Getting to the Netherlands required a whole lot
of coordination. Some of it we did successfully, some not so
successfully, and much required help from others which we didnt
even know we would need. Some of that help appeared out of nowhere.
To begin with, we had movers come and pack up our
furniture, clothes, a car, whatever we wanted to take. Because we
are in furnished temporary housing until the end of February,
anything the movers packed (with the exception of the car) will not
be unavailable to us until we find a place of our own and can take
delivery of the whole thing (or as much as we want). Therefore, we
had to withhold some things from the movers. We withheld winter
clothes, whatever books we thought we could read in three months,
computer equipment and a few other odds and ends. We thought that we
would carry the rest and whatever didnt fit into four suitcases
(the limit that USAir allows for two people) we would ship
First problem was that we severely overestimated
the amount that four large suitcases hold so right away we had to
ship several cartons more than we thought we would. No problem, said
I. Just take that extra stuff to UPS and well have it in a week.
What a mistake. The UPS guy told me I was looking at about $125 per
carton for each of the four cartons I took him for delivery in a
week. I would also be facing possible duty issues which meant paying
tax for stuff we already owned, generally not done for household
items that are part of an overseas relocation. He suggested going to
the post office. They would be a lot less expensive although it
would take longer.
I did that. The post office charged a total of a
bit over $200 for all four cartons for delivery in four to six
weeks. So much for having all this stuff we really wanted the first
week. Like winter coats. Not only that, but IKEA shipped two rather
small cartons and we were hit with duty of 117 (almost $150).
Everything else is going to go by mail and Im going to have to
exist the rest of the winter with eight shirts, four pairs of pants
and three sweaters. Lynn has more but is still operating at only
about 35% capacity.
I have to name names to publicly express our
overwhelming gratitude to those who have helped us in this quixotic
adventure. All of you reading wont know all of them, but they know
who they are and its important to Lynn and me that we acknowledge
First are our son Aaron, and my brother Joel.
They helped carry stuff to another location (more about the location
in a bit) that we neither wanted to take to Europe, nor to dispose
of. Things like some previously read favorite books, most things
that require electricity to work, artwork the kids did when they
were little, that sort of thing. Aaron and Joel were a big help and
we thank them.
Charlie and Sharon Roberts were our next door
neighbors. It makes me a bit sad to say "were." After Aaron and Joel
helped lug stuff over to the aforementioned other location, we
realized that there was still a good deal more. Charlie and Sharon
lent us their van several times to carry stuff. That really helped
simplify things. Thanks to them, too.
The movers didnt pack all of our furniture
because there were some things we wanted to dispose of. Our
overstuffed living room sofa, for instance, would likely not work in
a small European apartment, and although it was in good shape, we
thought it best to sell it. The same with a wall unit I had since
before Lynn and I got married, and also our spare bedroom set which
was all IKEA furniture. We had intended on having a house-cooling
party. You know. When you move in you have a house-warming so people
can bring you things, so conversely, when you move out
You get the
idea. It didnt happen because everything was so crazy. We had no
time to schedule it. We thought we would have to donate all these
things because we had no clue how to quickly and painlessly sell
this stuff. At this point an angel fell out of the sky in the person
of Maria Taylor.
The movers were scheduled to come to our house on
a Monday. When I got home from work the previous Thursday, there was
a flyer in our door that a local real estate company, in the person
of one of their agents, was going to sponsor a community yard-sale
that Saturday. The timing couldnt have been better. The agent
turned out to be Maria who we learned lives only one street away
although we had never met her before, a fact I truly regret because
we would have loved spending much more time with her. I called Maria
and told her what we had. She wasnt sure if furniture would work
but said she would come by early Saturday to see what we wanted to
sell. She showed up at about 8AM. The first thing she did when she
saw the house was to give me hell for being a FSBO (for sale by
owner). See, FSBOs and real estate agents are natural mortal
enemies. Maria let this character flaw on our part slide and she
came in to see what we had. She looked at the couch and matching
chair and said, "Well, this is terrific. The boyfriend needs some
living room furniture. Ill have to tell him he just bought some."
The boyfriend, Rich Hastings, came the next day for the furniture
and saw the spare bedroom set. His daughter needed a new bedroom set
and this was perfect. Maria also let some friends know about the
wall unit, and it walked out the door the next day. For all this we
are eternally grateful.
Some of the things we packed were handled by
Lynns colleague, Megan Young. Megan took responsibility of our
things to ship them when and where we need them. We know theyre in
good hands and we thank her.
When we overestimated the amount that the
suitcases would hold, we packed these things and asked my sister and
her husband, Carole and Nate Cooper, to hold them until we arrived.
When we arrived here and found out that the space we have may be
inadequate to house this stuff, they agreed to keep our things until
we return to the U.S. for a visit and can otherwise dispose of it.
We thank them for their patience and the use of a part of their
We were allowed to bring one car over here and
had to sell the other. It was bad enough facing homelessness, but
facing carlessness made it that much worse. After we left the house,
we still had to move around. My brothers boss, Rudy Lucente,
volunteered to sell our car for us. He said hes sold lots of cars
and all he wanted was a signed, notarized title and a deposit slip
to mail to the bank. Rudys office is about two blocks from the
North Wales SEPTA station from which I used to take the train to
work each day. On our last day, I dropped Lynn and the suitcases at
the train, drove to Rudys, gave him the title, deposit slip, and
keys and walked back to the train never to see the car again. It was
all a no hassle transaction and saved us so much grief. We owe Rudy
a big thank you.
And finally the aforementioned other location.
Probably the person who did the most for us in this whole episode is
my first wife, Judy Johnston Wexler. Judys parents both died some
years ago and she, along with her brother, still owns the house
where she grew up. She volunteered that we could use the attic to
store as much as we wanted. We took full advantage and when I look
at what we put up there, I cant imagine what we would have done
without her generosity. In addition, she suggested we stay there
during our last week. The movers came to pack us up on a Monday and
left on Thursday. The settlement was on Friday and our departure
date for Europe wasnt until the following Friday so we had a week
with nowhere to go. We still had things that were unpacked and we
didnt know yet what we were going to do with it all. Had we been
forced into going to a hotel, we and our things wouldnt have fit.
This way, if we decided that it was best just to leave something
behind, the attic was right there. Besides all that, we had the use
of the kitchen and didnt have to go out for every meal. Judys
generosity was certainly above and beyond anything I could have
hoped for and Lynn and I really appreciate it.
So our Dutch lives have almost begun for real.
Lynn starts work this Monday and my following notes will be about
the expatriate American life in The Netherlands.