crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oh What Fun

I don't know why I call Spring my favourite season - it's not as if I can enjoy it.

Do you know what sucks?

Itchy eyeballs
Stuffy sinuses
Itchy throat
Puffy eyeskin
Runny noses
Plugged ears


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where's Crystal?

Just a little update.

Yesterday the movers came and packed up all our stuff. They did, from what we could see, ahelluvajob. There were in-and-out from start-to-finish in just over 4 hours and Riccardo and I didn't have to lift a finger: no packing, no loading; in fact, we left and spent the morning shopping.

So now everything we can't carry on our back is en-route to the UK. Due to arrive next Wednesday morning. We've officially vacated our apartment. We are both supremely relieved to have sold our washing machine, kitchen and closet unit to the new tenants for a decent price. There was really no way we could have taken these things with us to the UK, so actually we're happy to have gotten anything at all for them. The new company will be buying us new ones anyway.

For these two days, we are staying a Riccardo's parents' place. We love it here, and actually it's a great ending to our Germany-saga; the same place we started out. A great opportunity to spend time with them before we relocate abroad (again).

We'll be weekending in a castle - lucky us - as I mentioned before, for our friends' Thomas and Jeannette's fabulous wedding extravaganza. I'm sure that will be a great time and I can't wait to post pictures of the festivities.

Monday afternoon we'll be back in Gustavsburg to tie-up loose ends, and hopefully sell the car (though that's wishful thinking as there are no offers as of yet. Thankfully we have a month of sponsored car-rental through the company which will leave us with a little more time to sell it) before we cross the channel and begin the next adventure.

I'll be sure to forward the new phone numbers as soon as they are hooked up, but in the meantime, in an emergency I can still be reached on my German cell number.

Love yas!


    • At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Riccardo said…

      If you ever want to relocate, I suggest you ask Crystal to make the arrangements - she is awesome at these things!!!

      Thanks honey for the fabulous organisation, your patience with a "going mad" boyfriend and the perfect way it turned out!

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I Heart Ikea

With all this complaining about furniture companies lately, I feel I need to voice my ever-increasing happiness with one particular retailer.

I Heart Ikea

I always have, but yesterday my fondness blossomed. We bought our mattress at Ikea. We loved our mattress. It was perfect. We rented our house in the UK despite the fact that our mattress was 8cm too wide for the built-ins surrounding the bed. Despite the fact that there is no other place to put the sofa in our tiny house with tiny bedrooms. We rented the house remembering that our mattress was still on it's 3-month trial period.

Ok, admittedly, I feel bad having planned to return the mattress for reasons other than back problems or coil-sagginess, but in my defense, we do plan to buy the new mattress (among other things) from Ikea UK. Moreso now that I've been astonished at the lengths the company goes to make it's customers happy.

Because we were worried we'd end up with a gift card for our return, one that was good only in Germany, we were thrilled to be offered cash directly returned to our bank account. Full refund. Immediately. No questions asked. What's more, the customer service was excellent.

Due to the high value of our return, manager approval was necessary, but the manager had stepped out to lunch just before our arrival. The bilingual and friendly return-lady asked if we were doing more shopping, which we weren't because we were in somewhat of a hurry and everyone knows the minute you step into either the Ikea display floor or the shop floor you've lost 3 hours of your life. She appologized that it would be a 10-minute wait, which we were fine with (still happy that we were going to be refunded in cash), and then immediately offered to buy us lunch!

So we happily spent our 10-minute wait chowing on free hotdogs and cokes and then were promptly on our way out the door, mattress-free. YAY!

Did I mention that this satisfying return experience was especially relieving since we were both DREADING having to take the mattress home with us again: a 160x200cm mattress improvisationally bound to the roof of a car while putting its way down the Autobahn is never a good idea.


Couch Chronicles

As if our waiting game wasn't bad enough, we have endured new sofa-bed-related drama of late.

I promptly received a call back from the aforementioned company, a lady who conceeded that there was no help for our situation as their earliest date for delivering our couch would be AFTER the movers had come and gone. She advised a cancellation in the way of a faxed letter to the headquarters. Of course I did this immediately.

Magically, two days after I faxed in the letter, I received another phone call from the store: "We can deliver your sofa-bed tomorrow afternoon!" - I'm thinking, "well, I should have tried to cancel that order 2 months ago!" And so it was that we were finally expecting the arrival of the sofa.

The delivery men arrived on time, our excitment high to finally have somewhere to sit, to finally be able to use the 1/3rd of our apartment that had, until then, remained vacant. And then catastrophe:

On the first piece of the sofa that the delivery men lugged up our three floors and into the apartment, a tear. A rip of about 1.5 inches directly on the front of the sofa. Not on the seam, just in the middle of the fabric; in such a place that the tear would lengthen with every butt that snuggled onto the couch.

What a disaster.

What now? Well, having declined receipt of the sofa, we have now contacted the company, AGAIN, and asked for our payment refunded in full, AGAIN. Predictably, we got some blah-blah about how it will take some time as this process must go through so-and-so at such-and-such and so on.

Still sofaless, we now wait to see if we receive the refund for our too-late, defective dreamcouch.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Karate Chopping

Lately I've been inclined to karate chop a lot of people. Things have been pissing me off. I feel that I'm capable of some pretty vicious karate chopping in times of stress. It's probably best that I avoid stress, but with my fourth move (fourth country) in six months sneaking up in just two weeks, this is just not possible.

The latest of my potential victims? Any less-than-helpful employee at the huge home store where we bought our sofa. See, you might remember my enthusiasm at purchasing our beautiful L-shaped wonder back in February; the 24th, to be precise. y.e.a.h. it's still not here.

The sofa was put on order. The store doesn't keep them in stock but rather produces them only on order. Annoying, to begin with. Even more annoying is that the evidently commission-paid employee with whom we dealt stressed that our sofa was likely to be delivered by the end of April. APRIL. Fine. We're okay with that. But, we asked, what's the worst case? "Oh," she said, "it won't arrive later than the beginning of May."

y.e.a.h. Now, with this impending move, we've become ancy and Riccardo has called the delivery hotline twice over the last two weeks trying to light a fire under their asses. We were ever-so-politely informed that the store actually has the legal entitlement to deliver up to 4 weeks after the date on our contract (this is actually 6-7 weeks after the date range verbally promised point-of-sale).

Having nearly solved last week's stressbit: whether or not our movers will be able to move us on May 29th, with a phonecall from the company this morning and an assurance that it is likely, another problem has presented itself. The moving company will come tomorrow at 9:00 am to survey the contents of our apartment; after which, they will send their cost proposal to Riccardo's new company for confirmation. Our move hinges on being able to provide the correct weights and sizes of our belongings. With no sofa here to measure, we're screwed.

So I've just hung up with an employee at the store, who is asking her colleague to figure out if it is possible to cancel our order after I gave her the sugar-sweet "get it here by tomorrow morning or ship it to England yourselves" speech. I'm waiting for the CALL BACK. Of course, if the news is less than favourable, I will invariably post all sorts of slanderous comments about this company, by name. But we'll just wait and see...


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last Chance at Singledom

For those of you who don't know, our friends Thomas' and Jeannette's wedding is just two weeks away! That in mind, both bride and groom were ready to start partying single-style.
The boys spent a day sight-seeing, wine-tasting and finally beer-drinking at Mannheim's Broker's Inn - a pub with a stock market theme. My boyfriend's umcommon level of intoxication when I arrived home told me that they enjoyed their time thoroughly. And Thomas, the groom, more than succeeded in his bachelor assignment: to receive a kiss and an autograph from a girl of every letter of the alphabet; he ended up with more than 50 signatures on his ABC shirt! Some of the boys even crashed in our barren livingroom (still couchless; don't even get me started on that B.S.!!) which gave me a great opportunity to get to know them a bit better and to get even more excited about the castle-weekend wedding at the end of the month!
I met the ladies in Heidelberg where we began our day by taking a boat cruise up and down the Neckar along the city. The scenery was fabulous and the onboard commentary was offered in both German and English! After several stops to eat and shop, about 3 hilarious run-ins with various bachelor party groups that were also celebrating in the city, (like the guy here, from who I bought a kiss for our bachelorette) a sit-in for a portrait, (we had an artist do characatures of us) we ended up at a very crowded "U-30" (Ueber/Over) party. These parties are famous in Germany and intended for the more mature crowd who aren't interested in meat markets and sloppy-drunk 18-year-olds. Apparently the only entrance requirement is that one must dance like a complete lunatic - we had some good laughs at some "interesting characters" we spotted on the dance floor. Just like the good ole days!
By the end of a great day, I was worn off my feet, but so happy for the girl-time. Thanks to Nicole for planning our day - I know it was a tiresome and stressful job - and all the best to Jeannette in her last weeks as a single lady!


Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Riccardo hasn't started his new job yet, not until June 1st, but he's already been scheduled for his first business trip: China for a model release, the week of June 18th! CHINA!!


I somehow thought they might let him get used to the office for a while first! :S


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

We Got It!

We just found out that we've been approved to rent our chosen house in England! We're stoked! If you're interested, I've included the link to the Letting website where we original found the ad. Let me know what you think!


    • At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      looks awesome babe!
      i'm mad jealous. i watch these english real estate shows all the time. if you and ah riki riccardo end up buying something, you MUST try to get on the show location location.

      anywayz, love you!

    • At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Kani said…

      Its so nice! Can't wait to come visit you there, that is, if you haven't moved again by then!

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

And the News Is...

I know you've been waiting patiently. Thank you. But actually, the title for this heading isn't big enough, so again:


We're moving to the UK!

England, actually.

And you're thinking... WHATTHEHELL!?!?

How did this happen?!?!

Well, I haven't been able to tell the general public because nothing was certain, but today was a big day. Today decisions were made; contracts were signed.

It all began about 3 weeks after we moved into our apartment here in Gruenstadt. We were happy as clams and then one day Riccardo received an email from the company with which he completed his practicum and graduate scheme. Though a permanent position he had interviewed for last year had fallen through, the company was now considering him for an EVEN BETTER position... in England.

Our first thought: NO WAY!
Our second thought: Well, we're greedy bastards. We'll see what they have to offer.

Their offer included a fabulous all-expenses-paid long weekend in England where Riccardo "interviewed" for the position. He was offered the job on the spot and we spent the rest of the weekend hurriedly looking for a suitable house to rent.

In the days since our England weekend we haven't stopped discussing the little details while awaiting his contract to arrive by post. There are lots of questions to answer: will the company have enough time to book movers for us - Riki's starting date is June 1st, and we've requested to begin letting the house May 29th? Do we bring the car, even though the steering wheel would be on the wrong side? What's the best way to get rid of our brand new closet, (too tall) brand new bed, (too wide) brand new washing machine (wrong water connection)? Will the relocation allowance provided by the company cover ALL the expenses involved in the move? Then of course there is making time for packing, getting me a visa, beginning a new job search, closing accounts and cancelling services here and beginning the same in the UK...

As someone suggested, yes, I am beginning to feel like a gypsy.

So what is the new job? Well, Riccardo has accepted the position of Marketing Communication Manager for an international design and manufacturing company of car components. The company has many well known car manufacturers in its client list. Riki's job will be to communicate between the various branches of the company, and more so, to communicate between the company and the public. And, something very exciting: this involves cool travelling like to Mumbai, India, Shanghai, China, Tokyo, Japan, etc. etc. etc. for international car shows - the annual events where manufacturers release their newest models - because he will coordinate the company's involvement in these events! ...of course this means my occassional tagging-along. ;D

And what of my life here in Germany? Well, as I mentioned, my visa was not approved and my faith that I'll ever be able to work here (without a marriage license) is waining. So in favour of brighter horizons in England, I will unfortunately have to quit the job I was looking forward to starting this summer. On the plus side, providing that I can acquire a UK work visa, the job prospects there are limitless since, well, they speak ENGLISH! I never intended to teach English forever, and am pretty excited about pursuing some other options. The lawyers for Riccardo's new company are already working on getting me a visa, and I figure if they can't get me one, no one can! In any case, I can stay in England for at least 6 months with no visa at all - though I still wouldn't be able to work.

And the house. In England, I've learned it is much preferred to rent a house, over an apartment (flat - ha!). Almost everyone lives in these "houses," which we North Americans classify as duplexs or townhouses. We found one that we like while there last weekend and are just awaiting the results of the very intense application procedure. It's a duplex, under our classification, and in a newer development in a town called Warwick, Warwickshire (10 kms from Birmingham, the second largest city in England) which seems like a desireable place to live. Actually, in England it is much preferred to buy a house, since real estate value is constantly and quickly escalating and, supposedly, it's fairly easy to get a mortgage (even a 100% mortgage), so I guess we'll start thinking about that before too long. The house is 3-bedroom, though two of those are only "single bedrooms," meaning that they're TINY, and will include a large-sized fridge-freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, and stove/oven. It even has a cute back yard! Those of you wanting to see pictures can email me for the link to the rental website.

Well, I'm sure I can find a box to pack... until next time...


    • At 6:49 PM, Anonymous parker said…

      i'm coming to visit!

    • At 3:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Congrats on your new job Riccardo and congrats to you Crystal for moving again:) How exciting!! So is is England that I will be visiting for your wedding?

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sayanora Says Trexi

My best friend in Japan, the girl who was with me all the way, the friend to whom I credit nearly all my Asian experiences to, has left the country. Tressa Kirstein started her teaching contract at the same time as I did, for the same company as me, and we became friends instantly. It feels strange that I should have been leaving Japan just now, too, were it not for intervening circumstances.

I feel so lucky to have had her by my side through all our adventures and escapades, and couldn't have asked for a better friend to experience it all with.

For a beautifully composed montage of a beautiful lady who is now entering a new stage in her life, click on this link to Jody's blog.

Thanks for everything, Trexi, and best of luck back in CANADA!!!
I love you.


    • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Thank you so much. It was such a wonderful experience because of you as well. It was so hard to leave Japan but I must start over but you and all my other friend's in Japan will always be in my heart. I love you too!

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Weekending in England

Riccardo and I were invited to England over the past weekend. While there, we had a little time to do some sight-seeing. I was really astounded (really, ASTOUNDED, no exaggeration) at the beauty of the English landscapes. I had NO IDEA how lush and green and picturesque the country is, at every turn. I'm sure the rainy weather that is necessary to achieve such remarkable scenery is no picnic (literally), but luckily we didn't have to contend with that, as our 4-day tour was simply "lovely."

Our first tourist destination: Stonehenge. What a surreal place that is! Riccardo and I looked like the tourists we were with audio walking tour recorders pressed to our ears the entire time, but we did manage to pry ourselves away from the historical overview for long enough to take plenty of pictures. My theory about Stonehenge: it's an ancient calendar and sundail. Either that, or something having to do with witchcraft!

At Stonehenge Riki was quickly sucked into a membership offer. We ended up paying 69 pounds (about $160 CN) to become part of the British Heritage Club, a membership that gains us free access into over 400 UK heritage sites over the next 15 months. I guess it was a good deal, since that day we saved ourselves over 25 pounds, and the proceeds go to a non-profit organization that funds the restoration and/or up-keep of these sites. It also funds free guided tours of most locations - we LOVE these!

Wondering what to do next, since Stonehenge doesn't take very long to "experience," we flipped through our new membership book. We found one entry, Old Wardour Castle, to be in close proximity and headed on over. The castle and grounds were fabulous, and the audio tour was equally so.

Finally, we started the 2+ hour journey back to Redditch, and along the way, stopped off in Salisbury. We toured the city a bit, got separated when Riki was locked into a beautiful cathedral after closing time, and had a delicious meal at a trendy English pub (where "Salisbury steak" was, suprisingly, not on the menu).

I can't wait to do more tours in the beautiful UK!


    • At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Riccardo said…

      I was NOT locked in!!! Just took the other exit, ey mate. Was a lovely time, wouldn't you say?

    • At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Dave said…

      Glad you had a nice time!

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Anniversary Surprise!

Riki would not tell me what he planned to do for our one-year milestone. He would, however, go on and on with little details in attempt to scare me. Saying things like: "wear good shoes, because we'll be hiking around all day long," "be prepared to sweat," and "it's highest peak within a 45-minute drive," are not going to catch my enthusiasm.

Okay, so we did hike around all day, and I did sweat (because it was 30 degrees in the shade), and there was a tall peak, but in the end, I should have taken Riki's word that I'd enjoy myself because he didn't take me on a labourious day-long hike, but rather to an amusement park! My favourite! Holiday Park is a German-themed amusement park just 25 kms from Gruenstadt.

Though not the biggest park in Germany, the rides are noteworthy and the landscaped grounds are beautiful. Combined with fabulous weather and not-too-long queues, it was a wonderful way to ring in a new year together!

Thanks, baby!


Dear Dad,

I made beef pot pie. From scratch. It was amazing!

How marthastewart am I?!


adopt your own virtual pet!