Archive for December, 2009

The Act of Moving Back, Day 2

Hello beautiful mattress, we missed you!

After 8 months of sleeping in a full size bed that was a couple inches shorter than Tom’s 6’2″ frame, we found our big fluffy queen sized mattress to be an absolute dream last night, despite the fact that we were still in sleeping bags.

Day 2 of our move was very interesting. Willamette Valley Movers went to our storage space and were impressed with Tom’s Tetris packing of our 10′ x 15′ unit and asked if my perfectly balanced boxes (I’m so modest) were packed by movers. That being said, Charles and Dustin were not entirely thrilled with Tom’s system of placing pallets on the storage unit floor to keep air circulating and water away from our stuff. It meant everything had to be taken out by hand.

Most of the move went off without a hitch, until a freak snow storm began developing at the end of our transferring everything into our new abode. We ran to our previously blogged about smoking Internet connection and looked up the weather forecast — it said: “nothing would stick and the snow would end shortly.”

We made…well, okay…I made a command decision to pile the family in the parents’ 4 wheel drive Jeep to run to the store and pick out some lamps since we couldn’t really start unpacking in the dark (both bedrooms and the living room have no overhead lighting).

That was a HUGE mistake.

The snow storm brought the entire city to a standstill. It took us 2 hours to return from the store, something that would have normally taken ten minutes. We saw buses moving in scary, slow motion broadside skids on modest hills. Cars stalled out everywhere, squealing rear wheels turning on the slippery roads. At one point, we were stuck for 30 minutes behind a semi that couldn’t get up a short slope.

By the time we had crossed the river, I couldn’t sit in the car for another second. I hopped out of the vehicle, with Zoe and Zelda in tow, and we walked the rest of the way home. Part of our trek took us over a pedestrian foot bridge that spans the train tracks in Old Town near an historic train station — it was so beautiful. The snow falling in big fat flakes upon the pristine white rail yard and brick buildings, which we viewed from above, top lit dramatically from the span of the bridge.

A sign of the slow going — The Zs and I reached the apartment before Tom did in the car.

Furthermore, our snow outing put a serious dent in our unpacking productivity. We only put together and placed all of our furniture. I didn’t unpack a single box. (For those of you who know me, that is faint-worthy information.)

Pictured Above: From our place we have a view of the Willamette River, the Fremont Bridge, and part of what you see here — the riding grounds and training ring for the Portland mounted police. Every morning we watch them and sympathize with the newly minted equestrian officers of the law!

The Act of Moving Back, Day 1

Pictured here is the master bedroom of our new place…we went a bit spare!

Our first day in our new apartment involved getting lease paperwork signed, taking a look at our storage space and figuring out what we needed to get together so the movers could actually move us, stole some towels from my parents’ place so we could shower, did some moving ourselves, met with the cable guy to get our smoking fast Internet connection, shopped for some food, put away all of the wonderful pantry staples my parents bought us…blah blah blah.

The kids have decided to try an experiment with our new living quarters. The girls are once again sharing a room, which Zoe, being older, is not thrilled about. However, their room has a humongous walk-in closet, so they have decided they would like to sleep on Aerobeds, which they can stow away in their closet with the rest of all of their belongings, leaving them with an entire room for playing.

We’re not sure how long this is going to last, or how much time will pass before they pop a hole in one of the beds, but we’re willing to give it a try!

Of course, for our first night in the apartment, sans furniture, Tom and I stole the Aerobeds and left our poor children to catch their Zs in sleeping bags on the floor. My 43 year old body doesn’t really rest sans mattress!

Kicking It Urban Style in Portland


During our 14 months in Argentina, we downsized quite a bit by living in a smallish apartment and by not owning a car — we just used public transportation and taxis for everything. It was lovely, for the most part. We could clean quickly, we consumed less crap because we didn’t have room for anything, and were generally a lot happier without a lot of stuff.

As a result of our experiences, we would like to extend our downsizing and use of public transportation to our life in Portland. So, what specifically does that mean for us?

Housing. We have decided to start out renting a condo in NW Portland that puts us within several blocks of multiple transportation options. The unit we settled on, while bigger than our 950 SF Argentine apartment, is still significantly smaller than our old house!

Transportation. We are within 3-5 blocks of multiple Zipcars, the Portland Streetcar, the Max, and TriMet buses.

School. The girls will go to a school we can travel to via Portland Streetcar.

We put our resolve to the test during our first week in Portland. It poured rain (hovered around freezing the first day) the entire time the four of us trudged around the city wearing zillions of layers (we still feel like it’s summer), armed only with our umbrellas and some TriMet travel passes. Even though we had signed up for Zipcar, we took pride in the fact that we didn’t use it once as we looked for apartments, went to doctor’s appointments, met up with family, got glasses repaired, paid for a parking permit for the movers, shopped for birthday presents, etc. etc.

Can we make it through a Portland winter without running out to buy a car? Let the experiment begin!!

It’s Hard Not to Eavesdrop


We were riding the Portland Streetcar the other day and a woman behind me was having a LOUD conversation on her cell phone, the volume of which led me to have a re-entry moment where I lamented how much harder it is to tune people out when they are speaking one’s mother tongue.

As she blathered on, I couldn’t stop listening. A funny thing happened though — I soon became riveted by her conversation, which provided a perfect snapshot of the hurdles that exist for those seeking employment in the United States.

She was telling her friend the story of applying for a marketing job in the radio industry, and even with all of her experience, still not making the cut to count herself amongst the top ten applicants. She asked the station manager why and he said, “we have former radio station directors from major markets with decades of experience applying for this job.”

After a sigh, she continued to say to her friend, “this is what we’re up against.”

Then, her story proceeded to get worse.

It turns out that this poor woman fell for a scam in her job hunt that goes something like this: thieves posted job openings for American Airlines on Craigslist. They then set up meet and greets with respondents who revealed their home addresses, and proceed to rob these job seekers’ homes when they were on the way to the phony American Airlines job interviews.

My fellow passenger sent off all of her personal information to these scam artists, but then managed to avoid the robbery/phony interview because she heard about the con on television.

She said she now lives in fear of home invasion, and has a hard time answering Craigslist ads, which are often blind, thereby encumbering her job search even more.

Thank God my stop came up at that point in her phone conversation…I couldn’t handle any more bad news!

We Heart Portland


After landing in the a.m. and retrieving all of our bags, Tom and I were dropped off at our hotel by family members while the Zs were whisked away to my parents’ place. When my hubby and I went to check in, we learned that no rooms would be ready for occupancy until 4 or 5 pm, much later in the day than we anticipated. (Note to self, cancel plans to sack out in the room immediately upon arrival, which incidentally breaks every rule of jet lag recovery, but I didn’t give a shit, I was tired.)

Anyway, back to why we adore Portland.

Although the hotel couldn’t get us in our room right away, the desk clerk was super helpful and polite and ensured that we had the biggest one bedroom possible on hold since there were 4 of us. (And boy did she deliver, this place is huge!)

Then, as we were arranging with the bellman to store our luggage until our room could be made ready, we got into a long discussion with him about grass-finished beef, Argentina, and Omnivore’s Dilemma. How awesome is that? In what other city, with the bellman…I ask you???

Anyway, before our bags could be whisked away, Tom and I dove in and grabbed a “welcome home Rice Krispy Treat” that Mom had made for us. It felt good to be home.

Photo by Cacophony under creative commons license.

To Blog or Not to Blog, That’s die Frage

Yes, we’re back in the good ol’ US of A…so I ask you, do we keep blogging? Tom and I have given it some thought and have decided that we still have something to say…big surprise!!

We figure we have a lot of future fodder related to:

  1. Did our sabbatical actually help us accomplish any life changes?
  2. Sharing our experiences related to starting up a business.
  3. The difficulties and joys of re-entry to living in the US.

And besides, Futból says we have to keep on writin’, so what else can we do?

Thou Shalt Miss…

  1. All of the amazing people we’ve met in Argentina — Argentines, Australians, Malaysians, Brits, Canadians, Irish, Americans, Brazilians, Colombians, Venezuelans, Chinese, parents at school, the Zs Spanish tutor Maria, their tennis teacher Cesar, and lastly, the wonderful cab driver who returned Zelda’s school blazer after she left it in the back of a cab one day.
  2. Radiant floor heating.
  3. The Zs school.
  4. Living in such a child-friendly city. Really, Buenos Aires has a million things for kids to do, and showing up with your little ones in tow never phases anyone. LOVE IT!
  5. Coffee, tea and medialunas.
  6. The central boiler hot water in our current apartment building — it is scalding hot with awesome water pressure and! This will, of course, present a problem when we return to the States and the girls have to begin rationing their shower time.
  7. All of the vendors around our apartment, including the verdulería family from Bolivia, the Deli guys who laugh at Tom’s lomito munich order every week, and the Persicco ice cream guy who doggedly tried to converse with Tom in Spanish every time he visits.
  8. Our doormen (although one of them has fallen in our regard since he forced us to buy the less-than-stellar CD of his band)!
  9. For the Zs: their friends, buying junkfood at the kiosko on field day, the fact that we give them a few Oreos in their lunch once a week “because all of the other kids have them every day!” (That will come to a halt when we return to the US!)
  10. Traveling in this beautiful beautiful country.
  11. The adventure that is gadding about Buenos Aires on the colectivo (city bus)! We will especially miss the 64, which is our closest bus…I swear it goes everywhere. We’ve been all over the city, by cab, and invariably we look up and there it is, the 64. I ADORE that bus.
  12. Zoe and Tom: attending chess tournaments on the outskirts of the city with Gil and Sebastian
  13. The fact that no one complains about noise in apartment living. Granted, that means we hear our neighbors at ridiculous hours engaged in ridiculously loud activities, but on the flip side, no one bitches about our loud music, running little person feet, us screaming at the kids, you know — life.
  14. Spring, fall and winter in Buenos Aires. (Summer, not so much!)

Waxing Philosophic

There’s going to be a lot of waxing around here for the next few posts…forewarned is forearmed!

Why the need to expound on our pondering? Because our 14 month family mid-life crisis sabbatical is coming to an end. I know, boo hoo for us — everyone feels really sympathetic! *smile*

Of course, the end of the free time means that we must resume the mantle of adult responsibility and actually earn some money. THAT is a bummer.

10 more days in Argentina. It’s all going by so fast, and we have a zillion little ends to tie up…end-of-school dinners, play parties for Zelda, chess tournaments for Zoe, goodbyes to tutors and teachers, farewells to all of the wonderful wonderful people that we’ve met, cleaning the apartment, donating stuff to the Z’s school, figuring out what we’re packing and what we aren’t, making cards, going through paperwork… .

I’m not even mentioning all of the shyte we have to get done on the US end, but I won’t go into that…at least not now!

Suffice to say that the knowledge of our departure looms large and we have much to think about. More later.