Thursday, April 24, 2008

One step forwards and a few back again

One step closer to getting our loan apparently as a letter from the solicitor explaining our situation may suffice. Medical results came through today - all ok - well as ok as you can be when you're as old as us. Still trying to find a child friendly apartment for tomorrow in Montenegro. See you next week....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Title Deeds

No Title Deeds no loan says the NBD. Well, this is a running saga, the Title Deeds are held up pending a decision on paying the Alien's Landholding Licence which wasn't applicable to us as our plot of land is smaller than 1 acre. The law changed somewhere along the line so we're in limbo land with it waiting on a decision as to whether the fee should be applied retrospectively. Until this decision is made the Title Deeds document cannot be issued. In the meantime I see that none of the real estate agents have changed their criteria for this fee being payable. I wonder who does know the answer. It's a mystery.

What no water?

So the story goes on....there is no water or electricity now in our flat in Montenegro as the road diggers cut through the cables so we won't be sleeping there that's for sure. If we want to get our cases into the apartment we have to climb the hill with them. Interesting.

I know I have to get used to water and leccy cuts so this is a useful start....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Think we're allowed 100 kilos....

We are off to Montenegro on Friday to see the apartment we bought 3 years ago which is finally completed. Well, that was the plan. Last night, the developer rang and I just knew by his breathless tone that Plan B was imminent. Well, the good news is the apartment is finished, habitable and has water and electricity. The bad news is that without a helicopter we cannot actually get into it because there is no accessible road. So we have now been booked into an apartment nearby and have been told that the situation will be assessed (parachutes?), on Sunday. This morning I received the flight details finally as I had booked these online ages ago blindly ignoring the very tiny 'subject to change' line. The bargain flight has now been moved forward to 5.50am and is going via Corfu. So up in the middle of the night with the kids (dragging them along on their Trunkis at 3am at the airport) and then an extra 1.5 hours flying time with them too. Joy. Coupled with this, as you can see we're not travelling light as I have purchased all the stuff for the apartment here. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyway, hopefully the apartment is great and hopefully lots of people will want to stay there so hopefully this will give us some income in Dominica. Hope's my middle name.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why are you going?

Do you relocate because you want to go somewhere else or do you relocate because you really want to leave where you are? Of course it must be a combination of both but what percentage makes it the 'right' decision?

It is almost easier when you don't have a choice as then you list all the positives (because it is counter productive to do anything else). This is what I had to do when we came to Belgium. However, last year Andy was offered another position back in Bahrain which we turned down so whereas I didn't want to leave before (because I had to), in hindsight our time was up and we were ready to move on. So, to consider relocating probably only works when it is the right time both in your professional and personal life ie. a time when you are comfortable about making such a monumental decision having achieved what you want to achieve to date and definitely understanding all that encompasses that 'there's more to life' feeling.

Working for an international company we've had to learn to accept both sides of the coin ie. we've deliberately chosen to work in some places but, when we've had more than one option, turned down others. However, 15 years ago, we both independently chose to leave the UK and still do not want to live back there. So, is going to Dominica (our first choice after investigating a few other options) a natural progression for us in that it's finally an opportunity to still live and work abroad but on our own terms? I do hope so.

Therefore, I think the reasons for wanting to live somewhere else must be longer than your list of reasons for wanting to leave somewhere otherwise you probably need to rethink your longterm goals.

The waiting game

Where we're at today:-

1. Still waiting to hear from the NBD on our loan so:-
a) can't give notice at work
b) can't give notice on the house
c) can't confirm a definite move date to the packers
d) can't book flights to the UK or Dominica
2. Still waiting to hear on our full medical results.
3. Still waiting for our house to be refurbished and sold in Turks & Caicos.
4. Still waiting for the Chinese to return my $120 - could be a long one.

Better get used to it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Better SAFE than sorry

For a change we didn't go to Makro yesterday and group hug flat screen TV's. We promoted ourselves to the hardware store. So there we are, haven't a clue where to look but trying to merge in with all the serious DIY-ers. We're in our Saturday best, me hair washed and makeup on (Saturday night out is now Saturday day out) and everyone else is in their dungarees and spotted paint overalls. Trying to look the part I delegate Andy with an imperious wave to picture hooks - the ones with the nails already in so you just thump them in the wall with your shoe. I took over the serious business of safe hunting - yes, you build a house so you buy a safe, says Tina. Since leaving the Middle East where everyone dripped in gold, I haven't really thought about valuables. However, I have a few bits - including an eternity ring I made Andy buy me after 5 years, so am thinking we should keep them safe for the girls one day or possibly an attendance at a regal Roseau revel, who knows. Anyway, I chose a safe (the smallest of course) - very heavy aren't they (!) but I didn't ask for help as I had taken full responsibility. So here's my safe and if you look very carefully the packet of 5 picture hooks, yeah 5, we've got around 50 pictures. Oh well, you know how we like revisiting stores weekly......

Friday, April 18, 2008

Island Fever

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about". (OW)

It's great to share positive news on blogs and many of them on Dominica detail its position as 4th happiest place to live compiled by the NEF/Happy Planet Index, Alex Boylan's declaration on CBS News that it was his favourite destination after he completed his 'around the world for free' trip and of course Dominica continues to receive many green accolades and is consistently voted within the top 5 diving sites in the world. All good stuff.

For where we're at, I really like Caribbean Man's blog - as he tells it how it is. Island fever (the need to get off the island for various reasons) was prevalent in Bahrain where we learned to handle it but never really got used to it. Now, Caribbean Man says of Dominica:-

2. Everyone is watching. Met veye is an occupation in this small island. Like your privacy ? Go far into Zion and come down for you shopping and go back up. The alternative is that everyone is going to know you business, whether its true or false. Confidentiality means nothing here. Your bank manager to your next door neighbour has info that has to be shared. And goddammit...them goin share it. Just accept that or be a hermit.

On a positive note I guess you could consider it the ultimate neightbourhood watch scheme, that's cool. Talking of which, Tina tells me that our (not met yet) neighbour is doing daily guided tours of our house. If I arranged a little donation box at the front door, do you think we'd raise enough for the new Shack........

Friday fun

Belgium - this morning - my neighbour sweeping the street. That's what they do here, all the time, no-one believes me! And you thought I was obsessive about the playroom.............

Groundhog Day - wherever you live

Before and after in the playroom. Everyday I tidy it up and then the children systematically destroy it (see they don't watch that much TV afterall). Every night I rattle on 'if you don't tidy up I will give all your toys away' to the response of:-

Chloe: Ah, that's a really nice thing to do Mummy.
Ollie: I've made my bed.
Scarlett: They are not my toys really.

To sum up, Chloe always tells me what I want to hear, Ollie's from planet Zog and Scarlett has finally worked out that all 'her' toys are just recycled ones from the other two anyway.

In Dominica they will all have their own bedrooms and no playroom - well that's outside, the ultimate green play space, fantastic! Therefore, the contents of the playroom now will be divided between their three bedrooms and each one will be responsible for keeping their own room tidy...........sorted!

In reality I'm probably just tripling my Groundhog Day scenario though.........Who's kidding who here, different country, same issues............

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The worry

Spent most of last night in bed worrying. It drives Andy mad because he says I worry about trivial things or rather things I have absolutely no control over. He's absolutely right of course. So last night's were: will my new Argos 30 + light fittings and ceiling fans work when we get there (why wouldn't they?), will the fixed kitchen table be the right height for my chairs to go under (who cares - well I do), will I be able to get the kids' school uniform (whatever it is) made and more importantly black shoes that Chloe will actually agree to wear, will we get our loan this week (my 24/7 worry really), should I take the kids Christmas presents with us (bonkers I know when the idea is that they have less), we both had full medicals 3 weeks ago now and still haven't been sent the results - is that a good sign as we must be ok or is it a really bad sign as they are double checking the tests they gave us to see if they got it right before giving us bad news, have we got the best design for the Shack - ie. if I was a guest would I want the bedroom to look out to sea or the valley - particularly tricky as I haven't got a clue what the plot outlook is (did I ever mention we bought this plot of land unseen and if I was really honest I don't have a clue where it is). Andy tries to patiently explain and I nod confidently (oh yes I remember that road by the cemetary - do I heck) so he doesn't get equally annoyed with my sense of direction 'skills'. Tina says you can see the main house when you drive over the Roseau bridge - so that's good enough for me. I think you can probably see quite a lot of houses when you drive over the Roseau bridge mind.

On with the list (bored are you - just remember it was me last night having to worry all this) - Celia's scented candles - she said don't worry about taking her some but I'd like to - now do I take a large pack of Ikea tealights or does that look a bit mean and should I just get one large super scenter as it were and how many tealights should I take for me then if she's run out then they must be a good thing to take or alternatively could that be another business idea - am sure I recall candles being made out there - the flowers are gorgeous - don't you just shove a few petals into the mix and hey presto that's scented candles, must investigate that one. Am even more exhausted now reliving the whole night again. The alarm going off at 7am was a welcome relief I can tell you. Then Chloe asked me to quickly revise her sums with her as she had a test this morning and now I'm sitting here worrying about how she's getting on..........Let's hope my kids haven't inherited my mad worry gene.............or do I just need to get a life?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Schooling in Dominica

One of the first reactions we get when revealing the big move is 'what about the children?' followed up with 'we could never do that to our children', whatever that is. For me, boarding school at 14 was the worst experience ever but for my brother it worked. You can only do what you think is best (as my parents did) and I definitely want to keep ours with us as long as possible. Having said that we bought them tents this weekend so they could camp out in the garden or elsewhere, frequently.

Last year we looked around the Pioneer Preparatory School and have just enrolled Chloe & Ollie there.
Both of them are educated and fluent in Dutch here so it will be a double culture shock but they are very excited and so far, the idea of wearing a school uniform seems to be their biggest dislike.

Anyway, I was schooled in Dominica, can you spot me? and look at me now........Many thanks to Celia (tall & next to me) for this photo and if you want to see how real photos are taken have a look at her website:


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No room at the inn

Still patiently waiting on our NBD loan although Tina sent them a reminder yesterday.......but until then we can't fix a departure date so this might turn out to be a very long's hoping we'll hear this week. In the meantime, we've been tentatively working out where we might stay for our 6 homeless weeks. So far I've got 'why don't you camp in your house in Dominica', 'don't send all the essentials in your container' (what like beds?) followed up with 'the house is being refurbished and your sister is staying with her family' responses. Andy on the other hand has gone down the friends path which has proved very accommodating with the added bonus of avoiding the 'can you have a word with your children' confrontations. Smithy, a designer bachelor pad friend has even gone out to buy a dining room table for our stay. Presumably the Coco Pops didn't squash that well into his new leather sofa last time.

She's an angel really - takes after her mother........

Return to sender

My transfer to China for my samples has been returned to my bank. The bank in China rejected it because I put 'sample' in the payment description. I now have to resend my $120 (plus charges again) omitting any description.

Copy of their email:-

Thanks much for your understanding.
Do you remember that you have wrotten any aim of sample fee in the invoice of transfer ?
Our bank suggested that you can transfer again but never write any aim for transfer, do you have idea ?
Look forward to your reply.

Confused, you will be.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mortgage Cost

The last line in tonight's doom and gloom Panorama programme on the economy stated the annual average cost of a mortgage payable in the UK was now US$42,000 per annum. If ours is approved for the final stage of our Dominican project, it will be less than half that amount. Moving makes sense, doesn't it....?

Bradt Travel Guide - Dominica by Paul Crask

To be honest we did not try out all the fun stuff last year - with 3 small ones in tow some things are just not possible and time was short too looking for suitable land plots. This on the one hand gives us lots to look forward to but on the other makes it difficult explaining to friends what is on offer. I can see their eyes glazing over whilst patiently listening to our move plans when all they are really thinking (besides mad fools) is 'I wonder how much the flights are and what the beaches are like'. At this point I ruin their day dream by explaining how difficult it is to reach (5 planes from Belgium last year due to our arrival on Liat's summer schedule changeover day so a few flights got lost in the system; I wonder if they are still flying aimlessly around) and there is definitely no flag in the sand to attract the waiter on these beaches.....

Anyway, I do my best but fortunately someone else has done a far superior and indepth job coupled with excellent photos and he is Paul Crask who has written the Dominica Bradt Travel Guide which has just been published. Until we've been there, done it and got the t-shirt, I will just tell you to amazon a copy of his guide pronto.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Some things will be the same but different

We are looking forward to going back to the amazing market in Roseau. In the meantime, there's a Sunday market in our town here which we regularly go to. It offers fruit, veg, cheese, cooked chicken, plants, fresh flowers etc. Our visitors always love it and we usually just buy the fruit and veg essentials. Today I realised I should appreciate what's on my doorstep and what I might miss so I bought like a visitor - unusual cheese and a box of dark chocolates - all for me! The children were given their usual freebies of fruit and lollies so they were happy. Andy bought himself a chilli plant..........yeah I know, coals to Newcastle..........

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Balinese Furniture

A good friend of mine, Amanda, has kindly donated us a large set of Balinese furniture for our new Shack (here's a photo of some of it). Another friend has just varnished it all (no we're not the practical types unfortunately and yes I know we will definitely need to be once we get there!) and it looks fantastic - we (well me I guess if I was honest), are really pleased with it. Now we just need cushions made to make it perfect for our guests to relax on whilst admiring the spectacular views and sipping an ice cold Kubuli. Tina says I can get all my upholstery sorted out there so this job can wait until we arrive.

So, I'm glad the unloved furniture sitting in a garage in Dorking has now been lovingly restored for the new Shack's balcony.

Cheers Mands - concessionary rates for you of course!

ps A prize to the first person who can correctly guess what all those long boxes on the floor are going to be used for when we get there..........

Friday, April 11, 2008

National Bank of Dominica rave

Tina told me she took not one but two lovely ladies from the NBD up to see our house on Wednesday and they raved about it.
Let's hope the raving translates into a loan offer asap.
Here's Ollie having his little rave at the fantastic Screws Spa in Dominica.

The power of TV

I've asked Tina to organise cable TV for us in Dominica but I haven't a clue what we'll get. We have SKY here in Belgium so unlimited choice for us and the children - not great in the battle against the box but that's how it is at the moment. This morning my son ran into the kitchen telling me to use DAZ to get my whites whiter - thanks Ollie for that little tip. They are truly brainwashed and ask for things that they can't even pronounce properly half the time - mind you with Olay wittering on about 'pentapeptides' it's not surprising.

This reminds me of a story my Dad told me recently........thirty plus years ago when he was on a relocation orientation course in the UK with a group of others, all going off to different far flung places, he was sat next to a couple and the husband asked the course director what the TV was like in Barbados. Before he could get a reply, his wife turned to him and said 'don't worry about that dear we'll take ours so we'll still get the BBC'.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Adios office politics

The last line of a diatribe of an email Andy received at work today:-

P.S. Hope our comments and suggestions here are received in the manner intended i.e. constructively

Then onforwarded to me with his message on top:-

this email illustrates why I want to leave....

What, no cereals 'out there'?

A few months ago, I was shopping in Ikea with my mother-in-law when she suggested I buy those glass cereal containers for 'out there' to keep the bugs out. I said there was no point as there no cereals. So horrified was she by this, what I thought minor revelation, that she shouted across the breadth of Ikea to my father-in-law 'did you hear that D - no cereals 'out there'! Since then I've been trying to wean the kids off them - you can see I'm doing a fantastic job - there's only 11 packets to choose from in our kitchen today.....

The moving jigsaw

My brother rang yesterday asking if we had a date yet for leaving. The logistics of a move of this size is overwhelming. Yes, I know I'm not the logistics expert in this family either but with time on my side the ball is firmly in my court. The whole process is an enormous jigsaw and slotting every piece in depends on things we can and can't control. So, to sum up, we are still waiting on the bank to authorise our loan, we then have to wait for the Shack to be completed, give notice on our house in Belgium (scary landlord) and all that that entails (paying final bills, paying off loans, selling my car), work out where we are going to stay for the 6 weeks our container is in transit and dependent on this book our flights to Dominica and find somewhere to stay there until our container is unpacked. Amidst all this Andy has to give notice at work and inform the children's school they are most likely leaving before the summer term is completed. Bring it on!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Designing the new Shack

Trying to design an EC$180,000 Shack with an EC$90,000 budget.........Tina patiently listens to me then firmly says no. Oh well, you can't say I don't try.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Place of Safety Home in Dominica

I read about the currently being built, Place of Safety Home, today:-

This is great news and please donate generously if you can. I am really pleased as one, I can possibly volunteer here and two, I have boxes and boxes and more boxes of the childrens' clothes, toys, shoes etc all in great condition which hopefully I can donate.

It's feels good to try and make a difference and this is another reason for our move to Dominica. Also, for my children to see the bigger picture - they really do have everything here and it will be good for them to have a bit less and contribute a bit more.

One of my happiest childhood memories is spending a few years growing up in Dominica - my parents were teachers at the then, Clifton Dupigny College. I ran wild outside and missed nothing. Well, I tell a lie I missed fresh cow's milk. On our first day (straight off the Geest boat) my mother took me to the Fort Young Hotel and ordered me a glass of milk. Ice cold and fresh it wasn't but I had to drink every last bit. It still makes me shudder.......

Tom's Quote

The quote came in today!
It is going to cost us Euros 11,400 for our 40ft container.
One step closer then....

From China to Montenegro in one post!

For us, our income in Dominica will come from a variety of sources, which is why we can make this move as we are not reliant, as in Europe, on having one/two large salaries coming in to support us all. The cost of living is cheaper and ultimately the biggest expense of rent/mortgage will not apply to us in the longterm. This means we can concentrate, hopefully, on options that we enjoy, have an interest in or just want to try out but we definitely need to work. One of these is an import business of a product that should be successful in Dominica, from our research to date. Today I sent US$120 to China for 3 samples so I am excited about these arriving. We can then decide whether we raise US$16,000 to turn this into a business in conjunction with our builder, Oliver, and anyone else who may be interested. However, importing into a country with only 70,000 people in is probably not as good an idea as trying to export something from there.

Another source of income for us will be our apartment in Montenegro - like Dominica a lot of people haven't heard of there either! For those who don't know, it was previously called Yugoslavia. We bought off plan 3 years ago - all we saw was the field and the view but we felt confident it would turn out well. We had spent about a year researching all the 'emerging markets' to try and spot the next hotspot and felt confident Montenegro fitted the bill. Now, all this time later, we are finally seeing our investment at the end of the month and staying there for a week. During this week, we will complete the furnishings and meet our agent who will be looking after our guests. I have advertised the apartment and we already have 4 bookings for this season so I am hoping for the best this year and a fully booked season next - ever the optimist!

Anyway, here's the view from our balcony in Montenegro.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Searching for the sun

A weekend of snow here, so the children made the most of it. For us, the weather has been a big contributing factor to making the move to somewhere warmer. I'm just not a 'wrap yourself up in 10 layers' type of person - shorts, flips, t-shirt and sunnies and I'm off. The children have just about learned to wear long sleeves, hat, scarves and gloves but with great resistance. This weekend we went to the sports shop and bought swimming costumes, snorkels, masks and fins. Yipee!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Removal Company

Tom, the removal man rang today. I'm sorry we can't help you move - the destination is too exotic for us to handle. Well I suppose it would be from the land of chocolate, chips & beer. Now I need to source an agent in the US who can handle the last leg of the trip and report back to Tom. Who's the client here? We're certainly not there yet.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bank Loan

The lady from NBD wants to come and see our house tomorrow. Fingers crossed she will love it and write us a large cheque.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Part of the moving process is calculating what you need to live on once you are there. The answers seem to vary a lot which makes the whole monthly budget process rather tricky. We have options but nothing guaranteed at the moment. However, with The Shack and pool on site, hopefully some visitors will want to come and stay with us.........

Teaching for me is a possibility, should there be a suitable vacancy.

Last but not least, we could help others to achieve what we hope to and guide them along the way. We spent a long time trying to find the ideal person to help us and Tina Alexander at has fitted the bill perfectly. She continues to work tirelessly towards our project completion and our relocation. So, if you want her to find you a beautiful plot of land, project manage the building of your dream home with a breathtaking view and make the whole process as seamless as possible, just let her know. Once I arrive, I can hold your hand too....