Moved from the United States to the United Kingdom… and back to the United States. Currently in long-term limbo. My good, bad & ugly experiences as a former expatriate and (possibly) permanent repatriate (who'll continue traveling no matter what).

Posts tagged “foreigners

United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi part 2.

The day after we returned from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, we went on a desert safari that took place in the evening. (Step-dad stayed in since his stomach was still hurting.) Travel Friend left Dubai – as he was departing via Abu Dhabi airport to return to the States the next morning – and met us in Abu Dhabi to go with us on the safari. Another travel group member (Travel Friend 2), who was in the United Arab Emirates at the same time as us, drove from Dubai and wound up going with us at the last minute. We had a good time.

We went on the evening desert safari with the Abu Dhabi Desert Safari company in Al Khatim Desert. There isn’t much to say; hopefully the photos speak for themselves. (I didn’t include all photos; I didn’t want to post photos of anyone just in case they prefer privacy.)

After returning from the safari, step-dad was up & about, feeling better. Even though we didn’t get back until a little after 21:00, our host (an expatriate who’s also a travel group member) surprised us by taking us on a bit of a tour of her part of the city. (Travel Friend 2 went straight to the airport after the safari to catch her flight home.) There isn’t much to say here either; hopefully the photos speak for themselves.

By the time we finished eating, it was almost midnight so we called it a night. Tomorrow was our last full day there, Travel Friend had a red-eye flight, and we (the 3 of us) had a couple of things to do before our departure.

Wall Street Journal article: Repatriation blues.

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

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

United Arab Emirates – Dubai in 36 hours or less.

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

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

Emirates Express.

Emirates Express.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stay tuned – desert safari next

Opinion piece – The Next Great Migration.

This is a New York Times opinion piece making the case for more Black Americans to consider expatriation. As someone who has been there and done that, this wasn’t a surprising read to me and is mostly relatable.

No country is a utopia, let’s get that straight. But it’s easy for me, a former expatriate, to understand the reasoning behind this opinion piece. America is in a tie, in my opinion, with Australia for being the most racist/prejudiced country on the planet. Any deeper-thinking and feeling person (who happens to be Black American) would want to leave a country in which we were enslaved in the past and still fighting for equality in the present.

Enough of my jet-lagged rambling. Take a look at this, and feel free to comment.

New York Times opinion piece – The Next Great Migration

The end. (Or the beginning?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Life-changing day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thin line between love & hate (Part 1).

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…

What it’s Like Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

I volunteered in Uganda almost 10 years ago. It was a wonderful experience, and I wish I could go gorilla trekking during my volunteering, like this blogger just did. If this is something you’d consider doing or that’s already on your bucket list, check this out.

This sounds familiar.

I’m just gonna leave this link here. I’m not in the space to discuss further now, but trust me when I say that details will come in the future. In the meantime, check out the following link because I know this story all too well. Please take this as a cautionary tale, and comment if you feel so moved.

Australian therapist given just a few days to leave Britain >>>

Montenegro 06.29.2013.

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).

Croatia-Montenegro border.

Croatia-Montenegro border.

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.

Lots of water.

Lots of water.

We took a short break on the way to a guided tour. Check out the view.

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.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

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.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can't find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can’t find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

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.