And the rest

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I tell you something. Relocating is exhausting. Have I already mentioned that? We will have been here 6 weeks on Friday, and I am asleep every evening at 8pm. It’s everything. It’s like before an exam when you are just running on adrenaline and performing super-human tasks… And then you finish and collapse. But here there is no finish; you are constantly being dazzled and kind of beaten down by all the wonderful yet exhausting NEWNESS. I would never use being a mother to excuse any neglect of duty (other than my social life, which I really cannot resuscitate as I’m basically unavailable in the evenings), but it certainly adds another dimension to relocation and to the associated feelings of overwhelmingness and fatigue. The language… It’s incredibly frustrating understanding so little. I want to nail it. I’m not sure I can, where will I find te energy? Olive is already saying ‘Ahoj!’ to everyone. And ‘Dobre den’. Good on her..!

I am not being negative; I’m happy- I think we all are. This is a fantastic place. I can’t wait till it is a bit less new and a bit more normal. I don’t miss my old school, (except for some lovely people who know who they are), but I miss that I could just slip back in. Here I have 16 kids and 10 nationalities; 3 have no English and I can help with the Portuguese and Spanish of the three, but the Russian boy, I can only say ‘priviet’, ‘niet’ and ‘da’. My Spanish, Portuguese and Thai are all swirling around in my scrambled-egg brain and I am really finding it tough. I speak Sportuthai with them as each one of them asks me this or that in turn. There is so much to get used to in terms of the operation of a new school. All schools teach kids stuff, but no two are the same.

The girls:
They are alternately the best of friends and fighting. Like all siblings I suppose. They are very chatty and confident; Olive a master climber and Ivy fabulous on her trike (Olive is hilarious on hers). Olive is putting words together more and more, and Ivy is following her lead. It’s amazing. When I leave for work now, there are no tears; just “bye bye mummy!”

Anyway. Have to go now and get some sleep. Blogging isn’t helping with my sleep quota, but it really helps me… Something.. Order my thoughts?

Thanks for reading.

Ciao (how continental!).

Xxx

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Czeching me out

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Police registration of your presence in the Czech Republic (EU citizen):

It is not much fun, I’ll be honest. I will however try to make my post at least vaguely fun to read. Sort of.

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We were scheduled to go (all new staff) at a particular time to carry out the registration process. It turns out that lots of members of staff at my workplace never knew about registration, or even that you’re meant to do it, so lots of older staff came too. For EU citizens then, it seems it is not taken soooooo seriously. Furthermore, almost nobody has applied for or taken the temporary residency so important in our case. You take it if you want to do things like buy a car or property, which not everyone wants to do. Apparently registration wasn’t previously compulsory, but now is. Despite this mandate, that info only seems to have trickled through to a few panicked individuals, and my workplace has only half-heartedly passed the info on here and there.

Eh?

So here comes the science bit.

If you are coming with a non-EU partner (with or without a view to doing Surinder Singh), here is the procedure for step one: registering YOURSELF as present in the Czech Republic.
(Ideally, your non-EU partner should also be registering at this time – I’ve been advised over and over that this is not necessary… We shall see).
Go to police headquarters in Prague 3. There is a tram stop there called Ólšanska. It is a really nondescript building with a tiny sign, but I found it clearly marked on google maps:
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I’m guessing it would be shut in the late afternoons and I’m certain it would be shut at weekends.

You must have:
-a rent contract with your name and owner’s name (and partner’s name too);
-passport;
-your health insurance;
-filled out the several (hundred lol) different little forms they give you with identical information.
You probably should have:
-the expectation that you’ll be barked at and /or about a d not understand.

I would not advise doing this without a Czech speaker.

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You go in to a crowded space and first must collect your numbered ticket. Then, fill out your address, arrival dates etc on several forms (rather than hundreds, I think it was three or four – it seems a lot when you are copying the same info out again and again). Our adviser was absolutely cool as a cucumber and changed some if the information to make it look as though we were registering earlier in our stay than we were. This resulted in direct contradictions in our documents, which seemed not to raise any eyebrows with the officials. I.e. My rent contract begins on 25/7 but I only arrived on 18/8. Please don’t do this without a cool-as-cucumber-Czech person.

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Then you wait.

When you are called into the cell to deal with the immigration official, you can expect to deal with a cloud of cigarette smoke and a sour expression. In our case, single-digit typing too. There were several interactions in raised tones between our advisor and the official, but nothing seemed to effect the (sllloowwwwwww) outcome, thankfully. They stamp and keep all the bits of paper bar one, which you pop in your passport and keep safe.

I really, truly, strongly, advise if doing this elsewhere in the EU than Ireland, to go with an adviser / native speaker. If they leap to your defence like a cheetah and reassure you with conspiratorial eye-rolls and winks, so much the better.

Next step, AW registers. I apply for temporary residency. Once we gave done those things, we apply for AW’s residency, based upon mine. So mine has to arrive before Oct 30th, when her Schengen expires.

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(Image credits: peoplenrg.com; memegen.es; airconco.com; designsofsignage.com)

ermagerd- tales of a terrible flight

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So. This is to fill you in with some of the things that have happened since we left Thailand, but have felt too traumatised or exhausted to write about till now.

Trying to work chronologically here, let’s begin with the plane journey. After the most touching airport goodbye, it became ridiculous. If was sort of our fault, but the baggage allowance rules were silly. We just followed them.

The airline gave us a baggage allowance per seat/passenger of 1 case, 1 carry-on, and one handbag. For a booking of four seats, that is a total of 12 bags, 8 of which are to be wrestled through the snaking security queues, and then all through the x-Ray machines as well. Thank god we had our (double) buggy to carry them in. Right? Yup, cos we certainly did not have the 8 pairs of hands usually dedicated to carrying that many bags.

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This was the central cause of the Certificate Saga. AW is super organised and knows exactly where things are and has a system for storage. I am incredibly bad at these things, so I am always grateful for this and unless she gives me a specific job to do, I am happy to let her take over.

But for a significant part of the last few months, we have been frazzled.

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And that departure day, especially so. So our systems (we don’t have any certainty about when it happened, but a good idea. What we can’t work out though, is why if our hunch is right, they were never handed in as lost property?) had some holes in (literally in this instance.

It didn’t begin very well, really. We were ‘the first case’ (for the thousandth time) of binational gay mummies, and so had to show the immigration police all our precious documents and listen to their expressions of disbelief and answer questions about our whole life stories (should have pointed them to this blog). They were very positive so I should not moan, really – I think they were genuinely astonished.

After they released us, things started to get a bit hairy. I believe I mentioned that we were overburdened? We found the way down to our gate (due to the buggy/ bags/ infants we needed to use the lift) and with plenty of time left, we went to get some food. On our return to the lift, it was shut for maintenance and we could see lots of men in the glass shaft, dusting. Very slowly.

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We were at boarding time, so now a little panicked, we asked where the next lift was. “Straight on”, was the answer, but they forgot to say “ALL THE WAY TO THE OTHER END OF THE AIRPORT”. So in an increasing tizzy, we jogged and pushed and baby bounced all the way to the (other @&!!!!+%€¥ end) next lift, which took about 20 minutes. Then once on the correct floor we had to go back on ourselves to the gate, which was in the middle somewhere. By then, it was final call, the plane already full, and the flight staff had no qualms about expressing their irritation (through requisite tight smiles) about our number of bags and timekeeping.

So that was the start.

The documents checked by Thai immigration police at suwanarbumi airport were the things we had actually gathered to use to fight for AW’s entry into the Czech Republic, should it be necessary- VIDs (Very Important Documents), and AW is sure they were in their VIW (Very Important Wallet) and zipped in /up safe. I, as I say, totally trust that if someone is going to flake, it is me. I still trust that the loss/flakage potential is sky high with me and about the height of some grass with AW. But this was the leaving-your-homeland-for-a-strange-place day, and we had too much stuff, and we nearly missed the plane, and Ivy didn’t want to sleep on the journey… Etc. So I suppose my probability rose to as high as the moon, and AW’s to the height of, say a 5-storey building.

It could have mattered. I mean, it does matter; we are still trying to fix it, but it could have mattered on that journey, and it could have been the difference between our entering the EU together or not. The first leg flight was late, and of COURSE, the tight security and immigration control was in Vienna and not in Prague – we had not twigged this at all, and it was with utter dismay that with about 20 mins till the Prague plane flew, we turned the corner to find a typical international airport hell. At Vienna we went through the lines of people shouting about our imminent departure. People didn’t know whether to scowl or move, aside, but soon we (with our giant buggy full of hand baggage) were crying (we pinched the girls to make sure they joined in -JOKE) and so a lot of passengers and a few stewards just allowed us to the front of the snaking queue.

After our thousand bags had come through the scanner, as if that weren’t bad enough, with a laptop which needed removing and replacing we went through the next doorway to the immigration lanes. The place was jammed, and the non-EU lines long. We could not get through the hoards of loud passengers there to be heard at a window- and our buggy would not fit especially, as laden with bags, it was even wider than usual. At this point we were really desperate, and really crying. We got closer to the window and saw that the lanes were actually narrow corridors, and that the buggy would not fit – simple as that. On that realisation I looked all around the area for a member of staff on the ground. When I found one, she directed us calmly to the immigration official in the EU lane. It was wide, and empty. He looked at all our documents and handed them back, and I think I may have seen a glimmer of amusement in his fave. I expect we looked quite funny.

So THAT was our dreaded entry into the EU moment. There was I need to argue about EU freedom of movement laws. When we got to Prague, there was ZILCH- it was an EU-EU flight. Our pick-up was there, and we were driven to the hotel.

Two days later, when trying to shuffle the 12 bags around in the hotel room, we realised our VIDs were missing. The VIW was still zipped. We can’t work out when we dropped them, and why they have been chucked out (or kept?!) by the person who found them, rather than handed in?

There is loads more drama to come in this story. But we were all coming down with hand foot mouth again at this point too. Sooo not fun times! Below is a shot which includes our huge buggy. 20140829-220326-79406864.jpg

I hope this is neither boring nor whiney.

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My eyes are sore – one has a stye coming I think. We are not sleeping well (our bed is too small, so two of us are on the floor (on a makeshift bed). My new job is promising, but at this point also scary. We have loads of questions about paying utilities – I have no idea how to do a standing order or direct debit in Prague, so I am going to have to find the time to seriously Research and Do. We have just registered my presence CZ and have yet to do so with AW (waiting for her health insurance to be documented), and then we have to get my residency and THEN we have to get hers. We have about 6 weeks left. GULP. Our visa adviser seems to think that is long enough and I really hope she is right! Last night I mostly spent wandering the dusky streets of unknown Žižkov with Olive after she suffered a horrible bang to the head (looking for a hospital, obvs!). Not fun with my still-pathetic Czech. I had a little cry. But the main thing is, she is fine.
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Snuggling on the way back to the hospital.

On the plus side:
– PRAGUE IS GREAT
– AW is totally SUPERMUM
– Work seems really nice
– Certificate Saga seems to have been resolved
– commute is lovely!

Olive is a massive chatterbox and is putting words together – both girls love to say “mummy go”.

enough for now – must rest these itchy eyes.
xoxoxox

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Love, babies and rights- obstacles in two cultures

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Ok, still tons to remember to write about and so little time!
I want to talk about the Certificate Saga and Settling In soon, but just now I am going to write retrospective note about our fertility treatment in Bangkok, seeing as I heard from one of the mamas I referred to Dr X yesterday. I have referred 4 other couples to this dr – mostly farang (or like us, a binational couple). This mama was refused treatment. I was shocked and sad for her, but I have been thinking about it, and have concluded that it could be for these reasons:
1) too upfront about two mummies. Even before the consultation- I know other couples who have actively said “we are doing this together!”, but not at that very first stage. Thais really, actually live and breathe ‘unspoken understanding’. He understood my relationship with AW perfectly, but none of us ever said it. Not till the girls were born.
2) this written down. Even if he accepts same-sex clients (he does!! (did?)), it is not officially allowed. Therefore, I think writing it down, and expecting an answer in black and white would yield disappointment.
3) the Gammy factor. AW believes that the couple who used a Thai surrogate, had twins, and refused the down-syndromes sibling is making it harder on ‘farang’ to gain access to this sort of fertility treatment. Thai women cannot have fertility treatment if unmarried, but for farang (foreigners) the rules are usually waived (and often, fees increased). If the Gammy news has caused an increased scepticism and reluctance to treat farang, then I think it is a shame. However, I see both perspectives, and if farang are given special privileges in Thailand (such as affordable surrogacy, for example), and behave that way, then perhaps Thai medical professionals ask themselves why they should treat them? Or perhaps it isn’t that; perhaps, as with visas lately, there has been pressure to actually enforce the rules which are in place. In any case, I feel sorry for the mama who asked for my help with this. Maybe the goalposts have moved.

Hopefully, if she were to enquire again, as a single foreign woman, then she would get somewhere.

Interestingly, we just went on a really fantastic pride parade here in Prague. Here, unlike in Thailand, same-sex unions have been passed into law (by a teeny margin). However, property rights are not akin to marriage, and fertility / parental / adoption rights seem to be very bad indeed; same-sex partners can’t adopt each other’s children or adopt as a couple. Etc.
I realised two things at pride. The first was that I miss it. I can’t believe Bangkok has barely ever had a pride. The municipality would sneer at locking down a street for the freaks, I think, as behind the liberal facade, you are dealing with an entrenched and deeply conservative society. The second thing was that unlike marching in London or Brighton, here in Eastern Europe there are still many reasons to march; many people had travelled a long way for today, to show solidarity for LGBT people. There were many people, for example , from Russia.

I wish that all the decisions we make, as adults, were sensible ones. I wish people who are in love had the freedom to love without interference. And I wish that people in love could bring children into their lives without obstacles beyond those facing them biologically and financially if they are a same-sex couple.

Love is love.

Are we there yet? Maybe.

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Gosh, where to start? I suppose we are finding our feet here. We have:
-entered the country
-been ill and recovered (from a hellish bout of hand foot mouth – what timing!!)
-found a (n amazing) place to live
-wandered the city and admired the view (any Bangkok friends will appreciate the pleasure which can be derived from that!!)
-got to know our local area
-made a trip to ikea
-not gone crazy looking after the girls without help
-visited our local monthly flea market
-bought all kinds of fresh goodies (including unbelievable bread!!!) from the farmers’ market at the end of our street
-found a Thai friend for AW (she seems to be the only one in the city!) with Thai speaking kids
-set up a bank account
-gone all over picking up second hand bargains like ironing boards etc
-bought an annual pass for the zoo (of COURSE…)

The internet was set up today. Thank goodness.  You can’t get unlimited 3G here, even on a mobile contract – in Thailand (and I’m guessing the UK?) it’s now standard and we have been accustomed to googling/ facebooking/ blogging/ whatsapping whenever we want. I also carry out a large number of transactions via Facebook groups (especially selling our Bangkok belongings and now in attempting to kit out a new place) and I’m finding it all very tricky (and expensive!) to keep up with. I’ve started lots of conversations and struggled to finish them as my limited data is gobbled. One of these conversations, ironically, is one about installing the internet itself.
But we are getting there.

Below, I wrote of the stuff we have been through in our journey between Thailand and the Czech Republic. You already know about HFM. You don’t know about our super-important-documents crisis, or our almost-missing-both-flights disaster (I’m 99% certain they were intimately related)… It has been high-octane and as you’ll read, there have been some pressure points. But it all feels in the past now, as our optimism increases. Thie issues bemoaned below are resolving themselves one by one, Mum and dad are here and we are all in good spirits. And my lovely friends over at babysearching.wordpress.com had their little boy! Love to them!

Here are the posts-I-couldn’t-post-coz-I-had-no-wifi:

July 27
Oh wow.

Warning- even though I have just moved to an unbelievably fantastic city, this post is not a happy one. We have been enjoying the Prague 4 countryside to such an extent that we are a little sad to leave the area for our new apartment today. Actually though, that’s not the reason.

We have had a lot to handle. Too much, perhaps. That is why I’m waiting for a bus after what was supposed to be the final move from the hotel to our beautiful new place.

We left two important bags there.

In a similar vein, we left some really important things on the plane or in Vienna airport.

There are a million new sagas.

Our new place has just been given a facelift. It is pretty great. But I have watched a few too many scary films about young innocent couples moving into old (haunted) tenement blocks and I am a little anxious about spending our first night there. I know that is silly, but I can’t help it. Secondly, after arriving, we realised we’d lost the two bags with our most valuable and expensive documents and items in. Thankfully we were able to stay calm enough to call the driver and the hotel, and located them without further ado.
Thirdly, everyone smokes here, and while I can get used to it out and about, I fear our apartment may have a neighbour somewhere who smokes so heavily, that they are making our place smell of fags. We can throw open all the windows for now, but in the winter when we need to close doors and windows… I’m worried about that.
Why didn’t we notice it before? Well, the (smoking, struggling-with-personal-hygiene-in-a-heatwave) workmen were in, and there were rather a lot of smells unrelated to the apartment to concern our noses with. I feel so bad exposing my daughters to such a stink; even if I were a smoker myself, I’d smoke outside and always away from them.
Boo

I promise that I’ll update you with more positivity soon. Like I said though, we have had rather a lot to handle. Things will calm down soon, and my parents will be here on the 5th. Can’t wait to see them.

30th
Ok. Things are looking up. We have come to the conclusion that the smokey smells in our apartment aren’t fresh smoke; the actual air is not smokey at all. Therefore, as foul as it is to think about it, the previous occupant smoked to such excess and with such abandon, that the walls reek of it, long after his/ her departure. My theory is strengthened by the yellowed woodwork and cigarette-end-shaped burns on the hallway radiators.

The searing heatwave which was in full swing in Prague has ended. The mornings are warm but fresh, and seem to bring rain (also in the vein of a Bangkok rainy season) at about 5pm. We have been stuck in it unprepared twice now. Clearly not quite have tried out a few new wraps.

The girls are not behaving very well around food. This is partly the way auntie fed them (Thai style, on the floor and/or running around after them all around the room. I never liked this, but I was not the one doing the feeding).  This is also I’m guessing partly to do with the changes of moving here and the toddleryness they’re now exhibiting. And being infected with HFM. Both girls are very clingy, and Ivy loves her dummy again, Olive as boob-obsessed as ever. Maybe more, as it is the hols and I’m around all day, along with my heated, cuddly milksacks.

We have been zooming about all over the city on its (amazing and cheap) public transport system, which has been largely easy, however carrying buggies up and down escalators and/or steps is very tiring. Although compared to Thai people the checks are not exactly of a sunny disposition, they are friendly and helpful. We have been offered help so many times that I can now recognise the phrase (lots of Czech think I’m Czech, which is a novelty after obviously no-one EVER thinking I were Thai).

The school I will work in is in the outskirts of the city near where our hotel was. We imagined we would get a place to live out around there but have ended up right in the middle. We are glad as I think it makes things much better for mummy AW as she tries to make friends and travel with the monkeys anywhere while I’m at work. I will have a commute to navigate though.

We are really excited- Prague looks set to be a really exciting city for us. I’m missing Bangkok friends; especially those for whom travel is just a pipe dream. It was hard to leave them behind. And of course, we miss Auntie and even AW’s mum!

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Hand, foot & mouth disease: the fiery pits of toddler hell

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Roxxroxx:

Hey gang, Prague itself is great, but I thought it funny that this post came up in my blog feed… This is us (but not QUITE that bad as we are getting some sleep). Fevers and bitchy, needly spots are just what you need. They make an intercontinental move with twins under two really easy.
YUP.

Originally posted on :

Over the past 3 nights, I’ve mayyyyybe gotten about 7 hours of sleep in total. That’s a generous over-estimation. Want to know why? Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. 

Evelyn was diagnosed with it yesterday, but the symptoms (misery) started a couple days ago. I thought it was just teeth. She is cutting molars, after all. But then, daycare called me to tell me she had a rash on her bum, a few spots on her chin, behind her knees, and a few on her feet. A few in her mouth, too. Which means she’s not eating anything at all, and it hurts her to nurse.  They suspected it was hand, foot and mouth since it’s been running rampant through the daycare. Sure enough, it is.

The doctor says Evelyn has a mild case. If this is mild, I don’t want to think about a serious case.

Rocking your crying baby…

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