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. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

The joys of Vaccinations, Visas and Finances

The joys of Vaccinations, Visas and Finances


So, As of this morning I've had the first part of the official paperwork through, I have a sneaky feeling this is going to be a long process, I'll explain more in a minute.

Vaccines

For the moment I'm going to talk about the joy that is Vaccines. The very thought of having someone
repeatedly stab me with a needle is not what you might call my favorite past time. If your not sure of what
vaccines you need, have a look at the following link:

http://www.londonvaccinationclinic.co.uk/travel-vaccinations-for/asia-pacific/malaysia/

As soon as I had confirmation that I would be going and a rough idea of the date for my travel I contacted my local GP (Yesterday). I'm not going to name names, but suffice to say I was not overly surprised when they told me there would be a long wait for an appointment, my surgery is renowned for that. What i was surprised about was the fact that I needed to have a telephone appointment with the nurse first. What was even more surprising was that they could only offer me an appointment at the end of July for this. END OF JULY. 3 WEEKS.

Anyhoo, I explained that I needed something sooner and asked if there were any alternatives to the GP and Nurse route. They then spoke directly to the nurse who managed to make me an appointment with her for Tuesday next week. The moral of the story? Always make sure you push but are polite, if you explain your situation they and are nice to them, they tend to be nice back. I'll let you know next week the outcome of the chat with the nurse.

Visa


So, onto the joy of the Visa. Thankfully I have a school that seems to be exceptionally helpful with all of this.
I had an e-mail this morning from their HR department details everything I need to send them for the Visa process. I know that this is going to be different for different trades, types of Visa, etc, but as a rough guide, I have been asked to provide the following:


  • Signed employment contract.
  • Passport Scan (Of all pages, even if blank).
  • Passport sized photo with blue background.
  • Scans of all my academic qualifications (Got to find these now, eek).
  • Medical examination report.
  • Letter of good conduct (In my case, this will be an up to date CRB).
  • Mayisyan employment checklist.

All of this is a bit on the daunting side, especially the fact that I have to get my GP to see me for the medical side of things. I suspect yet another wait for an appointment, joy.

My biggest worry about all of this is that it's going to take a long time to sort out, in turn causing delays to me getting out there. One the other hand there is a little bit of me that would be OK with that. It would let me spend more time with my family before I have to say goodbye to them for a while.

The delays could also partly be perpetuated by me, I have a horrible feeling that I may have lost my degree certificates from both my BA and my PGCE. Requesting copies of them is straight forward enough, but at this time of the year they are in the middle of sorting certificates out for their current students. More delays!

Finance

Now to the thorny issues of finance. To be honest it seems like there should be a lot of help from the
school
again when I get out there to set everything up from the Malaysian side. It's the UK side that has already started to cause some issues. The biggest is the fact that we own our own house over here, if we were renting I don't think things would be half as complicated. 

We are hoping to sell the house in order to go over with no debt what so ever (Like most we have debt we would like to clear). The idea is that we will then re-invest in a smaller property and rent that out to cover it's mortgage. Thankfully my wife won't be coming out until January, so she will be dealing with the majority of that for us. 

That's it right? Wrong! We also have to be able to cover the mortgage on our current house, along with all the bills, etc, whilst I'm out in Kuala Lumpur. I'll let you know how that one works out! :s

Thursday, 7 July 2016

And we are off!!!

So it's all been (kinda) confirmed!

The offer has been sent and I've accepted it, just waiting for the formal contract, etc. I'm making the whole
family up sticks and move half way around the world. Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited, but I have to admit that right now I'm feeling a little more than a bit nervous.

As a teacher I always just assumed that my career would begin and end in the UK. I'm not for a moment saying that it's not going to end there, just that if you had asked me 5 years ago where I saw my teaching going, it wouldn't be Malaysia. Interestingly enough, i really do think that there is something to be said for the fact that International schools seem to be able to offer the British Curriculum in a method more akin to how British state schools would like to be able to. It's going to be interesting to see if that is the reality of it or not. I have so many questions about how international schools work, I'm sure I'll pop them and their answers here at some point.

On a side note, my wife is pregnant at the moment and as such, to add to all the stress, she won't be joining me until closer to the new year. I can't say that really fills me with joy, but I'm hoping I will have got everything set up and ready for her by the time she and the kids arrive.

My current concerns / reservations include the following (I've put them as a list, it seems to be easier that way in my head):


  • Quality of life, social or otherwise
  • Being away from family
  • Cost of living
  • All of the technicalities of moving abroad

The school I'm going to offers a really great package for their teachers including great medical insurance, housing allowance, etc. It's taken a lot of the worry out of the move, but there still seems to be a great amount of unknown stuff I have to deal with. Watch this space.