Friday, August 05, 2005

Welcome to my other blog!

Welcome all to my other blog, this one relating to my experiences as an American (specifically U.S.) expatriate in Merrye Olde EnglandeTM. I was posting my move information on my other blog, I18n G.A.L., so read there for the initial few posts.

The container arrived a week ago Monday, on July 25th. I had been dreading this day. It was scheduled to arrive at the storage place we had contracted with at 10AM. At 9AM we called the delivery company to find out if the container would arrive on time. At 9:45AM they called back to say that everything was on schedule and the driver would be no more than 15 minutes late. At 10:30AM, with 8 of us assembled at the storage place, shivering in the cold (yes, it can be cold in England in the summer), we get a call from the delivery company to say that the driver was currently in Bracknell, which meant he was about 2 hours away. We had asked for the driver's phone number and this time it was given to us. So the motley crew of 2 teenagers, 3 middle aged folk, and 3 retirees went back to our house for an early lunch of fish and chips from the local chippy. At 12:15PM we got a call that the driver had arrived at the storage place, and so we all loaded up into our cars and drove back out there. Remarkably, the container had not been opened; our seal was still sealed and our lock was still locked (and full of seawater). We kicked ourselves for not taking more wine and electronics!

Then the real fun began. Some of the stuff was to go to our (my mother-in-law's) house, and some was to go in any of 3 storage containers we hired. The stuff going to our house was to be loaded into a rented truck that Richard had picked up at 8AM. The container sits about 5 feet off the ground, and so things must come down a ramp. The rented truck was also high up, but had a lifting platform. So, a couple of people were inside the container unloading, a few were on ramp and transport to the truck duty, and I and a strong teenager were inside the truck. The tricky thing is that container loading/unloading is Last In, First Out (LIFO). The problem being that we put light/fragile/awkward stuff on top and heavy stuff down low, but in unloading it and loading the truck, all we got initially was the light/fragile/awkward stuff. So I couldn't just load, I had to supervise the unloaders, the loading teenager, and the truck configuration. What the heck did we put in all those boxes anyway??? I started to see the sense in something our friend, Jeff, had said when we told him we got the container "Why don't you just get rid of all your stuff in the U.S. and buy all new stuff there?" I was grateful that we hadn't gotten a 40 foot container (we had a 20 footer).

It was surreal to see the stuff. It looked pretty much as it did when we sealed the container in our driveway in California. There it was. It hadn't been sold on the docks of Shanghai, nor shaken around as if it had been tumble-dried, nor drenched by seeping seawater. That stuff made a truck and boat journey halfway around the world and somehow reached us. It truly is amazing. I expect it will be bizarre to see it unpacked in some house here.

I won't go into the sordid details, but the storage containers were something like 5' x 7' x 7', so it was interesting to try and pack our furniture and larger items into them. Oh, and Richard was moving the containers around with a forklift. The storage place just pointed him to it and said to use it as he needed to. This would never happen in the States - the liability is tremendous. It was loads of fun to watch my husband driving this thing around (she says, with sarcasm oozing from her pores). At one point he tried to move one of the containers after it was full, and luckily one of the movers happened by and offered to move the storage container for us. Nerve-wracking stuff.

Of course, there was more fun to be had. The rented truck full of our stuff was then driven to our house (we had to leave the motorcycle at the storage place because Richard had removed the seat and we couldn't find it.) Then the truck had to be unloaded. For sanity's sake we just put everything in the backyard. The multitude of boxes were put on a tarp in the grass, while the filing cabinet, rolling tool chest, and miscellaneous other tools were put near the shed. By this time (about 5:30PM), all our helpers had to go (we had one diabetic who was low on insulin!).

Then Richard and I drove back to the storage place to put the motorcycle in the truck. Thank goodness for the electric lift. Richard strapped it in as tight as he could, and I put some wedges underneath the tires. Richard had the bright idea that I should ride in the back with the bike and shout if anything went amiss. OK, so here's my advice to you - don't do it. I kept recalling the related experience of my friend, Karen, who rode along in the airplane with her skydiving husband. He had neglected to tell the pilot that there would be a passenger on the way down, and there was Karen, hanging on for dear life while the pilot practically nosedived to get the next lot of skydivers. Yep, except at every bump we went over I envisioned the large motorbike tumbling on top of me. I stayed as far away as I could, and debated how to brace myself in case I had to roll out of the way in a hurry! Clearly I survived even this. We stopped at the British Home Depot (a.k.a. B&Q) to buy another tarp to cover the boxes in the yard in case of rain. Thankfully it hadn't rained on us all day. I got to ride home from B&Q in the front of the truck - oh, what sweet delight!

Once home, we starting hefting in as many boxes as we could manage, into any space we could find. At 10PM, after doing this all day, I told Richard I had had it.

The next day saw us moving and shifting more stuff. And the day after that. In fact, a week and a half later, we're still shifting stuff around, but less heavy stuff. My biceps have never been so sore.

And now the clock is ticking, as the storage isn't cheap. More to come.


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