Friday, October 11, 2013

Waiting for the shipment to arrive

our vessel Lutetia
There is that old expression of how a person’s life is going to change for the better when their “ship comes in”. I expect it originated in the days of merchant cargo trade by boat, but it has a certain resonance for people on overseas assignment waiting for the arrival of their household goods. 

I left the US with two suitcases on July 19th. My husband was able to remain back in the US longer and dealt with the movers showing up to pack the house on July 30th. (More on the movers in a subsequent blog – suffice to say for now that you should NEVER, EVER use Graebel as your international moving company!) 

I lived in the hotel Mantra for a month in a suite that had a dining area, living and a small kitchen. I was far from impressed but my college-aged son liked it and kept reminding me that if I were staying in a suite like that in NYC it would cost a small fortune. One thing that was very convenient was that it came with all that one would need to make a meal at home, and obviously it came with a bed, sheets and towels.
Fast forward to the time when, as a newly relocated ex-pat, you need to move into your new home. You’ve used the services of the relocation agent, found the perfect place to live, and needed to sign the lease. Also, your company’s hotel allocation in the relocation package has probably run out. So, you pack up your two suitcases of worldly belongings, plus any small treasures you have bought along the way like your coffee machine and olive oil and get in a taxi to start the next phase of this adventure. 
luggage in empty room
 Walking across the threshold into the beautiful space you will be calling home for a while, empty rooms echo in the evening light.  In order to spend even one night there, you will need sheets, pillows, blankets  and oh yes … a mattress. When the morning comes, you will need soap, shampoo, towels, a plate, a fork, a mug …. you get the picture. It is something of a daunting task to be new in a country, to not have a car, not have your spouse or partner with you, and to walk into a large empty house with just 2 suitcases. And don’t forget that in Australia, rentals do not come with ‘white goods’ … so, need a refrigerator to store that quart of milk you just bought? Buy one.

nice big (empty) walk-in closet
I briefly considered renting a ‘corporate rental’, which is furnished, for a month or so, but when you finally find the perfect place to live, they of course want you to start paying rent right away, and it is very expensive to rent an empty home and also rent what is referred to around here as executive housing (because who else would be able to afford such things?!) So I arranged for rented furniture, which is also expensive but we really had no choice. The funny thing is that they have a minimum of 8 items that have to be rented in order to arrange for delivery, and even with 8 things it was still over 1K, so that’s what I rented .... 8 things ....
my (only) rented sofa

Here we are, 9 weeks after our house in NY was packed up, still with our belongings in limbo. The ship arrived on time – September 25th – and it was the only thing in this entire process of moving that was actually on time. They had told us to plan for 10 to 14 business days to clear Customs and Quarantine (actually the rocket scientist in the US had told us ‘about a week’ and it was only after we got to AU that the local delivery person broke us the news about 2-3 weeks). However, unfortunately, our professional movers managed to pack something that has caused the shipment to be delayed by Quarantine. We have not been told what it is, only that there are items ‘of concern’ to quarantine. They check for things like soil, plants, food, and wood. Yes, wood. You have to list every piece of wooden furniture that you are shipping when moving to Australia.

At some point, our things will show up. And here’s the odd thing … my husband and I have very mixed feelings about all of that ‘stuff’ that made up our life in the US arriving. We have become accustomed to owning 4 plates, 6 wine glasses and 6 water glasses. We walk into our big beautiful walk-in closet and enjoy the small number of items that hang there.  As I said to a colleague at work, this international move has forced us to live with ‘about 10 things’ and you feel that life might just about be perfect if you had maybe 10 more things … but do you really need the 2,000 items that are sitting in a 40 foot container waiting to descend upon you?
I started this blog entry with an old expression, and I will end it with one as well … we are seeing the truth of the old adage that says “the more stuff you own, the more stuff owns you.”