26 August 2009

Grocery Shopping

So, everything is more expensive down here, right? Well, I'm not one to pay a lot for groceries; why pay so much for something that you won't even remember by the next day? Is it safe to eat? Is it cheap? I'll take it! I'll upgrade for furniture, I'll upgrade for electronics, but I am not upgrading for food. I'm confident in my ability to make it taste yummy. Anyway, so in the three weeks I've been down here, I scouted out other options aside from the well-visited Publix (think of it like an expensive Kroger). I found: Bravo, SweetBay, WinnDixie, and SuperTarget. Not to mention the basics that CVS and Walgreens carry. I felt like a bad-ass sitting at our large, L-shaped desk, fliers spread everywhere, coupons in neat little piles. I whittled the sales down to three stores: SuperTarget, Bravo's, and Publix (for those necessities I can't get anywhere else). I wobbled in each store, bright and early (still store from the gym), stacked up on sales, handed the cashier my coupons and reusable Meijer bags and left happy. Overall I spent $160 on food and household items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc), which is EXCELLENT considering how many basics I had to re-buy since moving that don't normally appear on a grocery list (salt, for example). I saved around $60 in sales and coupons.
Naples is so small that it isn't really a long drive from store to store. I did spend 4 hours shopping, but that was mostly due to my lack of familiarity with stores and my extra-slow walking speed.

Another interesting thing I noticed on my way around town: my Spanish is coming back in leaps and bounds. I spend 2 years studying Spanish in college. I took enough credits to minor in it. By the time I finished, I understood and read almost fluently, and I could speak very well, carry on a decent conversation (I never did learn to write it very well). I was told my accent was amazing and I even started talking to myself in Spanish! The Spanish program at MSU is TERRIBLE, so I spent many, many hours drilling the language into my head, trying desperately to get good grades. I took my last Spanish class in the Spring of 2006. But following that class, I slowly began to forget Spanish. Well, Spanish is (obviously) very common down here, with so much of the population being from Cuba and Mexico. I noticed my Spanish coming back as I stood in check-out lines, heard radio advertisements and saw commercials in Spanish. I took a quick online quiz and found that I understood most of what I read. But when I stood in line today at Bravo's (which is an international market), my cashier asked her bagger a few questions about the price of tomatoes and how to ring them up--and I understood a good amount of what she said! I missed a lot of verbs (my vocab ain't so hot), but I picked up on the conjugations and got most of the nouns. Yay! I am going to spend some time going over my old college Spanish texts--being bilingual is a requirement for so many jobs down here.

But you should have seen me carry three loads of groceries up the 15 steep stairs leading to my front door on my stiff, sore legs.

25 August 2009

Adjusting

Adjusting--well, it's only been two days, but we've already started. In many ways I think the first few days weeks will be the worst, because we are trying to understand and cope with a very new world. Matt is trying to reacquaint himself to the world of class, carrying a heavy backpack, finding a seat on the first day of class (don't even get me started on that topic). He gets home around 3:00 now, instead of 6:00. It's nice to have him home earlier, but now I'm ready for dinner at 3pm! He's not used to jumping straight into homework once he gets home. We don't linger for an hour after dinner, just talking. He doesn't read the Wall Street Journal first thing anymore. The Netflix just sits on the coffee table. One day I'll give in and just watch it by myself and mail it back. It's depressing. It's only day two and he's already behind in the reading. (Each class gives him minimum 30 pages per day). He feels depressed that he's already "slacking," when the truth is, everyone is.

I'm trying to get used to the silence that fills the house every night. I'm also trying to get used to doing all the chores by myself. It's sad, but I know it'll get easier once we are a little more accustomed.

Job hunting is going very poorly. Naples isn't hiring. I have sent in about a half dozen applications, but haven't heard a word yet, not even a rejection. I haven't gone really "hard core" job hunting yet, that will come once I've finished some of the remaining house-settling chores. In the meantime, I joined a knitting group and signed up for a community education class. They both start next week. The class is geared toward teaching people how to use their digital cameras. Kinda lame, I know, but I feel bad that I have such a nice camera and don't really know how to use it. Plus, maybe it'll teach me a few photography tricks so that my pictures won't be so lame (which is why I have posted so few on my online social networking platform of choice). This week I also got a gym membership. Our apartment complex doesn't have one, but there is a cheap community fitness center across the street. On a side note, I got two free sessions with a personal trainer with my membership. I used one on Monday. My butt (what she worked the hardest) was so sore this morning that I could barely sit. I went back to the gym on Tuesday to do a little cardio. I heard that it'll loosen up the muscles so they won't hurt as bad. NOT! I am even more stiff and sore now that I was before the cardio! And I'm no newbie to the gym--I've been working out regularly since last summer! I always thought it'd be awesome having a personal trainer, but now I realize that they give NO MERCY! Although, if I were to keep up the routine after the soreness wears off, I bet I would end up with a killer backside...

The only other being needing adjusting besides the hubby and I are the kitties and they are refusing. I don't know what it is about Naples that bores them, but they are no longer interested in playing by themselves and insist on following me around like lost children. The poor things.

The weather takes a lot of adjusting as well. We have officially been in Naples for three weeks and one day and it has rained every single day except one. Rain down here is a big production, lots of thunder, lots of lightening, and it only lasts for 30-60 minutes. 90 minutes is a LONG rain storm down here. The rain is exceptionally scattered. It can be raining at the grocery store, but is dry at the apartment. It very commonly rains on only one half of the apartment, car, street, etc. I've out run storms on the road, only to get caught again at stop lights. I take both my sunglasses and my umbrella everywhere.

I hate am adjusting to Naples. Slowly, very slowly.

On the positive side of things, we went out on a final date Sunday night and saw a *great* movie: The Time Traveler's Wife. Not only is Rachel McAdams completely adorable, and Eric Bana's brown eyes meltworthy, but the script is WONDERFULLY done! How many times can you say you saw/read something about time travel and didn't remember any scientific holes in the plot as a reality? Um, never!

The other positive, is that being married to a law school student gives one a lot of crazy stories. Remember the "crazy laws" email that went around years ago? Well, I could tell you stories that would make tying an alligator to a fire hydrant look sane! How about the aunt who sued her five year old nephew for pulling a chair out from underneath her? (That case is from the '50s!) Or maybe the one about the lady suing the produce boy because she had a heart attack after he told her she smelled bad?

Anyway, now I'm done typing and I have to get up. Standing is a bit difficult right now, as I mentioned earlier. Is there anyway I can procrastinate online a little longer?

ehh....

23 August 2009

Orientation

Well, we made it through week 1: orientation. I'm pretty sure the point of orientation is to do a little weeding out as well. Let me just state for the record that we are here because we are called to be here. So no matter how much I complain, we're not moving. Capisce?

Anyway, I feel like we're at a brand-spanking new law school. Which we aren't. The Dean himself said that the ABA allowed Ave to keep it's accreditation after it moved, meaning that it was the same law school in Ann Arbor that is in Naples. New professors, new administration, however, make me feel like this school has never before taught a class. Matt said the orientation process felt stretched out into a week long affair when it could have been just a few days. The sessions also covered information that was given in the law school visit, the new campus open house, online, and in brochures and pamphlets. He said it was geared toward someone who didn't know very much about the school. Who moves to the swamp to go to a school they know nothing about? See what I mean? Anyway, he redundancy of it all is making Matt feel like he already knows everything about law school. He's aware of his artificial inflated head though, and prepared for its deflation.

The homework has already started. There was the six book long summer reading list that I already mentioned, then he got some orientation reading for group discussions and mock-classes, now he's doing the reading assignments for Monday and Tuesday. Tonight, the night before classes start, we are going on a final date night.

For next time: Adjusting.

15 August 2009

Meltdowns, Apartments, and Post Offices--life after week 1

After moving 1300 miles with 384 cubic feet of stuff, a girl is entitled to an emotional breakdown. I knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when.

When I look at the details, this has been an incredibly stressful move. The day before we were supposed to take all of our belongings to the semi truck, we changed our minds about how we wanted it shipped and hired a new company to come a week later. A few days later I ended up in Urgent Care with a medical issue, then two days later I spent 9 hours in the ER. Then moving day arrives, the semi shows up without calling (he called my husband who wasn't home at the time), tells me he can't fit in the parking lot. Finally he fits, then we load up the truck, 4 hours, by ourselves, two flights of stairs. 3 days in the car, two cats meowing in the back seat, crappy hotel rooms. We arrive, it's 100 degrees, 99% humidity, the semi can't fit into the parking lot of our new apartment complex, so we rent a uhaul-style truck, load the semi onto the truck right there on the side of the road, drive the truck to the apartment, unload the truck in the heat and humidity, by ourselves, up 15 steep steps. The days following involve lots of running around, 15-stop errand-lists, exorbitant prices, no mail for 2.5 weeks, no secure Internet for 2 weeks, leading to overdue bills and overcharged credit cards. Finally it all culminated yesterday when we registered as Florida citizens. We were switching the car so that it was registered in Florida. They were major pain-in-the-you-know-wheres. For reasons I don't understand, if my car has been in my possession less than 6 months, I would have to re-pay 6% sales tax on the car to Florida simply for changing the state it's registered in. Well, I've owned the car for 1.5 years, but since we recently added my husband to the car, the title shows that I've only had it for two months. We were scrounging around in our wallets looking for an old proof of registration with a date older than 2009 on it. Matt finally found one and while our clerk (who'd already felt relaxed enough to casually swear three times during our visit) checked with her supervisor to see if it would work. While she was gone, my depression from switching my licence from Mi to Fl melted into full-out anger and I began boiling over. I was ranging, while she was gone I was naming all the things I was going to say to her supervisor once she got back. I was absolutely positive that I was not going to pay sales tax on my dented, scratched 2000 Ford Contour that I'd been driving since 04 and had officially been mine since early 08. It was a good day to mess with me, as I felt I had nothing to lose. The old registration was accepted and we went outside into the pouring, storming rain to go home. Once we arrived, I went straight to my kitchen sink to see if it was fixed. Nope--still leaking. The day before I had called the clubhouse to report my leaky sink. They were 10 minutes away from closing and told me they'd send someone out the next day. (Since when is a leaky sink not a maintenance emergency?!) I was livid. I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I hated about this apartment. So, flash forward to rainy yesterday when we got home from the car registration and my leaky sink still wasn't fixed. I felt all my old anger fiercely returning. I grabbed my cell phone and started furiously searching for the number to the club house. My husband, not realizing how angry I was, cut in and told me not to bother, we'd just call tomorrow when they were open. After all, we have a two compartment sink and only one side was leaking. I sat down and right then and there started crying. My poor husband, he was like, "if it means that much to you, you can call now." But it was a crescendo of everything, all the past stresses, all the future stresses, the differences, the changes, the finality of switching residency from the romanticized past to the unknown future.

Like I said, I knew it was coming, I'm an emotional person and as much as I hate it, there's no getting around it. Even though it's been stressful, so many things have gone right, have shown us that this is truly God's will. I'm not ungrateful. As God knows a woman's heart better than she knows it herself, and it's emotional, and sometimes a good cry is in order.

Anyway, away from the mushy memoirs and onto the advice.

Apartments
Like I said, don't sign anything without having seen it. A smart thing to do. You don't want to end up just anywhere because the picture looked nice or so-and-so said they liked it. Step #2: insist on seeing the unit you'll be actually living in before you sign the paperwork. Our agent steered us away from that direction. We saw a model and she said she didn't have any actual units available for show. But when we showed up to sign the paperwork the unit was ready, as evidenced by the fact that we were handed the keys. So very many things are wrong with this place. I am planning to go down to the office to have a chat with the lady about them all today.
So, the bottom line is this: make sure you like the very apartment unit you'll call home before you sign any dotted lines.

Post Offices
So, what I've leared from this expereince: no one in all of america ever moves without knowning their exact address before they move. This is a breakdown of what we did (because, if you'll remember, we didn't know where we'd be living).

1. Call 1-800-Ask-USPS to discover that I can book a PO BOX at a Florida Post Office online from Michigan. I can forward my mail to Fl and pick up the key to the box when I arrive.

2. I go to my local Post Office to prove my identity (they need to fax the Fl PO with our proof) and they say that can't do that. We call the Fl PO to find out that they will willingly accept our proof from the Mi PO. Mi PO still says no.

3. We are advised to send everything General Delivery to the Fl PO. We do. In the meantime, we as our post master to hold the mail and send it down once the GD takes effect.

4. We arrive, get our key, no mail. We re-forward the mail from GD to the PO Box. Note, the post office where we get our GD is where the PO Box is located. They can't put the GD in the PO Box because "that's how the system works."

5. After checking the apt mail box, the PO Box and the GD for a week and still getting no mail, we realize that we have an overdue bill. We also ran over the limit on our credit card. Fun stuff.

6. I call 1-800-Ask-USPS to find out where our mail is. Of course, the guy on the phone doesn't know. He says he'll put out an alert to the post offices to let them know my mail is over-delayed.

7. I slam the phone down in anger and start making a list of everyone who needs to be contacted ASAP to find out if they can re-send our mail to a different address.

Well, I hope that everyone can benefit from this learning experience, because I would hate for anyone to have to go through this crap too. If I could re-do the past, I would have arranged it for us to be the law school visit long enough to also do a few apartment visits. I would have sent everything going GD a week earlier. I would switch over from GD to the new apartment two weeks after I was recieving mail via GD.
I highly recommended taking another visit to the law school location after it has been finalized, if at all possible. We couldn't afford it. It's manageable this way, but not much fun.

10 August 2009

One week to go.

Okay, so we are finally moved in, unpacked, cleaned, organized, ready to go. Mostly. Moving in was unexpectedly difficult, we had some issues, we had to buy most of our furniture, which we thought would be easy and then became hard, we had to buy groceries, which cost 33-50% more than back home. Oy. Even things that should be cheaper, like FLORIDA oranges, are more expensive than back home. There is no rule plan for setting up life in a new home, city, state. Take one day at a time, make lots of lists, believe in God, pray lots. Those are my four rules. Some guidelines include checking out Craigslist, your local Salvation Army, and various garage sales to piece back together your life. Note that sometimes random places like CVS and Walgreens carry odd groceries, like cereal, which go on sale and can be cheaper than your local grocer. (For anyone whose coming to Ave for school, Publix is the grocery store down here, and they take pleasure in scanty sales and raping innocent civilians with astronomical prices).

The most difficult part of moving in was hauling furniture in the heat and humidity. Over 100 degrees with the heat index, humidity almost always 90-100%. It has rained every single day that we've been down here. It always rains for just a few hours, and always in a big production with thunder and lightening. Thunder before the storm, lightening during and after. The storms are very small and very isolated. Sometimes the storms are so selective they'll miss one or two blocks and rain on the rest.

Naples is set up very much like a coastal town: long and narrow. From the bordering road to the gulf it's only 8 miles or so. But Naples extends twice that or more from north to south. Traffic is relatively light (no snow birds yet) and it takes about 20 minutes to get only 5 miles west. Lots of lights and what not.

So anyway, now on to law school stuff. Orientation starts one week from today and classes two weeks out. We are spending this week (our last free week) doing enjoyable things, like checking out the area, visiting local attractions. I must confess that I am very hesitant to do all these fun things without any stream of income. We have savings, we have loans, but it seems foolish not to save that money. Oy; at least we'll keep spending to minimum: no souvenirs and packing lunch instead of buying. Anyway, Matt is enjoying himself, reading for pleasure, watching movies, things we hear won't occur again for a while. We bought a big L-shaped desk for him to use to do school work. Lots of workspace so he can open all his books at once. There is also a hutch on one side of the L for putting law school books away within easy reach. We also got a comfy desk chair, for many hours of sitting. We still need another bookshelf, but that's easy enough to buy. We arranged the apartment so that the dinning room is mostly a study. This will give Matt his own space to concentrate (he's easily distracted), but he will still be able to come home, instead of living at the library. We'll see in a few weeks how well this system works out.

I must admit, I am afraid of this next step. So far, law school has involved both of us, hunting, visiting, etc. Now is the part where he goes off to hang with others, those who are going through it with him and can understand law school in a way I can't. I hope he doesn't forget me!

03 August 2009

Arrival in the Chosen City

So, no one in the entire county ever moves to a place without an address or a job. Ever. No relocation without a job, no move without a location. The difficulties are endless. When I tell moving companies, post offices, possible apartment locations, they all look at me like I'm crazy. Okay, maybe spending a week (!) in a hotel without a house and sending all of your possessions to a storage unit is crazy, but it's less crazy than promising to spend a year in an apartment you've never seen before. Anyway...

Naples is SOOOOO different than Michigan. Every road gets 3 lanes of traffic for each direction. There is very little differentiation between major intersections and minor. Major intersections get 2-3 left turn lanes and 2 right turn lanes. Minor only get 1-2 left turns and 1 right turns. All these turn lanes are in addition to the 3 lanes going straight. The road gets so wide at intersections! The dashed white lines on the road become solid about 100 feet from an intersection. In Michigan, that only happens for "only" lanes, but in Naples, all lanes always get it. Lights at intersections doin't hang vertically, but horizontally. The poles holding the lights are as thick as tree trunks! Signs and buildings are very short. I imagine that it's all part of the hurricane-proof nature of Naples.

The city is set up very oddly. There are turns in Florida known as Florida Lefts. A Florida Left is when you make a u-turn at an intersection. The reason they are so popular because everything except for the tiniest of suburb streets are divided by a median. Wow is it annoying! So many shopping complexes look like fancy, expensive apartment complexes. Very ornate and hard to read as one drives by.

Oh, also the most difficult part are the drivers! The district we are in is much lower class than the ritzy district. Far more minorities, fewer Bentleys, BMWs, and Porches, anyway, they drive like idoits! We drove all the way through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. The nicest drivers were in KY and TN and the worst (by far) in Florida. They don't let you over a lane, they cut you off, it is terrible.

There are lots of little gecko-y lizard type dudes (very cute!). They sit along the sidewalks under bush overhangs. They are very skittish and like to hop.

Um, what else? Oh, the hotel pool is bath-water warm and salty! So weird. It's been thundering and lightening and threatening rain all evening, so we didn't go to the Gulf. Well, I think that's all I can crank out tonight. More tomorrow.