Thursday, May 26, 2011

How I got to know my neighbors one pair of underware at a time

If there is one thing I have learned from my 2 and half years of motherhood, that is: if your child is quiet for more than 10 minutes, he or she is up to something decidedly not good. Like, drawing with pencil on the walls (which would not erase sufficiently, not matter how long you try). Or, empty the flower pots on the balcony from all the dirt, spread it happily on the ground and wallow in it (you only guess this one from the soil smeared on his gleaming face). Or, eat some good old cat food. Or, load your shopping cart with 54 bottles of lady shaving cream. Or, toss all of his toy cars and trains out of the balcony, along with various pairs of his underwear and crib sheets drying on the rack on the balcony plus a big box of raisins, which is precisely what Son did yesterday evening.

I should have known--it should have raised my red flag that he was so happily and quietly occupied on the balcony for over half an hour while I was trying to decipher cryptic medical insurance statements and the Diplomat was battling a big piece of fish in the kitchen. And when Son proudly dragged us to the balcony to show us his work, I almost gagged--especially since two highly amused 20-something year olds from the building opposite ours cheerfully informed us that Son had been throwing various interesting things down for the past 30 mins. Horrified, we looked over the rail and since we live on the 10th floor, we saw a massive amount of cars and clothes on the ground, along with an assortment of his drying underwear strewn upon people's balconies below us. NO floor had been spared--each one featured at least one colorful pair of Thomas the Train or Monkeys or Cars undies, plus some sheets and shorts.

So, I spent the next 20 humiliating minutes going from floor to floor, asking people to go to their balconies and bring me back the wet underwear and whatever random cars had landed there. One thing I will say--my building has a shocking amount of single women living in it! Then I marched the now sobbing Son to the street and made him collect his gazillion cars from there, while I stood there sweating in the sun trying to look impenetrable and a bastion of parental discipline. It did not help that passers-by would give me odd looks and try to help Son while I would bark, "No, he is learning a lesson!"

I have now started my Consular training at FSI and I must admit that I unabashedly love it! Perhaps its rules-based nature appeals to my base lawyer instincts but I daresay that consular work and I were made for each other! I have also realized that I have about a month before I leave this beautiful land of America to begin the crazy Bangladesh experience so my obsessive planning nature has going into intense overdrive--the past two weeks have been spent dealing with scheduling our packouts, trying to figure out how to ship Fat Cat (the major headache in this process), getting our shiny new diplomatic passports (there HAD to be a snag in that one as well!), applying for visas, reserving tickets, booking hotels and a zillion other little details. It is all superfun. I also spent 3 hours in Costco on Monday and shopped to my heart's content for those precious American necessities without which my life in Bangladesh would be empty (like toilet paper, dried basil and olive oil, for example).  I will devote an entire post on what I consider necessities for posts in South Asia--I have a nifty spreadsheet on the subject. I will also post a curious picture showing my Costco bounty!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Swearing In, Transporating Fat Cat and the Diminishing Chocolate Bunny

(Yey, Blogger is up again!)
It has been a while, and yes, my life has been the usual and even a bit more of a circus. And if you think I am exaggerating, here is an example: after we hosted a dinner for a few friends last night at home and went to bed at about 3 am, today we went to lunch (slightly comatose) at our fabulous friends M&M’s house only to have M go into labor right then and there and have the Diplomat drive her and her husband M, screaming, contractions, breaking waters and all, to George Washington Hospital to deliver a baby girl 15 mins after arriving there. Congratulations, M&M!!!!

The previous Friday was my last day at A-100—along with my fabulous 160th class (also known as “The Vibrants”), I swore allegiance to the country and the flag and tried to pretend that I wasn’t crying during the taking of the oath. This past week I had what is affectionately known as “Gap week”—meaning, while waiting to take some nice, meaningful classes at FSI, I had a week to fill in with something. That is when I found out the wonderful world of distance learning at FSI—should you ever find yourself with a day or two to fill with something, take an online class, it is fantastic! I now know way too much about the administration of Fullbright Programs, and am remarkably proficient at WTO history. Good times.

The Diplomat and I are facing quickly the reality that we will be leaving for post in less than 2 months. The most complicated issue turns out to be Fat Cat. He is decidedly NOT a great traveler to put it mildly. Every single time he has been in the car on the way to the vet (typically just a couple of blocks away), Fat Cat begins hyperventilating emphatically the moment he gets into the elevator and then invariably either pees, poops or barfs in his cage en route to the utter delight of the Diplomat who is usually taking him there. As if this wasn’t enough, in the past few days I have also learned all the millions restrictions and complications a 16-pound cat on its way to Bangladesh faces. In my next post, I will spend some time trying to demystify the process. All I would say for now is—if you own a fat cat and there is a loving soul out there who’s willing to take them and never make them travel, GIVE THEM THE DAMNED CAT! And then give them some more money. They deserve it.

In the chaos and circus of planning our exit to Dhaka, we have found a sudden and unexpected friend in the face of a certain chocolate bunny. A good friend of mine gave us the rather large bunny when he came for Easter lunch a month ago. Ever the obsessive dieters, the Diplomat and I placed the bunny on the kitchen counter and from time to time had dispassionate discussions what to do with it. Each day it stood there on the counter, its shiny golden Lindt wrapper glittering attractively in the kitchen light, its red ribbon making it look feisty, and we would pass by it, give it menacing, hungry looks and go away with a sigh. Until one day when I went into the kitchen and noticed that something wasn’t right. With horror, I realized the bunny had been beheaded! I quickly looked into the living room to find the Diplomat sitting primly on the couch, watching very interesting programming on polar bear mating patterns. He gave me an innocent look and with a mouth, filled with a bunny head, said, “What??” From then on, the bunny faced a very quick demise. Every time we would pass by the kitchen, we would chip a small piece of it and hurry away in guilt. Two short days later and it was gone. We miss it. Quite a lot, really. So, anyone who is interested in donating a (preferably large) chocolate (preferably Swiss) bunny to us, we will be OK with it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

And so we're back from camping

The Diplomat and I have camped quite a few times back in our childless days. In fact, we'd like to think of ourselves as quite the campers, really! Before you conjure up some unreasonable picture of us in hiking gear, roasting fish we have just caught barehanded after trekking for 25 miles along perilous cliffs and sleeping in hanging tents off said cliffs, let me make something clear: our style of camping is shameful. We pack our car up to the brink with coolers full of meat and other exciting food, a $25, 2-person Walmart tent (it got traded for a $50, 4-person Target tent this year), a queen-size inflatable mattress, fluffy pillows, humongous sleeping bags, various libations and board games. Upon arrival in the quiet, serene beauty of our camp site, we back the car into the site and immediately take the contents of the car out until the site begins to look like the NYC studio apartment of a particularly hung-over 25-year old bachelor investment banker on a Sunday late morning. We spend the next 2 days sitting around in various positions around the camp site, poking the fire incessantly and ingesting impossible amounts of food and such libations, while playing intellectual games like Cranium all through the night. On Sunday morning, we swiftly pack the circus back into the tiny trunk of the car and drive off in clouds of dust back to the city, feeling rather re-energized and quite good about ourselves already.
This past weekend wasn't much different except for two things:
1) We were now bringing a very unsuspecting toddler to the scene and we were meeting with friends who have two twin boys about Son's age,
2) We got introduced to ticks. And not in a good way.

I had full intention of relaxing this weekend. I had even naively and somewhat sheepishly brought along a book "to read in the shade while resting" as I happily announced to the Diplomat while packing. I remember looking mournfully at the book all weekend as I dealt with Son while he, along with two other very active boys whom he befriended instantaneously:
--ran around digging up ants
--shoved his head into an old concrete water pipe shouting toddler obscenities inside
--rolled around the ground enjoying a nice dust bath
--screamed that he wants juice, chocolate milk, water, bread, cheese, horsey, poopy, his cars, his monkey and a myriad of other tangible and at times, intangible paraphernalia
--ate half of a watermelon and then spent the rest of the evening peeing the woods
--refused to take an afternoon nap, while I tried to have one to the tune of three toddlers crying loudly for 45 minutes
--demanded to poke around the fire
--ate pebbles
--refused to wear his shoes
--demanded to wear shoes
--hugged me with sticky watermelon fingers and ran them lovingly through my hair.

Still, we had a blast. And then our friends initiated us into the world of ticks. I'd rather have stayed ignorant. As I said, we have been camping in the woods for some years now and never really thought about them or even knew what they looked like. Until today when our friends took out a massive tick off the thigh of one of their sons and I almost fainted while watching them. Several hours and numerous paranoid body reviews later, I have successfully harvested three ticks off me and one off Son. To the Diplomat's horror, I have not been able to find any on him so far which leaves him morbidly convinced that he is a major tick carrier but that they are hiding in his hair only to re-appear when he is at least suspecting. He makes me check him for ticks on the hour. It is worse and far more repetitive than CNN newscasts on a breaking news day. We have for now vowed to never camp again.

In other, just as repetitive news, I took and passed this week my BEX exam in Bulgarian with 5/5 which apparently puts me at the level of an intelligent native speaker. Well, why, thank you!