Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I think it’s time to write about driving. Driving sounds like no big deal, but it has been a major hurdle for me. When I moved to this country 4 years ago, some friends suggested I buy a car, and I basically laughed in their faces. “No way am I driving here!” I said. I scoffed. I was a scoffer. Why, you may ask? Drivers here are crazy. Traffic is crazy. Lane lines are usually non-existent, and when present, are taken as polite suggestions. Traffic lights are also suggestions, unless there is a police officer standing at the intersection. I just heard yesterday from a local – only the stopped police write tickets. The ones driving around are also breaking the rules, so you don’t have to worry about them. Wow. Laws are there, they just aren’t enforced. It’s perfectly normal to park a car on a main road. Just stop in the right lane and get out. As a courtesy, you might put on your blinkers to let people know that you are at a complete stop on a major road full of moving traffic.

And the pedestrians. Oh, the pedestrians. First of all, they are everywhere. They can jump in front of you on any road at any time. One classic from earlier this year was a man eating pudding while crossing the road. Nope, he couldn’t wait that extra 30 seconds. He was standing between two lanes of moving traffic just eating his pudding, waiting for a space to clear. And that’s pretty normal.

I describe all of this to support my position of not driving here, ever. I haven’t even mentioned the motorbikes, recycle carts, horse-drawn wagons, tractors, trucks, busses (we saw a bus literally rip the side off of a car one day AND JUST KEEP GOING!), and the dream team - taxis, shared taxis, and shared minibus taxis. These wonderful fellows’ normal mode of operation is to cut in front of everyone available, slam on their brakes, then speed ahead until they see another passenger, at which time they repeat their dance all over again. I did not want to drive.

Then we bought a car. Then we said “It would be a good idea for Marie to learn to drive.” Did I mention we bought a manual transmission? Did I mention I never got around to learning manual transmission? My first lessons were on the nearby college campus, which is built on a mountain top and whose entrance road is a big, steep hill with speed bumps. There are also wild dogs living on that campus. Oh, and the campus busses. Thankfully, it was pretty empty on weekends, so I got some good practice in. That was in January. I’ve driven about twice a month in the city since then, and I’ve been traumatized about twice a month since January. I’m happy to say, though, that after a debacle on Sunday when I couldn’t even get the car out of our neighborhood without stalling out (our neighborhood is really hilly, ok?) we made a new game plan. For three days this week my husband has been driving us to his work, then I switch over and drive to my work alone. It’s a 20 minute trip, all flat, lots of traffic, starting, stopping, etc. It’s perfect practice for me until I can get my confidence back up. I only had one mishap on Monday morning when I tried to start in 2nd gear. Other than that, I think I’m improving ever so slightly. And I’m even starting to enjoy it. I can do things here that I always wanted to do in the States, but knew would never fly, like inventing new lanes of traffic for myself, honking my horn at annoying people, and cutting people off in traffic. Confession – I also stop in the right lane on a major road when I’m waiting for my husband after work. No one even gets upset because it’s the normal mode of operation! Hey, I might get into this.

 Do any of you have driving stories? Did anyone else have trouble learning manual transmission?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Home Improvement

This post is not about the tv show, but I just want to say – they don’t make television like they used to. Home Improvement, Full House, Family Matters. I never thought I would say this, but I miss the 90s.

Ok, the real subject of this post are the home improvements that have been going on around our house for the past year:
  • The Great Leak of ‘11
  • Tore out our old wood floor that had gotten water under it during the Great Leak of ’11
  • Added windows to our balcony to make them more functional year-round
  • Fixed a leaky shower
  • Got an air conditioning unit installed (yay!)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, getting repair people to come out to your house here is nearly impossible. For example, the Great Leak of ’11 started about 4 days before our wedding. My parents, my brother and I were staying in the new house the week before the wedding. Everything was already getting pretty stressful, then a phone call came from my soon-to-be husband one night after everyone had checked in – the neighbors had called him to say we were leaking on them and could I go downstairs and check it out. I was sleeping in the living room, so I had to wake everyone up just to find some clothes, and went downstairs. Yep. We were leaking. We called the guy who had done our bathroom remodel every day for the next three days, but somehow he just couldn’t squeeze us into his schedule. To me, this was an emergency. We could not take showers. We could not do laundry. I was getting married. He finally got around to coming while we were on our honeymoon. My in-laws (they aren’t reading this, but a big shout-out to them) came and took care of it while we were gone. My mother-in-law told me after the fact she actually broke out in cold sores after seeing a three foot high pile of rubble in what used to be our bathroom, and all of the new flooring torn out. When we got back the house looked exactly the same as when we left, and the leak was fixed. Turned out it wasn’t the bathroom guy’s fault after all. Faulty furnace pipes.

Our wood floor didn’t take too nicely to all of that water, though, so we finally decided we should replace it after my MIL and also my best friend who was visiting fell through the floor a little. Having guests falling through the floor is something to be avoided, if you can. So, in March sometime we had the floor replaced in the living room, which meant clearing out all of the furniture, paying a guy to come tear up the floor, re-plastering the bottom of the walls ourselves, painting the room, then getting the new floor put in. We decided not to do the floor ourselves since it didn’t cost that much more to just have someone else who knew what they were doing do it. It took a total of about 4 days.  My father-in-law saved us by coming each day to let the workers in and supervise them. He also came when the windows were installed on the balcony, and before we even moved into the house he came to supervise the bathroom , new windows, and new furnace projects. He’s a life saver!

                            Here's me enjoying the new floor before we moved in all the furniture!

I repaired the leaky shower myself finally after the shower guys flaked out on us five times or so. I felt like quite the handy woman with my silicone gun and fixity powers.

Our most recent project is the A/C unit that came last night. The guys were an hour late, and we started panicking and calling them every 10 minutes. Turns out the delivery guy’s phone ‘ran out of battery’ and that’s why we couldn’t contact him. My guess is he was eating dinner, which is fine, but I just wish people would tell the truth. Two installation guys came, and they decided that the best way to install it would be to lower it with a rope from our upstairs neighbor’s house. Wait, WHAT? Is this normal? Why do I ask if things are normal anymore? So, I was assigned the lovely task of going upstairs and asking our neighbors who we’ve never met if we can lower our air conditioning from their balcony with a rope. At least we got to meet our neighbors! They said sure, not problem, and we gave them some cherries as a thank you. They didn’t actually lower the a/c. They tied a rope and one guy pulled it up out of our house and positioned it from their balcony. We were a little disappointed at the end when he told us that we were all set – and we would just have to get an electrician to hook everything up now. Um, what? I thought that was your job. Anyway, we’ll try to get an electrician tonight and hopefully sit in a blissfully climate-controlled room tonight. You just never know what will happen here. I’m trying to roll with the punches.


Has anyone in other places had unreliable home improvement people? I am starting to realize why the DIY movement is so big in the US. If want something done right…DIY!

Pictures to come!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Why did I call this blog Marie in Stitches? Well, I think my life is pretty funny sometimes, but also, always the lover of double meanings, I do actually sew. I won’t show all of my projects here, because many of my projects remind me of Vanessa’s sewing project for Theo. (Cosby Show, anyone?) In case you missed that episode (you should really watch all of the episodes of the Cosby Show) Vanessa offers to duplicate a designer shirt for Theo for a fraction of the cost, and the final product is awesome, in that it would take incredible skill to make a shirt look that bad on purpose. It was so horrible that it was almost cool in its horribleness. But it didn’t look like the original. Anyway, some of my projects are like that, but some actually turn out, like this shirt that I made recently. It was my first try at a men’s button-down, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with the result. The owner, (Mr. In Stitches) has even worn it in public without incident or anyone asking if the shirt was homemade. That is the definition of success in my book!

I also made this puppy dog hooded towel a couple of months ago. (Sorry for the sidewaysiness.)

The owner has also been using it regularly, although not in public, and seems quite happy with it. However, I will not be showing a picture of the matching hand puppet that I made. That was a “Vanessa”. I still gave it to the intended recipient, and, as I thought, he didn’t notice that the puppet had a perpetual smirk or that I used dark thread on white terrycloth and could not for the life of me remove the stitching (For those who care - don’t make a wrong stitch on terry cloth.)

 So, there you have it. I am Marie. These are my stitches.