Have you ever considered moving to another country?

Have you ever considered moving to another country?

Leaving Singapore 2014

As an immigrant and having been a Singapore ex-pat, it’s not unusual for me to consider moving to another country.  While living in Singapore I met and was embraced by many other wonderful African Americans from all over the world.  Leaving my Singapore friends back in 2014 to return to the US, was a bittersweet time.  Historically you can think of James Baldwin or Josephine Baker, to name just two of the famous black Americans who chose to live their lives overseas.  In recent years the term “Blaxit” has become a familiar concept amongst African Americans considering the possibility of living their lives abroad, free from the racism and oppression they face in America.  Here are a few realities for Americans who might consider leaving the US to live abroad.

Is the grass greener on the other side?

As fascinating as the concept of Blaxit is, the first step on this journey is to get a passport.  I have heard many people talk about living abroad but do not even have a US passport.  Additionally, if you don’t have a passport, it means you’ve likely never traveled internationally.  How will you know if the destination you are seeking to move to even fits the imagined concepts that you have?  Before anyone thinks about leaving the country, I think they should first get some international travel experience to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side.

Ways to move abroad.

For those who manage to pass the first hurdle the Blaxit process, there are several ways to start the Blaxit journey.  Historically, many black Americans have been exposed to living abroad from an overseas military assignment.  Many more options are now available such as a student, a government assignment, an employee of a multinational firm, or simply packing up and leaving the country.

Paperwork.

Whatever option you choose, know that a lot of paperwork needs to be completed.  Many countries will allow you to visit as a tourist without a visa, but you are often allowed only a certain number of days to stay in the country.  After those allotted days and you are still in the country, you will have overstayed your visit and be subject to whatever penalties the country sets.  Those penalties could include jail time or a lifetime ban from the country.

Finding work abroad.

If you do not have the income to support your moving choices, you will have to find work.  Working overseas is not as simple as applying for a job.  Many jobs are reserved for citizens and not immigrants.  If you find a job, you will have to obtain a work permit unless you become a citizen.  Becoming a citizen is not a simple process as you may have to give up citizenship or become a dual citizen.  In some cases, even though you are living abroad, you are still liable for US taxes.

Overall, the Blaxit decision is not an easy one, and there are many more considerations that must be made.  There is no simple checklist of things you need to do to move abroad.  Careful consideration and a broad review of the paperwork and fees required to complete the process are necessary and individualized.  Be informed before considering Blaxit.  Have you ever considered living overseas?  Please let me know in the comment section below.

 

 

Travel but expect the unexpected.

Travel but expect the unexpected.

When people think of travel, they often have thoughts of all the wonderful things they expect to happen.  Suppose it’s a beach vacation; travelers think of sunny beaches and warm waters.  If it’s a winter vacation, many will think about the snow and the incredible snow activities.  However, for many, vacation expectations can be disappointing and frustrating.  These expectations are because social media often only shows picturesque and positive vacation experiences.  Therefore, it’s best always to have an open mind when traveling and expect the unexpected.  Here are a few things that could go wrong despite all your best-made travel plans.

Missed flights.

Even though travelers may have booked their flights in advance and know the time guidelines for getting to the airport before a flight, many still miss their flights.  Reasons from waking up too late, confusing am times with pm times, long TSA lines, or leaving items at home are common.  It’s always best to prepare and do prechecks the day before departure to ensure none of these scenarios is a factor for your travel plans.

Expired passport.

Many people do not have a passport, but many of those who do, have passports that have been expired or are very close to being expired.  International travel requires having at least six months validity.  Many travelers take the time to plan and pay for their trip then get to the airport with an expired passport.  An expired passport is a traveler’s self-inflicted wound; all related expenses are at the traveler’s cost.  If you plan to travel internationally, check your passport’s expiration date before booking your flight.

Getting sick.

Getting sick is probably one of the most common realities of traveling.  Most often, travelers get sick from consuming contaminated food or water.  However, many often get overexposed to the sun and get sunburnt or are bitten by insects.  Travel, in general, puts us more at risk for sickness as we most often travel to places with persons we are not familiar with.  Traveling by air puts us in close contact with people we don’t know, and the airplanes’ recirculated air makes encountering germs more possible.  If you plan to travel, take precautions like staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.  In addition, traveling with some medicines to combat minor sicknesses is highly recommended.

Lost items.

When traveling, it’s not uncommon to lose personal items.  Items such as passports, mobile phones, losing your wallet or purse, losing luggage, and forgetting to pack certain items are common occurrences for many travelers.  Often, we are so caught up in our new surroundings that we forget our belongings.  It’s best to be organized when you travel.  Use packing lists if you must and keep copies of your important documents like passports, credit cards, and reservations.  If you lose your electronics or wallet, you can more easily make reports if you have more than one way to access your information.

I hope you never experience the unexpected when you travel, but I want to make sure you are prepared if you do.  Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios?  If so, how did you handle it?  Please let me know in the comment section below.

Singapore revisited.

Singapore revisited.

I spent twenty-three years in the airline industry as a flight attendant. In many of those first years, I was often the only person of color on the crew. Therefore, my experiences in being looked at differently have been more than eye-opening.   Being back here in Singapore has once again opened my eyes to the possibilities of a multicultural society.

Singapore is a multicultural society.  Chinese, Malay, Indian, and others (CMIO).  Here in Singapore, I am other, and my color is not as noticeable as in the US. Here I am simply different.  Different in the kind of way that’s the same but different.  Here the racial harmony that’s supposed to exist is reflected in the many cultures that co-exist.  

Singapore became a sovereign nation in 1965.  The following year the four racial groups CMIO were expected to be treated separately but equally, and there was to be no discrimination or favoritism of any race.  In Singapore, all races, religious practices, customs, and traditions are accepted. As I came to understand it, the Singaporean way is reflected in the appearance of social harmony.

In Singapore, I see co-existence but not people that intermix with each other.  Here race is downplayed yet elevated at the same time.  As a black ex-pat, I often get mistaken for African descent, and the distinction is a relatively common occurrence here.  When I go into public spaces, I’m seen as other.  When I speak, the recognition of my racial identity becomes apparent in the subsequent interactions I have.

I have experienced many acts of travel bias and microaggression.  My experience here in Singapore is much the same but different.  Often, my experiences have left me with a less than pleasant travel experience.  Multiculturalism is embraced here in Singapore, and the diversity I see here tends to be an aspect of Singapore I simply love about Singapore.

My first excursion in Singapore to end my quarantine was with a taxi driver. A typical Singaporean whose first attempt at conversation is not unlike many I experience. “Where are you from” I’m often asked? As an immigrant, my answer can be as deep or varied as I decide. I’m from an island like this. I’m from the Caribbean. I’m an American.  All are true, just as with the many aspects of Singaporean culture I experience— Chinese, Malay, Indian, Singaporean, ex-pat.  My story is unique and varied.

We’re all different, yet the same. A friend once told me to see the human race, not black people, not old people, not Asians, not fat people, not old people.  I choose to do that, and here in Singapore, that is ok.

My release from Singapore SHN

My release from Singapore SHN

I finally got released from my seven-day SHN.  Because I was so prepared to stay in a hotel, but not knowing which hotel, 2 star or five stars. I had a lot of anxiety about my arrival in Singapore.  It was a pleasant surprise to spend my SHN at home.  However, not leaving the apartment was limiting, and I’m happy to say I am now officially released from my SHN.

Swab testing appointment

The first step in the process of being released from SHN is a swab test.  I was given an appointment and told to show up.  As I don’t have personal transportation in Singapore, I had to arrange with a designated taxi company for travel to the testing site.

Testing location

The location of my testing was an old school building.  When I first went there, more workers were present than people needing to be swab tested, which soon changed as the lines queue.

The process

The process was the same for everyone.  We were all given a sticker designating us as SHN.  We then had to verify our name with identification.  Answer health questions. Get our temperature taken, then once again queue for the swab test. The process seemed to move relatively smoothly.  Once inside, there was another checking of ID, medical questions, and then I was escorted to the swab testing station, where I again had to verify my particulars. Once my swab test was completed, I was free to return home.

Final release

Tracker no more

My final release from the SHN came the following day.  I had to wait for a text notification of my negative test results.  Once I received that text, I could then cut my tracking bracelet off and throw it away.  Officials picked up the gateway portion that came with the bracelet.

Now I am free to leave my house, but not go everywhere I would like to.  I must install an app that allows the government to track my every movement in Singapore.  In addition, although I have my vaccination cards from the US.  I will need to take a serology blood test to get a vaccination designation on my tracer app.  Unvaccinated people have limited accessibility.  I’ll tell you a bit more about that in my next blog post.

Travelers Beware-Drug mules.

Travelers Beware-Drug mules.

I recently wrote about theft on an airplane and got so many responses.  Today I’d like to discuss another aspect of air travel many do not consider.  As flight attendants, we knew to look out for the warning signs of drug mules, excessive sweating, refusal to eat or drink, or acting nervous.  I recently saw a post on social media where a lady shared the story of her interaction with a drug mule.  I like to write short insightful pieces, but I had to share this as is. This story is not my story, but I am sharing it because it is accurate and does happen.

COPIED (As was written by the unknown author without correction)

If you travel by air a lot, beware of over friendly chatty seat neighbours.

 The older lady comes and sits next to me inside the plane. She asked me to help her put her bag in the overhead luggage compartment. But a gentleman sitting across quickly came through. (I am not very tall and the overhead luggage compartment is something I try to avoid at all costs.

Immediately she sits down she strikes up a conversation.  She was very pleasant and well spoken.  So we chatted all through the flight to Dubai.

Suddenly, when the pilot announced that we were now proceeding to begin our descent into DXB, my good friend ‘developed’ stomach pains.  Me with my good heart, I pressed the stewards button, and the stewardess came to find out what the problem was.  I told her my seat mate was not feeling well.  And this lady, she suddenly began to address me as ‘my daughter’. The stewardess told me that there was nothing they could do except give her some painkillers and wait until we landed.  The pilot announced that we had a medical emergency on board and advised us all to stay calm.  My new friend was crying and sweating like crazy.  And she refused to let go of my hand… everyone assumed we knew each other. 

So we landed at DXB and the same gentleman who helped put up her luggage in  the overhead compartment removed her luggage.  But as he removed the luggage, he advised me to distance myself from this lady and make it clear to the cabin crew that we were NOT travelling together. He was a godsend!

So indeed, the cabin crew came and asked me if we were related, I categorically told them we had met on the plane.  I didn’t know her at all.  So we began to deplane and as I said goodbye she kept begging me to carry her handbag. I was so torn… but the gentleman looked me in the eye and emphatically shook his head.  He passed me a note telling me to let the cabin crew handle her. 

So I exit the aircraft and leave my ‘new friend’ to wait for the wheelchair and be handled by the cabin crew feeling very guilty. 

As we waited for our luggage to come through, I hear this commotion. My ‘new friend’ was running, trying to escape the cabin crew, having gotten out of the wheelchair! She left the stewardess with her handbag and just ran towards the exit with the rest of her hand luggage! Luckily the airport police were faster than her.  They got hold of her and brought her back in handcuffs. 

This lady starts calling out to me.. my daughter… my daughter!.. how could you do this to me….. that’s when I caught on.  She was carrying drugs and she was trying to implicate me!

Luckily for me, the gentleman who had helped her with her luggage came forward and told the airport police that me and her had just met on the plane.  The police took my passport and asked her to reveal my full names if it was true we were travelling together.  By God’s grace, I had not even told her my first name! I was still asked to follow the police to a little room where I was questioned extensively.  Where did I meet her?… where did I board…  where did she board. Etc… And my luggage was extensively searched and dusted for fingerprints. 

They dusted all her luggage and my fingerprints were not found anywhere on her luggage or on her handbag!

I was let go with advice never ever to touch anyone’s luggage either in flight or at the airport.  So from that day, I don’t care how much luggage you have, you will deal with it yourself.  I will not even offer you a trolley to put your luggage on! Your luggage… your problem….  is my policy.  And if you can’t reach the overhead compartment, and I am the nearest person, please call the cabin crew because all I will do is give you a blank stare and then look away!

A lesson to glean therein for intending air travelers.

COPIED.

Just as I wrote about theft on the airplane, I could not have relayed the dangers of being too friendly more pointedly.  Travelers should be relaxed and have fun, be nice, but most of all, be cautious.  I hope this story opens your eyes a bit.