Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our Stay in Cernobbio

We've learned that in Italy, things don't move quite as quickly as they do in the good ole' USA. I think God was preparing us for that with our 2 night "mini-vacation" in New Jersey on the way here. Currently, we're staying at a hotel in Cernobbio (cher-no-bee-o), a small town near Como. Learn more about Cernobbio and Lake Como here:

We will sure be happy when we're finally out of hotels and settled into our place, but Cernobbio is gorgeous - here are a few pictures of their lakeside views. Not bad, huh?!

This area has restaurants right along the shore and is just a short walk from our hotel.

Oh, gelato! There is a shop practically on every corner. The manager of our hotel says you must have one per day...

Eva, once again, sleeping! Cole's razor was still in our lost luggage.  :)

This sculpture is near the train station in Como - I love it. I'll have to take more pics later on... 

Walking to dinner. Aren't they cute? This little lady has gotten lots of attention!
Here there are forms and more forms for everything. We have both been a little frustrated by it all, but we are learning to deal. Since we don't have a car yet, everything we've done has been by bus or on foot. I think all of the walking justifies our daily gelato stops. Yum! :)

This week we have...
  • completed a walk-through our apartment and signed final paperwork. Check!
  • made two separate trips to the gas company to get the gas reconnected. They're scheduled to come on Monday to take care of that, so we're not completely finished there... yet.
  • made three separate trips to the rental car companies. One of our trips was during the 1:00pm - 3:00pm window where most stores close down for a long lunch, so we had to return later. We still don't have a rental car... they are unable to rent for more than one month, and we're entering the busy tourist season so we're sort of on a waiting list. I was hoping this would be lined up before we got to Italy. It has been a painful process. 
  • purchased wireless internet for our laptop and iPad... it's slow. Very. Slow. BUT it's better than nothing! It's great to be re-connected to our friends and family.
  • attempted getting a cell phone for me, more waiting there. Since we don't yet know what provider Cole's phone will be with, we are holding off on a decision. We'll get connected to a sort of "friends and family" plan once we know more.
  • made our first trip to the grocery store, a short walk from our apartment in Como. This was a guessing game, trying to translate with the very little Italian we know. Everything turned out just fine. Grocery shopping is going to be a slow process for me, though!
  • eaten lots of delicious Italian food. Much of which we don't understand on the menu... so it's also been a guessing game ordering meals. At one point a waitress told us one word meant "horse" meat. We aren't sure if she was confused with her English or if they actually eat horse here. We'll have to do some research on that. And, dang it, neither of us can remember what the Italian word was... 
  • attempted to open an Italian bank account. We found out it would cost us nearly $200 US dollars just to have the account, not including any transactions, which would be 1.6 euros each. (So $2.08 per deposit, withdrawal, etc.) We're researching other options... those American banks (and all of their fees) are looking better every day! 
It's nice to see everything we've done this week in writing, because we feel like nothing has actually gotten accomplished. But that is a long list! We have a ways to go before we'll feel like we can truly relax and see the sites. For now, it's just getting settled and taking care of business!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pit Stop... New Jersey

We are finally in Italy! More about that later. Here's a little timeline of our hellish travel experience thanks to the combination of some crummy weather in NY and the world's worst airline, United! Truly, it was one of the worst customer service experiences we've ever had. United handled the situation just about as badly as humanly possible...

Friday, June 22
12:30 pm Shuttle arrived to take us to Cleveland Hopkins Airport, along with a family from South Korea, also in the GDP program, who was headed along the same route. We were all scheduled for a 7:00 flight from Newark to Frankfurt, Germany.
2:00 pm Made it through security at the airport and checked into our flights.
3:00 pm Originally scheduled to depart Cleveland at this time, flight was been postponed until 3:30.
3:30 pm Flight postponed until 4:00.
4:00 pm Flight postponed until 5:00.
5:00 pm Flight postponed until 6:00.
6:00 pm Flight postponed until 7:00.
7:00 pm Flight postponed until 8:00.
8:30 pm We finally boarded. The stewardesses were using a paper list and asking row-by-row what people's names are. (They started from both ends of the plane and then had to manually recheck their lists against each others.) Their computer system was down because lightning struck some piece of FAA equipment. Over the next several hours the plane sat on the runway. And sat. And sat. And sat. 
10:15 pm The pilot finally said we were waiting to be cleared for takeoff - in a long line of other planes waiting to takeoff. He gave us a 30 minute window. If we weren't cleared by 10:45 he planned to call it quits and head back to the terminal.
10:40 pm Back at the terminal we are letting people off the plane and the pilot now says we'll have another "final answer" in twenty minutes. Passengers are now finding their way to the back of the plane to get drinks from the stewardesses, who are doing nothing, aside from flirting with some married guy who's hanging out near their station. After I went back to get a drink from them, one of them followed me back to my seat to see if I need anything for the baby. She noticed that we had a baby! After TWO hours of sitting around with a crying infant, the stewardess noticed. Ok. Pretty disgusted at this point. We understand that the weather and lightning strike are out of United's control. BUT they do have the ability to offer excellent (or at the bare minumum decent) customer service no matter the circumstances. Enormous fail on their part in so many ways.
11:05 pm We are cleared for takeoff and passengers who left the plane reboard.

Saturday, June 23
12:00 am We finally took off.
1:00 am Our plane landed in Newark. We headed to customer service to attempt and reschedule the flights that we missed.
1:25 am Two women from United approached our very long line at customer service and tell the entire group that customer service for United will close at 2:00 am. Many in this group have international connections. Of course. Please go home. We don't mind if you leave at the end of your shift. Why would you want to go above and beyond for your exhausted, paying customers? So we were handed a slip of paper with an 800 number for customer service and told that we could not pick up our baggage. Since it was flying internationally, they will reroute it for us once we have booked a new flight.
3:00 am We finally found our way (along with our South Korean friends) to a shuttle and on to a hotel.. most hotels around the airport were competely full. So we wound up 30 minutes from the airport.
4:00 am Sleep, finally.
9:10 am Cole called the 800 number. 45 minutes on hold. Only to find out we needed to call the international 800 number. (The ladies didn't mention that there was a different line for international flights - we even asked about being on an international flight to them - .) So Cole called the other number and was on hold an additional 15 minutes. No flights were available to connect to Italy until 8pm Sunday, June 24, and it will take us into a different Milan airport. Which makes us wonder about our luggage...
10:15 am Reservations person cannot help with baggage questions, so she gave us the only baggage number she has - a lost and found number for Newark airport. You get the drift. It took forever. Then Cole helped our Korean friends rebook their flight, too.

Sunday, June 24
12:30 pm Rode to the airport in a shuttle with our friends from Korea.
1:15 pm The United flights we were on had been rerouted to a German airline, Lufthansa. Neither the Koreans nor us had actual seats on the flights. United hadn't reserved them. We had to visit customer service to straighten everything out. Our seats were then reserved. Our friends from Korea were put on standby.

Thankfully the Korean family DID get onto their flight, and so did we. We're now staying in Cernobio, just 10 minutes from Como, until our apartment is ready. Today we got our luggage - all of it! We were sure we'd never see it again. I think God knew we needed a little happy moment! So glad to have our stroller, too... that carseat was starting to get heavy. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Eva in the Major Leagues

Progressive Field for Eva's first major league game. Indians vs. Reds: Indians WON 8-1
We had a special visitor in the Parker suite! :) Slider stopped by for a few minutes!
Eva loves our pouch/carrier - almost as much as she loves her hands!
We had some pretty awesome seats! It was a beautiful night!
Truly, this only happened a few times. She was mostly a very happy girl! But how cute is this?!

GDP & The People

Here are GDP participants with "Slider" in the Parker Hannifin suite at Progressive Field.
Cole's Global Development Program (GDP) meetings wrap up this afternoon. We have spent the week meeting and getting to know people from all over the world, gleaning advice from "inbound" program participants and wishing the best of luck to fellow FY13 "outbound" participants. It has been amazing to meet and visit with such a diverse group. Everyone has been very welcoming and accepting. It's also been fun to see everyone interact with Eva.  Most of the ladies even ask to hold her - especially one of the women from India. Loving babies is just one of those things that is truly universal.

Past participants have all spoken highly of their experiences - we've only heard extremely positive things, and our excitement is really growing! We know there will be a period of culture shock and adjustment, but we now feel more ready to deal with all of the emotions that are sure to come. We've learned so much about Parker and some products they manufacture which we never knew about before, including enormous nylon rope/moorings for oil rig type ships (made in Norway) and sonar systems for locating oil underseas. To give you a better idea of just how unbelievably large Parker Hannifin is, and where the participants are originally from / going to, here is a little more info:

FY12 Participants: Inbound
Brazil > USA (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
China > USA (I believe...)
France > South Africa
France > USA (California)
Germany > China
India > USA (Cleveland, OH)
USA > China
Three single participants went to China and all lived in the same apartment complex.
USA (Cleveland, OH) > Norway 
This family has two children, their baby girl (now 10 months old) was born just four weeks after arriving in Norway!

FY13 Participants: Outbound
China > USA (Boston)
This woman is spending the year apart from her husband and 2 year-old daughter, who stayed in China.
China > USA (Cleveland, OH)
China > USA (Chicago, IL)
India > USA (Chicago, IL)
This couple has a seven-year old son and eleven-year-old daughter.
India > USA (Cleveland, OH)
This couple also has a son, around 9 years old.
Korea > Germany
This family has two children, 5 years and 10 months old.
USA (Manhattan, KS) > Italy
USA (Modesto, CA) > United Kingdom
USA (Cleveland, OH) > China

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hello from Cleveland!

Yesterday we left Manhattan and officially began our BIG journey… It was a difficult weekend, since we said our final goodbyes to many friends, both of our families and also the dogs. Wow. Lots of tears were shed. We knew it would be tough, but I think we both underestimated just how difficult it would be to leave everything and everyone we know behind.

The last few days have been some of the hardest I can remember – ever. Not only are we tired from traveling, but also emotionally drained from leaving loved ones, pets and our home behind. As Cole said last night, “I kind of feel like we're homeless.”  
There is nothing as perfect as a peaceful, beautiful sleeping baby. 
Nap time. What a special Father’s Day moment... one I’ll remember forever!
We flew from Manhattan – Chicago – Cleveland. We’re staying at the Marriott until Friday when we are supposed to leave for Milan. (Yes, I reminded Cole that homeless people don’t usually get to stay at the Marriott…) However, there are still some questions about the dates on Cole’s work visa (which he just received Tuesday) and whether or not we will definitely be leaving as our current flight itinerary stands. 

When we arrived at the welcome dinner last night, one of the first things the program director did was apologize to us... He said that most countries aren't as difficult to work with as Italy. Often the Italians reject paperwork for minor grammatical errors and/or come up with new, surprise requirements at the last minute. It sort of feels like nothing is ever finalized when working with them. We will learn more in the next few days.
Eva's first flight!

Eva was the perfect little traveler yesterday! She slept completely through both of our flights. At first, she was fussing just a bit leaving Chicago, obviously fighting sleep, but once the plane started taxiing down the runway preparing for takeoff, she fell deep asleep. We were relieved. Her ears didn't seem to bother her on either flight, but we did give her a pacifier as much as possible since many people had given us that advice. What a little trooper she has been! I think it was also helpful having nearly three hours layover in Chicago between flights. We had plenty of time to feed and change her and let her wiggle around a little. 

Friday will be a true test for us as new parents. We'll have 8 hours of sky time between Newark, NJ and Frankfurt Germany. Please remember us in your prayers!!! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day! :)

What a day! We're flying to Cleveland today and will make the long journey to Milan later this week, so today we're saying "see ya later" to our family and friends and beginning this great adventure. Reflecting on this day makes me so grateful for an incredible father of my own and a terrific husband who loves the Lord and sets such a great example for our little one. We are truly blessed. It's certainly been an emotional first Father's Day for us this year! Here's a special photo book that Eva and I are giving Cole to celebrate his special day! :) Enjoy!

Visit to create your own personalized photobook.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

THREE Months Old!

Eva is three months old today! Time has gone so quickly... earlier this week we were out and about and ran into a friend with a one-week-old baby. The difference between Eva and Mallory was amazing! What a reminder of just how much she has grown in only a few months. Our sweet girl is developing quite the personality. We encourage her to talk as much as we can - she has even started babbling to herself in her carseat or bouncy seat at home. She talks along while mommy reads to her - sometimes she is loud! Eva is finding her voice and developing her lungs a little more each day. 

Here are more pictures from Eva's first trip to the lake.. she hated her life jacket at first, but eventually wore herself out fighting it and realized that the head support made a perfect pillow. She napped on the dock much of the day. I think Eva is going to be a lake girl! Maybe we'll try for a ride on the tube next summer... :) She now has FOUR pairs of sunglasses... all gifts. The girl is stylin' already! 

Eva had her 4 month appointment early since we are getting ready to leave. She has grown a bunch since last month! These percentiles are accurate for her age even though her appointment was early this time around. She is tall like her daddy!

25.5 Inches - 97%
13 Lbs. 10 oz. - 74%

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fast Forward

I've been saying this for a few months now... I wish we could just hit the "fast forward" button and be in Italy. It's becoming increasingly difficult to say good-bye. Actually, I am an emotional train wreck... so far I have cried almost every single time. Even though I realize that our year away will fly by, there are so many friends and family members that we will miss terribly. And my head is swimming with scary "what ifs."  It's crazy to think that two weeks from today we'll have left our home in Manhattan and will finally be starting this new adventure. Most days I bounce back and forth between excitement and mild terror.

Our flight leaves June 17th and we (mostly Cole) will spend four days at meetings in Cleveland before making the long flight to Milan on June 22nd. These few weeks are packed with last-minute appointments and long "to do" lists.

Eva has had lots of firsts recently. Last week it was her first wheat harvest... Great Grandpa Eilders stopped cutting to see her many times! She was really slowing down the progress. She may even be back in the USA in time for next year's havest since this year it came so early!

Eva also had her first trip to the lake! More about that later... She has really been a trooper - sleeping wonderfully and giving us more and more smiles and happy chatter. She is amazing. There is just no way to explain the joy we feel when she locks eyes with us, smiles and coos! We are anxious about flying with her for the first time. Hopefully the pressure changes and long hours traveling aren't too tough on her!