Thursday, February 2, 2017

You Never Know What Will Be Difficult

Friends, I'm irked. This post is the cumulative result of six weeks of steady annoyance. So if you are looking for positivity today, I must sadly suggest you look elsewhere. I am going to be cross and crotchety, and I won't have a good word to say about anyone or anything. Okay? Okay. Let's get started.

Every country has its quirks. As a traveller, most of those quirks fall in the "good" column - different food, pace of life, community rhythms. But some quirks are simply irritating. Remember the mysterious liquor sale laws of New Caledonia?
And somehow, I still always tried to buy cider on a Wednesday afternoon.
In Germany, we had to return our milk bottles to a separate facility than all of our other glass bottles. I couldn't make collect calls from New Zealand. And so the list goes. You never know what a place will do differently than everyone else on the planet.

But I admit, I never expected to find that one can't ship personal goods from Malaysia to Canada.

Erik and I arrived at the yard in Pangkor with a boat to clean, strip and prep for storage, and a week to do it in. Our list of jobs was long but manageable; if we worked 12 hours every day, we could just make it. No problem.

One of my jobs was to get our stuff sent home. We had already loaded Grannie and the girls with six duffel bags when they flew out from Bali, and there really wasn't much left over. Some books, some tools, some assorted documents and scuba gear. That was about it. All of it used and useless to anyone else, but things I wanted to keep from our time aboard.

Step one anywhere new is always "ask the locals". Which I did. The receptionist at the marina, other boats. As I got more desperate, people in shops and on the street. And the conversation always looked a lot like this:

Amy: Hi there. I need to send some of my old household goods to Canada. Do you know a good shipper in town?
Person #1: A shipper? [pause] No, just take your things to the post office.
Amy: Won't everything have to fit in really small boxes? And cost a fortune.
Person #1: Yep.
Amy: But...
Person #1: Good luck!

Amy: I need to send my old household stuff to Canada. Do you know a shipper?
Person #2: [shakes head] No, they don't do that here.
Amy: What do you mean, they don't do that here? Surely people move in and out of Malaysia.
Person #2: I don't think so.
Amy: Well, do you at least know where I can get some cardboard boxes?
Person #2: What, to buy?
Amy: Yes...
Person: Try the grocery store.

The short message was: no one wanted to send my things, and even if they did, there were no boxes to be found. Erik and I were spending a disproportionate amount of our precious week trying to sort this out, and we were at a standstill. Tensions were running high.

We called every shipper we could find in Malaysia (not interested). We begged boxes from the electronics store (too big). We checked out the fabled post office (extortionate).

It got to the point I was tempted to pile our things in the middle of the yard and set them on fire. But some stubborn place in me insisted we could crack this nut. People move. I've moved between countries, and relocating our junk was always the easiest part of the process. It's a fact: there are foreigners in Malaysia; some eventually go home again. Somehow, their things move from A to B and back to A.  There was a solution to this problem; I just hadn't found it yet.

And then, 36 hours before we were scheduled to leave, the heavens parted. The man who rented us our car and apartment for the week came through with a shipper. She agreed to take our things. She had boxes. And there was much rejoicing.
That's it. That's all I want to send.
Mere hours before we jumped on the plane, the shipper arrived, weighed our paltry stack of stuff, and put it on the truck.

And then our new problems began.

We wanted to send it cheaply by ocean freight? Oh, she was sure we had said by air. Hmm, she would need to recalculate that. And so, over the course of six weeks, we've traded endless emails.

Shipper: No one will clear your personal goods into Canada.
Amy: Fine, I'll drive to Toronto and clear it myself.
S: No one will clear your goods out of Malaysia.
A: Why?
S: Because. You have no choice but air freight now.
A: [defeated] Fine.
S: My guy just weighed your boxes. 350kg.
A: It was 275 kg when you weighed them at pick up.
S: ...
A: Give me a price to Singapore.

And that's where I am. Trying to send my nonsense, my few momentos to a friend in Singapore, who will pass it on to a shipper there who is willing to send it to Canada by boat. This is needlessly complicated nonsense, not helped by the "I told you so, shipping stuff is ridiculous" looks I'm getting at home. It is all adding up to making me very cranky. I'm not asking so much, am I?

These are life's small hiccups - annoying, but ultimately unimportant. But when this is done, I don't want to think about moving again for a long, long time.

Until we buy a house in a few months. And have to move in there.



Anonymous said...

What this? Did I miss something? Are your cruising days over? I hope not. I've been following your blog for awhile and it's one of my favorites. Entertaining, well written, and more destination and lifestyle oriented than most sailing blogs. I also enjoy Also written by a female Canadian. Hmmm.... maybe the sheer joy of not being in Canada in winter inspires creative writing. I wish you well on your land life and I hope you continue to post regarding the transition. I understand that it can be a difficult change of lifestyle for long term cruising kids unless they go right off to college.

Catherine H said...

Now it is after the fact, you could have hired a car, or car and driver, and driven it to Singapore, of course the car would have to go back into Malaysia once goods dropped off, but that would be no problem. Maybe this is possible.