Homing In

We went from being homeless to holding the keys to three apartments. The friend who loaned us our first temporary apartment in Barcelona decided to delay her return – for romance – so we didn’t have to rush out of her place. We moved to a second temporary apartment, but I still needed to return and pick up a few things I’d left at the first one and give it a good cleaning. chairs_in_salonThe signing of the lease on what is our official apartment was a friendly procedure, though De-facto and I took our time and scrutinized the fine print. We’d waited an extra weekend to move in, we figured our new landlord could take an extra hour or two to make sure we understood all the terms of the lease. I walked out of that meeting with three sets of keys jangling together in my purse.

We have a found a place to live.

We have just enough mattresses to sleep on. There are not quite enough chairs. Those at the dining table get moved to our desks during the day, to the girls’ work-table when it’s time for their homework and back to the table for dinner. The dishes and cooking utensils that came from Paris are just the basics: plates and bowls and cutlery, a few fry-pans and pots, a soup/pasta boiling pot and a casserole dish. The only glasses I brought were wine glasses. I’ve made a few purchases to equip the kitchen, but otherwise we’re living lean until we can make the next trek to Paris and return with more of our dishes and cooking tools. The new cupboards are slowly getting stocked with food, but still seem bare compared to those in Paris, stuffed with bags of lima beans and boxes of rare grains and spices left by friends and guests. I can never bring myself to throw those food-stuffs out, convincing myself that maybe I could use that 4-year old bag of red beans for a winter stew that somehow never materializes. It’s rather nice to be liberated from the cramped cupboards and old boxes of dated food. Though there are adjustments to be made: food shopping is different in our new neighborhood. The products are unfamiliar, the stores are smaller and sparser, the hours of operation, slightly inconvenient.

I knew that even after we found an apartment, even after we moved in, there would still be tests. You can’t get internet service until you have a bank account. In order to get a bank account, you need a special number. Actually you can get a bank account without that number, but you still need that number in order to get internet service, or anything else for that matter. But you have to make an appointment on-line in order to get a special number, which you can’t do, if you don’t have internet. None of this is a surprise. The same conundrums and catch-22s existed in Paris when I first moved there, and are endemic to any bureaucratic system, anywhere in the plugged_inworld. You have to home in on the key obstacles and figure out how to overcome them, one at a time. In our case, kind Canadian neighbors below us with boosters on their wifi are generously loaning us their signal until we can get our own.

There is a constant churn, the feeling of going around again and again without making progress. My inefficiency astounds me. Destabilized by our busy departure and the uncertainty that plagued our first weeks here, I am too slowly getting my bearings in this new city. The temporary quality of our life is palliated now by the fact that we did manage to get the apartment we loved and have moved our two van-loads of possessions out of storage and into our new home, but we are still far from settled.

These days I long for the Camino. That bliss of nothing to do each day except walk from here to the next place, a place designated solely by my whim or fatigue. Late, quiet afternoons to write, read, rest without any obscure children’s school supplies to buy in a foreign language in a city you don’t yet know by heart. Everything slow and deliberate, one boot in front of the other. It was easy, then, to be centered and calm.

It’s been harder to keep that spirit in the midst of finding a home, still a challenge as we work to set it up, all the while trying to be empathetic to the girls as they adjust to their new teachers with new classmates and new languages. I am afraid I’m failing on that front. I pick the girls up at school and ask the right questions, but I’m not always fully present with them, not really hearing their answers. There’s too much chatter in my own brain, keeping track of the tasks I have before me, my own professional obligations to address while still running about the city opening bank accounts, buying shower curtains and drinking glasses, returning again and again, and again to the Vodaphone store to activate a Spanish phone number that for some reason refuses to function and yet despite that, has a contract that cannot be cancelled. The dirty clothes were piling up and I couldn’t find a single laundromat. Another trip out the door with the Visa card in hand, a new washer and dryer finally delivered yesterday, the washing machine has been churning ever since.

This morning Buddy-roo complained of a stomachache. She averted her eyes, making that face she makes when she wants me to know she’s unhappy. Yesterday she went to the nurse’s office at school because of her tummy. I don’t think she’s faking it – though that’s not beyond her – I think it’s the stress of a new school and a new environment. Short-pants appears to enjoy the new school more than her sister, but she still has frequent melt-downs. Yesterday she couldn’t find her Spanish classroom, and became so upset that the surveillant at the school office made her sit down and have a cup of tea. The day before, she stayed after school for theater only to discover the class wouldn’t start until October. She left the building so flustered that she got lost on the way home.

Last night the full moon streamed through the shutters of my window, painting short stripes on the floor beside the bed. There were some noisy kids outside. The moonlight was too bright, or its energy was tugging at me. I laid awake, restless, or worried, or overtired – or all of the above, wondering if I would grow to regret this decision to move. I slid out of bed and into the living room and sat in the dark, in one of the comforting green armchairs that used to be in my mother’s house. I listened to the night noises of our new apartment and thought about the night noises of our place in Paris, the death-rattle of our on-its-last-leg refrigerator, the scampering of mice from underneath the cupboards, the sound of our neighbors on their joy_doorcreaky staircase. Funny how I miss those noises. I miss my life in Paris.

But that’s part of the ride. It’s easy to focus on all the bits that are difficult about moving house and moving to a new country. I’ve done this before and I know that I need to keep my eye on the prize, to remember what happens if I keep looking the right direction: new friends and expanding experiences. I need to start homing on what’s in store for us here, all the things that are new and possible, and just around the corner.

4 Responses to “Homing In”

  • Jen Says:

    You are AMAZING and you got GRACE! Hope comes from all around us, not just from within us. Amen! Attitude and ultimately optimism are what truly astound us. And inefficiency, well it could help us go with flow, at least at Vodaphone! xxoo Besos You’ll be climbing in the castellas before you know it!

  • optimist Marie Says:

    Your post resonates so much right now, thank you for sharing and for choosing the right words. I am not moving to another city but I am moving to different cities all the time and your feelings really touch mine. It is tiring to not know your way around, to spend so much time finding something you would have usually have found in 30 minutes while stopping at your favorite café.. we feel vulnerable when we loose control, when everything is foreign, and i am impressed how you can do it for yourself and for a whole family at the same time. I also know as you rightly conclude that it is when one leaves its comfort zone that learning and growing happen, a process necessary to finding and revealing our true identity. It is when you are not defined by your routine or external environment that you reveal yourself, that voice inside that is the same wherever you are.. hang in there, and if this is any comfort for you, you are at least in a food loving country, while mongolia, my current port of attach, is celebrating its everlasting love of fat mutton and sour milk 🙂

  • Andy Parker Says:

    One of the things I love about the “The Camino,” is its mantra of “walk, just walk.” To walk and just walk–to be present–you have to empty your head.

    Transitions are transitions, are transitions. They last as long as they do. You know that. Like most folks, you can’t wait for this to be over. Yes, you “need to start homing on what’s in store for us here, all the things that are new and possible.” That’s part of what happens as you move through.

    Sometimes when we live from our goals, they get in the way of being present to where we are now. It’s easy to do. Transitions are uncomfortable, and everyone in the family moves through them at different rates, etc.

    So. Maybe it’s time to get all of your “to do’s” out of your head. Put them somewhere so that those thoughts don’t have to swirl.

    I also wonder if you’re trying to do too much, so that the “possible,” that’s “just around the corner” will come as quickly as it can.

    Isn’t that what packing was like? Then you remembered to “iron, just iron.”

    Maybe this time is like that. Perhaps a good mantra for this time is, “transition, just transition.” Do a little less each day so that when you need to be present with the kids, De-facto, or yourself, you can.

    For now? Transition, just transition. You’ll turn that corner soon enough.

    PS: I love the title’s pun.

  • Lee Dunne Says:

    Steal a few moments to imagine yourself on the Camino –just in the way you walk from one task to the next… it is all one reality, the Buddhists say give up the attachments – – love the moment wherever you are….Forgive the advice… I send love and hope for a blissful moments in Barcelona….

    Give Short-pants this message… Getting lost is not so bad… It’s finding yourself again that may be hard…. we have been lost together – and there is always a way…. Love, Love, Love

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