Where do I start? We always knew we were going away for Marc’s sabbatical year. China presented itself as an ideal destination for our family last Fall; funded stay, strong collaborations for Marc and an opportunity to expose our children to Chinese culture and language. Added bonus: close proximity to amazing destinations in Southeast Asia. And from there Australia and New Zealand are temptingly close. Talks of monkeys, elephants, koalas and platypuses began. We got pretty excited. Not surprisingly, planning soon followed. If you know anything about me, it’s that I plan. Everything.
I will be covering all the planning I’ve been doing in the last year in three parts: Life here; Life there; and What you need to get from here to there.
Part 1: Life here: responsibilities and obligations
The house and pets:
Renting out the house was not an option for us. Fortunately, along came one of Marc’s awesome graduate students who liked cats, was mature and capable and most importantly was willing to stay at our house and take care of everything. Thanks to Simone, we could leave without worries (don’t forget the fish Simone!). I called all the companies that we get a bill from and authorized Simone on our accounts. This was the easy part. The hard part was clearing out and organizing every closet and room. Trash, charitable donations and hand-me-downs to friends accumulated at an alarming rate. By the time I was done, the house was the most presentable it will ever be. A two-page list of Stuff Simone Needs to Know was written up. House – check.
At one point we had the crazy idea to drive from Toronto to Vancouver, exploring Canada on the way and then driving through the US on the way home next year to explore many of the national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, etc. Then we realized our Prius would not be able to accommodate the amount of luggage we would have (see photo from previous post). Naturally it meant storing it in the garage for a year. Changing the insurance policy turned out to be one of the more frustrating processes for me. Apparently many people report they won’t be driving their car to reduce their insurance premium but are in fact driving it around (surprising? yes.). In order to reduce our coverage we had to submit a letter stating our request and proof that we were in fact leaving the country. After submitting everything required, I heard nothing from the insurance company. Nothing. After some firm statements hinting at switching insurance companies, our request was processed. Next – what does Google say about storing a car for a year in a garage: put gas stabilizer in the fuel tank and fill it up and have someone run it for 15-20 minutes once a month. Car – check.
The kids’ education:
Here in Ontario, there are two years of kindergarten, junior and senior, both of which is optional attendance. Our son would be missing senior kindergarten so not much had to be done for him. Our daughter will be missing grade 4. For her to be out of school for a year, our school board requested that we fill out a form with that request. The request was easily processed and were good to go for home-schooling. And in case you are wondering if we need to prove she is educated in the year she’s out of school, the answer is no. No test when she comes back. No proof of work she has done in the year she is absent. Depending on your outlook, you can think the school board is not that concerned with your child’s education or that they have complete faith that the parent will ensure their children are properly educated. Kids’ education – check.
Boy it’s definitely easier writing about it then to actually doing it.