Care Packages

Thank you, everyone who has offered to send letters and Skype, etc.  It means a lot.  I am making this “Care Package” list NOT to pressure anyone into anything, but just in case anyone wanted a reference.  (Not entirely true: I am totally attempting to hint my mother into sending a newsy letter with her next package of necessary things.  But if anyone else is feeling pressure, you’re accidentally encountering misdirected at-my-mother guilt.  Ignore it. 😀 )  Next post, I promise to post the pretty pictures of Metz in the snow and of Luxembourg being Luxembourg.  Or possibly to talk about my friend’s awesome baby that I’m about to meet, or how our immigration appointment went, or how small-town Germany is…

The point is: we are making things happen, sometimes.  We are enjoying some things.  We are doing the best we can to make the most of being here.  And I want to share that too, because it’s just as true as the hard stuff.  When anyone asks me how living here is, I say “Good and hard” because they are both true, often simultaneously.

Anyway, if you were wanting to slip small things into a care package but didn’t have any ideas, here are some:

 

Rule of thumb: if it’s larger/heavier than a non-fiction paperback, you do NOT want to ship it to us and we do NOT want to lug it home in our suitcases.

For Sophia

Tea–black, green, or white (I love Hunan Gold, and Darjeeling, and Assam, and would love to learn about white and green teas), no Earl Grey/Lady Grey/anything with bergamot, because I am allergic; non-fruity herbal teas would be great too

Small decorations that I won’t feel guilty about throwing away when we leave–if it’s wall-hanging, please also include adhesive clay (we have very textured walls that are also shed wallpaper like crazy) and/or Command strips and/or hooks.  Our bedroom has a blue-green-y vibe, but I will take any cheap pretty things.

Postcards.  OMG pretty pictures.

In general, things that are bright/shiny/cheerful or strongly flavored or scented–the sorts of things you use to chase winter blues away.

I have an Amazon wishlist [http://amzn.com/w/17I4EEL5TXZXC]–any books that are marked “high” or “highest” and have been on my list for over a month are fair game; I read all my books on my Kindle.  High-priority .mp3 downloads from my Amazon music wishlist [http://amzn.com/w/2DUIEBR5JZ9UA] are also nice, but much less necessary.

I will always take more Eagle Creek double-sided packing cubes, any color except red, any size.  They don’t make quarter-cubes double-sided, but I can always use more of those, too.

My Sock Dreams wishlist: http://www.sockdreams.com/_users/wishlists/5405cbf5aa19fc6
I love sophisticated thigh highs, and zany knee socks for horseback riding. (The knee socks could be toe socks, no toe sock thigh-highs/OTKs please!)

 

Tom

Tom is, as you may know, extraordinarily hard to shop for, and he rarely asks for things that are “care package-able.”  Sweets are always good, although you’d have to find out what French Customs will let arrive at its destination.

I have made an Amazon wishlist of good gifts for Tom: http://amzn.com/w/1G43JP8XO9BKX

Things marked “highest” are things that Tom has explicitly asked for.  “Medium”-priority ideas are things that I know Tom likes and would welome more of.  “Lowest” priority are vague ideas I’ve had of things Tom might enjoy.  Honestly, I am not great at thinking of little things Tom would enjoy, so go with your gut.

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The Scary Parts

I’m sorry, T.S. Eliot, but February has always been the cruelest month to me.

Tom and I are both in the throes of depression (which I have much more experience with coping with–his is related to how sedated he gets when he’s taking three Claritin/day for the cold urticaria), which multiplies the inertia we’re each having about meeting people and doing things.  It’s hard to separate “there’s nothing to do here” from “nothing that would normally appeal appeals at the moment.”  And Metz truly is a small, small town, with a tiny little club and music scene, a carousel, one cinema, and cuisine at either $3 a pop (sandwiches) or $30 a pop (anything else).

The other thing I want to be frank about is that moving to France has been expensive in ways we didn’t expect.  In addition to plane fares and the frequent surprise!fees related to immigration, the cost of living here, even in a small town, is surprisingly high.  Georgia Tech shafted us a bit regarding rent: we are living in a crappy dorm for a local French college, in a two-bedroom suite, because none of the normal grad student rooms have double beds.  Thus one bedroom per twin bed, which we have shoved together in ways that are most assuredly not allowable in our lease.  So because we had to have two bedrooms to get two twin beds, and one of those bedrooms is “for Sophia,” we have to pay for one of the rooms in the suite.  This is about 320 euro per month–about $425.  Since we are also paying “rent” for the storage of our stuff in Atlanta, our rent here is barely less expensive than it was in Atlanta.

Groceries are also bafflingly expensive–bread is super-cheap, and everything else is about half again as much as we would expect to pay in Atlanta.

The bottom line is that we are using up the last of our life savings by May.  For someone like Tom who has scrimped and saved practically since birth, and for someone like me who is not quite as pathologically careful with money but who has also saved a substantial chunk, this is terrifying.  Especially when we don’t really have a guarantee of what comes next, so there’s no guarantee that our finances will end up back in the black.  This is also hard on our marriage: it’s easy to blame each other for difficult financial circumstances; we’re both bad at trust–in each other, in God, in our potential to end up making more money than one grad student salary between the two of us; and we’re living in Europe.

Frankly, that last bit is why I’m saying anything at all: I’ve had lots of friends say, “Wow, that’s so cool!  I wish I had the money to [live abroad/come visit you/live a life of European luxury.]”  And I’ve explained briefly that we don’t have the money to live a life of European luxury–this is just where Tom has a job that is making him money and giving him good experience for the future.  We are just as flat broke as our just-out-of-college friends in their first jobs, and quite honestly, probably even more flat broke.  But the illusion that we must have a lot of money to get this opportunity is extra-isolating when every bill makes me want to cry.

Finally, I have decided that as broke students, five months is the worst amount of time to spend in a foreign country.  Long enough to want to settle in; not long enough to justify the expenses of even cheap decorations, a couch…a car.  Maybe not even long enough to justify local cell phones; we’ve already survived two months without them.

Long enough to start making friends; not long enough to make really good friends.

Long enough to need a community; not long enough to feel comfortable in one.

Disclaimer: This is not a plea for money.  It might be a plea for Skype calls, emails, postcards, and small care packages.  You can write me at the following address:

Sophia FISHER
Log D 210-2
Residence A.L.O.E.S.
4 place Edouard Branly
57070 METZ
France

Day 21: Slow Recovery

My lightbox arrived yesterday, and huddling in front of it does appear to help with my Really-Not-a-Morning-Person brain and my mood. I plugged it in and basked in it for a half-hour or so, and decided that maybe I did have enough energy to go find the nearest English-speaking doctor’s office.

The doctor confirmed what we suspected: not broken. He said there’s a lot of blood and fluid built up in my elbow from the bruise, but that it should gradually abate over the next week and the swelling and pain should go down. He also sent me to the pharmacy to pick up paracetamol (I feel British!), an anti-inflammatory, and the French version of Voltaren gel, which is a topical anti-inflammatory gel that is PURE MAGIC. Smelly magic, but still.

I also burned through my bandwidth Skyping with my internet friend Liz, which cheered me up immensely. Not the burning through the bandwidth part, though–for whatever “bizarre” reason, I just can’t manage to keep my daily upload under 1.2GB and my daily download under 2GB. And *gasp* in all the reaching my bandwidth cap pretty much every day since we got here, not once have I attempted to illegally download anything! (I spend a lot of time internally wishing ill on whoever though this system would be a good way to limit piracy among French college students. Also on whoever decided to put bumpy wallpaper that practically brushes off the wall on walls in a DORM.)

So today I’m recuperating and pretending to work on grad school applications.

Also, this comic is pretty much my life.