Monday, July 14, 2014

California in Review

Can you believe it's time to leave already? We managed to fit in tons of beach time, grandparent and uncle time, a Dodger game, paddle boarding, Mexican food, a trip to the Petersen Auto Museum, Chipotle, fireworks, the Queen Mary, a Russian sub, Target, kayaking, a visit with some grad school friends, In n Out burger, naps on the beach, and so much more.

No time for blogging - have to get packing. On to Seattle soon.

This would be Liberace's car, with sequins and unicorns. Ainsley's favorite, of course.

Midway through our kayak ride, we stopped for Starbucks. Because, why not?

Party boat dinner with Nana and Pop.

What every Californian misses overseas....

Friday, July 4, 2014


Four years, gone by in an instant.

The entire process of leaving a post is designed, I'm convinced, to ensure that by the time you finally get on that plane, you are nothing but ready to leave.

It isn't just the incessant goodbyes. It's everything. Shutting off your cell phone service. Turning off the internet. Dealing with the people in DC who decide, after you've already packed your air freight, that they made a mistake in your weight allowance, and you either need to pay them thousands of dollars for their error, or you need to repack the entire shipment. Turning in the radio. Getting the last hair appointments. Picking up the school records. Turning in your car for shipment.

The plane tickets. Lord, the plane tickets - those could be a post in and of themselves.

First we had tickets, but no seats. Then seats, but on the wrong day. Then maybe Bart would be joining us. But maybe not, so please nobody tell the kids. Then Bart has tickets, but we don't. Then we all have tickets, on the same flight even, if he makes his flight - but again we have no seats.

And on and on until the travel office personnel and I were barely on speaking terms, so frustrated were the lot of us with one another. (If it weren't for our awesome GSO, who seemed to make it his personal mission to ensure I got out of the country without suffering a nervous breakdown, I'm convinced I'd be in that office still, waiting and arguing and hoping for some sort of resolution.)

Bart planned to meet us at the gate right before our flight - if they let him out, and if he made the tight connection out of Baghdad. But the day before that, thanks to my vast network of in-country spies and the fact that not a single USG employee can keep a secret, I started to suspect that he might be arriving a few hours earlier, on some sort of unscheduled and unconfirmable flight out of somewhere. This despite the fact that I warned him before he even went to Baghdad that I hate surprises, and under no circumstances was he ever to try to surprise me by showing up unannounced on my doorstep in Amman unless he was prepared to deal with an unkempt wife and an empty refrigerator. He agreed. But it seemed he was preparing to break his promise on his very last day in Baghdad. For shame.

At three in the morning, my phone rang. "I'm outside the door," he said. "Let me in." I staggered to the living room, very much unkempt as promised, and opened the door to find Bart standing on the porch, having been driven there by Mr. GlobeHopper. I seem to recall that I gave them both hugs and then unceremoniously went back to bed.

Kyra snuck into the bedroom an hour later. She felt around in the dark, finding two bodies instead of one.

"Daddy?" she asked tentatively, hugging him close before climbing back into her own bed.

Bart got up at 5am to go for a run, because who doesn't do that before an international flight? At 6am, Kyra came back in to find me alone. Disappointed, she looked at the empty space next to me and said "Last night I dreamed that daddy came home. But it seemed real to me."

There was much rejoicing in our house that morning when their daddy came back from his run. But only for a few minutes, because we had a flight to catch. Still with no assigned seats.

And now, just like that, we are a family again.

You stress and you fret and you cry, but then you touch down in America and you go to pick up "just a few things" at Target or Trader Joes, and next thing you know, you marvel at how surreal it all seems. Were you really just in Jordan? Did you really ever live there? Because now, you know, you are loading your shopping cart with edamame and whole wheat bread and chocolate milk. (And oh, the chocolate milk! Do you people here in America even realize what a delicacy it is, that jug of fresh chocolate milk?) You buy these things as you make casual chit chat with the checkout guy ("Jordan?" he says tentatively, his voice all full of question marks. "That's sounds, like, really cool?") You buy these things as you listen to the conversations around you, all easily understood for the first time in years. You buy these things, and you wonder, was I ever really gone from this place?

Jordan is finished for me now. And I'm left to wonder: how much chocolate milk should a reasonable person consume in one day? And also: how many shower curtains will I need to buy for Moscow?

Because Moscow.

Moscow awaits, just a few weeks from now. Jordan is finished.

Between now and Moscow, though, there is that chocolate milk. There is In n Out Burger. There are sunburns and sandcastles. There is running on the beach. There are grandparents. And still ahead: sushi with my sister in Seattle, barbecues with my brother, baseball games. Somewhere there will be a trip to the post office, to mail my Moscow self snacks and clothes and those blasted shower curtains. ("Moscow?" the postal worker will say, and this I know because it happens every time. "What's that like?")

But of course there is no answer that makes sense.

Please. Write your own stuff.