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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Last last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  As a child, my family spent as many Thanksgivings as possible with my dad's brother, his wife and their eight children in rural southern Maryland.  More of my father's family live in the DC area, so Thanksgiving was always a time with lots and lots of family and my very favorite cousins.  We would usually start the four and a half hour drive as soon as my father finished work Wednesday evening and pull in to our cousins' house late at night where everyone would stay up much too late playing, talking, partying, and making lots and lots of noise.

My father loved to play with his only brother so the whole weekend would be filled with windsurfing and bike riding and canoeing and kayaking while the children rode their bikes everywhere, running in and out of the house and over the neighborhood and down to the bay while my mom and aunt (bless them) cooked away at dinner.  It was the most wonderful chaos that we looked forward to every single year.

So Thanksgiving in the Foreign Service is always something of a sad holiday for me.  We always live in a place where nobody else celebrates the pilgrims landing (and not dying) in a new world.  Children have school.  Everyone else has work.  And there are no cousins within a hemisphere.

So we do what we can.  We've always been able to get big, fat, American turkeys, even when they literally arrive at 8 pm the day before Thanksgiving.  After spending one Thanksgiving completely alone one year in Cairo, we've always had friends over or gone to friends' houses.  Thanksgiving is a holiday to be shared - otherwise it's just lots of extra cooking for another family dinner.

This year we had two families over for a nice small, quiet Thanksgiving.  Even though their children had school, everyone came over for dinner around one (because Thanksgiving) and stayed for a nice day of talking, eating, more talking, more eating, and pie.  We have known both families for some time, so it was nice to not have to ask all of the getting-to-know you questions and just have time to hang out together.  Brandon even enjoyed talking politics with like-minded men, something that isn't so easy to find these days.

We had turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash puree, home made stuffing, stovetop stuffing, rolls (over 8 dozen), fresh cranberry sauce (thanks to a wonderful friend who mailed fresh cranberries all the way from Utah), pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and chocolate chip cookie pie.  Anyone who went hungry was just picky.

On Saturday Christmas started.  When I was arranging the medevac for William's birth, I could have left early and been at my parents' house for Christmas.  But instead we stayed to the last possible day because Christmas is a season I like best in my own home.  I love to decorate for Christmas, I love to listen to Christmas music, and we have quite a few family traditions that stretch over the month of Christmas.  It just seemed kind of wrong to cut it off halfway through.

We started out the season with decorating the house and putting up the tree.  I started my Christmas planning early this year and so was able to order decorations in time for the beginning of the season. We hung garlands, put up the tree (which I didn't even touch, thanks to children and Brandon), hung lights, hung ornaments from the chandelier, pulled out nativity sets and filled lots and lots of vases and bowls with glass ornaments.   Then when it was mostly done, we finished the evening with White Christmas and mint hot chocolate.  Brandon and I stuck to tradition and fell asleep during the movie. I can't remember the last time I actually stayed awake the entire time.

The children are now busy secretly making each other presents to wrap in the wrapping paper we made last night, and counting down the days until they get to open those presents up.  We're waiting to see when the mail that is currently sitting in Moscow will make it down to Dushanbe with the presents in it.  I'm cooking dinner to Christmas music every night, and Joseph asks every day if tomorrow is Christmas.  Eleanor, who doesn't remember last Christmas, will get her mind blown when she gets a stocking full of candy and multiple presents to open.  And I am happily looking forward to not cooking Christmas dinner this year.

It's a pretty good time here in the Sherwood house.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Living in Dushanbe: Heat

It's been cold here in Dushanbe for the last week.  Today the weather finally got above freezing, something that hasn't happened for a week.  The cold weather has brought snow - at least nine or ten inches - which the children have been very happy with.  We went to the park on Monday, Friday, and Saturday to sled and play in the snow, which might be their only snow of the year as we leave for North Carolina, which isn't known for snow, in four weeks.

Usually, it doesn't snow this early in the year.  Our past snow storm usually would have just been a rainy few days down in the valley with only snow up in the mountains.  But I'm okay with the last week's freezing temperatures because the next week has weather much more fitting for early December, upper fifties and low sixties.  I can forgive a freak snowstorm when the weather returns to playing nicely afterwards.

The one unpleasant part of this whole ordeal, however, has been the temperature inside our house.  Now, a disclaimer.  I'm a very spoiled little American girl who is always used to having her house in the low seventies.  I personally know Tajiks who heat their houses by burning cardboard boxes, so I have no illusions about suffering during the past week.  However, it has been annoying.  But just annoying, and a reminder that I've got a pretty great life.

Our house is heated with radiators.  This, of course, is standard for most countries other than the U.S.  The problem, however, is that radiators only one come in two temperatures: on or off.  We're actually luckier than most of our friends and we can turn on individual radiators in different rooms.  Most people here can either have all their radiators on or all of them off.

Radiators work perfectly fine in a certain temperature range: below fifty-five or sixty and above forty or forty-five degrees.  But if it gets much hotter than fifty-five or sixty, especially in rooms with afternoon sunlight, your only option is to open a window.  And if it gets much colder than forty degrees your only option is to put more clothes on.  It's not very flexible.  You'd think that, in these days of amazing technology, someone could come up with something more advanced than pipes full of hot water.

So last week, when I was cooking cooking cooking for our party, our kitchen was sweltering.  I had already turned off the floors (yes, we have heated floors instead of radiators on our first floor) the day before, knowing that most people prefer cooler room temperatures than me.  I'm still waiting for that mythical pregnancy-keeps-you-warm thing to kick in.  I opened all the windows, which of course brought in all the flies in the neighborhood since screens are unheard of here.  Our third floor, which still had the radiators on, was giving all of the playing children flushed cheeks and sweaty hair.

The same third floor, with all the radiators and a couple plug-ins to help out, has been consistently sixty-two or sixty-three degrees during school this whole week.  So we've just worn more clothes.  And slippers.  And a blanket, when I started getting really cold on Friday.  My room temperature has been dropping throughout the week, and hit a new low of sixty-six degrees when I woke up this morning.  I know some people who consider this a perfect temperature for sleeping, but none of those people is me.  Our study, which hangs out over the front porch and under a balcony is even colder.  Thankfully we have split packs to help, but having more than two or three on at a time trips our generator because I don't know why - a mystery that still hasn't been solved after two years' residence.

Thankfully, as I said earlier, the weather is warming back up to optimal radiator usage range and so I've been mostly okay with our cold house.  And even better, we'll be spending the coldest months in the magical land of central heating where my mother keeps the heat at a blessedly warm seventy-three degrees all day every day no matter what temperature it is outside.  It's like magic.

I know that one day I too will live in a house where I can set a temperature and reasonably expect the house to always be that temperature, but that mythical day is a very long way away.  So I just tell myself that I'm glad to have the semi-magic miracle of radiators and humanity has had it much harder for most of our history and at least I don't have to burn cardboard to keep warm.  And then I put on a pair of socks or open a window.  Depending on the day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Baby Update

This past week I finally crossed into the final home stretch of my sixth pregnancy.  It's always such a relief to make it to the viable-if-there's-a-problem stage and then supremely depressing to realize that there are still three more months before I can sleep on my stomach, wear normal clothes (well, more than three months for that one), or climb a flight of stairs without almost passing out.  Three months is such a very long time.

But, my feelings on the length of pregnancies aside, things continue to go very well for both me and baby William.  He is a very active baby, holding dance parties almost constantly and kicking his father in the back while his father is trying to sleep.  I am tired and grouchy, but that's pretty standard for most six month pregnant ladies.  I finally had to pull out the maternity clothes, but that was going to happen at some point.

The children and I will leave for North Carolina the day after Christmas to stay with my parents for three months.  They are all excited about the prospect of spending time at the house with the pond and legos.  Eleanor likes telling me just about every day how we are going to fly on an airplane and go visit grandma and grandpa's house.  Edwin is looking forward to visiting his favorite museum where the dinosaur bones are kept.  I am looking forward to driving my parents' Odyssey for three months (thanks, Mom and Dad!)

So things are going just fine.  In a good pregnancy, it's mostly just nine months of waiting around for the baby to show up, and that's what this pregnancy has been.  Which is a blessing that I'm not going to complain about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Come Party at the Sherwood's

Way (way) back when I was in college I moved into a new apartment complex and ward mid-year.  I knew none of my roommates and only one girl in the ward, having spent the previous semester studying abroad in Vienna.  The ward had no activities on Sunday evenings, so I decided to start something of my own.  Every Sunday evening I baked a bunch of cakes and invited everyone over to eat them.  Because there's no better way to make friends than offering them food and a place to meet new people.

Unsurprisingly, it became very popular.  At times it was stressful - hosting is always stressful - but I enjoyed creating a place for friends and soon-to-be-friends to mingle and enjoy themselves.  Brandon even came one Sunday evening, but I didn't remember it at all when he mentioned it during our second (and more memorable) meeting.

After we got married my hosting days came to an end.  Having lots of children close together tends to take up most of your time and energy, leaving very little for throwing parties that take up even more time and energy.  And joining the Foreign Service didn't help, either.  It's hard to invite all your friends over when you just don't have that many.  And when you spend all your time chasing around those bunches of small children it's hard to make friends.

But when we moved to Dushanbe, I finally felt like I could begin hosting again.  The children were old enough to not need me every second of the day, the community was small enough that it was pretty easy to get to know everyone, and we had a house that worked well for hosting.

So I started out with the same formula that worked so well in college: doughnuts.  A good friend in Baku had hosted a monthly ladies' craft night and I made some of my closest friends from the group that would show up on the first Thursday of every month.  So I took craft night and added doughnuts.  Pretty soon we dropped the 'craft' part (I'm not one for crafts anyway) and just sat around and ate doughnuts.  Bribery is always a great way to make friends.

Ladies' night has now being happening for over a year now and I've found another strong group of friends to enjoy here in Dushanbe.  Brandon hates ladies' night (the kitchen is usually a mess and he has to hide upstairs with the children), but he puts up with it because he's a wonderfully nice husband who puts up with a lot of nonsense from me.  He even helps wash the dishes.

Occasionally we invite some friends over for pizza and a movie and last year we hosted a caroling party which featured doughnuts.  Once you've found a formula that works, there's no point in deviating from it.  But mostly it's been ladies' night.

That is, until recently.  First we had a visit from our mission president and a member of the area presidency.  As part of the visit we had a group pot luck for all the members of our group.  This added up to almost thirty people.  Thankfully, our house is well suited to feeding lots of people and we were able to seat everyone at a table, even if it used all of the six tables and thirty chairs in our house.

Then we started having church at our house again.  The family that was hosting church leaves this week so it's back to moving chairs, tables and lamps again every Sunday.

And this past week we not only hosted ladies' night, but also a goodbye party for the family was leaving.  Everyone was invited, so we ended up feeding dinner to sixty-five or so guests.  This time we brought in some outside tables and chairs and were, again, able to seat everyone for dinner.  It's a good thing we have such a large house.

This week we are hosting Thanksgiving, but only for ourselves and two other families - six adults and eleven children.  And I don't even have to make the turkey.  Making stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie for seventeen people is almost not even worth starting early for.

And then we'll wrap up our year with another caroling party.  Because caroling!  After feeding sixty-five people dinner, making six or seven dozen doughnuts is a walk in the park.

By the time we leave the day after Christmas, I'm pretty sure that everyone in the embassy community will be happy to see us go, if only to have a reprieve from the constant invitations to come over to our house.

But I will have lots and lots of time with friends to keep me through the long three months of medevac in North Carolina where it will be lots of family time and not so much friend time.  Enough that I'll be more than ready to have another party when we get back.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Joseph turned five this week.  Brandon and I were gone on his actual birthday, so he was very happy to celebrate a few days early.

We don't throw birthday parties (two reasons: I'm lazy and I don't want any more toys), so we have a birthday Saturday where the birthday child gets to choose an activity that we all do together as a family.  It's fun for everyone, a lot less stress than a birthday party, and it's a good excuse to do things we don't usually do.

Joseph started off his birthday day with cinnamon rolls, his most favorite breakfast.  And since it was his birthday, he didn't have to eat any eggs.  After breakfast, Brandon and the children built an enormous fort and he read them Harry Potter and I made Joseph's birthday cake, a triple chocolate mousse cake that looked good to me.  Turns out that five year-olds are pretty open to suggestions when it comes to cake.  Mostly because they almost never eat it.

In the afternoon we took the children bowling, at Joseph's request.  I never bowled with my family as a child, but I find bowling with the children a pretty fun activity, especially when the bowling alley has bumpers.  Dushanbe's bowling alley is, rather oddly, in the national tea house and quite nice.  And you really can't beat the price - a little over ten dollars for the whole family to bowl.  There are some things I really like about Dushanbe.

After the game (final scores: Brandon 94, me 74, Kathleen 71, Sophia 65, Edwin 61, and Joseph 59), we went out to dinner.  The last time we went out to dinner was in January, so going out to dinner together is a treat.  We had Indian and nobody knocked over any glasses of juice or broke down in tears, so it was a successful dinner.

Then it was cake and presents (and no dishes!).  Joseph was thrilled to get a Planes toy set and was so happy that, as usual, didn't actually eat any of his birthday cake.  Then we finished off the day with a movie.  If you ask me, that's a pretty good birthday day for any kid.  Everyone had a great time, which is one of the benefits of a large family - lots of birthdays to celebrate.

And now I have four children five or older, which is kind of hard to believe.  I remember Kathleen being so incredibly old at five and now Joseph is just barely out of babyhood and already five.  He would be going to kindergarten next year.  It's time for him to start learning how to read.  I'm not sure where the time went.

But, even if I'm paying attention, it has passed and now Joseph is five.  Happy birthday, Joseph!

Sunday, November 13, 2016


This morning, around five am (gotta love those random flights!) Brandon and I got home from Dubai.  Back in the spring we watched some friends' children and this past week Brandon and I took our turn to have a child-free vacation.

My parents did this every year when I was a child - usually their destination was the Carribbean - and my mother always said that mom and day getaways are one of the necessities of a happy marriage.  I'm inclined to agree with her.

Brandon and I have left the children for several days four or five times before, but the last time was when I was pregnant with Eleanor (actually, every time it was when I was pregnant) and two and a half years is really long enough.  I've never had any burning desire to visit Dubai - shopping and indoor skiing aren't my thing - but Dubai is one of the few places you can get a direct flight to from Dushanbe.  We could have gone to Frankfurt or Moscow or St. Petersburg also, but a beach vacation in Dubai was much more appealing than snow in Moscow.  I'm okay with being uncultured if there's a beach involved.

We left early Wednesday morning and were in Dubai by breakfast time.  As we got into our taxi and drove through the city, Brandon and I marveled at the stark contrast between bustling, towering, glittering Dubai and our own sleepy Dushanbe.  The roads had stripes and drivers kept to them.  The taxis had meters and they actually worked.  The weather was perfectly clear and sunny and palm trees were everywhere.  I'm perfectly happy to live in Dushanbe, but it was nice to go somewhere not still in a post-Soviet slump.

After much internal debate (it's just money!  But it's so much money!) I booked us at a five-star beach front resort.  We didn't go to Dubai to see the city or do exciting things, we just came to enjoy the beach and I decided that I wanted to enjoy a nice beach.  And a nice beach it was.  The grounds were perfectly manicured, filled with fellow holiday-makers strolling the grounds, sunning themselves, and eating very expensive food brought straight to their poolside lounge chairs.  Unfortunately I've gotten to appreciate the luxury of really nice hotels and love the feeling of crisp sheets, down pillows, and nice-smelling toiletries.

Brandon and I are, fortuitously, both very happy to do nothing on vacation but read books, swim a little, sleep in late, and eat good food, so that's what we did.  I had booked a hotel in an area with lots of shops and restaurants, thinking it would be nice to get out at night and stroll, but really we could have been in the middle of nowhere and it wouldn't have mattered as we barely left the property our entire stay.  I finished two and a half books, and and Brandon finished two.  There's nothing like the luxury of reading without any interruptions except for having to move your lounge chair when the shade has moved.  And then when you finish the day off with a delicious meal (the kind that can't be found anywhere in Dushanbe), it's almost sinful.

Every day, after a long strenuous day of moving those lounge chairs and walking all the way to the perfectly warm ocean, Brandon and I would look at each other and start to giggle, realizing that we would get to do it again the next day.  I realized that what I really want on a vacation is to have somebody else do my work for me - someone else cooks the food and cleans my room and changes my towels and makes the menu - and it just takes a little (or a lot of) money to get that done.

Now, of course, it's back to reality with school and hosting parties and work and upcoming Thanksgiving, but our Dubai vacation was great while it lasted.  I've already looked up flights from Tashkent.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Uzbekistan, Here We Come

Image result for uzbekistan flag

And the winner is... Nick!  Followed closely by Kelley and Mindy  We're either very obvious about what part of the world we like to hang out in or you guys are really good at asking questions or probably both.  Good work on the guessing!

Now I imagine that a few of you are scratching your head about why in the world we're sticking with Central Asia... again (especially after the discussion about Brussels on Facebook).  Because really, once you've done one Central Asian country you've kind of done them all, right?  In Tajikistan they've got plov.  And Uzbekistan, too.  There are mountains here and also in Uzbekistan.  The climate in Tashkent and Dushanbe are nearly identical - short coldish winters with long hot and dry summers.  We're in the same time zone, with a five-minute difference in sunrise and sunsets.  We fly through the exact same airports (I was really hoping for a break from Istanbul, but no such luck.  Sigh).  And two of the most-visited cities in Uzbekistan are actually Tajik cities.  So yeah, it's pretty much three more years of the same. 

But there is some method to our madness.  Hear me out.

We are not actually leaving Dushanbe until May of 2018.  This means that, according to the usual way of things, Brandon shouldn't be bidding until next year.  But pretty much all jobs in his field that don't use Spanish, French, or English have a year of language training built in.  So if we followed the normal way of things, we'd leave Dushanbe in May 2018, spend nine months or so in language training, and show up at our next post in summer of 2019.

We've done that twice before, and I'm getting pretty tired of it.  Our family, in case you haven't noticed, is getting pretty big.  And it turns out that finding furnished housing for a family of eight in the Arlington area isn't that easy.  State does provide guaranteed housing through various corporate lodging programs, but the largest thing they've got is a three-bedroom apartment.  If the kids were in traditional school, that would be okay.  They like sharing bedrooms and we can squeeze.  I would only have two home during the day (what would that be like?) and there are lots of nice parks in the Arlington area.  But the combination of six children + homeschooling + a three bedroom apartment with a table only large enough for six people = a lot less tenable.  And I'm not going to even start talking about buying a car, only having 1,100 pounds of stuff, not getting the forty percent or so pay bump from being overseas, and adding yet another move to our crazy life.

So if you don't want to go through language training, what do you do?  Out-year bidding.  Out-year bidding is pretty much the exact (well, exactly the exact) same thing as regular bidding.  A list comes out, you look at the jobs, determine what looks good to you (and how you would look to those making the decisions), and start the email conversations that hopefully culminate in a job offer.  But you can only bid on jobs where you already meet the language requirement.  Brandon speaks (spoke, at one point) Arabic, but he can't take any Arabic jobs without training because his score only lasted five years and is now expired.  So that takes out every place in the world but... Russian speaking countries.  Good thing the good old USSR was such a big place, because it turns out that there are a lot of Russian-speaking jobs out there.

The initial job list was a little disappointing (do you want to go to frozen Moscow or even frozen-er Astana), but when Brandon widened his job search - political officers have a lot of flexibility and can do straight pol jobs, econ jobs, or pol/econ jobs - a lot of nice places (well, in the Russian speaking world) showed up.  I felt like a kid in a candy shop.  A Russian-speaking candy shop.  We could go to Moscow or Astana or Bishkek or Almaty or Chisinau or Tashkent or back to Baku or Kiev or Yerevan or Ashgabat or Minsk.  After last round's ...or Africa choices we had a lot of options.

Brandon and I have always wanted to go to Tashkent.  In fact, it was our first choice for our second tour.  This is not for a deep and abiding love of Uzbekistan or Silk Road history (well, that did appeal for Brandon), but rather for the housing.  Tashkent is quietly known in the foreign service as having fantastic housing.  I've heard the housing described as palaces and mansions, and a lot of the houses have pools.  Combine that with a good exchange rate, easily available household help, decent weather (for a Russian-speaking post), a good-sized COLA, decent hardship pay, language incentive pay, and somewhat of a tourist industry, and Uzbekistan is a pretty good place for us.

I wouldn't have minded most of the other places on the list either (well, not you, Astana or Ashgabat), but the job in Tashkent had an odd starting date, April of 2018.  Most summer jobs start in July or August because most people leave their jobs in July in August.  So an April start date doesn't work very well, especially if you have children in school.  But it turns out that we are leaving in May and we don't have to follow regular school schedules.  So when Brandon was stacked up against the one or maybe two other candidates for the job, he looked pretty good.  He already spoke Russian (saving them tens of thousands of dollars in language training), he was already working in the region (bureaus like to keep people who already know the lay of the land), and we could actually make the wacky start date.  Everyone was happy.  Me especially because that means that we don't have to do language training and we have put off living like paupers for our inevitable two-year DC tour.  Another three years of good living and cash-sacking and children getting old enough to babysit when we eventually head back to DC.

As with all prospective posts, I'm looking forward to exchanging the things I don't like at the old post for things I don't like at the new post.  After living in a country with no tourist industry, it will be nice to live somewhere that is better set up for doing something other than driving on extremely sketchy roads looking for mythical trailheads.  I will miss our proximity, however, as the mountains in Uzbekistan are a minimum of an hour away.  Brandon and I will be able to go back to Samarkand and Bukhara and see everything a little more thoroughly.  There's even a high speed train.  The city itself is a lot larger (bad for getting around) so there are things like play places and malls and water parks and more than five restaurant options.  And there are even flights in and out every single day of the week.  Crazy, I know.  Two of the flights even get in on almost the same day you leave Istanbul.  

All of this, however, is in the hazy distant future, as we still have eighteen months left in Dushanbe - if we had done things normally we would have just arrived six months ago.  But it is nice to know where we're going and even nicer to be happy about it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Twenty Questions, Round Two

Here are the next round of questions.  After these ones, feel free to ask specific country or city names.  And this time (unlike the last two times), you might actually want to win and come visit us.  Moving up in the world!

Does it end with -stan?

Does the country have a lake named Aydarkul?

Was the first president of this country Islam Karimov?

Does this country share a border with five other countries?
Yes (I had to look on map for that one).

Does this country have the Bande Pitaw Wildlife Refuge?

Can you drive your HHE to your next post?

Does it start with a U?

Looking forward to your guesses!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Twenty Questions, Round One

So the questions are in and it's time for some answers!

Does the name of the nation rhyme (or at least make an assonance) with the patronymic of a man who was later called Alexander VI, a name adopted as part of the new position to which he was appointed in 1492?

Nope.  I had to look that one up (thank you, internet).

Will Brandon need to speak Russian in this new assignment? 

Will the kids need to wear coats at least once during the winter? 

Is there a direct flight from this new posting to the U.S.? 
That would be really nice, but no.

Is this capital above the equator? 

Is it above the Tropic of Cancer? 

Is it below the Tropic of Capricorn? 

Is it found on the Asian continent? 

Is it found on the European continent? 

Is it found on the African continent?

Does it border a Sea?

Is the main language one Brandon already knows?

Will you qualify for the mythic clothing allowance?
Thankfully, no.

Will I be able to collect my rug from 'Southern Azerbaijan'?

Is there a DPO at post?

Does the country name start with a vowel?

Is there a post differential?
Of course!

Is the main language English?

Is the total flight time to the USA less than ten hours?
No, but it's a dream of mine to one day live in a place like that.

Is it Arabic speaking?

Thanks for all of the questions!  Submit your next round of questions on the blog or Facebook, and I'll keep answering them!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Twenty Questions Time!

So today Brandon got an magical email in his inbox today, the one that tells us where we'll be spending the next two (or three) years of our life.  I love those emails; the planner in me can finally, after months (and years) of wondering where we'll be next, know the answer to that question.  All other possibilities fall away and I can focus all my hopes and dreams on somewhere concrete.  Until, of course, we finally get there and then I start wondering about the next place.  
This doesn't mean, of course that I'm just going to tell you where that place will be.  You, faithful readers, get to guess!  I had so much fun the first two times that I'm doing it again.  So here are the rules:

1.  Only yes or no questions
2.  I will answer all questions from one round before proceeding to the next
3.  No specific city or country names for the first two rounds
4.  The game continues, with 24-hour rounds, until someone guesses where we're going
5.  The winner gets an all-expenses paid trip (excluding airfare and personal expenses) to our next post!   Valid from 4 (or 5)/2018 until the end of our tour.

The first round will end 12 AM EST on November 2 and the rounds will continue until we have a lucky winner.

For those of you who know what the list consisted of or have already heard what our posting is, don't spoil the fun.  As a bribe for your silence, I can offer you the same prize as the winner.

For those of you who prefer to remain private about your affection for my blog, I will enable anonymous comments.  If you win, however, you will have to tell me who you are in able to claim your prize (if you want it).  And if you prefer to comment on Facebook, I'll be happy to take questions there, too.

So, get out your atlases, and start the fun!