Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Whole New World...

I'm not a commuter anymore, so it's time for the blog to have a fresh focus. Drawing from my current situation, it's about starting over and making a home from very little. Or, more concisely, trying to make frayed ends meet without it being too ugly. So, I'll be blathering on about furniture makeovers, bargain hunting, and the strange shit I observe being a stranger back in my own land.

It's now been just shy of 4 months since I've had to take the train journey from hell. It took an international move and total life upheaval to rid myself of the accursed trains, but it was worth it. We now live in a sunny place where weird stuff happens regularly.

Here's the quick and dirty version: After living in England for the last decade, I moved with my young daughter and 2 suitcases each to start a new job. It's probably no coincidence that we did so without any savings, considering that between trains and buses, the commute was costing over £5000/year for the last 4 years. The transition hasn't been easy. We've temporarily left behind Mr Commuter, the dog, our friends and family, and all of our stuff. It hasn't been easy, but the two of us are lucky to have a pair of amazing friends who have taken us into their family. We stayed with them for months while I tried to sock away enough cash to get us started and they have been unbelievable in helping us to start from scratch.

Even when eschewing "things", there's a lot of crap that we all take for granted until it's not laying around the house anymore. In addition to the things that you might think of right away like beds, sheets, plates, and towels, there are lots of small things too. Dishtowels. Toilet paper. Screwdrivers. Scissors. Sponges. Toilet brushes. Pantry food. I could go on, but will spare you. Trust me though, this junk adds up. Throw a kid in the mix, and it's never ending. Over the last few months, I've been squirelling away various necessities and bargain hunting like mad.

Our friends here and their family have been incredibly patient and generous. In addition to letting us stay in their lovely, previously kid-free home for three months, they thought of all kinds of things that we would need. They set the midget up with lots of books and craft supplies so that she would have some things of her own when she arrived. They even knew that the school systems were slightly different, so they got her lots of ready-for-school activity books. We take a lot of cultural knowledge for granted - she struggled with math problems that involved money, because it's hard to add a nickel and a quarted when you have no idea what the hell that means or what they look like. How do you sort which object doesn't fit when you see an American football, a baseball bat, and a catcher's mitt? She's never seen those sports before. They got us a membership to the science museum and set her up with a week of summer camp there, plus so many other fantastic things, it is impossible to name them all.

 There were lots of things to sort out to get started. I saved up the down payment for a 14-year-old car. I am paying over the odds since I have no credit history in this country anymore, with the exception of student loan payments that are in default because I owe a third of my salary every month just to meet the interest payments. But, providing that the duct tape holding the car together works for at least the next 2 years, it should be okay. It will be paid off in about 15 months and then I can save the car payment money from my salary for the inevitable down payment on the next one.

Then, I had to find a place to live that was zoned for a decent school. If I was on my own, I could stay in a smaller and cheaper place, but I had to consider schools. We also need a place that is big enough to accomodate Mr Commuter working from home if his visa ever comes through, as well as the inevitable influx of welcome visitors from across the pond. Rental places mean rental deposits, so that was another thing to save for. There have been car repairs, a computer destroyed by milk, a smashed window, summer child care, and loads of other financial setbacks that seemed to suck up money at an alarming pace, but we have managed to get into a cute little townhouse and are making what started out as an empty place into a home.

Come visit the progress on