Enter the Village Idiot

After relocating several times, I am familiar with the feeling of being the village idiot for a while. Or, as a Dr. Fred Goodwin, a professor of psychology at George Washington University, more kindly puts it: we “lose competence” when we relocate. Why? Because when one relocates to a new city, state, or country, there is so much to learn about where and when to go, how to get there, how it’s done, and maybe a new language during the whole process.

Most of the time I can get things figured out pretty well but there continue to be those moments when it all gets ridiculous. For example, while we were still living in hotels, waiting for our shipment from Germany, some longtime friends Brad and Sheena, offered for us to stay in their house while they went on vacation. So, the kids and I moved in Sunday evening (Gary was traveling for work) and slept soundly. The next day, after breakfast, we needed to leave for an appointment. All ready to go, I discovered we could not get out of the house. We were literally trapped inside the house. I’ll just explain how by paraphrasing my phone conversation with Brad:

Me: You won’t believe this but we are locked inside your house.
Brad: What? How?
Me: Well, remember how you told me to only use your garage door to get in and out of the house?
Brad: Yes
Me: Well, we did that to get in but now the [automated] garage door won’t open. When I press the button, the motor runs but the door won’t move. So, I went around to all the other doors in the house but they are deadbolted and I don’t have the key. Also, none of your ground level windows open.
Brad: (laughter) Hmmmmm….
Me: I know…what should I do?
Brad: Well, before I come up with an idea, I’m just going to enjoy this moment.
Me: Thanks! Glad I can provide some entertainment.
Brad: (cackles)

The children’s new school is a wonderful place but they are accustomed to having students (and parents) who have all been there for years, and know everyone else and how everything works. Unlike the International school in Germany which caters well to its loads of newcomers with workshops and all communications that are descriptive enough so that everyone understands what is happening or about to happen. Instead, here, I get emails from room parents asking for help saying things like “you’ve all done it before so you know what to do.” Well, no, I actually have no idea how you want me to decorate the classroom door for the month of January; and, no, I have no idea that I didn’t have to shell out $60 for after school care but too late now; And, by the way using “backpack mail,”  whatever that is, sounds like the quickest way to lose something very important.

Fortunately, along the way, I’ve gotten help from new friends like Chrissie, Alison and Meghan, to help navigate as one of the few clueless newcomers. Things are running a lot more smoothly these days but the occasional blips happen, not always because of the school, but because of the chaos of moving and having too many details to take care of.  One of the most memorable happened about 2 weeks into school.  I picked up Nora and Jack at the end of the day and they informed me that they weren’t signed up for hot lunch that day so had nothing to eat at lunchtime. Hot lunches must be ordered a month ahead of time and I mixed up which dates that week I have chosen for hot lunch. So, while I begin with “Oh no, I’m so sorry….” Jack pipes up with: “That’s ok, Mommy. I just ate the rest of my turkey sandwich from a couple days ago.” I nearly ran the car off the road in utter shock and horror as I looked at the back seat, expecting to find him doubled over in gastric distress. Instead I got a bright, front-toothless smile and his hands up: “See, no worries, Mommy!”


5 responses to “Enter the Village Idiot

  1. Kate Voelker

    Ellen, I can’t believe they didn’t feed Jack and Nora! Glad you and the kids still have your sense of humor! ( and your sanity)

    • Ellen Willson Hoover

      Kate, they did make Nora a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but, for some reason, not Jack. I guess they thought that 2 day old turkey sandwich was no problem. I was too embarrassed to ask! By some miracle, he was totally fine.

  2. Ellen – How did you manage to get out of your ‘locked in the garage predicament? I am sure it made for a stressful morning!

    • Ellen Willson Hoover

      Sophia, it turned out to be not that difficult after he told me a way to lift the automated door by hand. I was then able to get a key for the other doors that was outside of the house. Still felt like a jailbreak!

  3. Pingback: Learning the ABC’s | expatfromcanada

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