Maria: Tiger Tales
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to London, etc.
My name is Maria Tumolo (formerly Maria Niles-Parris). I’m originally from the twin island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, born on the island of Trinidad. I came to England in Sept 2001 and lived in Cambridgeshire for a while before moving to London in summer 2002 I’ve worked as a Customer Service Officer, for Marks & Spencer, in the Lingerie Department, a Library Assistant at the Classics Faculty Library, Cambridge University and then as a Curriculum and Programme Administrator in further education. While doing all of this I studied, gained a college award. I got married in 2006. I transitioned into a Stay At Home Mum in the Winter 2011. I have a toddler boy and newborn baby girl.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began blogging when my first born was 7 months old, summer 2011. It was in aid of keeping my sanity. I was at home for long hours on my own with my newborn son, unable to drive and with no support nearby (except hubby) some days were grim. However, the inspiration for Tiger Tales came when via a friend on Facebook I came across the blog Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care I thought that their family story was so beautiful, it got me wondering if there were any blogs that reflected my family. Then I discovered Blasian Baby Notes as it’s an American blog I thought it would be interesting to explore the British experience of mothering black-asian children. The blog now explore other aspects of our life, such as food and managing natural afro hair.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
There are a few but one of my most recent is all about cultural celebrations in February.
Tell us about the ways your new life in London differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I’m in a new phase of life now, so everything is different to my old life style back in Trinidad. While in Trinidad, I was young, unmarried, footloose and fancy-free. I enjoyed a lot of outdoor hobbies such as hiking, kayaking and archery. Now I’m a stay at home mum with two small children. I don’t get out that much, so my life and socializing is mainly online, that said, prior to having a family I settled into London living easily. I’m a restless soul. I love to go out and about and try new things, travel. I always felt I belonged but this is not uncommon for a citizen from a commonwealth country.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in London? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I’m an organized geek of sorts. Prior to coming to England I used the ole ICQ forum to talk to people based in various parts of the country to get an idea of how to prepare. I also had a few university friends already based in London, so they gave me a bit of advice. Additionally, as I said earlier I lived in Cambridgeshire for a while, before moving to London. During my time in Cambridge I lived with the family of a friend of mine. I felt very safe and comfortable. I worked for a while saved then moved to London. There is nothing I would have done differently.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I arrived in England two days before September 11th 2001. After the bombings, it didn’t take much to have buildings closed and streets blocked off. I remember on one occasion, when an alarm went off when I was in the ladies loo of Victoria Coach Station, London. For what seemed like minutes I forgot how to open the cubicle door! Then a small voice in my head said 'be calm, be calm’. The fog in my head cleared and I found my way out onto the streets as the station was being closed.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in London?
- Do your research: learn about your host country, people, culture, heritage, cost of living etc.
- Be sure to pack all vital paper work in support of your stay
- Have a clear aim and goal, as well as a back-up plan
How is the expat community in London? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I already had a few university friends in various parts of the country, that was initial friendship base. Then, my friends introduced me to their friends some of whom later became friends with me. Also, as a single expat, I lived in several flat shares, this allowed me make friends from various parts of the world some of whom I’m still in touch with although they have returned to their home countries.
How would you summarize your expat life in London in a single, catchy sentence?
Dreams really do come true.