Y’all Ready for This?

Random is the keyword for how things work here in Portugal.  I have been told by locals that how things go in the government offices largely depends upon the mood of the employee with which you’re dealing.  On an international level, it seems that the “rules” can change from minute to minute.  Or maybe, it’s just our interpretation of said rules. 

So, after freaking out about having to get a certificado do bagagem from the consulate in San Francisco, translate the inventory of our things into Portuguese, (which I did) and all the other attendant forms, here’s what happened…

We were at the Arrábida shopping mall here in the Canidelo hood, about to buy a printer/copier so that we could print out and copy everything when my phone rang.  It was Bongers calling to say that our shipment would be delivered next week on Tuesday or Wednesday.  I replied that I was working on getting the requisite forms but, it probably wouldn’t happen that fast.  (San Francisco Portuguese consulate, enough said.)  He said, that’s ok never mind the forms, we can get it through customs for you for 124 Euros without any forms.  At first, I didn’t believe him.  It was a good thing that there was a place to sit down, so I did.  Really?  Says I.  And then I thought, why ever didn’t you tell me that this was an option in the first place?  I said, done. Where do I wire the money? 

It would have cost $200 to Fedex the forms to and from the consulate plus their fee so, 124 euros sounded like a screaming deal at this point.  Our man at Bongers said that he would let me know what day delivery would be by the end of the week.  I said, you are awesome and rang off.  Hal-le-freakin-lu-jah!  One bureaucratic bullet dodged.

I didn’t hear from Bongers and thought, well, they will let me know when our shipment is ready for delivery.  On Monday evening, I was giving an English lesson online when the doorbell rang.  It was the movers.  They were outside with a truckload that contained our worldly goods.  It was a good thing that we were home.  I finished the lesson while Joe received the box parade.

Whoo-hoo!  After nearly three months, I had forgotten what all we shipped.  I was glad to have summer clothes because it is supposed to be in the eighties here on Sunday.  Sadly, the only thing that was broken was Joe’s $400 office chair, the one thing he really needs, of course.  And naturally, the deductible on the moving insurance for breakage is $500.  Figures, ‘eh?

Our favorite Portuguese bubbly to celebrate having fully arrived in Portugal!

But all in all, we are happy to have our things and now feel like we have finally arrived.  I still say that if you are moving to another country, don’t ship anything.  It is not worth the brain damage nor the cost.  Thank you very little, not so Transparent International and, thank you very much, Bongers International.

Still Moving.

So, we have been living in Portugal for two months now, and Raios!  (Damn!)  It is amazing.  I wish that I could convey how wonderful it is.  Daily, I am blown away by how fantastic the food and drink are not to mention the scenery and how helpful and friendly the people are. 

Slogging through the bureaucracy, however, continues.  The movers packed and picked up our things in Denver on February 11th, and we are still waiting for our ship to come in, as it were.  The first estimate for arrival of our personal belongings was April 11th.  When we had not heard anything by the 15th, I sent an email to Transparent International (which has been anything but transparent), asking if there was a new guestimate for the arrival date.  Finally, a few days later, I got an email from the company in the Netherlands that is handling the Euro portion of our moving program and was told that April 24th would be the new estimated date of arrival.

But I get ahead of myself.  Let me back up.  Around the time that we arrived in Porto I got an email from not so Transparent International informing me that our shipment was on a container and BYW, we owed them another $4,000!  (I had already paid them $5,000.)  Isto é uma merda do caraças!  Go ahead and look that up if you dare, it is a multi F-word phrase in Portuguese.  (Yes, my Portuguese is getting better by the day and more colorful to boot.  I still have a long way to go, needless to say.)  Oh, yeah you had a lot more stuff than we thought.  Mad as a hatter did not even begin to cover how pissed off I was/am.  My first thought was, you know what?  Keep it, I don’t even need any of that stuff.  Then, of course, I realized that it would become a legal nightmare that I would rather not entertain.  So, I emailed them and asked, what are my alternatives?  They said that they would check with the Euro movers and get back to me.  They knocked off about two hundred dollars.  So, now our 30 some odd boxes of personal items worth about $1,000 is costing us $9,000 to ship to Portugal. 

My only small consolation is in the misery loves company department.  After talking to other recent ex-pats to Portugal, it turns out that everyone we talked to went through the same thing!  WTF is all I have to say.  How can these mafioso movers get away with this?!  I will be Yelping the bejesus out of them once we do get our things.  Here is my advice to anyone moving overseas:  DO NOT SHIP ANYTHING!  Take only what you can check on the plane.  It is not worth the brain damage.  The estimates for moving our “act” overseas ranged from $3,000-5,000.  What did we say about everything costing twice as much and taking twice as long as you think? Try three times.

Oh, and guess what?  There is a list of documents that we have to come up with before taking delivery of our goods if we want to avoid paying duty on everything.  Now, I had seen the certificado do bagagem mentioned early on in my research about moving to Portugal but lost the memo in the shuffle. It is one of the required documents and must be issued by the Portuguese consulate in the states that issued your resident visa.  Flashback to San Francisco.  I emailed the consulate in SF asking what I needed to do to get the luggage certificate?  Well, they referred me to the site that spells it out.  Again, color me clueless. Check it:

Required documents:

  • Signed and dated declaration (must be in Portuguese, see example below)
  • Add two photocopies of the declaration (so, the original plus two copies); (The copies do not need to be notarized BUT the original may have to be, check notes below);
  • Copy of valid Portuguese ID Card OR a copy of valid Portuguese Passport (personal data page) OR EU country passport (personal data page) OR third country passport with residence visa (personal data page and residence visa page); (The copies do not need to be notarized);
  • Documental evidence of the dates of beginning and end of residency in the country (copy of bills, driver’s license,…);
  • Documental evidence showing the personal goods have been used for at least 6 months before the end of residency in the country;
  • Cover letter explaining the service you require and your contacts (email and cellphone number);
  • Self-addressed postmarked envelope;
  • Check payable to “Portuguese Consulate”.

IMPORTANT:

– Make sure you send all of the required documents. Incomplete applications will not be accepted and will be returned.

– It is necessary for the signature to be notarized if the declaration is made outside our jurisdiction (checked by the address on the return envelope).

– Person requesting this certificate must be a legal resident of Portugal, regardless of citizenship

It is almost as bad as the application for resident visa requirements.  I could just cry.  Can you say, frustrated to tears?  And there is a prize in it for anyone who can tell me what, “documental evidence showing the personal goods have been used for at least 6 months before the end of residency in the country,” might be.  (Like I saved all of the receipts for everything I ever purchased in the past 20 years.)

And that’s not all.  There is a registration form that must be filled out by someone at the town hall here in Gaia saying that we are registered to live here, and proof of work contract, among other things that we already actually have.

Bongers International, the movers in the Netherlands (I swear, that is really their name.) now says that the container has arrived in Rotterdam. The new guestimate for arrival in Porto is between May 5-11th.  Let’s hope it’s later since it took the Portuguese consulate in SF a week to reply to my email.  Once I assemble all the documents, translate our inventory into Portuguese and have it all notarized, I must FedEx it all to the consulate with a prepaid return envelope and a check for $50.03 for the cost of the certificate.  ($50.03, really?)  I can only hope that I can pull it all together, and get the certificate back before our things arrive.  Boa sorte.  (Good luck) with that.  If only we actually owned anything worth the $9k we could sell to make up for our stupidity.  Experience is an expensive teacher, I guess.  Caraças, I say.

Reality Check

Our first week in Portugal was beautiful.  Fantastic food, wine, and weather and we did a little reconnaissance of our new neighborhood.  Expenses are half or less than what we were used to in the States. And going from freezing and snow to 70 degrees is what I’m talking about! 

Quinta da Foz Port house boat with view of the bridge to Porto.

Our realtor had told me that it would take about three or four days to get utilities up and running in our apartment.  Electricity was no problem, it took two days.  Water, however, was another matter.  Apparently, our pipes for the water meter were not up to date.  I showed the print out that Aguas de Gaia (water department of Vila Nova de Gaia) gave me to Rui (our realtor), and he said that he knew someone who could fix it.  Two days (and 80 Euros) later, it was fixed.  Now back to Aguas de Gaia.  They had to send someone out to inspect it.  Then we could get a new meter installed.  I asked Rui, shouldn’t the landlords be paying for this?  And he assured me that it was our responsibility as tenants.  Ok then.

Also, the place was filthy.  (Didn’t notice that when I looked at it for ten minutes six months earlier.)  Got an awesome cleaning lady who also speaks English, and it took her an entire day to clean the kitchen, it was so greasy and grimy.  Apparently, the former tenants were pigs, and never cleaned!  (Ok, sorry, that would be an insult to pigs!)  She agreed to finish cleaning after the painter was done.  I got a hazmat suit for the bathroom and did it myself.  Yeech! By this time, our time was up at the Airbnb where we had been staying. So, we had to move.  Luckily, I found a place that was only a few blocks away from our new place.  It had an awesome view of the ocean too!  Again, as luck would have it, the owner of said Airbnb was an electrician and said that if we needed anything, just let him know.  As a matter of fact, we happened to need a painter to rid us of the bad 70s acid flashback wallpaper in the entry and hallway and repaint.  Senhor Silva to the rescue!  His man Lorindo was amazing!  He did the whole place in three and a half days.  Ultimately, instead of three or four days, it took two weeks before we could move into our apartment but now it was freshly painted, and we could purchase some furniture and appliances.  The mover’s estimate for the arrival of our belongings is April 11.  When the few things that we shipped arrive, it will be like Christmas!  In the meantime, there is a trip to IKEA in our future.

Bad 70s Acid Flashback Wallpaper.

Logistics

Once we got word that the Portuguese government had deemed us worthy of living in their fair country, it was time to spring into action.  There are so many things to consider: plane tickets, movers, getting ready for the movers.

Oh, and transport for our “fur child,” Jiver.  I had purchased one-way plane tickets for us to leave at the end of October. They had to be canceled but, I got a credit for those and now had to rebook.  Let’s just say it:  traveling with an animal is a pain in the ass!  I had read that dogs could not travel on the plane with you internationally at all.  Wrong again!  After speaking with an airline employee, it was suggested, if I could get him certified as an emotional support animal, he could ride in the cabin with us.  I got online (sometimes the internet is your friend) and promptly found an outfit in Louisiana that did such animal certifications, US Service Animals.  For about $200, a therapist calls you and asks you a few questions and then decides if you are certifiable…!  Happily, I am.  (None of my friends were surprised by this).  I mean, they certified Jiver as my emotional support animal.  And issued me papers to that effect.  In reality, I will be his emotional support human for the trip!

Given airline animal shipping regulations, it’s a good thing this worked.  It costs about the same amount to ship an animal as cargo ($200) but, the weather must be 45 degrees or warmer. Getting out of Denver and Newark in February, there is no way it’s going to be warm enough for that to happen.

There has been more paperwork to bring the dog with us than there was for us to get into the country!  The vet must issue him a doggie passport, and the airlines require forms to be filled out as well.  Then there’s the eight-page Portuguese form the vet must fill out to bring him into the country.  It is a relief that he can travel with us. And that there is no dog quarantine in Portugal.  He spent the better part of his life as a diabetic alert service dog for his person until he died almost three years ago.  We inherited Jiver when that happened so, he has paid his dues, so to speak.  He also has the wardrobe for it. He came to us with a service dog vest, which we will use.  And all the service dog papers are good for a year so, our little buddy is about to become a world traveler!

Jiver is dressed and ready to go!

The sorting out of what to take and what to leave continues.  The movers will come on February 11th and we ship out on the 21st.  And, this just in…our passports came back from the consulate in the mail today with shiny new residence visas inside!  Coming soon to Portugal…us!

Stateside Planning

Once we got home and recovered from jet-lag the real work of crafting our escape began.  We decided that, yes, we really needed to sell the condo and that we also needed to move somewhere more affordable.  After two weeks in Portugal, Porto became the target but, honestly, anywhere in Portugal would do. After much research, it became apparent that to get resident visas in Portugal, we needed jobs that we could take with us.  ideally, remote online work.  We would have to go to San Francisco in person to apply for visas.  This was going to take some time.  My wildly optimistic hope of moving to Europe in June was out the window.  Trusting my real estate gut instinct, I knew we needed to sell quickly, while prices were still sky high here in Denver. (Housing prices surpassed mile high in Denver a while back!) 

That said, once we sold the place, where were we going to live while we made our work and visa arrangements?  My friend Dennis to the rescue!  We have been friends for years, and I had driven carriages for him for many years as well. (Yes, horse-drawn carriages in downtown Denver.  I called it draft horse wrestling!)  Oh, and wait, he is also my hairdresser!  Conveniently enough, he has a beautiful three-story Victorian house near downtown Denver, and the third-floor apartment was available.  It was a great deal, big enough for us, and he was willing to rent to us on a month to month basis until we were ready to ship out.  Done deal!

We got back to Denver on March 5, 2018.  We listed the house for sale on May 3rd.  We had four showings, and from those came two offers.  By May 8th we were under contract, as they say here in Colorado, and the closing was set for June 15th.  The next steps:  purging and packing.  The goal is to get rid of at least 80 percent of our belongings.  We sold most of the furniture with the house, so that was a start.

We now have about six days to finish the purge and vacate the premises, as they say, and my next post will be forthcoming after we move to Capitol Hill.  We saw this sign in a wine bar in Lisbon:

Words to live by!

Here’s to re-creating ourselves and starting a new life abroad!