If you follow the journey of 4 Deep Around the World, you know I’m a huge advocate of international travel. I constantly promote taking advantage of every opportunity to see the world. World travel is the new “it” thing that’s taking the world by storm. This is evident by a simple peruse of the multitude of travel related Facebook groups and travel deal websites that have developed in recent years.
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
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.
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.
I’m feeling: a little relaxed, physically. Otherwise, so-so.
I’m listening to: (or more like watching) Investigation Discovery channel.
I’m thinking: hopefully this week will be better than last week. Last week was rough & disappointing, in my professional life and my personal life.
I’m reading: on the internet to try catching up with current events.
I’m looking forward to: joining Planet Fitness later this week. Taking another kickboxing class (planning to do this once per week or once biweekly). My sister’s birthday. My uncle’s birthday.
I’m learning that: friendship is fleeting. It’s not always me, it’s you/them. No matter what one says or does (or doesn’t say or doesn’t do), one can’t satisfy everyone. I can’t take on others’ personal issues. I must look out for myself because no jobno friendno relative no one else will.
I’m enjoying: not much this past week, unfortunately.
I’m creating/planning: my next steps professionally and personally. A trip somewhere – don’t know where, but the travel bug is back again and it must be addressed with an overseas trip (hopefully within the next 12 months). The expatriate bug has been biting on & off too, so who knows what’s next…
I’m grateful for: spending time with my friend’s family on Friday evening – they’re the American version of the Mauritian family in England. Someone online who not only offered me an ear, but followed through and lent it to me – too many make promises and don’t keep ’em, do things only if it benefits them and if it’s reciprocated even more than what they gave.
Around the house are: my boxing gloves for kickboxing class.
In the kitchen: a Carvel ice cream cake for my uncle for Father’s Day and a quickly-planned lunch for my uncle (nothing fancy, but hopefully he’ll like it).
I’m planning this week to: schedule other appointments with referred doctors. Cook once or twice. Take kickboxing class again. Join Planet Fitness. Figure out my next professional steps. Figure out how to get to my stepmother’s graduation barbeque. Rethink all friendships. Rethink myself. Try staying focused on rebuilding my life because unfortunately, what that borough did to me still reverberates throughout my life to this day.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is:
“Even when we’re quiet and don’t know what to say, we can be heard. Even when we are wordless, we can be understood.”
I’m feeling: physically better – allergies seem to have gone away for the most part.
I’m listening to:Ginuwine on my phone. The slight tapping of my fingers on this keyboard.
I’m thinking: June will be a busy month – a few birthdays, a graduation barbecue in Pennsylvania, other business to handle, work, etc. I need to look into filing paperwork for the next highest professional license and a new credential… I just need to make the time between work & commuting. I’m feeling a bit out of it.
I’m reading: nothing now. Hopefully by the end of this month, Kindle here I come.
I’m looking forward to: the free trial kickboxing class. If it’s good, I’ll take it once per week, which will help knock out a big chunk of the 180 minutes of exercise per week needed for weight loss & healthy lifestyle.
I’m learning: while I’m glad that people appreciate my overall work ethic, even I have limits on how much I can do, at work and otherwise. That I still have a long way to go in my personal & professional journeys. That lots of people are just winging it through life; in other words, most of us don’t know WTF we’re doing. That some people in power are doing a damn good job of winging it. 😐 That either I’m winging it too, or I need to improve my self-confidence a bit.
I’m enjoying: the ability to help those who need it because now, I know exactly what it’s like to be in a seemingly bottomless pit. And I’ll never forget it.
I’m creating: what I hope is a healthier, more stable life overall. I’m paying down debts, and I’m trying to strengthen my boundaries even more than they already are.
I’m grateful for: losing 4 pounds since April 1st. SparkPeople – that website is a godsend for healthy living. Getting a pedicure. Having dinner with step-dad and giving him a present that he loved. Going with my intuition for step-dad’s present. Seeing my sister this past weekend for the first time since before moving overseas – while we’ve lived different lives, as we’ve gotten older, I think our relationship will strengthen. My sister’s weight loss – lost 50 pounds so far, looks even more amazing than she did before, and it inspired me even more to lose weight & live healthy as a result.
Around the house are: winter clothes that need putting away since we’ve clearly jumped from winter straight into summer. 😐
In the kitchen: not sure because for the first time since visiting my sister, I haven’t cooked for the house all week and plan to keep it that way until next week.
I’m planning this week to: attend a couple doctors’ appointments for the first time since returning to the U.S. (still have gripes about the U.S. healthcare system). Cook once or twice. Take kickboxing class again if I like it. Figure out what to get my uncle for his birthday. Figure out what to get my sister for her birthday (I think I already know). Attend the local NASW lecture/workshop. Visit my friend’s family and play with their 6-month-old baby & 3-month-old nephew.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is:
Once in a while life simply takes a pause, stops to take a breath and re-consider its direction. Pause with it. Breathe into the new direction.
(I must try remembering this for the upcoming week and beyond.)
I’m feeling: my usual tired self, as I almost always am on Mondays. For some reason, I don’t sleep well on Sundays. In spite of that, Mondays usually go by quick & smooth. Grateful to be employed again, after almost 8 months of unemployment & sheer hell. Glad that Memorial Day weekend is almost here, as it’s a national day of remembrance and a day off from work. And finally, grateful that I got to speak to my 3rd & 4th nephews yesterday; the 3rd one celebrated his birthday yesterday. 🙂
I’m listening to: myself typing on this keyboard, along with silence on this floor. Everyone is either out to lunch or out doing visits. It’s a nice change of pace for an introvert like me, as I’m kept very busy here and there’s rarely a dull moment. I usually have my headphones attached to my ears no matter where I am, but for now, I’m enjoying the silence and rhythmic tapping of my keyboard.
I’m thinking: of all the work that I’ll finally get to complete. I’m also thinking of the things I have to do for work this week and having some time to catch up for once.
I’m reading: nothing now, unfortunately, unless you count keeping abreast of news & views on the internet. I’ll get back into proper reading once I get a Kindle. I love reading, and I look forward to getting back into it with something lighter than a regular book.
I’m looking forward to: having dinner with my (ex)stepfather for his birthday, which was yesterday. He has been one of the very few people who’ve helped me since everything happened to me, and I can never repay him the way I’d like, but the least I can do is go out with him for his birthday (especially since we haven’t seen each other since I began working and our schedules don’t match up). A short weekend trip later this month to see my (oldest younger) sister and a friend or two on the side.
I’m learning: boundary reinforcement. I can only take on but so much, and when I’m offered help, I should accept it more often.
I’m enjoying: learning more about healthy living since starting the journey over 1 month ago.
I’m creating: a healthier life physically and otherwise. Future opportunities to move up in my career.
I’m grateful for: not having to pay for my short weekend trip to see my sister. Employment. Rebuilding, very slowly but surely. Being able to help others going through hardships, this time with a lens of having experienced similar situations. The very few who’ve stuck with me through all of this. The ability to create my own family because blood isn’t thicker than water in some cases.
Around the house are: laundry to be put away. Goodness knows what else. No problem, though – the house is in good overall condition, and I’m just glad for the unconditional love that my aunt & uncle extended to me.
In my kitchen: my aunt is making ribs (now at work, but she already planned this). I’ll eat ’em sparingly since I’m on a healthy living journey.
I’m planning later in the coming week to: look at getting short-sleeved shirts since it’s getting warmer. See my (ex)stepfather. Attend my good friend’s milestone birthday gathering.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: Little by little, step by step, day by day.