Archive for December, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Christmas morning mimosas

This has been a good holiday week. We’ve kept busy with parties and work – last Sunday after the coffee roasting, we went to a chili supper at Joe and Julie’s house.

Festivities continued Monday after work when we went to a fun happy hour at Peter and Lizanne’s house.

We worked half a day on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. My cat buddy Jeff and I visited all of the cat feeding stations to be sure they were full before leaving for the day. Jeff is a retired Seebee on TDY to Islamabad and has been a godsend with this cat project. He built all six of our fancy feeding stations in his spare time – without the stations, we really would not be as far along in this project as we are.

Christmas Day we went to a very nice brunch at Nina’s house, then on to Carolyn and Konstantin’s for Chinese food. Lots of folks at both parties, as well as good food and conversation. That evening, we curled up in our recliners and watched “Love Actually” – our favorite Christmas movie.

Thursday and Friday were regular work days. John and I went to “staff meeting” Friday afternoon with the IT gang (aka happy hour). Afterwards he treated me to a nice steak dinner out.

During the day Friday, I got an emergency cat call – one of our favorite kittens was drooling and obviously in distress. A friend and I scooped him up and ran him to the vet. He has some sort of gum infection that the vet is treating. Sounds like he’ll be fine, but the vet is still keeping him. Saturday, Mike, Jeff and I caught the black mama cat and ran her to the vet to be spayed. I think we’re up to nine cats who have been spayed or neutered on the compound! The cats are using their feeding stations and the Embassy is no longer getting complaints about them. The ones who have been spayed/neutered appear to be thriving – fat with good winter coats. Distressingly, two favorite kittens disappeared – brother and sister orange tabbies named Monet and Van Gogh (the little girl had only one ear!) – we hope someone has adopted them, but we’re not sure. There are also mongoose on the compound, so they may have been eaten – I hope not!

I received a great email this morning from one of the Marines at the Embassy who told me they have set up a cat house for some of the cats to sleep in near the Marine House. They were all worried because the sick kitten didn’t come “home” Friday night. She was happy to learn he was at the vet – the Marines are chipping in for the vet care, too. She went on to say how much they all enjoyed having the cats around, that it was a big morale booster for them while they are so far from home.

I saw this link for great photos of 2013 – there are some neat shots in it. Click here to see them.

Happy birthday to Miss Pamela on the 28th! Hope it was a good one!




Back to work

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Thailand Piña Colada

We spent last Sunday relaxing with a trip to the spa and an outing to one of my favorite jewelry stores, followed by watching the first episode of “Boardwalk Empire.” And with that, R&R was over.


Monday it was back to the salt mines of work. I love my job, so it actually wasn’t too bad. The week went by quickly with a couple of highlights.

Monday after work, I went to a gallery opening for some young Pakistani artists, then stopped by Nomad Gallery on the way home to see some of their art and other arts and craft items.

Tuesday, we went to a going-away happy hour at the Club for a colleague – John and I had a blast talking to the teen-aged kids who were visiting their (lovely) parents here in Islamabad. They were smart, articulate and fun to be around – and, not a one of them had an iPhone or other electronic device to piddle with. They were sweet and fully engaged in the conversation – so nice. They had been posted in Costa Rica and we discovered a lot of mutual San Jose friends – small world!

Wednesday night I had a school board meeting after work. I’ve grown to enjoy them as I get to know the other board members better. One lady on the board is named “Romana,” so we like to confuse the secretary by teaming up to make motions and second them together. It’s a really nice group of folks.

Friday night we went to another happy hour, then went  out for sushi (yes, it’s great here).

Saturday I spent at the office most of the day, then off shopping with a girlfriend to hit some of my favorite spots. Success!

Today we spent the afternoon at the DCM’s house along with some of our co-workers. The DCM is an avid coffee roaster like John, so he roasted coffee for us to enjoy. Nice to sit around and visit. I got caught up in conversation with our Defense Attaché, who is a fellow Arkansan and a very interesting guy.

While on vacation, I read a book recommended by a friend, “Younger Next Year.” It’s got John and me on an exercise kick. I did very well this week and made it to the gym every morning before work. Some days are cardio and some are strength training – it’s great to get done before work, although it means getting up a little earlier than usual. And, it’s pretty chilly here now, so it’s even tougher to get up early when it’s cold and dark – but boy, does it feel good when I get finished!

As we head into the Christmas holidays, John and I have been reminded of how many of our good, good friends have left post and how very much we miss them! Jim and Kellee, Rick, Scott and Laura, and Michael quickly come to mind. While we have other good friends here, we do miss the old crowd and just hope we can all be together again someday!


Good to be home

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Bangkok pay phones - not sure why the flash turned them blue but I kind of like it.

As much as I love R&R, I also love coming home! Flavie met us on the stairway, talking to us as if to scold us for being gone too long. She firmly planted herself on me all week, when she wasn’t in her favorite spot underneath the heater.

Most of the week we just layed low and didn’t do a lot. We made a couple of trips out for shopping and to go to the spa, but otherwise we were homebodies. I made a pot of chili since it’s kind of cold here – actually it’s colder inside the house than outside. I had a school board meeting on Tuesday night.

We watched the first season of “House of Cards” – we’ve sure enjoyed it. Kevin Spacey is great in it. We also watched a good movie with Paul Giamotti called “Win Win” and we saw the new Sandra Bullock movie, “Gravity.”

Thursday night we finished our long distance Spanish class. Our instructor had us both on Skype and we did a mock test – a great exercise.

This has been a great R&R! A couple of parting shots below.

Singha time!

Enjoying a night on the town!

So long, Thailand

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Heleconia, Ko Samui

I’m at the Bangkok airport at the moment, waiting for our flight back to Islamabad. We’ve had an excellent vacation! Much of that is thanks to my fabulous co-workers and staff back at the Embassy. I’ve only done a tiny bit of work while I’ve been gone, I haven’t fretted about work, and have barely checked my email – epic success for me! Usually I’m a mother hen but not this vacation.

We left Ko Samui Saturday morning after a fabulous two weeks. We were uber relaxed and had no shortage of lazy days. We spent most mornings lingering over breakfast, then going to the gym. Afternoons were naps, studying Spanish or going to the spa. Rinse, soap, repeat. Lovely.

The last night there we did a BBQ with a fun urban fire show. The guys were pretty cool.

Fire show, Ko Samui










On the way to the airport in Ko Samui, we saw these monkeys on their way to work picking coconuts. They looked like they were having fun hanging on the side of the truck!

Three monkeys










The scenery changed quickly in Bangkok. We stayed at the ultra-funky Sofitel So – wow – what a great hotel. Just lovely. The staff was young and hip, the rooftop bar was gorgeous, the infinity pool overlooking the park was out of this world. Here’s our view:

Bangkok, view from our room














Saturday night we ventured out – we had a blast just walking around and taking in the sites.

Sunday we headed via Sky Train to the weekend market. I could only take about 30 minutes of it – just too much and too overwhelming! We went back into town, shopped a bit, then found a movie theatre so we could see the new Hunger Games. After a full day of walking, I took advantage of a nice Thai massage at the hotel right before bed time.

This morning we took our time with breakfast, then hit the gym. While John got a massage, I took a walk around the hotel’s neighborhood. I was happy to find an interesting shady street to poke along. We had a good Thai lunch at a  little cafe, then took the train to the airport. (There were demonstrations downtown, and although we saw no evidence of any problems while we were in Bangkok, we were afraid traffic might be bad.)

Click to see all of our photos.

Tuk Tuk at rest



Ko Samui

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Beautiful orchids throughout the resort

There is an amazing thing that happens once you are airborne over Islamabad, making the ascent to leave. A huge weight lifts from your shoulders, you breath a bit easier and you can feel the tension leaving your body. This was especially true as we took off from Benazir Bhutto Airport this past Saturday night, en route to the island of Ko Samui, Thailand.

I don’t really know why it is that I always feel that way. I’m never particularly scared or uncomfortable in Islamabad, but there is always some sort of tension just beneath the surface. Or, maybe it’s just fun to go on vacation!

John and I were never huge vacation goers, so our frequent R&Rs are still a source of amazement to us! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were at the wonderful Tugu Resort in Lombok, Indonesia, or on home leave back in Arkansas.

We found a nice, quiet little resort on the island. If you picture the island as a clock, we’re at about 7:00. It’s lovely. The best thing is that I have time. Time to go to the gym without rushing. Time to surf the internet. Time to study Spanish (and there’s a lot of that going on). Time to read a book. Every now and then we pull on our swimsuits and walk out to the beach or sit by the pool. Or we sit in the outdoor restaurant reading while we watch it rain (there’s a lot of that going on and we love it!).

Or we go next door to the little beach bar and have a beer and feel the breeze. Ahhh!

John at the beach bar










In addition to the great atmosphere, we’ve enjoyed the spa at the hotel quite a bit, too. Salt scrubs, steam rooms, facials, massages. Nice.

The most exciting thing that has happened is that John pulled the crown off a tooth the first night we were here. Luckily it didn’t hurt and was fine until we went the dentist in a little town not too far from here:

John holding his crown (glad he didn't swallow it!)

Baan Luck Fun Dentist - not sure how fun it was



















While we were in Lamai to fix John’s crown, I walked around a bit. There’s not a whole lot to see, just a little beach town. Before we returned to the hotel, we stopped for a beer and a bite to eat at Ta’s Cafe. Great pad Thai and coconut milk soup with shrimp – and cheap.

Lychee fruit














Yesterday we went to the tiny village up the road from the hotel where we had some more great local food. We also stocked up on some wine to bring back to the room. It was fun to sit at the outdoor restaurant there and watch folks coming and going. Locals carrying fruit and vegetables, as well as tourists going to the snake farm next door (we took a pass on that).

Village Entrance