My life Stories – Part 15 (Letting go)
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…
Here we are. In France, in this present moment.
We had no idea of how, what, and where, at the time when we decided that we wanted to go somewhere else. We only knew that we had to leave this place and go somewhere else. We knew that we needed to organize certain things that needed to be done that allowed things to be happening. We had been living on our savings for the past two years, and it will be running out soon. We needed to make use of the remaining savings to seek opportunity somewhere else, to be in a place that welcomes us, that allows us to be making an honest living, that enables us to live a simple life.
It's not an issue for me at all, to let go all our 'things', to leave a familiar place that we have been living in for many years, or to go somewhere else to start a new life where there are many things that I am not familiar with, that I have to learn or relearn, and to make adjustment, adaptation and accommodation. As I never have strong attachment towards places, things, activities, cultures, food, or people. And I'm always open and ready for learning and experiencing something that I'm not familiar with, that I've never come in contact before. I am without any expectation.
In the beginning, we were considering about moving to Taiwan. We like, and want to support the democracy and freedom of expression that exists in Taiwan.
My husband had a few years of experience in teaching young children in a school when he was living in France many years ago, and in the beginning when he moved to live with me in Malaysia, he mentioned to me that he was interested to do a TEFL course.
I encouraged him to take up an online TEFL course in May 2021 during the prolonged lockdown in Malaysia, as there might be possible opportunity for him to find an English teaching job in Taiwan. Investment in education or further studies is always the best kind of investment one could have, that is never wasted. The knowledge and skill that we learned will always enhance our life in certain ways, even if we don't make a professional living out of it.
At the same time, I encouraged him to keep an eye on any job opportunity anywhere in Europe, especially France, as we both love many things about France very much. He lived in France for twelve years in the past. He had many years of experience in the field of hotel and restaurant management, on top of our many years of teaching yoga and running retreats. It doesn't matter if the salary is just enough for us to survive, we just needed to be opened, and seize any opportunity that allows us to start a new life, somewhere, anywhere, it doesn't matter.
Not long after we considered about moving to Taiwan, news came about the political tension building up between China and Taiwan, as well as the border closing not receiving any foreign teachers at that time due to the pandemic, which made us reconsidered about many things, and decided not to go there at this time being.
And if he didn't manage to get any job offer by the end of December, we will just buy a one way flight ticket to enter France via Paris, and then we will decide where we want to go in France, especially somewhere in the south, as there is where we would like to live in, even though we still didn't know where exactly and whether he would be able to get a job, or if we would be able to do something for a living. We also knew that it might not be easy for my husband to get a job at his age and during this crazy pandemic. But I said to my husband, "Just try, and see what happens." My husband would prefer to have certain degrees of certainty to feel 'secured', but I have no fear towards the unknown. All I know is that just follow what life brings to us, be opened, and see what happens. France is also very close to Ireland. My husband's parents are a lot older now, and their health is not as good as before, and so, it will be easier for us to visit them in the near future.
I just needed two months time to give notice to terminate the apartment's rental agreement as well as to organize everything that needed to be done before we leave this country. I needed to sort out any thing that is related to legal paper works that deals with the different government departments, both this and the other country, on top of clearing everything out from the apartment and selling my car, while doing our best not to contract the virus, so that we can fly out on the departure day. I had no idea of how things should be done, but I just did it one by one, as I went along.
Even when our landlord and some other friends asked us where were we heading to, we told them that nothing is confirmed, which was true, and they all couldn't understand and puzzled, "What? You are leaving Malaysia but you don't know where you are going? Really?"
Things didn't fall into places until the last minute.
In the beginning after my husband sent out many job applications for vacancy at hotel and restaurant, there were no replies. My husband was a little disappointed and felt down about himself. I said to him, "It's not that you are not good enough, and your age is not an issue, but things didn't happen as it's not the right timing." And it doesn't matter if he couldn't get any job, as I will think of something that I can do to make a living. I also told him that he should put his past 16 years experience on practicing yoga, teaching yoga and running yoga retreats, as well as Yoga Now Malaysia's profile into his resume. And then, great things started to happen.
A four star hotel under a big name, as well as two other hotels, a 5 star boutique hotel and a 3 star hotel chain replied, and they were interested to have an online interview with him. He chose to go for the interview with the four star hotel as it is located in the Alps which is a very nice area to live in. During the interview, he just needed to be himself, a very warm, kind and friendly person. He went through three separate interviews with different managers, and he was given the job in the end. Even though nothing was actually confirmed until the moment we arrived and he signed the work contract.
It was a challenging process with a few hiccups from the preparation of the journey of moving until we arrived at our final destination, especially organizing things that needed to be done and travelling during the pandemic amid the surge of 'Omicron', but we managed to glide through all the obstacles one by one.
We wanted to let go most of our stuffs and just keep some important documents and few things that worth nothing but are important to us in our life. We packed our things into three small boxes to send by post before we left, and then another 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks with mostly heavy winter clothing and some important documents to come with us into the flight.
We knew that during the pandemic, it's not easy to give away our things, not to say, to sell some of our things that are still in very good condition. Thankfully, three of our yoga students would take all of our yoga stuffs. While there were some charity organizations in town that were interested in receiving certain household things, but they wouldn't come to pick up the stuffs.
And then one day, while I was waiting at the dental clinic as my husband was having his teeth cleaned up, I asked the receptionist for a recommendation of a lorry driver, that I have household things to clear out from the apartment. Just happened that a lady was there to accompany her uncle for dental work and she over heard our conversation, and was really excited to introduce her uncle to me, where this uncle who is a chicken seller at the morning market has just received his new low cost apartment, but he has no budget for buying furniture and household things for his new home. This uncle was very happy to take some of our stuffs and he would organize a lorry to come to pick up the stuffs from us. We also gave away the remaining of all our things to the Nepali security guards and the Indonesian and Bangladeshi cleaners at our condominium. They were very happy about it.
We wanted to get our booster vaccination before we left, if possible. We were being told that we needed to wait for our appointment given by the health ministry which won't be happening until after the end of February, however, on the last week of December, my husband found out from twitter that we could call the hospital and ask if we can walk in on certain day. We called the hospital, and they gave us an appointment date on the 31st of December. And so, we went and got our booster shot on the last day of 2021. We were so lucky that we could get that done before our flight because of the vaccine mandate in France, as one day later the Malaysian government announced that walk-in was no longer available.
I also found a second hand car dealer agent to let go of my 19 years old car that had significantly improved the quality of my life, that had served us and the retreat guests nicely over the years. I signed the selling contract a few weeks before we left, but I could keep using the car until the day before we left. The agent told us that he was very 'touched' when I asked him about how much petrol I needed to keep for him on the day of delivery. He said just a quarter tank would be enough, but in the end, I left him with almost full tank of petrol.
And then, just a few days before we moved out from the apartment, the kitchen's floor tiles shifted and mounted, where underneath the tiles was completely hollow due to poor quality of the building construction, which we informed the landlord immediately. For that last few days, we couldn't walk over those tiles, and we were like walking on the edge of a cliff whenever we wanted to use the kitchen. Anyway, we cleaned up the apartment and did a video recording of checking everything in the apartment on the last morning to prove that everything is in good order when we return the apartment to the landlord. We were glad that we did.
After we sort out everything regarding the apartment with the landlord, and received our deposit from him, as he was satisfied with the apartment was in good condition apart from the mounted kitchen's floor tiling which was not our responsibility, we moved to a hotel in town for our last few days in Penang. We were very careful to keep social distancing with other people until we got our PCR test done on the day before the flight, and we were glad that we had a negative result. But, hiccups had just begun.
Even though our first flight was in the evening, we arrived at the airport just before 2.30 pm for checking our supposedly confirmed connecting flights from Penang to Kuala Lumpur to Dubai to Paris. Again, we were glad that we did. The representative at the check-in counter told us that the flight that we were supposed to get on from Penang to Kuala Lumpur in that evening didn't exist, and the last flight available had just left. We didn't receive any email about changes of flight detail from the airline. They told us that they couldn't do anything to help us and that we needed to contact the airline directly to arrange a different connection. They said that we could try to get the airline to change us to another flight that goes to Subang Airport, but then it will be another long transfer from Subang Airport to KLIA. We really didn't want to risk ourselves exposing to too many individuals during the pandemic. Or else, the airline could change our flights to another day, but that is not possible for us because the immigration department had decided to end my husband long term social visit pass on that particular day, even though the initial expiry date was in March and we had asked them to end the pass on a few days later so that if anything happens that we couldn't fly out on that day (knowing that anything can happen during the pandemic), we still can have a few days time to do something about it.
We had tried to call different numbers of the airline for about an hour, but there was nobody answering. It was about 3.30 pm, and we needed to be in KLIA before 9.00 pm. I said to my husband, we could either get a rental car to KLIA immediately, or we could see if there would be some other flights that could get us to KLIA or KLIA2, regardless of how much it would cost us. We just needed to get things done.
Luckily, there was an AirAsia flight to KLIA2 departing at 4.30 pm. The representative was very helpful to immediately get us the ticket and checked us in by 4.00 pm, and we were running so fast towards the security check and then running to the gate which was located at the very end of the departure hall, even though they said that the flight would wait for us. What they didn't tell us was that the flight was delayed about 15 minutes. Anyway, we had a few minutes to catch our breath before boarding. Our seat numbers given were 32, which didn't exist on that plane, as they had changed from the initial bigger plane to a smaller plane. We were told to wait at the end of the cabin watching everyone coming on board. After everyone were on board, they gave us the priority seats in front of the plane. We were thankful to AirAsia and the friendly helpful staffs. Did the hiccups end there? Not really.
After we arrived in KLIA2, we got our checked baggage and took the train to KLIA, which we shouldn't be doing if we had had our connecting flights all the way from Penang to Paris as what it supposed to be, but it wasn't.
Anyway, we got to KLIA, and went to the check-in counter to complain about what happened, even though it wasn't check-in time yet for our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai to Paris. They said they couldn't do anything, but they could check us in at that time, and we could drop the baggage afterwards when the counter reopened for our flight check-in.
I always have travel sickness issue since young. We also haven't been travelling since the beginning of the pandemic. I also happened to be menstruating during those few days. I thought I did well after taking the taxi from the hotel to the airport, and then taking the flight from Penang to KLIA2, and then taking the train from KLIA2 to KLIA, but I wasn't. I guessed the underlying stress from dealing with the 'non-existing flight' and 'rushing for boarding the first flight' had been accumulating in my body. I vomited for a few times on the first flight and couldn't drink or eat much in order to stop the vomiting. I apologized to the lady who sat beside us for causing any disturbance. Luckily, I felt much better on the second flight, and I was fine after we landed in Paris. Although the handles of one of our baggage was damaged when we went to collect our baggage, but the wheels were still functioning fine, and we were so grateful that we finally arrived in France, safely.
We stayed two nights in Paris to get a good rest from the long journey. My husband also needed to get some clothing for his new job. Somehow, I lost our empty Yoga Now tote bag along the way, which I had to let go as well. We had two beautiful sunny days in Paris before we took two train rides to the Alps. We had enjoyed our very nice first meal in Paris. We had the super tasty Gratin at Le Bistro des Augustins. We also got very nice croissant and pain au chocolat from the bakery.
We went to the train station after checked out from the hotel. As scheduled, we boarded the train and were waiting for the train to go on time, as what it supposed to be. We would have about an hour 15 minutes between the two trains, thinking that we could have our picnic lunch outside the train station before catching our second train, as eating and drinking was not allowed on the train at that time. After waiting for about 30 minutes while watching all the other trains departed from the train station, but our train was still in the idle mode, we were told to move to another train. The next train arrived shortly and we had to wait for another 30 minutes for it to depart. Luckily, we still had 10 minutes to catch the other train.
The hotel management was very thoughtful. They had arranged someone to pick us up from the train station, prepared a very nice and comfortable junior suite room for us to stay temporary until we find our own place to live. That was a great surprise to us, as we thought we would be staying in a double room only. The three boxes that we had sent from Malaysia were already placed in the room. When we arrived in that evening, it was 0 degree, and we haven't eaten anything yet. But the room is comfortably warm, and there's a simple equipped kitchen in the room for us to prepare our own meals as well as there's a dining table. It makes things easier for us, as we wouldn't be able to afford eating out in France. We walked to the nearest supermarket and got ourselves some fresh bread and cheese, fruits and cherry tomatoes, and went back to the room and had a very nice first meal in the Alps.
Since we arrived, everyone that we met, especially all my husband's colleagues in the hotel, were all super friendly and nice. There's no sense of superiority or discrimination here. My husband told me that any kind of discrimination is against the law in France. There are pavements everywhere, and cars actually stop to let pedestrians crossing the road. In Malaysia, we have to put out our hand to stop the cars in order to run across the road as fast as possible even when it's green light for pedestrians to cross, but in France, cars naturally stop for us to cross the road, and in return, we give a hand gesture to say thank you.
On the next day, when the sun has risen, we realized that the view from our hotel room was absolutely incredible. For the next few days, we had very nice sunny days, where we went out to explore the town and further out of the town, to get a feel of where things are, before my husband commits to his new job. I only know very few french words at the moment, and would need to depend on my sign language for certain things. That's okay.
Another important reason why we decided to leave Malaysia and move to Europe is that as a citizen of Malaysia, I don't get much social security or retirement benefits from the government, not to say, as a foreigner, my husband won't be getting any social security or old age retirement benefits from the government for being married to me and living in Malaysia, and for sure, we are now gradually transitioning towards old age. Our old age retirement is very much depending on our savings, which is being highly affected by the pandemic and the long term consequences of it. While as tax paying Europeans and their spouse, they are eligible to be living and working anywhere in Europe, and are eligible for social security, health care and retirement benefits from the government. And most importantly, is about the presence and absence of humanity, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and equal rights.
We had some hiccups along the way, but we also received unexpected helps from
somewhere whenever we needed it. We were so grateful for everything. We
met very friendly and helpful people. We managed to file a complaint to the airline under the help of one of the airline representatives in KLIA, and the airline responded and would give us back the money that we had paid for the flight getting to KLIA. We also got some compensation from the train delay.
Even though we can't afford to eat out, but the cost of food here in France, particularly in the supermarket, is surprisingly much cheaper than in Malaysia. We always like to have our own home cooked meals. There are many things that my husband wants to do, and food that he likes to eat, are accessible and affordable to us here in France, which it's not the case while we were living in Malaysia. We have been eating well. We sleep well. We have been well looking after. Life is very kind to us.