Monday, October 29, 2012

So I Don't Forget

The week we spent packing up so the house would be ready to show, and so that we could get the first load to Houston was jam packed!  Sunday, September 23 we picked up the longest U-Haul available, 26 feet long, and with the help of our friend Harry, his two sons and nephew the loading started.  I drove to Detroit to pick Meghan up at the airport.  In the meantime the husbands of my two good friends appeared to lend a much needed hand.  The friends also popped in to visit, but I was till in Detroit contending with road construction delays.  I finally got Meghan at the airport, just an hour late, and after more traffic delays and a looonnnnnnggggggg wait to cross the border back to Canada we arrived back in London.

The next morning was Tom's 56th birthday.  We sang "Happy Birthday" and left in the van for Houston.  It took a bit to get used to driving it, but even Meghan got the hang of it and did quite well.  We stayed nights in Indianapolis (bedbugs for me) and Little Rock (spiders!).   The parking brake also gave out so I had to maneuver the van so it wouldn't accidentally roll away.  Up early Wednesday morning and made it in time for rush hour on the Beltway.We unpacked what we could that night.  Thursday we had hired help to unload the heavy furniture.  

Wow! Fitting together our large inventory of furniture from the London house into the Houston house was quite a feat.  I had sold quite a bit in London prior to moving.  So, Mary and I flew back to London on that Saturday.  We continued packing up for the last trip down.  

Tom's awkward "going away" party was on Tuesday afternoon.  And was weird.  His boss made it subtly known that we were stupid for going to Africa, that Tom didn't "really do any mining", etc. etc. etc.  Then his wife showed up late, and was patronizing.  The next morning the office manager claimed it was just because the boss's feelings were hurt (he is the president.)  But when Tom did his exit interview with the HR person, it was admitted that the anti-American sentiment was wearing thin on all of them.  

We picked up the van on Tuesday morning.  Tom, Mary and I loaded it up that night and Wednesday evening. Wednesday afternoon we signed our part of the papers at the lawyer's office.  Then Thursday Tom went to work, Mary and I finished up the last of the packing and cleaning.  We stepped out to run errands and have lunch with Tom, and by the time we returned (about 2 pm) to the house to pick up my last load of laundry, they new owners were already inside with their workmen.

I will say that the way of doing real estate transactions in Canada is quite different than the US.  Everything is done with the intention that buyer/seller never meet.  Of course, that didn't work for either party in this case.  They asked to come by the house several times, so we did get to meet and visit a bit.  The huge sting was the "fine" we received because we didn't quite make the 3 year minimum for holding a mortgage with our bank.  Ouch!  It was a little less than $11,000 …  claimed that this was the interest they "didn't receive" because we were short by 25 days!  No negotiations, nothing.  I would absolutely not recommend doing business in Canada ever again.  To begin with, while you take out the mortgage for 25 year term, you only get to take it out 5 years at a time.  And at the end of each 5 years, you renegotiate a new 5 year mortgage.  If you switch banks for a better rate or don't get a new mortgage with them you get slammed (like we did).

While getting the packing done, I realized we had a lot of useable stuff.  Some was dropped off for another friend to sort through, most was delivered to GoodWill.  We had a lot of trash that didn't make the pick-up that week, so we had a run to the dump site as well.  In addition, I had a lot of food stuff that couldn't be accepted at the food bank, but was perfectly useable, and a huge shame to toss.  Fortunately a good friend accepted all we had.  It was good for her and us, both!  Plus it gave me the chance to say good-bye as I had missed seeing her earlier.

Wednesday night we had parked the van across our street at a friends' home.  Oh!  The van we had wasn't quite large enough so Tom had had to spend part of Wednesday morning hunting down a trailer we could use for the last of our items.  It was tight, but we did manage to fit it all inside.

Thursday night we spent in a nice residence inn, downtown London.  Mary and I did the last of dropping off library books/cards and took plenty of autumn color photos.  Met Tom for lunch, then he was done and we got back to our friend's home.  Picked up the van/trailer.  Tom drove that and Mary was with me in our Jetta.

This trip down was more enjoyable.  Stopped for the night in Lima, OH.  Then stopped to visit with some old Arizona friends.  Actually, friend.  Ron was home, but Leanne was just finishing up the fire watch season in Washington and was beginning her own drive back across the country.  But, that was very nice.  We dredged up names, events, and those more carefree days early in my and Tom's careers in Arizona.  Enjoyed some great wine, just like old times together.  

The next day we took a scenic back way through southern Indiana to Bloomington at Ron's suggestion.  Quite pretty, once we were past the corn fields.  In Bloomington we connected with Liz and John Paul.  She had just returned from her own field work (started April 1 and had just ended for her).  That was nice.  We spend Sunday night there and enjoyed a nice Thai dinner.  After lunch the next day we turned the Jetta over to Liz, the three of us got back into the van and headed toward Houston.

We spent a night in Little Rock after a very, very long, late drive that Monday.  The motel was a nice step up from the place in Lima, OH.  Comfy beds, though being tired, that was just a nice bonus!  The next morning we shoved on the Houston.  Unloaded the truck on Wednesday, and started the long process of unpacking, and discarding a huge pile of boxes and wrapping paper.

Tom's dad, Ray, flew in on the 10th, helped us with some more house related stuff.  For one thing, he saved us a huge chunk of $$$.  Hurricane Ike had bowed in our front door, and it wasn't as secure as we wanted.  We had thought that it would need to be replaced, but like most tract homes, not a standard size.  (Neither was the back deck door we wanted to replace in London!)  Turned out all we had to do was pop off the trim, and shim the jamb back into the right place.  He enjoyed the warmth, helped Tom a lot with unpacking and organizing the garage.  We managed to squeeze in a visit to St. Arnold's on Saturday afternoon.  Monday evening Ray flew back to Denver.

We also did a preemptive strike on the dishwasher.  The one in our Houston house was barely cleaning the dishes, so we ordered a new one from Home Depot on Thursday for delivery on Tuesday.  It arrived, they unpacked it and hauled the old one off.  But wait!  Nothing can be that simple!!  Tom and Peter got it installed, but it wouldn't turn on.  After sitting through a long wait to speak to someone at the local Home Depot, being told I probably didn't have the power on, reassuring them it was installed correctly (etc. etc. etc.) I had another 45 minute wait to speak to a GE representative on their 800 line.  

She walked me through the "reset" process.  Still nothing.  So, back to Home Depot.  The salesman helped us, but the store manager was trying to say that we "should have had them install it, and it would have worked fine."  Turns out that there had been quite a few of this model returned, so they honored the agreement.  We walked back to find another machine that was actually in stock.  The only one was quite a tuned down version, but we traded.

We went back home, Tom and Peter loaded up the bad machine, picked up the "new" one.  The salesman in the meantime had gone to the back and found a floor model that wasn't in the system, and it did have all the bells and whistles, plus gave us an additional $50 back.  When we were in originally on Thursday we had asked whether a floor model was available, and had been assured that there were none.  Tom and Peter started to install, with time running out as they had a meeting they needed to be at.  Something was missing, back to the store.  Got the part, came back.  As they were getting that part installed I noticed that one of the adjustable feet was missing.  

Tom went out to run, yet one more time, to Home Depot to get the foot.  When he was about to get into the little Fiesta, he notice the neighbor backing out too quick.  He ran over, tried to stop the kid driving, and watched as the kid hit our Sonata, almost hitting Tom, too!  We were all in the house, but suddenly heard a loud yell.  Meghan was in her room, and thought initially that maybe Jess, our large dog had gotten outside.  

She ran down and saw Tom yelling at the driver of the little car.  Turns out the kid was barely 16 and did not have a driver's license.  He wouldn't tell Tom his name, produce a license for ID, nor proof of insurance.  We contacted the constable's office, and they sent over a cruiser with two officers.  

The mom got home, and admitted in the heat of the moment that her son often drove on his own.  Tom was asked if he wanted to press charged, he said "No, cut the kid a break.  But, do scare him into realizing how dangerous it was!"  The officers did just that.  We hope that wasn't a mistake.  Time will tell.

Later, when we tried to get the proof of insurance back, the mother attempted to turn it around that we shouldn't have parked our car on the street (not illegal, btw) and it was actually our fault her son drove the car out of their driveway and hit our car!  Imagine!  Not taking any responsibility.  And she didn't , naturally, want to involve her insurance  company.  Unless she contacted them, we had no recourse.  Can you guess her heritage?  Her Dad is a very nice gentleman, but she is not someone I would seek out for friendship.

Tom got estimates to fix the car, and reluctantly we left Houston on Friday evening with things still not resolved with the car.  However, in the end, I can't help but believe the entire fiasco with the dishwasher was so Tom would be outside when this all unfolded.  Perhaps it will have saved this kid from, first, getting way with hitting our car, and second maybe in the future not being on the road for a disaster.  Our kids did finally get the mom nailed down, and supposedly she'll have a check on Friday afternoon.  They are instructed to take it straight to the bank.  I might even insist that they have the woman go with them to verify funds, or even to cash her check and give them cash.  Hmm.. have to think about that.  

So, back to the move.  Wednesday the air freight people arrived to pack up the little bit we are sending to Zambia.  It is still in Houston as I write this, though because Tom's VISA is still not processed.  We have been told that it "might" be on Thursday, but I'm not holding my breath.  Also, I was assured that what we needed to set up our household would all be available in Chingola.  Well, NOT!  

Friday evening we boarded a Emirates flight to Dubai, spent Saturday night in Dubai, then rebounded to Lusaka on Sunday morning.  Basically, even though it was a 14 hour flight from Houston to Dubai, we lost a full day.  Once we arrived in Lusaka, where a driver was supposed to meet us to haul our luggage to Chingola (we were flying, but on a small plane to Ndola.)  Stood in line for immigration and our tourist visa stamp for almost 2 hours.  By the time we had been processed and located our luggage, no driver was in sight.  We ate dinner, then back on the plane to Ndola.  Fortunately, the other passengers had little with them, so our baggage did fit.  

Landed in Ndola, again not a driver in sight.  Turns out the fellow in Lusaka only waited about 30 minutes after our plane had landed and "assumed" we missed the flight.  It is not apparent that he contacted anyone, or if he did, nobody realized how long immigration would take.  So he left, called the driver (who was supposed to meet us in Ndola airport) and told him not to come.  That meant we were basically stranded in Ndola, without a phone, nothing.  Fortunately, an enterprising taxi driver was there with a suitably sized Toyota van, and he drove us.  We were told we paid too much (duh!, like we were in a position to negotiate).  The drive was wild and he was, fortunately, a very good driver.  Good thing Mary and I were in the back seat and tired.  The road from Ndola to Kitwe is divided.  Unfortunately the road between Kitwe and Chingola is a narrow, poorly maintained 2 lane.  There were two police check stations and one of them was set up so poorly that it was the cause of three of the accidents we saw!  Finally arrived in Chingola at the hotel around 10:10 pm.  

We are coping, even though one or several of the staff has managed to steal over $1000 from our room over our stay.  We have a room safe, but it isn't usable.  Have asked to have it reset, but of course, nobody has done that.  Small wonder why!  The stress level had vastly increased.  There simply isn't any way to eat and watch our belongings at the same time.  The majority of the time I've kept our money with us, but it wasn't enough.  Go ahead and think me stupid, I do!

A few nights ago, while at dinner, we saw a table of 8, and I heard American accents!  The sole woman walked past us for the restroom.  When she came back by, Tom asked her how her dinner was.  We fell into conversation and it turns out she and her husband are missionaries, along with two of their three children.  Their boys are 16 and 18, and they also homeschool.  God is tremendous!  Just when I really needed someone I could befriend, the connection is made.  

Mary and I will be visiting them today.  She offered to let us do laundry at her home, and to quiz her about living in Zambia, and Chingola in particular.  They have been here for 14 years.   We are looking forward to the meeting.  

The weather here is quite warm, though dry right now.  Rainy season begins on November 1 so instead of flat, straight, flyaway hair, I'll get to have fluffy, curly flyaway hair!  Rain came by early in the morning late last week and everything cooled off for a day or two.  But it is back to blue, blue skies and warmth.  Of course, it should be getting a bit warmer as springtime is half way through here.  We did manage to miss winter, just like we did when we went to Peru.

The most striking difference between Chingola and Lima is that Lima was the capitol city.  Amenities were different, but still available, even with having a lot of searching involved.  Here, they simply don't exist.  The capitol, Lusaka, is a 6 hour drive away.

We walk everywhere, and we have to be very cognizant that we remember to look opposite when crossing streets.  I'll look over one shoulder and remember I need to first look the other way.  Tom did a double take the first day we were out.  The cars are right hand drive, and it appeared to us that the driver was reading a newspaper.  Remembered quickly that the reader wasn't driving!  I'm not as brave right now, so don't know when I'll actually drive.  It will happen, though it didn't in Lima.  The traffic there was just too unnerving!  Here, it is slow for the most part.  But, driving on the opposite side of the road, let alone turning a corner and accidentally forgetting which side to drive on could be fatal.

Adventures with the house we have here have been equally frustrating.  But, more of that another time.  It might sound like whining, and perhaps it is.  But, I also feel strongly that it is important to be honest, and even though I work hard to put that positive spin on things, the reality is different.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What We Have Been Doing

In about 9 hours we head to the airport to catch the flight to Dubai.  We'll spend the night, then on to Zambia.  What a whirlwind these past 2 weeks have been.  I'm still pinching myself, hardly believing we are almost on our way to Africa.  I promise to upload photos of the adventure once we are oriented.  In the meantime here are some photos showing some of what we've been doing this past month.
Our brief "home away from home" in London.  Mary is relieved the packing and cleaning in the London house was over!

One of our many trips across the Blackfriar Bridge.  It is a historical iron bridge that has to be shut down and tested each spring.  The Thames River is low, low, low.  A testimony to how little rain this area has had, though our yard had just enough.  The rest are some of the vivid colors around London!

Tom's office in downtown London.  These other are views from his corner office.  Looking out toward Victoria Park is St. Peter's Cathedral.  The other church is St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral.  

Hmmm... so this is what the seat of power is like!

Tom, looking relaxed (and perhaps relieved) his 30 days notice was finally completed.

On the road in Canada:

Our view all the way to Indiana:

Getting closer to the border!  That is 7 kilometers, not miles, yippee!!

At the toll for the bridge:

Lake Huron, crossing the bridge:

Finally "home."  Too bad we had over 2000 more to go!

Stopped into Ohio to visit our friend Ron.  Completely forgot to pull the camera out.  We did have a grand time remembering our joint years in Tucson and San Manuel together.  
Here are Liz and John Paul, Mary and Tom.  We visited a cider press while in Bloomington, walked the apple orchard, bought some pumpkins and enjoyed hot cider.

John Paul captured one of the few picture of us:

Liz next to her "new to her" used Jetta.  

The journey continues:

Crossing the Wabash River.  Do you notice something missing on that there railroad bridge???

Sunset is close, still driving!

The Mississippi River, and the last of our sunlight.

Okay, we've been in Houston.  No pictures of unloading the van, cramming two households into one, all the trips to CAM for donations, people picking up "free cycle", the mountains of garbage picked up at the curb, laundry, laundry and more laundry, shopping, cooking, etc.  Tom's Dad visited, and we even failed to take a picture of that.  Honestly, I'll have to get better about keeping the camera out and ready.  Given how much movement was going on it was probably more prudent to keep it safe.  
The packers arrived on Wednesday to load the few household goods for airfreight to Zambia.  Oddly, we thought we were shipping a lot, but they managed to pack it away in a rather small container.  

Today is the final packing up, tearful goodbyes and the beginning of too many hours in the seat of an airplane seat!  More later.  Thank you for your prayers!