Thursday, December 29, 2005

Last full day in the US

I am about to leave for my last day of work. I have been at this same company for 5 years. I will miss everyone dearly and will have very fond memories of my times there. I will be on a plane tomorrow, Friday. I still have a few things to do so good thing my flight is tomorrow and not tonight as I originally had planned. I wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year! Germany, here I come!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

3 DAYS UNTIL GERMANY!

Well, I only have three days left in America. I am excited about moving, but I'm also feeling a little sad about leaving San Francisco. It is the best city in America and I would definitely not want to live anywhere else in America. However, the time has come for me to say goodbye to the US. I am looking forward to my new life in Germany. I am just a mixed bag of emotions. My partner is now in Germany and I am already missing him. So the sooner I depart the better. I have two days left of work and will be off Friday to wrap things up. Then I am leaving on Lufthansa for my new home. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and I wish you all the best for the new year. 2006 will definitely be a new chapter in my life's book.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Blogs actually do bring people together

When I set out writing this blog, who would have ever thought I would meet in person some great people--fellow bloggers. This past Thursday, I actually met up with HeisseScheisse and her husband in San Francisco. We had some Mexican food, and I learned that the Mexican food in Germany is not the same as it is here in California, more like Spanish-food-wants-to-be-Mexican.

Jen also clued me in on some of the differences between the US and Germany. We sat and laughed about how she was in the grocery store in Germany and was waiting for her items to be bagged and how she had shown up without her own bags. So today, on my way home from Christmas shopping in Union Square, I stopped by Trader Joe's and bought two sturdy grocery bags made out of hemp or linen or some other organic fabric so that I can be well-prepared and equipped for bagging groceries myself. (By the way, I think I do like the German version better since all these Safeway plastic bags that go to waste everyday seems a bit wasteful, not to mention that bagging your own groceries speeds up the checkout a lot).

Coincidentally, Jen is from the San Francisco Bay area and met her German husband in San Francisco so it seems like we have similar stories, and I am looking forward to more meetings with her and Sparky: next time in Germany!

Of course, I want to keep all of you updated on the progress of my move, so here is a photo of what my life currently looks like:

Thursday, December 22, 2005

8 DAYS TIL GERMANY!

I only have 8 days until I depart for Duesseldorf. I am excited. I have always wanted to live in Europe and now I will be. One common question I get from friends, co-workers, family, bloggers, etc is: WHY are you moving to Germany? It seems the only time an American moves to Germany is when they are in the US military or transfer with their company. I am not a high paid business executive and I am not in the military and quite frankly anti-war, so then why Germany? Well, because the most important person in my life, my spouse/partner/domestic partner/whatever you want to call him, is German. (Gays & lesbians don't really have a good word in English for their partner. I don't like calling my partner my husband. That makes me seem like a housewife and that I am not either.) My partner wants to move back to Germany. I am especially fed up with the US government and the current administration. I believe they are all crooks and liars. Absolute power corrupts absolutely! However, I am accused of being too political and that I must agree may be true. However, I am only interested in politics because those crooks in Washington, DC are the ones that decide what is law for the rest of us. Additionally, now that every branch of the Federal government is headed by Republicans, including the idiot in the White House, the only part of the citizenry that is benefitting is the oil men, pharmecutical companies, big business, etc. The poor, elderly, students, the environment, etc is suffering...OK, OK--I am going off on a tangent about this corrupt government...Back to the main topic: I am moving to Germany to be with the love of my life. Luckily, Germany is enlightened/progressive enough to allow the immigration of same-sex partners. (or at least their system of government is more fair to minorities, woman, the poor, etc as opposed to the "Land of the Free." The German system of government is not a winner-take-all type system as here in America and in my opinion, the German system is much more democratic.)

We have not decided how long we will stay in Germany. That remains to be seen. However, at this point I do not see myself living in Germany the rest of my life. My partner would move back to the US in the future, too. So we will see. For now, I am going to embrace the German culture, learn the language, travel all over Europe---first stop: Ibiza (I've always wanted to go there), and just enjoy my new life in Germany. Now that I'm on the subject of travel....No wonder Germans travel so much...it is so much cheaper to do so! Check out this website even though it is in German only, but you will see what I mean. The flights and vacation packages are so incredibly inexpensive. Click here. Click on the tab at the top "Super Last Minute." You can visit Mallorca with the flight and hotel for only $156 Euros. Gran Canaria, Teneriffa, Montego Bay, Puerto Plata, etc...It is incredible how inexpensive it is. That's for "half pension" too. (Half pension: you get breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner--whichever option you prefer) So no wonder the Germans are known for there WANDERLUST! I guess I am already similar to the Germans because I love to travel.

So I will enjoy my last days here in San Francisco and hop on a plane in 8 days for my new home and new life in Deutschland!!! Happy Holidays everyone! By the way, we already have a furnished, one bedroom apartment that we found on the internet. My partner called the landlord and will be meeting her on Friday, December 30th to pick up the keys. (my partner is flying to Germany on the 26th, four days before I do.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Wizard of Oil


This is the best website I've seen in awhile--the Wizard of Oil! You will only understand this if you know the movie, The Wizard of Oz--a classic that most Americans grew up watching on television once a year, every year.

9 DAYS UNTIL GERMANY!

Last night we moved all of our remaining belongings out of our apartment. We now are living out of suitcases at my parnter's sister's apartment until we fly out next week. I will upload a photo of the empty apartment with just the suitcases later today. I can't believe it. It seems real now...now that our old apartment of the last four years is completely empty...I am so excited. I am looking forward to my new life in Deutschland.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

10 DAYS UNTIL GERMANY!

The countdown begins. I have 10 days until I depart for Germany.

Jen over at HeisseScheisse has asked me to do the following:

Rules: Post 5 random and weird facts about yourself, then at the end, list the names of 5 people whom you in turn infect. Also, leave a post to these people letting them know they have been infected.(I am going to keep the virus to myself)

1. I was three months premature and therefore, I am lucky to be alive now...
2. I remember when I was 8 years old and I was almost sucked out to sea. The undertoe was very strong and I was thinking--this is it...I am going to drown. Then, luckily, a large wave came up just in time and washed me back onto shore.
3. I did not get my driver's license on my first attempt. They asked me to do a three-point turn and I ended up driving off the road when I backed up because I accelerated too quickly. I was embarrassed, but luckily it was a street without curbs or any other obstructions in my way. Yes, I did get my license at the next attempt. :)
4. I believe in reincarnation.
5. I was in Berlin, Germany the day the Euro first went into circulation. I had some US dollars that I exchanged and the hotel employee exchanged them at a rate of 1 US dollar for 2 Euros. He must have been thinking of the old DM that was at the rate of 2 DM for 1 Euro. I didn't say anything and went out of the hotel onto Kurfürstendamm and went shopping with the hotel's money! (I believe it was a karmic payback for being ripped off in the past so I have no karmic debt for that transaction. )

Monday, December 19, 2005

Americans in exile

In case you didn't know, the US federal government does NOT recognize same-sex partners for immigration purposes. The US is unfair in their immigration policies and it has an adverse effect on Americans and their partners. I have recently learned of a blog written by an American in exile, living in Toronto, Canada because she wants to live with her Turkish partner. If you're interested and want to learn more about unfair US immigration laws, her blog is a great resource: Immigration Unequality

Sunday, December 18, 2005

13 days remaining

Well, I have less than two weeks remaining in the US. It has been so cold this weekend in San Francisco. I can't remember it ever being this cold. It barely got above 50 degrees and it has been raining non-stop since this morning. Oh well, that's winter time in San Francisco. I guess the temperature is going to be even lower in Duesseldorf. 13 days remaining...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More Duesseldorf photos




These arieal shots of Duesseldorf were made possible by Matt Wegener.

UPDATE: I e-mailed the photographer, Matt and he replied granting permission to use his photos. He also provided another web link to his other photo galleries and they include some great photos of Duesseldorf and the surrounding area: Check it out by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mark Morford of the SF Chronicle on sfgate.com

If you have never heard of Mark Morford or read any of his columns on www.sfgate.com you should check him out. He is hilarious! He writes as if he is channeling me or should I say my thoughts are always in sync with his. In today's column he has created Christmas cards from famous people. They are funny. You should take a look here. This one he wrote is suppose to be from Kate Moss, hilarious:

This holiday season, I love you all. But I also hate you, too. I have more money than all of you put together, yet I am miserable. But still I am gorgeous and skinny and rich, so I am very, very happy. Sort of. But then again, not. Oh my God, what am I saying? Why do I have to put up with all you people? And this drug scandal! So unfair! Rehab is for divas and porn stars and the Olsen twins. The coke wasn't even all that good, you know? Why can you not get good blow these days? Oh crap, did I just write that out loud? Dammit. Note to British tabloids: Burn in hell you bloody baboons. I shall rise again. French Vogue forever! Merry Christmas everyone! Hi Naomi!-- Kate Moss

I recommend that you check out the Archives and read some of his other columns. They're great!

Test of Word add-on

This is a test of my Word add-on that allows one to compile a post to one's blog directly from Word. I am going to use this more often if it works…

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gemany-Unraveling an Enigma

I have been reading this book titled "Germany-Unraveling an Enigma." Thanks to Chillmost for his post bringing this to my attention. I am really learning a lot about Germany and how its culture compares to the US. Moreover, why Germans are the way they are. This will prove very useful, I'm sure...One example, on page 40 the author, Greg Nees, informs the reader of Ordnung. Ordnung can be described as a sense of order that permeates the German mindset and expresses itself in all facets of German life. Example: the trains are notoriously on time. The TUV and their ambitious inspections of motor vehicles. I will have more information posted as I read more....I highly recommend this book to any one moving to Germany!

Some information on international shipping

Here is some useful information on how to select an international shipping company and what to pay attention to:

- First of all, do your homework! There are some shipping companies out there that are merely a scam and will keep your money or your belongings. The lowest-cost provider may not necessarily be the best one: one of our potential vendors turned out to be registered with the Florida Secretary of State's web site as a physical therapist. As we asked more and more probing questions regarding their public documents on the FL Secretary of State's website the shipping company representative became more and more defensive. The e-mails we received after deciding to not employ their services became more bizarre and emotional. We felt like we were dealing with a 10-year old that was feeling rejected in the school yard. It was very bizarre. Our questions were never answered truthfully, and we decided that they should be someone to stay clear of. Conversely, the most expensive provider may charge you for services you don't really need at all. Of course, it all depends on your personal circumstances and the size of your wallet and finally, the amount of items you are shipping. (We shipped approximately 25 medium and large shipping boxes purchased at our local U-haul location. You may be shipping an entire three-bedroom home full of stuff--including furniture. We did not ship any furniture.)
- If you can afford it, door-to-door shipping is the best option: the shipping company will usually do a pre-move survery in your home, give you realistic estimates, send a crew to pack all your prized possessions, provide packaging materials (which can easily approach $200!), ship your items, insure them, deliver them to your new home, and remove any and all debris.
Of course, this is labor-intensive, and with labor being expensive these days, door-to-door shipping will cost you a pretty penny.
(Sidenote: remember you will need moving boxes, bubble wrap, a dish-kit, lots of tape, etc--this all adds up suprisingly fast!)
- On the other end of the spectrum is port-to-port shipping, which is the do-it-yourself approach to international shipping. You pack, you deliver to the warehouse, the company ships, and you pick up at the destination port. Upside: this is the most economical way of shipping. Downside: you will need to do everything yourself, including itemizing all your belongings by box down to the last pair of underwear. (note: The exact itemization of the contents is necessary for the purposes of customs clearance. You will be surprised how much this slows you down and that's why we recommend that you begin packing early. You will think to yourself--well, last time we moved it took X amount of time---this time it will be much slower!)
- Somewhere in between is port-to-door (our selection): while you need to pack and drop off your boxes, you don't need to worry as much about what happens at the back end. You pay a slight premium for onward delivery in the destination country to your home/local warehouse, but it's worth it (in our opinion).

No matter which option you choose, there are a few common things:
- The prices will be quoted in cubic feet so you will need to whip out your old college calculator to determine the cubic footage of your shipment. And when you think you got it all figured out, guess again: it's not the boxes that get measured but the pallet as a whole. For example, a shipment of 25 boxes totalling 90 cubic feet can measure up to 120 cubic feet once palletized, especially if you have bulky items such as bikes or furniture.
- There are usually some incidental charges such as palletizing fees (in our case $65), bill of lading fees ($50), documentation fees ($25), all of which are payable to your company of choice.
- At the back end, you will incur destination charges, such as port charges and fees to pay an agent to take your underwear through customs. These are hard to determine in advance and vary by port. Our estimate at this point is $200 for Hamburg. You will have to pay an agent to process your items through customs unless you can be there yourself, but it is highly recommended that you hire an agent that knows the process. The shipping company will call us in Duesseldorf once the items have arrived and then you have 5 business days to pick up the items before they begin charging a storage fee.
- Insurance is always extra and is calculated as a percentage (2.5-3.0%)of the replacement value. So make sure you are compiling a good estimate of what you are shipping. Too low and you will get burned if the shipment is damaged. Too high and you overpay insurance.

General observations:
- If you choose any method that involves some do-it-yourself work, plan ahead and start early. You should start researching at least a month in advance, make contact with a shipping vendor about 2-3 weeks prior to your shipment date--maybe even 4 weeks in advance would be ideal, and start packing right away!
- Check the regulations of your destination country! Germany usually taxes all imported goods irrespective of their nature. Exception: household goods imported due to relocation to Germany. In order to make this as smooth as possible and highly recommended, you can obtain a relocation certification from the German Consulate nearest you for $20. This document serves essentially as customs pre-clearance and should speed things up quite a bit. You will need to provide documentation to the consulate proving you have lived in the US for X of years so they know you are actually relocating. This form of proof can be utility bills, credit card statements, rental leases for the apartment you've occupied the last X number of years, etc. However, I cannot stress enough to check with your local consulate for more detailed information about the regulations for importation of your household goods. You do not want to be missing a document on the other end and have to pay taxes on your personal items. You can simply pick up the phone and ask them about any regulations and/or documentation you might need in order to ship your personal effects.

A Danish village in California



On our road trip north from Los Angeles back to San Francisco we remembered this television special we saw about a Danish settlement in California off Highway 101. It is called Solvang.
Solvang, meaning "Sunny Field", was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish educators from the Midwest who were in search of a site for a Danish-type folk school. Just click on the link in this post for more information. Who would have known there was a Danish village in central California?

Some choice photos from LA trip





The first photo is obviously the star honoring Sharon Stone on Hollywood Boulevard. The second photo is a hummingbird in action in the garden at the Getty Center. Of course the third photo is Harrison Ford's imprints at the Chine Mann Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The final photo is the first photo taken after arriving at LAX. I was a little frazzled so I didn't hold the camera still.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Back in San Francisco

Well, we made it through the weekend. The weather was perfect in Los Angeles, a very warm 72 F, 22 C. We drove up the coast of California, spend the night in Carmel. Now we are back in San Francisco. This morning I met with the property manager of our apartment building to do the walk through. It went fine. Now we just have an empty apartment with some clothes. We do have the living room furniture which is being sold this weekend. So Germany, here we come!
I will take-off in 18 days...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Off to Los Angeles for the weekend

Well, we loaded our rented van last night and will be leaving in about 30 minutes to drop off all of our boxes at the warehouse for shipment. Then we will be flying to Los Angeles later this afternoon to meet and greet the parents. We will be back in San Francisco Sunday night. Until then...Have a nice weekend. Maybe I will be able to blog once or twice in LA....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Our worldy possessions

As you can see, we are now done packing. The last photo is obviously my bike in pieces. I hope I can put it back together in Germany. It is late, 23:17..time to get some sleep! Bis spaeter.



Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Shipping of our belongings

I am happy to say that we are basically done packing. We will be renting a U-haul cargo van tomorrow after work. Then we will be transporting our 25 or so moving boxes to a warehouse in South San Francisco where they will be shipped over land to Houston, Texas. We are told the items will be shipped from a port in Texas, probably Galveston, and will arrive in Hamburg, Germany about 4-6 weeks later. Then it will be shipped over land to a warehouse in Duesseldorf where I have to pick up the items again and transport those 25 boxes to our temporary apartment in Duesseldorf on Kolner Strasse. We probably won't even unpack most of the boxes because we will be moving again into more permanent housing this summer. Oh the joys of moving---overseas nonetheless.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Suggestions: Language Courses


I was hoping to receive input from everyone about which language course do you think is the best? I have signed up for SprachCaffe starting January 9, 2006 in Duesseldorf. Has anyone heard of that language institute? Any comments? Where did you study German? Where is the best place to learn? Any comments/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday walk






It is now Sunday afternoon. We woke up relatively late this morning, 9:30 AM, and ate some breakfast. Then we went on a nice long walk around the neighborhood. It is nice and sunny out today. It is still a little cold in the shade, but in the sun it is nice. You will see in the second photo a lady walking with her pet bird on her shoulder. Then we walked down Lake Street to China Beach for a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now we are home and have to finish packing today. We have to pack our bikes and that is not going to be an easy task. We have to remove the handlebars, the seat, the pedals and the front tire. Hopefully we do it correctly. Wish me luck!

Busy day

Today was a very busy day. We continued our packing and it takes a long time---longer than you would think. I am very tired. What a way to spend a Saturday night.....packing. In the end it will be definitely worth it. We also took some miscellaneous furniture items we won't be shipping to Germany to my partner's sister's apartment. (she's going to college in the US now)
This upcoming week is going to be very busy. We work three days, then on Thursday morning we will be dropping off all of our boxes at the warehouse in South San Francisco so our personal belongings can be shipped. Then later that day we fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles to meet my partner's parents' flight from Germany. We are going to show them LA and drive up the coast of California with a stopover in Carmel. Then we will attend my partner's sister's college graduation at the University of San Francisco. Then my partner and I will celebrate Christmas and we are off to Germany. Ok, time to go to bed soon....enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday!



Well, I went out yesterday and purchased my first laptop computer. I have never had one before and I am glad I did it. I bought it in the US because if I had waited until I got to Germany I would have ended up with a German keyboard and I would have never been able to type again. I purchased the Toshiba Satellite M45-S269. I will now be able blog while drinking a beer or coffee in the cafe. It's going to be great! Have a nice weekend everyone!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

South Africa legalizes gay marriage

South Africa is now the fifth country in the world to legalize gay marriage!
Wake up America!!
Countries that allow their citizens to sponsor their same-sex partner for immigration:Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the UK.
Support World AIDS Day

Countdown to Germany!

Well, everyone, as you know today it is officially December! I now have exactly 29 days until I depart on Lufthansa from SFO bound for my new home--Germany. I still seems like I have so much left to do. Dissolving your entire household is not as easy as one would imagine. I have to admit, I am having seperation anxiety about selling my High-Definition Television. I guess I am your typical American and enjoy watching television, especially in high definition. The picture quality is so incredible it seems as if you were looking out the window. Any way, enough about my TV addiction. I will break this addiction by my move to Germany. I will have to study German and won't have time to waste by sitting in front of the TV like a zombie. My next task is on which laptop computer to buy. Any one have any suggestions? Should I buy it in Germany or go ahead and buy it in America in the next 29 days I have left? More later...