Bless this Mess


Just thought I'd share what our house looks like at the moment. It's a maze of boxes, bags, suitcases and piles of clothes. Still, we're getting there. I particularly like the photo of Kate doing the ironing and Alex sitting on his ass, I mean, the lounge. :-) We've thrown out SO much stuff, it's amazing!

Remember the mantra... keep, pack, take, chuck. keep, pack, take, chuck. keep, pack, take, chuck...

Sit, Beg, Rollover


It’s getting closer now… we actually feel like we are getting somewhere today. Now that Christmas is over and the silly season is almost at an end we have started packing in earnest, packing the stuff we are leaving behind and dropping it into my mum’s house for storage, assembling piles of stuff according to Donna’s infamous Take/Leave/Pack/Chuck strategy. Bags are starting to get clothes put into them, the huge piles of paperwork have been whittled into a manageable pile of important papers we need to take, the airport hotel for our last night in Australia is booked, and we have started to see friends for the last time before we go. We even had time to go down to Cronulla beach for a late afternoon swim today, that’s how organised we are feeling. Haha!

We have been on the phone (and when I say phone, of course I mean Skype) to David and Heidi over the last few days, probably for a total of three hours. That sounds ridiculous I know, but I had to ask Dave about a few things, Donna spoke to Heidi about other stuff, and Charlee and Kate played 20 Questions and talked about school and other stuff. It’s so good being able to just click a button and say “Hey Dave, got a question for you…” Thanks to this excellent communication we have going, Donna got onto a website today (courtesy of Dave) where she could browse for teaching jobs online and she saw a few things that might be of interest. Although we still need to get some more details, it’s something that might just work out well. It’s a tutoring service looking for teachers, and there are a lot less hoops to jump through than trying to get approval to teach in the official School Board.

I PDFed Donna’s documentation to the Halton District School Board the other day so she could get approval to teach there and it came to 21 pages! What’s the bet they still need something else when we get there? In Australia, the form to fill out for teaching in a CEO school is only a page or 2, so I hope we get this all finalised ok when we get there. Donna doesn’t want to have to sit around waiting for approval to teach, she wants to get into it pretty quickly, mostly so she can meet people and not have to sit at home doing nothing. The tutoring job would be part time and might just suit quite well. We will have to see what pans out…Ah well, back to the packing, but at least the light is at the end of the tunnel and we don’t even think it’s an oncoming train anymore!

Pools and Schools


On the last day of school, Kate’s friend Jessica threw a surprise pool party for her, and a whole group of them spent the afternoon splashing about in the pool. Kate loved it. She will miss her friends next year, but is looking forward to making a whole lot of new friends, in fact she has already been emailing some of the girls in Canada, getting to know them already. On the other end, after much deliberation the Graces have decided to send Charlee and Adam to Picnic Point Public School, where Kate currently attends (and Alex used to). Even though PPPS is not the closest school (Panania is the closest), it seemed more logical for the kids to go there since there is a ready-made support group of parents, staff and kids who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Canadian friends.

The other key factor was Natalie, who looks after Kate before and after school on the days Donna works. While we are away, Natalie offered to look after the Grace kids, which would be really useful if Heidi is planning to pick up a bit of work while she is here. Not only that, but Charlee and Adam are the same ages as Nat’s kids, Brittany and Ethan. After talking with the principal at PPPS it was agreed that the four kids could be in the same class together, which will be an excellent arrangement. Added to that is the fact that when Kate gets back from Canada early, she will be able to go back to school where Charlee attends, and in fact has been also placed in the same class. Kate’s looking forward to this, so she gets to spend a bit of time getting to know Charlee while she is in Australia as well.

Knowledge is Power


I’ve realised just how much I’ve written in this weblog over the past few months, and the silly thing is, we haven’t even left yet. Heaven help me when we actually arrive in Canada! I’m wondering if I’ll be writing more or less… I hope I continue to keep the blog current by adding to it regularly, since I do quite enjoy looking back over it. Perhaps there may be one or two folk out there who also enjoy reading it, but to be honest, I am mainly doing if for my own selfish reasons as much as for any possible audience. Notwithstanding all that, if there really are people out there who will benefit from reading through my ramblings, it would most likely be future exchangees. It’s good to get insights from people who have already done what you’re about to do… it’s the old story about going through a minefield by following the footsteps of the person in front of you.

One of the reasons I’ve bothered to write as much of the pre-trip stuff as I have, is that if you are planning to go on exchange you need a lot of this information before you go. By far the best thing we did was to establish a solid open line of communication between the Graces and ourselves. Yeah, email is good, but I think the use of MSN Messenger and Skype has played a big part in ensuring that we keep the lines of communication open. And with Skype’s ability to phone a landline for next to nothing, you can also use it to make almost free calls to the other county. For example, this morning I had to ring the Halton District School Board to check on the documentation process for Donna to get some teaching work. I could have done it with email, but I like to actually talk to people so I used Skype to call them. When you’re paying less than 2 cents a minute it doesn’t seem such an issue when they put you on hold for a couple of minutes! Of course the other useful aspect of blogging early is that I've become quite cluey about Blogger and the way it works, and I've refined the best ways to include photos and stuff, as well as making modifications to the page template. I'm sure I could have worked all that out later, but I think I'll have better things to do once we arrive in Oakville...

Anyway, keep an eye out for more useful tips hidden amongst my ramblings…

One month to go


One month from tomorrow we fly out of Australia.

That's actually a bit scary, since we still seem to have so much to do. To make matters worse I spent most of today in at school (yes I know I said my last day was the other day, but that's just part of the territory as the IT guy.. We had to install some new computers, put a couple of new drives in one of the servers, and get all the student and staff accounts imported into the AD for next year, and so on...)

Kate is at a surprise farewell party this afternoon with some of her friends from school today. She also won the school talent quest today, clever little chicken that she is. Reminds me that we still have a lot of goodbyes and farewells to say yet, to a lot of people.

The Suzuki is over at Parramatta getting the diff fixed, got to pick it up in the morning, then somehow in the next few weeks get it down to Bowral to the Robs. Yet another thing to think about.

We are planning to stay in a motel at the airport the night before we fly out in an attempt to make our departure as stress free as possible. Theres a pool at the motel so the kids can spend the afternoon getting their last swim for the summer before we experience a temperature drop of about 50 degrees the next day!

Anyway, I just wanted to remind myself that there is only one more month till we fly out. Got that? One month. Yikes!

Shifting Gear


Oh, clever pun! Shifting gear… haha. I finished school for the year yesterday so the real work starts in earnest now. Hence, it’s a bit like shifting from first gear into second gear… it’s also the time when we start packing stuff and moving things around, quite literally “shifting gear” from one place to the other. Oh well, I thought it was clever anyway!The last few months and weeks have been a bit of a blur, where we have forgone many of the things we would normally be doing like going away on weekends or 4WDing, and getting smothered in stuff at work which I know have to be finalised before I leave.

Donna is also very houseproud and insists on the house being left in a state that we would be proud of and the Graces will be pleased with, so we have been doing tons of work getting it ready. In the last month or so, I have pulled a wall apart to install a cavity slider so that a new wardrobe can be built in Alex’s room, we bought and installed a second TV and had to get the antenna hooked up, we have painted several rooms, bought new rugs and accessories, moved furniture, replaced things that were broken or in need of repair, and done quite a few trips to the tip to dump old junk that we really don’t need. The garage and office have been tidied up, the garden has had a makeover, and on it goes. We have had a few “discussions” about the need to do some of this stuff – It sometimes drives me mad that the list of things to do keeps getting longer not shorter, but that’s just what Donna is like and I wouldn’t have it any other way (as much as I might whinge about it sometimes!)

Of course there has also been all the school-related stuff as well, finalising registers and programs, placing last minute orders, trying to help Stuart get up to speed with the IT role, and the hideous task of clearing out my desk.We have four very simple rules that we are attempting to apply to everything in our house… Pack it, Take it, Leave it, or Chuck it. It makes things a lot easier as you go through every item and decide, do we leave it for the Graces, do we store it till we get home, do we take it with us, or do we never want to see it again. You really realise just how much crap you accumulate! I have to go into work on Friday just to sort out some new computers and a few other things, but then I’m handing over to Stuart and I’m going to try not to think about work too much again.

Just got to get through Christmas now, and then we will shift gears yet again I’m sure!

Axing the Tax


One of the interesting things about the teaching exchange is the fact that, for the 12 months I am in Canada, I am not required to pay tax to the Australian government. The ATO made a ruling on this a few years back and decreed that as an exchange teacher, if you are out of the country for 183 days, plus some other logic that only accountants seem to understand, your tax liabilities for the year of the exchange actually end up with the Canadian government instead of the Australian government. Now, because the Australian tax year runs from July 1 to June 30 and I will be away for half of the year in two consecutive years, it means that I will only need to consider the income earned for half the year even though the rate of tax I pay for the half year I am here is predicated on the rate it should be as if I was here for the full year. If that sounds confusing, (and it does!) the bottom line is that I should get a decent refund for both the 05/06 and 06/07 tax years, since I will have basically paid too much tax during the times I was in Australia. I think I could make a good argument that we pay too much tax in Australia anyway, but that’s another issue altogether. Don’t get me started.

So instead, I pay tax to the Canadian government who, quite frankly, seem a lot more understanding about what they will allow and what they won’t in terms of tax deductions. More than that I don’t know, and that’s why we pay good accountants to work this stuff out for us.However, the interesting part is that you can’t just go up to your pay-person and say “stop taking my tax out please”. They want to know why, who authorised it, and why should they listen to you. Fair questions I guess. They can’t just not tax you, on your say-so, or I imagine everyone would try it.I assumed there would be an official form to fill out from the ATO, something that clearly indicated my desire to not have my PAYE tax removed from my pay each week. Nope. No such form exists it seems. So after a few phone calls and emails back and forth, it seems there is a “ruling” from the Tax Office that spells it all out quite clearly. I showed it to John, our school business manager, and he seemed to think it all looked legitimate and authorised Sharon, our paylady, to not withhold tax from my pay as from the end of January. So that’s how it’s done. Being in an independent school, it’s handy being able to just go downstairs and talk to these people to sort it out. God only knows how you’d do it in a DET school, or worse, a CEO school!

If you happen to be interested in this sort of thing, you can view the ruling here.

Skype: betchaboy

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