Summer Travels

IMG_1644This time next week we’ll be back in the UK for a mere 24 hours-perhaps less. Just enough time to pick up the car, see our fabulous Uncle and Aunt and visit our storage unit (trying to remember what on earth we packed in there back in January!). We’ll then be driving over to France to spend some down time at home in Cladech.

For us, Cladech truly is home. It’s where our family roots are and Mum’s home so it always feels like we’re returning to her when we’re there. Since Mum bought the property in 1990 it’s been where we’ve gone to have time together and it’s always been a happy place so it feels perfectly natural to say that we always take advantage of the little time we have there. And it’s always hard to say goodbye at the end of our holiday.

I wonder what we’re returning to and am eager to see our friends in France and Spain to gauge their reaction to the election results. Several have already commented that they now have to go through the bureaucratic process of applying for citizenship in France/Spain etc. We could be joining them in time.

We had long-planned to return to Europe for the Summer in order to catch up with our family and friends. I hope the nieces and nephews haven’t grown too much..and to explore new places and views. We’re also looking forward to 10 days in the Langoudoc on another special SF trip with Kathleen and Issy.

I’ll be continuing to work most of the time – one of the advantages of having a remote job…have laptop and wifi…will travel!

So here’s to clocking up more miles in the car, new adventures and lots of fun!

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Where to now?

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Today we have woken up to a new Europe – seemingly broken. Britain has spoken and she has decided that she must leave the European Union.

It’s no secret that I voted to #remain. I truly believe that we are stronger together and I honestly didn’t think that promises made by the #leave campaign could be achieved…and we’re starting to see that unravel less than 24 hours after the vote with some #leave officials doubting they can really deliver after all. I also felt that much of the #leave campaign was based on racist, divisive and fearful rhetoric. I accept the result because that’s what the slim majority wanted. However the process over the last year has brought up deeper seated issues that need to be explored if we are to build a new Britain together.

Regardless, both sides made mistakes …mistakes rooted in fear….fear that people no longer recognise because we’ve become so desensitized and less empathetic in recent years.

Both Matt and I saw this coming well over a year ago. I respect the decision to have the vote although I suspect David Cameron’s reason behind his decision to do so was based on fear because the numbers of Conservative MPs defecting to UKIP was rising. Did he make the decision to go for a referendum to slow the defections down? Was he trying to prove his power and worth by arrogantly taking a massive gamble? On the other hand giving power to the people was a bold move and in some ways it was democratic. Unlike a general election – EVERY vote counted last night. However, the whole thing lacked structure and I think many of the decisions made were made out of fear.

Someone shared this quote with me today which was very apt – “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” (not sure who it’s by!). I believe that many have lost sight of what democracy is and what it means to live in a democracy. Perhaps they don’t even understand what democracy is in the first place? Being a democratic citizen requires the best of us. It requires us to make EDUCATED and wise choices based on the hard facts…not opinion or scapegoating and certainly not fear.

The seeming scare mongering, empty promises, hate and fear slung from both sides of the campaign is what has affected me the most because it has prevented some from really understanding their choices and making wise decisions. We didn’t see much in the way of love and unity expressed. Did this behavior demonstrate what it means to be a citizen of the UK? Maybe what is needed is a deeper understanding of democracy in it’s purest form….not politics….democracy….there’s a difference!

More importantly, the ramifications of fear are not understood by most. Often people don’t even recognize that what they are feeling is rooted in fear. I believe that an individually fear-based mindset can lead to collective fear…we see that in our workplaces everyday. Where there is fear-based leadership, there are fearful employees.

Our nation is no different. Fear-based leaders in government (and in our media) have helped to breed a collective fearful mindset. All the brain research shows that a fear-based mindset leads to miopic thinking. So if we truly want to transform our systems from a deeper place we have to address fear first or run the risk of continuing to run on this never ending fear-based treadmill. This is what needs to be addressed first and foremost.

Thinking from a place of freedom brings healing, brings a greater depth of understanding and a wider more expansive view. That’s what is needed now. We can’t rebuild Britain with the same thinking that got us to where we are today.

It could be easy to make hasty decisions and say – that’s it – we’re moving for good now. Yet we’re both feeling the need to take our time, do our research and carefully consider where we can most contribute to the world…perhaps here in our temporary (fast becoming more than that!) home of Mexico, or our home in France. Right now we don’t see our future in the UK but that could change in time. There needs to be a cooling off period where we and Britain learn to love each other again!

Part of me wonders how we can contribute to UK society to drive out fear and division and breed unity and community. However, for the first time in a long time, selfishly I feel it’s time for us to stay right where we are and watch from a far!

Where does the UK go from here? Who knows….I just hope and pray that the electorate realise that there is a need for education and a radical shift in mindset if we are to build trust in each other let alone figure out a plan for a post-EU future.

While this vote may seem to lead Europe into a time of uncertainty and a deeply divided United Kingdom, no vote will ever stop me from feeling British and European in my heart. And ultimately a global citizen.

For Orlando

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Another shooting…yet again in the USA. I am tired of reading about these senseless acts of hate and violence. For me, there are two issues that need handling here…violence against the LGBT community and gun violence. The only way I can see both being handled is through education….and Love.

Back in 1995, while a college freshman, I spent my Spring Break volunteering on a service project in inner city Detroit where the rate of gun violence was shockingly high…particularly amongst youth. We met children as young as 4 years old who had witnessed shootings, parents who had lost their children in senseless acts of violence, and a community that had had it’s heart ripped out. Then I was stunned and incensed…and I still am today. I simply cannot understand how we now here – 21 years later – no closer to resolving the issues.

There are SO many angles to this issue and in the midst of the rumbling anger that I feel within myself, I have to find the time and space to order my thoughts and get clarity.

First off, in this day and age, the fact that the US Government and pro-gun lobby is still divided about this issue is absolutely inexcusable. The rate of gun violence in the US is higher than any other nation in the West because of laws that give people the right to bear arms. I’ve heard gun carrying friends argue that having a gun gives them a greater sense of freedom….but I would argue that it gives a sense of fear.

In the past gun carrying friends in the USA have attacked me for speaking out about this and have even said that we have the same violence rates in the UK. Wrong. The USA leads the world in mass shootings. While gun related murders do happen in the UK they are drastically less than the USA and we have not had a mass shooting since the awful events at Dunblane in March 1996. After that our gun ownership laws were tightened further. I don’t own a gun – and never will – but in the UK you have to apply for and be granted a license after an application process. Guns have to be locked away in an approved gun locker and only certain types of weapons are available on the market. I have family members who use guns for hunting purposes only and know how to use a gun safely and responsibly. If I ever thought that they were not, believe me, I’d be the first one to say something!

Since I spend so much time visiting  the USA and having attended college there, many people have asked me why we don’t live there so that we’re closer to friends….THIS is why. I just cannot get my head around why people don’t see sense and sort this issue out at a federal and state level. It’s just mind boggling!

We’re going about it the wrong way…if American citizens can successfully campaign for Civil Rights and Same Sex Marriage, then surely they can do the same with gun violence. It’s time to put some energy into this…to march on Washington and state capitols. Do we really value our fellow man so little that we can’t take a stand?

Perhaps the more shocking side of this shooting is that it was directed at the LGBT community. A community that have fought so hard to live openly.  When I turned on the news on Sunday morning all I could think of was…what if that had been our best friends….our family, Joseph and Eduardo in the club? Ironically, we were all supposed to go dancing at a new gay bar here in SMA on Saturday night. But for once, I was a party pooper and didn’t want to go out – preferring a quiet night in. Violence like what we’ve seen in Orlando doesn’t happen here, but what if that had been us…having a great night out with our dearest friends and then to lose them…I simply can’t imagine. And I can’t imagine the grief of the loved ones of the 49 who passed in Orlando.

Again, I naively thought that mass violence against the LGBT community in the USA was a thing of the past.

As a species we have to take practical, spiritual and emotional steps to put a stop to this violence…NOW. We can meditate, pray etc for Love to conquer hate….but we HAVE to take a practical stand too. What that looks like for me….I’m not sure right now. If I was in the USA, even though I’m not a citizen, I would be finding out where the protests are, who is leading the charge, who to get behind and imploring government representatives to  pull their heads out of the sand and get real.

To those who say it’s impossible to fight the gun lobby….I invite you to think back to when people said it was impossible for same sex marriage to be recognized…and yet it now is. Ironically in attacking the LGBT community, the gunman has brought the issue of gun violence to a community who know how to get things done. If any community can stand up against hate and fight for an end to gun violence…it’s this one!

Most of all, we have to educate each other about gun violence and we have to educate each other that LOVE IS LOVE whatever your sexuality. I look forward to the day when all our friends can walk hand in hand in public without being persecuted.

Take a stand. Love more, hate less. #prayingfororlando

Five months

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It’s been nearly 5 months since we left the UK for new adventures in Mexico. We’re preparing to return to Europe for the Summer in a few weeks time to visit family and friends mostly in France and Spain…with a few days in London at the end.

As I sit back and reflect on our new adventures, one thing is for sure – we’ve changed!

When we left the UK in the depths of winter we were ready for a change…a big change. We’d grown bored with the life that we had and although we adore spending time with our family and friends, we were also eager to step out of our comfort zone and have a new adventure for a while.

We arrived in San Miguel de Allende exhausted from a year of preparation, but quickly recovered and got into the swing of things in our new home! I went straight back to work while Matt began the arduous task of looking for freelance work while learning Spanish. While it’s been a steep learning curve for Matt, I am pleased that he’s been able to take some well earned time off after 26 years of being practically chained to a desk. While there are days when he’s bored with the lack of movement on the work front, somehow he always finds a way to fill it….not least with a daily walk up and down the steep hill (what I like to call Everest de la Mexico!) into the centre of town for his morning coffee and chat with Larry. This has resulted in a big weight loss and the man is shrinking before my eyes these days!

Who knows if we’re going to stay here for good – it depends on a number of variables. But for now, we’re making the most of life here while we can. In contrast to our old life, we seem to have something to do every weekend together with friends – new and old. We LOVE meeting new folks – something that is so easy to do here but was more difficult back in the UK. People here are not ‘standoffish’…they’re very open, welcoming and eager to get to know each other.

There is a sense of community here that means everyone is cared for. For example, last weekend Matt went for a bit of a tumble and our friends Susan, Larry and Texas Matt helped us to get Matt home and safe while he recovered. At one point in the midst of the drama, Matt seemed to collapse again in the middle of the local market. I managed to get him to a chair where a lovely woman gave him some shade and cool water while he recovered. All is well now, but the genuine love expressed by everyone who helped us that morning made me realise what a loving community this is.

Whether true or not, I often felt like I was being judged in our old hometown. Judged by my size, judged because we don’t have children etc. But here, we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves and judgement just doesn’t show up.

Pace is another aspect of life here. There is a slower pace to life and yet just as much stuff gets done…it’s just that the ‘busyness’ of life has melted away. In slowing down, I see more, appreciate more and most of all…am present. Only today it struck me how I’m gradually noticing more as a result. I was skyping with a dear friend who was telling me all about her challenges and seemed to be talking so fast that I could barely given up. I don’t think she’s increased the pace of her speech at all, rather, I’ve slowed down!

In some ways its as if we’ve been in a cave all these months. In actual fact, we’ve been doing all the things we’ve been longing to do for ages, but never had the time to do before such as taking time to read a book from cover to cover, being quiet and listening without distraction. Long may it continue!

For now, I’m going back to the simple pleasure of watching hummingbirds sipping nectar from one of the feeders on our balcony.

 

The last week with visitors!

We just said farewell to our Romanian guests – Ana, Cata and Horatiu – who are heading home to Bucharest later this week. It’s been a super fun 10 days hosting them. They were incredibly patient in giving me the time and space to heal after losing my voice last week and were – of course – well seasoned travellers stepping out to explore the area on their own!

In between their escapades in town we had fun together most evenings between long linger dinners and parties. It’s been great experiencing a little more of SMA through their eyes!