Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Visa versions verified: Common-law conundrum capers

I just made my fourth call to Canadian Citizenship and Immigration to hone my understanding of the process and in seeking confirmation of what I understand about the process and the implications of my circumstances and choices.  Completely expectedly, the whole process is rather unwieldy and inscrutable, requiring many readings and re-readings of guides and documents and forms.  Ultimately I must build a pyramid at the base of which are all the individual actions and results that will support my application for permanent residency, like visiting a local police station to get a record of traffic convictions and infringements, going to Western Union Offices in Toronto in a failed attempt to wire money to an invalid recipient in Taiwan as payment for a police clearance, and buying a new red folder especially for housing the guides and forms and other components of the permanent residency application as it develops.  These individual actions form the base of the pyramid and support components a little higher up, for example, the receipt by me of an official police criminal record certificate that evidences my clean bill of good-citizenry health for the period that I lived in Taiwan.  A little further up are the larger stages and steps, such as submitting my complete application for the permanent residence and extending my tourist visa after the regular six month period has elapsed.  At the very top of the pyramid, closest to the heavens, is the penultimate event on which the entire campaign with CIC is built: the grant of a permanent residency visa for me, allowing me to come and go across Canada's borders as easily as a mosquito might cross the borders.  And then, like a mosquito, I can suck Canada's blood and potentially give it malaria.

Here is a summary of what I now understand about the process.

I can apply from outside or inside Canada for my permanent residency.
Both ways have two stages but the stages vary between inside and outside application.

Inside application: stage one - assess sponsor and applicant, 9 months; stage two - medical, security, background checks of applicant, 9 months; both stages @ Mississauga CIC office.
Outside application: stage one - assess sponsor, 45 working days, Mississauga CIC office; stage two - assess applicant, 8 months, done at relevant CIC office outside Canada (in my case, Sydney).

I want to be able to get part-time work while studying but I need a work permit or visa.  Outside Canada, I file an application for an open work permit with my application for PR and it should come through when my PR does.  I am not sure about this.  I think I can automatically work if I have a permanent visa.  So it would be about  months before I was able to get part-time work.

While my application for permanent residency is being assessed, I will be here on a temporary resident visa or tourist visa.  This is valid for me for 6 months.  It should expire before my PR is granted so I will apply for an extension and shouldn't have to leave the country or go anywhere.  It would be granted because of my common-law relationship and pending PR application.

After nine months when my PR is granted, it will be available from Sydney.  I would have to communicate with them about how to get it.  They might be able to mail it or I might be able to get it from the relevant embassy here in Canada OR I might have to go to Australia to pick it up.

Great.  Now I am more certain about what I am doing and how to do it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crisis in Canada: Chaos and Confusion

Well, once again I am surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty and difficult choices. It's stressful and it requires some deal of education and investigation before decisions can be made and actions taken.

Andrea will be studying at Lakehead University this coming semester. She will be studying for her postgraduate teaching qualification. That's fine for her but it leaves me standing in a pool of cold dilemma. I don't have a work permit for Canada and it may take up to nine months before I get one, at the same time that the first stage of my application for permanent residency is approved.  Nine months in Canada without working would be an awfully long time.  Sure, I have a full-time course of study of my own to pursue but I was really looking forward to being able to work part-time so that I could earn some money to put towards our living expenses and also because my course of study is completely online and I'm going to need ways of being involved in the local community.  I couldn't just study at home all the time; that would drive me crazy.  What am I going to do for nine months if I go and live with Andrea in Thunder Bay while she is slogging through her education qualification?  I could try to get some cash-in-hand work; I get the impression that I might be able to get a bit of that.  And I could also do some volunteer work and maybe set up a language exchange too, to practice my Chinese.

I need to recapitulate the progress that I made today.  I spent almost the whole day working towards making decisions about what to do about our recent change of plans and priorities.  Although I am ready to take a break from this behemoth of logistical challenges that has risen up from the circumstances that surround us, I need to pull together what I have learned and accomplished from the day.

Andrea is more or less committed to doing the course at Lakehead.  Wherever I am, I am going to be doing my online occupational health and safety course.  I want to be with Andrea (or at least I don't want to be separated from her for a long time) so I will need to be in Thunder bay with her.  I was really looking forward to getting a part-time job in Thunder Bay but it seems that I won't be able to legally work in Canada until the first stage of my application for permanent residency is approved and maybe until the second stage has also been approved.  The time for processing differs markedly between an application made in Canada and one made outside Canada.  There are two stages in the process of getting the spouse visa: Stage 1 involves assessment of the sponsor; Stage 2 involves assessment of the sponsored.  Completion of the first stage of processing takes 37 [working] days outside Canada but 9-10 months in Canada; completion of the second stage takes 7 months outside Canada but 9 months in Canada.  So in total, an application made outside Canada takes about 8-and-a-half months while making the application in Canada will take about 18 months, almost a year longer.  But work is a problem.  I can submit an application for a work permit with my application for permanent residence in Canada and I think it will come through when the first stage is complete.

I just realised two things while reading some of the guides.  The first stage of the application outside Canada is an assessment only of the sponsor.  The first stage of the application in Canada is an assessment of the sponsor and the sponsored which explains why it takes so much longer.  I don't know what the implications of this are.

The other thing I realised is that there is a difference between temporary residence permit and temporary residence visa.

I also made some phone calls about getting a refund on our plane tickets if we are not returning to Australia next month.  Expedia told me that because we has started to use the tickets I had to contact the relevant airline directly.  I called Air Canada and found out that our tickets are non-refundable although for a fee of $50 we can change the date up until three months from the date on which we first used the tickets.  So I can call them back and change the date of our return flights up to the second of August.

That's enough for today.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A run to start the day in Busselton

I got up at 6:30 this morning and ran the longer route that I have started running.  I tend to go for a run on every third or fourth morning.  I have been wondering how long my new route is and so I mapped it on Bikemap and now I'll paste it in here as a record.

Running route 923289 - powered by Runmap 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Career Prospects: consternation over courses

I realised over the course of the weekend that I have more questions that need to be answered before I can go ahead and structure my expectations for the future around doing the Master of Environmental Health (MEH).  Later this morning I plan to call the coordinator of the MEH course at Curtin in search of answers.  But, as always, a big part of making decisions based on the best information that you have is knowing what questions to ask.  Knowing which questions to ask comes from identifying gaps in your knowledge and identifying assumptions you might have made without foundation.

The first thing I might mention to the course coordinator is that the list of course coordinators for the School of Health might be incorrect or outdated.  I wrote to the course coordinator for the MEH course over a week ago and waited patiently for a reply for a week before trying to call her.  Even then I had to leave a message on her answering machine.  I did receive a call later in the day from a different member of staff who informed me that he was the course coordinator, not the woman I had been trying to contact.  Thus was a week of worry wasted.

I will ask him about career prospects.  In assessing and comparing the Post-grad. dip. in Occupational Health and Safety (PDip OHS) and the MEH programs, I thought that the career prospects for the two groups were quite similar and so the MEH won my commitment because I thought the work might be more interesting.  But having had the time to reflect on and process what I had read and from rereading some of the course information this morning, now I am not sure that the two courses will launch me towards a career at the same velocities.  I get the impression that MEH graduates generally start off as Environmental Health Officers while some find employment as "Scientific Officers in government and a wide range of other fields including the food industry and environmental management".  That sounds promising but I haven't seen any real indication anywhere of career prospects and the demand for graduates.  In contrast, the PDip. OHS page includes a section headed Career Opportunities wherein graduates' career prospects are described as excellent and their salaries being above average.  I need to ask the course coordinator about what this means.  For the program area Health, Safety & Environment more broadly, apparently "Employment opportunities are excellent, with the majority of graduates gaining positions before graduating and over 90% employed within six months".  That sounds great and it does sound like I wouldn't have trouble getting a job after I graduate (or before) but I wonder about the prospects for career progression.  In addition to that last reassuring line about graduates and salaries, another page about environmental health careers proclaims that, "the only course in Western Australia recognised by the Australian Institute of Environmental Health, a member of the International Federation of Environmental Health".  Later in the same page you can read that, "Employment opportunities for graduates also exist with health agencies in overseas countries".  That is very reassuring for me, given that I expect to live in Canada with my Canadian partner in the future, and suggests that the Curtin qualification will be well-recognised overseas.  The same page also suggests that people in this area earn between forty and ninety thousand dollars a year.  That is a lot less than the salary suggested for health & safety professionals on the Health & Safety careers page - fifty-five to three-hundred and forty-five thousand dollars per year!  I think I should ask the course coordinator about this too.

Another query I need to direct to the course coordinator concerns my suitability for the courses.  To do the MEH I would need to complete a few bridging units before spending 18 months completing the course.  In contrast to that, to qualify for the PDip. OHS you need, "A bachelor degree in an appropriate field plus at least two years’ work experience" while qualification for the Master of OHS entails, "A Bachelor of Science plus at least two years' relevant post-qualification work experience. Your work experience will be assessed on the basis of your level of seniority and responsibility, job description, work-based referee reports, publications or other written reports and short courses or conference attendance".  I don't think I qualify for the Master of OHS but perhaps I could get into the PDip. OHS.  I need to clarify this with the course-coordinator.  If I was able to enrol in the PDip OHS, would I be paying the more expensive rate for the units, something like $1,700 per unit?  Would I need to complete some bridging units in order to enter into the PDip. OHS?  More questions for the course coordinator.

Another query I would like to settle regards study methods for the bridging units.  Last time I spoke to the course coordinator he suggested that they are available online, i.e., over the Internet.  This would be wonderful as it would allow us to live and work overseas teaching English somewhere for six more months while I study part-time.  At the moment the Curtin website lists these units as being available either internally or externally (by correspondence).  I need to clarify this if I can.

The last question I have concerns how well I might travel with my career, if and when we relocate, overseas.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Career prospects: Environmental Health and Safety

Environment, Health and Safety.  This is a  nice area that sits next to - and sometimes on the laps of - Public Health and Occupational Health and Safety.  The respective courses seem to share some of their units with each other.

Yesterday I talked to the course coordinator for the post-grad diploma in Environmental Health and she gave me some priceless information that has inspired me.  This is the course on which I would set sail to gain a qualification in Environmental Health.  I don't really have relevant experience or background in the area or in biology, microbiology, or chemistry, so the first thing I would need to do a a bridging course.  This bridging course is not a self-contained course in itself but rather I would do three of the first-year units from the Bachelor of Science (Health Safety and Environment) undergraduate degree.  This would take one semester and when I had successfully completed these units I would drop out of the BSc and enroll in the Master of Environmental health.  I actually only want a post-graduate diploma but a comparison of course fees in the two courses leads coordinators to suggest taking the Master course and exiting when I have completed whichever intermediate award I want.  So I could do all the units that would get me a post-grad dip and then leave the masters program with that qualification.  The cost benefit would be significant: enrolling in the post-graduate diploma would mean paying $1700 per unit while enrolling in the masters program would cost me $900 per unit, for the same units!  That's almost half of the cost.

So what is environmental health and safety about?  It involves contributing to creating and maintaining environments that promote good health, and managing environmental factors that may have a negative effect on people's health.  These factors could be social, physical, chemical, biological or psychological.  It could involve working with problems involving waste-water, noise-pollution, light-pollution, food safety and hygiene (a big one), and the many problems arising from artificial environments.

The course at Curtin (in environmental health) streams students towards either being an Environmental Health Officer or into a research area.  It occurs to me now that either way I think I would be happy and that I needn't be put off by thinking that this course would mean committing to being an environmental health officer (which in itself wouldn't be a bad thing).  During my first year I would have plenty of time to make a decision about what I wanted to so with the second year and I could always study the other stream in the future.  Reading graduate's stories, I think that graduating from either EHS, OHS, or from public health with a proactive bent and positive attitude will allow me to take my career places.  I guess I just need to decide.  All of them are good.  Reading through the graduate stories, the stories that interest me the most are definitely in the field of OHS, EHS, and public health.  I also get the impression from reading these stories that once you are working in the area, you can complete additional relevant units or courses that will make you more employable and improve your job prospects (and earning potential).  That would be a career.

I think I can sum up my relationship to university education and work like this: interest in what I was learning - high; academic competence and achievement - medium; utilizing experience of study to acquire good employment - poor.  One of the things I have realized with time and experience is that you have to make your qualifications work for you and you need to get whatever experience at applying them that you can.  It is one thing to learn and another to learn how to applying that learning.

I guess I've done everything except decide on which course to pursue.  It comforts me now that I see these pathways as watery rather than as a series of straight sticks.  I mean that there is a lot of mixing and cross-over on the other side of graduation.  I need to be a fish because A fish can swim wherever it wants as long as it has a continual stream of interconnected water-bodies and that is what lies on the other side of graduation from any of the courses I am interested in.  I think I will choose environmental health and safety.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Career prospects: Public Health

Right now, what do I know about public health and what do I want to know?

I think that Public Health involves perhaps working especially for government to organise and manage health services.  Actually I don't know much about it.  Time to find out.

The post-grad dip in public health offered through Curtin Uni requires a specialisation in either epidemiology and biostatistics or in public health.  The epidemiology and biostatistics major involves learning about epidemiological methods and how to use them appropriately, learning how to apply them in investigating the determinants of health and ill-health, evaluating health care programs to see if they are worth running and how effective they are (probably with a view to financing them), making sure that I can manage all stages of a research investigation.  The core units are about infectious diseases and the epidemiology of these (so the study of infectious disease, causes and vectors and interaction with public health policy, cultural practices, behavioural change, etc.), health research methods (ways in which we can study health), foundations of public health (how did the field start and how has it evolved, what is it now), biostatistics (mathematical tools for determining effects and patterns of variables interacting and for describing variables related to health), research methodology and more stats, and so on.  The optional units sound pretty interesting but I don't know how they fit into the course because the core units already provide nearly 200 points which is what is required to graduate.  I think there is room for one optional unit in the 200 points, or you could do some extra work I suppose.

The other stream of study, the public health major, ...

Where does this course get me?  I read the short precis for environmental health and that sounded very interesting.  That was about the interaction between people's health and environmental factors, biological stressors, pollutants, air pollution, water and waste management, noise, built environments, and global climate issues.

One of the problems with this course is that it seems to be designed for people already working in a health-related area who want to upgrade their skills and knowledge to a new level whereas I don't work in a health-related area and don't already have a relevant background from which I am branching out.

The best option that I can see right now for capitalising on acquiring a qualification in this area is to apply for the Department of Health's graduate recruitment program.  However, this would be very competitive and I'm afraid of being stumped if I failed to gain a place.

I have started thinking that environmental health would be an awesome field in which to operate and it is closely related to both occupational health and safety and to public health.  The problem is that is is much more applied science based and courses seem to require previous background in science subjects.  If I could not get into this course directly maybe I could do bridging courses or enter one of the other two fields with a view to moving sideways in the future (if I still want to do that then).

That's enough for now.  Something else has come up, namely a course of study that would get me into Environmental Health and Safety in 18 months (including some bridging units).  Cool.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A & A cycle from Broadwater to Smith's Beach and back

Andrea and I finally got around to going for a good long bicycle ride.  It was a beautiful day for cycling: the sky was perfectly blue and cloudless yet the sun didn't fry us and the Aeolus didn't send his winds against us.  By the end of the trip we had done about 65km and then we went for a swim, made a delicious dinner of rice noodles and fried vegetables, and then I did this while Andrea went and had a white wine with one of nice neighbours.  Nice day.

The map embedded below includes several photos. 

Bike route 852286 - powered by Bikemap 

Career Prospects: Occupational & Environmental Health & Safety

This is where I start writing and brainstorming individual pathways and careers.  First cab off the rank or first close-to-the-use-by-date milk marked down for a quick sale is Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety.

I'm not even sure of the relationship between these two areas.  What I want to do in this post is define the job and to investigate courses of study and qualifications, career prospects (especially overseas), and try to get right into what I might be doing day to day, hour to hour.  I also want to try to get an idea of the overview of the field, the philosophy that drives the process.  Let's begin then.  You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear Tinkerbell ring her little bell like this: [BELL RINGING].

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is about managing risk and minimizing damage to persons and property in the workplace, whatever kind of workplace it is.  Curtin's postgrad dip. in OHS requires 12 months of study, four per semester.  The curriculum comprises six core units and two optional units of study.  Some of the optional units of study sound pretty interesting.  Occupational diseases involves a bit of toxicology and epidemiology and an introduction to the history of occupational medicine.  There is a practicum option where you do a literature review of a particular area, design a program (of data collection?) and collect data and do the analysis and report the results.  There are also optional units in relevant law, risk assessment, health impact assessment, and a unit specific to mining OHS.  The core units cover accident prevention, compensation, injury management, ergonomics, safety economics, hygiene and chemical safety, and safety technologies.

The prospects for health careers in OHS are very good although I don't know if that is across the field or whether all those prospects are tied up in the resources industry.  The course at Curtin is all off-campus so I wonder whether that would allow us to live overseas while I did the course.  Perhaps Andrea could do another year of teaching in Asia and I could do some tutoring part-time while studying.  Perhaps we could move to Canada and Andrea could also get on with whatever study she wanted to do.

It is proving quite difficult to find a good web site for searching for OHS/OSH/HSE jobs across multiple countries.

That's as far as I get today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Career Prospects: Vocational Veracity

Right now I need to write.  I need to think.  I need to brainstorm.  I need to think about jobs and the future and study.  Besides thinking about what I want to do I need to think about how I want to think about it and how to go about investigating it.

These following factors are critical in deciding on a course of study or career:

Money: I want to be able to earn a decent wage doing whatever I am going to do.  My days of working to make enough to cover my living expenses and sundry occasional expenses are over.  I want to be able to afford to travel and buy a house and generally afford a secure future for my own family.

Prospect of living and working overseas: We really miss living and working overseas.  There are plenty of occupations that would transfer to a foreign labour market.  It would be awesome to be able to live somewhere like Taiwan but earn some serious money.  It would be great to have the kind of employment prospects that would make me employable across the world; imagine living and working in Russia, or Singapore, or Hong Kong, or Japan, or Canada, or the Czech Republic, or in Chile.  Cool.

Employment prospects:  I am not in the mood to qualify in something only to have to battle to carve out a career for myself or have to exercise great patience waiting for vacancies and promotions to come up as the older members in the occupational pool reach retirement age and free up some space.  I want to be involved in an area where there is a demand for the knowledge and skills I will graduate with, and where I won't have too much trouble getting a job, and then later, getting a better job or looking for promotion.

Personal interest:  Whatever I do needs to offer me some kind of personal fulfillment.  There are plenty of jobs that I could mange capably and do very well yet not enjoy at all.  I don't want to commit to something that will be unsatisfying and not stimulating enough for me for the next 20 years.  I want my job to be challenging and interesting and rewarding and dynamic.  I want to have to think and create and write and help people with it somehow.  I certainly don't want a job that makes people's lives worse or harms the environment.  Ideally I would like to be paid to do something that I was inherently motivated to do.  Inherent motivation.  Something where I would start work on any day thinking that what I was doing was important; something purposeful, something that had a point to it, not just creating and moving paper around.

Length of time required to attain a qualification:  This is a really important criterion.  I could choose to study anything really but do I really have the luxury of spending the next four years just to complete an undergraduate course again?  It might be worth it if it was something I was very passionate about but there's nothing like that for me.  There are lots of things that I am interested in and that I think are important but nothing in particular that stands out for me.

I need to weigh up all these factors and perhaps other factors that I haven't thought about here or have missed in this summary.  It is a very difficult time for me and a difficult decision to make.  Perhaps one of the most important parts of the consideration is trying to get my head around imagining me doing the job and imagining how I would feel doing it.  For that I need to know about the jobs and what they involve, from the immediate perspective and the day-to-day work, to the larger perspective and how my job fits into a wider society - what it means.

I have a lot of investigating and thinking to do.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Decision Time: Michael Buble and the rest of my life

I have a lot to think about right now.  I feel pretty stressed and I'm fighting off the waves of cause and effect that threaten to overwhelm me.  I'm trying to make big decisions about the future and come to terms with circumstances as they are and as we want them to be.  All kinds of things need to be factored  into the equation: there's the fact that I have an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree with honours in Psychology.  It would be a shame not to capitalise on that somehow and it might save me years on starting from scratch with an undergraduate degree in an unrelated area.  And there's the consideration of the transferability of any career choice I invest in; I need to be able to uproot my career from Australia and replant it it Canada (looking towards a future where we start a family).  And then there's the personal question of doing something fulfilling that challenges me and that I can enjoy doing as a career.  Will Occupational/Environmental Health & Safety be challenging enough for me and give me the scope to branch out into related but more interesting areas if when I want to change tack a little later on?  If I chose Public Health or EOHS would I be aiming lower than I should be?  Should I ignore my circumstances and choose what I want to do, rather than opt for a choice of compromise weighted on the pull of other factors.  I have to make a decision that could shape the rest of my life and my career, not to mention the effect it will have on my future family and relationship and other circumstances of living.

Today I start a temporary job: helping to set up for the Michael Buble concert at the Sandalford Winery near Margaret River.  The job involves long hours of work and will be exhausting but it is only temporary and allows me the flexibility to allocate time post-completion to more important things, the rest of my life, for example.  I am nervous about this first day of work, of course.  But when I glance at the bundle of considerations, complications, and concerns that I have mentally shelved under "The Future and the Rest of My Life", Michael Buble becomes just another internationally famous artist coming to my part of the world.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cycling discovery: Ambergate Nature Reserve and Emperor Hirohito

Six ante meridiem.  The new cellphone alarm melody that I chose upon the evening before last is unnervingly peppy.  Today we had planned to go for a bigger bicycle ride; inland and away from the beach into a part of the Vasse region that I am unfamiliar with.  We broke our fast on toast and jam (homemade and bought from a little old lady at the local Vasse community markets last Saturday who tried her best not complain about how the authorities had recently told her that she had to stop producing jams and caked for sale unless she met the standards of a commercial kitchen) and saddled up for the ride.

Our route kept us away from most of the early morning traffic and we discovered a new source of farm-direct eggs (four dollars for a dozen at an honesty-box roadside stall out along Kaloorup Road).  The most significant discovery we made on our ride was the Ambergate Nature Reserve: 75 hectares of natural bush land, a small isolated remnant of what the whole plain used to be covered in.  There is a short bush walk that winds its way through the reserve so we will go back in the future to have a better look and explore the area.

I just finished reading H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and found it to be a surprisingly good piece of science-fiction considering it was first published in 1895.  I have moved on to a biography about Japan’s emperor Hirohito (b. 1901; d. 1989) who was also a marine biologist and published several papers, a lot of which seem to concern hydroids, whatever those are.  I’ll read on and see how far from objective the author can lean.

Close to the ocean and almost back home again.

Bike route 816698 - powered by Bikemap 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday morning bike ride

Just another day in Busselton.  We woke up to my cellphone alarm at six-o’clock.  After letting my brain idle for five minutes and blinking at the early-morning light penetrating our bedroom window at light speed, I peeled the comfortable layers of bedding away from me and made a few basic preparations for a morning bicycle ride.

Fortified with two Satsuma (blood) plums and a mugful of water, I wheeled my lightweight road machine out of the doorway and onto the street.  Quiet.  Cool.  Sharp sunlight.  A very gentle breeze chilled me slightly and I lodged it firmly in place as my main motivation to cycle hard so that I could warm up.  I headed out to the highway and crossed over it and then rode through the new housing estate to the pedestrian/cycle pathway that shadows the road to Margaret River.  At the Vasse General Store I took an unfamiliar road striking out left to the west.

I passed paddocks for grazing and vineyards for picking.  The road ran very straight, flanked by tall trees on either side that created a shady tunnel.  A conduit to somewhere.  I cycled until I saw a small old shack, dilapidated and rustic.  Perfectly rustic.  I took a couple of photos and then began the cycle home.  Another day in the world.  Another day of possibilities and perils.  And breakfast.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality...

Like an old song from the 1990s (or maybe it was the 1980s) normality has descended upon me and I find myself sitting in Busselton in Western Australia on a Friday afternoon settling in for the next four months.

My last post on Blogger was yet another report on a cycle excursion through the back blocks of Taiwan.  It has been months and months since I wrote the last post on this fine virtual journal.  I couldn't possibly go on without first explaining to nobody in particular why I may as well be writing about the life of a completely different individual.

I was living and working overseas for about five years, first in South Korea and then in Taiwan.  There are plenty of expatriates who have adopted these countries as their homes for the foreseeable future for reasons I can guess at; perhaps they just don't want to return to their own country; perhaps they enjoy a better standard of living in their host country; perhaps they have an ongoing relationship or have married a resident of their host nation.  These are all understandable reasons and I can empathize with the sentiments behind all of them.  However, in the case of Andrea and I, continuing to live and work as English teachers overseas became an unsustainable future.  These days the word unsustainable immediately brings to mind ecological and environmental associations.  Forests might serve as a useful metaphor for describing what I mean when I use the word unsustainable in reference to our lives overseas (then again, they might not; I haven't really thought this through).  For healthy forests you need a rich foundation (the soils) and an adequate ongoing supply of all the inputs that forests need (sunlight, water, air, etc).  Our roots reach into community to anchor us and keep us upright.  But community was something that we lacked and had a hard time establishing and maintaining in our host countries and we were also a long way away from our families.  And so our foundation was weak.  As for receiving an adequate ongoing supply of prerequisite inputs, we missed easy access to nature and natural environments; we yearned for the opportunity to explore our interests by joining local clubs and making new friends; we lacked for a deeper engagement with the society in which we participated, partly due to a poor grasp of the dominant language and also partly due to cultural differences.  We weren't getting a full and adequate supply of holistic nutrients that we needed to sustain us long-term.  Our forests looked okay at first glance but a closer examination would reveal that there were serious deficiencies and that the forest was not as healthy as it appeared.

One other serious reason for not wanting to remain any longer in Taiwan was that we would like to be able to start a family and be able to provide good support for children.  Being an English teacher might pay the bills and allow DINKs to have some fun but it's not a career move that provides a good foundation for a family.

So we finished our contracts with our respective schools and came to Australia to start the rest of our lives.

There's a lot more to say about all this but it will have to wait because I have a dinner date with destiny.