Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The eagle has landed

We're here! Actually we're well into Day #4, and there's so much to tell you! First we'd like to share a couple pics we shot of our beautiful city. This is Wellington Harbour, where Jake and I took a walk on our first full day. We've gone running along the boardwalk there the past two mornings as well. 

The weather has been absolutely spectacular here, although everyone we meet tells us we're very lucky to have this many sunny days in a row. Below is a shot of the skyline on the waterfront. KPMG's building is one of them, but I'm afraid I can't identify it in this shot. I think Jake's crossing his fingers for a harbour view from his office, but we'll see. And yes, I said harbour. :)

The reason it's taken so long to check in with you, dear readers, is that we've been focusing on finding a house to rent and a used car to buy. Jake's been fantastic with learning how to get around the city and even how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road. It's been pretty strange to ride in the left-hand side of the car without a steering wheel or brake pedal, but I'm getting used to it. I'll try driving before long, but not quite yet. We've visited lots of neighborhoods and rental houses, and actually missed a good rental today by 30 seconds -- no joke. Some of the neighborhoods are high up on hills like the one behind me in this pic. 

In the meantime though, we're in a nice little temporary apartment in the heart of Wellington. We like it, but we're definitely looking forward to unpacking all the bags and settling in. Did we mention that all nine of our checked bags made it through our four flights perfectly on time? Nothing was missing or broken. An amazing feat of aviation coordination! Although of course they charged us $144 more than they'd quoted us on the phone, but whatever. We're happy to have all our stuff. 

Our first 36 hours were spent napping, doing a bit of unpacking, wandering around our new city, coordinating with the front desk for a key that would work on our room door, and reading the operating instructions for the clothes washer, the oven and the dishwasher. You'd think they'd be easy to figure out, but neither of our master's degrees were of any use whatsoever. 

We're chilling out at home right now before we head out to celebrate New Year's on the harbourfront. I guess NZ (pronounced "inzed"; not yet sure why) is one of the first places in the world to see the New Year, so that's kind of cool. 

Everyone we've met has been so warm and welcoming. Our experience at the bank when we set up our account was just spectacular. Before we left the states, Jake and I had an absolutely infuriating experience with Commerce Bank. At our bank here, people are friendly and know what they're doing -- I wanted to hug the lady who set up our account. We're really looking forward to meeting some folks and seeing much more of this place. 

Oh yeah, and after all this big talk about sheep, we haven't seen a darn one of them. Sheep count to date = 0. 

Love you and miss you all! We'll check in again soon. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Our emotional baggage is checked.

We're here at KCI looking at our plane from the window. Should be headed to Denver shortly. Check out some shots of all the bags we've been lugging around. Whew -- we were happy to get those checked in. I think Jake's back is ready to give out. They were all packed strategically to be about 49.3 lb., just under the over-weight-limit-fee range. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Wichita! We are here visiting Jake's family and friends before we head out on Friday. We've moved all our valuable possessions into storage at my folks' place in Mooresville, Mo., and had a good visit with my side of the family. I'm glad we got to see some snow before leaving, but I could have done without the ice storm and five-degree weather. I'm not sure how often we'll have access to phones and e-mail over the next several days, so we'll check in as often as we can and we'll let everyone know our contact information.

For now, our plan is to head back to KC tomorrow (Christmas Day) afternoon and stay in a hotel near the airport. We'll need to return our rental around 9 a.m. and be at the airport by 10 a.m. to check in all our bags -- all 450 lb. of them. From KC, we fly to Denver, San Francisco, then the big 13-hour flight to Auckland, NZ, then just a one-hour hop to Wellington. Supposedly, someone from our relocation service will pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel. That's the plan, anyway.

It's hard to believe it's almost time to leave. Lots of monkey moods going on ... happy, excited, sad, confused, tired... But it's all good. We'll check in again soon!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Takin a bite outta the big apple

As we mentioned before, we had the chance to run up to New Jersey for an orientation session with KPMG about Jake's upcoming assignment, so we took the opportunity to visit our friends Mike and Karessa in New York. Jake's been there a few time, but I'd never been.

This is just outside Mike's place.

Okay, wrong camera setting, but doesn't it look like they're having an awesome time? Things just seem to move faster in New York, I guess.

So we headed out to dinner, and to my surprise and delight, I learned that Mike lives just down the street from Times Square!

On Broadway, we stopped in this little place called the Stardust Diner, where all the servers are Broadway performers in between gigs. They all took turns singing, and I was able to snap this beaut.

"Cue the van... now say cheese..."

Okay, call me a small town girl, but I've never seen an auto-TP dispenser, so I HAD to document it. You certainly have to crank your own paper towels though. Not sure about these New Yorkers...

And then we came to eat at a little French restaurant, where we ate with Mike and Karessa, and also with Robb Shutt, one of Jake's colleagues who works in NYC. Fantastic food, fantastic sites, fantastic company to share it with.

Our going away party at Shark's

Lots of photos to share, but I have yet to figure out how to post a actual slideshow. Until then, I'm afraid you're going to have to scroll to see all our crazy friends. We got together last Saturday night with some folks out at Shark's, a pool hall not far from our place. 

Aaron and Jami organized everything -- you guys are the best! 

Erik and Asher

Mike and Lea Ann

Gretchen and Lisa

Christy and Erik

The Swearingens

Corey and Lea Ann

That's Asher on the left, and I'm afraid that's me on the right. Who knew I'd turn into a dancing queen after a couple drinks?? Not long after this shot was taken did I swing my arms wildly (in a super-hot dance move, I'm sure) and knock over a full glass of water. Of course it landed all over the electric cables on the floor in front of this guy with the guitar. Whoops! It probably scared the bejesus out of him. But he escaped electracution, I got him a new drink and we were soon grooving again. 

Thanks everyone! We had a great time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

N Y C Ya Later!

Jake and I are in New York City -- the third (and final?) stop on our nationwide farewell tour -- and what do you know, I've forgotten the cable that allows me to download photos from the camera. So you will have to wait a bit longer to see photos from the Big Apple and from our KC going-away party from Saturday. I didn't want you to think we've forgotten you, dear readers.

Also, anyone in KC who'd like to help us load up the U-Haul this Thursday night around 7 p.m., we have free beer to pay you with.

Love the comments everyone! Keep them coming.


Friday, December 12, 2008

The great fishermen

I think Jake made sure his assignment in New Zealand wouldn't start before he could go on the annual December fishing trip with the guys. He's there now, and apparently it's a huge competition. Whoever catches the big one has bragging rights for the year. And apparently it's a pretty dangerous undertaking ... word is that Aaron got a bloody lip yesterday wrestling a fish. (The report was unconfirmed, so he could have just tripped over a tackle box.) Thanks Nick, for sending this photo in from the lake. Hope you guys are having fun!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Welcome to Vegas Baby!

The second stop on our nation-wide farewell tour was Vegas! We just got back from an exhausting weekend of the usual Vegas shenanigans. Jake and I went there about five years ago when our friends Aaron and Jami got married, and it was great to visit again. 
We went with Jake's favorite Golden Tee partner (I guess they also work together) Mike, seen below on the right with his wife Amy. We also got to meet and hang out with Amy's sister Pam and her husband Corey. 

The day before we left for Vegas was my last day at work, and so a few of us went out to celebrate (or mourn my leaving, however you'd like to see it) at Charlie Hooper's in Brookside. It was a great opportunity to visit with some folks and say goodbyes away from the office, and to try out an actual New Zealand beer. Thank you Sharon for organizing everything. I will definitely miss all the awesome people I've worked with there. But for now, I'm certainly enjoying my retirement! 


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hang in there...

Whew! We've been totally busy with dealing with the travel agent people, the relocation people, the KPMG folks (in the U.S. and in NZ), the insurance folks, U-Haul people (they're actually pretty awesome) and storage people. No joke, last night Jake and I sat and did four hours of paperwork. All those e-mails are hard to keep track of. But it's coming together. We now have a binder with all the important stuff divided into well-labeled sections, and it helps me relax. 

All this on top of our jobs, although my last day at work is two days away. I'm excited about what's coming up, but definitely feeling sad to leave the folks I've worked with for seven years. That is a big chunk of my life. But I think it's time to welcome my next chapter... as a lady of leisure. ;) Well, at least for a while.

Hang in there, dear readers. This blog will surely get more interesting when we get where we're going!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving with the Swearingens

We just arrived back from the five-day Swearingen Thanksgiving extravaganza in Wichita. 
Complete with some awesome food...

... lots of quality time with Jake's two little nieces...

... and a few cold beverages. 
Besides the awesome food, the Thanksgiving tradition in the Swearingen family is the highly competitive domino tournament, in the garage, otherwise known as the "domino dome."

People come from as far away as New Orleans and Rhode Island to try their hand for the title of "domino-ator." This is Cousin Jimmy and his girlfriend, Sandy, who are hoping to make it out to visit us in NZ in a few months. 

And those who skip the annual post-meal nap and pass out early in the evening are bound to be subjected to some form of embarrassment. It's a tradition. But it's not Jeromy's fault. He has two little ones to keep him busy. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

First stop on our nationwide farewell tour...

We're just back from beautiful Delaware, where we spent the weekend with our friends Brad and Francia and their beautiful daughters. Jake had a free flight on each of two airlines so we actually flew separately to take advantage of the opportunity to save some $$. But I did end up spending a bit more than I intended on my layover in Chicago...

It took a bit of coordination to make arrangements so we'd arrive at the same time. Then both our flights we delayed some, and we rented a car and navigated about an hour through traffic to arrive at Brad's door. Of course we'd called ahead to let him know what time we'd be in. After all of this planning and effort and traveling across the country, we grabbed our bags, knocked on the door, and ... it wasn't Brad. Wrong house. Apparently he moved his family across town in August and didn't tell anyone! The guy who answered the door was really nice and actually from KC, and he knew the Yopses vaguely. We got some new directions and headed out. Looking back, it wasn't quite as embarrassing as it could have been.

But we had a great time catching up with Brad and Francia and getting to know what life is like with two little munckins. That doesn't look so hard... :)

The upcoming weeks are likely to be filled with lots more visiting and saying (not goodbye but) "see ya later." Last Thursday night was my last budgeting session with CommunityLINC, an awesome nonprofit that helps local families move from homelessness to self-sufficiency. I've been working with these folks for about three years, so they went in on a going-away gift for jake and me -- a really beautiful and stylish platter/bowl set. How sweet! Unfortunately, it's about 40 lb., so we may not be able to take it in our luggage, but we'll keep it safely in storage and enjoy it when we return. I'm going to miss all the cool folks there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More excited than nervous, but…

Lots to do these days … set up an NZ bank account, sell our cars, reserve a U-Haul truck, confirm travel arrangements… and schedule one last trip to Vegas! Even though that's still a couple weeks away, we can't wait.

We're in the process of opening a bank account over there. Apparently you're supposed to open the account and wire money over before you go, then show up, flash an ID and you're good to go. Two of Jake's colleagues as well as his company have recommended this bank and this process, but still it makes me nervous to send money over before we get there – money we won't have access to until we're there.

When Jake's dad, Jim, heard I started packing boxes a couple weeks ago, he laughed and told me that it wouldn’t be long before we’d be opening the boxes back again looking for something that’s already put away. I haven’t changed my mind on anything yet, but now I consider it something of a personal challenge. We’ll see how long I last…

We finally found out that yes, we’re allowed to bring four suitcases each (two free, the others are $80 each) to carry all our treasures. But still waiting on our travel agent lady to confirm/purchase our actual flights. We’ve had them reserved for a month or two pending our visas. We’re a little concerned that we’ll be responsible for the difference if the prices go up, so we’re anxious for our agent to go ahead and book… not sure what the hold up is.

Thought I’d share a pic of Jake in the Kansas City office. Isn’t he handsome??

Hope New Zealand has Golden Tee (a popular arcade game you find in lots of local bars). If not, I’m worried Jake will make us turn right around.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Bring, store or give away...

With seven weeks to go, we've begun to pack. In our basement is what we call Staging Area 1. We're not shipping anything over, so we're bringing only what we can stuff in a bunch of suitcases.  

In our second bedroom is Staging Area 2... It's a bit messier. This is command central of our packing efforts. All this stuff is going in storage. Gotta give a shout out to Mooresville Mini Storage in Mooresville, Mo... we hear the owners are good folks.
But the chaos has some level of organization to it. All the boxes that are going in storage will be numbered, and we're keeping an inventory list. So in a year, when we realize we've forgotten Jake's favorite fishing lure, we can send Mom into our packed-to-the-ceiling storage unit in search of box #14A.  Thanks Mom!
So far, we know we need to bring sheets, bbq sauce and Jake's long underwear.
And water shoes. Can't go without our $1 Wal-Mart water shoes.