An American Couple in Delft
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Letter from Holland

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 didn’t 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 didn’t fit into four suitcases (the limit that USAir allows for two people) we would ship ourselves.

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 we’ll 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 I’m 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 won’t know all of them, but they know who they are and it’s important to Lynn and me that we acknowledge them.

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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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. I’ll 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 Lynn’s colleague, Megan Young. Megan took responsibility of our things to ship them when and where we need them. We know they’re 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 home.

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 brother’s boss, Rudy Lucente, volunteered to sell our car for us. He said he’s sold lots of cars and all he wanted was a signed, notarized title and a deposit slip to mail to the bank. Rudy’s 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 Rudy’s, 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. Judy’s 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 can’t 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 wasn’t until the following Friday so we had a week with nowhere to go. We still had things that were unpacked and we didn’t know yet what we were going to do with it all. Had we been forced into going to a hotel, we and our things wouldn’t 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 didn’t have to go out for every meal. Judy’s 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.


2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008