Epic adventures in international relocation #1

Here it is then.  Ignore the lack of capitalisation.  I didn’t even have time for that!

HOW TO MOVE OVERSEAS IN THREE MONTHS, WHILE WORKING FULL-TIME AND WITH TWO KIDS UNDER 3

9 WEEKS TO GO
this is it, for reals now.  on 27 december, we are leaving the wide brown land to take up residence hong kong.  so here is the start of a massive adventure! (probably not in blogging.  i’m going to have to really restrain myself from turning this into a list of administrative tasks now).

joel and i are both working up until about 16 december, leaving us 10 days to pack, clean the house and somehow celebrate christmas while we’re all sleeping on a futon mattress in the middle of the empty loungeroom, subsisting on parsley and whatever other potted herbs we have left in the garden, while all our worldly good cross the sea in a shipping container.

i’m going to start a weekly summary for those who are incredulous as to how we can actually move our whole lives to the other side of the world in such a short space of time and with basically no idea what we’re doing.

1.  my contract is finalised.  zadie and i are flying out this week so i can sign it.  getting her passport basically took up the first three weeks of spare time i had, and so i’m now about 60 tasks behind on my to-do list.  fuck.  those passport photos i posted a while ago?  red-eye fail.  after that, joel took her to a chemist which advertised their photo-taking service in the front window.  when he returned and we opened the envelope, i was crestfallen to see her little monkey head occupying only the bottom right quadrant of the photo, and it was out of focus.  and she had red eye.  they pretty much looked like she took them herself.  we paid $15 for our 10-month-old to take some selfies.  great.  passport office:  fail.  we finally had success in the lorne post office.  and i had to pay an extra $100 for priority processing.

2. when i booked our tickets, i was told that we would not be provided with a bassinette for zadie.  why?  “we’re phasing them out.”  i see.  luckily people are phasing out having babies too then.  you great fucking twits!!  we took rufus to hong kong when he was a bit younger than zadie is now, and even with two of us to manage him, it was a very challenging 10 hours.  juggling him back and forth so we could eat, changing his nappy in those tiny toilets.  we were desperately grateful for the bassinette when he fell asleep.  this time around, i’ll be all on my own and i’ll have to cradle zadie the whole way.  she is a fidgety baby and won’t be best pleased with this.  i pity myself of course but i especially pity the poor bastard who has to sit next to us.  my elbows will be encroaching into their space, zadie will be kicking them, our close proximity and zadie’s bad technique means they will likely get an eyeful of breastmilk at some stage of the flight, etc.  for me, it means i can’t read or watch tv or eat.  never mind all that, i can’t even go to the toilet – because i’ll have to take her with me!  that’s what i was told when i asked on booking, anyhow.  i’ve taken her to the toilet with me at home in certain circumstances.  just put her on the floor in front of me and we both go about our business.  but where am i supposed to put her in the 30 cubic centimetres available in an airline toilet?  how am i supposed to hold her and de-pant myself?  so, i plan to wear a skirt, and stock my bag with handheld bar-type snacks to get me through.  should be…great.  AND i had to pay $200 for the experience.  AND i tried to get dr wong, the idiot doctor at the end of our street, to prescribe some phenergan to at least knock her out a bit.  unfortunately dr wong is the worst doctor in the world and won’t enter any discussion about any drugs because he doesn’t seem to know anything about them.  one time i had to ask him for a script for something (can’t remember what now, but a reasonably common thing) and he spent half an hour randomly turning pages in his MIMS, pretending to read, and then just told me to ask the chemist for some advice.  he’s about 84 and he can’t even stay awake during consultations.  mrs wong has to come in and tell him what to do half the time.  she hates him.  she’s always like “dr wong, you silly billy!  sign this letter mrs king!  aiyahhh!  why you so stoopid!”  (i promise that will be the last time i racistly try to transcribe a cantonese person.  which is good news, considering where we’re going and that my job will be…transcribing cantonese people in the High Court of all places.  but while i’m on this racism tangent, i have to made an embarrassing admission.  last night we had a big party for joel’s 30th birthday and we drank many many beers, and at one point we found ourselves engaged in a conversation about what joel would be doing while i was at work.  we agreed he would be asking our amah, who we anticipate will be called concepcion or assumpta, to make him mee goreng and then they will watch tagalog soap operas on the philippines cable channel.  did i really say that!!  i thought i might feel a bit better for outing myself here.  i don’t.)

3.  dad has found us our probable new house.  it’s in Sai Kung, in a tiny village.  it’s in the middle of the country park, so forest all round, and a beach view on one side.  there’s 12 houses in the village.  some are occupied by westerners with children.  apparently it’s like a glade – no road goes through it, just a little stream.  doesn’t it sound great!  i know the dwelling will be a mission-style village house covered interiorally with 30,000 tiny greasy tiles, but the comparative space and green and beach sound idyllic.  we propose to rent the bottom two floors – downstairs being kitchen, family areas, bathroom and amah’s quarters; upstairs, three bedrooms and an ensuite.  the top floor of the village house is occupied by a single western teacher.  zadie and i will check it out this weekend, and a few other options in case we don’t like this one.

4.  we’ve had all the local real estate bozos through our house here and chosen one to find us a tenant.  if anyone knows anyone who wants to rent our house, well, i’ll give you the $110 we’re paying hocking stuart to advertise on the net for us.  actually i’ll give you $220, that’s how much i hate dealing with realos.  (this is the listing for when we bought the place two years ago.  to get an idea of what it looks like today, visualise 485 children’s books and toys scattered throughout, tiny dirty fingerprints on every surface, and lots of cat fur everywhere.)

let’s call the agent lana.  her makeup is excessive and appalling.  her cheeks are the colour and texture of pink felt, her mascara draws her eyelashes back nearly to the top of her forehead so her eyeballs pop out.  she wears a huge fake diamond cross on a chain and 6-inch stilettos.  and she does that really condescending mirroring technique to ingratiate herself with you.  i was sitting on the couch with her going through the contract and she was saying, “now, you know you have to get landlord insurance?  yes, that’s just for…” – trailing off, allowing clever little me with my much sparser mascara and tiny knowledge of real estate matters, or commonsense, to finish her sentence for her.  and i’d start to talk and she’d loudly say exactly what i was saying as i said it.  what a diligent participant she must have been at Real Estate 101, how cunningly she played the game!  not transparent at all!  anyway i was able to negotiate the cheapest deal with her and she was quite pushy and engaging so hopefully she can finagle some tenants for us quicksticks.

5.  as mentioned, it was joel’s 30th this weekend and the poor dude spent yesterday replacing windows, and today weeding the front garden.  i tried to help a little, pulling a weed here and there before being banished because apparently i just pull the top of the weed off, i don’t remove the whole plant.  oh, sorry.  sorry i’m so shit at weeding.  (not really.  i was pretty happy with laying down inside, to be honest).  i’ll get mine, though, because lana is coming in two days time to take new photos for the online advertising.  see above re proliferation of books, toys and dander.

the first priority for this coming week will be planning our trip in fine detail to ensure we visit all the kindergartens and real estate agents that we need to see, in only three days.  and working out what to wear when i go in to sign my contract late next monday afternoon.  i don’t really want to traipse around seaside fishing villages all morning looking at houses in one of my court reporting suits.  but the first time you meet your new boss in person, you shouldn’t really be wearing jeans, right?  or can you, with a proper shirt and shoes?  i will have a 10-month-old baby in a pram so my gravitas will be somewhat diminished in any case.

and before we leave, my priorities will be making doctor and dentist and immunisation and vet appointments.  selling one of the cars.  redoing our wills.  freaking out about 10 hours on a plane with ZadieBaby.  and how much i’m going to miss the boys.  and what will happen to rufus when joel goes to a bucks party next saturday – is he just saying he’s going to drop him at my nan’s but really he’ll take him with?  the answer to this and other irrelevant questions in next week’s update.

i didn’t plan to write another KING KONG quite so soon but i am compelled to document the series of disasters that has befallen us this week.  and it’s only thursday!

8.5 WEEKS TO GO
i didn’t plan to write another update quite so soon but i am compelled to document the series of disasters that has befallen us this week.  and it’s only thursday!

1. rufus has a viral infection, and now zadie has bronchiolitis.  she started to get sick a couple of days ago and we decided a trip across the equator was probably not what she needed.  two 10-hour flights in four days is a bit of a bog ask for a baby even in perfect health, really.  so i cancelled her ticket.  now i will go alone, but only for two nights instead of four.  zadie’s never been without me for more than 6 hours and as i’m pretty sure i’ve announced here (over and over again) she doesn’t take a bottle well.  so this is not ideal.  however, with a complementary rotation of of nanas, great-nanas and nannies, she should be fine with just her dadda and her bro around.  ps when she cries, rufus brings her his current best toy and then holds her hand and goes “it’s alwight, my wittle sweetheart.  wufus is here.”  he is the BEST.

doing a shortened trip means packing three real estate appointments, some time at my new work, and visiting three different kindergartens in all corners of HK into 7 hours, so i can make it back to the airport by 5pm monday.  it will be like The Amazing Race, with less amazing and way more puffing.  i’m sure i will come last.

good news is, i have a chance of getting a full night’s sleep for the first time in about two years.  and that book i’ve been trying to read for 18 months?  i’m pretty sure ima finish it.  yes i will have MASSIVE GUILT about joel trying to manage the two little sickies, but if i can put that aside then truth be told this tiny trip will be as good as two weeks in a resort for me.

2. i had planned to wean zadie in the next month or so.  it’s earlier than i wanted to, but the shock of moving to a new country AND me almost immediately going back into full-time work would be very tough on her.  i would rather she be at least used to not breastfeeding before we relocate there so it’s one less thing for her to deal with.  plus, who wants to start weaning – involving engorgement, pain, hot sweats, emotional turmoil etc. – in a tropical climate.  not i.  since i’ll be gone this weekend for 48 hours, and that’s a fair way into the horrible process that is weaning, i’m going to try and express as little as possible and see whether i can get my supply to start coming down.  hopefully she will cope OK with milk from her sipper cup, and food, while i’m gone, and it will be quite a bit smoother than trying to wean her big fat brother at 14 months.

3. found out we have to get our stuff picked up by 4 december to make it onto the ship for delivery the week we arrive in HK.  this means 23 days here without a bed, clothes, and toys and books for the kids.  sounds feasible…

4. a couple of nights ago i had a spare hour so i thought i’d get started on my hong kong visa application.  it’s in cantonese so i thought i’d need about 9 weeks to decipher it.  lucky i decided to look at it, because when i went to fill in my passport details i realised the fucker had expired!  i’ve been killing myself the past three weeks to get zadie’s done in time, and hadn’t even checked my own since i’d got a new one only 2.5 years ago after our wedding.  who knew it only lasted for two years.

the good fortune of realising this at 5pm on tuesday cannot be overstated.  even with the priority processing fee, the quickest time to obtain a new passport is two days.  had i realised even half an hour later, it would have been too late – i could not have gone on the weekend, i could not have signed my contract, and we would have to rely on my dad’s judgment in choice of house.  such a close escape from such a large calamity.  i was able to get an appointment at the passport office for wednesday afternoon, enabling me to pick up my new passport at 4pm friday.  i could not have cut it any finer.  Amazing Race indeed.

on the way in to my appointment, i quickly got some new passport photos taken at the post office.  i thought i would look stressed, as i felt, but i actually look like a man, a man who is a nefarious recidivist.  joel disagreed but i left a spare copy of the photo on the bench and i note he declined to put it in his wallet, so there you go.  it will be interesting on the weekend when HK Customs staff ask why i’m carrying tony mokbel’s passport.

i feel like this has to be the most stressful week in the whole process, but i know it’s not going to be.  at least in the next couple of weeks things will be a bit more out of our hands and in lana’s in terms of this house.  and hopefully i’ll sign a lease on the weekend so we’ll have an address in hong kong.

rufus is at nan’s and zadie is asleep, but i just drank half a litre of iced coffee and i am wired.  if only i would channel that energy into scrubbing mould off the bathroom instead of reading blogs.  why am i so shit at prioritising!

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