Thursday, September 6, 2007

Arrival in Munich

I've decided to chronicle my Munich adventures via this blog. Bear with me as this is the first time I've done anything like this.

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. We left Los Angeles last Sunday, September 2nd, which was an adventure in and of itself. Gerard, Gerrit, our two dogs (Jake and Niki), and blind skiddish cat (Tycho) stayed with some friends, Carlos and Kristen, Saturday night so we would be closer to the airport. Carlos and Kristen have a slightly neurotic cat themselves, so we all thought it would be best to put our pets in the room attached to their garage overnight. Since it was a warm night, we opened the windows and had fans running for the pets. This all seemed like a fine plan, until somewhere around 5:30 or 6:00 am when I heard Niki barking. The bark sounded a bit closer than it ought to be so I went out to investigate. It turns out that Niki somehow managed to make a hole in the window screen, then sucessfully jump through it. She was outside barking and Jake was still inside the garage room whining at Niki. Fantastic...Crisis #1. Sorry Carlos. I'm thinking this does not bode well for how Niki will travel later today.

David and Kaspar arrived to help us get to the airport and return our mini-van to Theo and Sallie. (Did I mention that we were unsuccessful in selling the van? We are currently keeping it at Theo and Sal's until further decisions are made.) David and Kaspar drove down together, and the plan was for them to follow us to the airport while we lugged all our crap in the van. Kaspar would then drive the van back to Pasadena. First stop on the way to the airport is at the Kennel Club, the meeting place to hand over our dogs to Pacific Pet Transport (the company handling our move). They arranged for our dogs to be on the same Lufthansa flight that we are booked. After several frustrating conversations with the PacPet driver, we did manage to agree to hand our dogs over. We had paid them $2,000 and signed our dogs over without so much as being offered a receipt, transportation agreement, or anything in writing from them. A huge oversight on their part if you ask me. After seeing that I was noticeably agitated and not willing to hand over my dogs under these conditions, the driver agreed to make copies of the documents we had signed (but noted that most customers don't even ask for such things. Right... I find that hard to swallow. If you care enough about your pets to pay a ton of money to haul them all the way across the Atlantic with you, I think you want some assurances that they will be cared for along the journey). After assembling the crates in the parking lot, we were ready to load the dogs. I headed to the driver's door of the van to get let the dogs out when I heard the lock click. Jake had been sitting in the driver's seat and managed to put his paw on the lock just as I walked up to the car, locking both dogs, cat, AND OUR SON in a running vehicle. We had left the car running for air conditioning. Yikes! Apparently, Jake was registering his complaint about moving to Germany, and being shoved in a crate for several hours. At least I'm not the only one apprehensive about the move. :-) Fortunately, we hadn't put all our luggage in the van and I was able to get the extra set of keys from my bag in David's car. Whew! Crisis #2 averted.

Things went surprisingly well in the airport, despite our 8 pieces of checked baggage and 6 carry-ons. We got a tremendous amount of grief from David about this, by the way. Yes, yes, perhaps it was excessive, but given that we're moving and won't get the rest of our luggage for two months, deal with it. Besides, one of our carry-ons was Tycho the cat, after all. David amused himself by taking many pictures of our two overflowing luggage carts and postulating on how we were going to navigate all this on our own once in the Munich airport. As luck would have it, we managed to get a porter straight away in Munich, who helped us all the way to our rental car, so Crisis #3 was avoided altogher.

Ah... luggage, Gerrit, Gerard, and Steph all in the mini-van rental (which by the way is a great deal smaller than our mini-van in the U.S.) and ready to get the dogs. Everything appears to be going smoothly. This is when Crisis #4 hits us. Retrieving our dogs was not as easy as we were led to believe. Our plane landed at 12:30 and we were ready to have dogs in hand at 1:30 pm, having been told they had been transported to the office where we were supposed to get them. At the office, we were told they were in the middle of shift change and the dogs would not be ready until 2pm. At 2pm, the vet hadn't arrived. When the vet finally arrived to review the paperwork and check out the dogs, we paid her fee. Then she stamped some documents which we had to return to the customs office before being allowed to take the dogs. We paid another fee there for another stamp, and then returned to pick up the dogs. Once back with the vet, we were charged a holding fee for the pets while we had gone to the customs office. Ah yes, what was it that Jackie's husband, Bob, was mentioning about German bureaucracy? It took over four hours to finally get the dogs, but we managed it. Not sure they'll be forgiving us any time soon for locking them in their crates for that long.

At this point, it was into the evening so we went to stay with a colleague of Gerard's for the night. She has offered to let us stay here with our pets for as long as necessary until finding a place to live. For now, we are taking her up on her offer. However, I'm not sure how long we should take advantage of her kindness seeing as we currently have no viable permanent housing options, though we've been frantically searching since before we even arrived. We'll take it day by day, but it looks as though we'll be here at least through September... or for as long as she can stand us.

Since arriving, we've had a few mini crises adjusting to german appliances. This is taking some getting used to, especially without explanation. Gerard tried to use the washing machine and managed to flood the basement, while I struggled with the oven. This darn contraption had several cooking options (pictures but no words) and I had no idea how to actually make it do what I wanted. I guessed, but it took twice as long for our food to cook (and no, Theo, it wasn't because I had celcius and fahrenheit confused). Neither of us were brave enough to try out the dishwasher. I'm feeling quite inept in several areas this week and I haven't even tried to communicate with people much yet. Oh well, things can only look from here.... I hope.

We left California in the middle of a heat wave only to arrive to rain and cold weather in Munich. Great... we all know how much I love the rain and cold. I wasn't exactly looking forward to the Munich winters and heck, it's only September. I hope the sun decides to come out and welcome me a bit before it retreats to its winter home. Since arriving, we've explored a few of the surrounding villages trying to get a better sense of where we want to live. It may not work out for us to live in a village we want, though, as it seems rental homes are few and far between. Though many are listed, they seem to be snatched up quickly even though their postings are still available. We always seem a day late in calling. We've also opened our search up to include apartments as well. Perhaps this will help us get settled more quickly. Remember, I'm in nesting mode right now. Tomorrow I have an appointment with two obstetricians in the morning, and we're setting up a bank account in the afternoon. We also have calls out to look at a potential car (Toyota Picnic) and a rental house in a nearby village. That all sounds very exciting, but I'm a bit dubious about the whole house thing. We already looked at a house a few days ago and when we said we were interested, the agent seemed eager to call us back later that same day. We waited for her call but did not hear from her. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I'm not exactly hopeful that we'll find something anytime soon.

Well, all... for my first post, this was a bit long winded, but I wanted to catch you up on our week. Check here regularly to see how I'm doing trying to navigate my way through life in Munich. Feel free to leave comments. I'm off to bed as it looks like we have a busy day ahead. Love to you all!


At September 6, 2007 at 5:11 PM , Blogger Christine van Belle said...

Thanks for creating the blog. We have all been wondering how things are for you! I tried calling your cell number the other day and I think they reassigned it already to someone from China. Is that possible? When the guy answered, he said, "Wei" which is Chinese for hello. Needless to say, we didn't talk long.
Blessings to all--we look forward to reading more.

At September 6, 2007 at 7:10 PM , Blogger Greg said...

Whew. I heard now it snowed near Munchen! Good news is now you are there for the start of Oktoberfest!!


Guten nacht, schalft gut!

At September 6, 2007 at 8:01 PM , Blogger wendi said...

i am so glad you have blog! i am looking forward to reading daily posts. :) love to all!

At September 6, 2007 at 8:21 PM , Blogger Pat Harris said...

What a great idea Steph! We miss you already. The cookie was great thanks for thinking of us. Love, Pat

At September 6, 2007 at 9:46 PM , Blogger Linda Moore said...

I have been wondering about you all week! What a treat to come home and find this wonderful blog!! Is it pretty there, is it common to speak english? I loved your detailed informative update for us. Very proud of you, I admire your *umph*...Love and prayers to you and yours!! Linda

At September 7, 2007 at 5:39 PM , Blogger Linda Moore said...

It is 6 oclock friday night here, what day and time is it there for you? Hope you show up "here" on your blog soon...anxious for another update. TATA for now :)~

At September 7, 2007 at 11:09 PM , Blogger kriccio said...

Guten tag! Wie gehts?
Hang in there - and let us know if you need any translations. We will send wedding pics in another few months.
Tschau - Kerry and Mark

At September 9, 2007 at 2:03 PM , Blogger jody said...

hi stephanie,
tried to send you a note on your blog the other day but didn't have the time to create an acccount.
we all, jackie, jody, matthew, and katy miss you and the babies. i love the pictures. that little boy of yours is so gorgeous and i miss holding and smelling him.
it's very strange at school without you just next door. i definately feel a sense of loss as though something is incomplete.
it's still warm and sunny here, as a matter of fact i am going to the pool in a few minutes.
matthew and katy say hi and miss you. i am setting up a blog account as well and will give you the info. later.
i don't think you look miserable and am sad to say you look very happy in your new home. i hope i am just imaging this.
kiss, kiss.........

At September 10, 2007 at 7:33 AM , Blogger vicki suraci said...

enjoying your blog, i feel like i am there with you guys. Hope today goes well with you and G on your own, i will send an email at lunch today, i tried skype this morning but it didn't go through again

At September 11, 2007 at 4:36 PM , Blogger vicki suraci said...

loved the picture of the min-cooper by the new van, it is small! I will not be home at 10 am thusday a.m., maybe at 12, 9 pm your time....loving the blog...I will have bob see it


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