Posts Tagged With: Repatriation

Visa Vision

For all of you who have been following my adventures over the past few years, and those of you stumbling upon my blog at a later date, you might have thought that I disappeared into the abyss that is Danbury, CT. That is, I haven’t updated you on my trials and tribulations, my struggles and successes since arriving well over a month ago in the region known as New England.

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Eid al Fitr fun

I’m still alive. I even made friends. From my first few weeks of Spartan living to figuring out the new culture of the corporate world, I have thrived so far in Connecticut – I’ve managed to shape it into the kind of environment I crave wherever I choose to live : diverse, multicultural, full of language and culture and good food and great people. In the span of a few short weeks, I have learned more about Brazil – actually I have learned a ton about Brazil, from my Brazilian colleagues, the Brazilian language trainers I hunt for on the internet and interact with via telephone and email, and the Brazilian exchange student I will soon be big-sistering as a volunteer for my former high school exchange program – and Pakistan, Russia, Azerbaijan, small town upstate New York, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, Italy, and Germany, from the lovely Germans with whom I interact (albeit virtually) on a daily basis.

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This whole time I have begun and finished the month of Ramadan, my third and the hardest yet physically. It’s a beautiful, beautiful month in which to meet people and to sample savory new dishes, to gorge yourself on rich pudding and basboussa. I feel so blessed to have met such wonderful people who invited me to break fast with them for a fabulous last week of Ramadan.

Time's Square... for all of 4 seconds (we're too cool for school)

Time’s Square… for all of 4 seconds (we’re too cool for school)

I visited a dear friend in New York, after seven months apart (despite our 10 minute conversation during my brief stop-over in New York City in June).  We walked everywhere – the High Line, through Central Park, along the Hudson (which I mistook for an ocean, silly me), back and forth throughout Manhattan.  We also witnessed this fun ensemble:

I had another friend drive all the way from New Jersey to come visit me… that’s the Midwesterner in me, thinking that passing through three states is far away – it was only a two-hour drive. We sampled Mediterranean food at a very strange kitsch restaurant. I have gone out with my coworkers, to a diner for delicious breakfast, numerous shopping excursions and trips to Whole Foods with L and M, farewell lunches for those leaving the company at a Chinese restaurant and a new Meatball place (Mima’s Meatballs, the vegetarian meatballs and frittes are fabulous!).

All of this new is somewhat filling in the hole where the old used to be. That is, somewhat. Come Monday, I will begin my first ever “school year” where I am not physically in a school building, listening to professors or grabbing a bite to eat with classmates. I’m still trudging through my MBA classes (economics this session, I’m actually really excited!), but online classes are a result of necessity and convenience, not because of preference or choice. For seventeen or more years, my life had been defined by the rhythm of the school year – summers, back to school, holidays, world travel, study abroad, exams. Now it is subdivided into quarterly earnings, sick leave, vacation time, and metrics.

The biggest aching hole, besides missing the culture, food, and people I left behind (you always leave someone behind somewhere), is what you could call my other half. What’s taking so long? When is Hedi going to arrive? What’s new with Hedi’s visa? Have you set a date for the wedding? The answer is no, no, I don’t know, I wish I did.  We are nearly 75 days into the visa process, with no news. For the K-1 visa, the agony is the waiting, the separation, the not knowing when or where or how. Five months waiting for the NOA-2, assuming we don’t get an RFE (request for evidence, the dreaded horror of all American+international couples trying to emigrate to the United States), probably a month to get our file sent to the National Visa Center and then sent onward to the American Consulate in Tunis, while trying to sort out paperwork, proof of financial sponsorship, medical visits, background checks, tax forms, all while waiting for THE interview that we have been dreading, which he has to do alone.  I’m hoping for a nice birthday surprise for Hedi in November, or an end of the year bonus in December, or a New Year’s blessing come January… the waiting has been driving me insane, and it’s only been three months since this whole journey began.

In the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself busy – two jobs, volunteering, learning Italian and eventually German, Arabic, and Portuguese, taking classes, meeting people, making friends, being an adult. Let’s hope the wait time is a period for growth and for savings, for deepened friendships and new beginnings. Insha’allah.

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Categories: Bureacracy, Daily Life, Repatriation, Visa | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Big Changes

Leaving is not hard for me. I’ve done it six times already.  You’re a vagabond, you live in your suitcase, you pack up and go.  And you’ll always have too many books, more books than you can take with you, books you leave behind but try your hardest to get back.

Leaving people is terrible, however.  You want to take them with you but you can’t separate them from the place.  As you move and you leave them, they almost stay frozen in time, in that one reality where you met them.  2008 in Madame with the hyphenated last name’s French class.  I remember a girl called Georgia with a guitar.  I remember people from high school and mix them up with the people I knew from college.  I come back and they’re gone.  I grow up and move on.

But not always.  I draw together the threads of my life and make a multicolored quilt of my different experiences.  Each person holds a strand and is woven throughout my existence.  Like Hedi.  Meeting him and everything changed.  I can’t separate my idea of him from his identity in Amiens, but we are certainly going to try.

The big news, if you haven’t already guessed, is manifold.  More things have happened in the space of a few weeks than in the past year.

Hedi and I got engaged.  That’s to say, we are now finally announcing it to the world for all of you to share in our joy.  There are so many implications to that simple declaration, that simple promise, that of course my whole world is changing.  My work offered me these beautiful flowers to marquer le coup.

Lovely, aren't they

Lovely, aren’t they?

For many reasons, we also decided that it would be best if we begin our careers, make a real start, in the United States. Neither of us are French citizens.  Europe is having many economic problems, and France’s individual unemployment rate has risen for 24 straight months, whereas the United States’s has been steadily (but slowly) declining.  I’m a U.S. citizen, and Hedi could benefit from learning to speak English fluently.  It might not be for a long time, but it will certainly mean that my experience as an expat will be (temporarily) suspended.  That’s ok.  I’ll write another blog.  I’ll learn more languages.  We’ll have more adventures.  Returning to my home country will be an adventure in itself, because for the first time, I won’t be (primarily) a student.  I still want to take part-time MBA classes as I’m interested in economics and the corporate world.  But I’ll mostly be working, saving, living, and making a life for myself.

In Connecticut. That’s right.  In the space of two weeks, I discovered a wonderful company (see an earlier post about how small the world is), got offered a freelance job, applied for a full-time position, interviewed, and got offered the job.  It’ll use my language skills, my multicultural sensitivity, my experience abroad, and my experience teaching English as a second language.  And it begins on July 15, so I will be flying back to the United States in a short two and a half weeks.  Hardly enough time to say good-bye before leaving.

What will I bring with me? Two suitcases full of clothes that are my only possessions and a carful of books (once I arrive at my mother’s house, where I’ve been hoarding them).  Leaving behind a fiancé for seven months, as he plods through English grammar and patiently awaits the K-1 fiancé visa.  As I begin a new life in a new town in a new state with a new job, a new (used) car, in a new apartment.  To tell you the truth, I’m more terrified than when I hopped on a plane to move to France ten months ago.

Do I regret leaving France? Yes and no.  I’m one to seize an opportunity, to say “Let’s go,” and to begin anew.  I know this isn’t the end of my French/European/foreign adventure.  I’ll be helping others expatriate as a living! It can’t get any better than that!  And in the meantime, I’ll keep you updated.  I plan to travel to New York, to Boston, to Quebec and Montreal, to Washington D.C., and I’ll finally have the pay check that will allow me to realistically travel on a more frequent basis.  I’ll be within an hour’s distance of one of my best friends.  And within a few months, I’ll be getting married.  There’s a chance that you might even be invited to one of our three possible weddings.  So I expect you to stay in touch in the meantime.

Categories: Daily Life, Expats | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Reverse Culture Shock

Home musings…

You’ve all heard of culture shock.  Moving to a new country where things are done differently, where they speak a different language, where cultural norms and social mores are so… different.  Some people get it really bad (and these are the people who don’t end up staying for long), but others get in a serious of sudden, spontaneous homesicknesses.  Not because the new is bad, but because you miss the old.

There’s also something called reverse culture shock.  Potentially more lethal.  When you come back to your home country, you start to miss all the things that you liked about living abroad, and sometimes you had no choice about coming back.  Your visa expired.  You ran out of money.  You don’t have the same rights in your foreign country, or maybe you find it impossible to be with the person of your dreams unless you come home.  In that case, reverse culture shock can be severe.  You are in the place you grew up in, but it’s all these reasons that prompted you to leave that are digging that thorn even deeper.  When your home away from home is no longer your home.  And home isn’t really home any more.

I feel somewhat blessed, in the way a chameleon is blessed in turning green and yellow and brown.  My culture shock has always been minimal, and I re-adapt to living in the United States without a second thought.  Is it weird to be back home? I am asked.  I mean, I guess it’s weird to do your shopping a bit differently, your cooking, your (non)walking, your talking.  But, as I’ve lived in Switzerland and then the United States, France and then the United States and then France again – visiting again in the United States is like traveling to see loved ones, camping out there for a week or two, and then moving on to the next destination.

But then again, I don’t really know what settling down somewhere is like.  I have perpetually been a student, studied abroad as a student, moved here and there as a student, but I have not yet worked somewhere abroad, picked out my apartment, and truly made a life.  I’d love to have that opportunity arise, but whether that will be soon or far off is hard to say.

My Christmas presents from my oldest, dearest friends? Arm & Hammer baking soda and cake mixes.

I don’t think I’ll be missing home anytime soon.

Categories: Daily Life, Immigration | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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