The views expressed in this blog are personal and not representative of the U.S. Government, etc etc etc.
Read at your own risk.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The First Week

Moving to a foreign country almost halfway across the world isn't as bad as having a newborn, but it's pretty close.  I know because I've done them both - several times.  There's the same feeling of having your entire world exploded, walking around in a sleep-deprived stupor, not knowing where you are, having the house a complete mess, and constantly running out of basic supplies because you can't get everything together enough to make a coherent grocery list.

The morning after our arrival - Friday - Brandon had to go to work.  So I got up, cooked him breakfast, and ironed his shirt on the ironing pad that is supposed to pass as an ironing board.  Seriously, how hard would it be to just issue an ironing board with the furniture?  This post stocks, along with rooms and rooms of brand-new Drexel Heritage furniture, a fifty-inch flat screen TV and AFN receiver with it as part of our furniture, and they can't bother to spend twenty dollars on an ironing board?  I think that the welcome kit was put together by a secret cabal of housewife-hating people.

I can imagine them now.  "Hey, how about this one?  We'll give them cooking spoons, but they'll be plastic, so that they bend when you try to actually stir anything!  That will really drive those ladies crazy!"  Someone else chimes in, "I know!  Why don't we give them bread pans - because of course the first thing any good housewife wants to do after three days of traveling is make banana bread with the outrageously expensive local bananas - but no cookie sheets.  Won't that be just the funniest?"  A third one interjects, "I've got a better idea!  For large families, we should give them doubles of everything that they don't need - two silverware trays, two corkscrews, two sets of pots, two sets of worthless knives, two sets of mugs, but only four bowls!  That way when the housewife is exhausted from traveling and can't think of anything else for dinner everyone will have to take turns using the bowls to eat cereal!"  They all dissolve into maniacal laughter as the scene fades out.

The children were all sleeping, so I spent an hour or so wandering around the house, zombie like.  Then I checked on the washing machine and tried starting it again, hoping that E17 was just a random glitch.  I thought about I thought about unpacking and decided to read a book instead.  The children woke up and I fed them breakfast.  I started unpacking and stopped.  I read some more of my book.  We all ate lunch (lentil soup - it hadn't been thrown away after all) and I took a nap.  I got serious about making the children unpack.  Brandon came home and we had dinner (not lentil soup).

He looked at the washing machine, and turned the water taps on.  Because I suppose hooking the thing up isn't the same as having it ready to use.  I started it, went upstairs to clean and ran downstairs to find the washing machine walking round the closet, at the end of its tether of cords and hoses.  I balanced the washer (evidently that's not part of the installation either) and started up the washer again.  Right about 1000 RPM, the walking started again.  I sat on it.  We walked together.  I turned it down to 800 RPMs and then 600 and finally 400 before the machine stayed put.  By then the clothes were clean (very clean) so I put them in the dryer.  Two hours and forty minutes until they would be dry.  So we went to bed.

Saturday I went downstairs to finally enjoy my five hours five minute clean underwear and splashed into a quarter inch of water all over the basement floor.  The washing machine had walked far enough to pull the hose drain out of its housing and had instead drained dirty water from washing the scabies towels all over the basement floor.  I got the underwear, went upstairs to feed the baby, and told Brandon about the water.  He went downstairs to clean it up.  I kept him company until I had to shower and dress so I could grocery shop with our sponsor.  I came home and we switched so he could get to the airport and meet up with someone who had our missing thirteenth bag.  I took a nap, took the children for a walk and said hello to friends who had come in August, and Brandon cooked dinner.  While eating our chicken noodle soup, Kathleen complained about her head itching.  I inspected and found her head crawling with lice.  I called my friend who used her internet (since we didn't have any yet) to find Tajikistan-available remedies for lice and stayed up past nine coating Kathleen's head with a mixture of olive oil and lavender oil.

Sunday started off with washing Kathleen's hair repeatedly to get the oil out.  We finally got down to church around noon and were done by one.  I think I could get used to this arrangement.  Our friends invited us over for dinner and we gratefully accepted, happy to go to a house that had drapes and toys and something other than lentil soup for dinner.  We had only met these friends this summer at Oakwood, through Brandon's area studies class, but they have been our lifeline since coming here, taking my fifty desperate phone calls every day and lending us toys and dishwasher detergent (note to self: Calgon only makes washing machine cleaner that comes in tabs that look deceptively like dishwasher tabs) and even having us over for Thanksgiving dinner.  

The next week went more smoothly.  Brandon asked if we could stay in the house that turned out to be only temporary and was told that no, we really have to leave whenever the new house (it's really nice! You'll like it!) is ready.  Unfortunately, I had spent several hours moving almost all of the furniture in the entire house before I found out that we couldn't stay.  Brandon brought me a cell phone the next day so that he could take his to work and I could still have a phone (I guess regular phones are as standard as ironing boards).  Wednesday I woke up with a fever and breast infection.  And the water was out.  When my new best friends showed up (again), they confirmed what Brandon and I had noticed the first day here - the pump connected to our cisterns had never been plugged in.  And the reason it hadn't been plugged in was because the closest outlet was in a room across the basement.  Since we didn't have an extension cord long enough to reach the far-away outlet, they just hacked off the plug from one and wired it to some longer cord.  

Thursday was Thanksgiving, one week after our arrival in Tajikistan.  I went shopping with some new friends (neighbors, and friends of our friends) and got to experience my first snow of the year and my first Presidential Movement.  The truck that had everyone's frozen Thanksgiving turkeys had been delayed and replacement turkeys were being flown/driven into the country - but weren't going to arrive until Friday.  So everyone was left scrambling for Tajik turkeys, ducks, geese, or whatever turkey-like substitute they could find.  

Our Oakwood friends had invited us for Thanksgiving before we even arrived (thank you forever, Facebook, for helping me keep connected to friends everywhere), and so we very gratefully and thankfully headed over to their house Thursday afternoon for a wonderful, tasty, American Thanksgiving.  My grocery shopping friends had also been invited with their two boys, and so we gathered, six adults and ten children, to have our own little piece of America in the middle of Central Asia. 

The house was beautifully decorated, the turkeys (three!) were plentiful, the stuffing was the perfect state of mushiness, and there was even cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with whipped cream (from Kuwait).  After a long week of adjusting to being thrust out of our own country, our own culture, and our own family circle, it was just the break I needed.  The children had a great time running amok through every part of the house except the adults-only dining room and we enjoyed getting to know our new friends and family who will join us for birthdays and holidays and fun times and sad times throughout the next two years.  

As I snuggled next to Brandon under our scratchy plastic blanket that night, our house smelled a little less foreign and we were no longer alone in a sea of strange people in a strange country.  And I finally felt what I had known all along - everything would all be okay.  

1 comment:

PaulaJean said...

Keep the updates coming, I love them!