Where did all the time go? Like almost everyone on Planet Earth for the last 14 months, I ask that question often but even more so every time I get an email informing me that someone read one of my posts despite an 18 month lapse of current content. Surprisingly, it seems people still find, view, and even inquire about our pre-pandemic overseas expat experiences. Realizing another annual subscription fee awaits like a wild animal stalking its prey, I decided that wasting more money for the privilege of retaining a dormant domain name is counterproductive. Having built a small but relatively loyal readership over five years, it’s high time I resume our chronological journey through an experimental overseas early retirement. (Spoiler alert; we’re back in Canada so the overseas segment is now Part One of Who Knows).
Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten my block editor basics and Grammarly refuses to work unless I use some ridiculous backdoor method of logging in so please excuse any sloppiness. Pondering how and where to start given the amount of disruption and pain to countless souls across the globe, I felt like nobody needs yet another story of how I spent my pandemic year. But for what it’s worth, we did experience a classic “Only in Thailand” experience and were somehow able to hide out through the peak of the chaos in a small beach town in the only province that still allowed beachcombing (minus the water sports). Retrospectively, it made a difficult time quite easy, albeit a bit repetitive in a tropical beach kind of way. So first let’s catch up on my last post back in the last presidency when we’d returned from Malaysia for the last time after cashing in our MM2H Fixed Deposits.
Wondering why retired people with no job waiting for them back home would experience jet leg, let me go on record and dispel a myth. Despite not having any schedule other than deciding what and when to eat, sleep and leave the house, our body’s natural rhythm known as “the body clock”doesn’t care nor understand you were laid off almost five years agoand chose an experimental overseas early retirement. Having returned from our excruciatingly long North American jaunt that totaled just over 34 hours and landed us in our living room just under two full days after leaving, I learned that losing an entire day due to time differences and trans-continental flights catches up to you no matter how much you sleep on the planes. Attempting a return to my rather “anal”routine, it took until the third morning until I finally felt rested. Which leads me into my segment on our choice to spend almost a thousand extra bucks for “premium economy”. Throughout this post, I’ll include pictures showing what you get for your extra money on Cathay Pacific Airlines.
The Cathay Pacific Premium Economy seat
Having returned to Chiang Mai during the off-peak months when the rainy season blues are in full swing, I noticed my first post after a two month layoffgarnered little fanfare compared to my historical numbers despite having somehow picked up dozens of new followers even without posting any new content. Realizing I’m not the interactive type, this doesn’t surprise me but I’d like to at least feel like somebody besides me gives a crap (or even enjoys) my style of slightly off beat cynical yet realistically optimistic expat tales, so instead of spending all the gloomy days in the coffee shop playing Words with Friendsand pretending to practice speaking Thai, I’ll put off the morning walks on non-workout days and focus on getting more content out there. Thankfully, I did go to a gym once in both Edmonton and Calgary which is ambitious for a “vacation” so hitting the weights again was easier than returning from our recent springtime escape from the Chiang Mai Burning Season.
Watching yet another round of useless U.S. presidential primaries that helped solidify the inevitable shift towards a twenty-first century version of 1930’s Germany, the real life American Horror Story played out in three more states as American voters continue making the biggest mistake in the history of free elections. Flipping through Facebook looking for anything positive, I stumbled on a new report from Condé Nast Traveler that ranked Penang the number two place in the world to retire. Citing the convenience and ease of theMM2H Visa along with access to historic architecture, culinary delights, a thriving art scene, international standard health care and an English-speaking community of expats, this didn’t really surprise me that much although that’s higher than most rankings I’ve seen in the past.
The view from our condo
Further noting Georgetown’s UNESCO status, proximity to Singapore and many beaches, the brief caption summarized some of the best highlights. While agreeing with many points, I’m unsure what target audience the magazine hopes to lure in. Given the millions of serious inquiries by Americans about moving to Canada should President Trump become reality, I’d almost swear it’s for disgruntled but sane American voters not so pathetically angry and broke like the newly created populist rebellion crowd. Add in the fact that they’d rank a Muslim country so high while conveniently forgetting to mention the official religion and you’ve almost got a scandal on your hands at least according to any CNN exit poll of Republican voters who almost unanimously agree with barring two billion people from the entering the world’s model of freedom.
Wrapping up our last holiday season in the cold before moving to Malaysia in a few months, Diane and I headed south from Edmonton and spent New Year’s Eve in Calgary with her family. Reminiscing about my six years as an American expat in Canada, I began reflecting on all the Canadian businesses either gone or gobbled up by American corporations. Asking most Canadians what defines their identity usually yields the proud response “We’re not American”. While that may still be true, scores of major Canadian industry staples including Molsons, Tim Hortons and The Bay allowed themselves to merge into American corporations with little fanfare.
Sadly, a post 9/11 world dominated by the world’s only superpower desperately clinging to keep their global status intact means citizens of Canada have little or no say in the Americanization of their proud nation. Fortunately, there are always some icons that simply can’t exist in the mighty American homeland for various reasons from political correctness issues to culinary taste differences. Sharing my own personal list of favorite Canadian things not found in The States, I offer up the following list and wish everyone a happy and healthy 2015.
Sidenote: Only Americans call it “America”. The rest of the world refers to the USA as “The States”, probably so they can also disassociate themselves and be “not American”.
Recalling my first Boxing Day Blowout extravaganza as a newly minted American expat living in Canada brings back memories of sleeplessness, blurry eyed crazed Canadians standing in minus 25 temperatures and packed parkades at 4 AM. (sidenote for Americans: A parking garage in Canada is a parkade. Yeah, I didn’t know that either.) Contrasting sharply with America, Christmas day in Canada is not for hitting the movies, watching the annual NBA holiday matchup or drinking yourself into a stupor and sleeping until Noon the next day. Preparing for the mad dash known as Boxing Day, the Canadian version of Black Friday, was all that counted.
My in-laws street in Edmonton
Arriving for my first holiday dinner with new in-laws in Edmonton back in 2000, I discovered that families hung out with each other all day chatting about insignificant but conversational issues and watched the Yule Log while waiting for the big holiday meal. Strangely devoid of normal music, there was nothing but Christmas carols on the radio even on the classic rock station. Mystified, I opened the door to reach for the morning paper, but learned that the newspapers didn’t publish an edition on December 25th.
Approaching our last American Thanksgiving holiday before the move to Malaysia, DIane and I plan on preparing one last home cooked turkey dinner for two. Because we’re a mixed marriage (she’s Canadian, I’m American), this marks our second Thanksgiving dinner this year. Taking the easy way out in October, we drove to a local Hofbrau on Columbus Day for our annual Canadian Thanksgiving dinner (shown in the picture below). Falling on a Monday like a normal three-day weekend, the Northern version is more of a harvest festival without Puritans, Indians, NFL football and annual parades presented by large department stores.
Discussing the nuances of life as an American expat in Canada in a recent post, we highlighted important issues like understanding insane weather forecasts in Celsius and why the world’s largest indoor mall plays an important role during the holidays. Learning the differences between Canadian and American holidays takes some education and after the sixth year I finally mastered what days I’d be home from the office. Facing a brand new set of challenges, I glanced at the 2015 Public Holidays in Penang and sadly, I’m bewildered by Hari Rya Day,Merdeka Day and two days of Chinese New Year. Unsure how to celebrate Thaipusm and Wesa Day, it occurred to me I’ll need complete retraining. Continue reading →
Having now sold over $1,000 worth of crap using the amazingly effective app called Offer Up, I recently began emptying boxes in the garage. Taking stock of what goes in storage or gets shipped to Malaysia, I reminisced about a three-month period almost erased from memory as I discovered some old trinkets. After my first stint as an American expat in Canada, Diane and I made a failed attempt at living in San Diego. Perpetually famous as one of America’s dream retirement spots, it’s also the largest big city in the world located so close to a free border between two nations.
Diane protecting us from Mexican immigrants
Recently I posted about changes in the Malaysian MM2H visa application process that involve stringent new income verification rules. Potentially affecting American citizens, we’ve been informed by Joy-Stay (our agent) of possible delays or even rejection should our application be “selected” for verification of the verification. Accordingly, we’ve contacted some of our readers living in Thailand asking for information on their current visas if “Plan B” becomes necessary. Reiterating Thailand’s ridiculous revolving door policy of never-ending “enter, exit, enter again”, some of you told us about a “retirement visa” but with an annual renewal requirement requiring our physical presence, that didn’t seem very convenient compared to ten years of unlimited entry.