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.
A while back I found this interesting article about the terms “expat” and “immigrant” in the Guardian, and I posted the link to twitter. In the past few days a bunch of people have suddenly discovered my tweet and are commenting and retweeting. As I didn’t write the article I’ve decided not to engage in debate with them on twitter. It usually ends badly.
I always thought “expat” referred to temporary stays abroad, while “immigrant” was a permanent move. So, while in China, I am an Aussie expat, but once I finally get back to Scotland I will be an immigrant.
I retweeted the article because as a “white expat”, it made me think. I was curious if the reason was as the author (Mawuna Remarque Koutonin) suggests (white supremacy, dominance of English language). At the same time our Year 11s are sampling their first unit from next year’s IB Diploma English programme, and looking at why English has become the dominant world language, and the impact of this on other languages and cultures.
This has parallels to Indigenous issues in Australia, as well as Gàidhlig issues in Scotland – the significance of language on culture.
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.
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?
Cannot recommend this blog enough – each new post I think “argh, I won’t read I don’t have time and I’m not sure I’m interested” but I make myself and each time I come away fascinated and inspired! So many library roles, so little time! (Also I secretly hope to be on the list one day – if Scotland ever lets me come back…)
Frances Breslin Davda is a doctoral researcher at the University of Strathclyde. That’s her on the left with her poster, which won the prize at Strathclyde’s Research Day. Frances also won best student paper at ISIC 2014 (The Information Behaviour Conference).
Books and libraries were central to my childhood: as a child I was regularly taken to my local library and one of my earliest memories is being in fancy dress enjoying stories on a mobile library. As a voracious teen reader, I was amazed that Glasgow Libraries allowed me to borrow (via my aunt’s ticket) more than the four books my local library allowed, opening up a new world of books.
When I finished school, I undertook a degree in Film and Media Studies at the University of Stirling as I wanted to work in public relations. During my degree I worked part-time in East Dunbartonshire’s public libraries; it…