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.
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.
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.
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.
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 bought bamboo knitting needles and wool from Skyeworks Gallery (in the old Skye wool mill in Portree, above the Isle of Skye Baking Co) this afternoon, and think I’ll head back tomorrow to get a giant Tunisian crochet hook. I found a project in Peppermint magazine that I want to start when we’re back in China -to turn out old clothes into a rug.
We’ve had another okay day weatherwise. Drove out to Neist a point lighthouse accidentally, whilst looking for Single Track, a cafe we’d heard via @HI_Voices on Twitter made great coffee and even better brownies. I think we headed up the wrong peninsula, but not to worry as the Red Roof Cafewas on our route and their Crofter’s cheese platter, Aztec chilli hot chocolate and lime and coconut cake (fatty pumbas!) were amazing.
On the way home we stopped at Jans to buy wellies. Yet another Island living essential I should have purchased a decade ago, but as an up-the-duff backpacker could not afford.
True to form, my #365days blogging is not going so well. Climbed Dun Caan today after thinking about it for 12 years. My new trainers no longer have their Glasgow Ned shine.
Earlier in the evening I had an epiphany, stumbling on the disused Raasay hotel, and then a local blog mentioning that it was for sale. I found the website where it was advertised and rushed the 200 metres or so up the road to check it out. It is spectacular. The building is rundown but gorgeous – original 19th century inn surrounded by not-too-cringeworthy add-ons. Lounges and rooms overlooking the sound of Raasay to a unique view of Skye’s Cuillins. Only 12 rooms but managers accommodation with 6 more. Ideal.
I had a pint in front of Raasay House and plotted how I could manage the purchase and management. Perhaps my brother and his wife could come over with their kids for 6-12 months for something different, to help me get it up and running? The kids could all go to school together on the island…have chickens and sheep.
But, sadly the hotel is no longer for sale. Despite still being live on the estate agents website, it sold a while ago. Fortunately for the island it’s sold to the company who are opening a whisky distillery here. Exciting times ahead for Raasay, but we won’t be sharing them.
Chalking it up on the board of Not To Be with the Barra Post Office.
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.
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?