… of the pond. I flew to the states today for a week-long work conference thingy, which is a quite typical thing that I do for my job. What was not typical about this trip was that I had a rather late-in-the-day flight out of the UK (5 pm) which placed me in Boston around 8 pm local time, and I had to clear immigration and get my baggage and pick up my rental car and drive 30 miles to my hotel at what was essentially 2 am in the morning for me. Remind me not to do that one again. I suppose I could have stayed at an airport hotel (and maybe I should have done so) but I am on my way to Maine and it made some sense (at least on the day that I booked it) to stay in a hotel north of Bean-town and on the way to Maine, not to mention the fact that it’s a hotel I’ve stayed in previously when on the same sort of work trip in the past. It all seemed sensible at the time at which I booked it, and it all seemed like madness at the time at which I got off of my flight and had to drive whilst being a zombie. But that’s done. All is well. And the fact that it is a “suites” hotel meant that they had frozen dinners available for purchase in the lobby and a microwave in the room, so I did not have to go out in the car again once I had managed to make it to the hotel, so all good. Hooray for American convenience and Lean Cuisine. (How sad.)
I got on the internet at the hotel only to find that Amy Winehouse had died and Cadel Evans is about to win the Tour de France. I care fare more about the latter than the former, but the former was clearly of more interest to my Facebook and twitter friends than the latter. Hopefully tomorrow a few more people will be as excited as I am about the first ever Australian TdF winner-in-waiting. (I don’t want to jinx it.)
Being, as I am, rather stressed out about immigration matters, I was really dreading my arrival into the US. Two times in the last two years I’ve been harassed by the border guards at the US border about why I live abroad. When I’ve tried to explain about my (pretty awesome) job, they have in both instances tried to volunteer a (roughly) equivalent US job that I should be doing instead. Now this would not be that stressful except for the fact (warning, confession coming) that I did apply for similar jobs in the US about 9 months ago, knowing full well that such a US job would save me from having to go through the stress of the immigration process. And the fact is, no one hired me. There were various reasons for this, I’ve spoken to several people about it and I’ve been reassured that if anything I was too qualified for the jobs I’d applied for, but basically when you’ve just been turned down by US institutions for jobs and you’ve just started to deal with UK residency paperwork, this is not the time that you want to be hassled by US border authorities about why you live and work abroad.
Fortunately the nice man tonight in Boston airport’s border patrol did not bug me about it, although he did make me explain in significant detail what I was doing here (attending a conference related to my work) and that I did not live here and had not been touring around Europe. Which brings me to my point (and I do have one!) that it’s still not that common to be a US citizen who chooses to live and work abroad. And I don’t have the “married to an Englishman” excuse, which seems to me to be far more easily understood by the world compared with the “have a job in England” reality of my life.
Which brings me to my reality. I was never sure that I was moving to England for keeps when I moved there, and I am still struggling with the facts right now: I have a great job in England, I don’t have a job in the US, and I’m stressed out about the paperwork associated with staying in England beyond my 5 year work permit visa (obtained in 2006, which feels like a thousand years ago). I thought of the England experiment as a 3-5 year career move that has turned out to be a bit more complicated. I am now conflicted, as I feel neither English nor American, and my words on the subject have this week managed to piss a number of people off, as evidenced by comments made here and on twitter. I hate the British attitude towards Americanisms as defiling the (British) English language, but I am equally annoyed when overhearing conversations of visiting Americans in Heathrow airport that make me want to defend my adopted country and all of its foibles. A Brit who resides in America and has for a long time recently told me that it would be difficult for me to return to life in the US, and I wholeheartedly believe him. This is the complication that one never thinks about when it sounds glamorous and interesting to go live in Europe for a while. Once you live abroad, your thinking changes and it’s hard to ever go “home” again.