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Selling and Starting to Say Goodbye
October 22-31 and early November
written October 31, November 8, and later
Dear Friends and Families,
It has been ten days since the last diary and it is all a blur. I would really like to have a record of this period, so I will try, but remembering things is becoming harder and harder. No senior-citizen jokes allowed.
Way back on Tuesday, the 22nd, we managed to wake at 4:00 am to drive Nancy and Ron to their 6:00 am flight from Nuremberg. I think we said proper goodbyes, but we may have been sleeping on our feet too, so who knows. In any event, the little flight went on time, as did the Frankfurt to Portland, Oregon flight, so we presume all went well. In about another month, Marianne and I will start similar travel, flying I do not generally look forward to.
After that, we started our chores in earnest. Here's an outline, in case I never get to filling in the details!
The sale of our Bavarian dream house is final and milestones are proceeding as written. The gas tank was filled for the new family, so they can stay warm if they decide to move sooner rather than later. We brought dollars over and converted them to euros at a rate (1.395 USD/eur) we hope holds for our larger transfer in early January, when we need to process the sale proceeds. Normally, we are not lucky on conversion, but we will hope.
Frank has taken down the "sold" sign, so I guess that's not news anymore. Written cancellations have been processed with the town, the phone company, the insurance people, magazines, and whoever else we can remember. Here in Germany, many bills get paid "automatically" from our checking account, so it is important to remember to properly cancel everything. Yard work continues, at least as long as the autumn leaves keep falling.
I inventoried our things and have asked for our mover to come out and do their more-professional survey. Last week, they failed to show up, something that makes us nervous, but now they promise to return on Monday. We really need to finalize soon, in order to meet the goal of final removal on November 29th. We think everything will fit in a 40-foot container, but nothing is certain. More worry.
Meanwhile, we are selling some bulky items and almost everything with electric plugs. Everything is offered at bargain prices and it is kind of fun to watch people search out treasures. By now, we have sold well over half the items on our sales list. I'm not sure we will clear a significant amount of money, but it's something to use for a few dinners out, once we are on our travels.
Selling cars is more serious. We have tried "AutoScout24", a website often used here in Germany, but received only very low offers from people offering to take away the cars sight-unseen. In fact our cars are in great shape, despite their years and mileage, so we would prefer in-person scrutiny and better prices.
The good news is that we have had success with the Porsche Boxster, our touring machine from all these years. Peter, a colleague from work, had seen a flyer we sent around and said he and his family were interested, interested enough to visit yesterday, take a test drive, and commit to the purchase! The sale came with a friends-only offer from our side to arrange for one last periodic service. For the Boxster, these are not cheap, but selling friends cars needing work just didn't seem like the proper ending to Marianne's pride and joy.
Meanwhile, the Audi lingers. Germans shy from the V-8 engine and it's need for "benzine" (German for gasoline). Too bad, because it is a great winter car and that ice and snow are coming up. Anyone interested?
The hardest part of the move is saying goodbye, and not to just our favorite cars. Last weekend we visited friends near Frankfurt; Fritz, Fidi and daughter Antonia. We had last been to their house eleven years ago,fresh from another international move. Fritz and I always kept in touch at work, usually talking about the politics of America and Germany, and the family re-connection was fun after all these years. We issued the Grimm family an invitation to visit us in Fresno, an invitation we would repeat again and again as part of our good-byes. We mean it, but California is a long ways away.
After that, Marianne and I wandered around Frankfurt, our first German hometown. The city was a bit rougher on this Sunday afternoon and evening than we remembered, but it will always be one of our homes. We stayed at the Macrander Best Western, my home-away-from-home during my work years when we lived in Pommersfelden, but I worked in Offenbach, Frankfurt's neighbor. Like other parts of our going-away tour, the Macrander brought back more memories as we said our hellos and goodbyes to the staff.
Monday morning, I met with Eberhard, one of my first office-mates from 11 years ago. He has remained a friend despite moves between projects and work locations and I continue to value his wisdom. I remember needing almost a year, when we shared the same four-person office, for our cultural wall to break down, and I hope we can manage to stay in touch. We will see. (I will NOT miss the traffic jams on the road between home and Frankfurt.)
Later in the week, Marianne and I had dinner with Matthias, a younger colleague from my Offenbach project. To me, Matthias represents the younger generation that is the basis for hope for my old employer Areva as the company and industry go through difficult times. And Matthias is fun to talk with! Again, we extended a visit-us-if-possible invitation. We will keep score on who accepts the invitations.
Around home in Pommersfelden, goodbyes are a continuing process. I suppose nothing will seem final for a bit yet, at least until our going-away party on the 16th and our actual move at the end of the month. We will issue more visit-us-in-America invitations. Marianne will cry. We both will need to depend on Dr. Seuss' advice: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
Looking forward, we are proceeding with purchasing our new home in Fresno. We Skype at least weekly with Angie, our Realtor. (Yes, "Skype" is now an accepted verb, but should it be capitalized?) We have a string of emails and "DocuSign" requests for electronic signatures. It's all very modern and convenient. Some day I hope to see the house.
I am struck with the difference between house transactions here in Germany and those in California. Here, there are essentially no activities that would protect the buyer, unless he or she asks for them: No inspections; No formal disclosures; No termite inspections (stone house); No written sales agreement except the final one, executed at the notary office and, reportedly, unchangeable. In our case, I'm not sure it would make much of a difference, since we really and truly believe our house is in top shape, especially for a 250-year-old historic, sandstone dwelling.
In California, we are receiving all sorts of information about bits of the house that are not perfect. Reportedly, the seller's response often is "It's an old house", something that our own selling process makes us sympathetic with, although she might need to recognize that 1934 is only old in her neighborhood, not ours. In the end, it all seems OK. We will have a home warranty for some things, and insurance for others. We understand that home ownership isn't free and we trust we will have enough money in the bank to keep our new place as well-maintained as our old one.
In amongst all this house and move activity, normal life happens. Marianne had a birthday, something she would prefer to avoid, but what can you do? We have had dinners with friends. We had a few Halloween trick-or-treaters, an American practice that kids here endorse, but not one favored by a majority of parents.
We are planning Christmas travel, starting in Maryland and Virginia. We look forward to the normalcy of visiting Geoff and his family and our friends in the greater Washington DC area. Then we will head to California, for more family and friend holiday visits. All this is pretty normal for us, but what is not, is that we will not fly back to Germany or Ukraine after Christmas, for the first time in 15 years. Another new normal.
I will continue to make diary entries as I can, for our own record mostly, and family and friends really are welcome to look into our life. Better yet, come and visit us in 2014!
November 8 Update
Our moving and saying goodbye process continues. Selling of small things seems to be going just fine, but our family-size Audi Allroad just isn't attracting interest. This pushed us into the choice of shipping it back to America, maybe not completely cost-effective for a nine-year-old car, but we like the car and it resolves one of our remaining difficulties.
We have also selected the shipper for our furniture. I had dealt with one company for months, but gradually developed less and less confidence in their attention to detail. At the last minute, we jumped ship to our #2 choice, "Navitrans", and all we can do now is hope it is a good decision. They will come on November 28th to pack and the container should be filled and trucked away the next day. Hopefully, everything shows up in good shape in mid-January. We will be sure to document the before and after condition.
This has seemed like hospital week. First, Marianne and I visited our neighbor Gretel in the Michelsburg Klinic, where her painful back condition was being treated. Gretel has used her decades of Pommersfelden farm work to teach us what to do in our garden, but that same farm experience has also played havoc with her back.
Later, Marianne visited another 80-plus-year-old neighbor, Herte, in the Burgebrach Klinik, where she had just had a knee replaced. Marianne came away impressed with both the klinic and by Herte's ability to keep up with all the latest Pommersfelden gossip from her remote hospital bed. We wish her a good recovery.
Our last hospital visit was the most ... interesting. Wednesday night, Marianne had encountered another of her "heart rythym" episodes, but it was controlled by extra medication. In the morning, we were bringing the Boxster up to Bamberg for service, when Marianne felt too faint to continue driving. We ended up leaving the car on the side of the road and taking Marianne to the Bamberg Bruderburg hospital emergency facility. Not in our original plans.
The emergency room staff measured and checked, but found nothing specifically wrong. They did however recommend a 24-hour monitoring stay in the hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital was so busy that the only space available was in a hallway, albeit a hallway with a very nice view. In the end, Marianne felt better by the late afternoon and, after consultation with the young doctor (aren't they ALL young?), checked herself out. Sleeping at home seemed more useful than trying to sleep in a noisy hospital hallway.
And now, Friday morning, I am writing this in the cardiologist's office, waiting for more consultation. There's always something, isn't there?
John and Marianne
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