When you arrive in an international school scene, it’s immediate community. You are swept up into a group and you choose how extended you wish to become but there are multiple opportunities for building connections. You have choice.
When you arrive in a new city with no instant community, no job to provide structure, and a blank canvas to begin shaping in your 60’s, it’s a different playing field. You need to start playing or painting, either one….but you can’t just sit on the sidelines.
Our shipment unpacked, our U haul adventure behind us, our couches ordered, and our new license plates set to arrive. We’ve managed first stages. Shifting furniture, managing recycling materials, purchasing a lawn mower, hanging pictures, etc. Our initial framework has kept us busy and occupied. What’s next? We’re five weeks into this…..
Two highlights from last week: We joined the Y. The YMCA in Asheville is a beehive of activity and we’ve made great use of the facility already. For me, the best part is the number of people playing basketball. Basketball has always been important to me. It defined me as a teenager in many ways. It has continued to be important in my life. I’ve played basketball everywhere I lived. I’ve played on adult teams in Vermont, Israel, and now Asheville. I’ve played pick up basketball on playgrounds and in gyms in Boston, New Delhi, and Jakarta. I love playing basketball! There’s mid-day pick up basketball for the over 55 crowd. Half court, minimal contact, basketball for those who love the game but have slowed down considerably. One guy playing is 79. He’s slower than me.
But, when I discovered a newly formed league for over 40 people was starting and I could sign up, I jumped at the opportunity.I paid my dues, but then some doubts arose. Is this too much to ask of my 63 year old frame. Anyway, I’m drafted, on a team, one of 6 teams with 8 or 9 players per team. I’m the oldest on my team……We had our first game on Tuesday Continue reading →
The shipment disappeared down Buffalo Thorn Rd in Johannesburg on June 5. That orange container sailed the Atlantic, arrived in a Charleston SC shipyard, placed on a train to Charlotte, NC, loaded on a truck to Asheville, and finally arriving at 7 Digges Rd on August 12.
Having successfully emptied our storage units, packed/unpacked our UHaul, strategically placed stuff around the house, the challenge now was to figure out where all of our overseas stuff would fit.
It’s a collision of worlds. Overseas stuff…..meet…..America storage unit stuff. In 1985 we went to India with just suitcases and a small box of air freight trailing behind. I remember going to the old-old Delhi airport to pick up that air freight a few weeks after arriving in India. It was, no surprise, a hot and humid August monsoon morning. Mr Swami (our business manager shepherded me through the throngs to some behind the scenes office. He bought me a Campa Cola (no Pepsi or Coke in India at the time). He taught me to drink out of the bottle without your mouth touching the bottle, adapting in India at the time required attention to hygiene he explained. I remember the moment, the heat, the flies, the throngs, the ubiquitous vibe of busyness that is the vibe of India, and the half-ripped cardboard box we had naively packed up and sent via UPS from our Vermont home 5 weeks earlier. Anyway, that’s what we had in 1985, a small box of what newly overseas educators considered “essentials”.
When we left SA it was cheaper to buy a round trip ticket then a one way ticket. KLM just notified me that our return flight to SA is coming up in a few days……it feels strangely odd to be here, I’ve over stayed my summer holiday, is it time to pack up the suitcase, last minute shopping, fill the extra bag with supplies?
It’s August 3. The last time I was in America during August was 1988. 31 years. I was a grad student in Boston. Corey was 1 and Jared was yet to arrive. We’ve had thirty (30) July trips to JFK or Logan, or Albany (en route to O’hare). Trips always made in July, often dropped and farewelled by Rhona’s parents throughout the 90’s and 00’s. Flights in July – 4 to Israel, 17 to Indonesia, 5 to Ghana, 4 to South Africa. Flights thru hubs of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and onward to our homes overseas. I know my favorite early morning coffee/snack routine while Continue reading →
The DMV….yes, the Department of Motor Vehicles. D M V – three initials that generate immediate distaste. The DMV is the punchline for jokesters. Who enjoys a visit to the DMV? Simple answer: The 17 year old teenager who, for the first time, is receiving that prized drivers permit. They are smiling, excited by this rite of passage. I saw several of those teens arrive at the DMV, led by their mothers, during my three (yes – 3) trips to the DMV last week.
We all have a history with DMVs and, truthfully, there was only one joyful memory – as a 17 year old getting my driver’s license. But, getting my 17 year old driver’s license required managing obstacles. Namely, I failed my first written test. Damn road signs. I should have studied harder! Passed my 2nd time but my 1969 Chevy station wagon was deemed unsafe for my first road exam (bald tires) I boycotted the Dunellen, NJ DMV in favor of Rahway, NJ the next time and finally earned my license. I even parallel parked successfully. It was a journey and I remember it well.
Not to mention, the DMVs I’ve frequented in India, Israel, Indonesia, Ghana, and South Africa. All grueling experiences. All with people in uniforms, wielding some sort of intimidating government authority, controlling your fate. I have survived DMVs on three continents, I was certain I could handle the North Carolina DMV.
Rented the U-Haul truck in Boston, drove west to Lake George, NY on July 15. After an hour of bouncing along the Massachusetts turnpike with an empty truck, knowing what lay ahead for a couple of days, Rhona posed a serious question: “Do you think we are too old for this?” My initial response – “No way” transitioned to “Possibly” and finally “Probably” as the miles continued and the AC in the U-haul stopped working. Interstate driving with the windows down in steaming heat is best left for a younger crowd. We both had our meltdown moments, and over a bowl of matzo ball soup (comfort food) we agreed tension and emotions are part of this journey and we’ll be just fine. After an uneventful evening at the Baymont Motel, Exit 19 on I-87, we set out on July 16 and worked alongside a couple of packers to load up our U-Haul.
Turns out we had a couple more items for the landfill……
“One man’s junk can be another person’s treasure”. Isn’t that the expression?
7 years after selling our house and storing our stuff (definitely Not Junk at the time) in two 10×20 storage units (the largest size on the lot) we were set to dig in, wade through the aged cobwebs, accept gifts left by mice that took up residence, acknowledging each itemized box or piece of furniture as a source of memories. An archaeological dig kind of experience! A potential journey down memory lane! We were ready to embrace the task.
We opened units 607 and 610 and took up the challenge! We sifted, lifted and gifted, and tossed. What a surprise!! It turns out we have some junk after all. Loaded a pick-up truck several times and between the local landfill and the Salvation Army we off-loaded some of our junk & treasure. More than once I wondered how, given the $$ math, (2 units, X dollars/month, 12 months, 7 years) this all came to pass. You can drive yourself nuts by going down that path. Then my voice of reason reminds me that it must be treasure because who would be stupid enough to pay those storage fees for anything that turned out to be junk? Never again!!
So, we tackled the task and sorted our storage units, assuring ourselves of our readiness for loading up our 26 foot U-haul truck for the big trek to the south – destination Asheville, a mere 15 hour drive away! Shorter than a non-stop Singapore to JFK flight!
The auto industry must be doing well in the US. Heaps of new cars on the road. Options galore. We’re in the market for a new car. The last new car I bought was in 1981. It was a Mazda pick up. I bought it in Montpelier, Vermont. I wanted a pick up (living in rural Vermont required a pick up). I rocked up at the car dealer and there was a single model of a pick up on the lot so that was the one I wanted. It was a Mazda pick up. Simply called a Mazda pick up. There wasn’t a brand or sub brand or multiple options for the Mazda pick up. There was an AM/FM radio and two speeds for the windshield wipers, and a rear bumper was optional.
I loved that pick up.
I’m thinking about another new pickup today. Toyota’s are popular. The Tundra (too big), the Tacoma (short bed, long bed, short cab, extended cab, long cab, super cab…..4×4, 2×4…..). The F150 Ford Ranger is the best selling pickup in America according to my millennial son. OK….let’s look at it. How can a pickup price range from $30,000 to $65,000? The bells & whistles, the bed length, the options on the cabs, etc etc. So many choices – just like the salad dressing section at Whole Foods.
I loved that mazda pickup in the 80s – ahhh, the good ‘ol days, life was simpler with fewer choices.
We find ourselves googling car models as we drive down the interstate or cruise the parking lots. It’s a regular discussion….it’s fun too. So many choices! True to form, Rhona’s all over the electric cars.
We’re in negotiations. I still like the idea of a pickup.
Finally, I enjoyed renting a Nissan Rogue. I discovered it’s part of the Compact SUV model line. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Since when is an SUV Compact?
Rhona and I truly appreciate the messages of support and good wishes as we step away from international schools after 34 years. It will be odd in July when, for only the 3rd time since 1985 we won’t be hopping on a plane at JFK or Logan or O’Hare, crossing an ocean, and returning to work. We will build a life in Asheville, North Carolina in a place where we never lived but briefly visited. We are grateful and nervous and excited as we move forward. Relationships matter and maintaining and nurturing these, from a distance, will be important. Social media will be invaluable to sustain contacts from our international worlds. If you’re in the SouthEast of the US, PLEASE visit. Asheville is a fun town.
And for those interested in triathlon, there are 3 major 70.3 races within 5 hours and heaps of other opportunities in the area to race.
Finally, we’ve been in the US for a week now. We’ve already started a list of odd moments of ineptitude – like not recognizing that the EZ pass in the car rental wasn’t set up right and having to walk across three lanes of EZ Pass truck traffic upon entering the NY State Thruway in order to beg a bewildered and probably amused toll booth operator for a ticket to enter the thruway. I felt like a total rookie!
Finally, for the first time in 20 years, I have had to arrange for my own phone plan. Do you know how many options Verizon has, let alone Sprint, or AT&T? Where is Russell Layton when you need him? Too many choices! Luckily our millennial son came to our rescue to sort us out! I can feel a collection of blog posts coming on during this transition!
Today we’ll travel from Lake George (we’re staying with our dear friend Mary Fox in LG as we tackled our storage units here in New York) up to Vermont for a couple of days (and visits) before heading back to Boston. Mid-July is our target date for landing in Asheville! All systems are go!
So, tonight we’re Out of Africa after 9 years split between Ghana and South Africa. A final African sunset on the way to the airport and our final meal in Africa – and our favorite meal – a masala dosa.