Thursday, August 30, 2012

The process of packing

All 7 of our checked bags - ready to roll!
Yes, packing is a process.  And today we pushed through that process of trying to fit everything we own into suitcases, rolling duffel bags and backpacks to bring with us to China.  And I realized just how glad I was that four bags are already there (when we went in April, we fortunately had the foresight to bring extra bags with us and leave them, best idea ever). We're not quite done - still have several carry ons to pack and a bag that a friend will bring us in November, but we're getting there.  Going to live overseas warrants a hard look at what you will bring.  Many things we can get in China, some we can't and some things even if we can get them are expensive to replace.  All this has to be carefully considered when choosing which items to bring and which to leave behind.  

Here are a few things that made their way into our luggage:
- Spices (taco seasoning, Johnny's and cinnamon just to name a few)
- High quality kitchen utensils (silverware, good spatulas)
- A few fun, decorative things that make us feel at home
- Flashlights
- Sound bar and subwoofer for a TV (one of those things that would be more expensive to replace)
- Computer & monitor
- Medicine including Dayquil, Nyquil, sudafed, benadryl, mucinex...basically, we are now a walking pharmacy!
- Frying pans
- KitchenAid stand mixer (not coming until November)
- Lots of thank you cards & blank note cards
- Photos of our friends including year's past Christmas cards to hang up during the holidays
- Coffee
- Bike locks (Kryptonite's 10 out of 10, highest quality lock - the New York Fahgettaboudit Mini)
- Helmets (for a gas powered scooter)
- Sharpies
- Electronics, a lot of electronics
- A few books (we brought one whole 50 lb bag of books in April so most of ours are already over there)
- A quilt my sister made us
- Down comforter and cover
- Pillows (yes, the Hubby can't go anywhere without his own pillows!)
And lots of clothes, shoes, jackets, sweaters and such.  Not to mention only three bags are almost 70lbs, the other four are right below 50lbs.  Um, that's a lot of stuff!

Let's just say our bags are packed and we're [almost] ready to go!   

Monday, August 20, 2012

We have plane tickets!

Yes, we finally were able to buy plane tickets after securing the paperwork for the Hubby's visa.  September 1st is the day.  Everyone keeps asking if we are ready.  Are we packed?  Um, not quite...but we have two bags packed!  We also have a long list of stuff left to buy.  But on the emotional side we are ready.  When you decide two years ago that you want to move your life overseas, when the time finally comes you are ready.  We are ready to move in and get settled, ready to get back to a semblance of a schedule in our daily lives and ready to explore and have adventures.  

September 1st - here we come!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I Heart Faces - Pet Faces Photo Challenge

I have been wanting to post about our short-lived phase as bunny pet owners for awhile now and finally have the motivation to do so!  I Heart Faces is having their Pet Faces Photo Challenge this month and I'm all in because this little guy is so stinkin' cute.  I haven't entered one of their contests for awhile because in the process of transitioning to China, well, we just don't take as many pictures as we used to!  However, a few weeks ago we got to have this little guy around for a few days and I snagged a quick photo shoot.  Hop on over to I Heart Faces (pun completely intended) for more great entries and scroll below for the full scoop on how we ended up with this little hopper. 

How did that little guy hop into our lives?  Well, we currently live with my parents (as we transition) and they live in the middle of a vineyard.  Lots of bunnies live in this vineyard - cute little cottontails!  My family has three dogs, one of which loves to find things that move and eat them (yes, I said that correctly).  The Hubby & I were, fortunately, outside when she brought a tiny little bunny into the yard.  She was trying to play with it, but as the bunny didn't even have its eyes open yet it was useless at entertaining her.  Once we realized what she had, we nabbed him.  And thus became the beginning of our short-term stint as bunny raisers (or, more correctly, my sister's stint as bunny mama).

The sad fact is wild bunnies do not do well in captivity.  Unfortunately, we were unable to find someone who knew enough about how to take care of a wild bunny to take him.  We got goat's milk You think he's cute in the picture?  You should've seen him eat, man was he adorable!  And after he was able to open his eyes he would hop around, lose his balance, hop some was awesome.    Hindsight is always 20/20, and had we done more research when we first got him we would've done things differently.  He only lasted five days.  After reading online, my sister learned that almost all wild bunnies die in the care of people within two days.  Their immune systems can't handle the germs and the stress of not having mom around adds up to the lack of success in captivity.  The best case scenario would've been to find a wild animal rescue and rehabilitation center who could take him in.  However, the only ones in our area just take birds. 

So there you go.  I keep telling myself that letting the dog leave him in the yard out of disinterest (or worse, eat him), would've been worse.  Dogs will be dogs and they like to chase things and eat mice and gophers, but we couldn't let her eat a baby bunny!  

Transition Post Part I: Leaving Pets Behind

One of the hardest decisions we have made to date is whether or not to bring our dog, Coco.  We actually had two dogs, a Golden Retriever named Nala & Coco, a black lab mix.  We didn't consider it an option to us to bring both, and out of the two Nala had more health concerns and loved people a little too much for your typical Chinese.  We love our dogs, but we didn't want our Chinese friends to not want to come visit because our dog would maul them with love at the door (which is Nala's forte).  We easily found a great home for Nala and we know she is happy and healthy and with the perfect family.

Coco is a different story.  At first (back in January), we thought we would bring her.  Many people who move overseas bring their pets.  Since it's not uncommon, we figured it would be possible and didn't really look into the different options or cost.  In March we started doing some research.  Apparently, many people who bring their pets with them when they move overseas pay a lot of money for it.  To bring a pet yourself actually doesn't cost that much.  However, you have to fly with an airline that will allow you to bring your pet as "checked luggage", which has restrictions on what time of year you can travel.  Also, in China, when you land at the airport, you have to take your pet through customs and transfer them to a quarantine facility.  From what we read it's doable, but definitely a hassle.  Basically, you have to really know what you are doing.  Also, we are looking to fly in the summer which rules out most airlines for bringing your pet as checked baggage - it's just too hot.

Coco just being herself - a little weird
So, we started looking into other options.  The option that seems to be the most widely used is to hire a pet travel company which specializes in transporting pets around the world.  Sounds awesome, right?  They tell you what paperwork you need, how to prepare your pet for travel, take them to the airport, put them on a special "cargo" plane, have their representatives meet your pet at each layover and the final destination, take your pet through customs & the quarantine process and basically deliver them to your door in your new home.  The catch?  It's expensive.  We're talking $5,000 expensive.  Yikes!  We do not have that kind of money to bring our dog with us.  We definitely weren't planning on it and hadn't budgeted for it, plus that's a little steep for us to justify bringing her.  Don't get me wrong, we totally respect people who pay that.  But I'm going to go out on a limb and assume most people are maybe working for a company who pays it for them (as a moving expense) or they were better prepared than us and actually budgeted for the cost.

In light of the $5,000, hassle-free price tag, we processed through all our options.  One that we did consider was an option at about $3,000 where we still use a company for once we land in China but we put her on a cargo flight ourselves (kind of an in-between the other two).  However, we just didn't see it fitting well with our timing or our budget.  All in all, in the end we decided that as much as we love Coco, it just wasn't going to work out to bring her.  It was really sad to come to the realization that Coco wouldn't be coming with us.  We had really hoped to bring her, to take a piece of home with us.  It was a hard call, but a necessary one.

Nala with her favorite toy - a tennis ball
Fast forward past our road trip and we came back home thinking that we possibly had a new home for her.  My aunt & uncle had been watching her and she was livin' life on the farm chasing things and playing outside, basically every dog's dream...however, this wasn't exactly Coco's dream.  As much as she loves to be outdoors, she loves to be indoors even more and it wasn't fitting with her new "farm dog" lifestyle. So, back to square one!  It was really stressing me out to have her back with us at my parents' house.  They already have three dogs & adding Coco to the mix was just a little bit too much.  One desperate email later and the clouds parted, angels sang and the perfect home was found!  A family adopted her who had been looking for a dog for a few months now.  It is the perfect fit as she gets to be indoors most of the day, go for walks and play outside with their six year old son.  I'm also pretty sure she sleeps on the bed. :-)  

The silver lining of saying goodbye to our pets is knowing they have great homes.  There are many things about transitioning to life overseas that makes leaving hard.  Selling all our worldly things was, in part, freeing.  Having to adopt out our two dogs we had for several years, not so much.  Knowing that they are each in a family who loves them and is spoiling them rotten as I type this is a blessing.  And the Hubby?  He's already talking about what kind of dog he would like to adopt in China.  I say, let's give ourselves a few months before jumping back on the pet-ownership wagon.  But those adorable little fluff balls in the pet market?  They are really cute...