(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the lap of luxury.

isn't it funny how we many things we take for granted? things like heat and running water and lighting, etc.?

renovating any sort of house is fraught with inconvenience and renovating a centuries-old property only compounds them. I realize many people might think it silly ... but these inconveniences have helped to ground me in my new life.

the feeling of accomplishment and resilience in surviving while doing without ... and still finding ways to be content, happy even ... has been profound. my first days here in my home began on a pallet on the floor ... no real bedding, no lamps, no refrigeration. Thankfully (ever so thankful!) I did have running water complete with a toilet. as time progressed and seasons changed, the fact that no heat was here was another eye-opener. I'm no aesthete ... as I commented on another blog, my grandmother was an appliance, I don't wish to be one. but I also decided I didn't want to enslave myself in order to acquire any and all 'luxuries' available ... and work right straight through any opportunity to experience real life.

now that some conveniences are returning, one by one, they seem truly decadent. An example last night. About two months after I moved in, I received phone service. there was a phone line downstairs, in my foyer. there was no electricity in my foyer so an extra long extension line snaked into another room so I could plug in my phone and modem box. For months, this phone has had limited use because most of the people I would want to call are nine hours behind in time and so using the phone meant taking a flashlight down to the freezing foyer (no heat either) and standing shivering on the cold stone floor in the dark. Back to last night. I was on my cell to my friend Kathleen when it dawned on me. Yesterday, JY completed the hall lighting. The radiator in the foyer now worked. and I had a folding chair! Quelle luxe! I told Kathleen I'd ring her back, went downstairs, turned on the light, sat in the chair, dialed her up for free (with unlimited charges for US calls) and had a good long visit with my dear friend! in relative comfort (yes, the extension cord is still there and so is the dust and the unpainted walls and the unsanded moldings and there is no overhead light .... but STILL!)

The electricity is finished in my new kitchen. I can now press my 'interrupteur' (lightswitch) and illuminate the kitchen! this morning, I plugged the coffee grinder into the wall instead of walking over 2 rooms to the one outlet, unplugging the extension and plugging-in to grind my coffee beans) ((Riana, I know I could grind it by hand ... but remember my list! I'm not doing so badly!)). I can place some bread in my oven to toast if I so choose!

JY and I chatted about these things that so many people in the world do without and we mutter about. Like I just did above...oh the inhumanity of having to walk to another room to use an outlet! how out of touch am I? Millions in the world do without electricity. ever.

Another example of why I think my friend is so ... so ... well, get this. I had a little leak from a pipe in the 'cave' and he had placed a large bucket there. over the course of weeks, that little 'tique, tique, tique' had filled the bucket to the brim. The leak was repaired and a large bucket of water sat in my kitchen. I inquired about it and what I was to do with it ... the reply?

"Kim, water is expensive. very expensive. Use it to wash something ... your hands, the sponges. or water the dogs. or save it for the flowers you buy ...". Then we talked about the lack of clean water in so many parts of the world. and here, we just throw it away. Culturally, we are completely disconnected from vast swaths of the earth's population ...

Consciousness. maybe that's it. My consciousness is being reawakened. My house is still a humongous project. it will be ongoing and may never end. Most people would never want to live here and would think it dirty. or undone. or uncomfortably inconvenient. I know, and I understand. and yet ...

I'm thankful. Not only do I have the above luxuries. But the luxury of having somehow created this opportunity. The opportunity to live a different kind of life. a life as yet not entirely known and pretty much undefined.

This lap fits me to a tee.


Mrs C said...

Hmm. Food for thought. I throw out the water that my dryer pulls out of the clothes. I wonder what I could use it for instead?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

to mix your paints? or wash your brushes? or ... ? lmao. I'm in the same quandary...but remain determined.

softinthehead said...

Great post Kim, our house is in very similar condition and I keep spending money on gites when we stay, maybe I should the bullet and starting camping there - but I am partial to hot water,,,,,, However, that realisation of a more simple life is what I am truly envious of. PS: I am a Kim too, nice to know you :)

Hill Country Hippie said...

We fled suburbia for the Texas Hill Country not long ago, and are having our consciousness raised as well - especially since we are experiencing the worst drought in history, with wells going dry all around us. We are now installing a water catchment system, and as for flushing toilets - if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down!

Riana Lagarde said...

it is quite luxe isnt it? so many things that we take for granted and then when they arent there, we adapt or do without. it can be life changing and i am so glad that you are coming away with so much from it. and dude, hand ground coffee is such a pain in the ass. i'll do it when the electricity is out or when i have too, for now its my little luxury too.

with the bucket of water: we wash our floors with our bathwater, and then flush the toilet with it. you could wash your delicate or wool sweaters with it since its cold. wash your paint brushes is a great idea!

glad the leak is fixed and i hope that you are feeling better.

Randal Graves said...

Hang on, I have to toss this giant pile of styrofoam in the garbage.

I hope that folding chair has one of those ugly red/yellow/green funkadelic 70s patterns going on.

Kathleen said...

both david and i feel so priviledged to have lived with you last fall..what could compare with standing out in the hallway with the hair dryer, croaching down to get a small glimpse in the bathroom mirror that was very tiny and about 5 feet away, taking a bath in a bathtub that's so small that my kneecaps were in my cheeks (the one's on my face)... but hey, there was hot water!, trying to figure out a way to keep construction dust off of a make shift kitchen that has no counter tops to put anything on, trying to remember the 4 part process we had to go through to flush the toilet, in the middle of the night, in the dark, half asleep... all of these things... although challenging created enough memory to last a lifetime and made luxurating in my big, claw foot bathtub once I got home, that much sweeter! Life is not what is seems and it's the little things that make all the difference.

Michelle said...

I am envious:-)

My time will come when the moment is right. And it is not so far away.

In the meantime, I am living a comfortable suburban life, but being more aware than ever before of how much we take for granted. We've had water shortages for years, so recycle a lot of water. I was always a bit on the green side, and did that before it became trendy, and then necessary, around these parts.

Consumerism is something that I am having more and more resistance to. When something breaks, if it can't be fixed, I am less inclined to replace things. For example, my food processor died and I returned to the mortar and pestle and love the 'connectedness' to the making of meals. I grow all my own herbs and many vegetables, have done for years. Such tiny adjustments in the overall scheme of things, but it is these tiny steps that make us look wider, I think.

I used to live to shop. I know feel physically ill when i step into a glitzy shopping mall filled with overpriced, mass produced 'stuff.'

Bah, I am babbling. I've made it about me. Sorry :-)

La Framéricaine said...

As always, congratulations on the sweet accomplishments that make your house more and more a home.

In my opinion, there's nothing better than living in a job site. I'm delighted to hear you sounding so very at home in your home in France.


Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

Soft-nice to meet you too and it looks like maybe we'll have a new part-time neighbor in the Limousin? cool! hot water is the best, by the way!

Riana, more good ideas! floor washing! YES! perfect!

randal, where's my paddle?

kathleen, its nice to have a friend who I will be able to share those memories with ... first hand! what a blessing.

Michelle, what are you on about - now its about you? of COURSE comments are for readers to show what they do or don't relate to in THEIR lives. silly muppet! I was well impressed with your photos and how lovely your garden was and I can also relate to being green before it was trendy. I was too, before I lost my way.

And I have the SAME reaction to malls. What a fucking waste.

laF- I never thought about it that way ... living on a job site. hmmm, great perspective.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

so very proud of you. We feel the same way, things we took for granted in the states are very different here. Now I'm thankful for firewood and a warm fire. We don't live the life of luxury that people in Los Angeles "think" is a good life...we live a much richer life here.