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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Saturday morning started with The Bad.  It started with The Bad at 5 am.  Normally when my alarm begins its aggravating beeping at that time, I groggily turn over and hit Brandon who stumbles out of bed to turn it off.  About five minutes later (or maybe ten) I get out of bed, pull on my exercise clothes, and stumble upstairs.  I don't particularly enjoy 5 am, but it's a part of my life that I've committed to so I do it.

But when my alarm rings at 5 am on a Saturday after I've made extra-special sure to turn it off Friday afternoon, I am angry and annoyed and irritated and grouchy and vocally so and might try and smash the alarm against the wall.  So Saturday morning, the only morning of the whole week when I get to sleep in as long as I want (well, as long as the children will let me which is usually the same thing these days), started at 5 am.

After only managing to fit in a short nap, Brandon and I finally gave up the ghost around eight and crawled out of bed to feed our starving children.  Hooray for Saturday!

Since we were going out that evening, we decided to take the children to the park.  Everyone had a hasty breakfast of cereal and scrambled eggs before being washed, dressed, bathroomed, shoed, and sent to the car.  Which is parked across the neighborhood since the road in front of our neighborhood is finally being paved.

On our way out the door, I noticed Brandon's phone dancing across our entry table while flashing.  I picked it up just as the call ended and looked at the name: Brandon's boss.  The phone alerted me to two other missed calls: his boss and the DCM.

My stomach dropped.  There must be something going on.  We had received a security message from the embassy yesterday informing us of protests planned for Saturday.  The last few protests hadn't caused much disturbance, but these ones must be larger.  I saw our lovely morning to the park cancelled, Brandon rushing off to work and me left home with the kids.  Couldn't they have at least waited until after we came home?

I called Brandon down and handed him the phone.  The DCM picked up after a few rings.  "I noticed I missed a call from you.  What can I help you with?  What?  Oh!  Well thanks!  That's great news!  And him too?  I'll make sure to congratulate him.  Thanks again for calling!"

He turned to me.  "It looks like I just got promoted!"  We looked at each other in pleased surprise.  He was tenured a few weeks ago, so he hadn't been looking to be promoted - he hadn't even told me that he was up for one.

Relieved and excited, we finished buckling the children into the car and headed down to the park.  The weather was gorgeous, everyone was pleasant, and we even made a new friend.  After playing enough for everyone to be happy to leave we came home and put half of the family down for naps.

That evening, the new ambassador was hosting an open house for the mission members, so we happily left the children eating dinner with the babysitter and went out on a date.  We planned to stop by the open house and then go out to dinner.  We showed up at the tail end and were able to say hello to everyone and offer and receive congratulations around.  One of my favorite aspects of living overseas with State is the wonderful communities at post.  Cairo was such a large community that we never felt very involved, but we've had a wonderful time getting to know many friends here.

After leaving we decided to try out a Georgian restaurant recommended by a friend and headed downtown.  The GPS informed us that we needed to turn around, so we pulled down a road and into a wide dead-end alleyway.  Checking the road for cars, Brandon put ours into reverse and started backing up.  Out of nowhere, a car started honking quickly followed by a sickening crunch.

My heart went cold.  I knew that sound.  When I was sixteen I caused two car accidents, one minor and one a major four-car pileup, within six weeks of each other and I will never ever forget the sound of car body panels crumpling.  I will never hear that sound without starting to tremble.  I will never think of that sound without feeling sick.  I will never forget how your car suddenly stops, interrupted in its progress by something that wasn't supposed to be there.

Brandon pulled the car forward and looked behind us.  When there had been a wall ten seconds before, there was a silver Jetta with two very angry Azeri ladies in it.

Drivers in Baku commit a wide variety of breathtakingly stupid driving maneuvers.  Impatient of waiting in line at a light, they will skip ahead by driving in the opposite lane of traffic and then pull back in when the light is green.  I have been waiting to turn left and watched drivers pull the previous move, pulling around me and then turn right in front of all of the other lanes of traffic while the light is red.  Busses routinely pull around me in the left lane to get ahead - just so they can stop fifty feet later and pick up passengers.

Ironically, they never run red lights.  Ever.  The lights here flash green, turn yellow, and finally turn red.  Everyone always stops when the lights flash green.

The root of all of the driving insanity is impatience.  Nobody can stand just waiting if ten seconds of reckless driving will get them to their destination thirty seconds faster.

Knowing this, Brandon should have looked behind him the entire time he was backing up.  Then he would have seen the silver car pull in behind him, impatient of waiting for him to finish backing up.  But he forgot that we live in Baku and an empty road doesn't stay empty while you're blinking your eyes and so ended backing into someone else.  Interestingly all three of the accidents we've been in so far have involved backing up.  Hmm.

Thankfully we don't live in Cairo anymore and so the gathered crowd didn't break out belts or start shouting at Brandon.  Everyone stood around and chatted and tried to mediate between Brandon and the ladies while the ladies took turns telling Brandon that he was careless, reckless, should have looked,  and didn't he see them signal?  Brandon likes to boast that one of his virtues is admitting his own faults, and he very calmly agreed that he should have looked.

Meanwhile I called mobile patrol and Brandon stalled when the inevitable question of payment came up.  With the invaluable help of mobile patrol everyone was able to come to an agreeable cash settlement (which thankfully Brandon had enough for in his wallet) and we went on our way.

We thought about calling it a night and going home, but then remembered that the children would still be awake when we got there so decided to keep our dinner plans.  We were able to find the restaurant and had a nice dinner that might have involved abusing local drivers and made it home without any further incident.

Exhausted after such an early start and so much excitement, we went to bed early.  Hopefully next Saturday will be a little quieter.


UnkaDave said...

I'm glad I don't have a car in Bogotá. We just colectivo (bus) surfed down from San Luis. Yee Hah! Paula even got to surf, as the slouching teenage guys wouldn't budge out of their seats. Still glad to not have a car. If the bus driver runs over one of the million and two cyclists going up or down the hill, HE has to figure out the payment part.

PaulaJean said...

I hate the sickening crunch of metal of sound. It ruins one's day.