Archive for July, 2013

Home leave

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Boy, I’ve been in a time warp and totally forgot to blog on Sunday! I left Islamabad after midnight Tuesday/Wednesday and spent the next 30 hours traveling home for a home leave break (in between our two years in Pakistan). The trip was pretty easy – unbelievably, the Islamabad airport was almost a ghost town! Usually there are swarms of people, mostly men, traveling to Mecca, but for whatever reason, there was hardly anyone at the airport.

I transited through Abu Dhabi and pretty much slept most of the flight to Chicago. I got lucky there and made a connection to Little Rock (otherwise I would have had a six-hour layover). John picked me up and we headed to Hot Springs, stopping on the way to pick up BBQ from Smokin’ in Style.

We went to Little Rock Saturday night to have drinks and dinner with Nancy. It was so wonderful to see her, but so very sad not to have Dail there with us. We went to Caper’s, where we had often gone with Dail, and had a lovely meal and a good visit. We were happy and touched that she gave us the CD with him singing and a photo montage that they used at the funeral. He is certainly missed.

Before we went to Little Rock on Saturday, we went to see the new Sandra Bullock movie, “The Heat” – it’s pretty raunchy, but John and I laughed and laughed! I like her movies, especially the comedies.

Mom had cataract surgery this week, but seems to be recovering well. We’ve all been making the rounds to the doctors. The doctors and staff here are all so very nice. I had another alcohol injection in my foot for a neuroma, a mammogram, eye check-up, dermatologist check-up and will hit the dentist’s office before I leave.

Mom thinks her cataract sunglasses are hip!











We’re also doing some shopping to ship things back to Islamabad. And we’re hitting the gym every morning! It’s amazing how busy you can be on vacation!

Monday night I went to The Yoga Place for a nice yoga practice. I’ve been trying to do some yoga at home, but frankly, a class with other people is just a lot more fun! The space they are in is an old church cum art gallery – it is lovely! There are two huge stained glass windows in the shape of a rose, plus lots of other stained glass. I was there as the sun was going down and it was so beautiful. The wonderful Karen Reeves, a friend from Hendrix, runs the studio and was the instructor – such a nice experience!

Pam and Ann drove down last night to have dinner with me on the patio at Rolando’s – it was a great night to sit outside and yak – plus we saw a momma raccoon and her three babies playing in the woods next door, so cute! How wonderful to see old friends and just pick up the conversation like I had never been gone. They are both doing great.

Ann and Pam


More goodbyes

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

With Brett

So I had several more goodbyes to say this week, and it doesn’t get any easier! Brett, one of my favorite employees left. We had a good dinner at Manhattan with a group of friends to commemorate the occasion Friday night, preceded by drinks at our house. Brett will be sorely missed – he’s just a good, calm, all-’round guy. A huge thunderstorm moved through during the night and I was worried that his plane couldn’t take off, but it did. The humidity is so thick right now, it feels like you are swimming in it, so the evening and morning rains have been welcomed.

(To a point, anyway. Our consular section is downhill and usually floods. Our facilities group has built a lot of drains that have helped keep us dry this monsoon season, but the “creek” that runs alongside our waiting area has caused extensive flood damage. The other day it looks like a dirty, fast river overflowing the banks.)

Tonight I went to dinner with Barb and Edward to say goodbye to our friend and security officer, John. I met him at FSI last summer and have enjoyed occasional dinners throughout the year. We went to a nice Italian place that had surprisingly good pizza.

Last Sunday was nice, even though John wasn’t here. I’ve started a little ritual of going to the Afghan bakery for fresh goat cheese, crackers, biscotti, flowers and milk. Last week, I stopped by the Gloria Jean’s for a latte, since John wasn’t here to brew me a cup of his good coffee. After a stop at the commissary and to a fabric shop to indulge my linen crazing, I settled in for more episodes of “Downton Abbey.” (I watched a lot of “Downton Abbey” this week, I have to admit!)

Yesterday was another rainy morning. I worked all day, stopping for lunch at the Club with Carla and Mike – two other folks I hate to have to say goodbye to. Carla’s been a good shopping buddy and confidante – I hope our paths cross again.

For some reason, Flavie has been intrigued by the geckos in our house. She watched a baby gecko intently the other night, but couldn’t get close enough to it to catch it. The next night, though, she deposited a tiny one on the TV room rug as a gift for me. Thank you, mighty huntress.


Good times

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Local transportation

John and I hosted a big brunch at our house last Sunday. We had 30+ people here – lots of fun. Saleem cooked most everything. I had made a couple of casseroles the day before. Everyone seemed to have a really good time, and it was a good mix of people.

On Tuesday, we had a going-away lunch (early) for Brett, hosted by the local staff. They did it in advance of his actual departure date because Ramadan will be going on when he actually leaves (it started this week). During Ramadan, Muslims fast all day. It’s hard when Ramadan falls during the summer. They get up around 3:30 AM for prayers and to eat before the sun comes up; then they can’t eat or drink again until the sun goes down – very difficult in such heat. The Embassy observes shorter work hours for local staff, so they stagger six-hour per day shifts.

Tuesday night, John took me back to Manhattan for another good steak. We’re really enjoying it.

John is now back in Arkansas for his home leave! He left mid-week. It’s weird to be here alone. I re-watched “The Savages” (with Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Thursday night. Friday night I started the “Downton Abbey” series – really good.

I worked all day Saturday – it’s a great feeling to walk away with a clean desk and inbox! It was right about sundown when I left the office, and the locals were all enjoying their iftar, their evening meal to break the fast. All of the guards in the diplomatic enclave where eating by the side of the road in small groups. It was a ghost town! Instead of normal traffic, I saw only a couple of cars on the road, and absolutely no pedestrians. It was kind of eerie, and peaceful at the same time, a bit reminiscent of yom kippur in Israel.

Happy 4th!

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Smart alecs - when I told them to let me take their picture in front of this pretty tree

Happy 4th of July! We had a nice day – I used it to catch up on work and write an employee’s review. It’s always nice when you have a super employee to write about – so much easier to do. Afterward, I went to the gym then had lunch with two buddies from Tel Aviv, Mike and Howie, at the Club. The rest of the day was relaxing – a massage and man-pedi.

Last Sunday was a fun day. Michael, Scott, Laura, and their sweet dog Fenway came over to play board games (well, Fenway just slept and played in the yard). I just watched but thoroughly enjoyed myself. We enjoy having folks over.

Monday was Michael’s last day at work. I’m really sad to see him go, although I know he’s looking forward to being back with his family.

Tuesday night we went to a nice dinner at Sandy’s house to welcome Joe and Julie. Joe and John share an office; Julie just arrived and is really nice. As always, we enjoyed being at Sandy’s – good food and good company.

Wednesday, the local staff supervisor came to me and said, “We have an applicant outside, but we don’t know if he is here for a passport or a visa – can you come outside?” So, off I went to see what was going on. Surprise! It wasn’t a person, but a young goat and his mom! They were just hanging around outside where all of our visa applicants enter the building. I petted his head and scratched around his little stubs of horns. Then I made a fist and pressed it against his forehead – he started pushing back and trying to butt me…then he would rear back on his little hind legs and dance around and try to butt me again. I was laughing so hard I was crying! I went back later in the day with Scott and played with him some more – just hysterical! The guards say he and his mom have been coming around a lot and just hang out in the shade.

And of course, I have the little black and white kitty who I feed outside the Consular section (against the rules…shhhh). This week, they put a fancy shoe-shine bench right where she normally hangs out – so now, she thinks the bench is her new bed, with a nice leather cushion on it! She’s decided that it’s ok for me to pet her, and she won’t hardly let me go home. She runs in between my legs and slaps my ankles to get me to stop. She’ll follow me as far as she can when I go home each day, like a little puppy. So cute.

I have to say, the animals around the Consular section remind me that animals are easy and people are hard!

Michael and Scott