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With every new move, there comes a point where I have a minor breakdown. Not so big as to require medication, but big enough that I feel like crying for little to no reason and I feel this anger for my poor husband for choosing the career that he did.

I finally hit that point after a little more than a month in Buenos Aires. Now, I need to say that I never, never write about these things. I rarely complain to my family and friends when I feel this way. Military wives are supposed to have it all together and we're not supposed to complain, except to each other. And then, there is this unwritten rule that you should only complain to those married to a person of about the same rank as your own husband. I don't need to go around scaring all the lieutenant's wives, if you know what I mean.

I mean, we chose this life, right? Who am I to have a meltdown because things are tough?

The straw that broke the camel's back today: a call to an orthodontist's office. It's the first call I've tried to make myself in Spanish. I can manage simple conversations in person. I can handle a little better than a simple conversation if it's a topic I really enjoy or I've had a glass of wine. But I hate the telephone. I can't see the physical cues that make a language so much easier to understand. I've been 'cheating' by going by offices and walking in to have conversations on purpose. Well, that didn't work for the orthodontist. Their office is behind a locked, glass door and they haven't answered the bell when we've gone by. Obviously they keep very exclusive hours. So, I tried the phone this morning.

I went on google translator first and typed out all the basic phrases I might need. I tend to panic when thrown a question and I figured if I had some things written in front of me, it would help keep me calm. I was so calm that when the anwering machine picked up and asked me for my phone number, I figured I could do it. So I explained I was looking for an orthodontist, gave my name and then realized that I don't have my phone number memorized nor did I have it written down. Complete moment of stupidity. So I apologize to the damn machine and say I forgot (how easy it is to remember those words in Spanish), hung up the phone and cried.

I haven't been able to hold in the tears since. When I think about all the stupid things that are still to be done and how they all require speaking Spanish, I'm just about overwhelmed.

The saving grace is that I know this feeling will go away. I know I will I feel more confident in my language skills. Unfortunately, I also know that I will make a fool of myself at least a dozen more times and that I will get this awful feeling in my stomach and I will be angry at my husband for not wanting to speak more Spanish for me. I will be angry at the Air Force for not offering the same training my husband received to spouses. I mean, really, in a lot of ways, I need more of the Spanish speaking skills than he does. He needs to be able to read and write to go to school. Speaking is a bonus. I have to shop for groceries, take kids to the doctor and orthodontist, set things up at school, buy school supplies, answer the phone at the house, talk with the doorman about issues in the building... the list will never end.

I guess when it comes down to it I'm pissed at the government for not investing money in me. Pretty selfish thought. However, by investing some money in my education, they would make it easier for my husband to do his job. Instead, they now have a crabby, crying, depressed spouse on their hands. Of course, they don't know that and they probably never will.

Anyway, I decided to write this because I think it's about time that we military wives and husbands start sharing more of the mundane experiences of our lives with civilians. Moving does this to all of us at some point in time. Language, of course, isn't often the trigger, but having your household goods delayed for weeks on end might do it (we're still waiting on those too). Trying to find a new school for your kids in a state with little concern for their education system might be the trigger. It could be that first spouse's event where you end up not fitting in with the group of people stationed at that base and having that sinking feeling that you're going to do without 'real' friends for yet another assignment. For every spouse, the triggers are very different. And, for those that never have that meltdown, more power to you! This family does not have one of those.

Originally posted to A Progressive Military Wife on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 03:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse and Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We're here, aj. (11+ / 0-)

    Lean on us.  I can't help with your Spanish (mine is pathetically poor) but I/we can listen, and maybe help you think through some things.

    I do wish our military would give more than lip service to the importance of families.  The service member has a whole cadre of folks for support and spends most of his/her waking hours working with others in the same boat.  Families don't have that kind of luxury.  You're left to deal with all those things (like you said) that no one ever thinks about.

    I hope the orthodontist thing gets solved.  I know that won't make any of the rest of it go away, but it will be one hurdle overcome.  And don't ever forget:  we're here!

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 04:29:54 AM PST

  •  Hang in there! (6+ / 0-)

    Your feeling are very understandable. Hope you feel better soon!

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 04:43:09 AM PST

  •  we're with you angelajean. (7+ / 0-)

    i grew up in a very transient family (heavy construction---the interstate highway system---rather than military) and can relate to some of what you're experiencing.  while we didn't move to a new country, we moved great enough distances every year or two that we moved into a totally new culture.  from southern u.s. to northern u.s.  sometimes the accents were so strong that it felt as though we were in a different country.

    as children, it was difficult.  but i had never known anything else.  i had never had a strong support group of my peers.  i'd had my brother and that was it.  every time we moved, i still had my brother.

    but my mother experienced many of the things you experience.  she was the one who had to get us into school, find doctors, grocery stores, get the phone connected, the power turned on, etc.  she is the one who would get depressed.  usually for just a few weeks.  but when we moved into the heart of cajun country, her depression was deeper and longer.  i'd never seen her cry so much.  i'll never forget it.  we ended up loving our time there, and when many years later my father was 'stationed' there for another job, my brother found his wife there.  it'll always be one of our favorite cultures and areas.

    perhaps, with dkos's new group function, you could create a support group here for folks in your situation.  it could be for military families and maybe others who are transient for whatever reason---some of the challenges are similar, though i know that there are so many challenges that are unique in the military life.  

    i'm sending quick-language-learning, comforting mojo to you.  my gratitude goes to your husband and to you for your service.

  •  Oh wow! I've definitely been there! (9+ / 0-)

    I moved to Brazil without knowing a single phrase of Portuguese.  Eight years later, I still prefer face-to-face conversation to using the telephone, but phone conversations are no longer terror inducing.

    What really worked for me was just being forced to use the language - total immersion.  As long as I could get away with speaking English, I would - not because I didn't want to learn Portuguese, but because human beings out of habit will seek the easier path, if it's there.  Once I started working and had no choice but to communicate in Portuguese, within 5-6 months I was able to speak much more comfortably and naturally.  With a bit of time and effort, things will get better.  Of course, there are side effects... after 8 years I now speak English with an accent. ;-)

    When we relocated overseas, our household goods took 6 months to arrive.  Yes, 6 months.  There was a strike at the port and everything got backed up.  The worst was that we had to pay for the 6 months of storage!  The lesson I learned from that is, if you're moving overseas, just bring what fits in your suitcases.  Buy new household goods after you arrive - it's cheaper and your stress level will be a lot lower.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

    by SLKRR on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 05:25:26 AM PST

    •  Our household goods should have bee here sooner (6+ / 0-)

      but for some reason they were waiting on an American flagged ship. Now that the paperwork has been corrected and they can come over on a foreign flagged ship, we're hoping they get here soon. We had an air shipment with some dishes, a couple of floor cushions, and our aerobeds, so we're comfortable. I can't complain about that too much. We've been in worse, that's for sure!

      We're trying the total immersion. My oldest son wants to speak only Spanish at the house as well (or thinks he does), but when we don't have a full vocabulary or even full use of the verb tenses, it definitely limits conversation. We're all taking two hours a day at a local school (on our own expense, of course) and that has helped tons. The boys start school soon and that will be the best immersion of all. I'm making my own immersion and seeking out every opportunity I can. I even make conversations with the guy I buy empanadas from. Practice, practice, practice.

      I really need about another month and the phone probably won't be so scary. People here can talk so damn fast it isn't even funny. I thought Mexicans spoke quickly, but it's nothing compared to Porteño... add in the sh sounds and the s that almost disappears and we're hearing words that we should understand but don't. The good news is that I'm finally getting an ear for the local sounds and that Spanish with a Mexican accent sounds wrong. I'll take my successes where I can get them at this point. The orthodontist... I'm procrastinating until Monday.

      Did you move to Brazil for a government job or some other? We are meeting a lot of Brazilians here. They come for vacation and to take Spanish lessons at the same school we're at.

      •  I moved for love ;-) (5+ / 0-)

        My wife is Brazilian - we married in the States and then decided to move down here a couple of years later.  

        Now that I can speak pretty much fluently, we are trying to revert and speak only English at home so that my kids will get immersed in English (they were born here).  But I slip into Portuguese with them all the time because I tried so hard the first couple of years to only speak Portuguese at home so I could learn it.  So now we have all kinds of mixed-up conversations at home:  "Please go and arrumar o seu quarto." "What do you want to eat for almoço?" -- actual phrases you'll hear at my house.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

        by SLKRR on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 06:03:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It sounds like you're doing fine (3+ / 0-)

        I mean it sounds frustrating, enraging, etc. but it sounds like you're doing what you need to do and that you'll get a grasp of things quicker because of your actions.

        Also, it sounds like Brazilian Spanish might be closer to Spanish as spoken in Spain, although there's more than one dialect there too.  My daughter did a semester in Spain and teaches Spanish, but the district uses Mexican Spanish so even with her degree and time in Spain she still had an adjustment.

        •  Oops Argentina (0+ / 0-)

          I meant the Spanish as spoken in Argentina, not Brazil.  Fingers got ahead of brain and mixed things together.

          •  That's how my brain is with Spanish right now (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sylv, SLKRR

            My mouth gets ahead of my brain and these strange things pop out... of course that could be my brain getting ahead of my mouth, I'm not sure.

            The Spanish spoken here is unique to the Rio de la Plata area - this part of Argentina and Uruguay. Very unique. It will be interesting to head to Patagonia or out to Mendoza and see what the differences are like. But, for the meantime, I'm tackling it head on. I just hit a big bump, that's all. All the writing and the conversation has actually helped a lot. I'm feeling better about it all. Still don't want to call the orthodontist again but, by Monday, I'll be willing to give it another try.

  •  This brings back memories for me... (8+ / 0-)

    My husband is now retired from the army, but I so clearly remember the challenges at the beginning of each new assignment.  I finally figured out that it was going to take about 6 months before I had it all figured out... I am not sure how long you have been stationed in Argentina, so that may encourage you or depress you.  I simply told myself that I could manage anywhere for two or three years and would look for anything I could find to like about a place and ignore things I disliked.  One of the most challenging starts we had to a new assignment was when we got orders to Ft Lewis, Washington, when my husband returned from a hardship tour in Korea.  We were told we would go to the head of the housing list, so we drove our four young boys to the west coast.  When we arrived "the truth changed", as my husband liked to put it.  They said there would be no on Post housing available for 6 months.  Other officers said they had been told the same thing, only to be offered housing a couple of weeks later, after they had signed a lease to rent off post.  We decided to camp out for a couple of weeks.  Three months later we were still camping!  The funny thing is that all four sons remember that as the most fun they ever had!

    •  Don't you love how the truth changes? (4+ / 0-)

      We've had that many times as well. I feel your pain. I also have to laugh because some of our hardest moments have also provided my boys with the best memories! Go figure!

      We've only been here a month. But we will only be here for 15 months, so time feels very compressed. I guess I feel like I need to fit a two or three year assignment into less space. I want my stuff so that my family can have a home (this is our second short move, we were in Monterey for 9 months). And I want to travel and see things. I want to know more Spanish sooner so that we can get on with living on not just trying to figure things out. I guess I'm not a very patient person! And I really do know things will mellow... I've done this for 20 years with my husband and for most of my life as a child. But sometimes it just gets a little hard to take and I have to let it all out.

  •  I know the pain (4+ / 0-)

    When we were in Japan we had access to translators  on base that we could call if we really needed help with something out in town - we spouses got to know them pretty well and they were lifesavers many time.  Eventually, most of us found friends in the community that helped us immensely. Not many of us learned much Japanese, but we got to the point we could get around on our own eventually.

    Trying to talk to an orthodontist's office though - that seems a few levels above our haggling over the price of pottery!

    It is such an all alone feeling, when that move depression wallps you, isn't it? I think the many moves we made were transitions that I never really recovered from. Certainly, I think it helped ruin our marriage over time..and many of those moves were just stateside.

    This will pass though, and it's good you know it even as the passes through. You do have loving family around you and that is the greatest gift in the world! When the family is a refuge and your anchor, you can weather the storms of moving.

    I hope your household goods arrive soon! That is always such a comfort - to have "home" surround you again!

    Feel free to vent any time - you know how to reach me!

    Republicans:"They don't let reality push them around. They just pretend the world is what they say it is." -- Dr. Stephen Colbert

    by blue armadillo on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 06:38:54 AM PST

    •  I can't really vent on Facebook (4+ / 0-)

      to much anymore because I don't want the boys to see it. Or my mom, either, to tell you the truth. She doesn't know what to do with it. Doesn't seem fair to stress them even more.

      I told the story last night at dinner with friends and everyone laughed. It is funny, really. But when I read it again, I start to tear up. Sigh.

      I know you're there! It does help. This is a strange move. And I do have folks who could make those calls but at some point I have to start trying on my own. I might have just jumped in to soon.

      •  You can vent any time - cuz you know (0+ / 0-)

        how to reach me! My email and cell number will stay the same even after the divorce....which should be final really soon.  Really. For sure this time....

        I hope by now the depression has lifted a bit. I remember when LCDR Armadillo and I were first flying into Japan...we'd been so excited to get an overseas posting and Japan sounded so fascinating...but as were flying low on the final approach for landing, looking out over all those rice paddies and tile and thatch roofed buildings...we looked at each other with that OMG - what have we done ??look. Suddenly, the enormity of being halfway around the world - and not yet 30 - really struck us. It turned out to be the best tour ever - even with the bumps in the road by being in such a foreign culture and having rudimentary language skills.

        Of course it was waaaay worse for the sailor that arrived for duty at the forward-deployed ship homeported in Japan. As he was in-processing, he asked when they'd be returning to San Diego...he thought he was meeting the ship mid-deployment.  Somehow, he did not get the word that he'd been assigned to a ship that STAYED overseas. oops. And he had a family expecting to move to San Diego.


        The CO had him reassigned to San Diego at least...I think the poor guy about had a heart attack when he finally was convinced that the guys on the ship were in fact NOT pulling his leg about this.

        Hang in there Ms angelajean. I hope you'll find a place to settle in for a while after this tour. We'd love to have you back here! :D

        Republicans:"They don't let reality push them around. They just pretend the world is what they say it is." -- Dr. Stephen Colbert

        by blue armadillo on Sun Feb 27, 2011 at 08:34:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Military spouse is called the hardest job in the (4+ / 0-)

    military for a reason. While I was on active duty, I was transferred 7 times. 3 times overseas. While my network was in place when I got there, the wife had to start at square one each time. I know how hard it's going to be for you(well, not I said, mine was in place) Hope everything works out for you. Just make sure to make some "me" time for you to decompress.

    It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

    by AKA potsi on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 06:44:31 AM PST

  •  I understand some of what you're saying. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Question Authority, angelajean

    I still feel that way when i have to call an office that speaks English.  No matter wha, i feel woefully unprepared for a phone conversation.  It is much more reassuring to speak to somebody in person--for those very visual cues you mentioned.

    My wife and I were in Montreal a few years ago, and I taught her just a few words of french--not that I really know it either.  Anyway, she tried to buy a subway pass from a guy with the few words she know, explaining that she didn't really know French.  He then tried to joke with her (in English), saying, "When you come here, you should know French!"  But, she was so nervous that the joke did not work on her at all, and instead she walked off mortified to cry.  He did apologize to her, though.

    Language is certainly something that binds us together.  But, so is human nature.  This sounds like a very tough time for you, but I think it will get better.

    Sure, I'm grumpy, but I'm also a fun, fit, classy guy.

    by Grumpy Young Man on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 07:03:13 AM PST

    •  You're right, it's hard enough on the phone (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Grumpy Young Man

      in English. I hadn't even thought of that, but I don't really like making any phone call.

      Your story of your wife reminds me of a time when we visited Paris. We speak enough French to get by but not always enough to be understood. Only once were we lectured and it was by a Chinese shop owner who obviously spoke both French and Chinese and was angry at us for not speaking French well enough for him to understand. I could have spoken to him in two other languages - German and English - fluently enough but he would never have understood. Sometimes it's just plain difficult.

  •  Ah! Good old culture shock (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SLKRR, Question Authority

    I lived in interior Brasil for two years w/o knowing Portuguese and ended up having twins there shortly before I left to return to the States.  Sometime between my 3rd and 4th month there I hated everything with a passion.  Ever so slowly I started learning a phrase here and there (I was in an area where no one spoke English) and very slowly acclimated to the situation and the people.  The luckiest part of this process was the fact that I couldn't leave, I really was a prisoner to the process.  I can look back to that period of my life as the time I really grew up.  Later we moved to the Sudan where we lived for three years.  This move was not nearly as hard, the culture shock not as intense.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you just hang in there, you will adjust and find this as a beautiful new chapter in your life.  

  •  Have you checked his Knowledge Online? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, angelajean

    Hey sweetie. Last I knew, the services offer Rosetta Stone courseware for free online through the member's Knowledge Online portal. He should be able to log in at home, bring up the Spanish courseware, and then all of you can work on it. It's more convenient than doing two hours per day of school at your own expense. Let us know if it's still available that way. Hopefully DKO will let him log in at home without a CAC reader.


    When are you going to understand that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage. - Practical Magic

    by Keori on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 07:18:27 AM PST

    •  Thanks for this Keori... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel, Catte Nappe, revgerry

      it's no longer available to families. We've been working on two different log-in sites, both my husbands, with Rosetta Stone. It helped a lot. However, the dialect here is that different. Like, Wow, hit you over the head different. I wrote a diary about that too. The school has been worth every penny (I saved for it and they've given us a discount for paying in advance). Most of my improvement has come from there because I get to speak with locals in the local dialect... you know sort of like speaking with someone from Georgia instead of learning the Queen's English with Rosetta Stone :)

  •  OMG, that is so true! (3+ / 0-)

    my meltdown came when we got stationed to Japan and I was unpacking our HH goods in a tiny Japanese house (housing wasn't available yet so this turned out to be another unnecessary move) and I couldn't find the decanter to the coffee pot. Found the maker but no pot. So I had to drive that morning to another base because there isn't a branch to Navy Federal on the one we were on and their was a large error in our account. I couldn't bank online because we had no ISP yet. So I head out to the highway, not being able to read signs, and ended up getting lost in some neighborhood nd couldn't find my way back to our house or our base. This experience plus the bank error, no coffee did me in and the meltdown hit! I balled in my car for a good half hour. Then I used our newly acquired cell phones (thank god we decided to get them the day prior) to call my husband. He answered and had someone at his work help me identify landmarks to get me back to base. I then went home and crawled in bed to wallow in my meltdown.

    •  OMG... thank you for sharing! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I feel your pain and you feel mine! I did a similar thing in Germany, just driving down the highway hoping to hell I would recognize some landmark with two kids in the back seat, "Mom, when are we going to get there!!!!"

      The tears help. I'm finding that the sharing is helping even more.

      •  You're welcome! Hang in there... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        revgerry, angelajean

        I promise it will get easier, especially right around the 10 month mark (I know it sounds far away!) but I was talking to my cousin before we left for japan who was in the peace corps. She had to take some acculturation classes before she left, much more extensive than the ones the military offers. Anyway, they referenced a recent study they had done and told her that of you can make it to the 9 - 10 month mark, you're golden. I think they had people who were so homesick they could barely do their jobs so they did a study. I remembered that benchmark when I was overseas, telling myself it would get better when things got tough, but after the first year or so I realized that she was right! 10 months was right around the time I started to feel comfortable with everything: knowing my way around and even venturing out further, having our favorite little restaurants, riding the train with confidence, knowing some language, finding equivalents to my favorite american products, etc.

  •  (((((((((((((angelajean))))))))))))) (0+ / 0-)

    I know it is really hard for an adult to learn a new language and culture - we lived in Holland hen I was young; I went to Dutch schools and within weeks had friends and a basic understanding, soon was thinking and dreaming in Dutch.. kids are born to absorb languages, and your kids are probably enjoying this much more than you are.

    My mother never did adjust, and never really learned the language, and she did also get very depressed and lonely - although after we came back to the States, there she was serving Dutch rolls and rijstafel, just in fond memory of those years.

    Hope you have friends nearby to vent with, and try to see it as an adventure you will always remember.

    Let's break our dependence on foreign goods and our multinational masters. Shop American. May Peace Prevail

    by revgerry on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 07:00:11 AM PST

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