Tag: expat

In October 2011, my husband and I moved to Scotland from the US.

The state of the chateau.

I have a few moments post-packing, post-homework, to write something substantial on What Is Going On.

I’m doing all right. I think the cats are in various levels of “all right” — Torgi is obviously very confused, but Zen is fine as long as she has me around and some kernels in her bowl. Tomorrow the housecleaners are here, and also a wonderful TaskRabbit named Gabriela is helping me take all of the donations to Goodwill. I will make a run to the storage space with some of the little stuff in a Zipcar before I go to my in-laws’ for dinner, my last at their house for a while. This is difficult to process.

FunkyPlaid has been amazing as always, and as supportive as he can be from so far away, but there is nothing quite like being alone in the evenings for this phase of it. Trying to keep up with schoolwork has been tough, but I just received an A on a paper I was struggling with last week, so I must be doing all right.

Le Chateau de Jambon looks astoundingly different without our stuff in it. Torgi is huddled with me on one of the remaining sofas as I write. We are in the room that has so often been filled with smiling faces. I am thinking of the house shows and the parties, and then of the near-silent nights with just soft breathing and cat snores and the foghorns so close.

I am thinking of crying myself to sleep last Saturday night after singing karaoke and then feasting on South Indian food with my friends.

I am thinking of my mom’s voice in my study as we spoke quietly about the future, my future and her future and San Francisco and that I would leave it someday.

I am thinking of my dad’s voice just a few short weeks ago as he sat right where I am now and spoke of this departure in terms of days instead of somedays.

I am thinking of how the house sounded so warm and cozy with all of our stuff in it, and now it is a giant, cold cavern that echoes with every footfall, even the littlest paws.

Melodrama comes easily to me, as does melancholy, so I know I need to be focusing on the wonderful thing just ahead. Still, this house became a symbol to me. The first time I ever saw it, FunkyPlaid had just returned from Scotland in 2004, and he was so excited to be here. I was hesitant and a poor guest because circumstances were different between us, and I had no idea how to comport myself. I was awkward and I stared at the homely tile in the kitchen briefly before running off, then hated myself for it.

I saw this house again when we reunited, and I fell in love with its warmth and luxury as surely as I fell in love with FunkyPlaid. When his home became our home, I could not believe that I deserved such a beautiful place.

I grew to believe it. It took a while. And then, after he left for our new home, I dismantled this one, piece by lovely piece.

The symbol is taunting me. I am seeing it right now not as a to-do list to check off but as a culmination of love, of safety and laughter and home-cooked meals, of a place I always belonged no matter how wretched I felt about the world just outside its door.

It is so much harder to leave than I thought it would be.

Unsettling.

The house sloughs off years, slowly exfoliating stuff and dust from every corner. In the middle of the night, I wake up from dreams just turning into nightmares. A cat is crying at the garage door, or shifting around and around in a slow circle, unable to get comfortable.

My right shoulder aches. I must be sleeping on it funny, but I never wake up on my side.

I went to see a movie by myself. The last time I remember doing that was almost eight years ago. That movie was much better than this one, but the Junior Mints were just as sweet.

When I wake up like this, I hear raccoon scuffles, shrill growls demanding obeisance. Our yard, soon to be just the yard, is contested territory.

The entire house is contested territory. Emptiness reclaims whole rooms, swelling and settling. I recycle the box of mints, borrow a glass of water, extinguish lights as I go. Finally there is no restless movement, no sound but the foghorns. Just when I crave a signal, a shriek, a sigh, a symbol — I hear nothing but a dull note as I eavesdrop on the tide.

A weekend off.

After seeing FunkyPlaid off on Friday morning, I vowed to have a weekend free of packing and moving. I would like to say that it has been blissful, but mostly it has been sort of pathetic because I have had a headache for the past two days that ibuprofen won’t touch.

Still, it was good to catch my breath, and thanks to FaceTime I have chatted with FunkyPlaid twice already, which makes the distance a little shorter.

The cats are unhappy. Zen follows me around constantly; if I am in another room for more than thirty seconds, she joins me. Torgi, on the other hand, has withdrawn to his only hiding place left, the linen closet, where he sleeps the days away. At night he wanders throughout the house, meowing for his lost parent. He hasn’t gotten the hang of sharing the bed with Zen if I am the only human buffer. Occasionally she will sniff him or lick him the wrong way and he twitches and she thwaps him and then we are all awake.

In just a few days, the fall semester begins. While I am looking forward to my classes, I get sleepy just thinking about homework.

One good thing about living alone: I am fully caught up on sleep, whether or not I want to be. It is very easy to go to bed early when there is nothing else happening in the house.

Zen just sat in front of the door to the empty garage and wailed. I know.

The storm before the calm before the storm.

FunkyPlaid’s penultimate day in San Francisco is here! And my title is wishful thinking, a little, because while yesterday was certainly a storm of activity, I do not think either of us will get any calm today.

But here! Here is my calm. Also I daydream about knitting, and read about people killing each other with fancy swords.

moving face, a webcam snap
moving face
I have not forgotten How I Decide Where to Sit, but the only thing I have been observing during my recent shuttle rides is the inside of my eyelids.

Yesterday was my half-birthday, which FunkyPlaid always remembers, even when he is packing up his entire life to move to another continent. I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but I am. He presented me with the cleverest camera bag I have ever seen. It is a single-strap backpack contraption that swings around so I can open it quickly and grab my camera, even change a lens, without taking it off. It also has a billion other useful features that will come in handy while hiking around Scotland and holy crap we are moving to Scotland.

That happens about ten times a day now. I have packed up and moved so much in my life that the process is no novelty, but then I remember where we are moving to and I get all numb-tingly like I sat funny on my guts and they fell asleep and are just waking up, jangly nerve by nerve.

When I got home from work yesterday, FunkyPlaid and two of our friends were packing up the Uhaul to take our stuff to storage. At our storage place, two more friends joined us, and the whole experience went smoothly and quickly, once again proving that we could not be doing this without the help of so many terrific people.

There will be a few loose ends for me to knit tie up after FunkyPlaid leaves, but the toughest stuff will be done. I expected nothing less from him; even in the company of our extremely hard-working family members and friends, he is still the hardest worker I know. “Indefatigable” is the only way to describe his work ethic, even if I almost always mispronounce it.

After Friday morning, our home here will just be an almost-empty house inhabited by two confused cats and a bewildered swan, wombling from room to strange room.

Stuffed.

Twelve and a half hours ago, I thought I was looking at a few hours of packing in my study.

It looks worse in here than when I started, and I still have more to do.

I had this lofty goal of getting rid of most of my stuff, but I neglected to think about how much time it takes to sort through all of it.

The worst was when I found an entire box of sensitive papers to shred. I knew why I had packed it; I had loaned my shredder to someone who had never returned it. Still, I felt horrible when I found that box. It was a giant symbol of all the physical and metaphorical crap I have been lugging around for ages.

Purging most of it should feel better than it does right now, but until this room starts looking significantly emptier, I’m going to be grumpy about it.

Packing highlights.

Although this is hardly my first day of packing for Scotland, it has been a long one, filled with Kleenex (yay, head cold) and boxes I never unpacked from my last move and lots of stuff I simply do not know why I own. And now, some highlights!

Weirdest discovery: my very first mobile. I tried to sell it nine years ago, but I guess that didn’t work. I will be donating it through Call2Recycle.

Packed for storage: my entire poetry library. I may regret that, but it will give me a good excuse to use the public library system while I am there.

Thing I thought I would want to keep but don’t: my high school yearbook from senior year. I contacted my school’s alumni association to see if they want it. (Thanks for the idea, Unclutterer!)

Books, books, books. So very many books. Would you like some books? I have some up for swap at PaperBackSwap and Goodreads. If you are looking for a particular book, you are welcome to check out my library on LibraryThing and make me an offer.

HIWDtS: Bye-bye, lady.

Every once in a while, I encounter the N-Judah Greeter. He is a sweet man who says hello and waves to everyone who boards the train, and says goodbye and waves to everyone who leaves.

Most people avoid catching his eye, because that is his signal that it is okay to wave and talk. He spends a lot of the time in suspended animation, looking expectantly at each new passenger, hoping for eye contact. As soon as the person looks up, he waves and exclaims, “Hello!” Women get a “lady” tacked on the end. If the person does not respond, he repeats himself a few times, then stops and moves on to the next person.

If you, like me, respond, then there is a short script:

“Hello, lady!”
“Hello!”
“Where are you going?”
“Home!”
“OK, lady!”

On the way out, there is a similarly enthusiastic send-off. If it happens to be a Friday, as it was when I last saw the Greeter, he waves and says, “Bye-bye, lady,” then adds, “Have a good weekend!”

The Greeter has a thankless job. Because he is friendly on Muni, he is mostly treated like a hostile stranger. I have learned to take my enthusiastic greetings and send-offs where I can get them, because I never know when it will be the last time I see a place.

Except now I know. I know when my last Muni ride will be. I know when I will close the front door of my home for the last time, when I will drive to SFO for the last time, when I will get on a plane with my bags and my cats and fly over this giant place to a dream.

My beloved FunkyPlaid and I are moving to Scotland. Now that I can type that, it is real to me. He leaves in just over two weeks to get settled and start his PhD program, and I leave in just under two months with Zen and Torgi in tow.

Almost eight years ago, FunkyPlaid made this trip alone. I drove him to SFO and dissolved at the security checkpoint. I joked with him the other day that I won’t be crying this time, but who am I kidding? The moment is too big for me not to cry.

This departure is a culmination of so much planning, hard work, imagination, and passion, bolstered with support from our dear friends and family, and sprinkled with a bit of good luck and great timing. Most days it is difficult for me to picture the end result because there is still so much to do, and I find my motivation in knocking things off to-do lists. But every once in a while, I look up from the cardboard boxes and think of the adventure about to begin.

Bye-bye, lady.

[box type=”shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]