Monday, November 20, 2006

Letter to Customs via Moving Company

Mr. Monfils,

I am writing to request reconsideration of the customs officials, to release our goods.

The officials searched through our belongings for 5 hours at a very high cost and found two items that should be taxed:
- cold cereal in unopened boxes (my wife generally buys cereal ahead of time whenever it is on sale, so we always have a stock of 20 boxes or so on hand)
- new children's clothing (these items were gifts that we received from friends in May for our newborn son who was at that time not yet born - he was born 31 Aug 2006. Or, clothes that my wife bought last spring for this winter)

Both items are a normal part of taking care of a family with five children.

If we should be taxed, then tax us, but release our goods so that our family can live in our house with our goods. As of the 29th of of November we will be living in a house that is completely empty and we will be sleeping on the floor. Additionally, we will be living with no pots, pans, plates, glasses, beds, blankets, etc.

Please note to customs officials, that this extreme inconvenience for two items, comes after six months of living without our household goods - because, it should be noted, that we moved out of our house in the USA at the end of May/beginning of June - just about six months ago. We moved out of our house at that time because we were originally planning on moving this summer, but did not because the German health insurance companies said that due to my wife's "pre-existing condition" of being pregnant she would not be accepted by a health insurance company and therefore would have to pay for the entire cost of the pregnancy. We stayed in the US until our son was born.

But that does not change the fact that in May/June, my wife and children moved across the country to Utah to live with my In-laws and I moved in with friends in Wisconsin, and our household goods moved into storage. So for just about six months now our goods have been in storage in Wisconsin, or in storage on a ship, or in storage in the Netherlands. So, technically speaking everything we own has been in our possession for at least six months. Nothing that we own is new anymore, because even if it was new when we packed our household in May/June (like the gifts of baby clothing), it is no longer new, we have owned it now for at least six months.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Quick Update After 7 Weeks

Here is a quick update on our lives here in Germany. There is so much to tell of course and so little time. It seems that a year or so has passed since we left the United States, and we've only been here about seven weeks (since 22nd of September). Without internet access at our house, we are somewhat limited in communication. All the emails you have sent have been appreciated though. I've shared them with my wife and kids and it has been nice.

The first big update is that we have found a permanent house!!!
The house is extremely nice - there is a yard in the back with an apple tree with great apples and there is a large patio. It is a Row house or Townhouse and the couple who owns the house and will rent to us are very nice people and have been wonderful to work with.

The wife said she was a bit nervous to take on a family with 5 children and it required a lot of courage on her part. Because, for instance, if we, or our children, cause problems in the neighborhood, the neighbors complain to her and she must take on that responsibility. She was not sure she was making the right choice until she found out that we are Mormons. Then she felt at ease with her decision. She said that Mormons generally work hard to raise good children and are upstanding people. The wife was an exchange student in Southern California and was very good friends with a Mormon family there. I guess we came with good references. That was a huge blessing for us.

The house is in a little village called Ratingen-Homberg, which is just north of Düsseldorf. The children can walk to school for the next two or three years and I can take a bus/train to work. There are many farms in that area - even some cows like back in Wisconsin, but we are not too far from the cities of Ratingen and Düsseldorf, which have shopping, groceries, etc.

I have been assigned to a project at work. I am working at a company called Tele2 (Swedish, with business in several EU countries, including germany). They are a phone company that is working on some adding some internet offerings. I am testing software that will support ordering the new internet products in Germany. Since the development and much of the project management/coordination takes place in Sweden, I have travelled to Sweden once already. I may go again, but infrequently if at all. I was there for two nights and it was pretty weird at the end of the trip to say to myself - "I'm now going home to Düsseldorf, Germany."

The kids (Shantal & Spencer) have been placed in a grade school down the street from our current apartment in Düsseldorf-Derendorf. The school had limited space and so both children were placed in the same class together - 2nd grade with Mrs. Lehnen. Normally Shantal is in the 3rd grade and Spencer is in the 2nd grade. This has worked out for a good start to their German schooling and their German language experience. Tonight for instance the kids just kept speaking German to me all night. It's still quite a shock. I still think their German will be better than mine in about six months, at least regarding their accent, and ability to speak freely, etc.

We will move out of our furnished apartment in Düsseldorf at the end of November (lease ends then). We can move into our new unfurnished house in Ratingen-Homberg as of the 15th of November. We hope that the Customs Officials in the Netherlands have blessed our furniture and allowed it to pass through customs by the 30th of November so that we will have furniture once we move in. Otherwise we will have to sleep on air mattresses and borrow some dishes.

Our adventure continues in many ways. We must transfer the kids to the new school in Homberg, look for a pre-school for Hannah, find several items for the new house, lights, throw rugs, and most importantly - electric appliances - especially the big ones as it is not practical to bring over the 110W appliances from america. The owners were kind enough to provide a fridge and dishwasher and the house had a stove and and several closets, but there are several items still on the list. Not to mention that work is a bit busy right now ramping up to testing, so my days are long and not too flexible there. We'll just have to keep going for now.

The little kids are doing well too. They are pretty happy with very little. Food, sleep, clean daipers, and love. Emma likes to run around a bit of course and loves being outside - Ian doesn't run much yet. He smiles a lot though and it's amazing how great you feel when he smiles at you. Your wouldn't think that someone smiling at you with slobber and spitup running down their face would move you so much, but it does.

And of course, Tamara is amazing. She has continued to coordinate things very well here. We have a schedule and the kids get their homework done everynight, and laundry gets done, and we are all eating. It's phenomenal really.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Goods Cleared Customs

Dear Mr. Wheeler,

This morning customs did a further inspection of your shipment and they found some more food products and some additional new clothing.

Fortunately it was not the same team as last Thursday and though they had instructions to unpack and check the rest of the cartons for new items and food products and report these as such, I have explained them your situation and eventually they agreed with me that the food and new clothing items were not present in such a large quantity that it could not have come from a normal stock from your kitchen or would be considered as commercial as far as the clothing is concerned.

I expect that your shipment will be released by the end of the week and would like to deliver your shipment next week.

In the meantime can you inform me about the delivery situation and access to your house.

Is this a house or an apartment and can we park in front of the building with a truck
If it is an apartment, please advise the floor (ground, 1st, 2nd etc)
Can you also let me know the approximate walking distance between the truck and the front door

Best regards,
Jaco ter Veen