When we were moving from our first house into our second house (both in Seattle), I remember thinking: “Has anyone else ever done this before?” The logistics around selling one house, buying another house, and then closing both transactions on almost the same day seemed like a puzzle only we had ever tried to solve. No one tells you all the steps between the Open House (for the new house) where you fall in love with staged furniture and the Inspection Report (for the old house) where you curse the electrical wiring that you *thought* had been keeping you safe. That same pioneer feeling then revisited me many times with our first child. Because surely anyone who praised the benefits of breastfeeding had ever been engorged quite like this.
One of the great things about living in an Expat community is that there are in fact people who have done this all before. And, even better, they have done it recently. So recently that they still have contact numbers in their phones, and write ups on their computers. And there’s something about living through a totally new experience that makes you want to pass it on to people that are trailing in your fresh footsteps. This proves to be incredible helpful with travel tips, buying a car (still on our to do list as we are nearing the end of our 60 day rental), and registering for your commune.
Shared wisdom is a good thing too because getting your registration cards is like navigating the US tax code while waiting in DMV lines. It is not meant to be understood, and it requires the patience of Job’s wife if he had one because children are always required to be present. In the 3 hour morning that was Step 1 some 7 weeks ago, every page of every family member’s passport has to be copied – not by a copy person, but the same person that was serving you. That takes some time people. And printers go down around the world it turns out (although they are much more relaxed about that in Europe.) There’s then the chest x-ray step and TB test step. Paid in cash, by the way. Followed by another step 48 hours later to check the TB test, where a doctor looks at your arm and may announce if you are the only one with a raised bump, “You have antibodies. I have antibodies.” Translation being, we don’t *think* you have TB. Then there’s the waiting step where more things need to be copied and mailed to you. Once you wait long enough, you are ready for the fingerprint step where you have to hold your finger at just the right angle with just the right pressure, the photo step where seriously, you must not smile or smirk or tilt your head or think thoughts like “just what step are we on now?” Meanwhile, your hard-to-fingerprint children are still with you and you’re in a very small room with too many layers on because the “twenty minutes max” comment was the only bad Expat expert info you have gotten. And then after today’s step, you have that same conversation with your children about appropriate behavior, and patience, and opportunities for a 5th chance. Because next week’s step in a two part one. We will return to pick up the registration cards - again with children, but in a quicker queue line. Then we will go to another building where the registration cards will be copied. And by next week you hope that you will not mutter under your breath something about knowing they do copying on site. You’ll also pretend that you didn’t hear that passing comment that you will need to do this process all over again next year. And you’ll reinforce with your children that they will definitely, definitely not be carrying their own registration cards because they want to show their friends their serious face picture.
The expat gift of gab is a welcome salve for all these little nuances of legally living in a new country. It’s also a wonderful spark for building community. Because community isn’t just living together, it’s sharing experiences with one another. We are so grateful for the community here – Brett’s work community, the school community, the church community -- who are sharing their stories with us – laughing with us, troubleshooting for us, and letting us know that some uncomfortable engorgement is completely normal.