That Wasn’t Really Six Months Just Now

Saying it’s hard to believe that Tuesday will mark our six month anniversary in Luxembourg is so much an understatement that calling it an understatement is an understatement.

And I’ve barely written at all, each time thinking that there’s too much, and somehow hoping it’ll be easier later.

So that’s working out about as you’d expect.

So… Let me ‘splain. No, there’s definitely too much, lemme try ineffectively to sum up…

If you haven’t been following my status updates on Facebook since my last post here in January, here are the highlights:

I bitched a lot about Numericable – my absolutely horrible Internet service provider – and the lack of real competition in that market. They made Comcast^wXfinity seem like the pinacle of customer-centricity and service. It took five months to get to the point where I was positive they weren’t going to ever fix the problem, or even give a crap that there was a problem. At which point I sent them the mandatory certified letter to cancel our contract. Dawnise dropped the gear off at their office yesterday, and I paid the last bill I ever expect to get from them. So that’s done.

The new ISP is the luxembourg state-run telco – P&T – and so far the experience on the customer service side is much better. Unfortunately, they haven’t run fibre up my street yet, and I’m at the very edge of their serviceable DSL range, so the quality of the connectivity hasn’t really improved much.

My parents came over for two weeks – and everyone survived the experience. It was my mom’s first time in Europe, and probably the most walking she’s done in years, certainly since she had both her knees replaced. Their visit was a good excuse to get Nise to Paris – a city she was disinterested in visiting – and we agreed that we’ll definitely be back, but there are other places to see first. The four of us also went to London, which is a city I don’t imagine I’ll ever get bored of.

Hopefully the experience convinced my parents that travel is something they should do more of while they can.

Around the same time, there was an epic adventure to acquire all the bits needed to make fire in our propane barbecue. It seemed like such an easy thing – we bought the barbecue at Auchan and my dad and I assembled it. In fact, we assembled all the patio furniture the day they arrived – it ended up being a great way to fight jet lag.

As I suspected, it didn’t come with a regulator, so we bought one from Cactus Hobbi while grocery shopping.

Then we started looking for propane.

We were told to start at petrol stations. The shell station up the street sent us to the shell station a town over. There we ran into a frazzled and grumpy attendant who didn’t speak any English, and I couldn’t get the point across in french despite several attempts. So we tried Hornbach, and they sent us to the Total station a kilometer away, who didn’t actually have propane. We tried the Total station up the street from the apartment, and after managing to communicate that we needed a bottle of propane, and paying for said thing, we went to the cage only to discover they didn’t have any full bottles.

The next attempt took me to a Total station across town, where I did manage to get a bottle of propane, only to get it home and realize after breaking the seal that the bottle fitting didn’t match the regulator. I tried all the places I could think of that were open – Hornbach again, Batiself, no dice.

The final trip took Nise and I to the Energus store that I had found after it had closed on the prior attempt. Thanks to Nise’s french and my picture of the cylinder we left with what we hoped was the correct regulator and hose clamps. Shortly after getting it all home we had a fire in the barbecue.

We grilled steaks – I’ve never been quite so happy to be able to make fire.

And of course it’s been wet and raining pretty much ever since.

In other news, we’ve managed to expand our social circle a bit. When we were heading back to Seattle earlier in the year, we needed someone to check on the cats for a few days when literally everyone we knew in the country would be gone. Dawnise availed herself of the American Women’s Club mailing list and found someone. We then proceeded to hand this someone the keys to our apartment and leave the country, hoping the cats, the apartment, and all the stuff in it would be in tact when we returned in a couple weeks.

Turns out everything was just fine, and it further turned out that Dawnise managed to choose someone who plays Cards Against Humanity, which is either the funniest or most offensive game you’ve ever played (those aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive).

More recently, our friends Adam and Helen managed to swing through Luxembourg at the tail end of coincident business trips and introduced us to another expat couple who fortuitously like the same game.

So that seems positive.

Not speaking french in a predominantly french speaking country still sucks – a lot. About a month ago I dropped out of the french lessons we were taking as a group. The immersion-once-a-week-for-a-couple-hours format wasn’t working for me, and my inability to practice from the written materials on my own turned the whole thing into one big ball of frustration. We thought about Rosetta Stone, but were turned off by the immersion approach (and the price tag).

Before moving here I would have said (in fact sorta did say, when it comes right down to it) that I’d try living almost anywhere in the first world. Since then I’d say my filter has gotten more discriminatory. Spending a week in Japan made it clear that not sharing an alphabet is a force multiplier on the challenge of not speaking the language. It was fun for a week, but I’m not sure it would stay fun for long. Similarly, as much as I want to be the guy who’s comfortable not speaking the language, and can pickup new languages easily and quickly, it’s turning out I’m not that guy.

Not speaking the language is incredibly isolating – and being functionally illiterate is both frustrating and humbling.

Aside from that, things are going pretty well – we’ve basically figured out a workable routine, the cats are doing well, the guest room has been a hit with those who’ve stayed in it, and we’re starting to do more than just focus on “figuring shit out.”

Oh, and I had horse for lunch the other day. It was good – I’d eat it again. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. If you’re deeply offended that I ate horse, pretend I meant to type goat and slipped.

Our goal for the next couple months is to do some more travel – see some of the places that are easier to get to from here than they were from the states. I’m not sure where the first stop will be, but writing this makes me think I should stop writing this and go plan a trip.