So far, I have only 2 weekend trips planned, and that may very well be the extent of my travels this year. (My friend is getting married in England so if that happens this year, that’ll be another trip.) I’m back on my own, so I have to handle my responsibilities first. (American vacation time/annual leave doesn’t help matters either.) Hopefully, 2017 and beyond will be different, but for now it’s time to be an adult. 😐
How about you? Will 2016 be a slow travel year for you too (if you travel at all)? If so, how come? Where are you going? And if you’ll be traveling as much as usual, or more than usual, please share here so that I can be jealous. live vicariously through you.
If you follow the journey of 4 Deep Around the World, you know I’m a huge advocate of international travel. I constantly promote taking advantage of every opportunity to see the world. World travel is the new “it” thing that’s taking the world by storm. This is evident by a simple peruse of the multitude of travel related Facebook groups and travel deal websites that have developed in recent years.
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.
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.
Were it up to me, I’d still be there. I wanted to get extra professional experience, dual citizenship, extra chances to travel, and a new life. I wanted things to end on my terms; I wanted to leave when I was ready. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I lost almost everything; my dream went down the drain. I came back to the United States with only a few suitcases holding a bit of clothing, a few books, and a few treasured items. Meanwhile, those that fucked up my dream continue on as if nothing happened.
I was ashamed because even though it wasn’t my fault, I came home with nothing to show for my time there (or that’s how it seems). I came home to couchsurfing, no job in sight, and very little support – family included. I lost a lot (and gained nothing but pounds). Family turned on me. Friends – scarce. And retelling my story over again – not an option. I have to live it and that’s painful enough, so why the hell would I want to repeat it?
1 year ago today marked the end of an era, the end of my dream as I had it planned and hoped it’d turn out. It’s still a bit painful, still bittersweet. I miss traveling. I miss my Meetup groups and the experiences that came along with them. I missed living abroad. I experience nostalgia sometimes, and I miss the few dear friends I made, so much. I miss what could’ve and should’ve been.
But maybe… just maybe… the end was the beginning of a new part of my life journey. Only time will tell. And as far as that country, I’m not yet done with it. I still have unfinished business there to handle, and most importantly, I still have a few dear friends there.
I needed to get this out. Thanks for reading/listening. And please stay tuned; I still have a long road ahead.
I’m grateful for: second chances at life. The lives of those who are no longer with us. Employment. Observation. Discernment. Social support.
Around the house are: uniquely flavored Oreo cookies to mail to a friend of mine in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the kitchen: tilapia & rice noodles. The tilapia recipe is from SparkPeople.
I’m planning this week to:take time for & to myself. Distract myself over the long holiday weekend. Continue exercising (even though it doesn’t seem like anything is changing). Possibly meet up with an old friend who I haven’t seen since my time overseas.
I don’t have any quotes this week. I’m not inspired enough because this hasn’t been a good month. Since 07.30.2014, I’ve had a family member die, another family member have 2 major medical emergencies, another family member attempt suicide, and a client death last week (likely by suicide). Add to that Robin Williams’ suicide, Eric Garner (my hometown, by the way), Michael Brown and the disgusting yet unsurprising racism & racists(which I refuse to read; why give myself a stroke?), and countless other issues going on worldwide, and you can stick a fork in me because I’m done.
So instead, I’m dedicating this to the memory of my family member instead. Rest in peace, Aunt Jean 1926 – 2014.
Here’s to hoping that September – hell, the rest of the year – is better than this. Take it easy & take care.
Exactly 1 year ago today, I received a letter in the mail that’d change my life for a long time, if not for good.
It was a Thursday evening, and I came home from a long day at work, with my team on duty for 3 days straight. I was glad to be home. It’d been my home for a little over 3 years, and I thought I’d be there for a long time to come.
There was mail in front of my door. I picked it up and saw that one piece was from the Home Office. I thought to myself
Oh, good. The Home Office will renew my visa. I’ll get to stay here a bit longer, save money, travel a bit, and even look into dual citizenship.
I put away my belongings, settled in to read my mail and maybe watch a little television – likely something I DVRed, no doubt. I opened the Home Office mail and read it. Then my heart sank deep into my stomach. The Home Office denied my visa application. I was a overstayer.
I re-read the letter a few times to make sure that it wasn’t a joke. But nothing in the letter changed. I was an accidental overstayer. I was speechless for a bit, and even fought back tears. (I can’t remember who won – me or the tears.) I called my aunt and let her know, and I told her I’d keep her posted.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of the end – the end of my expatriate life, the end of my independence, and the end of my life as I lived it for ___ years. And to this day, I’m still feeling the effects – they aren’t as strong as 1 year ago or even a few months ago, but they’re still there.
I hope my day is so busy that I don’t dwell on the anniversary. I hope that the bitterness goes away completely one day – some of it is gone, but some still remains. I hope that I can handle unfinished business over there. But in the meantime, for the way my expatriate life ended over there, that place can go straight to hell.
I’m grateful for: seeing my sister & stepmother this past weekend. Having Friday off to visit them. All of the gluttonous food I ate while there. A weekend of relaxed fun. The ability to travel again for the first time in over a year. Employment. Being true to myself. Ridding myself of toxic people online (and offline).
I’m creating: a newer physical body (hopefully). An improved & stable life (hopefully).
I’m enjoying: the silence.
I’m thinking about: how I can help a loved one medium- to long-term. Calling someone back about my professional hours because they haven’t called me back yet. My next professional steps. Whether or not to sit tight at this job for a bit longer; don’t want to upset my current semi-stability until necessary. Getting a ticket to go back to England to handle unfinished business (hopefully November, if the price is right). Visiting my stepmother & sister again in a couple of months. At least one leisure trip to take later this year (hopefully). That recent tarot reading (yes, still) because it was that insightful.
I’m reading: the same book from the last post. Should finally be able to get a Kindle by the end of this month.
I’m looking forward to: relaxing a bit this weekend.
I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracing: being independent & self-sufficient again. My professional credentials (slowly but surely). My debts. My boundaries. Embracing myself.
Around the house are: bags of recycling due for pick-up tomorrow.
In my kitchen: some pasta that aunt made. Some pizza that uncle ordered (and I haven’t touched).
I’m planning later in the coming week to: research another professional credential. Call the person back about my professional hours. See what kind of Kindle I want. Check flight prices to London. Attend that doctor’s appointment. Continue working out. Buy a measuring tape to keep track of inches lost (if any). Find a book-bag/backpack to hold my gym clothes, instead of my current flimsy bag. Cook – haven’t done so in over a week. Group gathering with a Facebook person who became a real life acquaintance/friend to a few of us in the Facebook group.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: If we are to have true peace in the world, we must find it within ourselves. DailyOM
I’m looking forward to: getting my hair done; it has been over 3 months. Having next Friday off for seeing my stepmother & sister next weekend. Getting away for that weekend. The time when I’ll be able to really travel again. The time when I’ll finally be back on my feet, independent again.
I’m learning that: I’ve come a long way, but still have a very long way to go and more self-work to do. Sometimes, just listening is all a person needs to begin healing. (Luckily as an introvert, listening is one thing I do alright.) I don’t have to allow someone else’s negativity to affect me. I’m seeing how some people give without expecting anything back in return. I may have to do even more than I’m already doing to lose weight (and trust me, I’m tracking & doing everything possible). Expecting less = less disappointment.
I’m enjoying: my aunt’s NutriBullet juices & smoothies. The experimentation has been quite tasty.
I’m grateful for: being employed in spite of the job being imperfect. The ability to buy a bus ticket to see my stepmother & sister. Paying off 3 debts so far this year. Doing the tarot reading that my friend kept insisting I should try; it was a new experience and gave me lots of food for thought. My aunt & uncle. My stepfather. Learning something new every day. Dodging literal bullets. Joining the gym. Finding a Groupon deal for the local kickboxing gym; it helps me mix up my exercise/workout while saving a few bucks. Finally making & completing one of my doctor’s appointments. Living in a peaceful home with aunt & uncle from the very start – they say it’s my energy/spirit/aura, but surely it isn’t just me contributing. Chatting with my friend’s daughter in England on Whatsapp – she’s getting married next year, very happy for her and will definitely attend. Getting a call from another expatriate who’s still in England but hopefully returning here soon – it was so good to hear from them.
Around the house are: fans and an air conditioner.
In the kitchen: fruits that aunt bought to experiment with juices & smoothies.
In the coming week, I plan to: follow-up with one more doctor’s appointment. Cook once or twice. Work out (as usual). Get a lock for the gym locker. Weigh myself (for better or worse, it hasn’t been done in over a month and it needs doing). Work late to have Friday off to see my stepmother & sister. Speak with someone who can verify my hours for my next professional license paperwork & test. Think even more about my tarot reading – so much food for thought.