Old friends

May 29th, 2022

This week was filled with old friends, starting last Sunday with Ann, Pam, and Jackie coming for brunch on the balcony. It was a bit chilly (!) but we sat outside all afternoon yakking – big fun! Later in the week, we went to Chuck’s house for a fun dinner and catch-up session, and Thursday, Miss Charlotte Bobo came for lunch. And we stopped by Star of India to have a bite to eat Monday when we were suit shopping for John – fun to see Samy, as always.

I tagged along with Alison and Peewee for another shopping adventure Wednesday night – we went to Benton to hit a couple of stores and had dinner at a new-to-us place over there. I bought Flavia a nice soft bed, but she has systematically refused to sit in it – although John caught her in it once! We also had burgers with David and Alison yesterday outside at their new pavilion while we enjoyed the lovely weather and watched the numerous boats on the lake. We heard the fireworks at the airport last night and could glimpse them over the treetops – fun!

I had an eye doctor appointment (my eye is healing well), we tried a new burger joint, and I hit a couple of flea markets and estate sales during the week – I even found John a board game and we whiled away an afternoon playing it (Ticket to Ride Nordic). We continue to go to the gym every morning, too. We’re up to date on “The Staircase,” “Hacks” (so funny), and “The Offer” (very good!). I finished a great biography of Mike Nichols (wow) and a historical fiction about Hedy Lamar (amazing).

Life is good at the lake!

I can see clearly now

May 15th, 2022

I was able to have cataract surgery on Thursday with the fabulous Dr. Hester in Little Rock, and I can’t believe the difference it makes. The eye is still healing but I’m able to read signs in the distance, etc. – amazing. I’ll still need glasses to a certain extent, but I am thrilled to see colors, textures, and street signs again.

I completely forgot to blog last week! We got over our jet lag after a few days, and John finished his employee evaluation so we started coming out of the fog last weekend. The first few days we were home were rainy, which was just perfect. We’ve seen David and Alison, of course, and Cousin Julie dropped by with a sweet birthday gift for me (wine and wine glasses, thank you!) – we celebrated both my birthday and Mother’s Day in Fayetteville with John’s parents. It was a beautiful drive – everything is so lush and green. We had lunch one day with the Stokers at a new Tex-Mex place. David and Allie had us over for a yummy dinner last night, and we were delighted to see PeeWee – the first time an opera star has sung happy birthday to me!

I’ve done some shopping and we’ve watched some TV. We also joined a gym, so we’ve been going there in the mornings, too. Life is good! We watched “The Dropout,” about the rise and fall of the bio-med company Theranos, which we enjoyed. And we loved “Anatomy of a Scandal.”

Flavia loves the condo!

We made it!

May 2nd, 2022

Thirty-six hours after we left the apartment in Monrovia, we arrived at the lake in Hot Springs Sunday evening! It was a good trip – Flavia did fine, we made all of our connections, and our luggage arrived – hip hip hooray! We are thrilled to be home with a very tough tour behind us. We made some good friends there, though, and learned a heck of a lot.

Saying goodbye was hard! I had lunch with my CDC colleague Denise on Sunday, then we had sundowners on the roof with other co-workers Theresa and Ginger. Monday night we finally had dinner with Steve K from INL after two years of saying we needed to get together – what a nice guy. Tuesday night, Matthew and I had dinner with contacts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two ladies I like very much.

Saying goodbye to our coworkers — especially local staff — was particularly hard. With fellow officers, you’re likely to cross paths again, but with local staff, you will probably never see them again. John’s staff threw him a huge surprise party Friday morning in the atrium. They had the Ambassador call him in for a “meeting” with the DCM, then they walked him downstairs where probably 200 of his staff and other co-workers were waiting. They made signs, not only to say they would miss him, but also some of his favorite sayings he used in the office. Then the music started: “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” but with re-written lyrics that related to his work. It was hysterical and so very touching that they had gone to those lengths to let him know how much they admired him and enjoyed working with them (he has a staff of 250). From gardeners to accountants, they came out in force to say goodbye. The Ambassador also made remarks – it was all lovely!

My staff and I said our goodbyes on a much smaller scale and it was exactly what I wanted. We had a time to reflect on our year — and I wasn’t the only one who cried. I hired all but one of the seven, and this was the first time they’ve seen the officer rotation.

We also did some fun “photo shoots” with our IT guy Derek as photographer. We wanted a photo with the “Crippen Children” to put in the plaque they gave us, and I wanted a group shot with the consular staff. Here are the ones with the Crippen Children:

Back row: Norah, Kabineh, Alpha, Nico, Trypheana, James. Front: Anita and the fabulous Sedia

And my great consular team:

Back row: Alpha, Abel, Luc, Anita, Trypheana, Nico Front row: Mike, James, Kabineh, Matthew

A silly one

And our last evening in Monrovia:

All packed up!

April 24th, 2022
Packing crew

The movers were here Monday and Tuesday packing everything, and then it all was loaded on Wednesday. It was a good crew and I was probably more relaxed than usual – the same cannot be said of Flavia, poor girl. We brought in lunch from the Embassy’s cafeteria each day, and our housekeeper Benetta was on hand to help as well. It’s eerie being in an empty apartment with just our suitcases and items from the welcome kit. The vet also came on Friday to examine Flavie and issue her health certificate – she commented on how good Flavia looks at (almost) age 17.

The Ambassador and his wife had us over for a relaxing dinner on Thursday night. It was fun just to get to visit and talk without other people around. Friday night, Matthew and Ana hosted the consular officers and spouses for a home cooked Indonesian meal – that, too, was wonderful as it gave us a time to say our goodbyes and stuff our faces with Ana’s good cooking! The meal fest continued last night when Khalim and Saoussan had us and the Pasches for a Moroccan dinner (amazing!). We really like the four of them and it was a fun dinner. John taught 10-year-old Amelia a magic trick and she was amazing (really!).

We were deeply saddened to hear that one of our favorite Embassy drivers, Clifton, passed away yesterday. We’re not clear on the details yet, but it sounds like he was having a minor operation. The health care here is so poor you have to wonder if it could have been prevented.

When John and I moved to our house on Saddle Hill back in 2004, we bought a great (and heavy) reclining sofa. We’ve had it in many of our posts and it’s so comfortable for watching television. However, we decided to bid it farewell this trip and asked the movers to find a home for it. It had a few stains on it, and after the move from Mexico to Monrovia, we could get the foot rests up to a point, but couldn’t get the seats to recline fully. As the movers stood it on end to take it through the door, John saw that the movers in Mexico had tied the reclining mechanisms with twine to keep everything in place in transit! A simple snip of the scissors would have fixed everything! DOH! At any rate, it was still time for it to find a new home.

Goodbye to an old friend!

It’s getting real

April 17th, 2022
Sweet plaque for us

John’s group had a surprise going-away get-together in the CLO office where they gave us this sweet plaque. John’s admin assistant Sedia and her backup Norah always call us their ”parents,” (it’s kind of a Liberian thing) so they and the local staff who work for me gave us this sweet plaque. We’re going to swap out our photo with a group photo of all of them. Sedia called up each staff member by saying “James Crippen, Nico Crippen, Kabineh Crippen, etc – pretty funny. The CLO also had people write notes to attach to small packets of peanut M&Ms for John. They were all put into to large (and heavy!) hand-carved pot with the tribes of Liberia on it (photo to come). It was all very sweet!

We are in the final throes of organizing for the movers. We spent all day yesterday unearthing things from lower cabinets, the store room, etc. We’ve gotten rid of a lot by giving it to Lawrence to sell (he works for us sometimes). One of the lower shelves in the kitchen had an assortment of plastic and glass containers accumulated through this tour – lots will be recycled – I sent the jars to the guy on the corner who sells gas on the street, take-out food trays will go to a friend who donates a lot of food to various people and her mosque. Sadly there is no real recycling here, but hopefully some of these things can find another home.

I’m also using up the last of my favorite hand lotion from Iceland – it has birch in it and smells so good.

We had a last massage yesterday from the fabulous Rowena! We’ll miss her.

I managed to finish “Little Fires Everywhere” last weekend and really enjoyed it. We’re also watching ”Star Trek Discovery” at night when we’re too pooped to do anything else!