During week 13, we entered the second half of our 24-week Spanish program. Since we had changed classrooms, instructors, and classmates the week before, we were more or less still adapting to the new ecosystem. Another adaptation was the start of Phase 3; week 13 was the first week we had two topics to discuss (immigration and narcotrafficking) instead of doing the lessons in our online platform. That meant that we spent even more time debating, preparing structured presentations, and learning new ways to express opinions on these and ancillary issues.
During week 13, I continued to have problems off and on with vertigo. I sat in class pressing my feet into the floor and willing it to pass, trying to concentrate. I didn’t miss any class because although the dizziness was with me nearly constantly, it was at a low enough grade where I just had to keep going.
The days also became pretty chilly. I felt like I was kind of dragging myself through each day, trying to keep on top of errands and assignments and personal admin. Because I was preparing to leave town for my language immersion in Ecuador, my to-do list seemed to become longer by the day.
I was also up against a 90-day deadline for submitting my insurance claim for the $9K of damage to my car when I received it back in September.
Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, I paid for all the repairs, but found putting the paperwork together for the claim almost impossible. Every time I tried to work on it, I just felt dejected and angry to the point where I would take a break and then lose momentum towards getting it done. As a line goes in one of my favorite Incubus songs, A Certain Shade of Green, “Remember when you procrastinate you choose last.”
So finally, when I was up against the wall and had to decide whether or not to file at all, my anger propelled me forwarded. I decided definitively to not let them get off so easily. But who even is “they?” The shippers between Tashkent and ELSO in 2017? The ELSO warehouse staff between 2017 and 2019? The people earlier this year who loaded my car onto the ship that sailed to the Port of Baltimore?
No one knows, because after two months of fighting for pictures and reports and documentation and being brushed off and ignored by the Department and its contractors, I didn’t get complete answers. No one is accountable for dropping Hilde, running her into a red car, leaving the windows down in the rain, and failing to document the damage. Whoever did those things is still looking after USG employees’ cars and if they screw up, hey, they do so with impunity and the owner is left holding the bag, trying to force their way through a dysfunctional system to be made whole.
From what documentation I did manage to get ahold of, it looks like the warehouse was responsible because there is no evidence the car arrived there with any damage. That is what I firmly believe. And thank God I have private insurance through Clements, because the Department only acts as a secondary payee and all my communications with them have been steeped in bureaucracy and incompetence.
For example, two months after I received the photos of my damaged car when it left the warehouse (blurry and crappy angles that suited to cover up the exact problems) I received an apology from another ELSO employee saying they were sorry they had missed my email until then and that no pictures had been taken when the car left the warehouse. Um, hello!! You already sent them to me!? I didn’t even respond. And that is only one example of several that makes me furious every time I think about it. Never again will I trust the system for storing a car as an FSO.
So we’ll see what the insurance company says. I haven’t heard a peep for a week and a half since I sent in my claim with its 25 attachments (which reads as a convincing and damning indictment to any reasonable person), so it seems they don’t have questions but are just working through it all. Maybe Clements will find something that I didn’t find. If I could recoup a good portion of the damages, I will close the book on this unpleasant chapter.
One good thing that happened during week 13 was going clothes shopping in the U.S. for the first time in more than 2.5 years and finding several pairs of jeans. All my jeans are in my HHE which I won’t see until the end of next summer in Mexico, and I only brought one single pair to VA. It’s cold and I literally own no pants that fit me, so I was thrilled to find post-Black Friday deals that allowed me to refresh my whole weekend wardrobe for a fraction of the cost.
But probably the best thing that happened during week 13 was a Saturday evening at the Kennedy Center with V to see the Atlanta Ballet perform The Nutcracker. It was the first time I had seen it since my trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia in 2017, and hearing the orchestra perform Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score live was incredible. It was a reminder that even though I would soon be on my way to an ecuatorial rainforest, winter and Christmas are coming to Washington!