Happy 2016. It has been way too long. Life happens.
Last year was eventful, in good and bad ways. Let’s see, where to begin…
I traveled 7 times in 2015 (February, March, May, June, July, October, November). That’s the most I’ve ever done in 1 year. United Arab Emirates. Puerto Rico. Houston, Texas. Boston, Massachusetts. Chicago, Illinois. Detroit, Michigan. Portland, Oregon. (I may post a few photos from the different trips. I also have 1 more United Arab Emirates blog draft, that I should’ve completed months ago, that’ll be posted for sure.)
I studied for my professional license exam… and had to reschedule it a few times. I’m now set to take it this spring. There were a few things that came up which forced me to push it back. Would you like to know 1 of the reasons why I had to push it back?
Because we got bed bugs. Yes, a f***ing g**damn bunch of bed bugs, in the beginning of summer 2015. I won’t even go into the horror & trauma they caused me. I now hate bed bugs even more than roaches.
Along with a new job and long commute, I was apartment hunting. I now hate New York’s real estate market. I didn’t even have this much trouble finding a flat in England, and that market is probably as expensive & popular as the market here. Not having a car to drive to all of these apartment viewings, made the search even more exhausting, grueling & tiring.
I had to stop going to the gym after I started the new job because of the commute, so I’m back to where I was when I started. But I’m starting again in a few days (if not sooner) since my commute is much shorter now.
I completed a Couch To 5K program before I started the new job though, so that was a bonus. Since I’m starting over, I’m gonna re-do the program because as a result of doing it, I began developing a like/love for running and I want to get back to running again.
It took long enough, but I finally found my own place. (My original commute was killing me, so I had no choice but to look for a place closer to the new job.) After over 2 years of living with family, I’m slowly but surely getting back on track. I’m forever grateful to them, but I’m also very glad to be back on my own again. I’ll also be forever grateful to those who helped me post-England.
That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. How are you doing, dear readers?
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.
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”:
I am looking to see if i can find a worksponser for you in London, will keep you posted ASAP
(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)
It has been a while since I’ve taken a proper trip anywhere. Don’t get me wrong… going home is always great, but it isn’t a vacation. The last time I went anywhere besides home was a little over a year ago, when I went up north to the Lake District for a short weekend. (I still need to write about that trip. *hanging head in shame*) Oh yeah, there was also that day trip to Bristol that didn’t turn out quite the right way.
Despite my current financial challenges, I knew that it was well past time for me to go somewhere. So just like with Portugal, I paid for this trip little by little, and I’m going with the same travel Meetup group. (For now, it’s easier that way because the group founder made the arrangements – flights, accommodation, side trips [included or optional], etc. – and due to being so busy, I didn’t feel like doing tons of research for deals like I normally do.) This is a trip I would’ve taken last year but unfortunately, finances held me back worse than they do now. I’m glad that I got a 2nd chance.
So by the time you read this, I’ll be heading to Dubrovnik, Croatia (Wikipedia link) for a few days, with a side (day) trip to Montenegro. Since I don’t have the best track record with writing up my trips (*hanging head in shame again*), I’m considering blogging about this trip with photos – a few words about each photo, while hopefully the photos will speak for themselves. Photo-blogging isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s easier, if you understand what I mean.
– Paying expensive single supplements on my travels & accommodation.
– Being a minus 1 at almost all events.
– “You’re in this country all by yourself?” questions.
– “Why do you live alone? Don’t you get lonely?” questions.
– “Why are you single?” questions.
– “When are you gonna have a baby/some babies?” questions.
– Buying in bulk, with things spoiling, because there’s too much food for 1 person.
The word spinster was originally coined as a negative term for unmarried women of a certain age. I call myself a spinster because the absurd notion behind the word is funny enough for me to take back the word, in a sense, and call myself a spinster in a positive way.
I can testify to the great things about being a spinster/single/solo. I can do whatever I want without worrying about the needs of others all the time. As a single introvert, I can spend time alone without feeling bad or weird about it. I can dedicate my time to whatever I want – travelling, volunteering, work, attending theatre, sleeping, drinking tea, etc. I can focus on paying down my debt without worrying about who else it’ll impact. I can explore the world when I want, however I want. And let’s face it – while being in a good relationship is a bonus, being single and “doing bad all by myself” is definitely a stress reducer in a world where the good pickings are slim.
But the things I mentioned earlier… those things are the typical nuisances that come with the spinster/single/solo territory. And some of those things are costly. For example, when I went to Portugal last year with one of my Meetup groups, one could get one’s own room… for a price. Single supplements are often at least £70.00. That’s the only reason why I opted not to get a single room. (Luckily, my sharing arrangement worked out well.) There are many other trips I’d love to take, but the single supplement alone holds me back sometimes, whether I’m in the United States or the United Kingdom.
And don’t get me started on the social implications. Travelling solo is cool for exploring however one wants to and meeting people… until they start asking “why are you all alone?” or “without your family?” or “without your man/partner?”. (And I just “love” the “I couldn’t travel by myself.” comments [and other variations]). Then come the explanations & justifications, since sometimes a one-sentence answer isn’t enough for some people. (The same happens even when not travelling.)
And small rant do you know how many loaves of bread I’ve bought here, only for them to go bad a couple of days later? Yes… it’s a small gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
While singles are nowhere near a marginalised group in the grand scheme of things, it’d be helpful for others to realise that being single ≠ rich, wealthy, care-free, or expendable income. We have bills to pay just like non-singles. We pay extra taxes, with no tax breaks at all, unlike non-singles. We have to survive & (try to) thrive, just like non-singles. I hope that the needs of solo travellers & solo expatriates come to the forefront sooner rather than later because damn it, I need a tax break and some extra discounts too.
I like this Weekly Photo Challenge because it makes people tell a story with photos. Sometimes, words aren’t necessary; as the famous saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So although I added a few words to the following photos, the photos should tell enough of a story for you to see a day in my life. I suggest viewing the photos from left to right, and hovering your mouse over them for captions (all but 2 or 3 have captions). Enjoy.
04.02.2013 (with a couple thrown in from 04.03.2013 & 04.04.2013)
(Too) Early in the morning. Time to walk to public transport.
Sometimes I catch the train (National Rail – NOT the Tube, there IS a difference)…
…but most of the time, I take the bus.
No matter which transport mode I take, I must walk from my stop to the office anyway.
Time to let this ID get me into the building.
Here’s my first cup of tea. Tea is to England what coffee is to home, and since I hate coffee, this is perfect for me.
I make my tea with crack… sorry, condensed milk, as you can see. (This is also why I’m fat.)
Not a morning person, so a word to the wise: don’t bother me until I have my tea. It’s that serious.
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 austeritymeasures 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.