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Friday, October 24, 2014

Yet More Stuff! (And a Spicy Disaster)

Ladies and gentlemen, I interrupt my series of posts on our trip to Almaty to make an important announcement:  We have been reunited with the remainder of the stuff we shipped over here!

This was a long time coming.  After our initial trip to the customs office back in September, Scott made two additional trips without me (my schedule requires me to be physically present on campus more often than his schedule does).  Both of those trips were fruitless.  If I remember correctly, the computers at the customs office stopped working while he was on the first of those trips, and some magical piece of paperwork was missing on the second trip.

Anyway, one of the university staff members organized a trip last Friday morning for us and several other people who were still awaiting shipments.  We all spent several hours there, signing forms most of us couldn't read and dashing to the office next door to make photocopies of documents.  Most of us had to pay customs fees.  Scott and I had to pay quite exorbitant fees.  I won't ruin anyone's day by saying how much, but it was far more than I ever expected to spend to get ahold of my used stuff which I had already spent money purchasing in the first place.

The staff member in question was unable to procure a vehicle large enough to get our stuff the same day.  I felt very uneasy.  It was one thing to never get the stuff I shipped, but to not get it after paying hefty customs duties was quite another.

Well, today, this staff member told us he had a van and driver for us to go to the post office to get our stuff.  We were supposed to bring our forms from the customs office and our passports.  We brought along our Kazakhstani tax numbers for good measure.  I don't understand why, but people often want to see them in contexts in which they seem irrelevant.

The trip got off to a pretty unpromising start.  We were told to wait in front of the university at 2 PM.  Several phone calls later, the van actually pulled up at around 3 PM.  Then, once we got to the post office, we weren't completely sure where to go.  Finally, we walked in to the warehouse-y section, and saw a pallet with our boxes!  An employee saw us, and directed us the paperwork signing room.  I was convinced then that we'd be hit up for more fees or that we'd be sent away due to not having some specific form.  To my very pleasant surprise, the employee we talked to quickly and efficiently photocopied the customs forms we brought.  Then, she took us back out the pallet of packages, and with a couple other employees, helped us to maneuver it to the van outside.

I couldn't believe our good fortune!  I was halfway afraid we'd get into a car accident on the way home because getting our stuff with so little hassle seemed too good to be true.  Despite my worries, we made it back, and the driver even helped us haul our boxes into the lobby of our apartment building.

We're still unpacking the boxes.  Our apartment looks like a scene of destruction now.

Piles of disreputable looking boxes

The boxes were in pretty rough shape.  Some of them had been through two stateside moves already, but they will definitely have to be retired at this point.  In terms of the contents, it's been a mixed bag.  Some of Scott's books are heavily damaged, but not in ways that you would expect.  One of his books looked like someone would have had to actually open the box and purposely damage it (and who knows, maybe that happened along the way).  So far, some of my casualties have been spilled beads, broken glass on a picture frame, and a spicy disaster.

I had shipped my spices in a plastic cabinet with pull-out drawers.  I thought they were wedged in pretty tightly and would be pretty safe, but somehow, some of the lids of my spices unscrewed themselves in transit, scattering fragrant seeds and powders all over the plastic cabinet and all over the beads I packed in the same box.  A good number of the spices were salvageable, but the ones that weren't certainly made a mess.

Opening my spice cabinet…yikes!

Cleaning out the spilled spices

Messes aside, we're glad to have the stuff.  Nonetheless, if we had to do this over again, we would cough up the money for a larger storage unit and ship far less stuff.  Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but if anyone reading this is contemplating an international move, take whatever cautionary tale you want from this.

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