This is more than enough.

D'NALI

It’s an ordinary morning,

You get up,

You eat,

You get ready for the day.

Bye mom.

Bye baby.

Have a good day at school.

Did you remember to pack your homework?

Did you do your homework?

eye roll … “yes mom, I did my homework, it’s in my bag.”

Will you put that phone away?

Stop texting your friend and finish your breakfast!

Oh my goodness, you’re running late, the school bus is almost at the corner.

Bye mom!

Running down the front yard …

Bye baby, love you.  See you later!

Love you too mom!

Stop texting and look where you’re crossing!

The day goes on …

Five hours later …

A call …

Mr So & So, Mrs So & So, Ms So & So,

There’s been a shooting at the school …

We regret to inform you that …

20 children (between the ages of 5…

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Short commercial break: Trayvon Martin.

This isn’t a 100% travel- or expatriate-related post, but it’s important enough for me to stray away from those topics for a second.

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https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/181834199068721152

(written March 17, 2012)

Trayvon Martin.

This isn’t a 100% travel- or expatriate-related post, but it’s important enough for me to stray away from those topics a bit. As an expatriate, it’s important to me to keep abreast of current events in my home country. The following story is also one of the reasons why I left the United States and, therefore, somewhat relates to my expatriate experiences. I’m going to keep this post short because Trayvon Martin’s story infuriates me to no end, and I refuse to read or listen to anything about it until this cold-blooded racist asshole killer gets locked up. However, I wanted to give this story another platform so that it can reach all corners of the earth if possible.

When I first heard about this, I read that the scumbag killed an innocent & unarmed Black American 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin because he looked suspicious in the neighborhood… even though his father lives in said neighborhood. I checked to see if this boy had any criminal history because sometimes, people protest certain things even though the person involved was less than savory while alive, but of course this boy has no criminal history whatsoever. Then I read that when police searched the 17 year old’s body, they found a bag of Skittles & a can of iced tea – no weapons whatsoever. (I guess that Skittles & iced tea are really fucking lethal weapons that either I didn’t know about or described as such in state or federal legislation since I moved over here, unbeknownst to me.) Then I read that this scumbag is still walking the streets 1 month after he gunned down this innocent & unarmed Black American boy who went to the corner store to buy his little brother some candy & something to drink. As a matter-of-fact, this scumbag just started college courses to study criminal justice!

Who looks more dangerous?
Who looks more dangerous?

Now do you understand why this infuriates me? Now do you see why I refuse to read or listen to anything about this until this scumbag gets locked up & sentenced to no less than 25 years to life?

I’ve said enough; I feel the fury & rage again so I’ll end here.

Please, I beg of you, sign this Change petition. While I’m not listening to or reading about this unless real justice gets served, I suggest that you read more/do your research about this senseless & needless killing on your own. And if you feel so moved, raise hell about this case. One way that you can do that is by calling Sanford (Florida) Police Department’s Bill Lee at (407) 688-5070 (overseas – 001 407 688 5070). Tell Bill Lee to arrest George Zimmerman, the scumbag who killed this boy for no valid reason. Call Bill Lee until he can’t take it anymore. As for me, I’ll repeat this one more time:

I refuse to read or listen to anything about it until this cold-blooded racist asshole killer gets brought to justice. I don’t want to hear anything less than 25 years to life. Anything less is unacceptable.

UPDATE: Over 1,000,000 signatures. GREAT!!! 🙂 http://www.wesh.com/r/30738229/detail.html Keep on signing, keep on calling, keep on raising hell.

New York Times op-ed piece http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/opinion/blow-the-curious-case-of-trayvon-martin.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share
I’m not the only one blogging this. http://showedupandshowedout.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/trayvon-martin/
Witnesses to his death heard his cries before he got shot http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/15/2696446/trayvon-martin-case.html
Audio – 911 call http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmnqKotpSD0
Change.org petition to arrest this scumbag killer http://www.change.org/trayvon
MoveOn.org petition to arrest this scumbag killer http://www.moveon.org/r?r=272971&id=37516-14438746-KyhaBix&t=2

Work here = Work everywhere.

I guess now is a good time to talk about what I do for a living. I work in social services. It’s something I decided to do as a teenager…..

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I guess now is a good time to talk about what I do for a living.

I work in social services. It’s something I decided to do as a teenager, when I saw the work that my father did. He wasn’t a social worker by trade, but his community work was admirable – working with drug addicts, people with HIV/AIDS (who were also often drug addicted), mentally challenged teenagers, etc. I wanted to become a doctor or find a cure for HIV/AIDS, but then I decided that I might make a bigger difference by doing the same things as my father. As a result, I studied a few different social sciences in college and went on to graduate school.

The United Kingdom, especially England, has a historic shortage of people willing to work in social services. The reasons are varied & complex, but to make it simple for you:

– underpaid
– underappreciated
– overworked
– overwhelmed
– bureaucracy on a massive level
– challenging families – poverty, deprivation, desperation, etc.
– burn-out and, as a result, high turn-over rates

(In 2009, the Local Government Association basically begged retired/ex-social workers to come back because of the shortage.)

To remedy this, one of the ways that the United Kingdom tries to fill in vacancies is by recruiting overseas on a heavy basis – the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. That’s how I got here. Overseas recruiting worked for a while, until now. With the world economy already up Shit’s Creek, the United Kingdom, like most or all of continental Europe, has taken many austerity measures to close gaping budget gaps. One of these measures will likely target overseas recruiting (if it hasn’t already – depending on what part of the United Kingdom one resides in), which will likely lead to an increase in social service vacancies….. Why? Because despite heavy PR campaigns in & outside of the United Kingdom, the image of social workers by the public is quite tarnished due to high-profile child abuse cases that took place over the past 10-15 years – Victoria Climbie (detailed story – Wikipedia) & Baby P (detailed story – Wikipedia) are glaring examples. As a result, there aren’t many people willing to attend school for & work in the profession. And honestly, I’m not sure why in the world I keep doing this because all the above reasons apply to me too. 😐

And as you might imagine, the many vacancies will affect families, as well as the way that social care agencies provide services. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that it’s a vicious cycle that occurs everywhere, worldwide.

To be more specific to my experience, I work for the local government in children’s services with the aim of keeping children ages 11-17 out of (foster) care. Although cases of child abuse and/or neglect aren’t part of my department’s services (that’s the job of child protection), the area in which I work is pretty deprived. Here are some statistics:

– According to the 2001 census, the area is 63% white, 16% black African and 8% black Caribbean
– Broken down further, this particular area is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the United Kingdom
– High-crime area with high levels of gang violence, for which it has a notorious reputation
– Most crimes here (and throughout the United Kingdom) occur as stabbings since guns are illegal here
– Great Britain overall has seen an increase in gun crime & gangs in recent years even though guns are illegal here
– The area has the highest teenage (under 18) conception rate in the United Kingdom (and if I remember correctly, in Europe)
– The area has high STD (or, as they’re known here, STI) infection rates

(The only reason that I’m not specifying from where I obtained these statistics is for privacy & personal concerns; hopefully readers will understand.)

Well, there you have it. Welcome to my (work) world.
______________________

For further information about the aforementioned topics, check out the following links:

Europe hit by wave of anti-austerity protests – The Guardian
Austerity in Europe – Financial Times
Workers in Europe protest austerity measures – New York Times

Operation Trident – BBC News
10 years of Operation Trident – Time Out London
Operation Trident may be ditched in spending cuts – The Guardian
Gangs in the United Kingdom – Wikipedia (pardon me for posting a Wikipedia link)
Drop The Weapons/Stop The Guns
London Street Gangs – Blogspot
Los Angeles (California, United States) gangs take over UK streets – The Sun (warning: a bit sensationalist)
Teen gangs of Britain – The Mirror (warning: a bit sensationalist)
Police identify 169 London gangs (as of 2007) – Current TV

Images for Victoria Climbie (WARNING: GRAPHIC)
(Victoria) Climbie report urges childcare reform – BBC News
Baby P & Victoria Climbie tragedies synonymous with reforms to system – The Telegraph
Timeline: Victoria Climbie – BBC News
Baby P: The official files – The Independent
Couple behind Baby P death named – BBC News
Bonus link – Timeline: Khyra Ishaq’s death – BBC News