Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Big Goodbyeski

Hello friends...I feel I am beginning to like the whole, start articles with a quote thing, so I think I will go with your friend and mine Mr. Rodgers for this one. 

"There's only one person in the whole world like you, and I like you so much. Meow meow meow so much. Bye bye."  

I think this quote speaks for itself in introducing the theme of this post...no...really? I thought it was obvious...OK then, the post is about saying goodbye, and because I am leaving in a few days I will make this a two-fer and include goodbyes to friends and to work.

I'm going to start with leaving my job at ICOM.  I am not including Julia's thoughts on this one because she technically didn't leave her job, she was just transferred.  Plus, I gave her authority to post on this blog and she hasn't yet...so I'm calling her out.  Anyway...

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have not always been the nomadic entrepreneur that I am today, until March 15th of this year I was employed as an Instructional Designer/Project Manager at ICOM productions, writing and managing the production of E-Learning programs.  Truthfully, it was a job that I was happy in and enjoyed, however, I also always wanted this opportunity to travel.  That juxtaposition alone made it very difficult for me to weigh out the choice to leave versus the choice to stay.

Ultimately, Juls and I spent some time discussing things seriously and it came down to me thinking back to when my friend Jonathan and I were determined to move to New Zealand to farm sheep (seriously). 

                                 In Our Defense, This Movie Was Years From Being Made

For a number of reasons, that adventure never happened, but the reason I wanted to go has always stayed a part of me.  I have always wanted to live in another country for a period of time and integrate with a different culture.

So, with the decision made, I just had to inform my work.  I decided to give ICOM a full 2 months notice so they would be able to transition me out fully and find a new person to take my projects.  I also decided to give myself 2 weeks after leaving my job and before moving away from Alberta (to NS for 1 month, then Paris).  I'm glad I did too, because the stress of working those last two weeks while doing all the other things we had to do would have likely ended in Juls leavin' my ass.

As it turned out, I had time to deal with a lot of those last second details and avoid becoming a single man in Paris...Ontario...

I must say though, that the hardest part of the whole leaving the job thing, was leaving the friends I had made there.  As I said in earlier posts, the ICOMers were an interesting group, and my propensity to make friends with "interesting" (that's a different way of saying weird) people meant that we got along well.  It's surprising how much you can connect with some people you work with, and I am a person who usually fights against getting to know people I work with.  When it came down to it, I had actually met a few people there that I would say crossed the coworker realm into acquaintances...and even friends.  For those unfamiliar with the progression, it goes something like this...Oh, and I have also color coordinated them, I hear my American readers find it easier to understand levels if they are color coded and vague.

1. Stranger
    2. I saw him/her once (otherwise known as "Oh yeah, that guy")
        3. Coworker
            4. Acquaintance
                5. Good for a fun time, or fun for a good time
                    6. Friend

As for friends outside of work, this was an even harder undertaking.  Being in Calgary for 5 years had meant that we had created quite a friend base.  We had friends come and go over the years, but also had quite a few that had been constant throughout.  Just as we did with apartments, Juls and I made a list one day of everyone we knew who had moved to Calgary and were either still there or had moved away...I won't include the list but we found that we knew 38 (ish, I can't remember the exact number...high 30s anyway) maritimers who lived in Calgary at some point in the last 5 years...it's really amazing and a testament to the fact that the maritimers really are/were moving to the "promised land".

The biggest problem that we found when we began the goodbye process with coworkers and friends was underestimating the time it would take.  Naturally, we (mostly me) wanted to avoid saying goodbye for as long as possible.  This was for two reasons really. 

1. I hate saying goodbye
2. I wanted to avoid that awkward meeting when you have said goodbye and then see that person again...not only do you feel like an idiot, you have to go ahead and say goodbye a second time...shitty.

The unfortunate side affect to this is that you wind up putting it off so long that you run out of time and are literally running from place to place trying to spend a little time with everyone.  In the end, we wound up spending less time with everyone than we would have liked, and missing some people altogether.  So, for those we missed and for those who we didn't spend enough time with...sorry :).

In an attempt to make up for it, our solution was to organize an event at the local watering hole (I will truly miss the Barley Mill) and invite everyone, work friends and non-work friends.  the event was a smash and everyone came to say goodbye...we were truly touched.  Thanks everyone!

Next up, I am going to skip ahead a bit and talk about my month in NS before the move.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

It's All About The Benjamins

I am reminded of a quote from a great philosopher of the last century...a man by the name of B.I.G. He wisely said, "I don't know what they want from me, it's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see."  Alternatively, I am also reminded of the slightly less profound L.F.O. words of wisdom, "When you take a sip, you buzz like a hornet, Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets."  Truly genius...

                                            The "L" stands for (en)Lightened

I should point out here that although BIG's quote does have some relevance to our financial troubles, I am in no way claiming to have rapper cash.  There will be no pimped out rides, trick ass bitches, bling bling or crystal sippin' in this article, just the sad truth of how complicated dealing with moving your money overseas can be.

This article is truly a unique opportunity for me to write about things that I truly (and I mean truly) know nothing about. It's amazing that even after having a financial adviser for over three years now, and having said financial adviser explain everything we are doing financially ad-noseum, I still no nothing about our finances....I consider it a talent.

I did however still manage to play an intricate role in a few of the financial matters we had to clue up.  These included;
  1. Rearranging all our investments
  2. Figuring out how we were going to be paid in France
  3. Getting a French bank account
  4. Trying desperately to understand anything CIBC was telling us...
Rearranging our investments was actually not very hard with Sarah's (the aforementioned financial adviser) help.  Then again, as I suggested earlier, it was entirely dependent on my being able to sign away our investment money with what I am going to optimistically call a 25% understanding of where it was going and why.  I strongly recommend financial advisers for this reason, they will drag you into smart investments even when you could never make a smart investment in your life.

The next three items on our list were all interconnected (as we found when we were trying to figure out anything to do with them).  We needed to know where our money would be going in France in order tell Total where the money would go...we needed to know if CIBC could transfer money either online, through a phone call initiated wire transfer, or hell...we would have settled for delivery by carrier pigeon...we needed to know how Total would pay us and if they would pay into CIBC or our French account (BNP Paribas)...and to top it all off, we needed to have an address and phone number (In France!) for all of this to be set up.  Hello people, we haven't moved to France yet!!!  How the hell can we have an address and phone number...

I actually had a conversation with a person at CIBC that went something like this...

Eric: "Hi there person claiming to know things about banking, geography and life on this planet, I am moving to France soon and need to know how to make a wire transfer into my CIBC account every month."

CIBC Bank Assistant (I will call her Shirley): "Oh yes, I know exactly what you need, let me find a bunch of forms for you to fill out for 45 minutes without explaining anything to you..."

...45 minutes later...

Shirley: "That was a great 45 minutes, now with all that paperwork filled out you will just have to come into this branch every month to initiate the wire transfer."

Eric: "Great, thanks for the...Bwaaaa???  You do know that France is on another continent right?  I will not be able to come in every month..."

Shirley: "Oh...well...hmmm...we can't help you sir."

                                                        And Thennnnnn???

Needless to say, we did eventually figure things out by finding out that Total would actually pay us money into our CIBC account (for our investments) and into our BNP Paribas account (for our foldin' money).  It was a headache without parallel to figure out though...

So, when all was said and done we did actually manage to figure things out...or at least we think we did, we haven't actually been paid yet after all.  Rest assured, you will hear more if something goes wrong.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Home, Home on the Range...

I've never been good at making large commitments...especially financial ones.  Other then marrying Juls (which was surprisingly easy) the largest commitment I have made has been to buy a used 2000 Ford Taurus for $3500.

                                         What Can I Say...I Liked the Financing Options...

It follows from this that I have never been able to commit to any sort of permanent, or even semi-permanent housing.  In fact, one day as a joke Juls and I decided to list all the places we had lived since leaving our respective family homes.  My list looked something like this;

1. 2001 - Bachelor Pad in Halifax
2. 2002 - Shared apartment with Andrew and Chris in Halifax
3. 2003 - Same apartment, different roommate. Andrew and Tim in Halifax
4. 2004 - Apartment with Keegan in Halifax
5. 2006 - Brief stint as a nomad in an apartment with Sascha in Halifax
6. 2007 - 1st place in Calgary, basement apartment with Juls
7. 2008 - Upstairs of same house with Juls
8. 2008 (4 months later...thanks Tamara...jerk) - 2 bedroom apartment...I feel no more need to imply these were all with Juls...
9. 2009 - Moved in December, into a 450 (if that) square foot bachelor....smart...yeah right...
10. 2011 - Last apartment in Calgary.  a huge 2 bedroom that was awesome and that we also were in for about 2 weeks before we found out we were being ex patted...

I won't bother even trying to list Juls places, but rest assured, hers are actually even more numerous (I believe her count is 14). Now, on the eve of our trip to France for what looks like at least 3 years, I would say it is a safe bet that we will be adding to those lists...and still none will be anything we own. 

It has recently been revealed to me that Juls and I cannot be A-typical.  This became painfully apparent when the Total hired moving company entered our apartment to pack the things to send to Paris and asked us whether we had any antiques or valuables worth more than $10,000.  While trying to think of anything that would even come close to that, the only answer I could come up with was my Playstation...value...about $300 new.

I'm getting on a bit of a tangent here, but what I am really trying to point out is that we are not really people to get attached to anything...Juls has actually called me the opposite of a hoarder.  So, when it comes time for us to deal with our housing and belongings in Canada, there was not really that much to deal with.  That being said, it somehow was still a ridiculously large amount of work.  Because of our constant moving and purging we really had an IKEA home with a few personal artsy touches (entirely provided by Juls), so when it came time to decide what we wanted to keep and what we were selling or getting rid of, my vote was almost unanimously "get rid of it".  Juls had a bit more reservation toward getting rid of everything, and so eventually we met in the middle, and got rid of about 2/3 of our worldly belongings.

When all was said and done we really only shipped clothes, a few electronics (the Playstation mentioned earlier), our multimedia collection, photos and paintings and our marital bed...yep, we shipped a bed to France. 

It's actually a pretty funny story that explains why we would ship a bed. Total furnishes our Paris home, but will only furnish to what our "family status" allots us.  Being married with no children meant that Juls and I were entitled to a 1 bedroom apartment worth of furniture.  We decided that we wanted a 2 bedroom (better for guests) and so, we paid an extra couple of hundred Euro/month to make it happen.  Here's where it gets wonky.  Total would not pay to purchase a bed for that second bedroom, however, they would pay to ship our bed to France...When the movers came to ship our stuff they saw the bed and seemed taken aback.  We wondered if shipping a bed was unusual and they quickly told us it was not only that, but also ridiculously expensive.  In fact, the cost to ship our $800 bed to Paris turned out to be about $5000!  Ahhh logic, isn't it great.

Anyway, with everything shipped we only needed to get out of our lease.  This was a bit harder than we had hoped.  We informed our landlady about 3 months early that we were shipping out and she began to search for either a new renter, or a purchaser for her unit.  Unfortunately, being non-committal to whether she was going to sell or rent, meant that neither happened in time and we had to eventually pay our way out of our lease.  The saving grace was that Total would cover this, but the stress of wondering what was going to happen was enough to drive us to temporary insanity while we were trying to deal with the move.

Eventually, with the help of hired movers and hired maids (which were awesome), we did get rid of everything we had and were free and clear to make our exit.  A few of the many things to deal with were, well...dealt with.

Now if we could only figure out how to deal with our money over there...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Beginning AKA. Paris Wars 4 "A New Hope"

And so it begins.  Since finding out that I would be moving to Paris all kinds of people have told me that I should make a blog and post regularly on my life.  I don't know how that will really reveal anything...my powers of observation have been called (accurately) sub-par at best.  But alas, here I am, on my way to Paris and writing a blog about my life...interesting.

To get everyone up to speed...it is currently April 17th, 2011 (5:17pm Atlantic Time, for the super anal) and I am not in fact in Paris yet.  I'm not in Calgary, Alberta either...my home for the past 5 years.  Instead I am in the basement of my childhood home in Canaan, Nova Scotia trying to convince myself that this isn't foreshadowing things to come.  So as I eat a slice of Big Red's pizza and sip some Golden Wedding and Coke (A David Myler speaciality) let me take a few minutes to reflect on the insanity of the last few months.  But first I feel a need to go back to the beginning.

January 2007 - November 2010

In January 2007 I hopped on a plane leaving Nova Scotia for Calgary, Alberta.  I had managed to get myself a practicum teaching position in Woodman Jr High School and was going to rejoin Julia while I finished out my teaching degree. She had gotten a job with Pengrowth 6 months earlier, and I was anxious to see her after so long apart.  On top of being in a new city, with a new job and no money, we had also never lived together.  It was an auspicious beginning that could have either gone the way of "Two And A Half Men" or alternatively...Charlie Sheen's real life.

I will spare the gritty details and simply say that it was a tough, fun and ultimately successful several months.

Soon after graduation I began looking for work.  After finding that the CBE (that's Calgary Board of Education) is a hard nut to crack, I quickly switched my focus to other branches of education...PS...Not allowing unsuccessful applicants to reapply for two years is bullshit CBE! I was able to find a job at the Canadian Diabetes Association by finding a posting on a site my friend Kenney recommended to me (charityvillage.com for anyone who is looking for non-profit work).  It was something I had very little experience in...working in an office...but I was excited to give it a try.

Julia was still working with Pengrowth at this time and was making great inroads in her career and getting to travel to cool events.  Investor meetings in Bermuda, Flames playoff games in the owners box and sponsor access to the Canadian Open were just some of the perks she had to "suffer" through...

                                          Owners Box Seats at The Saddledome!

we both worked at these jobs as we learned to live together in our little basement apartment in Calgary for the rest of 2007.

In January 2008 for a number of different reasons, we then found ourselves both switching jobs and moving at the same time.  Julia had decided to apply to a job that she had found, she was perfectly happy in her job at Pengrowth, but saw an opportunity to grow her career through an new job.  I on the other hand had gotten frustrated with non-profit pay scales...let's just say that when they say non-profit, they mean it.  So, we both applied and found ourselves starting new jobs in January of 2008.  Julia was starting her new job at Total (more on this later) and I started at LexisNexis Canada.  Coincidentally, we also moved to the upstairs of the house we were living in because the landlady and owner of the house offered it to us as she moved to France (see the coincidence :).

Julia would prove to be an asset (as she always does) at Total and worked her way into the company.  She truly enjoyed her work and always impressed (and continues to impress) me with how dedicated she was.  She also learned shortly after starting at Total, that there was a program that allowed "mobile" employees to move internationally and work for the company.  Needless to say, we were intrigued...

My road was a little less straightforward...I've always been the problem child, why change now.  I worked at LexisNexis until October 2009.  I was a home based employee for my time there and could never really get into the work...though it was education based, I found myself a little under challenged.  Through several random questions by Julia to her friend and coworker Derek (now a good friend of mine as well) she managed to find an opportunity for me with a local productions company, ICOM Productions.  It seemed exciting and was a truly unique opportunity to do some cool things.  Obviously I got the job...otherwise this would be a really long explanation for nothing...and started my career as an Instructional Designer/Project Manager for E-Learning.

     I Should Probably Mention That We Were Married at This Time as Well

I truly enjoyed this job and felt more challenged than I had ever been.  The ICOMers were a unique group and I valued my time there.  While working there though, Julia and I continued to hear more and more about the Expat program at Total. Soon we had begun to truly think it was something that would happen for us and began to plan around it.  In fact, we found ourselves making decisions based on the thought that it would happen.  We actually got ourselves so worked up about it that we began to drift away from our friends and stopped doing things in Calgary in anticipation of our departure.  It goes without saying that this was ultimately a bad idea, and it lead to us being truly miserable in Calgary for most of 2010. If I can suggest anything to anyone that they may be able to benefit from, it is don't live in the future or you will neglect the present...

Anyway, now in November of 2010 (It may have been December...I can't remember) we finally got word...Maybe had become definitely, and definitely had become early 2011.  We were going to be ex patted to France by Total.

November (possibly December) 2010 - March 2011

What comes next is a flurry of confusion, a rush of panic, and a lot of nervous excitement.

We new we were going, and in January we found out when.  We would be heading to Paris and Julia would be starting work on April 2nd.  In the next 3 months we would have to deal with "minor" details like;

1. Finding a place to live
2. Getting rid of or moving all our things
3. Getting out of our lease
4. Leaving our jobs
5. Dealing with our finances
6. Saying goodbye to our friends
7. Me trying to learning at least some functional French (Un petit peux)

I feel these need some further detail, so check back as I describe the sometimes infuriating details that we never knew we would need to know about these things.