Just in case you were wondering what my qualifications for giving relocation advice were, I don’t have any. What I do have, however, is an endless stream of mistakes, which I willingly share in the belief that you can learn from them. Here’s a recently unearthed rendering of a day spent navigating the US school registration requirements – not least, evidence of residence.. And no, having a $50,000 deposit and a signed contract on a house is not enough. It requires keys and a utility bill..
Up at 5 am (to allow for time difference ) to speak to the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society re the mortgage letter that is now 1 month overdue. They had a priority on it on Easter Saturday, despite which it then took their Manager four days to put an already written letter in an envelope, and then POST IT TO KENYA!!!! I wouldn’t have minded, but on the Easter Saturday mentioned I got up at 1am to telephone them to make sure they had the right address in Los Angeles. Demanded offer letter be faxed and FedExed, but won’t be holding my breath.
9.30 am. Fueled by fury, I have tidied the apartment, done the ironing, shouted at the kids and made a list of phone calls to get the ball rolling on the kids’ school applications. No answer (4th day) from the relocation counselor, no answer from school, no answer from realtor to whom the faxed offer has been sent. Poop.
11 am. Collected cashier’s cheque for car that we were supposed to pick up yesterday evening.
12.30 pm. Done shopping. Still haven’t found decent tea bags, Branston pickle, or Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut. Console myself with Haagen Dazs ice cream instead.
12.35 pm. Rang school for the 3rd time, got through. Need to speak to the District Office for Child Welfare and Attendance (uh-oh).
12.40 pm. Ring District Office for Child Welfare and Attendance. Kids cannot start in school until a) we have proof of physical residence in area (i.e. utility bill), therefore they have to go to school in Playa del Ray where we are currently in temporary accommodation until we close escrow. (Thanks to the C & G, this now looks like it’s going to take another two weeks at least, which means that Tom will end up going to 4 different schools in 6 months. I may as well start saving for his therapy now.) Also, I am cheerfully informed, the local school for our extortionately priced house MIGHT BE FULL, so we may have to travel anyway. F**k!!!
1.15 pm. Retire to the LA Food Show for a nice lunch to try and boost morale (kids in tow through all of this, obviously).
1.30 pm. Food arrives, phone rings. Alison, the relocation counselor is, it turns out, a member of Cabin Crew for United Airlines, hence her being unreachable. Discuss frustrations with her, so she asks whether I am still going to the 2 o’clock appointment at the school today. What 2 o’clock appointment???? Wave frantically at waitress, ask for boxes and check, fling down large wad of bills plus tip at approximate rate of $2 per minute. run out of restaurant.
1.45 pm. 14th set of traffic lights. Am feeling strangely nostalgic about Kenyan traffic management (disinterested policeman wafting hand indiscriminately while chatting on mobile phone)
2 pm. Pull up outside school after being shouted at repeatedly by voice on GPS, for making too many wrong turns on very windy, unfamiliar roads. People flooding out for end of school, police car sitting opposite to ensure safe parking practices. I’m buggered. Sneak up side road to make illicit U turn, get a parking space in the first bit of good luck today.
2.03pm. Race into school, to be greeted by Kelly (who is lovely) saying the District Office has called to confirm that the school is full. S**t, bo**ocks, bu**er. Sit down and want to cry for the next hour. Very nice school Principal, about our age, and very similar (so of course she is nice, not to mention wildly attractive and with a very good sense of humour – practically a clone of us, in fact) appears. Has a word with Kelly to contact class teachers about numbers. Is charming to both the children and their now rather disheveled, tearful and wild – eyed mother. After a sotto voce conversation with Kelly ( I sense something a little illicit here – definitely the same type of conversation as our ‘never mind, we’ll just fudge the books’ ones) she announces that she does in fact, have room, and leads us into the staff room to talk about enrollment. Want to kiss her repeatedly, but restrain myself lest she reconsider.
2.30pm. Leave the school in a state of euphoria. Accosted outside school by mother, demanding to know what had happened. I was slightly confused, having never met her before in my life, and it showed. ‘The police car!!’ Apparently, the police car was not their to supervise traffic, but actually to apprehend one of the dinner ladies who’d been spending more time cooking the books than cooking the lunches, it seems. She was led away in handcuffs, and I beat a hasty retreat while the nice police officers were otherwise engaged. I’ve had enough excitement for one day.