Knowing many of you are partaking in colorful celebrations this week, Diane and I would like to extend a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year to everyone no matter where you are. Sadly, I am sitting at a mostly empty house in the very non-Asian town of Walnut Creek, California waiting for February to end so we can finally sell this house, file our MM2H Visa and get the heck out of Dodge City. (Sorry: One last cheesy American slang expression). Although San Francisco does put on the largest Chinese New Year’s Parade in America, The Experimental Expats will be celebrating with some frozen Kung-Pao Chicken and Fried Rice courtesy of Trader Joes, our local processed food mecca. Can you see why it’s time to get outta here?
Of course America never does anything the way the rest of The Earth does so unlike much of Asia where businesses shut down for a week allowing for family celebrations, today is a normal two-hour commute here in the land of Never Ending Work. In fact, the so-called “Chinese New Year Parade” will be held on March 7th, a full ten days after the real holiday. Why? Because this nation stops for nothing, works through everything and believes that life is about obtaining the most material objects possible and then never retiring to enjoy anything anyway. Stores are open on Thanksgiving Day and it’s only a matter of time until someone invents a way to keep retail alive on Christmas Day.
So for now, we spend our last Chinese New Year in a very non-Chinese environment and look forward to spending 2016 among thousands of revelers that understand the true meaning of the holiday. Taking some time to reflect on one’s life and look towards the future represents the true spirit of Chinese New Year (along with some red envelopes of course). With apologies for the bastardized American pronunciation which is a Cantonese version:
Gung Hay Fat Choy !!
Coming next: The adventure starts as vendors arrive to pretty up our house
After spending a year that felt like an eternity as a house husband, 2015 is upon us and suddenly an overwhelming sense of finality has set in. While thousands of fellow bloggers have simply “sold all their stuff” and left for wherever, the concept is different for old people (over 40) that lived a 30 year cubicle lifestyle complete with two car garages, suburban lawns and two-hour daily commutes. While I never want to return to the boring work of being a financial services peon, I’ve almost grown used to being a useless suburban slug that spends his days exercising, food shopping and blogging. But with Diane growing tired of being the sugar-mama, it’s time to buckle down and start packing.
Slightly anxious, we spent last weekend at the local U-Haul store purchasing moving supplies. Deciding it makes more sense to put whatever we’d want for future use in storage and not send it to a port in Penang with no known destination, we kept the inventory to 15 medium boxes, 5 large, 10 small and one dishpack (mostly to save our Tim Horton’s collectible Hockey Hall of Fame glass set). Veterans to the U-Haul store, Diane and I have already had 7 addresses in 14 years of marriage, three in the San Francisco Bay area, three in Calgary and even a six month stint in San Diego (we hated living there). Having sent our stuff 2,000 miles by truck (Twice. And once from SoCal to NorCal), you’d think we’d be seasoned veterans. But moving is not the same as ditching everything for a new life in an unfamiliar continent across the globe and a certain degree of nervous anticipation filled my head.
November 30th marks exactly two months since our blog opened for business and one long year since my unexpected layoff that led to my current House Husband Status. Approaching the home stretch, we have 136 days until we file our paperwork for MM2H, the ten-year social visit pass that acts as our residency visa in Penang. Upon approval, we finally both begin early retirement in Malaysia. Simultaneously, our house goes on the market in mid March and hopefully closes escrow by May, rendering us homeless and forcing us out.
As a total newbie that knew nothing at all about blogging, HTML, CSS or anything else technical, I had no idea what kind of response I’d receive. Many of you provided support, complimented my writing style and offered help during our transition to an overseas destination we’ve never visited. Unfamiliar with the blogosphere, I’m unclear if this good or not but I just received my 4,000th page view and have managed to entice90 followers so far. I want to thank everyone for helping me along the way and especially anyone who shared, re-blogged, commented and took part in any of our posts. With a lot more to learn about blogging and entering a very scary but exciting period, your responses, follows, and advice make it a bit easier. Finally, a special thank you to those expats in Asia who have shared their email addresses with us and allowed us to build a small social network before we even arrive.
Coming in December: Parts 3 and 4 of The Galapagos Islands Series, our last Arctic holiday in Canada and an update on potential MM2H trouble that might land us in Thailand
Arriving right on time, Oscar pulled up to the driveway Saturday morning, unloaded his equipment and began the great yard cleanup project. Armed with only one assistant that spoke no English, a leaf blower, chainsaw and some rakes, he skillfully and methodically cut, trimmed, chopped and cleaned the overgrown mess that cluttered our entire property. Deemed necessary by our real estate agent, we finally began the first step towards the move to Malaysia and mimicked the other residents of our middle class neighborhood . Giving in to suburban yard sprawl, we shirked our responsibilities as we learned them growing up and paid someone else to do it.
Crows escaping the carnage
Recalling my recent post with the “before ” pictures, , the “after” pictures speak almost as powerfully as a small town devastated by a tornado. Uncovering spots of the property long covered and overgrown, the back yard looked like one of those post-apocalyptic movie sets where the humans are gone and the plants and animals took over. Destroying hundreds of precious hidden items, countless nuts and other wintertime storage goodies were swept away, leaving who knows how many squirrels heading for the small animal soup kitchen. Uncovering the entire quarter acre of property as the day went by, we watched in awe as four years of garden neglect went up in leaf blowing smoke.
Surrounded by a sea of overgrown green even Kermit The Frog would consider too much, our newly hired “stager” parked her moderately priced car in front of our house and quickly surveyed the project. Unclear why a house in the San Francisco suburbs that’s in excellent condition needs a major outside overhaul, Diane and I recently gave in to our real estate agent’s wishes and agreed to a major exterior cleanup project. Having successfully found a great app to sell our crap, we even raised enough cash to pay for the project.
This is only page one
Classified as “Mediterranean Climate”, the inland suburbs of San Francisco are a paradise for gardeners, botanists and undocumented workers that do every conceivable form of maintenance seven days a week. Literally the ONLY homeowners in our entire neighborhood that refuse to pay for yard work, a task our generation grew up doing ourselves, we admit that our quarter acre corner lot is a bit “overgrown”. Regardless of cut-rate prices charged by unskilled laborers that generally live an “all cash” lifestyle, given the choice between retiringearly in Malaysia versus or up with the neighbors, the choice was always a no-brainer.
Suffering our first major setback before we even file the residency paperwork, Diane and I are back to being homeless expats with nowhere to go. Unexpected but not really surprisingly, the Malaysian we met on the now defunct MM2H forum backed out on his rental offer. Owning a 12th floor apartment in the Penang apartment complex we’d been eyeing, his never-ending American work ambitions somehow keep him from maintaining or even renting the unit out while he lives somewhere on the East Coast. Informing us we’d have to make special trips to meet and exchange information, we decided an extra plane trip in the opposite direction didn’t make much financial sense.
kicked out before we even got there
Adding to the enormous leap of faith required for expatriation somewhere you’ve never stepped foot in, the disappointment quickly led to a realization that selling your house and all your possessions when your date of birth is anything earlier than 1972 is quite scary. Hoping to secure another apartment from overseas before our home closes escrow next spring, our quest for a new housing contract started anew exactly one year after my unexpected layoff.Continue reading →
What’s the difference between an American and a Canadian garage sale? Canadians buy things.
Realizing time flies, we participated in the annual neighborhood garage sale today. Sponsored by a local real estate agent, it’s designed to be a quick way to earn some cash for unwanted stuff. Realistically, it’s more like an eight-hour waste of time. With six months to go until the magical Malaysian visa filing date, we thought getting a head start couldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, almost nobody came and those that did wouldn’t part with $5 for an $800 bicycle. Continue reading →