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The house has sold! James and Jill move in June 4. I hope they like all hard work we put into it!
The packers will arrive (tomorrow) Tuesday the 25th of May. They will spend three days packing and loading all our stuff. Some new security measures in the USA apparently mean I cannot ship any food back. This includes sealed unopened things, as well as all the spices and such I brought over. I've been busy baking, trying to use stuff up, but I'll still end up giving away a large amount of stuff.
Speaking of new security measures that make my life difficult. Apparently part of the Patriot Act is devised to prevent homeless people or people in transition from banking! We have sold our house, and are in transition before we buy another. In the interim, we will be travelling, staying with friends and family, and using a friend's address for our mail. I'd like to get the funds from/for the house into a higher interest account than our checking account. But according to the customer service folks at our US bank, even though I already have several accounts, and have established identity with them, I cannot open a CD without a permanent address verified with a lease or utility bill - and apparently I have George W. Bush to thank for this! I did manage to find an alternative, if you will. There is a new online bank, INGDirect. I was able to create a new account with them, that I can link with my existing checking account. This online account allows me to transfer funds between the two online. And it pays higher interest than the CD I was looking at. So maybe the non-customer service fellow at Sovereign did me a favour!
The contrast between US banks and kiwi banks is incredible. Before we came here, in fact before we got our residency, we had to deposit money into a New Zealand Bank. I went online and found several banks. I filled out the application online. I then photocopied my passport and provisional NZ visa and wrote a US check for $100 as my initial deposit and mailed this in. We then wired the funds from the sale of our house. A day after the funds arrived, I received an email from the bank in NZ asking if I'd like to earn 5% or better interest by putting the funds in a 30 day term account. A yes reply from me was all it took! 5% for a 30 day term! Once we arrived, we walked into a local branch and presented our passports. The next day, they handed us our ATM cards and chequebook. It gets better. I mentioned that US check I wrote to open the account. Well, I have regularly taken US checks in and deposited them - no problem. Try the equivalent at your local bank in the states!
To get our money back to the states, we will have it wired from the NZ bank to our US bank. Since we are leaving before the house closing, we simply arranged with our local bank to do the transfer when the funds are available. We signed the forms and they await arrival of funds. When trying to set-up this CD, I wanted to do something similar - set everything up, and have the funds transferred into the CD when they arrive by TT. Sovereign wanted nothing to do with this, so as a result, Sovereign won't get my money - at least not for more than a day or two!
Sad to say, the exchange rate is going the wrong direction for us to keep much money in NZ, because just based on service, I would certainly prefer to do business here!
Don't get me started on trying to do other things with a non-USA address. We all know the Internet has made the world a smaller place, right. You shop online, and your goods arrive the next day - if you live in the USA. You email folks half way around the world, and keep in touch with friends through their websites. Pictures are transmitted across the globe instantly. News stories are posted as they happen. But log onto some US-based website and try to do something with a non-USA address. Soon you'll encounter that drop down list with 50 states in it and a field for postal code demanding a 5 digit numbers only postal code. (We have a 4 digit post code - many places have none). And these fields are required. Occasionally you will actually find a country field, but often that postal code is still there, and worse yet, often so is the US state! Phone numbers are required and format is US based - so I type in my country code, area code and phone number and someone in Nebraska probably gets a phone call.
It is very rare to find a mail order business that will ship outside North America. But how about the IRS. As an American citizen, I must file income taxes, regardless of whether I have US income. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to download TurboTax and file electronically. Guess what. If I use a credit card with a non-USA mailing address, I cannot download the software. And if I have a non-USA address, I cannot file electronically.
The great US Postal Service will actually forward mail for what must be a year to an overseas address, and has a great little form on their website for forwarding, but only if forwarding to and from a US address - where you can easily stop into your local PO and fill out the form. But if you are overseas, you can't do it online - you must mail in a letter!
Let me plead with any of you reading this who is in the position to make software truly global ... help!
But enough whinging, we are on our way. This is likely my last update for a while. We will check email fairly regularly, but won't have an easy way to update the site for a while.
The plan is to make a few stops (Italy, Ireland, San Francisco and finally Seattle (to pick up the cats)) on our way back to the Boston area. We will be in the USA by mid-July and Boston by Mid-August. Here's the details. We hope to connect with friends as we go. Send us email if you'd like a freeloading house guest for a day or two ;-) while we are in your area. Click here for the detailed itinerary.
John turned 35 yesterday. He is now officially a masters racer! OK, he's been racing as a master all year, but today he has officially become an oldie! We had a little surprise party for him Saturday night - sort of like the going away - surprise birthday party for me before we left Boston. This was my turn to say au revoir friends here and surprise John. Simon and Melanie took John out for an all day epic mountain bike ride, while I ran around and got the cake.
The party at Jack and Susan's in 2002 was great in that we got to see so many of our friends just before we left, but also sad because we realised we had made some really special friendships over the years, and it was hard to leave. Well, we've stayed in touch with everybody, thanks to the Internet. Well it has happened again. I've complained about lots of things in our time here, but I cannot complain about the great friends we have made here. In just a short time, we have met some really special people and like our friends back in Massachusetts, some of whom have also scattered about the country, we will miss them dearly, but we will keep in touch.
It was as if fate insisted we connect with Simon, Cara and Aria. We bumped into them twice 6 days apart at the same place on a track in the Hira forest. We had similar interests in doing fun social rides, and Simon mentioned he was a plumber and next thing we knew, we needed one. We have had a great timing riding and hanging out with these guys over the year. We watched Aria grow from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 and look forward to getting pictures and updates for years to come. Simon introduced us Melanie, a Canadian who is teaching at the same school as Cara. Mel has joined us on several rides and helped get John away for the surprise..
We knew Denis and Frith from the tandem email list from way back. Frith picked up on my little joke about the Fahrenheit's being scarce on a winter ride, and posted about a great crowded party of Celsius' at a bike race in New Zealand. They were living in the North Island at the time. Imagine my surprise when we found they had moved to Nelson! They took us out for tandem rides, and gave us our first tour of the Hira Forest. They took great care of John in his one and only stage race here in New Zealand. Denis even gave John the jersey off his back to race in team colours! Hopefully we've enticed them to come to New England to do some racing next year, and wipe up the masters fields. And Denis is trying to entice John back to race in Southland next year!
Our first meeting with Ross and Marian was on Christchurch to Nelson last year. We chatted away with Ross about touring bikes as we rode out of Christchurch at midnight. We had many other chats about gear, and rides, and hikes over the last year. We also had a few warm night sleeping at their place with a lovely friendly cat named Sticky, who sleeps under the covers with guests! I wish I could train our cats to do this! Marian and I got out for quite a few Friday gals rides and even the occasional Saturday gals ride. Ross still hasn't bought that touring bike, but he and Marian have just bought a Co-Motion tandem! The plans are to hook up in France for PBP in 2007!
Zanahe was our first Betty rider. Betty rides were my attempt to start a group of social riders here. Zanahe brought her husband Paul, and friends Ross and Alison. We had a great time on our Sunday rides in the forest, and I even managed to take a break from biking to get in a kayak. We truly feel privileged to have made these friends.
I met Leanne after a Friday gals ride. I came home the steep way, and Leanne caught me huffing and puffing up the hill. Turns out she lived a few doors down, and she and partner David have a tandem. We never managed to make it out for a ride, but we've had fun talking about rides.
I could go on and on. Our neighbours have been wonderful The family of 10 just above us has looked after cats and plants, and even cut our grass before we bought the lawnmower. We've formed the Mount Street Scrabble playing club with another neighbour,although we haven't played as much as we should. And what could be a better selling point for the house than having the Realtor living across the street. It must be a good neighbourhood.
We've gotten to know the various folks who run the local bike shops, and have been treated great everywhere - despite not having bought a bike here. Yes we have been 18 months without buying a bike!
Anyway, I've gone on far longer than I should, but I really am going to miss all our new friends, but hopefully we will meet up at various places around the globe in the future, and stay in touch. But now, I better finish this update and start packing!