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Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

Brandon and I spent this Thanksgiving separated, he in Cairo and the girls and I in North Carolina. In North Carolina, we enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving complete with a delicious meal, the company of my sister and her family, and beautiful fall weather. Nothing went wrong; the turkey was perfectly cooked, the potatoes perfectly mashed, and rolls fragrantly warm. The only incident that could even been barely considered and incident was Kathleen's refusal to eat her sweet potatoes. She ate them anyway after some 'coaxing.'

Brandon also had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. A family in the branch who lives half a block away invited him over for dinner and they enjoyed playing video games together, another turkey feast, and a movie to finish up the evening. Brandon and I had a nice chat before we ate and before he went to bed, due to the 7-hour time difference. He had just made it to bed when the phone rang.

Various FSOs take turn on 'duty,' being the first contact for people who are in distress, trouble, lost, or any other thing that various Americans abroad can conceive that they might need U.S. government intervention in. Just in case you had plans, stabbing people in other countries is still illegal and the government won't help you get out of that trouble. So is illegally importing cars.

This week, Brandon is enjoying his first spell as duty officer, which is why his phone rang at 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night. An AmCit (American Citizen) who had checked herself into a local hospital several days earlier had died. And Brandon was in charge of taking care of arrangements to contact her family. Unfortunately for Brandon, all contact numbers she provided were not correct, and by 2:30 that morning, he still hadn't found anybody to tell about her death.

And so instead of going to church Friday morning, Brandon instead got to visit the hospital, identify the woman, visit her apartment, look for pertinent information, and attempt to locate a next of kin to dictate what they wanted done with her remains and possessions. To his knowledge, no duty officer had been faced with a body with no next of kin, which makes things more difficult.

But, to make things more difficult, he received a phone call around noon. Another lady had died. And he was responsible to call her next of kin and discuss what they wanted done with her remains.

So, it hasn't been the most restful Thanksgiving weekend he's ever had, with more visits to the Embassy than he would prefer for a weekend. And it's a long one - they have tomorrow off, too. Hopefully everyone in Egypt (who is an American citizen) will decide to stay alive.

Monday, November 16, 2009

That part of Oregon was my fault

Today I took Kathleen and Sophia to the pediatrician's for a 'poke' since everyone here seems to have access to H1N1 vaccine (being the clever mother that I am, I didn't tell them what they were doing until the nurse came in with the syringes).

Previous to the crying and protestations about staying in the hall while Sophia got poked, I had to fill out paperwork - four sheets per child. Two weeks ago I got to fill out some more paperwork - at least 6 or 7 pieces of paper - for my initial OB visit. When I was in Egypt, I had to fill out the same paperwork - twice - for the same pregnancy. And Kathleen and Sophia both got their own rap sheets filled out too.

Previous to the paperwork in Raleigh and the paperwork in Egypt, I got to fill out the exact same information for the girls when we lived in Arlington. I'm not sure exactly how long my labor for Sophia or Kathleen was, but by this time it doesn't matter. If I say five and fifteen hours enough times, the labor might as well have been five and fifteen hours because that's what it is now. And no, if have not had any problems with heart disease or sickle cell anemia, and my children's father is indeed white and married to me.

Within the past ten months, I have had medical records in four different cities and with six different primary care providers. And each place had their own forms to fill out, initial, and fingerprint (ok, I'm kidding about the last one). However, if anyone is interested in stealing my identity at this point, they can just follow my medical paper trail across the globe and back. It's about the same size as the swath of forests cut down to provide the paper for the forms.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Living a life of semi-leisure

My apologies to those who have become ardent followers of our oh-so-adventurous lives in Egypt. Nothing much is going on here, so as a sop I offer pictures. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Recent Conversation

Kathleen: 'I forgot.'

Me: 'You forgot?'

Kathleen: 'I forgot something.'

Me: 'What did you forget, Kathleen?'

Kathleen: 'I forgot to do something.'

Me: 'What did you forget to do?'

Kathleen: 'I forgot to... go to the bathroom!'

Me: 'Well, you better go change then.'

Maybe we should stop using the Socratic method so much with her.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Truths of traveling

No matter how well-behaved one's children are, 15 1/2 hours of flying and 24 hours being awake is still a long, long, long time.

If there are going to be video screens not working, they will be the ones in front of Sophia and Kathleen and as a result their mother gets to watch cartoons.

No matter what the airplane provides for food - omelets, pasta, plain old rolls, cake, yogurt, chips, candy bars - my children will refuse to eat it leaving two perfectly good untouched meals in favor of gummy bears and goldfish.

Said gummy bears and goldfish on an empty stomach with insufficient water may lead to a very painful problem for certain children the next day.

If one is pregnant and traveling with two small children, the best service to be found is in the Middle East - you may have to pay for it, but it's much better than having your three year-old push your 18 month-old in the stroller while you heft 50-lb bags up to shoulder height to push everything through customs.

Europeans have no patience, compassion, or sympathy for pregnant women or small children.

Children always fall dead asleep for the last, shortest flight in the journey.

No matter how hard traveling can be, in only lasts for a certain amount of time. Thank heaven.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go...

I want my children to be sedated. Too much to do and nowhere to go [for my children], can they be sedated? Please don't take me to the airport, and please, please don't put me on a plane. But can I have my children sedated?

Our bags are mostly packed, but the taxi won't be here until 2 am, and I only wish that the dawn will be breaking when we leave, but that won't happen until we're on the plane for a good while, probably eating breakfast. But yes, we are leaving on a jet plane, and we really don't want to go.

So, wish me luck, remember me in your prayers and maybe we'll have some good stories out of it. Hopefully not.