Ridenour Family - December 2011

Ridenour Family - December 2011
Shanna, Jeff and Zoe, Santiago de Chile, December 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Last Six Months

You know, I've been trying to figure out things that I want to tell you about Santiago... but I can't think of anything that really stands out to me. I guess that's a good thing - it's pretty easy to live here, so we don't have a lot of complaining. I mean, if the worst thing about living here that I can think of is that maple syrup costs $30 per bottle, I think we're probably okay. (No, we don't buy it. It's $30 a bottle.)

So yeah, things are good. Here are some individual Ridenour updates:

Zoe has finished her first "semester" of preschool. She started on August 1 and finished today, just in time for Christmas. Here, the schools follow the same idea of a summer holiday for schools... it's just that summer break here happens to include Christmas too. She'll have a summer program starting January 3, and it includes going swimming every day. She's looking forward to that. We've really seen her blossom at school - her body is stronger from climbing and running (Jeff was literally chasing her all over the grocery store the other night, and he had to move quite a bit faster than he did before!), and her language ability has skyrocketed in both English and Spanish. We're really proud of how social she is - she yells "Hola!" at everyone we pass on the street, and she does a great job of communicating with kids on the playground. She is currently very excited about the presents under the Christmas tree, but we think she might be disappointed when she finds out that they're not ALL for her. Life can be so hard when you're two.

I got a job! I'm working at the Embassy in sort of a events planner/info resource/communications person for our Embassy community, both ex-pats and the Chileans who work at the Embassy with us. I started back in November, just in time to throw together a couple of holiday parties that went pretty well. I (fortunately) work with another spouse in this position as a job-share, so we've got two brains to figure all this out, too. It's working out really well. I work the hours that Zoe's at school, so I don't miss any time with her. I feel a lot more connected now that I'm the connector for other folks. My Spanish is getting better (I think), and I'm feeling more at home here. We've also been enjoying short road trips on the weekends to discover more about Santiago and the surrounding areas. Our neighborhood is a bit of a bubble - lots of wealthy Chileans and ex-pats - so we try to get out and eat some street food and shop in farmers' markets. That's when it feels like we actually live in another country!

Jeff continues to (mostly) enjoy his work, but he REALLY enjoys getting out on his bike on the weekends and exploring. It's getting a bit hot now, so he can't do as much as he'd like, but he still enjoys it - especially when he and Zoe find a cool new place. Currently, I think his favorite place to go is a huge farmers' market called La Vega. He's going there tomorrow (the Saturday before Christmas) to get everything we need to make a huge holiday meal since we're having some friends over for Christmas dinner. We're both hoping for leftovers. :-)

Anyway, that's sort of how our lives are going at the moment. Sorry it's more like a report than an engaging story... but from my experience, "normal" is usually more preferable than any possible alternative when you're overseas! And that's where we're at right now. It's nice.

Happy holidays from South America! May you have a healthy and happy New Year!

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Okay, Mommy?"

We're here! (And have been for a week and a half, but give me a break - I'm in a new country!)

We're currently in temporary housing, but we move into our place on June 30 - pictures to be posted then. :-) The temporary housing is... nice... and, well, efficient. I opened a door thinking there it was going to be a coat closet, but it was a bathroom... the size of a coat closet... and it even had a shower. Right.

This neighborhood is pretty awesome, though. It really doesn't feel like another country at all, except that everyone is speaking Spanish. So we could really be in Texas or California... except that the Spanish is different. If Jeff was writing this blog entry, he would probably go into specifics about how it's different, but this is Shanna. You're welcome. :-)

I feel like I'm slowly settling in. Zoe and I go to the park nearly every day - which she loves. And while Zoe is more than able to charm everyone with whom we come into contact, we still don't really know anyone yet (that lives near us anyway), so it's just me and Zoe during the day. My courage level to go out and attempt to accomplish tasks has been steadily increasing since we got here, but it always comes with frustrations. I'm used to being a pretty competent person, so going to a new country and recognizing that I don't know my way around, and I might not be able to ask anyone for help (or at least understand their help after I ask for it), is pretty scary - and humbling.

Por ejemplo: Our second day here, Zoe and I were supposed to meet someone at the Embassy and go to a nearby mall and check it out. (Yes, the malls here are incredible.) So, I walked over to the Embassy - just a block or two - and presented my tourist passport (our diplomatic passports were in the Embassy since we were being "documented") and expect to head right inside. The Chilean security staff just looked at me and said, in Spanish, "What do you need, ma'am?" And I realized that I had no idea how to say in Spanish what I was trying to do. I attempted, failed, and then left... because they weren't going to let me in without an appointment anyway! (Good for them.) In retrospect, I should have told them that Jeff works at the embassy, or that my friend was waiting for me... all phrases I know how to say! But I didn't. I got flustered and retreated.

THEN the other day, I got flustered with something else... who knows what it was... and Zoe actually walked over to me, patted me on the back, and asked in the sweetest little voice I've ever heard, "Okay, Mommy?"

I froze. Yes, I was okay. I was just being dramatic. (Duh.) And instead of focusing on and feeling good about the fact that Zoe learned that from ME... caring for her when she's upset, checking on her and always thinking of her well-being... I started thinking, "Oh. What ELSE is she fully aware of? Is she going to be as fluster-able as me when she's older? What other horrible traits am I passing on to her just because she's watching me?"

It was a scary moment. And then it passed... because I realized that Zoe was caring for me. That in her own little way, she was concerned about me. And that was really comforting because even when I'm feeling really alone in this (or any) new place, I'm not alone. Jeff, Zoe and I have each other.

Such a good reminder. Oh. And no, I still haven't been to that mall yet. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Seven More Days

You know how sometimes a week can seem like forever? And then other times it feels like you blinked and missed it?

Yeah, me too.

Since January, our lives have significantly changed - several times. All of a sudden, we lived in the suburbs with no car, didn't know anyone in our building (let alone our floor), didn't know our way around our neighborhood, Jeff was gone all day while I was with Zoe, and we were sort of living from day to day with no real knowledge of what was to come.

THEN we were assigned to Santiago... and none of the day-to-day stuff really changed. The only thing that was different was that there was finally an end in sight to this interim. That helped a lot!

THEN Zoe started physical therapy... and promptly began walking on March 19, 2011. I didn't have to carry her all the time when we went somewhere, I didn't have to mess with hauling a stroller around unless it was going to be a really long day... So many people said, "Oh, well, you wish she would walk now, but when she finally starts, you'll wish it was back the way it was!" And actually, they're wrong. (Sorry people.) I love how much happier she is now that she can go get her books from her room and bring them to me (or her Daddy). I love how much more independent she is. Next project: pulling her own suitcase. :-)

THEN we were assigned our housing. Nothing will make a move more real than pictures of the place where you'll be staying! It's amazing - plenty of room and lots of natural light. And I think we're a block away from Starbucks. Which is just funny really.

THEN Zoe turned two years old. I had been previously been receiving emails from a certain website that were sort of "Updates on your baby's development" emails. The one I received on her birthday said, "Updates on your preschooler's development." Preschooler? What? You mean she's going to get bigger than this? As I was planning her birthday party (with another mom of a May-birthday two-year-old), I realized that we have made good friends here. And Zoe has made good friends here. Here's a picture from her party:

As you can tell from her pink cheeks and the frosting all over her face, she had a great time, surrounded by family and new friends. (The moonbounce helped, too.)

NOW, we're getting ready to leave. In seven more days. There are suitcases to be packed, boxes to be loaded, food to be given away... and goodbyes to be said. I'm sure we'll get better at them, but right now, they stink. Don't get me wrong - we are READY to leave and "get there." But we've been surrounded by folks who have made this transition easier.

And we're grateful. Thanks guys. We'll see you around.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Zoe Zoo

I know it's been a while, but I've been thinking about what to write and nothing really comes to mind. I guess I feel like we're just waiting to get to Santiago. I've been in contact with folks on the ground there, and everyone says it's a great city to live in. We even applied for our diplomatic passports (the black ones that say "Diplomat" across the top - even Zoe gets one!), so we're excited to get there and get settled in! Right now, Jeff is in Spanish every day, brushing up and preparing for his job in Chile. He's enjoying that a lot.

Zoe and I have play dates and field trips, go to playgroups, and she's also doing physical therapy for working on walking. (She just needed a boost. Who doesn't, right?) She has several little friends, and we're so glad that she's flourishing. She's talking more and more every day, but her big specialty at the moment is animal sounds. I posted a video on Facebook today of her repertoire, so feel free to check it out.

The weather is getting warmer, and I can see the first buds of cherry blossom trees. Come on, spring!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Our First Assignment

Our big news has finally been announced: our first assignment is Santiago, Chile! Boo-yah!

We're surprised and excited about what's coming up next. As of now, our departure date from Washington, D.C. is in June sometime. In the meantime, Jeff will be in other classes, and I might have the opportunity to take some Spanish classes. Que bueno. :-)

Here are a couple of photos... the first one is right before ceremony began, and the second is Jeff and Zoe with our Chilean flag!

Friday, January 28, 2011

East Coast Winter

This is my first east coast winter.

You know, snow is pretty and all, but I think I'm over it. (That didn't take long!) Zoe and I are a bit stuck in the house, and we've both got a little cabin fever. No car in the suburbs is a little tough for most things. And we can really only walk around the apartment complex so many times before (1) it's pretty boring, and (2) I can't feel my thighs despite the long underwear I'm wearing.

Therefore, we are currently listening to nursery rhymes set to music and acting like the throw pillows from the couch are horses for Zoe to ride.

Here's to imagination. :-)

Talk to you again on Monday with BIG news!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Life

Well, this new life of ours is in full swing. After my Spouse/Partner Orientation last week, I am on information overload, so I know Jeff must be too, since he's steeped in it from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. But, that's how he likes to be - overloaded with information - so he's feeling right at home. We got our "bid list," which is the list of the 70 possible locations to which we could be posted... from right here in "the other Washington" to Rio de Janeiro to Chennai to Sarajevo. We've been researching what life is like at each post, and not just the culture in any given place, but what the facilities are like at the embassy, what housing is like, whether or not there are other families there, how large the ex-pat community is... it's a lot. Especially since we have Zoe. It's much different from Jeff and I running around the world with a backpack or two. More to consider.

Anyway, we bid on each location high, medium or low (yes, all 70), and that information is due this Friday to... well, to whomever it goes to. We've decided to work on our highs and lows and then just mark everything else as medium. Hope that works.

While Jeff is off every day learning about how to be a better bureaucrat (!), Zoe and I are here in the apartment complex. We went to a play time yesterday, which was nice, but Zoe was MUCH more interested in the other kids than in the toys, and the other kids were much more interested in the toys. Poor Zoe. There's not a whole lot for us to do right now with the weather so cold and Zoe so young. Here's to meeting more families with little bitty kids as social as mine. :-)

Signing off for now. The next time you hear from me will probably on January 31 - with the big announcement. Stay tuned!