Whoever said living at home with the in-laws is no fun obviously wasn’t married to an Asian whose father cooked for a living. Having now been in Edmonton for a week, Diane and I have reaped the benefits of living with parents that don’t mind house squatters. Enjoying the amenities, we’ve made some great progress towards getting settled and organized in Malaysia next month, albeit with a one month phone contract that provides hotspot access in this very unconnected internet-free home. With summer approaching, every day feels like two days with the light leaking through the window at about 4:45 AM and darkness setting in somewhere near midnight. Adjusting to “sleeping in” (anything past 6 for me) is difficult for someone used to a routine (what Diane calls “being anal”) but I’m trying to change my habits and prepare for a place where life only begins after sundown due to torrid heat and humidity.
Receiving excellent news the other day, we’re happy to report that our MM2H application has officially been bypassed for “selection of banking verification” a tedious process recently implemented by the Ministry that basically amounts to a triple check of information already provided in the application package. According to our agent, we can expect the approval letter to come through sometime around early August (it would normally be late July but that falls during a period of high holidays and we’re still getting used to the very un-American concept of business and industry shutting down for an entire week). Clearing the way for an early arrival to Penang with expectations of an approval letter about a month later, we’ve decided to keep our plane reservations as-is and search for housing on a three-month tourist entry while the visa makes its way through the ministry’s red tape.
Alleviating our earlier concerns with the banking issues, our awesome relationship manager in Kuala Lumpur did some checking and assured us that as Premier checking clients in the USA, the status allows us to open a local bank account ahead the of the visa approval and even before we find a place to live. Utilizing the address of the hotel in Penang, we filled out some forms that he emailed and sent them off to Malaysia via Canada Post International Express Mail despite the insane $65 charge. (Sidenote: Thanks to a strong U.S. dollar, we use a no transaction fee travel rewards credit card for almost all purchases in Canada and enjoy paying about $0.80 for every Canadian dollar). Using today’s technology, we even spoke to our banker for free the other night on Viber, our choice for verbal communications that bypass the phone lines. VOIP technology sure has come a long way since its early days, allowing free calls to anyone with a Viber account and only about two cents a minute to landlines anywhere in the world.
Returning to the topic at hand, squatting at the in-laws’ house is not so bad as I’ve been staying here for 15 years and have learned to adapt to all the rules of living in a Chinese household (shoes off, no messiness, clean the shower daily etc). In exchange we usually get home cooked meals which probably don’t taste anything like Penang but are still delicious. Of course even Diane’s parents don’t want to cook every day so on those days we compromise. Visiting a hot-pot restaurant in Edmonton’s Chinatown, we pay for lunch and they buy dinner. Conveniently located right next door to the hot-pot, their store of choice always has long lines. Featuring goodies like duck, roast pork, soy chicken and Chinese sausage, it doesn’t make for the healthiest dinner but beats the scolding I’d get if I cooked with my white guy standards of cleanliness.
Fully satisfied from the surprisingly large amount of food one can cook up at a hot-pot style restaurant, we snapped a picture of the new arena being built for the once proud but now pathetic Edmonton Oilers. Renovating downtown is finally becoming reality for a city known mostly for Wayne Gretzky and summer festivals. Lagging way behind Calgary in terms of modern buildings, the capital city’s best feature is its unique amount of green space and parks thanks to its geographically blessed river valley location.
Even after all the delicious food, Diane’s parents offered up the incredibly delicious pickled pigs feet seen in the featured image as a pre-bedtime snack. Which this may seem unappealing and gross to many, I am a lover of anything pickled especially in a vinegar based sauce so I gobbled it up, fat and all, like there was no tomorrow. Complimenting dinner perfectly, I may come back for seconds tomorrow.
Hot off the Press:
Congratulations to our new friends Eric and Marlina who just learned of their MM2H approval, today. Back in February, Diane and I drove from Walnut Creek to San Francisco to meet them face to face. Strangely similar to our situation, they also intended to apply for MM2H and move but they have some added advantages with Marlina being Singaporean and speaking fluent Malay. Headed for Ipoh, a smaller city about two hours from Penang, their visa approval took just under 15 weeks, exactly what our agent says we can expect. Having two familiar faces a short distance away can only help us acclimate and we’re sure to keep in touch in the upcoming weeks.
Planning on staying about five or six more days in Edmonton, we’ll be packing our bags and heading three hours south next week where we’ll squat at Diane’s sister’s house for about ten days in Calgary. Always feeling like home, it’s where we lived from 2001 through 2007, buying new and custom decorating a newly constructed home when prices were still reasonable. Deciding the check engine light issue outweighs our generous offer of donating a car to our niece, we plan on driving back to Vancouver and staying with Diane’s friend until we leave for Penang. Taking a mini vacation on Vancouver Island and getting some sun tanning in before hitting the torrid heat is on our to-do list and then the Western Canadian Road Trip ends and The Experimental Expat phase of life finally begins. Meanwhile we get to eat bar-b-q Chinese ribs tonight, probably my favorite thing in the world.
Feeling much more confident that all the semantics will work out, it still doesn’t feel like early retirement in any capacity nor does it feel like vacation or a family visit at the holiday season. Unsure what each day brings, that’s the part of the fun. Hoping our stories interest and inspire others to try something similar, we’ll keep posting and hope all of you keep following.
Thanks to those who’ve commented on acclimation to a tropical environment. Please comment or share your stories: if you’re interested in meeting us in Penang, please contact us on the contact page.