I’ve been a little incognito these days…under the radar…to be found hiding out at my beach casa, cross-country skiing on a frozen lake with an early pink sky, gliding along my “childhood” lake in fall whilst perching in my kayak. ah. NATURE! I freaking Love it!
We had serious culture shock upon returning to the States from South Africa. I’ve said landing anywhere after being in Cape Town is inevitably going to feel like landing in a dump! Cape Town is so insanely over-the-top Epic in so many multiple ways (the most obvious, scenic). The light is so brilliant.
It did (admittedly) feel nice to return to a wooden gate instead of an iron one. We didn’t have burglar bars. no. & this felt of course, very welcoming/inviting! the familiar.
Though, in some ways, the “familiar” wasn’t as “familiar” as it once was. Our house had been lived in by friends/subletters for the 17 months we were gone, & was just in a different state when we got back (maybe like your favorite t-shirt you lent to a friend & got returned a few months later?). sweet? yes. but, still different. The truth is, come to find out, we had mold. I wondered almost at the get-go, but wasn’t clear how to investigate without spending the $800 I was almost certain our landlord wasn’t going to pay. I was very pregnant, busy looking for pre-schools, acclimating in so many ways, that I kind of just let it go/dropped it/forgot it!
18 months later, our kids were hacking every night & had green snot Every day for 3 months straight. I cannot count the amount of doctor visits I went to that fall. I was also having a hectic time with my sinuses, etc. We bought a super-cheap petri dish to test for mold. Not thorough. No, but, at least it might give us a clue.
Not only did we end up finding blatent mold spores on our bedroom window & in the wood trim, when my husband stuck his thumb through the dry-rot, a bunch of bugs came flying up. Termites! We had mosquitoes in our bedroom closet in the middle of the day. Hasta luego, amigas! We are out! (& of course this is the uber-condensed version of the “investigation”, etc.).
We’d been in that house for over 10 years. We met in it. We birthed our babies in it. I bawled the entire time I was packing.
Our friends had keys to the house. We had a ginormous “community” table that was used. often. Our daughter’s best friend lived across the street. They could simply shout at each other to meet up. We could talk to our other neighbors through the windows. Lots of love, but ‘ya just can’t live feeling like you have a stack of dirty laundry piled on top of your head over your face (which is exactly how I felt living there in those conditions!).
48 hours after we left our kid’s chronic conditions cleared. Not to say that they didn’t have some residue after we left, but honestly, 98% of it – gone! THANK GOD!
Long story short, we literally left overnight. We crashed at 9 different places over the next month (some for 1 night, some for a week). Most of them were actual “house-sits”. I Loved it! One stint was at our friend’s place in Noe Valley, SF with panoramic views of the City. One was in Tahoe. One was in rural Sebastapol feeding chickens. What a great way to really experience the Bay!…to truly try on neighborhoods for size, etc.
The kids & I ran off to the Mid-West to my parents for the next month while my husband continued to house-hunt (& job-hunt!). I love the cold there. It is so fresh! I found the Madison-area to be very quaint, & I felt I took full advantage of it!
We ended up in Marin County (area just north of SF with a shockingly low population outside the City + plenty of nature reserve) for the next 7 months, which was AWESOME. My experience is that the East Bay (Berkeley/Oakland) tends to turn it’s nose up at Marin for it’s supposed “wealth & snobbery”. At our initial move I also wondered if I’d “sold out” from leaving the edge of the “ghetto” (aka: “interesting/dynamic” space). No. No, believe me. We did not sell out! Marin is sunny, filled with stars, fresh air, down-to-earth people, coyotes, bobcats, super-close beaches, & turkeys. Bring it on! We found a super sweet sublet & then unexpectedly fell into another one for the summer RIGHT ON the beach. After looking for about 3 weeks, it was actually the cheapest thing I found, & it also happened to be our dream house!
My goal/dream was to find a FREE house for the fall. I figured there must’ve been someone going to Nepal for the year, who just simply wanted a nice family watching their house while they were gone? I Knew it had to be true! But, it wasn’t meant to be (this time around!). We ended up looking at 40 (yes, FORTY) houses over the course of 2 months, looking for a long-term lease stretching from all over Marin to Berkeley. We finally got a spot perched in the hills, overlooking the Bay. We are now on the Very Edge of the East Bay, still enjoying it’s authenticity & “flavor”, & yet closer to the fresh air/raw nature we are seeking..
I’m not sure what the next chapter will bring, but what I do know is I am SO grateful for the past 10 months of gypsy life. It’s felt so FRESH/crisp.
Still more thoughts on all of this to come, & tho the Monkeys have turned Gypsies, I do promise that they still do jump on beds.
Image from philipveera blog.