DISCLAIMER: There will likely be a lot of whining and complaining in this post. If that does not suit your mood, please go here or here. Just warning you.
After 5 weeks here in Philadelphia, we realize how good we had it in Seattle. Actually, I think we knew that after 5 minutes, but anyway. I knew things wouldn't be super easy nor that everything would just fall into place moving to a new city, but its been rough. I look back on my first few months after moving to Seattle and although I remember a few bumps here and there, it was nothing like this. It seems as though everytime Justin and I try to do something, it utterly fails or at leasts hits a hundred road blocks. I can't begin to remember all the things that have caused us trouble, but here are some lowlights.
The driving here is a bit different. Those of you from Seattle know what bad traffic is, but this is a different kind of bad. Fortunately enough for us, I think, we don't need to use the highways all too often. I spent a bit of time on the freeways around Philly when I was out here for my interviews and it was awful. There are so many different ones that intertwine and connect, or charge tolls, or change numbers in the middle of them that it can be super confusing. And they are super crowded all the time. But the roads around our neighborhood are just as confusing. There is one in particular that is a pretty major route for most things we need to get to. It is basically 4 sets of lanes, 2 sets for each direction. Within each set is 3-4 lanes. So if you are traveling north in the far right lane, and need to get to something on the left side of the boulevard, you need to first find a "crossover" to get to the more middle set of lanes, and then find a place to do a U-turn. Sometimes this means going 1-2 miles completely out of your way. Most intersections are "No Turn on Red" which ends up making you have to wait at lights, even when NOBODY is coming for miles and miles. And we have yet to find any light that has a sensor. What that means is we will spend minutes and minutes at a major intersection waiting at a red light (since we can't turn on red!) with nobody coming. One of the worst of these is on the road I take to get to the train station for my commute. At 6:00 in the morning, I'll get a red light on a major road. The light is for people coming off a little side street, but there is never anyone there. What is up with that? Also, speed limits appear to be nonexistent. We get passed going almost 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. And the people passing you are mad that you're going so slowly. What?!?! We have seen a fews cops turn their lights on so they can get through a light, and turn on red. Not fair. Also, we have a handy dandy GPS that has been helpful, but also a hindrance. It will often take you way out of your way to avoid U Turns. But you don't know that is how you are being directed until its too late. None of the roads or routes are very intuitive and it has made for several disappointing outings.
It took us 3 trips to the DMV and 2 trips to the Department of Licensing, to get new driver's licenses and to register our cars, not to mention how ridiculously expensive it all was. Justin and I are both fairly intelligent people (him more than me) and it still took that many trips for one reason or another.
First Trip to DMV- I had about 5 days off from work when we first got here so we could get our bearings and get some of the "new residence" stuff taken care of. We got our directions, our proof of ID and went to the DMV. They didn't take cash or cards. So back home since we didn't have our checkbook with us.
Second Trip to DMV- So the next day we tried again, with checkbook in hand, and also with 2 proofs of residency, or so we thought. This time we were turned away since one of the proofs of residency was a FAX. This apparently is not enough, since it was a facsimile, you know, the exact copy of a contract stating we lived at you know, our address.
After this we decided to coast by until something forced us to get it done. Like a ticket or something. 2 weeks later I get my Washington Tag renewal in the mail. Which I can't renew, since I needed an emissions test. Didn't think the state of WA would give me tags when I sent them a copy of a PA emissions test. So now we needed to get PA license plates and tags, for 2 cars. And you can't do that unless you have a PA license. So back to the DMV.
In preparation, I made several calls to both the DMV and DOL to insure we had everything we needed. Oh yeah, the DOL only takes cash. We don't typically have cash on us since its the 21st century and all. You know, where most places take debit or credit cards. But not old Pennsylvania. Toll roads are also cash only, learned that the hard way while here on my interviews. So we got our cash out, our social security cards, birth certificates, old licenses, PA car insurance cards, passports, checkbook, 6 proofs of residency. You name it and we probably had it with us. Plus a bag of reading materials, snacks and water, we were planning on being there for a long time. Nice way to spend a Saturday morning right?
Third Trip to DMV/First Trip to DOL- Fortunately the 2 are right next to each other (at least that is smart) and about 15 minutes away from where we live. We got there 20 minutes before it opened and there were already about 20 people in line. Once the doors opened, we quickly got our numbers, filled out the form (tried to get that online and do it before we got there, but it wasn't available online). We waited about 15 minutes, got called and processed. Then another 15-20 minutes to wait for them to call our new numbers to get the photos taken. Rather uneventful. Then next door to the DOL where only 1 person was in front of us. The first thing the lady says when we tell her what we are there for is "Are both cars here?" Now my smart husband asked me before we left if we needed to take both cars. I told him no, nobody every told me that when I made my calls and its not like people drive their boats up to the DOL when they need tags, do they? I was wrong. (sorry Honey!!). They need the vehicle present so they can verify the VIN. Or we could have had a "good tracing" of the VIN, for proof. What?!?!?! So we processed the Camry and got a new PA plate, and then rushed home to pick up the Honda. When we returned, there were about 5 people in front of us. So back to waiting, for about 45 minutes. Then we were told we needed to get the cars inspected by the state. This apparently is required yearly and is an emissions inspection as well as a general safety inspection (check the lights, brakes, tires, etc.) Now is it just me, or wouldn't it make sense to require the inspection prior to receiving the tags? What is the incentive to do it if you already have what you need? It really made us think how many people are driving illegally because it is such a hassle and pretty expensive to keep everything legal and up to date.
So our next task was to get the cars inspected. I am used to driving to an emissions center, waiting, getting out of the car, having them do the inspection and then off again. Rather painless and I have never needed to wait for an extended period of time. Guess what, its different in PA. Shocking, I know. They have these auto stores called Pep Boys that can do the inspections so we found one close by and got all the details of what we'd need, costs and hours. We dropped 1 car off after church and were called about an hour later to let us know it was ready. And with the news that since we didn't have the PA plate on yet, they had to do that for us and would cost $10.4o a plate, so $20.80 since there is a front and back WA plate. I explained that I got the plate yesterday and can change it myself, but it had already been done. I repeated that I should not be charged for something that I can do myself and especially since I had not been told. The gentlemen was understanding and removed the charge. Only to then tell me I needed a new bulb for the plate and its cost. Once again I said I can do that myself. To which he said he couldn't pass the car until it was done. So I am out the door to go buy the bulb and do it myself in order to avoid the excessive charge and so the car could pass. By the time I got there, they had already done it, but once again removed the charge, which was nice. So I paid, and left the 2nd car.
An hour or so later comes the call that the 2nd car is ready. But they are recommending the tie rod on the front be repaired. Now mind you this car had the whole front end done about 2 months ago so there really should have been no issues. The mechanic tells me they could have failed the car, but since we had already had the other issues, were going to pass it and recommend that get done. Fine. Then they tell me it will be ready in 10 minutes. So we leave to go get it and as we drive by, we see the rear WA plate is still on it. Justin and I tried and tried to get these off before we dropped it off but the screws were rusted and immovable. We knew that dropping it off so asked them to do it, understanding there would be a charge. So why were the WA plates still on it? We try and pick it up, they remind us about the tie rod, and then I point out the WA plate is still on it and they had been asked to change them for us. They explain that they couldn't get them off. Ok, so what are we supposed to do? It is now illegal to drive this car with the WA plate on, but they can't get them off? The guy then proceeds to explain to us the process it takes to do it, which could include breaking or cutting the screw head off and then drilling the thread out. Which would be charged at about $100/hr for labor and could take 30-60 minutes. Are you kidding me? Car not ready and going to cost another $50-100, and still could take another hour. We had had it sooooooooo long ago with all of this stuff, and now another hassle. So back home to wait for a call to say it was done, again. Then the call, another drive to Pep Boys, another bill, and home.
So for those of you who have lost track, it took 3 trips to the DMV, 2 trips to the DOL, 4 trips to Pep Boys, and a freakin' small fortune to register our cars in the state of Pennsylvania. Ridiculous.
Are you tired yet? As frustrated as we are? There's more.
When I came to Philly for my interviews, I also had to check out potential housing options. This was super stressful as I didn't know the city at all and had very little time. We had researched places that would meet our needs, fit in our budget, and not be too far of a commute for either of us. I had 6 appointments, made 5 of them (due to bad directions, traffic and getting lost in a super sketchy neighborhood) and finally came to 1 that seemed like it would work out. It had to work out, it was the last one on the list and all the other ones were holes in the wall or in unsafe areas. We live in a 2nd floor apartment in NE Philadelphia. It is a pretty good size, but a little run down and in a ghetto and loud community. I don't feel unsafe, but there are tons of people who blare their music in their homes, cars, out the windows, everything. We had kindly asked both neighbors 2-3 times to turn their music down with little results. We took it to the property management team who sent out a memo re: quiet hours and consequences. There was a little improvement, in my opinion, but Justin is the one who is here during the day studying while I am at work. And he still hears it. At night too. We even rearranged our bedroom to get the bed off of a shared wall. I am a pretty sound sleeper so don't hear it anymore, Justin does. We are certainly over community living and as soon as this lease is up, we truly pray we can find a house to rent. We need some peace and quiet already!!
Justin and I are used to doing most of our grocery shopping at Costco. Although we get things in bulk, we have been able to figure out how to eat most of it before it goes bad (we've lost a little bit of produce but that is to be expected) and were really saving money. Turns out the closest Costco is about 30 miles away. And in New Jersey. So we decided to try the Sam's Club that was only about 5-10 miles away. We went in, got a membership and then did our first grocery shopping trip in our new state. And we were disappointed. Everything was different. Different brands, different quantities, different types of food. And it wasn't really any cheaper than getting it at a regular grocery store. Later we learned from our friends Chris and Anna that we could have asked for a tour before purchasing the membership to see if it would fit our needs. Good to know for future endeavors, but didn't help us out this time. Several weeks later it was time to get more groceries so we planned our Saturday morning Costco trip. It took just under 30 minutes and was a successful trip. For the most part. Still a lot of different brands, and no Tillamook cheese (very sad), but much better than Sam's Club. And we only had to pay a toll on the way back into Philadelphia. What's up with that? We decided a trip once a month to Costco for some good food and savings was going to be worth it. Anyone want to buy out our Sam's Club year long membership? Any takers? I mean after I just built it up and all.
Now we have to worry about ticks. I think it was our 3rd day here and Justin found a tick on Scout. We can't even recall any tall grasses or fields he went through, but he had one. It hadn't embedded yet, and Justin was able to get it off fairly easily. The next day we headed out to get some Frontline Flea and Tick treatment. Each dose lasts for 30 days. 2-3 days after we treated him, we found another one. Once again, it came off pretty easily. We quickly became very diligent in monitoring where Scout runs around (we were already, but really tried to keep him out of certain grasses, etc). We got a flea/tick fine toothed comb and began combing him after hikes or trips to certain parks. Things were going pretty well until Justin found a 3rd one after a particularly long, hot and fieldsy hike. I am sure the Frontline is working, but like anything, its not 100% effective. We just pray that he hasn't gotten and won't get bit by any that are too small to see or feel. Any of them could carry Lyme disease and that is not something we want to worry about.
This seems like a weird thing to complain about, since everyone always talks about how much it rains in Seattle, and who would miss that? But its more about the temperatures. It is pretty hot here, consistently in the 80s, and its super humid. The air is always so thick and muggy, and you get sticky and sweaty so fast. Thankfully the apartment has air conditioning.
I feel like I have gone on and on about all this stuff, which I have, but it seems like it is still just the tip of the iceberg. Almost everything we have tried to do and even fun things we have planned, have ended up in disaster. Makes it hard to get motivated to try anything new. And I know struggles are to be expected, and that God won't give us anything we can't handle, but when do we get a break? I continue to know we are here for a reason, and despite all these troubles, God is here with us. We have taken a risk for Him, and He will bless this situation, sometime and somehow.
If you are still with me, here is a question for you. If you have ever relocated to a new place, what was it like for you? How long did it take for you to feel settled? What helped you get through it?
Next on the blog line up: "What we like about Pennsylvania"