pergamond: ([Futurama] Bender // Applause)
I sat on the corner of my bed and debated whether I was pleased that I had understood the last twenty minutes of the moving men's Japanese conversation or disturbed that it had consisted solely of the phrases:

"This is difficult, isn't it?"

and

"Dangerous, dangerous!"

How the movers had got my office desk into the elevator was to be a mystery for all time. Later, when the movers went back to the truck to collect more boxes, I sneaked out of my apartment and took a look down the hallway. As far as I could see, the lift was unaltered. Maybe, like the Harry Potter Room of Requirement, such feats could only be achieved in times of dire need. Such as when the alternative was nine flights of outdoor concrete steps in a snow storm.

Now though, the desk was wedged between my doorway and the bathroom as it was inched painstakingly around the two right angle bends into my main room. The walls, floors and fitted cupboards had all been covered with thick protective paper. My online dictionary had informed me that string had just been called for, possibly to reattach the fingers of the mover who had just shouted 'dangerous!'.

I was promptly seized by a strong desire to use the toilet.

Instead, I decided to live blog the entire proceeding on Facebook.

Then, two amazing events occurred. The first was that the desk was in my apartment and no one had died. The second was that it was a perfect fit for the alcove by my window. It could have been made for it... by a different architect to the one who had designed the entrance way. The fit was so snug that it wasn't possible for the person lifting the back of the desk to escape once it was in place. Personally, I would have got the desk near enough and pushed, but this was evidently not the slap-dash solution that was acceptable in Japan. Instead, one of the movers backed into the corner and then climbed out through the window onto the balcony, returning through the patio doors.

... then they realised they hadn't put the metal feet back on the desk.

Back the man climbed, the feet fitted and the desk lifted back into position. I could really only gape in admiration. After this came the bookcases, the desk chair, the dresser and boxes and boxes of books.

"I like books," I told the men cheerfully in Japanese.

If I were honest, I'd say the resulting laughter was rather dry.

I sat on my bed with the list of boxes I had been given in Canada. As each new box came in, one of the movers shouted the number out in English. I repeated it in Japanese and we both ticked it off our lists.

There was something slightly odd about that, but I didn't have time to dwell on it.

Finally, everything was in my apartment apart from the sofabed which seemed to be taking 5 in the hallway. Then the men started opening the boxes.

They were going to unpack. Seriously?!

THIS WAS THE GREATEST THING EVER!

I suppose since the company in Canada had packed, unpacking was part of the service but I was still taken by surprise. Not that I was about to complain; possibly the greatest part of this would be that the movers would take away all the empty boxes. In a place where my trash was already sorted into seven different containers, I did not relish the prospect of dealing with all the cardboard.

One of the men lifted up a collection of small books and studied the covers for a moment. "Japanese," he said in surprise. "Tenisu no Oujisama."

"Echizen Ryoma." Another of the other movers volunteered the progenitor's name in the series.

Oh guys, you have only just touched on my obsession here. Wait until you find the other comics, the CD singles and the fan-made, explicitly drawn, doujinshi manga...

... actually, I should probably find that first. Grabbing a likely looking box, I ripped off the tape.

In another box, my astrophysics texts had been found. One of the men lifted up the copy of "An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics" with two hands and an expression that said he'd found the reason he wasn't going to be able to walk tomorrow morning.

"Tenmongaku," I said cheerfully. "Astronomy."

"Hn," came the disgruntled answer.

My queen-sized duvet had become the flattened size of a pillow during its three months of captivity. I fluffed it about and then left it in a corner to think about air.

Finally (now there was some floor space) the sofabed was guided into position and --just for that final mind blowing effort-- one of the movers polished the floor with a cloth in case he had left a mark. It was doubtful he had; before they started the agonising process of getting the desk into the apartment, all the movers had politely taken off their shoes. Only in Japan.

Japan is a totally non-tipping culture. You don't leave extra money in restaurants, taxis or bars. Nevertheless, these movers had done an extraordinary job and I would have liked to give them something. I dug out my computer from under the inflating duvet and sent out a quick message to a Japanese friend:

"Can I tip?"

She wrote back, "You don't have to, but you can if you think they were really good."

I glanced over at the desk. Hell yes.

As the men prepared to leave, I handed one of the movers a small pile of notes. He stepped back in refusal but took them when I tried to explain that I thought their work had been amazing. Hopefully this means that tipping was OK and not that I have condemned him to a life of HARDSHIP, PAIN and MISERY while he tries to explain the extra income to his boss, his wife and his particularly accusatory pet dog.

Then they were gone. I moved from the cushion on the floor to the sofa and examined the contents of the room. Ooh, hello snowboots, how I've missed you!
pergamond: ([Bleach] Ichigo // -.-)

"Welcome to Japan."

It was a promising start to an email that was from a relocation company in Tokyo, the people who had just taken over the details of the shipment of my possessions from Canada.

The movers had come at the end of August and squirrelled away my worldly goods, whereupon they were taken first to Toronto and then to Vancouver, before being loaded onto a boat to Hong Kong.

I have no idea why we had to go via China. Maybe it was ex-Commonwealth love for Hong Kong or because all goods come from China, so they feel obliged to drop back in once in a while.

Last Tuesday, I was informed the shipment with my beloved artifacts had left Chinese shores and would arrive in Yokohama in a week. Yokohama is south of Tokyo, so still a good 700 miles from Sapporo but considerably nearer than Vancouver. At this point, everything would need to clear Japanese customs.

The relocation company requested I mail them the following documents in preparation:

(1) A clear copy of my passport showing the photo page

(2) The customs form I had filled in when I entered Japan, stating there would be unaccompanied articles to follow.

(3) A copy of my most recent immigration entry stamp.

(4) And finally, a copy of my work visa page which must be valid for at least one year.

The one I was clearly not expected to have was number (2), the request for which was followed by a slightly panicked note saying "Hoping you have chance to complete this form during your arrival in Japan??". There was no need to worry, I had remembered to fill in the appropriate form in duplicate, keeping one copy back for this purpose.

No. The problem was so much worse than that.

I had a visa, but it had been issued for a single year since the start of my position last July. This meant it was only valid for another 8 months.

Hmm --I hear you say-- perhaps you could renew your visa now and ask for the process to be expedited?

Such a course of action might well be worth investigating, if my passport had any free double pages.

It does not.

I have two single pages devoid of stamps, but a visa requires a clear double page. My plan was to renew my passport when I returned to the UK at Christmas, thereby acquiring a whole book full of deliciously blank sheets for inky fingered border control guards to smudge up like kids on a crayola high.

Could extra space be quickly added to my passport? The UK passport office has the following to say on the subject of additional pages:

27. Can the Passport Office add pages to my current passport if it is full?
No.

Well then, perhaps I could renew my passport in Japan instead? It transpires, however, that the British Embassy in Tokyo no longer issues British passports. Rather, you must send your application to Hong Kong (anyone seeing a sinister pattern emerging here?) who then send everything away to the UK. The processing time --the webpage ironically entitled 'Help for British Nationals' informed me-- would take at least four weeks.

I leave Japan in 5.

And I'm not back until February 25th.

With my cat.

If I was just heading off on a single jaunt for those two months, I could probably postpone my trip, clear everything through customs and then leave the country knowing all is well in hand. As it happens, the exit next month marks the start of a round-the-world trip that sees me spending a week in India, home for Christmas in the UK and then onto Canada to work at my old institution for 7 weeks. Awesomely great. Awesomely awful to cancel.

Fortunately, the relocation company I was now dealing with seemed to have a practical mindset. Their suggestion was we send in the documents as if there is no problem and see what happens.

And if they send everything back to Canada…. well, I'll see it there.

Moving day

Aug. 30th, 2011 11:51 pm
pergamond: ([Random] kitten // rar)
There was a skidding sound of paws on a polished wood floor followed by a thump. Then a brown and gold shape streaked from the main room to the bedroom. Rinse, repeat.

I leaned back against the kitchen wall and lifted the remains of the 2 litre soda bottle to my lips, waiting.

After a few more minutes the cycle seemed to break and my cat appeared beside me.

"MEOW!"
** There is nothing here! NOTHING! **

Then she was off for another lap around the apartment that had just been emptied by the movers in the first stage of shipping my belongings to Japan.

This had been my first experience with a moving company that packed as well as shipped. Normally, not boxing up everything yourself adds a ridiculous amount to the moving cost but it seemed for a journey over these distances, the company wanted to do it themselves and basically threw it in for free.

I had stood watching while one of the movers painstakingly wrapped my plastic water bottle in three layers of paper before gently placing it in a box before deciding I wasn't going to understand this process and retreating to the basement. Down here, I had put all the items the movers weren't to touch: my suitcase for the next 2-3 months, a few items I was donating to a charity thrift shop and my cat. Said feline had decided to take no chances and had curled up actually in the suitcase as a rather pointed hint.

Despite the simplicity of my instructions to the movers ("please take everything"), I was still asked a few of bizarre questions:

"Is this bookcase coming? And all the things on it?"

No dude, that's just my hand luggage. The mind boggles.

Now, however, they were gone and all I had left was a suitcase. Tallis came back from her mad sprint and sat at my feet.

"Meow."
** Our life used to be so much cooler than this. **

I picked her up and submitted to having my face washed. Possibly she was remembering the last time our house was emptied; an event that preceded a bunch of car rides and a three hour flight up from Florida to Canada. 

"Basically," I told her. "However bad you think this is going to be...? You're out. Waaaaay out."

pergamond: ([xkcd] Canada)
"This isn't a normal amount for you to deposit, is it?"

I looked down at the bank teller's desk where the cheque for several thousand dollars was sitting. "Sadly," I replied. "No."

The teller grinned and went to find her supervisor to countersign the cheque. The second lady came over and recognised me from a previous visit where I'd moved US dollars from my Canadian bank account to my Japanese one, much to the anguish of the bank's computer system[*].

"How's the move to Japan going?" she asked.

"It's progressing," I nodded towards the cheque. "That is for the sale of my car."

In the comment part of the cheque was scrawled the note 'For sale of 2002 VW Beetle'.

"Oh we both drive bugs!" The supervising teller indicated herself and the lady serving me. "It's so funny when you see the kids punch each other when you drive past!"

.... What?

"You didn't realise? It's punch buggy! If you see a beetle, you have to punch the person next to you on the arm and call out 'punch buggy! No punch back!'."

"It's important to remember the 'no punch back' part," the other teller added. "Otherwise you just get hit back."

I opened my mouth but all I could produce was a slightly bewildered "....Oh."

Both the tellers laughed. "You've just been thinking Canadians are all extremely violent? But no, it was because of your car!"

--
[*] For some reason, it had thought that CAD or at least Yen should have been involved somewhere along the line.
pergamond: ([Bleach] Ichigo // -.-)
I was in the bar after hockey feeling that my life, frankly, rocked. With mingled horror and fascination, I was hearing of the troubles one of my team-mates was having with her soon-to-be-ex spouse. The situation was nasty: neither party was talking to the other and a judge had ruled a time-share on the kid .... and the house. The latter meant that for half the week, my friend wasn't allowed in her own home and had to couch surf around the town.

I was deeply sympathetic but could offer little apart from a potential surfing location if she ever started to seriously consider the ice rink as a bedroom. Despite us being almost the same age, I had neither kid, husband (past or present), mortgage or any form of asset that wasn't straight forwardly mine. It made my curses at indecipherable code errors seem like a picnic. The kind you have on a ridiculously sunny day where the provider of said packed lunch has remembered you don't like celery. 

In short, my life more than rocked. It was the equivalent to Rock Band 3, Lego edition, on the Playstation.

Fortunately, other members of our team had more practical advice. With bankers through to car salesmen in our ranks, we had most problems covered. They offered opinions on credit ratings while I sat there ready for anyone who had a problem with their star forming galactic clouds. (No one did, but someone is bound to next week. I mean, I can't go a day without running into these kind of issues). Somewhat alarmingly, there were also a number of people who had battled similar problems, including facing bankruptcy and custody wars.

My rocking life acquired a second keyboard.

One banker-turned-student offered his take on the situation. "You don't want to declare bankruptcy," he advised. "Or it'll be seven years before you can get a decent credit rating again. Then you'll end up like El."

WUT?!

I accidentally swallowed an ice cube and spluttered while it painstakingly melted in my gullet.

"She's got no credit," my team-mate helpfully continued. "So she has to pay the bank to get a Visa. Plus, she moves so much that it appears as though she's defected on her rent almost every year."

OH SO NOT TRUE!

... Well OK .... I did have to have a secured credit card because border control hates credit ratings crossing between countries even more than people. And yes, I had moved roughly every year since graduating in a crazy work-related globe trot but .... but .....

Fine. It was all true.

"I built up a solid credit rating in the US," I protested. "And I only move because of my job!"

"Did you explain that to the bank?"

"Yes!"

"Did it make a difference?"

".... No."

My rock band life was reduced to a microphone with a faulty battery.

I was offered an extra slice of pizza. Clearly, it was felt that I might not see another meal until our next game. I took it. 7 years as a student leaves deeply ingrained habits regarding refusal of food.

"Cheer up!" I was slapped on the back. "At least you don't have to contend with dividing a household with an ex-husband or boyfriend!"

"If you do start sharing a house though," Another team-mate lifted a finger. "Charge them rent. That way, even if you break up after years together, you can declare them a tenant and not a common-law marriage partner!"

It is quite amazing what you learn. I sincerely hope that information will be utterly useless to me in the future.

Just me

Nov. 4th, 2009 02:00 am
pergamond: (Tezuka)
There is an episode in "Sex in the City" where one of the main characters, Miranda, buys her own apartment on Manhattan. No one can believe that she is buying and living there alone and she is persistently asked about the boyfriend who is bound to be moving in there with her. Such was the situation with the movers today:

Mover: "Are you living here alone?"

Me: "Yep, just me."

Mover: "You've not got a boyfriend up here?"


Steady on, buddy, I just moved here on Friday!

Me: "No, just me."

Mover: "Well, I thought you might have a girlfriend or something."


Me: "No, just me."

Well, you know, at this point I gave him credit for open mindedness so I embellished:

Me: "I move jobs every few years, often with an associated continent change so ... a serious boyfriend would completely cramp my style"

I resisted saying the striked comment to the husband & wife moving team since it might be deemed a little harsh and they were in fact doing a great job.

However, despite the fact my cat was not judged a worthy apartment companion (they were deeply underestimating the space she can take up on the bed), I do now have furniture! And boxes! Distributed completely randomly throughout my house ... Evidently though, I have found my wireless router so all the really important stuff is in place.

Lug holes

Nov. 3rd, 2009 02:57 am
pergamond: (Eiji Inui Juice)
The Ministry of Health office in Hamilton is located on the 10th floor of a downtown office building. It is here that people can renew their health card, record a change of address or, in my case, register as a new resident to Canada.

[Short interlude to allow one big cheer for socialised health care \o/]

I entered the building and headed to the elevator with a gentleman who had obviously made this journey many many times before:

Man: These people are hopeless! If you were born here, they'll do nothing for you. Nothing.

Me: I wasn't.

Man: .... Oh. Then you'll probably be fine.

As indeed, I was.

Sim life

Nov. 1st, 2009 11:51 pm
pergamond: (Gryffindor; defeat the dark arts)
As any "The Sims" fanatic will tell you, it's not easy starting a house. Your initial 20,000 simonians are significantly depleted by the purchase of your two room abode, leaving you forced to choose between a bed and a sofa. Many of you will have chosen the sofa with the idea that your Sim can both kip (albeit poorly) and study on said device, enabling him or her to get a job. So you send your Sim off to work as a dustbin man and eventually have enough money to buy a table. Everyone claps.

This is SO my apartment at the moment. Most of my possessions are enroute in a large moving van somewhere between the alligator infested south and the bear patrolled north. I'm fortunately convinced that a desk with bite marks is artistic. With me are the two suitcases I brought to Japan and an inflatable air mattress and small duvet I had the surprising foresight to put aside before I left for the East. Sadly, said foresight did not stretch to the pump so the first night was rather ... deflated.

The cat is frankly appalled by the lack of items in the flat. She walks from one empty room to the other before climbing on the only available item (a.k.a. yours truly) and voicing her distaste. We so used to have more stuff than this...

Yesterday, I visited Ikea in the hunt for some curtain rods my landlord still needed to put up (oh yes, the neighbours are getting to know me very well!). I returned with a large multicoloured rug for the main room and a pump for my bed. If cats had hands there would have been applause.

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