Fall has fallen


An absolutely spectacular fall day in Amsterdam. This is the park near our house.


Rushin’ for Russia

Two major themes of this Big Move to Europe are the following: Staying positive and being patient. Both are in my thoughts daily (some days more consciously than others). More and more, I see that having one of them makes it a whole lot easier to have the other. Well, nothing has challenged me in either capacity as much as the past several days. This entry is slightly more like a journal entry (read: emotional, possibly on the brink of ‘whiny’) than an informative blog post, but I hope that it will be helpful to others with travel stupidity inexperience. 🙂

Last week, we found out Jaro had some meetings in Moscow at the end of the month. Awesome! Having never been to Russia and super excited about the prospect of seeing a new place, I booked my ticket immediately and bought my little Lonely Planet travel guide. I quickly googled ‘Russian travel visa’ to see if one was required (it was) and make sure I didn’t need to do anything prior to picking up said visa and saw that I needed to get some voucher. Click, click, ‘pay here’, click, and it should be emailed to me by the next day. Sweet. I put my feet up and watch some Mad Men.

Naturally, I receive an email the next day that I had filled something out incorrectly. I forgot to include the city I was traveling to. Duh. Okay, so I respond “Moscow… sorry!” and they write back that they will process. Of course, then my bank did not allow the transaction (hooray for inconvenient credit card security). I call my bank and tell them it’s fine, and they take off the hold. It still doesn’t go through. So, I have to get Jaro’s card info and FINALLY, that gets accepted. After all that back n’ forth, I get the voucher, yay, and plan to go to the Russian consulate on Monday (yesterday) to pick up my visa.

Monday morning rolls around; it looks like an unusually beautiful day. I should have known this was too good to be true. I try to find the address for the consulate; I knew it was in The Hague, where all the government offices are, about an hour away by train. I click on the official website link since there is, surprisingly, no quick Google Map image. I wander around on the site a bit, then I see it- a whole list of crap that you need to provide to obtain a visa. Not only do you need the voucher, you also need:

1. To fill in a lengthy application. With info such as ‘all’ countries visited in the last TEN years, employment, education and criminal records… You would think it’s an application for the presidency.

2. Proof of medical insurance that covers treatment in Russia (I didn’t know if we even had it here yet!)

3. A recent passport photo (separate from your passport)

4. Actual passport (duh)

Oh, and the standard processing time is 5 days, could be longer. We leave on Tuesday… that gave me 6 business days. And the visa application hours are 10 to 12. How absurd! It was already 8am by this point and to start with, I don’t even have a printer. EEK!!!!! Begin freak out. Especially since my hefty ticket was non-refundable & non-transferable. I knew I should have paid the extra 10 bucks for travel insurance! Damn! So I take a breath, call the Jaro and he gets ready to print everything I send him. He had just realized himself that he needed to provide all these documents to Nike for them to process his visa for him.

The other kicker: I read that there are strict rules about picking up the visa in the country where you have citizenship, which, of course, is the good ole’ U.S. of A. You know, across the ocean. Since we don’t have our residency cards yet, this gets even trickier, because we can’t just prove we have long-term residency in The Netherlands.

F. (pardon my french, mom) 🙂

So I call the consulate, try not to let my voice shake and first ask if it’s possible to ensure processing in 5 days. She basically told me, “That sounds like a personal problem,” and there is no way to rush order a visa. It made me realize how easy we had it in the States where you could get a passport in one day! #takingluxuryforgranted

Then, I ask what other proof we could provide for our residency here. Rental agreement? Nope. Temporary residency sticker in our passport? Nope. It has to be an official letter from the immigration office that the residency has been approved. Has it? Another phone call to Jaro determines that, thankfully, it has. He has the proof at his office.

After more phone calls and emails, all the documents get printed and I try to catch my breath. It was a rough morning, but we collected everything I needed.

So today. Of course, it’s pouring rain and I mis-time my walk so I end up running to catch the train. Once I’m in The Hague, it’s still pouring and I only have a 50 Euro bill, which the tram operator will not accept since the fare is about 2 Euro. Nothing is open along my route to the consulate where I could break my bill, so I end up walking the entire way there, a solid half hour. In the cold rain. With a broken umbrella. That flipped inside out no less than 10 times. It gets hard to laugh at yourself after the third or fourth time… especially when, every time the umbrella snaps back into place, it flicks water at you and feels like someone sneezing in your face.

But, I got to the Russian consulate, documents in hand. Seemed like everything was correct. Phew! 95 Euro later, they tell me it would be ready on Monday JUST in time for our travel, I stutter “Spasibo” (thank you in Russian), and I walk away relieved.

Until I realize that they kept my passport. And we were planning on going to London to watch Da Bears this weekend. Hmm…

I try to stay positive and decide that I should treat myself to lunch at a nice restaurant in The Hague. I find a cute, covered patio with outdoor heaters and proceed to have my nice lunch date with myself.

Until a one-footed pigeon repeatedly flies onto my table to grab my food. After several failed attempts to stab it shoo it away with my knife, I wave down the server and hand her my 50 Euro bill. She asks if I have anything smaller. I sigh.

Shit like this happens to me sometimes. But I keep smiling…

Our Dam Life

Hi loyal readers! I’m sorry it has been awhile since my last entry. We have been in our new home for two weeks (already!) and a lot of my time has been devoted to building, painting and organizing everything in this wonderful apartment! After four TOO MANY trips to Ikea and lots of frustrating fun hours spent on making all this furniture, we now have a fully liveable and comfortable home. Yay! We have had a great time designing it and, no doubt, you would all think the style suits us perfectly. Unfortunately, we still have a few hurdles… from our cable not working (yet) to the dresser I painted that looks like a 5th 1st grader’s handiwork. Both of these things will be taken care of in due time. Overall, we are so happy with our loft and so excited to start hosting guests! 

Other than getting the place set up, things around here are starting to fall into a routine. Jaro goes off to work in the morning and I have a little schedule of my own. So you may be asking yourselves, what exactly does Jaro do? How did we get this sweet deal living in (both western and eastern) Europe? Well, I’ll tell you. 

Back in April, Jaro was approached by his manager about an opportunity over here with Nike. Since we had been talking about needing a change (read: getting out of Chicago), it was the perfect timing! When Jaro started at Nike a few years ago, one of the higher-ups never forgot that he mentioned wanting to work on the Euro Championship of 2012. Why this specific event? Well, Jaro is a full-blooded Ukrainian, fluent in the language, and they are co-hosting the tournament with Poland. To make a long story short (ahem, Stacy), they ended up needing someone and his name was brought up! So, Jaro is now the Nike Brand Manager for Ukraine, specifically for the Euro Champs 2012. At first, we thought we would be living in Ukraine full-time, but due to some difficult work visa issues, that got nixed and here we are: Splitting our time between Kyiv and Amsterdam. Why Amsterdam? The Nike Euro Headquarters are located in Hilversum, a town just outside Amsterdam. This arrangement is actually better for us as Amsterdam is a comfortable place for me to live while Jaro is taking care of business. I’m so proud of him for everything he has accomplished and for bringing us here. Such a great experience to kick off our marriage!

So… what do I do? Going from workaholic to workaphobic… I mean, workallergic… I mean, simply NOT working… has been great. Once we knew this was happening (is this really happening?), I decided to not work for a full year. Now that we are settling in to this Euro life, I’m really enjoying my daily schedule of exercising, market-browsing, and cooking! Things I never had time to do before! Cooking has become a real treat (pun intended) and I’ll find a way to start sharing delicious meals that I exhaustively effortlessly throw together. Real housewife of Amsterdam? You bet.

About pictures: I finally delivered, yeah? I have posted albums on Facebook and Flickr of our Amsterdam trip in August, and our Barcelona and Kyiv trips in September. For those of you out of the loop that want to get in, look me up on Flickr so I can add you as a contact. More Euro stories (hopefully interesting & funny ones) coming soon!