Sunday, May 27, 2012

Travel Adventures

So a lot has happened since the last time I wrote.  We have packed up our house, put stuff in storage, got on a plane, and returned home to Canada.  Overall everything has gone smoothly.  Well, almost everything.

We had a little incident during our travel from the Philippines.  We left Davao with no problems.  The check-in was smooth, clearing security was smooth, even the flight was smooth.  We arrived in Manila and made the short walk from the domestic terminal to the international one (very quick and easy because we had flown Philippine Airlines from Davao and were flying Philippine Airlines out of Manila.  Definitely a good way to go.  We didn't have to worry about collecting our baggage in Manila!).

The immigration in Manila went quite smoothly, except that we had to pay more than expected to leave the country, due to our 9g Missionary Visas (contact me for more details if you are curious about the fees we paid...).  Security was not a problem, and then we waited.  For a long time.  We had a 7 hour layover, and were expecting everything to be much more complicated and take much longer.  So we were left with roughly 6 hours of sitting around waiting for our flight to go out.  Not a big deal.  We just sat and hung out.

We cleared the final security at the gate area about 90 minutes before our flight was to go out.  Again, no hassles.  Then, while we were waiting a the gate area there was an announcement: "Daniel Oishi, please go to Gate 22."  So Daniel and I went to see the guy at the gate.  On the walk over I was joking with Daniel that maybe they were upgrading him to Business Class.  He thought that was a great idea.

It wasn't that.  When we got to the gate I identified myself and Daniel to the attendant.  He took our boarding passes and proceeded to speak into his radio to someone else, in Tagalog, so I had no idea what he was talking about.  He then turned to me and told me that I needed to go and claim one of our bags.  I asked him if Daniel needed to go or if I could go by myself.  Daniel got to stay.

A security guy came, took my passport and boarding pass, and escorted me away from the gate area towards an elevator.  On the walk there he asked me a vague question about whether I had packed any replicas in our bags.  It took me a second to realize that he was asking about replica firearms, and I realized that there were toy guns in Daniel's duffel bag.  I told him that there were toy guns in the bag and he smiled and explained that was probably what the issue was.

I was escorted by the security guy (and about 6 other people who had joined our entourage, including a customs person, a Manila Airport person, and several other official looking people who seemed to be tagging along out of curiosity) to a door marked "AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. ONLY PEOPLE WEARING PROPER UNIFORMS ALLOWED PAST THIS POINT", guarded by a rather stern looking woman with a big gun.

They escorted me though the door and into the baggage handling area.  It was actually pretty cool to see, as I have never actually seen that part of the airport.  I was taken to an office which housed a rather large x-ray machine.  I think they could have x-rayed me and told me what I had eaten for my last five meals with that machine.  Sitting in this office was one of our duffel bags.  A lady in the office asked me to identify the bag as being mine, which I did.  She then asked if she could open it. (By this point I think that every person who was working in the baggage handling area, as well as most of the ground crews for all the airlines in the entire airport, had come over to investigate the white guy who had been escorted by security through the baggage area.  They all had their faces pressed firmly against the glass windows of the office, not the least bit of concern for the necessity of tasks like loading luggage onto planes.  For anyone who flew out around this time and didn't get your luggage, sorry.  That's why.  My bad.)

I was in no position to complain, so I agreed.  She opened up the zipper and began to dig through, pulling out everything that remotely resembled a firearm.  This included two Nerf dart guns, a SuperSoaker water gun, two silver cap guns, and a wooden elastic gun.  They then x-rayed the bag about a billion times, making sure they didn't miss anything, and ensuring that every person in the room received their lifetime allotment of radiation.  Once adequately crispy, we were allowed to leave, taking the suspicious objects with us.  We proceeded out of the baggage area, and went back up the elevator.

The next stop was at another office, where I was invited to sit down in front of an official looking (but very friendly) lady.  The security people chatted to her in Tagalog, and then one of them left with my passport and boarding pass.  I was starting to wonder what would be on the menu in a Philippine jail.  Probably rice.  I like rice.

The lady looked over all of the guns, and made two piles.  One, containing the Nerf guns and the water gun, she told me I could keep.  The other, including the cap guns and the elastic gun, were going to be confiscated.  I was okay with the cap guns being taken.  They were easily replaceable.  The elastic gun on the other hand, I had gotten when I was a kid, and had given to Daniel.  I didn't want that one taken away.  I calmly explained that to her, and she agreed to let me keep it too.

Once that decision was made I was again escorted down the elevator, through the scary door with the scary guard holding the scary gun, and back into the x-ray office.  We put everything back into the duffel bag (minus the cap guns) and sealed it up.

I was then taken back up to the office I had been in upstairs, and had to sign a form and a photocopy of my passport and boarding pass.  I was then given my passport and boarding pass back, and escorted back through security and to our gate.  I explained the situation to Kerri and the kids (unfortunately, by telling Daniel that it was because of his guns that I almost didn't get to leave the country.  He was upset to say the least.  Dumb Dad Moment.).  We got on the plane and left the Philippines.

All went smoothly from then on.  Except for the incident in Vancouver...but that's for another blog.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Uninvited Visitor

I was recently asked to write a blog about a certain incident that occurred a while ago.  I should issue a warning first though.  Here it is:

The following blog post contains mature themes involving scary and potentially hazardous situations with animals.  One animal was harmed in the making of this event.  
Reader Discretion Is Advised

Okay, still with me?  Are you even more intrigued after reading the warning?  Are you thinking "Man, I just have to keep reading now.  I have to know what the warning is all about."  I probably would be.

Here we go.  The date was March 9, 2012.  Kerri and I were relaxing after putting the kids to bed.  We were sitting at our dining room table, talking over the events of the day.  Suddenly we had an unexpected (and uninvited) visitor arrive at our house.  A visitor of the slithery, scaly, forked-tongue, beady eyed type.

A bit of background first.  Before we came here I did a bit of research into the wildlife in the area.  I was thinking about having to go into the jungle to scout out potential climbing areas.  I figured that knowing what kinds of animals I could face would help to determine the risk/reward ratio for a day out on the rocks.  I wanted to know what kinds of bites and stings I could expect when I reached up over my head for that next handhold, unable to see over the lip of the rock I was about to grab...  The idea of reaching into a hole filled with snakes, spiders, ants, or other segments of God's wonderful Creation that show their love for humanity by biting, stinging, or spitting venom was not really something I was looking forward to.

So in my research the first thing I did was Google it.  I asked the brilliant magical Google fairies what they knew about snakes in the Philippines.  They showed me a website that started with "The Philippines is home some of the deadliest snakes in the world, including the much feared Philippine Cobra, the most toxic of all cobra species..."  That's reassuring.  Thanks magical Google fairies.

When we arrived here I asked one of the people who has been here much longer than us about the snakes.  His response?  "If you see a snake, stay away from it.  There are a LOT of deadly venomous snakes here."  We had another person recommend that we get a dog.  Not for companionship.  Rather, "so that your yard would smell like dog urine.  That will keep the snakes out of your yard."  So Philippine cobras, king cobras, pit vipers, and sea snakes in the ocean.  Ahhh, life in a tropical paradise.

So with that in mind let me continue with the story.  Up to this point we had dealt with ants (many many ants), a few cockroaches, some geckos, and the bats that would fly by outside at night.  That was it.  Nothing too scary or potentially harmful.  Kerri and I were sitting there, relaxing.  We noticed that our cat, Coconut, who was in the kitchen, was acting a bit strange.  That's not saying much, because she tends to act strangely quite often.  Especially when she spies a gecko crawling along the walls.  She loves geckos.  She loves to watch them, to chatter at them, and to catch them.  She loves her gecko-snacks.  So for her to be acting a bit strange is nothing new.  We assumed at first that she had caught herself a gecko.  Kerri went to investigate, because as much as she likes eating gecko-snacks, we like her to not eat them, because they eat the bugs.  Having geckos in the house is a good thing.

Unfortunately this time it was not a gecko.  It was a snake.  She didn't know quite what to make of this long, skinny thing that had come into the house.  She seemed to want to play with it, but she wasn't sure.  She may have thought it would make a good snack too (a snake-snack?).

Kerri saw immediately that it was not a gecko that Coconut was playing with.  Kerri grabbed Coconut to get her away from the snake, which Coconut didn't think was really fair.  She scratched and squirmed to try to get down.  I grabbed Coconut and locked her in out bedroom.  Kerri stayed in the kitchen to keep an eye on the snake (from a distance of course).

My mind was racing.  What was I going to do about this snake?  How could I catch it?  What should I do with it afterwards?  What if there were more?  I had visions of a whole nest full of deadly cunning snakes (imagine Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark), bent on ridding the world of humanity in order to assume their position as the dominant species on the planet.  I realized that I was the last hope for humanity, the lone obstacle between life as we know it and a world ruled by reptiles (Planet of the Snakes?).  It was my time to put on my cape and take my place among the superheros of the world. (Maybe I've watched a few too many movies, hey?)

Okay, maybe not, but I was concerned that there was a snake in the house.  Mainly because I didn't know what kind of snake it was.  For all I knew it could have been a young king cobra or Philippine cobra.  I don't know what those look like necessarily.  Snakes all kind of look the same, especially when the adrenaline is pumping through your body.  The other thing that adrenaline can do is to skew how we view reality.  In my mind that snake was at least a bazillion feet long, and probably ate whole cows for a snack.  I knew I had to take care of it.  And by "take care of it" I meant TAKE CARE OF IT.

So of course I did what any red-blooded Canadian man would do.  I ran and hid.

Just kidding.  I immediately went on a quick search for something weapon-like.  I briefly considered grabbing a kitchen knife, but then I thought about how I hadn't sharpened them in a while, so it may just tickle the snake, or just make it mad.  I thought about a frying pan, but the snake was right by the shelf where they were kept.  I didn't think the snake would be too enthusiastic about moving out of the way so that I could grab one.  "Excuse me Mr. Snake, could you move over so I can grab something heavy to flatten you with?"

I decided on something with a bit of length, enough weight to do the job, and with an ergonomic grip designed to facilitate a swinging motion.  How about a hammer?  Yeah!  Great idea!

So I grabbed my hammer and faced off against my archenemy. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end I ended up with no wounds and the snake ended up with a very flat head.

Then I had to do something with a slightly flattened, but otherwise quite normal-looking, snake.  It didn't seem quite so scary after being introduced to the business end of a hammer.  And it didn't look so big anymore either.  So I took it outside and inspected it to try to figure out what kind of snake it was.  To this day I have no idea for sure.  Turns out that much of snake identification is based on characteristics of its head, and since this particular snake had a somewhat distorted head it was hard to make a positive identification.

What I did learn from the magical Google fairies is that there is a way to determine if a snake is venomous or not.  It involves inspecting some of the scales on the underside of its body.  Good to know for next time, although I still don't think I will try to pick up a strange snake to try to inspect the scales on its underside.

So upon inspection of the snake postmortem, it was in fact non-venomous.  I now have a bit of remorse about my harsh treatment of our uninvited visitor, but I have managed to keep the world safe from the perils of the reptilian uprising.

Shipping from the Philippines...done!

So I managed to get our boxes sent.  Finally.

I got them all packed up and ready to go (it ended up being 6 boxes at about 30kg each).  I took them down to CTSI.  I handed them over to the friendly staff there.  I paid them to take care of everything.  And I left feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders!

It was one of those times when it seemed like everything went really smoothly.  It just worked.  It was efficient and quite simple.

Of course that was not necessarily what I was expecting.  I took lots of stuff with me for every possible contingency.  I had a knife to cut open the boxes in case they needed to be inspected.  I had a detailed list of every item I had packed in case there was any question about what was in them.  I had tape (packing tape and duct tape) to reseal the boxes after opening them.  I had my iPod in case I had to wait a while.  I took a bottle of water in case I got thirsty while waiting.  I had it all covered.

So it was almost a letdown when it all went so smoothly.  I didn't need any of the stuff I had brought.  All my time spent imagining possible delays and figuring out what to do to be prepared was unnecessary.  It just went really smoothly.

So it's done.  Our boxes are on a boat or truck or sitting in a warehouse somewhere between here and home.  Now I can put that behind me and concentrate on the next thing in preparing to head home!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shipping from the Philippines...a solution?

If you have read the last two blog posts you may have noticed that there has been one particular problem which has been plaguing me for that past few weeks.  I have been trying to figure out how to ship our stuff back to Canada in a way which would be relatively quick (maybe 8-10 weeks?) and somewhat cost effective (I would prefer to not have to sell a kidney to afford it).

My attempts have been frustrating to say the least.  It seems that every avenue I have tried has not met both of my criteria.  I can send stuff relatively cheap if I don't mind waiting 6 months or a year or eternity for our stuff to show up.  I'm sure that when the stuff finally arrives sometime in the next century that it will be just like Christmas getting to open the boxes.

Imagination time: the year is 2066.  Kerri and I are sitting in our rocking hover-chairs (c'mon, it's the future!) on our front porch watching the kids fly by on their hover-skateboards.  An old beat-up cardboard box is teleported onto our doorstep.  We open it up and dig through all the treasures contained within.

Kerri: "Hey Steve, look!  All our stuff from when we lived in the Philippines!"
Steve: "We lived in the Philippines?"

At the other extreme are the companies that can ship it no problem.  But you either need to win a lottery to do so, or you need to ruthlessly eliminate things from the boxes that are denser than helium (every microgram counts!).  That way the boxes have the privilege of being transported on a plane.  I wanted to ask the people if the boxes receive free champagne and seats that fold flat.  I figure for the price I was being asked to pay that they must be getting First Class seats.  ("For all you boxes flying first class, you may board at your leisure.  Enjoy your flight!")

Words cannot express the amount of stress and frustration that I was dealing with due to this seemingly simple task.  After multiple stops at multiple shipping companies I was at the end of my patience and had come to the realization that I was beaten.  I would pay the price and work three jobs to pay the bill when we got back.  I even went so far as figuring out the weight vs. cost of buying a new one in Canada ratio to determine which things we should ship and which would be cheaper just to replace when we arrived home.  Either way it was going to cost a smallish fortune.

We had heard a rumor that there was a company here that would ship to Canada by volume instead of weight.  It was a set rate for a cubic meter of stuff.  Sounded like a good way to go, if only I could figure out what company it was.  We got our hands on a phone book and got a listing of different shipping companies, many of which I had contacted already.  There were several more on the list though, so I decided to look some of them up online.  I figured that I would have better luck with a company that had a website.  In my eyes it lends a certain level of credibility if a company has a professional looking website (not necessarily true all the time, but I figured it was worth a shot).  I found a couple, and sent emails requesting a quote.

The next day I received an email form one of the ones that looked very promising (they had a really nice website).  I was disappointed to find out that they only ship domestically.  This was actually a fairly common response to my inquiries.  Seems that there are LOTS of companies that I could use to ship stuff to any of the hundreds of islands in the country, but as far as going east across the ocean, not so much.  Which is frustrating, considering we live in a port city, where hundreds and hundreds of containers are loaded onto ships to be dispersed throughout the world.  I figured that there must be one container that was going to Canada.  I only needed enough room to put a few boxes in.  Can't a guy get a break?

Well then I got a phone call from an angel.  At least that's the only way I can explain it.  My cell phone rang one morning.  I answered it wondering who would be calling me (usually all phone communication is done through text messages here.  In the time that we have been here I think I have received about 6 phone calls, 5 of those from people in Canada!).

The conversation which followed went something like this: (my thoughts in brackets)

The Angel: "Is this Steve Oishi?"
Me: "Yes it is. (Who is this?)"
The Angel: "This is V**** from CTSI Logistics.  I wanted to call you to talk to you about the quote request you sent in to us."
Me: "Oh, okay. (Let me guess, you are very sorry but you don't ship internationally?)"
The Angel: "How many boxes do you need to send and where are they going?"
Me: "Umm, about 6 boxes, going to Canada. (Please say you can help with that!)"
The Angel: "Where in Canada?"
Me: "Alberta. (This is sounding hopeful)"
The Angel: "Near Edmonton?"
Me: "To Calgary, but that's not too far from Edmonton. (She knows Edmonton?  This is sounding really good!)"
The Angel: "Okay, we can send those boxes for you.  Let me explain the details..."
Me: "Okay. (But what is the price?  That must be the catch!)"
The Angel: "It is a price based on volume.  I can send you a quote.  We have a container leaving Davao next week that we could load your boxes into.  If they are not ready by then there is another going out the next week."
Me: "That sounds great! (I'm so happy I could weep!)"

We worked out some of the details, and I hung up, waiting expectantly for the quote.  It arrived in my inbox shortly after.  I opened it up and was absolutely floored by the price.  For a cubic meter of stuff, no weight restrictions, it was going to cost less than it would have to send 40kg through one of the other companies!  And it should only take 6-8 weeks!  I cannot express the relief that I have felt, knowing that this overly complicated, frustrating task was coming together.

So now I need to get some boxes packed up and ready to go, get them down to the drop-off point, and hope for the best!  I will keep you posted to let you know how that goes!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shipping from the Philippines...the ongoing saga.

If you haven't read my previous post then STOP READING and scroll down to the next one.  It sets the stage for this update, without which there is little context for what is to come here.

So I am still trying to ship stuff.  What has happened in the last couple of days?  Well, just let me tell you!  The adventure continued on Monday morning.  I dropped the kids off at a morning activity, and decided to take a trip down to see if the post office was open.  I figured that because it had been a holiday weekend that I had better make sure that there would be someone there to receive my boxes.  So I drove down in the general direction of the post office.

As I got nearer I noticed traffic getting more and more congested.  There were a couple of roads that were blocked off, so I tried to detour around them to get where I was going.  Eventually though I had to give up my attempt.  It would seem that there must have been some big festival or party going on on the street in front of the post office.

I probably could have gotten there, but that would have meant going around (or through) some of the barricades.  That may have upset some of the police who were standing there holding guns the size of telephone poles.  I thought to myself that maybe it would be best just to go home for the day, rather than face the pointy end of a gun that could bring down an elephant (or a dinosaur for that matter).

So I went back today.  Amazingly I managed to get another miracle parking spot right in front.  I figured this was a good sign.  I already knew that I needed to go to window 20, having gained that tidbit of information on my futile attempt previously.  So again I decided to leave the box in the van and just go and figure out the procedure (there is always a procedure).

I walked up to the window and was greeted by a very nice, albeit very quiet, woman.  I explained that I needed to send a box to Canada.  I specified that I wanted to send it surface, not air.  She whispered a response, which I took to be, "Sure, we can take care of that for you."  She then whispered something about 3 to 6 months.  I was quite sure that I had heard her wrong, as the decibel level of the traffic whipping crazily by the post office far exceeded her nearly inaudible words.  I had to get her to repeat herself, partly because I really don't hear well with background noise (such a great condition for life here!) and partly because I was stunned by this information.  I think I could put the boxes in a raft, row it across the ocean, then push the boxes in a wheelbarrow the thousand kilometers through British Columbia, across the Rocky Mountains, to Calgary faster than that.  Sure enough, 3 to 6 months to ship via surface.

I asked about a somewhat quicker method.  She told me that I would have to ship them via air.  I questioned her about the cost to do that, which amounted to roughly double the price.  It would be over $300 per box.

Then it got even better.

She informed me that the maximum weight allowed was 20kg, not the 30kg I had so carefully packed into my boxes.  I tried to explain that I had read on THEIR WEBSITE that the limit for shipment to Canada was 30kg.  She did not agree.  I think that I would have had a better chance to convince her that her hair was on fire.  So to ship a 20kg box was going to cost $300.  That's $15 per kg!  I politely excused myself before my head exploded and walked back to my van.  I managed to get in and shut the door before the rather extensive string of curses began to erupt from my mouth.  I am sure that anyone walking past at that point still would have heard quite an earful, even over the traffic noise.

That string of curses continued for much of the drive home.  I went inside and promptly washed my mouth out with soap.

Now what?  I have no idea.  I have a lead which I need to explore, mentioned to us by another couple who lived here.  Hopefully that will work out.  Otherwise I may be out buying a raft and a wheelbarrow.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shipping from the Philippines

So now that we have decided to head home to Canada there are a lot of logistical hurdles we have to figure out.  One of those is what to do with all of our stuff here.  Lots of our stuff we have arranged to sell already (HUGE blessing!), but there is still the issue of what to do with the things we want to take with us back to Canada. 

When we came here we were able to pack some really big boxes and send them through a shipping company in Calgary.  For $90 we were able to send a box loaded with as much as we could fit in, as long as it could be lifted.  The boxes were provided by the shipping company for us to use.  We loaded a total of five boxes to capacity and handed them over to the shippers.  Pretty easy.

I had heard that shipping out of the Philippines would be a bit more complicated, so I figured I would get an early start on the shipping process.  The first thing I did was check to see if the company we had used to send stuff here would also be able to help us send stuff back.  No luck.  They ship stuff here but not out.  So I looked online to see what other options there were.  I found quite a few companies that ship into the Philippines but not out.  Hmmm...

I did manage to find a few choices that would be able to transport my stuff across the ocean.  I began to price them out and found that it would be MUCH more expensive to send stuff home than it was to get stuff here.  Several of the companies would allow boxes up to 20kg to be shipped, for a cost of around $300 per box.  Wow!  That was much more than I had been expecting.

Then I found that I could send boxes through the post office to Canada on a boat.  And I was allowed 30kg per box.  And it was only going to cost $150 per box.  Still quite a bit, but better.

I couldn't find any other solutions, so I figure that will be the best (ie. cheapest) was to do it.  If anyone out there knows of another solution please let me know!

So I went out and bought boxes.  I went to the local grocery store because I had seen advertised that they sell boxes there.  I got myself some nice new 20x20x20" boxes and came home quite pleased with myself.  I began to pack some stuff into the boxes and quickly realized that you can fit a lot into a 20x20x20" box.  And a lot of stuff means a lot of weight.  So I figured that maybe I would be best with some boxes that were a bit smaller.  I was thinking 20x20x15" or so.

I began my search for the right size boxes.  My search began at one of the local malls, where I wandered around looking for somewhere that just might sell my desired cardboard boxes.  I asked in a few stores and at a shipping company outlet there.  No luck.  I could get ones much smaller, but not ones around the right size.  On to the next mall, where the story was the same.  I went down to the main post office, but the boxes they had were too small as well.

I had checked on the internet before I went out and found that there was a listing for a box manufacturer nearby, so I decided to go looking for that.  I drove out to where it should be and searched.  By "searched" what I mean is that I tried to spot some kind of sign referring to the desired company amongst the thousands of other signs that tend to cover any wall, tree, or slow-moving person, all while trying to drive around potholes, chickens, other vehicles, and slow-moving people covered in signs.  Needless to say, I did not find a sign for the place I was looking for.  I came home feeling somewhat frustrated.

I went out a couple days later with an extra set of eyes, Julia, in search for the elusive box manufacturer.  Sometimes two heads are better than one.  Other times it makes no difference.  This was one of those times.  No luck.  Again.  I am wondering if that internet site is correct, or if the box place went out of business some time around the Dark Ages.  Hmmm...

So I decided to make it work with what I had.  I packed the boxes the best I could.  I packed three full of various stuff, managing to fill them quite well, and got them taped securely and ready to go.  A couple days later I loaded one of the boxes into the van and headed out to try to send it home.  I figured I would start with just one to familiarize myself with the process.

Knowing I was going to send the boxes through the post office, I decided to try a location other than the busy main branch.  I went to one of the local malls, where there is a post office branch.  Before I hauled my 28kg box in I decided to make sure that I could do it there.  But first I needed to stop by a bank machine to get money to pay for it.  I walked through the mall to the far end where I discovered that the bank machines were down for maintenance.  So I would have to go somewhere else first.  I decided to go to the post office branch on the way out to see if I could even ship boxes from there.

I talked to a really nice lady who told me that I could bring my boxes there.  She offered to check a price for me so I would know how much I would need to get from the bank machine.  As she was looking up the information I noticed that she was looking at airmail prices.  I mentioned to her that I was wanting to send them surface, because times was not a major concern and I wanted to send them the least expensive way.  Well, apparently they don't do surface mail from that location.  I would have to go to the main branch.  Hmmm...

So I decided to stop at a bank branch on the way to the post office.  I knew there was one that I would pass.  As I approached the bank I noticed that the parking lot seemed to be pretty full.  So full that I could not squeeze my van in anywhere.  I decided to go to another bank, located at another mall nearby.  What I failed to remember was that at this particular mall I would be parking in an underground parkade.  No problem, right?  Yeah, except that I failed to remember the big cardboard box in the back of the van.  So what?  Well, at this particular mall parkade they have security guards.  Security guards who inspect every vehicle that goes in.  Security guards inspecting every vehicle, I am assuming, for things like explosives.  And I have a big cardboard box in the back of my van.  See where this is going?

So I pull up to the guards and one of them speaks to me in rapid-fire Visayan, the only part I pick up on is "carton" (I tend to get a lot of people here who will just speak Visayan to me automatically.  I guess the dark hair and dark tan make me look somewhat like a local!).  I kind of understand what he is implying; that there is an issue with the large box in the back and he is concerned.  I have visions of having to open up the box and unload everything to prove I am not interested in making the mall implode.  Luckily, another of the security guards, who knows and recognizes me from my bazillion times in and out of the parkade, walked up.  He said something to the other guard, who then waved me through.  Sometimes it pays to smile and say hi to the security guards very time you go in and out of a parkade.

So I park the van, run into the mall, go to the bank machine, and leave.  I head down to the main post office branch, really hoping to get a good parking spot.  I didn't really like the idea of having to haul a 28kg box very far, especially trying to cross some really busy roads!  As I pulled up it was like there was a beam of light from heaven, illuminating a perfect spot directly in front of the post office.  I couldn't have gotten any closer unless I had driven my van right up the steps.  So I parked and decided to go and find out where I needed to go before I brought out the box.

I went to the customer service desk and asked where to go.  I was directed to go to window 1.  I walked down there and waited patiently for the person to notice me.  I explained to him that I wanted to ship a box to Canada.  He directed me to window 7.  Okay.  So I went to window 7 and waited patiently to speak to the person there.  I explained to him that I wanted to send a box to Canada.  He told me that I could do that there.  He began to look up a price for me, so I figured I would mention that I wanted to send it surface.  When he found out that information he stopped what he was doing and directed me to window 20.  Hmmm...

And as I was walking away he told me that I needed to make sure to not seal the boxes when I bring them to window 20, so they could inspect the contents.  Of course I had already sealed the boxes.  With duct tape.  Lots of it.  I didn't want the boxes to open due to anything short of a small nuclear explosion.  And of course I didn't bring any tape with me to reseal the box after I opened it.  I resigned myself to the fact that there were going to be no boxes sent for me today.  I went home defeated.

All in all, that morning's adventure took me roughly 1 1/2 hours.  1 1/2 hours of driving around in the heat, and ended up with nothing to show for it but a sweaty back and a bit more information than I had before.  Hopefully I will actually be able to send a box or two this coming week.  I will keep you posted!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Some Important News...

It has been a little while since I last posted on here.  A lot has been happening in the last little while, but I didn't want to mention anything prematurely.  I wanted to firm up some details first.

Well, details have been firmed up, so here it comes.

We have made the decision to move back to Canada sooner than we had originally intended.  We will be leaving here close to the end of May, 2012.  This is much sooner than the 2 1/2 years we had been planning.

This decision has not been one we have made lightly.  A great deal of thought, discussion, and prayer has gone into the process, as well as some really good discussion with some of our closest friends back in Canada.  For right now we need to do what is in the best interests of our family.

So what is next?  For right now, moving back to Calgary and settling back into life in Canada.