Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Being Real.

There are some misconceptions about living abroad with the military.  Some people think it's all travel and culture and excitement, but the reality is we are living our daily life with work, school, dinner and such just the same; just in a different country.

Think for a minute.  Do you go out of town every weekend and see a museum?  Do you fly to visit a town for a few days every other weekend?  Of course you don't.  That would be expensive and you wouldn't get anything done around your house.  We don't do that stuff either.

Now there are some people here that do.  Every single weekend they are traveling some place and every long week-end they are going to someplace awesome in Europe.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's amazing for them to be able to go and do so much and I wish them well.  We just cannot do that.

First we have five people in our family.  Since Ethan turned 12, that means we have the joy of paying adult prices for him.  Any flying requires five plane tickets.  Sometimes there are discounts for Gavin and Norah, but not always.  Because we are five people and Norah is over 24 months old we have to pay for two hotel rooms!  The hotels here in Europe are not like what we are accustomed to in the US.  They are much smaller.  We haven't actually stayed in one yet, but from research and talking with other people, they are tiny.  So just for lodging we have to double our price.

We have Norah.  She is going on 3 years old, but she is a preschooler with attitude.  She cannot handle long drawn out walking trips and most everything here is walking.  She needs to potty often and public restrooms are not abundant in many of these small towns and villages.

We have me.  As much as I like to downplay my back problems, the reality is I suffered a spinal cord injury with the ruptured disc and the Cauda Equina Syndrome.  On top of that I had another surgery, a bladder tack and hysterectomy in January.  I physically cannot do a ton of waking.  I am slowly rebuilding my strength, but I am slow.  And I do still have some minor bladder issues as well.

We have our personality.  We lean toward being homebodies with the exception of vacation time.  We love to road trip, but let me tell you it is very different here than in the US.  We get anxious when it comes to doing things off base.  We aren't afraid as much as we are nervous at messing things up.  We are getting better and I'm sure it will take the entire three years for us to get anywhere near comfortable.  We are trying though, in our own little way.

We have Gavin, the ultimate homebody.  It is difficult to get him to even go to the commissary or Exchange. He would much rather stay home and play with his toys, play with his friends, watch a movie, anything but travel.  We are working on him too.

We still own our house in Virginia Beach.  We wanted to sell the house so it wouldn't be a worry while we are living here, but have you seen the housing market?  We owe more on our house than what it is worth now.  So all the extra money we get for COLA (cost of living allowance), we have to use a good bit of it to pay for our mortgage. We have it rented out, but no where near the entire amount of our mortgage. We also are trying to pay off our debts.  We do not want to use credit cards and build up more debt.

So there are our reasons for not going to Rome, Venice, Paris etc. every weekend.  We are planning some pretty cool trips soon though.

I'm going to be truly honest about our experiences here.  I know it's easy to romanticize everything to do with Europe, Italy, Sicily; but I'm going to try to refrain from doing that.  These are the reasons it's a big deal for us to go to Ikea and be able to tell the cashier that I was going to use a credit card and for me to understand that he needed to see a form of I.D.  For us, it's the small victories.  And for you, you have the joy of reading all of them here.