Moving to New Zealand - Part 9 – There, and Back Again

| February 19, 2019

Part 9 – There, and Back Again

Upon arriving back in the USA, I was glad to see my wife, but anxious to get home before traffic became absolutely terrible. It had been 39 days since I had driven a car, and despite having more than 16 years of driving experience, it didn’t come back to me as quickly as I had thought. We made it home safely and I began to settle in.

The first order of business back home was to review the aspects of the job opportunity I had received in Christchurch from Inde. I had been reading the paperwork nearly daily to make sure I understood each aspect of the offer itself, and once satisfied, signed and returned the paperwork to my new employer. Once it was signed, I was able to submit complete the visa application for myself (though not for my family, since they had not yet completed medical exams due to the absurdly high cost in the USA). The visa processing time site had updated statistics stating that it could be between six to twelve weeks for the visa I was applying, a sharp upturn in the turnaround time. Although the job offer and initial discussions had said perhaps February or March as a start time, given the time needed to relocate and settle, I was a bit worried that the visa application itself would be delayed with the holidays and that we may be looking at the April timeframe. Ultimately, those worries proved unfounded as my visa application was submitted on December 9th and approved December 19th. I had done it! There was a minor snag, though – I needed to be in country by March 20th, 2019. I now had a date. We opted to get our house on the market, planning to move in with Rebecca’s grandmother if it sold quickly, or if not, at least we’d have a lot of ‘setup’ work out of the day. Christmas was coming, but it wouldn’t be long before a tragic turn of events would beset our family.

For months we had been researching and working on requirements for immigrating, including steps required for importing our pets. We had heard first hand from others that it was “expensive” and that pet exporters were recommended. In talking with others who had done it, we had heard it was roughly $3000-$4000 USD equivalent per-animal. Certainly not cheap, but, we love our dogs. As we started navigating the steps to prepare the dogs for the vet visits and such, we re-examined the requirements and noticed a small detail we had previously overlooked: One test must be administered, then a 3-month waiting period begins, with the potential for another 3 month wait after that if the results are inconclusive. At this point, we looked to engage pet exporters so there would be no more surprises, as we’d be bumping up against my March deadline, so we began gathering quotes. When they started coming back, we were taken aback. The first several quotes were for $17,000-$20,000 and were not all-inclusive. For the sake of completeness, we reached out to as many exporters as we could find for importing to New Zealand, and with each, the dread increased. $24,000. $27,000. $30,000. $33,000, all inclusive. It became clear that we would not be able to use an exporter, and instead started stepping through the requirements ourselves, but the airlines themselves deal exclusively with exporters only. Through many tears, anger, and hugs, we had the incredibly difficult discussion of whether or not to ask the breeder of our dogs if she could find new homes for them. It was a relief when she said she could do that for us.

A few days went by after that difficult decision was made before we decided to tell the children. It was absolutely gutting to see their reactions when the reality set in that the dogs they had grown to love so much these past 4 ½ years would not be coming with us. Inside me, meanwhile, the pain and anger started building. How could we have been so wrong about the cost? How did we miss the timing of the rabies test? How is it others are able to bring their pets. I reached out to others in the “Moving to New Zealand” Facebook group and on reddit to talk to others who had recently used pet exporters from round the globe – and they confirmed, again, that they were paying between $3,000-$4,000 USD equivalent to transport their pets. A Canadian from Vancouver, B.C. received a quote in December, in fact, for $4,000 CAD (Roughly $3,000), plus the cost of quarantine, for a single animal. All at once, the anger inside spilled over reading it – how was it we lived in a place so consumed with greed? Was it greed? Is there another explanation? I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I could feel a tightness in my chest from the stress of it.

All the while the pet exporting situation was unfolding, I got quotes for international moving companies. The services and prices varied wildly, from $4,500 USD – $10,000 USD for “all-inclusive, door to door service” (the definition of all-inclusive is apparently flexible, as the final price for our selected $4,800 move turned out to be over $9,000). We had to pick a date to get on the books for moving, and being a bit upset, I impulsively told them to pick everything up January 15th. Rebecca agreed, afterwards, that would work and we would “camp” for a while, living with Rebecca’s grandmother. Now that we had a date, though, it became clear with the house showings that it would be easier not to have the dogs with us. January 14th would be the last day that we would have our dogs before they went to the breeder to find a new home. With a date where the dogs would be handled, our things being gone, and a lot of pain in and anger in my heart, I discussed simply leaving “soon”. After discussion, we decided on flying out January 21st (a date that I would later regret, as I didn’t bother checking the holiday schedule, not realizing that was Martin Luther King Jr. day, and I ended up resigning before a paid holiday. Whoops!).

The children stayed with great-grandmother the night of January 13th so that we could prepare/pack, a task that Rebecca had been working incredibly hard on since our decision to pack everything up. They spent the afternoon with the dogs down at great-grandmother’s house since we had house showings, but came home that evening with Rebecca. Monday the 14th I was working from home, so around lunch time I packed them up and took them for a drive to Orting. The dread welled up inside of me as my dogs were anxious – they recognized the drive, and could sense my stress. I arrived and talked with our breeder at length about the move, expressing my disappointment and regret at how this had played out, giving the dogs some last loves. More than once I broke down, and the dogs knew how upset I was, trying to comfort me. At one point they needed to be put outside, so we could finish talking and I could sign them over to her. Broken, on my knees, crying, I said goodbye to my fluffy friends one last time and watched them trot outside. I signed the papers, said my final goodbye, and opened the door to leave. As I walked toward my car, I could hear Tui, our male dog, make a distressed yelp to call me back…I couldn’t even bear to turn around to look at him. I got in the van, turned it on and drove away.

It wasn’t more than 3 miles before it had set in so bad that I had to pull over. I couldn’t see. My chest was tight with anger, my eyes were filled with tears. I pulled to the side of the road and wailed out loud to myself. I had, in a way, spent more time with the dogs than all 3 of my children (including my 11 year old) when you account for total hours together, due to school / work. I had the opportunity to work from home for almost 18 months, which meant, outside of sleep, I was with those dogs nearly every hour of the day. Tui, the male dog, had come to us a year after the others, having had been returned by his previous owners (after a rather rough go, having been stuck in a crate in a garage, alone, for extremely long durations). I thought of his piercing eyes and what would become of him. Would he know what betrayal is? Would he feel the same about me, being returned to be re-homed a second time? I sat there for what felt like an hour, before I finally resolved to make it home and continue working for the customer for my final week with Right! Systems. I had a responsibility to them as well, and I knew I had to uphold it to the best of my ability. Still, two weeks on as of this writing, I still remember that feeling of falling to my knees to weep and at the anguish of saying goodbye to them, those furry, fluffy balls of happiness.

Moving day came and went, rather uneventful. The shipping container was 30 minutes late, I was getting all sorts of calls from different companies to confirm, and I was getting agitated at paying for ‘all inclusive’ service which seemed to amount to nothing more than subcontractors who were being poorly orchestrated (“White label” service is a thing, after all). The movers showed up without the proper materials, but regardless, today was the day, and we were getting it on the boat. Ultimately, a loading which we paid for from 10-12 was drawn out from 10:30 – 4:30 (which, incidentally, they charged me for…) despite having all of our stuff packed and ready besides the furniture which we paid for them to wrap and load. Still, its pretty hard to argue with someone when they want money and they literally hold your entire life’s possessions in their control. Pay it and go, I guess. We capped off that stressful day by selling our Kia minivan.

Our final week in the USA we said goodbyes, still working to clean and empty our house, but getting together with as many friends as possible to spend time with people who, despite our best efforts, we may actually be seeing for the last time in person. Work wrapped up uneventfully, with a pleasant final day with co-workers whom I had always enjoyed working with. They wished me well on my new adventure, and like that, we drove away. The following day we managed to sell my car, largely finish cleaning out our house, and headed down to grandma’s. Sunday, our church family blessed us and said goodbyes, and Rebecca and the kids spent the evening with grandma and friends while I had dinner with friends from my 10-year career with the Puyallup School District. It was a wonderful way to cap off my week, and I feel so very blessed and grateful to have spent the time with them before moving on to the next adventure.

Monday, January 21st had arrived. There was nothing left to do but to say goodbye at the cemetery to family who had gone before, then off to the airport with the help of a beloved family friend. We checked our bags around 1PM, cruised through security (despite the TSA being unpaid due to the government shutdown), and waited for our plane. Two flights later we arrived in Sydney where we went to see the Opera House and harbor, but with the heat and humidity (as well as lack of sleep) the kids were begging to go back to the airport where there was air conditioning. We obliged, as it was clear we wouldn’t make it to the zoo without massive stress. We sat in the terminal, ultimately meeting a nice woman from Christchurch returning home after 20 years for her father’s funeral, then boarded our final plane to Christchurch. On arrival, we cleared immigration, collected our bags, cleared bio security, found a shuttle that could fit all of our luggage and took the short ride to the AirBNB that would be our home for the next week. We unloaded, unlocked the door unceremoniously, told the kids to brush their teeth and get in bed, before laying down ourselves. We had done it.

I had been “There and Back Again”. Our new life was beginning.

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