Lots of developments in the past few weeks. Note: Long post! TL;DR: We moved to Bucharest. Had quite an experience getting out of the US and a relatively pleasant experience upon arrival in Bucharest. Transitioning slowly due to the heat.
We moved out of our home in Forest Park on the 29th and placed all of our things in storage. The move was tedious and more expensive than originally budgeted. The movers we hired arrived in the mid-afternoon and were already tired from a morning move. They were moving as slow as molasses and both Carl and I started moving boxes to help pick up the pace. Carl also helped them move items once at the storage unit. Since we paid them hourly and they were taking FOREVER, we figured this was the only way were going to finish the move in a decent timeframe. Then, once we got to the storage unit, it was very clear than unless we wanted to stack boxes on top of our antiques, that we chose too small of a unit. With less than 15 minutes until the office closed for the weekend, Carl had to make a split second decision to upgrade us to a larger unit. Of course that upgrade increased the cost and more or less doubled what we were originally going to pay. We had no idea how much crap we’ve accumulated in the past 2 years. In sum, our move was twice what we estimated as well as our storage costs for the year. Seems about right when talking to others but it still does not make our financial situation any easier.
We left for Bucharest on Monday, July 31st from Chicago at 4pm. The total travel time was close to 24 hours and, understandably, we were very tired by the time we arrived. We expected checking all of our bags – 4 large duffles as well as our backpacks and Isaac’s carseat and stroller were going to be difficult. That was a correct assessment. Additionally, checking Jethro as excess baggage and having all of his paperwork from the USDA cleared by the airline and a vet within the EU just added even more complexity.
Our friend KC helped us to the airport. I’m not sure how we would have survived the move (she gave us a ton of sturdy boxes as well as a tape gun) and helped us transport Jethro in his crate to the airport. KC played a vital role in this operation and we are immensely grateful. Thank you, KC!! KC’s car is big enough that it could fit Jethro, his crate and (what were supposed to be) our carry-on bags. We ordered an XL Uber to take the rest of the things to the airport. Upon arrival at the airport, we had to wait quite some time in line for KLM to weigh and check all of our bags. Then, the attendant also had to clear Jethro and his crate for travel. I kept him outside of the crate while we were in the airport so that he’d be less freaked out. In total, we had to pay an extra $685 for our bags- $400 for Jethro (expected) and the rest were charges for our carry-ons (not expected). KLM has a strict policy that your carry-on cannot weigh more than 26 pounds. Our carry-ons (for all three of us) were most of our clothes and they definitely all weighed more than 26 pounds. So we had to pay for each bag separately
We gave Jethro CBD oil prior to flying to help ease his anxiety with the whole affair. CBD oil is a version of marijuana that is given to cancer patients and people with a number of other ailments. It’s used often in dogs to help with anxiety and arthritis problems. We purchased it at the pet store—nothing shady! Though, yes, we got Jethro stoned prior to flying. I called the owner of the company that makes this particular oil called Pet Relief, and he told me that for the flight that we should double the dose that we would normally give him. The idea is that no one ever OD’s from marijuana since it doesn’t affect your breathing. So we did that with Jethro and he was the most calm we’ve ever seen. He was laying on the floor waiting for the whole check in process to complete. Nothing phased him. After quite some time, I was given the okay to bring him out to the Pet Relief area at the airport because he was about to be crated for about 10 hours. I walked him to the elevators, waited a little bit since it was a busy time of day, found the pet area and walked back into the airport to go back to the KLM check-in counter. At this point, a cop approached me and said, “Ma’am, you have been out with your dog for 45 minutes!” I scrunched up my face, and said, “No, I haven’t. We were outside for 2-3 minutes. Tops. What do you mean?” And he kept repeating louder and louder that we were out for 45 minutes. “Ma’am, I saw you. You were out for 45 minutes!!” I had no idea what was happening and why he was yelling at me so sternly. I told him we were on our way back upstairs so that Jethro could get placed in his crate and get transported to the loading dock. That’s when the cop finally told me that he was upset that we had Jethro “out of his crate” for 45 minutes and that he didn’t like it because they have working dogs at the airport. I apologized and told him that we were following with what KLM told us to do, and would have no information other than what the airline told us to do. Apparently, we were supposed to leave him in his crate the whole time. Who knew? The reason why I bring this up is because I made no less than 30 phone calls to the airline as well as to the airport and an animal transportation expert to find out procedures for Jethro while at the airport. The procedures are not listed online and the airline customer service was no help either because the procedures are different for each airport. Then, like a cop, he told me to “calm down” because he just wanted to tell me to bring Jethro back upstairs and get him in his crate. You know, like what I was doing, until he stopped me to yell at me for being out for 45 minutes. Thanks, Chicago. I’ll miss you too. Your police are so well trained and helpful. Meanwhile, because Jethro was so stoned he was laying on the ground sleeping through all of this. Such a threat!
After all of that headache, we made our way through security and to the plane. KLM really hooked us up on the flight from Chicago to Amsterdam. They gave us the bulkhead and since the plane was relatively empty, we got the whole row to ourselves. They also gave us a bassinet for Isaac to sleep in. He only slept for 2 hours or so, but it was much longer than he’s done in the past. Because we had our own row, we were able to stretch out a bit. Isaac also had his own seat, so that was nice. The flight attendants were so nice to us on the flight. One flight attendant, Kathleen, found out that we were moving to Bucharest and she wrote us a personal note wishing us well on our new adventure. How sweet is that?
Because of Jethro, we were required to have a minimum of a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam to have his paperwork cleared for the EU. There were no 4 hour layovers for us, so we chose a 7 hour layover instead. It was also the middle of the night for us, so we checked into an hourly hotel called yotel in the airport. That way we could at least rest for a little while and we were also hoping that Isaac could get some sleep. He was so amped up from the changing scenery, that I literally had to restrain him until he fell asleep. Once he was out, he slept like a log. Phew!
Our flight from Amsterdam to Bucharest was uneventful. Isaac, Carl and I slept for most of it. Once we landed, I was overly nervous about collecting Jethro. It took about 20-30 minutes for him to arrive at the oversized baggage claim. He was really hot and very nervous when we got him. His crate was also closed with zip ties so I had to run around looking for scissors so that he we could let him out. Carl’s firm, PwC, sent a driver with a large van to pick us all up at the airport. The driver was waiting for us and helped us with all of our bags. It was quite an operation to transport all of our bags, Isaac and Jethro to the van!
It’s hotter than the surface of the sun in Bucharest—we’re going through a heatwave with the rest of Europe appropriately dubbed, “Lucifer” so we were all hot, sweaty and cranky upon arrival. PwC also sent one of their HR reps to meet us at our apartment and give us our signed lease as well as they key to our apartment. We are also immensely grateful with how good they’ve been to us!
Aside from some crazy sleep schedules- it was harder for Jethro and Isaac to adjust to the time change than us- we all seem to be transitioning well. So far we have opened a Romanian bank account (no small fete), got Romanian Sim cards for our phones, and made an Ikea run apartment things. Our apartment is furnished, but with the bare essentials. We needed sheets, towels, and extra appliances for the kitchen. We also left all of Isaac’s toys at home, so we needed to buy some toys for him. He’s beyond bored since we can’t go outside much due to the heat (it’s over 100 each day). Hopefully, the heat will ease soon and we can start enjoying Bucharest more!
Our apartment is really nice. We live in a very posh area of the city called Herastrau Park– a portion of the city where there is quite a bit of wealth. We do feel like the poor kids on the block, though, particularly because our building is chock full of BMW’s, Mercedes, Bentleys, and one neighbor even has a Lamborghini. However, we are loving the park and are there several times a day. The park is very large and reminds me of my runs along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia. The restaurants double as clubs at night and there are several large playgrounds, an amusement park, a pirate ship thing (!!), an area with exotic birds and a dog park (not high enough fences for me to feel comfortable bringing Jethro). Our landlord is also super nice and has been out to help us a number of times already. We’re very happy to have made such nice contacts already! The facebook groups for expats in Bucharest seem to have several trolls on them, so we are avoiding them for now. We’re looking forward to September when most folks are back from their holiday and we can begin making friends.
I am writing a separate blog post about marketing related observations. I have to find out more before I write a post. Though, one interesting observation is that the folks here seem to be very concerned about the grey market. Every time we purchase something that has a warranty, the store has to stamp and verify the purchase as well as provide us some special paperwork. I’m assuming it’s to counter grey market activities, but I might be wrong. I have to investigate this a bit more before I comment on it. We also miss Amazon more than words can express. We got so used to 2-day shipping as well as the depth of product choices, that it’s hard to go back in time to pre-Amazon!
Until then, we are considering escaping the heat with the rest of the country and staying at an AirBnB in Brasov for a few days. Neither of us have any ties to Bucharest for now, and it will be nice to go outside during daylight. It’s very boring staying indoors all day long! We’ll keep you posted! Pictures coming soon, too. Our internet is down and I cannot transfer the pics from my phone to the computer.