We began the year celebrating the start of 2000 with local neighborhood friends in Richmond. We ended the year with the start of a Disney cruise in the Caribbean.
The Year 2000 (systems) conversions went smoothly, both in Capital One and everywhere else. All the preparation for what turned out to be a non-event. That's the way it's supposed to be in Technology, but this event had such high exposure that management, governments and users everywhere bought into the process the result being a near error-free cutover everywhere.
The process of settling into the States turned out to be much more challenging than we anticipated. Because the quota for working visas was full sometime around April-May and a delay by Capital One in making the application, we couldn't get onto the US payroll when Neil started work. Instead he was employed by Capital One UK and assigned into the US. However, as a visitor and without a credit record, it wasn't possible to buy a house. When Neil was transferred onto the US payroll in Nov 1999 we then started the process of buying a house and moving in. We bought our house and moved in March 2000. It turned out that we stayed in rented accommodation from June 1999 until then. Thankfully our shipment from Indonesia, which had been in storage for 18 months, came through in fine fashion – only one piece damaged and no storage, humidity or moisture damage.
We are very happy with our house. It is 3,200 sq. ft., 5 bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms on a corner lot of 15,000 sq. ft. (about 0.3 acre). The neighborhood is friendly. Our local (elementary) school is highly rated in one of the best school districts in the state of Virginia.
We had our first Richmond snowfall in February. Actually, Richmonders told us we were lucky, it was the first one for five years! Roger and Rex were thrilled to bits to see the snow falling and have snow ball fights. We had a few days off school – Richmond closing down if there is more than a dusting of snow. The down side was that we were still in the rented accommodation which has its own internal road network and the county only snow ploughs the public roads. The apartments roads were never cleared, the result being that snow turned to ice and it was extremely difficult to get in and out of the apartment for about 5 days. Especially for people who were used to the tropics and had no idea of how to drive in snow and ice.
Continuing the weather theme, we also had a hurricane pass us by. We got the fringe of it, with one day of heavy rain. For some reason the schools had 2 days off. It was amazing on the 2nd day to see a beautiful day of about 70F (20C) with a sunny blue sky and no school because of a hurricane alert.
Neil's work has focused on bringing Capital One's banking technology into the world of e-commerce. The first accomplishment was online applications for CDs, created in 1999. The 2nd will be online account servicing for CDs and Money Market Accounts, due for launch in Feb 2001.
Usa has settled in very well, making lots of friends both in the neighborhood and in wider Richmond. Her friends outside of the neighborhood are fellow Thais. The community here is small, maybe 50 in total, and Usa has made a close-knit group of about 5 Thai women. People in the neighborhood are friendly and helpful in lots of things. Our local area is made up mostly of families who have come into Richmond for work, mostly from the US Northeast but also from other places. That means very few people have ties within Richmond and everyone is very outgoing and helpful in the transition, also trying to establish a network of friends.
Roger started 1st grade at elementary school, graduating from kindergarten earlier in the year. With his entry into 1st grade and a full-time school day, he officially finished his pre-school career. (In case you are not familiar with the situation, our county schools feature only half-day kindergarten.)
Roger was also started learning activities like ice skating and karate. He spent a lot of time learning how to roller blade, all self-taught, although the ice skating lessons would have helped a lot. He has continued to enjoy Lego, getting more sophisticated in his construction skills. He buys more advanced (and more expensive) items every time and has become extremely good at following the instruction booklet to make the item. He turned 6 this year and is making the Legos sold for ages 7 – 10. Earlier in the year his Dad was helping him, but by the end of the year he was confident and independent enough to construct them himself.
Rex has been in pre-school 3 days a week for the entire year. He goes for the full day, from around 8am to 6pm. He hasn't enjoyed his teacher, which is a great disappointment, and we (the parents) are looking forward to him advancing to the next class where he will hopefully be happier to go. Rex tends not to do a lot for himself, instead preferring to watch Roger. He also likes to take things away from Roger, even though he has exactly the same thing himself, which causes no end of arguments.
We are ending the year with a 7 day cruise on the Disney Magic, which we booked in April. We go to St. Martin, St. John and a private Disney island in the Cayman Islands. We chose the cruise because of the Disney reputation and because they provide full-time day care and activities for the children, meaning Usa and Neil can have a holiday, too. Oh, and we thought cruising the warm Caribbean while Richmond is in the middle of winter seemed like a good idea, too!