Sisterhood of the World blogging award

While I was away on safari in Madikwe a couple of weeks ago, I struggled to keep up with emails and blog posts etc because the wifi at the lodge we were staying in was dodgy. On top of that my phone was about to run out of data so I really had to keep web browsing to an absolute minimum. Which was fine by me – when you are on such a fabulous reserve surrounded by so many animals, it’s quite nice just to switch off the internet

Anyway one of the tweets I DID see that weekend was from my pal Pheobe – who had nominated me for aSisterhood of the World blog award. Pheobe and I go back years, to schooldays in fact. We met up again recently at a reunion and then even more recently started connecting through our blogs. What we have in common more than anything else is a loooooong history and a love of travel – both our fathers were in the diplomatic service, we both grew up jetting the globe on a regular basis. So I always enjoy reading about her travel stories (she has also contributed to my blog with this post about her memorable journey in Outer Mongolia, and me to hers with this post about a weekend in Martinique).

Pheobe had been nominated for the award herself by another travel blogger and had to answer a series of questions – you can read her answers here. But she then set a series of different questions for her own nominees to answer. I always enjoy answering these sort of things but have been pushed for time since coming back from Madikwe. However, I have finally found a spare quiet hour here in sunny South Africa with one daughter at an ice-skating play date and the other out at a zip-lining party – so here they are:

Sisterhood_of_the_World_Bloggers

1. When did you start blogging? What is your favourite blog post, and why?

I started blogging almost exactly a year ago. As I got closer to the point when I was ready to publish my book, the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I knew I needed a promotional platform. I wasn’t exactly sure what form this would take except that it would include a blog. As it turned out, the personal blog side of my site has been the most fun – although it is also massively time-consuming and I am thinking of making a few changes in the new year. As for my favourite post that is not an easy question to answer! I love writing about the oddities of expat life, made all the easier now that I am back in expat-world myself, so maybe something like this post: Expat Friends – Fast and Furious.

2. How do you describe your blog’s niche?

It was really intended as a blog for the partners of people moving overseas for work; but I know my readership base is a lot wider than that. I think a lot of the issues I cover are relateable to expat life whether you are a partner or not, whether you are living somewhere temporarily or permanently, whether you are a young singleton or an older, married person….I also blog about travel quite a bit now that I am in South Africa so attract a different group or readers for that. Plus I have written a few blogs about the business of writing and publishing, something that still interests me and I enjoy reading about on other people’s blogs.

3. Do you have a day job other than blogging?  Do you support yourself blogging?

Yes I have a part-time job working as a business manager for a great little journal called the International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. It is a remote-working, flexible role that I was able to bring with me from the UK (perfect!). I can’t imagine being able to support myself blogging – does anyone these days?

4. Do you do other writing or photography professionally?

As well as publishing my own book, I do a bit of freelance writing: paid and unpaid (the latter for exposure for my book). I have also contributed a chapter to a book about giving birth and parenting abroad called Knocked Up Abroad – out soon, so watch this space!

Photography is strictly a hobby!

5. What is your most popular post?  Why do you think it’s so popular?

Funnily enough, my most read post ever was People Who Live in Small Places: Gibraltar. I think this was because it was read by every single Gibraltarian in the world! They are very proud of their home and I guess a lot of them shared it! My other People Who Live in Small Places posts have also done very well, but the other post that gets read very frequently is one on expat depression that I wrote last year. Because it gets so many reads I have since followed it up with an interview with counsellor Anita Colombara and am currently planning a series on expat depression for the new year. It is obviously a subject that has touched a lot of people, and about which more needs to be written.

6. What’s your biggest challenge or frustration as a blogger?

Without a doubt not having enough time! I have ideas coming out of my ears but there are only so many hours in the day. I try and write three blogs a week but I am not sure that is going to be sustainable for much longer – my life has become a lot busier since moving to South Africa and I really struggle to get everything done. Hence why I am planning a few changes to the site.

7. Name some of your favourite blogs.  Why?  What makes a great blog in your opinion?

I really enjoy following the blogs of people who are going through similar things to me. So the ones that I try and read regularly are those who have either recently moved somewhere new or who are living somewhere a bit more, should we say, exotic than the norm. As an example, Julie at the Expat Chronicles who moved a year ago from Barcelona to the Netherlands with her family; Seychelles Mama who lives in (believe it or not!) the Seychelles, and the Africa Expat Wives club, which is the diary of a British expat in Nairobi. There are many more but these are a few examples.

8. What is your best travel memory?  Why?

So so so difficult to answer – there are WAY too many. But if I had to pick one it would probably be travelling around New Zealand on my own at the age of 29. I had come into a small inheritence so stopped worrying about money (after spending six months working and scraping together some cash in Auckland!), and had no plans but to enjoy myself. I sky-dived, went on scenic flights, climbed glaciers, kayaked through the most beautiful national park, sat in hot baths under the stars, learnt to dive, watched seals and walruses, kiwi-spotted, and met the most amazing variety of people from all over the world. Most of all, I realised that travelling alone was actually ok – or more than ok, it was the best way in the world to meet people but at the same time realise it was fine to be on your own.

9. Travel bucket list: name the top 3 places you want to visit

Ah now this is another of those questions! Probably because of where we live, I actually have places on my list that we will get to – including Mozambique to swim with whale sharks and mantas. But away from southern Africa, I havel always wanted to visit Antartica so will keep that on my list; and Japan just because it seems so different to everywhere else.

10.  Is food important to you when you travel (other than its obvious function as fuel!)? What is the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

Now that we travel with our children, it is mostly important that we will find something that our fussy youngest will eat! As with most travellers I do love to try different things but I am a little funny about things like seafood with tentacles, and anything with bones! I did have a mopani worm recently at the Zimbabwe stall at our school’s international day – I would not recommend it! But probably the strangest things I have tried were giraffe and zebra at the Carnivore restaurant here in South Africa. Oh and tapir when I lived in Venezuela. I also ate something very strange at a restaurant in Cameroon but I can’t remember what it was – possibly warthog?

So to the hard part – I need to nominate ten bloggers of my own and pass the award on to them. Now I know that many have probably already had this award, or a similar one. I also know that it can be very time-consuming to write a post like this. I therefore  won’t be offended if my nominees don’t respond to my questions or pass it on to others. Nevertheless, as I am about to enter my second year of blogging I thought it would be nice to nominate some of those bloggers who have been on the blogging ride with me. So they are:

  1. The aforementioned Expat Chronicles
  2. And also Seychelles Mama
  3. Tiny Expats – one of my first blogging friends, always writes beautifully
  4. My three roadtesters – Oregon Girl Around the World
  5. Nichole at From Melbourne to Manhatten
  6. And Lynsay at Mills Family Travels
  7. Morag at Wir Unst Family for being a great supporter of the blog
  8. Loisajay at …on Pets and Prisoners for the same reason
  9. Nerissa at Ersatz Expat for just being so darn interesting
  10. And finally Nicola at Expatorama – another Brit in SA who hopefully I will eventually get to meet in person!

Right so onto my questions for these people, should they wish to answer them!

  1. If you had the chance, would you change anything about your life? And if so, what?
  2. Who would you most like to meet in a lift – and what would you ask them?
  3. If you HAD to move to another country from the one you are living in now, which would it be and why?
  4. You are given the equivalent of £5,000 for a holiday just for you and your immediate family. Where would you go?
  5. Can you tell me about a couple of your favourite blogs?
  6. Do you remember your first kiss – and who was it with?
  7. If you are from the UK, where is your favourite place there? If you are not, where would you most like to visit in my home country?
  8. How have you most successfully connected with other bloggers?

I think I will stop there – 8 questions is quite enough! So over to you guys – I look forward to reading your answers!

 

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More awards, more thank-yous.

I have been nominated two times for awards in the last couple of weeks and I have to admit they have sat there on the edges of my mind, mocking me for my neglect. I have been busy – it’s been the Easter holidays so I have had the children at home; we’ve been away (me and the husband even managed a night away in Bath, including four hours at the wonderful Bath Thermae Spa (a post on that is planned at some point!) to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary); and of course I have still been juggling work and book publishing preperation.

Today is the first day I have had to myself for a while, the husband having taken the girls to a Go Ape Treetops adventure place for the day. So I am trying to catch up on all the odds and sods of the last few weeks before things start in earnest next week, once schools are back.

So one of the things on my list is to acknowledge the two lovely bloggers who nominated me for awards and answer their questions! Both of them nominated me for the Versatile blogger award so I guess that means I must be….versatile!

versatile-blogger-award

First up is the lovely Vanessa over at Petal and Mortar. Vanessa is an expat in London, where she lives with her husband and young daughter, and has quite an eclectic background. Iceland is in there somewhere but she has lived all over the place and definitely falls into the category of “interesting expat”. Her pretty blog covers a whole smorgs board of topics, from quick recipes to her PTSD following the difficult birth of her daughter.

My other nominee is Berryduchess  – another expat (Filipino, based in Singapore) with a beautiful blog covering photography, travel, and this great post about removing her birthday from Facebook (I included that link because I am becoming more and more fascinated by Facebook and the effect it has on our lives. I have already written about it here and I am sure it is a topic I will come back to).

Okay – so that’s the acknowledgements out of the way. Now on to the good bit: talking about myself 🙂 One of the awards said share five facts, one said seven (I guess there is some sort of Chinese Whispers going in with these awards) so I will pick the middle ground and share six:

1) My favourite film is Apocalypse Now. We visited the set in the Philippines, while they were filming, as a child. It always stuck in my head because of that – but when I was old enough to watch it, I discovered what a brilliant film it was, with so many layers, great actors, plus an amazing soundtrack. This Is The End….

apocalypse-now

2) I have never watched Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit or Game of Thrones. Am I the only one in the world who hasn’t?

3) I am an expert at parallel parking, having lived for a few years in a very small place (Gibraltar) with very little parking. I am not so good at normal parking though – there are dents and bumps in the car to prove this.

4) I am a fourth generation expat. My mother’s grandfather was in the Colonial Service and served in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her father was also in the Colonial Service and was posted to Sierra Leone during the war (where he met my granny, a nurse) and later Hong Kong (where, sadly, he was killed). My father was a diplomat with the British Foreign Office. My children will be fifth generation expats when we move abroad again.

5) I have lately become addicted to instant coffee and digestive biscuits (dunked in the coffee). I think I actually prefer instant to the real stuff. That’s not right, is it?

6) I used to know all the words to the American pledge of allegience because we had to say it at the International School we attended in Manila. We didn’t have to pledge to the American flag, but we were meant to pledge to our own flag. However, I was the only Brit in my class so there was no British flag. I ended up pledging to the Union Jack in the corner of the Australian flag. How’s that for a turnaround of power?

Now I realise I am meant to nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know I have nominated them. However, I have decided that rather than ignore these awards altogether I wanted to acknowledge those who nominate me – but simply don’t have the time to then pass them on to 15 others. Perhaps I will store them all up and do one HUGE nomination once the book is published, the girls are back at school and all the packing is under control…

An interview, some questions and a giant spider on top of the Eiffel Tower.

Merging three short posts again this morning….

First of all I want to thank The New Diplomat’s Wifefor featuring me in her fabulous Notes from the Field series. I wrote about my time in St Lucia and you can read all about it here: Notes From the Field: St Lucia. I really enjoyed doing this interview, sometimes it’s only when you look back that you remember some of the things you went through in a particular posting. I also really love The New Diplomat’s Wife’s website as it is so beautiful and elegant. Plus, she was training to be a diplomat but ended up marrying one herself. Sort of like me, although I did actually manage to work as a diplomat for a few years before becoming the spouse.

So on to the questions. This is in response to another award nomination, this time from Hong Kong – A Teacher Abroad who nominated me for a Liebster Award. Time dictates that I won’t be nominating others but I always think it’s nice to acknowledge the person who has gone to the trouble of nominating you, and I like to answer the questions they pose with the nomination. So here they are:

1. What made you start a blog? This is easy as I already have the answer in my About the Blog section. Basically to accompany the book, somewhere I can add to and update information in the book and just because I love to write.

2. How do you decide what to blog about?  I constantly come up with ideas, but don’t always have time to write them all down! Many of my blogs are based on the themes of being an expat partner, but I also like to write about travel generally. I get ideas from my own experiences, reading about other people’s experiences, news items, discussions in forums…..

3. Do you plan your posts and if so how? A bit. I try to plan ahead if I can but things change so this isn’t always possible. I like to intersperse guest posts with my own and try not to have more than one post from a particular series per week. I also try and do at least one really relevant to my blog’s theme every week.

4. Where is your favourite place to visit and why? At the moment it’s probably Florida just because of the ages of our children and that we have got to know it well. We don’t just go to Orlando though, we love travelling all over the State. My brother-in-law lives there which is why we go so often. We’re also really looking forward to exploring South Africa and the other countries in the region, including Mozambique.

5. Is there one thing you are particularly proud of? Writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide and getting it very very nearly to the point of publication! I have always wanted to write a book.

6. Favourite book As a child it was Watership Down. I am very sad my own children don’t want me to read it to them 😦

7. What 5 people -famous or otherwise, dead or alive, would you invite for dinner? It would have to be my grandfather who was murdered in Hong Kong when my mother was a young child – I would have loved to have met him and for him to see that his only daughter went on to have four children and seven grandchildren. Then I would also have to invite my granny (who died in 2003) and my parents. I would make the fifth person be a really good chef so they would do all the cooking. Mary Berry maybe as she was at school with my mum and my granny knew her!

8. If you could ban/get rid of one – celebrity, tv show, band or food (delete as appropriate), what would you choose? Fresh coriander (also known as cilantro). The devil’s food.

9. If you could travel back in time what period of history would you go back to? So long as I didn’t have to actually live there or stay there for very long, probably the Tudor period. It’s one period we all study in such depth it would be fascinating to find out what it was really like.

10. Who is your biggest influence in life? I don’t think I am really influenced by anyone. I am myself and drive my own ship!

Thank you again to Hong Kong – A Teacher Abroad for the nomination. And now the bit I know you have all been waiting for – a giant spider on top of the Eiffel Tower…

giant spider on the eiffel tower

Don’t worry, there is a point to this! The photo is the latest in the photo101’s theme for the day which this morning is: Scale. Enjoy!

Thank you, thank you, thank you….one award, three nominations.

A week or so ago I met up in London with my old friend Lorna of the blog Just Words. Guess what? she asked me. I’ve nominated you for an award!

The Liebster Award is aimed at anyone with 200 or less followers, so it is a way of not only making you feel a bit better about your dismal performance but also about – hopefully – getting you some new followers.

liebster-award-pink

Great I thought. And promptly forgot all about it.

However, a few days later I opened up my WordPress feed to find not one, but TWO more nominations for the same award – this time from the lovely Arundhati at Sandcastle and the fabulous Liz at Secrets of a Trailing Spouse. Two more nominations – I couldn’t ignore it this time.

However, I think at this point in time I am going to struggle to nominate anyone else. I just don’t have the spare capacity at the moment. Half term looms next week – which means I won’t get a chance to do anything but the basics (which really means my day job).

But I still wanted to acknowledge this award, thank those who had nominated me and urge you all to go and have a read of the blogs of my nominators. I also wanted to answer their questions as they looked like fun!

So first of all, the questions from Liz:

1. Why did you start blogging?
Having reached the end of writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I knew I needed to start working on the next stage – the marketing. My audience could be anywhere in the world, so it made sense to try and reach them through social media and starting a blog fitted well into this plan. However, the blog is more than this. I wanted it to be a “companion” to the guide, something current and regularly updated, somewhere I could share more information and guidance and interact with my readers. Get them to share their experiences. This is what this book is about – expat partners supporting each other – and the blog feels like the perfect medium to do this. I also love writing and this is a great place to put all my random thoughts!

2. Where in the world would you most like to live?
Sadly, probably here in our town in west England – which we are about to leave! After that, at the moment I am pretty excited about moving to South Africa. But long term I would love to have a home in Florida. I know it’s clichéd, but we’ve always enjoyed our holidays there, and my husband’s only relative – his brother – lives there. Or New Zealand, if it wasn’t so far from everywhere….

A beautiful Florida beach

A beautiful Florida beach

3. What is the best travel advice anyone has ever given you? Or, what piece of travel advice would you like to share?
Hmmm, good question. Here’s one that I didn’t follow myself but should have: if you have a small baby and are planning to travel with it, don’t give up breastfeeding. You never have to worry about feeding your baby if you get diverted or stuck somewhere as you will always have milk on demand!

4. If you were stranded in an airport for a day, what book would you most like to have with you?
This has happened many times. It would have to be a book I haven’t read but want to. Maybe one of the books from the Africa Book Challenge  I’ve just started?

5. What is your worst holiday experience?
It wasn’t really a holiday but I went on a press trip to Tunisia when I was working as a journalist. Awful! Almost all the other journalists just wanted to sit around all day, get sun tans and bitch about each other. The hotel was half built and the food terrible. We were an all-female group and everywhere we went we were continually hassled. I couldn’t wait to get home. Other than that, camping in the Lake District in the rain as a child. Put me off camping forever.

6. Can you speak a second language?
No. I can get by in Spanish if I have to. I wish I did.

7. What is the best thing about the place where you currently live?
Friends – mine and the children, on our doorstep. Easy walk to great shops, restaurants etc. Good school three minutes away. Loads to do within an easy drive.

8. Describe your ideal day in no more than ten words.
Up early, under water, whale shark! Manta ray! Big supper.

9. What inspires you?
Anyone who does well later in life. I recently read a blog about ten women over fifty who were achieving major things. I am also a late starter….

10. Do you have a pet hate? (I.e. something which really annoys you, not a pet you hate!)
Many, many. Leaving dirty water in the washing-up bowl over night is one…..

11. Post a link to your favourite blog.
This is hard. I haven’t really been blogging long enough to have read that many in depth. I am however going to cheat and chose two. Kirsty Rice’s 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle because she is always so spot on about expat life, and Joburg Expat because it has told me so much about South Africa before we move there. I recommend anyone moving somewhere to find a similar blog and follow it!

And from Lorna:

1. Think back through your last full day. What would you have changed and why?
I would have taken the forgotten cupcakes to school instead of leaving them at home. Then we wouldn’t have had them all here to eat….

The cupcakes that didn't make it...

The cupcakes that didn’t make it…

2. Do you regret losing touch with anyone, and why do you think it is too late to rekindle the friendship?
I wish I had more time for old friends! I don’t think there is anyone I am not currently in touch with that I regret losing touch with. I recently made contact with a lot of old school friends as we had a 25 year reunion. It was really nice to see everyone again and I am now in touch with quite a few of them via social media.

3. What did you say or do that made someone feel good today?
I told Lauren St John (who wrote the White Giraffe and others – I blogged about it here – how much we enjoyed her books. Ah the power of twitter! She replied to thank me, which was lovely.

4. Look up nearly 45 degrees. What do you see?
Lots of unused cook books…..

5. Are you looking forward to tomorrow? Why/why not?
Yes and no. I have a meeting in Worcester and I am worried that the traffic will be bad getting there, and then I will get lost. But I am looking forward to seeing my boss, she’s a great person to work with and we don’t see each other often!

6. West Wing, Downton Abbey, The Killing, Doctor Who, Lost or The Simpsons?
Downton Abbey for sure. Although I loved the West Wing but it went on to long. Lost lost it.

7. Brontes, Austen, Wodehouse, Nesbo or Patterson.
Or none of the above?
I don’t know who Nesbo or Patterson are. At a push Austen. But really none of the above.

8. What was the last rude comment you had to keep in and to whom?
Something to my husband no doubt.

9. How did you sleep last night?
Not well – woke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Lots of insomnia in this house at the moment – we’re preparing for an overseas move, what do you expect! When I did get back to sleep I dreamt I had to hollow out a coconut because I was going to boil my head in it….

10. What would be your parallel life?
Diving instructor on a small island off Malaysia.

And finally for Arundhati, eleven random facts about me:

1. I hate coriander. With a passion.
2. I am an advanced PADI diver and have racked up well over 100 dives. However, I have not dived for more than four years.
3. I have a certificate that tells me I can do shorthand at 100 words per minute.
4. I have represented the UK at a meeting in the UN.
5. I am in Wikileaks. Under my maiden name.
6. I discovered I was pregnant for the first time when I was in Phuket helping out after the 2004 tsnuami.
7. I have come face-to-face with Nelson Mandela and had the chance to ask him a question. The only thing I could think of was “do you like Essex”!
8. I have probably read Watership Down more than any other book.
9. We are having fish pie for supper.
10. I will run screaming from a flying cockroach.
11. My favourite drink is probably a mojito.