Emigrating during coronavirus

My husband doesn’t really get stressed, but the last week of “coronavirus emigration admin” has been trying for him.

He’s the smarter, more organised and more logical of us, and he’s also more cautious, so while I’ve been saying things like “This time next week we’ll be in Amsterdam”, he’s been nervous, wondering if when all the paperwork and permission would come together.

See, in “normal” times, we would have gone on a flight, and immigrated, with all the relevant requirements. This time though, permission to travel needed to be given by the Dutch and the South African sides, and the wait/follow-ups/consultations have caused some worry, and made us (or more him) wonder if we would be riding bikes and eating stroopwaffels in the sunshine next week.

Many emails and rands later (no bribery, promise – just working with lawyers and doing everything above board), we have received permission from both sides to travel, and hopefully we’ll be good to go on Sunday night.

We have to meet at the Dutch embassy on Sunday afternoon for paperwork checks, including health paperwork we need to fill out. From there, we will be bussed to OR Tambo, and will wait for our flight.

Forget buffets in airport lounges, duty-free shopping and friends sending us off at the airport – there is none of that stuff at the moment. In fact, in our letter from KLM, they advised us to bring our own water and snacks as nothing would be open, but this prepared Jewish mom was going to bring snacks, sarmies and more in any case (I mean, who goes anywhere without snacks?)

via GIPHY

Other things that we’ve done this week:

IKEA

We did a big shop on IKEA – we are furnishing our apartment from scratch, including cupboards in the bedrooms. The kitchen however does have a fridge, dishwasher and microwave. The plan was to order, get it delivered the day we arrive, and get someone to help us put the furniture together. But… a lot of the items aren’t available online, and we can’t really see ourselves hiring a truck to get there ourselves.

There are lots of delivery services, but I found what seems to be a unicorn team after asking on one of the mom Facebook groups. Originally I asked them to just put together the furniture, but they can collect too.

We were planning to get our stuff put together on Monday, the day we arrive, but our unicorns want to build everything so that everything is “lekker” as soon as we arrive.

They will be meeting our agent at the apartment tomorrow, will get the keys, take our furniture up, and do their magical things. They will also be fetching our order of bedding from the nearby bike shop. This might sound weird, but if no one is at home to collect a delivery, it either goes to a close shop (in this case the bike shop), or an appointed neighbour who collects things on behalf of other neighbours. It’s quite a remarkable system, and you don’t have to pay extra for the holding service, and it seems to be a really safe system too.

Interestingly and surprisingly, I’ve been chatting to our handyman in Dutch, via Google Translate. I messaged him in English, and he messaged back in Dutch, so I’ve been using Google to communicate. Sometimes I delude myself and think that I really am fluent, and communicating so proficiently.

Buy bikes

We found a secondhand bike stockist, also from a Facebook recommendation. They look good, deliver to your home, and all their bikes have been serviced.

We bought three secondhand bikes – apparently bikes get stolen a lot, and we were advised to spend a lot on a good lock, and not invest in an expensive bike. I’ll be riding an “oumafiets”, and we’ll get a back seat for our toddler Rebecca until she can ride her own bike. We have a Thule seat coming in our container by ship.

I must mention here that I’m a poor bike rider, and will have a lot of learning and confidence building on my to-do list when we’re there. Another challenge will be to find my black bike among the hundreds of other black bikes… I’m planning on getting some spray paint to give my bike something “standout”, but in a subtle way.

Buy groceries and appliances

We won’t have a car when we’re there, and while we thought of hiring one, we think it’s more useful for people come to us, rather than the other way round.

I have filled our carts with basic groceries (cleaning stuff, food, batteries, matches and even toilet brushes and refuse bags) and things that will hopefully keep me from further fattening my curves – a scale and set of dumbbells.

You can probably tell that I’m trying to be as organised as possible so that we have an as soft-as-possible “landing”.

Sorted out utilities

My clever spouse contacted a company that arranges for the setup of internet, SIM cards and packages, and TV services. We already have phone numbers, and I should be able to Instagram Story our apartment on arrival, in between, you know, starting a new life and all.

And now for a funny fact…

The Dutch word for kitchen paper is “keukenpapier”, but I assumed keukpapier was toilet paper, because, well, keuk sounds like kak? So I had 18 rolls of kitchen paper in my cart before realising my error.

I don’t know much Dutch, aside from when I’m chatting to the handyman in fluent Google, but knowing a bit of Afrikaans helps a lot.

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