Category Archives: Moving Abroad
Well, having spent a few months trying out Blogger instead of WordPress and acquiring a new iPad mini along the way, I think I’m back!
They say to embrace change but I wonder when I’m changing something just because I can, or to try out the latest ‘thing’ and when change really is to the benefit of me and those in my community.
Having struggled to access WordPress while in Vietnam I switched but it occurs to me that I prefer WP and now that I’m back in Europe there really isn’t any reason not to return.
So, here I am, back up and running and plenty to share from the last few months – about life, identity, family and a sense of belonging.
To be continued …!
One of the things I knew nothing about before moving to Hanoi was the reality of the climate here. Speaking completely personally, and no, I’m not an expert (!) – it’s awful! We’ve been here almost a full calendar year having arrived at the very beginning of March 2012, February is the only month we haven’t experienced yet.
Apart from November which was a lovely month (am I biased because I had friends to stay and it was my birthday?), no weatherwise it was pretty good, really every single month has been a challenge for me. When I first arrived I was pretty soon struck down with Hanoi Hack (a medical term folks, I’m not making it up for dramatic effect), that took weeks to clear up before a short period of respite and another bout of coughing, bronchitis, sinusitis …..
Add to the challenge of keeping my body healthy with all the pollution here, the climate itself and really I’m amazed I’m still here! March was very grey, April started to brighten up, May – August were so unbelievably hot that going up a flight of 10 steps inside the house seemed like a gargantuan effort. Oh you get the picture …
One of the things I love about the Vietnamese, and expats now I come to think about it, is their willingness to share information. And this is particularly so when it comes to medication. I have drunk all sorts of herbal concoctions and teas which were absolutely guaranteed to cure a cough (and no, I don’t know what was in them but they looked horrid enough to perhaps work!), I’ve spooned down all sorts of hideous syrupy liquids, taken tablets, antibiotics, anti histamines …. However, I think all of this has been a waste of time and my latest venture – to a Vietnamese lady who practises traditional Chinese medicine – pretty much sums up the state of play.
After listening carefully to everything I have tried so far (and to be fair, only giving the very faintest of smiles), looking at my tongue, taking my pulse and blood pressure and then feeling around various key parts of the body she gave her diagnosis: My body was fighting itself, it is not in harmony and really the fighting is too much. So, I must start yoga, only eat food that is fresh and in season, gargle and sniff sterilised salt water twice a day, take exercise, relax more and stop struggling against my own body but let it find it’s own path to healing.
And the bill? A big fat Xero. She said there was no charge for her advice because really it was just common sense that I had forgotten and there is nothing wrong with me that my body won’t sort out for itself if I just give it a chance and lay off all the medicines.
A tip here that could result in some impressive savings for the National Health system in the UK perhaps?!
Last night was an important event in our family’s journey. My husband’s firm hosted a Bon Voyage cocktail party for him at the fabulous Bridgewater Hall in Manchester which was attended by clients, contacts, colleagues and his family. Our boys ages range from 25 – 17 years and their experience of ‘public’ events of this kind has been, not surprisingly, rather limited. They did us and themselves proud though – networking and chatting like professionals.
As with so many social events of this scale, we all came away regretting not having had more time to talk to more people but in full agreement that the night had been a great success. It was lovely for the boys to hear people talking about a man that they only really know of as ‘dad’ in such glowing terms and with obvious regret that he’s leaving Manchester coupled with admiration at the adventure we’re embarking on.
As we settled down together for the night and reflected on what a great evening we’d had, my husband became very quiet and started to list all the people who hadn’t made it, some of whom had accepted and not then sent any apology for their absence. Oh how human – why do we so often reflect on what we don’t like or what didn’t happen?! I made the usual platitudes about how many did come (far more than didn’t) and how we hadn’t managed to speak to everyone anyway so more guests would only have exacerbated the situation. He was slightly mollified but still a little upset by some of the ‘no shows’.
This got me thinking though. Hand on heart, not one of those people meant him any harm by not attending. Some will have had cast iron, genuine reasons for their absence. And for many they simply won’t even have thought that their presence would be missed.
What I’ve taken from the evening, in addition to the friendship and support of so many guests and a great sense of pride in our boys, is a reminder to Keep Your Word. I am as guilty as the next person of saying I’ll do something (and meaning it at the time) and then changing my mind, often due to tiredness or lethargy rather than anything more acceptable as an excuse. So, one thing I want to take to Hanoi next month is a commitment to keep my word. If I commit to something, business or social, my aim is to keep that commitment and not assume that my absence won’t be noticed or missed.
Right, back to sorting the cookery books into piles to either ship or store!
I applaud the move to a paperless world (except where novels are concerned and much as I love my e-reader, there’s nothing quite like holding a book in my hands) but …
We’re at the part of the process of becoming expats where we have to notify everyone of our change of address and/or cancellation of whatever service we previously bought from them. Having enjoyed the benefits of being able to conduct my own transactions and manage my accounts on line, I’m now paying the price as I try to make changes remotely too. Nearly everyone wants confirmation in writing, fair enough it is no doubt as they claim ‘for my additional security’ but boy oh boy, I’ve spent hours trying to find exactly who to write to and where and running off letters with all the correct references and account numbers on. And these are just the accounts, services and utilities. Direct mail is a whole other category.
Despite starting months ago and dutifully notifying Saga (I know, I know, I’m way too young but their stuff automatically kicks in on your 50th birthday), Pia Jewellery, Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and a zillion a.n.others I still get mail from 90% of them. Once you’re on their database there is no place to hide.
Which leads me to my next gripe. Health Insurance/Medical Cover. Having been cossetted by the National Health Service in the UK, not perfect I know but has always done me very well, I now find myself needing private health cover as an expat. Trying to compare the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels (or whatever equivalent title they’re given) with USA cover or without, with evacuation or without, with or without dental … I don’t even know how to begin to decide. But that’s not my real issue. My real issue is with the brilliance on the part of all these environmentally friendly companies who no longer need to send a brochure. Simply email the pdf and some poor sucker at the other end has to either print the whole thing out or spend half a day sifting through the pages that are actually needed in order to make an informed decision.
I’m exhausted and my head’s spinning. Maybe it will all become clearer after a glass of wine? Will I have to declare it on my medical application form?
It’s official, the house is now available to let and I’m busy getting all those odd jobs done that we never quite got around to. Like putting draught excluder on the windows and doors that previously allowed the gales to blow right in as we shivered inside muttering: We should put draught excluder on that window/door. Daft isn’t it – £6.95 in B & Q and we’re snug as bugs. The only thing is we do get a bit of a shock when we open a door and realise it is actually still blowing that gale outside, we just didn’t notice it!!!
Enough about draught excluder. The To Let board has just gone up outside the house and I feel quite strange looking out at it – there’s something slightly vulnerable about being inside a house that’s advertising the fact that you’re going. Anyway, we’ve had an enquiry from a family relocating from Austria which I’d love – there’s something really appealing about a family having an adventure here as ex pats while we’re in Vietnam doing the same. However, sentimental old fool that I am – a rental’s a rental and I won’t insist that the house goes to ‘someone that I like’ 🙂
Christmas was wonderful and we had plenty of time with all the kids which was great – they seem to think that they must spend lots of time with us because we’ll soon be gone. They do know we’re back on 16th June don’t they?! Ah well, I’m not complaining, it’s been ace.
This week has been remarkably stressful because I ‘phoned Singapore Airlines, just to confirm the arrangements for Sally and was told that they don’t take pets from the UK. Panic, panic, deep breaths, scream. Not to be deterred I emailed them and asked the same thing, only to have a lovely man call me to say yes it can all be done, to explain the process and get her booked in. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I always like to speak to someone first and really dislike/distrust online booking forms. This incident reminds me though how important it is to do both – but make sure you’re dealing with someone who does actually know/have the ability to help you. Avoid call centres at all cost!!!
In addition to clearing the house I’m busily arranging to meet family and friends to say goodbye – only 6 weeks really to do it all and we’re going to Vejer for a week in the middle of it all so plenty to keep me busy.
Flights booked – check
Fraser Suites booked – check
Furniture sorted – err, no.
Ho, hum, we’re making such a meal out of this ship v. store business that I’m tempted just to bring everything, wastepaper bins and all. Actually, that reminds me, when we bought a house in Spain a few years ago I had a devil of a job finding wastepaper bins. So yeah, I guess I will bring them with me!
Everything’s pretty much on hold now while we enjoy our final Christmas in the family home before everything gets removed and the house becomes someone else’s home. The agent is coming on Thursday to take photos and is really confident about letting it quickly – hope he gives us time to move out!!! What a strange day to take the photos though – Christmas tree and chaos everywhere but, his choice.
CELTA is finished – yippee. I’m quietly confident that I’ve passed and will be gutted if I haven’t. Speaking of passing things, my extremely clever little sister heard today that she’s passed her M.A. with a Merit – well done Zo if you read this 🙂
We had such fun booking our flights to Hanoi because I’d decided that I definitely want to go Air France because it’s the quickest journey time – 14 hours from Manchester to Hanoi with only the one stop in Paris. Perfect I thought. Perfect we thought – let’s book it. And that’s where our problems started. 1st March, two passengers, one way to Hanoi. Everything going smoothly until you actually click the button to confirm your purchase and then it broke us the bad news (rather brutally it has to be said): No seats available. Seriously? For the 1st March next year?
Okay, we tried the following day, week, month, 6 months ahead. Nothing would work. We checked Singapore Airlines (and yes I was sulking at this point – 19 hours. Quote of the evening from my husband: Well, 14 hours, 19 hours, what’s the difference? (and him an accountant) – 5 hours I replied. 5 whole hours. We checked Vietnam Airways, Qatar Air, Aeroflot, South China Air (oh okay, we didn’t exactly check the the last two, but they did come up as options). The journey time was an issue, the excess baggage charge another ($50/kilo – are you kidding?) and not wanting to stop in Doha another.
After several hours and a lot of frustration I had the brilliant idea that perhaps Air France would work if we booked a return. Eureka! 2nd March, returning 16th June (for aforementioned younger sister’s wedding) – all booked and paid for, and cheaper than a single flight.
Now it’s just my stepson and the dog to sort – Singapore Airlines here I come. What’s 19 hours for a youngster getting a free holiday eh! Actually, the real reason is that you need an airline that does the whole route whereas the first leg of the Air France journey is fulfilled by Flybe.
Well, we’re on Plan C regarding furniture shipment versus storage but at least we’re making progress (baby steps are still progress right?!).
There’s something so intimidating about official documents to my mind. We’ve just got back our ACRO certificates of good conduct from the Police and, despite both being certified as 100% in the clear, we look like criminals on the photos and the document looks exactly as it would if we had convictions as long as your arm. Couldn’t they put ‘good’ certificates on different coloured paper or would that be discrimination? Okay, just a joke 🙂
We’ve got our visas sorted and were just about to send a load of paperwork off to be officially translated by an approved translation agency when it appears that can all be done in Vietnam provided it’s been notarised here, certified by the F&C Office and the Vietnamese Embassy in London. Seriously? I can’t help thinking that my husband’s firm is ‘doing things by the book’ but have a sneaky suspicion that 80% of people doing the same move wouldn’t be ticking quite so many of the boxes! Ah well, we’re keeping a whole army of officials in business I guess!
The dog next – I need to sit my dog courier (okay, stepson!) down tomorrow and explain exactly what he’ll be required to do (as best as I can having never actually done it myself), including possibly needing some jabs himself. Then I’m ready to get his visa and both their flights booked.
Interestingly, we were due to book our flights last week end and didn’t get around to it. Not a great sign eh!! I think actually booking flights feels a little bit too real but we’re going to need to at some point given that everything else will be booked and sorted. It would be a shame to miss all the fun by not having plane tickets!
Blimey, who’d have thought it was so complicated trying to decide what to do with various items of furniture and personal possessions? First of all we decided (perhaps being a little cowardly) that we’d just ship most of it out to Hanoi and decide what to bring back when the time comes. Then, after seeking advice from friends and people in the know, we decided to store stuff that we thought we’d definitely want back here at the end of our Vietnamese adventure. And now …?
Well, the cost of storing it seems ridiculous and most of it is far too good to just give away but the second hand value of household things and furniture is almost zero and I can’t really be bothered trying to sell items bit by bit – surely life’s too short to go down that road? I’m exhausted just thinking about it – mind you I am full of a cold and dosed up with Beechams Cold and Flu Remedy so that probably isn’t helping on the ‘clarity of thought’ front!
Think we’re going to end up shipping it out there and then deciding what to do when the time comes to return home – i.e. procrastinating 🙂
Hugely mixed emotions today. The first quote for transporting Sally door to door from Sale to Hanoi arrived into my Inbox this morning and I need a lie down. Crikey – even if you say it quickly that’s a lot of money! Okay, add to my already overstretched To Do List – get more pet transport quotes!!!
On the other hand, and when my heart has stopped doing double quick time, the first of the relocation agents is coming this afternoon to advise/quote on shipping/storing etc. At least we don’t have to pay this bit of the move (well, the storage I guess is down to us) but still a little nervous based on the dog quote experience!
If anyone living in Hanoi has a dog can you tell me please – are there places to take them to run and play off lead? Sally’s a lively whippet/lurcher – like a little greyhound so a very fast runner. I think in the hot weather she’ll be a bit lazier than she is here and she doesn’t like the rain very much so that will keep her indoors a bit too but realistically she is going to need to run. Here I take her out, off lead (leash to American readers I think?), for 40-60 minutes a day. She’d need that twice a week I think and a regular long walk on lead the other days.
Phew, I feel like I’ve done 5 rounds with Amir Khan and it’s only 09.30 🙂
Yippee, we’ve agreed what we’re doing with all the items in one room of the house. Okay, we haven’t done anything with them yet and I did pick the easiest room – the sitting room. But, don’t knock it, for a hoarder this is amazing progress with 6 months still to go before we move!
I’ve devised a Ship, Store, Sell checklist; itemised everything in the room and then have a quickfire session where hubby gets to say what happens to each item. Any that I don’t agree with we discuss before moving onto the next item. I think this is called teamwork!
I haven’t quite worked out a prize system yet but really feel that something should be on offer to make a painful process a little more enticing! (Prize for me that is, Kevin (did I mention his name before – well, he’s the hubby!) isn’t sentimental about most ‘stuff’ and would happily get rid of 90% of it).
Ship and Store are pretty self explanatory but Sell actually means I need to give some thought to anyone who might want the item among our friends and family. If not, whether it genuinely is worth selling, if it would better suit www.freecycle.org , the charity shop, local community furniture project, recycling or the dump.
Time for coffee and cake to give me the energy to tackle – the dining room 🙂