Category Archives: QA

Expat to Expat Q&A: Travel

This is the third installment of Expat to Expat Q&A: T r a v e l 
Check out the first and second installment in the series

1. Which airport would you like to never see again?
To be honest from all the flying that I have ever done since I was born, I have not really any horrific flying stories. As third culture kids, we say we feel more at home in an airport than we do in a certain location. If I was to choose an airport I would never like to see again, it would have to be tied to the location for my reasoning. The airport in St. Louis would then be a winner. It is the closest airport to my in laws. Actually on that note I would never like to see the bus station near their town again. The last time I left the states to come to England I again left my sons with my in laws, for them to return shortly once either Ryan or I had found a job. This was in October of last year during a transitional period where my husband had just finished his masters programme and we planning to move for his job. History with my in laws aside, having to leave the country without your kids is the most gut wrenching thing I have had to do. This would be the third time and no it does not get easier. I got on the bus and my eldest just cried so hard and tried to get on the bus and go with me. It really kicked you where it hurts. When the bus drove away the bus driver was crying her eyes out too. She told me later in the journey, after I was able to control my emotions enough to speak, that in all her years of driving that was the saddest goodbye she has ever witnessed. So yeah…I would never want to see that bus station again either.   

Side note: Yes I took this photo of my self crying with my phone while the bus made its way to Chicago.  I take photographs all the time to help me remember people, places, and moments.  I captured this memory to remember how much I never want to leave my kids with family members again.  I have friends who have yet to have their children even spend a night away from them still.  My kids have spent months at a time away from me and if you want to know how much it hurts look at that photo.

2. What is your travel nightmare?
Honestly unless it has happened while I was with my parents and they just did not let on that something was wrong I have not experienced a real travel nightmare. *knock on wood* There was the time that I was flying back from my return trip ‘home’ to Italy after my senior year and I got stuck in Zurich, Switzerland. I was flying alone and was a little concerned at first until the airlines let me know they would be putting me up in a hotel and paying for my food costs. It ended up being an extra day of gifted vacation. I called my parents from the hotel and then I went out to explore the town, had dinner, saw a movie, and returned to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. It could have been a nightmare to be stuck inside an airport for hours, but it ended becoming a dream. 

3. Would your rather stay in a fancy hotel and do less activities or stay in a hostel and do more activities?
I will say that if someone else was paying for it and I got to stay at a super lush hotel and just be pampered that I do not think I would say no. However when I plan my trips and go places I am not really concerned about the hotel. I would not want to pay more money to have less to experience the country or culture with when I got there. I can see a hotel room in any country. Maybe I do not stay in a hostel though, maybe I find a friend to stay with, or a great deal with AirB&B. I stayed on the floor on a mat in a church in Thailand with only cold showers, in stead of a hotel with a bed and hot water. I also do not have the urge to go on a cruise or to travel in a tour group. I’m more about organic traveling and trying to blend in with the locals. 

Does it have wifi? Then I am all set!  On a vacation with my sister (pictured here),
she gets connected with her laptop in the hotel room. 

4. Do you have any pre-travel rituals?
Almost always wait till the day before to pack and then pack hours before we need to leave for the airport. I say I will be more prepared a head of time, but to be fair that never happens. Usually the things I am bringing with me I use normally anyways so I just wait until the last possible moment to do it. With that said, I hardly ever forget to pack something for a trip. If anything I may have stuff I should have left home, but have ‘just in case’. Luckily I am pretty stellar with packing a suitcase or a car to get everything to fit. It is like excelling at traveler’s Tetris. I have actually repacked a car after my father in law attempted to do it on several occasions.  When you have traveled and moved as much as my family has it becomes a much needed skill.  If I am going to be going to a different time zone I like to start preparing myself a few days before by slowly changing my sleep schedule and eating a lot of small meals through out the day. 

5. What is your favorite airline to fly with?
Before we moved back to England, British Airways was always my favourite because it meant I was coming back to Europe. Right now I’m certain I have a favourite airline per se. Which ever one is getting me to my destination for the best price. I am pretty stoked to have such great budget airline options in Europe. I just know to prepare by having my tickets pre printed and making sure my luggage and carry on fit their regulations. They are ready to charge anyone at any time for not following the guidelines.  British Airways were passing out cute ginger bread men biscuits over Christmas. So when I picked my boys and my mum up from the Airport last year we made sure to take a few of these guys (pictured below) home with us. 

6. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
There are so many places and honestly I could write blog posts for weeks about all the places I want to go to and why. However I am really hoping that the next plane I get on is going to be taking my family and I to southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. That whole bavaria area hold so much of my heart and memories from growing up. It reminds me of my dad and I know there will be tears shed while there, thinking of him and wishing he was alive to be there with us. I could easily go in the summer for camping and hiking, in the fall for Oktoberfests, or in the winter for snowboarding and germknödel. I just want to go and show this area with my family.

7. How do survive long haul flights?
It depends am I traveling with kids? Honestly if I am not traveling with kids on theses then it feels a lot more relaxed and I have to bring a lot less with me to be prepared. I love flying. I have done long flights between California and Japan on my way to Australia, Thailand and Cambodia several times, the flight between the US and England several times, and even the flight between California and Hawaii. It depends on when we are arriving but I try to my best to time it so that I can attempt sleep as soon as we take off. There is something about closing your eyes as you are rushing into the sky that helps me sleep. So eye mask on and maybe some soothing tunes and I will talk to you in a few hours. When I wake up its time for the first huge meal and thats when I start watching films. I will also have my laptop ready to work on editing photographs in lightroom and photoshop for work. There will be a book and a magazine in my bag depending on how focused I am to reading. Maybe some paper to write out ideas that come to my head. I am not going to be bored. The other tricks are trying to get up often to move my legs, drinking plenty of water, and keeping my face and lips moisturized. If I am traveling with my kids I make sure they are equally prepared because if anyone is going to be saying ‘I’m bored’ it is going to be kids. I usually hijack their nintendo DS weeks before the trip so its something exciting to have back and pack surprises for them. I make sure they are eating something during take off and landing to help their ears pop. Other than that we just sit back and relaxed.

8. What is your favorite stamp in your passport and why?
I honestly do not have one stamp in my current passport. I have several old passports from the one I had as a baby that are filled with stamps. I keep going through airports where they dont stamp my passport. Or because I am flying between countries for which I have passports. I have to fly into America and out of America on my American passport and I have to fly into England and out of England on my EU British passport. However on my older passport I would have to say my whole visa and stamps from Cambodia are probably my favourite. It was the most nervous and excited I have been in an airport. I had been in Thailand twice already at this point and was flying to Cambodia to meet my mum, dad, and sister who had been backpacking around South East Asia together. I remember how beautiful Cambodia looked from the airplane. When I got off the airplane they had us walk into this room where there was a u shaped table of tons of officials and your passport went around to each one as they all looked at it. When I finally got the all clear to go in I remember letting out a deep breath and rushing with excitement to see my family. It was a great trip and I would love to return.

Questions from Lisa at Meanderings, Adventures & Crafty Inspirations

1. What are your top 3 necessary items for travel?

A DSLR Camera with lenses.  If I want to travel light I like to bring my favourite prime lens, a 50mm, for portraits and then choose a zoom lens to bring as well.  The 17-35 has been a fun one to travel with and I found more useful then say a 70-300 lens. 

My phone for taking quick shots and getting online to stay connected. 

A camera bag perfect for traveling that I can keep it all in for my trip.

2. What is your off the beaten track trip in your current home?

I currently live in Bath, England and I say do not get car. Come ready to use the trains, buses, and do walking. Sometimes for us if we want to go to a nearby town and then walk home, it is cheaper to take a taxi for my family of four, then to take the bus/train to the town first. So research what works best in your options. Go and explore. We go on country walks nearly every weekend and sometimes twice a weekend to just roam the countrysides. We love to find new towns and new trails to take. These are public footpaths in England that are hundreds of years old and you can walk anywhere. Back your walking shoes or wellies and get ready to really see England after or before doing the normal touristy things in the area.
Do check out my other posts for the Expat to Expat Q&A
Found Love.  Now What?
If you are a past, current or future expat this linkup is for you! 
Linking with Bailie and Belinda…because girls with ‘B’ names rock. 
Not that I am biased or anything. 😉

Expat to Expat Q&A: Food

This is the second installment of Expat to Expat 
on the Q&A: Food
1. What is your favorite food tradition in your new country?  

The ‘Sunday Roast’ of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted or mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and sometimes stuffing. It like a less grand version of  Christmas dinner and my favourite thing to eat at the pub on a Sunday with my family. 

2. Where have you traveled to that you thought had the best food to offer?

Italy. Honestly I will nicely kick and scream before I have to eat Italian food in the USA because it 99.9% fails in comparison.  What I love about the food in Italy is that it is as diverse as its dialects so for example pizzas in Florence are like a cracker crust, pizzas in the birth place of Naples practically melt in your mouth.  Most of the food I have eaten in Italy (away from the touristy trap restaurants of course. Stay away from these as you will not only be over charged but it less quality) is made of simple but great ingredients.  Italian food in the US always seems to have to have something crazy with it like giant meatballs or chicken, crazy cream sauces, or covered in cheeses.  To be fair the best food and house wine I have had in many places in Italy has been in small hole in the wall restaurants or places where the locals frequent.  Plus any country that boasts gelaterias that carry a multitude of gelato flavours is great in my book!  

3. What is the typical breakfast where you currently live and would you eat it back home?

For my kids it is porridge made from porridge oats and with a little honey and cinnamon typically.  I actually grew up on this breakfast staple as well.  Here in England the typical breakfast is the traditional ‘Full English’ or a ‘Full Monty’.  This includes back bacon, poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, sausages, baked beans, and a mug of tea.  If you are extra lucky your breakfast will include my favourite black pudding, which is a blood sausage, or bubble and squeak. Bubble and squeak is made by mixing mashed potatoes with any left over vegetables and fried.  I have to add that the bacon in England is not like the bacon you get back in the US. In the US it is thin strips and sometimes if it is on your plate it is more of a taste factor and less of a ‘fill you up’ factor.  Here the cut of bacon is thick like a slice of ham at Easter and the taste puts American bacon to shame. 

4. What type of restaurant, either style or type of food, do you think is lacking in your new home?

Mexican. By mexican, I mean the type of mexican food that can be found in San Diego, California where the taco shells do not resemble the ‘El Paso’ store bought brand but the home made round tortillas.  Also boasting very spicy options. Mexican restaurants are very few here and the one we went too looked like it was catering to Americans who needed a break from only ordering fish and chips at every meal. 

5. Do you think your home expat home has a food everyone should try?

Not a particular food, but that you must go to a curry house, a typical Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant or takeway. Their menus can be quite extensive, so feel free to try something new every time.  They are to England what mexican restaurants are to the USA.  It was actually one of the things I was most looking forward too before we moved to England. Perfect for those nights that you do not want to cook. 

Actually now that I think of it I think everyone should try Cassava, it is a large white root and large source of carbohydrates. If not cooked and eaten it is highly toxic. If cooked it tastes amazing and is a perfect alternative to a white potato.  It is one of my favourites!

6. What is your favorite dish to prepare that you would never have made back home?

Being that I have always moved and have not had a ‘home’ per se I do not know how to quite answer this question as an expat normally would.  However from an eating stand point, blood sausage is something both my husband and I thought was initially gross. I remember seeing this before and in other countries, like Germany, growing up in Europe.  However we have both had it here and have cooked it here for our breakfast at home and we love it.  Referred here as Black pudding, it is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.  It sounds revolting to me, however the way it looks prepared and the way it tastes, I would never had known thats what I was eating.  It is so tasty and a favourite with my sons as well. 

Also I have always loved ‘Beans on Toast’ which is not like american baked beans, but the English Heinz beans.  It is a favourite dish that is hard to prepare in the US because I have to find an British shop of imports.  Here it is a great staple especially for my boys’ tea. 

7. What is the oddest food in your new country?

In the neighbouring country of Scotland of the UK, I still find haggis to be quite odd.  Then again I have never tried it. Marmite is quite odd, but it is loved at home house on buttered crumpets or toast. 

8. If you could have a crate of one type of food sent to you from your home country, what would it be?

Hawaii and the food from the shrimp truck up in North Shore. 

9. What three foods remind you of summer?
Since we lived in Hawaii, which was like summer year round, these are the three foods that remind me of Summer:

  • Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Though a soup, we ate this sometimes twice a week in Hawaii. It was also perfect cure all.
  • Fro Yo.  These were all over Hawaii and still popping up new chains while we were on the island.  I loved ordering the plain yogurt flavour and topping it with fruit, granola, and some mini chocolate chips.
  • Shaved Ice.  Especially the kind found in Hawaii that is not icy at all, but almost like eating finally grained snow.  You can get it there over beans and covered in condensed milk. 
10. What food from your new country are you surprised to enjoy?

Meat.  In California and Hawaii where my husband and I lived before we ate a lot of vegetarian or vegan options. I liked meat, but was not crazy about it.  When you read about how food is processed in the US, it really does not make you want to eat that much of it.  When we moved to England my husband, who already loves to cook, was really enjoying the ingredients he could find just at our grocery store or local butchers.  We now eat mainly paleo which is mostly protein/meat and vegetables.  I’ve probably eaten more meat in the two years we have lived in England than any two years in the last ten years I lived in the US. That surprises me and I’m still surprised how much I enjoy the way the meat here tastes.  Theres something to say about the ingredients you can get and how it can make or break a meal. 

Bonus:  Where was your favorite place you ever took a summer vacation to?

I did a vacation with my parents where we toured all over Europe using the trains.  One of our many destinations was Oslo, Norway and it still stick out in my mind as one of the most amazing and beautiful places I have ever been too in my life.  I remember getting of the train and stopping at a scenic restaurant outside to enjoy strawberries and sparkling water and loving our destination. I really look forward to returning there soon with my husband and sons. 

Found Love.  Now What?

Read the First Installment: ‘Weather

Expat to Expat Q&A: Weather

Today I have a bit of a treat for you.  I am linking up with Belinda for a Expat to Expat: Q&A Session.  Today it is mainly focused on the weather. Which for living in England is perfect because we are always talking about the weather here.

My life as an Expat:
Technically I am a dual citizen with England due to being born here to my American parents.  My sons and I both have dual nationality with America.  My husband is the full expat while I am a technically expat as a person who is always caught between worlds.  I am Third Culture Kid (TCK) feel free to read more about my life as a TCK here.  We have been living the expat life in England since the end of May 2011.  We have always wanted to move to Europe since I grew up and lived in Europe until the age of seventeen.  We lived in Brighton, England first and now we are living in Bath in the Somerset area.  We do not ever plan to return ‘home’ to the USA.  We are open to moving to other places in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere but for now are content with our life in the UK.

1. What was your favourite season back home and is it the same now; why or why not?
Technically I have never had a home and there is not one place I can compare to another from everywhere I have lived. I used to live in Hawaii while my husband was stationed on Oahu and it was pretty much Summer year round with a monsoon period.  It was really lovely always being able to be outside due to the climate.  I used to fantasize what it would be like to be able to layer when choosing outfits.  Now that I am living the expat life in England I have many chances to layer.  Leggings are pretty much a staple under anything I wear, including trousers.  I still love Summer, however what I may have taken for granted with island life is now a special treat in England for when the sun breaks through the clouds.

2. Is there a place you would like to move to base solely on the weather?
There are two places that come to my mind. First Hawaii because I remember what it was like to have a free afternoon, drive out to North Shore, and just lie on the beach in the sun.  I do think of the possibility of moving back there if we had to move to the USA. However based on weather I could also move to any place in Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany.  I have fond memories in all three places from my childhood in both the Summer and Winter months.  Seasonal activities like hiking and camping or skiing and snowboarding in the Alps is a good enough reason for me to move there.

3. What is a piece or an article of clothing that you had to buy for your new home due to the weather? 
As stated above, leggings. Also tights and thick nylons. Basically anything that I can layer with that can help keep my legs from freezing.  It is also the first article of clothing that I picked up on for fashion in the UK during our first week as expats in England.  Girls wear leggings with everything. Under dresses, under skirts, under high waisted and really short denim shorts (that show you bum cheeks), and under trousers.  Especially in the cold months you can look around and 85% of the female population will be wearing black on their legs since most leggings come in that colour.  Wellies (rainboots) are also a staple item for our expat life in England.  I just had to purchase new pairs for my sons.  Not just for the rainy season but for our weekly country walks.  You do not wear trainers (sneakers, tennis shoes) to go roaming the countryside. Thats a sure fire way to stand out as an outsider.  Of course coats and scarves in multiple varieties or staples of the UK wardrobe.

4. Have you found the weather stereotypes of your home to be true? 
I have lived here as a younger girl, but yes the stereotypes of weather are true.  Its cold a lot due to the usual white cloud cover across the sky and definitely if the wind is blowing.  It does rain frequently.  If it s not raining its cold enough to be snowing.  Sometimes it rains but its not enough to even open up your brolly (umbrella). We went through quite a number of umbrellas during our first year in England due their short life expectancy and over use. When the clouds do disappear, the sun comes out, and the temperature rises you can bet that every able person will be outside enjoying every moment of the good weather.

5. Is there somewhere you would never live based solely on weather? 
I do love the snow especially if I am on a vacation to make the most enjoyment out of the winter weather.  However I do not think I would really want to live say in Alaska maybe or somewhere where the sun might disappear for quite a long time because I already deal with vitamin D deficiency with living in England compared to living in Hawaii.  However I realize that would include say Sweden and I really want to live there sometime after traveling there. So who knows, I probably could be open to anything. Every pro has a con anyways including weather. 

6. What are you looking forward to most this Spring? 
I am most looking forward to wearing my shorter and sleeveless dresses. Even if that means I am also pairing them with leggings, leg warmers  cardigans, and jumpers (sweaters).  Just being able to wear more seasonal outfits for Spring and Summer can trick the mind into thinking it is warmer than it is, even under a coat. 

7. Where you live what is your go to outfit for Spring?  
I really try to not wear denim in England if I can help it. To me denmin screams ‘America’ and I already have my accent as a fashion accesorsy. No need to overkill it.  I really like the feminity of wearing dresses and skirts. So my go to outfit for spring is usually a dress or skirt, leggings if the weather permits it, a cardigan or jumper (sweater) and a scarf.  It really depends on the weather because if we get our rare warm days than I could easily ditch the leggings and the cardigan. I pretty much wear my sunnies (sunglasses) year round.

8. What is one event or thing that happens at this time back home that you miss at this time of the year? 
Again I do not have a home to compare this too.  However when it is a colder or rainy spring day I will envision wearing less clothing and being on the beach in Hawaii.  I try not to do that as it is easy to always see the grass as greener.  I was missing Europe while living in Hawaii. I would rather just be content because I am happy where we are living in Bath, England. If I do have my down moment I can always head into Hollister, look at the summery beach clothing and pretend in the darkness of the store that I am somewhere sunny. 😉

9. What type of flower bouquet would you love to have as a surprise?  
I do love roses especially since rose is my middle name.  However I have always wanted to be surprised with a beautiful pink bouquet of peonies because they are another of my favourite flower.  However I also love red poppies because they remind me of my dad who passed away.  He served 30 plus years in the USAF as an officer and is a veteren and I cannot help but pass a field of poppies and have him on the forefront of my mind.

10. What does your perfect Saturday look like?  
Our perfect Saturday is blue skies with our without clouds and little to no rain.  My family usually is outside on a country walk in the beautiful English countryside every weekend.  We really love being outside in our wellies and being outside for hours.  It is something I used to do with my dad when we were living in England back in the 80s and 90s. There is nothing like being in the middle of the country surrounded by nature’s beauty to let the stress of the week just melt off.  It helps us remember how much we love and feel blessed to be living as expats in England.  I honestly get a high off of it. 

11. Are there any special holidays in the month of May in your new country?
Yes there is a bank holiday in May. British bank holidays are public holidays, recognized since 1871.  It comes form the time when banks were shut so no trading could take place.  There are eight of them through out the year and two of them are in May.  May Day or Early May bank holiday is the first monday in May and Spring Bank Holiday is the last Monday in May. 

I am linking up with Belinda for the Expat to Expat Q&A Session.  

Found Love.  Now What?

Want to play along? Here are the questions for April, feel free to answer them and link up below! {The link will be open until Sunday April 28th} Once you submit your post, feel free to share it on Twitter (#ExpatQandA) or Facebook. If you are not an expat, hop around the links below to view the other submissions!

*photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 All rights Reserved
For more information on Third Culture Kids, TCKs, and ATCKS

Ask B: How did you get started into photography?

I love photography.  It has been something I have enjoyed since being a young girl.  I started with film and now I am predominantly shoot digital, while still collecting film cameras.  Since that time the age of digital cameras has improved vastly.  The first digital camera we owned used a floppy disk! The quality of photos that phones take now a days is incredible.  If I do not feel like lugging around my big DSLR camera, I simply just rely on my iPhone.  Technology is always improving. What has gotten me is seeing how our expanding knowledge of the subject tied together with practice also evolves the quality of the photographs.  It is that natural progression as you strive to get better that has propelled me into my continual love for photography.
In 2005 my father gifted me with a Nikon Coolpix 8800.  It was not as tiny as the coolpix cameras  are now. It actually looked like a DSLR in size and shape although you could not change lenses.  I had just become a mum for the first time and had a great little subject of which to take photographs.  In 2007 a few months after having my second son I had really gotten interested in learning to shoot manual.  I started going to photography meetup groups with other military wives.  Almost all of them were shooting with DSLR cameras (primarily Nikon or Canon), talking about the lenses they used, and shooting in manual.  There was only so much I could do with my Nikon Coolpix and I was so entranced by the quality of photographs the other mums were producing of my own kids from the meet ups.  When my camera started giving me a lot of difficulty it furthered the need to move up in the camera world.  That was when we we got the Nikon D70 DSLR.  
Let me just say that it is not the camera you own that determines how well your photographs turn out.  Yes the quality of the camera and the lenses do make a difference. However its the person behind the lens knowing how use the camera and their vision for what gets captured in the frame that counts.  I took so many out of focused and badly exposed photographs while I was learning to shoot manual.  Not to mention having little subjects that move very quickly! 
I have included in this post a few of the very first photographs I took on our first DSLR and all though they look nice enough I can rip them apart years later as a photographer.  From the camera settings, to the lighting, to uneven shadows, the composition  body parts being cut off, the subject too centered, too many distracting items in the frame, etc.  I really think its true that we can be the worst critics of our won work.  I was looking at the photographs below today and realized something.  It is not about the level of experience at that moment, but why I took the photograph that is so important to me. All my photographs at this time in 2005 – 2007 were of my kids capturing their innocence and their moments of happiness.  I got into photography to capture the memories and to be fair, my reason for staying with it is pretty much the same.  
These smiles are why I continued my study in photography.
*All photographs are property of Bonnie Rose Photography. All Rights Reserved. 

Q: Why did you get into photography and of what do you like to take photographs?