Jolly good time – (2nd) home sweet home.

Last month, I visited England for a wedding. I was there less than a week.

Because of the nature in which I left England 4 years ago, I wasn’t sure what feelings would come up for me. England was my 2nd home. I’d begun building some semblance of a life there – building my career, traveling, visiting my 1st home at least twice yearly, trying to obtain dual citizenship, possibly venturing into the world of (British) dating, slowly growing friendships, etc. – when it was snatched from under me faster than the time it took for me to move there in the first place.

I was left reeling. That shit hurt. It hurt so bad. I had dreams, plans, wishes… and on August 8, 2013, everything fell apart. I cried almost daily. My landlord became a scumbag soon after. Support from work? Yeah… right. On the day I moved out of my flat (I think it was October 2 or 3, 2013), I sobbed the whole time. I left England for good 3 weeks later – October 22, 2013.

To this day, I can’t forget it. And oftentimes, since I left there, the months of August through October are sometimes hard for me because I remember the sequence of events that happened once I got the Home Office letter stating that I was an over-stayer. Time kinda froze.

So with that in mind as I flew to England for the wedding, I expected my emotions to be on the negative side. I got some advice before leaving to go there, from a few people in my small circle, to go with no expectations and cross bridges whenever I got to them. So I tried to do that. And to my surprise, I succeeded.

I had a very nice time.

I recently had medical issues and probably shouldn’t have traveled when I did; therefore, I couldn’t see everyone who wanted to see me, nor could I get around how I wished. But all in all, I truly enjoyed myself. I actually thought about moving back there again… almost. Hell, I won’t even lie… I’m still thinking about it on & off…

Anyway, while there I stocked up on cheese, tea and crumpets.

 

Although I couldn’t see everyone, I saw a few people whom I was meant to see. I won’t show their faces, but I’ll show some of what we ate. 😐

 

I had proper henna done for the first time ever, as part of the wedding.


 

I visited my old neighborhood, twice. The first time, I took a friend there who – believe it or not – just moved to England 2 months ago and wanted to explore a different neighborhood and borough. I took her to the local market I used to frequent.

Vadasz Deli. http://vadaszdeli.co.uk/
Vadasz Deli. http://vadaszdeli.co.uk/

 

And the second time was to visit my old flat. My downstairs neighbors still live there – as a matter-of-fact, they took over my old flat and the home is now fully theirs. After my departure, they didn’t want to risk any troublesome tenants moving in, so they took it for themselves. That humbled me then, and still humbles me now. Anyway, approaching my old door – as well as the street and neighborhood – was emotional.

(That’s a new door, by the way. It used to be a red door.)

 

I ate and conversed with them for a couple hours. Afterwards, I visited my old self-defense class and instructor. I couldn’t participate, but I enjoyed living vicariously through the students. Side note – only 1 of the original students from my class is still there.

 

Urban Krav Maga London. http://urbankravmaga.london/
Urban Krav Maga London. http://urbankravmaga.london/


(I miss class. It’s just not the same over here.)

 

And of course, I attended the wedding. I won’t show faces, but it was a nice one.

I appreciate the family inviting me. They’re like a 2nd family to me; I’ve discussed them here once or twice before.
Looking back, the visit was better than I expected. I saw a few loved ones, nervously returned to my old neighborhood, got my hair done, and brought home some very-missed British cheese, tea and crumpets. I couldn’t handle all of the business I wanted, but the major stuff was done and brought back. I’ll handle the other business (hopefully) next year.

I planned to never return to England again because although most of the time there was alright, the ending was horrible. But now, I’m glad I went, and I plan to return again. To visit or to live? That remains to be seen.

(P.S. By the time you read this, it’ll be 4 years since I left England. I scheduled this post like that on purpose.)

 

Rainbow over London, United Kingdom.

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.

Week in review 13-18 May.

Today:

I’m feeling: under the weather. Damn blasted allergies. 😐

I’m listening to: myself typing on this keyboard, along with silence. Aunt is taking a nap, uncle is outside doing who knows what, and I’m recovering from exercising and a night out.

I’m thinking: when aunt wakes up and we go run errands, I need to get some extra-strength allergy medicine. 😐

I’m reading: same as last week. Hoping to get a Kindle some time next month.

I’m looking forward to: the upcoming long weekend (Memorial Day). Dinner with (ex) stepfather this week (he had a family emergency last week, so we postponed). One of our staff members returning to work from knee surgery so that my load is lightened a bit. (I’m also glad, of course, that the staff member is recovering well.)

I’m learning: that I can’t make a person change; one must want change for oneself. It sucks feeling helpless about it, but I can’t do anything to change another. That I may have a few extra opportunities to advance my career, thanks to hearing things confirmed through the grapevine. That even though recruitment agencies from England keep contacting me, not a damn thing has changed with their social services system. (One borough wants to interview me when they come to New York City next month, but I’m extremely ambivalent about returning there for many reasons. Here’s one of the reasons why.)

I’m enjoying: being “in the know” just a little when it comes to some things at work. I appreciate being valued by a job and knowing a few inner workings of upper management. I don’t know what the future holds, but if nothing else, this job is definitely a learning experience.

Work bound.
Work bound.

I’m creating: dinner tonight, and they better eat every bite. 😐

I’m grateful for: getting to celebrate my good friend’s milestone birthday last night. Seeing a few people at the gathering who I’ve not seen in as little as a few years and as much as double-digit years. Lots of laughter. Being mindful of what I ate and not going overboard (healthy living can be hard – but not impossible – sometimes). Enjoying Reese’s peanut butter cups and still not going overboard. Allowing myself exercise breaks when needed, like today. My (ex) stepmother graduating with her Master’s of Social Work yesterday; I’m so happy for her, and I hope that I helped her even 1% with my advice. I couldn’t attend the graduation, but I’ll see her and my youngest sister at her celebration next month. 🙂

Happy birthday, friend.
Happy birthday, friend.

Around the house are: weekly groceries to be put away. New laundry to be put away.

In the kitchen: dinner food in the refrigerator, waiting to be cooked later. Dishes in the sink that aunt is complaining about even though I told her I’ll wash ’em after I finish cooking. 😐 Food to be prepped for the rest of the week; always better to get it out of the way now when I have time. 😐

I’m planning this week to: schedule a doctor’s appointment for the first time since returning to the U.S.; I won’t bore anyone with my gripes about the healthcare system. Cook once or twice. Find out if anyone is having a Memorial Day weekend barbeque or gathering. Get a well-overdue manicure & pedicure for my upcoming trip to see my sister and a friend or two. Shampoo 9 years’ worth of dreads (D’NALI started ’em for me 05.15.2005).

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My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: It wasn’t a waste of time if you learned something.

IMG_0497

Finally.

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

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I’m pleased to tell you that after 7 months of hell & unemployment – an employer that turned out to be shady, forced repatriation, sending out hundreds of copies of my resumé, receiving countless rejection letters (or not receiving any responses at all) after interviews that turned out to be fruitless, and many other disappointments – I finally got a job offer and began working a few days ago.

Words fail me, as I’ve experienced so much over the past 7 months. Betrayed by an employer, betrayed by certain relatives, rejected by recruiters & recruitment agencies in England, etc. 7 months of hell. Therefore, I can’t find the words now to express my feelings/thoughts. For now, I’ll just say thank you, supporters.

More writing to come in the future; I’ll have a lot to say and need to figure out how to organize it. Little by little, step by step, day by day.

Related posts:
Home (bitter)sweet home.
https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/home-bittersweet-home/

Hard knock life. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/hard-knock-life/

This sounds familiar. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/this-sounds-familiar/

Reset my life. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/reset-my-life/

Jobseeker(s). https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/jobseekers/

Some things change… https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/some-things-change/

Limbo. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/limbo/

Staying put. https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/staying-put/

Thanksgiving.

My recent posts have been heavy (and for good reason). But since it’s Thanksgiving holiday season over here, I’ll post a few things for which I’m thankful.

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My recent posts have been heavy (and for good reason). But since it’s Thanksgiving holiday season over here, I’ll post a few things for which I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for:

reaching my fundraising goal to re-apply for a new work visa (more updates in my next post).

– the people who were kind enough to give. They may have said “No… how do we know she’s not lying about this?” or “No… she’s probably gonna use the money for something else”, but they read my story and trusted me enough to help. That humbles me even more than usual.

– the many people who’ve provided non-financial support. Priceless.

– being home for the holidays, as I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving at home since 2009 (lived in England soon afterwards). It’s good to simply call or see people, instead of Skype-ing everyone and hoping that they’re available with a 5 hour time zone difference.

– having a place to lay my head every night. I don’t have a fixed abode, but I always have at least 3 places to lay my head at night and sadly, that’s more than what some people have.

– knowing the difference between family and relatives. Trust me, there’s a difference.

– the same above about friends. The list gets smaller almost every year, but at least the genuine ones are still here.

– having bare necessities handled by those who love me.

– having a couple of interviews. I’ve applied for countless jobs, and I interviewed for 2 full-time jobs and 1 part-time job. Hoping to hear something from some employer by next month; if not, I’ll have to keep on trying.

– perspective. Little by little, I’m gaining more of it when it comes to some things, including things I never thought would happen to me.

That’s all I’ll say for now. For those of you in the U.S. with me, enjoy the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving.

1/52: Blessings

This week, I began seriously thinking about starting a gratitude journal. This blog by a good friend of mine is my inspiration. Despite work being fast-paced & busy, there MUST be good things about being an expatriate that I often forget/overlook and/or ignore. I’m still considering it, it may happen in the next few weeks IF I go ahead with the idea, and I may do it in a different time format (every other week or so instead of every week). Stay tuned.

D'NALI

It’s really hard to always appreciate the things that make us happy or make us smile.  These little blessings that make our lives full despite the struggles. 

I’ve been seeing this idea around the Internet for the last week or so — 52 weeks of Happy.  Most recently, I saw it on Adaliza’s blog and I’ve decided to join in the fun.  I’m hoping that I can take this one to the end of the year too.

The idea is to list 4 things that make you happy each week.  I like Adaliza’s version better — I’m going to record moments when I felt happy, things that made me smile, and unexpected blessings.

Week 1:

1 52 Happy

from L to R:

  1. Clean Eating
  2. Watching the New Year firework show from my living room window
  3. The last of the pomegranate — I love this fruit!
  4. An unexpected call from one of my…

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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.”

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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.

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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?  

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.

Re-blog – Stuff On Sunday: Evolve.

Nothing much to add; just read & abide by it, this week and beyond.

D'NALI

 

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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.)

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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.)
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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.