Sankofa.

Sankofa: “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”

Rate this:

Sankofa: “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.” (Wikipedia)

04.02.2013

Today is an old friend’s birthday.  We’ve not spoken in a very long time.  Our friendship never really ended; life happens – work, marriage, kids, military, etc. and our lives took different directions.  Like everyone else addicted to connected to the world-wide web, I got on Facebook and got an alert reminding me about my friend’s birthday.  His settings are such that no one can write on his wall, but can send a private message instead, which I did.

I rarely view other people’s walls or pages, but I decided to be nosy skim through his friends list.  I don’t know 98% of the people on his list, but I recognised a couple of old, familiar faces.  I didn’t click on their names, but it got me thinking about where I was then, and where I am now.

I wonder about those people not because I’m nosy (well, I’m usually not nosy), but I wonder how they’re doing and if they’re still in the same place, physically and otherwise.  I look back and I’ve changed a lot since then.  Back then, I was deep into church yet filled with anger & negativity.  Those people, looking back, were ultra-religious and ultra-conservative.  Now granted, I had some good times with those people – hell, one of them wound up being my longest relationship ever – but that part of my life, and those people, can stay back there.  If I remained where I was, physically and otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  

I’ve done so much since then.  I’ve been through so much since then.  I live in another country, a life-long dream fulfilled.  I’m now agnostic, and aside from my friend, his wife, his sister and another friend, I don’t speak to any of the people from that time in my life.  I’ve seen different places, done different things, met different people, made many mistakes, learnt many things.  And while I don’t miss that part of my life, I appreciate that era for keeping me focused, out of trouble, and on the straight & narrow.  I take those things and carry them with me… not to stay stuck, but to sustain me as I move onward & forward.

Here’s to looking back on life.  Here’s to dropping dead weight distant memories of those who are in your lives for a reason and a season, no matter how short the season.  Here’s to being insane crazy scared brave enough to move to another country.  Without looking back every once in a while, one can’t move forward to new experiences, people or places.  And I’m glad that those things landed me where I am today – in the United Kingdom and in a whole new world.

Cheers.

Image

How have your experiences in the past led you to where you are today as an expatriate?  Did you ever think that you’d be living in another country?  

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.

Rate this:

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?

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few Of My Favorite Things.

For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)

Rate this:

For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)
________________________________

My maternal grandmother died over 17 years ago. Although it has gotten easier with time and the pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the longing, the memories, the love… even the pain, no matter how dull… never go away. She was a major part of my life. We (her grandkids) saw her almost every day, as she lived down the block from us and watched us after school sometimes while our parents worked and made their way home in the evenings. We’d play in front of her building, not too far from her sight of course. Our old neighborhood is far from savory, so after calling us to get in before the street lights came on, we were inside with her and/or down the hall at my god-sister’s house and/or upstairs at my play cousin’s house (her god-daughter).

Before I moved over here, my aunt J surprised me & gave me one of my grandmother’s possessions as a parting gift. It pained her to do it (she shed a few tears), but she wanted me – the oldest grandchild & only granddaughter – to have it. I was, and still am, humbled by it and keep it on my dresser. I’ve even used it once or twice. What is it, you ask?

Her old school powder puff. (I have other items from her, but this one sticks out the most.)

Grandma used this powder all the time, whether she was making a quick run to the store, or going on a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey (Wikipedia link) with her sisters (my great-aunts), or visiting Panama (Wikipedia link) or Barbados (Wikipedia link) or (insert anywhere here). I vaguely remember her putting it on, standing in front of her mirror as she finished getting dressed. I loved hugging & kissing her after she dabbed the powder on her neck & chest because she smelled so sweet! She’d fuss at me a little – “Don’t mess up my face (make-up) & clothes!” – but she knew full well that she loved her granddaughter’s hugs & kisses.

I still think about her, miss her, and love her beyond infinity. I wonder how our relationship would be if she were still alive. Grandma liked travelling a bit, so I’m sure that she’d visit me over here for a while and, later, fuss at me for making such a fuss over her.

(Panamanian accent) “You don’t worry about me! I’m not that old, I know where I’m going. I want to explore this place, it’s so big, my goodness!… Yes, I know it’s like back home but still, it’s big!… Just give me the spare keys so I can find my way around… Yes I’m sure, dammit! You’re not too grown for a pop in the mouth. Your mouth fresh!… Yes, I’ll be fine… Yes, I’ll call you… No, I won’t lose the spare phone… Alright alright! Ay yi yi, dios mio, yes I’ll behave!… I love you too, babes.”

If any of you are from the Caribbean or Central America or South America (hell, almost anywhere worldwide) and you have grandparents or older parents who visit you when you’re an expatriate, they stay long time! My grandmother would surely stay at least a month.

I laugh just thinking about it… but that’s how I picture things in my mind if she were still alive. I’d prefer her to be here in body & mind, but at least I carry her spirit with me everywhere. And it only takes one whiff of her powder to reminisce and treasure the memories.

You are forever missed & loved. Que en paz descanse pa’siempre, Grandma. And thank you, aunt J.

The crack in the cover tells a story.
The crack in the cover tells a story.
Grandma's essence.
Grandma’s essence.

Tell me about your favorite things in the comments section.

Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2012.

I went to Bristol, United Kindgom for the first time with a photography Meetup group to see the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

Rate this:

08.11.2012

Well, we didn’t see any balloons. 😐

I went to Bristol (Wikipedia link), United Kingdom for the first time with a photography Meetup group to see the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. There were 6 of us – 5 of us went in the group leader’s car, while another member drove there on his own. Group leader let me sit in the front because of my injury, and on the way there, all of us (except group leader of course) fell asleep. It was a nice day as far as the weather & temperature – nice, sunny, blue sky, pretty warm. There were thousands of people, plenty of amusement park rides, and lots of food trucks & vendors all over the grounds.

Unfortunately, the wind was an issue. The Royal Air Force (RAF) did a group skydive, and it was obvious that the wind was quite strong. As a result, the organisers decided to cancel the hot air balloon part of the fiesta. We were very disappointed, and since none of us wanted to get on rides since we specifically came to photograph the hot air balloon evening/night programme, we decided to leave early.

So unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the fiesta or Bristol proper. I did, however, get a few shots of the RAF parachuting down. Check ’em out.

2 of the balloons that never were.
2 of the balloons that never were.

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.

Customer service.

One of the best inventions known to man is online grocery shopping. As someone who has a hectic job, no car (yet) or energy sometimes, this is a (lazy/tired/exhausted/working) woman’s dream come true. So once I got settled into my own flat, I took full advantage. I pick up items from the big-box versions of (online & non-online) stores when basic items run out or I need something quick, but most is online.

Most people in the United Kingdom get paid only once per month, so we’re careful with grocery shopping. While I don’t have a family to feed, I make sure that I have enough cash to buy food along with paying annoying bills. So I was quite annoyed a few months ago when I missed my grocery delivery from a certain store because of its terrible customer service.

I’d just been paid and, as usual, placed my grocery order. I thought that everything was fine until I received a text message from the grocery store (something to the effect of)

Please contact customer service as soon as possible at (phone number), otherwise today’s order is canceled.

Again, I don’t have a family to feed, but I have to eat just like everyone else. So even though I was on public transportation and hate talking on the phone in public, food is important so I called back. The customer service representation, a woman, said “We’re having trouble getting your payment for your order.” I said

Alright. I’m on my way to work, so I’ll go to the bank and see what’s going on because I know that the money is there. I’ll call back afterwards; maybe there’s an issue at the bank.

So instead of going to the office, I went to the bank first. After waiting in the queue for a few minutes (rare), the bank teller (known as “cashier” in the United Kingdom) was ready for me. I explained the situation, she checked my account and said

Everything’s fine. You have more than enough to cover the order.

I said

Would you mind if I called (grocery store) in front of you to see what happens? For some reason, my order isn’t going through.

There were very few people in the bank (rare) so she let me go ahead.

I called customer service & spoke with a different representative. I explained the situation, requesting that he attempt the order again. He tried it and the order didn’t go through. He said (something to the effect of)

It’s isn’t going through. You don’t have enough money, so you need to go to your bank and see what’s going on.

I said

Sir, I’m in the bank now standing in front of a cashier who already checked my account, and there’s more than enough to cover the order. Please try again.

He tried again and said

It’s not going through. You don’t have enough money. It’s not a problem on (grocery store’s) end.

I repeated myself again and added

It has to be on your end. I’m telling you, the cashier is showing me the computer screen with my account information as we speak and there is more than enough to cover it. You can even speak to her if you’d like.

(By this time, she was speaking loud enough for him to hear that the account is fine and that it has to be on [grocery store’s] end and not the bank’s end.)

He stated that it wasn’t necessary because it was the bank’s fault and “the bank needs to fix the problem, not (grocery store).” I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor, and he said that no one was available (liar).

By this time I was late for work, annoyed & hungry since I didn’t have breakfast, and pissed that I wouldn’t have groceries because my refrigerator was close to bare. I also had a strict exercise schedule after work so if I had to go to the store myself, it threw a wrench into my after-work plans. So I let him have it nice & loud. (That’s also the day that I realized the strength of my New York City accent and boy, did it come out that day.) I can’t remember every word, but it went something like this:

I’ve lived here for a year. I’ve ordered groceries from this store ever since I moved here. I’ve given you my business each month without fail, and this is how you wanna treat me? I told you for the hundredth time that I’m in the bank in front of a cashier and the money is there, I asked you to let me speak with a supervisor and you said no, and you refuse to bend. You refuse to consider that (grocery store) have the issue, not me. So you know what? Cancel my order and my account. I’ve had it. You’ve lost another customer.

He said “Okay.” and I hung up on him. Friggin’ jerk.

I thanked the teller, apologized for being loud in the bank (she understood), and went to work. I told my co-workers what happened and while they found it amusing, they also found it annoying. I didn’t know that customer service in this country was so… lacking.

Coming from the United States, I’m used to better customer service overall; some representatives even brown-nose when it’s unnecessary. I salute good customer service representatives because I know the nonsense they have to deal with – rude & downright disgusting customers, terrible pay, sometimes no health or vacation benefits & terrible bosses/employers. I’ve worked in customer service as a teller & in other capacities and know how bad it is. I’ve walked away from a few customers in the past – didn’t wanna catch a case. 😐

So, I “get” it. Customer service isn’t the best job to work in. Been there, done that, the customer is not always right. I also understand, having been to European countries, that Europe’s overall culture isn’t into customer service that brown-noses like the U.S. But no matter the country, representatives should offer a level of service such that the customer is helped as much as possible. That level of service is lacking here overall; even native Britons complain about it. (I’ve heard that France is worse.)

I doubt that it’ll ever change and that’s fine. I don’t have to like it but I’m used to it. I’ve written this rant for wanna-be expatriates and/or travelers: no country is perfect, including so-called First World countries. You’ll run into annoyances like this sometimes. You don’t have to totally assimilate into the adopted country’s culture, but understand that some things are standard & may never change. Figure out ways to deal or return to your home country.

Epilogue: I e-mailed a complaint to the store. A woman e-mailed me and her response was utter garbage – no apology for her colleague, no request to stay with the store, no offers to make me reconsider leaving the store – nothing. That evening, I skipped the gym and went food shopping at another store. I order online from the new store instead & haven’t had any issues since. I also found out that the former store is a Wal-Mart affiliate. Now it all makes sense. 😐

Does anyone have any annoying customer service stories? What’s customer service like in your adopted country? Do you prefer customer service in your home country, or is it better in your adopted country?

Home (sweet home).

Happy holidays.
Happy holidays.

It’s that time again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t go there.

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/123850422887776256

As you should know by now, I want to see the world. It’s not so much about the number of passport stamps that I get (although it’s a small perk) as it is about the vast & various landscapes that I get to see, the foods that I get to eat & drink, the cultures that I get to experience, and the potential connections that occur as a result. But as an avid reader, especially on the internet, I read & observe the good and bad news about people, places and things.

After recently reading about some disturbing news in France, in addition to other news from the country, I’m very ambivalent about going there. And I don’t think that I’d ever continue my expatriate life there either.

I feel the same about South Africa: it’s a country that I’ve always wanted to visit, but I’m quite ambivalent about visiting there also after hearing about the rape culture (especially used to fuel homophobia) and its president’s dismissal of his own rape charges & beliefs about HIV/AIDS. Those are just 2 of many reasons why I also don’t think that I’d ever continue my expatriate life there either.

I also have a few concerns about Russia, which experienced/is experiencing racial violence by neo-Nazi & ultra-nationalist groups. And had I known about Australia’s racist history before visiting there, I don’t think that I’d spend my money (going) there. I’ve considered continuing my expatriate life there also, but I’m not sure if that’s in my best interests as a person of color, along with knowing what I know about the country’s history now (White Australia policy; Aborigine assimilation – Wikipedia edition; etc.).

You might be saying to yourself, “But you’re from the United States. You shouldn’t skip visiting a country, especially because of where you’re from.” You might be correct. But I didn’t ask to be born, and I didn’t have a choice about where I was born. I made the choice to leave the United States for good over a year ago, for many reasons, and I can also choose not to visit or live in certain countries for some of the same reasons why I left the United States. Then again, the United Kingdom doesn’t have the most pristine history either…

So what about you? Are there countries that you’re ambivalent about living in or visiting for ethical or moral reasons? Are there countries that you outright refuse to live in or visit for ethical reasons? Or will you live/visit wherever you want, ethical or moral issues be damned? Please discuss.

No country for old (wo)men.
No country for old (wo)men.