Moved to San Francisco

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all well. We are. We arrive safely in San Francisco almost a week ago – last Saturday morning. As you can imagine, moving ourselves to another country has kept us fairly busy this week, and we didn’t take time off work, probably should have, so in between starting a new life here we’ve also been working in the gaps. A few late nights as we get used to the time difference between here and New Zealand.

The flight over was fine, neither of us got much sleep – the flight wasn’t turbulent really, perhaps just anticipation of us and our 7 bags arriving to live here. Having said that, I wasn’t too sad getting on the plane, I think because we’ve had a couple of trips over here the last 6 months, it kind of felt like another work trip. I didn’t burst into tears when the plane took off and must admit felt a little pang of excitement when we landed here. We had a few hurried goodbyes in person and on the phone at Wellington and Auckland airports which was nice.

We’d arranged to meet the broker who helped us find our apartment here on Saturday morning to get the keys so that we could move into the apartment right away – no use getting Xero to pay for a hotel if the apartment was ready. It was just a great as we remembered it – walking in and seeing the majestic Bay Bridge out the window really is fantastic.


The broker left fairly quickly and we jumped into action – we went straight down to check our mail box to see if our Zipcar card had arrived – it had – then back up to the apartment to figure out how to get some internet to book a car so we could go out to the East Bay to Bev and Dan’s to say hi and join in Dan’s birthday party and pick up our boxes we left there last time. (Will write more about the Zipcar later – it’s a car share service – website here). We soon realised there wasn’t much in the apartment other than big furniture – no pillows, towels, kitchen stuff, plugs etc so that first shower was interesting … The Mister also managed to avoid an automated voice service when phoning the bank which we had to do before going anywhere – because our accounts are based out of New York they automatically freeze the account if you use a credit card in another State because they assume it’s stolen – didn’t need that drama when we had to buy toilet paper, bread and coffee on the way home from Bev and Dan’s.

Anyway, after writing a basic list of what we’d need, arranging the car, unlocking our credit cards it was about lunchtime so we wandered along to the Ferry Building for a coffee at Blue Bottle, oh and a cinnamon bun from the bakery next door! It was nice to get out in the sun – about 20 degrees and blue sky (which it seems to be all the time here which is great!) We picked the car up and got out to Bev and Dan’s just after 4pm – she was surprised to see us, Bev knew we were coming, but Dan didn’t think we were arriving for another couple of days. It was nice to meet their friends who we’ve heard so much about. We managed to stay for nearly 4 hours before the extreme tiredness from flying and 3 hours sleep kicked in. Grabbed a few supplies from the Safeway near their house and headed back into town. We got pizza delivered for dinner – pretty late by then but we realised we hadn’t eaten much the last 36 hours so had to get something. No TV, so watched something off The Mister’s computer.

First night pizza

In the stuff we collected from their place we had our quilt, some towels and clothes – so that night had a deep exhausted sleep right on the mattress, using a cushion from the couch as a pillow, under the quilt – yes, much improvising in manner of camping those first few days. Breakfast the next morning was interesting too – we had the cups and plunger that Fuel gave us as a farewell gift, but no plates, knives, jug or anything – I ‘boiled’ water in a mug I found in the cupboard in the microwave and we had croissants that we’d got at the Ferry Building bakery the day before, knowing that we wouldn’t have any utensils by breakfast, and ate out of the packet. Just like camping …

First breakfast

It’s Sunday by now and we booked the Zipcar again to spend a few hours just out of the city in Ikea – giant giant furnishing and homewares store. We had our list and off we went. Man that place is huge. We had to get basic kitchen stuff, check out sofa beds for the spare room (first visitors next weekend) and get bedding for both beds. The trolleys were overflowing with pillows, pots, airing rack, sheets, glasses toilet brush, cutlery etc – we have quite a few bits to come that we shipped from New Zealand but have to cope with what we’ve now got until then.

Ikea fun

After we made a bigger trip to the supermarket we had basic supplies (and a giant grater, not sure why they’re all so big here) to make macaroni cheese for dinner (good old Sunday night tradition) as well as stuff to last the rest of the week.

Mac n cheese

Monday morning was the highlight of the week for The Mister – the guy with the internet came to the house and after about 15 minutes we had the fastest internet he’s ever experienced. Needless to say we were housebound the next couple of hours while we rushed through what we could of emails from work. The rest of that day was 2 hours standing in AT&T while they got our phones switched from pre-pay accounts back onto ordinary accounts (not kidding, we were there while the guy phoned their various departments for 2 hours!) then a quick lunch sitting on the steps in a small plaza in town, then just over an hour in the bank to get our accounts switched from a New York branch of the bank to that California branch – same bank but totally different banking systems so that took a while and we have to do it, as mentioned before, we don’t want our cards frozen every time we go to the supermarket because we’re shopping out of State. After a coffee stop at Blue Bottle in the city we walked home and spent the rest of the day arranging and cleaning and starting to put things away in the apartment. Starting to look quite tidy (and orange).

Apartment Apartment

Tuesday after the official welcome and tour of the apartment building, we got our papers in order and got the BART (underground) out to the Federal building to get our social security numbers – we got there quite early because we’ve heard horror stories about long waits – both our phones were charged, I had a granola bar on board – I was ready. We took a number, and had filled out most of our forms that we’d brought along to do while we waited when they called our number to Window 1 – only waited 5 minutes! However, we were just far too efficient and after quite a bit of tapping on the keyboard by the lady behind the window (in manner of travel agent looking in the system to see if there’s a flight the day you want it) she said “Oh, did you only just arrive in the country recently?” Errrrrr. “Yes, Saturday.” “Oh, well you’re way too early to apply for a number. It takes at least 10 days for your immigration information to show up in our system. Come back in 10 days.” Shit. Everywhere we’ve been – AT&T, bank, car – they all want the social security number. And we can’t get paid a salary without it. Might be working for free for a while! Have to go back in 10 days, then wait another 2 or 3 weeks for the number. Sigh. Had to go get a coffee! We were close by the Sightglass Roastery that we’d not been to before so that was a cool place to hang out in while we pondered our next move. Got more bread and headed home to work a bit in the New Zealand timezone, tidy a bit more, and The Mister had a meeting with the office in Wellington.

I had to ring immigration to change the address for my work permit and I don’t know how I did that phone call without crying – the guy was a military dude and I felt like I was being grilled. “Ma’am. State your surname and spell it now.” “Please confirm. Walker. Wilco. Alpha. Lima …” And on and on interspersed with him barking instructions he was reading from a sheet about my obligations as an alien to inform the United States Customs and Immigration Service where I was at all times.

The Mister had to ring United Airlines about some flights we had booked to Kansas next weekend for a conference Xero has an exhibition stand at. I’m not going after all so a few days here by myself (well, except for visitors overnight on Saturday) is happening sooner than I expected!

Bit of a late night because Ikea who were delivering our sofa bed between 5 and 9pm were running really late and didn’t arrive until after 10pm – so weird to have furniture deliveries at night – welcome to America!

Next day … where are we now … Wednesday … we had a couple of hours in SOMA to look around the office we’ll be using and get a coffee. We’re taking a few desks in a shared office space that’s been set up by NZTE for New Zealand companies who need temporary desk space while they sort themselves out for a launch into the States. There are 2 suites (large rooms) on the first floor of an older commercial building and so far only a couple of desks rented. We’re taking some space in the front room, it’s a bit bigger, and lets us keep 4 or 5 desks together which is cool – don’t need them yet but will need 3 by October. The space is nice – very newly fitted out so lacking a bit of character yet, and definitely no orange, but The Mister found a nice corner spot and we’ll move in there next week. I’m going to sit opposite him by the window. They still have to sort out internet to our side of the building. We meet 3 or 4 people who are using the space in the other room already.

San Francisco office space San Francisco office space

Had our first trip to Macy’s too. Turns out the Ikea pillows aren’t that great so needed to try out some proper ones. Plus The Mister needed a razor – (just for you SDF … by now he was starting to look like a certain James Bond type character) perhaps the longest without a shave in the time I’ve known him … really embracing that camping spirit! Plus we had a wander around Williams Sonama to spend some of the gift card I got for my last birthday – came away with 2 orange oven mitts – yaaay! After some more work that afternoon we headed back to the Ferry Building (only 10-15 minutes walk away) for a late coffee and a look around the kitchen shop there. We’re still boiling water from a pot and grilling bread – no toaster. We’ve got gas cooking so I was thrilled to find an orange whistling kettle! And it would’ve been hundreds of dollars in New Zealand so I wasn’t going to let it get away. However, bad news, The Mister’s card was declined at the checkout – lucky for me mine was OK so once we got home, back on the phone to the bank to tell them buying a kettle was not fraudulent but yes we were shopping quite a bit because we’d just moved here and needed supplies!

Orange kettle

Later that night, as a result of a meeting The Mister had earlier that day he needed to ring United Airlines again to change his flights to Kansas again, in order to spend an extra day there to have a big strategy session with Rod and others who are now flying over to the States and will be in Kansas that same weekend. After the ease of the call the night before we didn’t expect the voice-automated hell he’d end up in. The automated man was pleasant enough but he just didn’t understand The Mister’s accent. I was trying to work but was almost wetting myself laughing listening to The Mister try and be any clearer than he already was saying the first 3 letters of his flight booking reference (by now the automated guy had given up “I’m sorry, I don’t understand your booking reference. How about we try just the first 3 letters or numbers.”)

The Man: “Please say the first 3 letters or numbers of your booking reference”
The Mister: “J2Z”
The Man: “You said A2P. Is this correct – yes or no?”
The Mister: “No”
The Man: “Please try again”
The Mister (raising his voice): “J. 2. Z.”
The Man: “You said B27. Is this correct – yes or no?”
The Mister: “No”
The man: “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you” (sounded quite sympathetic, obviously recorded in a way so as to not offend anyone who didn’t speak English as a first language!) “This time say the first 3 letters or numbers using a word that starts with the letter you are trying to say, for example “B for ball”.” (Jif I know you’re laughing about now. Trust me I was.)
The Mister: “J for Jane, the number 2, Z for Zebra” (by this stage I was laughing harder, and wished The Mister knew morse code or whatever those army terms are – perhaps ‘Jane’ wasn’t a good word, and Z should’ve been for Zulu … what is J anyway?)
The Man: “I’m really sorry, I’m still having trouble understanding you. Let’s try something different. Please say your name.” Uh oh.
The Mister :”Craig Walker”
The Man: “You said Greg Miller – is this correct yes or no?”
The Mister: “No”
The Man: “Please say your name again”
The Mister: “CRAIG WALKER”
The Man: “You said Greg Miller – is this correct yes or no?”
The Mister: “NO”
The Man: “I’m sorry I’m trying to understand you, please say just your surname”
The Mister: (in the broadest American, perhaps Texan, accent he could muster) “Waaaallllkur”
The Man: “I’m sorry, I missed that. Please say your surname again”
The Mister (in a different American accent, channeling Steve Jobs): “Walker”
The Man: “I’m sorry, I’m still having a lot of trouble understanding you.” (recorded to sound slightly pissed off by now)

This went on for another few minutes, several attempts to get The Mister to say other things, his phone number, the city he was departing from, arriving to, the date etc etc and after about half an hour …

The Man: “I’m very sorry. I cannot process your request as I cannot find the information you’re giving me. Please press 2 to be immediately connected to a Customer Services Representative”

WTF? Flights got changed in the end. I had to rush to the toilet before I peeed myself – poor Mister, but it was funny.

Yesterday we had a good full morning working at home, before going back towards the office to meet the guy we’re hiring to start in October for afternoon coffee for a couple of hours and a tour of the office for him. After some more work back at the apartment we finally braved the Muni – underground/overground train system to head over to the Castro district for dinner to a place recommended to us by Paul and Kelda from Nikau. Our first dinner out since we’ve been here – Italian, it was fantastic.

And here I am this morning. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get to my blog but with all the coming and going I just haven’t had time to write. Hopefully we’ll settle into a bit more of a routine when we start going into the office and not needing to go out and hunt down things like a kettle – although I hope not too much of a routine because I think we might as well make a fresh start seeing as we’ve made such a big move. The weather is nice every day (even though the locals are complaining about how cold it is) so it’s nice to go out for some air every day. We’re still eating much the same food and doing our same jobs so it would be nice if some things changed! There are a lot of homeless people here and a lot of people who look quite normal but then they start shouting at the sky.

Anyway, hope you’re all well, will write more soon – time to head out for some coffee!

Love OG xo


#1 Short Dark Friend on 08.06.11 at 10:16 am

Loved reading this. So glad you have settled in. Your new home looks lovely & glad to see you have lots of orange there. Almost texted last night when watching NZNTM but it was a summary episode. Love to the Mister PS hmmm James Bond lookalike…WOOF

#2 BaselLisa on 08.06.11 at 10:28 pm

Boy, you’ve had a busy week! Did you manage to get lost in Ikea? We always do in our one. Love the blog; def cheered up a long train trip between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Really, everyone looks like you and your mum here, OG! Xxxx

#3 Hadley Fierlinger on 08.13.11 at 11:07 am

Love this. I am endlessly fascinated by your impressions and experiences moving to SF and it makes me remember when we moved to Wellington. All the crazy details fade in time so it is great that you are writing it all down. Keep em coming!

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