Archive for December, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

With Christy, John, Amy, Rick, Carla and Mike Christmas Day

We spent Christmas with a few good friends from John’s section at work. We took the lazy way out and went to the Serena Hotel for their brunch, complete with Pakistani Santa ho-ho-o-ing around. Mike and Carla hosted us for before and after cocktails, and along with Rick, Amy and Christy, we formed our own little family to celebrate. It was a great day!

On Christmas Eve, we were officially off work, but we went in for a while anyway to get some things done. In the afternoon, we watched a few episodes of “Homeland,” then we got dressed and went to a couple of parties.

First, we stopped by the Ambassador’s residence for a bit, then we went to Frank and Lita’s for one of their famous fire pit parties – lots of lawn chairs in the front yard, gathered around their fire pit. They’re great cooks as well – shrimp bisque, chili, and a yummy turkey stew, all served up with cornbread. Couldn’t get much better! Afterward we went to Rick’s for after dinner drinks with him and Amy – a  good day!

Sunday was also fun – Konstantin had us over for a rooftop party. We were in A-100 with his wonderful wife Carolyn. We met a lot of new folks and enjoyed food good and drink sitting on his rooftop.

Wednesday, it was back to work and a crazy day – well, pretty crazy the rest of the week, just trying to get caught up. Thursday after work I had drinks at the Club with my old friend Jason from Juarez days – so fun to yak with him. He was in Consular but now is in another section, and he’s always a hoot to visit with.

Thursday I had lunch with Jim and Kellee at the French Club, across the street from our Embassy. Friday it turned chilly and rainy. John has now moved from Housing into Procurement, and his team took us out to dinner Friday night for a traditional Pakistani meal at a neat restaurant.

Yesterday, we worked in the morning. My visa section was trying very hard to get some Pakistani students to the U.S. in time to start their January semester, so I went in to the office to get some visas out the door. After that, we tried a new spa – “Madame X,” as my friend Luke would say. It’s new, still in growing pains. The generator wasn’t being cooperative while we were there (now we are in rolling blackouts because of electric heating) – but finally the lights and heat came on. We’ll give it another shot, but they have a ways to go!

Saturday night, Rick and Amy came over for drinks, then we went to the Polo Lounge for a nice meal. It’s basically an outdoor restaurant, but in the winter they set up tents and heaters and it’s quite pleasant.

This morning, I ventured out on my own to the market – I was quite proud of myself, although there was no traffic and nothing to be afraid of, but I haven’t really driven around much outside of the Diplomatic Enclave by myself.  John got his meat smoker, and is enjoying being outside this afternoon smoking up three chickens for New Year’s Day – he’s back in his element and having fun!

It’s gotten chilly here, and Flavia is quite happy that we’ve turned on the electric blanket at night. In the mornings, she normally runs to her food bowl when I get up, knowing that breakfast is on the way. But with the cold weather, she’s been jumping instead on her favorite chair, because I turn on the heat in that room while I am getting dressed and the blower blows directly on her sleeping spot. With the scarcity of electricity, we only turn on the heat while we are in a room (no central heat or air) – I guess she’s decided that being warm is more important than eating!

Mr. Khan has cut back all of the roses, and is preparing to put in pansies and petunias, so our garden will look different soon. Right now it looks a little sad because he’s also dug up all of the marigolds (they are big here, about 3″ across).

Wreath with flowers from our garden




We hope all of our friends and family had a great holiday – it’s tough being this far away, but we’ve made such good friends that it makes being away a lot easier. I’ve enjoyed my Christmas present from Aunt Bonnie this year – necklace and earrings from Uncle Vince’s rockhound collection, and I’ve loved wearing my hand-loomed wool scarves from John’s great aunt Leanah – memories that money just can’t buy.

Rick and Santa

Festive week

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Brewery workers with stacks of beer in background

The highlight of the week was a fun trip to Murree Brewery that our Community Liaison Office (CLO) put together. It’s the only brewery in Pakistan – they make beer and whiskey, among other things. We got to sample their wares and tour the brewery. They were great hosts, and we had a fun time. We had Jim, Kellee, Rick and his girlfriend Amy (visiting from Jerusalem) and John and me in our van going out there – it’s also just fun to get out and see different parts of the city.

Boy with pick working on the brewery grounds














When we got back, we all went over to Jim and Kellee’s and sat on their rooftop for pizza and drinks, bundling up in blankets and listening to the call for prayer from the nearby mosque.

Tuesday night I ventured out on my own to attend a slide show presentation by a woman who had climbed Everest in 2009. I’ve always been fascinated by Everest since I read Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into Thin Air.” She was very interesting and had some great photos – I was glad I went, not that I ever plan to climb Everest!

Wednesday after work, John and I met Rick, Petit and Howard at the Club and had a fun happy hour together – it’s so nice to have them here.

We went back to the club on Friday for happy hour – it was quite festive. Some of the Mission employees have formed a band and they played. Lots of folks were there, and it was a great way to end the week.

Here are a couple more photos from the brewery trip. Click to see more photos.

John in the whiskey cellar












Rick with cigar during our whiskey tasting



Ups and downs

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

John and Tariq in their traditional garb

The highlight of the week was the staff party that John hosted for his staff in Housing. He is soon rotating to another management position, so to say goodbye, he hosted everyone at a local restaurant. They surprised him with some traditional Pakistani clothing: a pair of sandals, a topi (hat), and a wool man shawl – it was great! The ladies on the local staff dressed up in beautiful shalwar chemises and just looked stunning! It was a fun evening. Click to see all the photos from the dinner.

Sana, Lubna, Nayaab










Another highlight was seeing our good friends Howie and Petit again! You may remember that we first met Petit in Mexico, then she married Howie and came to Tel Aviv…and now they are here in Islamabad! The Foreign Service is a small world indeed! They joined us at brunch on Sunday with my co-worker Kelly from Karachi – along with my good friend Scott, John (of course), and Howie’s fellow RSOs Mike and Justin (we also worked with Mike in Tel Aviv). Follow all that? Simply put, it was wonderful to have a table full of friends, old and new!

Monday night, Scott, Michael and I took Kelly to dinner at a local Asian restaurant – quite nice. The next day, Kelly headed back to Karachi. It was interesting to hear about her life there. The officers all live on the Consulate compound, so she basically eats, sleeps and works with her co-workers. Forays into the city have to be carefully coordinated, so her movements are  pretty limited. Makes me glad we have the freedom we do here in Islamabad – fingers crossed that our security situation will remain stable. I just heard on the news that there were problems again in Peshawar, with reported Taliban attacks at the airport there. It’s a few hours from us and is a completely different world, but we do have staff there, so I hope they are keeping safe.

I’m so lucky to work with my good friends Scott and Michael (I also knew Michael from Juarez.) They never cease to have fun and tease – it seems this week they were in full force. We usually have lunch together, but one day I needed to have lunch with another girl to talk about some specific things. Mike and Scott acted devastated that I would forsake them, and sat at a nearby table. All through lunch, they sent me text messages saying “I miss you” “Why do you hate us” etc., while casting exaggerated sad looks in my direction.

The next day at lunch, the manager of the restaurant came over to my table (where I was sitting with Scott and Michael) to inquire about two pie pans I had neglected to return to the Club. I explained that I would bring them back the next day. Then he came back to the table as I was trying to eat my lunch to keep talking about it. I got a little irritated with him, but explained I would bring them this week. I stopped on the way out to talk to the manager again. When I returned to my desk there was a phone message for me, inquiring about the pie pans! (Obviously the manager had sent it before he saw me at lunch.) I told Scott and Michael about it, and we were all laughing about these darn pie pans. (Honestly, in retrospect, maybe it was Scott or Michael who left the message…I’ll have to check into that!)

The next day, I stayed home sick (the down part of the week) and John took the pie pans to the restaurant manager to deliver them personally.

Well, at the end of the day, I got an email from Michael on my Blackberry. He forwarded a note with the sender shown as the restaurant and the subject was “Mrs. Crippen’s Pie Pans.” The note basically said the restaurant had been trying to reach me about the missing pie pans, and could Michael and Scott please ask me about them.

I hit the ceiling! I immediately dialed the restaurant to complain about the harassment about these pie pans! As the phone was ringing, another message came in on my Blackberry. “Just kidding,” it said.



Heading home

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

LJ and Aunt Bonnie at Garvin Gardens

We enjoyed our last few days in Arkansas before we headed back to Islamabad. The highlight of the trip was taking Mom, Aunt Bonnie, and Bonnie’s caregiver Tammy to see the holiday lights at Garvin Gardens – it was beautiful and I think we all enjoyed it. It was nice because they had golf carts available; otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

John spent last Sunday getting Mom’s new computer set up. From looking over his shoulder, Windows 8 looks like a nightmare. He spent a long time trying to make it look like her old computer. He did a great job, and I think she’ll be happy with it. We celebrated by going to eat a great steak at The Porterhouse downtown – John also had a good appetizer: shrimp with avocado in a pesto sauce – yum!

We did a lot of running around shopping, and before we knew it, it was time to head to the airport on Tuesday. We lost a day coming east – we left on Tuesday afternoon, flew through Chicago and Abu Dhabi, then arrived in Islamabad Thursday morning around 4AM. My body is so confused!

Thursday and Friday we just spent around the house, sleeping at odd hours. Our good friend Rick came over Friday night after he got off work. We yakked, drank wine, had dinner and got caught up.

Saturday evening my friend Kelly, my counterpart in Karachi, came to town for consultations. She’s staying with us (our first houseguest!). We went to the Polo Lounge for a good dinner – such a nice atmosphere. The weather has gotten chilly here – since the Polo Lounge is basically outside, they have those nice big heaters set up. (John was disappointed in the weather in Arkansas – unseasonably warm and no need for the jackets we brought! He’s happy to be back in cooler weather – we’ve even turned on the heat in the house.)

Flavia was sure glad to see us! Our housekeeper Saleem came by every day to feed her, so she was fine. At first, she hid under a chair and cried, then she finally came out and hasn’t gotten off my lap since! She’s so cute, and I think she’s really glad we’re home!

Here are some parting shots from Hot Springs. Click for all of our R&R photos.

Koi pond at Garvin Gardens (with duck in background)














Ouachita Avenue, Hot Springs










Ouachita Avenue, Hot Springs










The old Malco Theater, for sale











Week Two

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Downtown Hot Springs

Our R&R continued this week, and we had the chance to see more family and friends.

Monday I had lunch with David and Alison while John visited with his good friend Russell up in Mount Ida. Later in the day we drove to Little Rock and visited with Mary, then had dinner with John’s former co-worker Leland and his wife at their house.

Tuesday, John went back to Mount Ida. Mom and I went with Aunt Bonnie and her caregiver to Bonnie’s doctor’s appointment, then we stopped by Walmart on the way home. Later that evening, I met up with John, Russell, his wife Kathy and daughter Heather to eat sushi – fun!

Wednesday I dropped John off in Mount Ida, then hurried to my hair appointment at Mike and Peggy’s salon. Thank goodness someone knows how to cut my curly hair! Afterward I had lunch at a really disappointing Mexican restaurant (Taco Mama’s – don’t bother if you want good service!), then some shopping. At the end of the day, I ran back up to Mount Ida to pick up John. Russell and Kathy have a great place with lots of land – and they have a menagerie! We love playing with their dogs – they have five, plus four cats and a couple of birds. The dogs are so funny – John wants to bring little Penny, the pocket beagle, home with us!

Thursday I dropped John off in Mount Ida again (I say he’s going to day care), then drove to North Little Rock to have lunch with my old friends and co-workers, Lynn and Jim. We had a  great lunch together – so fun to get caught up with them.

Back in Hot Springs, I drove back to Mount Ida to get John, then Mom took us to dinner at KJ’s for a good steak – yum!

Friday we stayed in Hot Springs and ran errands all day. We had a great lunch downtown at Rolando’s – great food and service. We stayed home and watched “Prometheus” and ate pizza for dinner.

Yesterday was another fun, but busy day. We drove over to Little Rock and first stopped by Mr. Magic to say hi to Jim, John’s magician friend. We got caught up on all of the local magician gossip, then headed over to Dail and Nancy’s. Dail was in the hospital for five weeks’ worth of chemo treatment for his leukemia – thankfully he is almost in full remission! He’s lost a lot of weight and hair, but his appetite seems to be coming back: after a big plate of Whole Hog BBQ, he declared we needed to go to Izzy’s for lemon ice box pie!

With Dail and Nancy










Later in the day, we met Ann, Jim, Pamela and Ike for dinner at Star of India – delicious! So fun to see my buddies! They seem to be doing great.

With Jim, Ike, Pamela, Ann










On the way home, we stopped by Markham Street Pub to say hi to Hooper before his band started playing, then made our way back home to Hot Springs.

I’m very proud of John and me – we got a temporary membership at a gym here in town and have been going to work out every day! We get up early and head over there – it’s been a great way to start our days here.

Here are a couple of photos from Mountain Home last weekend – one with the family and another of an interesting plant/phenomena in Ginger’s yard – I can’t remember what she called it, but frost forms a neat column around the stem of the plant. The frost is pretty – up close it looks like silk ribbons.

Click for more photos from Thanksgiving and R&R.

Ginger's Frost Flower










With John's family last weekend in Mountain Home