Our shipping is here, or “winging it”

Getting our stuff from China to Spain has been an ongoing headache.

April

Discovered we were moving to Spain, not Germany. Interesting discussion with other staff about whether it’s “movers”, “removers” or “removalists”. Located a Chinese shipping company relatively easily via colleagues at school.

June (few weeks before move)

Researching “life in Spain” and stumbled across dire warnings about bringing goods from overseas, including not being able to ship personal belongings without proof of residency (e.g. student visa, work permit, residence card). Won’t have any of this until 3 – 6 months after arrival. Looked into shipping to family in the UK, but again, not enough “proof of relationship” to get through customs. Considered shipping to Australia and then sending it onward once I had residency – round and round in circles, dark days. A few times I almost passed out from the anxiety of it all.

Didn’t contact Chinese shipping guy immediately, as sneaking suspicion he was “winging it” and quite possibly had never sent anything outside China before despite “international movers” claim. My suspicions were confirmed as he refused my offer of additional paperwork only weeks from the move. I contacted numerous other shipping companies, but at the end of the day their costs were at least double his quote, if not more.

Decided to sell the superfluous stuff (the cool things I’d accumulated after 2 years in Asia *sob*), and send 1 or 2 bags of things we really couldn’t part with via DHL or similar (for about the same price as the entire shipment *double sob*)

June – a week before we depart China

Lo and behold, Johnson (the shipping agent) replied! “Don’t worry, I know about this (residency requirement) and I have a plan”. His plan involves stashing my things in with another family also going to Spain (but with citizenship or residency already in the bag). Dubious, I was forced to trust him as we had run out of time for any other scenario.

June 25th

Johnson came, and despite his assistant being a tad rough and careless with the packing, seemed to know what he was doing. Paid the 7000RMB and crossed my fingers.

Mid-September

For the past 4 months I have wondered silently if we will ever see our things again. We’ve been in Spain about 3 weeks with no sign of shipping. Contacted Johnson. He said “Don’t worry, it is on it’s way”, but a couple weeks later, still nothing. I emailed again, and this time received the curious reply “I sent by air express as I think this will be quicker for you. It should arrive soon”

Now, one of the reasons Johnson was able to provide me with the best quote was because he intended to send slowly, by sea. Air express sounds very curious and hopefully I won’t be getting a new bill.

Late October

WEEKS of confusion later, the shipping has arrived. During this time, Johnson vanished off the radar and I started getting calls and emails in Spanish relating to my “import” and mentioning “storage fees”. I dutifully completed the forms they sent, hoping I was writing in the right places. Discovered by accident on the phone to company that they thought I was importing goods from China to sell, and I was about to be charged an exorbitant amount of tax for old shoes and teddies. A few confusing conversations later and I was asked for “proof” our things were used, and why they needed to be moved from China to Spain.

GAH. 4 days later, still no replies to my emails sending them everything I had and asking for clarification.

YESTERDAY

Suddenly a truck pulls up outside our window and someone starts shouting my name (surname/first name haha). A burly guy gets out and starts passing boxes over the back fence for me to lift inside (!). Waives away my attempts to provide ID, takes €24.20 in tax, and drives off.

Of course, the moral of the story is: everything will be okay. It got here despite all my worrying.img_6551

 

 

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¡Hola! España

We have arrived in Madrid – to flamenco, hot chocolate and churros, and the delicious freedom that comes with free, (hopefully…) unlimited wifi.

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Out the AirBnb window

We’re AirBnB-ing it near the Estación de Atocha (Madrid’s largest railway station). We were met by Ricardo, who is from Portugal. He has left his 2 children in Portugal because he had concerns they wouldn’t adapt or pick up the language (?!), so he was interested to know how Matilda has moved through life in Australia, China and now Spain. She moans constantly and her dream is to live in one big house surrounded by all her family, and she constantly makes me wonder if I am a cruel parent for dragging her round the world all these years.

Saying that, although she is all in a muddle after 2 months in Oz with family, I think the years are paying off now she is older. She turned 11 right before we flew, and this is the first overseas travel we’ve done where she has jumped straight back into it, and we’ve had none of the drama and tantrums (me) that have sometimes plagued our past travels.

I booked Madrid for a week as initially we thought we’d have paperwork that would be done more easily in the capital. That plan changed, but now we have a chance to explore before we transition to our new life as unemployed folks who cannot afford to travel!

I’ve been hit by terrible jetlag so our first few days have been slow, and yesterday (Monday) was bureaucratic – SIM card etc. We have discovered not much (business-wise) is open on the weekend in Spain. Also, similar to Asia, things don’t open until mid-morning (gah). Can’t say much about the evenings yet as I keep falling asleep at 5:30.

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Metro trumpet player

Getting around: we got a Madrid Metro Tourist Card on the first day. I am not sure we will end up taking enough travel to justify the €40,20 (1A/1C), mostly as the main line from our apartment to the city is closed for maintenance. We met a friendly local girl while we were trying to buy the ticket which made it all worth it. She is teaching English, has worked in Costa del Sol and was able to give me some advice. It made our first day a little bit special. On the 2nd day a random guy played the trumpet in the carriage for our entire trip. So the Metro has made our “good beginning” in Spain.

I think I’m going to cave and also pay €31 to do the Madrid Tourist Bus. These are good for getting a feel for a place, and the city does feel like it is kinda sprawling. I also want to get Matilda excited about the history, and it’ll sound better coming through headphones than from me!

SIM card: Spain’s prepaid mobile plans are even more rubbish than Australia. I really thought Telstra had the monopoly on “world’s worst Telco”, but there you go. €15 for 28 days with 1.5 paltry GB, 50 mins talk and NO SMS with Vodafone. Other options are apparently Orange and Movistar.

So, it’s been less museums and history and more bureaucracy and falling asleep on the couch at 5:30pm so far!

Viva la adventure lol.

Leaving China #blogjune 4

Trying to think of a topic that is not immigration…but it is kind of our life just now. We are officially in our last 20 days of life as expats in China. In 20 days we will hurtle down from the 21st floor for the last time, and close the door on our 2 years in China.

I have mixed feelings, which I expected and did not expect.

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Looking out our apartment window to the Yellow Sea

Professionally, my 2 years here have been a crushing disappointment. The fire in my heart for libraries has completely died.  In hindsight, I wish to God I’d had more confidence in my ability and aimed higher – taken a job in Shanghai or Guangzhou or a bigger school. When I chose a small school in a backwater – thinking it would be an easier transition back into teaching after 3 years in public libraries – I condemned myself to a role with no budget, and complete and utter ignorance of my purpose and that of libraries.

Many times in the past 2 years I have wanted to quit, and some beautiful opportunities have come my way – jobs in Scotland (impossible due to visa), and jobs on either side of Australia – one literally in “Eden”. I made the difficult decision to turn them down, because I’ve left my hometown many times with the end goal of Europe, and I have turned back every time when things got too difficult. I felt like this time, I had to stick it out.

And *happy dance* in a few weeks we will be on our way to Spain.

Plus, having all passion for my job crushed out of me has made me think about what my real passions are, what I dreamed of being when I was 10, or 16. And while my job may have been less than desirable, the salary was not, so now I am in a position to live those dreams.

China has birthed my almost-mid-life-crisis.

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Scottish immigrants #blogjune 3

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Aussie immigrants – the Brain Family with Scotland’s First Minister & Kate Forbes, MSP

This is turning into serial rants about immigration, but speaking of expats and immigrants, the Brain Family case has once again come to the forefront in British (and world) media. Their case fills me with despair, and a teensy spark of hope. I could easily be in their shoes. I am in their shoes in some respects – in the same desperate, futile situation where my whole family life is in limbo because of ridiculous UK Immigration policy which fails to recognise central London and the back streets of Dingwall are two very, very different places.

 

If you haven’t heard of the Brains, it’s all over the web, but lazywebs This is an Australian family who followed the same path I planned to – move to Scotland to study and then gain a “Post Study Work” visa and repopulate an area in decline. They managed to get into Scotland a few months before I did (because I was giving birth). By the time I emerged from post-baby fog and started preparing my application, the rules had changed. I’ve spent every moment since 2005 trying to find another way back.

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Zielsdorf family in the Laggan store they revitalised

It’s the Daily Mail (ugh), but they’ve found another family (Canadian this time) who are in a worse position than the Brains. This family sold everything in Canada to buy a flagging local store in the Highlands and revitalise it, and are now being deported on a small technicality (we’re talking £8000 a year) because they cannot afford to employ a 2nd UK person in their shop. Despite investing over £200 000 already.

 

I completely and utterly understand their frustration. I can feel their tears. I’ve travelled through and lived in the regional areas where they are. I’ve befriended the locals, employed some of them. These areas are desperate for new blood.

The only hope is that these high profile cases will lead the UK government to alter their immigration rules, introducing points for people who migrate to regional areas, or get immigration devolved to Scotland.

Slow boat in China

So we have given up on our Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian railway dream…for now. Back to the drawing board for travel plans.

Options:

  1. Visit Mongolia
    1. At first, this was our plan. Ditch annoying Russia and their annoying visa process. Then I discovered obtaining a Mongolian visa is just as difficult as a Russian one. Don’t know where I got the idea a Mongolian visa was easier, but it’s not. So scratch that.
  2. Fly to Europe and start travelling there
    1. Schengen visa complicates this, as the 3 months start ticking as soon as I land in any Schengen country. Also expensive
  3. Japan
    1. Meh. It was okay but for some reason I just can’t get excited. Probably because it was so expensive.
  4. Korea
    1. Going there for 4 days over Duan Wu festival in early June.
  5. South-east Asia
    1. Hot, mosquitoes, hot.
  6. Australia
    1. Expensive. Extra flights. The whole “but I’ve spent over $10000 visiting my family 4 times over the past 2 years and they’ve not visited us once”. This whole thing is really starting to get to me. Also we – well, I at least. Not sure about the kid – have reached a point where I’m comfortable living away from home. The apron strings have snapped. I’m keen to keep moving in a northerly direction, for now.
  7. China
    1. Well, this is something I have thought about and discarded and thought about and discarded…
    2. We haven’t seen enough of China. We don’t want to come back anytime soon.
    3. The parts I want to see are in the south, which is hot, with mosquitoes, and heat and humidity…

Hmm.

Train

Well we scored an Old Clunker for the return trek to Munich! Much older train than the trip over. At least this time we found the family car. All was going well until we realised the oppressive heat was not going to improve as there was no aircon, and even with the windows down, we were gasping hot.

To my dismay, while the ‘Family Car’ signs put off the hot young backpackers they were no deterrent to crusty old weirdos. We were soon joined by two of them with obligatory grey slacks and socks stuffed into sandals. One was wearing Bono shades and and lugging three bursting bags.

I just dunno Prague. You’re pretty, but stinking hot and haven’t grasped the concept of aircon or deodorant. The shopping is definitely not cheaper than the UK or Germany. Beer is though, and I think if I came back it would be with a bunch of mates ready to make the most of this situation in ways that are simply not possible with a small child.

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Dirty Laundry

I didn’t even get to our laundry debacle! We haven’t done any washing since we were on Skye – around the 3rd of July! We are desperate, which is one of the reasons I went with an Airbnb apartment rather than hotel. Except the washing machine has not been connected *sob*

Have found a laundry place online, but the thought of lugging it all through Prague…am hesitant to ask owners as they’ve just had a baby and seemed a bit frazzled.

Ms 8 is fine as she still has 3 pairs of clean underwear – except she pointblank refuses to wear them. Lord knows why, but even the mere suggestion produces a meltdown >sigh< Could be washing our things in the bath tonight 😁

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