Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Cross Ocean Move (as opposed to the cross country move which we have, of course, done several times)

This going to be suuuuuper long because the blog is basically our journal and I don't want to forget anything.  Feel free to skim.  Or skip to the photos.  You know, all three of them.

At the start of January we knew we would be moving soon.  The problem was that we didn't know if we would be moving to a different apartment in DC or to very different apartment in Germany.  And you can't really start to pack because packing for a move down the street is very different than packing for a move across the world.  Eventually we found out we were moving to Germany.  We talked to a family in our ward who has moved / lived overseas for government work but their moving situation was very different.  The government takes care of everything (plane tickets, hiring movers, finding a place to live, etc) and tells the people what is what.  T's company will reimburse our moving costs, but we had / have to figure everything out ourselves. So we had about 2.5 weeks to completely plan an international move.  It was kind of intense.  There was so much to do that we didn't have any time for it to really sink in that we were moving to a different country.

We made a huge list of everything that we needed to do before we flew out on Wednesday, February 13th - from one last doctor visit to find a mover to sell the car to cancel utilities to stock up on the only kind of toothpaste I like to get a passport for Pippa and everything in between.  The list was almost two full pages of college ruled paper.  And we did almost all of them! We also had a list of everything we needed to buy.  And another list with items that fell into four groups: things to ship, bring on the plane, get rid of, and store.

However, we did kind of leave the big things until the last minute.  Not intentionally, we just weren't getting answers fast enough from the German office of T's company.  Some examples of our last-minute-ness:
  • We had previously extended our lease on the DC apartment until February 9th.  On the 5th (?) we asked if we could extend until the 13th (when we wer going to fly out and they said no!  They already had a new tenant ready to move in!  The leasing office was nice enough to call the new tenant and ask if they could push their move in date back a week and luckily the new tenant said yes.  Whew!
  • We had someone come do a moving estimate on the 6th but didn't actually schedule movers until the 9th.  The movers came on the 12th.
  • We didn't have a storage space until the 9th, which is the same day we moved our stuff into the storage unit.  We didn't ask for anyone to help us move said stuff into the storage unit until the 8th.  Since we decided to get a furnished apartment in Germany (Unfurnished apartments in Germany don't come with anything!  Not even sinks, or ovens, or flooring, or cupboards, or toilets!) we stored all of our furniture except the crib and rocking chair which we shipped.  It was probably the easiest move our Elder's Quorum has ever helped with.   
  • We didn't get Pippa's passport until the 12th.  Though, this was not our fault.  The expedited service for passports takes 2-3 weeks.  By the time we found out we were going to Germany it was under three weeks and we didn't want to risk not having it.  So we had to get her passport in person.  However, you can't make an appointment to get a passport in person until you have proof of international travel in the next 14 days.  The problem is that T's company told us we would be leaving on the 13th, but they didn't book the tickets (which was the proof we needed to make the appointment) until the 6th.  When the tickets were finally booked T immediately called the passport agency and they didn't have any appointments left until the 13th!  T talked to a person and they squeezed us in on Monday the 11th for paperwork then we were able to pick up the Pippa's passport on Tuesday, the 12th.
Our apartment got a bit cluttered because we were storing our furniture on the 9th but we were shipping the contents of our furniture (like clothes, photos, books, DVDs) and the movers weren't going to pack them up until the 12th.  This meant we had books and DVDs in the kitchen cupboards (we gave away a lot of food to friends - sad because we had started to take food storage more seriously!) and huge stacks of everything else on the floor in the living room for three days.

Here's Pippa taking a nap in what was left of the bedroom. (We've been swaddling her in this different way for a while now.  It's looser all around but is harder for her to get her arms out of.)

And a photo of Pippa in a yellow top that me and my sister wore as babies.  Just because it's cute and it's the outfit she wore that day.


T worked everyday until we left so I did most of the packing for things to go in the storage unit and the  things we took on the plane.

After the movers left I took Pippa for a quick meet up with my Uncle J who was in DC for business.


T's parents bought our car, so very late on the night of the 12th they flew into DC to drive it back home.  We all stayed in a hotel that night because our pillows, couches, bed, and crib were already gone!  I was so glad T's parents came because 1) T's dad got to meet Pippa and 2) I seriously don't think we would have finished cleaning the apartment, taking stuff to Goodwill, buying a German tourist book and German language program, picking up prescriptions, taking down our ceiling fans, and taking the last of our things to the storage unit alone.  They were incredibly helpful.

We wanted to leave the apartment for the airport by 6:00 pm and we did.  Ta-da!  In 15 minutes I singlehandedly managed to fit in our 5 checked bags, 4 carry ons, and the carseat / stroller combo along with T's parents' two checked bags, two carry ons, two boogie boards, one computer screen and tower, and a few grocery bags of smaller things into the car.  And four adults and a baby in the car at the same time, too!  I definitely got the amazing packing gene from my dad.  Thanks, Dad!

Unfortunately, Pippa screamed the entire way to the airport (40 minutes).  It was so sad - next to her shot reaction that is the longest she has ever cried.  I fed Pippa in the car while T and his parents took all of our stuff in.  Then we said goodbye to T's parents and America.  Except not really because our flight was delayed because of snow / de-icing the plane.  I find it a bit amusing that it has only snowed enough to stick to the ground three times the entire time we lived in DC and two of those days were days we were moving into (recap at the very bottom of this post) and out of DC!

T's company booked the flights so late that there weren't any upgrades available to business class (how we flew to London for our baby moon) so we were in Economy Plus, which was just two seats per side and had more legroom.  We had bulkhead seats so we could put Pippa in the bassinet on the huge fold down thing.  But Pippa didn't want to sleep and they kept the cabin lights on for.ev.er which didn't help.  We finally got her to sleep and put her in the bassinett and then the fasten seatbelt sign came on and the flight attendant told us we had to pull her out.  So I held Pippa on my lap while she slept for the rest of the flight.  Which means I didn't sleep at all.

We had to change planes in London.  Since we left DC late and the flight info said to plan on an hour to get through Heathrow immigration and security we were pretty sure we weren't going to make our connecting flight to Berlin.  However the captain announced that there would be representatives to help those who had connecting flights.  We thought this meant someone would help us get on a later flight, but as we got off the bus (Heathrow is huge and usually the plane lands way far off then you take a bus to get to the airport) there was a woman waiting specifically for us and she had some sort of orange pass that allowed us to get to the head of the passport and security line.  We were so glad that we had put Pippa in the Baby K'tan because you better believe we were almost running the whole time.  We were the last people onto the flight to Berlin.

To help Pippa's ears adjust to the altitude change I had planned on feeding her during take off and landing for each flight.  However once we were on the flight to Berlin I wasn't sure that was going to happen - we were surrounded by 20 teenage boys with some sort of sports team.  I do have a nursing cover that I use, but still... teenage boys, especially in groups, aren't known for being mature.  I was concerned that there would be stares trying to catch a peek of something.  I sat in the window seat and T leaned forward to mostly shield me and it worked out.

I had just got Pippa to sleep on my lap (the flight was only 1.5 hours) and the beverage service started and it was loud and it totally woke Pippa up.  She really did not get anywhere near enough sleep since we had left D.C.  Anyway, we landed in Berlin around 2 pm (local time) and it took so long to get off the plane.  We finally saw why - the immigration station (the place that checks your passport) was directly at the end of the jetway.  The Berlin airport is weird, yo.  We were the last people off the plane and luckily the man at immigration spoke English very well.  It turns out we had forgotten to sign Pippa's passport!  Oops.  That was easily solved.

Just like the only way to go after getting off the jetway was directly to immigration, the only way to go after going through immigration was to the baggage claim.  And there was no need to check which carousel our luggage was on because there was only one carousel.  We could see others beyond the plexiglass, but like I said, the Berlin airport is weird.  Each gate is completely contained - each gate has their own immigration and baggage claim and there is no possible way to get to another.  We weren't sure how we were going to carry all of our luggage (5 checked bags, 4 carryons and a stroller / carseat combo).  A relevant side note: The week before we left I got a good chunk of euros but while on the plane to Berlin I realized that we forgot to take them out of the safe when we had the safe shipped to Germany on the 12th! At the baggage claim luggage racks were €1 but we couldn't get one because we didn't have any euros.  And there wasn't a way to get any money because all that was in the bag claim area was the carousel and once you left the bag claim you couldn't get back in.  However, that turned out to not even be a problem because only one of our  five bags made it on to the connecting flight from London!

We were told to go to the lost and found, which is apparently the name for the missing luggage place.  After some confusion we found it and the woman there was very nice and spoke English very well.  She told us that they already knew our bags didn't make it and that she would have them sent straight to our hotel when they arrived later that day.

So, we were in a foreign country.  We didn't have our bags.  We didn't have any money.  And we hadn't had a meal since 7 pm the night before.  It sounds like it would be totally horrible, and while it wasn't awesome, I felt like it was all still under control.

We tried to use our ATM card to withdraw cash, but were denied because T had forgot to tell the bank we were going overseas.  We tried using our Visa to withdraw cash but the PIN was wrong.  We couldn't call the bank or Visa for help because we hadn't added international calling to our cell phones.  Now, in the US a lack of cash might not be a big deal.  But in Germany it is.  Most places (including taxis and large stores and restaurants) do not accept credit cards.  At all.  We looked around the airport and found a Burger King that would take Visa.  So we had a bit of food in us.  Then we went out and looked all over the taxi line for a taxi that would take Visa.  And we found one, so we had a way to get to the hotel.

The ride to the hotel took us right through the heart of Berlin and right past the US Embassy (which made me feel better knowing exactly nearby where I could run for help - yes that sounds dramatic, but that's kinda how my mind works).  Our hotel was just up the street.  And it was a nice hotel.  Very posh and modern.  We had a corner room on the top floor.  It was pretty incredible.

By the time we got to the hotel it was around 5 pm.  We got a bit settled then T went out to get cash and food.  He was gone for a long time and in the meantime Pippa started crying a lot.  T came back to the hotel cashless and foodless.  We ended up ordering expensive and mediocre room service and worked on getting Pippa to sleep.  She was finally starting to drift off when our phone rang - it was the hotel telling us that the rest of our bags had arrived! Soon after that Pippa fell asleep.  I was surprised she did so well for so long - she only slept for about six hours total from 5:30 pm D.C. time to 7 pm Berlin time the next day or in other words six hours of sleep in 20 hours of total time).

Then T and I finally got to crash.  I had been up since 5:30 on Wednesday morning and by 8 pm on Thursday I was ready for some sleep!

Pippa and T crashing (though on Saturday, not Thursday).  Pippa looks extra long here.

T seriously slept like this for an hour.


Coming up:  Our time in Berlin

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nutella

A huge post about our journey to Germany and what we've been up to so far is coming soon.  But first...

I had Nutella for the first time today at breakfast at our hotel.  It feels like I am the last person on earth to try Nutella.  Everyone raves about Nutella and how they even like to eat some straight from the jar.  Pinterest is full of Nutella desserts.  So when I saw the little packet of Nutella next to the little packets of jam I thought I would finally try it.

I am not impressed.  Which probably makes me the only person in the world who doesn't like Nutella.  It's not awful, it's just not tasty.  It's all chocolate-y.  I thought it was more hazelnut-y.  But no - definitely more chocolate-y.  And you probably already know I am not much of a chocolate girl.  I'll eat a handful of M&M's and then not want chocolate for a month.

I know, this was a SUPER important post to get out while baby is napping.  I'll leave you with one photo from Berlin.  This is the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) and the Berliner Fernsehturm (Berlin TV Tower).  We passed here every time we went to T's work.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Yesterday and Today

Just a few quick photos of Pippa being adorable:

Feet are delicious!

Check out Pippa's wrist roll!  Also, she has the same problem as me and my dad - our arms are too long for most long sleeves.