Homeward Bound

Well, friends. We have had an amazing overseas adventure over the past five-plus years. But it’s time to wrap it up.

For every incredible place we’ve seen and every wonderful friend we have made along the way, we’ve also been faced with health struggles, financial burdens, and feelings of being perpetual “outsiders”. These carry a balance over time, and slowly the scale has tipped; our hearts now weighing heavier and our wanderlust quenched. We are ready to live “easy” for a while, in a familiar place, where our spirits feel at home and we have the support and comfort of many friends and family around us.

The benefits of living abroad have been huge, and we have zero regrets. We would do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe we’ll take it up again when the kids are off on their own, or maybe sooner, who knows. But for now, our compass is set for home.

So what’s next? Our timing is still tentative, depending on how quickly we can navigate the complicated Swiss bureaucracy required to leave here (which is another story, for next time!), but we plan to be settled back in Ottawa either at Christmas or by mid-January at the latest. We’ve already started putting down some roots – we have a house and car ready and waiting, thanks to our family’s generosity and support. Our new car might look familiar to anyone who remembers the one we had before moving!

Does this look familiar to anyone?

Also, B has decided to renew his university degree, and has already registered to start classes in January. We’re still missing a lot of pieces to this puzzle… like, say, jobs. Whoops. And it will be complicated to move back and re-establish banking, healthcare, school registration, and everything else in between. But if our past five years have taught us anything, it’s that we can probably handle it, and hopefully even better than ever before.

So, this isn’t goodbye! We still have lots of backlogged adventure stories to tell, and new ones to come. This is just another step in our journey, and one we’re facing with joy in our hearts. Stay tuned!

Stuff day!

Our shipment finally arrived today… And there was much rejoicing!

Thank goodness.

Four months is a long time to be away from your stuff. I was seriously questioning why we even bothered shipping it all – a whole quarter of a year without it is surely a sign that we didn’t really need it in the first place?

Well, we really did need it. Here are the “before” pictures of our sad, empty, echoey apartment:

The shipping truck arrived right at 8 am as we were told, which in itself was amazing. Swiss clockwork is still a novelty to us. We watched them open up the container, and it was thankfully only half full. I was already having a bit of a panic attack about everything not fitting, and it was only made worse when a 40-foot container drove up this morning.

These guys were super efficient. They only took about 2 hours to bring everything in. Of course, as the rooms started getting fuller and fuller with boxes, I was again seriously questioning our life decisions. But then as we started unpacking and getting rid of the mountains of cardboard, our apartment started to come to life.

A few stowaways came along: half a cockroach, some termite pellets, possibly some pinworms in our favorite teak shelf, and plenty of cobwebs. Everything smells vaguely of Jakarta – stale smoke, citrus soap, and a hint of halitosis. And it’s amazing! It finally feels just like home.

Ruban Rouge

La paperasserie… Red tape… Switzerland is full of it. I heard that was the case before we moved here, but I rather stubbornly believed it was an exaggeration. How bad could it really be? Well, friends, let me describe that joy in agonizing detail:

So, to live and work here, my employer applied for a work permit for me back in June. This was a process that they said would take 8-12 weeks, which explains our long sojourn in Ottawa over the summer. Ok, fine. I contacted the embassy in Ottawa and was told that we could simply go there during the summer and get our initial visas, which would get us into the country and then be converted to the more permanent stay permits.

Summer arrives, and we visit the embassy. Oh no, sorry, we’re told, you have to wait until the authorities in Switzerland notify you that your visas are ready and then go to Montreal to pick them up… Ok, fine.

We wait and wait, missing school registration, missing the first day of school… Finally everything is ready! We buy our plane tickets with a stop in Montreal, go to the embassy and find out that actually only MY visa is ready. Apparently no one thought to submit any forms for the rest of the family nor tell us that we should. The visa lady pulls some strings and sends us onto the plane anyway with relatively inadequate stamps in the other three passports and a rainbow unicorn wish of “you’re Canadian, you should probably be ok…” Ok, fine.

So we jump on the plane and make it to Switzerland (3 of us as tourists). But it turns out we have nowhere to stay. Apparently we are forbidden to stay anywhere but in this very specific Canton of Vaud because our non-existent visas and work permits are only for Vaud. Too bad everything in Vaud is booked up. Sorry. We scramble to rent a car, find a shitty motel, and hope to get the kids registered in school. Because they’re losing it. We’re losing it. But we can’t register them until we have a permanent address… Ok, fine.

We look at apartments on our first day in town. We’re desperate, jet lagged, fighting. We just pick one because good god it’s not worth waiting. But first we have to apply for the apartment and earn the right to rent it. And to apply for the apartment, we have to get a bank account, because the bank runs a deal where they hold 3 months of rent in trust for the landlord as part of the rental laws here… Ok, fine.

So we go to the bank. We manage to open an account, but the bank really would like to have a copy of our work permits, please. So we go to the population bureau and fill out some residency forms, take some awkward photo booth photos, pay some money and are told we can go get our work permits in the next city over in about a week. So we go there, to get our visas converted into work permits, and it turns out that only MY work permit is allowed, since no one sent in any forms for the rest of the family. They will have to come back another time. They take my fingerprints and tell me my permit will be ready in a couple of weeks… Ok, fine.

But to finalize our rental, we have to get household insurance. And to register the kids for school, we have to get medical insurance. So we meet with an insurance broker, go through a very complicated set of decision making about our deductibles (while meeting at McDonalds, because we are homeless immigrants), and sign a bunch of papers. But it turns out that to get insurance, we first have to prove our residency… Ok, fine.

So we go back to the population bureau and get them to sign a form saying that we live here, and manage to get insurance. We finalize the apartment. So we take the kids to the school, fill out some forms, and wait… and finally we move into our apartment! Meanwhile, B can go register for his work permit, but not the kids. Apparently Ontario birth certificates are not specific enough for the Swiss, so I have to order special long form certificates from Canada… Ok, fine.

The kids get into school. But our stuff hasn’t arrived. The shipping company needs our work permits to fill out the customs forms. And the shipment is delayed. So I send them ALL the forms we have and work out a deal to give the work permit later. Stuff still hasn’t arrived… Next week, apparently… Ok, fine.

But our rental car time runs out. So we buy a car from a dude on Facebook, but we don’t have work permits for registering it. And we need more insurance. But to get insurance, we need to prove our driving history, so I call our old insurers in Canada and have them send over some details. We get insurance and borrow a neighbor’s car to visit the car registration bureau. But because we don’t have work permits, she can only give us temporary plates, which means we need a different kind of insurance. So I call the insurance company from the parking lot and get them to send a new insurance form to the office. We get plates! Christmas miracle!

But we have to change over our licenses, which we can only do once we have our work permits, accreditation from the population bureau, and an optometrist test. Plus special forms from Canada explaining our entire licensing history because Ontario licenses are not detailed enough to pass Swiss muster. And, you guessed it, we also need our work permits. Sigh.

Some other things we need work permits for? A cell phone plan instead of pay as you go. The discount fare passes on the train. Other little things like, oh, leaving the country.

Aaannnddd… We still don’t have our work permits.

#SwissLivin

So we live in Switzerland now.

It still feels like a bit of an extended vacation, but the reality is slowing sinking in as we get more and more settled. Let’s list the happenings so far:

GEOGRAPHY
This is a beautiful place, no question. It has everything: rolling fields of corn and sunflowers, orchards and vineyards in every backyard, mountains all around, a shining silver lake on the horizon, quaint stone villages hidden throughout the valley… and we’ve had days and days of beautiful, sunny afternoons, and fresh, crisp evenings. Flowers are still blooming and fruits are hanging heavy in all the trees.

I know the weather will change soon, and these adorable country roads winding through the Jura will be covered with treacherous snowfall. But we’re keen for some winter! I’m looking forward to watching Saint Bernards frolic through across the snowfields, depositing a barrel of brandy at my feet…. That’s a real thing, right? I’m also looking forward to at least one broken limb this year as the entire family learns how to ski, poorly. It’s a good thing we’re paying 1000 FRANCS PER MONTH on health insurance, just for that kind of situation.

Which brings me to…

MONEY
Things are crazy expensive here. Of course, being used to our dollars stretching quite far compared to the Rupiah, prices seem even more extreme. But it’s the fact that you have to pay a lot for EVERYTHING that is a hard pill to swallow. Groceries are expensive. Rent is expensive. Parking is expensive. Restaurants are expensive. Trains are expensive. You pay fees for TV and radio (whether you use them or not).

Anyway, we’re basically out of money over here. Would you contribute to a GoFundMe account if we opened one? Kidding, but really, you are going to see a lot more posts on here about “we stayed in this weekend and ate ramen, darned socks and played board games” instead of “we visited an amazing city, bought expensive art and ate delicious food etc. etc…” But I’m sure that we’ll figure out the tricks to saving money soon enough… for now, here are the ways we are foolishly squandering our paycheques:

HOUSING
Our realtor told us that a healthy real estate market has about 4% available housing. Here, it is 0.4%. And all properties are incredibly overpriced. This fun graphic gives you a peek into the obscene costs of renting here. That being said, we spent one day visiting about 7 properties, and we jumped on one just for the sake of having somewhere to live. So we move in next week. It’s great to have a more permanent place to live, if only so we can stop dumping our stuff in various hotels/vacation rentals around the area. We just moved out of a dumpy motel and into a lovely homestay apartment, but I do feel bad for our very generous landlords who have to put up with our shrieking children, B’s socks all over the place, and my incessant mandolin playing… Soon we will have our very own neighbours to annoy with the same things!

It’s a 3 bedroom apartment with an open-concept kitchen/living room. And it’s… 80 m2, maybe? So we’ll be taking a lot of advice from the IKEA small spaces designs. And it’s anyone’s guess whether our incredibly oversized furniture from Indonesia will even fit. Probably not. We’ll find out when it all arrives in October.

SCHOOL
The kids are still out of school. Oh my god, please kill us now, or at least come and babysit. Getting them into school has been a dominos game of first housing, then insurance, then local immigration approval, then registration, then planting a golden egg under the light of the full moon… but thankfully we managed to get them registered today with the goal of having them start early next week.

And it’s a local school. In French. Now, B and I both speak French, but we were basically too lazy to speak it to the kids for all these years, so they don’t speak French. Regrets there. Anyway, Switzerland seems to have a generous language integration program, so we’re hoping they pick it up quite quickly. Or they fail out and we pay 50k/year to put them in international schooling…

LIFE and CULTURE
So far, the people and the life has been great. Before moving here, I heard some opinions that Swiss folks can be unwelcoming or at least a bit reserved, but everyone we have met has been more than welcoming and incredibly keen and supportive towards us. It’s possible that they are just amused by our “quaint” Canadian French and the fact that we are GIGANTIC compared to everyone else. But it doesn’t feel like we stick out too much. In fact, I’d say that this area of Switzerland actually seems a lot like Canada. Take a bit of Vancouver landscape, a bit of Quebec City downtown, and a bit of the Montreal or Toronto attitude and you have Geneva.

We learned how to play Petanque with some new friends at the downtown court, shadowed by a group of enthusiastic local players who taught the kids some colorful new French words. We picked some apples straight from a tree in the backyard. I found out there is a Circus School here, and am counting the days until I can register. We’ve been drinking all the regional (on sale) wine we can find. We played life-sized chess under the watchful eye of a Geneva elder. J had a crazy temper tantrum in a Geneva diner and we had to bodily carry her out in shame. So I guess it’s just like home!

 

Moving on… again

I’m finally back online after a long summer of avoiding my laptop like the plague. I just couldn’t bring myself to open it up, even for personal activities like blogging. I think I might have had a bit of computer PTSD or something… anyway, here we are again, starting the transition to somewhere new, and all the hauling around of our stuff that it entails.

About six weeks ago, I packed up the last of our life in Indonesia and hopped on a plane to spend the summer at home in Canada. B and the kids were already there, having left as soon as school ended in late June. I stuck around to wrap things up, including two intensive weeks of sorting and cataloguing our things in anticipation of moving them. In the end, it took three days and 108 boxes for our household to be loaded onto a shipping container – I can’t believe that only a few years ago, we dumped a handful things into only 7 boxes for our move to Indonesia! Where did the 101 other boxes of things come from?

It was an interesting packing process. A troupe of guys showed up with some flat cardboard and Tetrised our stuff into approximate rectangles – putting pillows and kitchen containers into the negative space of a chair, for example – then placed the rectangle on a piece of cardboard and custom-built a box up around it. It was cool, but I’m pretty sure some of these boxes are not going to fit into any other place that we live in the future…

So where are our 108 boxes headed? Well, hopefully they haven’t been lost at sea (I recently read “The Wave”, which has left me with a deeply unhealthy obsession with cargo ships sinking randomly… you should read it) – but assuming they have made it across the ocean, the plan is to meet them in Switzerland, where we’ll be based for at least the next two years. I got a new position with an international organization there, so we’re looking to settle just north of the Geneva area.

Back in May, I visited Switzerland during my job interview process. Although I was hoping to do a bit more sightseeing and didn’t have a chance, I did spend a few hours wandering around the small villages north of Geneva and in Geneva itself:

So, that brings us to today. Here we are, traveling on the train to begin a complicated dance of getting ourselves out of the country: me and the kids are taking this train into Montreal, where we will stop at the Swiss embassy to drop off our passports. B is currently driving to Montreal with a friend – and our 8 pieces of luggage – stopping at our airport hotel to drop everything off and meet up with us later in the day. Then we pick up our passports and visas tomorrow and fly to Geneva from there. Aaaannnd that’s about all we have planned.

We don’t have a place to stay temporarily, or anywhere to live permanently. The kids are already missing school (which started yesterday, and which they’re not registered for anyway), and we have too much luggage for us to manage on any kind of public transport.

But I guess not knowing what the heck we’re doing is part of the fun.

See you in Switzerland!

Sampai jumpa

Well it’s been a good ride. Our time in Indonesia is up and we’re headed off for some new adventures in the world.

What can I say to sum up three years? Three years of exploration, cultural learning, good laughs, new friends, amazing places, and curious creatures. Also three years of frustration, illness, anxiety, homesickness, lost things, broken things, and too many goodbyes.

I remember a conversation we had years ago, before the thought of moving to Indonesia was even a speck on the horizon. B and I were sitting at the dining room table and talking about our long-term plans – Where was I going with my career? Where did we want to live? How do we escape the rut we felt like we had fallen into? That was the night that moving abroad came up, and at the time I think we both imagined living in some kind of European countryside, eating baguettes and drinking espressos in a provencal cafe.

I started applying for jobs – Paris, Vienna, London – and when the perfect job came up in Indonesia, I applied for kicks more than with a real consideration of what I might do if I actually got the job.

Well, as you know, I did get the job, and we had to very quickly decide whether we were the type of people who would sell their house, quit their stable government career, and pack up their two young kids on a whim to live in Indonesia – a country that I am ashamed to admit I couldn’t even pick out on a map at that point. It turns out that we are those people.

Friends and colleagues called us ‘brave’ or ‘crazy’. Family was torn between being thrilled and heartbroken. We were feeling all of those same things in equal measures, questioning: Were we being unfair to our kids, taking them away from home and family? Were we abandoning our family when they might need us close to home? Were we crazy for giving up a house and comfortable life in an enviable city? On any given day, the answer might have been ‘yes’ to at least one of those questions. But the thrill of the unknown was too hard to ignore. Off we went.

And now? Three years later? We have no regrets. I would make the same decision again in a second.

Sure, our kids have missed being close to home, but Skype is an amazing thing. Yes, our family has missed us, and we miss them every second of every day, but everyone is coping and we have all found ways to make up for the absence. Of course our life is more unpredictable now, without a stable household or home city, but I’m starting to see that was part of the rut we got ourselves stuck into.

And the gains have more than made up for it. In three years, we’ve seen more beaches, sunsets, volcanoes, temples, turtles, boats, malls, elephants, thunderstorms, rainforests, airplanes, and monkeys than I ever could have imagined. We’ve been to nearly a dozen countries, learned a new language, saved up some money, collected a houseful of teak furniture, made lifelong friends.

And it turns out we didn’t travel to the unknown, we just discovered that people and life are the same around the world, give or take a few amenities. We aren’t brave or crazy, just willing to take a little risk and I think we have more than reaped the rewards.

Mohon maaf, Indonesia. Sampai jumpa!

Photo: Thecayas about to set off an overseas adventure in 2012!

Resolutions

It’s a new year already. I can’t believe how quickly 2014 passed – so quickly that it seems like it didn’t even happen!

I often have this feeling of time whirling past, like I’m just part of the audience as life rushes by – as though I’m in stasis, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for some next phase, some kind of change, for the right time to engage. It’s a feeling I’ve been wrestling with for a long time, and it seems worse when living abroad: that somehow real life is on hold, and the time we spend away doesn’t really count. It means we are often making choices that don’t move our lives forward: we sit, and wait, and eat, and wait, and wonder when life will really begin. What is this feeling? Depression? Ennui? Homesickness?

You would think that picking up and moving across the world shows us to be brave, confident go-getters, grabbing the world with our fists and shaking loose everything we ever wanted. But most of the time I think we’re running from this feeling of being trapped by time and routine, only to be trapped by that very thing, in a grand chicken-or-egg game around the world.

Coming up on three years abroad and after a long trip home for the holidays, our thoughts are turning again to the future. Do we stay? Do we move home? Do we try something new? The thought of moving home scares me, as though somehow I will feel like we failed and be unhappy there, falling into old routines as if nothing ever happened, as though the last three years were meaningless and did nothing to break us free from the rut of suburban life. But staying scares me as well, as our current routines become, well, routine – and now there is nothing special about being here anymore: we’re just living the same regular lives we could have anywhere. Trying something new is just as scary, knowing that we will have to get over this hump of ‘life in stasis’ again, as we figure out the necessary sense of normalcy that lets us function in school, work, and society, but feeling like our progress in the world has been rewound all the way back to the beginning. So where is the happy medium? How can I have it all? Extraordinary experiences within a healthy, forward-moving life?

I guess I need to start small, making time for myself and my family, building up the core of personal health and strength that we need to be successful anywhere, whether that means a villa in Indonesia, a suburban townhome in Canada, an apartment in Europe, or a hut in the desert somewhere. I think I feel like life is passing me by because it is passing me by – it always will be, no matter how I choose to spend it or where. It’s not homesickness or depression, it’s just being faced with mortality. And I won’t find the strength to face that down from where I live or how, but from finding significance and happiness in every moment, no matter how small. So this year I will try to make time for those moments, and more time for the things that make me happy:

  1. More music practice each week, and try writing a couple of songs
  2. Regular weekly blogging, and start writing short stories
  3. Make time every day for exercise and yoga practice, and aim to be able to do 100 push-ups by the end of the year
  4. Try a new recipe every week, stop drinking soda, strict limit on dairy/wheat/sugar
  5. Host a music/games/theatre/poetry fun night for friends at least once a month
  6. Take a photography class
  7. Refresh my Spanish and French skills, and learn some German
  8. Spend at least 1 quality hour with the kids after work, no matter what
  9. Travel wish list: Siem Reap, Hanoi, Luang Prabang, Sulawesi, Northern Bali, Perth, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, London, Scotland, Iceland

So here’s to 2015! All the best to you and yours. I can’t even guess where I will be writing my 2016 plans from at this time next year, and I think for now that’s exactly how I want it.

Happy New Year from the Cayas!
Happy New Year from the Cayas!

The school, the house and beyond

It’s been two months now since we moved, and in so many ways the time has flown by. Sure, we’ve had our share of challenges and frustrations, but I think what has surprised us the most is how quickly our new house and school have felt like home. Our old house in Bogor was a lovely building, but B put it best when we moved out: “It felt like we just spent two years living in a hotel lobby.” Something about that place never fit with our lives – it was a bit barren, sterile, unloving, and the space just didn’t flow – maybe the feng chui was off, or it was built on some kind of indian burial ground, or something like that. Anyway, it was nice to be there, but we never really settled in.

Our new place just feels right. Sure, it’s a bit of an upgrade to the house itself: now with a pool, reliable hot water, bigger kitchen, plus we have friends living right next door. And the area is much improved, within walking distance of a big mall, lots of shops and restaurants. Of course that means we’re in a loud, hot, smoggy part of town, but the do evenings cool off and we aren’t bothered too much by the noise. But besides all that, the house feels more like us. Less pretentious? More comfortable? I don’t know. Here are some of my favorite spots in the new house:

The antique javanese cupboard we bought, showcasing our bottle collection in the sun
The antique javanese cupboard we bought, showcasing our bottle collection in the sun
The giant sofa that is perfect for everyone to nap on at once.
The giant sofa that is perfect for everyone to nap on at once.
The recycled oil drum bookshelf that our friend made - it matches the coffee table!
The recycled oil drum bookshelf that our friend made – it matches the coffee table!
The old lantern I found in the backyard
The old lantern I found in the backyard
The TV room that we accidentally decorated in a southwestern style
The TV room that we accidentally decorated in a southwestern style
Our entire front entrance, dedicated as a board game playing space, decorated with a photo taken by our friend Jim
Our entire front entrance, dedicated as a board game playing space, decorated with a photo taken by our friend Jim
The beanbag chair made out of recycled vinyl billboards we bought for the kids' reading corner
The beanbag chair made out of recycled vinyl billboards we bought for the kids’ reading corner

The only downside to the move is that now I commute about 3 hours a day. Most days it’s not so bad, and really, I rather like driving myself to and from work. It’s a good chance to unwind and be “off the grid” for a few hours. And so far, I’ve managed to get home within 2 hours of leaving the office. Except for the first night, when there was a freak flooding in our neighborhood and I got trapped for hours on the road. Hopefully that’s an uncommon occurrence…

On my first night driving home to the new house, I got caught in this... for *four* hours. I was seriously questioning life, the universe, and where my decisions had gone so teribly awry.
On my first night driving home to the new house, I got caught in this… for *four* hours. I was seriously questioning life, the universe, and where my decisions had gone so teribly awry.

Meanwhile, the kids have settled into their new school almost instantly. The teachers are all very supportive, and with a bigger school, we’re getting a lot more opportunities to try new activities and have a more varied curriculum.

In his first week at school, he was awarded a certificate for being a "risk-taker" and for being a good classroom helper.
In his first week at school, he was awarded a certificate for being a “risk-taker” and for being a good classroom helper.
His class went on a three-day trip to the safari to study animals. Fun times!
His class went on a three-day trip to the safari to study animals. Fun times!
Organizing 45 8-year-olds to get onto the tour bus at 6:30 am... not so fun times.
Organizing 45 eight-year-olds to get onto the tour bus at 6:30 am… not so fun times.
Kids walking home from school. Most days, B picks them up in cab, and this is the walk down the driveway to our house, after the cab drops them off.
Kids walking home from school. Most days, B picks them up in a cab, and this is the walk down the driveway to our house, after the cab drops them off.
New school, new activities: LittleB signed up for capoeira! J is taking swimming lessons and I think she is now officially part of the dolphin family rather than human.
New school, new activities: LittleB signed up for capoeira! J is taking swimming lessons and I think she is now officially part of the dolphin family rather than human.

As for B, he’s settling in too. Jakarta has a lot more to offer for foreigners, and I think he definitely feels more comfortable here.

Living in Jakarta gives B more social options - more specifically, more guys to play hockey with.
Living in Jakarta gives B more social options – more specifically, more guys to play hockey with.

Move n holidays

As you know, we found a new house in Jakarta, and we’ll be moving in August. It’s a four-bedroom house with a pool and a large kitchen and plenty of open living space. I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t have enough furniture to actually fill the house. Then I started making a list of the things we need to put on a truck and figured out that somehow, in the mere two years of being here, we’ve collected more stuff than we’ve ever had before! The truck I booked might actually need to make two trips. It’ll probably look something like this:

He is literally holding those poles on with the force of his will.
He is literally holding those poles on with the force of his will.

Or maybe we will get really lucky and it will look like this:

What. Is. This. Is it some kind of modded flatbed? and good god, is that a man in a fishing chair driving it? No way...
What. Is. This. Is it some kind of modded flatbed? and good god, is that a man in a fishing chair driving it? No way…
...Yes, yes that is a man in fishing chair driving it. Oh, and he's trying to put on a rain slicker at the same time, going 80 km/hr. Fantastic!
…Yes, yes that is a man in fishing chair driving it. Oh, and he’s trying to put on a rain slicker at the same time, going 80 km/hr. Fantastic!

Because we managed to figure out the housing situation in a reasonable time, we decided to organize a last-minute trip out of town before the move. Because I really, really need a vacation. So where can you go in Southeast Asia that is reasonably cheap and easy to arrange on short notice? Vietnam is top of my list, but flights + visas are quite expensive and I just didn’t have time to sort out tours, train tickets, etc. Cambodia would also be nice, but a trip to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh is not really longer than a few days and my minimum required vacation dose is as least 7 days. Laos? Also near the top of my list, but there’s no way to get there other than going through Vietnam or Thailand, and that increases cost if we’re not taking longer to visit those places as well. So, Thailand! Recent military coup, driving down tourist costs and vacationers? Check. Cheap flights on Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur? Check. Nothing can go wrong with this plan! Nothing.

So we booked ourselves a week in a beach villa on an island off the coast of Krabi. We packed up the bare minimum of clothes into a couple of carry-ons and we’re going off the grid! I’m looking forward to lying on the beach, lying by the pool, lying in the villa, walking down to the restaurant and eating fresh thai seafood every day, exploring the beach shops for silks and spices. Maaaaybe we’ll take a day for some kyaking or cave exploring or elephant rides. And if we don’t do anything but nap all day in the sunshine, I won’t regret a thing.

No-update update

It’s been a while since I updated. Sorry!

I could give you all sorts of excuses as to why I haven’t written lately. Work has been busy, we’ve all been a bit under the weather, and I’ve been feeling a bit lazy. In fact, I think I wore my pyjamas all weekend for the past two weekends in a row. It’s just that time of year, I guess. But mostly I haven’t written lately because I just can’t think of anything exciting to say.

Could it be that the thrill of living abroad has worn off? At the 14-month mark, maybe nothing is new or interesting anymore? Nothing to “write home about” so to speak?

I still see interesting things every day, but I suppose they seem more normal all the time. When I talk to my family back home, I have fewer things to tell them and they have fewer things to ask about. Our day-to-day lives go on as usual – work, school, a bit of shopping, a bit of sleeping – I feel like we’re living our lives the same as we did in Canada, we just happen to be on the other side of the world.

So, what have we been up to lately? Well, our passports are full (already!), so we spent a day sitting the Canadian embassy office last week. That was nice in a familiar sort of way. Similarly, we met up with the local Canadian association president to buy tickets to the Jakarta Canadian Thanksgiving dinner coming up in a few weeks. That was also nice in a familiar sort of way, drinking tea and eating croissants with a lovely lady from Sudbury. A few new families have joined the neighbourhood, so we’re looking forward to expanding our circle of friends. And we are trying to plan some more weekend trips around the country. It’s already been a year and I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what to see and do!

All in all, not exactly blog post worthy. That being said, I hope we do have some more interesting things to share very soon. So bear with us.

Also, I’m writing this in the car and I just saw a t-shirt with a photo of a generic rapper and the hilarious caption “Amerikan hip-rocker,” so I guess things are looking up!

In the meantime, enjoy these random photos.

The Starbucks guys never get our names right. It's hilarious.
The Starbucks guys never get our names right. It’s hilarious.
Not even close.
Not even close.
The "Canada" shoe store nearby. I don't think there is any connection to Canada, or even shoes for that matter.
The “Canada” shoe store nearby. I don’t think there is any connection to Canada, or even shoes for that matter.
About a week after we got her, Goldie got super ill. We were pretty sure she was going to die, so I took this "dying bird" photo for posterity. Luckily she got better!
About a week after we got her, Goldie got super ill. We were pretty sure she was going to die, so I took this “dying bird” photo for posterity. Luckily she got better!
This spider fell on B at work. He was pretty sure he was going to die. But he got better!
This spider fell on B at work. He was pretty sure he was going to die. But he got better!

The good, the sick and the ugly

It’s true what they say about getting the good with the bad. Indeed, last night, seconds after signing the lease for our new house, I puked my guts out in the driveway of said new house.

Let me back up a bit…

The good

As you know, we’ve been looking for a house for some time. In fact, our 30 days of “free” hotel stay was up last week, so our desperation had escalated substantially. We especially wanted to live in the area near our kids’ school, but the houses there are somewhat of a hot commodity, leaving us with either very expensive or very cheap (i.e., uninhabitable) choices. So, over the past few weeks, we narrowed the options to just one house:

Pros: big,beautiful, modern, with a swimming pool and a new fridge

Cons: rather pricey, a mild termite problem, only one appliance (a new fridge), and the landlord was reportedly very very difficult to deal with (my friend in HR almost had a heart attack when I mentioned we were considering taking this place)

Despite all this, we decided it was worth the risk to be in the area we want. So, last week, we were on our way to meet with the landlord and sign our lives away. We stopped to pick up the kids from school first, and since we had about an hour before our meeting, we stuck around to chat with the other school parents. One of them asked if we had heard about the new place that just came on the market. No. She told us about it – nearby, owned by a friendly family, here’s their phone number. Within minutes, we had called, arranged to see it right away, visited it, and fallen in love! We abandoned the other house. Heh.

The house we picked is perfect for us – just the right size, in great condition, already family-friendly, and well within our price range. Last night, we signed the contract to move in by early next week.

The sick

In the meantime, we all picked up some sort of stomach bug. LittleB had it first last weekend. Unfortunately for him (and B), he missed out on a fantastic Sunday brunch with me and J. We drove into Jakarta with a group of our new expat friends to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at a very swanky hotel. It was only $50, and it included all the wine you wanted. I think I drank about a bottle and a half of champagne to myself. They also had a whole play area set up with helpers and nannies, which gave us adults a lot of freedom. Bugs bunny and winnie the pooh showed up too – but unfortunately, J spilled the beans on that one to the other kids: “You know, that’s just a guy in a costume.” Then she wondered how much they got paid.

Anyway, after LittleB started feeling better, the rest of us got sick in sequence. Me, B and J. J spent all last night throwing up. Folks, if you ever had any doubt before now, let me tell you: every surface in your hotel room has had kid puke on it. I promise.

That brings us back to the opening scene. There we were, a joyous occasion, signing for our house, but I was starting to feel very nauseous. I thought some air would help, so I went outside instead of to the bathroom. I chose poorly. (For those of you who follow me on facebook, my similar-sounding post took place after this, on the drive home.)

We all seem to be on the mend, however. So to the Moms – don’t go worrying about Dengue fever and all that. We’re fine.

The ugly

Oh yeah, then there is the one small matter of the night or two this weekend when we can’t stay in this guest house anymore (it’s full) and we can’t yet move into the new house (it’s not ready)… I guess you’ll hear that story next week.

P.S. I don’t have any pictures that specifically go with this post, so here are a few random ones, mostly taken by J. Enjoy!

 

Well, friends, this is where I work now

I started work today. Well, if you can call a day of wandering around a beautiful rainforest retreat work, that is.

Enjoy these views of my new workplace:

Moving party

In order to get the most bang for our buck, we decided to invite everyone we know to a moving party a few days ago. Thanks to the four of you who showed up!

No, but seriously, it was fantastic to spend some time with the important people in our lives. And to drink a lot of beer.

Enjoy the following action shots:

The countdown is on

Well, we’re flying out in T minus 3 days, and it’s coming up quickly! The past week has been filled with many “last times” and an awful lot of goodbyes.

We took the kids to parliament hill for the first time (and last time, at least for a while)
We took the kids to parliament hill for the first time (and last time, at least for a while)
We also said goodbye to some special cousins!
We also said goodbye to some special cousins!

Our friends and family joined us for a fantastic going-away party. That post is coming up next!