Thursday, October 05, 2006

chez nous part 2

The painting is done. The cleaning is almost done. The unpacking has just begun, but will take hardly any time at all, especially compared to those first two tasks. I’ve just taken my quilt out of my suitcase for the first time since I left Ithaca. It smells rather nice because it’s had soap I bought at the farmers’ market wrapped inside that whole time. We’re actually sleeping in the apartment tonight. This is huge. This is momentous. It finally feels (to me) like we’re not working on someone else’s place. It feels like we have a place to live.

Some of you have heard, via email and other such communication media, about the travails this apartment has entailed. I’ll try to recap.

When last we heard from our intrepid house-hunting students, they had signed a deal with a landlord for a two-bedroom apartment, with kitchen (not equipped at the time), a bathroom, an immense sitting room (grande salle is really the only accurate name for it), and a combination storage closet / WC. The price was right, the location was right. There was only the small matter of preparatory work: simply described, painting.

Some of you may have painted houses before. You know what is involved. Some of you may have painted rooms in houses. You have an idea of how much energy goes into it. We didn’t know, at the outset, how draining this experience would be. Painting six rooms and a hallway seems ideally like a task to complete in 3–4 days. Ha. Don’t forget the cleaning beforehand, the plastering over all the cracks in the walls, the cleanup afterwards, the fact that you’re going to be looking for furniture at the same time, and that once you’ve got the furniture it will get in your way. And once you’ve finished everything but the kitchen—oooooh, the kitchen. Grime caking every surface. Sticky grime, in many cases. This is also the room that’s been storing everything from the old contents of the closets (i.e., all the stuff the previous renters didn’t want) to the paint materials themselves. Fortunately, you’re using oil-based paint in this room so that it’s easier to wipe clean, and that’s sufficiently thick and heavy that you only need to do one coat. (Remember the ceiling of that grande salle and the two coats it absolutely required before it finally looked good? Your neck does.)

Now this experience hasn’t been all hardship. As I mentioned before, many kind people have come together to help us get furnished. In the end, we mainly only had to get stuff for our bedrooms, and a cheap stove and washing machine. (The latter two just arrived this evening. They’re in place, but not quite ready to use yet due to a lack of hoses. But that is easily taken care of.) We also had the trip to Denmark to break up the toil (although we didn’t exactly come back from that trip bubbly and refreshed, despite having some very relaxing periods). And there’s the story of driving around Marseille, which I think I’ll reserve for telling in person. (It may count as hardship, actually. It was certainly an adventure.)

My hands for the last few days have switched by default to scrubbing whenever they’re not doing anything else. I’ve scrubbed the outlet covers for the entire house, the refrigerator, the kitchen sink, the floors of the kitchen and my room, the windows of the doors between the hall and the grande salle, and a few other small things. I think Sarah’s default is painting colors on trim. The door frames, edges of the window bays, and trim are all (except in the kitchen) a bright blue. Most of the window bays are salmon, except in the bathroom, where they are sea-green. I did most of the painting of the walls: white everywhere except the kitchen, which is a bright yellow. Sarah’s trim in the kitchen is framboise (raspberry). It’s all become quite beautiful. The process has been exhausting.

I could also go on a rant about shopping at Ikea, but I think our problems were a special case, and things will go better the next time I go there. The furniture we got there is of good quality, for the price. It’s just been slightly painful trying to get it.

So, we’re moved in, essentially. On Saturday, we’ll go shopping for the small items needed for a house. We already have dishes and silverware. We’re missing things like towels, coffee pot, other miscellany. Oh, and food. We have eggs right now; that’s it.

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