How is it possible to feel overwhelmed at the pace of life while also feeling like nothing is getting done? Since I last posted, I’ve enjoyed a few fun outings with new friends, received our shipment from India, and started school. However, daily life is a series of baby steps and barely recognizable accomplishments as we navigate so much newness.
Tuesday, Tony and I left school with plans to meet a handyman at our house and hang curtain rods. (Three weeks after moving in to our apartment, we still don’t have curtains in our master bedroom, so we’re still sleeping on a trundle bed in a guest bedroom.) The handyman cancelled at the last minute, which seems to happen more often than not here.
OK. Change of plans: We checked out a supermarket near school called Lider, which is owned by Wal-Mart. The underground parking was nearly empty, so we wondered whether the store was even open. Not only was it open, it was amazing. It pretty much WAS Wal-Mart. Not that I love Wal-Mart … but … after living in India for five years with no convenient supermarket option, this was Nirvana. We took our time, strolling down every aisle, realizing – with the help of google translate on my phone – that we could find just about any ingredient we needed for just about any recipe. We bought cheese and wine and avocados and fresh bread and a rotisserie chicken and a pork roast and some school supplies … oh man, I could go on and on. We knew to weigh our produce and get it priced in the produce section, and we knew to do the same for bread in the bakery section. At checkout, we had actually remembered to bring in the cloth shopping bags (which we usually forget in the trunk of our car) and I knew how much to tip the woman who bagged our groceries (one of a gajillion little learnings on this steep curve). We pulled out of the parking lot, consulted with google maps, and got right on the highway. We went grocery shopping and got home without screwing up dramatically or getting lost! We were buoyed by a sense of success.
So, try to understand our state of mind if that made us happy. You can only assume that we are generally not that successful. Daily life is riddled with mind-numbing frustrations and inconveniences that we haven’t figured out how to handle. My eyes continuously brim with tears that I somehow keep from spilling over.
That said, here are some things that have marginally improved our quality of life in recent weeks:
* We have searched and searched for adaptors for the oversized Indian plugs on our microwave, coffee maker, electric kettle, portable heaters, and back-up UPS batteries for our computers. Obviously, we haven’t been able to use any of those things since we gleefully unpacked them. Finally, Tony snipped off all the plugs and rewired them with Chilean plugs! I actually stood in front of the coffee maker and watched it brew the first pot of coffee, just in case it caught on fire. So far, so good!
* I paid some bills! Oh sure, you may think that’s mundane and not worth mentioning. Try moving to a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t receive any actual bills and suddenly get inundated with people saying, “What? You haven’t paid your bills yet?!” I had a major freakout yesterday when I got a text message from my mobile phone company saying: “Your plan will expire tonight if you don’t pay your bill.” Except it was in Spanish. And then someone reminded me that we have to pay the rent before the 5th or we’ll get slammed with late fees. And then there’s the gas, water and electricity bills, not to mention the “gastos communes,” which are fees for apartment dwellers that cover the concierge, groundskeeping, janitorial services in the common areas, and so on. Fortunately, it seems almost everything can be paid online. My good friend google translate helped me figure out the phone company’s website, and then I paid the rent from my Chilean bank website (which involves a LOT of steps, including using a little clicker that looks like a garage door opener and gives you a code to enter online). Our concierge says the other bills haven’t arrived, and I nodded and pretended to understand when he rattled on about something, which I decided to believe was, “When the bills arrive, I will deliver them to your apartment.” We’ll see. So, whew!
* Tony and I joined a couple newbies for a hike up Cerro San Cristobal July 17. Just a 5-minute taxi ride from our house brought us to the trail head, where we met Jen and Sarah. We trekked up for about 45 minutes, a 300-meter increase in elevation, to the 14-meter statue of the Virgin Mary on the summit. The statue towers over an amphitheatre, where Pope John Paul II said mass and blessed the city in 1987. A nook at the statue’s base features racks of candles and a wall of offerings and prayer requests. A small chapel sits a few steps further down the hill, flanked by a few gift shops and snack stands. I couldn’t find much information on the chapel, but these guys have a nice summary (and a pretty fun travel blog): Cleared and Ready for Takeoff.
Even on this overcast day, the views were exhilarating.
* Our shipment from India arrived! The moving company delivered everything on Saturday, July 23, and we had unpacked all 138 boxes by the end of the weekend. “Unpacked” is different from “put away,” of course. I will use the metaphor that Tony uses when I put on pantyhose: 20 pounds of potatoes in a 10-pound sack. That’s what our apartment feels like right now. Too much stuff and not enough space, so it sits in piles around the perimeter of each room. However, it’s such a treat to enjoy a home-cooked meal at the dining room table instead of eating a peanut-butter sandwich while sitting on the toilet seat (or standing in the kitchen). We cuddle with Ella on the sofa each evening, and we’re slowly digging through the mountains of clothes to complement the limited wardrobe we brought in our suitcases. Even in this state of chaos, our stuff brings a sense of comfort.
The kitchen boxes towered on the balcony and overflowed out into the hallway. And this kitchen is puny. Whenever we try to do anything in the kitchen at the same time, Tony mutters, “It’s like we live on a boat.”
Ella mostly hid in the closet, but she came out to explore when the movers took a lunch break.
This is where we’re sleeping till we get curtains in the master bedroom. Yes, it’s a trundle bed.
The only casualty of the move: a big terracotta elephant I bought at a street market in Delhi. I really loved him.
Furniture unpacked and reassembled. So grateful for places to sit!
Cross your fingers that we experience ongoing successes that outweigh the oppressive sense of failure permeating most of our days… Wow, that was intense. Oppressive sense of failure? Really? Well … frankly… yeah. That pretty much sums it up. But – and it’s a big but – we learn something new every day. That’s the silver lining, for now. Stay tuned.