What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!  All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.  All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!  What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

The Home Stretch

At looong last – after over 4 month since they picked up our stuff in Phoenix, our only worldly possessions have cleared customs in Rotterdam and are making their way to the moving company’s storage in Alicante. That’s only two hours from us. It hardly seems real.

When I reached out to our shipper in late April asking for an update, they told me our stuff would be here in Valencia by May 23rd. But I just found out that it didn’t leave the US until May 3rd, so it would have been a miracle if it had. Then when they missed that by a week and I asked for another ETA they said June 12th. On the 12th, they emailed me and said it would reach Rotterdam on the 19th. It did but with some hiccups and holds.

In my typical fashion, our stuff had been ‘randomly selected’ by customs (or the Universe, I swear it!) and we had to pay $450 to get it out of ‘on hold status’. Making this payment proved a challenge since our US shipper (agent of origin) is a complete bunch of nincompoops (always wanted to use that word and, in this case it’s too appropriate not to). It took them two days to figure it out. Eventually, I just paid the customs clearance guy in Holland and got it done.

I can hardly believe that our things are on European soil. Sure they’re several countries away but they are making their way south, across the continent. I’m crossing my fingers that bandits don’t hijack the truck, it doesn’t catch fire in a lightening storm, it doesn’t roll off the mountainside in the Pyrenees (why they would go that way I have no idea), or one of the other disaster scenarios that keep me awake at night.

It sounds far fetched. I mean, how could any or all of that happen to one little shipment, for one little person – me? It’s because I’m me, that’s why. If all our stuff has been invaded by the dreaded ocean going water termite (yes, I made that up) it wouldn’t shock me in the least. So now we have other stuff to concern ourselves with.

Once the stuff gets to Alicante, they will call me and arrange a date of delivery in early July. I will then reach out to a guy I know here in Valencia who will – crossing my fingers – go with me to the town hall and arrange for a permit where I block off the sidewalk of cars for 48 hours in preparation for my delivery. I will not yet arrange for the crane until the couch is actually here. We will put it in our parking space in the garage, measure it 10 times. Then measure our living room window on the 7th floor 11 times, and then either call the crane company, or locate some storage and move it there.

What will I be happy to see in all those little boxes? Well, all my summer clothes that I thought would be here (yes, they promised me they would be) two months ago. I’d like some variety and some other shoes. Jeff is looking forward to wearing more than just the two pairs of shorts he currently enjoys. He wears one, I wash one. Ugh.

I’m looking forward to pictures. Photos and a couple of paintings. We may have actual art on our walls. Towels and summer sheets. Our bikes and sports equipment – golf clubs. An omelet pan! It’s all coming! It will be like Christmas in July – literally JULY!! I’m chewing a little glass over that.

But we’re in the home stretch and our focus will shift to the one final thing we need to tackle before winter. Getting our driving licenses. But Jeff is on the case – I can only worry about so many things myself. And he’s located a couple of schools in English in the area so we can investigate further and get legal before October 31st rolls around.

But before that, I’ll be unpacking boxes soon. Hugging my precious shoes and handbags, saying a lot of ‘Oh yeah, I forgot I had this’ and ‘Why the hell did I bring this?!’. But it’s all good. I figure it’s a lot like having a baby. Once it’s here, you forget about the pain, the swelling and bloating and just enjoy your 325 square feet of joy. And with any luck, I’ll be sitting on part of it in my living room enjoying a cold glass of sangria very soon.

No Really, Where’s my Stuff?!?

Oh yes. Back in the dark ages – well, the end of February, the movers came and took our stuff to Los Angeles. They had promised to put it all on a boat that would sail across the sea. How do I know this? Because I gave them a pile of money and signed a contract to that effect. What day is it today? Hmm, oh yeah, it’s June 7th. And where is my stuff? A question not even the Oracle at Delphi could answer lying in her sulfur fog in her stone mountain top temple.

The first indication that we might have an issue was about a month after arriving here in Valencia, the shipper in LA contacted me and asked me ‘for an inventory list’. WHAT?!? I asked them why they would be asking me for that since the movers made a list of what was in each box – because I had already numbered said boxes and made an inventory list for them. Well, they didn’t have it. So I sent them another copy and pictures of each of the number items I had taken with my cell phone before allowing them to be loaded.

Yes, I’m just that organized. Ok – paranoid. But it was our stuff. And we cared about it enough to ship it half way across the world, across oceans and through canals. You can see how my blood pressure might have gone up a bit. I conveyed my displeasure to the person who was doing the asking. ‘Was this what I paid all that money for?’ She never directly addressed the question but assured me that now she could ship our stuff.

What?!? They had picked it up a month before. Where the HELL had it been, if not in a container rapidly steaming it’s way towards me with dolphins riding the bow wave guiding to Valencia?? I was pissed. They said it had been stored until it was put on the boat with other containers. What could I do? Nothing – so I decided to drink a glass of wine and take 10 deep breaths. It worked for awhile.

Before we went to pick up Jeff’s bike in Germany at the beginning of May, I reached out to them again and asked when our stuff would be getting here. I didn’t want it to show up while we were in Germany. They assured me that it would be arriving on May 23rd to Valencia. The customs people would contact me and arrange the paperwork and delivery. Ugh – but fine. We booked our tickets to Germany and off we went.

The timing was good because Emilie was coming on the 19th. That would give her a couple of days to settle in before her stuff got here and we could spend days unpacking it all. The 23rd came and went – no call. So 7 days after the due date, I reached out again. No response. So, in my typical fashion I did a little digging and found the CEO’s email address and cc’d him on my next communication showing the string of untruths I had been told in the emails with these people going back to February. Voila! I got a response telling me our stuff was going to now arrive on June 12, saying they were sorry for the delay and all would be well. You can tell I felt much better. NOT!

Then an email came from a nice guy in Rotterdam in The Netherlands who told me he would be handling the customs paperwork for me when the shipment arrived in Rotterdam. AGAIN WHAT?!? I quietly asked my the HELL my stuff wold be arriving in Rotterdam since I live in SPAIN. And I paid to have my stuff shipped to VALENCIA. When was my stuff going to show up at my door in Valencia, since it was going to be all the way across Europe?

He assured me that they were going to truck it across the several countries between me and Holland and that process would start after it arrived in Rotterdam on June 12th. He as very cheerful. So cheerful that I couldn’t be angry at him because he had nothing to do with the entire thing. And because I need him  – a man with so many vowels in his name that when I email him I have no idea if I’m actually spelling it correctly.

So I filled out the forms he sent me and sent them back. Now I’m waiting – hoping – praying, that our stuff will actually get to Rotterdam. A city I never wanted it to go to. And that the richly voweled guy will take care of it and get it here, so I can discover whether my couch can be craned into the living room window on the 7th floor.

Here’s the lesson. If you move to another country – store you stuff in your old country. Put it in storage and happily pay for it. Because, when you get to your new country, you will have to buy stuff to get by while you’re waiting for your old stuff to arrive – thus creating duplicate possessions, like a tea pot and a frying pan. So when your stuff, after making it, apparently, through every port between Los Angles and Rotterdam, finally arrives you won’t actually need that crap cause you’ve already bought that crap – again.

After all this, I swear if that couch doesn’t fit through the window I’m going to put it out on the sidewalk and just sleep there. It will be summer – if they’re not lying and it gets here by July 1st. I could live off the orange trees lining the street. The weather will be lovely, and I might just meet more of my neighbors and make some new friends. I’ll put my feet up, watch YouTube videos on my phone and drink some Sangria on the sidewalk. The street cleaners can wake me in the morning when they come around. But I’ll have earned it. I will have waited 4 months for that couch – too large though it might very well be. But its mine, and perhaps, like me, a little worse for wear but still, all mine.

Wait – What?!?

The truck showed up at 7:15 pm tonight and then they told me – ‘Yeah, sorry, but we don’t have enough room in the truck for your stuff.’ Am I kidding, you ask? No. Were they kidding, I asked? Sadly, No. Deep breath.

They promised – after spending two hours wrapping our couch and bicycles and inventorying our boxes – to be back ‘Some time tomorrow after we drop off a ‘big load’ 15 miles away.’ Aka – They have no idea what time they’ll be coming back.

I just stood there and looked at them. What can I do? Nothing. I have to let them go away with their big truck and pray they will come back. How this happened, I have no idea. But I did have an indication that it just wasn’t my day.

Jeff got home while they were wrapping our couch. He was late getting home from work and was hungry and ready to go eat. But we had to wait until they left. Finally, we headed down to pick up some Kung Pao chicken and came back to the house to eat off our paper plates.

I dished it up and then I decided to look at my fortune in the cookies in the bag. My philosophy of eating desert first kicked in. I reached in and selected one and SURPRISE!! there was no fortune in mine. Nothing. Apparently, my future is a blank slate upon which, I can write whatever I want. OK, I made that up, but I’m trying to remain positive about everything.

I reviewed my contingency plans, but ultimately, when I wake up tomorrow we will have just 4 days before we fly out. I know it will be just fine, because it has to be.