Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lowered Expectations

Among my favorite skits from Fox Broadcasting Company's now-defunct sketch comedy show MADtv was one called "Lowered Expectations," in which the dregs of society recorded video solicitations for a dating service.  None of these folks were winners but, hey, you knew that going in.  If you were so inclined to give one of them a chance, perhaps you'd be pleasantly surprised.  But probably not.

Lowered expectations were exactly what we were facing when, in February 2013, fresh off of a pretty remarkable tour in Guadalajara during which we lived in an amazing house, we received our housing assignment for Jerusalem.

Many words rushed through our minds as we took in the photos that were sent along with the notification of assignment.  "Small."  "Ordinary."  "Plain." "Mediocre."  These were a few of those words.  Some of the other words aren't fit for print.  Here, let me show you a few of these gems.

A little…musty, right?  Lacking in personality.

This had been a concern of mine as far back as September 2010.  We were living in Falls Church, VA at the time while TJ finished up his Spanish studies, and I was contemplating our upcoming move to Guadalajara.  I wondered if, moving every couple of years or so, we would ever be able to feel at home anywhere…to truly believe that our personalities were reflected in our living space.  When we arrived in Guadalajara that fear became moot.  We had a gorgeous house that, despite the standard issue government furniture, had a lot of potential.  There were amazing furniture stores and artisan markets galore, and pretty quickly we found ourselves filling the place with things that we enjoyed.  We bought new couches, new bedroom furniture and so much local artwork that by the time we left we felt as if were saying goodbye to a part of ourselves.

When the Jerusalem housing assignment came through, we had already been separated from our stuff for about five months.  We had been living in government assigned housing with dreary, standard-issue furniture.   And there we were, looking seven months into the future at pictures of more of the same.  It was disheartening, but we quickly put on our big boy pants and decided that no matter what, we'd make the most of it.

When we arrived in Jerusalem in September, we immediately realized two things:  One, that the photos provided were not of our apartment, but of another unit within the complex that was a mirror image of ours…everything was flipped around; Two, the photos did not do the place justice.

It was practically love at first site.  But it still wasn't home.  We chose a color scheme and quickly set about painting the living room, kitchen and master bedroom, as those would be the spaces in which we spent the most time.  After that, we waited.  It was a long two months between the time we arrived and when we were finally reunited with our personal possessions and our Jeep.  All told, we hadn't seen most of this stuff in a year.  An entire year.  That just boggles the mind.  

During the two months of waiting, we tried to busy ourselves.   We explored Jerusalem.  We frolicked along the shorelines of Tel Aviv.  We visited Haifa.  I took a three-hour market tour/cooking class.  We spent time with co-workers and met a few locals.  These are all things that I thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to write about…but I was in a funk.  I didn't feel like I was home…but I didn't feel like I was traveling, either.  I just was.

That all changed the moment we finished unpacking.  (Okay, okay, there are still a couple of boxes hidden in the study.  I'll get to them soon.)  It was as if someone flipped a switch.  We were home.

Check it out!

We will be the first to admit that the color palette won't be to everyone's liking.  It's a little quirky.  Just like us.  In other words, Mission: Insert Our Personality has been accomplished!  There's still some work to do, like finding some more wall art, adding a plant or two, finding something to fill that negative space by the television and putting a glass in that mirror…but it's home.  We're finally feeling settled. 

We've also learned something from this experience.  When we get our housing assignments for future posts, we will try to keep our expectations lowered.  That way, we will always be pleasantly surprised.

But probably not.  


  1. You have a beautiful space. I will admit the green made me say....Hello.....Mexico lol. Overall though I would say it's very you...both of you. In addition I would say your decorating is very world traveler style and appealing to the eye. Good job boys. :-)

  2. Awww. Thanks! Were I to do it again, I don't know that I'd go soooo green, but I like it and the beauty of moving every couple of years is that in 2015 we can go with a whole new color scheme to accentuate all the stuff we are sure to pick up along the way.

  3. Hi Aaron,
    I recently came upon your blog and have enjoyed reading many of your posts. I am starting the Foreign Service next year and would really like to chat with you (and TJ). Coincidentally, I am also from Florida (Sarasota). Please let me know the best way to get in touch. I'd send you my email, though I don't know if there is a way to send it in a private message. Hope to talk to you soon. -Andrew

  4. Hello, Andrew! We would be happy to chat with you. My comments require moderation before they are posted, so you could safely post your e-mail address here without fear of the world seeing it. I can use it to contact you and then delete the comment instead of posting it.

  5. I share DJ's sentiment, it looks very mexican-influenced. :-) You guys have done great things with it though. Happy you have a place to call "home" least for now. The excitement of the unknown is always part of the adventure though...good or bad. Keep seeing the good and telling us all about it.