Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Packing Up

Packing has caused me to reach the conclusion that moving from a spacious two-bedroom apartment to a compact (let's call it "cozy") one-bedroom apartment is a HUGE challenge. This is not your co-ed sister's move from one dorm room to another. This is what moving as an adult really feels like. How did we accumulate so much stuff? Where is it going to go? Have I really been here almost 3 years?! Once I'm in the new place, I'll welcome all of your ideas on creative storage and optimum use of limited wall space.

We're selling a lot of our furniture because it was cheap college kid furniture and family hand-me-downs to begin with, and Alexandre has had it all for 7 years (1 year of cursinho + 6 years of medical school), and I'm OVER IT. (Plus, I think some pieces wouldn't survive a move.) Alexandre left the haggling to me (genius, ask the AMERICAN to negotiate), and as a result, my bleeding heart gets the best of me and I'm practically giving the stuff away. (I actually AM giving some stuff away, literally, like for 0 reais.)

Let me explain. I put up a sign in the aptartment building saying that I'm selling furniture. We have a neighbor. She came by to look at the furniture. We got to chatting (as small town women are wont to do), and she told me that she's been a maid for a family since she was 9 years old. (NINE.) The same family. Later, she said that she'd been working for them for 15 years. That makes her 24, probably only a few months younger than I am. So anyway, she had a kid and then her "family" put her up in an apartment in our building, except they didn't give her much furniture. Basically just like "thanks for giving up your childhood and being our slave your whole life. Now that you have a crying baby, get out of our hair at night." (This is, of course, my commentary to you guys, not what she said. She totally wasn't one of those "feel sorry for meeeee" kind of women.) So I mean, she's living here with her kid and without furniture.

So what do I say?

"Here, take mine!", of course.

She's gonna pay 100 reais total. I said she could deposit it into my account later. Alexandre said, "What if she doesn't?" and I said, "if she doesn't, it's because she needs it more than I do."

I mean... if he wanted a profit on the furniture, he should've sold it himself, am I right?

The time I spend packing also gives me time to think, and thinking and packing is a recipe for sentimentality. As you guys know all too well, I have many days when I can't stand this small town and when I want to scratch people's eyes out. I've had days when I am SO SO SO tired of feeling like the United States was actually a spaceship that I fell out of. But in general, like 95% of the time, people here are nice. Even the annoying and rude people usually weren't annoying and rude out of maliciousness, but were just curious and sometimes kind of ignorant. And in many cases with people who I considered "not nice", I was associating "not nice" with "absolutely not giving a rat's ass about their jobs."  (This will explain the bitchy and useless teenage girl store clerks foolishly employed around town.) But it's a city where I can stop people on the street and ask for help. It's a city where people trust you with their life stories 15 minutes after meeting you. It's a city of people who care about their families and friends and careers and want a good quality of life for their kids. It's one of the few Brazilian regions with a strong middle class and, as a result, it's very safe. Even with the simple countryside lifestyle and the lack of access to "worldly" and "cultural" things, that's something to be proud of.

As much as stuff here got on my nerves, this town will always have a special place in my heart. This town taught me Portuguese, and I'll probably carry its accent with me for the rest of my Portuguese-speaking life. This town taught me the basics of Brazilian culture. It taught me to embrace the Saturday-Sunday lull and the afternoon thunderstorm. It taught me how to cook a fantastic piece of meat, how to teach English to Brazilians, and how to find a toucan in the trees.

Dare I say that I'll actually miss things?

But I think the relationship I'll have with this place now will be much healthier. I can come back for a weekend, visit the friends I've made, walk around the lake and look for birds, and then.... leave, and live in a bigger city. Even with a smaller apartment and no storage space, and even though I'll be starting over in a lot of ways, I think I'll be able to be myself more.

The future awaits!!!!  ... along with a seemingly endless pile of empty cardboard boxes.


  1. Dude, I wish I could be there. You'd already be packed up and I'd be kicking that sentiment in the ass. Yaaaay exciting, open future!!

  2. Awesome, moving to a bigger, more cosmopolitan city...

  3. Awww-I think it's nice that you ended liking your town after all! But, you have a new and even more wonderful life waiting for you - and that was really nice you giving such a good deal to that neighbor with a kid - that is definitely good karma...I've moved like seven times in my life (probably got a couple more in my future too - maybe even to Brazil!)
    and each time I packed, I threw away so much stuff. I mean, how much do we really need anyways - the less stuff we have, the less stuff we have to take care of and clean, leaving us more time for the important stuff - friends, family, health!
    I hope the rest of your move goes as smoothly as possible!)

  4. Adventure awaits.

    Concerning your new place, consider hiring a skilled carpenter/cabinet maker to custom make what you need. Our place is on the small side and all the quality furniture (better than Casa Bahia) we could find was too big for our apartment. In the end we hired a guy who built beautiful bookcases and an entertainment center for LESS than we could have bought it for (and it is better quaility).

    You have to find the right guy, for sure, but it is worth asking around.

    Photos here:

  5. awww, i liked this sentimental post. there's good in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder than others...

  6. for organizing ideas, go online to better homes and garden. i read it for fun because im secretly a grandma, but they have so many sweet ideas to make tiny spaces organized AND pretty.


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