Turbulence. (#Algiers #Algeria)

Finally. It was time to go.

I booked this flight about 6 months before departure. Accommodation sorted. At least 1 tour sorted. Basic foundation was already set.

But since this is me we’re talking about, nothing goes smoothly. So of course, bulls*** started just a few hours before my flight. Money, of course, because why not. But I wouldn’t let it deter me. It’d been almost 2 years since my last proper vacation (and I still have to finish those blog posts from that trip… so ashamed of myself.). Yes, there have been a few short jaunts in between, but nothing as long and far away as this. So no matter what, I was leaving. I needed a break from work, from life.

From New York City to Paris, France; a 5 hour layover there; then from Paris to Algiers, Algeria. I know that going through customs in a different country is annoying, but it’s to be expected everywhere and I deal with it. However, I wasn’t expecting to be interrogated by Algerian police.

You read correctly. I was interrogated by Algerian police.

I handed over all of my travel documents at the customs desk and thought that all was well, until I was told to “hold on for a moment”. I knew that some bulls*** was bound to happen because again, that’s just my luck.

Here we f***ing go…

Along with being exhausted, tired/sleepy from limited sleep, and in some pain, I was also angry and kinda scared. My French language skills are very limited, despite my attempts to practice before I left for this trip, and I don’t have any Arabic language skills. So while an officer was telling me that I’d be fine, my face clearly showed that I knew otherwise.

(As an aside, it “helped” a bit that another American woman – a government worker at that! – was also being interrogated. She said to me, “This is terrible, isn’t it?” I nodded with a scowl on my face.)

They opted to interrogate me outside of the officers’ quarters. A female officer who spoke English interpreted & translated for her fellow officers, and asked surprisingly specific questions about why I was in Algeria, what I do for a living, who I see and the age range of the population, etc. ad nauseam. Thank goodness, I didn’t have any reason to lie and was also smart enough to have access to certain things on my mobile phone to prove myself.

TIP: if your mobile phone allows, store your most important documents on something like Google Drive, and make those documents available offline while traveling. It may make a big difference for you in case of emergency.

After what seemed like forever, they let me go. One of the officers hailed a taxi for me and I went to my hotel. But alas, as is my luck, there was more turbulence ahead.

To be continued…

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Staying put.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi (Spinster),

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

Regards

Recruiter Name

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

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

)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will not lose…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iron Lady.

Margaret Thatcher, also dubbed the Iron Lady, died on Monday 04.08.2013 due to suffering a stroke in her hotel room as a complication of a surgical procedure. Honestly, I know very little about her, so I’ve not jumped on the “ding dong, the witch/bitch is dead” bandwagon.

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Margaret Thatcher, also dubbed the Iron Lady, died on Monday 04.08.2013 due to suffering a stroke in her hotel room after surgical procedure complications. Honestly, I know very little about her, so I’ve not jumped on the “ding-dong, the witch/bitch is dead” bandwagon. (Here’s the original.) I say this because based on my observations & conversations I’ve had with British, Scottish & Irish colleagues since her death, Baroness Thatcher did major damage to the United Kingdom, as well as abroad. Falklands war, dismantling unions, job furloughs, job destruction, 3 million unemployed, increased racism, anti-LGBT speech(es)… all during her tenure. Those seem like unpleasant things to me.

It’s rare for me to speak ill of the dead, and Margaret Thatcher’s death is no different. Adolf Hitler and his ilk, such as Pol Pot, Idi Amin & etc.? Probably. Slave-holders and plantation owners? Possibly. Pedophiles, child molesters & rapists? More than likely. But overall, I don’t revel in a person’s death. Those rules apparently don’t apply over here, though. Upon news of her death, parties broke out in places ranging from the London neighbourhood of Brixton, up north to Manchester, and even further north to Scotland. (A colleague took a camera phone photo of people celebrating in the streets. She’s young though, so she probably took it out of curiosity.) And there will be parties & protests in the days leading up to, and on the day of, her funeral.

Since I’m still learning about her little by little, I can’t give a full opinion about her. I am annoyed, however, that the government wants taxpayers to fund her funeral. We’re experiencing (or facing) a triple-dip recession and extra austerity measures began less than 2 weeks ago (much of them via benefits cuts), and her family is certainly not poor, yet we the people have to pay for her funeral? I consider it despicable & insulting to our collective intelligence. But that’s just my opinion, and that’s all she wrote.

————

Are you from the United Kingdom? Were you around during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister? What are your thoughts about her in life, and what are your thoughts about her in death? How would you feel about your tax dollars (or should I say pounds sterling?) possibly paying for her funeral? What are your thoughts about speaking ill of the dead?

Links
Street parties break out in Brixton (London) & Glasgow, Scotland http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-party-brixton-glasgow

Ding Dong! set to top the charts http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/margaret-thatcher-death-song-ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead-set-to-top-the-charts–as-bbc-ducks-out-of-playing-it-in-full-8569960.html

Thatcher opponents “celebrate” her death http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/09/us-britain-thatcher-idUSBRE9370DA20130409

Alastair Campbell: tribute & debate her legacy (part 1 & part 2)

Funeral cost: £10 million… by taxpayers http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/taxpayers-can-well-afford-to-contribute-to–estimated-10m-cost-of-baroness-thatchers-funeral-says-william-hague-8567102.html

Bom dia: Lisbon, Portugal – day 3.

After a restful night’s sleep, we woke up to seize the day. My roommate, as usual, was already up & out of the room by the time I woke up. I got myself ready in enough time to meet the rest of the group for the day trip.

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(If you haven’t already, check out day 1, day 2, & day 2 cont’d before reading further.)

04.08.2012

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to seize the day. My roommate was already up & out of the room by the time I awake. I got myself ready in time to meet the rest of the group for the day trip.

When I got to the lobby, I noticed that we were missing a couple of people. I asked my roommate if she knew where they were. One of them was still getting ready – he owns a fancy camera that took time to assemble – but she didn’t know what happened with the other person. What a coincidence… Uzi was the other person’s roommate. She walked over to where we were and heard us talking and wouldn’t you know it…

The other person who stayed at the bar last night was so hung over that she couldn’t be bothered with getting out of bed. She decided to stay in the hotel & refused to go anywhere. She also made a mess in the room – a hot vomiting ass mess. (She cleaned up the nastiness while we were gone for the day.) A couple of the others who stayed out drinking didn’t look too hot either, but I assume that since we were leaving Lisbon the next day, they forced themselves out of bed for the trip.

So much for tanning & drinking.

We walked to Lisbon’s underground and caught the train to another train that’d take us to our destination, Sintra.

All aboard.
All aboard.

Sintra is a quick train ride (less than an hour) away from metropolitan-area Lisbon; upon arrival, there are shuttle buses that take sightseers up the hills & mountains to see Portugal’s colorful history & architecture embodied in castles. Sintra’s history dates back hundreds of years and, at one point, was a major Moorish stronghold, as was all the Iberian Peninsula. Take a look at the photos below to see what I mean.

The castle's current archaeological digs.
The castle’s current archaeological digs.
One of many of the castle's granaries.
One of many of the castle’s granaries.
Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle).
Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle).
Moorish flag.
Moorish flag.

Castelo dos Mouros is on the top of the Sintra Mountains – 1378 ft. (420 m.) in the air. My roommate, Uzi & I visited Castelo dos Mouros first, exploring on our own without the rest of the group (they visited another castle first; photos coming after Castelo dos Mouros). Along with walking & climbing around the castle, we got to the top (1378 ft./420 m. is a hell of a lot of walking & climbing) and the overall view was indescribable.

Traitor's door.
Traitor’s door.
Traitor's door. (Read the sign for more details.)
Traitor’s door. (Read the sign for more details.)

And here’s the top.

These people agree with me.
These people agree with me.

After conquering this castle, we headed over to Palacio Nacional da Pena (Wikipedia link), which is a separate castle but in the same area. Initially the site of a monastery in 1493, it was later rebuilt as a summer home for the Portuguese royal family.

Taking photos in the castle isn’t allowed, but I can say that the inside of the castle is quite lavish, gaudy, and almost untouched since the last time any royals lived in it. I got a shot of a sundial away from the inside, though.

Sundial (which, by the way, is still correct down to the second).
Sundial (which, by the way, is still accurate down to the second).

And another indescribable view:

We ate at the palace too.

After a nice, long, productive, unintended-exercise day, we headed back to the hotel. I don’t remember who returned first – us or the rest of the group – because I laid down on my bed and don’t remember much else. 😐 After that nap, though, we (me, roommate, Uzi) ate late dinner in the hotel restaurant.

We’re outta here tomorrow. Too bad… I don’t really wanna leave.

(Finally… the last day.)

Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2012.

I went to Bristol, United Kindgom for the first time with a photography Meetup group to see the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

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08.11.2012

Well, we didn’t see any balloons. 😐

I went to Bristol (Wikipedia link), United Kingdom for the first time with a photography Meetup group to see the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. There were 6 of us – 5 of us went in the group leader’s car, while another member drove there on his own. Group leader let me sit in the front because of my injury, and on the way there, all of us (except group leader of course) fell asleep. It was a nice day as far as the weather & temperature – nice, sunny, blue sky, pretty warm. There were thousands of people, plenty of amusement park rides, and lots of food trucks & vendors all over the grounds.

Unfortunately, the wind was an issue. The Royal Air Force (RAF) did a group skydive, and it was obvious that the wind was quite strong. As a result, the organisers decided to cancel the hot air balloon part of the fiesta. We were very disappointed, and since none of us wanted to get on rides since we specifically came to photograph the hot air balloon evening/night programme, we decided to leave early.

So unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the fiesta or Bristol proper. I did, however, get a few shots of the RAF parachuting down. Check ’em out.

2 of the balloons that never were.
2 of the balloons that never were.

Bom dia: Lisbon, Portugal – day 2.

I woke up in the morning and my roommate was already gone. I’m glad that we switched roommates because she was quiet as a mouse, while I found out later that the woman who was supposed to be my roommate… wasn’t.

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https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/statuses/197055812559052800

(If you haven’t already, check out Lisbon day 1 before reading further.)

04.07.2012

I woke up in the morning and my roommate was already gone. I’m glad that we switched roommates because she was quiet as a mouse, while I found out later that the woman who would’ve been my roommate… wasn’t. The group leader told everyone last night that the group founder’s friend, a Lisbon native, would be at the hotel at 10:00 a.m. to take us around for city tour. It was optional of course, but I wanted to go. Roommate went early for breakfast; I woke up with enough time to wash up & get dressed.

Along with waking up with a headache, I was still kinda down because of the money issue but my aunt was wiring me the money in a few hours so deep down, I knew that everything would be alright. Group leader said not to worry about money, just come with the group. I went into the bathroom and began getting ready. I did a quick wash up and brushed my teeth. I took a step and

somehow or another, slipped and busted my ass.

Thank goodness I didn’t hit my head or spine, but it wasn’t a pleasant fall. Marble bathroom floor + a bit of accidentally splashed water = disaster. I felt pain in the muscles between my left shoulder and neck.

I was thoroughly annoyed and, as a result, decided to meet the group for lunch instead. (Maybe I’ll laugh at the fall one day, who knows.) I sent the group leader a few texts and told him I’d see everyone later. I was already dressed, so I only had to put on my sneakers and leave when they were ready to eat. I turned on the TV, glad for a couple of extra hours to myself, and laid back down on the bed.

I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until close to 14:00 (2 p.m.). 😐

I checked my phone and saw that the group leader sent me a text at around noon to let me know about lunch. Quite annoying & embarrassing again. I sent him a text apologizing because I didn’t expect to fall asleep. He returned to the hotel in a cab & met me in front of the hotel, then we went to the city center to meet the rest of the group. Some of them were sitting outside of the city’s cathedral, Lisbon Cathedral, while others were taking photos nearby. I did a quick walk through the cathedral, taking some photos.

Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa.
Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa.
English: Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major.
English: Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major.

We then walked to a castle. Before we walked in to wait on line, we happened upon a street musician named Bubacar.

This is Bubacar, playing the xylophone.
This is Bubacar, playing the xylophone.

As we walked away from him, the woman who would’ve been my roommate said

You should have gotten his number. He’s a nice looking man. Wouldn’t it be great to make a love connection on this trip? *wink*

Yeah… No. While I didn’t disagree with her about him being a nice looking man, I think that she just wanted to play matchmaker because Bubacar has dreads like me and because he initially thought that I was Rasta. Sorry lady… 2 dread-heads don’t = instant love connection. I politely declined her bootleg matchmaking offer.

Only a few of us from the group wanted to see & go inside the castle, so we left the pansies who only traveled to get drunk & a tan the others outside waiting for us while we explored the grounds.

1 section of Castelo de São Jorge.
1 section of Castelo de São Jorge.
King Afonso Henriques.
King Afonso Henriques.
Cannon.  One of many around the castle for protection.
Cannon. One of many around the castle for protection.
Tagus River & 25 de Abril Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril), one of many views from the castle.
Tagus River & 25 de Abril Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril), one of many views from the castle.

The rest of the group (except for 1 other member) finished a few minutes ahead of me while I took photo after photo. As I made my way out to meet the rest of them, I happened upon

Peacock.
Peacock.

and

Peahens.
Peahens.

I found out that there’s an extensive garden further back on the castle grounds, where peacocks & peahens & other feathered friends – ducks & geese – wander around freely. I wish that I knew about it before leaving the castle, but at least I got a few priceless photos & video for memories’ sake.

We headed back to Lisbon city centre, where I asked around for the nearest Western Union to get my cash. I found one… but of course the computer was down because it’s just my luck for some reason, so the representative directed me across the city plaza to the next one, which was bigger and had working computers & multilingual representatives. I made the quick walk over & waited on line, happy to finally get some money. I spoke in Spanish, showed the representative my driver’s license and she said in Spanish

Sorry, but we don’t accept this. I’ll need your passport.

I didn’t have my passport. Why, you ask? It was in the hotel room safe; a few people told us that we didn’t need to carry our passports around.

Come on, say it with me now… FUUUUUUCK. 😐

To be continued…

Bom dia: Lisbon, Portugal – day 1.

This was the day. I’d been excited about it for a while. I don’t know about any of you, but when a trip is coming up, I don’t get excited about it until the last minute.

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04.06.2012

This was the day. I’d been excited about it for a while. I don’t know about any of you, but when a trip is coming up, I don’t get excited about it until the last minute. I might have fleeting moments of excitement in the days or weeks beforehand, but the excitement always grows at the last minute. It’s surreal – I know that I’m going somewhere but it doesn’t feel real until I land in my destination.

I made sure to get enough sleep to manage the trip on public transportation the next morning. I didn’t feel like paying for a cab this time around, at least for the trip to the airport. It went well overall; it took 90 minutes to get there, which isn’t too bad for a major world airport like Heathrow and on a holiday weekend. The only thing that annoyed the hell out of me was the price for the Heathrow Express – £19.00 one way.

I got to the airport before the rest of the group. Oh, I forgot to mention the group…

I joined Meetup about 3 months ago as a way to get out a bit more, as a challenge to myself for 2012 and beyond. (I may write a post or two about how that’s going in the future.) Among other things, I looked for traveler groups and sure enough, I found one that caught my eye: Solo Travelers. As someone who likes traveling solo, this group and its description sounded perfect. This group already planned its 2012 trips, and while I’d love to go on each one of their trips, I’m not rich. But there were a few that appealed to me, and Lisbon caught my eye first – affordable, 2 hour plane ride, long weekend (I hate very short trips). A few days after joining the group, I paid a deposit and secured my spot. While I prefer traveling solo, traveling with other solo travelers made sense to me for a couple of reasons:

1. While we arrived & departed together from each airport, staying together was optional. If we didn’t vibe together, or wanted to do our own things, we could always split up.

2. This was another way to challenge myself to more & make new potential connections.

So there you have it – I traveled with other solo travelers. How did that go, you ask? Stay tuned.

The group went to the wrong gate because of a mix-up, so the group leader sent a text message on my way to the airport and I met the group at the correct gate instead. They arrived 10 minutes later, and the group leader introduced himself & the other group members. We checked in, got our boarding passes & went through security together, but split up until we got on the plane. While we were split up, I tried getting some cash out of my account, but the ATM declined my card . No sweat, though… I’d try when we arrived, and at least I had enough elsewhere.

I should have sat next to a group member, with whom my intuition sensed good vibes, but she was gracious enough to allow a couple to sit together. That was very nice of her… but not for me because the woman in the couple was so annoying that I wanted to punch her in her jackass face & throat. 😐 Lucky for me that I usually fall asleep on flights because I slept for at least half of the flight… which meant that she annoyed me only half as much as she would have if I was awake for the full flight.

When we landed, it was a nice surprise to disembark to nice weather since the weather authority predicted rain in Lisbon for most of the weekend.

Not too bad.
Not too bad.

Before we took our taxis to the hotel, I told the group leader about my ATM issue and he said “No problem, I’ll cover you until you get access to your account. These things happen.” Quite embarrassed – it’s my issue and I take ownership of it – but relieved that it wouldn’t be a huge issue. Our hotel was a short distance from the airport, and the taxi fare was pretty cheap for European standards – well less than €10.00 for each taxi.

We arrived at the hotel, and I was quite impressed. I should have shared a room with an older British woman, but she must have made a good connection with another group member because upon hotel check-in, she said that I was sharing with someone else instead. (That turned out to be a good thing. Stay tuned.) New roommate & I went to our hotel room; were we impressed again. I forgot to take a photo of the outside & our room, but check out the view from our window:

Taken as soon as we got into the room.
Taken as soon as we got into the room.

We settled in, chose our beds, got some help with our TV & internet settings from hotel staff, and relaxed (except for contacting my U.S. bank) until it was time for dinner. For the first night, we all dined together. We weren’t sure where to eat, but at least there were options within walking distance of the hotel. We walked a bit and I spotted an ATM – perfect time to give the group leader his money back. I inserted my card, figuring that there was something wrong with the ATM at Heathrow since the bank didn’t see anything wrong with my card during our phone call.

Of course it was my card. Cash machines in Portugal are pretty damn good because unlike at Heathrow, the ATM flashed the following words on the screen:

Your ATM card has expired.

FUUUUUUCK. 😐

Sure enough, I checked the card and it’d expired 6 days before the trip. I was even more embarrassed. I told the group leader and he was fine with it. He asked if I was alright for dinner and I assured him that I was. Unlike a few years ago, I didn’t throw a temper tantrum or cry or hide away in my room for the night. I just kept calm and thought about what to do next.

We decided on a restaurant across the street from the hotel; unlike a few of the other restaurants in the vicinity, this one was more affordable and there were locals eating there, which signaled to us that the food was probably decent.

Sete Mares.
Sete Mares.

Since my money was funny, I ate within my budget.

Cheese omelet with chips (French fries) & salad.
Cheese omelet with chips (French fries) & salad.

It was very good – no need for condiments or seasonings, it tasted good as shown in the photo. The restaurant specializes in seafood, though.

Yes, they're live.
Yes, they're live.

Some of the group members liked their food, while others could have taken or left it. The main complaint for those who could have taken or left it – the food was too oily. Thank goodness that mine was good.

We stayed for 2-3 hours, and some of us were tired so we went back to the hotel afterwards to get some rest for the next day. I called my family to tell them about the money situation, and my aunt said that she’d wire money the next afternoon. That was fine with me, as I wouldn’t be spending much money anyway, even after getting her money. It was quite annoying to know that I had money that was inaccessible, but it wasn’t worth turning the trip into doom & gloom. Thank goodness for age, wisdom, growth, and back-up plans. New roommate & I chatted a bit, then watched some TV and settled in for the night.

Stay tuned, everyone.

Boa noite.
Boa noite.

Day 2 ahead…

Customer service.

One of the best inventions known to man is online grocery shopping. As someone who has a hectic job, no car (yet) or energy sometimes, this is a (lazy/tired/exhausted/working) woman’s dream come true. So once I got settled into my own flat, I took full advantage. I pick up items from the big-box versions of (online & non-online) stores when basic items run out or I need something quick, but most is online.

Most people in the United Kingdom get paid only once per month, so we’re careful with grocery shopping. While I don’t have a family to feed, I make sure that I have enough cash to buy food along with paying annoying bills. So I was quite annoyed a few months ago when I missed my grocery delivery from a certain store because of its terrible customer service.

I’d just been paid and, as usual, placed my grocery order. I thought that everything was fine until I received a text message from the grocery store (something to the effect of)

Please contact customer service as soon as possible at (phone number), otherwise today’s order is canceled.

Again, I don’t have a family to feed, but I have to eat just like everyone else. So even though I was on public transportation and hate talking on the phone in public, food is important so I called back. The customer service representation, a woman, said “We’re having trouble getting your payment for your order.” I said

Alright. I’m on my way to work, so I’ll go to the bank and see what’s going on because I know that the money is there. I’ll call back afterwards; maybe there’s an issue at the bank.

So instead of going to the office, I went to the bank first. After waiting in the queue for a few minutes (rare), the bank teller (known as “cashier” in the United Kingdom) was ready for me. I explained the situation, she checked my account and said

Everything’s fine. You have more than enough to cover the order.

I said

Would you mind if I called (grocery store) in front of you to see what happens? For some reason, my order isn’t going through.

There were very few people in the bank (rare) so she let me go ahead.

I called customer service & spoke with a different representative. I explained the situation, requesting that he attempt the order again. He tried it and the order didn’t go through. He said (something to the effect of)

It’s isn’t going through. You don’t have enough money, so you need to go to your bank and see what’s going on.

I said

Sir, I’m in the bank now standing in front of a cashier who already checked my account, and there’s more than enough to cover the order. Please try again.

He tried again and said

It’s not going through. You don’t have enough money. It’s not a problem on (grocery store’s) end.

I repeated myself again and added

It has to be on your end. I’m telling you, the cashier is showing me the computer screen with my account information as we speak and there is more than enough to cover it. You can even speak to her if you’d like.

(By this time, she was speaking loud enough for him to hear that the account is fine and that it has to be on [grocery store’s] end and not the bank’s end.)

He stated that it wasn’t necessary because it was the bank’s fault and “the bank needs to fix the problem, not (grocery store).” I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor, and he said that no one was available (liar).

By this time I was late for work, annoyed & hungry since I didn’t have breakfast, and pissed that I wouldn’t have groceries because my refrigerator was close to bare. I also had a strict exercise schedule after work so if I had to go to the store myself, it threw a wrench into my after-work plans. So I let him have it nice & loud. (That’s also the day that I realized the strength of my New York City accent and boy, did it come out that day.) I can’t remember every word, but it went something like this:

I’ve lived here for a year. I’ve ordered groceries from this store ever since I moved here. I’ve given you my business each month without fail, and this is how you wanna treat me? I told you for the hundredth time that I’m in the bank in front of a cashier and the money is there, I asked you to let me speak with a supervisor and you said no, and you refuse to bend. You refuse to consider that (grocery store) have the issue, not me. So you know what? Cancel my order and my account. I’ve had it. You’ve lost another customer.

He said “Okay.” and I hung up on him. Friggin’ jerk.

I thanked the teller, apologized for being loud in the bank (she understood), and went to work. I told my co-workers what happened and while they found it amusing, they also found it annoying. I didn’t know that customer service in this country was so… lacking.

Coming from the United States, I’m used to better customer service overall; some representatives even brown-nose when it’s unnecessary. I salute good customer service representatives because I know the nonsense they have to deal with – rude & downright disgusting customers, terrible pay, sometimes no health or vacation benefits & terrible bosses/employers. I’ve worked in customer service as a teller & in other capacities and know how bad it is. I’ve walked away from a few customers in the past – didn’t wanna catch a case. 😐

So, I “get” it. Customer service isn’t the best job to work in. Been there, done that, the customer is not always right. I also understand, having been to European countries, that Europe’s overall culture isn’t into customer service that brown-noses like the U.S. But no matter the country, representatives should offer a level of service such that the customer is helped as much as possible. That level of service is lacking here overall; even native Britons complain about it. (I’ve heard that France is worse.)

I doubt that it’ll ever change and that’s fine. I don’t have to like it but I’m used to it. I’ve written this rant for wanna-be expatriates and/or travelers: no country is perfect, including so-called First World countries. You’ll run into annoyances like this sometimes. You don’t have to totally assimilate into the adopted country’s culture, but understand that some things are standard & may never change. Figure out ways to deal or return to your home country.

Epilogue: I e-mailed a complaint to the store. A woman e-mailed me and her response was utter garbage – no apology for her colleague, no request to stay with the store, no offers to make me reconsider leaving the store – nothing. That evening, I skipped the gym and went food shopping at another store. I order online from the new store instead & haven’t had any issues since. I also found out that the former store is a Wal-Mart affiliate. Now it all makes sense. 😐

Does anyone have any annoying customer service stories? What’s customer service like in your adopted country? Do you prefer customer service in your home country, or is it better in your adopted country?

Another (quick) run-in.

As if what happened yesterday wasn’t enough, I had an urge to run over a little old rude ass lady after work. Check this out…..

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06.08.2011

As if what happened yesterday wasn’t enough, I had an urge to run over a little old rude ass lady after work. 😐 Check this out…..

Still shaken by yesterday, I fought against the urge to stay home again and made my way to work. Although D is the only one who knows the full story, my other co-workers M & R had an inkling about what happened. R even gave me the number to a confidential 24-hour phone/in-person counselling service, as he could tell how much yesterday affected me. M & R respected me enough to not ask me about the incident, which I appreciated because I’m not ready to discuss it any further. I cancelled all scheduled appointments because I knew my mind wasn’t in the right place to engage with people, so my day went fast and before I knew it, it was time to leave work and head to the gym.

I drove to a major intersection, which is notorious for rush hour traffic, and got caught up in the traffic. Before I knew it, the light turned red and I was blocking most of a cross-walk. I couldn’t move because

– I couldn’t reverse since there were too many cars behind me and not enough room and
– I wasn’t trying to get another ticket of any kind for blocking a major intersection

so I stayed where I was, blocking most of the cross-walk. I’d rather block some or all of a cross-walk than block an intersection and/or run a red light. I already got 1 parking ticket within hours of getting the courtesy car; I can’t afford more tickets. 😐

A few people crossed the street despite the blocked cross-walk. If they were annoyed, they didn’t show it and just hustled across the street since traffic lights switch notoriously fast here. Then one person in particular, an old lady, crossed over. But before she got to the other side of the street, she hit the car hood.

*scratch record* *REWIND*

It took me a second to realize what she did. Then it dawned on me…..

This old lady took her hand and hit the hood of the car! No the hell she didn’t!

How rude.
How rude.

If it was any other day, I may have laughed it off or sucked my teeth dismissing her as an old miserable ass bat. But after what happened yesterday, as well as having another headache, I was not in the mood for bullshit from anyone. Plus, other people saw what she did and I couldn’t let that slide. And even worse yet, what made her think she had the right to put her hands on someone else’s property like that? So I rolled the window down and said in front of the pedestrians

Hey! This is a new car, lady! No need for you to do all that, you fucking jerk!

She made believe she didn’t hear me, but I know she did. I was close & loud enough for her to hear it, and the pedestrians heard & watched me say it. The light turned green and I sped off. Being of age doesn’t give a person any & all kinds of privileges.

Rude old jackass.

Within the past 36 hours, the people in this country & those incidents left a very bad taste in my mouth, enough to wanna go home for good. I’m going out-of-town very soon, and although I didn’t know it then, I scheduled going out-of-town at the perfect time. Were it not for the upcoming trip, I’d catch a case if you know what I’m saying.
_______________________________

Epilogue: The negative feelings have worn off a little. It’s gonna take a while to get the bad taste out of my mouth though. And by the way, if anyone ever says that New Yorkers are rude & nasty, I’ll argue them down and refer them to the United Kingdom. I’m just saying.

Rude old lady.  :-/
Rude old lady. :-/

Run-in.

A few days ago, my job gave me a courtesy car. I got a parking ticket within hours of getting it because I had no idea that I couldn’t park in front of my damn house without a permit. As annoyed as I was about it, nothing that happens with this car will probably top the shit that happened today.

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06.07.2011

And on the other hand, without a gun they can’t get none
But don’t let it be a black and a white one

Fuck The Police by N.W.A. (very graphic lyrics)

A few days ago, my job gave me a courtesy car. I got a parking ticket within hours of getting it because I had no idea that I couldn’t park in front of my damn house without a permit. As annoyed as I was about it, nothing that happens with this car will probably top the shit that happened today.

I left home to get to work and would’ve been on time had this situation not happened.

I turned on the street needed to get to the main street. While driving on the left/wrong side of the road is confusing, it only takes a day or two to get used to it, depending on the driver. (Blog post about my 1st drive on the left/wrong side of the road later.) So I drove and tried getting on the junction that turns into 3 or 4 lanes and goes on the main street. As I did, a van pulled up on the side of me and damn near hits me. The driver honked at me and purposely braked. As a result, I held the horn and honked for a long time (probably over 10-15 seconds). He kept braking on purpose and I kept honking.

Then suddenly, and I didn’t realize this at first, the driver stopped the van. He got out of the car, came up to the car, called me a “fucking cunt” and goodness knows what else, and spat toward me.

You read that correct. He spat towards me. Had he come 1 or 2 steps closer, the spit would’ve landed on me.

I was absolutely furious. I rolled down my window and said “Fuck you! I’m calling the police.”

It just so happened that the driver was pulling into what (I think) is a hardware store just a few feet away from where this happened. I pulled in right next to the van and called the police while he walked into the store as if nothing happened. I can’t remember everything I said, but I do remember describing the driver and giving the license plate number on the back of the van. As I was speaking to the operator, the driver tried to talk/yell at me. I got loud and started crying angry/frustrated tears.

“How fucking DARE YOU spit at me. I’m not from here. You wouldn’t know that because you were too busy fucking spitting at me! Fuck you! How fucking DARE YOU! You don’t fucking spit at me!”

And I just kept talking. Meanwhile, the operator tried telling me to calm down and speak to him, but I wasn’t paying much attention. Also, someone who works in the store tried to come out and get in between us, but I moved away from that person. I wasn’t trying to get physical so there was no point for that person to get in between a goddamn thing. The driver, being the asshole that I’m sure he is on a daily basis, said

“I didn’t spit at you! Where’s the spit?”

I said

“You fucking liar. You didn’t spit at me? You’re a fucking liar. How fucking DARE you.”

The police pulled up and I got off the phone with the operator. One officer spoke with me and at this point, tears were still pouring because I was furious and I felt helpless. If I was home, I’d feel a hell of a lot better standing up for myself, especially since the police at home carry guns while the toy cops here don’t (except certain teams & under certain circumstances). I told him what happened, explaining to him that even if I did cut the van off, I didn’t mean to because I just began driving here a few days ago. In the meantime, another officer attempted to move my car out of the way. (It’s a hybrid and he didn’t know what he was doing, so I moved it myself.) The one officer I spoke with, went over to the driver and spoke to him.

The driver lied.

The officer came back to me after speaking with the driver, who admitted that he cursed at me & called me names but lied and said that he never spat. I said

“Sir, I have no reason to lie. I wouldn’t be sitting here crying in another country, lying about this. I’m telling you, the man is lying. He spat at me.”

The officer looked on the car and said

“Well, I don’t see anything. He must have bad aim. Did any land on you?”

Me: “No sir. But had he come a step closer, it would have.”

I remember the officer asking how long I’d been driving. I said

“Here or in general?”

“Here.”

“Just a few days. My job gave me this courtesy car a few days ago. But I’ve been driving for years, sir.” (Because if I was a shitty driver, that’d justify the driver being a scumbag & calling me a fucking cunt & spitting toward me. Right.) The officer also said that “independent witnesses” and the driver said that I kept honking at him, the driver admitted to cursing at me because I was honking at him, and – here’s the kicker – the store workers said that he’s a regular customer at the store. My response:

“Of course they’re gonna vouch for him! It’s me against them! I’m telling you officer, he’s fucking lying. I don’t care what he says to those people, he’s lying.”

“Was anyone else in the car with you?”

“No sir, I was on my way to work.”

At some point, the officer said that the police wouldn’t do anything about this situation. “We’re just gonna take everyone’s details. I’ve given him a warning. Is that okay?”

“No, but what can I possibly do.”

“How would the police handle this if you were back in the States?”

I was too upset, and trying a bit too hard to hold back extra tears, to give an answer. I just shrugged and said “I don’t know.”

He asked if I needed a ride home because I wasn’t in a good state to drive, and I said no. I was still close to home so it was pointless. Besides, nothing would help anyway. I got in my car, reversed & turned, and the officer went to block traffic so that I could get back on the road.

As I waited for the officer to block, the driver walked to the van, looked at me until he got into the driver’s seat, and smirked at me. I was too upset to say something aloud like “Fuck you” or “Don’t let me see you in the street, scumbag”, but I damn sure said it in my head. When traffic stopped, I told the officer that he was smirking because he knows he was lying about spitting. I drove back to my house, still crying, and parked.

Since I don’t have a parking permit yet, I went around the corner to pay for parking for an hour until/unless I could find a side street with no permit needed. When I came back to the car, a traffic officer was in the process of writing a ticket across the street from the car. I said

“Sir, please don’t tell me that you’re writing a ticket for that white car.”

The motherfucker stared at me for a minute, then asked me not to shout at him. I was visibly upset and (by this time) had a headache, so shouting wouldn’t help with the headache. (In other words, I wasn’t shouting at the motherfucker.) I told him that I wasn’t shouting & wanted to know if he was writing that ticket for my car because I’d just gone around the corner and had proof that I paid for parking. He explained that I had to park right in front of the ticket box and couldn’t park on my street. I was too upset & furious and felt too helpless & disrespected & low to argue with the motherfucker, so I just said “I can’t win. Ever.” and walked to my car with more tears.

I parked in front of the stupid box for about 1/2 hour and cried while trying to gain back some composure. My co-worker D, who I called & spoke with a few times during the situation, called me again and told me to try finding a parking spot on a street with no signs, if I could gain enough composure to drive. I waited a few minutes, drove off, and was lucky enough to find a street near my house where it’s unnecessary to have a parking permit. My American colleague’s husband called me to see what happened (I’d asked D to speak to her at the office) and I cried some more, then I slowly walked back to my street. A walk that’d normally take 2-3 minutes, took 10 minutes because of a mixture of tears, headache, and feeling like shit.

I stayed home for the rest of the day; despite taking a nap, my headache lasted all day and throughout the night. I tried calling family back home, but of course, no one was available. That made me feel abandoned & even more helpless. I was so annoyed that no one was there for me, I decided I didn’t even want to talk about it any more. I didn’t, and still don’t, feel like rehashing the story over again. That’s most of the reason why I’m writing this entry: all of your answers are here.

But it’s never that simple though. The rest of the week hasn’t been all that wonderful either. To be continued in another blog entry…..