Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tales from a Spanish Village - Two Old Fools Fight Over Thongs

by Expat Focus Columnist Victoria Twead

I always thought writing would be a gentle pastime. Sitting at a desk, fingers busily tapping the keyboard, ideas flowing from mind to computer in a steady creative stream. But it’s not like that in our household. For a start, if the words won’t come, I pace the kitchen, deep in thought. If Joe speaks, I snap at him, annoyed that he’s breaking into my train of thought.

Living in a tiny village in Spain is definitely inspirational. I can work undisturbed, gazing out onto the mountains between paragraphs. No sounds apart from the bee-eaters chattering as they fly through the valley in flocks, or Uncle Felix’s mule clattering through the streets. So there should be no distractions, right? Wrong, I’m afraid.
“Vicky! Come and see this eagle,” Joe calls, and I abandon everything and race to look. We're not expert enough to identify it, but that doesn't matter. To watch an eagle wheeling in the endless, blue sky over the mountain tops is a joy and a privilege.

Or, “Vicky! Paco’s just given me this huge bag of vegetables. What shall we do with them?” I turn away from the computer to admire the contents of the carrier bag he’s holding out, crammed with glossy red and green peppers, courgettes and purple aubergines. So I search for recipes that require these delicious ingredients, and start preparing and cooking, my manuscript forgotten...

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Expat Experiences: The Bahamas - Jeremy

Who are you?

Hi, my name is Jeremy and I'm a Belgian guy.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I lived for 5 years in North America, after that almost 2 years in Central America.

Now I'm living in The Bahamas... Why? Hmm... Do I really have to answer this one? :-D LOL

Well, let's say that at first I came here twice as a tourist and destiny helped by the love of a local mermaid brings me back to the Bahamian shores, but not as a tourist this time.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Ha, ha... Yes, we can speak about challenge! Hmm, probably the biggest one was to learn how to cross a street and arrive still alive on the other side as everyone seems to drive on the wrong side of the road here :-D LOL

After this first learning, the second one was to be the driver of the car and get used to also do my best to stay on the wrong side of the road, no matter what... Just joking but not so easy at first. Other than that, nothing really complicated except maybe about immigration laws and more especially the application of it in real life. Each immigration officer here seems to have its own perception of the law and it is kinda difficult to find two of them thinking the same way or just willing to apply the basic law as it is supposed to be...

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Expat Experiences: The Netherlands - Julie, Rotterdam

Who are you?

Julie, 27 years old, French (Parisian).

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Rotterdam end of April 2011 to follow my partner who has been transferred overthere.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I didn’t know I must register to the cityhall and give some papers to get the sofi number to be considered as citizen. I needed this number to find a work, to be paid, to open an account, to get an apartment.. for almost everything here. And also, as we are not married, I had to do a lot of paperwork to do more. He didn’t have to do it as expat.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We looked on the website of Pararius and took appointments to visit some apartments.. and found one after 2 months!

Are there many other expats in your area?

We don’t know. My colleagues told me it was an expat district, but I really have no idea.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

It is very fine. Except when guys stop us to know if we are not looking for any weed as we still have a French matriculation on our car.

What do you like about life where you are?

It is quiet and nice to live. The city is modern and also, you can go everywhere if you have a bicycle.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

It is quite difficult to do all the paper without getting any...

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Dhyan Summers: Top 3 Tips for being a Happy ESWK (Expat Spouse Without Kids)

Frequently I see clients in my practice who are ESWKs (pronounced ‘eswik’) or Expat Spouses Without Kids. Although they are in an enviable position by some standards, they often tell me that their spouse is working all the time, they are lonely, and are fighting, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, the tendency to hide out at home. One client mentioned that she sometimes felt like curling up and hiding in a box in her closet.

There are two sides to the coin of being an ESWK. On one side you have the freedom to do almost anything you want to do, and on the other side is an almost complete lack of structure which at times can seem overwhelming and even despairing. In addition, when you have young children it is much easier to bond with other parents, as you have a built in reason for doing so.

Exhilaration vs. Despair:

So the question becomes, how do we turn the despair into excitement and exhilaration that freedom can bring? I have spoken before of the importance of finding something we feel passionate about, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I repeat myself here.

Tip # 1: Find Something You Feel Passionate About Doing:

Usually when we feel overwhelmed, or depressed or isolated, we have a tendency to, as my client mentioned, want to hide. I use the metaphor of climbing into bed and turning the electric blanket up to 10, which in Delhi where I live, would not be a practical thing to do! We want to hide because we are not feeling good about ourselves and might be feeling that we have nothing to offer anyone else. The one sure cure for this is to find something you feel passionate about doing.

You might notice that I say...

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Victoria Twead: Life is Good for the Two Old Fools

We’ve been back home in Spain for a full month now, leaving Bahrain and the Arab Spring behind for ever. Memories of being under house arrest, the distant gun-shots, the helicopters and the protests are fading.

Our Spanish neighbours gave us a lovely welcome and their eyes grew large when we told them about our year away. Very few have ever been out of Spain, and our tales of teaching Arab children and the uprising astonished them. But it was the day-to-day stuff that really fascinated them.

“Madre mia!” Paco said as he sliced the serrano ham.
“No ham or pork at all? For a whole year?”
“And you had to cover yourselves up in that heat?” asked Carmen, gaping.
Coming back to our mountain village was like pulling on a favourite pair of old slippers. We threw ourselves into cleaning the house and evicting the spiders and lizards that had taken up residence while we were away. It didn’t take long, and we were soon comfortable again.

Only one of our elderly chickens survived, so in the second week, we got six more to keep her company. Chickens are not known for their high IQ, but this new lot seem particularly dense. Roosting is instinct, right? But even with old Susio there to teach them, they cannot get the hang of...

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