It's summertime...almost. One kid is done with school and the other finishes up this week. Plans are being made for 'home leave.'
Some people consider home leave a holiday. "WOW...you get three weeks off to travel home and vacation??" It's hardly a vacation.
Last summer, we decided to take advantage of the timing and use the $$ the company gives us for home leave on my sabbatical (10 years with the company warrants 5 weeks off). We debated as a family what to do...home or holiday? We opted for the holiday. Five weeks spent lazing about in SE Asia. It was probably one of the finest vacation/home leaves we have ever had. No jet lag...no worries...no schedule (except airline). Just enjoy. And we did.
You see, home leave for us, is work. The long travel time (up to 24 hrs door to door)...the jet lag recovery time (up to 4 days)...and the appointments; doctor, dentist, optometrist, shopping. This year it is the added stress of getting expat daughter ready for college. Same list as above...but also, driving lessons, driving license, bank accounts, packing what is needed for her life ahead...etc.
As we try and prepare for all of that, we recently learned of a 20% cut in our home leave allowance. Twenty percent. Air tickets home and then through the city in which expat daughter wants to attend college costs more than our allowance. That means, our budget is done on airfare alone.
This is just an added dagger of benefit cuts and policies that have slowly eroded the desire for anyone to be an expat with my company any longer. When new expat positions are posted, it takes months and months to find someone willing to take the chance. In the past, people were lined up to take these positions. As a father of a child that is going on to college, we are dealt with the reality that our company forces us to pay the state income tax, yet, if my daughter wanted to go to the state college, she would be considered out of state (hence, higher tuition rates).
Back to home leave...when asking for our airline bookings, the woman in our office that is supposed to take care of these things, failed to book us on the proper days, so she has me coming back to work later than I am allowed. She also forgot to send me the itinerary when it was booked, and it sat in her draft folder for a couple weeks prior to her realizing. When I mentioned the date errors, she apologized for the mistake...and then told me that all the flights are booked on the days that I wanted (of course, if she would have given me the itinerary right away, this wouldn't have been a problem). *sigh*
So, that is the home leave half of the summertime issues. The second part is all about our home here in GZ. The development complex we have lived in the past two years (and four years previously) has gotten incredibly worse in a very short period of time. We always had issues with the management of this place, but we looked beyond that because we had a big house, and some open spaces (a rarity in Chiner) for the kids to run and play. We always dealt with power outages, water outages, poor television choice/reception, horrible service with a stiff upper lip.
The current owner of the property has just completed a clubhouse and pool, which has been promised for over 10 years. The completion of this facility was then marked by the news that we, as tenants, would be charged extra for the use of these facilities. Example...1 hour of tennis would cost RMB50 (USD6.25)! Other housing complexes do not charge at all or the highest charge we have heard was RMB10 (USD1.25). The list of issues goes on and on.
The final straw was the replacement of all the English speaking staff and guards with a new company. This new company only allowed for 1 English speaking person, even though the complex is predominantly non-Chiner speaking expats. If the service was bad back in the day...it instantly got worse this past week. Add to that, plans to begin construction on high rise apartments directly behind our house...and you can begin to see the picture. As a result, Tai-Tai has been very busy looking for new housing in the area. There is plenty of competition for the expat $$, but the size and space of the home we currently have is the best in the city. We will probably have to bite the bullet and go into apartment living, as the apartments tend to offer the best services.
This means, moving away from the school which has served expat daughter and son so well. The decision must be made, do we stick with this school...or do we change to a school closer to wherever we might move?
So, as we head into the summer, we have the litany of questions hanging; How are we getting home...when are we going...how will we afford it...where is expat daughter going to college...how will we afford it...will expat daughter get her drivers license...what will happen to our home while we are away...should we give it up and move into a smaller place...should expat son switch schools...ughghgh.
If you wonder where we are during home leave, we are probably taking care of a multitude of the issues above...or we are hiding from all of them. If you call and want to meet up...come and find us. We'll be around somewhere.
All I want to do while I am there, is to be able to drive my car. Oh, I have driven a couple times in the past couple years...but always in a right hand drive econo-box style car. I plan on a week with my car...on the open, high desert roads with all the windows down and the music turned up...listening to all 4 bbl of the carburetor drink its fuel with a straw (yeah...how am I going to afford the gas?!).
You'll know where to find me.