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.