Monday, June 29, 2015

Worrying at the Grocery Store

Keeping you up to date on the Greek economy is going to consume my entire life.

Greek banks are closed this week, and ATM withdrawals are limited to 60 euros per day.

I just walked to the grocery store so we'd have food to eat tonight. The lines were insanely long. People's carts were jammed full of food and diapers and toilet paper. There were ATMs on the way into and out of the store with a dozen people in each line. We had a few Greek people tell us last week that we shouldn't believe the media hype about the economy, but it's clear that people here are concerned. No one buys that much toilet paper unless they're worried they won't be able to afford it in a week.

Blurry shot of the ATM line.
I was trying not to be obvious.

I packed two reusable shopping bags in my luggage because I knew we'd have a 40 minute round trip walk to the grocery store. One says "I [heart] EU," which, for obvious reasons, I'm not currently using in my grocery treks. The other has a scene of Cleveland, Ohio on it, and is actually a replacement for my previous Cleveland bag, which was never returned by a friend of a friend (who is not my friend and never could be, after stealing my Cleveland bag).

Well, RIP Cleveland. Literally. It ripped.

I'm so sorry, Cleveland.
One final note about European grocery stores: when you buy produce, the fruits and veggies don't come with little PLU-identifying stickers on them, and you can't just take it all to the cashier to price when you check out. Instead, after you bag your produce, you have to take it over to a clerk at a set of scales who will weigh the bag for you, and slap a price sticker on it. I feel like this is a really important tip that no one ever told me before in my life.

You're welcome.

Bagged and tagged and (soon to be) eaten.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Currently, in Greece

If you've been following European news at all, or even just know that Europe exists, you might have heard that Greece is facing a bit of a cash flow problem. I'm not going to pretend to know the specifics of what's been going on here, but I can tell you generally what's happened since we landed. If you read through all of this, you can have some pictures at the end. I guess you could just skip to the end for the pictures, but that would be cheating.

This week, Greece was in talks with the Eurozone finance people to try to renegotiate their debts. Greece is supposed to make a payment on the 30th, but won't be able to pay. The Eurozone told Greece to implement austerity measures, basically to increase taxes and cut pensions, and that if Greece did, they'd probably be able to renegotiate terms, and get some more cash. G told EZ that they can't implement the austerity measures, and then yesterday essentially told EZ to stuff it by saying that they'd put the austerity demands to a referendum vote...on July 5th...5 days after their payment was due. G's Parliament approved the referendum vote, and EZ flipped. Talks with EZ are over, and the European Central Bank is about to make a decision today on whether or not to extend emergency cash assistance to G. If they don't, Greece is in large trouble. Potential fallout includes bank runs, a huge decrease in standard of living, a whole bunch of angry locals, and Grexit (Greece actually leaving the EuroZone and having to use its own currency). 

We don't know yet how we will be affected. We're in a suburb away from the city center, and likely won't see a lot of demonstrations, if those happen. We're more likely to deal with minor inconveniences, like transportation disruptions, which feels icky to whine about considering that the Greek people are staring down the barrel of economic disaster. On the other hand, they've been at that point about a million times before today. 

UPDATE: In the twenty minutes it took me to post this, the European Central Bank just announced that it will maintain Greece's funding limit, but it won't give it any extra cash. So now we wait and see what happens to Greek banks.

Okay, okay. Here are your pictures. We rode the metro into the main city yesterday and saw things from a distance. 

Phil's awake! This is a pretty good representation of Greece:
lots of really old stuff stuffed into areas surrounded by new city growth.
Here's another one. Old thing on the left. Old thing in the middle.
Huge, giant, new city on the right.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Apartment Life: In Photos

A photographic look into the home of recently-relocated expats.

Master Bedroom, with master (Bella)

Kitchen, washer and dryer included

1 of 2 guest bedrooms with dual twin bed amenities 
Living Room balcony-patio with luxury church view

Living Room with exquisitely hideous yet inexplicably comfortable seating

Dining Room with gorgeous display cabinet that will not be staying here

Hallway with expansive closet space and 2.5 bathrooms (one pictured distantly)

I don't have any photos from outside yet because all we've done since coming here is walked to the grocery store, attended a bunch of meetings at the embassy, and slept. If you want, I can reenact those moments for you later. We plan to explore tomorrow. Photos forthcoming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hey, JFK!

Enjoying our last hours in America at the JFK pet relief area

Cleared for Departure: USDA APHIS Edition

Today's the day. Phil, Bella, and I are currently sitting at the airport waiting to board. By some miracle, we both had TSA-Pre AND our gate is right next to a McDonald's. I ordered two hash browns because, darn it, moving is hard.

Moving is hard

On Monday, we made the long trek to the USDA APHIS office for Bella's health certificate. We'd made an appointment in advance, which we later found out is critically important if you don't want to sit there for 5,000 hours. Even with an appointment, they began processing our paperwork a half hour late, because every day at the APHIS office is pure, sheer, stressful insanity. We shared the tiny waiting room with a well-traveled, talkative rich woman, a Georgian with a flight the next day but without an appointment, a buff, Russian-sounding guy with a cat, a hysterical couple who were definitely going to miss their flight that night, a military wife who had to spend $1,500 to fly her dog to the Netherlands, and a few other randoms that were also at peak stress level. I think we made some lasting friendships.

As usually happens when you're two days away from a major life event, not everything went as smoothly as planned. Despite the fact that I had provided our vet with the correct forms and instructions for those forms, when she took them back to her office to sign them, she decided to use her own form that was only good for 48 hours from the time of issue. I panicked because I really thought I was going to have a heart attack and die before I got the chance to reach all the way from Richmond to D.C. to kill her. Bless the hearts all the way out of the APHIS staff, because they found a way to make it work with a spare form I had on hand, and Bella was endorsed for EU living.

We are thirty minutes from boarding. We'll keep you updated on our travels this week, as well as the status of our marriage by the time we arrive in our new home country. Just kidding. We still love each other.

Jane and Phil Advice for International Pet Travel:
1) Go to the USDA website at least 3 months in advance and look up the international regs.
2) Print off the forms you need, take them to the vet, and command that they use those exact forms.
3) Assume that the vet used the wrong forms, and quadruple verify that the forms are correct.
4) Make an appointment with the USDA and/or just mail the stupid forms via Fed-Ex express.
5) Make multiple blank copies of forms, in case your vet totally blows it and the blessed USDA staff have to cobble something together for you.
5) Give yourself a grace period of a couple days for when everything goes to hell.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Goodbye, D.C. (Part 1)

Goodbye, nature trail outside the apartments.

Goodbye to our stuff being shipped in compartments.

Goodbye, fireflies, we will miss you guys a lot.

Goodbye, Costco lines, which we definitely will not.

Goodbye to Tom Yum District, with its pretty good food.

Goodbye, Mount Vernon porch, and that Washington dude. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Post Pack-Out

It's amazing how exhausted you feel after watching three guys wrap, label, and pack away all of your stuff. More on that, and everything else we've been doing, later. 

This is just a quick post to let you know that we're still alive (barely), living out of suitcases in a Marriott, and still crushing it.

Here's the before and after shots of our air freight:

Before (obviously)

After (hopefully also obvious)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One Week Out

We're a week away from our departure. Pack-out day is tomorrow. Today and tonight, we have to separate all of our stuff into four categories: 1) things that we'll take on the airplane: clothes, shoes, Bella; 2) things that we want air freighted: dishes, pots, pans (theoretically they will get there in a couple weeks);  3) things we want to ship: chairs, books, all of my awesome holiday decorations (we won't see those things for a couple months), 4) things that we want stored: the cotton candy machine, the ice cream machine, every other machine that makes life worth living, but won't work on European power. 

Bella is a pretty good traveler. She'll be riding in cabin with us. Generally, once we get settled onto the airplane, she just curls up in her carrier and sleeps until we land. Part of the reason she's able to sleep so well is that she freaks out for the entirety of the pre-travel process, and drives me absolutely bat-sh*t insane. In fact, if we even get close to thinking about moving a suitcase from the closet, she launches into her, "You're-traveling-take-me-with-you?!!" panic. She also pays attention to the phases of preparation. If the suitcases are out, but unpacked, she monitors the situation closely and barks at every sound/sight/smell. Once we start packing, she crawls inside the suitcase, messing everything up in the process, while continuing to bark at every sound/sight/smell. Phase 3 is post-pack, where she runs back and forth from the door to the suitcases to the carrier, crying hysterically if either of us walk outside without her, and barking at every sound/sight/smell. It worsens from there.

Honestly, Bella and I have similar approaches to travel. I hate planning it. I hate packing for it. I hate the actual, physical effort of traveling (or maybe the non-physical effort of riding in a plane or car or bus for 20,000 hours), and I hate living out of a suitcase. On the other hand, we both love exploring new places. How far away are we from teleportation? Or apparition, for the Harry Potter crowd?

Anyway, I'm running away for a few hours because this is what our house looks like right now and I'm overwhelmed:

The post it note ID system was my idea. 
The dog is unlabeled. We're still debating how soon we want her.
I truly, truly feel your pain, dog. 
This has nothing to do with moving, I'm just super proud that I got this orchid to bloom again after a year of mothering it. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Moving Away

We have 10 days left on this continent, and I'm spending them inside, on a blog (do people even do that anymore?!), debating how to design this page to make it prettier, but also not really wanting to work at it.

Since Phil has lived abroad before, I'm going to be your guide to the terrors of moving outside the country for the first time in your life. What a fun, sexy time for all of us.

The past few weeks have been a combination of trying to cram in every possible activity, historical destination, monument (there are millions here), and beach trip available, while simultaneously trying to figure out what I'll need to purchase prior to moving. I keep seeing things like lotion, or toothpaste and have to work really hard not to buy fifty of each under the thinking that, "They might not have that in Europe."

Phil has been coping with the move by scheduling everything on a calendar, and making 10,000 lists for shopping/packing/paperwork that I continually fail to read or follow. It's easier for him to cope when he has it all written out. I have a much more fatalistic approach:

It's happening, we're moving. If I forget my toothpaste, hopefully they'll have some in Europe.

Bella's method of coping: Above all, sleep.