Main

Carnival Archives

December 11, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

My favorite part about China was the food. Oh my, the food... it is indescribably good. (I think what my least favorite part about the UK is also the food, but we'll leave that for another day.) I would go out to restaurants and just randomly point at things, and everything they brought me was good. (Although eventually one of the places translated part of their menu into English for me, which I thought was very nice, and prevented me from eating anymore pigs ear by accident.)

But it's not just the food that's different, it's the way people eat. I wouldn't be an oddity just for going out as a big white girl in China. I'd be an oddity because, more often than not, I'd be eating alone. Usually, groups go out to restaurants. Big groups. Fun groups. Loud and boisterous, with the round-a-bout on the table so everyone could try all the dishes without reaching over and passing things. Food was an experience to be shared, laughed at, talked through, enjoyed. It was such a social occasion that meals could last for hours, and it was marvelous.

I remember taking some of my students out for a meal and getting put in one the back rooms. These students, usually so quiet, came to life that day. We laughed and talked for hours... probably far longer than I should have had them out, but they were advanced students, and it was fun. We had so much tea that I thought I would vibrate on the way home, and they delighted in trying to tell me what things were in English. We ate and ate, and then ate some more.

But the best meal memory is my last night in China. I'd been getting very down the last few weeks, and finally started to perk up again in Shanghai. Through those sorts of connections that just happen when you're staying in hostels, I hooked up with two guys from the UK, a couple from Australia, a man from Finland, and a girl from the US. As a group, we did all sorts of things - got drunk and stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, sitting on the bund and singing folk songs while Chinese people did tai chi, going out shopping through Nanjing Don Lu, and then we went out and had one of those loud, boisterious, never-ending meals.

I remember it so well... the food, the laughing, the comparing stories, the talking... it was the first time I really felt that sense of belonging while I was there. We were all there as expats, all there having fun, and all there to enjoy ourselves.

That's the part I hold with me. I remember all the group meals I had like that fondly, and when I think back on China, I remember that feeling of being part of something fun and full of life.

December 9, 2005

Carnival 6 at Sheepdip!

Carnival 6 is over at Sheepdip this week!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

Note 2: We are now listed on Blog Carnival, specifically here.

December 5, 2005

Carnival V: Making a List

A short and sweet entry into this week's Carnival of Expats, where we focused on what we did before we left, and how we'd do it differently.

Phil, preparing for Yet Another International Move, advised on what to take with you:

I'm packed up my apartment to relocate from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. It me took 20 minutes. This is my 4th move overseas and I've got it down to fine art. There is only one tip to know.

PACK LIGHT

{Sheepdip}

Whereas I talk about how incredibly unorganized I was when leaving the country, both times. And how *this time* I'll be better prepared. Honest.

La la la, everything is fine, I'll just get my passport sorted out. La la la, I really should spend more time planning this. La la la, oh my, I just accepted a job in China and have two weeks to get everything sorted out.

*insert blind panic here*

{Anna Overseas}

And Don talks about not having enough time to have sorted everyting out, despite having planned to move for months before buying his ticket.

If I had to name a few key points which I would have wanted to do differently it would have been time, better arranging of details like bills, more time, and yet more time.

{Ponderings from Afar}

Thanks to everyone who particpated this week! I'd like to remind everyone that next week, Phil takes over hosting for the next month over at Sheepdip, but the main blog over at Carnival of Expats will continue to be updated with the topics and the results.

Have a great week!

December 4, 2005

Before, During, After

I hate planning. Hate. *hate* But then, when I make plans, I hate for them to be changed. Really hate.

So, the whole idea of going overseas was thought about a lot, plotted a lot, but not really planned. It was more organic than that. Thus, it was much less organized than it should have been.

The first adventure went something like this:

La la la, everything is fine, I'll just get my passport sorted out. La la la, I really should spend more time planning this. La la la, oh my, I just accepted a job in China and have two weeks to get everything sorted out.

*insert blind panic here*

So, I left Edmonton at midnight on the Absolute Longest Bus Ride You Can Take to Calgary, which is where the nearest Chinese consulate was, paid them a huge sum of money to give me a Visa, then hopped the express back and worked that evening. I ran around like crazy trying to get Kris' name on the paperwork with the apartment so that there wouldn't be any issues with him paying the rent. I stressed out over getting his name on the bank account so he could have cheques with which to pay that rent, as for some reason he didn't have a bank account. I then sprung a sudden ending on both games I was running at the time (to no one's satisfaction, but damn, I was leaving the country!), said the most frustrating and hurried good-byes to everyone, and got very worked up on the plane because I had lied to most of the people in my life about when I'd be coming back. "Six months!" I had said, cheerfully, after deciding I wouldn't be back for a year.

(I left after nine months. I lasted three after Paul left, but by that point I just couldn't handle living in Jiangyan anymore. Luckily, I spent a long weekend in Shanghai, and that cleared my head enough to speak very positively about my experiences in China, but that last month I was there was horrible.)

Somewhere in there I think I might have paid most of my bills. Maybe.

You'd think, having done it all before and had plenty of time for regrets, I'd be able to do it all again with a bit more clear thinking, but no, not really.

Me Before Going to Scotland:

La la la, I like the idea of living in the UK, I bet it's lots of fun. La la la, I should get a Visa worked out. La la la, I wonder how expensive it is to live there, and how hard it will be to find a job. Oh, look a seat sale on flights to Glasgow... Now I have two weeks before I leave again.

*blind panic*

I had things a little bit better planned this time. There was nothing to wrap up, and I contacted the people I wanted to see and say good-bye to well enough in advance that there was a Firefly marathon (of sorts) and much eating of bread. I spent time with people, said good-bye, and did less fretting. On the other hand, I also left a huge mess for other people to deal with, and had a panic attack about my poor cat when I was on the way to the airport and suddenly didn't have enough money to pay for his cat carrier. (I have always been, and continue to be, blessed in my friends.) I actually got to spend time with my parents and friends in BC this time, which probably contributed to my being much calmer on the flight to Glasgow than I was on the one to Tokyo.

So, if I were to do it all again (or being asked by someone else how to do it all), I'd really suggest this:

1. Make a list.
Check it twice.
And again, because you probably forgot something.

Make it as anal-retentive as you can, because near the end you'll be incapable of thinking about what the next step is. I packed my bags in the wee hours of the morning, in the middle of my friend's living room, and ended up in Victoria leaving a bunch of stuff behind and having to buy more things.

2. Go over this list carefully, and figure out what you can ask other people to do. Also, figure out what you can do well in advance. I got my Working Holiday Visa for Scotland sorted out a few weeks before I needed it, because I could. It made getting the plane ticket much easier. (Which, of course, led to the blind panic.)

3. Say good-bye to your friends in a way that's meaningful to you. I don't hear as much as I may wish from people in Edmonton (which is not a complaint - I'd hear from everyone I care about daily in the alternate universe where things run according to my whims, so don't worry about it), but I cherish the memories of that party, and of going out for ice cream with everyone, and the trip to the Muttart. I don't feel cheated at all, and I hope they don't, either. Life is busy, and although people are likely thinking of you, that doesn't always translate into emails, postcards, or letters.

4. Make certain you've got some time to relax. Breakdowns on airplanes because you haven't slept in 36 hours and you just realized that you forgot to get someone's address are horrible. For all that you've got a lot to do in a limited amount of time, no one is going to die because you didn't do something.

5. Check over that list again. Did you remember any vacinations? You'll need to set up that appointment *well* in advance. Do you need a visa? Unlike Megatokyo, I doubt you can play a game of Mortal Kombat to get into the country.

The actual mechanics of getting into the country are easy enough to find, and I recommend you take a very good look at them from the moment you start thinking about the idea until you get on the plane. They vary, they change (the fact that I can only work in the UK for 12 months instead of 24 changed when I was still thinking of getting my visa, and boy am I ever bitter), and they are incredibly important.

6. Find other people who have done it, and talk to them.

I wish I had done this *before* going to China. I had chatted with Scarecrow a bit about Japan, but it was a lot different.

So, yeah, here I am, running up to my move to Australia. (Running up makes it sound like it's soon. September is my projected leave date, but we'll see what happens. I'm fickle, and there's this whole teaching-gig to consider.) I'm predicting two weeks of blind panic, no matter how much useful advice I can give or get before then.

December 1, 2005

Carnival of Expats 5!

Carnival of Expats 5 is about to beging!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

This week's topic: More practical than some in the past, but something I think a lot of people who are planning on being expats themselves would find useful. Tell us about what things you did in terms or preparation before you left to become an expat... and what would you do differently, knowing what you do now.

(I'll admit, it's selfishness on my part: I would have killed for this information when I was planning on going to China.)

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

Note 2: A reminder that Phil has graciously agreed to do a month of hosting starting December 16. If you think you're up to a month of hosting in January, let me know!

Note 3: We are now listed on Bog Carnival, specifically here.

Note 4: We have also been invited to list on Word of Blog, but they want a logo, and I cannot draw. Any takers?

November 28, 2005

Carnival of Expats IV: Rockin' Festivals Expat Style

That is, in fact, the lamest title I could come up with.

Expat Carnival IV is now closed, and the entries, as usual, are as varied as the people who write them.

Phil, our participant who has moved the most and who thinks Christmas needs more BBQs, writes about Rock at Angkor Wat. There are pictures galore, and even a video you should watch.

A rock festival next door to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat sounded just what I needed. (Rock at Angkor Wat 2003). Great company, good music, bad dancing styles, cold gin and tonics, it sounded like Schoolies Week/ Spring Break in an exotic location.

{Sheepdip}

Our participant in France, Pumpkin Pie, talks about the beauty and wonder of a Christmas spent in the Christmas Capital of the World, Strasbourg.

That is why it is so wonderful to buy a warm crepe to snack on and a hot cup of wine to sip slowly as you stroll from one Christmas stall to the next admiring handcrafted toys and decorations. Last year there was a stall that had beautifully handcrafted wooden boxes containing secret compartments that the salesman had to reveal. Otherwise, you may never have found the secret technique to open the secret hiding place inside the box.

{From my French Window}

One of our two participants in Scotland, Don, talks about how Christmas in Scotland is so different than icicles and braving dangerous packs of mallrats back in Canada.

It may just be the novelty but there seems to be more excitement in the air than I’ve felt from Edmonton in a long while. Christmas lost its splendour a long time ago for me. For the first time in many years I feel a certain childish excitement that Christmas is on the way.

{Ponderings from Afar}

And the other participant from Scotland (that would be me) writes about Spring Festival in China.

I don't remember anymore what I expected. Fireworks, certainly, but fireworks were a nightly event in China, so it went without saying. Something involving a dragon, maybe. Something exciting and new, that much I know.

{Anna Overseas}

Thanks again for everyone who got a chance to participate this week! It's been a lot of fun reading these, and I can't wait till next Thursday!

Spring Festival

Year of the Monkey Spring Festival is a family holiday, much more so than Christmas. At least in sleepy little Jiangyan.

I don't remember anymore what I expected. Fireworks, certainly, but fireworks were a nightly event in China, so it went without saying. Something involving a dragon, maybe. Something exciting and new, that much I know.

I got something entirely different.

Paul, who was also teaching English in a sleepy little town, had joined me for Spring Festival. We cleaned every corner of my way too big flat, moved furniture around, and even put up the big wooden pictures with the man that's supposed to protect everyone from the demons on the door to the place. We put the paper scrolls around all the doors, and talked the whole time about what it would be like.

The night of, the whole city was quiet.

Understand, when I say a Chinese city was quiet, you better believe it was. Paul and I walked downtown and didn't see another soul. There was no noise except the incessant blaring of the canned music on the speakers that are liberally placed around the downtown. We didn't see another car. There were no fireworks.

We finally got to the only sign of life we saw all evening - the KFC. Jiangyan's KFC had opened up to huge long lines and excited fanfare. Every day my students were excited about the place, asking questions and when they could go, as though I could take them. It was always crowded, always packed, and that night, it was completely empty, except for a few disgruntled staff and two laowei, ordering hot chocolate because Paul was cold.

We sat in there, watching the complete lack of people on the busiest street in Jiangyan, and talked about Christmas (he was from New Zealand - like Phil, he went to BBQs and played in the hot hot ocean for Christmas, while I thought anything that didn't include three feet of snow and more coming down was surreal) and family and feeling excluded.

I think that conversation was the first time Paul mentioned leaving China.

We finished our hot chocolate and headed back a different way. We went through the streets to tiny you couldn't get a car through them, past houses that didn't have running water. The smell of incense was heavy in the air, and there were little altars set up near various houses. There were people here, and laughter, and lots of strange looks at the two pale people walking through the area like ghosts.

We got back to the school, and at midnight we sat alone on the school playground and lit our small supply of fireworks into the completely empty sky.

November 24, 2005

Carnival of Expats IV

Yay! It's Thursday, and that means Carnival Day!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

This week's topic: It's Winter, and that means the world is full of interesting and different festivals and holidays. It seems every culture and country tries to beat back the darkness at this time of year, and thus, I pass along to all of you: Tell us about interesting festivals and holidays you've attended while living abroad. Be it a different take on an old favorite (turnips at Halloween, anyone?) or a festival that your native land hasn't even dreamed of (Hogmanany? Huh?), tell us all about it!

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

November 21, 2005

Canrival of Expats III: Homesick

Once again a bit late - this new job is not making it possible for me to post at 7:30 in the morning, as that's when I have to be on the bus!

Between packing for Singapore and getting hangovers, Phil writes this touching and very true missive:

There seems to be two basic personality types that love being an expat. 1) Those who run towards the future. 2) Those who run away from past. There is certain freedoms that being expat automatically gives you. The odd benefit being, nobody knows you. Let me repeat that in the personal form. Nobody here knows me. Nobody here knows ME.

{Sheepdip}

While Don, over in Scotland, writes about what makes him homesick, as well as how he chooses to deal with it.

I find that homesickness and loneliness go hand in hand for me. The times when homesickness strikes are invariably when I am feeling most isolated. Usually this is tied closely to having too much time on my hands. If I’m too busy to think about it then I probably won’t notice being homesick.

{Ponderings from Afar}

In France, Pumpkin Pie writes on how Homesickness Has No Cure, and how keeping in touch and accepting that can be helpful.

Because of my past experience with homesickness I knew it would visit me soon when I moved to France but no person can prepare themselves for what it will feel like or what you will miss. The first time it hit me so hard I sat in the car sobbing and my husband just held me. He understood because he had lived in America for over two years and I had witnessed his bouts of homesickness.

{From My French Window}

And, on this side of the Chunnel, I write about catching that glimpse of someone who isn't really your friend, but looks like it, and how that throws off your whole day, sometimes.

Dealing with it varies, and depends. Some days I shrug it off, reminding myself that I'm experiencing things that my friends back home envy, that I'm going to see new and exciting things, that I can see a freaking castle from my window at work. I remember these things and I smile. You gotta concentrate on the good things.

{Anna Overseas}

Thanks again for all the responses, I hope Amber reads them and it helps her in her experiences!

As of December 16th, Phil will take over hosting duties for a while.

November 20, 2005

The Corner of My Eye

It happens most often when I think I see Kris out of the corner of my eye.

Of all my friends, I believe Kris is the one most likely to just... show up in Edinburgh one day, or China, or anywhere else I end up, without warning or really even planning. When I see someone who looks like him walking down the street, carrying a large dufflebag over his shoulder, I imagine the conversation we'd have, if it were him.

"Oh, yeah, hi. I meant to call, but I forgot. So, here I am... I was just looking for your apartment, or flat, or whatever they call it. Streets are different here, aren't they?" And I'd laugh, and we'd get on the next bus down to my flat, and there he'd be, standing in my living room, making comments about the rubber ducks on the bookshelf.

See, I believe, truly, that this could happen, and so every time I see him out of the corner of my eye, I get that nasty dash of hope, followed by reality setting in. That I am a million miles away from anyone I've shared the common experiences with for the past five or so years. That the people who get the jokes, who know why certain songs make me tear up, who understand why I collect rubber ducks, aren't here.

Dealing with it varies, and depends. Some days I shrug it off, reminding myself that I'm experiencing things that my friends back home envy, that I'm going to see new and exciting things, that I can see a freaking castle from my window at work. I remember these things and I smile. You gotta concentrate on the good things.

Other times it harder, and sometimes you just need to indulge yourself, I think, in a good "I'm upset and want to cry". I've been known to just curl up on my bed and sob, or call home and sob, or write tearful emails and sob, until I feel better. You can get a lot of waves of sympathy from home, and that helps. "Of course we miss you! How could we not?" There's really nothing wrong with indulging yourself in a bit of self-pity, as long as it doesn't become a constant thing. The advice I got most often in China was "Go out, go eat something!" You'd be amazed how often that helps.

A lot of times, though, dealing with missing home just comes down to remembering why you left. I was miserable. I was unhappy. I don't like to dwell on that, because Edmonton is a great place full of great people, but that doesn't mean I was happy every day there. Or, I can focus on how much I wanted, needed to have these sorts of adventures. I want to see the world, and you can't really do that in Edmonton. Not the way I wanted to, at least. So, I remember what I'll be doing next week, next month, next year, I remember that I got to go to Paris for a weekend, that I'll go to Italy for my birthday in 2006, and that really, it's only miles.

Miles aren't really that hard to surmount, when you put your mind to it.

{Dealing with Culture Shock in China, Fear and Loathing}

November 17, 2005

Carnival Three: Homesick?

The second Carnival of Expats is ready to begin!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.


This week's topic: Over on Sheepdip, Amber asked Phil how he deals with homesickness and missing his family. So, I pass it along to the Carnival: How do you deal with it? How does it affect you?

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

Extra Note: Next week will mark the first full month of the Expat Carnival, and I'd like it to rotate monthly in hosts. If you're interested in hosting, drop me an email and I'll get you set up.

November 14, 2005

Carnival 2: All About Food

This week's carnival asked expats to write about their most interesting food experience while living overseas.

From My French Window cried "I Ate Bunny!", in a post full of explanations and grief about accidently eating rabbit meat in the hospital.

His response to my confession to having unknowingly eaten an adorable bunny was that he knew about the lapin (rabbit) but he thought if he told me I would not eat. HE HAD READ THE DOOR and did not warn me! Fine. Fine. Fine. NO...NOT FINE! Then why in the world did you not bring me McDonald's! You know I have no problem eating adorable cows!

{From my French Window}

Akr, one half of DNA, writes about being a vegetarian in a restaurant called Carnivore. (I must admit - my mouth is watering at the descriptions of the restaurant, although any place that will run out and get a vegetarian a suitable meal from another restaurant would get top marks in my book anyway.)

One of the waiters in particular- he looked more like a butcher- seemed particularly disappointed by the inevitable rejections that second and third round offerings received. The strapping fellow either went back and hacked something in despair or bawled his guts out. I guess we will never know.

Meanwhile, the other half of DNA writes about being brave enough to try something other than chicken.

So a few months or so ago I decided to start experimenting. I decided that I would go beyond just the fried fish and try other sea food preparations as well… and so a seasoned meat-eater who loves all things that swim took me (us!) to the Newton food stalls at about 1 night (was it 1am??) he ordered Cray fish, Prawns and Sting Ray.

{Singapore Ahoy!}

On the other side of the world, Don writes about the joys of living in a place with a cornacopia of choices for Indian food, as well as the oddities of a new country's food choices.

Poutine involves to foods that I very much enjoy, french fries and cheese, with one that makes me shudder, gravy. In Scotland they would look at you strangely if you asked for such a dish. Instead they serve Chips and Cheese, the parts I want without the scary gravy stuff.

{Ponderings from Afar}

And I go on at length about attempting to learn how to make Chinese dumplings with a language barrier.

It was an interesting evening, to say the least. Wei's father would mix up some... stuff... that was black... in with some meat... that was not black. And added some white stuff. Then he fried it up, in some other stuff that wasn't cooking oil.

{Anna Overseas}

Thank you again to everyone who participated this week! Remember: any expat can join us at any time, and if you write something suitable later than the due date, just let me know and I'll add it to our links.

{Carnival of Expats}

November 13, 2005

Quick Carnival Update

It's late, I'm tired, and I have to leave for work early tomorrow. The Carnival might not be up till tomorrow evening, UK time. Depends on whether I can get up at 6:30 after climbing up a really tall tor today....

Sorry for any problems. But this just gives more people time to write something. *smile*

Following Directions

I like Chinese dumplings. What are they called.. bai jiu? No, that's the alcohol. Jao zi, that's it! (And bao zi, which are the breakfast dumplings, and I would move heaven and earth today to have a couple of warm bao zi next to the computer right now.) I loved them so much I wanted to learn how to cook them. I thought this would be easy... well, the finding someone to teach me, not the cooking itself. But it turned out to be more difficult than I thought.

See, the people that I knew in China were all youngish women, most of them living in households with their parents. (This seems very common in China. Lily, of whom the less we say the better, stilled live at home with her parents as a single woman of 25, whereas Bao Ing, her husband Wei, and her daughter all lived with Wei's parents, to help with child care and the like.) So, none of the women I knew actually knew how to cook the things. But, Bao Ing, being incredibly friendly and resourceful, agreed to find me a cooking teacher. And she did - her father-in-law.

I was very eager for my first cooking lesson, even though everyone else thought I was being strange. Who would want to learn how to cook dumplings, when I could far more easily just get them take out down the street. But, I liked them, and I liked the idea of being able to make a batch and eat them at 4 a.m. or something strange like that, and since the entire city of Jiangyan shut down at 9:30, I would need to know how to make them myself.

This might have been easier if either a) Wei's father had spoken English or b) Bao Ing or Wei had been around during the lesson to translate.

It was an interesting evening, to say the least. Wei's father would mix up some... stuff... that was black... in with some meat... that was not black. And added some white stuff. Then he fried it up, in some other stuff that wasn't cooking oil. Once it was ready, he grabbed a handful of the little sheaths that you make the dumplings in, put a bit of the dumpling mix in the sheath, and then did some complicated and interesting finger gymnastics with it in order to make the sheath-mix combination into a tasty dumpling. After he'd made a few, he'd fry them (or boil them, depending on some arcane thing I never determined). They never took long to cook, and then we'd eat them with vinegar and soy sauce and much yumminess would follow.

I did my fair share of mixing and adding and cooking, and although, for the most part, mine tasted fine, they looked like something your average 4 year old would make out of play-dough.

Bao Ing and Wei came along after I'd made my 15th or so, and Ing translated for me what most of the ingredients were. Soy sauce was in there, I can't remember what meat it was that first time, and the white stuff was untranslatable, but not salt. (I later realized this was MSG.) Since she and Wei had gotten to know me pretty well by that point, there was much mocking of my technique in folding the little dumplings into "flowers". (Flowers? I didn't see it, and still don't.) We talked a lot, and laughed a lot, and Ing confessed she hadn't a clue how to fold the things, either, so I shouldn't feel bad, and Wei just laughed a lot. He always laughed a lot - such a happy man. I miss them both.

The next day Wei's father escourted me to the open market, and we went around and bought all the things I would need to make the stuff myself. There was apparently some heated bargaining over prices, but I was peacefully oblivious and justed handed over how ever many quai I was asked for.

I did love making them, and I've found the little sheaths for sale here, frozen, in the Chinese supermarket. I should make some more, soon. Digs has a recipe for them which looks basically like what I did (complete with folding instructions!), but with more fillings and the like.

Mmmm... just thinking about this is making me crave proper Chinese food. Little dumplings (lots of little dumplings), some eggs and tomatoes mix together, some really good rice, and something I can't identify to drink. Oh, and something with egg plant, of course.

China is an amazingly good place to eat. I really need to get back there....

November 10, 2005

Carnival of Expats #2

The second Carnival of Expats is ready to begin!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

To sum up:

Every week, a new topic will be chosen by the hosting blog on a Thursday. Over the course of the weekend, other expat bloggers will write on that topic, post it to their blog, and submit the permanent link (and trackback link if appropriate) to the host blog. On Monday morning (local time!), the host blog will round up the various posts into a cornacopia of links and commentary. It will be posted on both the host blog (in this case, mine), and on the primary blog of the Carnival (which is cunning called the Expat Carnival). Submitting blogs will then either link to the writeup, or copy and paste it into their own blog.

That was a longer sum up than I expected.

This week's topic: What has been your most interesting expat food experience?

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

November 7, 2005

Expat Carnival #1: Results

Welcome to the first Expat Carnival! Participants this week answered the question "Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again? Why or why not?".

From France, in a post titled "A Small Small World", Pumpkin Pie writes about how moving to France was a decision that was the best for her family, both financially and emotionally. She also talks about how unusual the decision is, and how it effects her relationship with her extended family.

For us to think of living in another country is like living on another planet. Or when we meet people from other countries it is a little like they are aliens.
{From My French Window}

Meanwhile, off in Asia, Phil writes about the woman and the experiences that lead him to jump at a chance to head overseas.

Then the gods decided to intervene. I went to work on a Friday morning and was called into a board meeting. Thinking that I was getting retrenched, I was ready to quitely pack up my office and jump off the Sydney Harbour Bridge but it was not to be.
{Sheepdip}

In Singapore, DNA together write about accepting a job offer, a decision they wouldn't take back.

We knew it would be more challenging than anything else in our (married) life till now....
{Singapore Ahoy!}

In Scotland, in a post titled "Leaving Town", Don writes about friends making choics to leave home, and how that changed the idea of 'home' for him.

Most of my closest friends were in the process of scattering and I had to face the realisation that those who weren’t already on that path were likely to, especially the ones who, like me, were not focussed on fledgling families. I started to realise that I needed to seriously focus on other parts of my life.
{Ponderings from Afar}

Also in Scotland, I wrote a post called "Never Go Home Again", where I bring up how being tired of being unhappy (and a 'small' loan) got me out of Canada and across to the UK, following a rather poorly thought out stint in China.

I could... could... become a new person, and then rush back to Canada, with all of my problems and issues solved, because no one would remember them! I'd just be that cool person who went off to China for a year! Yes! Wonderful plan!
{Anna Overseas}

Thank you to all the participants this week! I'd like to extend a special thank you to Living in the South Pacific, who not only suggested this week's topic, but emailed me moments before leaving for the airport to apologize for not writing this week. She's moving to Paupa New Guinea, you see, and got a bit busy. *grin*

Come back again Thursday for another topic, and remember: Anyone who is an expat can participate! {Expat Carnival}

November 6, 2005

Never Go Home Again

"Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again?"

I would have to divide this into two parts: China and Scotland.

To be perfectly frank, I moved to China to run away from home. It seemed like a very cunning plan at the time. I could live in a country far enough away from everyone that I would have a legitimate reason not to talk or communicate with people without feeling guilty about it. I could run away from my problems! I could... could... become a new person, and then rush back to Canada, with all of my problems and issues solved, because no one would remember them! I'd just be that cool person who went off to China for a year! Yes! Wonderful plan!

Needless to say, it didn't work out quite that way.

I returned from China a different person, of this I have no doubt. But instead of returning to a life where my problems were all gone with the passing of time, a lot of problems just got worse. Let me assure you: running away from home does little except give you a lot of time to think. Which I did, and I don't regret doing that thinking, and I don't regret the choices I made because of it. I do regret thinking I could toss myself back into my life in Canada, full tilt, and just pick everything up where I left off, with no consequences. It led to a lot of problems.

I got restless quickly. Very quickly. As in, within about a month. (Paul, who I had met in China and how had travelled a lot before that assured me this would happen. I thought he was wrong.) I had been toying with the idea of not coming home at all, or of leaving again right away, but hadn't followed through. I still had that idea that I would just be happy, like I had been in the first few years I had been in Edmonton.

When things didn't work out that way, I was devestated. I had managed to renew some good friendships, and started a few more, but it never seemed like enough. I couldn't find a way to fit in anymore. I wanted things that most of the people in my life either dreamed about in the 'never gonna happen anyway' kinda way, or couldn't understand why I'd want it. I had to deal with some jealousy from people who figured I had somehow lucked out to go to China, that I hadn't made sacfrices or choices to do so, or that those were just choices they couldn't make. More and more, things seemed pointless and meaningless. I couldn't stand how small Edmonton suddenly seemed.

I became incredibly miserable, and started completely isolating myself from my friends and social group. I'd never leave the house except to go to work. I stopped answering the phone. I stopped answering emails. I just... stopped. People became concerned, at least one friend almost called the police when he hadn't heard from me in weeks, and neither had anyone else. I spent most of my time awake staring at the ceiling.

I had linked the idea of being unhappy to the city of Edmonton so completely. Nothing would convince me that I could be happy and be in Edmonton. I couldn't even imagine it. I believed, totally, that getting out of the city, to anywhere, would make me happy. I started to seriously look at moving to BC, to live with friends for a bit, or my parents, until I got a job and a place of my own. Because even that would be preferably to another week in Edmonton.

Then I had a very long talk with a friend, about why I was unhappy, and what I wanted. He asked me, if I had the money, what would I do? What would make me happy?

"Getting a working holiday visa and going to the UK for two years. Then maybe a few other places... I don't know. I just want to see the world, I want to see it all before I die. But I can't. I don't have the money, I will never be able to earn the money, I am drowning in student loan debt."

He wrote me a cheque for the amount I was short. "I love you, get out of here. Watching you be so unhappy is the worst thing I've ever seen. It's only money. Go."

Three weeks after that, I was watching Canada disappear behind the plane. I didn't know what I would do in Edinburgh, but I knew what I wouldn't do: wallow in unhappiness. There's only so much of that you can do before you have to accept that you're the only thing holding yourself back. To paraphrase the saying, sometimes the only thing all your misery has in common in yourself.

I've been a much happier person in Edinburgh, to the point where sometimes I cannot believe how much I lost and gave up in Edmonton. I didn't give it a chance, really, when I got back from China, and I do regret that. But Edmonton had stopped being home for me. I wasn't willing to go to the effort of making it home again. I wanted a new home, one where I could follow my dreams. Here, I'm making plans for my masters degree, making plans for where to go next. I'm living again, and I don't think I would have done that in Vancouver, or Nanaimo, or Abbotsford. It's too easy, I think, to fall back into unhappiness when there's someone to catch you. Here, I have to be self-sufficient. I have to be able to support my own emotional self. And it's been a very good choice.

Would I do it again?

Well, I'm already planning what I'll bring to Australia, so yes, yes I would. In a heartbeat. But coming here, or going to Australia, is not running away from home. Home, I have realized, is something you choose. It's not thrust upon you anymore than unhappiness is.

I came here because I wanted to be here. It wasn't a choice I fell into, it was a choice I made. And that, as they say, has made all the difference.

November 3, 2005

Carnival of Expats #1

The first Carnival of Expats is ready to begin!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

To sum up:

Every week, a new topic will be chosen by the hosting blog on a Thursday. Over the course of the weekend, other expat bloggers will write on that topic, post it to their blog, and submit the permanent link (and trackback link if appropriate) to the host blog. On Monday morning (local time!), the host blog will round up the various posts into a cornacopia of links and commentary. It will be posted on both the host blog (in this case, mine), and on the primary blog of the Carnival (which is cunning called the Expat Carnival). Submitting blogs will then either link to the writeup, or copy and paste it into their own blog.

That was a longer sum up than I expected.

This week's topic, in honour of the first edition, is "Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again? Why or why not?", as suggested by Living in the South Pacific.

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

About Carnival

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Anna Overseas in the Carnival category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Australia is the previous category.

China is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.