Saturday, April 21, 2012

How Normal People Do It

Normal Person:

Ask around to get a realtor recommendation. Call her up to chat. Make an appointment to meet her in her office, just to get to know each other. Set a date to look at houses in a week or so. Look at houses all day. See nothing. Look the following weekend. Still see nothing. Look at open houses, just for kicks, a couple of weekends in a row. Go out again with the realtor. See a house you like. Go home and talk it over with your spouse. Go back and look again.  Visit the house without the realtor, in the evening, to see how the neighborhood changes after work hours. Check out the schools. Talk to the neighbors. Look at a few more houses. Look at the house you like, one more time. Talk some more. Look some more. Talk some more. Finally put in an offer to buy the house. Don't forget that you will be there for the home inspection, in case you have any last minute questions or concerns, and of course you will both be there to sign the paperwork at the closing.

Foreign Service Person:

Fly into DC for a totally unrelated reason. Arrange to meet realtor for a half-day research session. See lots of awful, terrible overpriced houses in a whirlwind 4-hour marathon. See one house that seemed nice, if slightly over budget. Thank the realtor and fly back overseas. Tell husband you found house that seemed nice. Husband says "we should buy it." Call bank, which won't lend you money because you're overseas, unless you put a whopping TWENTY FIVE PERCENT down. Gnash your teeth. Check under Drexel Heritage couches for loose change. Come up with 25 percent - barely (though admittedly, most of the 25% was not found under couch). Wonder if house is as nice as you remember. Wonder if neighborhood is nice. Wonder if stores are nearby. Wonder if schools are decent. Wonder if that 25% should be spent elsewhere. Wonder if you'll be eating ramen noodles for the next ten years if you spend every cent on a house. Wonder if it is smart to buy a house no one else in your family has ever seen. Wonder if you'll even be posted in DC any time soon. Wonder if you can afford house when you return to DC. Wonder what time it is in DC so you can call your realtor. Consider making an offer on house, knowing you won't be there for the inspection or the closing, and indeed you might not even see the house again for several years. Will it be as nice as you remember? How many bedrooms does it have again? Will you even be able to find it when next you fly into town? Will your husband hate it? Will you hate it?  Cross your fingers and make an offer.

Sometimes, being in the Foreign Service makes things really, really complicated.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pharoah's Island, Egypt

So we boarded this boat:

And we sailed out of Aqaba, past our hotel.

We motored all the way across the Red Sea, until we came to Pharoah's Island, Egypt.

It's a tiny island, just off the Egyptian coast. Tiny island, big castle.

We went hunting for princesses, of course. Because everybody knows they live in castles.

Well, some of us hunted for princesses. Others just hung out with friends.

Or scaled the castle walls.

Ainsley even found a pre-school pal - a happy surprise.

Then we went snorkeling.

And jumped off the second story of the boat.

And that was our day. Most of it, anyway.

At last I can say I've been to Egypt!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Unorthodox Orthodox Easter

Happy Easter!

Yes, I know my friends in the States celebrated Easter last week, but here in Jordan, we did it Orthodox-style, so we were one week behind you.

It was really quite the unorthodox orthodox Easter. See, we're relatively Catholic, so we take our Easter celebrations somewhat seriously. And we have four young kids, so we take the whole Easter bunny side of things seriously as well.

Unfortunately, Bart had to work today, so we had to do things differently than usual. We knew we wouldn't have much time together as a family today, so we went to the Easter vigil mass across town last night - this after the Embassy Easter Egg Hunt and an afternoon barbecue with some colleagues. We didn't stay til the bitter end of the mass - those vigil services are long! - but the kids made it through the candle light ceremony without setting themselves ablaze, and we even sat through all of the readings and the Gospel before we decided it was time to make our escape.

We got home just before midnight and got the kids to bed so the Easter bunny could get organized.


This morning the kids let us sleep in a bit. But when they awoke, they ran for the baskets and a candy festival commenced.

After gallons of candy had been consumed, we did not go to church. And we did not start cooking brunch for guests. Instead, we piled into the car and drove to the Embassy pool, where we met up with friends for a no-host potluck - many of them had to work today, too, so nobody was able to host a fancy brunch. Everyone just showed up when they could and left when they needed to. At one point, I drove Bart home so he could get ready for work and then rejoined the crowd at the pool. The kids swam and ran and played while we sat in the sunshine and ordered food from the snack bar.

It didn't exactly feel like Easter.

But it was a nice day, all in all.

Coloring eggs...

At the Embassy Easter Egg Hunt...

What the Easter Bunny brought...

Helping the girls build their new Legos...

Yogi, begging for jelly beans...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wadi Rum

According to Shay, our trip to Wadi Rum was the best vacation ever.

Truth be told, it was pretty awesome.

We've been wanting to go for ages, but everyone says it's best to go with a group of people so the kids will have built-in entertainment. And when is it ever easy to get a group mobilized?

We finally picked a time when the kids were on Spring Break, and my relatives were in town, and we made it happen. I am so glad we finally got there. Wadi Rum is just... choose your adjective. Spectacular? Beautiful? Amazing?

It's a bit over 3 hours from Amman, so our group of almost 40 people met up for a late lunch at the camp. A few of us broke out the sweet tea vodka and the beer, because, heck - it's not like anyone is ever going to find out that we're drinking at 4 in the afternoon, right? Who'd be dumb enough to post that on a blog?

Okay, well, it was just a few people drinking. The rest of the grown-ups were busy checking in, or looking under beds for scorpions, or making reservations for our evening jeep ride.

Along about 4:30, our entire group piled into 4 trucks. The kids all went in one big jeep, which had sides and a roof - reassuring later, when we realized just how bumpy those dirt roads are. The adults squeezed into the backs of three old pick-up trucks, from whence many of us were nearly bounced onto the desert floor in the ensuing madness.

And off we went! First we drove out to a giant sand dune - the kids all climbed up and sledded down, over and over. Personally, I made it to the top only once. That was a serious workout! For every step you take up the dune, your feet slide back a step-and-a-half. But I was rewarded for my efforts when I slid down the dune with Ainsley - I leaned back a little too far and felt the back of my pants fill up with sand. Nice.

From there we went on to a few other stops, where the kids climbed giant rocks while the adults oohed and ahhhed over the vistas and a few of the brave bedouin truck drivers tried to sled down the dunes on the kids' sleds. We stayed out there long enough to watch the sun set over the rocks, which glowed red in the fading light.

Later that night, we had dinner back at the camp. One enterprising dad passed out glow sticks to the little ones, and one of the moms organized a flashlight scavenger hunt. The bigger kids played soccer out in the desert, under the full moon, until they eventually passed out from exhaustion.

Me? I went to bed.

The adults all had little "chalets," which is a fancy way of saying we had actual cement walls around our beds. The kids all slept in tents, two to a tent, except for a few who got scared. Ainsley and Kyra even fell asleep in a tent, though Ainsley awoke at 2 in the morning and made her way, in the dark, all the way to our chalet. She wasn't scared - she just had to use the potty.

The next morning we awoke, packed our gear, shook the sand out of our undies and continued on to Aqaba.

But that's a story for another post.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Inappropriate Jokes and Other Perils of Foreign Service Living

It was brought to my attention tonight that I haven't blogged in approximately forever.

I was sitting there at the Embassy, having dinner and perhaps a margarita or three with friends, some of whom pointed out that one shouldn't rest on one's blog laurels for too long if one hopes to keep one's audience.

True, that. But I've been a bit busy these days. Which means lots of blog fodder, but little actual blogging time. We had six house guests for the past two weeks - they only just left yesterday - so we've been all over the Kingdom, and if ever I manage to chase my son away from the computer long enough to get a turn on it, I might have some pictures to post of our adventures. We went to the Dead Sea, and the Baptism Site, and Wadi Rum, and Aqaba, and Pharoah's Island, and Jerash - all over the course of a couple of long weekends. We even managed to fit in a trip to the emergency room.

Our guests are stateside once again as of this morning. We were sad to say goodbye to them, but I suppose it was time to get back to real life.

Real life.

I had a 3-hour lunch with an awesome group of ladies today just as soon as I finished my work day. Not bad for my first foray into real life.

And then I had dinner with another group of friends at the Embassy. Our dinner conversation was full of wildly inappropriate jokes, and try as I might I just can't figure a way to re-tell any of them in polite blog company. But, oh, my face hurts from laughing.

About half of the people at my table for dinner are going to be gone from here in a few short months, and it's funny how much you can miss people before they've even left. You form such tight bonds, so quickly, when you're all tossed into an Embassy together for a couple of years. And it's not easy to move on, or to know that your friends are moving on.

It's nice, though, to have friends who can make you laugh with their house buying schemes and job woes and general zaniness. We all need friends like those, don't you think? I'm glad to have acquired a few new ones here.

Now. Tomorrow is a marathon day of baseball games for the boys, and thus far I've managed to avoid going to any of their games, which are held at the scorpion-infested pit 'o dirt down the road. But with the relatives gone I have no more excuses, so I guess I'll be in attendance tomorrow. I promise, however, to try to post some photos of our recent adventures with my siblings. Soon. Really. Promise.

Oh, and G? You really ought to spring for that house...
Please. Write your own stuff.