Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Immigration Strikes Again & A Weekend Of Fun

Bureaucracy And Even More Bureaucracy

So, just when you think it's all over, out comes another issue with good old immigration. 



For those of you who have been following my blog since the start, you will know that my departure from the UK was delayed by the joy of the Malaysian immigration services deciding to change the way they process foreign workers. It used to be the case that you could simply enter the country on a tourist visa whilst your work permit was processing. They decided that for some reason this was a bad idea and now you have to gain your permit approval letter prior to coming over. 

Immigration is a nightmare
So, what's the problem, I hear you cry? I already have my permit and my shiny new ID card. The
problems comes from the need to get my family here. We were under the impression that those who were going to claim dependent status would still be able to come over on a simple tourist visa and then apply once here, thus giving us plenty of time. Because of this I have been focusing on other things, such as housing, my job and settling into the country in the knowledge that my family would soon be with me. As it turns out, they have also changed the rules on dependents as well, and as such there is now somewhat of a rush for us to get the visas for the whole family sorted ASAP as they are due to fly in 5 and a half weeks. 

As with everything else the school have been wonderful and and working very hard to get the process expedited as quickly as possible. There may also be one more spanner in the works as well, anyone that has had children will know the problems involved with getting a 3 week old baby to keep it's eyes open for long enough to take a proper passport photo. This wasn't a problem for the UK passport office who where more than happy to accept photos with my daughter eyes shut. The Malaysian immigration department however may well be a different story. We really don't know, so please everyone keep your fingers crossed.


To be honest I hope that everything will be OK, but I just really don't like the unknown, especially

when I have been apart from my family, newly born daughter included, for over 5 weeks now. In fact I've not even met my daughter yet!

A Weekend To Remember

The view of turn 4 from the K2 stand where we were sat.
Malaysia is famous for a lot of things, but one of the things that probably doesn't immediately spring to mind would be Motorsport. As it happens the country has one of the best Formula 1 circuits in the world, Sepang, and this weekend was the Malaysian Grand Prix. When I realised that it was coming up so soon my initial thought was it was going to cost far too much to consider going. I was wrong, very wrong. My ticket cost a little over 100rm (About 20 of your British Pounds) and included access to the music concert on Sunday after the race. Seriously, an absolute bargain.

So, my first formula 1, I can't believe it's my first seeing as I follow the sport quite closely, and it's in sunny Malaysia. We booked into the K2 stand which is just a hillside, so I was a little concerned about the weather, but we had nothing but sunshine and a nice breeze to keep us cool. If it had been in England I can guarantee I would have been stood in the mud whilst it rained for the whole weekend. 

Getting there was interesting, it's about an hour from where I live in Petaling Jaya, so I needed to get a taxi. Not a problem in Malaysia as both Uber and Grab have a great service running and it's cheap. My one word of advice would be to check both of the apps for price on a journey that long. Uber was by far and away the cheapest option, it was nearly a third of the cost of Grab.

For an event that has been running for years you would have thought that they would have the organisation down to a fine art form. Sadly not. There was almost no signage around to let you know where to go, and what there was had little or no relevance to what it was actually pointing you towards. That said there was the occasional map that had enough detail in it to work out where you needed to go. 

Food and drink was an interesting experience. There was very little of it anywhere, but it wasn't as expensive as I thought it might be. To be honest I think they were missing out on a trick here, if they had more food and beverage stands they could have made a lot of money. You had to walk for quite a long way just to get a bottle of water or a beer, and even then they ran out quickly of both. Not ideal.

On the plus side I can really recommend K2 as a spot to watch the racing from, the view was spectacular and as long as you have a ticket the stewards really don't care what you bring in. That means next year we are going to be taking a gazebo and cool box full of lovely things.

I took this from the treeline in stand K2, what an amazing view

I really don't think I need to explain how amazing it was to see the racing, anyone who follows the F1 will know that Lewis Hamilton was on fire ... until his engine exploded. Guess what, it happened right next to us and watching Lewis on his knees and then being driven off on the back of a moped was something I'll never forget. 

A Concert Of Surprise

One of the warm-up acts before Usher
After the racing was all done and dusted we then had access to the evening entertainment, Usher. I can't say I was looking forward to it, not my type of music and not something I would ever pay to go and see. I was persuaded to go, after all it was included in the cost of the ticket, so why not.

The warm up acts were all local Malaysian artists that all did a mixture of covers of western songs and some of their own. They were really good and kept us all entertained until the sun began to set and it was time for the main event.

Usher performing onstage
Now, User is a global name and no matter what you think of his music you will more than likely have heard of him. Things really didn't start well for him as he kept the audience waiting for well over an hour with no explanation of why, if you want a giggle have a look at his Twitter feed, he got some serious abuse. When he did eventually come out he just sort of carried on as if  nothing had happened, I can't say that impressed me at all.

The concert was not what I had expected at all, to say I was surprised is an understatement, it was fantastic. Even if you don't like his music, you would enjoy seeing him live, he really is an amazing showman and knows how to entertain a crowd. On top of all of this I had forgotten how many of his songs I actually knew, including some of his more modern ones!

Overall a fab end to and amazing weekend.

video


As always, comments are welcome.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Induction Week, Social Stuff & FOOD!!!

So I mentioned in my last post that I would be dedicating a whole post to the induction process the school ran for all new starters. I can't over state how amazing the whole process was in helping us all to settle into our new lives in Malaysia. I should also point out that due to arriving late because of the issues I had with the Visa application process I did miss out on some of the bits and pieces (See my previous posts). That said, I was there for the vast majority of the process.

Accommodation 

Yes, that is actually my pool!!!! 
This one is going to be split down into two different areas, our amazing hotel (Note the sarcasm), and finding your forever home.

Lets start with the hotel. I literally had no idea that a hotel room could be so small, but it turns out that you can fit a double bed into a cupboard. The hotel that we were put up in was tiny, and the rooms even more so, that said it was very well presented, clean and the beds were comfortable. It was, however, really nice to have everyone in the same location and meant that you didn't feel so isolated. 

Breakfast was by far the most sociable time, with us all coming together before the minibus would come to collect us. I have a feeling that the staff felt a little overwhelmed with the number of us all ordering at the same time as they were a little slow meaning a few of us missed our food. As it turns out this wasn't the end of the world as the school also provided some form of food for when we arrived each day. I cannot over state how amazing it is to be able to have a bowl of cereal when your offering prior to that was a clod chicken sausage and egg at the hotel. 

My advise to anyone in a similar position where by the school provides a hotel is this; expect basic but functional. The hotel was clearly geared to short stays of just a few days and I found myself spending as little time in it as possible.

Onto the joys of finding the forever home. I'm using that term as it turns out they really like 2 year leases, which happens to also be the length of most peoples contracts. 

Once again the school went above and beyond to support the new staff arriving from overseas. Prior to our arrival they had sent us a list of properties and rough guide prices to allow us to narrow down they type of property and location. We then had agents assigned to us, I think it might be good at this point to explain that the school simply put us in touch with them, they were in no way affiliated ad we were free to find our own if we chose. The agent I had was truly amazing and showed me around so many different properties, all whilst 9 months pregnant. 

In the end I decided to go for a property that was bit further away from the school but had bigger apartments and more for my young family to do. Almost all of the accommodation in Kuala Lumpur is of a condominium style, to say that it almost feels like you are living in a holiday resort. My complex has an amazing pool, indoor badminton courts, basketball and tennis facilities, kids play areas (2 of), a gym and a lot more besides. 

A whole lot of money for the deposit! EEK.
The whole experience of getting the apartment was daunting to say the least, the worst part was the finances involved. It seems normal practice for anyone renting from outside of the country to have to put down a minimum of 3 months rent in advance (including your first months payment, so 2 months as a deposit) AND a month as a deposit for utilities. In real terms that means a cash payment of anywhere between 10000RM and 15000RM depending on the property (For those of you in the UK, that's £2000 and £3000). 

Getting the deposit together for the apartment in a strange country is difficult at best, nearly impossible at worst. For me it came down to taking out the maximum possible on both my UK debit card and credit card in order to just about scrape that kind of cash together. You could do an international bank transfer, but for that you need a local account and it takes time, neither of which I had. 

Money

So, one of the big problems was finances, but again the school really did help. They arranged for a local bank to come in and set accounts up for us, although we are free to chose another one if we want. This meant that we had a debit card and bank account in time for our first salary payment to go into, this could have taken quite a bit longer had they not helped us. 

On the note of banks in Malaysia, be warned, its very different from the UK. A lot of day to day things like bill payment, registering you card, changing personal details, etc are all done through the banks own ATM's. This means that it's easy to sort a lot of stuff out without the internet which is very useful. 

Once you do have everything sorted you can do all the same types of things online as you can in the UK. That said it does take a bit of getting used to as their security systems are very different, primarily using OTP (One Time Passwords). Just make sure you have your phone handy at all times and you will be fine.

Social

Getting together next to the pool at my appartment.
One of the most important, and best, bits of moving to a new country has to be the opportunity to get to know people from different walks of life. With that in mind, boy you could have an amazingly packed social life if that's what you chose to do, you would be exhausted, but it would be fun.

My school put on loads of great events for us to meet all the staff, old and new, over the 2 weeks of the induction. There were trips into Kuala Lumpur city center, walks in the rain forest, dinners out and lots of trips to the bars. It can be a bit daunting, but trust me when I say this, if you just let your guard down you will have an amazing time. Besides, whats the worst that cold happen? (OK, there have been a few drunk nights)

The amazing Banana Roti, a must try!!!
On the note of food, one of my first comments to friends and family at home was how amazing the selection over here is. It truly is a reflection of how multicultural the country is and you can get almost anything you want from most of the world, even fish and chips if you really wanted. 

I can really recommend the local Malay food, it's sort of a mix of all the best bits, but everything is spicy, so be warned. My personal favorite is the Roti which is a bit like a cross between a pancake and a naan bread, it comes with a curry sauce dip but you can have various flavors. It's always cooked fresh and is absolutely stunning, try it, you wont regret it.

I know I'll be adding a lot more about all the amazing things to do and see as the weeks go on, so keep an eye out for those posts. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

I've done it, I've actually done it!

Firstly I guess it's probably a good idea to explain the absence of posts over the last few weeks. Since the end of the academic term everything has been a little crazy and time has just slipped by. I have very selfishly spent the time with my family, trying to make the most of the sort holiday whilst also selling, packing and generally trying to sort everything. You wouldn't believe the amount of stuff that you have to do even when it's only you going to the other side of the world.  

Life Laundry

You know, it has to be said there is something quite therapeutic about being put in a position where you have to get rid of the majority of your possessions. You really are in a unique position to look at your life and take stock of what's important. It also turns out that you wouldn't believe the amount of utter rubbish that can be crammed into a small house. I say that but those who know me will be sat there and probably saying "I told you so!" (I'm looking at you Christopher). 

For anyone out there who hasn't gone through this sort of experience I can really recommend it, even if you’re not about to up sticks and fly to the other side of the world. That said, here are my top tips for getting rid of the stuff you don't want / need:

1. Sell it. Gumtree is an amazing invention, we had people coming from literally all over the south of the U.K to collect the stuff we put in there, without a doubt my favourite selling tool. eBay has been great as well, but the fees are killer, expect to spend at least a 5th of the sale price in fees for both eBay and PayPal alone. Finally Car Boot sales, personally I hate these mostly due to the ridiculous early morning starts (really not a morning person) but they do allow you to just sell stuff.

2. Give it away. There is without a doubt something genuinely very lovely about giving your possessions to friends and family and. It's amazing what your closest and dearest want from your house given half the chance. A slow cooker here, 140 DVD's there (not a joke), even the old Hornby track you forgot you had in the loft. 

3. Charity shop. This sort of goes without saying (I hope), but your local charity shop will be more than happy to take most of the rest of the stuff you decided you don't want to keep. My theory being that even if they only were to get 50p for what you give them, it will help to do some good in the world. Perhaps a slightly rose tinted way to look at it, but never the less my opinion, and we gave a lot to them so I really hope it to be true.

4. The dump. Not much to say about this suffice to say that I sent ALOT of stuff to the dump. In fact I took 6 car loads, and I mean full car loads, to the local dump and it felt good. Really good. The stuff that I took had little or no use to anyone and the very act of chucking it in a skip made me feel surprisingly positive about everything. 

An Emotional Goodbye 

A lonely walk down the airbridge
So the time that I had been truly dreading had come, time to say goodbye. You know there was a

sense of normality until the morning of my flight, almost the calm before the storm. That all changed as soon as the alarm went off and things started to really happen. Packing the car, checking I had everything, the inevitable last minute panic that I had my passport and Visa confirmation letter all made it worse.

You know the worst part of all of this was that I really couldn't comprehend how I was going to be able to survive without my family with me, but feeling like I had to keep things together for them. The car journey to Heathrow was somewhat quite to say the least, my son slept, my mother didn't say much (That’s a first) and my wife just kept looking at me. It felt very surreal.

Now they say that every cloud has a silver lining and you have to hold onto these small gifts. When I went to drop my bags I knew that I was over my weight allowance by about 8kg, enough for any airline to charge me a lot of money. I can't say I was terribly happy at the check in desk and I think that may have helped as the lady on the counter clearly worked out the overweight but chose to overlook it. Not an upgrade, but still a very helpful gesture. 

We had all decided that it would be better to get to the airport early and have breakfast there, better that than miss the flight. To be honest that felt almost normal, just chatting away with my family, but then came the time for me to leave them. The part that got to me the most? Saying goodbye to my 3 year old son. He has been the light of my life since he came into this world and to know I wasn't going to see him for over 2 months was more than a little gut-wrenching. He had no idea what it all meant and I cannot explain how hard that was. As always my wife was amazing, I just don't know what I would do without her in my life.

The plane journey was uneventful, but I can assure you 14 hours gives you plenty of time to not sleep and think things over and over in your head. I can only give anyone in a similar position this piece of advice ... take a book. A mistake I won't make again was not taking one, watching mindless films is in no way as good of an escape as a book is.

As it turns out I wasn't the only person from my school on the flight, the Vice Principle from my school was also flying with her son and husband. They were really lovely and I owe them a special thank you for making the whole experience a lot easier.

A Bit Of A Shock

Once the plane arrived it just felt like a holiday on my own, the hot and humid air, a standard airport that I had never been to before. Thankfully I had my travel companions with me to help me though the whole process of working out where the hell to go, KLIA is a big place and not as straight forward as other major airports. 

I cannot explain how long the queue for immigration was, I've seen places like Heathrow at its worst and that had nothing on KLIA. For the standard line it was over 2 hours and this wasn't even a very busy day!

Again, thankfully the vice principle made the decision that as they have resident status we could risk going through the line for locals. This line, although MUCH shorter, still took over an hour for us to get through as they seemed to not be bothered about the number of people amassing at the back. To say it was a slightly off-putting arrival is an understatement.

Again, that suggestion of the book is a top tip!

Off To School We Go

So, after settling into what I can only call the world’s smallest hotel room, albeit clean and functional, for all of 30 minutes it was time to get into school. I had made the decision to go straight in rather than bumble around a tiny room on my own, my theory being it would keep my mind off of things and help with the jet lag. Guess what, it did exactly what it was meant to do and made me feel like I was at least making some kind of effort to start a new life, even if I felt like a walking zombie.

I'm not going to go into too much detail here about what we have covered over the course of the induction weeks, suffice to say there is so much to cover it is going to be another blog post next week.

My final thought for my post is this ... it doesn’t get any easier, you just get used to it and everyone else is going through some sort of similar experience as you. Everyone has left something and everyone is new, embrace this and get to know their stories as it will help make sense of yours. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

End Of Term Blues

I'm exhausted. Really exhausted.

Now that I've got that out the way, let me explain why I'm exhausted. I'm sure all of my teaching friends will understand what I mean when I say this year has felt like a VERY long year. For those of you who are not teachers, it goes a little bit like this. We work hard throughout the year and put in far more than our contracted hours, to the point where I suspect it gets more than a little bit dangerous for us to be working. Add to that all the usual stress of teaching and by the end of the year every teacher is literally at the end of their ability to stay awake.

Don't worry, I'm not about to go into some huge rant about how my job is harder than others, that's not the point of my blog. Besides it has been done far more eloquently by others than I could ever attempt to do. If you want to hear all about it simply do a quick Google search, you will find plenty. I'm simply setting the scene a little bit.

Wonderful People

As the academic year draws to a close I find myself needing the support of those that I hold close more and more. Not just to get me to the end of the year, but also to persevere with all that needs to be done for our forthcoming move to Malaysia. 

It's more than a little bit of a logistical nightmare having to try and move your entire family to a new country. Let alone the fact that I will be doing the first full term on my own whilst my wife is at home in the UK with my new born child and 3 year old son. Now, don't get me wrong, I simply cannot wait to experience everything that the other side of the world has to offer, but it's going to be hard. 

I simply cannot explain the overwhelming support I have had from friends and family. Simply put, I couldn't have asked for more. There hasn't been a single person who has in any way shape or form been anything other than positive about our little adventure. I think it is worth noting at this point that you cannot underestimate the need for support, I really didn't realise quite how much you need it until now. 

I'm going to gloss over the majority of the people that have been amazing, not because I value their support any less, but because it's the type that is just wonderful and very much what you might expect. I would like to focus a little on another kind of support, that is nothing more than absolutely genuine, but in a lot of ways makes the whole process unexpectedly hard. I'm talking about those who want to try and help, offer an opinion or tell you how to do something.

It is so hard to know what to say to people who offer their opinions and advice, especially when they are close to you. It's even harder when their intention is to try and take some of the pressure off, but in reality they add more. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm so very grateful to them for their advice, please don't stop giving it. What I mean is it's overwhelming when you have countless people all giving conflicting advice on everything from housing, cars, money to simply what do eat when you get there. It feels a little akin to being given advice from 12 different mortgage advisers when you only wanted 2.

I think the moral of this story is a simple one. So many people are supportive, have expressed their support and want to help us to succeed it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. However for anyone who has never done this before, be warned, you are about to get A LOT of advice and support you weren't expecting to get. Take it willingly and gladly, but filter out what you really need, what is helpful for you, but most of all say thank you. A lot of people really don't get the support you might be.

A Painful Goodbye

In my last post I spoke about the need for us to sell a lot of our possessions, how some of these are difficult
to get rid of and how others are surprisingly easy. 

Anyone who knows me at all may well have guessed that one of the most difficult items for me to sell was going to be my very beloved fish tank. I grew up keeping cold water fish and I have always loved sitting in front of a tank watching, anyone who claims fish don't have a personality are simply wrong. I've always wanted Marine fish, and luckily I have an amazing wife who two years ago humored my request to get a small Marine setup. This grew and grew, and I am now the very proud owner of a large-ish 250l full marine tank with all the bells and whistles I could possible want. 

Last night was the night that I decided to take the step to list it on the various forums where I might find a buyer. So, pictures taken, full list of contents compiled and a few posts later the tank was up for sale. I'm hoping to get someone to take the whole lot as a setup, not only will this be easier for us, but it will be less painful knowing the tank will go on as it is (Silly I know, but you get attached). I made sure I was very clear about the fact that I would like it all sold as one, an important fact for the next part of my fishy tale. 

Much to my surprise I had comments quite quickly, some were quite positive and pleasant to read, some not so much. I had people criticising the price I had put on the tank (£500, not that unreasonable considering the equipment and livestock on offer), and I had others wanting to specifically buy individual parts of it. Please don't get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it annoyed me that people were simply not reading the advert properly. I think my anger comes from the fact that in order to be in the Marine fish hobby, you have to be passionate about them, it takes a lot of time, effort and money to keep them. It almost felt like a slight on my as a person, perhaps even my family. 

A Bit Of Fun

As a bit of a sign off I thought I might just post a link to something that made me chuckle a bit. It's really a bit of an insight into the mindset of a teacher, but it will hopefully make my non-teacher readers giggle a little bit too. 


As always please let me know what you all think, comments are always welcome.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Contracts, Houses & Dosh

Guess what turned up yesterday!!!! Yep, DHL actually did their job properly.


More to the point, and much to my surprise, they actually did their job REALLY well. The contact turned up a day earlier than their claimed delivery date, wonders will never cease.

What was in the contract I hear you ask? Well, I'm afraid I have no intention of going into any specific details, as it's private, however I will tell you a few generic things compared to the standard UK teachers contract.

Firstly, they own your soul. The contract is weighted in their favour, unlike in the UK where our unions have negotiated us a great deal that protects the teacher. I'm going to clarify that a little bit, it all seems to be reasonable and nothing within it concerns me in any way, but as international school are businesses they have a vested interest in protecting themselves.

Once I had read the contract I only really had 1 question for the school. The contract wasn't particularly clear in regards to the medical cover on offer, moreover it sounded like it would only cover me and not my whole family. For anyone who hasn't had to look into the cost of private international health care, I can tell you it costs a lot. As a rough guide I got a few quotes for my wife and 3 year old son, all of which were well over £100 per month for basic cover. As you can imagine I was more than a bit concerned as having to pay for additional cover was an expense I hadn't really thought I would have to factor in.

As it turns out, I wasn't the first person to question the way that the contract was worded in regards to the heath insurance. My head replied very quickly to the e-mail I sent her asking for clarification, in fact she replied at 5.30am Malaysia time. The whole family are covered fully, and I have nothing to worry about.

I'm sure that this may well be an issue that resides with just my future school, but it is worth noting, check your contract and ask any questions before you sign and return it!

How Much?

Anyone who hasn't been living in a box in outer Mongolia will know that there has been a lot of talk about what Brexit will do to the housing market. We were really worried about it, leaving the country and having to either rent or sell our house. 

Enter the estate agents.

I'm going to do a shameless plug here because unlike previous experiences with estate agents, this lot were really great. So if you have any property requirements I genuinely recommend (They aren't paying me to say this, wish they were though) Lodden Property Basingstoke.


It turns out that the housing market isn't quite as broken as many would have us believe. That's not to say it won't go down, just that the Brexit factor could have had a much larger effect then it did in our area. Our house has increased in value by about £70000 in 2 years, not bad going if you ask me. 

We are hoping to be able to rent out the house whilst we are away in Malaysia, the idea being it will cover it's costs and we will still have bricks and mortar in the UK should we need it. So, if you know anyone who might be in the market for a reasonably priced 3 bed detached house in the Basingstoke area, let me know!

Our next step is to look at a remortgage, our fixed term is at an end and it would be nice to reduce our payments a little if we can, watch this space.

On a side note, if anyone was wondering, Solar (Photo-voltaic) does not add the value of the property, it's just a good selling point. 

Look at me! Not just a mildly entertaining tail about moving to Kuala Lumpur, but also housing advice.  

Sell, Sell, Sell

So, now we have decided to rent rather than sell, we have to make the hard decision to get rid of a lot of the stuff we have been hoarding over the years. Some of the items we are getting rid of were an easy choice, things that have been around for a while that we have little or no use for now. Other things are slightly harder to part with, case in point the sofas. 

Anyone that has ever been sofa shopping will understand the pain and anguish it can cause, let alone the arguments if you and your partner want different sofas. Well, that may give you some idea as to how long it took us to choose what we now have, add to that the fact that they are only less than a year old and you get some idea of why it's annoying at best that we are going to have to sell them. 

So, the next problem, once you have come to terms with the fact that you have to basically do a massive life laundry, is how to get the most dosh your your possessions. It turns out that your go to ideas of eBay and a good old fashioned car boot sale may not be the best idea. eBay for one will take some of the money in fees and car boot sales are great for tat, but not so great for high value stuff.

Top tip? Gumtree and Varagesale.

Both of these are free to use, don't charge once you have sold and are very easy to use. So far I've manage to sell quite a few things via both and both have various forms of protection built in, meaning your transaction is as safe as can be. That said, you still need to be careful and I really do advise you to make sure you take the usual precautions when selling.

There are things that we are going to want to keep, so where the hell are we going to put those? In-laws to the rescue! Thankfully my wife's parents have agreed to us abusing their loft space, that said I really think all of this might be an opportunity for us to finally have the proper life laundry we have been threatening for years.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

A quick update before I get onto what I really want to talk about ... transport. Over the weekend I sent all of the information I had to hand for my work permit application to the school, suffice to say it was substantial. I still have to get my Medical sorted (Watch this space) and a photograph with a blue background, so I'm off to get that sorted tonight (Must remember to shave!).

Planes

Normally getting to your place of work is quite simple, even if you are relocating within the country. This isn't quite the case when you decide to take a job teaching on the other side of the world, in fact it becomes even more difficult when you want to move your whole family.

One of the major hurdles I suspect a lot of teachers will encounter will be with the logistics of booking and organising flights to your new country of residence. One of my first questions to my new Headteacher was 'Do I need to book my own flights?'. In my case the answer was probably not, but due to the slightly later than normal timing of my appointment they may ask me to do so this time. It seems that it's normal for the school to book your flights, so my advice to you is to make sure you ask all the questions early. If you have any special requirements, you need to let them know, some airlines may not let you change your booking. One major word of warning, I have been told in no uncertain terms that I MUST keep my boarding passes as well as my receipt for the flights. Without these you may not get your money back from the school if you are asked to book your own flights.

Onto my next question I had for the Headteacher, 'Does the school pay for my family's flights?'. The answer was a resounding no. This seems, from everything I have read, to be the norm and you may well need to factor this into your decision making. For me it wasn't a deal breaker, but for others it may well be. I can't vouch for other schools, but in my case they did offer to support me by initially paying for the flights and then deducting the cost from my salary over 3 months. This may well be an offer I take them up on, but seeing as my family won't be joining me until January, I'm in no rush right now. My other thought has been based around the issue of wanting to find a cheap way to come back to the UK every now and again.

The current plan is to come home for the birth of my 2nd child at the end of September and then to come home for the 3 week Christmas holiday (Yes, your read that right, 3 weeks!). At the moment that is all we have planned but I'm sure we are going to want return more. Another consideration is also the traveling we want to do within Asia as well, what's the phrase? Whilst in Rome?  This lead me to start thinking about not just the best way to get to the UK, but also the best option for exploring Asia. Enter stage left: Air Miles. The concept being that the more you fly with that airline, the more miles you accrue and then exchange for either upgrades or cheap flights. Alongside that, you can, with most, also exchange the air miles with partner airlines for the same type of rewards. 

To be honest, once I really started to research the options, there was only 1 that made sense. Malaysia Airlines. They may have a hideous loss rate for their aircraft, but I have been told that actually they are a lovely airline to fly with. They also happen to be a Oneworld partner, which means that I would be able to exchange my British Airways miles with them and viva versa. They fly to the majority of Asia in one form or another and seem to be really rather affordable as well (possibly due to their reputation mentioned earlier).

I'm hoping to do a follow up post about their rewards scheme once I've got me head around it and have had some experience with using it, so watch this space. 

Trains

Now onto trains, not really known as Malaysia's strong point to be honest. Like most of the large cities in the world Kuala Lumpur has a rapid transit system that seems to be expanding at a rapid rate. All of my understanding of the transport within the city has come from good gold Google, so take what you want from it, but please don't hold me to any of the information. 

If you were hoping for a London style system with very clear maps, websites with live times on and journey planners, your in for a shock. To say that the maps are confusing is an understatement, the websites are slow and don't have a lot of information on and working out where all the stations are is a nightmare. I have been told reliably that once there it makes a lot more sense, and this is a system that is having a lot of money spent on it at the moment, so with any luck all of this is going to be a thing of the past soon. 

When considering where your going to live I have been told that transport could well be one of the key deciding factors. A location that has good links to the various transit systems is going to be a good bet, allowing you to explore the city quickly. Areas that are served by the transit system do seem to be great for being connected as the services run frequently (from what I can find out).

Automobiles

I mentioned in a previous post that my wife and I have decided that we will need a car for our time in Malaysia. As a teacher, I'm not going to be on the highest salary and I've found that cars are VERY expensive compared to what we are used to over in the UK. Even the secondhand market seems to be very buoyant, perhaps I should ship some old bangers over there and sell them?

Our current thinking is to sell both our UK cars and then use roughly half of the money to get a car over in KL. It might not get us the most prestigious car in the world, but it will buy us a decent and reliable set of wheels. With any luck it will be my wife that uses it during the week, I'm hoping to find other ways to get to work, in order to give her and the kids a bit of freedom.

As a UK resident you can drive in Malaysia for up to 3 months before you need to convert your licence, I'm dreading that part of my adventure. 

It turns out that a lot of people also use motorbikes and scooters when over there, it allows you to get past all the traffic and is cheap. Licensing for using a bike out there seems to be quite strict, you have to have a licence for all types of bike, although I'm not 100% sure about all of that.

Final Thoughts

I'm beginning to get really excited about all of this madness, a new chapter in our lives. We have now started to tell everyone properly about our adventure and everyone seems to be very excited for us. I have a horrible feeling we are going to have quite a few people visiting.