Friday, October 27, 2006

As of the last posting, Jennifer was busy looking online and on foot for houses in The Hague. Then, several days lapsed with no updates, during which time we secretly found a house and worked with the real estate agent to get some minor repairs/detailing worked out with the landlord. The house wasn't perfect, but it couldn't have had a more perfect location. In the city center, but not on a busy street (actually, on a beautiful canal street). Walking distance to EVERYTHING. After Houston and Doha, walking distance to everything seems heavenly. But I didn't post that news. Given what we'd heard about HR, I was afraid releasing that information would be enough for them to send the Bureaucracy SS after me. I kept my mouth (and fingers) quiet, and Markus played their game.
They won anyway.
They have officially denied our request to go on the open market. As in Doha, they want to force us into a company house that numerous other families have already rejected. What bites is not living in company accomodation; it's this uneven application of policy that could mean any arbitary decision from whomever you come up against on whatever day that results in us being told where we can live our private lives. Not fun. But also, apparently, not open for debate. Sigh.
So...Markus is now looking at company houses without us. Why, you ask?
Once again, Jennifer and Ellie are stateside. Sunday morning, we had an email from our dear family friend, telling us she would be having an emergency surgery on Monday. It wasn't life threatening, but the recovery would be challenging for a person on her own so Markus and I agreed Ellie and I should be here. Although we are ahead of schedule, we were planning to come for a few weeks around Thanksgiving time anyway. My dad's house is still untouched by the $%&$^%# contractor (two months after the finish date he quoted me when we signed). I need to be here to either light a fire under his behind or get our contract annulled so I can find someone else (though who that will be, I have NO idea because good contractors on the Gulf Coast are booked out til the end of time, apparently). When I called Steve (the AWOL contractor) and told him I was here, the "oh $%^&!" in his voice was pretty clear. He said his flooring guy ran off with a few thousand dollars and he's been trying to track him down, but don't worry...he's got a new guy who will be there at the beginning of next week. Monday, I ask? Well...apparently the new guy considers Halloween a holiday so he won't be in until after the holiday. Wednesday, I ask? Yeah, Wednesday.
How much money do you want to bet that there will be NO ONE there on Wednesday?
Or Thursday for that matter?
What a debacle.
On the upside, Markus managed to get leave approved for Thanksgiving, when he will join us up at my mom's. Thanksgiving is on her birthday this year, so we're really happy to be able to celebrate with her! Since our things won't clear the massive red tape that completely engulfs The Netherlands until at least December, there's no reason to stick around waiting (no pun intended).

Finally, I am happy to report that little Miss Ellie is officially a walker! I set her down in a shop in New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon, and she just toddled off to get a toy across the store. There's no stopping her now!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The settling in process begins!
Yesterday, we looked at a (first of many) house in the Archipel area. It was a large house, excellent location...but the low price of rent tipped us off that there was a hidden catch. Once we entered the house, the catch was revealed in great clarity. The place is in DESPERATE need of renovation. It would be an excellent opportunity if it were for sale, but as a rental, NO WAY JOSE! The walls were awful, greying-white, painted rough concrete. The kitchen hardly warranted the name. The only bathroom with a tub was in the attic. Yes, folks...up four flights to give the baby a bath. No thank you. So the search continues. Last night's internet searching led me to fall in love with a house listed for sale online. It's entirely impractical for our needs (quite old so very inconvenient layout, a bit small, unlikely that any of our American-size furniture will even fit in the door...), but I love it anyway. It's located on (what I've decided from strolling) the prettiest street in The Hague. Hopefully, I can get an appointment to see it today or tomorrow. Reality may affect my swooning. I also found a different one that has good potential as a rental, but it's partly furnished with antiques. Unless we can get it unfurnished, that's out. The last thing I need is to be responsible for our landlord's antique furniture with a baby in the house. Heck, even with just me in the house. Unfurnished is the way we play.
Rumor has it that the company will assign us a real estate agent or at least point us toward one. Stories conflict as to how that actually works. One person said we have to call and find our own agent, but gave us a personal recommendation. Another person said the company maintains relationships with three agents, and we have to choose among them; open market searches are forbidden. Yet another said we will have one assigned to us and that person will contact us him/herself. Hmph. This is why Jennifer is searching online and on foot. I am not waiting for the almight bureaucracy to suss this out. This is company headquarters! We are not the first family to have come through here, yet no one seems to have a solid story. Welcome to HR, right?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back to reality?
Since we arrived in The Netherlands last Thursday morning, we have felt more like we are on holiday than a move. In addition to city touring on foot, we've been blessed with visits from dear friends every day! The combination of having new places to see and explore and old friends to chat with has been so wonderful that we feel we must be on vacation again! Today, reality may start to settle in (which is still okay). Markus has to report to human resources. He even has to wear a suit and tie, clothing that hasn't seen much attention in the past five years in the casual environs of Dohot and New Orleans. Jennifer has been keeping an eagle eye on housing during city strolls, and today she'll start making calls. Yes, it seems we actually are going to stay here. Amazing!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Today we spent the day in Delft, a first visit for Ellie and Jennifer. LOVED IT! Of course, it helped that we had picture perfect fall weather. The sun was shining but the air was cool. So wonderful! We even found a cafe in the afternoon that was child-friendly (you can't imagine how surprising it is to find a nice place that has friendly staff, toys, and a changing table in the bathroom)! After today's excursion, Delft is definitely in the running for a potential place to live. It's only 5-10 minutes by train from Markus's office--a better commute than central living in The Hague would be.
Hi everyone! Greetings from Den Haag! We made it and how wonderful to be able to go for long walks OUTSIDE (someone turned the outside temperature down from 37 to! We're in the transitional process and connectivity isn't consistent, so blog updates and emails will be back up and running before too long. Meanwhile, wish us luck settling in as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Greetings one and all! We are back in Qatar for two days after our uber-fabulous trip to the Seychelles! For "non-beach people" (Ellie may well be an exception to this!), we managed to have a wonderful holiday on a true island paradise! So much fun in the sun! Here's a pictorial taste of our vacation (more to come!)...