How are things out east? I've heard so much about your part of the country I've decided I will have to come and see for myself, maybe in the new year. Will you be around in January?
Settling in has been the circus I was more or less expecting. Some parts of it have gone quite smoothly; other parts haven't even begun to resolve themselves yet. By far the most intriguing aspect of settling in was trying to rent a room. I had this most amazing conversation with my landlord; it was the kind of cross-cultural incident they told us about in training, where you go along thinking one thing is happening and the other person is thinking something entirely different.
Anyway, I found a room I liked in a nice enough house and met with the landlord to discuss terms and price. One issue we had to resolve was whether I could use the attic to store some of my things, as my room had no extra space at all. I asked if it would be OK, and he said "Yes. If you like." Then he launched into a story, whose point I never did grasp, about how in his culture the aim in life is to be able to see the folly of attachments and to divest ourselves of material possessions as we get older, that these things blind us to the more important truths that we should be looking for if we're ever going to understand the meaning of life. I'm sure he's right, but I just wanted to rent a room.
Then we moved on to the problem of my meals and whether or not I could eat with the family, or if I should make other arrangements. By way of "response," he started talking about how close his house was to my work, which would be very convenient for me, so we still haven't resolved the meals question yet.
Next, it was time to talk about price. When I asked him how much he would charge, he blushed and said he had no idea. "Why don't you suggest a price?" he asked. I know what the going rate is in this town, so I told him 200. "That's good," he said. "Don't you think?" I said I thought it was fine, and asked him whether or not I needed to sign something, and when I might be able to move in. He said it was not necessary to sign a contract, and then asked me if I was sure I was happy with the price. I assured him I was.
He looked taken aback, and then asked me if I thought the room had enough space for all my possessions. "Americans have so many nice and useful things," he said. I said that so long as I could store some things in his attic, as he had promised, I would be fine. "Ah, yes," he said. "My attic. My poor, little attic. And all your wonderful things. And so little money you are paying me."
And there we were: back to square one.
It's much more fun in the retelling, I can assure you, but it all ended well, nearly an hour later, when we came to terms and finally understood each other.
I meant to write more, but my candle is low, (the power is out again) and dawn comes early here. All the best, and write me back immediately.