As I write this I am sitting in one of our living room chairs. This usually wouldn't be an extraordinary occurrence except for the fact that this chair, along with all of our other furniture has been sitting in a long term storage facility in Maryland for the past three years. And yesterday, after months of waiting, our household goods finally arrived in Belgium. And because our things have finally arrived our house is feeling like our house instead of a temporary stop over in this crazy life of ours. But, as has been the case with most things involved in our recent move, it has been anything but easy.
We were lucky that we drove into Belgium with our own car meaning we had our own transportation from the moment we arrived. Most people aren't so lucky having to rely upon rental vehicles, public transportation, and the good will of others for their first few months here. We had our own car with its new temporary plates meaning we were good to go. But because this is Belgium, registering it wasn't the easy process we had assumed it would be. We had been told that all we had to do was fill out a bit of paperwork and two weeks later our permanent plates would arrive. We should have known better.
The first time we went to register the car we were told we couldn't even begin the process until we had a permanent address. No one had mentioned this small detail and at that point we hadn't even looked at any houses let alone signed a lease. Luckily in less than a week we had executed a lease and with address in hand we returned to the registry building. This time we found out we had the wrong paperwork so it was a no-go. Returning yet again we still were missing paperwork that somehow had never been mentioned to us on our previous visits. Finally we had the right forms completed but didn't have proof of having paid taxes on the car. Since we had purchased the Volvo through the diplomatic buyers program we were tax exempt and provided this paperwork. It wasn't good enough; we were told we needed a letter from the Volvo dealership. A few days later we returned with the said letter in hand only to be told that this time we needed documentation from our Embassy. Back to the drawing board we went. Finally after seven weeks of back and forth we somehow managed to have all of our papers in order and two weeks later actually received our new plates and registration. It felt as though we were the very first people who bought a new car to Belgium and tried to register it. Somehow I seriously doubt that is the case. It worked out in the end, but it wasn't easy by any means.
And then there was our furniture, part of which I am now sitting on. It had been packed up from Washington D.C. during our worst pack out in history back in May of 2011. When we arrived here we immediately set to having it moved out of storage and shipped to Mons. But of course it wasn't that easy. Even though it would take six to eight weeks to get here we couldn't even request that it be released until we had a permanent address......and you guessed it, we didn't have one of those yet. But once we did have one, just a week later, we dutifully returned to the transportation office with our list of items we wanted shipped in hand. Oh how naive I was when I thought we were good to go. This was the first week in February and when I didn't hear anything for a week I followed up only to find out that the shipping office back in the States hadn't responded to the email request. More emails followed and we were then into the second week of March and still there wasn't any response from the States. We were on the verge of giving a friend our power of attorney and having them go stand in the stateside transportation office when we finally received a notification that our items would be picked up from the warehouse the following week. Ten days later it actually happened so all we had to do was sit here in Belgium on our loaner furniture and wait.
But then my father-in-law informed us that he had received a letter from the warehouse where our furniture was stored informing us that we needed to remove it all within ten days since our contract with them had expired. Umm......excuse me. A new copy of our orders were sent directly to the company and we waited to see what would actually arrive in our shipment. Would it even be our things? Is the left hand communicating with the right? Talk about a lack of communication and poor customer service!
But our furniture did arrive. Most of it anyway. Somehow we are missing bed rails, a headboard and all of our hardware but we will figure out how to make do. We have lamp shades without their bases and I discovered that the packers packed my clothing inside of the dresser drawers. (This would explain why I had been unable to find a few of my sweaters over the past three years). The finish on one hand made end table is damaged beyond repair and most of the furniture has weird spots on it that with a little elbow grease, will be able to be removed. Two occasional pillows arrived covered in sticky mouse traps that the maintenance company at our apartment had used to try to quell our rodent infestation. Everything has that strange dank odor from sitting in storage for too long.
But we have our furniture. At last, after three years of living on someone else's beds, couches, and tables, we have our very own items again. And now that they are in our house I dare say we are finally settled into our Belgian house. Well, kind of, sort of since we are still waiting for a few pieces of custom made furniture to be delivered. They are supposed to be here by July......we'll wait and see if that actually happens.