Opinion piece – The Next Great Migration.

This is a New York Times opinion piece making the case for more Black Americans to consider expatriation.

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This is a New York Times opinion piece making the case for more Black Americans to consider expatriation. As someone who has been there and done that, this wasn’t a surprising read to me and is mostly relatable.

No country is a utopia, let’s get that straight. But it’s easy for me, a former expatriate, to understand the reasoning behind this opinion piece. America is in a tie, in my opinion, with Australia for being the most racist/prejudiced country on the planet. Any deeper-thinking and feeling person (who happens to be Black American) would want to leave a country in which we were enslaved in the past and still fighting for equality in the present.

Enough of my jet-lagged rambling. Take a look at this, and feel free to comment.

New York Times opinion piece – The Next Great Migration http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/the-next-great-migration.html?smid=pl-share&_r=1

Please help. (Friends edition.)

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.

Health issues and help to see The Grateful Dead http://www.gofundme.com/kcmgfc

IBIT post: anatomy of an airfare.

Check out this blog post from I’m Black & I Travel. Here’s an excerpt:

Why does international air travel cost so much? A breakdown of a single transcontinental flight reveals just how much you pay in taxes and fees — and why.

Read more here >>> Airlines: Anatomy Of An Airfare http://imblacknitravel.com/airlines-airfares/

Take off.
Take off.

Spinster.

spin·ster (spnstr)
n.
1. A woman who has remained single beyond the conventional age for marrying.
2. A single woman.

Wikipedia definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinster

– Paying extra taxes [don’t forget to file yours (!)].

– Paying extra for travel insurance.

– Paying extra for auto insurance.

– 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.
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Links:

Onely: Single and Happy http://onely.org/

Onely guest post in Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201006/can-you-name-the-1138-federal-hat-tips-marriage-guest-post-onely

The High Price of Being Single in America http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/the-high-price-of-being-single-in-america/267043/

Singled Out (for the Single Supplement) http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/travel/singled-out-for-the-single-supplement.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

The truth about taxes: Uncoupled singles always pay a penalty http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bella-depaulo/the-truth-about-taxes-unc_b_537861.html

1,138 hat tips (PDF report included) http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-353R

When ‘Married’ Is No Longer the Norm http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eleanore-s-wells/when-married-is-no-longer-norm_b_2864140.html

Iron Lady.

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

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

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

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

————

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Hell hath no fury.

No one paid attention to her warnings; she said she’d be back. Many brushed her off.

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No one paid attention to her warnings; she said she’d be back. Many brushed her off. The man sat around, laughing with the other non-believers, and ignored his ex’s warnings. After all, she’d made threats before and never followed through, so why should he or anyone else believe her now?

There was 1 consistent thing about her, though: She didn’t always follow through, but she always gave a warning. Hindsight is 20/20.

So when she struck, boy, did she strike. She threw, flipped, and broke everything in her path. And when she was all finished, the man would have to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and start over from scratch. He’d know better next time – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Like this woman, Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States with strength and furore. Meteorologists gave warnings which – unlike in the above scenario – most people heeded, and they did what they had to do to prepare and/or get the hell out of the way. Sandy started in the Caribbean, leaving death & destruction in her wake, and made her way up to the United States, where she first caused some problems in the southeast. But even that wasn’t the beginning. Over 2-3 days, Sandy lost a little strength but quickly made up for it as she went further northeast. The Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, northward… most states weren’t spared Sandy’s wrath.

Sandy was a bit temperamental, though, hitting some areas harder than others, as if some were less deserving of her wrath than other areas (even though they still felt her wrath). One of those areas is my hometown, New York City, and especially my borough. And watching everything from 3500 miles away is hard.

I’m one of those people who, when disaster strikes, wants to do whatever it takes to help – whether it’s a small cash donation or a big volunteering effort. 3 years after Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with HfH for a day to help build a house. I couldn’t volunteer when Hurricane Katrina hit, so when I got the chance, I took it even though it was 3 years later. So being 3500 miles away from home, worrying about my loved ones and being unable to help, weighed down on me.

Along New York City’s coastline, people lost their homes, cars, and businesses. Trees and electrical live wires came down. Some schools and banks are still closed for a while. Public transportation shut down for a while (still experiencing a few glitches). And worst of all, some people lost their lives, with the youngest victims being 2 little brothers (photo). There are people who still don’t have electricity, heat and/or water in the middle of December.

I’m glad that my loved ones are safe, but my hometown is forever changed and my next visit will be bittersweet.

My hometown is still in dire need of help. Please give to reputable charities & causes so that we can rebuild again. (But please stay away from American Red Crosshere’s just one of many reasons why. And here’s yet another reason why. ) Thank you.

Links:
Volunteer and/or give responsibly (again, please stay away from American Red Cross – please see links in the last paragraph) http://www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly

Personally, I donated to this organization because they have earmarks for Sandy’s devastation in Haiti, the United States, and general charity causes. They’re also ethical, and my currency converted to U.S. dollars. http://www.ftsociety.org/sandy-relief-fund/

I also like HfH. Donate to the one in my hometown – it’s rated 4 stars. https://www.habitat.org/cd/giving/one/donate.aspx?link=470

I’ve also heard great things about Occupy Sandy. Help them out – I may join their efforts when I visit home. https://www.wepay.com/donations/occupy-sandy-cleanup-volunteers

Bodies of missing Staten Island boys found http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121101/south-beach/body-of-two-year-old-missing-staten-island-found-thursday-police-said

Staten Island boys laid to rest http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121109/dyker-heights/thousands-mourn-boys-killed-when-flood-tore-them-from-moms-arms

Comprehensive, ongoing & local Hurricane Sandy coverage http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/tags/hurricane-sandy

President Barack Obama surveys New Jersey storm damage http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/11/01/president-obama-tours-storm-damage-new-jersey

President Barack Obama tours storm damage in New York http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/president-barack-obama-tours-storm-damage-new-york

Hurricane Sandy in pictures – D’NALI http://dnali.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/sandy-in-pictures/

So much on my mind that I can’t recline – Jose Vilson http://thejosevilson.com/2012/10/30/so-much-on-my-mind-that-i-cant-recline-on-hurricane-sandy

Stop stupid. Vincenzo screams – Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge http://philosophermouseofthehedge.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/stop-stupid-vincenzo-screams/

WebMD blog post: managing through a storm http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2012/10/managing-through-a-storm.html

WebMD news post: riding out a storm http://www.webmd.com/news/20121030/riding-out-the-storm-safely

Unsung heroine.

I learned about Mary Seacole about 9 months after moving here. She was the Black equivalent of America’s Florence Nightingale.

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October is Black History Month in the United Kingdom. I like it more here because it’s longer than in the United States (February – 28 days long, 29 days long every 4 years) and, in my area, there are lots of things going on during the month to celebrate, reflect & remember. For example, I had the honour of hearing Kofi Annan (Wikipedia link) speak earlier this month, and I’ll see another international figure of Black heritage speak later this month. But for now, I’d like to highlight a Black history figure who hasn’t received (well overdue) attention until recently, within the past few years.

I learned about Mary Seacole (Wikipedia link) about 9 months after moving here. An art gallery hosted an organisation, focused on raising funds to build a statue in her name, to talk about this little-known woman who made a big impact in Britain. She was the Black equivalent of Florence Nightingale.

I took photos of the painted portraits of Mary Seacole during the discussion, but unfortunately I can’t find them. If or when I do, I’ll add them to this post. In the meantime, check out Mary Seacole by going to the link below, expand your knowledge & learn you something. 😉

October is Black History Month – Mary Seacole

Consider donating to the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue fund.

Mary Seacole.
Mary Seacole.

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.)