31 May 2015

First Rule of Fight Club: You Do Not Talk About Fight Club

At what point does it become a fight? Our first fight in the new home. This from the couple who hadn’t raised their voices in years . . . until the packing of the car as we said goodbye to Texas.

Now I could say that it was merely a heated debate. I could call it an argument. But it was a fight. No screaming, just a yes-it-is, no-it’s-not, YES-IT-IS! kind of fight. And over what? Shade for the pool and pool deck. 

Rusty has an architecture background; he can construct anything. I have an HGTV background; I can order anything. Raise your hand if you’ve seen the commercial: How to install a washing machine with one finger . . . the homeowner subtly points her finger at the washer, moving the finger to-and-fro’ just an inch or so . . . camera pans to the installer scooting the washer an inch closer to its matching dryer. This is precisely how I see myself. It’s how April trained me. Order it from Amazon, call the installer (and if Rusty won’t do it I bet that my new pal Jose Gomez will), and install the sunshade(s).

Rusty, by his own admission, can over-engineer anything. This is the man who once went into a garage to organize some tools, and three hours later emerged with a beautifully built cardboard box, its opening with perfectly mitered duct tape around the hole for garage rags. Truly, he engineered a box to stow rags.

30 May 2015

My Fear Is My Concern

Sometimes I frighten myself. From time to time I suspect that most of us do silly things . . . little unwitting mistakes in judgment. But there are times when I actually pause to ponder, consider all the angles, make a conscious decision about something, and later conclude that I’ve made a very poor deliberate choice. Pledge wipes or furniture polish. We don’t need that. Our fully furnished home has all wicker furniture. And how thoughtful of me to also leave behind the stainless steel polish for the new owners of our Texas home. After all, our completely refurbished Texas kitchen boasts all stainless appliances.

I’m an idiot! One of the nicest features of the interior at Mil Colinas, in addition to the stainless kitchen, is the beautiful almond and laurel wood doors and bedroom cabinetry (no, not closets, but semi built-in cabinetry). And then there are the beautiful cedar and almond cabinets in the kitchen and laundry room. And guess what? It’s the end of dry season. Dust is everywhere. It’s like little Pô. Dust-wipe all wood. . . no . . . rather, mop all wooden surfaces with a sopping wet cloth, and then wait 15 minutes for the polish-starved wood to appear dusty again, and wait for dust to reaccumulate. Our interior doors look as though someone blasted them with a dust grenade, or dragged them up the mountain. And bleach. We don't need no stinkin' bleach . . . it might harm the septic system. And I'm the woman who wears nothing but black and white. I've been scrubbing a white linen swimsuit cover-up for 30 minutes.

29 May 2015

Aqaba Is Over There. It Is Only A Matter Of Going

My name is Jill. I'm a Lakeland Terrier. I live with a man, a lady, and a spoiled cat.  I'm the best dog on the planet, all evidence to the contrary and despite what you may have heard. Sometimes my lady and the man call me Jillet, or Jill the Pill. I have a very large vocabulary, but frankly I don't understand the pill part. Many moons ago my people completely disrupted my otherwise perfect world. Furniture began to leave my home. My bed disappeared. Then came the suitcases. I know what suitcases mean -- I'm going traveling. I've traveled many times to many places. I travel in my room; Jill's room, they say. But something was different about this recent travel. I don't think I'm returning home. My accoutrement came along with me. These crazy people simply decided to pick up my toys, bowls, and raincoat . . . and go. Speaking of toys, I haven't seen my river otter in a long time. 

So after this crazy-long time in my room, I've arrived in a place with very unusual smells and sounds. It's overwhelming, I admit. People are using words that I've never heard. Even my man speaks to me with words that are not in my vocabulary. The lady, too. Hey, lady, if you want me to wait, just say so. This alto word has no meaning for me. Okay, so I've been moved to a little house with no soft floors. I like the cool floor, but where is my air-conditioning? And there's no grass, so where am I to hurry-up . . . or make poo? There's also no fence, and I really like that . . . so I'm a free-range terrier now . . .  or at least I try to be. Someone is constantly calling me back to the patio or this new building where these people sleep. Me? I'm ready to roam.

28 May 2015

It Is Recognized That You Have A Funny Sense Of Fun

My idea of fun is polishing copper pots. I'm not joking. My idea of fun is weeding the flowerbeds. Anything that produces immediate results. I prep the coffee maker each evening just to have coffee instantly at my disposal when I awake. And I find great fun in varying the amount of caffeine placed in Rusty's morning cup o' Joe. Must be an instant gratification thing. And it's fun to sneak in a tad of extra caffeine when I need a few extra honey-dos. Notwithstanding Rusty's varying levels of caffeine, I'm clearly not opposed to some housework. However, this cleaning of tile floors in a dusty land is never-ending, therefore it is not fun. Mopping merely produces mud. This is why I had a housekeeper in Africa -- those gals knew how to sweep and mop a floor.

Rusty and I are nesting. Well, I'm nesting; Rusty is trying to work while I cater to his every whim. Hey, it's instant results, so it works for me -- it is truly my idea of fun (at least for this first week or two). My darling, would you like a tuna sandwich? Can I get you a beer? How about some trail mix . . . a little chocolate snack?

27 May 2015

The Never-Ending, Only-Kathy-Can-Make-It-A-Longer-Read-Than-The-Day-It-Took-To-Travel Tale of Our Move

Raise your hand if you're familiar with Murphy's Law. If it can go wrong, it will. And yet, it didn’t. Day one of expat living began on 20 May. Just a short to-do list: drive to the airport at DFW and fly to Costa Rica . . . and check-in two pets, return our rental car, calculate the fees to check our extra and very heavy bags – the bags that far exceeded in both weight and number United’s checked bag policy. Rocket science this was not.

11 May 2015

Louis, I Think This Is The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship

What I know about welding: The trick in welding is to attach things without piercing a hole with the welder. That's the extent of my welding knowledge.

What Rusty knows about welding: More than I do. And I say that while absolutely refusing to acknowledge that my husband has any expert welding experience. Does he awake in the night and skulk away to some secret society of welding husbands? I've never seen the man with a welder. But weld he will, because his brand new welder is leaving, as I type, on a pallet, on a truck bound for Miami, to board a ship bound for the Port of Limon. I'm still shaking my head about the welder. The battery charger, I get. The saws and drills, I understand. Even the new air-compressor, I understand -- I sold his old air-compressor at a garage sale. Whoops, sorry honey. 

Here's the more bizarre part of the welder tale -- Rusty seems to have men in Samara lined-up to play with a welder. This is a trick . . . a trick, I say. One that will result in an announcement to wives that, "honey, we'll be at Tom's welding a new [insert inanimate object name here] . . . see you in a few hours" . . . and in fact they'll be down at a beach bar . . . or off riding motorcycles. In truth, this works for me. Because I've got a Neiman's card and I know how to use it. And as of today we have a new expat address in the U.S. to which packages can be shipped . . . and then those packages can be forwarded directly to my closet in Samara. Oh, that's right . . . I don't have a closet.

08 May 2015

You're Frightening the Neighbors

My house is dirty, the yard is a mess, and my cat needs to be brushed. My hair is piled atop my head with clamps, and I think that I forgot to brush my teeth this morning. So is it any wonder that I have a reputation for visitor rules?

At one time I had a no drop-in rule. It was originally established for a specific individual but gradually grew to encompass most everyone I know. And the rule wasn't intended solely to keep people at bay . . . one simply never knows what I might be doing (or not doing) when the doorbell rings unexpectedly. Anyway, that was years ago. While living in Pô, no one understood a no drop-in rule. In fact, a drop-in is arguably the highest compliment one can receive in West African culture. The drop-in is a barometer of how well integrated one has become. So I learned to accept, if not embrace, the drop-in. These days I could count on one-hand the people I know who still must follow the no drop-in rule . . . and no, Sally, you are not one of ‘em.

I was born in the age of the calling card, though they were passé even for my generation. I suspect that today’s youth don’t even recognize the term calling card. Here in the U.S. I’m all for bringing back the days of receiving. My friends know this. Becky, jokingly, still calls to ask whether I am receiving today. For Becky, I am always receiving.

Why are we talking about receiving and drop-ins?

06 May 2015

If You Obey All The Rules You Miss All The Fun

I was contacted by another Montaña neighbor. It's exciting to make friends even before we arrive in Samara. But this also means that my neuroses are showing. This blog is no longer seen only by my Peace Corps pals, California family, and Texas friends. Perhaps I should curtail the sarcasm . . . tone-down the sassy attitude. It's a bit concerning to feel that I might frighten the neighbors, even before we've met in person. Strict rules of polite society should dictate my posts. Sadly, I don't do well with rules.

05 May 2015

Wrap It Up, I'll Take It!

Es·crow: eskrō/noun -- a bond, deed, or other document kept in the custody of a third party, taking effect only when a specified condition has been fulfilled.

In a prior life I worked in the legal field. In fact, I've done plenty of real estate law. However, perhaps I should have studied my Black's Law Dictionary . . . especially because the above definition of escrow has little to do with the use of escrow in American English. It's difficult to define escrow; and lucky us, we're in escrow in two countries. 

I’m a Portlandia addict . . . and there’s a House For Sale episode that involves a classic Portlandia explanation. Fred & Carrie meet the S-Crow, which is an animated crow who explains the term escrow. I find my own escrow explanation more simple and far more honest: escrow is real property limboIt's kind of like real property purgatoryPurgatory: a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners [be they buyers or sellers] who are expiating their sins [read: finances] before going to heaven. Now doesn't that better explain escrow? Didn't need Black's dictionary after all. Goes to show you.