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Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh, Sandy!

As if preparing to move overseas is not complicated enough, now I have a major storm to worry about. Just when I thought I had everything where I needed it with my prep. I had a two-day mandatory class scheduled for today and tomorrow, pack out on Wednesday afternoon and I heard that my Indian visa was ready, so I was going to get a cab and go over to the Indian Embassy during my lunch break today to pick it up. My mother’s return ticket was originally for 10/25 but I was able to reschedule her (after paying a hefty fee, of course) to fly back to Bulgaria this Friday (11/2). I too had a reservation to leave on 11/2. Perfect, no? Too perfect perhaps…

Enter Sandy and things are all over the place again. Today the Federal Government in the DC area is closed, which means FSI is closed, which means I can’t take my mandatory class. The Indian Embassy is also closed, so I can’t pick up my visa. The packers are saying they are still coming on Wednesday as of right now, so I have at least that going.

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What happens now? We’ll have to see. I tried contacting the powers that be on Friday asking that very question but haven’t heard back. I suppose they could move my mandatory class to Tuesday and Wednesday, which wouldn’t be perfect because I have my pack out on Wednesday. Maybe I could reschedule that to Thursday and still be able to pick up my visa and leave Friday. Or maybe the mandatory class can be waived under the circumstances, though I am not holding my breath on that one. Or they could make me stay a few days and take the next installment of the mandatory class next Monday and Tuesday, which would be problematic because my Mom would be gone by then and I have no one else to watch Max while I take the class.

So, yeah, lots of moving pieces… I just have to remember to breathe and hope things will work out somehow…

Update: As soon as I hit “Publish” I saw that the Federal Government in DC is closed tomorrow (Tuesday) as well, which puts me in a real pickle because it makes leaving on Friday highly unlikely unless the powers that be waive the mandatory class for me. Otherwise, I will have to figure out where to put Max next Monday and Tuesday, so I can take the class. Oh, Sandy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Best Guacamole Recipe Ever

Do you guys like guac?

Yeah, me too.

I love it actually but it was not a love at first sight because let’s face it, guacamole is weird looking. I had seen it around but I just couldn’t get myself to try it. I mean it’s green and it looks like it came from another planet or something. The first time I tried it, I must have had some really mediocre guacamole because I was not impressed. Then years later I gave it another chance and this time it was knock-your-socks-off good. I was in love and I decided I had to figure out how to make it. So I went on a quest to find the best guac recipe. For a couple of months I made guac all the time and Paul was getting really tired of it because most of it wasn’t very good. I thought you had to have a secret ingredient or something special to make it really good. In the end what I found was that with guac - as with many of other things in life - less is more.

Here’s the best guacamole recipe, in my humble opinion. It’s beautifully simple. I found it a couple of years ago in Costco’s monthly magazine. Try it – you’ll like it!

Best Guacamole recipe ever

I made it again last night and it was delicious! It was not as chunky as the picture in the recipe because my tomatoes were quite juicy and I put more lime juice than the recipe calls for but it tasted great nonetheless. I also don’t like cilantro (crazy, I know), so I just skip it.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Carvin’

There was a pumpkin carving party at our apartment complex last night. I am so glad they thought of doing that because I have been so busy running around chasing passports, visas, tickets, packers and vaccines that I didn’t think to buy a pumpkin this year. But they did and it was free. We (well, me really) got to carve a pumpkin and take it home. I don’t think Max got or cared about the pumpkin carving part but he enjoyed chasing two other little girls that were there. So, it was fun but not as fun as it would have been if we could do it with Daddy and big sister. We miss them terribly and we can’t wait to see them…

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Preparations

I am officially done with A-100 (my initial training). On Friday we had a formal swearing-in ceremony, which was very nice and dignified though a little bit sad because it was the last time my classmates and I were together before we scatter all over the world. We had a happy hour and chatted about our posts and the future. We promised to stay in touch. Many of my classmates have months of language and functional training, so they’ll be around FSI for a while but I am one of the first people to go, so I am not going to get to hang out with them much.

I still don’t have a departure date because my passport and visa are not ready but I am guessing it’ll be in the next two weeks.

So, with that in mind, I have started to prepare. I’ve made the mandatory pilgrimage trip to Costco, where I bought as much stuff as I could stuff in one cart. And yes, I did lug the cart the two blocks to my apartment. Don’t judge me, I am carless. Plus, I returned the cart when I was done. I had a long list of things to buy compiled ever so lovingly by Paul and Nia. I couldn’t find everything, so my mission is not yet complete but I did my best. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the total at the end of the transaction but kept telling myself that I am actually saving the family $$$ because I only bought things that are unavailable, poor quality or more expensive in India.

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We’ve also started the “one-last-time” ritual of eating favorite foods. Today, we had Chipotle. Nothing special, you would say but there ain’t Chipotles in India, so we had to do it and we enjoyed it tremendously, especially Chutney. It was actually his first time eating Chipotle (not counting the many times he had it in utero). Here he is eating a burrito like it’s going out of style:

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We also had Cold Stone Creamery ice cream. Too expensive, I know but so worth it if you have it once every two years. I had Berry, Berry, Berry Good, my favorite flavor and it was so yum, I almost forgot it’s got eleventeen gazillion calories, which will go directly to my, ahem, badonkadonk. Don’t you wish that stuff went elsewhere? Ah, a girl can dream…

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Flag Day

(or the terrific, the painful and the downright unmentionable)

First, the spoiler – I got New Delhi and we are all thrilled. Chutney and I are going back to Delhi and will be together with Paul and Nia for at least a year and a half (that’s how long Paul has left of his tour in Delhi). We lucked out this time but after that who knows… We get to do this every couple of years for the rest of our careers and hope we end up together more often than not. Crazy, no?

I got a two-year consular position, so I will be working in the same section as Paul. I leave soon. My A-100 (initial training) is over on Oct. 19. Then I have a two-day security overseas class and five days for consultations and pack out. Hopefully, by then my new diplo passport and Indian visa will be ready, so we can be on our merry way. Why do I need new ones, you may wonder. Didn’t I just get a diplo passport and visa to go to India earlier this year? Why, yes, I did but in my existing diplo passport it says that I am the spouse of a diplomat and my visa is aligned with my husband’s tour. But now that I am a diplomat myself, I need my very own diplo passport and visa, so here’s hoping that the Indian Embassy will process my visa speedy quick. They have been known to take anywhere between 5 days and 5 weeks, so we’ll see.

But back to Flag Day. It  is always an exciting event but when you have constraints such as tandem and children issues, it can be an absolute emotional roller-coaster. I thought I was all cool and under control. I kept telling myself that even if I didn’t get Delhi, we’d be OK. We’d still make the best of it. I had even almost convinced myself because I was cruising along my classes and things were fine. Until the night before Flag Day, when I couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning and thinking about what the future might look like.

Sleep wasn’t happening anyway, so I got up and updated my facebook status with something about it being Flag Day. Several wonderful friends responded with very supportive comments, which made my morning. I got ready and caught the shuttle to FSI. I was listening to some uplifting music on my way, when I found myself sobbing. Uncontrollably. And I didn’t know why. I was so frustrated with myself. I thought I was all strong and OK with whatever flag they handed me on Flag Day, so why was I crying and why couldn’t I stop?!!! I cried for a good 15 minutes but thank goodness nobody on the almost empty shuttle noticed or if they did, they pretended they didn’t. I guess that was my way of coming to terms with the possibility of not being posted in Delhi but by the time we got to FSI I was mostly OK.

I walked into the cafeteria and chatted with some of my classmates. We had a classified briefing until 2 p.m., so we had to surrender all of our electronics, which was just as well because otherwise, we’d be too tempted to text, call family and friends or facebook. The briefing was very interesting but we were all eager to get our assignments. The ceremony was held in a large conference room at FSI (the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington).

My Mom, Chutney, my brother-in-law, John, and a couple of friends came to see the ceremony. The dignitaries, my classmates and I sat towards the front of the room and the guests, towards the back. It was neat to see all of my classmates filing in with their families and friends. Everyone was chatting nervously in anticipation of the big news.  There were several Ambassadors present as well as our CDOs (Career Development Tzars Officers - the people who decide which one of us goes where) and the Orientation Staff. The flags were carried in with a lot of flair and the ceremony began. After a brief intro we were told that nobody got a low bid and you could hear a collective sigh of relief. And then they started with the assignments. Our class mentor, Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, who was like a mother to all of us during training was handing our flags. I had the bid list and was planning to keep track of where each of my classmates was going. After a couple names, it became obvious that I was not in a position to do that – I was way too nervous. So I just tried to guess the country corresponding to each flag as they came up on the screen. There were several India’s but none of them were Delhi. My heart sank each time I saw the Indian flag.

Then finally it came. New Delhi, Consular and my name. And lots and lots of applause. My classmates knew I wanted it badly. Many had told me they thought I should get it. They were so sweet. I jumped up and headed to get my flag. Just then I felt something pulling me back by the jacket. I thought,“Not funny - who in the world would be pulling my jacket?” I turned and oh, no! Somehow, as I was moving forward, one of my jacket buttons had gotten tangled in one of my classmates’ hair. She had a pained look on her face and I felt so awful and stupid. I apologized and we managed to get the button untangled in what felt like eternity. Finally, I got back upfront and received my flag. I wanted to hug everyone. I am pretty sure I hugged Ambassador Bernicat and at least one CDO. Then I ran back, hugged my Mom and Chutney and went back to my seat. The rest of the ceremony was pretty much a blur. A lot of my classmates were ecstatic with their assignments, some were surprised but I also saw a few tears. My heart goes out to those who didn’t get what they wanted.

And then it was over. Just that quick! I congratulated a few classmates and then went back to my guests. We snapped pictures:

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We chatted for a bit. Chutney wanted me to hold him. I happily obliged but after a few moments I smelled something. The kid had had a massive blow-out. Right. There. I guess the pressure had gotten to him too! Yeah, it was on my hand and on my jacket sleeve. Now we both needed a costume change and a hosing down. Luckily, my mom had brought a second set of clothes for Chutney. I had to settle for a partial hosing down, at least temporarily.

The rest of the evening was wonderful. We had a small family gathering at one of Paul’s brothers’ place to celebrate. We ate Chinese and caught up on the family happenings. We discussed plans for the family to visit us in Delhi. We were back home by 10 p.m. and after a brief Skype conversation with Paul and Nia, who of course, were overjoyed with the news, I went to bed.

 
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