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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The end. (Or the beginning?)

Exactly 1 year ago today, I left the United Kingdom after living there for over 3 years.

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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.

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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/

Sankofa.

Sankofa: “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”

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Sankofa: “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.” (Wikipedia)

04.02.2013

Today is an old friend’s birthday.  We’ve not spoken in a very long time.  Our friendship never really ended; life happens – work, marriage, kids, military, etc. and our lives took different directions.  Like everyone else addicted to connected to the world-wide web, I got on Facebook and got an alert reminding me about my friend’s birthday.  His settings are such that no one can write on his wall, but can send a private message instead, which I did.

I rarely view other people’s walls or pages, but I decided to be nosy skim through his friends list.  I don’t know 98% of the people on his list, but I recognised a couple of old, familiar faces.  I didn’t click on their names, but it got me thinking about where I was then, and where I am now.

I wonder about those people not because I’m nosy (well, I’m usually not nosy), but I wonder how they’re doing and if they’re still in the same place, physically and otherwise.  I look back and I’ve changed a lot since then.  Back then, I was deep into church yet filled with anger & negativity.  Those people, looking back, were ultra-religious and ultra-conservative.  Now granted, I had some good times with those people – hell, one of them wound up being my longest relationship ever – but that part of my life, and those people, can stay back there.  If I remained where I was, physically and otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  

I’ve done so much since then.  I’ve been through so much since then.  I live in another country, a life-long dream fulfilled.  I’m now agnostic, and aside from my friend, his wife, his sister and another friend, I don’t speak to any of the people from that time in my life.  I’ve seen different places, done different things, met different people, made many mistakes, learnt many things.  And while I don’t miss that part of my life, I appreciate that era for keeping me focused, out of trouble, and on the straight & narrow.  I take those things and carry them with me… not to stay stuck, but to sustain me as I move onward & forward.

Here’s to looking back on life.  Here’s to dropping dead weight distant memories of those who are in your lives for a reason and a season, no matter how short the season.  Here’s to being insane crazy scared brave enough to move to another country.  Without looking back every once in a while, one can’t move forward to new experiences, people or places.  And I’m glad that those things landed me where I am today – in the United Kingdom and in a whole new world.

Cheers.

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How have your experiences in the past led you to where you are today as an expatriate?  Did you ever think that you’d be living in another country?  

Been a while.

Yes, I know… but please hear me out. The last time I wrote a full-on blog post was when I was going through some transitions.

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Yes, I know… but please hear me out.

The last time I wrote a full-on blog post was when I was going through some transitions.  (I wrote a couple after that, but they were either photo challenges or more like short notifications.)  While I’m still transitioning, I think I’m getting into more of a routine now, enough to write this post.  (Plus, I’m off today.)  What was going on, you ask?  Here you go:

1. At the end of July 2012, my team merged with another team in a new building, not too far from my original building. They told us that due to austerity measures and a more streamlined service, things were better this way.  We were skeptical about it, but glad that we’d still be a team within this new consolidated team; we worked together and got along very well as a team for the over 2 years I was there.  

Sometime between the end of July and October 2012, the director of the new team said there’d be more changes, but never gave any hint about the changes so we could prepare.  So while we knew that extra changes were in the works, no one expected the news on October 1st that our team would be completely deleted.  Individually (and as a team but especially individually), it affected each of us more than we thought it would.  Word got out to the rest of the teams in the borough, and they were just as surprised as us.

Between October and November, we were in limbo.  We had to decide whether we each wanted to remain with the other team… but there were caveats – all the new positions are for unqualified (unlicensed, in U.S. terms) workers, and the pay is lower.  The few positions (maybe 2 or 3?) available for qualified workers were already earmarked.  While that wasn’t explicitly stated, we already knew in our minds what’d happen.  We had to make difficult decisions in a very short time. 

October 31st was our last day as a team.  We’d soon be split up for good.  My supervisor left.  We were officially out of work, even though we had to come to the office daily; we still got paid, but it just wasn’t the same.  I got home that evening and slept for at least 12 hours.  While I put on a brave face at work, every thing clearly took a toll on me (same for my team members).  

While this was going on, I looked elsewhere, in & out of the borough.  I soon realised that I didn’t want any more long-term work, holding cases for months at a time.  Before my supervisor left, she suggested I join a team that, while challenging, has less case-holding responsibility and quick turnover.  I thought about it, it made sense, and I approached the service manager of that particular team on my own.  We met, spoke for 1/2 hour, and I decided to try it.  While we met, I felt a sense of calm wash over me; I knew that I was making the right decision.  A week later, I shadowed a worker on the new team.  The week after that, I met with who would be my new team manager and my new supervisor.  And about a week and a half after that, on December 10th, I started on the new team in my original building – full circle and right where I started when I moved here in the first place.

2. A few days after starting with the new team, I found out that my maternal great-aunt passed away.  She was 85 years old and lived a long life.  However, everything since October 1st took a toll on me so when I found out, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I lost it.  (Also, out of 10 sisters & brothers – my grandmother included – her passing leaves just 2 sisters.  It drove home even more that my maternal descendants are closer to leaving us.)  I couldn’t attend the service, which hurt even more (and is a negative aspect of being an expatriate).  I also thought I wouldn’t get home for Xmas due to financial difficulties (I lucked out 5 days before Xmas). So all of that, coupled with possibly not being with loved ones during the holidays, made the last 3 months of 2012 feel like a whole year.

OH!  I forgot to mention:

  • My dear friend’s brother developed a serious and potentially life-threatening illness.  (It has since been dealt with, and is still being dealt with.)
  • Another friend’s niece was stillborn.
  • My uncle’s grandmother, who raised him some of his life, passed away a few days after my great-aunt died.  (She was either 101 or 102 years old, but it hit him hard.  And when he hurts, I hurt.)

I’m almost sure I’m forgetting a few other terrible things that happened between October 1 and December 31, 2012. So yeah… I wasn’t in the mood to write a damn thing.  I just wanted to be away from this country and with my loved ones.  I posted a few photo challenges on here (which also took lots of energy), but aside from that, I couldn’t do it.

While I’m still observing & learning things on the new team (Rome wasn’t built in a day), and while other changes are afoot throughout the borough (you can thank the government for that), I’m just glad to have a job that’s in very little to no danger.  I’m also glad that I’m usually diligent about things like ensuring my credentials, especially since all qualified workers in my field must be registered as of December 1, 2012 otherwise one cannot work in my field without doing so.  I also learned a little about my rights as a worker and legal resident non-citizen.  And whether I like it or not, trials take forever to go away, but somehow or another they will pass.  

My new work responsibilities are quite time and energy-consuming, which is another reason why I’ve not posted lately.  But I have drafts sitting in my WordPress dashboard, and I hope that I can settle into enough of a routine, with enough energy & time, to blog weekly again.  

Happy holidays.

By the time you read this, I’ll be in transit to the United States. I usually book my ticket well in advance but this time, I couldn’t so I thought I wouldn’t get to visit. But for some reason, I wasn’t worried. I just felt that I’d be able to find a reasonably priced ticket, even though it’d be a few days before my desired departure date. Sure enough, I bought my ticket 5 days ago and the price exceeded my expectations.

With the transitions I’m dealing with now (if I feel so inclined, I’ll write a post about some of it in the not-so-far future), I needed this visit and I’m thankful that I found an affordable ticket on such short notice. I’ll be gone until mid-January, and hopefully this visit will ease the challenges these transitions give me, giving me refreshed eyes, mind, heart & spirit.

I may write a post at home, who knows. But if I don’t, surely you’ll understand. For those of you who blog, I hope that you’ll take a break too. You deserve it.

Happy holidays, whether you celebrate or not, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Santa Claus.

Keep calm and drink tea. Happy holidays.
Keep calm and drink tea. Happy holidays.

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.)

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few Of My Favorite Things.

For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)

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For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)
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My maternal grandmother died over 17 years ago. Although it has gotten easier with time and the pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the longing, the memories, the love… even the pain, no matter how dull… never go away. She was a major part of my life. We (her grandkids) saw her almost every day, as she lived down the block from us and watched us after school sometimes while our parents worked and made their way home in the evenings. We’d play in front of her building, not too far from her sight of course. Our old neighborhood is far from savory, so after calling us to get in before the street lights came on, we were inside with her and/or down the hall at my god-sister’s house and/or upstairs at my play cousin’s house (her god-daughter).

Before I moved over here, my aunt J surprised me & gave me one of my grandmother’s possessions as a parting gift. It pained her to do it (she shed a few tears), but she wanted me – the oldest grandchild & only granddaughter – to have it. I was, and still am, humbled by it and keep it on my dresser. I’ve even used it once or twice. What is it, you ask?

Her old school powder puff. (I have other items from her, but this one sticks out the most.)

Grandma used this powder all the time, whether she was making a quick run to the store, or going on a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey (Wikipedia link) with her sisters (my great-aunts), or visiting Panama (Wikipedia link) or Barbados (Wikipedia link) or (insert anywhere here). I vaguely remember her putting it on, standing in front of her mirror as she finished getting dressed. I loved hugging & kissing her after she dabbed the powder on her neck & chest because she smelled so sweet! She’d fuss at me a little – “Don’t mess up my face (make-up) & clothes!” – but she knew full well that she loved her granddaughter’s hugs & kisses.

I still think about her, miss her, and love her beyond infinity. I wonder how our relationship would be if she were still alive. Grandma liked travelling a bit, so I’m sure that she’d visit me over here for a while and, later, fuss at me for making such a fuss over her.

(Panamanian accent) “You don’t worry about me! I’m not that old, I know where I’m going. I want to explore this place, it’s so big, my goodness!… Yes, I know it’s like back home but still, it’s big!… Just give me the spare keys so I can find my way around… Yes I’m sure, dammit! You’re not too grown for a pop in the mouth. Your mouth fresh!… Yes, I’ll be fine… Yes, I’ll call you… No, I won’t lose the spare phone… Alright alright! Ay yi yi, dios mio, yes I’ll behave!… I love you too, babes.”

If any of you are from the Caribbean or Central America or South America (hell, almost anywhere worldwide) and you have grandparents or older parents who visit you when you’re an expatriate, they stay long time! My grandmother would surely stay at least a month.

I laugh just thinking about it… but that’s how I picture things in my mind if she were still alive. I’d prefer her to be here in body & mind, but at least I carry her spirit with me everywhere. And it only takes one whiff of her powder to reminisce and treasure the memories.

You are forever missed & loved. Que en paz descanse pa’siempre, Grandma. And thank you, aunt J.

The crack in the cover tells a story.
The crack in the cover tells a story.
Grandma's essence.
Grandma’s essence.

Tell me about your favorite things in the comments section.

Time off & out.

I’ve not been home since Xmas and I’m well overdue for a visit home.

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I’ve not been home since Xmas and I’m well overdue for a visit home. I miss my close family members, friends, hugs & kisses. So by the time you read this, I’ll be on my way home. I’ll have a post or two scheduled for you during my time off; otherwise, I’ll be back to blogging later this month. Until later.

Take off.
Take off.

Related post: 2nd home sweet home.

Re-blog: Cleaning Out The Clutter In Our Homes And In Our Minds.

I’m agnostic, but can definitely identify with the overall theme.

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I’m agnostic, but can definitely identify with the overall theme. I have an injury which has kept me from doing lots of things (including extensive blogging – about 20 drafts still waiting for me) and as a result, my house isn’t in the best shape. Well, last night I finally folded all the clean laundry that’d been sitting on one of my couches for months, and I felt accomplished. Now I just have to put them away, which will be easy, and iron a few items.

It’s also very important to declutter one’s heart & mind; carrying around so much emotional & mental clutter (outside of genuine mental health challenges) is harmful to one’s overall health. As an expatriate, this can mean the difference between some resilience by adjusting to one’s new country and returning to one’s home country. Just take a look at the tags on this post to see what I mean, then read the original post.