Epic adventures in international relocation #2

7.5 WEEKS TO GO
following my 39-hour trip to HK over the weekend, i’m feeling more settled, more organised and more excited.  it’s a lot more real.  i have actually seen what many aspects of our life there will be like now, and that is making me very impatient to just get there.  but i find i also have dark moments of unease about how everything could just go wrong.  i.e. we’ve found a house, but haven’t yet signed the lease; we’ve got our house here on the market, but haven’t yet found a tenant; i’ve signed my work contract and they’ve lodged my visa application, but it won’t be processed for another five weeks.  this last one is particularly worrying because we’ve both already quit our jobs and cut so many other ties here, if it doesn’t come through we will be deeply fucked.  we will be unemployed stateless citizens, our chattels sitting in a shipping container on the other side of the world, our cats stuck in wooden crates in HK quarantine, and some other family living in our house.  boo!

i know these things aren’t worth really worrying about, that they will all work out.  but i find myself getting so carried away with the excitement i have to remind myself that it’s not done till it’s done.  that’s hard, especially when we’re both necessarily spending all of our “spare time” completely devoted to planning, organising, going to appointments, filling out paperwork etc. with complete focus.  we have to do all this stuff or we’ll run out of time – but i sure do wish i had my visa in my hand already, instead of getting it two days before we fly out.

i was able to enjoy my little recon trip.  i got two hours sleep on the way there and read 200 pages of my book.  unfortunately not the book i have been trying to get through for 18 months, but the embarrassing sucker purchase i made at the newsagency – roberta williams’s biography.  in the tight confines of economy class, it’s pretty hard to contort yourself into a secretive little ball so fellow passengers can’t see what you’re reading.  for this reason i was thankful not to have zadie with me.  also for reasons of being able to eat, go to the toilet, not have to nurse her for 10 hours, etc.  my stay was so short immediately i got off the plane in HK, i went to the ticket counter and checked in for my flight home, which was already open.  got back to dad’s about 1am, caught a few hours sleep and then at 5.45am, my battle (against the clock) was joined.

my first stop was my new workplace.  dad’s girlfriend penny delivered me to the front door like a kid on the first day at school.  the office is on the 38th floor, overlooking the harbour.  i signed my contract and met some of my colleagues.  all the court reporting teams were deployed in courtrooms at the time so unfortunately i didn’t get to meet any of my co-stenos.  my new boss took me over to the high court for a look-see.  walking up to the main doors, i began devesting myself of electronic gadgetry in preparation for the metal detector.  i’ve been in a few courts in my time, from the lowliest suburban circuit to the highest in the land.  they all have metal detectors.  they also have guys with guns.  there was no reason to suspect this wouldn’t be the case in hong kong.  especially considering the joint is packed with ultra-modern buildings, security guards and guides and ushers.  but no, no detector.

penny having gone to work, it was all on me to negotiate my way to my next appointment, at an international montessori kindergarten back in sai kung.  i had instructions written discreetly inside my purse:  MTR to north point, change to the blue line to hang hau, get on the 101 minibus to marina cove, get off after the spiderman statue.  i should have got one of the secretaries at my work to write them down in chinese.  i’m sure the bus driver would have thought that was better than me gesticulating at the door and saying “MAR-INA COVE?  I CAN GET OFF?”

the visit to the kinder validated the whole trip, for me.  i’ve been really worried that we’ve left it too late to get rufus into a kinder where he’ll be happy.  really stressed with the idea that he’d already be stressed enough with the move, and then have to go to a last-resort local kinder taught entirely in mandarin too.  but no, this kinder i looked at is AMAZING and i left feeling like i was walking on air.  i probably was, the smoggy particulate matter is so dense.  (actually the air quality in sai kung is similar to melbourne, from my real-life experience in any case.  i’m sure boffins will correct me on my atmospheric science faux pas.)  it’s a new branch of a kinder that’s been operating for 25 years in HK, has about a 60:40 ratio of western:chinese children, and is set in an old supermarket.  so it’s really big and bright and quite un-HK like in that regard.  there’s a vegie garden, a kitchen, music room, gym, all sorts of classrooms and play areas.  it kills any kinder i’ve seen here in australia.  oh sure we’ll have to pay AU$250 a week…but it was so impressive, i’d pay that here if i saw a similar facility.  it just seems galling because kinder is free here.  rufus will attend five days a week, for three hours a day.  this is perfect for him because he is going out of his brain with boredom.  (i had been unhappy with the three hours a WEEK offered to him at the kinder he’d been accepted into here.)  each day at this new place consists of half an hour of mandarin, half an hour of english phonics, and the rest normal kinder stuff like dancing, cooking and free play.

i caught the bus back to sai kung (7 minutes) and chanced upon a renowned local kinder as i alighted.  set right on the main highway (two steps from the traffic), it was a big steel monstrosity with huge gates and about 790 kids packed into it.  i only saw two westerners, and i thought that rufus wouldn’t fit on the little teeny tiny tables and chairs, let alone into the tight little yellow shorts they were all wearing.  fuck they were cute.  i don’t think i’m going to be able to cope with the cuteness.  one little girl came up and said “i’m eating an icecream!”, just pretending, and the principal said, “yes, but you should be listening to miss florence reading, shouldn’t you…”  miss florence!  and the little girl skipped off with her hello kitty ponytails and i was like fuck miss florence, come back here so i can give you a pat.

i went back to dad’s to collect my bags and do an emergency breastpump.  the third of the trip.  so much for my quasi weaning attempts.  not three hours after i left my house, i felt my ducts begin to swell and the first telltale signs of mastitis.  i ended up expressing seven times, which is more than i would even feed her at home in that time.  and i still couldn’t sleep on the flight home because i was dizzy, feverish and had two engorged breasts that felt like they were made out of titanium.  pretty dangerous in times of turbulence.  “please fasten your seatbelt.  and that lady in 58H, in the event of an emergency, if you hear ‘brace, brace’…yeah, good luck.”

anyway.  back to the amazing race.  dad and i ventured back into sai kung to meet up with a real estate agent.  we looked at a few places but one was soooo much better than the others, and soooo much better than everything we’ve seen online, and all the places we had been prepared to accept before seeing it, that i immediately accepted it.  it’s a big responsibility to choose a house for your family on your own!  i know they’ll love it though.  it’s up in the country park, so pretty much surrounded by full forestation.  it’s in a little village consisting of about 12 duplexes.  no shops, no roads.  full rural living.  it’s a 10-minute walk down a pretty and rambling unmade track into sai kung town.  there’s westerners and chinese in the village, including a few families with young kids.  our proposed house is adjoined to the village chief!  fuck.  (i don’t actually know what this means.  do we have to give him money or some other sort of offering?).  the sea is visible from the upstairs windows.  it’s cool and fresh there.  very green and peaceful.

many odd things strike me about this move.  one is that we have to move to the other side of the world to live close enough to family members for them to be able to babysit for us (dad’s place is a 10-minute walk over the hill).  another is that we are moving from one of the least populated countries in the world, to one where they’ve stuffed 7 million people into 1,000sq.km – and we’re going to be living in the middle of a forest with space all around.  and then each day i’m going to head over to the island with most of the other 7 million people and experience crowding like nowhere else.  what a crazy life.

here are some non-identifying shots of the house.  some feature the old po-po that lives there currently with her young maid.

loungeroom.  note the extremely rad light fittings.

what will be the kids’ room.  look at that irregular triangular bunting painted onto the wall.  it’s like i’ve been there before in a past life as an interior decorator.

there’s two other bedrooms like that, but i didn’t take pictures of them.  one will be for our amah, and one will be for guests.  there’s a big landing which will be the kids’ playroom kind of place.  there’s also a full-size bathroom on each floor, both with baths.  i can’t believe we have to move to hong kong to get a bigger bathroom than we’ve got here.  what!

and this will be our room.  it’s simply massive – three times as big as our room here.  from the bed, you can see straight out through the trees to the beach.  yes please.  it has a balcony too.

our ensuite.  the curtains on the spa were obviously the clincher.

after we’d finished with the real estate lady, we raced out to the airport.  i was literally sprinting through the concourse as the very final call was being made, and was the last person on the plane.  like i said to the 9-year-old dude sitting next to me, i would’ve been earlier but i had to stop and pump my breasts before coming through customs.  he didn’t talk to me for the rest of the trip, or ask to go past me for the toilet once.  yeah 🙂

so, with 7.5 weeks to go…

1. our house is on the net and we’ve got our first two lots of prospective clients coming through this saturday.  lana took a number of shit photos so we’re pleased to be garnering some interest in spite of her best efforts to make our place look like a house for midgets.

2. we’ve done as much as can be done in terms of securing the place we want in hong kong (it’s off the market, but the current tenants are unsure of their vacation date so we haven’t yet signed the lease).  rufus is registered for kinder and there’s a place for him the week we get there.  we’ve booked the shipping company.  my visa application is in.  we’ve got quotes to get the cats moved over there.  anyone want two cats?

3. i’m glad it’s november because i was sick of looking at the 623 things on the october page of the calendar that i never got to cross off.

4. what the fuck are we going to do with the lizards and the snake on saturday when prospective tenants are looking around the house.  the problem is the reptiles sleep inside their boxes in the day, within their larger enclosures.  which are not traditional reptile tanks, but a modified wall unit joel made.  complete with red heat lamps.  so basically our study is full of glassed-in heat-lit trays with no visible reptiles.  everyone’s going to think we’ve got a massive hydroponic grass operation going on.  can i lock the door or does that make it even more suspicious?  is waking the snake up so he’s out and about even more unnerving?  god!  just get out of our house! (after renting it, please).

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