Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So I live in DC

I've been in DC for awhile now and here are a few of my initial observations:

Traffic is the worst. Like, really. Like old ladies driving in a monsoon in Tucson crossed with Guinean cab drivers bad- although somehow with fewer accidents... In the first week I've been lost, honked at, flipped off and almost crashed into- several times. This girl comes from a city with one interstate (well, maybe two- but who goes to the south side, really?), so this is nuts. Thank god for the metro, which brings me to my next point...

Walking. It is HOT. Tucson hot plus humidity. Ouch. The metro is a great way to get around, but of course you have to walk to get to the stations. If you thought you looked cute when you left your house just go ahead and dump a bucket of sweat over your head before you leave so you know what you'll really look like in an hour. Not even close to cute. 

I wish you could make friends on the metro. The way you do in airplanes (yeah, sorry, I'm totally that person). Instead, people just insert iPod ear pieces into their ears and try not to get caught staring at the often absurd sights sitting across from them. Or, they make it very clear that they are super-fun, popular people, and you are not. For instance, while learning to use the metro, perhaps you are followed by a group of teenage girls who laugh and openly mock you every time you swipe your card the wrong way, or go to the wrong escalator and then have to sprint to the other side of the metro station to make your train, or try to get off the metro on the wrong side of the car. I haven't seen that viral video of the kids being mean to the bus monitor, but I image it was very similar to my experience on the metro. Except, as I was leaving I turned around and hissed "you're fatttt" and then ran as fast as I could. Hopefully they all have eating disorders now.

On the bright side, I had serious concerns I was going to be the untrendiest person in DC with my endless, boring tank-top-and-cardigan-and-flip-flop combinations. I even told M I was going to have to go shopping for some cool clothes when we got here, to which he responded "Honey, you look great in anything you wear." Obviously, this was code for "Honey, no matter how much money you spend trying, you'll never look trendy, so please, don't." While I am still mad at M for saying (not-saying) this, it turns out I may be okay! While I may not be dressed up all fashiony, I'm at least pragmatic. Have you ever seen a bunch of disgustingly sweaty, trendy, name-brand-suit-and-tie-wearing thirty-somethings trying to keep cool and calm while sitting on a hot metro surrounded by a bunch of ridiculously dressed tourists and their bratty children who are screaming, spilling and crawling all over? I have. My tank tops and flip-flops win. 

Ahhh, apartment living. I swore, after my first apartment with my first roommate and our first peeping tom incident, that I would never live in an apartment again. But alas, here I am. It's not bad here, although it'll certainly be better when my half-a-food-processor arrives. There's a pool, tennis courts and some other work-out stuff, but most importantly, there is a store on site that sells wine. I guess it'll be okay after all.

My second day here I went to the Safeway (as opposed to the unSafeway I tried to go to the first day- that didn't end well for anybody) and bought everything I need, plus some, for the kitchen. I have this feeling that if the kitchen is fully stocked, then I will be okay. There is no rationale behind this feeling, as my homemaker skills are nil, but it may have something to do with seeing The Road two years ago. If the world ends and we're in DC, there will be no food in ANY of the grocery stores, but guess what? There will be food at my house. You'd think I would have learned to stop hoarding food after moving out of the last house and spending two full days working on moving out of my last kitchen, or maybe my accumulation of the "road-trip 10" should've been enough of a deterrent, but no. I will not eat a hair-less cat.

(M has informed me that no one gets this. The cat hunt from the opening scene from The Road-- am I the only one who was disturbed enough to remember this?)

I've been spending a lot of time at Target as well. There are several reasons for this: a) I know how to get there; b) It's something to do; c) It's basically like watching Real Housewives of DC, LIVE. M would disagree, but it's also a great way for us to save money. As much as I would love to buy clothes at this Target, all the size S and M clothes are always sold out. I do not know how this is possible, because I know the real housewives of DC are not buying them- apparently Target brands don't go well with Louis Vitton. Until Target figures out that I lurk there for fun and they could make some money off me by simply stocking those sizes, I'll consider it their loss. Beyond that, watching screaming, obnoxious children go crazy all over their sleep-deprived mothers who are fighting on the phones with their husbands about who is going to pick the cat up from the kitty day spa is a great form of birth control. How's that for some savings, love?*

The dogs are adjusting. They still walk up to the car every time we go outside, expecting to begin the journey to our next destination, but they'll catch on eventually.

When we first arrived Loki was so terrified the balcony was going to fall (or that jerky Kima was going to push him off) that he never ventured out. He has only started to take the first steps onto the balcony. And that's only because we put his food out there. So, he spends most his time inside, hoping something will fall from one of the shelves in our overstocked kitchen or that I will leave the treats out and walk into the next room. This often works out in his favor.

Kima has a new-found confidence looking out from her fourth-floor perch. Anytime a human, dog, car, rabbit, bird or nothing moves underneath our apartment, the entire apartment complex is warned of the certain impending doom by a serious of ferocious barks and sing-songy howls that sound somewhat like what I would image a distressed sea-lion would sound like. And, of course, Loki stands a few feet behind her (inside the apartment) and accompanies her, alternating between barking and horribly pathetic whining that is reminiscent of a prepubescent boy trying to sing--since he knows he's not supposed to bark (good dog?)--lending himself to what turns into a beautiful cacophony of angry, dying sea mammals. I'm sure the coast guard (or a talent scout) will be here soon.

Here is a link to another person with interesting pets in an apartment complex:

The curling iron gets it next time, lady.
I start French soon and we are worried that during the day the dogs may get so angry about being locked in a one-bedroom apartment, they may throw their potty training and good dog reservations to the wind and just start peeing on and chewing up our things to extract their revenge. This is clearly the most obvious way to make their point, and they are well aware that we understand it. In fact, our lack of writing utensils, hair supplies, headlamps, shoes and nice flooring are fully attributable to the dogs being overwhelmingly disappointed by our performance as dog parents. Shame on us for going out to dinner and a movie!!

In an attempt to stop the violence against my hair accessories and M's shoes, we have decided to get a patio-potty station for our delightful (aka ridiculously spoiled) dogs. We found a few online, but M thinks they are ridiculously priced, and we can make one ourselves, so we are planning on doing this project this weekend!! I actually already ordered one online. I'm just playing along with the idea that we might actually make a design, go to Home Depot, spend money on both tools and supplies and spend our free time doing a labor intensive project that is destined to be a lopsided patch of dirt on our patio, when we could be eating tapas and drinking sangria. There's about a 0% chance of that actually happening. I'll tell M when we get to Home Depot, if he doesn't naturally come to that conclusion himself.

In the meantime, I try and keep the dogs active and healthy. There is a dog park nearby that we occasionally visit, and sometimes when I'm feeling particularly lazy (often), I just race them up and down the apartment hallways. This is a delightful way to zap their energy and leave them too tired to be obnoxious. Racing them this way is a precise science. There is a delicate balance between racing the dogs long enough to exhaust them and avoiding making people look away from their regularly scheduled HBO programs, get off the couch and investigate the circus of dying sea lions performing outside their doors. So far, my scientific calculations have been precise and we haven't been caught. However, I'm always scared someone is going to walk out with their kids, and a toddler will be doggy-head-butted down the hallway. I suppose I'm willing to take that risk. Kids heal quickly, right?

I haven't made many friends at the apartment complex. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that either my dogs are knocking over their kids or I'm missing opportunities to meet people because I'm spending so much time at Target. I do occasionally interact with some of the moms in the complex. This normally occurs as I walk by a group of them, oohing and ahhhing at their offspring on the playground, as I head to the convience store. While they don't look at me as I'm headed into the store, I can feel the pitiful glances towards me as I walk out of the store and back towards our apartment with a bottle of wine (for dinner). I can almost hear their sympathetic thoughts "Poor girl! She looks to be about child bearing age, and yet she has no babies, nothing to fulfill her life the way ours are fulfilled! She just has wine. She probably wishes she could have babies, so she could be happy like us, sitting here together and exchanging glances at the playground. What a sad, drunk lady." It's like doing the housewife walk of shame.

But yes, I am jealous! I would like to be a part of a club, or a clique, or have a friend. But, until I find another sarcastic 30-something that enjoys wine and making an ass of herself, I'm afraid my only hope is the playground moms. After days of contemplation, I think I have found the way to win a place in their circle, without immediately giving birth to a 2-year-old: flour baby! I will make sure my flour baby has a cute little button nose and big round blue eyes, with cute little rope arms so I can drag it from obstacle to obstacle on the playground. I will talk with all the other moms about how complete my life is now, how much more advanced my child is when compared to an average baby of the same age and how much I looooove poopy diapers and housework. I'd certainly make friends then.

My kid's cuter than yours.

Or maybe that's too much effort and I should just keep going to Target. Me and the lady at the Starbucks counter are getting pretty close.

* I just said all of that to keep M happy and lure him into a false sense of security regarding both the amount of money I spend at Target and wanting a baby. Momma totally wants a baby. And a nanny.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sister Adventure!

I apologize in advance for how many pictures of my dogs there are in this blog post. I've always made fun of people who do nothing but post pictures of their children on Facebook (oh my gosh! Look! Suzi scribbled a line! Tony poo-pooed in the toilet like a big boy!!) but then, halfway through this trip as I turned around to take my 187th picture of my dogs in the backseat (seriously), I realized I AM one of those people. But at least it's with dogs, not kids. And in my defense, when there are two people and two dogs locked in a car rolling through Texas, one runs out of things to take pictures of, and sometimes even think about.
"Are we going to the park?"
We are so excited!

Coming across interesting things was few and far between, and we made sure every last ounce of laughter and break time was squeezed out of every unusually large metal chicken, gourd painting shop, giant peach and "worlds largest cross." I was also able to start a great collection of scary Christian billboards. Some of the doomsday ones were really horrifying! Thanks a lot, Jesus.

Brookie jumping for joy after finding giant metal chickens!

I made Brooke stop every time there was potentially-still-alive road kill. In my imagination, we would find a skunk or a raccoon with a hurt paw and we would nurse it back to health and we would all be best friends and sing together, like Sleeping Beauty. After our seventeenth dead animal I'm pretty sure Brooke started slipping me kava root in the mornings instead of vitamin B so I would just pass out. Very rude, Brookie. Think about all the animals we could've saved. Jerk.

(I did not take any pictures of roadkill, sorry).

We left on a Saturday morning (well, maybe it was afternoon), and made it to Juarez by dinnertime (well, maybe it was El Paso, but Juarez sounds so much more hardcore). When we got to the hotel, Brooke was not feeling well (aka reading 50 Shades of Grey), and sent me out to find some wine. Lucky for us, the hotel was situated right on top of a rockin' night club. So, I walked in to the nightclub wearing my super-trendy pajamas and ordered two glasses of wine. Actually, I tried to order the bottle, but the bartender looked at me like I was crazy, held up a huge jug of wine and told me: "no." So then I just settled for 2 glasses. On my way back to the room I got lost and wandered through a Mexican wedding reception in the hotel lobby. The men were all in white tuxes and a majority of the women may have been strippers. My pajama pants and wine double-fisting were noticed immediately. Had I been in my right mind I would have responded to the cat-calls and tried to take their booze, but instead I put my head down, pretended not to hear, and spilled half our wine sprinting outta there. They laughed. I went back to our room and laughed about their outfits with Brooke. I win.

At around 2 am, Kima woke me up, whimpering as though she needed to go out. I got the dogs all leashed up and ready to go and took them downstairs. Guess what happens at 2 am in Juarez? The bars close. As my dogs were pooping, I had the privilege of being hit on by every passing hooptie. Cuidado, M.

(For M:

The next few days were pretty uneventful. Texas is long and gross and boring (thatswhatshesaid?). We played a lot of gangsta rap. Kima fell in a ditch. Loki remained excited. Kima discovered she was terrified of construction. We prank-called our siblings. We told our mom we took a detour to Mexico and we would be staying there for awhile. She did not respond well. Brooke requested I use make-up and whitening strips for her wedding.* I did not respond well. At least she didn't ask me to get pec implants (Sorry Dil, that's gotta hurt, bro).

A terrified Kima crawled in our laps and watched with horror anytime there was construction.
Look ma! No hands!

We arrived in Mississippi to stay with M's parents around 4 pm on our third day of driving. It was glorious. We were all exhausted, hot, and sick of being flipped off because of my Planned Parenthood bumper-sticker. We played around the farm all day and drank wine and played games for the next 2 evenings.

Puppy Heaven

Our third evening on the farm Kima, the dog who is terrified of everything, ran away. After being out for about an hour, we came home to find Loki happily waiting for us, without his sidekick. We searched for several hours looking for the furry little beast, and finally someone saw her running through the neighbors' yard- away from us, because she was scared of her name being called. Thank god for technology. Someone called someone, who, in turn, found me and told me to go to the other side of the farm. We went to the other side of the farm and voila, there was my furry little petrified princess, running away. It only took her about 10 minutes until she realized the person chasing after her and calling her name was me, and she should come home. Once we finally got home, M's dad offered to make her into a pair of Ugg boots for me. I am still seriously contemplating this offer.

The next day we left the farm. As we stopped for our first pit stop, we noticed something under Loki's chin. It was a nice melange of blood and pus. While the fur was still there, something had happened to the skin around Loki's throat area, causing a pretty decent wound. We cleaned him up and tried to imagine the things that may have happened to the dogs the night before. We kept asking, hoping they would magically gain the ability to talk- if only for this important thing we needed to know. Was there an all-out brawl that Loki had fought in and Kima had run away from? Did aliens land near the pasture and get fought off by Loki while Kima ran away? Did Loki have a gnarly encounter with a prostitute that ended badly- while Kima ran away? (Notice that Kima is a jerk in every one of these scenarios and this will be taken into account for the Ugg boot decision). Until we can actually get one of those dog-talking-collar-devices from Up, we may never know what happened that night. Except fleas. We know both dogs got fleas that night. Hence, my money's on the prostitute.

My broken, exhausted dogs.
Two days later we arrived in Nags Head, North Carolina. We got there right at sunset and frolicked around in the ocean for the few remaining daylight minutes. Loki was overjoyed. Kima was seriously perplexed. It is a giant, salty, moving bath- should I be terrified or excited? Loki's enthusiasm eventually overshadowed Kima's fears, and soon we were all running and jumping and rolling around in the sand.

Unbeknownst to me, M had left DC several hours earlier than we had planned to surprise me and meet us in Nags Head when we arrived. Unfortunately, several other husbands must've had that same idea, because what should have been a 5-hour trip turned into a 10-hour traffic bonanza. In the meantime, Brooke and I unpacked the car, stripped the blood-splattered comforters from our seedy motel beds (seriously), and settled in.

M walked in the room around 10 pm. The dogs hadn't seen him in almost 4 months. Loki went crazy immediately. Kima was taken aback for a moment before realizing who had just walked through the door. Upon her realization she flung herself across the room and repeatedly tried to throw herself in M's arms while crying loud enough to wake the neighbors. It was the most adorable thing ever.

Beach frolicking with dad!

The next day we walked out to the beach and hung out for awhile. The weather was horrible and the wind whipped the sand into our eyes and our faces, but we had come to play on the beach and so we stayed- as long as we could. After about 30 minutes we gave in and headed to the pool. At the pool we met a bunch of other people in the same situation, so we played in the pool the rest of the day with them. Since the hotel was so seedy, we felt perfectly comfortable bringing in the dogs and letting them play in the pool as well. We got hepatitis and they got dog hair and fleas in their pool filters. Even Stevens.

Hey look! We're at the pool... while visiting the beach...
 On Sunday we grudgingly loaded up our car for one last day of driving. As is the going trend, the trip from Nags Head to DC, which should've taken us about 5 or 6 hours, took closer to 8. We arrived home Sunday night, happy, exhausted, and prepared for a busy week of moving in, de-fleaing our dogs (and our car) and teaching the dogs to "hold it" for hours on end.

For another great blog about a road trip and two dogs, one simple and one scared, look here:

*Disclaimer: While Brooke is totally a bridezilla, in reality she looked at me and said, "For my wedding could you please buy some make-up and whitening strips... and bring them to me in Costa Rica." I just thought maybe it was a little too long of a pause...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Packing and Leaving

There is a common theme that runs through every day from Flag Day until, well, I don't know when it'll stop... The theme is anxiety. After returning from Flag Day, every day was spent thinking about things to come. I spent hours daydreaming. I woke up every day with butterflies in my stomach (my mother was convinced I was pregnant). I don't know how I managed to finish classes, submit a thesis, work and pack up my house.

My last few weeks in Tucson were CRAZY. Beyond the tying up the normal day-to-day stuff, my mother and I had the privilege of being roomies again for the first time in years, my friends who lead bird tours came in and out of town, my beautiful little sister graduated with her B.S., I ran into people I hadn't seen in forever, and I savored every moment with the people I loved.

My sanity during all of this can be attributed to my wonderful friends and family. My mom and siblings were a constant source of amusement, entertainment and love. Kelly graduated and immediately helped me pack out and pick up for days- the girl even picked up dog poop for me- that's love.  Nadja and her family had me over for lively game nights and great food. Corey and Jake supplied numerous laughs and mustaches- even from afar. Melanie was always around for a ladies night. Jesse and Meaghan kept a steady supply of tacos flowing into my diet. Saskia bombarded me relentlessly with absurd  text messages and ridiculously titled emails (DID YOU GET RID OF THOSE HERPES?- always a fun email to come across at work in front of others). Beth, and her ability to calm me down over the phone from wherever in the world she may be, was one of my main pillars of support, as she will always be. Rich and Gavin were in and out of town, and when they were in town they provided me with love, support and good food. And Celina. I'm not sure I would've pulled it off without Celina. Every night, for a week before the movers came, Celina came over to my house, bottle of wine in hand, and helped me clean and organize. Every morning she called me and yelled at me to wake up and do the things I needed to do. Often, I would offhandedly mention something I needed to put on my "to do list," and she would respond- "Oh, I already did that for you, I put it here." I will never be able to begin to express the extent of my gratitude to Celina. We will have babies and they will be best friends. Done.

Loki loves packing! 

Packing for the Foreign Service is, again, one of those things I don't really get, but I just kinda did. There is one shipment (UAB) that goes directly to your apartment in D.C.- (this shipment is limited to about 200 lbs per person) and the rest (HHE) goes to storage in D.C. and you will have access to it again someday. I'm still not sure exactly when "someday" is. So, I went through our house and organized. There was a ton of junk from multiple roommates and siblings that I got to sift through and throw away, not to mention all the stuff M and I had accumulated both together and individually throughout the years (sorry about all the stuff that the "movers lost," dear). I can say with confidence that Goodwill of Tucson had a good year this year. I started a pile in the middle of the living room that I designated the UAB pile. By my approximation it was about 400 pounds. Apparently, I should not be allowed to approximate.

When the packers showed up the morning of our move date, they looked at my pile and did a not-so-good job of hiding their amusement. Not only was I not even close to 400 pounds, I was only authorized for 200 pounds. Since M had left more than 60 days before me, his portion of the UAB (200 lbs.), was no longer valid. This piece of information was not a very fun thing to find out at 7 am, after spending all week cleaning, sorting, organizing and deciding what goes into, and doesn't go into, "the pile." M may have gotten a few frantic phone calls that morning. As I called, the movers packed without discretion. When they hit 200 pounds, they stopped. I can now expect to unpack 1/2 a food processor, 1/2 an ice cream maker, and an odd assortment of pictures, magnets, books and pillows in a few weeks. I am excited to see all of what made it in the shipment!

We packed all day. The very grumpy driver showed up around 1 pm and started loading all of our stuff into a truck. As excited as I was, I couldn't help but wonder when I would next take a nap on my sofa, spill wine on my rug, or have a dance party on my coffee table. I must admit that watching the moving van drive away left me somewhat brokenhearted and allowed the reality of the situation to finally set in. I didn't need to leave, I already missed Tucson.

Kima's worst nightmare, coming home to a house full of men with nothing to hide behind- they moved all our stuff!

That night, we had a dinner and a movie at our house- one last hurrah. Jesse made lasagna that wasn't quite as good as mine, and Rich made me an AMAZING "Go Away" pie. We pulled out yoga mats, camping pads and a tablecloth for dinner, and set the projector and a computer up on the front porch for a movie. I will always be sad we didn't do movies on the front porch as often as we could've, and I will always look forward to doing it again.
Some of the dinner participants

Rich, what kind of pie was this again?
 The next night we went out to one of my favorite restaurants- the one M and I were planning on having our stateside wedding reception at, but never could since he had to pack up and leave for FSI. It has a beautiful little courtyard and there is always a great local band up on stage. 30 of my friends gathered for "The Last Dinner," and I wish we could've stayed long enough for me to have a decent conversation with everyone at the table. To compensate for the long table which was not conducive to having intimate conversations with everyone, we decided it was best to go back to our house and finish off the rest of the booze. Always the appropriate way to handle a left-over booze situation, right? We drank and played Cards Against Humanity (which is a game that is truly only for horrible people) until early in the morning.
Read bottom card to top card. Poem credit to Jesse Disco.
 The next morning we picked up my other lovely sister, Brooke, from the airport. She was lucky enough to have the privilege of driving across the country with me. For the first time since my wedding, all the ladies (except Dillon) were together again. We had a great breakfast at our favorite place, and then went home and packed up the car.

Our attempt at a nice "lady picture." Delightful.  I'm pretty sure there was a "wormy" involved.

After packing the Prius FULL of our stuff and running a few errands, Brooke and I were off on our cross-country adventure, but that is a blog post for another day...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Bid List and Flag Day

M and I quickly learned the secret to a long distance relationship: make sure you have a lot of frequent flier miles saved up. I flew out to meet M 4 days after he arrived in D.C. During this time we explored the city, met up with some friends and set up our new home (apparently M was unaware that one could not survive on ketchup and beer alone).

We got to meet up several more times, once for a Mini-Peace Corps reunion for a weekend and the other for Flag Day. There are multiple blogs on all the logistics behind Flag Day, and I couldn't really tell you much about them, but I can tell you about that day from my point of view.

A week into M's class he was given a list of available jobs in embassies all over the world.  We knew we wanted to be posted in sub-Sahahran Africa, for several reasons: a) it would be great for M's career b) it would (hopefully) be great for my career, and c) we both love it there. We knew from our first date that we each had a desire to return to Africa, since we had both previously worked and lived there, and we knew very soon after that first date that we would be returning together. So it worked out well that, while others were scrambling to compete for posts in European capitals, we focused primarily on remote outposts in West and Central Africa.

The instructions from the bid list, as I understood them, were: divide the list of countries into 3 sections- places you would love to be (bid high), places you were "meh" about (bid medium), and places you don't want to go (bid low). Warnings included: don't get your heart set on a post. Most people get places they bid as medium posts, and sometimes even low posts. M and I went through the list every night for weeks, discussing how we should "bid" each of the countries. The number of allowable low bids was limited to less than 20, and I wanted to make sure those low bids were filled with the Middle Eastern and Mexico posts. Our high bids were limited to several in Africa, and several in Brazil (because, what girl is going to turn down living in Rio de Janerio on the beach for a couple years? Hey- I can be flexible!).

While I was visiting M in DC we got to meet with his Career Development Officer (CDO) and discuss the posts. We told her all about our preferences and why we bid certain posts the way we did. We told her that our long term goals are to work in Africa and that we had three African posts we were especially fond of, one of which seemed to be especially perfect for us: Togo. The job in Togo was in M's cone, it allowed us to take French courses at FSI, it had several Lome-based health-centered NGOs, and we could bring our puppies!! Our CDO took some notes, smiled and reminded me not to get too excited over any post. We assured her we would be happy if we got any post from either our high or medium bids, and hey, if we got a low bid, we'd make that work, too.

A few months later, on Flag Day, we sat in a room at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, anxiously awaiting our results. To pass the time and relieve anxiety during the ceremony there are a few games that people play. The first is Flag Bingo, and the second is just simply yelling out the name of the country as the flag of the post is being projected. We settled into our seats knowing we might have a long wait- names and posts are not called in any particular order.

The first flag was projected. It looked familiar. Was that one of the ones we wanted? I looked at my list just as the entire room yelled out "TOGO!" My heart sank. The very first post was the one we wanted. There was no way. I sat back and tried to make my mind stop running. There were a lot of other good posts that we wanted. We would be happy anywhere. I looked up. M was standing up. He was walking toward the podium! They had called his name! His mother and I jumped to our feet, screaming and hugging and bouncing with excitement, and I'm sure, shocking the people around us.

And then it was done. So many blogs talk about how painful it is to wait until the end of the ceremony to find out where they are going. Knowing where we were going and not being able to run down the aisle, tackle M and smother him in kisses and happy tears may have been more painful! In short, waiting patiently and behaving like an adult is a real bummer.

And so it begins...

I probably should have started blogging long ago. When we first started this process I was so desperate for any information that I scanned every blog that had anything to do with the Foreign Service. I kept wondering why no one was talking about the things I felt I needed to know! How long will this take? What should I do? How can we plan for something so life-altering while knowing the chances of it actually happening are so slim? Am I going to have to wear high heels and take etiquette classes (oh god, I hope not).

I guess the answer is: you don’t really start blogging until you figure out that you have no idea what is going on, and then you just go with it. (Well, that and the fact that you soon find you’re grateful for any excuse to take a break from packing up your house...).  

M and I returned from our amazing East African wedding/honeymoon trip in mid-January. Before we left, M had completed the application process, taken the written test, passed the ridiculously hard and highly anticipated oral test (!!!) and was able to complete everything he needed for his security clearance. Each of these was probably worth it's own blog post, but it's always hard to write with confidence when facing so much uncertainty. We were thrilled that, within days of our return, the security investigator called and told us he had submitted M’s name for clearance. This marked one of the final stages before M could be added to “the Register,” a list of scores or hundreds of names who had received provisional offers of employment, passed security and medical clearances, and checked all of the “suitability” boxes deemed necessary for a career in the Foreign Service.

We got the news about the final stage of the security process within a week of returning from our honeymoon, and spent the next few days dreaming even more of being so close to living the life we had always talked about. Visions of living overseas, experiencing different cultures, learning new languages, eating new foods, having children who appreciate all life, everywhere, and each of us being able to pursue and obtain meaningful careers that (hopefully) contribute to the good stuff in the world, swirled through our heads. We tried not to be too optimistic, however, since many people who get on the Register never actually get an offer, and M had applied to one of the most difficult cones to get into. I had, for that very reason, tacked on a year-long biomedical sciences certificate program onto my MPH studies just before we left for our wedding. We knew this process could take up to two years- if it happened at all. Regardless, we must have called each other ten times that morning, sometimes for no other reason than to just scream with excitement, and then talk each other back down to reality.

A week later, around lunchtime, M received an extraordinarily brief email from the State Department. In 2 short sentences, the messenger delivered the news that M had cleared security, cleared “final suitability review,” and been added to the Register. And, oh by the way, could he be available to start training on March 12? “We need a response by Monday.” It was Friday. March 12th was 5 weeks away.

Although some may have deliberated over the next 3 days, we were telling our families the news, celebrating and toasting champagne by dinnertime. This was actually happening!!

Over the next week, reality started to sink in. M had to be in D.C., but my program didn't end until July and I wanted to stay and finish up one of our biggest programs at work. I still hadn't submitted my master's thesis. If I moved to D.C. I would be leaving school, leaving work, and living in a one-bedroom apartment with two dogs and no job. And, let’s just say, I've never played the role of housewife well. Our decision soon became clear: though we had just been married, we now had no real choice but to live apart for several months.

 The next few weeks were filled with chaos. Between work obligations, mid-terms, boring political and lawyer functions, celebratory happy hours, family dinners and wonderful evenings with our wonderful friends, time was sucked away from us. We managed to drain every last drop of fun and love out of every passing minute. Saturday morning, March 10th, M woke me up by softly singing Leaving on a Jet Plane. While crying, I kissed him and smiled for him, told him that I'd wait for him, and held him like I'd never let him go.