When is it okay to clean out your 10 year old stepson’s room?

I’m home alone for a few days as mi novio and D went back to Santa Marta for Semana Santa.

I love having the house to myself. These periods become very relaxing, peaceful (because I can function without the TV on) and ultimately very productive. So in the past couple of days I’ve managed to clean out our bedroom, my wardrobe, the spare room and now I am working on D’s room.

I can’t admit to being a tidy person. Thankfully, mi novio and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to tidying and cleaning, as in my experience that is an important element for a less stressful relationship. I am also a hoarder. I have stuff and when I go through my things to throw them out, sentimentality overwhelms any motivation to de-clutter. When I moved to the US a few years ago, I didn’t even pack up my little family cottage. Mum said if she needed the place she would clean it out and pack it up. It was a bit of a different story when I moved to Colombia. I finally realised that I was going overseas for an indefinite period of time, and it was highly likely that the bits and bobs I was saving for “some day when I have kids” or “for when I have a costume party to go to” just wouldn’t even be unpacked but stay in my mother’s container of hoarded items, so I had a market stall, dropped off three boxes to the op-shop and threw out a heap of junk.

Having entered D’s room to put some clean clothes away, I decided his room also had to be on my clean out list. D certainly didn’t inherit his grandmother’s penchant for cleaning, nor do I think he falls into the same untidy/disorganised category as mi novio. I actually think he is the messiest of us all. Maybe it’s because he’s a ten year old boy, but about two weeks ago he spent a whole afternoon supposedly cleaning up his room. In his ten year old mind that obviously didn’t mean sweeping under the bed or cleaning out and re-organising the shelves.

When I think back to my time as a 10 year old, I had just moved into my very own room. It had a built in desk and shelves where I could put all my little ornaments (and there were a lot of them). I loved having my privacy. I think it was not long after this that I started to have regular toybox clean ups. My ritual would involve opening up the toybox and pulling out all sorts of things – mostly junk – and then convincing my younger brothers and sister that it would be great for them. In effect, I tidied up my toybox, and would carefully put everything back in the box in neat piles, yet the junk only moved to another room of the house.

I also remember the fear whenever Nan came to stay. Almost every single time she came to stay she would get the rake out of the shed and rake out our rooms while we were at school. This was terrifying for all of us and I’m still not sure whether Mum sanctioned this behaviour or not. Perhaps Mum now feels somewhat vindicated of her own hoarding that would also come under threat whenever Nan came, because she then had to clean out Nan’s house after she moved into a nursing home and Mum discovered Nan’s very own hoarding habit hidden in a four bedroom house.

I tried to keep in mind what it was like having someone else forcibly enter my room and clean it out according to their own definitions of rubbish while I was in D’s room, but ultimately I just got on with it. My compromise was a bag of things that I would be happy to throw out, but that D should see first. I’m curious as to whether he will actually go through that bag and put away neatly any of those things.

It will be interesting to find out whether I suddenly become the wicked stepmother, or whether he’ll take it all in his stride and be happy with the new pairs of tracksuit pants I’ve bought and left on his bed as a surprise. There’s also the Easter chocolate he won’t be expecting to sweeten the deal even further. Let’s hope that at the very least, the Lego stays in one general area and not end up in every single drawer, nook and cranny of his room. I think that would be called a cleaning win.

What’s your approach to cleaning a 10 year old’s bedroom, is it their job or your job?

 

 

Back in Colombia

We’d kept it a surprise. No one in Colombia knew we were coming back earlier. They were all awaiting our arrival on the 21st of October.

The decision to come back sooner came from an intersection of a few thoughts and feelings. Mi novio missed his family. He’d been away from them for 4 months and he was keen to see them again. The travels we were doing in Argentina and Chile just exacerbated his desire to go  get back on home soil. We also realised we were spending far more than we had budgeted. I had underestimated how expensive it was for two people to travel.

Unfortunately to change our flights was also super expensive. We virtually had to forfeit our flight and buy new ones. So we looked at travelling to Colombia by bus. Money can be a strong motivator and in a move away from my normal logic, mi novio convinced me that taking the bus was a sensible financial option and that it wouldn’t be the nightmare of my imagination.

After 11 days en route from Argentina, 4 border crossings and 7 nights sleeping in buses, we arrived to the tropical heat of Santa Marta.

Loading bags in Chile
Loading bags in Santiago. Even an excess baggage charge doesn’t compel people to travel lightly.

Laden with 2 suitcases, 2 large backpacks, 2 small backpacks and a carry-on bag we walked the narrow street to mi novio‘s house and opened the gate. From inside the house there the was a flurry of excitement and shouts as the realisation of our early arrival dawned.

Almost two weeks after arriving and with the flights we have booked set to fly tomorrow, I can look back and say it was a good decision to come back earlier than planned. What we’ve accomplished in this time here and the money we’ve saved are just two small benefits when compared alongside the reunion of family and the happiness I saw on his son and mother’s faces.

Although the 11 days of travel and 7 nights in buses faded into a distant memory as soon as we left the bus terminal in Santa Marta, it is an experience I am not keen to repeat and I still think we are slightly crazy for giving up the airfares that would have got us here in 8 hours.

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Are you also looking to do an international bus trip in South America?

Here’s some details of our trip to help you out.

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile > approx 19 hours. Most companies offering this route stop in Mendoza. Cata Internacional has a daily direct bus. We took Pullman Bus which leaves Sundays and Wednesdays and was $450 Argentinian Pesos each (other companies quoted $500 pesos). This was probably the most attentive service we received on the buses. We were plied with coffee and soft drink, given a snack sack, dinner was provided in a restaurant and a ham and cheese sandwich provided for breakfast and there were good, new release movies shown. The seats weren’t as comfortable as some of the others but we were provided with a pillow and blanket. Our tickets said we could take 20kg of luggage each, but this was not weighed. Note: We went to Santiago to pick up luggage we’d stored and there are direct buses to Lima from Buenos Aires.

Cruz del Sur bus
Crossing the Chile/Peru border.

Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru > approx 52 hours. There are a few companies (Cruz del Sur, Ormeno, Andesmar and more) that offer this service, although they all operate on different days. We went with Cruz del Sur and paid $40,000 Chilean Pesos each. We chose Cruz del Sur for the departure day and also because they provided service on board the bus and most meals and also for the baggage allowance of 30kg. The bus companies seemed to be stricter on overweight baggage than airlines, and we had to pay 800 Chilean pesos for each kilo overweight. I would definitely recommend Cruz del Sur as we received very good service from the dedicated waiter who always advised us 10 minutes before we were to stop and told us how long we were stopping for. He also kept the movies going back to back during the trip and showed a good variety of new-release films (ie not just action films!) and he was also helpful at putting on the English sub-titles when I asked. Blankets were provided. Cruz del Sur have a connecting service to Guayaquil, Ecuador if you are heading further north.

Onboard Ormeno
Enjoying the space on the bus after most passengers got off in Cali.

Lima, Peru to Bogota, Colombia > approx 76 hours. There weren’t as many operators as we had expected, and since Lima doesn’t have a central bus terminal, it’s even harder to find them. In the end we had to go with Ormeno despite having read bad reviews online and hearing that it is just a bus trip, there is no service included. We paid US$180 each (you can withdraw US dollars from ATMs in Lima and there is an ATM inside the terminal. This did not include any meals. The bus stops at various places for you get off, go to the toilet for number 2’s and eat. Two drivers completed the entire distance and they were drivers only. They didn’t advise anything about how long each stop was for and were rather surly when asked anything. The seats were the most comfortable of all the trip with a pillow top cushion. However there are no blankets or pillows provided for a journey of 3 nights (this bus also stops in Guayquil and Quito, Ecuador and Cali in Colombia and some days has an onwards service to Venezuela). We were also only allowed 20kg of stowed luggage and 6kg hand luggage. Each extra kilo was charged at US$1, however they were slightly less precise about the weighing process and didn’t charge us for the full overweight baggage we had. Ormeno definitely wasn’t as good as other companies and the movies were sporadic and seemingly of the one genre, but also it wasn’t completely horrible.