Saturday, April 2, 2011

How We Got Here

As we embark on a new adventure, it's time to start a new blog -- one that will likely be more wide-ranging and long-lasting than my previous contributions to the blogosphere.  We are excited to be living overseas for the next 3 years and are looking forward to exploring the UK, Europe, and other parts of the world that are now more easily accessible.  This blog will keep our friends and family back home up to date on our travels as well as our attempts to adapt to our new home and make a life for ourselves here.  It could be thrilling, or comical -- or more likely a mixture of the two.  Let's just hope it doesn't end up being incredibly boring!

So, why are we in London?  Let's get that big question out of the way.  The backstory goes back several months, but I'll try to sum up as best I can...

It all started in July 2010, when Josh, who was working as an international trade lawyer at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in DC, got a call from a recruiter in London asking if he would be interested in an in-house position at BAE Systems, one of the world's largest defense (or as they spell it here, defence) contractors.  Apparently, they'd been paying some hefty fines for not complying with US international trade regulations and needed an expert in that field to help keep them out of trouble.  This was a HUGE career opportunity for Josh, so after much discussion amongst ourselves, he agreed to an interview.  That turned into a series of interviews, phone meetings, and Skype sessions interspersed with lengthy waits in between.  Finally, around Thanksgiving, he was offered the job.

BAE flew us out to England in early December (in "Upper Class" on Virgin Atlantic!), and put us up at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hampshire.  It was a lovely hotel, but it was literally in the middle of nowhere, so they helpfully rented us a car, which was waiting for us when we checked in.  Josh was a little daunted by the idea of having to drive on the other side of the road, but since he had several meetings scheduled at BAE headquarters in Farnborough, about 20 minutes away, he didn't have much choice.  At least it was an automatic, and a BMW -- and came with a portable GPS.
Josh LOVED our 'hire car'
We ventured out a few times to explore some neighboring towns where we might consider living, including Farnham, Guildford, and Dorking.   They were all very cute and quaint, but after talking to several people and giving it more thought, we decided we'd probably be happier living in London, and having Josh do the reverse commute out to Farnborough by train. 

We took the train into the city a couple times to see the sights and check out the neighborhoods around the Clapham Junction station, where Josh could catch an express train to Farnborough.  Since it was December, there were lavish Christmas decorations everywhere, including some amazing department store windows:

We also splurged on some last-minute half-price tickets (they have a TKTS booth, just like in NY) and saw a show:
We also had a nice dinner with Josh's new boss, Mark, and his wife.  Overall, the trip was a nice mix of business and pleasure, and Josh made significant progress in negotiating the details of his contract. 

... Which was good, because we were out of commission for the next several weeks.  Having been unexpectedly, but ultimately somewhat fortuitously, laid off from my job at Discovery, I had just one week after we returned from the UK to tie up everything at work, say goodbye to all the friends I'd made there over the past 12+ years, and clean out my desk.   That was pretty rough.  Then we flew out to California to spend Christmas with my family at a beach house in Bodega Bay, where we feasted on a Christmas Eve dinner of Zachary's Pizza:
Mmmm...  Better than turkey!
On Jan 1, we took Amtrak's Coast Starlight train up to Seattle so that Josh could donate a kidney to his older brother, Ben, on Jan 5.  You can read all about that month-long chapter in our lives in my previous blog.

We returned home at the end of January, and while Josh continued his recovery from surgery and wrapped things up at his job, we started preparing for the move to London.  We had to rent out our house, sell our car, get all our finances in order, file our taxes, and sort through everything we owned to decide whether to store, donate, or take it with us to London.  We also tried to plan get-togethers with various friends and family, and slipped away for a 5-day vacation in Curacao to celebrate my birthday and Josh's one free week between his old job and new one.
Post-pedicure birthday on the beach
In early March, we flew to San Francisco to attend a memorial service for Josh's uncle, Steve Geiger, who passed away suddenly in January, just a few weeks after we had visited him at Christmastime.  Josh and I were very fond of him -- and his family -- so we felt we really had to be there.  It was a very sad weekend, but we were glad we were able to go.  Then we flew directly from San Francisco to London to look for a place to live.  (In "Upper Class" again, courtesy of BAE).

This time they put us up in a 1-bedroom suite overlooking the Thames near the Vauxhall tube station:
Despite the nice view, it wasn't the greatest location -- there wasn't much nearby -- but it had a little kitchen, so we hiked to the nearest Sainsbury's and stocked up on groceries so we could cook some of our own meals.  We spent two days with a relocation agent looking at rental properties in Clapham and Wimbledon.  After spending a couple evenings walking around both areas, we decided we liked Wimbledon much better than Clapham, even though it was a bit less convenient for Josh's commute. 

Of the places we saw in Wimbledon, we liked this house on Florence Road the best.  In addition to being conveniently located near the center of town, it had been recently remodeled and had a big, open kitchen and a decent-sized yard.

Although we would have preferred spending more time looking for a place, we decided we'd rather have the peace of mind of having a place to live before we moved to London for good.  After we got home, we contacted the relocation company to set things in motion to secure a lease, which seemed to involve an alarming quantity of paperwork and fees.  The house isn't available until May 3, but our belongings won't be arriving in the UK until late April, so that works out pretty well.  BAE is putting us up in a furnished apartment for our first month, so we just needed to set aside enough clothes, shoes, and other necessities to take with us on the plane.

Our two and a half remaining weeks were an exhausting marathon of packing, paperwork, and social gatherings -- complicated by both of us coming down with colds halfway through.   The movers came on March 24 to pack up everything we wanted to ship overseas.  They arrived at the same time as the Sears repairman, who managed to fix our washing machine after the agitator stopped working at the 11th hour.  Josh and I were both feeling pretty miserable, so we camped out on the sofa and tried to stay out of the way while the movers did their thing.  They probably ended up packing a few things we didn't intend to take with us, so there may be a few surprises when our things arrive...

The movers came back on the 25th with a shipping container and loaded it with 92 boxes of our stuff.  What took them all day to pack, only took about 2 hours to load up.
 They let Josh do the honors of sealing up the container, and obligingly posed for a photo before driving off with most of our worldly possessions.
On Saturday, our friends threw a great going-away party for us at the Hard Times Cafe, just up the street from our house.  About 40 friends, relatives, and neighbors attended, including my friend Esther (whom I've known since age 9), who flew out from California just for the day.
My two bridesmaids: Margie (my college roommate) and Esther (friend since 4th grade)
Our friends Rob and Diana presented us with British Starter Kits.  Josh's included a Sherlock Holmes costume, which made him look alarmingly like his father, thanks to the mustache, and mine contained a princess tiara and wand.

It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many of our loved ones, and very hard to say goodbye to all of them!  We are extremely grateful for all the help and support we received from everyone during our last few weeks -- and even after we left.

We departed for London on Wednesday, March 30.  Since BAE once again bought our tickets for us, we got to enjoy one more trip in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, which includes a ride to the airport.   A giant black SUV showed up at 3 pm, and we loaded all our luggage into it.  One of the other perks of Upper Class is they let you check 3 pieces of luggage each free of charge, so we had a huge duffel bag, 2 big suitcases, 2 small suitcases, 2 carry-on totes, and Josh's bike packed into a box.  Miraculously, it all fit into the back of the SUV.  I took one last shot of our house (sniff) before we left...


  1. That Seven Year Itch Santa dept. store window is VERY distressing. However, the other windows make me want to come visit YOU for Christmas!

  2. Wow your life is such a whirlwind! Moving to another country, I know it was a lot of work but you make it look so effortless. You guys are super lucky now that all the essentials are in place!


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