Friday, September 14, 2012

Sea shipment arrives!

Finally, the day arrives! Our sea shipment is here....after 3 long months!! In Peoria, the movers arrived on 11th June, and the truck was loaded on 15th June. We were scheduled to fly on 20th June. As it happened, the paperwork for our visa did not go through in time and we had to delay our departure by a month. So there we were, in this big, empty house - we had a king sized mattress and a table with 3 chairs, and nothing more really! But we were near the park, so Manasi could still play with her friends - and we didn't have to move our pets for such a short time. Besides, it is a lot easier to take care of a house when there's nothing in it - so lots of free time for me!!

Things were a lot better on the China end - the house was reasonably well-furnished, and the landlord agreed to let us use his furniture until our shipment arrived! This led to a small logistics problem - the landlord's furniture had to be moved out, but we had to time it such that we didn't have to spend even a single night without furniture! In the end, it all worked out with clockwork precision. The landlord arrived 8am on Monday, and proceeded to shift his furniture. It took about a couple of hours, and then, as if on cue, our truck showed up!! One thing to be mentioned...almost everyone here in China is amazingly punctual. The driver, the maid, all the other service people - they all come at the time they're expected. Unlike Chennai, where 'Yes ma'am, don't worry ma'am, today at 4pm ma'am' could mean anywhere from tomorrow to next month to never!

The Allied movers who came with our truck were also lot more professional than what I was expecting. I'd heard horror stories of boxes being tossed carelessly, knives slashing furniture along with the wrappings, and other general carelessness! I'm glad to report that nothing of that sort happened! The supervisor numbered all the rooms, and then set up a chart at the entrance, with the number and name of the room - making it easier for me to direct the non-English speaking movers. There were about 8 people, so things moved along pretty quickly! They manged to bring in all the boxes, and even assemble most of the furniture by the end of the day. The crew returned the next day, finished unpacking all the boxes - they even had time to assemble our gazebo!

Of course, when you move so much furniture overseas, there is bound to be some damage! The best option would be to keep your really good furniture in storage, and not subject it to the hazards of shipping! For us, with no permanent place to call home, there is no way out but to ship everything, and then hope for the best! My biggest worry was when we moved from Chennai - not only had we bought some expensive furniture in India, my confidence in the abilities of Indian packers was not too high! However, they did such an excellent job, that I was sorry I had under-estimated them so badly! All my furniture came through with nary a scratch!

Surprisingly enough, it was with the US movers packing our furniture this time, that we had a really bad experience. They were seriously under-staffed, only 2 people showed up for the first 4 days. And then, it was different people every day! So I ended up giving instructions on what to pack and what to leave behind almost every day - with the result that a lot of stuff we wanted to give away was anyway packed into the shipment! And I wouldn't be surprised to hear that someone at Allied had run a Six Sigma initiative on cost-cutting - the packers were so, so stingy with the packing material! I was practically begging them to add one more layer of cardboard onto my china cabinet! I was a nervous wreck by the time they loaded the truck, totally convinced that half my stuff was going to end up in pieces!

Predictably, almost all our furniture is badly scuffed. The low point was when a mover walked into the house holding a broken chair leg - one of my dining room chairs, the leg snapped off! I almost hit the roof!! And the china cabinet that I had nagged the packers to wrap more securely? Fortunately, no structural damages, but the shelves inside the cabinet are missing. Three solid wood shelves. Disappeared. Into thin air. Unbelievable! The supervisor here was very apologetic, taking pictures of all the damage, reassuring us that insurance will pay for it. At the end of the day, what can you do? What's broken is broken. Insurance money certainly can't replace everything. So let go and move on. It is just a chair, after all!

Anyway, the movers left, and I had this huge mess on my hands. Clothes, towels, linen, quilts, toys, books - all over the house - enough to drive the sanest person crazy! The worst is the kitchen - I have next to none storage space - so all my china and glassware is sitting on my dining table. Pots and pans are still in their boxes. Can't put away anything until we buy a new cabinet! And the garage? I'm almost afraid to step into the garage - surely all this junk can't belong to me? But despite the chaos, it is wonderful to sleep in my own bed at night! Manasi actually hugged our couch when she got back from school! It feels so good to have all our belongings around us once again!

It is going to be at least a couple more weeks before we're completely unpacked. Slowly, but surely, we're getting there. This house is beginning to feel a lot more like home. Our home - for the next 3 years!

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