Category Archives: Us

How we ended up traveling the world

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Anonymous.

Have you ever had that feeling that there’s more to life than working 9-5 to buy a new car, a bigger house or to be able to afford a better holiday next year? That there’s more to “living” than yearning for those two weeks a year in which you can escape from it all?

Back in 2002, nearly 15 years ago, we came to that exact conclusion. No, we weren’t wealthy by any means, we had jobs we enjoyed and a good circle of friends but felt there’s far more to life than the life we had. We had both traveled before we met, I had spent most of my life in South America, Cathy had traveled in Europe and been to India during her gap year.

In the mid to late 90’s, my parents had settled in Spain, on the Costa del Sol, and had repeatedly mentioned about coming to see them. In the late 90’s we decided to give it a go. We hopped on an EasyJet flight from Liverpool to Malaga, hired a car and started exploring. We liked what we saw. Our visits became more and more frequent, from once every couple of months to virtually every weekend. We found block booking tickets gave us a much better price so we started block booking flights. On a couple of occasions we even jumped in the car and drove through France and down to the Costa del Sol, yes, we did this several times totally unplanned and for just a few days. The drive through France down to Malaga can be done in a little over 24 hours driving continuously.
During one of our trips we decided that enough was enough, we had to make a decision as to where to live. It was now getting quite tiring, flying out on a Friday night and coming back late Sunday evening.

First Attempt!

In mid 2000 (I think), we made the decision to move. That’s it, we are leaving. Great. Then we remembered we are not fabulously wealthy, we need jobs to go to. Yes, Spain was a lot cheaper than the UK in those days but we still needed to live! Cathy made contact with an international school near Cartama, Inland Costa del Sol. This was a new “international” school recruiting teachers and as it happened, they were interviewing in London. We drove to London, it was a cold, wet miserable day. The interview was in a London cafe,  all I can remember is going for a long walk in the rain and doing quite a lot of window shopping. When I went back to the coffee shop I met the person interviewing Cathy. A stereotypical Brit living in Spain, too much alcohol (probably), too many cigarettes (probably), skin so tanned it had turned into leather and generally showing severe signs of lack of moisturiser or sunscreen. Cathy was offered the job on the spot. Hmmm, not quite what we had planned. Strangely enough, we were prepared to move etc, but all of a sudden it all felt very real. We realised that upping sticks, selling up and becoming Nomads takes balls, balls the size of a mid-sized continent. We were 26 years old, had good jobs we enjoyed, owned our own house, had a couple of nice cars and not a bad lifestyle. We had started off with nothing and had worked hard to achieve what we had, would this be one of the most stupid and irresponsible decisions we had ever made? What if it didn’t work out? All these questions and doubts reared their ugly heads. We decided this was too much of a gamble, not enough security. Cathy (quite embarrassed) turned the job down. After this, our trips to Spain were drastically reduced…..temporarily……and not for long.

Sorry!

Late 2001 we decided that enough was enough, we either do it properly or we just get on with life. Cathy approached the same school again and very humbly enquired about jobs in the school. Explained our change in circumstances (more than circumstances it was a mind set). Amazingly enough, she was offered a job on the spot! And so, life as an expat began…..sort of. We handed in our notice at work. Sold our house…….in one day! This was soon followed by our cars and my beloved motorbike, our furniture and whatever wasn’t sold, we gave away. In the UK, we were now homeless. In Spain, my parents had sorted everything out for us. They had found us a nice rental finca (house in the countryside) with an almond field on the outskirts of Alhaurin el Grande, approximately 10 minutes from Mijas Pueblo, where they lived. They also found us a 4×4 which we bought without seeing. In May 2002 I headed off to Spain to pick up our new car (new to us anyway) and to see the finca we had rented. The house was modest with two bedrooms, a yard and the famous almond field, ideal for parking the cars. It was approximately 20 minutes from Cathy’s work. I drove the car back to the UK to pick up our belongings (or what we had left) as well as our most precious cargo, Sashah, our beautiful German Shepherd.

Sashah

Sashah

Cathy had to finish her contract while I headed back to Spain and set everything up.
Summer 2002 was amazing, it was all we had hoped it would be, but all good things come to an end. And it was time to settle into a normal routine. OK, the routine was get up, work, home, G&T’s on the terrace surrounded by olive trees and our almond trees, watch the sun go down. Go to bed, repeat next day. Except at weekend which meant doing the same but having a BBQ during the day, open house where friends would come and go or go to the beach. Not a bad lifestyle really. My background had been in mobile telecoms and mobile phones. So I had set myself up importing mobile phones and accessories and supplying local shops. My Spanish wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it was when I was younger, and Andalucian Spanish is as different to the clear and crisp Castilian I speak. A bit like English is to Russian! OK, perhaps not quite as bad as that, but it did cause me numerous problems. Including having to have my father come as translator…..several times! The school wasn’t quite as expected, this included Cathy and other new teachers having to actually carry and put together all the furniture for the classrooms. Having to put up with parts of the school being a building site with workers coming in and out of her classroom while trying to teach, some of them smoking at the time! My business idea wasn’t doing to good either, it was becoming increasingly frustrating and wasn’t making as much money as I had on my forecast. We then had to deal with Spanish bureaucracy, including having to buy and put in our own telephone post if we wanted a landline. As the days turned into weeks and into months. The weather started changing and getting colder. Living in a house that has no heating, no damp proofing and very little insulation; even in a mild autumn day feels cold and damp. During one of my ever increasing number of trips back to the UK, a friend of mine asked for my honest opinion on how things were going for us in Spain. He had been out to visit us there, as had many others. My answer wasn’t probably the one he was expecting. My answer was, it’s OK but truth be known, we are struggling. He mentioned in a casual way, “why don’t you come and work for me?”. Something which I sort of dismissed but in the back of my mind made a lot of sense. The novelty factor had worn out…..well and truly. By November we were pretty miserable and homesick. My father had always said, “it takes a year to settle in, once you go past that 12 month probation period, things get easier”. Towards the end of November we had made our minds up. We are going back to England, we are going back home! The sooner, the better. Cathy spoke with a contact of hers and was offered a temporary contract in a small rural school on the Welsh border. I spoke with my friend and accepted his job offer.We got very drunk celebrating our impending return to blighty! Soon after, I popped back to Oswestry, sorted out a house and bought Cathy a new car so we had everything ready for our return. We made sure Sashah had all her vaccinations up to date and her doggy passport was all up to date and on New Year’s day 2003 we embarked on the drive back “home”. We arrived in Calais several hours ahead of schedule and parked up waiting for our ferry. It was a cold, wet and windy day. We arrived in Dover late at night. We drove through miles of roadworks and cones in the drizzly rain and heavy traffic in restricted speed zones. Eventually we arrived in our new house. A lovely modern four bedroom detached house with a garden in Whittington, just outside Oswestry. It was nice buying all new things for our new (rented) house. Friends were keen to hear from us, many of them pointing out that they “knew” we would be back within 12 months. Some were happy to see us fail, some were just happy to see us and have us back. We didn’t see it as a failure, we saw it as “glad we tried it”. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and we decided to pop over to Spain for a visit. Spanish economy was booming. Cathy had had her contract extended, after a short period working for this friend of mine, I went back into mobile phones and to the old company I had left only a year or so earlier! In many ways, life was back to normal. We even put in an offer on a house which was accepted but as it was in a new development it was going to be a long completion. During one of our ever increasing number of trips back to Spain I could see more and more real estate agencies opening on the coast and lots of business being done. The purchase of our new house in Oswestry was going extremely slow, in fact several months after signing the agreement there was no sign of anything being built so we decided to pull out. The developer offered us an extremely good deal on a part exchange property on the Welsh border, so we just went for it. In the middle of all this, we were once again traveling to Spain for weekends very regularly. One Friday afternoon, I was at my desk in my office reading the Sur in English (costa del Sol newspaper) online. There was a job being advertised for a property consultant to work inland in a new office. Must be bilingual. OK, my Spanish wasn’t quite as good as it once was, but they didn’t need to know that. This was a real estate company run by Brits who themselves hardly spoke Spanish. I rang the number, spoke to a gentleman who was most interested in what I had to say. He invited me for an interview. We agreed to meet up in Villanueva de Algaidas, near Antequera, North of Malaga city the following weekend. I went home and approached the subject with Cathy. We talked late into the night and made a decision. We are going back to Spain, but this time there would be no going back, or should that be; coming back? The following Friday we headed off to Spain, picked up our hire car from our usual place and on Saturday morning we drove to Villanueva de Algaidas. I met up with the office manager who then suggested we met up with the director of the company that afternoon, in Mollina. We met up and soon after I was offered the job.

Deja Vu!

We headed back to the UK very excited with our decision. It was now time to hand in our notice at work, get rid of the various bits and pieces; but we proceeded with the purchase of the house. I headed off to Spain in May 2004 with all our worldly goods. Sashah, our German Shepherd was transported to Spain in a doggy taxi as I didn’t have enough space in the car. Cathy was offered a job in an international school East of Malaga city, this meant a 200 km round trip but it was a good school and the roads were amazing. She bought a new car (yes, brand new) which we still have, 12 years later. June 2004 we completed on our house in Wales, I flew back for a weekend, Cathy and I redecorated it, put new carpets and tidied the garden and put it back up for sale. It sold within 6 weeks. Work was good, life was good. In 2005 we decided to rent a finca on the outskirts of Antequera to make it a bit easier for Cathy’s job. I moved jobs and opened a new office near home along with a colleague from the company I worked in previously. Business and work were great!

Finca in Antequera

Finca in Antequera

It was 2006 now, we had been in Spain for two years, housing market was still booming and showing no sign of slowing down. I became increasingly involved with commercial real estate such as hotels, developments etc etc. I was also traveling to Morocco on a very regular basis as it was becoming a property hotspot. By now we had moved to Alhaurin de la Torre, on the outskirts of Malaga to be nearer to the coast. This enabled us to cover a bit of the coast as well as inland areas. We decided this was the right time to buy something in Spain. We went, we saw, we bought. Three weeks later, or so, in May 2006 we had the keys to our house in Spain. A very old school house in need of massive renovation!

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In 2007 I visited Bulgaria for the first time, for two weeks. Cathy joined me six months later. During that time I was commuting between Spain and Bulgaria.  Nearly six years later and having adopted a little girl from a Bulgarian orphanage we returned to Spain. We made further renovations and then took up the opportunity of working in Qatar. By then my career and work was mostly internet based, something which I had been working on for a long time to enable us to continue traveling. Early 2016 and after 12 very good years (with many ups and several downs!), I parted company with real estate to concentrate on other projects. From Qatar we ended up moving to Madagascar. A fascinating country which we are eager to explore as much as possible.

In Conclusion

During the past 14 years, we have explored and traveled extensively, though there are still loads of places we want to explore! Being in many of the countries we have lived in, has made traveling so much easier. We have had a chance to visit places most people would never get a chance to see. We have covered many, many countries and places, but always feel we have only just scratched the surface.

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Some of the countries/ places we have visited since 2002

Some Common Questions we are asked.

Q) Would we go back to Blighty?
A) Maybe…one day.
Q) Do we regret leaving the UK?
A) Not at all!
Q) Has it been plain sailing?
A) No
Q) Where’s home?
A) Wherever our little family is together
Q) Which is your favourite country?
A) We don’t have one, we love aspects from each country we have lived in, particularly our friends.
Q) Would you go back and live in a country you lived in before?
A) Probably not. For us, life is about memories, by going back to a country we have lived in previously, is like trying to recreate memories. We have tried it twice, once going back to the UK in 2003 and then again, moving back to Spain in 2013. It wasn’t the same as how we remembered. People change, places change, and more importantly, when you travel, YOU change! Travel changes us as individuals. Our perspectives and our priorities change.
Q) Aren’t you worried about your daughter’s education?
A) In as many words? NO! Katja is receiving the best education money can buy. Not just by being educated in international schools but also by seeing the world. Her passport which was only five years old, was virtually FULL, with stamps in every page. Stamps for each country she has visited. She is an extremely confident and sociable now 6 year old. She has seen parts of the world most adults can only dream of. She has mixed with royalty as well as played with kids who have nothing, she even voluntarily gave them her bucket and spade (Sri Lanka 20015). As far as schooling is concerned, she is where she should be as a 6 year old. She is receiving the type of education money cannot buy. She recently celebrated her birthday. This is the pretty impressive bit: 6 birthdays in 5 countries (Bulgaria, Spain, Qatar, Oman and Madagascar) in 3 continents; how’s that?!
These are the usual questions, if you have any other questions you’d like to ask, please feel free to do so!
I could, quite literally write for days and days…… but I won’t. One day I will sit and write on a regular basis and put together a book with all our stories and adventures……

British Nomads

Madagascar 2016

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Little Nomad turns 6

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Dr. Seuss
Well, our international little Nomad turns 6 today. It is quite amazing to look back over the years and just wonder, where does time go!

She is having a fantastic time here, and quite frankly, I can’t really think of a better place for her to grow up in. She can go out and we know she is safe, she can go and do things and start getting a taste of independence but in a safe environment.

So far, Katja has celebrated her birthdays in five different countries in three different continents! While we were living in the northern hemisphere it was a bit easier to continue this as her birthday falls during the summer break. However, now we are in the south, her birthday falls during “winter” school term!

Every year we celebrate Katja’s birthday, we cannot help but wonder what her biological mother is thinking. We all refer to her as Katja’s “tummy mummy”. Cathy and I cannot help but wonder what feelings her “mother” would have the 23rd of August each year. Surely she must think of the little girl she left in a children’s home the day after she was born. I guess this is a question none of us may ever have an answer…..

Tooth fairy alert!

Can her birthday get any better? The tooth which had been loose for a few days finally came out!

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A selection of Kit Kat through the years!

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Merry Christmas 2015!

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” –Calvin Coolidge

This time of the year is the quiet sort of season in which life just “ticks over” which is why I haven’t written in a rather long time. It is hardly newsworthy to tell you that we got up, went about our day and then came back home and then did the same thing again the next day! Contrary to popular belief, expat life can get a bit tedious at times and it isn’t always about thrills and spills and adventures. Yup, as much as we’d like it to be, it just isn’t like that.

So, as we come to the end of another year and we reflect on the past 12 months, I must say it has been a very varied year. We have traveled a lot, visited Australia, Sri Lanka, UK, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi & Dubai) and fell in love with Oman after spending a few days in Muscat. It has been a tough year in some respects, Cathy had a major operation which took her several months to recover from, this was followed by me needing surgery too. Fortunately I recovered from mine considerably quicker. We then had Cathy’s weird health scare when we were in the UK in which the nerve in her eye stopped working therefore leaving her with double vision. The strange thing about that is that her eye started working again after a couple of weeks and corrected itself, leaving experts believing it must have been some sort of random virus.

Kati is thoroughly enjoying all the traveling and meeting new people, she’s such a sociable kid who just thrives on being around people (of all ages). Thanks to Cathy’s input and our hard work at home she loves reading and writing, quite often writing some amazing stories.

Moving On
For a number of reasons we have decided to move on once Cathy’s 2 year contract is up. I will expand on this in a different post and not now. We are excited to be moving to a new country in a different part of the world. No, we have no idea where we will move to yet but it will (hopefully) all come together in about 6 weeks time (by the end of January).  We are looking at a wide range of exciting countries and have a number of extremely exciting plans…..just watch this space!

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All that remains to be said is that we wish you a Merry Christmas and all the very, very best for 2016.

Love from us all.

M, C & K

Things Happen for a Reason

Sometimes things happen for a reason; that reason may not necessarily be obvious at the time, however, in due course, things fall into place and we can see and understand why!

July 2011
We had just come back from our favourite haunt in Sofia, our little bar in the woods which became a bit of an iconic place for us and a place which will be for ever in our hearts as having spent many great evenings in the company of terrific friends.

Iconic Bar in the Woods - Sofia

Iconic Bar in the Woods – Sofia

I remember walking back home and completely from the blue feeling absolutely frozen. This is a strange thing as Bulgarian summers are hot! I arrived home and found I had a raging fever pushing 40 degrees and no other symptoms, none whatsoever. I didn’t have a cold, or even loss of appetite.  This went on for some two weeks, it was a cycle of taking paracetamol, fever would disappear for 6 hours and then straight up to 40. Being left with no alternative, we took a short walk to Tokuda Hospital (Japanese Hospital in Sofia). I was seen to, had blood tests and a scan. The scan revealed I had gallstones. The Dr said it’s your gallbladder, come back tomorrow, meet the surgeon and have it taken out. Relieved but not cherishing the prospect of surgery we sought a second option. We were recommended a Dr which was the first choice for all ex-pats in Bulgaria, he was incredibly highly recommended. At the time I didn’t know how significant this Dr would become as he save me from suffering life-long serious brain damage. He came to see me at home, did some basic checks and asked me to come to his clinic the next day. He did further blood tests and a further scan. The blood test came back as showing me having a serious infection and the scan confirmed gallstones but didn’t feel I needed to have my gallbladder taken out (not just yet). There was no evidence as to where this infection was. He treated it with antibiotics and 10 days later I was back to normal, no more temperature, no more infection showing in blood tests.

January 3rd 2012
I arrived from our Christmas break in England on December 31st feeling drained and coming down with a heavy cold (sore throat, aching joints etc, etc). I had just driven a van back from UK and had had a bad trip due to snow and poor planning. January 3rd was the first day of term for Cathy and Katja’s first day at nursery. I woke up feeling dreadful, I mean really dreadful. Cathy was getting herself ready for school while Katja had breakfast. Cathy saw there was something not right with me, in fact something was very wrong, she rang school to explain she wouldn’t be in. I remember saying I wasn’t feeling right and I was going back to bed.

I woke up with my hands tied to the side of the beed, connected to monitors, drips and lots of beeping machines. I tried to speak but my tongue was swollen and incredibly painful. I opened my eyes and there was blood on my pillow and a figure standing at the end of my bed. It was the Dr who I had met in July who treated me for the infection. He explained I had suffered a seizure, I was in hospital and my wife was at home. Would I like to speak with her. He explained they had to restrain me as I was trying to attack Drs and nurses as well as trying to rip out all the different things I was connected to. I then found out that it was now January 4th in the afternoon, I had been unconscious for over 24 hours. I spoke with Cathy who of course was extremely relieved to hear my voice. She was at my bedside soon after.

What Happened? (As explained to me by Cathy)
After I went to bed at home I passed out, had a major seizure which was triggered by Viral Encephalitis. Encephalitis is a virus which attacks the brain and causes a swelling. When I had the seizure, I swallowed my tongue after trying to bite it off which explained the very painful injuries I suffered. When Cathy found me, I was unconscious and had to pull my tongue out as I was unable to breath. Once I was breathing again she called the Dr (the one who had treated me in July). He rushed across the city to come and see me, organised and ambulance and got me to hospital (Japanese Hospital in Sofia). Apparently the ambulance didn’t have a stretcher so I was strapped and tied to a chair and taken down on the lift!. Cathy also spoke to several other friends of mine. The brother of one of them is a top virologist in Bulgaria, he came to see me and I believe was the Dr who diagnosed Encephalitis after seeing the results of a spinal tap.  Cathy had been told by neurologists that after an EEG that there was little brain activity, I had suffered a significant brain injury caused by the virus, they had no idea how long it would take for me to regain consciousness, it could be hours, days, weeks, months, years or perhaps never.

The next few days were a blur, I had loads of messages and visitors. I only found out 6 months later how many visitors I had had, including people asking me if I remembered them coming to see me (no I didn’t!). It felt very much like trying to tie your shoelaces after one too many drinks. Mentally you can do it but your coordination just isn’t there. As the days passed I began to feel stronger and better. After 6 days in hospital I was ready to go home (Drs were not so sure but my Dr (the one who treated me for the original infection, he had been to see me on a daily basis and he also recommended I be released). I was sent home to recover but had to come back a week later for a further EEG, blood tests and another spinal tap. The results baffled everybody as they came back clear. This in itself is a little miracle as there was now no trace of the virus, I was virus free! I continued to have EEGs and blood tests every 3 months for over a year as well as being on preventative medication. In March of 2013 I was free from all medication and leading a totally normal life. It was thanks to the Dr who came to see me at home, called the ambulance and ensured I received prompt treatment as well as to my friend’s brother, the virologist who diagnosed Encephalitis and gave me the right treatment quickly that I have no lasting effects (apart from not being able to drink any caffeine). Any delay in treatment would have had serious consequences. Encephalitis is a serious condition which in most cases causes life changing damage to the brain. This includes epilepsy, loss of memory (long term or short term), loss of use of limbs, speech and in some cases death.

April 2012 - EEG Every Three Months

April 2012 – EEG Every Three Months

May 2015
As you would have heard or read, on May 10th I finally had my gallbladder out as it was playing me up. Speaking with the surgeon who performed the operation, he told me that there was evidence that I had at some stage suffered a fairly serious infection which ties up with what happened in July 2011. If I had followed the (correct) diagnosis at the hospital and done as they told me (to go and meet the surgeon the next day and have the gallbladder removed), I would have never met the Dr who came to see me at home for a second opinion. His quick action in getting me to hospital made the difference between living with a serious brain injury and leading a normal life. Had this not happened, the odds are very high that I would have suffered life changing brain damage. There are many other people who I will be eternally grateful to for their help and support who literally helped me to get back on my feet.

Never have the words “things happen for a reason” meant so much to me….

Singing Sand Dunes - Qatar 2014

Singing Sand Dunes – Qatar 2014

Of course, there is a special person who for over two decades has been taking care of me….. THANK YOU!

Family Day

“Family is not about blood. It is about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it the most.” –Unknown

Four years ago today, we were setting off on a long drive back to Sofia. With the difference that we had a child seat and a sweet, sweet smily little girl strapped into it. On this day, we became a family. It was at this point too that we realised that kids don’t come with an instruction manual or a CD Rom, you just have to make it up as you’re going along. We’ve had tears and tantrums (and that’s just me), we have also had lots of laughs and memorable moments (like the time I left home without wipes in the car and Katja had the most tremendous nappy explosion in the back of the car. I then discovered that trying to change a nappy on the street in Sofia would attract the attention of many onlookers, especially after I managed to get it all over myself too). Until meeting Katja, I had never actually held a baby before, for me it was a steep learning curve but one I (sort off) got to grips with.

Our friends in Bulgaria and AAS Staff were amazing, thanks to all the help and support we received from them it made an enormous difference to us and we will always be in their debt as they totally surpassed themselves!

driving home

We have had great opportunities to travel and Katja has definitely seen a lot of the world, perhaps much more than most adults will see in a lifetime! She has been in Bulgaria, Spain, UK, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Australia. Wherever she has gone, she has charmed her way into people’s hearts and made friends very easily with her big, big smile and beautiful outgoing personality.

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Mummy, am I adopted? Part One

Part One

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama

As Katja was playing with her new friend as we packed our camping gear, these words echoed throughout the island “Mummy, am I adopted by you?” We stopped in our tracks as our jaws dropped; there was an uncomfortable silence which seemed to last an eternity as Cathy and I looked at each other stunned at what we had just heard. A wave of emotions hit us like a speeding train as we quickly thought of an answer. This was certainly not the time or the place in which to have this conversation. We simply answered “let’s talk about it when we get home”.

Our Early Years 207861_1028342707076_8978_n

Many, many years ago, we talked about adopting, it was something we were both very keen to do. We never really talked about it in further detail for many years. Our lives were busy with work, building a career and then moving to live in Spain. By one of those weird twists of fate, we found ourselves living in Bulgaria in 2007 and no children. During our time we had been involved with several charities helping children in several capacities. I brought up the subject of adopting in 2010 (some 18 years after our initial conversation). I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday.

 “Gestation” Period

We were living in Sofia, Bulgaria. Cathy e-mailed several “agencies” she found on the net, none ever got back to us. She then contacted a lawyer who specialised in adoptions. As we were EU citizens living in Bulgaria we were entitled to the same rights of adoption as locals. We had to fill in several forms and provide endless amounts of paperwork which had to be legalised and approved in the UK. Cathy’s parents were brilliant in assisting us with this side of things. Nothing was too much and quite frankly, without their help it would have been near on impossible to get everything together while living so far away. Whilst the gestation period for new parents to be is watching mummy’s tummy grow and several trips to Dr’s etc, etc, for an adoptive parent it is made up of numerous meetings with lawyers, paperwork and countless entities involved in the process (for us, the length of time was about the same). I must admit, our lawyer was excellent and again, without her professional guidance and direction, the process would have been impossible. The final part of the process was to have a number of meetings with Social Services (two in their office and one at our home). Some nine months after starting the process we had been accepted as adoptive parents!!! Our criteria was pretty simple, we would like a little girl, no older than 12 months old and healthy.

Let the Search begin!

Once you are accepted as an adoptive parent in Bulgaria, your name is released to orphanages in the areas you are interested. We had opened it to the entire country, this meant that our file would be matched to children in any part of Bulgaria. not long after our file being released we had a call from our lawyer to inform us there was a children’s home in Varna (450 km from Sofia) where there was a child matching our criteria and the director would like to meet us to introduce us to the child. Our lawyer agreed to come with us and act as translator for us. We agreed to meet at 05:00 am near her office. The run up to the trip had been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster but the morning had arrived. We were parked around the corner from her office as agreed, she was running late. As we were parked, the tranquil dawn-break was abruptly interrupted by a very loud bang that our car rocked, this was followed by the sound of a few car alarms going off. Our lawyer arrived (also baffled by all this) and we were off on our trip to Varna. We later heard on the radio there had been an explosion at a newspaper’s office near were we were parked, no other damage apart from material damage had been caused). We arrived in Varna several hours later and met up with a representative of Social Services who then came with us to the home. There we were introduced to a little girl called Anna. She was cute but she had some health issues which we couldn’t ignore. This had to be one of the most difficult and heart-breaking decisions we had to make, do we say yes or no? After lengthy discussions we decided to say no. We know our limitations and in order to be able to give the best care, we need to make sure we are acting within what we are capable of; remember, we live a long way away from family, so in effect, even though we are surrounded by amazing friends, we are on our own. Several weeks later, we heard on the news that this home had suffered a major fire which if I remember correctly, it started in the heating system. I put a proposal together to a group I belong to and Cathy did the same with her school. The proposal was to replace toys and clothes which had been damaged. Fortunately, no child or member of staff had been injured. People were amazing and in no time we managed to fill up a large mini-bus full of things for them.

 

Mummy, am I Adopted? Part Two

Part Two

The sad part of moving is saying good bye. We made amazing friends when living in Bulgaria, life-long friends who even though we may not speak with or even keep in touch regularly, these are people we love to bits and having them in our lives has been a privilege.

Our Little Miracle

First time we met Katja.

First time we met Katja.

The mother in law of a very close friend of mine in Bulgaria had close links to a children’s home also within close proximity to Varna. We had spoken in the past that it would be an idea if we were in the area, to pop in to the home and meet the director. As we were heading in that direction, I spoke with him and asked if he could arrange for a meeting with the director. Not long after he got back to me to try and clarify some confusion. The Director of the home had sent an invitation for us to attend the day before we were due to go there. We had no idea what was going on. I spoke with our lawyer who was equally confused. It turned out that our invitation to meet a child in this home had been sent by post and it had got lost so we had not received any notification. It was by complete chance that we found out and didn’t miss our appointment. We traveled to Varna a day earlier and my friend (as well as Cathy of course) came with us. we drove the mini bus loaded with stuff for the other orphanage and did a stop in the home where we had the appointment. After a lengthy chat with the director, we were introduced to a gorgeous little bundle of smiles who was immediately attracted to my goatee beard. She pretty much leaped into my arms. This was quite a strange situation for me as I had NEVER held a kid in my arms before. Katja was 7 months old and had been in the home since the day after she was born. We (all) fell in love with her and started bonding immediately. This was a no-brainer. We left the home feeling very happy and chatted among the three of us but we had already made our minds up. It was a big, big heartfelt YES! We popped into the other home and dropped all the things off. They were made up with all the things we had. It was nice to make a difference and to be able to help.

A new Chapter for all of us.

The day Katja came home!

The day Katja came home!

We arrived in Sofia tired but very happy. We spoke with our lawyer and the process began. More paperwork, more meetings and before we knew it we had a date for the final court hearing in which the judge would declare Katja as our legal daughter. The final hearing was held on May 4th 2011 and first thing in the morning on the 5th we were en-route to bring our little girl home. We arrived in the orphanage and had further paperwork to complete. This time we were on our own, not even an interpreter. We completed all paperwork and final meeting with the help of a translator on the phone and my (VERY) limited Bulgarian. We were then asked if we had nappies and clothes for our daughter as the clothes she was wearing belonged to the orphanage. Fortunately yes, we did! Several minutes later we were brought this gorgeous, smiley little girl we are so proud to call our daughter. We had one last bit of formality to complete before we were allowed to leave. We had to prove to the security guard this was our child and then we were off. I remember so clearly walking out holding our little girl and the door closing behind us. It was as if that chapter in Katja’s life had closed for good, and a new and exciting future awaited her; and for us, the “gestation” period was over, we had just become a mummy and daddy…..

The drive home was uneventful (fortunately); we stopped after a couple of hours to feed her and change her. She had never been in a car-seat before but she was good as gold the entire trip. We arrived home later that night, Katja met Sophie (our dog) and they hit it off immediately, not bad considering she had never seen a dog before. So much so, Katja’s first word several months later was DOG!.

 

 

Mummy, am I adopted? Part Three

Part Three

“Whether your children are yours through biology or adoption, they are yours through love.”
– Sadia Rebecca Rodriguez

New BEGINNINGS

The first few months were a steep learning curve and at times very hard. We had lots of fabulous friends but it was still hard. A couple of weeks after Katja came home, Cathy’s colleagues from AAS threw a shower party to welcome Katja to the AAS family. We were truly touched by the kindness shown by all our friends in Sofia. Within a few weeks we were getting into the swing of things. Learning from our mistakes and making new mistakes just like any new parent.

Us in 2015

Singing Sand Dunes - Qatar

Singing Sand Dunes – Qatar

We left Bulgaria in 2013 and moved back to live in Spain. In August 2014 we moved to Qatar. Katja is growing up as a very sociable and well traveled little girl. She loves school and has plenty of friends. She is also a very well traveled little girl. So far she has been in Bulgaria, UK, Spain, Qatar, Australia and Sri Lanka.
Having carried out considerable research, we have always thought it would be best to introduce the concept of adoption from an early age. We have specialist books written for children as stories regarding adoption and as a soft introduction to the concept of “Tummy Mummies” and forever families. We believe that the less of a “taboo” the whole adoption thing is, the better. It means that she can grow up knowing the truth with information being given as she asks. She’s a very inquisitive little girl so we have no doubt there will be many questions along the way, sadly, many of which we are unable to answer as we simply don’t know the answers.

Mummy, am I adopted? kit kat

As I started on part one when Katja asked us whether she had been adopted. We arrived home, all had a shower, made a cup of hot chocolate (her favourite) and sat down to have a family chat. We explained it in very simple terms. We are glad she asked, why it happened at some random unexpected moment? We have no idea, however, it opened the door for us to get the ball rolling so to speak. She knew about the concept of adoption already which helped. Every day we see her grow that little bit more and more, we knew this was a conversation which was looming but we were waiting for the right time, her having asked was a sign to say, yup, go right ahead! We don’t want her to grow up believing one thing and later on in life to find out the truth and destroy all she had based her confidence in, I think it would potentially destroy or damage our relationship if we either left it until later on in life or not at all. As adoptive parents who see Katja as our daughter it is also hard to explain this as all we want is fer to grow as a confident little girl just like any other kid, who cares about the biological bit?
What does the future hold? In as many words….I have no idea, we know the development process and we know some of the things that will come up, we will try and keep one step ahead of things (easier said than done) and answer questions as they come up.

Our link to Bulgaria will always be there……..

If you are reading this and are interested in finding out more about adotpion and would like to have a chat; please feel free to send me an e-mail mike.decoster@yahoo.co.uk

Happy Holidays

Our travel plans have been a bit disrupted as we couldn’t sort out visas in time, originally, the plan was to go to Australia for the holidays, then this became Oman and eventually we decided to stay home altogether instead!

No major drama, the season is about family and about having a good time together, be-it as part of a large family gathering or small!

Thank you for your interest in our adventures, I look forward to writing a lot more in the coming year as we continue to discover this lovely country and do a quite bit of overseas traveling.

2015 Travel Plans

We will be kicking off 2015 in mid air, our next trip is on 31.12 which will see Kati and I traveling to Australia. We leave Doha at 04:00 hrs on the 31st and arrive in Brisbane at 09:00 hrs on January 1st. I am really looking forward to seeing family who I haven’t seen in many, many years since leaving Argentina in 1991. It will be a big family gathering to celebrate Grandma’s 90th birthday! We arrive back in Doha January 16th and then hopefully traveling to Sri Lanka as a family January 29th (another change to our travel schedule). I am traveling to Bulgaria in June for a few days before returning to Doha and traveling back home to Oswestry in June as a family for five weeks. Back to Qatar for a few days before travelling to…… for a couple of weeks before the start of the new school year at the end of August.

My final thoughts as the year draws to an end

It’s been a sad and bad week for the world, too many innocent lives lost by “people” committing inexplicable vile acts of violence which repulse me to the core. However, one mustn’t lose sight that we live in a beautiful world where a small percentage of the 7 billion people who inhabit this planet commit inexcusable acts. The world is a beautiful place where most humans are peace-loving people who just want to enjoy life, be happy and lead fulfilling lives. Never complain about getting older, this is a privileged denied to many.

Whatever you do during the holidays, may it be whatever makes you happy and feel fulfilled. May 2015 bring you all you ever desire and be a great year for you.

With Love from all of us;

Mike, Cathy and Katja in the Middle East!

 Highlights of 2014

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Wedding Anniversary

They reckon that an average couple will move eight times during their marriage! I can wholeheartedly confirm there’s nothing “average” about us in any way, shape or form, that includes the number of times we have moved!

I think and I really can’t be bothered to actually count them but I reckon that we beat that average in our first two or three years of marriage, but who’s counting anyway.

I must admit that it is scary how quickly the last 20 years have gone bye. We have made so many friends along the way, many of which we remain in close to touch with thanks to social media and other channels, others, sadly we seem to have lost touch with.

So, today, 20 years ago we tied the knot. Both at the tender age of 20 and still had no clue what life was all about. All we knew was that we were right for each other and rather than a couple getting married, it was two best friends saying “I do”. We got married in St John’s church in Weston Rhyn, near Oswestry in Shropshire. I must admit that the day was a bit of a blur. I can remember snippets of the day which I guess were sort of highlights. Our reception was at The hand Hotel, Llanarmon DC (Dyffryn Ceiriog if you were wondering what the DC stood for).

Snippets from my Wedding

Malcolm (best man) and Me waiting for Cathy to arrive

Malcolm (best man) and Me waiting for Cathy to arrive

Here comes the bride – I am (believe it or not) quite a shy character, that remains a big trait of my personality to this day. I can remember standing at the alter waiting for something to happen, I didn’t really dare to look behind me at the increasing crowd sitting staring at me. Then it all happened, the music kicked in (no idea what it was) and I turned round to see a beautiful young lady walking towards me, all of a sudden everyone there disappeared from my sight, there was only one person I could concentrate on. Suddenly, everything felt fine. I have no recollection what happened after that until the point in which we were outside and then the photos began (that’s something else really dislike, having a photo taken of me, but it was soon all over). All our wedding photos are in our shipment, somewhere in Europe…….I think/ I hope.

We were then taken by Allan (can’t remember his surname) in his Jag to the reception. We arrived in the hotel which was some 20 or so minutes down the road from the church (I had my car there already, or someone drove it there for me, I can’t remember). There was a director of ceremonies who was most keen to be part of it all, I really cannot remember of he had been asked to or not but hey, he was there. He was very keen to introduce the Reverend Nigel Cosworth, it was actually the Rev Nigel Coatsworth but still. Time for speeches: Mike’s (father in law) speech was very nice and I remember a lot of it still. Then it was Malcolm’s (best man) turn, I remember a lot of it too Malc (if you’re reading this). Then it was my turn….hmmm. I have only gotten better at public speaking and presentations in the last five years. I became totally tongue-tied when it came to thanking the bridesmaids, there was no way on this planet I was going to be able to say the word bridesmaid without getting it horrifically wrong. No, you can’t even blame alcohol as I was driving that evening!

Once all proceedings were over we headed to the car which had of  course been decorated and tampered with including cornflakes in the air-vents, lots of shaving foam etc etc. We drove back to our new house to fetch something or another only to arrive at our driveway to find someone had parked a rather large speedboat across our driveway. We called the police to report this and walked up to the house. Grabbed what we needed and headed back to the hotel (where we had our reception), after all the hassle we nearly got there too late and were nearly locked out! Anyway, we didn’t get locked out and the next morning we headed off on our honeymoon in Devon.

We knew we would have some sort of adventure in our lifetime and that we weren’t really destined to settle down and conform to what most people in society would consider a “normal” life. Yes, we tried it, we bought our first house a few years after getting married, mowed the grass at weekends, worked 9-5 and tried to keep up with the Jones’s. But after a few years we realised this wasn’t what we wanted in life. It all started with a trip to Spain to visit my parents in 2000 or thereabouts, the rest is history…..

We spent a couple of weeks back home in Oswestry (Oswestry will always be our  cathy and mehome, regardless of wherever we may be in the world). We took the opportunity to pose outside the church were we got married, the photo was taken by our four year old daughter!

We have had ups and downs, high points and low points but overall we never stopped being best friends, enjoying each others company and having fun! We have had lots of support (and a lot of understanding) from a loving family to whom we will always be eternally grateful…..