Being an ex-pat’s wife and Volunteering

From all accounts from what we’ve heard and in books we’ve read, if you’re the spouse of an expat who has their work provided work visa, don’t expect to work and get lots of hobbies.

My plan originally, was to find a place where I could work part time, not really for the extra income, but mostly for human interaction. Moving to another city, let alone another country where you know no one can get a bit isolating. This had been looking like a promising idea.

I had talked to someone a the local enormous garden center, who explained how desperate they were for people in the afternoons. Most of the weekday employees are mums, who leave when the kids get out of school. “Perfect!” I had thought, I was only looking for a few hours and afternoons would have worked out just right. A few days after submitting an application I received a letter stating plainly, “We have no available open positions at this time.”

I’ve also looked into “bar birding” aka being a bar tender and waitress at local pubs. Most places are looking for folks to work evenings and weekends only. No thank you. I would like to be home during the same hours as Mark, my favorite person to spend time with and coincidentally one of the few people I know here.

I also had the plan in mind to volunteer at the British Museum of Natural History. In theory, working in a department where I could utilize my training, knowledge and skills (i.e. entomology, botany or the scientific library). Positions weren’t listed on the website, I applied and waited to hear about an opening in any of those departments.

Well, it’s taken months, my application getting lost in the shuffle, waiting for my police vetting to be cleared and arranging a start date. But I started a volunteer position today at the BMNH in the Botany Department’s herbarium.

Today was an excellent day, in addition to starting work I had some behind the scenes tours of all the Botany department rooms, part of the Entomology department and also the Darwin Center. In the special collections room I saw Sloane’s type specimen, that original specimen that was used to describe the species, of chocolate, cocoa (Theobroma cacao). In another several hundred year old book of pressed flora, the collector had also pressed insects, flattened with the flower parts were butterflies, beetles and even a praying mantis. I got to see jars of samples of fishes that Darwin collected, his handwriting on the labels. In the largest glass jar, in the 13C temperature controlled basement room full of large glass jars of specimens, a Coelocanth. The was a jar of preserved echidnas from the first Australian collecting expedition. I even saw the 8.62 meter long giant squid specimen in a special made tank. It was accidentally caught by fishermen off the Falkland Islands and is in amazing condition.

Here’s to volunteering at the museum!