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.

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?

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The New Zealand Chapter

We have commenced our next Great Adventure, landing in Auckland on Thursday afternoon.  Happily, and strangely (for us), we actually had someone to collect us from the airport on our arrival in Strange New Land.  Ang and I were mates at college and caught up last year when we had our whirlwind tour of NZ.  Matilda calls her Angelina Ballerina and this may have affected her childish memories of Ang as she whispered to me straight away “Is that the same Angelina?” and later that night was still confused about whether we were with the right person.  The main difference being that last time Angelina had “yellow hair and a white face”.  Strange.  She still looks the same to me!

Air NZ flight this time, another exciting aspect for us as usually it’s Jetstar all the way.  After the Tasmania Bag Episode I was keen to fly with anyone else and happily Air NZ were having a 4 day special that was well cheaper than any other airline right on the dates we wanted to fly.  So, lots of ceiling height, our own tellies and free food, not to mention customer service FAR exceeding that of the budget airlines (allocating us 3 seats to ourselves, offering us extra drinks, asking if we require assistance, providing a speedy departure card so we go to the front of lines etc).  I am a big fan and interestingly a lot of people I’ve mentioned this to also admit that their best flying experiences have been with the Kiwi airline, so yay for Air NZ and I hope I haven’t jinxed myself now!

We are staying at a Bible College, believe it or not.  Ang works here and lives on campus and it turns out the guest room was available and about $40 where the cheapest hotel was around $64 (All Seasons, was Formula 1 in the CBD, where we stayed last time).  Not bad considering we are here for a few days.

Anyway: I hid my Kiwi SIM so well after the last trip I couldn’t find it so our first task was to get a new one.  Considering it only cost $NZ20 (about $AU15) it’s not a bad idea if you’re going to be in NZ for anything longer than a stopover.  I went with 2 Degrees, like last time, as it was remarkably cheap.  And once again, after surfing the net, sending a dozen texts to Australia and a few more to Ang in NZ I still had a little over $18 left.  That would’ve sucked my prepaid credit dry with miserly old Telstra.

On that note, Telstra have been total barstools regarding the modem.  2 hours on the phone being transferred around India only to be told it would cost me MORE THAN THE PRICE OF THE MODEM to have the damn thing unlocked from the Telstra network.  Apparently it decreases to $27.50 after you’ve owned the modem for 6 months (oh wow, how generous giant ripoff telco).  Point being: I already OWN the bloody thing you wankers!!  And it’s not even as though I am wanting to use it with another Aussie carrier (although I have a strong desire to do that NOW) – I want it to go overseas!!  Anyway, bought one yesterday in NZ.  Cost me $NZ99 ($AU80) and for the ironic icing on the cake: it comes already UNLOCKED.  And the reception has already proved a lot faster/more reliable than crummy Telstra.

Definitely taking this one back to Oz to use with an alternative carrier.

The low road…

While I’m procrastinating…might as well continue.  So, the UK have altered their immigration rules YET AGAIN (not sure if I’ve already updated that…) primarily they have raised the level of earnings that you need to qualify for the visa so high I can’t imagine EVER earnings that much. 

Plan B was to use the funds from selling the house to go back as a student, but for whatever reason…maybe my impending 30th…I have started to rethink it all, and perhaps trying to get back to Scotland is not what I should be doing with my life.

It breaks my heart – honestly, my emotional reaction often surprises me…but I can’t go on living like a gypsy.  I want to have a home.  I want my daughter to have a home.  It’s not so much the stuff that I want, heaven knows it was so liberating to sell everything last year and I certainly don’t want to leap into that process of accumulating crap again, but a place and having a life certainly appeal.  All up it’s I’ve spent 10 years trying to make Scotland my home, and my efforts seems to be doing more damage than good.

We have been back in Australia 5 years, 2 months, 14 days and about 6 hours, and every day I have woken up thinking that this could be the day we go back to Scotland.  So I have not applied or accepted great jobs.  I have not bought a (proper) car.  I have held back from people who might have become good friends.  I have spent countless hours scrolling through immigration websites when I could have been spending time with my daughter.

I have put my real life on hold while waiting for my imaginary life to begin.  OMG I have become that cliche.  The frustrating part is, if someone had told me 5 years ago that it would take this long, then I could have taken a job back then and had 5 years experience by now, instead of the patchworked work history I have pieced together all the while keeping one eye on the door…

It can’t continue.  As frustrated as I am with it all, as gut wrenching as it is whenever there’s a reference to the UK in the paper, or something on the TV about Scottish islands or haggis, I feel surprisingly calm about it all.  Perhaps deep down I am so relieved to be able to hang up the pick I’ve been using to chip away at the mountain of UK immigration…

I haven’t given up.  Not by any means.  I am pressing a 5 year pause button though.  I hope it won’t take that long, but I want to prepare myself better this time.  With no hope of the Tier 1 visa, and being disinclined to throw all my savings at study (which seems a waste of time after my Masters and anyway offers no guarantee of work or PR), my best option is to find work and start gaining experience so in a couple of years I can start applying for jobs in the UK and get sponsored to go back.

Life is what happens to you / while you’re busy making other plans