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“This song is sad,” Patrick said, describing a woeful classical piece that came over the speakers in my truck.  My heart squeezed.

In that moment, I realized that even the kids could sense the quiet.  The overwhelming stillness was palpable in the air.  How does one explain this kind of loss, this kind of tragedy, to a three year old?   ...continue reading The Day the Horns Stopped…

Living in the moment is something I truly struggle with.  I know I’m not the only one with this issue, but I also feel that life abroad, especially for diplomats, brings an interesting nuance to this issue.

You see, I don’t just spend a lot of time wondering what’s going on with everyone else in my family.  Worrying about my grandfather.  Inquiring about my sister in college.  But I spend a lot of time hypothesizing about our future, since we live on this rotational two year calendar.  If we are lucky we get three years, or if we are really rolling the dice, DH gets a one year in a third world dump.  (He loves the work, but those twelve months are rough!) ...continue reading The Moments When

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steaming-coffee-cup1This morning, a beautiful sunny morning in Amman, we gathered the boys up early to go grab breakfast at Crumz, a local chain that can be best described as the Jordanian version of Panera, only with friendlier people and wait service.

On any given Friday morning you can spot quite a few American and European dips or expats enjoying their coffee and pastries in an environment that gives you a cozy little feeling of being home for an hour or so.  But what I also love about the place, is that you can find just as many local families there, having a morning coffee before Mosque, enjoying the start of their weekend with their kids.  The scene is endearing, families of multiple cultures taking a few moments to sit and enjoy the coffee, the good food, and the company of their loved ones. ...continue reading An Eye Opening Morning

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Yep, that’s you Victory, Able, United- this is for you, for all the head shakes given while sorting through boxes containing winter scarves, ski pants and silverware, when one is posting to Cairo.  It’s for the time spent driving around a third world city in search of screws that fit American electronics.  It’s for the tears shed, and the wine shared, after my toddler shattered my late grandmother’s vintage lamp that should be safely tucked away in storage.  It’s for the countless hours spent in front of a spreadsheet inventorying our lives.  It’s for all the post-its and Sharpies.

You see, we are people too.  We’ve chosen this lifestyle that drags us to all parts of the globe, and while I know you and your people just assume that we are jet-setting globe-trotters that fly first class and go to diplomatic functions every day, we are actually Just. Everyday. People.  Like you!  And I get it, I worked in government contracting, I understand you are doing what you do on a shoestring budget that congress approved.  You are the lowest bidders, and therefore we must deal.  But we are all in this thing together!  I know if you didn't make money on the deal, then you wouldn't have bothered going through with the bidding!  Maybe to save money you can give me less coloring books and stress balls at moving exhibitions, and channel that to improving service.  Believe me, I'd much rather have that entire box of family photos that didn't make it here than another travel adapter.  [Keep those little bandaid cases though- we love those.]

So, in the interest of my happiness, let’s grab a beer together and have a little chat.  Here are a few tips/thoughts/musings from us everyday people to you:

  1. The parts box.  Whatever gave you the idea that all the hardware from every piece of furniture you unnecessarily dismantle, should be tossed in a single box?  Let me tell you, that box is a BLACK HOLE of puzzle pieces that are impossible to re-unite with their appropriate table, book case, {insert item here}.  And if you are truly lucky, like us, this “parts box” everyone speaks of is an enigma.  It is a legend like Atlantis, or Don Quixote.  Does this box exist? If so, where? You see, my kids love their train table, and it would be nice if their train table, and all its hardware, actually made it to this foreign land we now call home.  The hardware for the crib and our television would be great too!
  2. Halves vs. halve-nots.   Half a sofa, half a christmas tree, half a dish set, half of a coffee maker, half of tables, chairs and any number of things.  Let me assure you, this is NOT a glass half full situation.  A table top with no base is useless, so is a base with no top.  A Christmas tree, with no base and no top can’t even be MacGyver-cized into anything useable!  Where, oh where, did their other halves go?  (Hopefully in storage).  So, to reiterate - we foreign service folks love our glasses FULL (often with wine), so let’s pack ALL the bases and ALL the tops.
  3. READ THE LABELS.  Do what they say.  Enough said.
  4. This is not an all or nothing deal.  One does not need to use ALL of the packing paper to wrap each individual matchbox car.  That paper would have been put to much better use wrapping the fine china, or the vase that was a wedding gift.  Also, if I’ve carefully packed the fine china in their original packaging, then DO. NOT. TOUCH. IT.  Which leads me to my next point…
  5. An ounce of sense goes a LONG way!  Literally, it will make it across oceans disaster free, and we will love you for it.  Don’t open file boxes with papers and then dump the once organized papers in their own box and put the file box in IT’S OWN BOX.  Also if you could stop packing laundry detergent with our cereal that would be lovely.  There is nothing so infuriating as discovering your kids’ beloved Cheerios are crushed and mixed with the Tide, rendering them inedible.  Trash is probably just that, trash.  If I forgot to take the trash out before you arrived, please do not pack it in our storage shipment, where it will rot and ruin our nice things for the next two years.  And for God’s sake please tape the hardware to the furniture it belongs to.  [See “The Parts Box” above.] Oh, and, I was so thrilled you shoved all my hats in a box and covered them with my shoes.  I hear crushed fedoras are all the rage this season.  Please, please just stop putting fragile things (i.e., hats, vases, frames, glasses etc) under heavy things (books, canned goods, pans)…because
  6. It is your JOB after all.  My grandfather used to say, whatever you do, be the best at it.  If you want to be a fry cook, then be the best damn fry cook out there.  I don’t know what circumstances in life put you in this employment situation, but I have a general idea that the pay is better than what you’d get as a fry cook, otherwise you wouldn’t be lifting and loading heavy crap all day.  So just do your job- wrap things, pack things, load things into the right crates.  (Read the labels!!!)  And while you do that, please…
  7. Have a care.  Pretend for a minute that all of this junk you are putting into boxes is actually YOUR junk.  Pretend that you are uprooting your life and family to take them to some unknown land that doesn’t have bacon, or high speed internet, or HBO.  You are leaving your friends and family and support to get on a 20 hour flight to Dhoha or Nairobi or Bangkok.  Think about what it would be like if your kids didn’t get their tricycle, or their train table, or their action figures on the other end.  Then think about what it would be like for YOU if your kids didn’t see those things come out of the HHE crates.  Please, have a care with our things, because…
  8. We DO ACTUALLY care too.  In our circle, along side the never-ending list of things that you all could have done better, is an entire conversation about what we FS families can do to make your job easier.  While we are grieving our holiday decorations that are moldy and completely destroyed because you failed to wrap the snow globes, we are making labels for UAB and HHE.  While we are improvising with half a sofa, or finding a place for furniture we weren’t expecting, we are asking our colleagues what to tip you.  While we are struggling through another several months of the dreaded Welcome Kit, because the pots and pans and knives never made it into our UAB shipment, we are making suggestions to friends about what to get you for lunch.  We are entrusting you all with our entire lives while we embark on this adventurous life, so please, take a moment before you invade our homes and think about us, as people, like you.

Sincerely,

Your Everyday People (and new drinking buddy)

The situations described herein are either my own or “heard through the grapevine” or hypothetical in nature.  The opinions are entirely my own (although I imagine quite shared).  I am not paid to write reviews or opinions on this blog.   This is purely for your viewing (and sharing!) pleasure.    

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while.  Back in August, H and I took a break from the kiddos and went on a trip to Ajloun Castle, a historic site about an hour and a half north of Amman.

I won’t bore with too many historical details, but the castle was impressive, and I can only imagine what it would have been like to have come over a hill to a view across the valley of this fortification.

It was built in 1184 by Izz al-Din Usama, a commander and nephew of Saladin, founder of the Ayuubid dynasty and the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria.  It’s purpose was to protect the Ayyubid territories from the crusaders to the south and the west, as well as protect the newly developing iron mines in the Ajlun region.  It originally had four towers.  It was invaded and destroyed by the Mongols in 1260, and eventually rebuilt.  To read more on the history, this guy, has a great post on Ajloun.

You can see the castle as you approach from miles away.  I would say we were still a half hour drive through back roads from the castle when we were first able to get a glimpse of it.  I’m no expert, but I can gather that it must have been quite the strategic vantage point.

For me the most exciting part of the trip, perhaps, was when we stepped off the bus and I inhaled the air filled with the scent of pine!  Ajloun is mountainous and dry, and literally covered with pine trees.  Wagonwheel immediately started playing in my head!  I even stole a pinecone to take home.

On the way back we had lunch at the Lebanese House in Jerash.  It has a wonderful open-air dining atmosphere, with beautiful views, where you can feel encouraged to take your time with your afternoon meal.  We’ll go again with the boys at some point because they have a tot play area on the lower level- which means WIN for everyone!

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