|The Soaring Kiwi and the Sauerkraut||
|The Soaring Kiwi and the Sauerkraut||
Leaving Before I Even Arrive
"I'm freezing Frau", I whinge.
"Oh don't be a girl", she replies, offending my sensitivities.
After the 30°C+ temperatures in the honeymoon lands of Australia and South East Asia, the sub-zero temperatures of a German winter are proving a little cold for summer weight clothing. We need those belongings out of customs as soon as possible. And even more importantly, I might have just arrived, but I want to leave again. An old school friend, Mark, who lives in Canada, is getting married. Knowing his friends, Mark has organised his wedding to take place near a ski resort with the 10 days before the wedding intended as skiing for the boys, with the odd, but not necessarily strange, girl thrown in. As Mark is one of my best friends I really don't want to miss the skiing, I mean the wedding. If we don't get a customs release in the next few days, I will.
Which is looking more and more likely. Missing the skiing that is. Before we left New Zealand in December the Frau and I had arranged a shipment of personal effects to Germany, thinking four months would be plenty of time. It wasn't. The shipment itself arrived in Germany well before we did. What we hadn't allowed for was bureaucracy. In particular our first exposure to the virulent German form of it. Our warm clothes, skis, mountain bikes, hang gliders and other big boy and girl toys prove to be waiting in a customs warehouse somewhere in Hamburg for a customs clearance. Waiting for a certified copy of the Frau's passport. Waiting in fact for what we had already provided our shipper, via email (correction: snail mail) from Hanoi, Vietnam. Waiting for what had cost us a day of running from embassy to embassy, standing in various queues and fending off numerous rickshaw drivers.
We call our shipper. They say customs require a certified copy of the Frau's passport. Thanks for the new information. Wanting to return the favour, we mention again that we sent them a copy three weeks ago. Back when we were in 'Nam. The scanned copy we sent via email is no longer sufficient, however. It has to be the original copy. The one with a stamp on it from the German Embassy in Hanoi saying that this copy really is a copy and not a copied copy. Somehow in the email reply from our shipper two months earlier, they had mixed up the words for "yes a scanned copy of the copy is ok", with "no we have to have the original copy of the copy".
Obviously eager to augment our impression of great customer service the shipper then demands two months of storage fees. This amounts to more than the cost of sending our belongings over from New Zealand. We refuse to pay and point out the small matter that since they omitted to ask for the passport in New Zealand and then said ok to our copy of the copy, this whole problem is actually their fault and we should not pay. That we have enough written evidence to prove it probably has more to do with the fact we hear no more mention of storage fees than a willingness to help out.
I convince the Frau to call customs direct. She manages to obtain the customs telephone number from our shipper and makes the call. The customs agent, civil servant to the core, doesn't seem particularly impressed however when we tell him we have provided the information already. That we did a tour in 'Nam doesn't make the slightest bit of difference either. He requires the original copy of the Frau's passport. It is not until the Frau, starting to get desperate now, mentions that I need to leave in four days for Canada for a friend's wedding, and need some winter clothes, that she gets some interest.
"He is asking where you are going in Canada", the Frau asks me.
"First Calgary, but the wedding is in Kelowna", I answer.
The Frau translates my words into German.
"He says he has just come back from Kelowna", the Frau whispers to me, and looks hopeful.
The Soaring Kiwi and the Sauerkraut is available as ebook and paperback at these online bookstores:
Other bookstores to come..