Friday, April 15, 2011

first week of london

Wow. We are finally here!

And I finally have the time and energy to write about our first week in London. Sorry for the late update. I promise from here on out, it'll be different.
Honestly, looking back at this past week, it is kind of a blur. Jet-lag is the pits. No, let me rephrase that, jet-lag is the worst. thing. in. the. world. Officially my worst enemy. But I'll get to my hatred for it in a bit.

Almost a week ago we were anxiously awaiting to head to the airport for our major adventure over here. Our flight didn't leave until 9:15 at night last Saturday and during the whole day we were so excited. It was still completely surreal. It didn't really feel like it was happening. We have been talking about moving for months now and yet, it still wasn't registering that we were picking up our whole lives and little family and moving to a different country for two years. What???
We had 4 suitcases, 4 boxes, 4 carry-ons, and a stroller to take to the airport. I know it sounds crazy and it looked crazy arriving to the airport, but if you think about it, it is only 2 suitcases per person. For a family of 4 moving internationally for two years I think we did really good!

Anyways, arriving to the airport and getting on the plane was smooth sailing. Our flight on the other hand, not so fun. The girls were amazing on the flight and have been amazing this whole week in fact which I am so grateful for because let me tell you, it has NOT been easy. Imagine a 3 year old and 20 month old having to sleep in way uncomfortable positions on a 10-hour red-eye flight with two parents who had maybe 1 hour of sleep total, then waiting in a long line at passport/customs, and then having to completely switch their night and day, and continue to try to adjust while being dragged on taxis and trains with minimal sleep looking at flats in a foreign city for two days?? Exactly. But I'll get to all that later.

But honestly, although it was rough on all of us it went as easily as it could. The girls never threw tantrums or majorly fussed when they would have been 100% justified in doing so. Heavenly Father was truly watching out for my family.
The only thing that went wrong was that during the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel/apartment I felt so sick from not sleeping in 24 hours and just traveling in general that I almost threw up in the taxi. I fought the urge during our 45 minute drive across London until I arrived to the hotel lobby, found the nearest bathroom, and threw up. Lovely.

So, Tim's work, KPMG, put us in a temporary apartment for two weeks until we find a place of our own and it is really nice. Here are a few not so good pics, but I wanted to capture it right when we arrived and since the sun was going down I didn't have the greatest lighting.

3 bedrooms, two bathrooms - 3 floors inside the apartment, 20th floor in the building, we are literally the very top apartment, overlooking London with a really good size patio...

The first floor. Far right is the front door, then the downstairs bathroom, then the 2nd bedroom where Natalie sleeps, then far left the 3rd bedroom where Marisa sleeps.

Natalie's bedroom with big floor to ceiling windows and great view of Canary Wharf...

1st floor bathroom, or the girls' bathroom...

Marisa's room...

When you walk up to the second floor, to the right is the living room and dining area. You can see the door to the back porch.

Our living room from the dining area. The tv is not shown in the pic but it is on the right wall next to the dining room...

Our patio. The room above is the Master bedroom. (Or here it would be called the 1st bedroom).

The view from our porch starting from the left going to the right side. Half of Central London...

Canary Wharf...

South East London. The green area on the left side of the picture is Greenwich where our new home will be.

The kitchen. I don't remember why, but I didn't take a picture of the view from the kitchen window. It is the best one in the house. You can see all of London. Even London eye really clearly.

The door that leads to the staircase...

upstairs on the third floor there is a small loft area to the right...

our bedroom with an amazing view of Canary Wharf. I love the large windows...

This room is surprisingly huge...





Finally, our bathroom. (Each bathroom has a towel rail that heats your entire towel...divine.)

On Tuesday/Wednesday we spent each day looking at flats after flats. Looking for a place to live here is an annoying process. It is not like the states where you can just walk up to an aparment complex and say, "Hi, I want to live here", and then sign a lease and be done. No, that would be way too easy.
KPMG set us up ahead of time with a letting agent (to let means to rent) that would set up appointments to view flats each day. The agent had talked to us prior to moving here to get an idea of what we were looking for and what particular areas we were interested in. Thankfully I have a handful of friends who have lived in London so I feel like I was able to really know ahead of time what to expect and what I wanted.

Anyways, we had 10 flats to look at the first day in the SW area and 6 flats to look at in the SE area. Each appointment was scheduled at a particular time because at each one we were meeting with another agent who was going to show us the place. What a hassle, I know. Also, letting, or renting is not like the states. It is not a set price. The price is negotiable just like buying a house. So if we saw a flat we liked we have to put in an offer and wait to hear back. They can either accept, or put in a counter-offer, etc. Now that is annoying too because it could take awhile or you can get beat out by someone else's offer, etc.
To add to the annoyingness? of it all, housing is crazy here. Things go fast. Everyday flats are going up or taken off within a day.

We only saw 1 flat we liked in the SW area. We were really getting discouraged because money does not go far in London and we saw some crappy places. We put in an offer immediately after walking out of the one really nice flat we saw and by the end of the day we had to put our final and best offer because there were already other offers put on it that day too. (And that flat was put on the market that very day!)
My only thinking at the end of this particular house hunting day was that there better be good places in Greenwich the next day or we are screwed.

Luckily, during our second day of house hunting we saw several we liked. Phew! In fact, Greenwich proved to be more of what we were looking for. Tim walked out of the tube station and said, "This is what I like." Greenwich is a lovely village. It is really green and has that small London town feel to it. It is a town in London that is booming with growth. It is more suburb feeling for sure than SW London, but we are both so ok with that. Honestly, living in "the city" was too chaotic for me and money does not go far there.
Well, we sure got offer happy in Greenwich and we put in more offers. Of course, we were competing with other offers on all of them.

I have never felt culture shock or felt like this adeventure was too hard until I had a minor sob session of my own in the middle of the night Wednesday night. I was worried we weren't ever going to find a descent place to live, I was worried about schooling for Marisa (schools here are so different than the states and a whole other issue in of itself I'll get to in another post), I was worried about using the NHS here the next morning because Marisa had a Urinary Tract Infection (something that I wanted fixed before we got here but the nurse in California didn't see anything. And now the symptoms are more noticeable and more severe), I was worried about customer service because I heard it sucks here, I was major jet-lagged still...sigh. Like I said just a little stressed and needed a moment to cry it out.
I have said many prayers that night that whatever house comes through or doesn't at all, that it was meant to be and that the Lord would lead us to where we need to raise our family for the next two years.

The next morning while at the doctor's office (surgery as it is called here) we get a call from our agent and our offer was accepted on Tim's favorite flat from the whole two days! Prayers answered. We can move in next Thursday! (By the way, the doctor's visit went as smoothly as possible. It was fast, I believe because of the severity of what Marisa could have, the people were really helpful and nice, and it cost me nothing. Visit = free and children's medicine = free. I probably looked like an idiot when the lady gave me the medicine and I asked, "How much do I owe you?" Her reply, "Nothing. Children's medicine is free." "Oh, cool!" haha But essentially, it isn't free, because taxes are out of this world ridiculous here.)

Yesterday and today we just took it easy. Still trying to adjust to jet-lag which is the absolute hardest part about moving to London. Everything else hasn't been exactly the easiest, but nothing compares to jet-lag. Nothing.

During the week and looking back at the week, I can honestly say that again besides the time change it hasn't been a HUGE shock. And I think for many reasons. First, meet Shannon. I'll probably be talking about her a lot because she has been my life saver. We met in California at church, she has recently lived in London for two years, and is now back in California for the past 8 months or so?? When we heard we were moving to London I immediately contacted her. We spent hours on the phone and many emails back and forth feeding me ALL kinds of info. From housing, to grocery shopping, to clothes, to travel, to schools, to areas to live, to laundry, to weather, to phones, to tranportation, to different words used here, to everything necessary to know about living in London. She has mentally prepared me a lot for everyday life here for awhile now and continues to answer my many and even dumb questions. Plus, I am such a lucky girl that I know two other people who have lived here and have friends/family who have lived here or have served missions here (senior missionaries). I know that had I not talked to her or my other friends, I would be crying everyday here because of the shock of it all. haha Even Tim one day when I was using words like, biscuit (cookie), lift (elevator), buggy (stroller), rubbish (trash), toilet (bathroom) with the girls was like, "Whoa, look at you!" I mean really, I have to! Marisa is going to go to school this fall and I don't want her to have no idea what is going on.

Funny example, at the doctor's office the doctor leaned over to Marisa and said in her british accent, "You need to wee for Mum, ok?" Marisa just looked right at her and said nothing and I knew she had no idea what she said. "You need to pee for Mom, ok?" (She needed a urine sample.)

Plus, something Shannon said to me that was told to her is that you need to leave your American ways behind. Live like a Londoner. Forget about finding the Costco here or whatever. Grocery shop like the Londoners, etc.

I know this post doesn't have exciting pictures and doesn't really contain anything exciting. Just all the mundane logistics of moving that have to get done. I promise from here on out the posts will get better once we start real life here and explore the UK and Europe. I just wanted to update you on our crazy, busy week. Cheers!

8 comments:

Stephanie said...

That's all so interesting! I'm glad you got a good place that you like. Poor Marissa! UTI's HURT! I'm sure you will get used to everything quickly. Keep us posted!

becca b said...

I have been WAITING for this update all week! Yayayayayayay for you being in London and I'm so glad you're here! I'm sure you're done with jetlag now, and you'll soon be settled in! You'll have to share with us how rad the grocery shopping is!

L said...

Yay! An update! You've got this Tanya!! Just remember in any move, that the beginning is a little hump in a long smooth (not to mention totally fun and exciting) road! Know that we're thinking about you guys and praying for you, and that we are here to offer support and love however we can! I'm so excited to hear about and see everything through your eyes! Wish I could give you the biggest hug ever right now, or watch your kids so that you could combat jet lag fairly... or stay up late catching up on life together (why do I always feel like I have a million things to tell you!?!). But I found so much comfort in this post!! Thank you!! XOXO!

matt said...

Tanya, I love that you are getting to have this experience!! seriously, blog about everything. When we lived in Germany I tried to blog as much as i could and when I go back and read it, I wrote Nothing! I have seriously been waiting for this update! There is nothing like the culture shock, but yes I must say jet-lag is a killer!!! wow. I'm glad your girls were so sweet, I love your flat, and can't wait to see the area you are moving to and hear some more adventures. I swear life is so much more complicated in another country, and that is what life will be like--an adventure. But SO worth it, so enjoy every minute!!! YAY!!!

Kari said...

I'm so happy that your prayers have been answered. We miss you all so much. Happy birthday to the big 4 year old! We did a toast for Marisa at dinner tonight and a "cheers" for the London birthday girl. Will you please tell her that we love her. Have fun with Steve, Cookie, and Madie. We will be checking back for more updates.

Kelly Helton said...

Hurray! I wondered if you had a blog and I found it, thanks to FB. Glad things are going well. So excited to read/hear about your journey. You are in for such an amazing adventure. Best of luck and enjoy the ride! xo!

Jaime said...

Oh my gosh the adventures!!! I've been thinking about you and wondering how you are and am so happy to have found your blog!!

JoJo said...

I could have written this post- seriously. And I'm pretty sure we stayed in the exact same apartment on the 20th floor. House hunting was nothing like on t.v. and I had a total meltdown cry-fest when I was sure we wouldn't be able to find a place to live. We live right outside Greenwich and Blackheath and we LOVE Greenwich.

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