Monday, September 18, 2006

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Ah,. finally in our new home. As Rob and I were relaxing yesterday morning, I realized this was the first weekend since the middle of June where we weren’t packing, in transit or living out of suitcases in someone else’s house. It feels good to be stationary for a little while.

The house is very nice. It is one story, which I’m thankful for, as we had a little ‘welcome to your new home’ earthquake yesterday. (just found out is was a 5.5 44 miles from Banda)

Jared has his own room. Both of the boys’ rooms have bathrooms. I’ve drained the large basin of water out of both for fear of someone drowning. There is a spigot, as usual, but no sinks. So I bought large plastic tubs to place on the floor under the spigots. Now, if (and it’s a large if, isn’t it?) they wash their hands, the water goes into the tubs and not on their feet. Voila! Sinks!

Sabrina also has a room, but since she’s getting up at all hours, she is still in the port-a-crib with us. The housekeeper and nanny have confiscated her room, turning it into the ironing space. And there is quite a bit of ironing since they iron everything including towels, socks, jeans and underwear.

We have an indoor kitchen! It used to be outside, but they walled it in and it doesn’t look half bad. There is only screen on the open concrete blocks and there are windows and a door separating the whole space from the rest of the house, but it’s indoors enough for me. We even have an air conditioner for it so it can actually be enjoyable.

There is no oven, just a two burner cook top attached to bottled gas. I think I’ll get a toaster oven, and that will constitute the ‘oven’ for the next year. I must say that pan fried garlic bread isn’t half bad.

I never thought I could sustain seven people off of a mini refrigerator, but I’m finding it can be done. And as if the fridge weren’t small enough as it is, the shelves inside of it are broken and being held together by saran wrap – which by the way – doesn’t work. So, we basically have one shelf in this little, tiny fridge. But it’s starting not to irritate me any more.

And that is because this house has water! We even have a hot water heater that works in our bathroom. Of course, this is the only place with hot water, so our bathroom is the designated shower spot. No bathtubs. No hot water to wash the dishes or clothes.

I bought a baby tub for Sabrina so the nanny would stop giving her mandi style baths – basically holding a naked baby on the floor in the bathroom and dousing her with cups of cold water.

She is using the baby tub and even relenting to filling it with ayre panass (hot water). But I can’t get her to do the bath in my bathroom where there is hot water. Instead, she insists on heating water on the burner in the kitchen.

The house came with a wardrobe for each bedroom which is very nice since Indonesians haven’t heard of a closet. We also have beds, TV set, and kitchen table. I can use a couple of boxes as end tables, and they don’t look half bad covered in sheets, but I do insist on having some real furniture. I’m not twenty and living in a dorm. I’m inching near forty and I have four kids. I deserve a couch.

So I hauled my husband and children out to the furniture stores to look at something to sit on. I do think there are only six different styles of couches in the entire city of Banda and they all came from either Elton John’s summer home or the production set of ‘That 70’s Show’.

We decided on a set of couches at the third store, since they were half the price of the others. Everything is sold as a set; a couch, love seat and chair. As a bonus (gratis) you get a glass coffee table.

My nice peach colored floral couch set got the thumbs down from all the boys so we settled on a very disco era brown plaid. I have an aversion to glass coffee tables on tile floors (overactive imagination visualizing children’s heads exploding) so Rob negotiated two wood end tables instead.

Since everything is cash based here, we shook on the price and then told them we’d be right back with the money. After three ATM machines not giving up cash and a frantic overseas call to the bank to make sure we were still solvent, we ended back up at the furniture store offering US dollars and debating the exchange rate.

We all came to an agreement for the amount. We loaded the three pieces into the back of the pickup truck and followed the owner on his motorcycle to his second store, where we picked up our end tables. Rob handed him his business card and told him if there was any problem with the money to let him know. We shook hands and off we went.

Friday, the shop owner showed up at Rob’s office. It seems the exchange rate at the time was a little less and we owed him six more dollars.

Now we have some nice couches to sit on, and I’ve been collecting wicker shelving for the 2000 pounds of kid’s toys we hauled over.

Pretty much everything is unpacked excepted for boxes labeled as books. I can only hope that some items that I was hoping would make it in the shipping container are actually there in the last boxes. Like the CD/DVD player we bought in the Philippines. I’ve set up four different households in four different countries now, and would really like to reuse SOMETHING once in a while.

Unfortunately, most of the stuff I was hoping to bring over got sent to storage. I blame this on my incredible ineptitude with anything having to do with space or weight.

CRS will allow families to bring over 6500 pounds, but will not pay for packing and storage of anything left behind. When we moved from Boise, Idaho we had 18,000 pounds worth of stuff! This wasn’t going to work for us.

Instead, we negotiated CRS pay for the packing and transfer of our storage and the shipping of 2000 pounds here to Banda Aceh.

In order for the company to pack you up, they send an agent out to do a visual assessment of what you have and how many supplies they will need. So, I showed the agent what I wanted to bring over; kid’s furniture, the kitchen, all the toys, my scrapbooking supplies. After the tour, I asked him nonchalantly how much weight I had. He told me 9000 pounds. 9000 pounds! I told him to forget the kid’s furniture. He said I was down to about 5000 pounds. Okay, no kitchen stuff. We can buy everything over there; heck I’ve done it twice before. Now we’re down to about 3000. Fine, take out my office stuff, including most of the scrapbooking supplies, all the grownup books because what am I thinking, I have four kids, I don’t have time to read, and half the kid books because I’m sure their minds won’t rot if they don’t have every Caldecott winner for the last two decades with them in the new house. Now we’re talking.

Great. Now I have to get the rest of what I own into a 10 x 30 storage unit down the street. Rob and I had been thinking of getting rid of the formal dining set, now was the time to do it. 3000 pounds gone. After several trips to Goodwill and about three dumpsters, I’m feeling pretty good about my house and it’s contents.

The shipper comes and asks me if I have the entire storage facility rented because I’m gonna need it. I start sweating. After two days of eye rolling, deep sighs, and ‘you sure have a lot of stuff!’ comments from the shipper, we squeeze it into the moving truck.

I’ve had Rob call ahead and rent out two additional storage units, just in case. I’ve been discussing storage options with the truck driver. “I want it packed really tight!” When I tell him finally “I want it tight – like a puzzle!” His eyes finally light up and they happily start wedging boxes and furniture hari kari in the unit. We make it into only one! We don’t even have to give away an armoire that was in the ‘toss if the ship is sinking’pile . It’s kind of depressing to see everything you own packed into a 10x30 storage unit.

Back to the house, we still have the overseas shipment to deal with. We have him bring a scale to the house to make sure we don’t exceed our designated poundage. You know how much it stings at Christmas time to pay to ship packages? Can you imagine how much it costs to send an extra few pounds to Sumatra, Indonesia?

We weigh each package. At the end we have 1500 pounds. 1500 pounds! I can stick 500 more pounds in there and everything I need to bring over, like cookbooks and silverware, towels and shoes are in storage. I start throwing in more kids’ stuff. The plastic playhouse. The Little Tikes car. The dumptruck and the wagon. We weigh out 500 more pounds of plastic kid stuff and finally seal the container.

Now, here at the other end, we have everything a child could desire, but the computer printer I was hoping for didn’t make it. There is no CD player. I can’t find ANY scrapbooking supplies. I have no cookbooks. I did unearth a fondue pot and 2000 pounds worth of kids’ toys.

If you think packing that fondue pot and 2000 pounds worth of kids’ toys was a lot of work, wait until the adventure of actually getting it to the house where we are now living.

The shipment made it to port here in Indonesia in about a month and was delivered to Banda Aceh even before we could move into our new house (had to kick out the man still living in it first,..) It was unpacked and driven down in a truck about the size of an American garbage truck. All 2000 pounds and a bevy of men rode in the back of this truck for God knows how long to get here to the tip of Sumatra. Then, it parked at the CRS office and was unloaded into two pick up trucks. The roads here in town are pretty narrow, and the roads to our actual house are only one lane total, most of which is either in dirt or has so many potholes, it might as well be dirt. It took three pick up truck loads for all the toys to make it to the house.

I was glad for the tinted windows as the locals stopped what they were doing to see the packing boxes tied six feet tall with green ribbon on the back of these NGO trucks. Expats who are neighbors commented they thought someone from the hills was moving into town since the trucks were so dirty (rainy season, hence lots of mud.) Yes, the Yucaipa Hillbillies have moved into town.

Now I am almost unpacked. I almost have time to use the treadmill we bought from the previous owner. It has its own room right outside the house with an actual air conditioner. You just have to dodge the lizard poop on the floor and have the tread do a few revolutions to get the flying ant wings off before stepping on.

Now all we need is a phone that works, and we’ll almost feel like we live in paradise. Almost.

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