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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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Travel

Technology: Phones, Apps, Contracts, and Companies

Going to Spain for a while? Here are some technotips.

  1. Install Whatsapp on your phone

(Almost) everyone uses it here, as many people don’t have phone contracts. It’s also great for keep in contact with your friends at home

2. Get a YOIGO sim

I tried various pay as you go sims, and I like Yoigo because calls are too expensive, their phones are unlocked and relatively cheap (you can buy a two sim card phone NEW for 140e), and their customer service is not completely terrible. You can also pay 7e a month for 3G, which is really useful if you move to a place where internet takes a thousand years to install.

Don’t forget to bring your passport to buy whatever sim card you end up getting; it’s an anti-terror measure here that you can’t buy a phone sim without ID.

3. Bring an extender cable from your country

You can buy travel plugs in Spain, but instead of buying 5 or 6 individual ones for your phone, laptop, hairdryer etc, why not bring an extension cable with you from your country?

Wall>>>travel plug>>>extender cable

>phone

>laptop

>hairdryer

Also, for UK travellers, remember that if you buy electronics in other European countries, you can (usually) shove them in to a British socket by sticking something plastic into the top hole of the plug socket, like this:

plug

I like to use a good old biro lid. It’s the perfect size for opening the safety shutter.

Flights home (and Christmas: BUY FLIGHTS IN AUGUST)

If you’re planning on going home at Christmas… BUY YOUR FLIGHTS NOW, in August, or else pay double.

A) Buy your flights 6 months before (yes, in August)

B) Fly on the 23rd of December at the latest

If there are random volcanoes, strikes, or ice, you won’t get marooned somewhere (there are no trains/buses on Christmas day)

C) Tell your school in your first month when you’re flights are. Offer to make it up.

I worked in a really difficult, uptight school, where we were told that Christmas wasn’t a Spanish holiday and… Basically, be assertive. Don’t let anyone mess with your Christmas with your family.

Best place to buy US flights:

STA travel

If you’re under 26, you can get great deals using this site.

Things you can’t get in Spain (or are expensive/low quality)

Good peanut butter

Stationary (coloured flashcards, thank you cards)

Shampoo and conditioner (there is little tax on wine, beer, and cigarettes, but cosmetic items are more expensive)

Socks

Anti-histamines (only on prescription)

Teriyaki Sauce

Hamburger Helper

Spice blends (Chinese Five Spice) Note: You may be able to find spices in specific neighbourhoods where non-Spanish people live. In Madrid, many corner shops have a great range of spices for South Asian food.

 

Women:

Hair cuts (Spanish hair dressers tend to chop a lot off)

Sport’s bras (buy an extra at Target/New Look)

 

Things that may be cheaper:

Fruit and veg

Contraceptive pill/merina ring/nuva ring/IUD (some are 4e a month, others are 15e a month)

Care Packages from Outside of the EU

Make sure the sender fills out the customs form properly, or you will have to pay 40e at your end 😦

Banks

  1. Find the best credit card for travel

Getting charged for withdrawals from your home bank is a big pain in the butt, and your Spanish paperwork will take a while, meaning it might be a few months before you have a bank here.

UK:

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/travel-credit-cards

I use a Halifax Clarity. It’s the top rated card on the above article, and I was already with Halifax anyway.

US:

??????????????????? LET ME KNOW WHAT THE BEST BANK FOR AMERICANS TRAVELLING IS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OR EMAIL Humphries.sarah@gmail.com

Spanish Banks

Sabadell allowed me to have an account without a NIE (Spanish resident number).

I changed from them to ING as Sabadell have two types of account (depending on how much you get paid each month), whereas ING offer free transfers no matter what. They also have this nifty friend invite thing where if your friend is already with them, you both get 32.50e (they say more, but that’s not including the tax) to change to them.

“Expat” or “Immigrant”? Race and Realisations on Privilege

I recently read an article that referred to the word “expat” as something:

In the Western lexicon of human migration there are still lot of remnants of a white supremacist ideology, with hierarchical classes of words created to differentiate White people from the rest of humanity, with the purpose of putting White people above everyone else.

I’d never thought about it before. What is the difference between an “immigrant” and an “expat”?

There were various answers in the comments below the above quoted article. One difference tends to be duration. An expat is planning on returning within a short time, an immigrant is planning on staying longer term. Another might be integration. An expat is more likely to be working in a language they speak very well (like English) and not have much opportunity/motivation to learn the local language, whereas an immigrant would most likely be working in the local language and have more chance of becoming proficient.

As someone who has been living abroad for several years, I came to understand the negative side of “expat”. As an “anglo”, people automatically assumed you know nothing about local customs, often resent your presence as you have “stolen” a local person’s job, expect you to speak their language perfectly immediately, constantly expect you to “integrate” (meaning laughing at their jokes about you). I took a million language classes, I changed my clothes (to blend in), and I breathed a sigh of relief, and something very simple finally clicked.

People of colour cannot change their clothes as I can. They cannot camouflage themselves. It might seem obvious to someone from a multicultural society, but for me, it took the experience of moving out of my “home” country to teach me about privilege.

I thought about all the times my non-white British friends had mentioned racism to me, or I had witnessed the aftermath of a racist incident. I had sometimes said (in my head) at the time: “It’s not that big a deal. Why are they so upset? People say shit to me all the time”.

Then I got it. I can lose weight. I can cut my hair. I can work at conforming. They can’t ever conform physically. And why should they? (Oh crumb nuggets. This was my privilege to only just realise this now. Wha?????!!!!)

I think the tone of the above quoted article is a good example of how a person writes when they are angry after years upon years of unpleasant personal experiences (see “Favourite quotes, below), let alone generation upon generation of colonialism. It’s a rare gift to be able to be keyed up about a subject, like race/colonialism/sexism, without attacking the readers who you may be trying to educate in to reconsidering their positions. It’s a skill I must confess that I have not yet acquired. I know this because many of the blog posts I write I am unable to publish as they too are full of ire. It can take many drafts before I convert my spleen into something that might be considered balanced, bordering on informative.

Favourite quotes from the original article:

Top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period.

If you see those “expats” in Africa, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there!

http://www.siliconafrica.com/dont-call-them-expats-they-are-immigrants-like-everyone-else/

Favourite quotes from NYT article cited in: “Don’t Call Them Expats”

A more current interpretation of the term “expat” has more to do with privilege. Expats are free to roam between countries and cultures, privileges not afforded to those considered immigrants or migrant workers.

But Hong Kong will extend all of its rights and protections to me once I’ve lived here for seven years–though I often get the feeling there isn’t much expectation of reciprocity, the way immigrants to the United States are expected to learn English and adopt a certain set of values.

http://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2014/12/29/in-hong-kong-just-who-is-an-expat-anyway/

 

UPDATE: A “cleaner” (less angry, attacking) version of the Silicon Africa article was featured in this Guardian article

The Case of the Pillow Cases

There is nothing that makes my blood boil more than Spanish pillows. What can I say? It’s the little things in life.

Don’t know what I mean? Close your eyes, and picture a bed.

Does it look like this?

index

Or maybe this?

images

Well, if you move abroad, be very careful that you buy pillowcases that fit your pillows, because guess what: some countries have ANOTHER SIZE OF PILLOW. Observe:

images 4

Longer and slimmer, it is no better or worse than the “standard” pillow that one can purchase in the dreaded Ikea. It’s just a very slightly different shape, enough to need a different sized pillow case.

Then, there’s the one pillow for two people idea.

images 5

Staying in my friend’s mum’s house, I actually slept on a bed a bit like that (minus the chap with the beret). My partner and I were reticent about sharing a pillow, but to our surprise there was no tug of war in the night. Maybe this whole long pillow business is so crazy, it just might work!

When I first moved to Spain, I had no idea about the different pillow system. I bought one pillow case that was long enough for a 2 meter long pillow (sigh) and one that was for a single Spanish bed, but my ONE PILLOW I bought from  Ikea didn’t fit either of them (see fig. 1).

Pillow case

Then the supermarket told me there was no refund on pillow cases that had been opened, which I thought made sense, but I still pulled this face.

images 2

4 years later, I was buying pillow cases for my pillows from a shop I’d stumbled upon in the neighbourhood. The other shop I had found was wickedly expensive, but this one was reasonably priced and the lady was nice. Finally, my three pillows, kindly donated by my landlord/friend, would be sheathed in pillow cases that ACTUALLY FITTED them. All three pillows were completely different sizes to each other, as well as the random selection of pillow cases my boyfriend had amassed in my several months of absence (one of which was SQUARE. A square pillow case. SQUARE. Don’t even get me started).

Pillow case 2

I had done it. Finally we had pillows with their very own pillow cases. I basked in my own glory in the Basque Country. In your face, annoying things that you never get used to when you live abroad!

Weeks later, my landlord/housemate/friend told me (via email) that he wouldn’t be reimbursing me for the pillow cases as he does for other things I buy for the flat, as they were “just” for our use, “not for the house”, and that we would “take them with us” when we left. I sighed.

In the last 5 years, I’ve moved house 23 times. I’ve lived in 5 different countries, on 3 continents. I have chronic back pain from carrying my minimalist possessions, leaving behind me a trail of clothes horses and home made spice racks (see fig. 2) in my previous apartments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Fig. 2. “The Homemade Eco Spice Rack”)

Today, my most prized possession is my library card, as it saves me from buying books and so the inevitable wrench of saying goodbye to them. Packing, unpacking, repacking, tedious chores of the nomadic.

I know that there is absolutely no way in hell that I am bringing with me three random sized pillow cases with me to the next country I live in. I’ll have enough to transport; electronic cables for laptops, kindles, phones, and other “essential” electronicy doodads take up a surprising amount of space, and are actually quite expensive to replace.

I looked at my pillows, snug in their red and purple cases.

2014-12-19 13.34.23

They cost me around 18 euros. So if I use them for 12 months, they will have cost me about 1.50 euros a month. I’ll take that rental price.

Dear Pillow Cases,

When I leave Spain, I’m not taking you babies with me, but you were definitely worth spending 20 euros on.

Never change, my sweet cotton friends.

Never change.

images 3

Long Distance Relationship Snapshots

Today is a momentous day, because it means that there is only 2 months left before my long distance relationship ends, and I return to live in the same city as my beloved partner. 3 months down, 2 more  to go.

Here’s a timeline of my relationship with my wonderful, patient, kind, loving, accepting, sweet, amazing partner.

September 6th: We meet at an international party. We spend the whole night talking and laughing like old friends. Upon saying goodbye, I tell him that I´m not interested in a relationship, that I think he’s a loose man, and that I’m going to go on a 600km hiking trip, during which I won’t be thinking of him at all because I’m the most important person in my life.

October  7th: We go for coffee “as friends”

October 14th: He has melted my ice cold heart and become a wonderful part of my life. We become “an item”

March 3rd: He leaves for Thailand. I make plans to visit over the summer.

❤ months long distance>

May 23rd: He comes back to Madrid for a week, on his way to work in Ireland for two months.

<2 months long distance>

July : We are reunited in his parents house in France. We spend 5 glorious weeks there, never arguing and being sickeningly romantic.

September 30th: I start my 5 month trip. Yoann tells me that he wants me to go as it’s what I’ve planned all along and he loves how independent I am.

<5 months long distance>

February 1st 2014: I’ll arrive in Bilbao, northern Spain. Can’t wait!

Having a relationship through Skype is hard. I always said that I would “never” have a long distance relationship with a boyfriend, as I’ve had ones with my family for a long time and I couldn’t imagine a boy being worth a life chained to the computer. Then I met Yoann, a man who said to me: “Go, because this is what you want. This is what is best for you. Follow your dreams. I’ll wait for you here”.

 

Here are some of my Skype highlights of my beloved that I´ve taken over the past few months without his knowledge.

Video call snapshot 9

Yoann, looking handsome and telling me about his day at work, teaching French.

Video call snapshot 27  Video call snapshot 33 Video call snapshot 34 Video call snapshot 39

My favourite times are when he takes the computer into the kitchen and talks to me while he’s cooking. We both love to cook and eat so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together.

 

Video call snapshot 8

Yoann trying to make his computer work. He hates technology, and pulls this face when it goes wrong.

 

Video call snapshot 11

Yoann asking me if when we live together he can display “Jimi”, his Jimi Hendrix mural (which can be seen in the background).

Video call snapshot 45

Scratching his head when I talk to him about starting a family…………………………………….by getting a cat.

Video call snapshot 24

Putting his ear to the screen to better hear me.

 

Video call snapshot 20

Telling me a story involving his wild boxing strength.

Video call snapshot 18

Looking bored as I’m moaning at him about wearing a helmet while boxing.

 

Video call snapshot 41 Video call snapshot 43

Laughing at his own jokes harder than anyone else. He gets this from his Dad. They say it is a progressive illness.

 

Never compromise your dreams for a relationship, no matter how much you think you are in love. “What is meant for you will not go by you”, and if it’s real, then it’s worth testing.

The girls here often ask me how I know he doesn’t have another girlfriend, how I know that he isn’t cheating. “Well,” I say, “if he wanted to cheat on me, he would be just as likely to do it when I was there as when I’m not”. And if you don’t trust each other, then you don’t have anything.

 

Cabin Fever vs Safety Concerns

Image

If you come to San Pedro Sula, you can go anywhere you want as long as you go:

>in an official taxi with a trusted driver

>to places that have armed guards

The places that have armed guards are described as “middle class”, but that strata of society is so small that they are few and far between. Supermarkets, or any kind of shop in a building, will have at least one visible armed guard in front, and a large van filled with heavily armed men. When I pass them, I am probably in the safest place I could be, yet the sight of their huge guns makes my stomach lurch.

If you like going for walks and dropping into random coffee shops, then… don’t. A lot of local people don’t travel far after dark, as a precaution to avoid problems on the roads from gang members. A wrong turn can lead you into dangerous territory, where gangs shoot at any car that they don’t recognise; although it is said that this area is “OK”, and that you would probably “only get mugged here, and nothing else would happen”.

The past week, I’ve started to experience “cabin fever”. Seeing the same people every day, trying to make conversation, chatting to my coworkers about work… The “honeymoon period” is wearing off and I stare at the gate with longing, thinking about how nice it might be to walk around the block to the shop, or gazing out the window of a taxi, watching the regular people hanging out at the blue collar bars that look like little shacks lining the road. I don’t feel like a “real person” here yet. I feel like a monkey in a golden cage.

Even though Honduras is statistically terribly unsafe, I don’t feel that unsafe when I’m pottering around the supermarket or eating in a restaurant. In Madrid, I never really accepted the way that people ranted and raved constantly, or complete strangers stared you in the eye for far too long and had no qualms about entering your personal space. So far, I find Honduran body language and way of speaking more inline with my ingrained idea of “good manners”. No one has laughed at my Spanish, tried to belittle me, ridiculed or mocked my accent, or told me that I am “x” because of who I am or where I come from. That makes a refreshing change.

Money in Honduras

The currency in Honduras is called Lempiras.

4000 Lempiras =$50

1000 Lempiras =$12.50

100L= $1.25

With these kinds of numbers, the money can be pretty confusing, as you can imagine.

DSCF3655DSCF3654DSCF3653DSCF3652

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