Christmas present for the Ants

When Diane and I travel, we always leave a night-light with a timer on in the living room that faces the street to avoid a deserted house look. Thankfully, it’s always worked and we’ve never had any burglary issues. Unfortunately, someone forgot to explain the night light’s meaning to the ants. Returning back from a two-week Canadian jaunt, our last holiday season in the cold before the upcoming move to Malaysia, we walked into the house and came face to face with a superhighway of little ants. Appearing to start in somewhere in the kitchen heating vent, they formed an amazingly perfect commuter highway leading past the kitchen, across the hallway, into the living room and culminating at another heating vent large enough to support a colony of unknown proportions.

Last weekend, while still in Calgary, we checked the Yahoo weather forecast while huddled up in a cozy warm Canadian house, and chuckled at the “frost warnings” issued for Northern California while the weather outside hovered at -25 C (about five below zero for the Metric challenged). The Bay Area usually gets a week of near freezing overnight temperatures and if you think they bundle up when it’s only cool, you should see them when it’s near freezing. Unfortunately, cold snaps also push the threshold for a comfortably warm ant colony. Once it’s too cold, ants seek shelter anywhere warm and when the scouter ants discover an unoccupied house, they move all their little belongings into said warm spot.


Probably the last thing anyone wants to do after a two-hour holiday delay at the airport as soon as they walk in the house is run to the mud room and break out the Raid. Fortunately, we had literally just enough to spray the entire ant superhighway. Forced to work as a team before even taking off our coats, I sprayed and Diane vacuumed until they were all gone. Strangely, they went nowhere near the pantry housing enough dry foods for 10,000 ant lifetimes, proving they are cold, just like all the other sad Californians that wouldn’t last two seconds in Canada during winter.

Although it sounds gross, it’s really not that bad because the ants never come back once you eradicate their colony and unlike tropical ants, these little creatures carry no disease, don’t bite and are easy to get rid of. Learning many years ago to always check your footwear carefully in the tropics, Diane was once attacked in Costa Rica by a bunch of fire ants that seemed to enjoy her left sandal. Painfully aware of the consequences, this is one area that requires no education once we live in Malaysia.

Briefly summarizing our last experience in the cold Canadian winter, here’s some things we almost forgot:

Alberta winter skies are absolutely beautiful

sunrise 4

Frost engulfs trees when the temperature is just right


Real hockey means small little outdoor rinks and everyone plays .

real hockey 5

It’s too cold to walk or wait for a bus during the winter in Canada


But it’s apparently not too cold to cycle:

biking in winter

Downtown may look beautiful when it’s -30 with steam coming off all the buildings but travelling anywhere is not much fun


And one thing we learned: Apparently Obama’s new immigration bill allowing amnesty for millions of undocumented Americans came too late for the owners of this business down the street from Diane’s childhood house (There was one Mexican restaurant in a city of one million residents back in 2007)


Enjoying ourselves immensely and eating lots of Canadian goodies, we had a wonderful time but the calendar marches on and it’s finally coming down to the nitty-gritty. After the longest year of my life as a house husband, the time to sell the house, dump our possessions and get going with early retirement as expats is fast approaching.

Ridiculous as it seems, the leaves from our crab apple tree and wisteria vine above our front entrance way did not finish dropping until the last week in December. With the brief rain and cold a distant memory, we’ve gone back to sunny and above average temperatures every day, leaving about six weeks for Oscar to return and finish the landscaping project before the first new buds and leaves appear.

True to their word, Liberty Mutual Insurance issued a check for the total loss value of my now defunct 2007 Honda Accord. Damaged beyond repair last month in an amazingly slow parking lot collision due to a brake failure, they delivered everything on schedule with little fanfare, adjusted my two car premium down by $134 and issued an immediate refund, allowed use of a 30 day rental at no cost and didn’t even count it against my good driving discount (of course the accident was due to mechanical failure, not my poor driving skills). Prohibited by law (Diane’s law) from disclosing our finances, I can happily report that the check came out to 58% of my purchase price, amazing for a 7 year old vehicle.

My former car

My former car

Understandably, my stomach is beginning to turn a bit at all the crap that needs to occur before we actually wind up chowing down on char-kway-toy and relaxing the years away in the rainy tropical paradise of Malaysia. Shelling over an insane fee of $133 each for Police Certificates from our local police department, we see a lot of cash bleeding away before we get settled. Having lost our American rental contact for a Penang condo, we have moved to another approach.

CaptureThrough this very blog, we’ve become best friends with another couple who happens to be in a similar life situation and is also applying for an MM2H Visa for emigration to Malaysia. Since he’s a year older than me, waiting for his 50th birthday is not required so hopefully they wind up already living there when it’s time for us to fly away. We are driving up to a neighboring state to meet them next month for the first time and they’ve generously offered to let us stay with them in Malaysia a few days when we arrive so we can find a place to live and meet some friends that will help us get settled. Changing the intended destination temporarily to Ipoh, about two hours away from Penang is a small price to pay for the comfort of good friends so we thank them both immensely. (You know who you are).

Over the upcoming weeks, we plan on sharing some of our Canadian trip pictures as well as describing the mental torment of finally leaving for early retirement after having 18+ months to think about it. I’d like to once again thank those who’ve supported my posts, offered help and suggestions and keep making the transition a bit easier through the blogosphere.

Ever been infested by ants in the topics? Please share tips with us !!!

Coming this month:

Winter (real winter) pictures,
How to get rid of even more crap
Why staging a house in a middle class California neighborhood is a total ripoff 

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