Back in the air.

It has been a long time. Life happens. More on that another time.

In the meantime, by the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to another country for about 2 weeks. I’m heading to…


with short layovers in Panama City, Panama (my ancestral land) both ways and, during this trip, a stop in… well… let me surprise you with that one too. 😏😏😏

Stay tuned. The blog will be hot with photos. Until later.

 

P.S. Along with Twitter, you can also follow me on Polarsteps and travelstoke (#travelstoke on social media) for this trip.

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Then and now.

Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side. –The Talmud

(NOTE: this is a long one, with a bit of cursing, disclosure, no punches pulled, and vulnerability. Don’t like any of that? Don’t bother reading any further.)

Picture it: October 2013.

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.

Bye.
Bye.

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.

Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)
Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)

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.)
Finally (little by little).
Finally (little by little).

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.

Little by little, step by step, day by day.

The world returning to my fingertips.
The world returning to my fingertips.

Montenegro 06.29.2013.

Montenegro is a tiny country situated in southeastern Europe. With a little over 632,000 people, its population is one of the smallest in Europe. During my short trip to Croatia, I had the privilege of going on a day trip to Montenegro, and it was a day well spent.

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Montenegro is a tiny country in southeastern Europe that’s bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia & Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the southeast. With a little over 620,000 citizens, its population is one of the smallest in Europe. During my short trip to Croatia, I had the privilege of going on a day trip to Montenegro, and I had a nice day.

From our base in Dubrovnik, the Croatia-Montenegro border is about an hour away and, therefore, easy to reach by car or tour bus (we used a tour company).

Croatia-Montenegro border.
Croatia-Montenegro border.

Montenegro has a storied history, but those of us familiar with the country’s recent times may know about the turbulence it experienced during the 20th century, especially toward the end of the 20th century. I won’t go into it on this blog, but you can read about it on Wikipedia (more accurate than many Wikipedia links). Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia on 3rd June 2006 and reached European Union candidate status in 2010. Montenegro used German marks for currency at one point – it never had its own currency – but now uses the euro.

Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, which affords it a nice coastline – 183 miles (295 kilometers) – with temperatures averaging over 80º Fahrenheit (27º Celsius) during summer months. It was hotter than average when I went. Our tour bus drove along the coast, and the photo below shows one of the first towns we stopped in to take photos. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was close to Herceg-Novi, near the Croatia-Montenegro border.

Lots of water.
Lots of water.

We took a short break on the way to a guided tour. Check out the view.

Our guided walking tour was in the old town centre of Kotor, Montenegro, situated on the Gulf of Kotor. It’s recognised as a World Heritage Site and chock full of history. It’s now popular with cruise ships; when we went, there were many ships, boats & yachts docked in port. Since Montenegro shares the Adriatic Sea with Italy (among other countries), visitors interested in history will notice the heavy Venetian influence embedded in Kotor’s architecture and overall atmosphere.

Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.
Sitting at the dock of the bay, wasting time.

And check out the view from the top – an outside restaurant & bar.

After leaving Kotor, we drove along the coast to Budva, which is making a name for itself as a Riviera town. Before we got to Budva city proper, though, we made a quick rest stop to photograph the following beautiful sight on the Riviera – Sveti Stefan town-hotel.

The Budva Riviera is popular during the summer months; there’s plenty of sun, sand & sea mixed in with casinos & vibrant nightlife. Montenegro, in general, is popular with Russians, and this is more so with Budva. There are signs translated into Russian, and Russians finance a sizeable amount of house (and other) construction projects along the Budva Riviera.

I couldn’t get many photos of Budva because my main camera died 😐 but at least I have memories. For you the readers, however, here’s a snapshot of my late lunch in Budva.

I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can't find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.
I know how to pronounce the name of this meat-based dish, but can’t find it anywhere on the internet. Either way, it tastes as good as it looks, in my opinion.

We made our way back to Croatia soon after Budva.

I enjoyed myself, especially in Kotor since I like history and old structures. I’d consider returning to Montenegro on my own, staying for no more than 2-3 days to explore historical sites. If you’re more into sun, sand & sea vacations, consider staying anywhere along the Budva Riviera for longer than that.

Fashionably late.

I attended my first ever, bona fide fashion show with 3 women. (Meetup is the best.) But before you see the photos, I’ll briefly open a window (just a bit) into a small part of my life.

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09.22.2012

I actually was “fashionably late” due to missing the train. I’d say that my style reflects New York City, but… well… suffice it to say that no one asks me for fashion tips.

Pardon, I’m rambling.

Anyway, I attended my first ever, bona fide fashion show with 3 women. (Meetup is the best.) But before you see the photos, I’ll briefly open a window (just a bit) into a small part of my life.

Before moving here, I was small. Throughout my life I was either teased for being too skinny, or told “I wish my body was like yours” (or some variation thereof). I could eat almost anything I wanted, in any amount, when I wanted. Freshman 15? Never happened to me. I was never overweight. In spite of this, I didn’t like myself.

Fast forward to now, and I’ve gained weight since moving here – never been overweight in my life until now. You never miss what you had until it’s gone and in my case, I wish that I appreciated my health & body more. I’m not used to it and it affects me a lot, negatively. (NOTE: This is not about looking down on overweight or obese people, so don’t pen any hate mail.) Being unable to fit most of my old clothing, yet not knowing where to find affordable & fitting clothing, made me look & feel slovenly (along with any other negative feelings). This was especially so in 2011.

Toward the end of 2011, I re-evaluated many things in my life and decided that working just to pay bills wasn’t worth it – mentally, financially, physically or emotionally. I resolved to make myself more of a priority in 2012 and beyond, and I’ve done alright so far. However, figuring out clothing sizes & cuts & colours & etc. was/is still a bit of a challenge. I also sustained an injury that has made it hard for me to work out & lose weight. (Getting older isn’t much help with weight loss either.) I found out about a stylist’s Meetup workshop and got a free ticket. Her tips gave me some ideas about where to start, as fashion has never really been my forté.

Little by little, the tips are helping, along with attending the show. Not only did I see women of different shapes & sizes (dressed better than me, no exaggeration), races & ethnicities, I also got a look into some of the latest trends. I know that I’ll never be a true fashionista (mostly because I generally hate shopping), and I may never dress like a true European (of any race or ethnicity), but I’m developing my style and now have an idea of what’s classic, current & fitting for me. I’m trying to work with what I have, no matter my size.

Alright… enough about me. I and the 3 women had a nice time; we wandered around for a few hours & each got something to bring home for ourselves. One even scored a great DKNY denim jacket for a decent price. Check out a small sample of the show’s offerings.

Kat & Bee. http://www.katandbee.co.uk/
Kat & Bee. http://www.katandbee.co.uk/
The Branch. http://www.the-branch.co.uk/
The Branch. http://www.the-branch.co.uk/
MariaFrancescaPepe. http://www.mfpepe.com/
MariaFrancescaPepe. http://www.mfpepe.com/
Vivienne Westwood. http://www.viviennewestwood.co.uk/shop/womens-accessories/shoes/
Vivienne Westwood. http://www.viviennewestwood.co.uk/shop/womens-accessories/shoes/
American vintage. www.cashmerebytania.com
American vintage. http://www.cashmerebytania.com
Free (and purchased) goodies.
Free (and purchased) goodies.

The following photos are from the ALICE by Temperley catwalk show. ALICE by Temperley is a collection under the Temperley London line.

Caroline Flack, host for ALICE by Temperley catwalk show.
Caroline Flack, host for ALICE by Temperley catwalk show.

And here’s one of my small purchases from Kat & Bee.

If you’re a fellow expatriate, have you experienced body changes? How did they affect you (if at all)? How did you adjust to the changes? Are you pleased with the changes, or are you learning to work with what you have?

Celebrate every day.

First things first, I want to apologize for not posting in a while. Along with being busy, I think that I’ve got writer’s block. Not cool at all, especially when I have drafts sitting in my folder; I tried finishing 1 draft but got stuck & decided to leave it alone for now. I won’t force the process though; hopefully I’ll be back to writing sooner than later.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way…

Happy Valentine’s Day 2012. Today isn’t just about romantic love. We need love every day in every way. While I’m not homesick, I wish I were near my family & friends to get & give hugs and kisses. 🙂 But it’s alright though because just like any other year, I won’t sit around sulking. Well… I’ll sit but not sulk. By the time you read this, I’ll be checking out some free live jazz with a few like-minded others. This is perfect for me because in the spirit of learning to take care of my Self, it reinforces how important my Self is daily & relaxing when my mind and/or body tell me to do so.

So single folks, enjoy today anyway. Non-single folks, here’s to hoping that this isn’t the only day that you decide to share love with your partner and everyone else.

Until next time (again, hopefully sooner than later), take it easy & take care of your Self. Bless.

Are you doing anything today other than sitting around sulking & wishing for a date or a lay? Do you have any special rituals that you adhere to on this day, whether you’re single or not? Most importantly, how do you celebrate love on the other 364 days of each year?

Love.
Love.

Travel resolutions (again).

I’m not going to wax poetic about my year in review, ups & downs, what I plan to do in 2012, etc. I think that I’ve poured out enough in my writing for you to know about my past ups & down. I will, however, wish you a Happy 2012. May you fulfill all your goals, especially your travel goals.

I didn’t fulfill my travel goal/resolution to go to Germany. I did, however, go to Italy – always one of the top countries that I wanted to visit. In 2012, I hope to visit Germany & Belgium, and I want to visit a warm island for my birthday. (I used the word “hope” in case I don’t get to those countries and/or visit different ones unexpectedly.) Everything else is up in the air and will be spontaneous, so I won’t list any other countries as definite choices.

What are your travel resolutions? How will you meet them? If you document your travels, how will you do so? And finally, if you plan to expatriate, where are you going and why?

Have a happy New Year. Don’t see it as the start of a new year; see it as the start of a new day.

Happy New Year.
Happy New Year.

The Riots.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/100976057041166336

Live TV news.
Live TV news.
Bank.
Bank.
Clothing store.
Clothing store.

Shattered but open.
Shattered but open.
Closed.
Closed.

Broken crown.
Broken crown.

Front page.
Front page.
Hope.
Hope.

More: The Riots 2.

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.

Come on over (part I).

A few weeks ago, after working together one evening, J invited me to have dinner at her family’s home.

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“What the hell did I get myself into?” I wondered aloud while preparing to go to J’s house for dinner.

Might as well start from the beginning…..

After working together one evening, J invited me to have dinner at her family’s home. J is a translator/interpreter, and I acquired her services through my job to communicate with a family whose 1st language is French. We worked together before & after my Christmas vacation, and she seems like a nice woman outside of work. I don’t know her age but since she has 5 children, one of whom is in his 20s, I assume that she’s a little older than me. Therefore, I’d not think that she’d invite me to dinner. After all, I’m younger than she is….. Maybe less mature?….. unabashedly American (whether I like it or not)….. not Muslim….. Why have me over for dinner?

So it was surprising that after one of our last visits with the family, she invited me over. We left the home & walked together quietly as usual until we split to head to our respective buses, and before I got a chance to walk off, she said “Would you like to come over for dinner one day?” I was kinda taken aback because it came out of nowhere, but I managed to say something to the effect of

“Wow. Thank you. Sure I’ll come over. Just let me know what your schedule is and let’s take it from there.”

Even though I accepted, the suddenness of it still left my mind boggled. What did she want from me? 😐

2 weeks passed and we set up for me to come over on 03.11.2011. I was looking forward to it….. at first. She’s from Mauritius which, to me, means learning about a new culture and (most important) trying new food. But that good old social anxiety crept up on me as it usually does. (While I’m a private person, I don’t mind sharing my “flaws”, like the social anxiety, with others if it helps others who experience the same things.) I had at least 1 week to mentally prepare myself, but mind over matter doesn’t always work for me. My mind was racing:

What should I wear? They’re Muslim; I don’t want them to think I’m a whore (whatever that means). What if I do or say something wrong? I don’t know these people. What’s their culture like? What if I don’t like the food? Would it be rude to say something about the food if I don’t like it? Okay, I’ll stay for no more than 2 hours and then I’m going home.

“What the hell did I get myself into?” I wondered aloud while preparing to go to J’s house for dinner. Nothing seemed to fit right. I forgot to look up directions to get there. Then I felt hot and changed clothes. Then I felt cold and changed clothes. Then I felt fat and changed clothes. Then I put on make-up and hated it. Then I took off the make-up and hated it. And these damn pimples! I’m too damn old to still be getting pimples! And why does my face have to look like this? And dear god, I’ve gained more weight than I thought. What if my breath stinks? My life is a complete fail. What was I thinking, accepting this invitation? I bet I’ll regret this.

I drove myself bonkers. And made myself late.

Since I was late & didn’t feel like ironing clothes, I decided on a new pair of skinny jeans even though I didn’t want to wear them. I forced myself to re-apply the make-up, checked my breath, put on my new coat & sneakers, and left the house. It was a cold but clear evening and, despite the anxiety, it was nice to get out of the house & see a different part of town. One of my unofficial resolutions for the year is to go out more now that I’m more settled into life in a new country, and anxious or not, I needed to do this. You can’t move forward if you don’t take the 1st step. Since I was running a little late, I high-tailed it to the bus to get to the train station. It was a pretty easy route despite weekend service disruptions. When I got to my destination, I called J to pick me up as planned; since she doesn’t drive, her niece drove while she & her oldest (I think) daughter went along for the ride. I anxiously awaited and wished myself luck.

To be continued…..

My sentiments exactly.
My sentiments exactly.