Checking in

We’ve been back on Skye for just over 2 months, which was always meant to herald the end of An Turas (it is the final destination in The Journey, after all), but Life is not the movies and this ain’t no fairytale, so things continue to roll on in mystery and confusion. I’ve certainly not ridden over the Skye bridge into the sunset … things are the same, and not the same.

Due to the whole immigration process and the awful anti-migrant climate right now in the UK (rumours of HO bounty hunters!) I’ve decided to keep quiet on the blog front.

Flashback to the Autumn of 2002, when I’d just arrived on Skye for the first time and was so green the only jacket I owned was this thin duffle. I had to wear almost every other item of clothing I owned underneath and I still was not warm, but we were young and had our whole lives ahead of us, and the sea was navy blue.



Leaving China #blogjune 4

Trying to think of a topic that is not immigration…but it is kind of our life just now. We are officially in our last 20 days of life as expats in China. In 20 days we will hurtle down from the 21st floor for the last time, and close the door on our 2 years in China.

I have mixed feelings, which I expected and did not expect.

Looking out our apartment window to the Yellow Sea

Professionally, my 2 years here have been a crushing disappointment. The fire in my heart for libraries has completely died.  In hindsight, I wish to God I’d had more confidence in my ability and aimed higher – taken a job in Shanghai or Guangzhou or a bigger school. When I chose a small school in a backwater – thinking it would be an easier transition back into teaching after 3 years in public libraries – I condemned myself to a role with no budget, and complete and utter ignorance of my purpose and that of libraries.

Many times in the past 2 years I have wanted to quit, and some beautiful opportunities have come my way – jobs in Scotland (impossible due to visa), and jobs on either side of Australia – one literally in “Eden”. I made the difficult decision to turn them down, because I’ve left my hometown many times with the end goal of Europe, and I have turned back every time when things got too difficult. I felt like this time, I had to stick it out.

And *happy dance* in a few weeks we will be on our way to Spain.

Plus, having all passion for my job crushed out of me has made me think about what my real passions are, what I dreamed of being when I was 10, or 16. And while my job may have been less than desirable, the salary was not, so now I am in a position to live those dreams.

China has birthed my almost-mid-life-crisis.


Scottish immigrants #blogjune 3

Brain family with Nicola
Aussie immigrants – the Brain Family with Scotland’s First Minister & Kate Forbes, MSP

This is turning into serial rants about immigration, but speaking of expats and immigrants, the Brain Family case has once again come to the forefront in British (and world) media. Their case fills me with despair, and a teensy spark of hope. I could easily be in their shoes. I am in their shoes in some respects – in the same desperate, futile situation where my whole family life is in limbo because of ridiculous UK Immigration policy which fails to recognise central London and the back streets of Dingwall are two very, very different places.


If you haven’t heard of the Brains, it’s all over the web, but lazywebs This is an Australian family who followed the same path I planned to – move to Scotland to study and then gain a “Post Study Work” visa and repopulate an area in decline. They managed to get into Scotland a few months before I did (because I was giving birth). By the time I emerged from post-baby fog and started preparing my application, the rules had changed. I’ve spent every moment since 2005 trying to find another way back.

Laggan family deported
Zielsdorf family in the Laggan store they revitalised

It’s the Daily Mail (ugh), but they’ve found another family (Canadian this time) who are in a worse position than the Brains. This family sold everything in Canada to buy a flagging local store in the Highlands and revitalise it, and are now being deported on a small technicality (we’re talking £8000 a year) because they cannot afford to employ a 2nd UK person in their shop. Despite investing over £200 000 already.


I completely and utterly understand their frustration. I can feel their tears. I’ve travelled through and lived in the regional areas where they are. I’ve befriended the locals, employed some of them. These areas are desperate for new blood.

The only hope is that these high profile cases will lead the UK government to alter their immigration rules, introducing points for people who migrate to regional areas, or get immigration devolved to Scotland.

I am blogging June #blogjune 1

rollercoaster of emotions

This week. My goodness. I wasn’t expecting migrating to Spain to be easy. I’ve moved to enough places to know better, but I’ve been left completely drained by the immigration doozies we’ve had thrown at us this week.

Some of them I can’t mention, as I’ve heard horror stories of immigration authorities trawling the interwebs to find evidence of potential migrants and using it against them. I’ve heard of people being refused entry to the UK because they “seemed too knowledgable of immigration law”.

One thing I can vent about is that I discovered I could not ship household goods to Spain without my residence card and 2 copies of my personal inventory IN SPANISH CERTIFIED BY THE SPANISH CONSULATE IN BEIJING.

The residence I cannot obtain until I arrive in Spain. The Consulate is in Beijing or Shanghai – a 2 day trip, maybe 3, on a work day. Not going to happen at this point in my contract.

So now we have to cull everything, because I plan to travel by train through China, spend a week in Thailand and 9 weeks in Australia before arriving in Spain, and I was kind of counting on not having to lug my daughter’s laptop and our favourite frying pan with us.


Ms10 and I have been learning Spanish in preparation for our move to Spain. We are using the Duolingo app, which is fantastic, and we are posting 10 words a week to our vocab wall. So far, SO much easier than Chinese!

Our Spanish vocab wall
Our Spanish vocab wall

Skippy & Blinky come to visit #blogjune 6

A small import section has popped up near the entrance of one of our local supermarkets. They seem to have a fetish for Australiana – Aussie beef, Goldeb Circle juice, Margaret River shiraz…and now Skippy & Blinky have popped in to say hi.

Today is Queensland Day an my sister’s birthday. My birthday is on Australia Day. Coincidence? Perhaps. My parents were very patriotic and into their Aussie folk scene aka country music… I spent my first few birthdays in Tamworth at the country music festival. I saw Dolly Parton once, and met Slim Dusty, John Williamson and Macca from Australia All Over.

You can tell you’ve been away from home for a while when the cheesiest cultural iconography from home brings a lump to your throat. My hometown recently hosted the Clydesdale spectacular amd Highland Games – in a fashion most Highlanders would find nauseating.

It’s funny which elements of ‘home’ we miss the most. A lot of it for me centres weirdly on smells and food. I miss the Gold Coast, which is bizarre as although I was born there it isn’t really ‘home’.

I miss sausage rolls and fish and chips, which I rarely eat. I miss great coffee, which I used to take for granted. I miss clean air, which is a cliche, but I’m a country kid who feels claustro in Brisbane, so China’s smog is a nightmare.

I miss running into people I know, and newspapers. I miss walking into town to buy a latte and newspaper on Saturday morning. I miss BBQs. I miss driving. I miss long country roads.

I miss my nieces and nephews

I am feeling very weirded out by how I am suddenly developing all these feels for Australia this time abroad. Normally Scotland steals all my affection, but I’ve noticed a wane. I think it’s the combination of having a daughter who is old enough to pine for the country she considera home (Australia) and the big blows we’ve been dealt by UK immigration in the past 12 months.

We are booking plane tickets for our summer hols this weekend. We had planned to go to Scotland, but I think we are going to go to Oz.



Barra Post Office

On the same old tune of moving to Scotland, I’m moving away from the idea of studying there after China – to buying a business. The trouble is, the two Business Visa options are ridiculously out of reach. So frustrating as they do not allow for small business operators, nor do they try to encourage enterprise in remote and regional areas.

I found the pub in one of my old Isle of Skye stomping grounds up for sale, but it is leasehold – not ideal. Then today, sitting in a random cafe in Hoi An, I stumbled upon the Barra Post Office for sale.

Now I am crying into my bành mì. Why does it have to be so bloody difficult?


Bad News

Only 5 business days before we are due to fly out and still no sign of our paperwork from China.  I am waiting the letter and work permit I need before I can apply for our entry visas.  It has been about 3 weeks since I submitted the last of my paperwork to the school and I was assured it would reach us by now.  Also, based on our previous experience I am sure it arrived in the 3rd week after I sent everything away.

So I have been frantically emailing the HR department at the school.  The first email back was not from my usual contact, and at first they assured me they were just waiting on the letters back from the Bureau of Foreign Affairs, however the second half of the email said they would apply for my work permit once they received all my paperwork. ARGH.

I emailed again.

Finally got a reply from my usual chic on Saturday night telling me she was very sorry but there was no way the paperwork would reach us before we flew out and could we just put our travel off?


This is a trip I have been planning for TEN YEARS!  It’s more important than the job! No I can’t just “put it off”.  Cue all the swears.  Not only that, but what rescheduling date should I use?  Will it take a few more days?  Will it be weeks?  Are they just fobbing me off and they never intended to have it ready in time for us to leave in June at all but have always been planning to just send it off with all the other teachers’ applications so it won’t arrive until July????

I have been wondering why I was so reticent towards booking accommodation or making any other travel arrangements.  I have booked London accommodation because I was forced to – the start of summer, there are hardly any beds left.  It’s London, so even the cheapest place cost a fortune – over GBP500 for 4 nights.

Stressed much?

In times like these, we could all use a little Dr Who Potato Head
In times like these, we could all use a little bit of Potato Head Dr Who…