Monday, June 28, 2010

Borrowed furniture

With few exceptions, Foreign Service apartments come furnished. The US government buys these furnishings in bulk. They find a pattern they like and buy it all. 1000 dressers, 1500 highboys, 2000 couches and love seats with 5 different styles of chairs (captain, arm, easy, rocking etc.) in complimentary patterns to match. Every once in awhile someone will get lucky and arrive to their assigned post at the beginning of phasing in the newest generation of furniture, but usually every apartment interior looks the same. There are myriad upsides and downsides to living like this, but so far it has made things pretty easy for us. We've had the same pattern in both Caracas and Lima and we actually lucked out. Dark green is ideal for small people. When we left Lima, we weren't assessed any fees for property damage. We were diligent about keeping the furniture in good condition, but even still kids will be kids. We have been pretty successful this time around too. A few cushions have split seams, and the dining room chairs will need some scrubbing, but for the most part, I'm very proud of our ability to treat our borrowed furniture with care. Or, almost.

Isaac is a budding artist. Okay, so he's not a child prodigy or anything, but he does love to color. He has ample coloring books, scrap paper, and butcher paper at his disposal and he uses them liberally. But, sometimes, he forgets and colors floors, walls, doors, people, and whatever else happens to get in the way of his flowing creative juices. We say "only color on paper" a lot around here, but occasionally the non-paper surfaces are just too tempting. His latest aberration was in the form of a desk chair. Just an ordinary desk chair to some, but to me, with it's white canvas seat cover, an accident waiting to happen. And happen it did. Several times. I guess he just couldn't help himself, over and over and over again. So, on a recent stateside trip I bought some replacement fabric and thought that I could do the re-upholstering myself. Ha! Who was I kidding? I have neither tools nor skills. The chair is solidly constructed and there are lots of screws involved, and, most importantly, it doesn't belong to me and I'm trying to avoid having to pay to replace it. I put it on my list of things to get done, knowing it might not and then moved on to the next item.

Then a few days ago as I was driving on the same street we have driven on everyday for 2 years I saw it, my salvation. A hole in the wall upholstery store. I've passed this store a hundred times, and hundreds like it. Shops not much bigger than a large bedroom stuffed into whatever space they could find. Cobblers, luggage and leather repair stores, tailors, electronics and small appliance repair stores, ribbons and notions stores and on and on. They are everywhere. Usually without storefronts of any kind, places you have to know about to find. They are so much apart of the landscape that when I told Kenny about the place, he wasn't sure where I was talking about until I pointed it out to him this morning. On my way back though, I didn't pass by, I stopped. They quoted a price, $13. I made a deal and returned with the chair. Tomorrow it will be ready and good as new. Fascinating, no? So much for living a glamorous life abroad.

the chair
the damage -- not exactly Van Gogh
the street -- yes, from up close, most of Caracas looks like this
the hole in the wall

Saturday, June 26, 2010

You know you're in South American when...

Not long ago, we took the boys to preschool on what seemed like a normal Friday morning and were surprised to find the place deserted. No children playing in the yard, no smiling teachers ready to greet arriving students, even the security guard was absent from his post. Our initial thought was that maybe there was a Venezuelan holiday we weren't aware of. After two years in Caracas we knew it was also possible Hugo Chavez had declared a holiday on a whim. But, we heard noises emanating from the building and went in to find the source. A quick look around around revealed the entire school crammed into an upstairs classroom, clad in their team colors of choice and glued to the television for game one of the World Cup. It didn't matter that no one present had obvious allegiances to South Africa or Mexico. This was the first match of the holy grail of sports, for most of the world anyway, and business as usual would have to wait.

I never played soccer as a child. It was an option, sure, but not a popular one. I'm sure part of that is that America is a few decades behind the soccer, or rather football, revolution, and part of that is a consequence of growing up in Hawaii. I can dance the hula, pound taro into poi, even husk a coconut if necessary, but I don't know the first thing about soccer. Or didn't. Soccer mania is rampant in Caracas right now and I'm sure in a hundred other countries too. Every other car on the road if flying their team flag. Embassy employees have all the televisions on and the volume turned WAY up. Shouts of GGGGOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL and cheers are echoing through the halls day in and day out. And I find myself checking scores and statistics and rooting for players I'd never heard of a month ago. The US is doing, I understand, surprisingly well and we are rooting for them in their next match against Ghana. I read an article (see what I mean about the fever?) that said the US has never won 2 back-to-back World Cup matches, I'm hoping this will be the year. Honestly, I don't care who wins, but the excitement is contagious and I'm enjoying the fun.

On their way to school last week. Fridays are now team color days.
Vaya Argentina y Messi!

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

The list just grows and grows

I have been working on my "new" blog for ages and now that it is finally ready to roll, I am far too busy to give it the posting attention it deserves. We are up to our eyeballs in preparing for our move back to the US of A and it seems to be sucking up much more energy this time around than it did the last time. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of things still undone on my "to do" list and none of them is negotiable. The worst thing is that we don't have a solid departure date yet, I know when I am planning to be gone, but we have to get Uncle Sam on board with that plan too.

In addition to all the normal things on my already too long list, we have just added a new item, and a colossal one at that. Isaac and I are scheduled for a very unexpected and quick trip back to the US for some minor surgery, maybe. We have been to several doctors in Caracas, including a just this side of quack ENT, to ascertain the cause of Isaac's multiple eardrum perforations. The consensus is that he is walking around with an unhealthy amount of fluid in his ears and that if we don't intervene soon he could suffer permanent hearing damage or loss and/or delays in his speech development. Neither of those sound like a good option, so we are choosing tubes instead. We have one last visit to an ENT stateside to verify this diagnosis and then a minor outpatient procedure requiring general anesthetic, aack! This visit should only require a few days travel, but I know from experience any time you add customs and a two year-old to a trip of any length, all bets are off.

There are some other things of note going on in our lives, but those will have to wait to be shared until our all too frequently absent friend Spare Time comes to call.

the patient

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Monday, June 14, 2010

New and Improved

Beginning June 15, Rambles and Ruminations will be published exclusively at, please update your readers, favorites and bookmarks so we don't lose each other in the transition.

Thanks to some help from a very creative soul, my blog has been given a much needed face-lift. Not everything is up and running yet, but I am in the final stages of preparing for some exciting, scary and altogether huge life changes and I wanted the blog to come along for the ride, I hope you will too.

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