The divorce they didn’t know you survived.

We all know that there are friendships that are easy to think about, talk about and write about. And then there are those ‘friendships’ that are much more complicated. 
Best friends are so vital to our lives, especially for us girls. They become our go-to’s when we need a bit of emotional fuel, our pick me ups when everything seems to be getting us down, they are the person who you want to support in all their hard times, and people who we invest so much time in. We give a piece of ourselves to them that is hard to let go of. They are the best. 
Yet we rarely talk about what it’s like when we lose them, not through death but through what I refer to as friend divorce. 

Friend divorce is when a good friend just drops you, a permanent falling out. 
2016 was an amazing year for me and my family. But while we had such a good year, I’ve also experienced some very hard but valuable lessons. 

I suffered not just one friend divorce, but two. (A couple ‘sigh’ where of course when one divorces you, the other becomes disconnected too) I lost two of my extended family. And when those people have been as close as family, it hurts. 

Part of me thinks us girls should take more notice of how men maintain their friendships. That by keeping things less emotionally connected, it’s easier for them to accept when it’s all over and walk away unhurt. The trust no one fully approach. 
However I also feel that, getting hurt we may be, but by never getting emotionally connected, by always staying guarded with a wall up, is it then ever possible to have the continued friendships we girls desire and need……. Nope, …….without that level of connection, I would never have had the memories. And they are priceless. Worth the hurt….. What’s that saying “better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all”. 
Losing a husband, wife or family member through death or divorce fits within our society’s understanding of loss and grief. But, unfortunately, we have no recognized guidelines for losing friends—and they are the people who may outlive our other relationships, or who when they disappear take the best part of you with them. 
Sometimes, especially when you live away from family as I do, your best friends are the people you tell your news to first, the first person you call when you want to take a trip, the first person you call up when you want to be silly and spontaneous and want someone by your side, the people who you work through all problems with. 
They, above everything else, are the ones who hold your hand when your family is not there for you, and who you do all of that in return for. They become your family. And trust me, I had my fair share of needing that support network while being in Colombia, with a young baby, and post natal depression, and then stabbing myself amongst other things. (Although the have a baby point is enough to need a real friend to stick by you just by itself). Thank god for the friends I had then. 
The hardest aspect of a friend divorce, as well as in a spouse divorce, I imagine, is when the person walks away from you, and never returns, without ever giving you a reason why. Because it was never your choice, never your plan and you never saw it coming. You just get left there one day wondering what happened. 
Some days you wake up hating the other person and …..yes I’ll admit it…. Wanting them dead, other days you just wish they would come running back to you, so you can hug it out. It’s a very confusing time of loss and misunderstanding and other people just don’t seem to always understand how it’s affecting you. 

I know I’m not the only person that has been friend dumped. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Someone who only wants you when it suits them, is not a friend. Someone who you have to watch your behaviour around in case you say or do the wrong thing is not a true friend. Someone who regularly makes you feel like you need to try too hard, is not a friend. 

I have realised something about myself too, (Apart from the fact that family really do come before friends)….
I’ve realised that…..I didn’t lose out. I learned. 
I CARE….. I care enough for another human being, that since I have been a divorcee, I miss helping you and looking after you.
I’M FORGIVING….. Despite the lack of communication, some of the last things you said were hurtful and cold, and I forgave you. I told you that I knew you were going through something bad, and rather than being angry (the fight was mine for the taking), I offered you help and a chance to move on. I didn’t have to do that, but as a FRIEND, I did. 
And perhaps the best yet…… IM BETTER OFF Now. I embraced the change. You can too.
Divorce hurts, even friend divorce. Probably more so as your doing it by yourself, people aren’t there to offer you support like they would during a normal divorce. at times it feels that you’ll never get over it, but you will. With certain people out of your life, whoever they may be, you realise that there are other people around you, that before there was no time or space for.

You can surround yourself with new friends and new circles of people.

I am a firm believer that, strangely, people are attracted into our lives when we need them and are able to support us somehow through being in similar situations, but that we don’t need them forever, that they may not be compatible with our personalities long term. 

It’s strange how life works out isn’t it. Maybe writing this has given me the final closure to this chapter I needed, maybe someone going through a similar event will find hope, maybe YOU will read it and understand that I’m not bitter, I no longer need or want you in my life, but that I wish you well. 
I’ll leave you with a quote. 
“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny.”

The Worlds Greatest! But Why!

RIP the GOAT

Living, Working & Parenting as an Expat

Muhammad Ali had no idea he would eventually be the world’s greatest. So just how did he do it?

Born in 1942, Louisville Kentucky, Cassius Clay grew up to be a dedicated boxer, philanthropist and social activist, When he set out to do something – he got results!

After catching a thief red handed trying to steal his bike and threatening to “whoop his ass” a policeman advised that Cassius first learn how to box. So that’s exactly what he did.

He soon built up an amateur record of 100 wins and only 5 loses. Cassius made a name for himself, and soon after won the light heavyweight title in the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome.

He changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam faith in 1964 and became ‘Muhammad Ali.

Whilst at the top of his game Ali was the biggest trash talker in boxing.

He has a professional boxing…

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Top 10 things I love about Valencia 

So I have been in Valencia now for 4months. It feels like forever already but in a good way. In a way that it feels like home, it’s familiar to me now; my street, the locals, I have this school run routine that starts at 8.30am and makes me feel like I’m staring in “you’ve got mail”, you know when Meg Ryan couldn’t be happier walking though NYC in the fall and all the weird things that remind her of how happy she is. 

Well for me it’s the friendly smile and wave that I give the Ecuadorean baker through the window in the morning, and the short “how are you?” “I’m fine thanks and you?” Conversation that I have in English with the Indian man in the fruit and veg shop, the man who owns the kebab shop who’s always there, every morning sweeping his shop floors and whistling, the lady who’s always walking her dog that I meet at the zebra crossing who always gives a smile to niko as he fusses about her dog, and the smell of coffee as I walk past the bar, full of old men playing dominoes and cards and smoking like troopers!
So I decided I would try to compile a list of the things that I really love about Valencia, just personal to me but worth noting all the same! 

1- VARIETY OF PEOPLE

I live in an area that other people refer to as the Bronx of Valencia (it’s maybe something to do with my inner gangsta) but I love it. It’s known as the Bronx due to its being at the edge of the city, perhaps a little less looked after (there is slightly more graffiti and rubbish laying around at times) more families suffering from poverty and overcrowding of people from many different backgrounds, Indians, Chinese, Latinos, Romanian and Eastern European, African and middle eastern……. I’ve probably forgotten tons. 

But for those reasons, minus the rubbish is exactly why I love it here, it’s always vibrant but still not half as busy as say other cities like Chelmsford, London or Bogota that I’ve experienced. And I love how people of all different backgrounds, cultures, religions and languages can live here side by side without obvious discrimination or racism. I never feel like people are looking at me for speaking a “foreign” language, and I’m not the odd one out. Plus because of the influence from all these different places, I can find all types of foods, my favourites being coconut milks, curry sauce and Indian products, couscous and a million other grains, Colombian coffee and vegetables from all over the world. English tea and other essentials like baked beans, naan breads, onion rings and well the list goes on you get it. 

2- PEOPLE 

People here are interested by each others differences and not afraid of them, Spanish people as well as the immigrants here are friendly and helpful and are never too busy to help with directions or trying their best to speak to me in English if my Spanish fails me. I’ve seen or heard of no issues between races here, there appears to be very little if any violent crime, there is no gang culture here or threatening behaviour. Which leads me to my next point…..

3- SAFETY

Because of the above it is so nice to be able to go out the apartment after dark. It took me a good 3 months to re-train my brain that it’s ok to do that now. (Bogota left a deep scar) I still try not to unless I have to (but then it’s good to always be aware) But even with niko in the pushchair or walking we have been out till gone midnight and walked home and seen no gangs of people hanging around or drug addicts ready to pounce or anyone suspicious! It’s so awesome that we can be out and about in the day, or at night and be carrying money, iPhones, iPad and the laptop and have no worries, or even walk around after sunset without having to feel my heart pumping in my throat from fear and adrenaline of what might happen and will we make it home safe/ alive. 

4- THE WEATHER

Well it’s December, and apart from early mornings and late evenings when it’s chilly enough to snuggle up with the blanket, and remind myself that Christmas is approaching, it’s still super sunny during the day, hot enough to that washing on the balcony dries in 1 day and that I can walk around with no sleeves! And well the summer temperatures were phenomenal I think this year it got as high as 45 degrees and not just for one day but consistently. I recently read that you know you are becoming Spanish when you feel cold once the temp drops below 25, which I never thought was possible, and well after the summer (and I was only here for 2 months of the “summer”) I did actually feel cold one day and the temp was still 22! Guess I’m Spanish! 

  
5- CITY-TOWN-VILLAGE-COAST TYPE LOCATION

Valencia appears to have everything in one, it’s a city, the 3rd largest one in Spain can you believe yet you can pretty much walk round the whole city in a couple of hours. And it’s a great city too, great architecture, whether it be the new modern city of the arts and sciences, the roman buildings in the old town or the typically Spanish coloured houses all in a line painted different colours giving the im-always-on-holiday feel to what now is my home!  

Running right through the city is the river park. It’s a park, that once was the river Turia, that ran all through from one side to the other of Valencia, starting at the mountain range in a province called Teruel, and finishing in the Mediterranean Sea. 

It’s now been turned into a fantastic park full of thousands of different types of trees, flowers, fountains, and playgrounds. It has a running track, a BMX course, football pitches, a baseball field, a huge gulliver (as in gullivers travels) statue laid down for kids to climb up and slide down and loads more…. In the summer the smell of flowers as you walk through it is to die for and if your as lucky as I was you might see wild parrots up in the trees and palms. And this isn’t the only park in Valencia there are many, and they are fab, lines with different statues, trees with fascinating trucks and branches, averys and lakes. All great for exploring! 

As well as the fact that it’s a city, it doesn’t feel as if it is. It’s mostly quiet, there’s never appears to be any rush hour, Chaos on the streets, pushing and shoving at bus stops or in shops, no cars honking horns or continuous church bells or other irritating noises that you normally find in city’s. 

And lastly, the only thing that beats being able to walk into the main city centre in 20 mins – 1/2 hour (15 mins on tram) is that I can also be on the beach in 20 minutes too! And the beach is beautiful, clean, safe and big. 

  
6-  TOSTADAS

My favourite Spanish food (meal) so far. A typical breakfast or brunch snack (although so good I’ve had it for dinners too) …..baguette, halved, then toasted till crisp and golden. Then drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated fresh tomatoes. Variations on the tomato mix can be found, and I always add pepper to mine, but absoulutly delicious. Simple but delicious! 

7- SIESTAS

I don’t think any more needs to be said about the fact that I live in a country where it is acceptable to rest/ sleep during the day between normally 2pm-5pm. 

A little annoying that if you don’t want to sleep or rest there is not a lot else to do as most business and shops close during this time, but it’s amazing at how quickly you will adjust to this “you time” 

8- EFFICIENCY

At least for me anyway my experience of Valencia has been that when you need something done, it’s done. Providing you have your part of what you need anyway. 

Put deposit on flat- was accepted the next day, moved in the next day.

If I have a problem at home, I call the estate agent and within hours the handyman is on the phone organising times he can come. 

Got all my paperwork done without much effort (especially the social security number) which was requested for, reviewed and then issued to me all in 11 minutes. 

Walked into a school that had been recommended on a Friday, asked to sign niko up, what we needed etc…gave copies of my passport and  walked out with niko enrolled as a student and starting on Monday (oh and it’s all free and they provide him with a hot – healthy option- lunch every day too!) 

The change of address on my residency card was printed out and sat waiting for me on the desk before I had even finished completing the change of address form! 

The only thing you may have to wait for on a daily basis is your TOSTADA and coffee, but it’s ok- it’s worth the wait and a busy cafeteria is a good sign! 

9- CLOSE TO HOME 

I love that living here I don’t feel a million miles from home, it’s close enough that people can still visit us here without much effort and it’s reasonably cheap to do so, and if I need to I can go home too! A comforting feeling. 

10- TRANSPORT

For a small city it’s so easy to get around and the choices are endless. 

Walking is my favourite as I like to see new shops a hidden treasures down small streets, but there’s also a variety of other choices:

Taxi’s -safe ones with nice drivers, meters that are fair and drivers who will pre-arrange a price with you too. So you know where your going and what you’ll need to pay. 

Trams that run all over the city that are efficient, clean and regular. A weekly tram card costs €7.20 (£5) and gives you 10 journeys. But as you beep it at the first station – costing you 1 journey, you can then travel on any tram within 1/2 hour with no need to re-tap your ticket. Needless to say they last a while. And at each station is a map that’s not covered in graffiti so you can work out where your going. 

Trains- the same as a tram but underground, faster and with more stations and networks.i know certain people will kill me for that comment! 

Buses- lots of routes, all bus stops numbered so you can use your app to check what time the next one is coming and where it goes, about 70p for a journey, and there’s not often a full bus so not much crowding, drivers greet you nicely and are helpful and there’s no dodgy tramps the jump on the back and either rob you or beg for money. 

City bikes- at the ends of most neighbourhoods there are these bike racks. I can’t say I’ve actually used one but it’s a great idea. You can buy a yearly ticket for €25 ish (about £18), and then you can just check out a bike any time you like and return it to any other station within 40 minutes. If you want to ride for more than that you can check it out again it’s no problem. 

11- ONE FOR LUCK

That we are lucky enough to live here on only Juan’s wage (I’m not working much right now but not complaining 😜) and he’s lucky enough to have a job that not only covers all our bills, rent and living costs, but that gives him a 3 day weekend every week, and time to come home  for 5 hours between shifts every Monday and Wednesday too. We get to spend so much time to enjoy together as a family that after the year we’ve had of being separated from eachother and him from Niko,  it’s finally like a dream come true! 

THANK YOU VALENCIA

So there you have it, my list. When I have enough things, I’ll also do a list of things I don’t like, but for now it’s not possible sorry!

Parenting – we don’t need a book to tell us! 

Every parent worries if they are doing the right thing for their children, right? . It’s a question you ask yourself again and again all day long, is it ok to skip the bath today? Is it ok if he fell asleep before he brushed his teeth? Is it ok if he wants to go to the shops dressed like a dinosaur even though it’s not Halloween and he’s not even on route to a fancy dress party? Is it ok that he has fizzy with lunch? That he watches a movie with a rating above PG or U? 

I mean, really the list of queries is never ending. I’ve heard every parent, including my own say at least once ” well nobody ever gave me a book and told me how to do this parenting thing”. It doesn’t make you a bad person to not know the answers, to accidentally make a mistake every now and then, that’s life and we don’t need a book. Your children will let you know if your getting it right. 

As you all know I have spent the last 8 months away from Juan and some of my “am I doing the right thing” questions have got a little more deep. For example, will it have affected him that we left daddy behind for this amount of time? Is that why he hates saying goodbyes to people now and practically doesn’t do it? Is that in turn going to have an affect on his abilities to maintain healthy relationships when he’s an adult? Should I have just stayed in Colombia so we could all be together? Is it a problem that he’s not socialised with hardly anyone other than me and other adults this last month? Should he have more friends by now? Or at least 1 friend? When with those kids I teach, is it normal for him as the youngest (not even 3 yrs yet) to complain that the boys are being silly and naughty as they are playing fighting? Is it fair for me to work, but take him with me as I have no one else to look after him? How will this affect him when he’s at school all day and then having to ‘go to work in the evenings’? 

You see, it’s deep and there’s loads more fears / questions I have, but I’m going to spare you all my thoughts, mainly as it would most likely bore you, and secondly because for the first time in a long time my boy has actually gone to sleep before 10.30pm and so I want to finish this post so I can have some ME time! 

You see all kids do the occasional bad things, like refusing to listen to you, or not talking politely, not helping you with anything, just like all parents make mistakes (yes I’ll admit I laughed when Niko fell over the other day and said “shit” – and yes I have thought more about my swearing since that incident!) 

So what’s the bottom line, how do we know that we’re doing ok? How do we reassure ourselves so that we can sleep at night knowing we have not ruined their chances of being something great or having the perfect family themselves one day………knowing I am 100% not raising the next famous serial killer……

Well there’s no book, there’s no answers, there’s no scale to measure their abilities and besides everyone is different right? 

Juan, Niko and I, will once again be a family in 5 days time, and yes I’ve had some doubts about how it will be when Juan sees what I’ve done (or not done with Niko) in the 8 months we’ve been away. 

How he’ll adjust to my parenting skills, how I will feel if he’s not happy with the way I talk to Niko or the fact that I do sometimes give him fizzy with dinner, or that I laught at him when he’s being stupid, or for even using the word stupid (I know Juan hates it but I say it so naturally- sorry!) 

But I’ve got all my answers, those moments of clarity that come out the blue that make me realise that actually my kid is something special. Those moments or beautifully sweet things he does are like little sections of his life that I wish I could capture and re-watch every time I want re-assurance. 

I mean he knew not to be bribed into giving my keys away to some child on the sea-saw, he, with only a little bit of encouragement had the confidence to go up to a group of kids and try to play with them even though they were bigger than him. It impressed me that he wanted to ask the daddy of some kid if he could use his bike and not just take it coz he knew stealing is bad, that he knew when the big kids were fighting that it was something “silly”. 

It’s not only those things-  he’s turning 3 years old in 2 weeks time and I’m so proud that he has road sense- he follows the red and green man at crossings, knows to stop and look at zebra crossings, knows we can’t walk in roads, he knows how to flag down the bus we catch to work and from one block away can navigate us home. 

He understands that when someone is hurt or sick we help them and are gentle and kind, he knows human emotion and is concerned for people that are not happy- he even asked me why the man on the street was sad, and when I explained that it was probably because he had no money for food and maybe he was hungry, Niko then said “I can give the man my money” and proceeded to give the man the change that I had put in his pocket! 

It’s those amazing thoughts that cross his mind each day that have him asking me 100 questions, then the repetition of going over it until he’s convinced he knows about it and can talk about it correctly. 

He is currently in the process of trying to determine the difference between natural light and electricity, I have to constantly explain why he has to sleep at night if there is sunshine in the house, I’m sure one day he will understand that we use light indoors, because it’s dark, and that’s ok, but that we can’t just turn off the sunshine when he’s too hot and there’s no shade to walk in during the day! 

I mean there is just so many reasons to get caught up on the “what if I’m doing this whole parenting thing wrong” self questions, 

But I think the trick to knowing that your doing ok, is if like mine, your child is happy, confident, kind, understanding, keen to learn, annoying as hell each time he wants to know something, healthy and passionate for everything he does, determined to be independent, and has the ability to make you smile when you least want to (like at 6am when the sun comes up and he’s singing “morning mummy, wake up, I loveeeee you, mummy I want a kiss and a hug and sunshine kisses pleassseeeee!” )

Yes I know we will have problems in the future, yes I know there will be things Juan and I each disagree on in terms to Niko’s upbringing, but I think in whichever situation we are in, if we can communicate our thoughts together AND to Niko then we will be ok. Afterall it’s important for kids to understand about making decisions and learning consequence right – Niko learned that he really will get a shaved head if he asks mummy for “hair like daddy” and now he’s living with his choice. 

And whatever, if we totally screw up on Niko, then we always have child 2 to get it right with huh?! 

Good luck parents, single parents, and wannabe or future parents – you’ll all be fine, just don’t always focus on the bad, the bad will always happen but the good will always outweigh it if you let it! 

And thank you Niko, for showing me my errors and  rewarding me with your awesomeness when I get it right! 

 

A change of plans- Valencia 

So many people are asking me about why I am in Valencia now that I thought rather than keep writing it all each time I would blog it. 

So I left Colombia with Niko, making the decision to leave Juan behind. It was the toughest thing we have ever done but we managed “what’s 6 months out of our whole lives right?” 

In order for Juan to be able to join us, there were certain criteria I would have to meet

-We must wait 6 months before applying

-During those 6 months I must have been working and earning a minimum annual salary of £18,600

Well I managed both of those things and struggled through each month after paying out for Nikos full time childcare. With the government against me by saying I have to put in 45 hour weeks I then had to pay for 50 hours of childcare a week but because I was earning the amount they said had to be my minimum (£18,600) I then didn’t qualify for any of the childcare benefits schemes. 

Anyway as the time grew near, and the countdown of our 6 months apart grew close I got in touch with a solicitor who specialises in immigration and has been helping me all the way through, and he advised me that the application now is averaging at £5,000 due to needing 

-visa fee £1000

– private health care for Juan -£600

-English language test £600

– Flights between £500-£800

-solicitor fee £700

-documents £200

-allowance for extras/ issues. 

He also then advised me that even people right now making applications who are ticking all the boxes are getting refusals due to the recent elections and crack down on immigration. 

The refusal of a visa means you don’t get the money back and the cost of the appeal is about £2,000. 

I was getting panicky about 1. Not having this application money saved up yet, 2. Concerned about Juan having a refusal (which can then look bad for other applications and 3. Concerned that even if Juan does get to the UK where would we live as I was barely managing with just the costs of childcare let alone rent and bills as well, and Juan may struggle to get work too (many company’s do not want to employ people unless they already have their indefinite leave to remain and this takes 5 years to get) so this could be a problem too. 

We just felt that it was too risky to chance it and then be stuck relying on family. 

So……………

I came to Valencia, on holiday initially to see our friends who are in the same situation (British &colombian) and to see how they are managing here- it was all made to appear really easy. My friends Colombian husband was here with her for just under 3 months and has now been given a 5 year visa! I think the total cost of this was about €100 tops including all travel n printing documents etc! A massive difference from the UK procedure. 

Both my friends have found jobs easily here and the rent and bills are affordable averaging about €400 a month. Transport is cheap (about 70p per journey on tram/train. 

So I figured I would start looking for a Job in Spain online, and a week after I got back from holiday I found one, nannying. 

I booked my flights out here with niko and since the 22nd September I have been here in Valencia. 

I’ve got 4 little babysitting / nannying jobs lined up but the hunt for contracted work continues (I will need a contract in order to apply for Juan to stay here with me. 

So our plan going forward is:

-Juan will come here on the 22nd October (flights now booked!!!!! Yay) 

-He / we will then have 3 months to get me a job and apply for his 5 year residency 

– Juan can then work / travel etc within Europe (UK still excluded) 

– after 2 years of this 5 year residency being issued he can then apply for his Spanish nationality! 

Which gives me between now and the 23rd Jan 2016 to get a job with a contract, should be easy (I’ve been here 1.5 weeks already n got a potential 4 jobs lined up – but as private so no contracts yet. 

Anyway life here seems fab, my friends after nearly 10 months here still love it and say they can’t believe they live here- it’s not just a holiday, but it’s easy to forget your not on holiday, living in the city centre with all its architecture, green areas, parks, public outdoor pools, little plazas with restaurants and ice cream parlours and the SUNSHINE! We are 10 minutes by tram from the city centre, and 20 minutes in tram from the beach. The people are all so lovely too. 

For us we think it’s going to be our happy neutral place, it has the best of bogota and the UK for me, it’s hot, it’s still Spanish speaking so me and niko won’t lose the language, it’s a bit of an adventure, but at the same time it’s safe here, they sell food from Colombia and the UK (and most other countries too it’s just so varied, and the work life balance is perfect meaning we can afford to work yet still get good quality time together as a family. 

I’m currently staying with my friends until Juan arrives and then we will find our own place. Exciting! 

Juan is busy getting our apartment in Colombia rented out and packing ready to be re-United with me and niko after what will then be a long 8 months. 

So there you go. I’ll keep you all updated! 

    

Our Immigration Nightmare

My first thought when writing this is “how can I write this and not offend anyone”….so I hope I don’t.

I know I’m not the only person in this situation, but I feel like the only one who doesn’t know how to, or have the money to solve it.

Like many people I was fed up with the same old dull life that I had in the UK, I craved a change, an exciting adventure, and I made that happen. I moved to Colombia and yes for the first year all was fantastic, just as I had planned, I had savings to live off, a loving new family, a fantastic fiancée, and I was having fun.

Soon after I started to miss the trivial things about home that I expected to miss, family, safety, food and a good job. But the excitement kept me going (as well as food parcels sent from the UK by my fantastic family).

Then a huge shock, I’m pregnant. And the things I’m missing seem to double, especially the safety issue. Imagine not being allowed to go sit in a local park and read without being escorted because being pregnant and not having the ability to fight back makes me more of a target. That is just one example of many.

So I tried as hard as I could to pick up my Spanish (which wasn’t easy), get a job – also not easy, the thing is here, unless you can teach English, jobs are hard to find! But I found one, actually it now pays quite well but I have to travel 4.5 hours a day on a cramped, hot, over loaded bus that probably has windows which won’t open if it’s hot so you think you’re going to pass out from heat exhaustion, or windows that won’t close when its pouring with rain soaking you to the bone – and all for a 2 hour shift – think about that next time your air conditioned train is cancelled or you get delayed an hour or so.

So now I’m living here, not just having a break from UK life, but settled. Working. Contributing. Trying to survive and accept everything that is abnormal as normal just to get through each day.

Don’t get me wrong there are things I love about Bogota many things in fact, but the longer I’m here the more they seem to get outweighed by the things that I don’t like. It’s because I’m here because I HAVE to be not because I WANT to be which makes everything worse.

So I know I’m going to be having a baby, what’s my first thought?……

 “How can I get back to the UK with my husband-to-be so that I can be a normal mother, not one that’s different to everyone else here, one that can barely keep up with the language, one that is scared of almost everything here”?

And when I looked into it, the answer is that I can’t.

Well I can if I’m willing to go alone (with a newly born baby) and separate from Juan until I can be in the UK for 6 months working and earning over 18,000 a year, to then request for him to join me. So no, the answer is I can’t, A) there’s no way I can separate from Juan for another year, we’ve already done that and it was so hard, and B) who am I to separate a father and son?

So we stay here in Bogota for another year, my 2nd year here, of which I think I spent about 10 months crying and feeling depressed – Because I am a new mother who has never felt so uncomfortable in my life, living with people who I don’t understand, in a culture I can’t get a grip on, in a neighborhood that isn’t very safe especially after 6pm and so far from the friends I have made here, that its almost an impossible journey to see anyone.  So I’m pretty much housebound, lonely, missing home and trying to be strong for Niko. And apparently not doing a very good job at holding it together. Sorry again to anyone that had to deal with me during those times!

It’s now year three, Niko is going to be 3 this October – I know it’s a long way off but it’ll go so fast, as have the past 2 years, and he’ll need to start enrolling in a pre-school, then an actual school. I don’t want that he has to go to a public school here mingling with the kids from broken homes who use school as an excuse to ‘just get out the house’ and who are more interested in fighting, taking drink to school, drugs, sex, and other stuff I don’t want to think about right now.

But there’s also no way I could afford a private school here, not only do you pay ridiculous amounts for the schools, but also for the uniforms, books, food, transport – everything – and by the way it doesn’t even mean the education is going to be any better.

Now I know that not all is nice and rosy back in the UK, that kids can be just as bad and that some areas can be just as dangerous, but this leads me to my next point, at least in the UK something is done about it. There are rules, laws, things that people actually stick to because our law enforcement is so good and the black and white of it keeps people in check – here the police are barely respected, most are assumed dodgy, crime happens daily and NOTHING is done about it, my guess is that most crimes go unreported just because people here think that A) there’s no point in reporting it as nothing will get done, but that B) well “that’s just life”. People live here with a ‘what happens, happens and there’s nothing I can do about it’ attitude, and that drives me mad.

I hope I don’t jinx anything by saying that I think I’m the only person I know here who’s not Colombian and who hasn’t been the victim of some kind of crime (stabbing- robbery – pick pocketing etc).

If it wasn’t for Niko, would I want to stay here – if I think about it, probably “yes”. But with him now in the picture I wonder what can my life really be like here.

To afford what he needs to be safe it involves working almost all hours under the sun and having him in care most the time – that’s not an option when even my Colombian husband says he’s not happy leaving his child here in a situation like that where you don’t know what can happen.

Or I can spend the time with Niko and be a house mum, but never have the money for his schooling, university, holidays etc.

So now a year on, we are looking at the only 2 options we seem to have.

The first is a loop hole through Europe – we can go there together without visas, and provided I’m working there for 6 months (Juan cannot study or work during this time – he may just go mad!) then the UK have no right to refuse us entry – but that also involves 6 months of rent money needed to get by in Spain, maybe more like 9 months given the time it may take to find work. Not to mention IT’S A LOOP HOLE, I don’t want to do things that way I want to do it properly, and what if they change the loophole rule before we can organize to go, that’s that option out the way, leaving…….

The second route. It is the one we first considered 2 years ago. I go to the UK with Niko, hopefully find a job that pays 18,600 or more. Juan stays here working to in order to save up. After 6 months I can apply for him to join me, this process takes up to 12 weeks so it means we could be apart for a year or more.

But now I’m hearing that because of the situation the UK finds itself in, over-run by illegals, fake marriages, bad employers employing foreign illegals because they are cheaper, and benefit frauds – not to mention all the people that are flooding in from Romania etc who speak no English but are allowed to come and ask for housing and money then live rough and commit many robberies–

If we wish to do this second route we may now because of this situation, not only need to evidence my job earnings of over 18,600, but also savings of over 16,000, proof that we can live independently in owned or rented property in our names (meaning I can’t be living with family who have offered to help us out) and even then after a year having been separated they could still say no just because Juan isn’t from the EU and they don’t want more foreigners in the country. So off I go back to Colombia. Defeated.

I know this all just seems like a lot of moaning, but to me it really is a huge obstacle that I can’t seem to get over.

How would you like to be stuck in a country / situation that your not enjoying just because you have no other way out of. Responsible for a child ans wanting to the best you can for him/her but unable too. I mean Niko also has a huge family back in the UK including 4 GREAT grandparents whom he may never meet until he’s a young man. That’s so sad!

Maybe I have missed a logical way to get home, I’m not an expert at immigration and frankly the website information seems like a maze to me which I find myself getting lost in, so if there’s anyone out there who does know their way around this topic and can offer advice to get me and my family home please let me know. Here is the links I’ve been using:

https://www.gov.uk/government/world/colombia.es-419

but feel free to send me others or info you find!

Thanks

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Most Embarassing Bus Journey!

yes, i could keep moaning on here about all the things that wind me up about this country im in, and probably piss off every Colombian whilst doing so, but every once in a while something happens here that really makes me laugh so i thought id share that too! Its not all bad……

Yesterday i began my 2 hour bus journey to work, bored stiff as my headphones broke so i was staring aimlessly out of the bus window (you never know what weird and wonderful things you might see on the streets of Bogota)

So on gets a guy in a suit, clean and smart with a nice watch, therfore probably not going to try selling something, or playing any weird music for a few coins. PHEW coz those people always make me feel sad and like i have to give them money. He pays his fare and sits next to me. FINE.

10 minutes after sitting there, he gets up turns around and starts welcoming all his happy colombian family on this beautiful day. He was one of those can make anybody smile types. So he starts asking how people are, making jokes that had the whole bus engaged and laughing and blessing each of them. Scared to get picked on, because im a wimp and i also dont want the whole bus to know im not Colombian, i instantly closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, a regualr trick for me!

He was selling something afterall, medical books, how to use natural remidies to cure various diseases etc, something i like to call witchdoctory here. if you have a cold, its ok, just drink a plant infusion, if you have mosquito bites use pure alcohol with talc to make a paste and rub it on the affected area, if you have high cholesterol keep eating animal fat and bones because its a standard colombian diet, but drink a ginger and tomatoe infusion and youll be reducing your cholesterol, hahahahahahah. i still think its ridiculous bu hey some of them seem to work.

But then things get embarassing. During his game of having people answer questions correctly about the body “what is the longest bone in the hand?” “what is the function of the kidney?” etc, i open my eyes. He sees me and thats when my humiliation starts…………

He leans into me and says “ohhhhh you have “ojos claritos”  (clear / blue eyes). I reply “si señor” and look away, but thats not enough.

He invites me (literally pulls me up) to standing position and tells me to turn around so the whole bus can see, and then asks the entire bus to applaud if they think my eyes are beautiful! Everyone was clapping and i went bright red. So then he embrasses me further by asking everyone to clap for the embarassed gringa!

He at least gave me his medical book for 1,000 COP (about 40p) instead of 3,000 COP, something i shall be giving to my mother in law! although i wasnt going to buy the book but ended up doing so, maybe i underestimated his talents as a salesman!

Just when i thought my day couldnt get any funnier, a young guy got on about half an hour later, maybe about 20 years old, and starts rapping for money. Something really clever they do here is adhoc their rap about the people on the bus. obviously kinda tricky to do without stopping bearing in mind people get on and off and yet they keep up with the flow.

He starts with the lady infront of me being on her phone, then starts rapping about my eyes being so blue and pretty. (this must be the only thing i have going for me here!)

With that the people who were still on the bus from the earlier embarassment start clapping again and whistling! WENT RED AGAIN!

I know i moan alot about the things i dont like in Bogota, but days like that really make me smile and laugh.

As funny as it was, im hoping to get new earphones and “be asleep” for further journeys, I just dont like sticking out however flattering it might be!

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A very close call

So a while back someone said I should change the name of my blog because having gone through everything to have a baby here and becoming a mummy, I am no longer an idiot. Well I couldn’t figure out how to change it, (maybe the name is appropriate after all) but more so after Friday night……

I’m writing this in a blog because so many people are asking what happened to me this weekend, and it pains me to keep re-telling the whole story (not to mention typing right now is a bitch) so I’m just going to tell the story on here.

So having spent the whole of Saturday spring cleaning our room the last job to do was clean the bits in the kitchen. We had just that day given my mother in law a brand new set of extremely sharp knives and a lemon squeezer. The knives were open but the squeezer was still in its packaging secured by those annoyingly tough plastic security tags.

So I grabbed for the new knife, and began sawing away from me – it wasn’t working, so this idiot decided to start pulling towards me, needless to say the knife slipped and went straight into my hand. It went all the way in and out in I guess less than a second and instantly the blood began to spurt out of my hand like it does in really bad horror films, there was puddles of it on the floor and it was on the worktop, ceiling, and as far as the patio (a rooms length away from me).

Obviously I screamed for Juan, which I had to do twice as after the first scream he was shhh-ing me and telling me to relax, it turns out he thought I had seen a spider or something. When I screamed that I thought I was dying he and my mother in law rushed in. within seconds I had lost the feeling in my whole hand, was wrapped in a tea towel and was in the car.

There was a discussion in the car about which hospital to go too (because there are certain ones you have to go to depending on the health cover you have here – but I knew the nearest one would be at least a 40 minute drive, I screamed to just go to the emergencies here in my ‘barrio’ –I would have paid anything just to be told right then that I wasn’t dying.

We arrived at the hospital in Fontibon and luckily for an AnE at midnight on a Saturday I was the 3rd person in, so I was seen after about an hour ish. LUCKY!

Needless to say while Juan left me to go sort the car out, and I was sat there shaking and crying/ moaning, I had all sorts of sympathetic looks from people worrying about the gringa had been stabbed!

I did learn one thing sitting there being in extreme pain – pain makes me a really mean and judgmental person, horrible in fact. I was complaining about having to wait saying that it was a hospital for poor people that was understaffed with only 2 doctors working, that hadn’t yet given me anything for the pain, and so low budget there was blood stains all over the floor – Juan later told me the blood was mine! Ooops (I take back all horrible things I said, sorry).

I was called through to see the doctor and through nerves, shock and fear actually did quite well surprisingly in Spanish. But he could see how scared I was and asked Juan to come through to be with me.

I was laid down and given maybe 5 or 6 horrendously painful injections to numb my hand which had me screaming so loud I’m actually quite embarrassed by it now (I even apologised to the doctor when he had finished). He then began my 10 stiches while I laid there crying listening to the doctor and Juan chit chatting about Juan living in London, where he learned to do stiches and the horrible place at night which is Fontibon!!

When I was done and sat up the amount of blood all over the floor nearly made me faint but I was ok.

Finally he told me to go see the nurse for an injection for the pain and a tetanus jab. The nurse only washed my hand with soapy water, asked me if it had been a suicide attempt as I was so close to getting the main vein / artery – whichever it is that I had nearly killed myself, then sent me home with a prescription – not very reassuring.

We found a 24 hour drug store, got my meds and was at home by maybe 2.30am.

No sleep at all and 4 painkillers later and I was still in excruciating pain by mid-morning. I went over to my local pharmacist and she gave me an injection for the pain (which didn’t even help) and told me to come back later for the tetanus. She told me the meds the hospital had prescribed were the cheapest ones available and were a bit crap! So that explained the amount of pain I still had!

I spent my first day at home in constant pain but every hour or so it would get unbearable and id begin to shake and cry again. Thank god for having some of the best people I know around me to help out with distracting me and to help with Niko!

I had my tetanus jab and at night managed to get some sleep for the first time in two days. 2nd day the pain was more bearable but I was still a little worried that I could only just about move my fingers and still couldn’t move or feel my thumb, but I’ve now convinced myself that’s just due to the swelling and I’m trying to relax about the fact that I have a semi paralysed hand in a claw shape.

Today is day three, I’m able to wiggle my fingers, and slightly move my thumb although it’s still numb with pins and needles. Its a little swollen but I have so far escaped without bruising. The swelling shows how far the knife went into my hand which is through the skin between my index finger and thumb, and as far as to the middle of my wrist.

Now that I’m not in shock and can think rationally and humanly, it is a little funny that I have been in a bit of a dangerous barrio of Bogota for nearly 3 years now and managed to stay safe until I was stabbed – BY MYSELF! My granddad summed it up nicely in an email

“Hi Claire, just heard from mum. If you are going to embrace the Colombian knifing culture, do it to someone else! Silly to attack yourself”

So that’s the story of this idiot abroad, I’m very grateful for everyone’s well wishes and concern and for the help of my husband and close friend Zoe who have looked after me since it happened. And right now as over the top as it might seem I’m just so happy to be alive and without permanent damage (although I’m still a little concerned about my thumb) but I have a GP appointment on Friday so fingers crossed.

And that’s it, ill keep you updated! PS- I have the cutest son ever who’s very concerned about mummy’s “owchie” and keeps giving me kisses!

Isn’t it common sense?

Its taken me nearly 3 years of living in this chaotic capital city to figure out what’s missing here………but I have at least figured it out, so why haven’t authorities???

In a capital city of nearly 8 million people, bicycle use has increased by 5 times in the city. It is estimated that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 trips made daily in Bogotá by bicycle. But ,is this really a good thing when the amount of cars used hasn’t really decreased and still people continue to drive like lunatics?

Lets just say that with the crazy and impatient car drivers, the even more ‘in a hurry taxis’, the doing-10-things-at-once bus drivers and the people on bikes who are un-eqquiped with safety wear and wiggling all over the road to avoid the millions of pot holes, that accidents are frequent and often deadly.

In 2011, 37% of traffic accidents that resulted in death were those of cyclists and pedestrians. 46.2% were of motorcyclists.

Traffic laws, including speed limits, are rarely obeyed and rarely enforced; creating chaotic and dangerous conditions for both drivers and pedestrians in major cities. Due to the constant heavy traffic, speed isn’t really a huge problem, I think what’s worse is the lack of lane structure – for example on a 2 lane road, its not uncommon to see 3 or 4 very un-organized lines of traffic with people and bikes weaving their way through the middle.

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To make things worse, Seat belts are only mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle. Car seats are not mandatory for children, and people in the back of a car (however many there are of them) are free to do what they like without seatbelts. I’ve been in a car that had 2 people in the front and 6 in the back – three of those being adults.

So why am I writing this and what’s it all about?

I’m fed up of being on a bus, seeing ambulances with flashing lights and sirens stuck in traffic with no-one able to move out the way. Sometimes even though people could move out the way they don’t do it – this annoys me even more but that’s another issue.

So its a concerning thought that when one of the many traffic accidents happens in this city, the risk of it going fatal is due to the weight of the traffic, and the fact that the ambulances cant get through to the victim. Several times just this week I’ve been in taxis and told that they witnessed a death on the road because the ambulance was as late as 40 minutes getting to the scene!!!

Isn’t that shocking given that there are 7 main emergency hospitals in Bogotá city all operating different ambulance services?

So my confusion is that in a county full of people who are continuously trying to better what they have, make modifications on everyday issues and prove to the world that this city is modernising, can’t they see the simplicity and necessity for having paramedics on motorbikes / scooters?

Everyone knows here that if you need to get from one side of the city to the other in half the time, you use a bike to avoid the traffic jams…………….how long will it take before this idea is thought up by someone who actually has the power to enforce it. It could save so many lives.

Cycle responders, bike medics or bike ambulances, as they are variously called in different parts of the world, are professional, medically trained personnel who respond to emergencies by cycling or riding to them on bikes carrying essential equipment, providing life-saving medical aid in situations that more conventional emergency vehicles like ambulances cannot reach.

In Britain, there is evidence that they are not only saving lives, but saving money. Figures from the London Ambulance Service, show that the special cycle crews have saved £300,000 in fuel costs, or the equivalent of 20,000 ambulance journeys since 2000.

For a city like Bogotá looking to save money, reduce traffic, reduce the death toll and modernise, is this not a really simple, obvious solution??

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Terrifying School Trends!

hey guys,

I know its been a while since I wrote about anything, but in all honesty its been tough thinking of something worthwhile to share. I mean I could write about all the usual stuff (things I love about being abroad, things I hate about it, the baby, working abroad etc…..) but you’ve heard it all before.

However I felt I had to write about this news I heard yesterday that really shocked me! It’s not good, pleasant or fun – its SHOCKING, NASTY and UNBELIEVABLE, but I want to share it.

Being a mum here is difficult at times, although I think I’m getting more used to it day by day.

I recently spoke to someone about all the worries of being a mum in a country that isn’t where you were born and grew up, and I told him that although I worry about every new experience for ages before it happens, once it actually comes to it those feared situations just sort of pass by and I think “oh it wasn’t that bad – I don’t know why I worried so much!”

Schooling here is one of the things I’e worried about since day 1 of being a mum.

What if I cant help him with his homework because my Spanish isn’t good enough?

what if he’s bullied!

what if he gets involved with the wrong crowd and takes drugs or drinks etc…?

what if he’s fine but I’m not as involved as the other parents………there’s a lot of fears.

well those things are no longer my main concern. I heard 2 things yesterday which have instilled a fear in me so big i cant express it. Not only fears for myself and Niko, but for any child really in any school.

I found out that firstly, the number of reported cases of sexual child abuse in schools (by the american embassy only) this year have been 40 cases!

That’s a enormously high number given that there are maybe hundreds more cases unreported by kids of other nationalities including Colombian kids who are most likely not to report it.

Given that we are only talking about sexual abuse (there will be bullying, verbal and physical abuse on top of this figure) not to mention this is just in the last 4 months!

what really scares me is that usually the kids whose parents work for the American embassy here are sent to the best, bilingual schools that they pay more for each month than i earn in 2 months! what the hell is happening then in the public schools to all these Colombian children!

When i told my husband of this shocking news, he said he was shocked too, but told me of something even more shocking that you find now in public schools.

So there’s this “game” that has been reported on the news this year, that kids now “play”.

Games I think of that come to mind are kiss chase, bulldog, cops and robbers, catch or skipping. in fact I’m sure when I was in school even kiss chase was a bit out of hand sometimes……………

So what is this horrid “game” that kids are now into

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Well, a school girl (outside of school hours) will be somewhere, with several of her male classmates (could be up to 5 or 6) the game is that each of them takes it in turns to penetrate her several times and then pull out, they go round and round penetrating her until one ejaculates. he is then out and the others carry on. This carries on until there is only one boy who hasn’t cum. he is then the winner and gets the credit in school and is known as the winner.

What’s worse is that condoms are not used and so there are cases where the girl gets pregnant or is open to disease.

I don’t know what shocks me more, the fact that the boys enjoy it. The fact that they don’t use protection. The fact that the girl does this willingly. The fact that she’s cool for doing it or the fact that this “game” was even invented in the first place.

Schools here cost money. You have to pay for your kids education, uniform, books, materials EVERYTHING. and that’s more expensive the better the school.

Public school was an option I HAD considered for Niko previous to knowing of this behaviour. Now I’m not entirely sure I want him to go to school at all!

I know that how you raise your kids and how you educate them has a huge impact on how they will behave in situations when parents are not around or they are with friends, but still, I worry for the stupid mistakes Niko could make, or the bad decisions he could chose because things like the above become a cool, school-status trend that everyone becomes part of.

Here’s hoping that kids soon realise its not a game, its a serious problem and could lead to a lot of unhappy, pregnant or infected boys and girls.

and here’s preying that we can afford a nice school for him, best start saving now!!!