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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

This year Brandon and I hosted Thanksgiving.  While cooking Thursday morning, I added up the times we've hosted Thanksgiving.  This is our third hosting in Dushanbe, after hosting it in Baku twice and Utah once.  Six doesn't sound like that many times, but it sure is a lot of cooking.

I have sadly realized that, unless we live somewhere near family, I will spend the the next three or probably four decades hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  That was a little disheartening to realize, but I suppose I'm the one who decided to birth enough children that it practically requires a whole extra turkey just to feed us.  Hosting pretty much comes with the territory if we ever want to eat dinner with anyone other than just ourselves.

To add insult to injury, when I was checking Facebook Thanksgiving evening after finishing the clean-up around seven, my older sister posted a picture of the beautiful Thanksgiving morning sail they had gone on at my aunt and uncle's house.  The sail they took while someone else cooked the stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, rolls, pies, and sweet potatoes.

I've hosted Thanksgivings overseas long enough to realize that the Thanksgivings of my youth - a day spent cooking with family, lazing around and watching movies afterward - are not the Thanksgivings of my adulthood.  It turns out that most holidays are a lot better when someone else (the adults) is doing all the hard work.  I like being an adult almost all of the time, but sometimes being a child really is a better gig.

But the children have gotten older and more useful, so I'm not the only one running the show these days, which is nice.  They didn't do much cooking, but they did clean up the house, set the table, and scrub five kilos of potatoes.  And after everyone left, the girls helped clear the table, put the food away, and wash the dishes.  The value of children who are old enough to be truly helpful can never be underestimated.  We were able to finish early enough for Brandon and I to relax and enjoy that most wonderful of Thanksgiving traditions - watching TV.

We did have a nice Thanksgiving, even if there weren't any sailboats in our day.  We had two families over and had an enjoyable dinner together.  The children mostly ate their food and then played nicely together so the adults could enjoy talking together.  We had plenty of tasty food to enjoy with our good company and much to be grateful for.  I didn't get around to taking pictures of our guests because we got too busy eating and having a good time together.

It's always good to have time to reflect on the blessings in our life, including having enough food that it takes two days to cook it and an hour and a half to clean it up.  Also, dishwashers.  But more importantly, friends and family to enjoy the day with.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Marine Ball 2017

Last Saturday was the Marine Ball, our third and last Ball here in Dushanbe.  Brandon would usually be perfectly happy to stay home and watch a movie with the kids, but since I like dressing up in a fancy dress, getting my hair done, and partying with my friends, he indulges me.  Just like prom, but for adults. 

This was my fifth Ball, so I had long shed my expectations of a romantic night, and had a fun time sitting around and talking with friends.  Just in a fancy dress.  I remember being amazingly disappointed when I realized that all parties are just people sitting around talking to each other, sometimes with dancing.  Somehow all those movies seem to make parties look like there's some other, more exotic element.  But nope, it's just talking.  The children find it completely ridiculous that we like to do this in our spare time.  

In keeping with the prom theme, I went with some friends earlier in the day and we got our hair done together.  Yep, just like high school.  Except the pregnant one was married.  We had a fun time gossiping, passing around hair style ideas, and being loud enough that the salon receptionist asked us to quiet down.  I've had this happen at restaurants before, too.  I'm not quite sure if it's because Americans are loud, or I'm just loud.  Probably me.

I wore dress #1, figuring that we've been here so long that only one other person would recognize the dress I wore two years ago, and she didn't remember it anyway.  It was such an excruciating project that I intend to wear it until I don't fit it anymore.  It mostly fit this year, so that was a good thing.

By eleven, Cinderella had talked, eaten, toasted, danced, and was ready to turn into a pumpkin (those high school days are long, long gone), so Brandon took me home and to bed.  I'm sad that next year we'll be in a new post with new friends.  But it was a fun time.  Until next year!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Months and months and months ago, I decided that Brandon and I needed to take the children to Dubai.  Normally, I am not the type of person who likes to travel with children.  I've always reasoned that I can stick needles into my eyeballs for free at home, so why pay good money to do it in another location?  I like my children just fine, and I even love them, but taking the circus traveling is really just too much for me and the general public.

But sometime in the somewhat distant past, I decided that no, it would be a fun thing to take my children into public for an extended period of time and do things like eat around other people for multiple meals in a row.  We've done this a few times, taking the children to water park hotels on each of our home leaves, and it usually was more stressful than relaxing.  At least 3.5 drinks on average get spilled per meal time, 2.5 children decide that they would rather hop on and off their chairs than actually eat the food we paid money for, and 2 parents would want to murder at least half of the children.  And that was just the meal times. 

Let's not talk about the fun that is sleeping in a hotel room with all your children.  People pay good money to buy houses large enough to not sleep with their children, so why would we want to pay extra money to sleep somewhere else with them?  But no matter the historical precent and cold hard facts of being a parent of multiple young children, I decided that this time it would be a lot more fun, especially with two more children in tow.  I'm not quite sure where the idea came from.  But I had it.

And like all good ideas that I have, Brandon thought it was a bad idea.  Probably because he is the rational one in our relationship.  But, like most good ideas I have, I didn't give up on it.  I whined wheedled, begged, pleaded, and bothered him enough that he finally gave in.  "But don't say I didn't warn you," he warned me, "when everything goes to pieces and you wonder what you were thinking.  I told you so.  In advance."

And so, I booked the vacation.  To make things worse, I booked one of the most expensive, high profile resorts in Dubai, Atlantis the Palm.  If you're going to take your children out in public, you might as well take them out in public to places where there are Rolls Royces, Lamborghinis, Porches, and Bentleys parked in the parking lot.  Because it will be really cool when your children are misbehaving in front of people who have nannies for their nannies.  I almost died when I booked the rooms with a half board package.  The only other time in my life I have ever dropped that much cash in one go was when we bought our car.  When I told Brandon the total, he shook his head.  "Well, you'd better enjoy it.  Cause we're definitely not doing it twice."

We decided to surprise the children and so Wednesday morning we woke them up at 2 a.m., told them to get dressed, pulled out the suitcases we had packed in secret, and went to the airport.  The children were giddy with excitement because flying is one of the most exciting things in the world.  When we landed in Dubai, they thoroughly enjoyed the drive, marveling at the Burj Dubai and how everyone stayed in their lanes while driving. 

As we drove up to the hotel, they lost track counting how many floors there were.  And when they discovered that not only were there two pools, but also a beach, an aquarium, a water park, and the biggest buffet breakfast I've ever seen, they almost died of sheer happiness.  Then they fought over who got to push the elevator buttons and whose turn it was to put the key in the room door.  Because, children.

Four days later, everyone came back to Dushanbe full to the brim with good times, good memories, and good food.  Because, as it turned out, we had a fantastic time.  The hotel was beautiful, the food was delicious, the water park was exciting, the aquarium, was enormous, and the pools were stunning.  Also, the beach had water, too.  And sand.

The children behaved themselves (mostly), ate their food (buffets are awesome), only spilled twice, played hard all day long, and fell asleep before eight every night.  I didn't have to make a single meal, clean up, decide what was for dinner, or even make my bed.  Brandon took the children on rides, played with them in the pool, and read to them every night.  It really was every bit as great as I had imagined it would be.

The only problem is that now I want to do it again. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017


This trip to London was my fifth trip (if a long layover where Brandon and I did some sightseeing counts) to the city, and my third trip this post.  I've spent over three weeks there, and I think that I can say that London is one of my favorite cities in the world.  I don't actually like large cities that much, so it really is saying something when London brings nothing but warm joy into my heart - even in November.

This visit stretched out over eleven days because it took a week to get the results for some of the blood tests I needed.  When I did my check-in visit with the medical unit at the embassy, the wonderful nurse looked at me after I summed up my visit (had an exam, got a bunch of tests, told me to come back in a week), smiled and told me to enjoy myself.  "You've got nothing terribly wrong with you, and there's nothing you need to do, so live it up!  You're in London alone.  Enjoy all of the wonderful things there are to do here!"

And so I did.  It turns out that I'm actually a rotten tourist, so I only actually played sightseeing tourist one day the whole time I was there.  I took myself to Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields.  But really, I find touristing much more enjoyable with someone, and we have plans to spend time in London on our way out of Tajikistan, so it didn't make much sense to go see the things that I would just be re-seeing in six months anyway.  

So instead I did the things I don't usually get to do when I'm taking care of my family.  I slept in, went running in Hyde park, went shopping for Christmas presents, went to the temple several times, went to a ballet, an opera, and a musical, and took myself to a Michelin-starred restaurant for a very tasty dinner.  

I also caught up with a very dear friend and her family, and spent a good amount of time hanging out with them.  Because being alone in a city can get, well, lonely after awhile.  So my friend was wonderful enough to let me hang out with her and her kids and crash their house all Sunday.  We even got to ditch the children with her husband one night and see Aladdin, the musical.  One thing I love about the Foreign Service is the great friends I make and the opportunity to hang out with them in random parts of the world.  

Brandon's brother, his lovely British wife, and their cute baby also live in the greater London area, and we were able to attend the temple together and then spend time at her parents' house and have a wonderful time together.  One day I want to have a perfect little town and fill it with all of the wonderful people that I never get to spend enough time with.  Until then I will just have to see them when I can.

Every time I talked with Brandon, he assured me that all of the children were alive and getting at least two meals a day, so I didn't feel like the worst mother every for abandoning everyone to go and have a wonderful time by myself.  I missed my family in a theoretical way, but I knew that I would see them again, and so I didn't spend a lot of time (or actually any time) crying into my pillow.  That probably makes me a bad mother and wife.  I'll have to work on that.

At the end of my visit, the doctor pronounced me Not Sick Enough to Do Anything Drastic, told me to keep taking high doses of anti-inflammatories, get retested if things still aren't better in three months, and sent me home to my family.  Good because I don't have to take chemo meds, annoying because the doctor didn't make it all better. 

I'm not sure that I would ever want to actually live in London and try to make a real life there with expensive cost of living, no household help, long commutes, and small housing, but it sure was great to visit.  Until next time, London!