Welcome to the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide

“I wish I’d had this book when I first became an Expat Wife”

Brigid Keenan, author of Diplomatic Baggage and Packing Up

Welcome to the blog that accompanies my book, the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. Here you will find many posts about expat life and, in particular, about life as an accompanying spouse. If you are not sure exactly what I mean by an accompanying spouse – also known as an expat partner or “trailing spouse” – then a good place to start would be this post I wrote for the Expat Focus website: Accompanying Spouse – What is It?

But if you pretty sure what this term means and you are looking for more information, then an even better place to start would be with my book.

From what to pack to how to cope in the event of an emergency, the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide is a light-hearted yet supportive book which uses the experiences of more than 70 contributers to help guide you when you move abroad. Aimed initially just at accompanying spouses, since publication I have had a lot of very positive feedback from all sorts of expats – and hope it will be of use to anyone, anywhere moving abroad.

click here to buy the book

The Blog

As well as information about general expat life, you can also read posts about some of the issues that have come up again and again during my research for the book and for the blog. This includes more specific information just for expat partners,  the important topic of expat depression, and what life is like for male trailing spouses.

As well as writing about expat life, I also enjoy writing about travel and, in particular, about our adventures in South Africa.

I hope you enjoy both the blog and the book – do get in touch if you have any comments, feedback, ideas, topics you would like me to cover or if you would like to write a guest post.

Knocked Up Abroad – AGAIN

Hopefully you will realise pretty quickly that I am not, in any way, shape or form knocked up again. Good god the idea fills me with horror – imagine going back to nappies and night feeds again! It’s hard enough having a new puppy in the house.

No, this is not about an impending birth – or at least, not an impending birth of a baby but rather the much planned, much hoped for birth of a new book. But a birth that will only happen with the help of people like YOU.

back-kuaa-on-kickstarter

Some of you may recall I contributed a chapter to the first book in the Knocked Up Abroad series, in which I wrote about life in St Lucia while parenting a couple of small children and in particular the slightly peculiar school they attended. Having enjoyed being part of the KUA team, I jumped at the chance to contribute again when editor Lisa Ferland decided to go in for Round Two.

This time, I wrote about discovering I was pregnant with my first daughter while working in Phuket in the immediate post-tsunami period. To say it was a bit of a shock is a severe understatement – imagine finding yourself on the other side of the world, living in a slightly dodgy hotel along with a whole load of colleagues you have only just met while your partner is literally as far away as you can get….add into the mix the fact that we had so recently started trying for a baby that I had only really half thought about the reality that it might actually happen, plus the total lack of any sort of pregnancy book in English and you will realise why this is a story worth telling.

However. If you want to read it, along with the extraordinary tales from 25 other mothers around the globe, you will need to give us a bit of a helping hand. Because at the moment this project is still on the drawing board awaiting funding. Without money, it simply won’t ever be published.

kuaa-world-map-locations

The locations of all the stories to be told in Knocked Up Abroad Again

But don’t worry, we are not asking you simply to hand over your cash. Oh no – there are lots of wonderful rewards on offer to anyone and everyone who contributes. You can find out all the details of the Kickstarter campaign and what is available by clicking on the link at the end of this post but for starters here are a few rewards:

  • Pledge $10 and get a free pre-release eBook of Knocked Up Abroad Again
  • Pledge $25 or more and get the eBook plus a paperback copy, as well as an invitation to the Knocked Up Abroad Virtual Bookclub group (LIMITED TO 25 BACKERS AN ONLY ONE SLOT LEFT!)
  • Pledge $45 or more and you get all of the above plus another copy of the paperback edition
  • Or for $45 you could chose a paperback edition of Knocked Up Abroad Again AND of the first book in the series
  • Once we get to $65 and above you get all sorts of exciting treats including an invite to the book launch in Stockholm or elsewhere in the world, PDF’s covering childbirth and parenting, books, listings, the lot!

So as you can see, it really is worth a look and see if there is any way you can help. An awful lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this project and it would be heartbreaking if it never saw the light of day – especially for something that could really help other women going through pregnancy, childbirth and parenting around the world.

Come on, let’s birth this book!

TO FIND OUT MORE AND CONTRIBUTE TO GETTING THIS PROJECT KICKSTARTED PLEASE CLICK HERE

South Africa travels: The Wine Tram!

One of the best things about living in South Africa is being able to drink the country’s wine freely and cheaply (within reason – we try and limit our imbibement to weekends!). But of course, one problem is that children don’t tend to be very into wine – and when you have an 8yr old and a 10yr old like we do that does somewhat limit your ability to explore the wondeful wine regions.

However where there is a will there’s a way and last week I was able to get away with a girlfriend, my Swedish friend Karin (hi Karin!) to Cape Town and go a bit wild. Well, okay, slightly wild – we are two mothers with young children after all and one of the best things about the whole long weekend was lounging in bed reading books!

But we made sure to make the best of our time in one of the most well-known wine regions of the world, a spectacularly beautiful area with never-ending photo opportunities. Specifically as far as the wine was concerned, we spent a day visiting wineries by way of the Wine Tram tour – and what a wondeful experience it was!

We were first picked up from our hotel and shuttled the hour inland to the very attractive town of Franschhoek. Full of pavement cafes and boutique hotels, this town is a must-stop for any grown-ups visiting this part of South Africa. It is the sort of place you could just kick back and enjoy for days at a time, contemplating life through a fine wine haze.

However, we were only there for the day – a day which started on this bus:

IMG_20160826_110752256_HDR

The idea is that you take one of the four pre-organised routes between eight different wineries, choosing the five or six you are most keen to visit and simply jump off, stay for an hour, drink some wine, and then hop back on again. Simple! We did worry that after a few tastings we would lose the plot track a bit but the staff both on the bus/trams and at the wineries were obviously well used to slightly inebriated guests and kept us in line. We actually only saw two women who looked like they had probably gone over their limit, as they ran screaming to catch the bus from one stop….

Anyway our first stop was Le Lude where we started the day with three tastings of bubbly – two local and one imported champagne:

IMG_20160826_111507015

It was a wonderful way to begin the tour and we both agreed that in fact the local stuff (at about a third of the price) was every way as good as the imported French Champagne. Definitely on my list for future purchase!

After a pleasant hour at La Lude we made our way back onto the bus along with a large bunch of jolly South African women who we bumped into on and off throughout the day as they chose different wineries to us for their tastings.

Our next stop was Holden Manz, where we decided to have a bit of food as it was now midday and we didn’t want to keep drinking on empty(ish – breakfast had been big….) stomachs. So we sat with this fabulous view and tucked in to some nibbles while sampling some of the house specials:

IMG_20160826_122443035

As well as the wine, the views are the star of the tour – although I can imagine it would be even more stunning during the wetter months (everything was a bit brown and bare at this time of year – but on the plus side, we had beautiful sun and clear blue skies and it wasn’t too stifingly hot).

IMG_20160826_115422528

After a bit of food and three more tasters of wine, it was on to the next stop: La Bourgogne. Everything was getting slightly hazy now but this one was memorable for a sweet garden and a couple of friendly dogs who joined us as we took some coffee and cake along with – yes – more wine. Well, it was part of the deal, why wouldn’t you (the tour included two free tastings, plus some at half price and another tasting was free because we bought wine).

IMG_20160826_134447174_HDR

By this time the weather had started to really heat up so it was quite a relief that the next stop was inside the relative cool interior of the La Couronne winery where we partook of our second free tasting. My main memory here is that our host was a man called Budha – and yes, apparently that was his birth name and not a nickname!

At this point we were finally able to get on the actual tram! In the end we weren’t on it for very long and I seem to recall there was a tractor involved at some point as well but it was a fun experience so sit in this vehicle for the short trip to our next destination: Rickety Bridge.

IMG_20160826_155321961

This being our fifth and final tasting of the day we decided we needed a bit more food and ordered a platter of cheese and meat to go with the wine. It might have been the paring (or the fact that we had been drinking all day!), but I think this was one of the best wines of the day and we ended up ordering several bottles to take home with us. Incidentally for any South Africans reading this, or anyone travelling internally in the country, you are allowed to take wine as hand luggage on the flights. Not sure how that squares with security procedure but we were happy🙂

IMG_20160826_165017990_HDR

And so the say ended and it was back to base at Franshoek where we ended up having rather a long wait for our taxi home due to hold ups on the road from Cape Town – which at least gave us a chance to have a look round:

IMG_20160826_172222835

All in all it was a great day out and a really wonderful way to try several different types of wine without having to worry about driving. We also really liked the fact that we were basically independent and didn’t feel too herded around as you are on some tours – and could chose which wineries we wanted to get off at.

moday-escapes_zpssm7pqzea

A Day in My Expat Life: Sweden#2

I’ve already featured Sweden in my Day in My Expat Life series but as someone who has lots of Swedish friends and has Sweden high on my list of places to visit soon I say we can never have too much Sweden! So here we go – please welcome Sara!

****************

I’m Sara. I was born in Portugal but I left ten years ago. In the meantime I have lived 3 years in Poland, 3 in Brazil and 2 in the Czech Republic. Now I live in Sweden. I live with my boyfriend. He is Swedish. He has also lived in different countries, including Brazil and the Czech Republic with me.

You can find my blog at http://asvoltasnomundo.blogspot.se/

1- window

1. My window 7.30 I get up and usually I stare out of the window for a couple of minutes. I check how the weather is, go through my to do list mentally and judge how awake I am. I’m a morning person, so I am usually fully awake after a few minutes. This is one of the good things of being unemployed… I have time to stare out the window.

2- breakfast

2. Breakfast 8.00 I have breakfast in the kitchen. Most mornings I eat porridge with cinnamon. Occasionally, I add a spoon of jam or apple puree. And black tea in my favourite cup. I love black tea in the morning! I read or check social networks in my phone while a eat.

3- my corner

3. My corner 8.30 After doing this and that (make the bed, clean here and there, you know what I mean) I sit in my favourite corner. It almost looks like a small office but it’s a corner of my living room. It is from here that I blog. The colourful post its have notes about what I want to blog about. From here I write, edit photographs, I read other blogs, I search and apply for jobs, etc. Note my favourite cup again with my second cup of tea. Usually, I turn on the radio for company. Portuguese radio. I can hear the news from my country and most importantly, I can hear my own language!

4- run

4. Run 10.00 I love running and I do it almost everyday. If I want a fast run I just go on the streets and in the pedestrian path along the road, because it’s flat. If I’m looking for a challenge I go up to the forest near my flat, where I find many hills. Of course the surroundings are nicer in the forest and the sound of the birds encourages me to keep going. Afterwards, I stretch for a few minutes at the entrance of my building and I go home and have shower.

5- cookbooks

5. Cookbooks 11.30 Since I had a few minutes to spare I went through some of my cookbooks to get ideas for dinner. I started collecting cookbooks when I started travelling more. I have always been interested in food and I really enjoy trying different dishes and new ingredients. I started buying a cookbook in every new country I visited and now I have a nice collection. I have more than one cookbook from certain countries. From Italy, for instance, I have 5! You guessed right… I love Italian food.

6- lunch

6. Lunch 11.45 After running I’m hungry so I need to eat some lunch. I either heat up some leftovers from the day before or eat a sandwich with salad. One of my favourite combinations is sill in lemon sauce with boiled egg. Sill is herring (a fish) and in Sweden you can buy it marinated in different sauces. Sill is always present in different Swedish festivities celebrated all over the year. I actually enjoy it quite a lot and as it makes an easy and fast meal I eat it for lunch sometimes

7- school

7. School 12.30 I moved to Sweden in the beginning of the year and I spend roughly 3h a day learning Swedish in school. It is called SFI (Swedish for immigrants) and it is a free course for foreigners. Foreigners who do have a job can also take the course, but it is usually only once a week. Our teacher is great and full of energy, which is very motivating. It’s fun and I really enjoy sharing that part of my day with people from all over the world.

8- library

8. Library 15.45 After dropping the school books at home, I take my bicycle and cycle to the library to return a book. I love the library! It’s huge and has a large selection of books in english, and a lot in many different languages! I finished Be careful what you wish for, from the Clifton series of Jeffrey Archer and I took Sushi for beginners, from Marian Keyes. I have 3 weeks to read each book, but the time can be extended through my online account. Usually I don’t have to extend it.

9- supermarket

9. Supermarket 16.10 Afterwards, I also went to the supermarket. I always have a list because my memory is not the best. The supermarket is huge and it only takes me 5 minutes to get there from home by bicycle. I am a member of their club and I can use the self-scanning machines. I scan my own groceries and I pay on my own at the end. It makes it so much faster! One can get a random check and be penalised if not all products are scanned. I have never failed… yet. Today is a bit later than normal, so my boyfriend Johan meets me at the supermarket and we go home together.

10- sofa

10. Sofa 17.00 Johan is usually tired after a long day at work and he enjoys laying down a bit in the sofa, reading or surfing the web in his tablet. Usually, I’m back in my corner to do my homework and study Swedish on the internet. Once he suggested me to read children’s books in Swedish to practise my reading. We brought his collection of books from his parents house and now and then I read for him. The interesting fact is that he often does fall asleep! The brain reaction is still there… 30 years later.

11- dinner

11. Dinner 18.00 – 20.00 We usually have a lot of fun cooking together and one of the things we make often is fresh pasta. Today, I found a pasta recipe that uses one of my favourite combinations: gorgonzola and walnuts. We have tried it in pizza, together with pear, but never in pasta. Since we really liked the recipe, we will repeat it and I will take better photographs of the dish, so I can post it on my recipe’s blog, the Swedish and the Chef (link: http://the-swedishchef.blogspot.se/)

12- bedtime

12. Reading 20.00 – 00.00 After dinner, I go back to studying Swedish because I have a test in two days. Sometimes I blog instead, or chat on the internet with family or friends. When I get tired I join Johan in the sofa and watch a bit of TV or read. Around 23.00 we go to bed and I keep reading as much as my eyes allow me. It varies from a couple of pages to an hour straight.

Thanks Sara, I really enjoyed reading about your life and seeing your photos. That pasta looks great! Remember to check out my other posts in this series – and please let me know if you would like your expat life featured on this blog.

A Day in My Expat Life: Abu Dhabi

Welcome to another Day in My Expat Life and again this is a special one because Keri, of the website Baby Globetrotters, is a blogger I have been communicating, coordinating and collaborating since we both started out about the same time a couple of years ago. I have never actually met Keri – even though she came on holiday to South Africa at one point since we have been living here – so was curious to find about a bit more about her life. I also love the fact that even though she has three children, she still manages to have time to do her own thing: so important for us expat parents.

**********

6.19am(1)

6.19am Our day normally starts when the first child wakes up; this can be anywhere between 5.30am and 7am on really lucky days! On a standard school day though we need to be up and at it by 6.30am Not a bad view to wake up to though, we live in a fairly new beach front development “off island” in Abu Dhabi, Al Raha Beach. This is the view from the top floor of our townhouse (4 floors high!)

7.25am

7.25am We have 3 kids to try and usher out the door for school by 7.25am if we can. The International school the oldest two attend is only a few kilometers away but traffic lights are rubbish and we spend 15-20 mins every morning sat in the school run queue. We have rather a large car to fit our collection of kiddy seats – and kids (they are sadly not compulsory in the UAE but no way we’d go anywhere without them). Our littlest one is only 1, he attends the British nursery near the school.

8.35am

8.35am My favourite part of the day once the kids are dropped off! I start my working day by heading down to the beach front for a coffee. Here I catch up my overnight emails and social media. It’s too hot now for sitting on the beach itself but it’s a great, friendly little place – and makes me love my work from home jobs!

9.25am

9.25am Walking back to my house – it’s a mixed development along the man-made Al Raha Beach (slightly inland from the Persian gulf coast) with apartments, townhouses, villas and some commercial buildings – Etihad Centre is right behind our house. It comes with the convenience of a little supermarket and a few shops. The only real hassle here is parking.

10am

10am Where the work gets done! Back to my desk for the next few hours until kiddy pick up times. Once or twice a week I might be at client meetings but mostly working at home in front of the PC, three mornings a week while my youngest is at nursery.

12.30pm

12.30pm Lunch is just something quick and simple like toast or sandwich. NB note the kitchen only looks immaculate as we have a full time helper. She cleans the house while the kids are at school which is *amazing*

2.45pm(1)

2.45pm School pick up run starts again around 1.45pm when I leave our house, then with staggered finish times over two locations – at least if I am not picking up extra kids, dropping off for play dates etc – it takes about 1.5hrs to get home again. As you can see our cars are big (to fit all those car seats!) but having a 4wd or “Mummy Tank” is fairly standard issue here.

3.15pm(1)

3.15pm Today is slightly special and different as it’s my middle boy’s 4th birthday. We always get a special cake and treat on our actual birthday, he will have a pool party on the weekend with his friends. Afternoons while it’s hot they will generally stay in the playroom or play in the pool until dinner time.

5.45pm(1)

5.45pm As a special treat we let the kids pick birthday dinner and we all go out, including some of my husband’s relatives who live in Abu Dhabi too. We are very lucky to have this connection here and make things like birthday celebrations special – they love their Uncle Sean! My Master L will basically only eat pasta so he picked Carluccio’s at Eastern Mangroves, another fairly new waterfront development.

6.30pm(1)

6.30pm The high life when you have kids! All done by about 6.30pm to be home in bed around 7pm. This is the view from the gorgeous Eastern Mangroves marina back to some of the high rises on Reem Island. There really is no ‘centre’ of Abu Dhabi, just lots of awesome little spots to explore.

 

Thank you Keri for that look at your expat life. Please check out our other posts in this series if you haven’t already done so and let me know if you would like your expat life to be featured in a future post!

Stories from Blogging Africa #3

We’re back!

After a wintersummer (it’s winter here in the southern hemisphere but Frances, my Africa linky partner, is up in Kenya so summer for her) of fun and indulgence it’s time to roll up our sleeves, spit on our hands and get back to work. And this means another Stories from Blogging Africa link-up!

In case you’ve missed our first two linkys, this is a chance for anyone, anywhere in Africa who blogs to share their work. We don’t care what your blog is about, whether it’s travel or literature or expat life or politics or even sport – all we ask is that you either in Africa or write about Africa. In fact, the more diverse the better – see this as a great way to discover things about this great continent that are as yet totally unknown to you.

DSC_0975

What can be more African than an African elephant?

If you want to know what a link-up is and how it works first of all take a look at our earlier linkys – HERE and HERE. You will be taken to a page where you can click on a variety of blogs. Have a read and please, please if possible leave a comment, give it a like, let people know you have visited. This only works if people visit each others blogs.

So if you want to join in all you have to do is write a new blog post or pick one that is already published, grab the badge below and add it to your post with a link to this site , click on the frog link below and then simply follow the instructions to add your post. Happy posting – I look forward to reading your Stories from Blogging Africa and, please, don’t forget to check out the other posts in the link-up.

Five things South Africa gets right

South Africans, for some reason, have a habit of putting their country down. Not all of them, for sure – many are fiercely proud of their nation. But before we arrived here almost everyone had a story of a South African they knew from work or through their children’s school or just some bloke down the pub who warned them about the crime or the violence or the soaring costs or…..

Of course we ignored them all and came anyway and – as regular readers of this blog well know – are very glad we did. And what we have found here is quite a mixed bag: a beautiful country with mansions and shopping malls that could come straight out of the States or Europe, surrounded by some of the worst slums you will see anywhere. Busy restaurants with patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk, but beggars at every streetlight. A nation of many races where outright racism still happens blatantly and openly but is then called out from every corner. It’s definitely a paradox – and not like anywhere I have ever lived before.

DSCF6015

Soweto wash day

Of course I realise South Africa has a lot of problems. A lot – massive unemployment, poverty, some of the worse rape statistics in the world, HIV, corruption…..And yet there is plenty of things that this country does right, very right. But it isn’t always easy when you are in the thick of things to take a step back and look at your country objectively. And sometimes you need the perspective of someone who has lived in many places and therefore has a few yardsticks to measure by. So, from an outsider living inside at the moment, here is my list of five things that South Africa gets right:

Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semanya, and other Olympians

It’s not just about the medals – all you need to do is read some of the back stories to realise what an incredible achievement the SA team is. Remember, they only rejoined the Olympic movement in 1990. Two games ago (Bejing) they only got one medal. This time they got 10, including two golds, and van Niekerk’s 400m world record. Plus, you only have to look at the names of the atheletes over the years to realise how times have changed. It really is a rainbow nation team – with the medalists reflecting this perfectly.

National Parks

It’s not just what’s in the parks – wildlife, mountains, waterfalls, scenery etc – but how accessible they are, what good value they are, what fantastic accommodation at incredibly reasonable prices they have. It means that even if you are feeling a bit broke you can still afford a few days away somewhere without necessarily having to break out the tent (although that’s always an option too). The only downside for me is how many there are – we could live here for years and still not make it to more than a handful. Maybe one day, when we’ve retired, we’ll return sans kids and really “do” South Africa properly. Park by park.

DSC_1436

Kruger National Park at dawn

Water from the taps

I have lived in and travelled to a lot of places where you can’t just turn on the taps and drink. In Pakistan we couldn’t even use the water for washing vegetables – it all had to either come out of a bottle or be rigourously boiled first. But here in SA you can. I don’t know if this is country-wide and have no idea what it is like in the townships but certainly  the fact that clean water comes out of the taps is indicative that something is being done right.

Toilets

And in the same vein, roadside toilet stops are not the nightmare they can be in some countries. I have encountered toilets so bad, peeing in the bushes was definitely preferable. Here though they are almost always clean and usually have plenty of paper. We’re travelling to Mozambique in a couple of months – I am already nervous about what we will find there…

Radio

Okay, specifically one radio station: Five FM. Back home in the UK I have pretty well given up on radio. Sometimes I will listen to it for the news or current affairs shows but for music, there isn’t really anything that floats my boat. Either it’s trying so hard to be hip and trendy and down with the kidz that I’ve never heard of any of the songs (and the presenters jar appallingly with their attempts at cooldom) or it’s full of the sort of awful music from about 15 years ago that they think we’re interested in. And not much in between. Here, 5FM is fresh, funny, and plays fantastic music – with no ads! I don’t know how they do it but I have heard more good music on 5FM in the year since we arrived than I have in about the previous ten years in the UK. I suspect this is one I will be streaming over the internet when we leave for good.

So those are just a few things I think South Africa gets right – I can think of many, many more but now it’s over to you: please tell me in the comments section below some of the things that YOU love about this country. Or if you are not South African, do not live in South Africa or have never even visited South Africa, I would love to hear what your general impressions are of it. Good or bad…

 

 

Are you a blogger in Africa?

Calling all bloggers in Africa! Or even bloggers who aren’t in Africa but write about Africa!

The next Stories from Blogging Africa link-up will be out this WEDNESDAY. Yes, you heard that right, this WEDNESDAY. August 24th. Only three days away.

DSCF6017

Soweto market

If you haven’t participated before, this is a very simple link-up for anyone who blogs in or about Africa. All you have to do is have a post ready to go on Wednesday, add it to the page, check out the other posts (and hopefully like/comment) and voila! You’re done. See, couldn’t be simpler.

But in case you are still confused, here are the links to the two previous link-ups we’ve already done – this one from May and then this one from June.

And yes, we did miss July but it was the long holidays, we were travelling, life got in the way…..

Please comment below if you have any questions but otherwise, I hope to see you on Wednesday! Happy blogging folks.