A Family's Journey Through Asia - The Beginning

The Beginning!

Our plane landed in Malaysia on January 3, 2018, and now I would like to share our exciting experience in a foreign country, provide real facts on the process, funding required, and the trial and errors that come with traveling to an international country with children.

I must inform you that I did not attempt this move blindsided.   I spent months researching the benefits of living/touring in Malaysia.  One of the biggest sellers was watching YouTube videos of actual residents/tourists and their experience in a different country.  But I found out quickly that everything you see and hear on YouTube videos is not what it appears.  I hope that my trials and errors will help others who are considering traveling internationally.   I’ve been here three weeks and find myself sitting on the floor (yep, that’s right) trying to figure out what I’m doing.  I’ll explain later.

Let’s start from the beginning.  It all began with my kid’s interest in Asian culture.  Watching it from afar is different from experiencing it.   For years, they have been spending a lot of time watching animes (a Japanese term for hand-drawn or computer animation such as Attack on Titan, Dragon Ball, Yu-gi-oh, Pokémon), Korean dramas via YouTube videos, and listening to KPOP music.  I didn't see the fascination because I was too busy living my so-called good ole American life and California dreaming.  That changed over the years due to my kids’ persistence in involving me in their wonderful world of Asian knowledge.  In other words, they wanted to broaden my horizons.  They even tried to teach me some basic Japanese and Chinese phrases.  I also began watching some of the music videos of some of the famous KPOP entertainers such as EXO-K, EXO-M, B.T.S, BigBang, B.A.P, Jackson Wang, NCTU, and Jay Park.  But, I had to draw a line when it came to dramas. I am not a fan of subtitles.  When the kids voiced their desire to live in Asia, I decided it was time to do some research.  Besides, I was bored with my job especially when there wasn't any room for advancements.

Now the story begins.

By August 2017, I was overworked and underpaid at a local hospital and wanted to make a significant change.   I spent two months applying/interviewing for teaching jobs throughout Asia just to learn that I was too old!  Well, I did receive one offer, but it came in the form of a 'blank contract.'  Yep, you read it correctly.  An empty freaking contract in a different language.  In case you are asking, 'how do you know if it was blank if it was in another language?'  Simple; there were blank lines.  My name wasn't anywhere in sight.  It was as if they found a random contract online, emailed it to me, and thought I was going to be stupid or desperate enough to sign it.  After the shock, I considered filling in the blanks to help the school out a little but thought better of it.  I kept asking myself, "did they send me a blank contract?"  I'm supposed to be working with educated professionals.  What happened to the professionalism or common sense?

Anyway, I contacted the person who worked as the mediator between the school and myself (take into consideration that there is a language barrier as well as twelve-hour time zone separating us).  She mentioned in a previous email that the school wanted to offer me a job and to check my email for the contract.  I was surprised because I didn't have an interview with the school because the interviewer was "traveling."  That would have been good to know before wasting fifteen minutes on WeChat.  I guess no one else was qualified to interview me, huh?  Professionalism, at work again. 

Well, I contacted the mediator after the ‘supposed’ interview, and that is when I learned about the interviewer being on travel, and they wanted to hire me.   I received the contract a couple of days later.  I contacted the mediator again and explained about the blank contract.  She said that the school was going to send a correct one.  After a week, I contacted the mediator to see what was going on and asks her some basic questions such as; living subsidy, travel arrangements, work visa, meals, health benefits, holiday/sick pay, etc.  She didn’t’ know the answers and had to check with the school and then get back with me with their answers. 

Days went by before she contacted me with answers.  I decided to decline the offer when she stated that I would have to share an apartment or get my own, but the school would assist me in finding living quarters close to the school and pay a rental subsidy.  I asked if they would pay the deposit (two months’ rent upfront), and was informed it was my responsibility to pay the deposit, but the school will assist with some of the rent.  So, I asked if they would pay for travel expenses and they informed me that the school would pay for half of the plane ticket after I have worked three months and the rest at the end of my contract.  Okay, nothing was working out.  Final question. Would they pay for my work visa?  They would only pay a portion of the visa, but I would have to pay for all the associated fees.  Now, I'm thinking - they want me to uproot my family to a different country to help teach their students, but they don't want to pay for anything.  How would that benefit my family or me?  It wasn't.

I wasn’t asking for the moon.  These accommodations are usually included in an English teacher's contract.  Shouldn’t have been a big deal.  Not unless the school didn’t’ register for a work permit.  I guess I’ll never know.

The only reason I was seeking employment is for the work visa. I assumed that if I received a working permit, my kids would also receive one.  But the facts are - I would have to work 30 days, come back to America and apply for S1 visas that will allow my kids to stay longer than 180 days.  To wrap this up, accepting a teaching job would have meant coughing up thousands of dollars just to get to China and then thirty days later pay for a round-trip ticket from China to America and wait possibly weeks for S1 visas.  And all for a mere $1200 a month income.   I don't think so.

I voiced my concerns to the mediator who said that the school still wanted to hire me and are working on the contract.  Suffice to say, three weeks later I didn't receive it.  I wasn't expecting it or wanted it.  The whole process was unprofessional from the beginning.  What's frustrating is that during the waiting period, I was still completing applications and having interviews (just to be informed that I was too old).  I was offered another teaching position during the time I was working with the first school, but I turned it down because I was foolish enough to think that the contract would come through and I didn't want to go through the whole process again.  Working twelve-hour shifts and trying to interview during my time off was exhausting.

Well, that's how searching for a teaching job worked out for me.  Time to move on.
In November 2017 I started looking up visa-free places to live in Asia and came across numerous websites.  I'm going to lists a few for informational purposes:

Visa-free countries for US citizens
After carefully researching the reliability of the sites above, I came across a news feed on the first page on one of the browsers I was using at the time.  It referenced the cheapest places to retire.  I don't have the actual link, but I found a few links that provide the same information:

After all the researching, I settled on Malaysia with Thailand as our second choice.  Our original destination was Japan, China, or South Korea but they either required visas or too expensive to live. 

Now that I have a location, it was time to see if the articles were accurate.  It was time to see the price of the living breakdown in Malaysia.  I have provided two links; one in Malaysia currency which is MYR, RM, or ringgits; the other in USD. I chose the city of Ipoh, Malaysia because it is listed as one of the most affordable places to live in Malaysia.

Cost of living in Ipoh, Malaysia (USD)
Cost of living in Ipoh, Malaysia (RM)
As you can tell from the second link, which is in RM, the numbers are higher, but when you switch over to the USD link, it becomes more apparent on how much you are really spending.

We have come to the end of this first blog which introduces you to the how, why, when, where, and who.  Please join me in the next blog, The Preparation, where the fun is just getting started.

FYI - Please visit "Resources" on my 'Home Page' for more information.

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