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.
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.
(I miss class. It’s just not the same over here.)
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.)
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.
I don’t blog about stuff like this (except when I did it for myself). But this is a friend of mine, and when I was going through my personal hell in the United Kingdom and back here in the United States, he and his wife went above & beyond to help me. (They even still have my barrel of stuff.) I wouldn’t post this if I thought it was bullshit; I only post with honesty & integrity, and people who know me in real life can vouch for me.
Please, if you can, find it in your heart to help him (and his family). And feel free to pass this link along; they’ll appreciate any help they can get. Thank you.
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.
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”:
I am looking to see if i can find a worksponser for you in London, will keep you posted ASAP
(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)
Montenegro is a tiny country situated in southeastern Europe. With a little over 632,000 people, its population is one of the smallest in Europe. During my short trip to Croatia, I had the privilege of going on a day trip to Montenegro, and it was a day well spent.
Montenegro is a tiny country in southeastern Europe that’s bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia & Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the southeast. With a little over 620,000 citizens, its population is one of the smallest in Europe. During my short trip to Croatia, I had the privilege of going on a day trip to Montenegro, and I had a nice day.
From our base in Dubrovnik, the Croatia-Montenegro border is about an hour away and, therefore, easy to reach by car or tour bus (we used a tour company).
Montenegro has a storied history, but those of us familiar with the country’s recent times may know about the turbulence it experienced during the 20th century, especially toward the end of the 20th century. I won’t go into it on this blog, but you can read about it on Wikipedia (more accurate than many Wikipedia links). Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia on 3rd June 2006 and reached European Union candidate status in 2010. Montenegro used German marks for currency at one point – it never had its own currency – but now uses the euro.
Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, which affords it a nice coastline – 183 miles (295 kilometers) – with temperatures averaging over 80º Fahrenheit (27º Celsius) during summer months. It was hotter than average when I went. Our tour bus drove along the coast, and the photo below shows one of the first towns we stopped in to take photos. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was close to Herceg-Novi, near the Croatia-Montenegro border.
We took a short break on the way to a guided tour. Check out the view.
Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe (Island of St. George). 12th century monastery.
Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe (Island of St. George) from a distance.
Our guided walking tour was in the old town centre of Kotor, Montenegro, situated on the Gulf of Kotor. It’s recognised as a World Heritage Site and chock full of history. It’s now popular with cruise ships; when we went, there were many ships, boats & yachts docked in port. Since Montenegro shares the Adriatic Sea with Italy (among other countries), visitors interested in history will notice the heavy Venetian influence embedded in Kotor’s architecture and overall atmosphere.
Katedrala Svetog Tripuna (Cathedral of Saint Tryphon). 1,204 years old.
And check out the view from the top – an outside restaurant & bar.
After leaving Kotor, we drove along the coast to Budva, which is making a name for itself as a Riviera town. Before we got to Budva city proper, though, we made a quick rest stop to photograph the following beautiful sight on the Riviera – Sveti Stefan town-hotel.
The Budva Riviera is popular during the summer months; there’s plenty of sun, sand & sea mixed in with casinos & vibrant nightlife. Montenegro, in general, is popular with Russians, and this is more so with Budva. There are signs translated into Russian, and Russians finance a sizeable amount of house (and other) construction projects along the Budva Riviera.
I couldn’t get many photos of Budva because my main camera died 😐 but at least I have memories. For you the readers, however, here’s a snapshot of my late lunch in Budva.
We made our way back to Croatia soon after Budva.
I enjoyed myself, especially in Kotor since I like history and old structures. I’d consider returning to Montenegro on my own, staying for no more than 2-3 days to explore historical sites. If you’re more into sun, sand & sea vacations, consider staying anywhere along the Budva Riviera for longer than that.
It usually amazes me when someone from here tells me that I’ve visited places here that they’ve never visited before… and they’ve lived here all or most of their lives (!!!). Here’s a short & simple guide for those of you who don’t explore your own hometowns. You may think your hometown is boring or worthless or useless, but maybe if you take on these simple suggestions, you’ll re-discover your city in a new light.
1. See the classics, the trademarks, the shining emblems of what makes your city yours.
Don’t be afraid to be a tourist now and again. It’s funny how we get so caught up in wanting to prove that we are natives, that we belong, that many of us go our whole lives without ever seeing the statue of liberty when we live only a few minutes away.
2. If you don’t live in the crux of the city, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, pretend you do for a day, and do as the locals do.
Eat like a local. Shop like one too. Consumerism can get the best of us all, so you have to remember that there are always fantastic little spots tucked away in secret if only you take a little time to look. When I was growing up, I used to tell my parents…
Highlighting (again) one of the negative aspects of living abroad – being away from loved ones when bad situations happen. I’ve talked about this a few times on here.
On April 15, 2013, at least 2 homemade bombs ripped through the finish line at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachussetts. So far, there are 3 dead – the youngest being 8 years old – and over 175 injured, some seriously/critically. I have 3 online friends who live there and, as happens online sometimes when friendships develop positively, their whereabouts & safety worried me. (Thank goodness, they’re alright.) I was off sick that day with a massive headache, so checking the news online & worrying about those friends worsened my headache. It also brought temporary flashbacks of 09.11.2001.
I was hundreds of miles away when the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings went down. I couldn’t reach my family for hours, including my mother, who worked 3 blocks away from the WTC. I later found out that my father was there too, coming out of New Jersey PATH train station, which was/is right under the WTC. I couldn’t reach my friends either. The days & weeks ahead were emotionally hard, partly because of the distance.
The only difference between then & now is that I’m thousands of miles (and a few time zones) away this time. If I was home, at least it’s easier to contact & see people. I can physically see that they’re safe & sound, and speak to them in real-time. I can’t always do that here. And that, for me, is the top negative aspect of living abroad. (I still wouldn’t change it for anything, though, no matter how hard it is.)
I don’t want to make this post about me. I just wanted to present an example of one of the negative aspects of living abroad. As I’ve said many times, living abroad isn’t all “partying & bullshit” (respect to B.I.G.). If you didn’t know, now you know.
——– As an expatriate, is this hard for you too? Or are there other aspects of living abroad that you think are more difficult than this? Do you know anyone who lives in Boston? Are they alright? Are you following the updates, or are you staying away from most news, like I am? What are your thoughts about everything that happened during & since this incident?