(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

repost. not to be confused with riposte.

I just needed to have my new home up at the top. After all, I still have over 70 days until I move and I am getting antsy. I needed to remind myself why I am doing these million and one tasks. Most of the pictures of my house are deceiving, they were used in the real estate ad and were taken while it was occupied. Although it is 17th C and I don't have to rebuild from scratch ... there are floors to refinish and false ceilings to remove and painting to do and light fixtures to procure and I will be renovating the kitchen and baths and hopefully exposing more beams and some stones and well, there's the garden too.... *sigh* can't arrive soon enough!

hold tight, and I'll get to the riposte shortly... (not the jousting move ... in everyday language, a riposte can also describe a quick and witty reply to an argument or an insult. It is synonymous with a retort. or in other words, a familiar form of language emanating from my lips).

stateside week-end getaway finds.

I've got a couple of tips for those of you needing a quick recharge. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum but are both pleasing in their own way.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a couple of days in Newport, Oregon in the artsy enclave of Nye Beach. Someone suggested I try the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Sylvia Beach is a retreat perfect for book lovers. You will not find a television or computer (including access) in sight. What you will find are sweeping beach views including the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, cozy corners for reading, crackling fires, good wine and best of all, glorious peace. If you book one of the smaller rooms, minus a view, you can still while away your time in the 3rd floor library and drink in a magnificent view.

Sylvia Beach was a well known American expat in Paris. She founded the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris. One of the shop's claims to fame is that it published James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922.

I stayed in the Agatha Christie room. Let me tell you, I could happily establish myself permanently in this room. It is the kind of place I'd envision for me if I were going to assume one of those hotel living lifestyles. You know, like when you read about the folks who lived part-time at the Plaza Hotel or somesuch. The room had a fabulously comfortable bed, a small couch facing the fireplace, french door to private ocean-front terrace. Chock full of books, art and charm. It was here that I sat and experienced my seagull epiphany!

My dear friend Tom has provided the suggested opposite end of the spectrum. Being a mid-century modern fan, he recently discovered a spot to go basking in the sun in style. Just visiting the website of the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona, you are instantly transported to the essence of cool, when Frank Sinatra serenaded the hip cats and all the lines were smooth. The hotel had a renovation in 2005 and there are even Phillipe Starck bathtubs in many of the rooms. The rooms are retro-chic, many with views of Camelback Mountain. I loved this press description, "Like a girl doing the twist when everyone else is doing downward dog!"

There are multiple restaurants, a spa and ooohh! did I mention the cabanas? Truly a must see. This joint is jumpin' and after some serious spa time, drinks by the pool and dress up dinners ... you'll be channeling the rat pack vibe all the way home.

Monday, April 28, 2008

another reason to love Kiva.

Sorry if you tire of my odes to Kiva, but today another example of why I love Kiva occurred. Because I can loan as little as $25 through Kiva, I have loans around the world. One of them is to a Kenyan man, Moses Kathanaika Chabari. He is married with one child and lives in a one room house with his family. Moses sells tomatoes in Kongowea market in Mombasa, a Kenyan coastal town. Moses needed a loan to increase his profit and improve his family life.

Shortly after Moses made his first loan payment, unbelievable strife broke out throughout Kenya. From news reports and information provided by Kiva, it was widely expected that many loans would go unpaid or as potential write-offs. Many individuals were killed or fled for their lives with only the clothes on their backs.

Although some lenders decided to forgive their loans, we were urged to wait and see what would transpire. The Kenyans are a very proud and honest people and would not want their loans to remain unpaid, if there were any means possible to recover. Today, after a five month silence, I was notified that Moses posted a payment. I was so gratified and relieved to hear that Moses was alive, and has returned to his business. And that, in some small way, I can reach way around the world and provide assistance. By lending a hand, not a hand out.

I'm telling you folks, I get far more out of the Kiva program than I contribute. And so will you.

Kiva - loans that change lives

tweetle deetle deet.

Now I can send chirps to my blog when I am on the go! (this was just a little test from my mobile phone ... hang on to your hats, dear readers!)

my french story. part whatever.

Some folks have asked me variations on "why France?"

I could wax rhapsodic, ramble and rant for pages ... so I think it will be a multi-part tale. how many, who knows.

I first became enamored of France as a freshwoman (ha - I guess that might also be freshgirl) in high school. Back in the day, California required two years of language study for graduation. Would that the day would return, learning a language is a great thing. But I digress.

So, while most of my fellow students opted for the usefullness of Spanish, I had a romantic notion or two. And opted for the language of love.

My teacher was the most unlikely prospect for French one could imagine. He was well over 6 feet tall with close cut, thinning hair and a long, full red beard. Mr. Cavanaugh. As Scotch-Irish looking as they come. He had no fashion sense, as I recall he favored short-sleeved plaid shirts with a too-short tie and too-short pants to match.

But the man could speak some French. And he made France come alive every day in that classroom. Mr. Cavanaugh imbued us all with his obvious enchantment with la belle France.

Of course we had the prerequisite enunciation drills (anyone walking by the class would have thought we were all in there alternately hocking loogies and honking our sinuses in group order!).

However, in addition to the exercises, we were regaled with Monsieur Cavanaugh's home movies and slides of different regions. We listened to French pop music. We scoured French fashion magazines and even saw bits of French telly. We chose our own French names and were transported. I was Genevieve.

Fast forward 10 years and the young Miss Genevieve was a single mom, working in an office and contemplating where to send my 4-year old daughter to kindergarten. Having become captivated by my co-worker Carola's tales of a lovely little French school in Berkeley, California ... I began my research. Imagine not only being able to take a French class but to have an entire education in that lovely language!

Keeping in mind that, to date, the only trips outside of the country were either slightly chemical (ahem, another story altogether) or flights of my imagination. And yet, the more I read and learned about exposing little ones to learning in multiple languages ... the better it sounded.

I visited the little Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley and it felt like a mini-United Nations. I wanted a tolerant and mind-expanding environment for my little ones and somehow, in spite of my limited means, couldn't imagine a better place for my daughter. Despite knowing there were hundreds of applicants and few openings, and that many of the well-placed families would most likely be far more appealing than this young single mother on a secretary's income, I prepared my application. On our interview day, I dressed my daughter and I in our finest and assumed my most confident attitude. Which I had no business being in possession of. How on earth I thought I could afford such a thing, one wonders. In retrospect, even I am amazed by my chutzpah.

We awaited the news with much anticipation. We received our first-round reject, with a tiny thread of hope held out that "some families will select an alternative school and we will let you know if an opening appears at a later date". Many would be discouraged but, undaunted, I wrote a reply to the school outlining all the reasons why a family such as ours would contribute to the diversity of its student body. We were accepted on the second round and thus began my first introduction into a French bilingual community.

Not to imply that we were bilingual by any means! But why should that hinder me?! The flames of my love affair with all things French had been fanned once more ... and would burn more and more brightly as the years ensued.

More to come.

checking off my list.

In preparing to make my move, of COURSE I compiled a task list. This has helped in the transition from corporate life as well, still feeling like I'm managing something ... myself, the biggest management challenge of all time!

One of my lingering projects has been that there are numerous repairs to be completed at my various homesteads. And that is before I arrive in France.

A MAJOR "checkmark" was issued this week-end, thanks to my friend and hero, Kelly. After the big Oregon coastal storms, my beach cabin was injured and left with hanging rain gutters. My neighbors had a pool going as to exactly how long I would wait before fixing the mess. I think I exceeded all of their bets, so bully for me! After about 5 months of fretting, this week-end the remains of the old and rusty gutter were ripped down and a new gleaming-white version installed. Kelly not only replaced the old, but improved on its functionality by digging a trench and placing the drain underground to maximize its usage.

And all of it was done in under 3 hours. Kelly, you are amazing!

Before and after at La Cabane de Sirène:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

the shippers are coming, the shippers are coming!

I have a move date ... May 8, 2008. Rhymes auspiciously.

I'd like to thank movingscam.com for helping me avoid what, at least from all outward appearances, could have been a disastrous ripoff. With moving quotes ranging from $12,000US to $3,800US, one can definitely see where mistrust would form. If you are considering a move, international or domestic, do yourself a favor and check out this site. They have organized a ton of information, including customer feedback ... good and bad, on a variety of movers.

After taking time to do more research, and reading countless customer stories of a variety of moving companies ... I have settled upon Rainier Overseas Movers.

What I have learned is there are a number of internet movers looking to make quick bucks by holding your precious belongings hostage until you fork over more moolah. Many of these scammers are based in Florida, where state laws make it very challenging to sue. As an example, you can only sue them IN Florida.

The site movingscam.com was packed with lots of information, including a feedback forum. They had five recommended international movers, of which Rainier was one. Rainier is based in Seattle (being near the company is a plus). In addition, following their online estimate based on the inventory list I submitted they sent an on-site estimator to view my goods. The fact that they are associated with Bekins, who will perform the packing/loading is also a good thing in my opinion.

These are essentials recommended to ensure you have an accurate, honest estimate. Their fee was smack in the middle of the 5 estimates I received and includes packing, loading, shipping and unloading ... door-to-door. Not the lowest charge but also not the highest and includes handling much of the international logistics involved. $13.95 a cubic foot, all inclusive.

So, at this point I am excited and encouraged. Of course, my belongings haven't arrived in Brantôme yet. They are expected mid-July. I am hoping against hope that my next blog post on this topic is celebratory and a full on recommendation of my shipping experience and company.

this and that.

I've been a bad blogger but an excellent juggler. I'm in California this week and managing to get lots of unrelated but equally important tasks handled.

1. The Consulate. So, I sweated being late and thus left 90 minutes ahead of time for my appointment and arrived 30 minutes early! whew! Entered armed with 2 huge folders of paperwork times three. They were pleased with all of my documents except health insurance. Apparently they don't care if your provider says they will cover you abroad, they want a separate policy specific to being abroad. So, more research, more paperwork, more money! sigh. But the good news is, once I have that, I do believe I will receive my one year Long Stay Visa! Oh, and they KEPT my passport!!! But practically NONE of my copies. That they specifically asked for. grrr!

2. Mignonne. Yesterday Mignonne kicked my butt. I LOVE designing our windows and I re-did both of them yesterday. But our windows are raised about 2-1/2 to 3 feet from the ground and climbing in and out of them does a number on my knees. Doh!! Step stool Kim, give it a try! Anyways, I'll try and take a decent picture and put it up later. We have a Mother's Day theme going on.

3. Yesterday was also my son's 25th birthday. Unfortunately he was sick. So unhappy about not being able to celebrate appropriately. Can you believe I have a 25 year old son?????? Shock and awe, shock and awe (and let's not even TALK about his older sister!!!) No wonder my joints hurt! All this time I thought we were all getting younger!

Okay, well those were all rather boring thises and thats. But working your ass off destroys your creativity. Only in the short term though. I'm working on some real doozies for y'all in the next few days.

Yeah. I said doozies. What?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

happy birthday to my handsome son!

Today is my son's 25th birthday. Ian is a wonderful brother, son, grandson and friend to many. He is a very nurturing guy and has recently decided that he is changing his major to one that is related to horticulture. I find that very appropriate given his patient and caring nature.

I'm hoping I can lure him to France to assist with the redesign of my garden! His green thumb coupled with the fact he is bilingual could help me a lot! He has already helped Johnelle and I more than he knows with the time he spends at Mignonne.

I have so much to be thankful for ... but when anyone asks what I am proud of ... I unreservedly reply that my greatest accomplishment is my 2 wonderful kids. My favorite son and my favorite daughter (that worked out nicely, didn't it?)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

a consulate we go.

Okay readers, wish me luck. I am on my way to the French Consulate in San Francisco this morning, armed with stacks of documents in quadruplicate, a few extra for good measure and wearing my lucky Chanel sautoir (a long, rather showy necklace).

All I ask is for permission to stay longer than 3 months. Is that so bad?

Monday, April 21, 2008

spread your wings and go with the flow.

I just finished a little stay at Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. I'll have more stories regarding my week-end soon, but wanted to share an "aha" that came to me as I sat in the most lovely room right on the beach ... gazing out the window at the flocks of seagulls.

Seagulls have it all figured out, don't you know? They play happily on the windcurrents, spreading their wings and offering themselves to the invisible winds with absolute faith and trust that unseen forces will support and guide them on their frolic. Do seagulls hesitate, worried that they will fall splat out of the sky? Do they go beak-first against the wind, determined to go exactly opposite from where this free energy will take them? Do they hang and twist their gnarly little claws in fear, demonstrating their need for their own little back-up plan in case this wind thing doesn't work out?

As I sat observing them spreading their wings and gliding along the currents, trusting that they will go exactly where they not only need to go ... but are supposed to go, I experienced my own little epiphany.

Who knew?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

not very high, in her estimation.

I received good news and bad news this morning. The moving and shipping estimator arrived early for her appointment. Flawlessly groomed from head to toe and very gracious to boot. She entered my own little corner of hell with a permanently applied smile that she obviously had trained herself to maintain, no matter what the horrors encountered.

I accompanied her from room to room, apologizing every third step for the chaos. The detritus. The current doggieness of my abode. My home is littered with half filled boxes, piles of wrapping tucked into corners, stacks of half-sorted items. Because of the clutter, I haven't washed the floors or carpets in weeks. Only sweeping and vacuuming have occurred, and the floors are less than appetizing. Two dogs worth of unappetizing. sigh.

To top it off, we ascended the stairs and discovered a little poochy-present that awaited in the upstairs bedroom. You puppy owners know what I mean. Mortification personified.

The good news is that my original inventory list came in spot-on to the visual review. The move will not be very high, in her estimation.

The bad news is my housekeeping skills and resulting opinion of me, are also ... not very high in her estimation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

une bière avec le déjeuner.

Yes, my friends, it is true. One of the joys of being a corporate dropout is one can partake of refreshing beverages previously disallowed during the weekday hours of 9:00 to 5:00. Oh sure, technically one COULD imbibe at lunch, but all those disapproving frowns were so discouraging.

Guess what! One is still productive post-pression (French shorthand for a draft). Of course, when ordering a beer in France, there are many options. Une bière. Une bière pression. Un demi. or the old reliable "Stella". But I digress.

All I can say is ... don't hate! Carry on.

I'm such a loaner.

Kiva - loans that change lives
Who haven't I told about how much Kiva rocks? I just had my 3rd loan paid in full. I'm now perusing who I will reloan my funds to. If you don't know about Kiva, you should. Kiva promotes microlending throughout the world and provides a way for you to give a hands-up vs. a handout. The majority of my loans are directed at women throughout the world, attempting to better their family's existence. Kiva is a phenomenal organization and I do hope you will take a look at my sidebar for more information. Your loan of twenty-five dollars can make a life-changing difference today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

blogophobe to blogaholic.

On blogging.

I still don't quite understand it. Although apparently I'm doing it. For two whole months. Seems like longer, doesn't it? (yes, she replied, it surely does).

Three weeks ago the only blog I had ever read was Geekgirl Unveiled (link to the right). Well, okay I had read Diane's myspace blog too. And Jonathon's myspace blog once or twice. But never an independent blog. Or so I thought.

Because the more I look in to this whole blogging thing, the more confused I become. Ask poor Geekgirl, my personal blog wiki! Why am I confused? Where to begin.

In a quest to increase traffic to my blog (barely a blog, more of a blo), I began reading a few others. After getting a crash IM course in Google reader and so-called feeds (don't ask me!), I am discovering blogs of interest.

One blog leads to another and before you know it, you've fallen into the rabbit's hole. Endless, I tell you, endless. But anyway. In reading I begin to notice many logos. Blogher. Expat blog. Women who blog. etc. etc. One finds one can list their blog. Until this aha, I had been madly posting anywhere I could find, putting my blog address in my post. Hoping some hapless reader would click before they think and then get mesmerized with my tales of packing. Or something.

Now I am in the process of submitting my blog for listing in a variety of places. It reminds me of when my kids were little and I was filling out applications for preschool. Racking my brain for tantalizing keywords and snappy descriptions, in order to gain acceptance ... and, dare one hope, admission!! Instead of "Johnny started reading when he was two and look at the facial details in this Urkel drawing" (yep, dating myself with that one), I'm tossing in buzz words like reinvention and corporate dropout. See how that gets'em!

I've gotten myself listed on 2 or three (see sidebar) and already readership is growing. Relatively speaking of course, since I've barely broken 3 digits. Three digits in 3 weeks, bring it on!

And another thing. Geekgirl will have to give me another lesson on this one I suppose. Or one of you out there in blogland.

What determines when online writing is a blog? I mean, a blog vs. a website vs. myspace vs. an ezine vs. ? I did a search of top blogs and blog lists, and according to Technorati (that's the thing about Google and the internet, anything that comes up seems to be definitive but how do you REALLY know.... ?). But according to Technorati, The Huffington Post is the top blog site. HuffPo is a blog????? who knew??? I thought it was an online newspaper! Isn't a blog written by one person? God it is all so ... purposefully deceptive.

Welcome to the internet, Kimba. You've only just begun.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I love you. I love you not. I bring you. I bring you not.

I've allotted myself 2 of these lovely lift-van moving crates to complete the initial outfitting of my house in France. Ideally, from a cost perspective I'd only use one ... but I'm not certain that is possible. (That reminds me...need to post a brief blurb on how I arrived upon lift-vans and final mover selection. Soon, soon.)

So, here I am now trying to select the optimal combination of function and form to fit into these 2 containers. Those who know me know my love of my art pieces ... a variety of wall art, sculptures, busts, etc. Combine those with my love of books and glassware and it becomes very, very difficult! Once I've selected the form aspect, then one needs something to hold those items. That is where furniture comes in. I am having a hard time estimating what will fit, etc.

So I'm currently placing mostly everything in my dining area, a space I think roughly represents a similar amount of space. I'm putting things in, taking them out, trying to allow for wrapping material. I'm going for one container of furniture, one container of boxes.

The estimator arrives next Thursday. I'm wondering if she'll say "You've got to be joking ... " or "that will never fill 2 containers!". Not hard to guess, I suppose.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

a four hour work week?

Wow. My friend Marcus recommended a book to me. He's been raving about it since he started it. Now I've just begun reading it and I'm convinced this young author has been tapping my phone.

Here is an example of something I've been protesting about for years.

"Retirement as a goal or final redemption is flawed ...: It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing during the most physically capable years of your life. This is a nonstarter - nothing can justify that sacrifice."

Another statement regarding simple alternatives when it comes to your goals and pursuing a career that causes you to dread Mondays:

"To buy all the things you want to have." OR "To do all the things you want to do, and be all the things you want to be. If this includes some tools and gadgets, so be it, but they are either means to an end or bonuses, not the focus".

Well anyway, Timothy Ferriss is the author of "The 4-Hour Workweek", and it is a truly inspiring read, expressing many of the pent-up feelings I've wrongly contained for, oh the past 10 years or so.

Some of the chapters read like the heresy I've been promoting in my own workplace for some time, with many a confused stare back: "The End of Time Management" (precisely why I've always refused to have a Blackberry ...); or "The Low Information Diet", promoting a one-week media fast (I'm planning mine now.) "Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal". Come on, how many of us still need to learn the fine art of saying "No"? That's right. I'm looking at you!

If you are discouraged by your corporate career and are thinking of quitting your job ... you MUST read this book. No way around it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

save a life for $10.

April 25th is World Malaria day. There is a worldwide campaign to deliver enough anti-malaria nets to needy families to eradicate malaria. A child dies every 30 seconds of malaria in Africa alone. That is a shocking statistic that is so easily remedied.

Malaria is both preventable and treatable. For $10, a family can receive an anti-malaria net and instruction on how to properly use it. The UN Foundation is working with a number of partners to make this happen. If you choose to donate $10, 100% of your donation will go to providing a net. Zero percent to the dreaded "administrative overhead".

Please join me in this simple but significant endeavor. Ten bucks, people.

And GUESS WHAT?! Ya get a freebie if you play the game they have up there right now. Eliminates all excuses.

doggone it.

Travelling with pooches. After my brief encounter with the pet relocation firm which would cost about as much the new kitchen appliances I have my heart set on in France ... I decided to do it myself. Here's what's happened so far.

About one hour on the phone with United and Lufthansa. Making reservations for my dogs. I had to provide their weight, and the exact measurements of their puppy abode. Major airlines have a separate compartment which is pressurized and temperature controlled for carrying such things as living baggage. And that is what my fellas will be. Checked baggage. Apparently this space is limited, thus the need for precise dimensions. Each dog will be about $250, round trip.

Next step. After 4 messages, I make contact with the USDA. My contact seemed irked that she had answered the phone this time. I manage to pry, one by one, precious details re: what must be done.

Futurama caninus. Each dog will be implanted with an EU conforming microchip (15 digit, mind you). These babies have to be special ordered. No word yet on the cost, but hopefully my veterinarian is on the job.

Next, an animal import document, bilingual, completed by a veterinarian. And then submitted to the USDA for certification.

Equipped with this form, rabies certification, microchips implanted ... my precious cargo just might be allowed into la belle France.

For those of you wondering about the return entry, the United States requires an up-to-date rabies vaccination and a non-expired certificate of health. This is a health document completed within 30 days or less from re-entry to the country.


christen my chateau.

A friend wrote me this week and asked the name of my chateau. First I cackled at the thought of me owning a "chateau". A bit grander than what I've actually got.

But, it still seemed like a fun blog topic. Apparently in Europe we like to name our digs. And this IS quite a BIG experience. Worthy of naming.

So what would a fitting moniker be, she inquires? Thoughts anyone?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

weighed down by stuff.

Let me tell you one thing this packing phase has shown me. I am one person. One little person. Okay, one little person with two little dogs. But still.

I am surrounded by stuff. A lot of it isn't even stuff. It is crap. I have too much crap. I will be selling a LOT of this crap. I will be giving away a LOT of this crap. I will be throwing out even more of this CRAP.

I feel pinned down by all this crap. I feel small and yet HEAVY. I look at all of it and think ... I have spent hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS working to buy a good deal of this shit. God Bless America. I've had it up to here with this crap.

I'm going to rid myself of as much as I can muster. I don't want to have to support any more of this stuff than I have to. It is an enormous, overwhelming task.

But I imagine I will feel as light as a feather when it is over.

Monday, April 7, 2008

from chaos, order will emerge.

Before shipping, comes packing. Before packing, comes sorting. Before sorting, comes unpacking. In between all of this, there will be gin. This qualifies for Gin in my apron pocket. Trust me, much lifting, pushing, squatting and sweating are involved. honest! I mean look at the picture. How else?!

I moved to Oregon in 2004. I moved from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house into a 600 square foot loft. And quickly. So when I moved, I packed two groupings... loft and storage. Subsequently I moved to a 2 bedroomed home in the 'burbs (big mistake, different story). My loft belongings were moved into my new home and my storage belongings were moved into my garage. And there, save for 1 or 2 boxes unpacked ... the whole lot has sat until now.

Now, part of my journey requires unpacking the garage (well wrapped and packed by professional movers ... which means forests of wrapping material). Once a box is unpacked, it must be sorted. So far I have a few groupings ... sell, donate, trash, storage ... and ... ta-DAH ... France. What you see in the picture is the start of this process.

The good news is that after 3 days of sorting, I have 7 large garbage bags of trash. 3 Large boxes of sell. 8-10 boxes of storage. And half of a box France.

Oh and another thing about that picture. It is slightly less than 1/4 of my entire garage. sigh.

I guess it has to get worse before it gets better, right? *shameless plug for reassurance that this CAN be done*

Friday, April 4, 2008

the saga of shipping.

One aspect of moving abroad is how to get your belongings where you are going. Now, I'm not talking about those who are packing a suitcase and hopping a plane to a furnished pad. This is for those who have a place to hang their hat and need something to hang it on.

To go fancy free and start from scratch there? Or to bring along familiar furnishings and cherished treasures to ease the transition? Considering the miserable state of the U.S. dollar, I've determined the cost of shipping is the better option when compared to what a similar amount of money could actually purchase in euros.

So, I've been on a quest for a shipper. Now let me tell you, it has been a daunting journey. There are a number of pitfalls I didn't anticipate and so ... I'm still looking, and getting more nervous with each turn in the road.

I started with a referral. Being in the wholesale trade, I met a fellow retailer who ships regularly from Europe AND who has owned a home in France. Brilliant, I thought. Here's an experienced person who will help me avoid problems. Not quite. He gave me a very good referral to a friendly shipper. First exchange goes like this: Dear Samson (creative fake name), I'm moving to France and so and so referred me to you as an excellent shipper. His response ... oh dear lady, yes I DO ship, but I only ship TO America from Italy. I'm so sorry. But, please ... send me your details and I will see if I have a colleague who might ship the other way!

I'm looking for door-to-door service, maybe even with a bit of fragile packing thrown in.

Thinking I better have a back-up plan, I decide to take advantage of the wonderful expanse of the internet! I mean, what can't you find on Google, right? I immediately locate a site that boasts it makes quotations a piece of cake. Just input your basics and presto! bango! five quotes back to you in the blink of an eye.

First one out was Schumacher Cargo out of NY. A gem of a man, Martyn, calls me straight away and walks me through all the details. Patiently answers all of my many questions. Asks me the size of container I need, 20bx or 40bx. Wha'a? Hunh? (That little bit was for Marcus!). I say 20 after confirming that is a 20'. Off he goes to confer with his estimators.

Meanwhile, Samson and I have been furiously exchanging emails. Samson likes to ask one question per email, see. I ask him the dimensions of a 20bx (figured I'd doublecheck). His reply is returned, in millimetres.

Martyn calls back in a day (yes very prompt. very diligent). His quote is over $11,000 USD. Shock and awe, shock and awe. See, in my initial research with other ex-pats who have done similar moves, I had been expecting in the range of $3,000-$4,000. I'm doing a very basic move, not a full household. Just enough to get started. After I pick myself up off the floor and read the fine print, I discover that Martyn's quote is for 1,000 square feet in volume. That is one hell of a lot of stuff.

I ask Martyn to redo the estimate. He decides I should fill out an inventory checklist (I'm wondering why we didn't begin there?) Martyn reviews it with me, estimating I have at least 600 square feet in volume. If I do less than a container, their fee is $16 a square foot. So the estimate is basically the same.

A third provider jumps in the mix. Global Ocean Freight, located in Florida. This firm starts with the shipping inventory. I email it and we review over the phone. Noam calculates my goods at 380 square feet in volume. His initial estimate is less than $4000 and if I want to stretch it an additional 200 square feet, it will come in at $5400. Wow.

Feeling smug, I ask him to send me the details and I hope we can work together. Not being a total guppy, I also decide to see if I can research this company ... find any complaints. This is where the fun begins.

I locate a site entitled movingscam.com. Horror story after horror story unfolds. They have a blacklist as long as both of my arms. Apparently, many of these non-local movers like to get their hands on your stuff. And hold it hostage till you fork over more money. Hmmmm. And yes. There were a couple of complaints about Global Ocean Services. Thankfully, they were not on the blacklist. This site also has a list of recommended international movers. A list of five.

So now I've contacted all five of them in order to see where their prices land up. I haven't tossed Global completely out of the running. I mean, any service company can achieve complaints over a period of time. You can't please ALL the people. But apparently this is a particularly fertile pasture for scams in internetland.

Oh, and Samson? He came back with an $8,000 estimate. No loading or unloading included, let alone packing! So, he's probably out of the running altogether.

It will be interesting to see how this one ends. Stay tuned.

advice from readers.

I'm writing this blog in part with a selfish aim. To put in black and white the experiences I encounter as I go through a major life change. Sometimes with a female perspective top of mind. A corporate break. A move abroad. A plethora of travel adventures. A renovation of a centuries old dwelling. A reinvention of how I live going forward. But I'm also hoping to share ideas and inspiration for others contemplating any aspect of these types of changes.

I hope over the course of these writings, folks reading might recognize a similar struggle or challenge. Understand that seemingly impossible change might in fact be possible. Garner some tips in how to cope. Or accomplish. Or dream.

I also know that some of my readers have already taken the plunge in one or more of these areas. Since I am just embarking, what advice can you share? What anecdote might make me (or another reader) chuckle and take heart? What references or tips would you pass on as helpful to the cause?

Readying my note pad ...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

they gave me a letter of good conduct!

Yes, it is true. I must present, amongst a large stack of various and sundry documentation, a letter of good conduct to the French authorities in order to obtain my visa. Something to verify they aren't allowing a known criminal into their fair land.

I took myself to the local police department and submitted my request. They don't just hand one over mind you, they INVESTIGATE. Today, I received the call. Appear at the records desk between 9am and 5pm to collect your Letter of Good Conduct.

Mind you, this is for the one town I live in currently. Phew! (Obviously they hadn't heard about the gin in my apron pocket). ((Good thing they don't know YOU lot! ha.))

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

spare some change?

I always thought of myself as a change AGENT. Those with the responsibility of assessing me never failed to include the line "Kim embraces change".

I have a long list of to do's I've created to make this enormous change in life I'm contemplating. Hell, I've been fantasizing about living in France for over 10 years now. I've made and remade that list in my head. And I've made this change 10 times over, also in my head.

It is a little more daunting to take on a change of this proportion for real. Not even really talking about the steps on the list. More about wrapping my head around how it will all be possible. Because, to be honest, the list is really more of the same. More ways for me to stay busy and put off what I am really trying to change.

I'm not just trying to change my address. I'm trying to change myself. And my way of life. Seems that all that fantasizing was mostly about breaking free. For a long time, I've bought in to the American way of life. You know, that driving force for more. More money. More recognition. More responsibility. More success. But on whose terms?

The change I'm hoping for is redefining success. Being brave enough to accept those new definitions. Finding the strength to be still. And rediscover that voice inside I used to have, and listen to it. The one that inspired me to write. To dream bigger dreams.

So what if I'm not completing every task by the date I wrote in the column to the right. So what if my new life project is experiencing "creep". So what if I took a nap today.

I'm learning that change isn't always about doing something. Sometimes it is about doing nothing. Nothing at all.