Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's Moving Day

Movers are here today and it is manic! 5 Germans working with military precision (at least that is my hope - we'll see if it works out that way). It is a little like putting your life in someone else's hands as they box up your life and carried it just hope it all shows up on the other side.

OK...the moving guys are all looking at me to shut down the PC and get out of the way so they can box the office. Until next time....

Friday, January 25, 2008

minor wrinkle

Best laid cargo planes exist on the day we planned to move to London AND that can carry pets fly from Amsterdam to Heathrow except at 8:30 pm at night....I should be thankful that there are any at all.... OK, let's re-calibrate the exit strategy based on this one tiny wrinkle?

Do things just seem too difficult sometimes?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Passports for Shugie Lynn and Sweet Kitty

The single largest file in the file cabinet is the pet file...with all their paperwork from various countries on entry and exit, vaccines, health records, flight records, etc. It's true.

And yes, the girls now have EU passports that will allow them to travel within the EU and soon, to the UK. They are the same size as our passports, have a little EU symbol on the cover, and contain all their pet and vaccine records. Instead of passport entry stamps, their stamps are rabies and other kind of vaccine stamps. Too cute.

Anyway, for those of you who have been asking how Ginger (a.k.a. Sweet Kitty) and Gracie (a.k.a. Shugie Lynn) are doing, here is a brief update on their current status and impending travel plans to their new home in London.

First, they are living in Dusseldorf during the week while Budman and I are travelling. Simone, the catsitter, comes in twice a day for feeding and watering, counting noses and giving heads a quick rub, checking for emergencies, and changing the occasional litterbox (thankless job). They are doing fine...are fat and happy.

Truthfully, one of our biggest considerations in the "go/no-go relocatione to London" decision was the pet restrictions and quarantine laws in the UK. The good news is that with the right preparation and advance paperwork we will be able to enter the UK without sending the cats to a 6 month quarantine. Just thinking about that makes me not be able to have the girls at home for 6 months...would they even remember us after 6 months?

Anyway, we checked out the EU pet travel and UK pet entry requirements and learned that with:

* a rabies documented vaccine in their EU passport (by a UK vet)
* submission of blood tests to an EU approved facility to verify that the girls did not have rabies
* an identification chip inserted into their skin (they were already"chipped")
* and a few other paperwork requirements (including a worming test that must occur at least 24 hours BEFORE entry to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours BEFORE entry to the UK)

...that Sweet Kitty and Shugie Lynn should be able to enter the UK and go to the new house on the same day. At least that is what we have been told...from multiple "reputable" sources. Will let you know how that goes on the "flip side" of the flight to London.

Which brings me to the whole pet transportation strategy. Trust me, it was not our decision to make this travel route, but rather we are required to enter London from Dusseldorf on a prescribed route IF we have pets in hand.

(1) We must use a pre-approved flight route and airline carrier when flying from Dusseldorf to London. For us, that means we must fly from Dusseldorf to London via Amsterdam on KLM. No direct routes for us. Everyone loves traveling on multiple flights with pets. Still, this is not a flight from Dallas to Taipei or Seoul to Dallas, so we have made our peace with the fact that we will have two flights of only about 1 hour in duration. Next....

(2) Because the planes that KLM uses on the Dusseldorf-Amsterdam routes are Fokker 50s (think American Eagle puddle-jumpers), our pet carriers will not fit anywhere in the small aircrafts. And it is not just "our carriers" is "any carriers". These planes are flying bricks. So, how do we get from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam with the girls?

(3) We rent a car and drive to Amsterdam (about a 3-4 hour drive from Dusseldorf). And to make matters a bit complicated, that includes renting a car for a one-way drop-off at Schipol airport, because we have had to turn in the Germany car. OK, so car has been reserved. Now what?

(4) We must arrive at the "pet drop-off" location at the Amsterdam airport 5 hours BEFORE our flight commences. Actually, it is called the "pet short-term stay hotel" but regardless, we must show up and deliver the girls into the hands of strangers, have their paperwork perused and approved, and let them "wait" in the pet hotel until such time that they will be loaded onto the KLM flight to London. This means we must be out of the Germany apartment and on the road with the girls and our last lot of luggage on the Saturday we fly to London by 5 am +/- in order to get to airport to check in the cats on time. Plenty of time for duty-free shopping.

Not to mention, that the day BEFORE we will have had to visit the German vet one more time for that final worming (see item above). OK, rental car reserved - check! Vet appointment reserved - check! Cat passports in hand - check! Cat airline reservations made - can't do that until this week progress.

(5) Pick-up the girls upon arrival at Heathrow. Upon arrival of Budman, Hachie Gal, Sweet Kitty and Shugie Lynn at Heathrow, we need to go "somewhere" about 5 miles from the airport to pick up the cats once they have been cleared for entry and their paperwrok reviewed and approved. We've been told to expect 2-3 hours delay on this one. More time for duty-free shopping ...NOT.

Assuming all is in order, we will then be cleared to leave the pet intake facility to go home...home sweet home...with no furnture since our belongings are still in transit. I am not even considering the possibility of problems with the cats and what we will do if there are any hiccups along the way. It's kinda like putting "all your eggs in one basket" and trusting the system won't let you down. Because, if there is a problem, not sure where we all end up on Saturday of us will return somewhere to Germany with the cats...but where, I am not sure, since we will have no apartment.

Can't even mentally go there right now....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hate to tell you...

Carson (from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) is a copycat. Gok Wan is the ORIGINAL "How to Look Good Naked Host". The US has ripped off the UK. Sorry to break the news ...

Just like..."Deal or No Deal", "Trading Spaces", and a whole host of shows. Have you gotten "Relocation, Relocation" in the US yet? Phil and Kirstie are our heroes!

I am sad to report

....I cannot think of year EVER that I can say I have never seen a single movie that has been nominated for the Academy Awards (for any of the main categories) at the time of the announcements.

Living in Germany has certainly curtailed my moviegoing habits - I feel downright out of touch. And for those of you who know me, this is a sad state of affairs.

Something to aspire in UK...this time next year, I WILL be back to "Oscar" form.

What is it with the red socks?

I still don't understand the fashion statement that UK businessmen have with wearing bright red socks with their business suits. There is this fascination withe cherry red socks that I don't quite it a "tongue and cheek" thing? Is supposed to be "cute" or "quirky"....or is it just that British eccentricity at play?

What gives?

Monday, January 21, 2008


I am living (shall I say, my legal residence is) in Dusseldorf, Germany but spending my time in Den Haag, Netherlands during the week...third week in a row.

The Budman is living in London during the week (mostly), but travelling some as well. Today, he is in Milan. is indeed crazy. How do we answer, "Where are you living these days?" We do meet up on the weekends...usually at the Europa car rental desk on Friday night at the Dusseldorf International Airport. It is just wacky.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

2 weeks and counting

I was out for my run tonight. Enjoying the lights of the Dusseldorf skyline reflected on the waters of the Rhine as well as feeling the the drizzle of a cold winter's night on my face. There is something about a run in the cold and wet that somehow clears one's head.

Anyway, as I scampered along the running paths along the Rhine, I was reminded of many such the mornings and evenings, in the heat and cold, preparing for marathons or just to get out of the home office for a respite, it dawned on me that we've lived in Dussledorf for almost three years. It is really rather hard to believe.

As challenging as moving to a new country can be (especially without the requisite language skills), I must confess that there will be things I will miss about Germany, and in particular, life in Dusseldorf:

* a home office with not traffic or commute
* a neighborhood that I have grown accustomed to and even really like
* running along the Rhine River
* a reasonable cost of living
* just to name a few.

Don't get me wrong; we are looking forward to living in London for many reasons that I am sure I will write about in the months to come. I can, however, say that a little piece of me is sad to leave Germany...we experienced similar bittersweet emotions in Taiwan and South Korea. It's a chapter of a book that is closing, and while the next one will be interesting, fun, challenging, and memorable, this chapter will be closing effectively in about 13 days.

Where did these three years go?

Rome was not built in a day

It's a saying that one should always have in their hip pocket...a mantra that can serve one well...for a variety of purposes, including moving from one country to the next.

Moving involves a myriad of challenges...opening and closing bank accounts, getting credit cards in your "new" country of residency, installing phone, satellite, and DSL (as well as disconnecting those in the old place), coordinating packing, moving, loading/unloading that includes a ferry ride for your entire household of goods, and "negotiating" with old and new landlords....just to name a few.

Not to mention the small challenge of the Budman being in London, and Hachie Gal being in Den Haag (on business...again...for the month of January) during the week. Can make running those moving errands a bit more challenging.

So, when the days are long, the patience is short, and we are faced with another example of "we might have a little issue",'s a handy saying to keep in mind.

In the end, things always work out, but during the chaos, this little expression can keep one sane. Rome was not built in a day....and neither is a move handled all at once either.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

First night in the house

One has to expect this... moving into a new place, in a country where things can be a bit different, you just have to expect it.

So, it came as no surprise when the Budman checked into the London house last evening that things were ...a bit bumpy?

How so? Well, there was no information on how to turn on the heater, water heater, etc. Should not be an issue normally, but we had never seen anything like this before. Just one of the things you learn when you move to a new country. After 3 hours of calling around, scouring the house for instruction manuals, and trying the old "trial and error method, Budman finally got the radiators cooking.

Report this morning: in-house temp was 64, a chilly night. Understood that hats and gloves were worn to bed. Good news - hot water was on tap.

Power being turned off often resulted in freezer and frig ozzing a nice watery substance, along with some freebies in the frig (i.e. old food).



Monday, January 07, 2008

Today is a banner day

Three reasons -

(1) Budman takes possession of the Chiswick house tonight...he is moving in with his two little suitcases. Fingers crossed he has power and water.

(2) First day at the UK office for Budman...

(3) And most importantly, it is the Budman and Hachie Gal's 24th

We are together in spirit (smile).

Sunday, January 06, 2008


....and the area we are living in London is pronounced CHIS-ICK, rather than CHIS-WICK!
Yep, they could tell I was a local the first time I was puttering around the area...just by the way I pronounced the word.

Nah, that Texan accent gave nothing away either....


Yes, the Budman takes up residence today in the "new" house in London. As his new job starts tomorrow (and Hachie Gal is tending to the felines in D'dorf), he is trekking out on his own in our new neighborhood this week.

While we will be living in London, we will be living in an area known as Chiswick. The house and area are actually:

(1) only new to us, as this dwelling is well over a 100 years old. That's nothing in the UK.
(2) located in west London, on the District and Piccadilly lines for you "London tubers",
(3) just off the Chiswick High Road, which is quite convenient for walking to the tube, restaurants, shopping, and errands.

Now, what exactly is a "high road", you ask? Best I can tell, it is something akin to the USA "main street" concept, where these streets were the central thoroughfares in a town or village, and where most of the shopping and town activity was located.

I am up for a better translation if anyone can assist...

I am now back in "learning" mode as we now have a whole new country to learn. Being this is the 5th country we've lived in, at least there are no language issues to deal with....

Friday, January 04, 2008

Success at last

What a week we've had! While prepping for move, two major hurdles were overcome this week. First, Hachie Gal's work visa was approved in record time (no real reason as to why except that good manners must have prevailed - when you ask people something nicely, they often are happy to help).

Secondly, the house lease is final. We definitely have a place to hang our hats at night. And not a moment too soon. Budman reports for work on Monday in London. The girls (felines) and Hachie Gal must wait another month for that darn pet paperwork to be finalized.

Now, the only remaining thing to determine is whether the landlord's agent removed the fish from the fish pond in the "garden". I am not in the market for more mouths to feed.

Will confirm on Monday. If the fish are still there, we all know what will happen. Hachie Gal cannot turn strays away.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Finding a Place to Live in London: Lessons 4 and 5

Lesson 4 - supposedly, everyone in London wants a property with a garden. Roughly translated, this means a small patch of grass that is located at the back of a house or flat where the owners can commune with nature.

Our "garden" is really quite nice, being all decked and landscaped. Little or no yardwork.
Size? 21' x 18'.

Sure...just a little patch of sky but enough.

Lesson 5 is related to Lesson 4. When looking at gardens, always walk the garden, no matter the size. Don't just peer out a window. Why? Because you might just inherit more "of a garden" than you expected.

For example, our garden comes with a fish pond, which only learned well after the fact. That was not exactly anything I was bargaining for.

Finding a Place to Live in London: Lesson 3

Lesson 3 deals with terminology. Let me do a rough translation into US terms so you can follow:

(1) Letting Agent - translated, real estate agent.

(2) Getting onto the property ladder - mainly applies to people buying houses or apartments who are trying to enough cash, personal credit, etc. to be able to purchase housing. This is a problem in the UK as housing prices are skyrocketing.

(3) reception area - i.e. living room or family room.

(4) "spacious" reception area - sadly, there is no such thing. The house we settled on has two reception areas that flow into one... the first one is 11' x 11'3" and the second room is 13'3" x 13'3".

(5) "shower room" - full bathroom that has a shower but no bathtub. Most likely a converted closet. get the picture. Once you learn the lingo, you can sound like a savvy prospect.

Finding a Place to Live in London: Lesson 2 quickly learn which real estate agencies have qualified employees and which ones don't. Our personal favorite was the young real estate agent (let's call him Bill) who asked if he could bring his new colleague along on the viewings. Sorta as a training opportunity for the new colleague (let's call her Sue).

Sue had only been with the ABC Real Estate Company for 2 weeks. "OK, fine by us", we replied. After riding in the car with Bill for 10 minutes, we inquired, "So, Bill, how long have you been working for ABC?" His answer: 3 months. Ah, a seasoned veteran.

Let's just say, Bill needed to engage in a little of his own coaching and the span of 1.5 hours, Bill could not find 2 of the 3 properties, parked in a no-parking zone resulting in a ticket (his 8th one, as we later learned), and asked us in the first five minutes of meeting us, "So, what kind of property are you looking for?" Our answer, "The type we filled out on your information sheet before coming into your office today." Ouch! Bill, however, appeared to be nonplussed.

We knew we'd be saying goodbye to Bill forever when later that night, we learned Bill's preparation for the "letting agent's" job had been as a bartender at a local restaurant chain, (a.k.a TGIFs, Chilis).

Let's just say Sue already had a bit more snap that Bill. She probably even mixes a better martini.

Finding a Place to Live in London: Lesson 1

Just when you think you have certainly seen and experienced it all with an international move, tthere it hits you square in the eye. The UK housing market that is quite unlike anything else I've ever experienced in previous international housing hunting.

The good news is: UK apartments and houses come with kitchens, cupboards for clothing (mostly but still very small), light fixtures, white godds like frigs, washers and dryers, stoves, etc.

I will start these lessons by saying that after looking at over 60 apartments and/or houses, it doesn't get any easier. We finally hit pay dirt (at least we are hopeful as the lease agreement is technically done but it is not finalized quite yet). We quickly realized we are not big fans of the UK real estate market.

Lesson #1: There is no such thing as a MLS (Master Listing Service) concept for rentals or for that matter, selling property. You can only be shown properties that are listed by a particular agency...and a particular agency in a given area. So, Century 21 in the Dallas area of Highland Park can only show you properties they have listed in that area...not the Century 21 Dallas -University Park area. Forget Century 21 showing you ANYTHING listed by, let's say, another agency in the University Park area.

So, after looking at potential rental properties with at least 10 different agents, I lost count of the actual number of real estate agent faces we actually saw during the housing search process. Essentially, alot of wasted time, but we learned (reluctantly, I might add) to go to the flow. There was no fighting the system.

Which leads me to Lesson #2....

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What did you do New Year's Eve?

For most of you, watching college bowl games or celebrating with friends while watching "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve" is the norm. Now don't be jealous but we watched the World Darts Championship. Woo-hoo!

And for those of you "in the know", Phil "the Power" Taylor was not even in the semi-finals, let alone the finals.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How do you spell that?

Last evening, as I sat down to work on our "moving to-do" list, or shall I say project plan which is more aptly the case, my task for the evening was the change of addresses. The change of addresses to friends and family are in progress, as that is the easy part. This activity pertained to the notification to clubs, charitable organizations, magazines, newspapers, etc. so that future correspondence can be maintained. Really, this should be so easy. I mean, people move all the time so this should be down to a science, right?

Well, interesting note that most US magazines do not allow changes of addresses for international destinations online as their systems are not set up for international addresses. By that I mean, one HAS to enter a state. What is one to do when one has no state to enter? Well, the fall-back position is to pick up the phone and call the magazine subscription helpdesk. Which I did a painstaking 6 times.

OK, so as I sat on hold "waiting for the next available customer service agent", I pondered the question, "I thought we lived in a global society". Well, apparently not all the time.

Once I finally got a "live one" on the phone, I was usually told that my postal code was not a US code, this being after I prefaced my call initially by saying I needed to provide a change of address for an international subscription. After a few false starts, my name and address were usually located, but it sometimes took a couple of agents to locate my data.

Now, the change of address should be simple. I mean, this is the 5th country I have lived in, and a UK address must be easier to understand and spell than a Korean, Taiwanese, or even German address. I can forgive the agents' questions for these countries when they would ask, "Can you spell that, please?

In this case I was dumbfounded when I was asked for the name of the city I was moving to, and after replying, "London", I was asked by the agent, "Can you spell that?". My first thought (but I kept it to myself) "Do I really need to spell this city?" Egads!

To make matters worse, I was asked what country was the city of London in? I thought for a moment, "This is a scene from Jaywalking with Jay Leno", but I politely replied, "United Kingdom", as after all, I do want to receive my magazines.

Clearly, a little stronger geography course is needed in US schools.

Happy 2008!

May 2008 be a year filled with special memories, the love of family and friends, good health, and a few surprises thrown for good measure.

All the best to you and yours in 2008!
Buddy and Holly