Picking up the Big Box

I’m going to post this simultaneously to this site, and to The Man in China.  Hopefully people returning from China will find our adventures in moving instructive.

I’m currently living near Fulford Harbor on Saltspring Island.  I’ll be here for at least a month, taking care of my son’s business while he goes on a much needed holiday.

Picture: Fulford Harbour, Saltspring Island, B.C., CanadaOn Friday I got the word that my big box had arrived from China, so on Saturday I caught the ferry from Saltspring to Crofton and went to my friend Gordon’s place to borrowed his utility trailer.  I spent the night at Gordon’s, and then Sunday I dragged the trailer onto the ferry and out to Maple Ridge to my sister’s place.

Actually, it wasn’t quite that simple.  Nothing ever is when I’m dealing with rules and regulations and international borders.  Before I could take the trailer away, Gordon told me I’d need to replace one of the light bulbs for the brake lights and asked me if I had the hookup.  I was shocked at the question.  Brake lights?  Hook up? Apparently it’s illegal to pull a trailer without brake lights.  So I dragged the trailer up to Canadian Tire to get the hookup installed. They had no mechanic on duty, it being Sunday.  I bought the missing bulb.  The parts man said he could sell me a brake light hookup kit, but he didn’t have any in stock; I could try Lordco, right next the the Costco.

At Lordco they could sell me the hook up kit, provided I had sixty bucks.  The sales guy went out to the parking lot to show me where I’d have to break into the van to tap into the brake light wires.  We tried to open a little access hatch on the left hand side, but it was too tight to get open without pliers.  I noticed the hatch on the right hand side, opened it, and lo and behold, a brake light hookup fell out, already installed.  Must remember to thank the folks at the dealers for not cheaping out on me when they installed the trailer hitch.

After the ferry, and driving out to Maple Ridge, my cousin Reta and her husband took me in to Balcara for a dinner party with friends and family.  I spent Sunday night at my sister’s in Maple Ridge, but was on the road again early to get up to Ruskin and pick up the sewing machine my cousin has given me.  Then I headed in to Richmond to claim our big box.  That’s when the fun started.

At the shipper’s office, Henry from Korea asked me for the bill of lading.  I gave him all the paperwork I had.  It wasn’t enough.  There was some vitally important document missing, essential to the continued function of the universe, and they wouldn’t release our box without getting confirmation from China that it had been shipped and had not magically appeared in their warehouse.

Henry told me that he might have the paperwork by that afternoon, so I drove to the warehouse where the box was incarcerated.  I could see it.

Picture:  Our big box in the warehouse.  So near and yet so unobtainable.I could take pictures of it, provided shot the pictures from the open loading door and didn’t step foot inside the warehouse, but I couldn’t take it away.

Picture:  The big box.  This closer picture makes the damage obvious.Even from the doorway of the warehouse I could see that the box has suffered some abuse but it looked generally intact.  The way we packed it, I wasn’t expecting any damage to the contents.

That’s when I decided to check on the time in China. It was two in the morning in Beijing.  Obviously I wasn’t going to get our box that day.  I hung out.  Practised my guitar.  Practised my banjo.  Practised my fiddle.  Took GouGou for walks.

I dragged to trailer to the Bridgeport Starbucks and had a venti latte.  The barista was from China and I got to practice my Chinese, much to his amusement.  Then I went back to the warehouse, set the trailer up on the ramp outside the only loading door that had a ramp, and took GouGou for a long walk around a huge field.

Picture: GouGou really enjoyed our walk around the big field.Picture:  GouGou rolling in the grass, one happy dog.It was a beautiful evening.  There was a full moon rising directly over Mount Baker.

Picture:  Moon rise over Mount Baker as seen from Richmond, B.C., CanadaWe walked along a low dike around the field, as ducks and a Great Blue Heron fed in the ditch.  I slept in the van that night.

Picture:  The van and trailer on the ramp, ready for a load in the morning.The next morning I got an email with an attachment.  The paperwork was in hand.  Henry called to let me know I could load the box.  I went into the warehouse to talk to Kevin.  Kevin is from Shanghai, though he’s been in Canada for twenty years.  I got to practice my Chinese, again.

Kevin wanted the customs clearance.  I told him that we had cleared the box with customs when we came through the airport.  We made a “declaration of goods to follow.”  No, said Kevin.  That’s not good enough.  I need an official stamp on this piece of paper, the bill of lading from China.  I called Henry.  “I told you to go to the customs and clear the shipment,” said Henry.  He sounded exasperated.  I sounded exasperated.  But this was not negotiable.  I unhitched the trailer and off I went to 333 Dunsmuir Street to see the nice man at Canada Customs.

He actually turned out to be a nice man, took care of stamping my document without argument, and faxed the stamped clearance to the shipper.  So by the time I got back to the warehouse, Kevin was ready to load my box for me, which he did by putting it on a fork lift and running it straight onto the trailer.

Picture:  Finally.  Ready to roll with the box on the trailer.I was at the horseshoe bay terminal by noon, but that sailing was overloaded.  So I had to wait for the 3:10 sailing.

Picture:  Here we are in the ferry lineup at Horseshoe Bay.Picture:  Ferry lineup, Horseshoe Bay, B.C., CanadaPicture: The Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal with the small boat for Boan Island in its berth.My favourite sushi restaurant in Horseshoe Bay has been closed.  GouGou and I hung out.  We met a lot of other dog owners.

I snoozed in the van for the entire ferry ride, only leaving it to use the washroom before we docked.

I was at my house in Nanaimo by about five thirty.  The box has a crumpled edge on one side at the bottom, and the plywood has been punctured like it was hit hard by the fork of a forklift.  I opened up the box and took most of the instruments out of it, plus sheets and pillow cases and our kitchen knives and our folding camping chairs.  Nothing seems to have been broken.  I pulled out some of the heavy stuff just to reduce the weight.  Marshal, my tenant, was home and gave me a hand to get the box down into the crawl space. It fit just fine.

I delivered Gordon’s trailer back to him and had time for a quick shower in his open air outdoor garden shower, the best shower on the planet.  Then I took off to catch the 8:00pm ferry back to Saltspring, with twenty minutes to spare.

I made it to Saltspring in time to buy a couple of bananas and a bag of Cheezies for dinner and drive to the South End Grooveyard to hear Jason and Pharis Romero playing traditional music on instruments they made themselves.  http://www.romerobanjos.com/index.html  They live on the old homestead up in Horsefly that used to belong to the family of my cousin Darlene’s husband, Ken Smith, who sold the property to them provided them make him a banjo.  They did.  I played it last year.  Beautiful instrument.  I’ve put down a deposit on a banjo for myself.  There’s a three and a half year wait for a Romero banjo, so I have some time to come up with the rest of the money.

Now I’m back on Saltspring trying to get up to speed on running my son’s business so he can take off in a few days for a well deserved vacation.

Life remains interesting.

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