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Monday, August 25, 2014

A Treatise on Temporary Spaces

My partner and I have a pretty non-traditional lifestyle at the moment, as most of you are aware. In our passive vagabonding, the plan is to be transients in each new locale. Conceptually speaking, we aren't planting roots anywhere.

What this literally means is I can't plant flowers, or vegetables, or buy appliances, or get a rug for this hideous floor.

And this adaptation to the actual temporary nature of each place is a bit hard.

Jorge and me, we're nesters. Maybe me more than him. Though we're travelers, we like to make each little space our own. And we like to be comfortable.

Most Latin American countries are really well-equipped for people like us. There has always been a very large population of travelers, long stay-ers, students, and visiting artists. So there is no shortage of completely outfitted apartments for rent on a short-term basis, or even just bedrooms available in a shared house.

We saw many of these in Lima, prior to selecting our shoe box. In Valparaiso and even Puerto Varas, it was the same. A wide variety of furnished and unfurnished complete apartments and single rooms. Some owners are lenient about who they let live there. Others demand proper visas and a long-term commitment. But there's always someone out there who will work with you, depending on what you're doing.

This is how it normally goes...signs posted informally in the street.
"I rent rooms." This was taken in Valpo during my first apartment hunt.

Jorge and I lucked out here in Lima. Our apartment is sort of like, the after-thought attic of this family's apartment. They have a sprawling place, really -- as big as a regular one-story house -- with an upstairs patio and bathroom. They added on to this with three individual mini-apartments I.E. shoe boxes.

Ours is one of these. On a quiet night, you can hear the neighbor peeing.

But the owners are awesome -- they agreed to a 3-month lease, no problem, can extend for longer if we want, moderate price, super safe neighborhood, and two blocks from the ocean. Fine.

They have two youngish daughters, and the whole family is really laidback and approachable. Their 12 year old daughter is fascinated by me, and always volunteers to be the message bearer when the owners want to call our attention. All huge pluses for landlordship.

But our mini?

Our mini is a brand new venture on their part. And as more time wears on, it feels more and more like Tom Hanks in The Money Pit.

Though nobody has fallen through any holes in the floor, we find new and baffling issues on a regular basis. I think it started with the lack of a kitchen and just snowballed from there.

Since that time, we've found and dealt with a leaking sink, which in turn saturated 24 rolls of toilet paper that were in the cabinet beneath the sink. ("Dealing with it", in this case, is no longer using the cabinet, which comprises like, 40% of the storage space in our kitchen.)

A nice view for the drying toilet paper...before it sees our butts, anyway.

Then we had the Great Shower Debacle, which was that every time you took a shower, the bathroom turned into a tiny pool, due to the location of the shower head. They fixed that after about 3 weeks. Thank god, because every shower required a 15-minute clean-up session immediately afterward.

The sink in the kitchen, for some reason, still refuses to function without splashing everything in a five foot vicinity, even though the landlord put on this sexy hose meant to curb exactly that.

It's like an elephant snout that constantly sneezes.
Please note the perpetually moist wall beyond. 

My desk, which is a plank of wood somehow attached to the wall, is now falling out of the wall, which makes me afraid to leave my laptop on it or, you know, touch it.

The landlords, at the beginning of our stay, exchanged the double bed for a queen size bed, and in doing so provided us with a new bed frame. It was brand new, recently stained wood. We were really grateful, but it to this day still smells like a combination of farm and wet dog.

The water in Lima is...strange. We don't drink it -- there's plenty of bottled water, so no worries about the intestinal infections, family -- but it smells. Some days worse than others. I know on the grand scale it's better than some areas, and I shouldn't complain. But it was another blip on the radar as we adjusted to life in Lima.

And just a personal note: White tiled floors anywhere (be it bathroom, like here in Lima, or in my old kitchen in Valparaiso) is always a bad idea. Add a very hairy Argentinian partner to the mix and it's just a never-ending sweeping struggle.

That said, we love our little shoebox, and love that we have a temporary home that is safe and serves all of our needs (those that don't include baking, that is).

And it will do just fine until we hop to the next temporary space, which I'm sure will bring it's own set of fascinating and baffling intricacies...which I will then immortalize forever in my blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scant News

Hello, everyone!

I just noticed it's been a helluvalongtime since I last posted. This if, of course, entirely my fault.

Since we got to Lima, I've been what you could technically call a recluse. If I were a crab, I would be the hermit variety. If there were a crazy dreadlocked cat lady without any cats because she's allergic, that would be me.

I wonder if the family whose house we live in think that I am just in here all day, sleeping. I might think that.

Really, what I'm doing in here all day is a lot of writing, a lot of reading, and a lot of working. And I'm having a great time! Also, a lot of great eating, as referenced in the last post. Also a lot of great yoga (seriously, my practice has gone through the roof. It's awesome.).

I knew it might look suspicious to anyone who doesn't really know what I do, though. A lot of people don't understand what it is to 'work from home'; half the time, I can barely believe it. So I explained to the landlords here from day one that I "work for a non-profit" and "am a writer". Both true things. Both offered in hopes that they will excuse any odd reclusivity.

That being said, I'm still alive, despite the lack of updates. I will publish something more inherently interesting in the near future.

In the meantime, I signed up at Bloglovin, and it would be GREAT if you could follow me there! Check it out: Follow my blog with Bloglovin. It's part of my plan for world domination. I mean, greater blog recognition.

*clears throat*


Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Greatest Tastes from the Smallest of Spaces

Jorge and I live in a mini-apartment.

We have a camping stove -- two burners. Count 'em. Two. Plus a makeshift sink/counter area, a half-fridge (like the ones people keep in their kid's room, or rec rooms? Yeah. That's our tiny box of heaven), and a plank of wood they attached to the wall that can serve as a dining room table/plank, or be lowered for 'more room'.

Proof of camper burners.

Because, you know, this is a really mini apartment.

I think that this chapter is yet another test of Jorge's and my relationship. We went from Insta-Routine (living together two weeks into the relationship) to Long-Term Living in Valparaiso to Uprooting Everything to Backpacking Together (almost 2.5 months on the road) to Settling in a New City. All the most infamous stressors to a relationship (difficulties of routine; moving to a new city; traveling together; language barriers) we have faced.

Yet somehow, we seek more stressors. In the settling process, we have approximately 5 square feet to ourselves should we choose not to live inside the butt of the other.

God forbid we get into a fight, because the hanging crinkle door doesn't slam well. Plus, our neighbors will hear everything and that's embarrassing.

All that aside, we've been managing well. It makes me think of those Eco-Friendly Houses, where people essentially move into a shoebox to save energy and reduce the amount of crap they own. We're just doing it in Lima. I mean, hey, there's energy-saving lightbulbs here. Sorta counts.

Despite the lack of space and proper kitchen, Jorge and I have been conjuring some really freaking tasty meals. I'm talking, tastier than anything we've ever produced before.

Our stir-frys? Legendary. His torrejas de acelga (chard patties)? Insanely good, and vaguely gourmet. All the Argentinian soups, stews and more that we've thrown together on a budget and with, need I remind you, only two burners? FANTASTIC.

Jorge's basil-chard patties--a gourmet touch that 
created a flavor I literally couldn't stop eating.

I don't know what it is -- maybe the ingredients are tastier here. Or maybe our tight quarters are squeezing something new out of our concoctions. Maybe Jorge's been unemployed for so long that he has turned to culinary innovation as a way to pass the time. Who knows.

Jorge's chicken-beef-black bean taco mixture was a big hit for our Taco Night.
Please take note of the Plank O'Wood Dining Room Table/Countertop.

Has anyone else noticed the common thread here? It's mostly Jorge's culinary prowess that's taken a flying leap. Let's be real, he's been doing all the cooking! Seriously, what a great stay-at-home Dad he'd be. *strokes chin* Hmmm...

Aside from the tasty adventures we've had in our Two Cubic Feet of Kitchen, Jorge has spent some time innovating household items from trash. We're big up-cyclers (well, okay, JORGE is, I lack the creativity to do this), and he's come up with some ingenious solutions to the lack of certain items in the shoebox...I

This old water bottle serves as a silverware storage space after washing.

This is a dustpan made from a wine bottle and cardboard.
It works like a charm!

Sometimes, temporary living situations can bring out the best -- and most creative -- in a person. 

Not all people, though, because let's be real, I've been mostly reveling in his great ideas, eating his awesome food, and catching up on all the work I missed from almost 3 months on the road!

Bottom line is, folks: you don't need a lot of space to have a home. We miss our place in Valpo, deeply and severely -- but we've settled in just fine to our new 2 Cubic Feet of Kitchen, and it'll do until we hit the next mark on the map.