Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Thousand Pounds of Joy

It's transfer season for the Foreign Service. For those of you who think there are only four seasons, you are correct. They are EER (employee evaluation report which is the State Department's way of making sure we all have inferiority complexes) season, transfer season, bidding (when we beg for jobs) season, and the season where you could get a lot done but everyone is taking vacation that they couldn't take during the above three seasons and then it's Christmas and then New Year's and then we're back to EERs. I'm only joking a little. I actually get a ton of work done during EER season because that's when I do everything awful that I've put off for months but would rather do than my EER. Like cleaning out my file drawers or reorganizing my paperwork by color, or working on everyone else's EERs.

But transfer season is really the worst of the four. Seriously. You're either doing the work of the 1/3 of the Foreign Service who are moving this summer in addition to your own regular duties, or you're actually moving which really is the worst. Seriously. I got so stressed about moving next year that Husband and I extended and are staying in India another year just to avoid it. OK, also because we love India, but even if we didn't really love it, we might still extend because sorting and supervising the packing probably has sucked away years from my life. Every spring, I have my annual running from a tornado dream which comes from growing up in Texas and living in Tornado Alley. Now every summer, I also have a nightmare about packing and moving in which I am trying to supervise the movers and the pile of stuff keeps getting bigger.

Every year, a bunch of helpful people give everyone else suggestions on how to reorganize their homes in time for the big move. Like you should put all your jewelry in Saran wrap (that would require a huge amount of Saran wrap for me) or you can build crates for your antiques out of the bookcase you made from the crates your stuff was shipped in and isn't it wonderful that you can just recycle the wood again? And here is their 5 page labeling system that you only need a label maker, 17 different colored dot stickers, and a degree in theoretical physics to figure out. I can just see us now: Babe, can you pass me the cerulean dots? No, not the azure ones. I said ceruuuulean!
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But this year, the helpful people keep posting about Kon Mari and how they got rid of 5,000 pounds of stuff because they picked up each object they own and if it didn't "spark joy", then they threw it out. There are a few problems with this method, the first being that I happen to have a lot of stuff that is extremely useful, yet will never spark my joy. For example: tampons. Now, some people might get joy out of a huge box of super-size tampons, but they are sick, so we aren't talking about them. We are talking about me and I find nothing about tampons to be joyful, but I have three boxes of them because when you are moving to a foreign country, you buy tampons in bulk. And do not try to get rid of them or I will spark your joy right into next week!

The other problem with Kon Mari is that people who follow this method want a room that looks like this:
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Now, aside from all the sharp corners and the white couches which are just begging to have a toddler write all over them in pink highlighter, there a couple of other things I don't like about this room. One is that they only own two books. And another is that if you think that is the kind of furniture that the federal government purchases for the Foreign Service, then you don't know your federal government very well. What we have is more along the lines of this:

Image result for ugly floral sofa drexel heritage

Now imagine having to create a room around that and you can see that minimalist is NOT the way to go. Husband is actually a minimalist and believes that we should get rid of a lot of stuff because our home should be clean and sparkling like in the white photo above. And he complains that we have too much stuff all the time. But my style is more like this:

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Which now that I think about it, rather explains my strange and insistent desire to have red couches when we moved to India so that now our living room looks like this:



The blur is because I suck at taking photos with my laptop, especially when I have to duck out of the way and get the angle right AND click on the stupid icon all at the same time. Our post has this amazing slipcover program, so that's why my couch isn't the usual mustard color. But you can see that I own more than two books. I own more than two of most things because of scarcity. For example, I have two green stripey skirts. Because my green stripey skirt is my favorite and I wear it all the time, so when I saw another green stripey skirt, I bought it because someday my green stripey skirt will wear out or get a hole in it and THEN WHAT WILL I WEAR WHEN I WANT TO WEAR MY GREEN STRIPEY SKIRT AND I CAN'T?! Because being in the Foreign Service is a little like having to shop to prepare for a famine of things like good spatulas, or green stripey skirts, or elephant throw pillows, for example. When you see the Cheerios, you buy the Cheerios because next week they will not be there to buy and we had a whole year in China without Cheerios and I don't want to relive that again. So when you see a beautiful tiger vase, you should buy it, hypothetically. Or literally since now we have a tiger vase in our dining room which I bought on Saturday.

So the very best piece of advice by the Kon Mari person is that you should hold each of your possessions in your hands and ask yourself if each one sparks joy and that is the stupidest suggestion ever because OF COURSE they spark joy or I wouldn't have bought them! And also, I have so much stuff that it would take at least a month if I did nothing else but hold each sock or string of pearls or decorative dish in my hand and ask if it sparked joy. (Answer: No, but you still have to have socks. Yes, and DUH!)

I know you think all of those things in that living room couldn't possibly spark joy, but let's go through a few, shall we? That's the collected works of the Brontë sisters on the shelf which Husband gave me for my birthday after Child 1 was born because she was named for two of them. And that olive green bowl is the one I made with Child 2 when her 5th grade class went on a field trip to the celadon factory and it is filled with ammonites which we bought by the kilo in China and we still love to look at and know we're holding 100 million years of history in our hands which I'm totally not exaggerating because I googled it. Child 3 still loves to sift through them to find the baby one. The handmade bowl of ammonites is sitting on the doily of Belgian lace that I got on the best TDY ever to Brussels.

Those paintings on top of the bookcases? My grandfather bought those in Germany in 1932 and they hung in his house for years and I loved them and wanted to go there and see Rothenburg ob der Tauber in person and then Husband and I actually did. And that globe in the middle is the one we gave Husband for Father's Day one year which is inlaid with semi-precious stones and everything is spelled wrong because we got it in China which is why it sparks so much joy and giggles when we take it down and read it. And that chest on the left is called a bai fu gui (百 富 柜 ) which is literally covered in 100 different Chinese characters for the word "Fu" which means both bat and rich and apparently 98 other things. That cabinet sparks joy in me every time I see it.

So the way I see it, we can either live with the thousands of pounds of joy we have collected over the years and still enjoy them, or we can erase my memory so I don't remember why the fishbowl full of chopsticks brings me joy. Since the latter is not very desirable because nobody will ever find anything in the house ever again if I can't remember where they last put it, it will have to be the former. I'll take my thousand pounds of joy over that sterile white room any day. Gerald the giraffe which I got as change in the Congo is way better than a brownie and I'm not giving him up.



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Thursday, May 4, 2017

More than prayers

I realize it's been a long time since I blogged. I'm not going to apologize, but I will explain a little. As many of you know, I'm a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State. I worked very hard for many years to realize that dream and I'm extremely proud of my service to my country. The following is purely my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of State. But I would like to tell my personal story of why I became a Foreign Service Officer, so you can understand what I do and why I do it.

Although many of my relatives and former neighbors in Texas might not believe it because I committed the sin of leaving Texas, I am a very patriotic person who is very loyal to my country. As a young girl, I dreamed of serving my country as an adult. I thought seriously about the military, but at the time I was becoming an adult, women weren't allowed to serve in combat positions. I had wanted to be a Navy pilot, but when I learned I couldn't fly off of carriers, I thought well what is the point, then. A few years later, I learned about the Foreign Service. Some of my friends were taking the exam and asked if I was going to as well. I didn't even know what it was. I knew I wanted to do something international and up until that point, my goal had been to be an interpreter at the United Nations. When I found out that you could serve your country by working in embassies overseas, I thought that's for me! So at 19, even though I was too young to take the exam, that became my dream. I majored in International Relations. I got an MA in International and Area Studies. My thesis was on the Role of NATO in Bosnia (see the military theme still at work?) I studied German and French. I became fluent in Norwegian. The Norwegian hasn't helped me so much because I am never successful at getting a job in Norway, but it did take away my fear of lesser-known languages.

When I met Husband, the very first thing I learned about him was that he, too wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer. And then he smiled and I was hooked line and sinker. Not long after we were married, work took us on a trip to Washington, DC. We were invited to dinner by friends to their town house in Virginia and we knew that was the life we wanted--to be employed by the Department of State and own a townhouse in Virginia. And a couple of decades later, here we are. I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I'm living my dream. I get to serve my country AND live in India. It's the best of all worlds.

Now, some Americans believe that I must not love America because I keep leaving it. Some of those Americans are related to me and have said exactly that. I assure you, that is as far from the truth as you can get. I am reminded daily of what a blessing and a privilege it is for me to be an American. I am constantly humbled by the faith and trust my nation has placed in me to represent my country overseas. The only thing I can give my country in return is my gratitude and my very best efforts. Most of the Foreign Service Officers I know feel the same way. We work very hard at what we do for long hours and in places many Americans are afraid to go with very little recognition. We are there to serve our fellow citizens and when they need us, we do not ask first whom they voted for. If you are American and you need us, we will be there for you. Period.

So here is my prayer and my pledge to my fellow Americans. I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will do so with all my might, mind, heart, and strength.

I hope with all of my heart that you are never a victim of a natural disaster while you are traveling overseas. But if you are, I will do everything in my power to find you, make sure you are safe, and help you find a way home.

I hope your business is never seized by a foreign government for no reason other than you are becoming too successful. But if it is, I will do everything in my power to help you fight to get it back.

I pray that you will never be the victim of a violent crime while living overseas. But if you are, I will go with you to the police station and hold your hand while you make your statement. And as a bonus, I will even lecture the local authorities if they ask you inappropriate questions like what were you wearing that provoked the attack.

I want you to live a long, happy, prosperous life in America. But if you die unexpectedly and your family is overseas, I will come in on the weekend to print their visas so they can make it to the funeral.

I truly hope that you will never travel to North Korea and be detained. But if you do, and you are sentenced to hard labor, I will do everything in my power to get you out. I will even fly to Pyongyang to meet with officials to beg for your release. (OK, I won't but Husband will and has. And his Korean is much better than mine, anyway.)

I hope you are never robbed by a taxi driver on your first day in a foreign country. But if you are, I will help you get in touch with your family,  and make sure you have a place to stay and food to eat until they can either get more money to you or get you a flight home.

I pledge to be the friendly face in your time of need, for whatever reason. I will let you cry on my shoulder when your prematurely born baby dies, or laugh with joy as your adoption of a child is finalized, or help you negotiate confusing marriage regulations in the country you chose for your destination wedding.

I promise that I will visit you regularly if you get sent to prison for drug smuggling or soliciting prostitutes or for taking photos in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for speaking your mind like Americans can do back home but the local government thinks is treasonous or blasphemous. I will carry messages from your family and I will bring you magazines and books and I'll update you on the NBA championships, the SuperBowl, or the Oscars. I'll discuss whatever you want and I will keep coming back even if you refuse to see me, just to let you know that someone from home cares what happens to you.

My fellow Foreign Service Officers and I do care. We care deeply about our country, and all of our actions are meant to help the United States and its citizens. This is only a short list of what we do, based mostly on my own experience. If my FSO friends want to comment on some of the things they do to keep America great, they are welcome to.

And if my fellow Americans would remember that I am also one of them, and not a faceless lazy bureaucrat bent on destroying the American way of life, but rather a girl from Texas who loves being American and loves adventure and is proud to serve her country, well, that would be way better than a brownie.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

It's good for the soul

A dear friend of mine recently wrote and thanked me for "teaching her how to mom." And while I love her with all my heart for saying that, I have to say to her publicly ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MIND?! First, because she was already an awesome mom and second, she must not know me at all. Because I am not the kind of mom like the ones on the Mother's Day cards who are all sweet all the time and never say a harsh word and I have never made anything in my life that is Pinterest worthy and I can't sew a buttonhole and last year I tried to feed my friends and their children raw turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. And when someone asked me to write down all our house rules, well, the only one I could think of was no sticking out your tongue except at King George, which is not exactly Great Mom material. What I think she meant was that by watching me, she knew she couldn't be all that bad, so in that spirit, here are some other horrible parenting mistakes I have made which will make you all feel better about yourselves and your parenting skills.

I let my children choose and sometimes make their own Halloween costumes. That means that sometimes they are later embarrassed by how strange their costume looks. But it also means they looked like this on Monday:
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I know! Pretty amazing and almost Pinterest worthy, yes? But there were a couple of moments when they were ironing on the reflective tape when they said are you actually really not going to help me with this and I replied no, it will be good for you. What I meant was I was still waiting for that story to load on Facebook so I could comment on it, but whatever.

It also meant that Child 1 and her best friend looked like this, which if you can't tell are the kids from "Stranger Things". And she nailed it so hard that the actor she is dressed like actually liked her photo on Instagram. So parenting success right there! And the best part was I didn't have to do a thing except listen to her whine for years about how she was the only princess without a wand and a crown because, and I know this from Harry Potter, princesses don't have wands! Witches do and when she was Hermione Granger for three years in a row, I knit her a scarf just like the one in the movie and then when the stupid producer changed the pattern in the third film, I knit her a new one. Ugh. I still hate the third film for that very reason.



I never taught the children to read. Not even one of them. I just threw the books at them and they picked it up on their own. Well, not literally threw them, but just about. With the first two, when the teacher asked how long had she been reading, I actually replied she can't read! Both times. With the third, I finally figured it out and said oh for about a year (I had no idea.) I mean, how am I supposed to know she can read when I am the one reading all the bedtime stories! I was sooooo glad when we could stop that routine because I could say no, you read this fabulous Barbie does gymnastics book to me since you can read! And then I could doze off because there is nothing more boring than a Barbie book besides maybe Barney.

I would not let them watch Barney. I may have also told them Bananas in Pajamas was canceled when it wasn't and that the video store didn't have Bananas in Pajamas any more when it still did. And when one of them wanted to be a Banana in pajamas for Halloween, I may have pretended I didn't hear her and made her a cowgirl costume instead. They were matching cowgirl costumes and did I mention I actually made them? Yep. Probably not Pinterest worthy, but I was also 8 1/2 months pregnant with Child 3, so I should get a medal for those costumes.

I never once hired a magician or a cowboy or a bouncy castle for their birthday parties. I never took them and all of their friends to the mall to one of those stores where you make the bear or have tea with your really expensive doll and her friends for like $45 per person. I sometimes didn't even buy decorations because one was born near Halloween and one near Christmas, so why do I have to also have balloons and streamers? And sometimes, I would just buy the decorations and leave them in the bag and let the children put them up at the beginning of the party. You know. As an activity. Not because I was too tired to do it myself. I also let them decorate all the cakes because it was funnier, especially the year that Child 2 turned 16 and they made her candles say 61. And they wrote something like Happy Birthday Old Man on it and we laughed and laughed.

In over 20 years, the only times I've been successful in getting them to go to be on time is when they are sick. Seriously, even during the Barbie reading years they were never in bed before 9 and often later than that. Husband wasn't much better at it than me. I used to work nights and I'd come home after 11 and everyone would still be awake and giggling and would hear me coming up the stairs and would sometimes run and jump in bed and pretend snore. Or sometimes just go jump on my bed which they loved to do. Oh, I also let my children jump on the bed.

Don't tell Husband, but we also ate in the living room, or the family room, and often during those 365 bad days, in my bedroom while sitting on my bed watching reality TV. About mediums or beauty pageants or housewives or bossy cake makers. Or bridal dress shopping. That one was a favorite. And even though I am a feminist, I encouraged my children to fantasize about big poofy dresses and debate whether or not a sweetheart neckline is the way to go and do they like crystals or lace or crystals AND lace and should you wear cowboy boots. The answer to that last one is yes, if you are having the wedding in Texas, and pretty much no, not ever if you are in New York.

I have done some things that are right. No really! Give me a minute and I'll think of some. OK, they all know how to open a can of soup. With a manual can-opener. And to pour it in a pot and cook it on an actual stove. They know how to do this because sometimes they say what's for dinner and I say whatever you want to fix because I am too tired. And then they asked how to make soup and I said the directions are right on the can. And since they taught themselves how to read, they could make soup. I rest my case! Oh, and also when we all went to London and saw a painting of King George III, they all stuck out their tongues. Go ahead and give it a try. Feel the rebellion! It's better than a brownie, I promise.

Image result for King george painting windsor castle.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

I'll go first

One of my blogger friends has a theory that bloggers tend not to write when they're happy. It's hard to find topics to write about when things are going well and much, much easier to write when you need to complain. And that is true. I've been happy in India. I still love the food, the people, the scenery, the elephants. Oh, the elephants!

Image result for elephants in delhi

But it's also hard to write when you're sick. Last June I finally had surgery to remove my non-working thyroid and the months preceding and following have not been fun. Somedays I can barely remember my name and I can never, ever remember why I got up off the couch and went into the kitchen. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen doorway trying to remember what exactly it was that made me stop watching "Stranger Things" and then I eventually give up and go back to the couch and Netflix.

Today, however, it is toward the end of the month and that means we're just about out of data, so I'm not watching Netflix, and I'm blogging instead because I have something to complain about. We don't get much election coverage here in India, but we do get enough to know some pretty crazy things are happening. And that one particular interview about sexual assault is all over facebook, along with people saying that women who don't immediately report an assault are lying because you would automatically report something so horrific. Now, I, like many women, happen to be an expert on what being a victim of sexual assault is like and I can assure you that one of the reasons we don't report being assaulted is that nobody takes it seriously because it happens all the time.

Yep. It happens. all. the. time. I asked Husband if he had ever wondered the other day how old I was the first time I was assaulted. And he named the incident which I won't talk about publicly, and I said no, not that. When I was a teenager. And he said what are you talking about? So I said when I was 13 and I told him the story of how I was in a band practice room and one of the boys came in and turned off the light and grabbed my boob and tried to kiss me. I smacked him so hard, his glasses flew off and as I stormed out of the room, he called me a bitch. Because it was supposed to be a compliment. I was apparently supposed to like him trying to stick his tongue down my throat and him grabbing me. Husband said why had I never told him this before, and I thought about it and I realized that I had never told him because things like that happened all the time. And then I realized that Husband probably had no idea what it was like to have to be ready to defend yourself at all times and that even when you think you're prepared, it can still happen. So to help him understand, here is a brief history of times I was sexually assaulted with some harassment thrown in for good measure.

11 years old--A man in a truck cat calls me as I'm walking home from school. He tells me I'm going to be hot when I grow up. I'm wearing a pink peasant skirt that reaches down to my ankles and a high necked blouse, so I don't know how he can tell but I never wore that outfit to school again.

13 years old--I'm babysitting and an obscene phone caller calls over and over and over. I can't ignore the phone because I'm babysitting and what if it's the parents? I don't tell them for fear they won't ask me to babysit again, as if somehow it's my fault.

13 years old--the practice room incident. I tell a few friends but none of us even think of telling an adult because boys would never get punished for something like that, but I might get suspended for hitting him.

14 years old--There is a football player named Steve who likes to grab girls' butts. We are supposed to be flattered because he is very popular. Teachers know this is happening, but do nothing. He grabs mine several times and I say nothing.

18 years old--I'm on a date at the movies and I have to hold my purse in my lap to keep my date from putting his hand up my skirt. I describe the incident to Sister 1 who says he did the same exact thing to her a couple of years ago. The word "octopus" is used several times to describe his wandering hands.

19 years old in Moscow--I go dancing with a few friends and some disgusting men grab us and try to kiss us and put our hands on their junk. We shove them away and run out of the disco. None of us talk about it later.

20 years old in Venice--A group of men are harassing me and my friends. One of them grabs me and puts me in a headlock and tries to drag me away from the crowd. I scream and give him a good kick in the shin and manage to get away. Again, we don't talk about the incident later although it still haunts me.

20 years old in Rome--I am standing alone in the street and a man comes up to me and says "Hey baby, what you looking for? You looking for me?" And then grabs his crotch. I am disgusted from weeks of street harassment and I say no, I'm looking for a mailbox. Inexplicably he knocks off the crotch grabbing and helps me find a mailbox like what he was just doing is no big deal.

21 years old in Norway--A 40 year old man I just met asks me to be his mistress. He is married, but he thinks I should find this flattering because American women like to have lots of sex, or so he tells me. I tell my friend, but never mention it to anyone else including our male friends who are steps away when this happens.

23 years old in DC--My supervisor at the non-profit where I work tells me he liked my report better yesterday when I was wearing my tight green skirt. I stop wearing the wool pencil skirt to work. It was my favorite.

24 years old in Korea--I'm in the hospital deathly ill and a young doctor brings in a group of med students who are all men to watch me have a pelvic exam. I have a kidney infection, so I don't need the pelvic exam, but I am too sick to protest. I try to tell Husband, but he doesn't understand and thinks I'm delirious from my super high fever.

30 something years old in Korea again--I tell Husband I don't want to ride the subway alone any more in the evening because drunk men always are accosting me. He says the subway is the safest in the world. I know this is not true for women.

30 something in Korea with my children--Another drunk man keeps trying to shove his crotch into my daughter's face where she is sitting on the subway. I try to get Husband's attention to help us get rid of this gross person, but he doesn't understand what is happening. I switch seats with Child 1 and "accidentally" bump into the man with my elbow right into his stomach. He moves after that.

30 something in Aruangabad, India--I can't go anywhere in public with the children without men taking photos of them. We are harassed so badly at the Ellora caves, that a group of women on the tour with us help us surround Child 2 and Child 3 so that they can't get a good shot. We don't feel flattered by the attention and kind of wish phone cameras had never been invented.

All of the above incidents actually happened and there are a bunch more I could include, but the list is getting a little long. The only thing I ever lie about is my age (which means those numbers at the end are a little fuzzy) so if Steve the football player ever runs for Congress,  you can say you read about him here in my blog. I'm a fairly average girl who grew up in a fairly average suburban community, so I don't think my experience is atypical. And in fact, since I got married rather young, I think most women probably have more stories than I do. But I don't know because even though this is a huge, worldwide problem, we don't talk about it. So here I am telling my story and I will leave the comments open on this post so that you can tell yours if you like.

Sexual assault is way worse and more prevalent than many people imagine and we need to start believing the women who are brave enough to say it happened to them. It happened to me. The one incident I won't talk about publicly and which is not on this list changed who I am and not necessarily for the better. I don't know how else to prevent it from happening to others than by talking about it and calling it out when it happens. I would like my daughters to grow up in a world where men ask before kissing them and strangers don't grab them on the street and they don't have to travel with bandaids to put over the hotel door peephole. I would love it if they weren't scared if their car breaks down at night or if they could go dancing with their friends and feel safe. And if all the men they interact with treated them like people rather than objects, that would be better than a brownie.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Can I go find myself in India?

So I'm having an identity crisis and it's all my friends' fault. See, if you read Foreign Service blogs, then you know that there are basically three types of blogs they write.

The first blog is the type that gets all into what life is like in their country and they post photos of jack-o-lanterns they carve out of watermelons and palm trees that they turn into Christmas trees and photos of all the local festivals they go to which always look amazing and interesting and colorful.

The second type of blog is the travelog in which they post photos of all the amazing places they go to and their lives look very much like a Corona commercial and I can't figure out how to get posted in places like that and also I look horrible in a white bikini so that is not what my blog is going to be about.



Then the third type of blog is the one that I hate the most and can't stop reading because I love them so much: it shows things that people actually make in their actual country that is way, way better than anything I will ever make. These people post photos of amazing furniture and say things like "look at this antique looking bureau that I made out of popsicle sticks, string, and nail polish just by following instructions on Pinterest!" or "Did you know you can make pumpkin pie out of a can of kidney beans?" or "Look how easy it is to make mozzarella out of things you can find in your freezer!" I will never, ever make mozzarella out of anything but a block of mozzarella and my freezer has mostly bacon and gluten free flour and I defy anyone to make mozzarella out of that. Thank goodness my post actually has cheese, not that I can eat it anyway.

So I read these blogs and I think, that's what I should write about! And then go look at all my vacation photos which are sadly lacking white bikinis and are mostly of my front yard because we actually never go anywhere besides Goa (which is awesome but hard to photograph when you are running from the hawkers on the beach) and I didn't have time to take photos of Thanksgiving dinner because I was too busy re-cooking the raw turkey I almost served to people. And for Christmas we cheated and went to see Star Wars and then to dinner at the chicken place at the mall that the children will not stop asking to eat at. But I don't blame them because doesn't it look delicious? And also it's not raw. But who wants to read about that.

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The problem is, there aren't any blogs out there about the under-achievers like me because who wants to read about a middle-aged woman who never travels anywhere, binge watches Marvel shows, and constantly fights to get her dog off of the couch? I think the only people who would read that are my mother and perhaps Child 1 when she is bored to death and homesick, so do you see my problem?

Oh, speaking of couches, you will all be happy to know that I won the Great Battle of the Slipcovers and the couches downstairs are a lovely red. Well, they are mostly red. Almost all red, except that they forgot to cover the huge throw pillows which are still an awful greenish gold and clash pretty horribly with the red couches. So I asked the housing officer if I was supposed to ask for the cushions to be covered separately because I thought maybe I did something wrong and she said NO YOU'RE NOT THAT'S RIDICULOUS and I should send her an e-mail and she would fix it. Did I mention that I love our housing officer? She is amazing and I totally am not just kissing up because we have an awesome house (we sooo do). She told me a story about a family who wanted to change houses because they saw a man-sized monkey on their roof, so I told her I felt cheated because there is not a single monkey on my roof and she promised to issue me a man-sized monkey the next time she gets one. And by the way, Happy Year of the Monkey!


I actually miss the celebrations for Chinese New Year, although I don't really miss the annual breaking of my ankle that usually goes along with it. It's been about 2 1/2 years since my last ankle injury, and I don't want to jinx it so I'll stay away from Chinese New Year celebrations which apparently are dangerous for my ankle. But I'm still jealous that Child 1 went to a Chinese New Year party and got to eat dumplings and noodles.

But anyway, back to my topic about not knowing what to blog about, I'm just stumped. I feel stuck. I don't have writer's block, I just don't like any of the topics I think of well enough to say anything about them. So instead of writing, I just keep binge watching Marvel shows and playing thousands of games of Solitaire. I'm getting really, really good at Solitaire. OK, actually I suck. You would think that after playing it so much that I might finally get good at it, but I'm so slow because I keep doing things like helping Child 3 with her homework and telling Child 2 that yes that headband goes with her Pokemon T-shirt and fighting with my electronic personal assistant who won't listen to me and likes Husband better. Yes, you heard me right. Husband got me an Amazon Echo for Christmas and she goes by Alexa and she is EVIL and she is going to take over our house and kill us all, I am convinced. She ignores me all the time and yet Husband only has to think "NPR" and she'll tune right in, that little hussy. Oh, she makes me so mad! Why would you want to listen to NPR when there is a whole station with Imagine Dragons? Yet every time I say "Alexa, play Imagine Dragons" she says she can't find a Magic Dragon station and should she create one? Ugh! 

Alexa is definitely not better than a brownie. But you know what is? Superbowl commercials! I was unfortunately not awake when this year's game was played, but thanks to the magic of the internet which sometimes works here, I got to see a Weiner Dog Stampede! So adorable. Totally does not make me crave hot dogs at all. Really. Not at all. Um, if anyone in Delhi has a Hebrew National, I will pay you a thousand dollars. (Not really. But I might go for 1000 rupees. Call me!)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Because who can resist peacock glitter?

Sooo much has happened since we moved to India that it's hard to find time to write about it.  Or to choose what is most important. Do I write about how we almost served raw turkey to our friends on Thanksgiving? Or how everyone at the Marine Corps Ball got food poisoning? Or my cough that won't go away? I can't decide! So here are some pictures of camels.




This one is actually a horse if you couldn't tell the difference.


We went to the Camel Fair in Pushkar and it was amazing. Husband wasn't impressed because of all the dirt and Child 3 hated the smell. But here is a picture of me and Child 2 riding a camel and having a blast. You can tell who the adventurous people are in the family. Once on vacation Child 2 ate snails at a restaurant, just because she had never tried them. When we said hop up on that camel, she said OK! So we rode happily singing all the songs we know about bandits which is exactly one but has the awesome line "Give your ID card to the border guard, your alias says you're Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the United Federation of Planets, cause they don't speak English anyway." Don't we look like bandits? OK, fashionable bandits.



And this one is of a Bodo Pre-Christmas festival that Bentley invited us to attend. It was awesome, even though they made me try the dance, which was embarrassing but fun.


The other thing that happened is the Amcham Ball. Yes, another ball. I never thought I would ever go to so many balls! When I was a very little girl, my mother had a magic walk-in closet. OK, it wasn't magic, but it had ball gowns and silver shoes! My mother and father would dress up and go out to parties and the occasional ball and she would wear her hair up and I couldn't wait to grow up and go to balls. And then I grew up and had my own little girls and the only dress in my closet was denim and there was not a silver shoe to be see anywhere and sometimes when I wanted to dress up I would put on mascara and wear my clogs without socks. I know! So fancy.

So when we joined the Foreign Service and started going to the Marine Corps Ball every year, which generally doesn't involve the worst food poisoning I've had in years, I started collecting ball gowns. So now, I actually have choices! I have more than one gown! AND lots of sparkly shoes, although that didn't stop me from buying some peacock blue ones at the mall last week. And when the Amcham (American Chamber of Commerce) Ball popped up at the last minute, I actually had something to wear that fit and looked nice and wasn't denim. My life has changed so, so much. And you know what? Owning peacock blue sparkly shoes is better than a brownie, even if they make your feet hurt really super bad so that you can't dance more than one song which is a bonus if they keep playing things like "The Macarena." Balls are not what you think they are, or at least what I thought they were. Still, my shoes!



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Red, yellow, green, whatever. I still don't like them.

One of the lovely things about working for the federal government is convincing the federal government that white is white and green is green and blue is blue. If you let them, some people will tell you that white is orange and blue is magenta and there is no such thing as green. For example, I had the following conversation over and over again for two entire weeks straight.

Washington federal worker: We want you to run down that path as fast as possible in a straight line.
Me: That path there? The one with the big brick wall across it?
WFW: Yes. That path. Run down it as fast as you can for 10 minutes straight and then come back.
Me: What about the wall?
WFW: What wall?
Me: The big brick one right across the middle of the path that is 10 feet high.
WFW: There is no wall. It's your imagination. Get running.
Me: OK. I ran up to the wall, now what do I do?
WFW: There is no wall. Keep running.
Me: Here is a photo of the wall. It is 10 feet tall. I cannot go over it, or through it, or around it. I cannot run any farther.
WFW: OK. We see the wall. We removed it. Keep running.
Me: What do you mean by "removed"? The wall is still there.
WFW: No, it's not. We removed it. Keep running.
Me: By "removed" do you mean you chipped a tiny little hole in it?
WFW: The hole is big enough for you to fit through. Keep running.
Me: By "big enough" do you mean for my pinkie? Because that's all that fits.
WFW: You are being obstinate and difficult. First you said there was a wall, so we removed it and now you refuse to keep running.
Me: I need a brownie so bad right now.
WFW: Whatever. Just go through the non-existant wall and keep running.
Me: I'm going to sic The Dog on you!


OK, that last line was just in my head, because unless WFW is a bird or a baby, The Dog would just bark at them. She is useless as an attack dog. Anyway, I got really tired of being told the wall was all in my head so last weekend, I went on vacation to Sri Lanka with two of my friends for a girls' weekend. I highly recommend Sri Lanka as therapy. It was amazingly beautiful. How can you not relax just looking at this!


Granted, it did take us hours to get to this waterfall in Horton Plains and some of the hike was on a "path" and by path they mean some boulders mixed in with mud and really sharp rocks. But still, it was worth it and I didn't break my ankle even once. We got wet from being rained on which turned out to be the theme of our weekend because when you go to Sri Lanka during the rainy season, they aren't kidding. It was full on monsoon rain with lots of thunder and lightning and we got soaked more than once. But we also saw this:


Sri Lanka has LOTS of waterfalls. And then we went on safari and saw this!


I didn't use a zoom--the elephants were this close! Can you see the baby underneath her mother's legs? The photo is so grainy because it was super dark during the thunderstorm that was soaking us. We also saw lots of peacocks in trees, which was interesting because I didn't know they could fly. We also saw water buffalo, lots of storks, and some logs we were pretty sure were crocodiles. But the elephants were the best, because, well, they are elephants. And there were babies!

We also ate some really delicious food. We went to a spice garden and got an herbal back rub, bought delicious cashews on the side of the road, and stopped for coconut water fresh out of a coconut. Sri Lanka is also home to many species of bananas which all taste just like bananas, so that wasn't my favorite. My favorite discovery about Sri Lankan food was that curry comes with incredibly delicious side dishes, a lot like Korean food does. So when you order curry, you also get beets, eggplant, green beans, etc.

 

We did a lot of driving and eating and about the driving in Sri Lanka, the roads are amazing! They are well kept with rest stops and landscaping. And there are peacocks and monitor lizards crossing the road that you have to watch out for.


I won't bore you with details about our whale watching ride which started out exciting with a boat rescue and then turned into a boring odyssey where the only thing we saw was flying fish. But on our last day, we went to a resort and just relaxed and it was so amazing that for the first time ever, I will post a photo of myself on this blog!



I'm the one in the hat. And just in case you were wondering, traveling to Sri Lanka with my friends was way better than a brownie.