The trip home last week was about as much fun as you might expect, given that it involved waking up at 3 AM, a head cold, two airsick cats, fully-booked flights, and dirty old DeGaulle airport. However, as trailing spouses always say: it’s just one day out of your life. You can get through it! (Never doing it again helps a lot.)
24 hours later, we were flopped on the sofa with two very relieved cats, litter box acquired, a few groceries in the fridge, tackling a takeout pizza and a couple of cold beers. 24 hours after that, we’d covered Target and Trader Joe’s, gotten a bit of sleep, and felt more or less settled in.
This morning I woke up at 6:30, but at least it actually felt like 6:30, so I think I’m finally over jet lag. So are the kitties—yes, animals have circadian rhythms, too!
I went to my house the day after we arrived to check it out, and couldn’t get in! At some point, the deadbolt had been changed. I had the right keys by the next day, but it was a good thing we hadn’t planned to stay there right away.
We don’t get a transfer allowance because my husband is retiring, This makes NO sense, because our stuff is coming from Warsaw, as it would from any post. We need temporary housing as much as anyone else transferring between posts does. But State will pinch pennies wherever it can, and this one of those places. Thank you for your service?
Fortunately, I had decided before I knew about the transfer allowance to book an (relatively) inexpensive AirBnB instead of a corporate apartment. Kind of over the whole living in a hotel with cardboard furniture thing. This apartment is less coordinated, but better equipped. The beds are comfortable. And it’s just a few blocks from the house, so running back and forth is easy while we fix up the place.
The plan is to have the messier stuff done before we move in. We started by ripping out the badly installed, plasticky Pergo floors. My son went into beast mode and between the two of us we had it all out and stacked up in about four hours. I had offered it on a Foreign Service buy/sell/barter Facebook group, and so two hours later someone had picked it up to install in their basement. Buh-bye ugly floor! Very satisfying. New bamboo to be installed in a couple of weeks.
Next on the list: a bunch of awful tile. I am making full use of my as-yet unemployed son, paying him instead of the flooring company for demolition services. Keeping money in the family. These floors were so bad, I actually prefer the bare concrete. Which is what we will have in the kitchen and bathroom until we get around to renovating those!
Other tasks have included watching two very large people carry the old rental washer and dryer out of the house (it’s amazing how quickly you can make stuff disappear when you offer it up for free!), and picking up half of a spiffier washer/dryer combo we bought on the same Facebook group. We also bought an old car on that group; it is now inspected, registered and plated, and goes nicely with my son’s first learner’s permit, acquired at age 21. (It’s a TCK thing, you see…)
Some people dread coming back to DC precisely because of all these logistics. But I always love it. I feel like a fully functional adult instead of “spouse of.” I think I especially like it this time around because of being unemployed for the last couple of years. It is just great to be able to make things happen. In English. Without ever telling anyone on which employee I am “dependent.” It’s just so normal.
More things I love: the lush green Virginia landscape (no more parking lot view, yay!), random conversations with strangers, neighbors knocking on my door to introduce themselves, the amazingly international community around us, knowing my way around without a GPS, cleaner air, warm summer evenings, lightening bugs, and seeing old friends. Except for all the transfer logistics, it almost feels like we never left.
I’m glad we settled on DC for Foreign Service retirement. Given that retirement itself is another in an endless string of transitions, it’s good to be somewhere familiar. Maybe later we’ll really retire to somewhere less hectic and expensive. But for now, this was definitely the right decision. And it’s a huge job market. We’ll both figure something out eventually. You know, like people do. Usually without moving. 🙂
How does it feel to be home? It feels great!