Saturday, July 17, 2010

Getting Set Up... and a Tale of a Very Frustrated Shopper.

So, we have been here for almost a week now, and have one week left of being able to stay in the hotel. We are very very excited to move into our place, and are fortunate enough to already have bought our washer, dryer and refrigerator from the previous tenants. However, we don't have ANY other household goods.

Originally, I had imagined quite a different scenario than the one we're in. In that story, we arrived in Germany with a very large deposit in our bank account. This included our "buy-out"-- the money we received for not shipping anything-- our per diem funds that we would use for buying our meals in the next two weeks, money from selling our cars (the one that would fetch a substantial amount hasn't sold yet) as well as some sort of salary from Jeff's current job-- he didn't work for the last month in the US. As you may have guessed, none of this was in our account upon arrival! There had been a big miscommunication somewhere, which we are still trying to determine the source of. Of course, this was bad news. We managed to have some of the funds expedited, but we are not in nearly the same situation that we had originally imagined.

So, now we have paid a huge amount of money to our landlord for the deposit and rent, as well as the payment for some home repairs before we move in, and... We have no furniture, beds, or cookware. I had thought, so naively, that I would hop from shop to shop, just picking out what suited us best, not worrying so much about bargains, etc. I had expected to find plenty to choose from, as well. I was smart enough to have already ordered dishes and sheets and blankets from an online shop here in Europe that will deliver them to us this week. Whew! And they were a great price. What I was also quite unprepared for is how much our money would seem to shrink as we converted it to Euros! All of this was just my own ignorance, but it has still thrown me for a loop! We visited a huge furniture store here in town yesterday, and it was a little sobering. Not only was everything super expensive, but it was also... wide, square, short leather couch sets, like this one. The general aesthetic here seems to be 80s modern to very modern. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, but I just can't seem get into it. And, did you realize that IKEA is not a bargain store in Europe? The style has never particularly appealed to me, but I always could count on this store when I needed something cheap and easy. A co-worker of Jeff's kindly drove us to one an hour away, and we spent a couple of bewildered hours there. The prices are much higher here, and it didn't have nearly the same selection! The two curtain panels we would have liked for our room were over $70! We did buy a number of smaller items, especially for Amelia's room, but still no beds, mattresses, tables or chairs. Or curtains.

Oh, another thing-- our apartment does not come with overhead light fixtures. The ceilings are bare with wires coming out, so that is one more thing that we need to find for each room. Fortunately, ours DOES come with a kitchen-- most people take their whole kitchens with them when they move out of a place! Although I cannot imagine any other option than the "cash out" simply for the sake of having the money on hand to pay for our apartment, it is a little hard to think of all of the essentials that I loved and got rid of. Pots and pans! Our couch! Light fixtures! Long gone, and unbelievable expensive to replace.

There are a few German design blogs that I follow, and I was so fortunate to stumble upon a French shop that will ship furniture here for a reasonable price. Not only are the pieces beautiful and to my liking, but they were actually much much more affordable than what I found here. The only drawback is that it will probably take a month for them to arrive. I am hoping to find a little patio set that we can use on our balcony to ear our meals. And we will need to buy mattresses and have our beds on the floor for a while, just like we did all three years that we lived in Portland.

Amelia has the BEST little girl's room! It's on the far end of the building, with two huge arched windows that look out onto our neighbor's courtyard. It is long and has three pretty alcoves in it. I am having it painted all white this week, and then I'll paint the inside of the alcoves pink. I ordered a canopy-less version of this bed for her, and am looking for a cozy little chair and a bookshelf for to make a reading corner. Her room is bigger than both of our previous rooms put together.
I bought her some pretty floral bedding at IKEA, and a very pink blanket, as well as a little lamp she was smitten with.

So, we inch along. The other complication is the fact that we don't have a car yet. Jeff has to get his military license before he can drive. The test is very very long and tricky, and he almost passed a few days ago. He'll take it again tomorrow, and if he passes he'll get the license on the same day. We are shopping for a car right now, but the rules are very strict, and he can't even really test drive until he's licensed. Fingers crossed!!

I hope this post doesn't give the impression that I am not super glad and thankful to be here. I would be mortified to be perceived as complaining about all of this-- we are really excited to be here. It's just so much more complicated than I had imagined, and I am trying hard not to waste my energy worrying about all of the basics we need to get squared away. I am really looking forward to where we'll be at in a month or two!


Bethany said...

This reminds me so much of our time in the Philippines, but of course all the details are different. It was very easy to buy a sofa, although the options were limited and mostly vinyl. The problem came when you couldn't walk away from your purchase at the store and expect it to be there later when you wanted to pick it up. Then getting a giant piece of furniture from the shop floor in the middle of a very crowded mall to an outside door of the mall was crazy. All while someone else braved the crammed six floor parking garage trying desperately to get to the right entrance to meet you and hope that by some miracle it would be the right door and that the stars would align just perfectly so that they could actually stop the vehicle somewhere close to the door so that you don't have to walk half a block with the silly sofa. You would think having it delivered would be the better option, but there is no guarantee that even after you pay it would be delivered.

The money issues bring back so many memories, too. Especially the time Daniel was being released from the hospital after an appendectomy. The doctor wanted him out so that he wouldn't catch anything else at the hospital, but they won't actually let you leave until your hospital bills are paid in full. And it was a Sunday!!! The banks were all closed of course. We had enough money for our monthly expenses in our account, but not enough for an emergency appendectomy and two nights in the hospital. After quite a few phone calls someone brought us cash. Stressful! I wish I could say it was the only time, but it seemed to be a way of life.

I am praying for you as you jump through these hurdles and get settled and especially praying that it is possible to settle in a way that allows a life not so full of surprises and stress. I suspect it is possible in Germany. I am still not sure that it would be possible in Manila.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a challenge! Hang in there Ariana!

Unknown said...

Bethany, I have thought very often about the fact that at least I am in Europe, and can blend in, even if I do feel pretty conspicuous. And, so far, everyone has been very trustworthy.

Although they don't have thrift stores here for anything but clothes, and they also don't do yard sales, I met a woman staying here in the hotel who has a friend who is downsizing. I ended up getting her number and calling her, and we went to her house and bought a bunch of things! Still no furniture, but I came out with some cookware (one Le Creuset piece) a lamp, and some other cool and useful items. Tonight good ol' Yosef took us car shopping. Help is out there, we just have to be sweet and charming to everyone we meet and wait to see who decides to pitch in!

Anonymous said...

Very frustrating!! I like the things you are lining up for Amelias' room. Hope the banking problems are solved soon! Love and prayers.Grandma... My password is not working