Maria went to look at an apartment yesterday, one that we spotted a for rent sign in the window while driving around. The owner/landlord lives on the third floor, the apartment was on the second floor, another tenant on the first.
The lady started out by asking “Do you have children? Well, your children should be at least ten by now. You sure did start late”.
“You know, most children are really brats, they make a lot of noise.”
“Oh, so you are married to an American…Is he one of those nice ones, or one of the beastly kind? If you yell at him does he shut up? Or is he one of the bad ones?”
“And here is the parking area. You know, Mr. such and such, on the first floor, he has a brand new BMW X3, it’s not even registered yet! You should have seen when he arrived. He was living in Brazil, you know. He brought back all kinds of beautiful things. A whole container! Oh, and here is my car, it’s an old car…but it’s a Mercedes Benz, you know!”
Oh, you’re Spanish is good. How long have you been abroad? You know, some people come back after 3 months saying “Helloooo.”
To Maria’s Dad: “Don’t I know you somewhere. Didn’t you work in a bank?”
“Yes. But I’m retired.”
“Oh, that’s where I know you from. Why did you retire so young? Retire young, and you go to waste.”
We decided it would not be a good idea to have a landlord like this living upstairs.
We’ve been here two days now, and things have taken on a slower pace already.
We had our first classic Latin American experience Tuesday morning with the shower. Maria’s cousin and father have been working hard here trying to set up the house they have next door for us, and the plumbing needed some work. For a while, they got hot water when they flushed the toilet. Maria got in to take a shower Tuesday morning. I was holding Sabine, getting ready to hand her off to Maria when the shower got hot. I thought it might be only a minute or two until the shower got hot. It was a lot longer than that and Sabine peed all over me.
By then it was almost ready. I went to rinse off what I could of Sabine in the sink. When I opened the faucet, the water suddenly reached a nice hot temperature. Maria took the rest of her shower with Sabine and with the faucet running. I showered the same way.
We got off the plane and waited at the door for our stroller. This is the third time we’ve been to Ecuador with a stroller, and they haven’t gotten it right yet. It was already 11:30 and Sebastian was pissed about being awoken, Sabine was tired. We hoped maybe they’d get it right this time and bring the stroller to the door. They brought someone else’s stroller, but not ours.
We were the last people through customs. The only bags left on the baggage belt were ours. We were hoping to get through without any problems, having to pay any duties. Two porters helped us load the bags onto carts and began to push them towards the exit. When we got to customs, one of the agents said “Hold it, we need to check this bag.” It was the third one through the scanning machine.
The other guy says “Ah, let ’em go through. The lady is returning after ten years. They can go.” Nice bit of luck there.
This is our second international move and I had hoped that since the moving company was the same one that serves Department of State, other government agencies, and lots of private firms worldwide, we might get good service. I was sadly mistaken. I don’t know why, with all my experience around government, should have thought that anything even closely related to government, especially the federal government, might provide excellent service. (Just one exception I must say, my service agent for the moving company has done a great job of hand-holding and making sure my complaints, concerns, etc. have been promptly addressed).
The crew showed up and did a sloppy job of things, especially the furniture. They would bring down two or three pieces of an item, then an hour later I would find a pack of screws, or a loose screw, on the floor. So much for consolidating pieces. So much for making unpacking and reassembling furniture an easy task. The driver and head guy was definitely not with a “can-do” attitude. We’ll see how everything arrives and I’ll let you know how much damage I claim from insurance.
The second day involved more packing and loading the container. We filled a 40 foot container with about 6 feet of space left at the end. It’s somewhere in the Atlantic right now, headed for the Panama Canal, where it will be transferred from the ship Sun Round to the Euro something or other. Only 12 days transit time from Baltimore, MD to Guayaquil!
Some people do look at me like they would like to ask me that question when I tell them we are moving to Ecuador. Just like the guy who asked me “What are you going to do with that degree?” when I told him I was getting it in Latin American Studies. If you are asking yourself the same question, you probably won’t understand this post, or even this entire blog.
One of our main convictions regarding this slight change of venue is family. We have no family in the area, and while it may seem normal to many people to live only within the “nuclear” family and rarely see anyone beyond except for holidays and other special occasions, we don’t think this is normal at all. I think it is downright abnormal. To use the old cliche, It Takes A Village to Raise a Child, I think that’s exactly right. In Ecuador our kids will have the primos, tios, abuelos (cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents) around constantly, while here, their only regular contact will be their schoolmates, teachers, and the two of us. I think the presence of all these people around will definitely reinforce the values we want our kids to have, while growing up here they will have much more outside influence than we would like. And I think this is worth far more than some of the benefits naysayers like to point out to us (free public schooling of at least somewhat decent quality, a regular job with a steady income-ah, nothing like the pleasure of slow crucifixion by nine to five, cheap financing for all the wonderful things we don’t need, Bratz, GI Joe, …).
I’m not worried about my kids missing playgroups, playdates, or daycare either. We won’t need the last one since we will have plenty of help around.