Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First Day: Is that Napali ... or Newark?

We traveled all day, we braved the airport crowds and the teeny tiny airport meals, but it was all worth it as I gaze out of my window to see ...

Oh yeah ... this is the life. And I know I promised you pictures of Napali, but instead you get NEWARK!!!!

We had a good day yesterday - some leisurely packing, a few stops for drinks, tears and goodbyes and then dinner with my parents. I stayed up too late fiddling with the house and backing up every single file in duplicate and then couldn't sleep.

But got to the airport by 8:00am for our 10:30am takeoff to Newark after which we were to connect to Honolulu.  Delayed until 13:05 and then boarded to take a trip out to the runaway and back to the gate again because Newark was backed up after the blizzard. We finally deplaned at 16:10 - plenty of time for our 16:15 connection to Honolulu which was also delayed.

Ran like crazy until we flagged one of those long golf cart thingies that cruised us to our gate at exactly 16:15.  Transient euphoria to see that the take off time had been delayed to 16:50 - plenty of time!

Overtired overweight Hispanic Continental ticket agent: "I'm sorry sir that flight is closed."

Overtired overweight sweaty dad: "What do you mean? We have boarding passes!"

Overtired overweight Hispanic Continental ticket agent: "That flight is closed. You're not getting on. Go to gate 31 and speak to customer service."

Overtired overweight sweaty dad: "But the flight doesn't leave for 35 minutes! It's still at the gate and they're still loading luggage."

Overtired overweight Hispanic Continental ticket agent: "The flight is closed. Gate 31." (picks up the phone)

So what to do? Given the thousands of grubby, tired and pissed off passengers lying around the airport everywhere and the "Don't fuck with me" expression on every single airline employee, I decided that screaming, yelling and threatening had probably been tried to little avail. Besides getting arrested on the first day of the epic adventure would be bad form.

So I ran towards gate 31 only to see a ginormous throng of tired grubby really pissed off looking people. Ahah! The lineup for customer service. Instantly recognized that this would be at least a two hour futile endeavor.

So I did the manly thing: I begged! And it worked ... kinda. I returned to the overtired overweight Hispanic Continental ticket agent and at least she confirmed seats on tomorrow's flight for us, instead of putting us on the infinite standby list.

Why would this tired airline employee go out on a limb for us? Out of the goodness of her New Jersey heart? Trish and I doubt it. A more likely version: she most likely put standby passengers in our seats when we didn't show up before last call. When we did show up, she felt a little bit bad for screwing up our trip and made sure we got on tomorrow's flight.

Next, we spent 4 hours trying to find our luggage. Our flight number was not on the board to indicate which carousel it will come out on. Wierd! Waited 50 minutes in the luggage services line to be told that it would be on carousel 9 in 15 minutes. Three hours later, an overhead announcement that they had located our luggage!

Where was it? ON THE PLANE TO HONOLULU! Our luggage got on but we weren't allowed on.

Then the infinite lineup for cabs, the slick Lebanese town car drivers offering $100 lifts for 20 minute rides (we got one for $50) and our room at the Comfort Suites in the armpit of Newark.

So not such a great start, but definitely an adventure and 221 days still to relish. But everyone ended the day in good spirits with the hope that tomorrow night really does see us looking out of our condo onto Poipu beach on Kauai.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

10 ... 9 ... 8 ...

Nine days to go.

Our 252kg crate left last Thursday and is in the middle of the Atlantic by now.

The suitcases are 3/4 full with lots of different piles around our bedroom.

The Christmas parties are done, but the schedule is still full with goodbye dinners and drinks.

Most of the tinkering and repairs around the house are done in preparation for my sister's arrival as house sitter while we are gone. All the bills here are more or less on auto-pilot.

Got a bank account in NZ with a decent amount of cash waiting for us. Got the cell phones, ISPs, schools and TV figured out. Still have to figure out where we're going to get a car and how to register it. Overall, pretty well organized.

The girls and I are excited. I was expecting rivers of tears this weekend with Harrison's final hockey game, but so far so good. We play West Island at 6:00pm tomorrow and I think that will be it, so we'll see. So happy Cynthia got the photos organized before hand. It'll be sad to take the names and 'A' (for assistant captain) off his jersey. If his team does really well, maybe we'll do something really crazy and come back for the finals ... or maybe not.

Trish has changed from nervous to nervous and excited. I think she'll be fine although I've stocked up on Kleenex for the last 3 days.

Two shifts left at work - really happy about that, although I'll miss some of the people.

I had a chat today with Mackenzie about how sometimes blond children can be ... over-admired in China and that even though it'll be really hot and humid in Hong Kong, we're going to make her wear a hat to hide her "yellow hair". I think it made her feel special.

Very much looking forward to exploring the Napali coast in Kauai and to our New Year's Eve luau. The kids are going to take surfing lessons.

Although, it's been just over 3 years in the planning and fun to organize, I'm psyched to stop organizing and start experiencing.

Can't believe it's almost here!

How To Move A Family of Five Across The Globe - Part 2

If you're interested in reading about stunning vistas and fantastic experiences, skip this post; this is meant for people planning a trip similar to ours. 

Once the job was confirmed, the next step was to begin the application process for my medical license.

One of the things I liked about working with Wavelength was that in a very streamlined process, once they had matched me to a hospital, the "recruitment" team handed things over to Elinor who handled the immigration stream. I liked that she would often call on a Sunday night just to chat and make sure that things were still going well on my end.

The process was not so different from Canada. Lots of forms to fill out, reference letters to arrange and diplomas to photocopy. The trickiest part was getting an English translation of my medical diploma from McGill that is in Latin. As it turns out, the McGill department of student services provides notarized translations for free! Bonus!

Once the application was complete and mailed off to Wellington, it took about 2 months to get the license which is probably comparable (or even a little faster) than the Royal College in Canada.

I had all our visa applications sitting in an envelope ready to be sent to the New Zealand High Commission in Ottawa. We applied for a work visa for me under the "work under special circumstances" or something like that, student visas for Harrison & Cassandra and a single visitor's visa application for my wife Trish and Mackenzie.

We had our passports back in about a month. There was some discussion about whether we'd have to pay for the kids' school, but with a work permit, primary school kids are granted "domestic student status". Our 4 year old, Mackenzie, who is attending pre-school here will keep my wife company in Palmerston North while I go to work and the two kids attend school.

With the immigration issues settled, it was time to find schools and a place to live.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How To Move A Family of Five Across The Globe - Part 1

If you're interested in reading about stunning vistas and fantastic experiences, skip this post; this is meant for people planning a trip similar to ours. 

While preparing for this trip, I tried to get a few ideas of what needed to be done to move our family across the world. I read a few blogs from other people and I thought I would add my experience into the mix. The preparations can be divided into leaving our life in Montreal and preparing for our life in New Zealand.

The first step was to firm up the timing of our trip. Trish and I were pretty rigid about having our ten year old son Harrison back in Canada to start Grade 5 in September 2011. I'm not sure how we decided on 8 months instead of 1 year - could have been my boss or our reluctance to miss Christmas at home or an entire hockey season. :) So then it came down to Jan - Sept, 2010 or Jan - Sept, 2011. As it turned out, too many great events and other things happening in 2008 & 2009 to save enough money to make this work, so it ended up being Jan - Sept 2011.

The next step was to find a job. I contacted a few recruitment agencies who specialize in health care placements in Australia and New Zealand. Most seemed weak, but Wavelength and Plexus emerged as strong contenders to help me plan our trip.

Our first choice was to go for a "beach" type place in Australia since that would be so different from our regular lives in suburban Montreal. However, all the companies were fairly consistent in their message that 8 months was too short a period for Australian hospitals; they usually insisted on contracts lasting at least one year. If we were to try for an 8 month locum, the hospital would probably be less than pleased at my intention to take the family traveling for two months. And besides, what kind of place would settle for an 8 month contract when the norm was 1 year? Somewhere that was desperate. Not interested.

New Zealand, on the other hand, was used to shorter term contracts and was happier giving me a six month contract which would leave a month on either end of the trip to travel. Perfect!

In May 2011, Gillian from Plexus arranged a telephone interview with a hospital in Invercargill at the very southern tip of the south island. They seemed like nice people, but with over 18 days of rain every month and the coldest temperatures in New Zealand, the weather seemed almost ... Canadian.

In July, 2011, Niki and Nicola from Wavelength connected me with a hospital in Palmerston North at the southern end of the north island, about 1.5 hours from Wellington. The people seemed great, the anesthesia practice seemed similar to mine and all the information I could read about "Palmie" was positive. Good weather, young population and an easy gateway to explore the rest of New Zealand. I was sold.

So after some negotiation on the relocation allowance (very generous!), I signed on the dotted line, learned how to send international faxes and after a few days of cold feet, began the fist confirmed step along the road that would lead us to NZ.

Next up was dealing with immigration.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

And the Countdown Begins.

After three years of planning and some 250 e-mails, our date of departure is now only 1 month away. We leave Montreal on December 28th for an 8 month New Zealand adventure.

But first a few celebrations to start our trip on the right foot. Our first stop is Poipu Beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, one of our favorites from our honeymoon.

We'll bring in 2011 in Hawaii and then leave again on January 2nd to visit Hong Kong. After 4 days in Hong Kong, we'll finally land in Auckland on January 8, 2011.