Sunday, September 16, 2012

Family Words

A:  "Our family words, eh? How about, 'cleanliness is next to Godliness' or 'all's well that ends well?"
N:  "Oh! I've got it!  'never buy stuff from a single male, without first inspecting it"
A:  ", 'clorox all the things'!"
N:  "Hmm...lets keep thinking about this..."

Those who have read George RR Martin's magnificent series "A Song of Ice and Fire" (better known by the title of the first book and the HBO series "A Game of Thrones") know the concept of "family words."  The protagonist Stark family's creed is "Winter Is Coming."  The mighty Lannisters, represented by lions, are known by their words "Here Me Roar" (and better still by their unofficial words "A Lannister Always Pays His Debts").  The dragon-riding Targaryens live by "Fire and Blood."  (You should note that this is nearly identical to the Salvation Army's motto of "Blood and Fire."  Probably best not to think too much about that.).  After the first few days here, we have come up with a few ideas for ours.*

But backing up a bit.  When you last heard from us, we had discovered that our apartment was not quite ready to live in, being without water and electricity, very dirty, and full of mold.  We set out that Friday morning from the hotel to begin trying to set things right.

After checking out of the hotel, we stopped by the apartment to drop our things up, foolishly optimistic that we might actually have the place habitable by that evening.  We had to move our stuff in the rain, it unfortunately being the height of the rainy season.  As we prepared to head out, Amanda slipped and fell on the wet, painted concrete, exterior apartment stairs, hurting essentially every bone in her body, and being covered in water and dirt to boot. Nick made sure to take time to lock the apartment door (although anyone entering would definitely assume the place condemned and immediately leave) before proceeding to help Amanda who was making noises that were barely human.  Eventually, a change of clothes and a great deal of pain later, we were on our way.

The emotional wounds were far more devastating
The rest of day went surprisingly smoothly.  We went to the leasing office where we secured the lease, and got directions to the water and power company, conveniently located in the same office.  There, things went quickly but we received some bad news: while power could be turned on same-day, water could not, and since the water people do not work on weekends (if a water main breaks we suppose they just ride it out?), we were waterless until Monday, and therefore apartment-less. But, maybe spending the weekend as a tourist in a hotel wouldn't be so bad?

Beyond that, though, everything else was a breeze.  We acquired local cell phone numbers, though without any sort of long distance, so the best way to call us is via skype or our home phone.  We talked the cable guy into coming back on Monday morning to set up our cable/internet/home phone bundle. We went to the Social Security Office to obtain letters of verification for our Social Security Numbers (apparently on Guam your need your social security card, which we conveniently left in Michigan, to get a driver's license). All of this was completed by about 12:30, impressed?  So were we.  We then headed to the DMV to get our Official Guam Driver's License and transfer the title for our car.  It only took about an hour to get our licenses (all the locals were shocked hearing this, we've heard horror stories of four hour waits) and about a half hour to get to the front of the line for car registration transfer.  This is when we hit a little snag: we found out you had to have proof of insurance first, before they would transfer the registration. So we left, grabbed a snack from McDonald's and met our apartment manager, Avery, at our place by 3pm.

He was apologetic, and just as disgusted as us by the state of our place. Avery claimed multiple times that while doing the final walk though with the previous tenant, George, he was in the midst of what appeared to be a major cleaning job with gloves and scrub brushes and everything.  Well, Avery, welcome to dooped-ville population: us.  However, for as apologetic as he was, it would be nice if he had actually checked the place out to make sure it was in fact move-in ready.  We were introduced to Roy, the maintenance guy and promised apartment cleaning on Monday, as well as the walk through, once both power and water we on. We were told to go to the hotel, relax, not to worry about anything, enjoy the weekend and we'd get to work on Monday.  Ok, sounds like a plan. Maybe we could even stay at a place that was a little nicer, with comfy beds and in room wifi?  Where could we get internet access to research our options? TO THE LIBRARY! 

During the remainder of the afternoon we got library cards, car insurance, and a quick tour/introductions at Nick's office. Danielle, Nick's Supervisor, even volunteered to check prices on base for us when we mentioned the need for a new mattress, AWESOME!  Very proud of ourselves and our accomplishments of the day, we returned to the library to research our weekend vacation lodgings.

To no avail.

Apparently, almost every decent hotel on the island was booked, and not just for the weekend, but for every day until the end of September! Eek! We were damn lucky to get the last room for the weekend at the Palmridge Inn (where we had spent the previous night).

Home sweet home?
The weekend did not prove to be as relaxing as we'd hoped.  For one thing, we stopped by the apartment on Saturday to see if the power was on.  It was, and so we turned on the air.  The next day, though, we discovered it had turned itself off, reading "E4" (an awesome error message that essentially means: "your ac unit is dead").  For another thing, on account of our car's sometimes-wonky electrical system, we weren't comfortable taking it out at night (meaning we had to be in for the night no later than 6:30 pm), since we believed at that time that the use of the headlights contributed to the problem.  Amanda later theorized that it had something to do with hauling all of our bags around in the car, but that also later proved not to be the determining factor.  As of this writing, the car will just have power issues every now and then, with no rhyme or reason, taking the power steering with it, and sometimes stalling out or refusing to start.  Perhaps we should look into that.

It may not work all of the time, but the bumper sticker is kick-ass
Anywho, we did get to try some of the local restaurants, more on that in another installment.  We wrote our first blog post, went to Kmart approximately 50 times, and went to the apartment on Sunday to throw a bunch of stuff away (moldy bedding, towels, half used toiletries, opened food, etc).  We were resolved to return bright and early Monday morning, clean all the things and be settled in Monday night.

How naive we were.

The maintenance guys came Monday and did the following things:  Cleaned the bathroom (sort of), replaced the rotted away bathroom ceiling tiles, unplugged the balcony drain pipe, called a technician for the AC, cleaned the fridge and oven, replaced the ceiling fan, and they removed our moldy mattress.  And they were never heard from again.  This left Amanda the responsibility (since Nick started work on Monday) of going through all the crap that was left in the apartment, either cleaning it or trashing it, and organizing it. Those of you who really know Amanda, know how much she loves cleaning and organizing.  You will understand the grossness and magnitude of this endeavor then when you hear that she almost had a melt down twice and was, at one point, allegedly (there were no witnesses to this event) both sobbing and scrubbing the wall with Clorox to remove the mold.  In the end the clean up numbers looked like this:

Days spent making the place habitable: 6
Days until we got working AC: 6
Times we checked out of the hotel:  3 (cockeyed optimists)
Large garbage bags filled to capacity:  19
Pieces of gum found stuck in the crease of the leather couch: 2 (what?!?)
Live coachroaches encountered: 20- ish?
Ants: yep
Dead geckos found: 2

The previous tenant threw this in at no extra charge!
Geckos killed accidentally by Clorox: 1
Clorox bleach bottles used: 3 gallons
Clorox wipes containers emptied: 2.5
Sponges eaten by Clorox: 1

Even the sponges quit after two days of cleaning
Damprid containers purchased: 7 (plus 3 hanging closet things as well)
Packages of disposable gloves used: 4 (a dozen pairs of gloves per bag)
Trips to Kmart: lost track
Amount of money we've spent replacing the items we bought from the previous tenant: ~$600 (and counting)

We ended up staying in the hotel until Wednesday, when they were finally able to get a new AC unit installed in the apartment.  By Friday, Amanda had Cloroxed every inch of the apartment and everything permitted to stay in it (we may or may not have spent the better part of Thursday night high on bleach fumes). We went to Ross Dress for Less on Saturday to buy the last few kitchen things we needed (pots and pans, knives, spatulas, etc).  It was the busiest Ross store we have ever been to, it was like a Black Friday sales event, with the checkout line snaking halfway around the store (literally).  At the time of posting this, it is Sunday night in Guam.  Our apartment smells like a pool (as opposed to before when it felt like being in a pool on account of the humidity), we've done some cursory grocery shopping, laid roach and ant traps all over the apartment, and for all intents and purposes we have a functioning apartment.

This is EXACTLY how Nick hoped to spend his time on a tropical island
We began this post talking about family words.  We haven't yet come up with anything concrete that can stand the test of time.  Everyday it seems a new idea hits us for an applicable phrase.  The two of us are a young family yet, being married just over a year, so maybe we have to go through some more stuff before coming up with lasting family words. For now it seems we should just adopt Murphy's Law, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."  Hopefully our luck will start to change....knock on wood.

* Nick's family has long considered their family words to be "While You're Up."  As in, they are all watching a movie, one person gets up to get something, and everyone else then imposes, "While you're up..."  Amanda's family words are "If There Is A Family Gathering, Something Will Break."  It is no coincidence that they serve "disaster salsa" at every family gathering.

P.S. - Sorry for another long post! Now that we are more settled we promise to do shorter posts, more often, on less depressing topics.  Rest assured, we are doing well and missing you all.  We will hopefully send out an email in the next couple of days with our new contact info (address, skype names, numbers, etc).  Until then please feel free to email us, skype us, or leave comments on the blog.  We'd love to hear your suggestions for our family words.


  1. Wow, wow, wow. It will probably (maybe?) be funny in a few weeks, but that sounds pretty rough. I hope you're enjoying your now-inhabitable home with no more crying/Cloroxing. I can't wait to read more!

  2. I actually like the long posts. Gives them a sense of magnitude... as if you needed any more of that after your first week (It's an adventure!)

    Family words:
    Hear Me Bleach
    No Lines Shall Dissuade Us
    Lodging Expected
    Optimism Before Meltdowns
    Thou shalt not suffer a gecko to live.

  3. I, too, enjoy the long blog posts so keep 'em coming! I'm glad to hear things are going a bit better. You guys deserve some kind of an award for all this. Hopefully this becomes one of those stories you laugh at in the future. Here's hoping! :)