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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rotavirus

During our time in Dushanbe, most of us have taken our turns having medical issues.  Sometimes it feels like these issues are happening constantly, but I suppose if you add up the number of people in our house (eight) times how many medical incidents one single person averages during the year (one or two), it averages out to more than one incident a month.  And if you ignore Joseph's stitches, two MRIs, and trip to London, everyone has limited themselves to only one incident for the entire time we've been here.  So it really hasn't been that bad, it just feels that way.

William has only been in Dushanbe for less than six months, but he decided that this week would be his time to monopolize the med unit here at post.

Diarrhea is a constant here in Dushanbe, so when William started having issues, I wasn't very worried.  After all, it's so much easier to deal with an infant's diarrhea than a toddler's diarrhea.  Potty training does have its occasional downsides.  But when he started vomiting, I began to pay attention.

On day seven of the diarrhea and day four of the vomiting, I decided that I probably wouldn't be overreacting if I brought him in to see the doctor.  Seven month old babies don't have a very wide margin of error and when you live in a place where serious medical attention is several time zones and a couple of plane rides away, waiting isn't the best idea.

Pretty quick we agreed that IV fluids were going to be helpful, but it turns out that dehydrated infants have very difficult veins to put IVs in, especially when the nurse is used to working on adults and not babies.  So instead we tried oral rehydration, but it didn't go very well and three or four hours later William got to have another attempt at the IV.  It's amazing how tiny baby veins are and how much they don't stick out when they're incased in layers of baby fat.

For awhile after the second attempt, William seemed to be doing better, but he took a turn for the worse in the late afternoon.  The wonderful doctor, who was only filling in because ours has left with no replacement, spent most of the afternoon on the phone consulting on the best way to get fluids into a rapidly declining baby.

There was some discussion of an intraosseous infusion, but the nurse, doctor, and four medics available had never done one on an infant.  In the end, we packed up an IV kit from the embassy and headed to a local hospital.  The doctor managed to get an IV in his head, after attempting one on his foot, wrist, and vein.  Once the needle was finally in, the rest was easy and William slept peacefully in my very (very) tired arms while he got juiced up with 225 mL of IV solution.  We made it home by 8, twelve hours after William and I had left the house that morning.


Saturday was better than Friday, but by 2 this morning, William was in a bad state again.  Brandon, who had been awake and trying to feed William the entire time, got to take him in to the embassy where he got another IV infusion through the same vein that had worked so well Friday night.

After a lot of discussion and test ruling out other possibilities, the doctor decided that William had probably come down with a rotavirus.  He has been vaccinated, but only once (he was supposed to get his second dose this week, but that didn't happen), and it turns out that vaccination doesn't necessarily prevent infections, just makes them less severe.  Rotavirus vaccination are pretty recent, only being just over a decade old, and have cut down on hospitalizations for infants tremendously.  I remember getting the fact sheet about rotavirus when Sophia was getting vaccinated (Kathleen didn't get vaccinated for rotavirus) and wondering why she needed that particular vaccination.

Now I know why babies get vaccinated.  If we had been in the US, William would have been in the hospital.  If we had been living in a remote village in Tajikistan, William would have been in the ground.

Instead, it was somewhere in the middle with some very sleepless nights and a lot of good work done by the medical staff here at the embassy.  Once again, I am grateful for the blessing of modern medicine.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September, the Month of Disappointed Hopes

Right now it is eighty-nine degrees outside.  I forgot to water my plants this morning and my four o'clocks are draped over the sides of their pots, leaves hanging limply.  The children are playing on the third floor with both air conditioners going full blast so that the toy room is inhabitable.  Everyone will turn on the air conditioners at bed time tonight so they can sleep.  Yesterday we spent three hours at the pool and nobody got cold.

Yes, it is September in Dushanbe.

After my first long, hot summer in Dushanbe, I figured that we would find some relief in September.  After all, the first day of fall is in September, so one could reasonably expect something resembling cooler or at least cool-ish weather in September.  And there is cooler weather in September because ninety-degree weather is cooler than one hundred-degree weather.  But it isn't exactly the type of fall weather that one usually drinks hot chocolate to or starts making things like pumpkin bread (which will be happening here a lot this year as we use up our stores of canned pumpkin).

Every year I'm thrown by September.  I attended school long enough to associate September with Not Summer, the month where carefree summer days at the pool turned into long slogs of school, homework, and increasingly shorter afternoons.  All of my cute summer clothes would, after the first few weeks of school in August, be retired in favor of jeans and jackets and crisp fall mornings.

But here in Dushanbe we're still rocking summer, finally dipping into the upper eighties - temperatures that send countries like England into panic - halfway through September.  I haven't even thought of breaking out jeans in months (I think I wore some in April, maybe) and I'm pretty sure I'll be caught flat-footed when the children finally need shoes and somebody has grown out of theirs.

September is the month of stale summer, unwelcome summer, summer that has stayed just a little too long.  We were all happy to see summer back in May, when winter had bleached our skins paper-white and our diet had been reduced to mealy apples, stringy oranges, grainy greenhouse tomatoes, and soft potatoes for too many months to count.  Summer was welcome, the season of abundant fresh produce, endless sunshine, and flip flops - every mom's favorite shoes.  All of the flowers were in bloom, the swimsuits new, and trees full of bright, green leaves.

But summer has been here for months and everyone is ready to move on.  The children's swimsuits are bleached and faded from months' use.  The flowers are faded and dusty, plants tired of life.  I groan inwardly at yet another afternoon hauling the children to the pool because it's still too hot to take a simple walk down to the park.  A cup of hot chocolate is nice, in theory, but still oh so out of place.

But still September drags on, taunting us with shorter days, cooler nights, and slanting sunshine.  It looks like it should be fall, it feels like it should be fall, but still you broil every time you step out your front door at noon.

I feel that I am looking a gift horse in the mouth and know that I will kick myself for wanting a day more of cold when I am in the depths of February, months from anything resembling flip-flop weather.  I know that friends in places where September means the first frost are wanting to kick me right now.

But I suppose it is the nature of humans to never want too much of a good thing, and too much of a good thing is summer in September.

But it is not October yet, and so I will wait, holding my breath, with everyone else in Dushanbe for summer to finally die and fall to make its welcome appearance.  Until then, however, you can find me at the pool.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Golden Age

Last week we had Monday off to celebrate Labor Day.  Since the weather is still warm and we had spent the previous Friday holiday at the pool, we took the children down to Puli Sangin.  Takijistan has very few nice places to go and relax with the children (so far the total is one), so we decided not to ruin our holiday by trying something new and instead went back to something that worked, and worked well.

We've spent a lot of time with family in friends over the past few months and Monday was the first time in quite a while we had spent time with just our own family.  I have tried these sorts of trips before, day trips that involve complicated situations like lunch in a public setting and children around other people for extended periods of time, and they've never worked very well.  Usually by the end one of us wants to kill the children and the other wants to kill both their spouse and the children and we wonder why we bothered spending money to be irritated in public when we can just be irritated for free at home.  After awhile I forget that things like this are stressful and then I try them again only to remember exactly why we don't do things that other people with a reasonable number of children do on a frequent basis.  Having six children can sometimes be limiting.

But Monday was different.  Monday was the fulfillment of a years' long dream where we would have a day that could fit right into a Hallmark channel movie without editing out all the bad parts.  It was the kind of day that I thought only other people with reasonable children could have.

All of the children played nicely together.  Brandon and I swam with them, taking ten minute dips in the freezing pool.  I sat on a deck chair with William on my lap, enjoying the warm sunshine while watching Sophia and Kathleen slide down the waterslide.  Eleanor and Brandon picked fresh figs for everyone to eat (no joke).  We had a lunch where everyone had food and only one glass (with water) was spilled.  Nobody cried. Or argued.  Or whined.  William took two naps.  

Like I said, it was magical.

Our family is entering the golden age of family life.  The logistics of running everything are getting easier because I have reliable helpers.  We have children old enough that spending time together isn't just babysitting, it's doing stuff that's actually fun for Brandon and me too.  And not only do we have older children, but we have little ones too, ones that everyone can enjoy adoring and doting on.  I feel sometimes, when all is going well and we're playing a game together or hiking or singing, that we could be on one of those family ads the Church runs.  

We are in this perfect slice of time where the oldest are still young enough to want to spend time with their family (and are still at home) and the youngest don't swamp the boat of family life.  I never thought I would finally make it to this part of parenting, the part where we finally get the payoff for all of the hard work.  In fact, I didn't think it really existed.  Or if it did, it existed for people that weren't me.

I'm already planning on making good use of this time, finally taking advantage of our international lifestyle to do something other than enjoy not cleaning all of our toilets.  I've been scheming to start visiting Europe during our summer treks, laying down a good PR campaign to get Brandon on board. And I was shocked when recently words, "That sounds like it would be fun," came out of Brandon's mouth.

I think the best part of this golden age is that we're never going to revert back to the dark age of small children all day every day.  The children will just continue to be more helpful and more enjoyable and more able to behave themselves in public.  We can trust them to pack suitcases.  They can eat their own food.  Most of them don't have temper tantrums.  They can use the bathroom on an airplane and even take their younger siblings.  Magical.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have some research on sightseeing in London to do.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017-2018 School Year

A few weeks ago the children started school again.  We didn't get a really long summer break this year because of that whole William-being-born-living-in-America-for-three-months thing, but between packing, traveling, and getting over jet lag, we got about six weeks which was enough.

Or it will have to be enough because this year we have to (again) school hard and school fast.  We'll most likely be leaving at the beginning of May, which means that I have just a little over seven months to squeeze an entire school year of learning in.  This isn't a problem for some subjects (grammar, reading, math, spelling, Latin) because they have ongoing lessons that aren't tied to a specific grade level or can easily be doubled up.  But it is a big problem for other subjects (science, history, writing), because there a set number of lessons that have to be finished, especially in the case of history.  Because if you don't make it to the end of one book, the beginning of the next isn't going to make much sense.

So this means that there's going to be a reasonable amount of doubling up lessons.  It turns out that I have an annoying conscience about completing schoolwork.  Leaving subject matter unfinished gives me secret anxiety attacks about that little gap in their knowledge that will make them miss just enough questions on some test that will then lead to not getting in to college, etc, etc, etc.  I know that's not really going to happen, but it doesn't keep me from feeling that it just maybe one day might be a problem so we'd better make extra sure.  I think that maybe homeschooling is more stressful than traditional schooling because every gap in your child's ability and knowledge is 100% your fault.  Excuse me for a second while I go get a paper bag.

So, this school year.

Kathleen is in sixth grade.  If she were going to school in North Carolina, where I grew up, that would be middle school.  I am so glad she's not in middle school.  Not for her, but for me.

This year she is continuing science, writing, vocabulary, math, logic, Latin, Russian, handwriting, piano, singing, history, and grammar.  And new (because sixth grade means electives! That I choose!) is music theory and video editing.  I'm finally getting to the fun part of homeschooling, where you get to make your own curriculum.  Kathleen is really excited about video editing, and has a teacher that will be working with her remotely.  Yeah for the internet!

This year I'm trying something new - that first child is always the guinea pig - and I've signed her up for three courses online through the Well-Trained Mind Academy.  We'll see how they go.  If anything, they will move some of the burden off my shoulders and get her used to the idea of having someone else grade her work.  I'm just afraid that they will be less strict than I am.  There was already some breathless reports of getting graded on only completion.  Heresy.

Sophia is in fourth grade.  I remember when that was so old.  She is doing pretty much everything that Kathleen is doing, minus music theory.  Almost everything she does (excepting grammar, some writing, and some spelling) is done independently.  I check her work every morning and go over corrections with her, but she's in charge of getting the rest done.  And I have to add, Ritalin is the best thing ever.  It has made all of the difference in the world for Sophia.

Edwin is in second grade.  He still does most of his work with me, completing math, history, spelling, and writing worksheets independently.  It's great to see the difference between his ability at the beginning of this school year versus last school year.  Last year he could hardly write a sentence independently and now he writes pages-long stories in his free time.

Joseph is in kindergarten.  He's working on learning how to read, about halfway done.  I don't start anything other than reading until first grade, something that Joseph is quite happy with.  More time for him to play.

And Eleanor and William are in independent play preschool.  They are working on keeping themselves entertained and out of my hair while I'm schooling.  William does a better job than Eleanor as he is asleep more than she is.  Right about the time they have mastered this skill, they'll have to start school.  But not yet.

And that is our school year.  Sometimes I daydream about the eventual time when I won't have babies underfoot and most of my children are running their own school independently and I'll be able to get back to some of the things I enjoyed doing before I started the full-time job as mom/teacher/cook/household manager.  That time, however, is a long long way away.  And plus, I don't have any free time for daydreaming.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Final Lap

It is now September.  We have finally gotten over jet lag, unpacked all the suitcases, reassembled our life, and are now staring down the home stretch of our time in Dushanbe.

A week or two ago, Brandon got an email informing him that he was paneled to our next assignment in Tashkent.  This means that we are definitely going to be living in Tashkent in at most a year (if Brandon doesn't pass his language test and has to spend a few months in DC brushing up on his Russian).

It's strange to be looking ahead and see a definite end date to our time here in Dushanbe, a point where all of our stuff will be packed up, we'll be getting on an airplane, and saying a complete and final goodbye to Tajikistan.

If we had spent a normal two-year tour here, this would be the point where'd I'd start panicking and buy all the things, hike all the hikes, and go on all of the trips I thought that I'd have plenty of time for.  But, it turns out that Tajikistan really doesn't have much of that stuff anyway and we've already done it all.  Twice.

I'm happy that we're not moving until May.  This gives me a whole school year to slowly get things ready, let the baby grow up a little more, and finish everyone's school work before packing everything up and leaving.  I'm not anxiously awaiting our departure, counting down the months and weeks before I can get out of here.  Dushanbe has treated me pretty well (other than the sicknesses and traveling) and I haven't gone crazy from the cultural differences yet.  It helps that I spend 95% of my time not interacting with Tajikistan.

But also I'm not going to be sobbing big, sad tears when we leave either.  It turns out that when you move around from foreign country to foreign country, there is an element of perpetual long-term tourist to your life.  Every Saturday can be spent going out discovering new things and having new adventures.  Once I thought about the lives of people who spend twenty years in the same house and neighborhood and state and realized that they probably ran out of new things to do about eighteen years ago.

I'm definitely getting a taste of on this tour.  We haven't gone a new hike in over a year because we've just about hiked all the ones within an hour drive.  Brandon and I choose our date night restaurants based on which restaurant (the Chinese, Korean, Georgian, Latin American, Asian, Ukranian, Afghani, or Middle Eastern one) we've gone to least recently.  The children are beyond familiar with the embassy playground, and I can tell you exactly what the Hyatt has for their breakfast buffet.  If we lived in America, this might be 'cozy' or 'familiar,' but here in Dushanbe and in this life where I get to see the world, it's more like boring.  I'm ready for some new scenery.

The children are equally excited for some new scenery, Kathleen most excited of all because of the possibility of a pool at our next house.  Well, some of them.  Eleanor isn't very clear on the concept of moving because the last time she moved she was seven months old.  Edwin is just irritated at the thought of his Legos being unavailable for several months.

For right now, however, moving is still a distant dream, like the thought of summer break when you've just finished the first month of school.  It's definitely going to happen, but not for a good long time.  In between now and then are lots of good things to look forward to also, and so I won't get too antsy yet.  But not too comfortable either.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jet Lag, Central Asia

Brandon and I have been flying back and forth across the Atlantic for quite some time.  My first trans-Atlantic flight was my junior year in college, when I spent a semester studying abroad in Vienna (this is when I first decided that the expat life might be a pretty cool thing; little did I realize that my expat life would only touch in Europe while on layovers).  Brandon's was while flying to his mission in Ukraine.  Since that first flight, we have transited the Atlantic twenty-six times.  So we are no stranger to jet lag.

But there is jet lag and then there is jet lag.  I've experienced jet lag in Austria (two flights! ha!), Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.  Each time I've moved further east, and it turns out that the more east you get, the worse the jet lag.  We would usually arrive in Cairo in the early-to mid afternoon, get home, shower, and get a full night sleep.  In Baku our plane would land around nine at night, so the going home, showering, and sleeping got pushed back a little further.  It made for a late night and some serious sleeping in (once we slept in until three in the afternoon and Kathleen thought we had died), but it was, in retrospect, doable.

But Tajikistan, oh Tajikistan.  Our flights land between four and five in the morning, which means that by the time you get home, shower, and get in bed, the sun is rising.  Sometimes it rises before you even get home.  Which kind of makes your soul die a little each time it happens.

This early morning arrival also comes after having spent the last two days flying.  "The last two days flying" means that you leave America Saturday afternoon, you spend Saturday night on a plane, you arrive in Europe on Sunday morning, you spend Sunday flying to Turkey, you get on a plane Sunday night, and you arrive in Tajikistan on Monday morning.  And yes, it's just as bad as it sounds.  Actually, it's even worse.  Much worse.

And then you can't even get a good night's sleep.  Because it's not night, it's day.  So it's more like a long nap.  Or if you're Brandon, it's a short nap before going to work on Monday.  He wins the moral fiber points forever in our family.  If you take longer than a nap it causes problem because you stay up too late, not sleeping, and your problem just starts again the next day.  So your jet lag recovery looks a little like this:

Noon: the alarm clock goes off.  You groggily swim towards consciousness, wondering where that horribly annoying sound is coming from.  When you realize that it's the alarm clock, you want to die. Half an hour to an hour later, you pull yourself out of bed.  After getting dressed, you go and wake the children up and then wander downstairs.  You look at the exploded suitcases that radiate from the front door in a blast pattern, and walk by.  You go to the refrigerator and meditate on what kind of food can be made from eggs, leftover lobio, butter, and jam.  The thought of making anything or going to the store for more supplies is too much work, so you raid the children's airplane snacks. Swedish fish.  The breakfast of champions.

You climb back up the stairs and wake up the children again.  After physically pulling everyone from bed, you insist they eat.  All slowly drift down the stairs to spend the next hours eating scrambled eggs and freezer-burned toast.  Some fall asleep on the kitchen table.  At least one vomits.  Everyone wanders off to root through the suitcases for dress themselves in.  Or they just stay in pajamas.  Either is fine.  The rest of the day, all three hours of it, passes in a blur.  There are people in the house doing things, but you're not sure what.  Dinner is eggs and toast and some more Swedish fish.  Turns out they work for breakfast and dinner.

Then it's dark enough outside to put everyone to bed.  Everyone collapses into bed, falling asleep almost before their heads hit the pillow.  You stumble in after them, patting your spouse on the head affectionately before passing out yourself, dreaming of twelve hour sleeps.

1 AM: You wake up.  As you come to complete and utter consciousness, you hear sounds of the children awake too.  Maybe if you're quiet enough, they won't realize that you're awake and won't try and tell you how awake they are.  You get up and feed the baby, have a snack, and take a sleeping pill, which puts you back to sleep.  If you're me.  If you're Brandon, you don't take sleeping pills and instead spend the next four hours awake, falling asleep just in time to wake up for work the next day.

7 AM: If you're the responsible one in the family, you wake up and go to work.  If you're not, you groggily say good morning to the responsible one and go back to sleep for another couple of hours.

10 AM: You get up.  After browsing Facebook, you get the children up and go fix another breakfast of eggs and toast.  Then you get the children up again and feed them breakfast.  You think about doing the dishes and you think about unpacking your suitcases and you think about going to the store. Then you dig through the pile, which has expanded across the entire room, for clean underwear and take a shower while the children fall asleep at the table again.  Everyone spends the day trudging around the house still wishing they could die.  When the children ask about lunch, you offer Swedish fish, with a granola bar thrown in for variety.  Around four in the afternoon, when you realize the toast supply is running low, you make the trek to the grocery store for milk.  Then dinner can be pancakes.  After that, bed.

2 AM: You're awake.  Again.  So are the children.  Again.

7 AM: You think about getting up with your spouse to make breakfast, but realize that cold cereal is something that doesn't have to be cooked.

9 AM: You count it a moral victory that you are up before ten, and everyone gets a welcome break from Swedish fish and has cold cereal for breakfast.

11 AM: You start thinking that those suitcases might really need unpacking.  You rouse the children from the breakfast table and make everyone help.  After all, those are their clothes too.  A few hours later and exhausted from the effort, you realize that you still don't have any lunch food, and send a child to the store for yogurt and fruit.  Ta-da.  Lunch.  Then you take a nap.  It was a long hard morning.  Then you keep unpacking.  That evening, for the first time in days, you make dinner.  It's a real moral victory.

3 AM: You're awake.  It's really getting old.  The children are awake, too.

7 AM: You get out of bed with your spouse, shower, and cook breakfast.  The children eat breakfast with you and afterwards you do the dishes.  Everyone gets their morning chores done and then spends the rest of the day playing.  You finish up the unpacking and then make a shopping list.  You think about things that need to be done and do one or two of them before taking a nap to reward yourself for the effort.  You cook dinner again and have a conversation with your spouse that involves multiple complete sentences.  The thought of being responsible doesn't fill you with complete and total horror.  You go to bed with the semi-realistic hope that you will get a full night's sleep.

5:30 AM: You wake up and don't bother going back to sleep.  After reading through Facebook, you shower and cook breakfast.  And, after kissing your spouse goodbye, you realize that it is Friday.  You have just spent an entire workweek recovering from jet lag, and only on Friday do you feel like a human being again.  Why, you wonder to yourself, did you think that this would be a good idea?  With the three days' packing before you left, day and a half of flying, three days' jet lag upon arrival, three days flying, and week of jet lag recovery, you have had two weeks of pain in exchange for three weeks of childcare in another location.

You make yourself a solemn promise that you will never do it again.  Next time, it will be Thailand.  After all, it's only ten hours of flying time which is six hours less than flying to America.  Or maybe just nothing.  Or how about Europe?  You've heard that Portugal is very nice, and it's only the next continent over.  But you know, as soon as you make that silly promise, that you'll have forgotten all of the pain in a year and just do it all over again.  Because it turns out that you really don't have a very good memory for pain.  It's probably the same reason you have six children.  That, and Target.  Because Target is just about a good enough reason for anything.  Even jet lag.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

R&R


This year we spent most of our R&R at the beach.  It was fantastic.  Seriously, if I had the money and no doctor's appointments, family obligations, or friends I wanted to see, I'd just spend my whole R&R at the beach.  It would probably work if I just had the money.  Because everything and everyone else could just come see me at the beach. 


But before the beach, we had to get to America.  The day started off in Dushanbe  And it stretched across 30 hours, 9 time zones, 5 airports, 4 flights, 4 countries, 3 continents, and two hemispheres.  Oh, and it was just me and the six children.  


It ended in North Carolina.  With everyone and their sanity intact (but without one suitcase).  Because I am awesome.  Bragging rights forever.


We arrived a week before the whole Sherwood clan descended and got to see all of those friends I'd been missing since we left in March.  Which was a lot more fun that flying across the world.  And also a lot tastier.


We also made one more use of our Marbles membership.  Because America has wonderful things like children's 'museums.'  


Then I got down to work.  Three hours, a WalMart, a Sam's Club, a Smithfields' barbecue, and about a thousand dollars later, my parent's minivan looked like this.  It turns out it takes a lot of food to feed forty-four people.  Also, it turns out that a gross of ice cream treats only lasts five days.


Then it was just time to play.  


And hang out with cousins.


And play in the hot tub with cousins.


And on the beach.


And talk (and talk and talk and talk).  And then talk some more.


And celebrate Kathleen's birthday.


And take long walks on the beach at sunset.  But not romantic ones.

But, like all good things, it had to come to an end and now we're back in Dushanbe (excuse me while I go wipe away a tear).  It sure was fun while it lasted!












Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer Vacation

It's that time of year again, the highlight of everyone's summer combined with the worst part of everyone's year - time for the annual trek back to the motherland known as R&R.  The children and I finished the last day of school this past week, we finally got tickets, and I've started going over my packing lists.

This year we've added an extra level of difficulty.  Due to Brandon's leave issues, I decided to take the bold/suicidal/brave/foolish choice and travel with all six of the children alone so we could have an extra week at my parents' house.  I had various reasons, the good one being doctor appointments for everyone, the okay one being a grandparent rafting trip for the older kids, and the selfish one being my desire to have extra time to spend with friends.

This year is the Sherwood reunion and we (meaning me) were put in charge of planning the whole thing.  And for those of you counting, that means planning a week long family reunion for nineteen adults and twenty-five children.  From halfway across the world.  We got to choose the location, so I chose the beach.  My family goes to the beach every summer, so to make things easier for us I just rented the same house for two weeks in a row.  I was in transports of joy when I realized that I could go in and out of the exact same airport.  No twenty-hour drives or 5:30 AM plane rides, just three and a half weeks in one state.  It's almost mythical.

Also, I decided to come back earlier than Brandon because I'm pretty sure I don't want six children de-toxing from twenty-eight hours of traveling while at a family reunion.  It's bad enough doing it in the privacy of my parents' large house where everyone only shares a bedroom with one or two siblings, but crammed into an overstuffed room with four or five other cousins?  I'm just going to pass on that.  Also I don't want to be shopping for breakfast and lunch food for forty-four people, feeding forty-four people (because we're cooking the first night), telling forty-four people forty-four times (let's be honest, it will probably be more than that) where their rooms are again, and trying to get my own children to sleep in the middle of all that while getting over crazy jet-lag myself.  Pass on that, too.  Just sayin'.

This means that on Thursday morning at five AM, I will board the first of four flights that will eventually land us in North Carolina by way of Istanbul, London, and DC.  We have assigned seats on the first flight and last flight but not the two middle flights.  Also the flight from Istanbul to London is late by an average of thirty minutes (that's average) and we have a two-hour layover.  It ought to make for some interesting stories when we've all recovered from the trauma in a few years.

The children are, of course, ecstatic.  Kathleen is looking forward to seeing her cousins and going whitewater rafting.  Sophia is the same.  Edwin is looking forward to flying on airplanes and visiting Grandpa's frogs.  Joseph is looking forward to eating as many snacks and watching as many movies as he wants for twenty-eight hours straight.  Eleanor is looking forward to seeing her grandparents.  William will probably be scarred for life.

Beach week was always the highlight of my childhood summer and so it's no surprise that the same is true for my own children, especially when you add in the excitement (why they find it so exciting is completely beyond me) of international travel and the magic of returning to a country that has things like sidewalks, grass, parks, and Krispy Kreme.

And, if you subtract the pain (oh, the pain.  Let's not dwell on it.  It turns out that the pain of traveling is kind of like childbirth.  Each time it happens you remember ever more clearly exactly what you're getting yourself into) of the opening and ending, it's the highlight of my summer too.  I can't wait to see my cousins and siblings and friends and Krispy Kreme.  I can't wait to stay up way, way (way) too late catching up with some of my favorite people in the world and playing all day on the beach.  I can't wait to go to absolute dissipation sleeping in, not exercising (once or twice a long time ago I exercised on R&R.  Ha), eating garbage cereal for breakfast every morning, reading books, eating dessert every night, and partying until I'm so exhausted that coming home to my regimented life actually sounds like a good idea.

Packing starts tomorrow.  T-minus three days until vacation party time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Living in Dushanbe - Summer

It is summer here in Dushanbe and we are deep into it.  It has been hot so long that the sensation of being cold or wearing pants or shoes or socks or jackets is a vague memory that resides in the same part of reality as the tooth fairy.  The high here a few days ago was 107 degrees.  One hundred and seven degrees is so hot that it is ten degrees hotter than ninety-seven degrees and twenty degrees hotter than eighty-seven degrees.  It's so hot that a few of my plants outside have to be watered twice a day or they will be dead by morning.  It's hot enough that the waterslide deck burned Sophia's feet pink the last time we went to the water park.  It's just hot.

There are some good things about summer in Dushanbe.  Summer is the time when there is all the produce in the world for cheap cheap cheap.  Right now you can go to the bazaar and get watermelons, yellow melons, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, apricots, cherries, apples, plums, raspberries, strawberries, and deliciously perfect tomatoes, in addition to all of the rest of the vegetables.  We spend all summer here in a fruit coma, packing in all of the fruit to last us through the winter.  Occasionally the children will ask if they can bring fruit outside while they are playing and I'll find two or three apricots rattling around in the bottom of a bowl that held two kilos that morning.  One of Eleanor's favorite things to do is sit and eat raspberries with a spoon, putting away at least a pound of them in one sitting.  I've told the children that one day when they grow up and live in America they will go to the grocery store and about die to see how much raspberries cost there and realize what they had while living in Dushanbe.

Normally the summer is also a great time for swimming.  The embassy has a pool and we have spent a lot of time there.  But it hasn't been working since the first day of summer (ironic, I know) and we've had to find alternatives.

Most days I send the children to play in the yard.  It's a scientific fact that children who spend all day in the house fight more than children who have been kicked out for a couple of hours.  At least it's a fact in our house.  We have a sprinkler (thanks, Dad!) and so the children will put on their swimsuits so that they can try and spray each other with it.  Sometimes they just use the hose.  And until I banned the practice for the sake of the umbrellas, they used umbrellas to keep the very cold hose water off themselves.  This option isn't the children's favorite way to deal with the heat, but I don't care.

There is also a local waterpark which actually isn't that bad.  It is also very popular and getting there close to opening time, especially on women and children day (no men allowed, including lifeguards), is a good idea.  A few weeks ago I went with a friend to swim in the afternoon and we showed up only to discover that the place was so full that they were only letting people in as patrons left.  As it was going to be a long time before ten left, we gave up and went back to the sprinkler.  The children were only pacified after we promised cookies and root beer.

Thankfully we're leaving for three and a half weeks to go back to America where it isn't quite so hot (and this is North Carolina!) and there are things like central AC.  In my mind, summer is over after we come back from R&R because that's when school starts.  But evidently Tajikistan didn't read my mind because summer is definitely not over in August - or September.  I always think of September as the month of disappointed expectations.  I spend the whole month waiting for the first breath of cool air, the promise of reasonable temperatures that mean we can start going outside again in something other than swimsuits.  But it never ever comes until October.  And then finally, summer is over.

I still like summer, even after spending three of them in Dushanbe.  I like wearing flip-flops and shorts and swimming and eating good produce.  I'd still rather be here than in Moscow.  But I will say that one day (and I'm not sure when that will be - I'm looking at you, Tashkent) when I live in a place where 100+ temperatures are an anomaly instead of a regularity, it will be a little nicer.  I'm not planning any moves to Canada, but I think I'm also going to stay away from Arizona too.  Maybe somewhere nicely in the middle.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fourth of July

This past week we celebrated the Fourth of July.  Celebrating the Fourth overseas is fairly analogous to celebrating Christmas in a Muslim country.  Instead of being part of a nation-wide party, it's more of a private affair that happens on a random day of the week.  I actually mind this less for Christmas than I do for the Fourth.  For us, Christmas is a family holiday anyway while Fourth is something you celebrate with your community.

And we did have the opportunity to celebrate with the community the Saturday before, but we didn't.  Brandon had spent seven hours at a conference that Saturday and he just wasn't up to spending a few more hours away from home out in the heat while shepherding all six (really five) children around to get their food, play the games, etc.  Add to that a five-month old baby and it equals thanks-but-no-thanks.  Instead we watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while eating amazingly delicious Chinese food.  Seriously.  If there's one thing you can get here, it's really tasty, really cheap ($18.32 to feed the whole family) Chinese food.

The actual Fourth itself was on a Tuesday and Brandon had work off.  Since it was a holiday, we had to follow the Sherwood Family Holiday Rule (no work and all play).  Some friends invited us to go to Delphin, a local waterpark, so we spent the morning riding waterslides and swimming in the pool.  Delphin is actually one of the best-run institutions I've seen in Dushanbe and the kids love going and riding all of the big waterslides.  The three oldest have perfected the art of arguing (I'm not sure how I feel about that) and badger the lifeguards into allowing them to ride all the slides even if some of them technically aren't old enough to ride.  All can swim, so that's good enough for me.

While Brandon and I were lounging in the sun by the pool (yes, it's a hard life sometimes), we both developed an intense desire for french fries and then hamburgers and finally chocolate malts.  One of the best things about being adults is that when those cravings strike, there's nothing but responsibility to stop you from indulging in all of them at once.  Luckily, we didn't let responsibility stop us this time.  After all, it's a holiday, right?  And 'merica! And deep-fried potatoes! And charcoal-cooked meat! And ice cream!  After all, we would be neglectful parents if we didn't teach our children about their heritage.

This being Tajikistan, we had to make almost everything from scratch.  Luckily, the local grocery store had hamburger buns so that part was taken care of.  Also we live around the corner from an ice cream factory so we didn't have to make the ice cream either.  Okay, so we had to make the hamburgers and french fries from scratch.



But a few hours later we had our feast assembled and settled down to watch Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert in Drums Along the Mohawk.  As we watched the couple battle natives while various farms burned down, we all enjoyed our feast and the warm glow of appreciation for those who gave birth to the nation that we're proud to be a part of.

Patriotism is becoming somewhat unfashionable these days, so I guess I'll just have to be unfashionable and say that I love America, and I love it more than any other country in the world.  Which I should, seeing as I am an American.  God Bless America!