memories riding me west

Pointing to the West

I’m sick at home with the flu. It’s been trying to catch up with me for weeks but i’ve been dodging it like an son of a bitch. But i could only run for so long. And so here we are. I’m investing some well earned time into my blog today and i’ve been digging into my dark pit of old photographs. Boy, it sure is easy to lose yourself in the past.

When i was little i didn’t play all that much with other children. I was busy playing cowboys and Indians at Mormor & Morfars house. Morfar, as long as i can remember, has always been John Wayne to me. I also thought Mormor was secretly a witch because she had a very questionable broom stick in the garage, but Morfar was Big John Wayne with the personality of an angry buffalo. He was the Duke because he folded the ends of his jeans the same way. My jeans were always too long for me because i was so small — so he’d fold mine too because theres no need to ruin the end of your cowboy jeans if it can be avoided. In Denmark thats what we called Jeans “Cowboy trousers.” Morfar is taller than the mast on a rigger — he also has a burly step to his walk.
He still has/does all these things. It’s one of the many things that early on in my life pointed to something bringing me west. I used to have a small belt buckle with three rope rings on it and in the rope rings was a conestoga wagon, a team of 8 horses and two people riding to a new homestead in the west. Jack and i probably. All this time i carried us on my belt. Until it didn’t fit and i grew woman hips. In England i would make bows and arrows out of sticks and string. And that i could fire a crossbow better than the man who owned it.  Even in nursery i remember sitting in a random tube in a hole in the ground wearing big black cowboy boots that didn’t fit (sorry mor — i lied so you’d buy them for me). But i wanted them and i wore them, they must have made a difference considering i live my everyday in cowboy boots. There are many little things in my life that seemed to nudge me towards what was going to happen.

Morfar and his folded Jeans, with me on his shoulders and Steph hiding behind him.

I wanted to share some of my photographs from that life on this blog. I don’t know why i didn’t blog back then. I tried a couple of times but life was getting pretty complicated and i could barely keep up. Surprisingly i also don’t have that many photographs from Texas, but that was because i was so busy living. I’d found life so god damn hard up until that point — but now there was a reason to try harder. To be better. To be a new person and a greater version of me — the me i recognise. And i look at her every day in the mirror now. Though somedays i might not like her face i so appreciate her for what she’s done for me and got me through. I can look at her in the eye and tell her she did the work of a woman who could fly. A person who believed she could so she did.

I’m sure some of you question whether i had anything that stopped me wanting to move to Texas. Yes, i had a few small things in the back of my mind that concerned me but i’ve never been one to listen that well. And i went anyway. Before i met Jack i never wanted to go to America, and i felt terrible for everything the First nations were put through. I wanted no part of that which is why i never wanted to step foot on that land. I didn’t want to move further away from my family either and i so wanted to grow old in Denmark. Sometimes i still do. But i know i’m not meant for that life. I’ve lived so long away from home — that home is anywhere now. If i returned home i would never belong again and it would feel like everything was a dream. The absolute hardest part of moving was giving up my sailing life and it’s still a wound that i scratch at once in a while, but i’m also aware enough to know that that part of my life was supposed to bring me to something better than where i’d been. Sailing was the last beautiful gift England gave me after the harsh years i had where i was. And i got my best friend for life, but i had to leave and move on to find where i was supposed to be. So yes these things can still get on my mind and i still have to work to figure them out but for now I bring to you — Texas as seen through my eyes.

The brazos river. One of my favourite places in Texas so far and in almost every western you’ll ever read. Ain’t she pretty?
The sunset in Texas is out of this world. Its where the earth meets the stars. And the mule smiles. So — that tells you how damn rare it is to see a sky like this anywhere else.
You wont find a town in Texas that doesn’t have old secrets of whores, railroads or just beautiful architecture.
The most handsome man any which way from the Mississippi.
A backend rail road haunted by the corpse of a dead’n gone dog the size of a car. You think i’m lying, but it’s true. I thought about sharing the picture but it still breaks my heart to see. As i’ve said before — Texas isn’t always pretty. It’s harsh living and you see a little of it every day. Folk from Texas are made of something different.
Home-decor inspiration.
Barrel racin’ !
Huntsville Rodeo.
I’ll always remember the Alamo. I remember her like an old friend. When i saw her from behind the trees i wept. I’d heard about her from Morfars stories and the old westerns on Tv. Right in front of me she was, and she was perfect.
A friend gave me an old hat — you don’t give a hat to a man you dislike.
Farm country.
An old abandon town with an old abandoned buck board.
An old gas station.
I never had the issue of snakes coming into my living room when i lived in England, funny that. But this garter was a cutie.
I want one. A Texas longhorn.
Lizards, lizards everywhere! I even showered with one. Im still not entirely sure which one of us was more traumatised.
Fields of a hundred prison ponies, and they’re all the sweetest and easiest going horses i’ve met in my life. And i met a lot of horses and a lot of horse people.
Strong and beautiful culture with dances that sing like the wind.
The old buckboard is open to homesteaders wanting to go back on the Oregon Trail.
My first shot was barely a cm from the bullseye. When we get our own land — i’ll be the next Annie Oakley, just not quiet as sophisticated.
Praying mantis — i’d only ever seen these creatures on tv. Now this guy was living on my porch.
The most beautiful butterfly i’ve seen in my entire life. Again — on my porch.
A Texan worth moving 4000miles for.
Probably the strangest visitor we’ve had… but still. I dont mind letting these guys sleep outside the door.
When he knew i was leaving. And i didn’t see him for 8 months. When we all already belonged to eachother, and the harder times were still to come.
Wide open spaces and beauty at every roadside. Even if its just another gate to another field, in another town.
In the dying sunlight the babies will piss off their mothers and start to play.
Out in the middle of bum fuck Egypt nowhere Texas, where the wind was high but sun was higher. We stopped the car for a few minutes just to take it in. The view. The air. The sky.
The longest and most incredible road i ever saw.
A folk festival and Jacks big hat.
Our boy on our first walk in a park as the three musketeers.
The herd at the farm we worked at a while.
I’ve never met a horse or a donkey that didn’t love Jack.
Angel had a lot of opinions that day, but it was a fantastic ride with great company.
Probably one of my favourite pictures i’ve ever taken, because this is a picture of utter happiness. Of a dream lived and realised. Of hard work. Breaking barriers. Living. And you know what else? Folded jean bottoms.
Texas was hard and circumstances arose so we tried something new, but to me — this is what Texas was to me. Everything right in this picture. So, im glad we tried leaving but i’ll be a lot happier to get back to an old porch where my boots can clomp on the boards. Where the hot sun is dying and Jack is grilling something. And Basil, though he’s not here anymore — he’s in every damn plan i’ll ever make.

[I’d like to clarify that Jack would not be grilling Basil, i just noticed how that last quote sounded.]

The 411 Of Being An Expat

“I’ve been homesick for countries I’ve never been, and longed to be where I couldn’t be.” —John Cheever

When i first started out my blog i wanted to talk about integrating into another culture, being an expat and living away from your home country; the struggles and the joys.
This will be my first official post about being an expat.
So here are ten frequently asked questions i get daily.

1. What are you doing here? 

This is the biggest question i get asked, and quite frankly the rudest.
I always immediately lock up and become utterly defensive — wanting to respond with something witty and probably seeded with expletives.
But regardless of that — the simple answer to that question is that i’m living.

2. What made you want to come to America? 

When you’re foreigner or expat, unfortunately it automatically makes your life a public spectacle. People become nosey, and want to know everything about you. This can be incredible frustrating and i’m still finding my feet on how to handle questions that i don’t entirely want to answer. As i’ve said i’m a private person and my business is my business. In short i never wanted to come to America – i didn’t plan on it. I didn’t even want to go to America on holiday. I wanted to move back to Denmark and die there, but my plans clearly changed. I met a man i couldn’t even have dreamed of and i moved to be with him. Yes, long distance relationships are hard, but not impossible if they’re worth it and mine absolutely was. People are always quick to cast something aside when it gets tough, but thats not what life is about. Its about taking that bull by the horns and riding him out.

3. Don’t you miss you family?

Yes. Everyday. I think about them everyday. I wonder what they’re doing and if they’re happy. If they ever think of me and what i’m doing. I wonder what i’m missing out on. I picture what life could have been like if i’d moved to Denmark and been there with them 24 -7. And thats when i realise it never could have been me. Realistically i was born to discover and wander. And my family let me go like a free bird looking for warmer suns. I miss out on so many wonderful gatherings, and when i hear others around me talking about not wanting to visit grandma, how their mother was being a pain or their father wont buy them a car … i think to myself. How lucky you are to have your family down the road. Never forget how lucky you are, because there are days when it is torture and a very lonely way to live if you are 4000 miles away from them.

4. What was immigration like? 

Well, first off it cost more than a liver, set of kidneys and a prosthetic leg on the black market. But i will say, considering the cost, we had a relatively painless experience regarding immigration. The worst part was probably having to go to do medical things, which i hated but it wasn’t as terrible as i’d thought it was going to be. I thought i was going to have to drop my clothes and get man handled. I do not appreciate being at all trifled with so this was my worst nightmare. It was not as bad as all that. I just had my measurements, bio metrics and some injections done. Pretty painless, but i’d actually looked up a list of the medical things i needed before i left home and got my own doctor to give me most of the jabs i needed.

5. Do you get to go home very often?

Sadly not as often as i would wish. Its expensive and a very long trip. Its a night and a day. Its really enjoyable when theres two of us but thats even more expensive especially with an animal the needs constant attention at home. So no. Sometimes i’ll go alone for a few weeks which is nice but its hard to be away from one life to go to another. Theres also people who want to see you but don’t understand that you just don’t have time to see everyone inside of a short holiday — this can cause a lot of agro so i pretty much stick to just seeing family.
But i always miss Jack terribly. We’re two peas in a pod. And i don’t like being alone in a pod.

6. Weren’t you scared?

Nope. I wasn’t. I honestly never thought it was as big a deal as everyone made out to me. I was excited, but i wasn’t ever scared or in any doubt. I’d made my mind up to go and so i did. I looked back but only to see how far i’d come. Never in regret. I knew there would be things i would lose and be giving up, but life comes at you — you get up and you go.

7. What was it like to move such a long way?

It wasn’t until i’d been gone a year or so that i started to realise how hard the move was getting to be on me. My life ended up having to stop while i waited for immigration to be done. I couldn’t legally work, i couldn’t drive and it was Texas… there was nowhere to go that was in walking distance. Even if there had been — the heat would have killed me 20 steps in.
However, having been home all that time gave me months of working on interests and projects. I learned to knit, crochet, practice my photography, created art, learned to sew, exercised and practiced Shakespeare. I read as many books as physically possible and taught myself to cook. You have to make the best of the situations that suck. And it really wasn’t plain sailing. It was hard work. Nothing, and i mean nothing worth having is ever easy. Why would it be? You’d never appreciate it if it was. I suffered pretty severely from cabin fever but i got through it. Its a huge struggle that honestly cant truly be expressed in all its horrific-ness. You’ll know when you hit that wall, but remember. Just pursue the interests you’ve never had time for. Get excited about new bird species, sunrises and hailstones the size of your fists. Life is not all about 9 to 5 and paychecks. 

8. Was it hard to start working in another country?

It was nerve wracking, and sometimes it still is. Even after a few years i don’t entirely understand the American culture or the way people act with each other here. And obviously, with me it goes slower because i am a notorious recluse.  I don’t understand the rules, paperwork or the taxes. I’ve been lucky that i’ve had Jack to help me every step of the way, if i was alone it would have been a very arduous up hill battle. Working in another country never phased me till i tried it in the USA, the language is ever so slightly similar to English but don’t be fooled. Thats where the similarities end.
At least i’m still funny, witty and entertaining in every language. So i can always bring the laughs.

9. Does the magic of being an expat ever wear off?

Only if you let it. I don’t. I enjoy every car ride, every walk and every rain fall. Its another case of making the best of the opportunity you’ve been given. Yes, i just made myself sound like a Labrador but truly, if any animal treasures every day — its a dog. So there are worse things.
I will say that not every day is a bed of roses and full of unicorns, sometimes those unicorns leave giant turds and those roses have thorns. But you cannot expect everyday to be a holiday. Visiting a place for a holiday is VERY different to moving there and creating an entirely new life.  You still have to wake up to yourself every morning. This is something i CANNOT stress enough. I was lucky enough to know this from a very young age so i knew this when i moved to the USA. But those of you who don’t — think about it. I’ve met a few people who say things such as “I want to move to London, i had the best vacation for like a week,” or “I love Sweden is looks like so much fun in the snow!”
Stop. Right. There. 
London can be a rough area — like any/every capital city. A week with a friend is fun and all, but a lifetime and you could be letting yourself in to some serious problems not to mention dangerous situations if you think its all Mary Poppins and Bridget Jones’ high waisted underpants. Mr.Darcy isn’t that good looking or charming in real life.
Swedish winters are beautiful but you could also turn into an icicle if you don’t know the ropes or you could go insane due to the 6 months of constant sunlight/darkness.
I’m not saying don’t go, but i am saying be smart and remember that life is life — it will have downs just like it has ups. Can you survive Monday to Friday living where-ever you want to go? You be completely starting over and it can be very lonesome.

10. Its easy to integrate if you want to, isn it?

Sure it is for some, but others not. I think a lot of that depends on culture and the country someone is  moving to/from.
I don’t know that i’ve ever integrated anywhere, or ever wanted to. In England i was always the funny foreign kid but i still had a pretty great childhood, but i wouldn’t say i “integrated”. I’ve never changed, i’ve been the same person for a good while — i’m worldly, and though antisocial, i do mix pretty well with a lot of cultures and people. For the most part I believe in respecting a country for what it is and not asking it to fit YOU. Its you who must assimilate. The country does not owe you a damn thing. Remember that.
However, I quite enjoy being an outsider looking in. You experience more and get a better understanding of differences.
Your mind broadens.
That is a huge gift.

the secret kept by mountains

Do you have anything you want to ask or want to know about being an expat?
You can write a comment on this post, and i’ll try to answer as many as i can !

jumpin’ jumpers and bamboo

I finally succeeded in knitting a jumper successfully !
Actually semi-successfully. Its wearable, warm and comfy, not to mention the absolute best colour yarn can be. However it does look like its been dragged through hell and back — but at least it has as much character as i do.
I’m proud.