At home, finally

We moved into our permanent residence, and we love it here.  In our temporary apartment I never really let myself get 100% comfortable because I knew we’d be leaving, but here we can arrange the furniture how we want, re-organize the kitchen, and actually spend some time making this place feel like ours.

Our apartment is really long. Like a “huh, that’s interesting” kind of long.  We are trying to decide how to rearrange it and partition out the space because you could literally have a banquet for 25 people, at least, in the dining room.  Luckily the flooring is these huge square tiles, so I could easily map out the dimensions of the rooms and furniture.  And this is what I’ve been playing around with:

Some people (Nate, most likely) would say I have too much time on my hands

Some people (Nate, most likely) would say I have too much time on my hands

We are going to request some additional furniture, and hopefully things will be set up the way we would like in no time!

My favorite things about this apartment are the living area, which gets loads of natural light, especially in the morning, and the roof-top garden. We are lucky to have houses next to us rather than apartment buildings, so they don’t block out all the sunlight.

We might not have a yard, but this is almost as good!

We might not have a yard, but this is almost as good!

The roof has a nice, high wall (at least five feet tall) and tons of grass.  In our last apartment, the people that lived above us actually lost one of their dogs because he jumped over the roof wall chasing a bird.  So, we were always very careful whenever we took Athena on the roof there, because she could definitely put her paws up on the ledge.  Thankfully, here there is no risk of that happening, and there are these glass areas where she can look out, so she has no desire to see over the wall anyways.

Athena explores new spaces and new species of shrubbery

Athena explores new spaces and new species of shrubbery

We also have loads of storage in the kitchen, which is something I’m very excited about.  This is the first time in my adult life that I’ve had a kitchen to call my own that I don’t feel totally cramped in.  I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I seriously can’t wait for our HHE to get here.  All our bakeware, kitchen appliances, and weird gadgets/dishes won’t need to be stashed in random places around the house and will finally have a place to go!


Our first week in Dhaka

So far, we really like it here.  Our social sponsors are awesome, the community is really friendly, there’s lots to do, the food is great, and our apartment has air conditioning!

We did a grand tour of the major grocery stores over the weekend, and I was surprised by all the things you can find here.  The commissary (when stocked, anyways) has bacon, pesto, guacamole, puff pastry, and all kinds of things you’d usually see on the shelves in a U.S. grocery store.  Some of it might be expired, but, hey, then it’s 25-50% off.  At some of the local grocery stores we saw Jif peanut butter, Smuckers jam, freshly baked challah, hard taco shells, and loads of other things.  One of the stores we went to, Lavender, had 11 different kinds of lentils!  And the spice selection is amazing.

There’s a nice bakery called Holey, which has wonderful pastries and coffee.  I had a piece of cake from there and it wasn’t as good as the croissant I’d had the day before, so I’ll be sticking to the pastries. There’s another good coffee shop called North End where we were able to buy some freshly ground beans.

In our apartment, we’ve noticed that sometimes there is no cold water.  I didn’t understand why the clothes that came out of the washing machine that were supposed to be washed at the temperature of “snow flake” (rather than 30, 40, 60, 80, or 100 degrees celsius) were warm.  Well, apparently wherever the washing water is stored isn’t immune to the Dhaka heat.  So, no cold water.  We take showers with the knob mostly on “cold” and the water that comes out of the faucet is always lukewarm.

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.  We have running water!

I don’t think I’ve been industrious enough in washing our fruits and vegetables… we’ve only been eating peel-able fruits raw, and apparently I’m supposed to wash them with detergent before I even peel them.  Oops.  I’d only been rinsing them.  We’re also supposed to wash vegetables, even if we’re going to cook them, with detergent too. Luckily we haven’t gotten sick yet.

Also, I vacuum every day.  EVERY DAY.  I don’t know how so much dust and dirt makes it’s way into our apartment.  Having a dog probably doesn’t help.  Plus, the tile floors are white, and Athena has black hair, so every single hair that she sheds is visible.

Before we left the US we ordered a VPN configured router, and it has been awesome.  It took us a little while to figure out exactly how to link all the computers, phones, and AppleTV to it, but it’s one of the best things we put in our luggage at the last minute.  No regrets there.

Let’s see… yesterday Athena got her first BarkBox in Dhaka!  They ship to DPO addresses (like a PO box with an American address, so we can still receive mail sent at domestic rates), but I was wary of whether or not it would actually work since sometimes we had problems with BarkBox shipments when we lived in Virginia.  And then Nate came home yesterday with Athena’s BarkBox!  Her tail was wagging non-stop.

In other Athena news, a few days ago she went running with Nate, one of his colleagues, and his colleague’s dog.  Usually she hates running, but they went over a mile before Nate dropped Athena off at home!  Apparently she went on strike while they were walking to the meeting point and Nate had to pick her up and carry her.  For some reason, the minute you put the running harness on her she won’t budge.  But as soon as she saw their running buddies, she changed her mind and had a great time.

Things are good here.  We’re all still adjusting in some ways, but we’re looking forward to experiencing more of what life in Bangladesh has to offer!

Almost ready-to-rent

The worst part of moving to Dhaka has easily been getting our house ready to rent.

Seriously, what a pain in the ass.

I used Angie’s List to find most of the contractors, and almost all of them were pretty good.  Here’s a list of everything we did to our property:

  • Repaint entire interior
  • Repaint exterior door frame and foundation
  • Power-wash, sand, repaint deck
  • Power-wash all walkways and driveway
  • Reinstall toilet
  • Replace toilet seat
  • Snake bathtub drain
  • Repair leaky faucets outside and in bathroom sink
  • Redo water connections for shower
  • Replace washing machine tubing
  • Cap dishwasher output valve and remove connection
  • Repair drywall in master bedroom
  • Caulk bathtub
  • Caulk kitchen sink
  • Remedy leaking problem in bathroom and bedroom windows
  • Caulk exterior bedroom windows
  • Replace deck railing
  • Replace deck stairs
  • Weed garden beds
  • Replace mulch in garden beds
  • Fumigate interior and exterior
  • Steam-clean carpets (still to be done)

The items in bold we did ourselves, and it probably doesn’t look like a lot.  But I power-washed, sanded and repainted the deck all by myself.  It was mind-numbingly terrible and only confirmed that I really hate painting.  The worst part about all of it was that I skipped FACT training so I could spend a few more days in the office and then finish the deck.  So every time I talked to Nate he’d tell me what a great time he was having, when I was not exactly having fun working on the deck.

The deck, partially painted.

The deck, partially painted.

The painting company I used for most of the interior work was less-than-stellar.  They were supposed to come on a Monday several weeks ago to paint the entire interior.  Monday came and went; they never showed up. Finally they came on Friday, the same day as my mother-in-law’s retirement party, and the day before our going away party.  They worked from 8 am until 6:15 pm, and left absolute destruction in their wake.  We got to the retirement party late and stressed out, and then had to go home to clean all the floors, which were a mess. On Sunday the painters showed up at 8 am, when we were still asleep.  They scrapped most of the paint off the floor, in addition to the floor finish in several areas.  They also primed a wall in the kitchen that needed primer before being painted, which the original painted neglected to do.  A few days later the company owner came back (again) when I sent him an email telling him he needed to fix the floors where they’d ruined the finish.  At this point, I got a pretty surly.  But after threatening him with a bad Angie’s List review, he started responding a lot more quickly and was more courteous.

Ultimately, the painting that needed to get done got done, with Nate and I painting the trim, doors, basement, and doing ceiling touch-ups. In fact, I think Nate is at home now painting what’s left of the basement.

One of the most noticeable changes was the new toilet seat. I never had to hear the toilet seat slam down after that.  And I did it myself!

The one thing we just don’t have time to do is steam-clean the carpets.  Our property manager said he has a company who does it inexpensively, so we’ll just have them do that after we’ve moved everything out.

It’s too bad that our house and yard look the nicest they’ve looked since we moved in and we’re not even going to be living here anymore.  But, hey, if it means our home will attract potential renters more quickly and easily, then I’ll take it!

Would you like a vacation, a car, or a door?

We are going to rent out our house when we move to Bangladesh, and now that we have refinished the floors, we are moving on to the next item on the we-should-probably-fix-that list: a new front door and storm door.

Our current front door is crap.  It serves to close the opening in the front of our house and that’s about it.  It’s so drafty, last winter I sealed it off with that plastic stuff you put around windows with double sided tape and told Nate we were only using the back door until spring.  Also there’s a huge glass panel on the top half of the door that’s begging to be punched through.

So I did what I usually do when we need to fix something around the house: I turned to Angie’s List.  Yesterday morning a contractor came over to provide a quote for replacing the front door and installing a new storm door.  I should have known it would be bad when they offer $250 off per door to Angie’s List customers.

Even so, I was not prepared. The poor salesman quoted over $4,000 for our main entry door and storm door.


Yes, that is a comma, not a decimal point.  And I picked out the absolute cheapest doors they had!

It cost less than half that to refinish all our wood floors.  We could purchase a used, trusty SUV in Dhaka for $4,000, or go on another trip to Vietnam.  We could re-do part of our kitchen, or fix up the deck and install hardwood floors in the sunroom. There are so many other things I’d rather spend $4,000 on.

Why on god’s green earth would we spend that much money on a fucking door?  Especially when we’re moving in 8 months?

If I’m going to spend $4,000 on a door, that thing had better be able to sing, dance, and make me a sandwich.

Needless to say, our next course of action is to check out the door installation services at Home Depot. As much as the salesman derided the quality of Home Depot doors, they can’t be that bad.



I blinked and a month happened

It’s September.  September 2nd, to be exact.

Flag Day was over a month ago.  People, time is flying by.  We leave for Dhaka in eight months!  It sounds so far away, but shit is getting real faster than I expected it to.

So, what have we been up to?  I went to visit my family in Wisconsin for a long weekend, and Nate had to stay behind, unfortunately.  But I brought back loads of cheese, sausage and brats, so he didn’t miss out entirely.

Labor Day weekend was nice, and we went to the farmer’s market in Del Ray and, while we were in the neighborhood, bought Athena a pretty new leather collar. We met up with a bunch of Nate’s friends from A-100 at a middle eastern food festival on Saturday night, and that was super fun.  We went for a hike around Pohick Bay, and Athena had an absolute blast; we brought her home soaking wet and covered in sand, seaweed, and mud.  That afternoon Nate smoked ribs and a chicken on the grill for four hours and they turned out really well.  We also managed to bring the wrong key with us on our long run, so Nate had to break into our house.  I took pictures of Nate breaking in, but I’m not going to share them.  That would be stupid.  Instead you get another Athena photo!

Athena: doggy fashion trend-setter!

Athena: doggy fashion trend-setter! Also, toys do make the best pillows.

Oh, and I quit my part-time retail job!  While I will miss being able to buy beautiful clothes at a ridiculously low price, I’m happier having my weekends back (my checking account is also relieved).  No more on-call shifts, no more being polite to people who don’t deserve it, and no more stress about getting weekends off!  That brief foray into the world of retail was fun while it lasted (usually), but I’m glad it’s done.

We’ve been busy, and life is good!  Now if only that nice fall-like weather would come our way…

Reality: yard work

We have a large yard.  By Northern-Virginia-close-to-the-metro standards, anyway.  In most of the rest of the country, a third of an acre probably isn’t a big deal.   But it is for us, both literally and figuratively.

Back in 2010, the first thing that drew us to our current home was the yard.  And we know that when we rent out our house, the yard will be an important factor.  A big green oasis, t’s a dog owner’s dream!  Plenty of space to run around and have playdates, trees that provide cool shady spots, and areas along the fence perfect for basking in the sun.  People with human children would probably like it too.

We let the yard go wild when we were in Southeast Asia last month, and it’s taken us several weeks and four separate mowing sessions to, uh, tame the beast.   Yesterday we spent most of the evening outside mowing, weed-whacking, raking, trimming trees and bushes, uprooting trees, and weeding.  Now that Nate will be around on the weekends, we have lots of yard projects we’d like to do, like putting brick pavers around the garden beds, finally building a fire pit, and other stuff I’m not remembering.  Athena had a fun time with a tree as her new chew toy.

Yard work is exhausting, but it’s rewarding.  The results of your efforts are immediately visible, and I am all for instant gratification.

Also, if anyone has any advice on how to install fieldstone borders around our garden beds (aside from hiring a contractor), I’m all ears!