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A new home away from home!

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Sole Consoli with her husband Raffaele Saggio
Sole Consoli with her
husband Raffaele Saggio

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]iving a life experience in the States has always been a dream for both my husband and me. However, when the time comes, it’s hard to say goodbye to people you love. It’s hard to put your life in a bag and leave your previous time behind you. But you do it because you keep hanging on to hope and to that rational part inside of you that says you are going to live a fabulous experience soon. And so it was! At least for me.

I moved to Berkeley almost 6 months ago with a luggage only. I hadn’t a place to live, I hadn’t a place to work, no friends, no points of reference. Nothing. But today I look at myself and I can see that many things have changed. I’ve found an apartment, a job and new friends. I wake up every morning and I’m happy.

Things started to change for me when I realized that I had to stop thinking about my previous life in my country as the only one suitable for me and started to look at the present life in an active and energetic way. I’ve been lucky to find a job very soon. I came into America with a J2 visa and I applied for a work authorization. However, time for bureaucracy at the immigration office is very slow and I’m still waiting for it. But at that time I wanted to look for something anyway. I couldn’t see myself as an accompanying spouse anymore but I wanted to recreate my own routine. So after many weeks of researching, I finally found “the perfect job”. I found this nice and very familiar Italian language school that was looking for teachers. I prepared a resume (in the American style!) and I decided to go to the school to introduce myself. It didn’t take much time to let the headmaster think about it and welcome me in. I was the happiest person in the world. I remember that day printed in my memory as a new beginning of my American life. And so it was. Few weeks later another Italian school contacted me. This time it was an Italian kindergarten located in North Beach, San Francisco. So, I started to work there too, as a part time job.

However, the biggest improvement in my new life wasn’t about my job. It was about my friends. Meeting Yvonne and attending her course for partners and spouses here in Berkeley was amazing. I was able to find new friends to share my experience with, new friends to have fun with and new friends to live fantastic adventures together. Everyday I wake up and I feel blessed for all of that. For this reason I really hope that sharing my experience with the new Berkeley wives could help them to find the hope and the bravery at the beginning of their journey. Because sooner or later we are all able to find ourselves here, creating the so-called “fulfilling life in America”.

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Rebuilding Our Home

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Katherinne Klattenhoff enjoying her new home.

They say that among the many things that can cause high stress in someone’s life is moving to another house, now imagine adding to this not only moving to another house but also another country, culture, leaving family, friends and job … and having to leave behind everything you once owned and that place where you spent so many good moments…Your home.

How can you fit your life in only one suitcase? You can´t, of course!

So then, how do you begin rebuilding a home if you have to start from scratch?

I used to have a pretty normal life back in Chile, working all day as many do, and coming home late to a small but very comfortable apartment which had everything we needed. Until one day we receive the big news, we were going to Berkeley! I was really excited about this new adventure, but didn´t really know how much work this was going to take.

So after figuring out everything, we started disassembling all that we had constructed in the last time. We stored all our belongings and memories in boxes, giving away many things and leaving behind all that once had a meaning in our life.

Ariel and I arrived here in August with a suitcase each and hearts full of dreams, expectations and some anxiety. After landing, suitcases, dreams and expectations took back seat and anxiety front, posing the first challenging question, “Where to live?”

We checked in a motel, which we have to agree is not the most home-like place, but was ok for just couple of days. Looking for somewhere stable to live became the first and most important thing to do, finding a place that not only fit our restricted budget and necessities but also where you could try to recreate the comfortable environment you once had.

So did our journey to find a house started, surfing endless hours on the net searching for rent ads and asking everyone we met for renting tips.

After many visits and marathon walks from one side of the city to another we understood that although there were many rent opportunities, all the good places where taken really fast. Especially after bumping into 7 people in the queue to see one apartment, we realized that we were not the only ones looking for a place, but just part of the thousands of students on the same quest. This had become a competition, where the fastest and slicker got the prize! …and you can imagine how slick new comers can be! This was being harder than expected, we were exhausted, with feet full of blisters, and starting to feel desperate. The thought of all that money being spent on a motel was a valid reason for stress. But we kept our hopes up and carried on walking and asking, until one day we nailed it! We got the perfect place for us, small but pretty cozy and sunny. We were so happy! 🙂

The second challenge was to furnish the house within our limited budget. I started looking on the internet for the basic stuff, bed, cooking supplies etc., and after buying a couple of brand new things I realized the expense was already crossing our limit. That was when I remembered the well known American GARAGE SALES! This was something completely new for us, and we were amazed of all the good stuff you could find on those places. Of course at our first sale visit, we were shy and we were not sure if we could touch the products or enquire about them. But we were fast learners and just after a couple of garage sale experiences, we were experts! We started visiting every sale close to our new neighborhood. We bargained for every item and made sure to choose just the right things. It was a funny sight; two crazy people walking around Berkeley carrying a table, 2 chairs and couple of night lamps under each arm! We were exhausted but slowly getting everything we needed.

I also have to admit having picked up free stuff from the street which I think was one of the best deals ever!

So after all this shopping and bargaining, we are still in the process of rebuilding our home, and I have to say it has been quite a journey but we have had a lot of fun doing it.

All the material things you can get will help fulfill your needs, but what really matters at the end is the way you feel when you are in your new place, to feel welcomed, comfortable, relaxed and familiar. Once the place starts giving you and your family a chance to build new memories and wonderful moments… you will know you are once again at home.

Katherinne Klattenhoff with her husband Ariel Utz Wirnsberger.
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