Some Moving Challenges

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I moved to Minnesota last week. I was living in a hotel until my stuff arrived and two days ago I moved into my new apartment. It is both exciting and challenging. I spend my time wondering where things are and deciding where to put things. I open a box and usually I get distracted thinking about what is in the box and what I should do with it. So then I go and do something else in preparation for organizing what was in the box and then I forget about that box and move things around in closets or open a different box. There are no shortage of boxes. Then for a fleeting moment I think about the holidays and wonder if I should send out Christmas cards. That idea is quickly discarded in favor of New Year’s cards. Problem solved.

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I got the trees up!

 

Soon after arriving I went to Ikea to buy a desk. I had been to Ikea many times in Virginia and so quickly became oriented to my surroundings. On exiting I confidently marched all my stuff to the elevators on the left of the cashiers. There were no elevators. There was an exit to a parking lot. My brother asked me if I had parked on the upper level. Of course I had not so he steered me in another direction to find the elevators. My car was nowhere to be found. It just wasn’t there. As was wandering around looking for my car looked through a glass door to another parking lot on the other side of the building. It was an ‘aha’ moment. My car was over there.

The next day I went to Target and also could not find my car. When I went in I took special notice as to where I parked so I would be sure to find my car. But it was not there. I wheeled my shopping cart up and down several aisles but it just wasn’t there. Then I looked at the building. There were two exits. I must have come out a different exit. When I oriented myself to the other exit, I quickly found my car. It was disorienting to have this happen not only once, but twice.

When I moved to the US from overseas everything was disorienting and unfamiliar. I was not used to shopping at large stores like Target or even large supermarkets. I would find myself overwhelmed with the amount of choices and at times I would shut down in the middle of a store and have to leave. This was different. These stores were familiar in a different place so I had a false sense of confidence about them. This made it even stranger because now the familiar became unfamiliar.

Note to self, check how many exits the building has when parking the car.

 

On the move

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I like to re-arrange the furniture.  It is one thing that keeps me sane.  But my problem is deeper than that.

In the end, many TCKs develop a migratory instinct that controls their lives.  Along with their chronic rootlessness is a feeling of restlessness: “Here, where I am today, is temporary.  But as soon as I finish my schooling, get a job, or purchase a home.  I’ll settle down.”  Somehow the settling down never quite happens.  The present is never enough — something always seems lacking.  An unrealistic attachment to the past, or a persistent expectation that the next place will finally be home, can lead to this inner restlessness that keeps the TCK always moving.”  from Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken

I have finished school.  I have a job.  I purchased a home.  I have a child.  I am settled down. Or am I?

I re-arrange the furniture.  I plan long elaborate trips all over the world.  I pour over airline timetables.  I read travelogues.

I lived in Russia for many years with the landlady’s furniture or no furniture at all.  It drove me crazy.  I would complain to my husband – “When are we going to be able to buy some decent furniture that is comfortable and just be in one place for a while?”  I dreamed of living in a comfortable place that was my own where I could just RELAX.

I still dream about it. It is always someplace cozy and small and it is raining outside.

Truth is, I hate the rain.  I find it confining.

I have moved 29 times, across town and across the world. It is a pain to move. Deciding what to throw out and what to keep. Purging. I find myself wanting to just throw everything out. When I left Russia 12 years ago we had six suitcases. I moved again eight years ago and even though I threw out half of what I had I still ended up with a truck full. Over the past eight years I have accumulated more stuff. It is the longest I have ever lived in one place and even though I try to clear things out from time to time, I still have way too much stuff.

I am on the move again. Move number 30. What was I thinking?

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I have been re-reading “Hidden Immigrants’ by Linda Bell. In this book she interviews people like me who grew up overseas constantly moving. In one section she explores roots – Here Are My Roots. Most of us are not joiners. We don’t get really involved with local communities. We don’t identify with “place”. Where we are is always temporary. Our roots are in our friends and family.

Going back to Switzerland earlier this year felt like going “home” because I re-connected with so many wonderful old friends. People who had similar backgrounds. We didn’t have to explain who we were or where we were from.

“What ties do they feel are important as they enter mid-life?

The answer is people – friends, and often old friends….For it is those old friendships that validate their childhood, reaffirm those places for them and tell them something about who they were at that time. People are real –better than pictures, better than memories. Even if they only connect with these people once a year, or see them very occasionally at school reunions, or write or call them infrequently, these connection are the bedrock of their past.”—Linda Bell

I guess I am having my own flavor of mid-life crisis. I am heading to my roots. I’m going to spend time with family and old friends. This will take me to another city in another part of the country. A needed change and a new adventure.

So the moving process begins.

Stay tuned.

 

Expat Alien: Book Excerpt

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

Chapter 8

Apartment 2 of 6

I was not looking forward to another move, but we found a new apartment that was much airier than the old one and Nicholas could have his own study to make his mess in. It was on the 14th floor and had a distant view of Red Square.  It was farther from the Metro but was also near to a large park. The bathroom was all in one room so more “western”.  The only problem was that it had ants that hung out around the faucets and there was no way to get rid of them.

On this occasion, several people helped us move. When the truck was loaded – three of us sat in the back of the truck and the driver tied the tarp down in the back and Nicholas rode up with the driver to navigate.  It was like the ride from hell.  Here we were in the dark, riding across Moscow with all this stuff (not tied down in any way).  Nicholas’ cousin Valery kept peeking out through a crack in the tarp giving us a running dialog of where we were, all in Russian of course.  Plus due to the enormous Russian potholes, I was airborne several times.

People in Moscow would rent out their apartments for one year, sometimes two, and move in with relatives someplace else.  They would save all the money they earned in rent and then use that money to renovate the apartment when they moved back in.  We lived in six different apartments in 9 years.  The landladies kept kicking us out when they were ready to move back in.

The air seemed to be cleaner in our new apartment and I couldn’t see one smoke stack.  At night we could look out the window and see St Basil’s and one of the Kremlin towers all lit up.

The second day we were there I filled up the kitchen sink to do the dishes.  When I was done I just pulled the plug and all the water went rushing down the drain and came pouring out all over my feet.  They had put new pipes into the sink but when it reached the old pipes going into the wall they didn’t fit together so they just rested the new pipe into the old one.  When water came pouring out all at once, it got backed up and overflowed. They didn’t finish the job correctly (no surprise there).  We called the landlady and she said she would call a plumber and come over the next day.  Well, I came home next evening and she had been here all right, and now there was a big rag neatly wrapped around the pipe!

One morning Nicholas was working at home and I left to go to work.  I got into the lift and hit the button for the bottom floor.  The lift moved in a jerky way.  It felt like it went up.  Then it stopped dead still.  I was on the 14th floor.  Panic.  I hit the intercom button not expecting anything to happen.  I hit it a couple of times.  A woman answered.  She wanted to know what my address was.  I told her.  I was screaming in a panic.  Somehow I managed to get her to understand me.  Pretty soon I heard somebody come to the landing.  I yelled at them and they could hear me.  I told them to go get my husband and gave the apartment number.  After a while, I heard Nicholas’ voice.  He said, I’ll be right back, I have to go get the video camera for this!  Lovely.  Finally a woman showed up, crawled in on top of the car and managed to get the door open.  I was just below the landing and was able to crawl out.  All caught on video.

Anxiety Confessions

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I realized something about myself this past week.  I’m still a TCK.  I spent most of the week going through and sorting my ex-husband’s stuff.  And he had a lot of stuff.  He never threw anything away and he was a shopper.  So he accumulated a lot of stuff.  The whole experience was one huge anxiety attack for me.  How could anybody have so much stuff?  I spend most of my time trying to get rid of stuff.  I weed out my closet on a regular basis.  I don’t want to be tied down to a bunch of “things”.

Granted he did have some kinda cool stuff.

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As my son started going through it, he wanted to keep a lot of things.  That is understandable.  I get that.  I know I get sentimental about things and he should have anything he wants to keep.  However, as his pile grew, so did my anxiety.

“Are you sure you want that?”

“Is that something you really need?”

“I don’t think you need to keep that!”

I had to walk away several times.  I had to force my mouth shut.

During the same week, I decided it was time to get rid of the bed I have had forever.  Well, my mattress and box spring.  I don’t actually have a real bed or a headboard.  I have a metal frame.  I have thought about buying a bed on several occasions.  I think a sleigh bed would be nice.  A beautiful big piece of furniture.  But when it comes down to the wire, I can’t do it.  I think about being tied down to a big piece of heavy furniture.

“What if I want to move?”

“What will I do with that big thing?”

“It doesn’t fit in my backpack.”

“I don’t need more stuff.”

Yes, I know this is totally irrational and crazy but there you have it.

Confessions of a Third Culture Kid.

On another note….  I now have a blog at the Baltimore Post Examiner:

Eclectic Global Nomad

My posts will be featured every Tuesday.  Check it out!