I’ve Been Gone For A While But Wait Until You Hear Why…

Since my last blog I received my UK visa!


Even with that exclamation mark this sentence doesn’t begin to reflect the monumental nature of the event: Receiving my UK visa …. And  I will not stoop to a double exclamation mark. I have way too many English Majors in my life, who keep tabs on me, for such faux pas….

Perhaps my blogs should come with a disclaimer; something along the lines of the one on my rearview mirror: Images in print appear much smaller than in my reality!

Okay let’s start over.

In April of this year, I received a UK visa after Egils and I worked towards that end for 3 1/2  long years of our lives.  UK law requires that anyone coming from beyond the European Union borders (that would be me) must have a sponsor (that would be Egils) who can adequately (financially) support him/herself as well as the person being sponsored. The UK government is unaware that people coming from the former Soviet countries (namely: Egils and I) can live on air, so the amount of financial stability that they required was um… ridiculous, by our standards.

Screen goes wavy then white and we fade into a backstory…. I’ve been dabbling in video recently.

It’s July, 2009, I’ve lived in Latvia for almost a decade with my Latvian partner, Egils. Both of us received slashes in our, already pathetic, salaries prior to all paychecks ending, a few months ago. We have gone through most of our savings. Every day one of our friends or associates leaves Latvia. The grocery stores’ supplies are dwindling. My close American friend of more than 40 years, Bette, says gently, during a Skype talk, “You have to leave. You don’t really have a choice. I’ll help you, but you must go. Now.”

I’ve been denying this obvious fact for almost a year. But within this moment, I know she’s right. We must leave.

I apply for a UK visa, based on what’s left of our paltry savings,  123 online job applications that Egils has submitted for jobs in UK, and a heartfelt plea to return to the land of my great-grandparents.

A week later I receive my visa application back with a “WTF Woman! You can’t seriously think we’re going to let you reenter the sacred land that your ancestors  abandoned 100 years ago, based on a few bucks in an Eastern European bank account and some auto-response replies to online job applications!”

The official wording is “Visa Denied” but in retrospect, I totally know what they wanted to say.

We spend less than a month packing our small car, renting our home, and finding keepers for our cats, before fleeing our home in Latvia, in August, and arriving in Scotland one week later.

Egils enters the UK workforce on the bottom rung of the ladder, trying to make enough money to sponsor me. His masters degree, rich work experience,  fluency in multiple languages, and strong work ethic are of almost no value. He has an accent. He’s unfamiliar with local culture and traditions. He’s come here, uninvited, from a poverty stricken country, at a time when local people are scrambling for the few remaining jobs in the midst of their own recession.

He takes any and every job that comes his way: he works with disabled people, hangs banners over kiosks, scrapes old signage off walls and applies new, drives people to and from the airports…. I help when I can but have no legal rights to work without a visa.

Our time together, in Scotland, is spent in a rented room with the Syme family in a small village in Stirlingshire—the gateway to The Highlands. The Symes become our Scottish family. On good days they are our safety net; on bad days, our guardian angels.

In spite of the Syme family’s boundless hospitality and our endless efforts to make money, I am forced to leave UK 6 months after we arrive because I am an American without a UK visa.

This  6-months-in-UK-6-months-in-USA  requirement continues for 3 1/2 years. Ultimately Egils and I live separately for more than 2  of those 3 1/2 years—him working odd jobs and looking for full-time employment in UK, while I live in the USA with my dear friend Bette ( yes, we are still best friends!) and her husband, Mike.

This gave me more than 2 years of time in the USA to visit with my adult children: Morgan, Debra, Jonathan and Jessica, as well as my grand-babies. I had months  with my brother Tim, his wife and my dear friend, Mia, and their clan—more time than we’ve ever shared in our adult incarnation; what a blessing! I had time with my dear sisters Jeannine and Heather and their clans. I traveled from Coudersport, PA—where I spent time time with my physically and mentally declining mother and her amazing, young-at-heart, sisters—to Cocoa Beach, Florida where I reunited with my dear friend and boarding school roommate, Brenda (and her man, Bert). Brenda and I also cruised to Alaska, walked the ship’s deck in the (nearly) midnight sun and witnessed the birth of an otter on an iceberg.

Many aspects of these past 3 years were miraculous— rewarding in so many ways and on so many levels of my being…. But they were also years of separation from my beloved partner; they were years of incredible insecurity; they were times of learning the true meaning of faith. They were times that taught us the essence of what it means to be an immigrant: A person with many homes, while lacking a real home. They were times that challenged me—challenged us—to the core.

I have many  other visas and each picture tells a story: I’m over-the-moon to be going to Russia and experience a country I never thought I’d see, in early 1993…. I’m trying to smile, as I have finally succeeded in getting an Estonian visa, but my eyes are bloodshot. It is the week my father died … I have a lopsided smile in my next Estonian visa. I came straight from the dentist’s office with a numb, paralyzed jaw (but the appointment with the photographer had been hard to get)… I’m smiling like I have a secret in my first Latvian Visa. I am in those first days of new love with my partner….

My UK visa picture is quite different from any of the others. I am looking pleadingly, at the camera. I look exhausted and like I’ve been crying for years… I’ve been through heart failure. I’ve been away from my man for… it feels like forever. I’ve been living on the edge for way too long….

There were good times in these past 3 1/2 years. In fact there were great times that I wouldn’t exchange for anything. But there were some godawful, I-can’t-believe-I-lived-through-them times as well.

But now they live only as memories.


I got my UK visa!!

Now let me address the above statement: I’ve been dabbling in video recently…

After 1 & 1/2 years of working on a video, I’ve now completed it and posted it on YouTube! I am pleased and honored to share this with you.

In Search of Home: A photographic essay of our journey from Eastern Europe to Scotland. I really hope you’ll enjoy it and pass it along to others.


I have also pretty much set up my online store where, should anyone desire to own prints of—or products containing—some of my best photos, just click below and voilà!


So that’s what I’ve been up to since January and my last post (shame on me!). I hope to be blogging more regularly now that I have ended my regular commute between USA and UK.

For now, I’m nestled back in my wee village in the foothills (or hellfits as it sounds when the Scots refer to them) of the Ochils.

I will end this blog with a few pictures I took this week on the moor. Sheriffmuir, to be exact.

Gorse on the side of a hill

The gorse is blooming; the heather is next!


An amazingly colorful cemetery as I entered the road up to the moor …

Ewe and Lamb

Once on the moor, the ewes and lambs welcomed me!

Sheep scratching

Snow capped mountains, blue skies, sheep scratching their necks. Life is good on the moors

23 responses to “I’ve Been Gone For A While But Wait Until You Hear Why…

  1. As always I love to read your stuff.  Keep writing and taking pictures.   Love diane

  2. Wow, congratulations!! Enjoy your new life in UK. The photos are great.
    Love, India

  3. P.S. – ….and the writing as always is great too! – India

  4. Love your writings, Holly. I know
    you have been thru many difficult times but you do lead an enchanted life! And it took a lot of courage to get there. Love always to you.—Betty

  5. Congratulations, Holly! I’d love to know more about “living on air.” Seriously it’s all the rage now, except it’s called leaving a small carbon footprint. We could all do to learn how to live with less.

    • Thanks, Judy. It’s interesting that you mention the carbon footprint. Transportation creates a substantial footprint and that really bothers me, as a traveler! I’ve been thinking of a blog discussing ways that we can offset our footprint when our lifestyle contains certain built-in carbon producers (like travel). When I researched it I found one of the ways that we can cut back hugely is buying locally grown food! It’s amazingly simple and really effective.Of course growing your own is even better, but that’s not an option with my lifestyle. Doing with less is absolutely necessary but trying to sell that idea to folks who have “The American Dream” of more/bigger as their key to happiness (which of course has nothing to do with happiness) is a hard sell. A lot of people immediately feel like they’ll be deprived of something. If we could begin by altering old habits: buying local, turning appliances off completely when not in use, Cooking from scratch (as opposed to processed foods), turning heat back a degree etc. as well as incorporating some new habits: bicycle (as a family or individually) FOR FUN, walking instead of driving to run around the corner etc. it would hugely offset our footprint. I truly think we can not only decrease our footprint without feeling deprived but can actually improve our quality of life. I’d like to blog about it in a way that doesn’t feel preachy or condescending but it’s hard because I have such strong feelings about our collective wastefulness and desire for “MORE”. 🙂

  6. Enjoy your writings – and hope to see you later in the year ……

  7. Judy and Taylor

    Holly — we feel so lucky to have found this so soon after you wrote your “immigrant’s” history, We’re such inexperienced Facebook users that we could have missed out on it, although we did see Morgan at the Leesburg Flower and Garden Show a few weeks ago, when she told us you were close to leaving after your long wait. Great to get the summary of your history in recent years, and to know that you made it back across the ocean with full visa privilege. If you get time, email us with more details. Love to Egils.

    Taylor and Judy

    • I am so glad that you found me! My life has been so chaotic for the past 9 months. Actually my life has been nuts for the past 3 1/2 years but it escalated about 9-10 months ago. I am so thankful that this part of the journey is over. I love you both and am so sorry we didn’t get together this past return. Be well and “we” will see you soon (note the plural form, that is NOT a royal we). XXOO

  8. Norm Wilkinson

    Hi Holly, It is so nice to see a new Accidental Immigrant story again. Especially this one as it finally ends the long quest for you. I can’t imagine being away fro Linda as long as you and Egils have been separated.The pictures of the Moors are great. I can’t view the you tube as PC connection thru the phone is sooo slooooow.Say hi to Egils and keep the Posts coming. Norm

  9. Wonderful! Such happy news

  10. Jeannine Reese Cosentino

    Hol, don’t know how I have missed this but as usual it reads just like you talk, full of authenticity and mostly joy. Its been a rough ride and I am so glad you are settling in with your dear Egils, although we miss you! love, Nean

  11. I love mountains. Something divine about them. Thank you for your like! And congrats on the visa! Love, A:)ex

  12. jamesdburns2013

    Please don’t leave it so long before you post again

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