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.

Kylerhea

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China farewell #blogjune

Languishing in Nanjing airport. Blog June has fallen by the wayside as I’ve frantically raced to pack, ship, trash, clean, book flights, trains, hotels, cars, arrange gifts, attend farewells and send ‘last emails’. Oh, and finish my Library Annual Report. Can’t believe I managed to do it. It’s not 100% but I did it in such a short timeframe and in spite of being told nobody cares and I shouldn’t bother by just about every staff member)

Our Farewell China tour commenced with an overnight hard sleeper train from Qingdao to Nanjing which I am bitterly regretting right about now. NB – don’t forget trains in China decline not only in speed, but in amenities, cleanliness and general passenger behaviour the further down the train heirarchy you fall. My daughter is obsessed with hard sleeper (6 berth, no door) so I thought we’d try just one. But foolishly booked a K TRAIN!!

On arrival in Nanjing our plans took a dive as both railway stations are being upgraded and don’t have storage facilities. Ludicrously I decided we’d both carry backpacks on this trip so after 2 hours we got on the train to the airport, where I am currently trying to stay awake until our 9pm flight to Chengdu. I could try to get us on an earlier flight but I don’t think I have the mental capacity right now 😁

You’ll have to imagine photos as my tired, cranky brain cannot deal with slow China Internet today. 

Moving on #blogjune 21

I’ve been dreaming of leaving this job since about 3 days after I started. I try not to think of anything as a “mistake” (because everything’s a learning experience, right?) but that’s certainly what it felt like here for about…oh, the first 12 months.

Preschool storytime 2016
Action Shot

Yet now, as I sift through work files and school event photos on my laptop and start to Trash and Burn, I have a sudden rush of … feelings.

This is the second-longest job I’ve held. Not necessarily because I have a short attention span – sometimes I’ve moved on in a hurry, but general Life events have also played their part (study, travel, child rearing). My last job before this I stayed 3 years, and it was the first time I left a position because it was the right thing to do, rather than to escape a tyrannical boss or poor working conditions. I was wholly unprepared for how leaving would feel. In the past I had left under cover of darkness, or in such rage against the machine that there was no room for feelings of sadness.

Primary library lesson
Listening intently, which students always do, whenever I speak lolololololololol

Here is a little of the latter, but it has been a long period of my life. And there have been some great moments, and some fantastic people – coworkers, students, random old ayis in the street. It’s also my last school-based teaching job (although, never say never as my teaching college buddy always said). At least by choice. And possibly my last librarian job for a little while. In a few days I will officially be unemployed.

So it’s all a bit emotional. And it will be a bittersweet farewell to China and all who sail in her.

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Not the most inspirational 21st century library environment, but I’ve stared at it every day since August 2014. Incidentally, what is it with me and getting jobs in ugly libraries? (Ayi joining the shot…)

Logistics #blogjune 17-18

Falling behind with #blogjune but I have an excuse! We have finally found a way to ship some boxes of stuff to Spain. I’m not sure how confident I am it will actually arrive. All the stuff for shipping is slowly being stockpiled in the lounge room:

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Mostly I seem to be shipping suitcases. How many suitcases does a person actually need? I think I have around 15…and that’s not counting those half handbag/half carry on bags!

We are flying AirNZ to Australia (squee!). They’ve always been one of my favourite airlines, but sadly leapt out of my price range when they started emulating budget airlines with a ridiculous Seat+Bag+Meal pricing model. Somehow by stopping over in Auckland for a few nights en route we managed to find the cheapest flight home. Yes, I realise I will spend those $$$ anyway by staying in Auckland, but it’s been too long between NZ visits! Ironically, given price moan above, they are letting us bring 2 x 23kg bags EACH. What on earth? I’ve scoured the web to see if I can get this deal going to Spain, but so far nope. I even considered ditching the shipping and paying extra to fly AirNZ to Europe, but I have a hatstand and a rug and can’t see that getting stowed by any airline.

As we are backpacking south China for 2 weeks before we fly to Australia we’re going to leave our big bags in the apartment until we get back from our Yunnan/Guizhou/Sichuan adventure. Speaking of which, I haven’t kept up with blogging due to the pain of trying to book that trip. If only China had a rail pass for travellers! But as with everything, why on earth would they try to create new markets when there are already 2 billion people chasing the product?

Exit strategy #blogjune 16

Only 6 1/2 days of school to go. I’m tidying my desk, my Inbox, my Documents folder…and I’m sifting through the “Things I Started But Quickly Discovered Nobody Cared About So I Stopped” pile. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this role that I have developed a Very Bad Habit that goes completely against my character: I have stopped completing some tasks I know to be important when I’ve learned nobody cares about them, or worse, if I learn that other staff, or managers, mock me for doing them. It’s last minute, but I am so disappointed to make this realisation that I am going to try to rectify it to some extent by setting myself the challenge of creating an annual report for the Library using infographics.

I’m testing these sites:

Canva (can’t get the templates to load without VPN *cry cry cry*)

Piktochart (like a lot. Easy to use, pretty templates, loads without VPN)

Infogram (could be great, but templates won’t load without VPN)

Easelly (already annoying because weird layout and templates won’t load without VPN)

So I reckon I’m pretty much stuck with Piktochart, but that’s cool because it is cool! There’s some excellent advice about creating interesting annual reports here and here.

While I was playing about with them, it suddenly occurred to me that an infographic would make an awesome CV. It seems I am not the only person to have this thought! There are even companies who you can pay to create amazing graphic CVs for you, like Story Resumes, the people who created my favourite below:

lucyin

Queensland day part 2 #blogjune 6

So, about that Buzzfeed article…
1.Queensland is BIG

It is. My family caravanned around Queensland quite a bit when I was younger, and I’ve driven across it myself a few times. I was born at Anglers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, but grew up in the “home of the thunderstorms” – the Aboriginal name for our home in the farmlands to the west. We lived in the shadow of the Great Dividing Range, and from our house you could often see the lights of trucks coming down ‘the Gap’. My mum is about to move to Bundaberg to manage their local caravan parks, and if we ever manage to book our flights home for summer we will be spending quite a bit of time with her up there. Bundaberg is the home of our state rum, and it’s gorgeous. 

4. And it’s home to these bad boys

Never mind cassowaries, how about GIANT BROWN FLYING COCKROACHES. This is legitimately the main reason I left Queensland. Growing up, my bedroom was in an enclosed verandah, and the number of times I woke up with cockroaches crawling on me – ON MY FACE…ugh

7. And every other day is HOT.

Think you know what hot is? Get yourself branded by a seatbelt buckle.

9. And you’re well acquainted with your state transport system

Does Queensland have a transport system? I don’t know anyone without a car. Pat’s Coaches was the only public transport option between my home and the Gold Coast when I was growing up, and he stopped driving in about 1994.

11. You don’t own an umbrella

This is one of my failings.

12. But you do NEED an umbrella. Often.

13. Because it doesn’t rain in Queensland. Water just ERUPTS FROM THE SKY

Yep, check out this weekend’s news. And there is a Qld Facebook group with half a million likes called “Higgins Storm Chasing

15. Every sentence needs to end with ‘hey’.

That’s true, hey

17. Everyone’s pretty laid back. Even the police.

They wear shorts and ride bicycles in Surfers.

18. You know that the ocean is a shared space

Just don’t go in there.

20. Ah, Campbell.

22. You’ve never been to the Whitsundays but your friends from other states have.

Hahahahahaha

23. November and Schoolies are the worst thing in the world.

My grandfather spent many Novembers shouting at the nightly news.

24. You have a precise understanding of both ‘time’ and ‘daylight’

Which Southerners do not. Leave the clocks alone!

25. You steer clear of the theme park ridden Gold Coast unless you absolutely have to.

I loathe theme parks. Most boring things on the planet. One of my jobs during uni was at Movieworld. I started on the registers in Yosemite Sam’s Diner and worked my way up to Chef. This meant I had to wear gloves up to my elbow and sit in the cold room squishing bits of chicken. 

26. And these things are the worst

ARGHGHGHGHHHH

27. Well, I don’t live there anymore, but there is nothing like a January storm in Queensland

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.

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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.

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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.

Sewing

My grandmother was a sewer. Inevitable with 6 children, the eldest born during the Great Depression. My mum was the baby, and often tells how every stitch of clothing she owned until she got her first job at 16 (including her underwear!) was made by Nanny. One of my aunts became a professional seamstress, and my mum always had a sewing machine set up in our house.

One of Dad’s birthday or Christmas gifts for Mum was a proper sewing desk/cupboard contraption that he picked up at a clearing sale. Mum made my sister and I a lot of outfits, usually in coordinated fabric. One of my favourite outfits was a retro circle skirt. She made it from her old honeymoon dresses. She sewed us coordinated bike shorts outfits in the early 90s, and I think the last thing she made me was a blue pinafore dress. I wore it to our Year 7 disco and copped such horrendous teasing I never wore it again. I’m trying to remember the last time she sewed us something, and I’m thinking it was probably as I entered high school, and my sister and I started complaining that she was making us look daggy and embarrassing.

Mum used the sewing machine as an office after that, typing up church flyers and newsletters. I spent most of 1995 in Mum’s sewing room, making costumes for a Christmas play. I made outfits for my baby cousins. The effort this required my aunts (from the other side of the family) never fully understood or appreciated. I think this was my final sewing project. After that I started senior high school, we got a computer and the room became my assignment room.

I don’t know where any of the clothes she made are now. Probably handed down to the cousins, and subsequently discarded. Shame.

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