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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

House on the market, no regrets!

With Covid-19 and grim reports of riots and looting in the US in the background, we are still moving ahead with the plan. Since our goal is to travel as light as possible and we are not sure if or when we will be back, we have officially put our Buenos Aires house on the market this week. This coincides with a beautiful article in the decoration magazine "Living", fully orchestrated by my dear friend Ines Marini who is Managing Editor of this excellent and widely-read monthly publication. The article explains how we transformed the house that was Alex' old school into a home full of evidence of our stays abroad.

For those who do not know the story, the school was called Saint Thomas College and was trilingual: Spanish, English and French (that's why Alex speaks such good French!). When the house was a school, there was no garden and no pool, but a cement patio with classrooms all around it. Saint Thomas College was created in the 60's and went strong until the economic crisis hit at the end of the 90's. It went bankrupt and owed money to over 60 teachers and several suppliers. Unfortunately, the price of the house was not enough to pay the debts, so it stayed empty for several years in this unsolvable situation, until the big Argentine devaluation of 2001. All of a sudden the house that was priced in US$ (as many things are here) became more valuable than the sum of the debts which were in Argentine pesos and the situation could be disentangled. On the day of the sale to Alex, over 60 teachers showed up at the notary's office to collect their dues one after the other and once everyone was paid, the women who founded and owned the school received the balance. Alex was actually not there in person because we had already moved to Paris but his brother Nils, who represented him, reported it had been quite an event and had lasted many hours.

Could find Alex on the class picture?

Of course it is objectively not a good moment to sell, but there is a real question as to when the next good moment will appear in this country, if at all, so we have stopped worrying about it. The other question is how fast the house will sell. If it happens fast, we might need to start our nomadic life with an airbnb appartment in Buenos Aires, but that would be a nice problem to have. Or maybe we can go back to the South of Chile for a while and stay at the Ritz in Puerto Natales (see below picture from our South of Chile/Argentina trip that I forgot to share in my previous post :)).

Ideally we would sell towards the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 and leave shortly after. Carmen will be finishing her second year at ITBA (Instituto Tecnologico de Buenos Aires) and wants to stay in Argentina for now, and share an apartment with one or more student room mates; Tobias will have finished high school and obtained his French and Argentine Baccalaureates. He is not sure yet what he wants to do afterwards or where, so our travel plans will be flexible so as to take his choice of location into account.

Many people ask us if we are sad to leave the house but I don't think so. Alex is happy to have been able to blow new life into his old school (the old lady from 1926 was very deteriorated when we started taking care of her in 2002) and he has enjoyed living here for over three years (which for us is very long!). As for me, I am so used to moving that I think I am immune to departure sadness, although I do feel I have grown more attached to the house during lock-down. They say that love grows with care, so my increased attachment is probably just the consequence of the many hours of cleaning I have put in now that our help doesn't come anymore:) Or maybe it's something that has to do with being locked-up? This questioning led me to create the very short story below for my writers workshop. As you will see, it is absolutely NOT autobiographical.

The hostage You can’t imagine how much I enjoy our conversations, my dear; although I don’t know if they can technically be called such when in fact you are already in heaven and I am the only one speaking here. My news today will surprise you: I just cleaned the window bars. I also removed the cobwebs and stains from all the blinds, exactly like you used to do each year in the fall. To make winter less sad, you would say. Do you remember? You might be wondering why I did all this, and the answer is: I have no idea.

You already know that since your accident I can't wait to leave this house, where each object and each piece of furniture reminds me of you, each sound brings me back to our life together: to the creaking of the wood under your steps when you would come down the stairs, the way you cleared your throat while reading the newspaper after breakfast; the sound of the front door when you left the house and the tone of your voice promising: "See you tonight!". I feel like a hostage to a past that won’t leave me alone and this house is the culprit. I am convinced I’ll feel much better once I move out, only then will I be able to continue with my life which was interrupted the day that police officer appeared at our door to give me the news. That’s why my new cleaning behavior has me worried, because until now doing housework had become an insurmountable task. And suddenly I’m interested in blinds and window bars!?

To make things worse, the world is on lock-down and compulsory confinement has reached our country also: double detention for me, double penalty in the prison of my memories. Yes, I know that I always complain and exaggerate problems. You used to criticize me for being a hypochondriac, but you were wrong. Do you remember the time I had a throat ache and you declared it was my imagination? Thank goodness I went to the doctor because she diagnosed bacterial angina, caused by a true group A Streptococcus pyogenes! And when I heard that ringing in my ears? Again, you told me not to worry, but it turned out to be a genuine condition, with a real French name: Ménière’s disease which, although it has no cure, improved when I stopped eating salt. There was no exaggeration then, my dear, and neither is there now. Put yourself in my shoes: suddenly a widow between the walls in which we have lived together for forty relatively happy years, don't you think? Surrounded by memories that hurt, and locked-up because of a virus! I swear, without exaggeration, that it’s horrible. I don’t wish it on anyone. So why on earth did I start cleaning? Not only did I tackle the window bars and blinds today, yesterday I washed the curtains and polished the stairs and all the wooden floors. What drives me to care for this damn house in the middle of lock-down? Oh no, wait a minute, you're going to say that I’m dramatizing again, but ... could it be that I have developed Stockholm syndrome, after fifty days of captivity? My goodness, that’s the last thing I needed: triple penalty!

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