Leaving Canada for France in 10,000 words or less

photos by Sherrin Kovach
Fall Season family photos by Sherrin Kovach

 

 

 

 

 

First Came the Plan

How do you get from A – B, if A is South Surrey, B.C. Canada and B is an unknown area in southern France?

Lists! A big believer in lists, I sat down for about 5 minutes and wrote the one below. We stuck to it until every item was ticked off our list.

It was that simple. And that crazy!

Sell the House√
Sell the Furniture√
Find Short Term Accommodations close to the kid’s school√
Set the kids up with Homeschooling come June√
Pick landing destination√
Pick a region in France√
Pick a business in France√
Start telling our friends and family√

Down size to 2 suitcases each√
Sell Business√
Departure (approximate date) August

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Of course, there were things that did not make the list but still needed to get done.

Cancelling our bill payments, close bank accounts, cutoff phones, take a leave of absence from work, cancel insurance policies for car, home and medical, to name a few.

There were cars to sell, furniture to move, people to contact and loads of daily to do lists to cross off.

The main list covered everything in general terms.

We also needed to prepare our family with the basics of French and figure out a way to ease the kids into the idea of moving across the world, leaving everything behind without scaring them half to death.

Looking back at this list, our hands were full, but surprisingly not overthinking it and keeping relaxed about the adventure while checking each item off, was the redeeming feature.

To execute our plan, we first had to believe it was possible. √

Make sure everyone is on the same page and that ‘it’ is what you all want. √

Prepare for bumps in the road. √

Try to imagine worst-case scenarios and discuss how to overcome those obstacles together. √

And off we go!

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What happens if our home and business do not sell in time to make our dream of living and working in France a reality?

Worst-case scenario, one or both do not sell in time to move away to Europe permanently.

If this were the case, we would not have enough money to buy a bed and breakfast in Europe, which would be the source of income for our family, while we learn the language and figure out a more lucrative plan.

Plan B will then go into effect. We still have ten months off from work and would take full advantage and show the children the world, one country at a time! Does that sound exciting?

I officially booked off my two-120 day back-to-back breaks, plus my holiday request far in advance to aligned them to get the maximum time needed to try our new life. This time request, once decided, cannot change.

With ten months away from work to travel, our plans would now exclude house hunting and serve as a sabbatical.

My leave does not affect my seniority at Safeway but I must return by June 2012 or quit.

Who I am and what I do never match up, as the picture of me is very different from what others see.

My union job never determined who I was but simply what I do. There is honour in working; no matter what you do, and I find joy in each day. Everyone has to eat.

After ten months of travelling around Europe, enriching our lives, taking in culture and having new experiences, I can always go back, put on my apron and continue the grind. ‘Club card, and Air Miles please?’ It is not my dream, but a good job.

Hamori family leaves for France
The Hamori family before France,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something tells me it will work out in Europe as with many things we start. It all works out in the end. Sprinkle in a little Hamori luck and there you have it. Voila!

We want to start in Budapest, Hungary where we plan to stay for a couple of months to renovate our apartment. A new IKEA kitchen and loft for the bedroom to sleep two extra people are the biggest plans. If we have time, we will refinish the parquet floors. We have saved for three years for this renovation and cannot wait to put it back on the rental market in top shape. If all goes well this will be our other source of income.

After we tour around visiting friends and family during our stay in Hungary, we will travel around in our diesel VW Multivan, and camp throughout Europe. The idea is to slow travel with the kids. We want to learn each area for longer periods, long enough to absorb the culture. We plan to try strange new foods, see the sites and meet the locals.

The children home school over the course of our travel plans to keep up with their classes back home in case we return. Travelers have the option to change direction, and we want to feel the freedom of no concrete plans.

The Black Forest in Germany, Venice’s canals in Italy, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, the Barcelona Cathedral in Spain and the Islands of Greece are on my list. I want to visit a friend in Portugal I have not seen since before I got married, visit my beautiful cousin in London, and Alfonz has friends in Switzerland; all currently dots on a map.

Camping in Europe is much different from a tent pitched in the boonies with the fear of bear at your heels. It is civilized with kid friendly enclosures, restaurants, swimming pools and markets.

Some places even have apartments to rent out on the grounds if family wants to join you and do not have a camper. It is Europe’s family fun, almost mandatory pass time.

Although the van above is cool and I would like to think I roll with the punches, but the van below is a smoother ride with a few more modern conveniences.

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by Sherrin Kovach
Hamori Family by Sherrin Kovach

Live Your Best Life

One year left to live, what would you do? Where would you go? What would be important to you, and how would you spend your precious time left on earth?

With friends and family? Or, travel to the places you have always wished to visit? Would you buy the fastest car your savings could buy and speed down the Autobahn or would you drink yourself into oblivion? All viable options but what if you were not dying.

Should we live each day as if it were our last? Why not ‘live your best life’ now? Instead, we wait for that pivotal moment to awaken us from the day-to-day grind. Our auto pilot existence where comfort and security are the bottom line, and yet we ask little more from our lives. What about hobbies, interests and our true passions, when will you make time for them?

Until the unthinkable happens, then forced we are acutely aware that we only have so much time left, and still many are fearful to go into action and pursuit happiness.

Heaven forbid we slightly move out of our comfort zone into uncomfortable change. The question is, “Is this your life?” I know it is. What I ask,  ‘Is this the life you dreamed up for yourself that you could not wait to get to?’

Maybe you are stuck in a job you dislike, a marriage that does not fit or debt you cannot manage. Have you the courage to change?

Match your life with your true passion and everything else falls into place.

These thoughts prompted our family into our family adventure.

First, we have to let you know, we have a beautiful life. The lower mainland on the west coast of Canada is a wonderful place to live, with good healthcare and jobs in abundance. Money is not a problem. It steadily comes in and we steadily pay our bills.

The difference for us came when the money grew and our bills did not. Instead of buying a bigger house and a new car, the common knee jerk reaction, we decided I would stay home with the kids and live on one income.

It was not always easy, especially in the beginning stages of Alfonz’s business but we wanted a different lifestyle, and it mattered to us that one parent be home with the kids at all times. It was not appealing for us to have someone else raise Daniel and Angelina. We waited a long time to have them, and the ultimate was to be hands on.

Being home, I fill our life with what matters to me. The causes I fight for, the people we learn from and my own personal growth. With time to be with our kids, their peers’ families, I build a community around them.

Staying home is no piece of cake. I work my tail off cooking homemade meals, growing a bio-intensive organic garden in the yard and teach my kids to read, write and all the endless activities that come along with being a parent.

What I realized was being their mom and a devoted wife is in fact my true self. Being home with my babies was my life ambition. Knowing this, I feel grateful to have the time to figure out what makes me happy.

When I found my groove all the elements in my life started to jive. Aside from being a mom and wife, I have a passion for Montessori Education and volunteer at the children’s school. We started a block watch in our community and I began to write on my blog.

Our circle of friends grew around us with other parents in the same stage of life, which shared the value of a parent home with the children. Moreover, we learned from them. I was not an idle housewife eating bonbons and watching soap operas. I was my husband’s equal partner and my true self.

As such, I worked 100% of the time to the best of my ability. People seem to work harder at the things they love. Nevertheless, what will to become of my husband Alfonz and his ambitions of happiness?

With me home, Alfonz does not have to share in the day-to-day chores and with his focus solely on business he succeeds faster. He has a soft place to fall at the end of each stressful day.

This is not just my life. Why should I be the only one with the luxury of self-growth? Does Alfonz not deserve the same? The kids and I watch him come home from work each day exhausted and I believe he deserves the chance to find out what makes him happy. This is his life too.

Our solution was to take a year off to travel through Europe, in hopes to find another kind of life, one that gives us all more time together.

For Alfonz, the semi sabbatical, may give him time to figure out his true passions.

Part of the dream, is to buy a home in the south of France with a B&B potential, run it and continue travelling, showing the children the world first hand. This would be ideal and give us an income while we explore and search for what makes us happy.

During our real estate experience, our biggest lesson learned is the value of a good location. A home in the Languedoc region in the south of France would be the ultimate, close to tourist attractions and on route to the sea. A land with warmer weather, 320 days of sunshine per year and a close journey to our home in Budapest. France has a strong economy, good health care, and the kids are young enough to assimilate to our new culture. This would give our family the life we deserve, one that focuses on time currency and not just chasing the dollar.

A space for a large table overlooking a spectacular view, rolling countryside or maybe a pool, something of that nature that would bring travelers around my table and me serving them a Sunday Coq Au Vin meal or the like with ingredients from my Mediterranean garden. Our house must also have a functional kitchen, an adjoining house or an attached rental space for guests to stay. Maybe even a beautiful vineyard near to walk. As the sunsets and the warm glow lights our faces, we hear the ting of glass as we toast. Our life is restful, rewarding and happy.

The kids will enjoy long days swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, learn the language and absorb the culture. I see Alfonz fixing up the house and taking the kids to school, maybe finding a new business venture or take a course in cooking or drawing. He happens to have the soul of a true artist. Alfonz may find his passion while taking guests on trips to Paris or Montpellier on motorcycle-guided tours. With his knowledge of language under his belt, the possibilities are endless.

It is a tall order, and who knows if we’ll succeed. Dream big they always say, so why not make your goal as detailed as possible, as far fetched as you can come up with, and start pursuing it. Alfonz and I are completely on the same page, and trust there is room in this dream for everyone’s wishes. We believe this dream is possible. That is the first step.

The next step would be to prepare. Gabrielle-Roy Elementary night school program offers adults a comprehensive French class, and the kids have Fatiha, a hired primary school teacher, originally from Africa, both with a great understanding between the subtleties of Persian and Francophone French.

Angelina and Daniel quickly absorb the curriculum and Alfonz is the master linguist. I sadly fall fourth during our studies, but if determination counts, I get an A+.

Do you deserve the time to figure out our life’s dream?

We started to tell people our house and our business is for sale and of our plans to move to France. The first responses were of great disbelief and even laughter thinking it a joke. Many people have dreams, yet most seem doubtful to accomplish them. As people often wish they could move across the world to a country they travelled in their youth. So, what makes us different?

I happened to be married to a man that no matter what I have ever suggested, as crazy as it may seem, he never says as much. He always says, “If it is that important to you, we will make it happen.” In return, I give the same courtesy.

Our family courageously dreams, wishes and improves and when something like this great adventure presents itself, we jump head first into the notion of it and make it happen.

If we end up back after a few months, ten months or even two years, at the end of my life I can say, at least we tried.

“Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.”

Our version,

“Better to travel and return than to never travel at all.”

If you think we are dreaming, yes of course we are. If you think we’re crazy, probably true.

If you need a rental apartment in the south of France, give us a call on the off chance this dream does come true, please feel free to visit.

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Home Schooling

I love my kid’s school. First I wrote I love my school and realized Sunnyside Elementary School is not my school at all, it just feels like it is. Help building a strong community around the children, the teachers and the neighborhood for the last three years through the PAC and the Surrey Montessori Society (the non-profit supporting the school), no wonder the lines are blurred whose school it is.

Believing in Maria Montessori’s method, we started the children right out of diapers in a highly acclaimed Montessori preschool in White Rock, BC. When it came time to find an elementary school for our children it seemed like the best option to continue along the same lines we started them on. Both Angelina and Daniel were interesting little people, their minds open to new ideas, and were already questioning the world around them. I liked the way they headed into independents as free thinkers and we encouraged them to continue.

Montessori theory put in practice offers three years with the same teacher and a three-grade level split in a cycle. Through sensory learning and field trips with hands on projects our children flourished in this environment.

We have decided to leave Canada (and their excellent elementary schools) but what happens now? We are undecided on an occupation and a home country but the kids need to continue their formal learning.

Our solution was home school. Canada offers a one-year travel abroad home schooling program. Come June we buy the books for the entire year and get started. With no stop for the summer they will continue the new grade’s curriculum plus our family will continue with our French teacher until we leave.  The hope is to have Angelina and Daniel a complete Canadian grade level ahead by the time we get to France leaving our new focus simply with our new language.

An English immersion program in the Aude region of France could be an option but the more I read on this topic seems to show an outstanding number of families simply putting their kids into the public school system. They choose the closest to their homes and submerge them into their new surroundings.

Most public schools in France offer French up-grade classes on their 1 1/2 hour lunch break. If a child falls behind because of language they make it up by the time they reach 12, when they go to the next level of education.

Another reason may be that English immersion schools are usually farther away, full of English speakers like my kids from all over the world, which would somehow defeat the purpose of moving to France. A bonus could be that Daniel and Angelina are both end of the year babies, meaning they are already a grade ahead. In Europe September and not January is the cut off for the school year. Makes way more logical sense. They may have to repeat grade 3 and 1 but with the kids their own age. Nice! Almost planned out, more Hamori luck!

You may also like our Top 10 Roadschooling Tips

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Why France?

Smell a cup of espresso, eat a chocolate croissant, sip a glass of French champagne and you really don’t need to ask why but rather why not?

I find North America lacks a few key things Europe has to offer. Quaint cobblestone boardwalks, people dressing up to go shopping, wine drank in parks or even on the bus. Kids eat ice cream everyday but not gigantic amounts at once but small amounts often. A short train ride can take you to a new country with a total different culture thick with history.

Go to wine or beer festivals in Europe and it’s not uncommon to see kids next to their parents enjoying the music and dancing to the wee hours. And kids often accompany their parents to dine in fancy restaurants. Exquisite meals, tiny beautiful art on your plate, not measured by weight. (That too has its place.)
If moderation is the key to a happy life, than a little bit of everything wonderful sounds perfect to me. A scoop of handmade gelato, a decadent square of the richest fine chocolate, a glass of red wine, a night out on the town dancing the night away, a boat ride down a canal, a bike ride to a castle in a near by village, and the smell of fresh bread from the local baker. Vive la France!

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The Grape

In the 5 departments in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, there are a huge variety of wines produced. The perfect Mediterranean climate plus a diverse landscape provides the ideal vine growing conditions.

The Appellation d’Origine Controlées (AOC) is the highest classification for French wines and many are located in this region.

For wine lovers there could be no better holiday than touring across the region, sipping and sampling various robust, fruity, rich and balanced French wines and meeting the local growers and producers that make them. Exquisite!

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Stunning and Fruitful

I cut and pasted part of a larger article off the Internet in hopes to understand what it all meant when I moved to France.

I do know, all the grapes listed below are grown around here and some varieties of grapes are even mixed together for blended wine.

Other vineyards have strict rules to produce pure varieties that stay true to tradition and hand prune their vines and age them in oak barrels.

I am no wine expert but hope to get a better understanding of it over the years. Most French families have an infinite understanding of wine and cheese, learned through experience.

Rosé wine is a favourite and served up all year round nearly everywhere you go here in southern France. It is refreshing and goes with everything. Sparkling wine and Champagne are perfect for special occasions, and being that the French like to celebrate, you will find many bottles being popped open during a party.

La Clape and Quatourze

These AOC wines, made from vines planted on the massif du Clape just north of Narbonne, also come under the umbrella AOC Coteaux du Languedoc classification which groups together several smaller territories around Montpellier and the Mediterranean. The red and rosé wines are mainly elaborated from Carignan, Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, Cinsault and Syrah grape varieties and are structured, subtle and aromatic whilst the white wines tend to be more fruity, with the predominant use of Grenache and Bourboulenc (also known as Malvoisie) grape varieties.

Corbières 
The vineyards here are tightly knit onto the scrubland of the Corbières hills, which run down through the east of the Aude to the Mediterranean coast. More than 90% of the wines produced here are light, fruity red wines elaborated from Carignan, Grenache, Lledoner Pelut, Mourvèdre, Black Picpoul, Terret, Syrah, Cinsault, Macabeu, Bourboulenc and Grenache Grey varieties. The few white wines that are produced are mainly dry and made with Bourboulenc , Clairette, Macabeu, white Muscat, white Picpoul, white Terret, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino (also known as Rolle) grapes.

Fitou
Below the Corbières and along the Mediterranean coast, the Fitou area comprises one of the oldest and best known AOC wines in the Aude, having received its certification in 1948. The red wine produced on the rocky, arid slopes here is a blended from Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Lledoner Pelut varieties and its deep, fruity and spicy taste goes on improving with age.

Minervois 
Situated between the Black Mountains and the River Aude the Minervois produces reds that can be light and fruity, although you can also find reds, which age into fuller flavours. Here red and rosé wines are produced using Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Lledoner Pelut, Carignan, Cinsault, and black Picpoul, Terret and Aspiran varieties. The white wine here tends to be more smooth and elegant than the reds and is blended from Grenache, Bourboulenc, Macabeo, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino varieties.

Limoux
There has been an AOC classification in Limoux since 1938 in celebration of the region’s very own delightful light and fruity sparkling wines known as Blanquette and Crémant, which come in sec, demi-sec and brut forms. They are made almost exclusively from the Mauzac grape variety, with some blends also using Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Chenin. These two sparkling wines account for 95% of the wine production in this area south of Carcassonne along the valley of the River Aude. The area also produces some fine still wines, again using mainly Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin grape varieties.

Côtes de Malepère 
At the meeting point of grape varieties from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the vineyards in this area south west of Carcassonne produce intense and spicy reds from Merlot, le Cot and Cinsault grape varieties and lighter rosés elaborated from Cinsault, Grenache and Lledoner Pelut varieties.

Cabardès 
The Cabardès area is also at the crossroads of the Atlantic grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, and the Mediterranean varieties of Syrah and Grenache. These two distinct groups are blended along with a hint of Cot and Fer Servadou varieties to produce rich yet balanced wines. Recent investment and a lot of dedication on the part of the winemakers here to take advantage of this fantastic location has resulted in red wines that have received many accolades (including 14 gold medals at the Concours Général Agricole in Paris) for their full-bodied tastes and complex aromas. The area is also noted for its fine dry rosés.

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Why Languedoc Roussillon?

Whenever we come across a Gite in our price range on a French real estate site, it seems to be more often than not in the region of Aude.
Aude is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountains.

It is part of the current region of Languedoc-Roussillon and is surrounded by the provinces of Pyrenees-Orientales, Ariege, Haute-Garonne, Tarn, and Herault, with the Golfe du Lion on the east.

The Roman road Via Domitia crossed Aude in classical times. Aude was the center of the Cathars, a 10th-century Gnostic Christian sect.The present department was one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from part of the former province of Languedoc.

The medieval city of Carcassonne, one of Aude’s most popular historic landmarks, has been restored to much of its medieval glory while the town of Narbonne attracts many tourists to its Roman ruins.

This area is famous for fine wine, rich cuisine and history. It boasts stunning views, unpopulated green space and outdoor activities for families to enjoy.

Languedoc weather forecast.

Excellent products

You can’t go wrong enjoying wines across France pared with beautiful French cheese!

There are 400 assortments of cheeses plus all the different classification:

Fermier: A farmhouse cheese, which is produced on the farm where the milk is produced.

Artisanal: A producer producing cheese in relatively small quantities using milk from their own farm, but may also purchase milk from local farms.

Cooperative: A dairy with local milk producers in an area that have joined to produce cheese. In larger cooperatives quantities of cheese produced may be relatively large, small to some industries producers (many may be classed as factory-made.)

Industrial: A factory-made cheese from milk sourced locally or regionally, perhaps all over France (depending on the AOC/PDO regulations for specific cheeses).

I cannot wait to sample different varieties and get to know what wine goes best with which cheese. 

_________________________________________________________________Why I travel

My life has been full of travel adventures; Hawaii, Mexico, Cuba, and around Europe, several times to each. All have amazing things to enjoy.
The smells of the flowers in Maui hit you as soon as you step off the plane. Mexico offers completely restful vacation packages where every whim is taken care of. In Cuba I fell in love with the passionate people who taught me to salsa dance, so poor yet so happy we could learn a thing or two from.

My home has been BC Canada my whole life with the exception of our yearly trips to Hungary. British Columbia has loads of beautiful vacation opportunities.
I grew up in Duncan on Vancouver Island and spent long summers swimming in the Cowichan River, even jumping off the Silver Bridge. We would ride our bike all over our small town, played with our friends in the cricket field, and enjoyed hot summers swimming in our pool.
A million people a year enjoy the Pacific Rim and Long Beach Region just west of Parksville. The shores stretch out for miles and are almost untouched. I believe it is protected and offers an unscathed salvation for animals in the region. My brother and I spent days baking in the sun with our parents in this protected region, that is a surfers haven.

Goldstream Salmon spawning river on the edge of the Malahat Highway between Duncan and Victoria, was where we would have a fire pit meal, roast marshmallows and camp in our van.  Visions of BC Ferry ride from the Island to the mainland fill up my childhood memories, with the shiny backs of whales and dolphins swimming on route. The beautiful landscape in the channel is unbelievable. If I had not seen this my whole life through it would leave me breathless.

I have always kept a journal. Since I was a young girl I have told stories. My dream job would be travelling with my family around the world, meeting people from different cultures and seeing the wonders of the world. I would tell our story as we go and pass on my love of travel to my two children.

The world is big enough to travel your whole life through and never see the same thing twice. The world is also changing so rapidly that even if you did go somewhere twice you and the place would have changed enough to enjoy it enough to enjoy it again. It is not just the destination but also the journey.

_________________________________________________________________Why I write

Writing to me is an endless download of crap absorbed along the way. I have no choice. It is my form of therapy and if I could stop it would not be for long.

While joining different writer’s groups over the years, I have met people who make a timeline and put in all the peaks and valleys in their novel before starting their book. When they start it is all nicely mapped out, making the most effective and interesting story. Within the first 2 pages you meet the protagonist, you will find out in order where they live, and their back-story. Next we meet the antagonist and usually followed by their back-story. They will face problems and our hero will try to find resolutions for them. Then comes the conclusion or final act.

Personally I do not have the patience. I have tried and would probably be a better writer if I did, but I lose interest in my story once it is mapped out. It feels contrived. I prefer organic thoughts rolling off my tongue or stories that throw up on the page as I write. The kind of story I cannot wait to sit down and write, just to see what the characters are up to. So I go write about them and see where they take me. Know a great editor? My method is sloppy.

To me there is something very magical about pen to paper. It has taken me a long time to change over to the computerized system of things. A push was when all my journals in a storage box under the deck were soaked in a flood. It ruined most of my life’s journals, short stories, poems, and novellas; at the time it was tragic. In reality most of it was crap! Eventually I hope to become a better storyteller.

Once I met a doctor who ran a very busy practice without a minute to spare in his life and he said when I retire I want to become a writer and write a book or two. I said really maybe when I retire I should become a doctor?

Writers take many years to develop a style and a voice. Although many people can write a good story, a story from a slightly different point of view is always more interesting. Everyone has a story and everyone can write it down. But can everyone write? With practice, yes!

Writer’s read. Writer’s write. Do all writer’s drink?

It is an isolated form of analysis. I like to think all fiction is made up of truth and is a reflection of some deep part of our life. It is similar to turning yourself inside out and exposing the deepest darkest places, the most vulnerable secret thoughts and exposing them. Bartender, may I have a glass of Merlot please!

_________________________________________________________________Desert Island – Who Would You Bring?

If you found yourself on a deserted Island, who would you choose to keep you company? It’s an old question we like to contemplate. Do you choose your lovely spouse whom you already work so well with and know like the back of your hand or do you choose someone famous and knowledgeable to learn from? Who could sustain your interest on those long days on the island with nothing to do?

Some choose Jesus. Divine knowledge of everything. Revealing the secrets of the universe. You’d have to learn his language.  Could take a few years just to get that down. Or maybe he already would know yours. Not to mention getting used to his powers. Dinner just appearing, walking on water, might take some of the fun out of learning to survive on that floating mound. Also he’d just part the sea and we’d walk off the Island to the mainland. The question in lost on the situation. And even if you spent years listening and learning, who would listen and learn from you. Jesus couldn’t possibly learn a thing from me, and having an equal relationship with someone may be more interesting. What do you think?

But I already know my husband…hmmm. Is the island big enough for our two huge personalities?

So what about an interesting person you don’t know well, but someone so totally different that you may learn from one another. Someone good looking, of course we all have our needs, and maybe someone that could challenge you to try to get off the Island.

Einstein may be a good choice. Picking each others mind, I could catch him up to date on all the invention he doesn’t know about. My goodness, imagine teaching him about the common things we take for granted, internet, computers, cell phones, toasters, electric engines, space travel, cloning, artificial insemination. But then there’s always the question of those cold nights under the stars…. cuddling up to Albert might not be the most favorable option. But after a few years, I don’t think I’d be looking so hot either! I’ll keep him on my list.

Elvis would be fun for a while, but the one genre of music may get to me after a while, and even though the nights might be fun, he doesn’t seem the type to hold my attention, or me his. He would probably swim off the Island just to get away from me. But the few duets might be worth being alone in the end.

Leonardo Dicaprio. Smart and hot, totally different from me, might be a good match. Except I don’t look like a supermodel. Not yet anyway. Starving on the island might change that for me, and he might on a slight chance…. yah I didn’t think it would work out between us either. Sorry Leo. I’m pretend breaking up with you. Too beautiful and too smart and too young.

Just kidding I would pick Alfonz! He can chop the wood, I can forage for food, he still has loads to teach me, and I am never bored. It’s the right combo of yin and yang. I just hope the island is big enough to get away from each other when we fight, so we can make up after! I guess even on the Island that rule applies.

Oh wait! After rereading this I decided I want them all! Now that would be an interesting island to live on. Elvis could entertain, Leo and Alfonz would be buddies, and Albert and I can figure out how to get off the Island. I realize I changed the rules of the game, but I want it all!

It is my Island and my fantasy after all!

Who would you’d pick?

Name someone you could be stranded on a deserted island with!

_________________________________________________________________Why Volunteer?

Volunteering at Sunnyside Elementary School has been rewarding.

I learn a great deal about the Canadian school system, the Montessori program and how to effectively raise money for them. An off branch of this was an interest in web design, the power of being online with social media and its place in the education system.

Www.surreymontessorisociety.org is the non-profit that runs out of the parent driven Montessori programs of Surrey, BC. We are parent volunteers, which raise the money and hold educational seminars on the benefits of Montessori schools.

The money goes to train our teachers the Montessori method, yet they stay in line or ahead of the government curriculum; a hybrid program mixing the best of both programs.

We buy the materials for each classroom and teach children to think divergently. Through hands on materials, awareness of place and obligations to our environment our children are not just good at their academic work, but end up becoming conscious people.

Our teachers mix subjects, and have group activities, teaching teamwork, and a broader view on different lessons. For example, Daniel was learning about invertebrates in Grade one, and his teacher decided to make it into an art project that everyone would present in front of the class along with their book reports, either verbal or written. It was impressive when six-year-old kids stood up in front of the class, excited, nor frightened to share what they learned.

Three-year age groupings give the children a chance to stay with the same teacher for three grades. The pupil gets the opportunity to lead the younger children whenever possible. They proceed at their own self-driven pace, yet most kids flourish in this environment and are far ahead of their grade’s curriculum in at least one subject.

The children build a trusting long-term relationship with their teacher, and the teacher truly sees the students’ strengths and weaknesses. They are better able to help the children in this environment if there is a problem, or in the case of a gifted child, the child has no barriers and can keep going through the curriculum at will.

Researching the benefits of this program prompted me to start a website with the information gathered along the way. It quickly became my passion and connected like-minded people through the organization. Our community is only getting stronger and a third school is to open next year, confirming that there is a need for alternative education programs that does not just teach children to regurgitate the information, but have a conceptual understanding and create new ideas. What better way to prepare children to an unclear future, but by giving them the tools to think and the adaptability to change?

If every parent took a day each month to volunteer at their children’s school this world would be an amazing place. It keeps parents connected to what is going on in school and we can help make it a better environment for all the children and our teachers.

Teachers are the most influential people in our children’s life next to us.

Getting involved is the best gift to give our children, far greater than any toy.

________________________________________________________________________Angelina and Daniel on holdays

Angelina and Daniel Hamori

 

 

My Kids

The day Daniel was born changed my life forever. I often tell him, I have a special spot in my heart for him, as he made me a mother, the most important role of my life.

For the first time I felt pure love for another human being. Anything else before paled in comparison.

Do all women feel the same way?

Daniel is a warm-hearted child. Like most boys, likes to play fighting games, and has a lot of testosterone to fit in such a small body. We love him. As a baby we held him endlessly and still cuddle him every chance we get, even in his lanky, tall and nearly eight-year-old body. We carted him around, acting the first parents on earth and talked of each milestone as if no one could believe the miracle we were witnessing. Daniel is a sensitive boy, thinks a great deal, has an acute sense of justice and an awesome imagination. He is a neat kid with many layers and is interesting to hang out with, and he talks about all sorts of things.

Daniel is an excellent swimmer, loves to read and is in his second year of soccer. His favourite pass time, right this second, is the video game Angry-Bird on his iTouch, playing hockey with the neighbouring children and his Pokémon cards. He loves to draw and has an eye for realism. Daniel can spend a whole day on a drawing, perfecting intricate details. Obsessive? Sometimes, and other times he is easygoing. When he puts his mind to something, his determination is incredible for .

After Daniel, 23 months later came my firecracker, Angelina. As a toddler we never knew when she would go off, how long the fuse was or when she would explode. However, she is a constant stream of entertainment, bringing a wide spectrum of colour into our life. There is never a dull moment with her around. The other side to Angelina is physically affectionate and sweetly charming. The two sides to my girl balance out, somewhat. Now that she is older, she finds pure joy in all she does and her other side rarely shows its face. Mom warned me, she will return in the teen years. Cannot wait…

Angelina loves to sing and dance, put on makeup and changes her clothes many times a day. Her unique style is bold with elaborate colour schemes and she does not care what others think. She is very studious and loves her teachers. She has a witty clever sense and cracks us up. The best part is when she starts to laugh at something and tries to explain to us, why it is so funny. Can two kids be more different?

Every parent of a Montessori child turns to their partner at some point and asks him or herself, why did we raise them in the Montessori method again? No kidding, they are strong independent people, full of ideas and freethought. Bravely asking questions of the world around them and demanding explanations. Our kids challenge each other as well, as they come up with amazing plans and new ideas, words and games. Sometimes I wonder where they came from. Their natural connection to all things, their instinctive ability to learn and create, its as if they have learned through osmosis.

Both kids love to travel, and enjoy learning and unsurprisingly inquisitive. Miraculously they occasionally get along. Having shown them the world over the years, they seem to have a high tolerance to change, an understanding of different cultures and traditions and seem to accept people for face value, without wanting them to be more like them.

We can learn so much from children. Having them in our life is an amazing gift. Our life began when Daniel and Angelina came into our lives.

_________________________________________________________________Selling Our House

I love this house. Bought in 2004, just after Daniel was born, we moved from our downtown Vancouver 26th floor apartment with a stunning unobstructed view of the city, mountains and a peek a boo water glimpse. We went out for sushi, walked Stanley Park each day rain or shine, and strolled Robson St. Swam in our lap pool, soaked in the hot tub, worked out in the gym, our  life was sweet.

I’d bus to work to the Kitsilano Safeway store on Broadway and MacDonald 5 days a week and the 12 min bus ride was faster than for me to drive my little red Mazda Miata out of the park aid 30 turns below ground.

Alfonz worked Ralph’s Auto Parts in Richmond back then. But our yuppie “dink” (double income no kids) lifestyle wasn’t fulfilling. So when Daniel came along, our 560 square foot pad in the Delta Hotel Suites had been officially outgrown. We found this house in South Surrey quickly, and began to renovate straight away.

We fixed it up from top to bottom; new windows, siding, deck, railings, roof, gutters, floors, and finally the dream kitchen. After 7 years of waiting, to only enjoy the kitchen for 3 months! Surprisingly the white cranberry speckled granite, cupboards to the ceiling, new flooring and a giant island meant nothing in the end. It made no impact on our decision to move. At the end of the day we can always get another kitchen. At the end of the day it was only a house, as much as we loved it. I feel my home is where my husband and kids are. If that’s a hotel room in Harrison or our VW van on the shores of Campbell River, or our apartment in Budapest or our future place in France, I know we can make it comfortable, organized and we will quickly adapt and make it a home.
Someone once told me that North America was built on immigrants who had the ability to cut off from their families and start again. It makes sense if you think about it. How else can people immigrate long distances some never to see their families again on the off chance of a better life? I know people who could never move away from their families, even in the deadliest situations, and not even from their distant family members. The lack of tying ourselves down would explain our ability to pack up and move, leave everyone behind, start again with no fear. Our great country was built on people who moved here, immigrated here, escaped to here, all to start a new life.

What type of person couldn’t leave might be a way to understand the ones that left their homes. Or maybe it’s that loss and starting again is so commonplace in our society, that starting again is an accustomed inevitability. With divorce, broken homes, jobs changing 5 times a lifetime, maybe it’s true, maybe not.

I can say for myself I relish change; in fact while I am changing I feel the most comfortable.

Our house thankfully was sold to friends, making this transition much easier. I know it is safe hands, people who love it as much as we did. A young couple, just starting out, will have their family here, and have similar joyous memories as we do. This thought comforts us.

Temporary Accommodations

After we sold the house, we needed a place to stay while the children finish their school year. We wanted a place that would disrupt their lives the least and not to send them into a panic at the thought of moving away. We needed to keep to the routine as best we could, while gently breaking them into the idea of moving away.

We were very lucky to find accommodations right next to our house, literally three doors down. The children would remain on the same street, going down the same path for the remaining 4 months before we packed up to leave.

An overlap of the two properties of two weeks proved to be the smartest thing we could have done. Only moving the bare essentials to our temporary accommodations, we had people come to the old house to buy or take the items that were not going with us. The move was gradual.

One thing we found moving into the townhouse complex directly beside us is that the neighbours really stuck together. The children hung out in the alleyway to play hockey, the girls played games, and their was always someone watching out for them. In turn I would give other parents a break and hang with the gang for a while. The garage doors would open, and you could find different families lingering at other garages making their rounds saying hello. It is funny we found a community similar to what we were looking for, right next door. But that was not the only factor, and although it was tempting to stay with our new found group, we stuck to the plan, and continued forward.

Alfonz’s favourite hobby is to scare the hell out of me! When we started dating, he would pick me up on his GSXR 750 from my apartment in Kits and I would hike up my skirt and we would recklessly take off and spend more time on one wheel than two. Back then I thought it was the sexiest thing I had ever experienced, no wonder he ended up as my husband.

We had just moved in together, to his super uber apartment on Seymour Street in the Delta Hotel Suites, when he was in a horrific motorcycle accident on his way home from work. Three months of recovery, Alfonz had skin grafts and second degree burns on his body from the woman’s car exhaust plus a major concussion. The Florence Nightingale effect perhaps, shortly after he proposed.

We decided that his hobby had to be put on hold. The compromise after Daniel was born was the BMW R1200GS, an on/off road Enduro bike, considerably slower but still took him on many adventures up to the Rockies, Vancouver Island and to Alaska on a 10 day trip come June 23-July 3 called Dawson to Dusk, just before we move away. I cannot wait to see the film he makes on that tour.

No matter where we end up in the world Alfonz will always ride.

Alfonz Hamori ready for France
My husband Alfonz

My Lovely Husband

Or course Alfonz has many interests outside of motorbikes. He loves to work out, travel, and is very adventurous. He puts up with my crap, so he must be a saint of some sort, and he is a great example of what a father should be; strict, loving and endlessly involved.
I am the luckiest woman around and get very spoiled by Alfonz. He is generous, brilliant and there is never a dull moment.
Alfonz, years ago now, drew a picture of me freehand with a ballpoint pen (invented by a Hungarian Man) of me sitting on the water’s edge in Heidelberg Germany. This was way before kids, we were so young and shiny, and it took him only a few minutes to whip out a picture to my likeness.

My dream for him is to have an open space in our home where he can paint, draw, sketch or whatever his heart desires artistically. This may be his life’s dream. I know it would bring him hours of happiness.

_________________________________________________________________That’s Hamori is created

‘That’s Hamori’ is a dedicated site on our move to France

Halfway through our kitchen renovation on our house in beautiful White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, we decide to give it all up and move to a better climate, a simpler lifestyle and a family run business that keeps us together.

Originally the plan was to buy a home on East Beach with a view of the Pacific Ocean, and raise our children running around on the sandy West Coast beaches. When it dawned on us, that it still rains 50% of the time down by the water too, and owning a million dollar home doesn’t change the weather or our level of happiness.

We could give up our yard in our current location, and being mortgaged free, to have the spectacular dream house. However, we could not sacrifice time together, as the trade off would be to work more. There is value in time that outweighs any other currency for us. And we decided to make a bold move with this theory in mind, Time Currency.

The destination we decided on is the south of France, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, close to the Spanish border, the Mediterranean Sea and the famous Carcassonne Castle. We thought about Budapest, where we already have a home, with family close by and a culture we love. Only problem is tourism is seasonal. Our place in downtown Budapest rents out mostly spring and summer with occasional New Year’s guests. Could make a great investment all the same but not enough to live on. So the train of thought was to find a country with enough of a tourist drive for a year round income. A place where our life wouldn’t be rained out and with an economy strong enough to compare to Canada. Good health care, strong culture, nice weather, all played into our decision. Southern France boasts 320 days of sunshine a year and is the #1 tourist destination of the world.

_________________________________________________________________Downsizing to two suitcases each

How do you reduce 37 years of collecting, acquiring, gift receiving down to 2 airline-sized suitcases, a carry-on bag and a purse? It is a very good question and one I was overwhelmed to begin. But once I made the first move it seemed pretty easy from there.

At first I went through my clothes and emailed my favourite girlfriends to come over and rummage through a giant pile of clothes, shoes, purses and accessories. It took 4 girls about 15 minutes and 5 lattes later to sort who got what. And I love seeing my friends looking great in my hardly worn clothes.

Simplifying this part of my life was surprisingly easier than imagined. It was even freeing. I got rid of all my skinny clothes that I had hung on to since before kids. I mean who really wants to be a hungry size 2. And also the bigger things from right after the kids were born. So only the current items I love made it to the second round. It quickly gave me a reason to buy a few extra things for my suitcase to look a little more, well, French.

When we moved over to the furnished rental town-home, we had a 2-week overlap. This was the best idea we came up with. Although we had no idea how smart we were at the time. We sold off all our furniture, trampoline, infrared sauna, all the items that obviously did not fit on the plane, and gave them to my brother and mother in 100 mile. Gave away my good pots and pans, and only took over a few things I could not get along without in the 4 months in the townhouse. I kept my Wusthof knives, a good Rachel Ray stew/fry pan with lid, a Dutch oven, my red kettle, my Starbucks espresso/coffee machine and 2 Starbucks mugs.

I did the same equation with the kids clothes to down size their closets. Same moms came by and we sorted through. We had piles of toys, books and sporting goods that went faster than my clothes did. Thank god for families in my life with the same aged kids as us! Like vultures swooping in. Just kidding. It was truly a blessing.

The kids get one suitcase for books, toys and games, and another for clothes. The books that didn’t make it to the second round we donated to Sunnyside Elementary School, my kids were in the Montessori program there.

Alfonz and I each get one tote for computers and phones, important photos and that sort of thing. And another for clothes and shoes. We should be good. Alfonz also narrowed down his shoe collection to a few and got rid of all his large-sized clothes. Since he hit the gym, I cannot see him ever getting that big again.

Once the things were gone, we really got used to the idea of getting rid of everything. Even the Denby and kitchen stuff I love are eventually being sold or given away instead of being shipped. Alfonz’s special tools and equipment are all going. His bike might come after us if not sold in time, which if fine by me, he needs a motor all the same.

There’s no point in shipping furniture and house items and spending the money when we can always buy another set of dishes or beds and couches over there. Shipping is expensive too, $5000 for a container, but $5000 can buy a lot of stuff in a new home especially when B&B’s usually come furnished.

My out-of-place West Coast oversized style, can be replaced with cool sleek furnishings, ultra modern! A better idea, and a money saver for us.

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Hamori family White Rock BC
Hamori Family prepares for their adventure