Hard knock life.

So I’m basically in limbo – couch-surfing, unemployed, a waiting game, a burden to society.

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I returned to the United States on 10.22.2013. It took a week for me to get over jet-lag – it usually hits me pretty hard – and I’ve continued looking for work but to no avail. No one in the U.S. has contacted me for employment opportunities but oddly enough, agencies in England keep contacting me a couple of times per week. So I’m basically in limbo – couch-surfing, unemployed, a waiting game, a burden to society. I started a crowd-funding page to get a new visa, but I won’t post it here yet.

Honestly, I’m so disgusted with that country and what they’ve done to me, I’m not sure that I want to return. I won’t go into full detail right now, but suffice it to say that I didn’t leave because I wanted to. At the same time, I haven’t been treated that great here, either. Blood is not thicker than water. Friends, while they’ve treated me much better than blood and definitely mean well, can only help but so much.

I’ll post updates from time to time; I won’t completely abandon this blog (yet?). I’m a cautionary tale – not everything that glitters in another country is gold. I may stay here for good. I apologize to those of you who followed me along this expatriate journey, because the journey may end here.

Home (bitter)sweet home.

I apologize for my long absence from blog posting.  I’m in the United States for a while, and possibly for good.

I’m not gonna go into full details right now.  For now, I’ll just say that due to being misinformed by the employer about visa requirements, I had to return home and got here on Tuesday night. 

Will I return there?  I don’t know yet.  This experience is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (whoever that is).  Please trust that at some point, I’ll give more details.  Thank you for your consideration.

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.

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.

2nd home sweet home.

Got back to England earlier today. It’s good to be back.

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Got back to England earlier today. (Related post: Time off & out.) It’s good to be back. I had a great time back home of course, but I’m exhausted and this is how I feel after being home.

Back to sleep. More blogging later.

Sleeping as hard as me.
Sleeping as hard as me.

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.

Home (sweet home).

Happy holidays.
Happy holidays.

It’s that time again…

I’m heading home for a little more than a fortnight and will be on a plane by the time you get this. I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled to keep you reading whilst I’m away, so please stay tuned.

This time will be a little different, though. This will be my 2nd Xmas at my 1st home while working in my 2nd home. Many of my insights are the same, but there are some that are definitely different. I don’t know how these new insights will affect my time back home, but I’m anticipating the outcomes once I return to my 2nd home. Here are a few of my new insights:

– My friendship group has gotten smaller. It comes with the territory of being an expatriate. Rather than mourning the losses, I’m gonna try appreciating the ones who are still around.

– My definition of friendship has changed. It’s hard to explain and, therefore, I’ll test things out while I’m home.

– My definition of family has changed. A wise friend told her husband that “there is a difference between family and relatives”. That’s one of the best insights I’ve had this year and goes with my edited version – “blood is not (always) thicker than water”. Contrary to popular belief, one can choose one’s family, and that’s powerful.

I almost stayed here for Xmas for financial reasons. But I decided to break away from the usual Spinster and take care of my Self first. I can’t control everything, so I’m allowing the universe to take its course for once. I wanted to go home, so I made choices to make it happen, and I think that that’s what the universe wanted. I’m looking forward to seeing my loved ones & getting some rest/recovering from jet-lag because things are hectic at work & I haven’t had a proper vacation since June. With so much vacation time in Europe, that’s a long time to go without self-care and time off. Perfect timing from the universe.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t). To those of you traveling, I wish you a safe journey to your destination(s) and a wonderful time when you get there. Be mindful/careful and have fun. Relax, take a chill pill… whatever you do, just enjoy.

Anniversary.

1 year ago today, I landed at Heathrow Airport to work/live in another country. The time went by so fast. And I’m still alive, still standing.

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http://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/85815026748882944

1 year ago today, I landed at Heathrow Airport to work/live in another country.  The time went by so fast.  And I’m still alive, still standing.

I’m not gonna write a long entry about the year; instead, I already have a few posts coming down the pipe that’ll address my experience(s)/thoughts about the year, and my other blog is under re-construction and should be done by the end of the week.  You can, however, read this & this & maybe even this to get an idea (if you haven’t already) of my experience moving here, along with reading other posts right after those.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences so far, and I hope that it inspires someone to make that move.

Realizations (part III).

I’m glad that I expatriated. While I miss some familiar comforts of home, there are other things that I can do without…..

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With the amount of time I spent at home, I did what I usually do – think too much. Or maybe it isn’t a matter of thinking too much; that I have a 2nd home & traveled to my always-1st home gives me plenty of material to compare & contrast. I decided to compile a list of most of these thoughts for your reading pleasure. (Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2.)

13. I really just can’t with the TSA. Ever since 09.11.2001, the United States have been on an elevated terror alert. As a result, civil liberties have been slowly but surely eroded, and TSA is one of the avenues through which this occurs. Taking off shoes & belts & coats/jackets & hats, the inability to carry liquids over 100 ml. (3 oz.), fingerprinting, constant questioning….. I’m sick of it. When I went home on vacation, I remembered the reason I’m not fond of TSA: 3 different TSA agents questioned me 3 times and, with all the clothing & shoes I took off for the metal detectors, I should have just stripped butt-ass-naked. This is in spite of the fact that I have a U.S. passport and work visa. This is also in striking contrast to Australia, where I didn’t have to take off anything going into or coming out of the country. Maybe if the United States minded its….. Never mind, won’t even go there. Another complaint for another day. :-/ Next time I return home, I want to enroll in the global entry program to avoid all or most of this TSA bullshit.

This = American civil liberties.
This = American civil liberties.

14. I need to find at least 1 hobby to keep myself busy, especially since my 2 friends (co-worker & wife) are returning to the States for good in just a few days. I’ll miss them and I don’t want to fall into a long funk. I have other acquaintances/friends in & outside of work, but they’re married/partnered and have their own lives. I’ll keep looking for something affordable; hopefully I’ll find something soon – whether it be a book club, photography class, language class, some form of exercise, etc.

15. In keeping with #14, this will force me to meet other people. It’ll be hard because of my nature & age (it’s hard to make new friends as one gets older), but my only other option is staying in my house all the time. And while I don’t mind spending time at home alone, I’d rather not be a total recluse, especially during warmer months. (Side note: Have you ever taken a personality test? If so, what’s your personality type? And here’s some history behind it.)

16. Without going into too much detail, I know that I made my exit from my last job at the perfect time. While I don’t subscribe to any religion or deity, I know that the universe works things out in its own way sometimes.

17. I’m glad that I expatriated. While I miss some familiar comforts of home, there are other things that I can do without: damn annoying A-merry-can accents (except certain regional accents, like mine), American-centrism, racism/prejudice, fake diversity, the state of romantic relationships in my specific community (so sick & tired of that conversation), American poli-tricks & poli-trick-tians, chemical-laden & genetically modified foods….. and many more. England is nowhere near being a utopia, let me make it clear. But some of the things that cause concerns back home aren’t even a thought here because it just makes sense. In this country, pragmatism seems like the rule and not the exception.

18. It’s taken a while to get my house together. The move took a toll on me to the point that I neglected my house and myself. Thanks to my 2 friends (co-worker & wife), my house is not cluttered anymore and I’m going to keep it that way. It’s coming along slowly but surely; I just need a little more furniture, and some artwork (something like these beautiful pieces created by my colleague back home) for my bedroom & living room.

19. I’m done with direct debit in this country. I really just can’t with the banks here; even straight cash takes forever to clear here, and it causes problems when paying bills. I’m gonna pay all my bills on my own just like I did back home.

20. I’ve begun settling in & adjusting here. I’m beginning to feel at home. I hope that this is a signal of things to come. It’s good being back in my 2nd home.

My thoughts are many….. too many. But 3 parts is enough, don’t wanna bombard you. Until next time.

Welcome home.
Welcome home.

Disappearing acts.

August 2nd came & went and sure enough, he didn’t return. By this time, we’d already established our work schedules and were too busy to remember. But he never returned.

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Good night, sweetheart, I got to go now
Time won’t permit me to play no more now
But I’ll be back to do another show now
So good night, so long, bye, bye

Chuck Berry – Goodnight, Well It’s Time To Go

Before we left dinner, we exchanged numbers with intentions of meeting up again soon. Most of the people I met began work 4 days later, but 1 person started before me.

E arrived 2 weeks before me and he, too, came here solo. Everyone else has a spouse/partner so it was probably difficult for him. A different agency from ours recruited him, I later found out. Since I sat on one end of the table and he at the other end, we didn’t really talk except to exchange numbers and find out where we’re from. Neither of us knew that the other worked at the same place, nor did either of us know that we were from the same part of the United States until we went our separate ways that night.

I went to work the next day and, sure enough, we ran into each other – E was coming from shadowing a visit, and I was on my way to shadow a visit with one of my new team members. We said hello in passing since we were both in a hurry. It was Friday and even though it was my 1st week, it was still tiring. I was in the latter stages of jet lag, getting used to a new timezone, and beginning a new life. Needless to say, thank goodness it was Friday.

On the way home I sent E a text to say hello and TGIF. He wrote back and asked if I was doing anything over the weekend. I’m not sure about the rest of the weekend, but I definitely didn’t have any plans that day. He said we should hang out, maybe grab something to eat. I was really tired & hot, but I decided to take him up on his offer. I’d already pushed past my social anxiety to attend last night’s dinner; why not push myself a little further and meet up with him?

We decided to meet at a central place, but I was running a bit late. When I got to the tube station to transfer to the next one, the tube I needed to take shut down for some reason. (I learned later that it happens all the damn time. 😐 ) I sent E a text, telling him the situation and that I’d see him in a bit.

I finally got to the place and noticed that he wasn’t there yet. About 30 minutes later, I received a text from him stating that he was on his way to meet me. Then I realized something….. Wait….. Did he leave to meet me at the tube station where I was initially stuck? I sent him a text with that question and sure enough, he’d left the central place to meet me where I got stuck. That was very thoughtful of him, but now I had to go back to where I was before. Sigh.

I sent him a text and said “I’m coming back over there. Don’t move.” I went to the nearest tube station to catch the next one and thank goodness, even with 1 transfer to another tube, everything was running better. I arrived & called him to let him know that I’d arrived. He didn’t answer so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

For at least 1/2 hour.

Whilst waiting, I sent text messages describing my clothing (black shirt, black slacks, black flip-flops), if he’d forgotten what I looked like. Since this particular tube station is quite large, I also walked around to see if I’d find him, which was unfruitful. I knew something was wrong, so I tried calling E again, but alas….. My phone was out of credit for phone calls and there was nothing open at that time of night to allow for adding credit. I had some loose coins, so I called from a pay phone (the pay phones in London suck, by the way), and wouldn’t you know it….. E didn’t have any credit either because his phone went straight to voice-mail, and the phone operator stated that E wouldn’t receive any notifications until he added credit to his phone.

I used the last bit of credit I had to send E a text message explaining what happened, and I headed back to N’s house. I was a little disappointed but at least I tried. Besides, being tired gave me an excuse to head home.

The next day (Saturday) I had a couple of appointments to view flats. Even though I’d just gotten there and N wasn’t rushing me out of the house, I’ve always hated being a burden to others so I began flat hunting early. During the 2nd appointment, I received a text from E apologizing for last night. He confirmed that he ran out of credit and, since the tube station is so big, couldn’t find me. I called him and we apologized to each other. He then said, “You won’t believe where I am now.” I said, “Where?” He said, “At the airport. I have an emergency back home.” He then told me about having to return home because of a family emergency, as well as the long journey to the airport. One of his co-workers gave him a ride to the airport, which was nice, but she didn’t know where she was going and got lost. This led to him missing his original flight, which led to him spending more money on a brand new plane ticket. At the end of the conversation, he said he’d be back on Tuesday. I told him I’d send him a text message with my e-mail address so that he could contact me and, in turn, I’d tell everyone else. I wished him good luck and said “see you back at the office on Tuesday”.

Tuesday came and went.

By this time, everyone who was at the dinner started working, and I told them the situation. We figured that it was something serious since he hadn’t returned by Tuesday. A week and a half went by; we decided that one of us should find his supervisor to see if he was alright. I found the supervisor, who stated that he wasn’t returning until August 2nd. We were right – we knew it was something serious. Toward the end of the month, I had lunch with my recruiter and told him the situation. Having worked in the business for years, he said

“I’m a cynical bastard. That young man isn’t coming back.” (I love how brutally honest many Britons are.)

I said, “You really think so?” He said, “Listen, I’ve worked in this business long enough to know. When they pull the disappearing act, they’re not coming back, especially if there’s no explanation.”

August 2nd came & went and sure enough, he didn’t return. By this time, we’d already established our work schedules and were too busy to remember. But he never returned.

Epilogue:
After a little investigative work (also known as being nosey), my co-worker’s wife figured out that E likely returned to the United States for his son. Yes….. He has a son that no one knew about. We still don’t know all the facts, but based on the investigative work & finding out that he left a son (and possibly the child’s mother?) there, that was our conclusion. He’s connected with a few of us on Facebook, but mum’s still the word.
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Has this ever happened with you? Or better yet, have you done this yourself? Tell us here.