Oct 212015
 
The remains of The Wall at Checkpoint Charlie

The remains of The Wall at Checkpoint Charlie

Yesterday we took a taxi to our appointment with the Visa Filing business.  They were remarkably unable to answer simple questions (we are not visa officers, we are not allowed to answer), but, we are fairly confident that we provided enough documentation for what we need, knock wood.  After that, we are pretty much just cooling our heels waiting to be approved.  So, why not enjoy the city a bit?  Honestly, I am still not able to do long walks without paying a pretty significant physical price.  We crossed my limits a couple times this week already. But, as long as we give me breaks, I do alright.  Knock more wood :)

So, here are a few photos of things we have seen recently.  Today is a Recovery and Work Day.  But, tomorrow we hope to go see at least one of the museums on Museum Island.  Because, yes, Museum Island is totally a thing!  So, until then, here is some random public art and a few other tidbits.

 

Oct 182015
 
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Looking down at the back yard

You know how when you are planning out a big project, you think about all the contingencies.  What if water buffalo stampede our camp site?  What if the Imperials intercept our droid and overrun our rebel base?  What if the baby grows a moustache and Santa can no longer recognize him?  You know all the silly stuff that almost never happens, but you should plan for anyways?  Yeah.  Our percentage is WAY up from the norm.  BUT.  No water buffalo, rebel bases or baby moustaches were harmed in the making of this London Journey.

So much has happened in the last week that I am not even sure where to start.  What seemed like minor disasters last week are barely blips in looking back.   I am fairly certain that if we had not been through the process of moving to Germany, we would have fled for the hills by now.  On the other hand, there are so many cool little details that I want to share- the stuff that makes this whole Adventure thing worth doing.

For instance, once the temperamental Polish movers had finally settled their labor dispute and taken all our stuff, there was literally no place to sit in the old apartment except for the toilets.  We all took turns taking a break as we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned.

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DS enjoying a well earned break.

British people are incredibly ready to stop and give you directions, even if you only seem a little bit lost.  Sort of nice.

British roads are typically horrible.  You might think that main arteries through one of the most major cities in the world would have more than 2 lanes.  But, you would be mostly wrong.  Driving 6 miles to the Ikea in the next big town over took us 40 minutes of screaming horror.  The backwards driving stuff, of course, makes everything more tense.  But, it is the aggressive British drivers, tiny roads, which become one lane when cars park at the sides, and the complete impossibility of figuring out what road you are on that make it hellish.  Our rental car came with a GPS which saved our bacon more than once….. It also, though, frequently deposited us in back alley-ways and dead ends and construction zones with no clue how to get out…  Seriously, if you don’t HAVE to drive in London, DONT drive in London.

Ah, but maybe I should share some of the MAJOR events. 

First, the good news.  David was approved by the British government for a slot in this month’s immigration pool.  YAY.  This means that we are now going through the process that I outlined last time.  David, Audric and I are in Berlin, filling out paperwork and cooling our heels until we get the all clear to head back to London.

HOWEVER, We discovered that Morgaine CANNOT come into the country under David’s work visa because she is 18.  She has to get a visa of her own.  For now, she is under a visitor’s 6 month visa.  But, we need to get her set up with a private school of some kind because she needs a student visa and cannot get one through the public schools (nor is she allowed to attend them).  Also, if she leaves the country before she gets set up with a sponsor, for instance for our little Berlin jaunt, they may think she is trying to pull Shennanigans and deny her access.  We could literally get stuck in an airline terminal like Tom Hanks.  All this was laid out to us about 24 hours before we were scheduled to fly out to Germany.  So, we kicked it into high gear.  We unpacked enough of the house to be functional, bought enough food to get her started, had keys made, got her a bus pass, set her up with local contacts for emergencies and support (THANK YOU FLORIAN, Once again!), and generally did everything we could to make it possible for DD to spend a couple weeks testing out her Grown Up wings at home…. our new home… in a new country.  Yeah, not exactly the way we hoped for that to go, but, we know she is a capable young woman.  So far, from what we can tell, she seems to be doing great.  So proud of everyone for doing what had to get done.

The other major event was not so easily handled, I am afraid.  When we arrived in Berlin, we learned that my Step-mother, Connie, had been in a serious car crash.  She literally lost all her blood, broke her pelvis and an arm and had major internal injuries.  Latest word is that she has been stabilized, but has a long road ahead.  She has been through so much, and it just seems incredibly unfair for this to happen now.  But, we are encouraged by the most recent reports.  It is incredibly hard being unable to be with the family, especially my dad, right now.  For all those affected, please know love and light are pouring across the Atlantic as I type.

So, I guess now I will share a few more photos and a few more tidbits.  Unfortunately, we have had some major technical and internet issues.  This hotel has much better internet than the last one, but for some reason, I am still unable to easily upload photos.  It took me an hour to grab the ones I am sharing today.  I have many many more, but we will need to share those when we figure out how to do it.

 

Our new house has a larger fridge/freezer, yay!

Our new house has a larger fridge/freezer, yay!

New house has a large shed for storage, but it is missing windows.

New house has a large shed for storage, but it is missing windows.

New kitchen sink drains directly out this white pipe into an open drain outside..... ummmm

New kitchen sink drains directly out this white pipe into an open drain outside….. ummmm

looking down the front steps

looking down the front steps

one of the neighborhood foxes-- which are TOTALLY a THING!!

one of the neighborhood foxes– which are TOTALLY a THING!!

Old greenhouse at our new place, landlord came yesterday to clean up the broken glass.

Old greenhouse at our new place, landlord came yesterday to clean up the broken glass.

DS on a bench outside the Dali museum

DS on a bench outside the Dali museum

Not even sure what this building is. Berlin is full of places that look this way!

Not even sure what this building is. Berlin is full of places that look this way!

So, just to finish catching up, we are currently staying in a nice Best Western in the old Eastern side of Berlin, very near Mitte, Checkpoint Charlie, etc.  We have our appointment with the visa folks on Tuesday, and then depending on how that goes, we will be here between another 10-15 days.  We are trying to eat cheap, because this whole process is insanely expensive, so we have stashes of bread and snacks and such in the wardrobe of our hotel room.  Classy, I know, but you do what you have to do.  We watched a BBC report on the Refugee crises last night and were seriously grateful that we have this lovely warm place to stay and a lawyer to help us get through what we need to get through.  But, I have to admit, this gives us a whole other perspective on what those folks are experiencing.  I cannot imagine fleeing war, but the frustration with the coldness of the harsh bureaucracy is vivid.  Sorry, your 18 year old must forge her own way?  Too cruel.  Families don’t work like that.  We have family friends who immigrated to the US from Africa and family members trickled across over the course of years and years.  The sacrifice and separation of people just trying to forge a better life is awful.  When folks like the people coming from Syria are actually fleeing for their lives, it takes on a whole other dimension.  We need to do better, world.  We really do.

Ok, well, I do have more stable internets, so hopefully I will be able to post more regular updates again- with or without photos.  Please send your good thoughts and prayers to Connie.  And, if you can spare a few more, to Morgaine, and the rest of us, too.

Oct 082015
 

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SO…. you know how I reported that this last couple weeks each day has been filled with more things than fit into a day?  Multiply that by a factor of 12 and you get our last 36 hours.

Wednesday morning David got up early to pick up his prescriptions from his diabetes doctor who had been out sick for the past week.  When he got there, the office staff informed him that his doctor had just died.  That was the auspicious beginning of David’s Very Bad No Good Terrible Day. 

I will skip the details and hit the highlights.  By the time I got home from my errand running for the day, I was greeted with “I finally heard back from (our HR guy).  He wrote me and said ‘Don’t Come Yet, the visa paperwork isn’t done!'”

Wanna repeat that for me?  One more time?  What did you say?  I am not sure I understood you correctly.  WHAT?!

I am told David’s exact response to that email was “Motherf–“! Which seems appropriate all things considered.

Ummm..  Yeah.  That was 5 days before we were expecting to be on a plane.  Main Movers arriving Monday morning.  Car going back to the dealer Monday.  Apartment returned to the landlord Monday.  We are pretty much down to packing the kitchen and our actual luggage for the trip.  And suddenly, no?

I am told there was some raging at that point.  There was a bit more later.  And a whole lot of “what the heck do we do now” thrown into the mix.  Contingencies upon contingencies.  Questions upon questions.  Bosses were contacted, VPs were looped in.  Phone calls were had.  To their credit, the company hired an immigration lawyer.  By today, we were talking with him directly, scanning and sending paperwork, and basically trying to do everything from a 2 month process in 2 days.  Folks were definitely working to correct the situation. But, it is still a huge big ball of crazy-making absurdist bogglitude.

In the end, if we are lucky, this is what is going to happen: 

  1. We are headed to London, as planned Monday.  This is necessary because we need to take possession of our house and our moved-stuff.  BUT, we cannot stay there.  You can’t convert a tourist visa into a work visa while in country.  In fact, we have to get special paperwork saying that we are only there for a couple days as tourists, won’t work during that time and will leave.  Apparently the English government is worried people will show up on a tourist visa and look for work while there. And apparently that would be a Bad Thing.
  2. We get confirmation that David has been approved by the government for this month’s allocation of work visas.  That should happen in the next couple of days (PLEASE).  It is a quota system.  He *should* get priority treatment because of his job skills, but there are questions about how the paperwork was handled prior to the lawyer’s involvement.  If this part goes south, I am not sure our next step.  So, if you are the praying sort and feeling like giving us some help, this would be where to concentrate your energies.
  3. Once that is confirmed, we have to go to one of the three cities in Germany that has a consulate (still not sure if that is an American or British consulate).  We picked Berlin because it is less expensive than the other two (Dusseldorf and Munich), and because we have actually never been there!
  4. We stay in a hotel in Berlin for about 2 weeks filling out forms and waiting for our paperwork to be ready.
  5. Assuming it all goes through (PLEASE), we can then return to London and start living and working there as planned.  Well, not quite as planned.  David won’t get to work until probably at least a week after his scheduled start date.  And that will, of course, make the move in process trickier.  But, we are just gonna roll with it at this point.

There are more than a few monkey wrenches even in this scenario (the delayed start date, our rental car has already been paid for for 2 weeks, we won’t be there to set up our cable, etc).  But, at least now we have a lawyer smoothing the way, and the company will pay for our travel and hotel costs in Berlin.

So, we are trying to look at it as a Partially Paid For Berlin Paperwork Vacation!  Woot!

  • As for everything else, we are chugging along.  My Physical Therapist practically wrapped me in Kinesio-tape in anticipation of having to move without a therapist to help me recover.  I look rather like a blue-green mummy when viewed from the left side.
  • Our Hausmeister gave me a big unexpected hug good-bye.
  • The little old lady I talk with at my PT’s office gave me guardian angels- as did my PT.  Apparently this is the thing one gives acquaintances going on journeys.  We can definitely use their help!

    Angels

    Guardian Angels

  • Friends came today to help move out stuff to the dump and take a few of our items that are being re-homed.

    Morning Group

    The Morning Moving Group

  • In practice this means that our bed and couch are now gone.  I will be sleeping on Audric’s bed.  He and David will both sleep on the floor.   It is like camping!  Only, you know, more like sleeping on floor.

    Camping

    Camping In

  • We arranged to get British Pounds from our bank.
  • We got the kids’ school records.
  • We said good-bye to almost everyone (Kerstin, will come by Sunday :-)
  • I cried.  More than once.  Since- Good-bye!
  • And, as said before, we are down to packing just the stuff we use day to day.

We have some more cleaning to do.  We have to check out from the City government (you do that here, tell them you are leaving before you go).  We need to change our address with the bank (who won’t let us until we check out).  And we have a few more little paperwork and phone check-offs to complete.

Since we will have 2 weeks instead of 2 days in a hotel, though, we need to consider how/what to pack.  For instance, I will need to take some of my work materials with me.  And, we will need to be a bit better about layering as the weather changes.

Also HOLY EFFING MOTHER OF DARKNESS WHAT IN THE BLEEPITY BLEEPING EVERLOVING CRUDMOKEYS JUST HAPPENED!?

ARRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Ehem.  Sorry.  That was about as far as I could get without that seeping out.

So, Apparently this little blog will have a little detour in the coming week.  Knock wood.  Stay Tuned!

In the mean time, we are all pretty much tethering our sanity to our wrists like a run-happy toddler at Disneyland, because those puppies are just looking for a crack in the fence and Away They Go!

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Oct 022015
 
The Growing Pile of Evidence

The Growing Pile of Evidence

 

Howdy all.  This is just a quick check in to say that YES, we are still planning to move to the UK in 10 days, and YES, there is mounting evidence that we are making progress toward that goal.  And HOLY CRAP we are moving to the UK in 10 days!  The real emotion of it is starting to set in as we continue our list of finals.  Final day at David’s work.  Final day at the kids’ school.  Final visit to this shop, that doctor, etc.  There really are many many wonderful things about our lives here that we will miss terribly.  On the other hand, we are starting to get more concrete ideas about what life in London may be like, and that is both scary and thrilling!  So many things to learn and explore!  Plus, doggability.  This is all good, but I won’t lie and pretend I am not shedding a few tears this week, as well.

As for the prep work…. We have packed 20 out of our expected 50 boxes (Mostly, David).  We have driven all over town dealing with paperwork and jumping through hoops (also mostly David).  We have researched the heck out of our new area (mostly me).  And we have made plans, enacted plans, changed plans, and made back-up plans on many things.  Highlights include:

  • Finished up DD’s braces and filed paperwork to get money back from the German Government because she went all the way through (they do that here!  How cool is that?)
  • Negotiated with the car dealership for a reasonable deal returning the car (Yay David!)
  • Re-negotiated with the movers to get that all tacked down reasonably, as well (Also Yay David!)
  • Payed what is hopefully our final speed-trap-camera ticket from Germany (David had to go to 5 or 6 different places to get this one dealt with.  That is highly unusual, but we won’t be missing theses at all!  For the record, this was a ticked for going 34mph in a 31 mph zone (56 kph in a 50 kph)….  yeah, they MEAN it when they put a number on a sign.)
  • Started making the Good-bye rounds with friends (mostly DS)
  • Identified and contacted several universities that DD may apply to, and started to establish what path is best to take to get from HERE to THERE- not exactly a gimme when you consider how different the British System is from anything else we have dealt with before.  And we have dealt with school systems in 3.5 countries already!
  • Found homes and potential homes for several large pieces of furniture we will be unable to bring with us.
  • Determined the general lay-out and room sizes for the new place and compared those to current floor plans and contents.  Realized we need to streamline a little bit.  (Right now we have a very-large great-room, and the new place has two medium-sized rooms as replacements- also only one bathroom which is oddly located upstairs.  Whassup with that London?)
  • Running, re-running, checking, re-evaluating and re-checking finances repeatedly and often.
  • Filled out finalization paperwork with several businesses and worked on finishing up several more.
  • Arranged to make arrangements with our landlord to check out what we need to do to get our deposit back.
  • Arranged for flights, rental car and hotel stays.

Oh yeah, and we also all had about a week of being sick with the flu.  NOT part of the plan, but, I suppose not unexpected.

So the march goes on.  Hopefully next time we will have a few more scintillating bits and pieces to share.  But, didn’t want you thinking we were being too quiet!