I am in total awe of immigrants. Even though I know I am technically an immigrant myself, I don't count myself among those of whom I am in awe.
Steve and I both entered into this move across the ocean thing knowing it would be difficult. What we didn't realise was where the difficulties would come from.
First, money. We are very fortunate, through hard work and lots of planning, to be financially prepared for this move. The banks, however, are doing their best to keep us from our money. I have always been a fan of Chase bank... until now. They have done everything possible to make it as hard as possible for us to get our money into our account in this country. We have had to do three separate wire transfers over three separate days because they have rules that don't allow us to transfer as much of our money as we would like in one transaction. And then they charge us $40 for each wire transfer. When we call to talk to people/supervisors about this, there is nothing they can do. Steve has spent hours, yes hours, on the phone with them just to get us access to our own money. I now hate Chase.
The bank here in London is a little better (they pay a much better interest rate and allow us access to our money just about instantly). But they haven't made it easy either. We had to wait a week to get our debit cards, then an extra day to get the PIN numbers to use them. They send everything through the mail and each thing comes separately. In order to get this account, we had to sit through a 2 1/2 hour meeting with all three of our children, and I still have to have another meeting (luckily over the phone this time) to discuss our accounts and options further. However, now that the account is setup and we have our cards, the banking system here works way better than in the States. Did I mention the interest rates? We've earned more interest here in the two weeks we've had an account than we have at Chase in the last 5 years.
Next, housing. The housing situation here in London is tight, to say the least. We researched at least three different areas as far as demographics, schools, safety, train lines, etc. We really like St. Albans. We will not be living in St. Albans. In fact, we will not be living in any of the areas we researched thoroughly. See, we couldn't find a rental place available before the end of September (some not available until November), and when we did, they were either snatched up before we had a chance to see them or the landlords didn't like children. (Seriously? It's a 4 bedroom house, how can you not rent to children? And you haven't even met my boys yet!).
But it does seem to be working out in the end. Steve and I have dreamed about moving closer to the city for a while, and now we have found a five bedroom townhome in Surbiton, in London, to rent. We are going through the process now and hopefully our references check out and we are approved.
Then there are the schools. We couldn't look for schools until we had a house. So once the landlord accepted our offer, I immediately called the local council to see about schools. They start tomorrow. The woman I spoke with not-so-kindly informed me that all of the places for Jack's grade year are filled, and even if they weren't, I couldn't apply for a space until we were moved into the property anyway. Ugh. I don't know enough about the school system (nor do I have the time with school already starting) to figure out how to fight this. So now we look at private schools or hope that the relocation group that is supposed to be helping us will be able to find Jack a place somewhere close.
Like I said earlier, I am in awe of immigrants. The stories I knew of immigration involved people who did not have the resources we have (a relocation company and strong financial base to start). I have no idea how those amazing people found a place to live, found a job, found their children a school, and thrived under those circumstances and without hurting anyone.
Now, I don't want you to think that this is all struggle and hardship. Luckily it is not. There are days like today which make this place fun and exciting, exactly what we dreamed about when we decided to make this move.
Today, Steve had to go into the office, so the boys and I were left to our own devices. I got a load of laundry in, got the kitchen cleaned up, and we were out of the house by 8:30. We spent the morning down in the open-air shopping area playing at the park. Reid made a friend, Jack climbed on stuff, Colin took a nap in the stroller, and I had coffee and a piece of lemon loaf.
We followed our morning fun with a little British television and lunch in the apartment. Before the boys could fall apart, I loaded them into the car and we found the Verulamium Park in St. Albans. I was able to park our new car in the smallest parking spot I have even parked in (we all had to get out through the back tailgate; it was great fun!). We played on the playground, ate ice cream, checked out the Roman ruins, and enjoyed a walk around the immense grounds. We even found a spray park we are going to try out tomorrow (when we are prepared with our swimsuits). We had a great dinner of chicken and vegetables, and now all three boys are asleep. Steve and I were even able to get a little bit of work done (more papers to fill out and issues to deal with).