Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm going to.....

Istanbul! I received my onward assignment in July, but somehow forgot to announce it on the blog. Many of you who know me fairly well and/or are friends with me on the facebook already know this, of course. But after I leave Kuwait next summer, I'll head back to FSI, or how I affectionately call it, the Diplomatic Hogwarts, and learn Turkish before I head to Istanbul in 2014. Everyone keeps telling me that I got lucky with this assignment. I certainly hope so, because I am building up a lot of expectations for an awesome tour. I'm already dreaming of all the places I can visit in Turkey and nearby. And more importantly, I am excited that I actually may have friends and family who will want to come visit!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bidding: Here I go again

If I got you singing along to an 80's hair band song, mission accomplished. If not, nevermind.

The time has come....the walrus said, to talk of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings! No, no, no, silly girl. The time has come to talk of bidding for my next assignment. So far, there are a total of 49 assignments in 43 cities I will possibly be sent next. Some awesome. Some downright scary. Lots of things to consider: Does the timing work out for when the new assignment begin and my current assignment ends? Do I need to or get to learn a language before arriving at post? What are the job opportunities for family members? Where am I on the equity scale (meaning how many people bidding with me had assignments with greater or lesser hardship)? Do I need to get a car with the steering wheel on the right side? Do I value basic infrastructure? Do I mind dengue fever? Do I want to live in some of the most expensive cities in the world? (Yes, I do on that last one.)

I need to bid on every job in my list, ranking each as high, medium, or low. I really should be hitting the web doing my research. But I was in training last week close to my home, so when I was not in class, I was shopping, eating out, snorkeling in the Keys, gambling at a casino, and catching up with family and friends. As soon as I got back, I got hit with a cold, combined with jet lag, and I haven't had much chance to research this week either. (I know, I could be researching now instead of typing this - HUSH.)

Some pearls of wisdom I have received thus far:
  • If you're sorta ok with a mega hardship post and put it down as medium, you are probably going to get it.
  • Turn in your bid list as early as possible, especially if you got some equity coming out of your current post. For me, I'm setting a goal of 2 weeks early.
  • Show your list to your colleagues - apparently nothing excites people in the foreign service more than looking at bid lists, even if its someone else's.
I find out my next assignment in mid-July.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Super Duper Catch-Up Post

Alternate Title: Why it takes almost 3 months to update this blog and other mysteries of the universe

Hey, it's been a while. A long while. After a good friend started a blog based on my advice, I should at least have the decency to update mine. So put the kettle on and snuggle in for a long one.

First, I wanted to begin with a link to a slideshow about Kuwait posted on Foreign Policy. I love old photos. I consider my collection of old black and white photos (and tintypes <3) among my most prized possessions. So when this slideshow started floating around on emails and facebook posts, I knew I'd have to post it here.

As a stark contrast to the photos in the slideshow above, I present this:

Yes, that is someone dancing on the hood of a moving vehicle. Why would anyone do such a thing? Well, clearly you do not know that is one of the best ways to celebrate Kuwait National and Liberation Day weekend. For four nights, this went on in front of my apartment. That and hanging out of cars, getting out of cars to dance in the street to loud music blaring from stereos, and water gun ambushes.

I thought I would be a shut-in all weekend, but I did manage to get out one day to attend two things in the desert. The first was a visit to a friend's family desert camp, close to the Saudi Arabian border. It was a basic structure, with living room area, a small bedroom, a generator for power when it was wanted, a water tank, and (my arch nemesis) a squat toilet. It was pretty neat to see what a Kuwaiti desert camp was like - these are the types of experiences I imagined having when I joined the foreign service. It actually reminded me of my family's vacation home in Hungary, and it struck me how cross-cultural this idea of having a place to escape one's normal existence was - whether it be by a lake or in the middle of a desert. Along the way we saw camels (I still can't get over them), and we ate lunch Kuwaiti style - sitting on the floor and eating from a communal platter with our hands. After sunset, we drove back to the city to get cleaned up and go out again, back into the desert, this time for a desert gathering of a different kind. I had heard rumors of the Kuwaiti party scene, but never really thought I would ever get the chance to experience it. Well, I did, and it was mind blowing to see. But in the interest of discretion, I will leave it at that.

I went to Dubai twice since my last posting, in January for the Dubai Shopping Festival and in March to accompany some friends to a Gaelic Football tournament. I really like Dubai, despite the totally unnecessary over-the-top fakeness of it all. Maybe because it reminds me of home. I could name countless similarities between South Florida and Dubai. And though I may criticize it, touristy kitsch is just a part of my being no matter how I try to escape it. But more importantly, Dubai allows alcohol and pork. I was so happy to be able to buy a drink at a bar or a club. I was ecstatic when I walked into the special "non-Muslim" section of a grocery store and saw all the varieties of pig on display. I even found my favorite sausage (yes, being of Eastern European heritage, I have such a thing). All in all, both trips were good times with good people.

In March I also went to Jordan with my brother. We visited the Dead Sea, Jerash, and Petra. I even managed to get pulled over for speeding, but somehow when I showed my IDs the cop just let me go. Another fun moment was when the GPS took me through some lonely road not wide enough for two cars, by some abandoned houses and shit, at night, on the way to Petra. Eventually we were led to the main road, but when GPS took me down some other road that became super steep and had freaking crumbled rubble blocking part of the road, I had enough and turned around to find another way. Garmin, you are still on my shit list - I can never forgive you for telling me to go the wrong way down a one way road back in 2010. Of course, no brother/sister road trip is complete without catching up on all the silly and serious stuff. Among the silly was the "shit (insert a type of person) say" meme, and we talked about the youtube videos of "Shit Miami Girls Say" - which we constantly referenced for the rest of the trip, literally. So, like, the thing is that, if you hear me talking like dat bro, don't worry, irregardless (irregardless is not a word?).

Finally, my friends, I have some serious news. Another blog I read rumors that Kuwait will soon have a Teavana store. Very exciting, as Teavana is the main supplier for my loose tea habit. My office mates could vouch for the daily delicious aromas emanating from the teas that I make. Unfortunately, the prices will probably be way higher than the spendy prices they already charge in the States. Nevertheless, I would be able to get my supply of strawberry pu-erh or raspberry riot mate whenever I wanted, without having to wait weeks for shipping.

With this long missive, I will let you go. Mysteries of the universe will have to be discussed some other time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Culturally Inappropriate Moment of the Day

Whilst at the mall, where I typically hang out, I dash into one of the long hallways that leads to the ladies room. I step inside what I thought was the ladies room, turn a corner, and see rows of benches on either side of the wall with faucets in front of them. How curious, I think to myself. Then I quickly realized that I was in the ladies' prayer room. Right around the time prayers were finishing. Awkward! I zipped right out, around another long corridor, and found the ladies' room I was looking for. When I was done, I walked by the prayer room again and saw that the woman symbol by the doorway had a floor length dress. And the symbol for a mosque. A good lesson to pay more attention in the future.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Year In Review

2011 was a momentous year in many ways. I started the year in Portland, with my husband and ferret, working at the VA hospital, and a mother-in-law that was still alive. All of that has changed. Though I did spend time with my husband and ferret in December, I was back in Kuwait on New Year's Eve. Being with family over Christmas was great, but I think it made me miss everyone even more when I arrived back to my empty apartment. The loneliness hit me hard, so hard that I doubted my decision to even join the Foreign Service. So I did what any reasonable person would do and partied on New Year's Eve. I sure as hell could not bear to be alone, and luckily there was a party at the Marine House. But I love my new job, seriously, and I got over it. My theory is that the ridiculous jet lag I was feeling amplified the feeling sorry for myself episode. That, and you know, hormones. Anyway, here are some other random things about 2011 that didn't make it into the blog:

I read a lot. Between having a kindle, joining a book club, enduring weeks of orientation for my new job, and the fact that there is not as much to do in Kuwait, it has been a prolific year. Some of the books I read: A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The Hunger Games, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Game of Thrones, Small Kingdoms, Unfamiliar Fishes, Freakonomics, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Girls of Riyadh, Farishta, A Discovery of Witches, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, plus others I can't seem to remember. Then there are all the magazines I read regularly too. Phew!

I did not do as much crafting as I would have liked. 2010 was a particularly creative year, but 2011 not so much. I guess my creative energy was just not as strong. Plus, I was separated from the majority of my craft supplies for 5 months this year.

Despite my resolve not to gain weight in Kuwait like everyone else, I did. However, orientation at FSI is also known to cause some pounds to pile on, and I am happy to say that I actually lost a few due to staying very active and not having a car. So it all balanced out in the end. But watch out, flab, cause there's a weight loss program coming to the embassy this month with a pot of money to win. You've been warned.

I have made some awesome friends this year, and even got a chance to renew an old friendship. This is one of the biggest advantages to the foreign service: you get to meet such great people.

Here's to health and happiness in 2012!

Friday, December 2, 2011

India! Thanksgiving! Marine Ball!

I have managed to skip blogging for the whole month of November. I'm sorry. I promised some people I would blog more, and then I go weeks without blogging. Forgive me.

November was actually a pretty awesome month. There were lots of holidays: Eid al-Adha, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Islamic New Year. I had six paid workdays off last month. For the Eid holiday, another OMS colleague and I went to India. It was a great opportunity and definitely worthwhile. We went to Jaipur, Ranthambhore National Park, Delhi, and Agra. I was pretty excited to see the Taj Mahal, and was not disappointed. I particularly enjoyed a tiger safari we went on, although we didn't see any tigers.

I hosted my first Thanksgiving where I made the turkey. Prior to this, I have only stuck to making sides and desserts. The turkey turned out great, as well as almost everything else. I did have one casualty. Apparently, when I packed out, a box of dryer sheets was packed with some food items. Among the food items shipped in that box was a box of cornbread mix that I was saving for Thanksgiving. I made the cornbread, but tasted it just to make sure, and it had the faint aftertaste of dryer sheet, so I had to chuck it. Lesson learned, I will never put dryer sheets in with my shipments. ever. again.

I attended my first Marine Ball. I really enjoy dressing up. I was pretty happy to be wearing the $42 dress I got at Nordstrom Rack back in September. I got lots of compliments on it (though I suspect that some of the compliments were stealthily referring to the cleavage going on with the dress - hey, I'm no dummy). My shoes cost more, since the pair I thought I could wear really didn't go with the dress and I ran out to the mall the morning of the ball to find another pair. I wish I had a date for the ball instead of going with a group of friends. Hopefully next year my date will be here to go with me.

'Til next time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vehicular Harassment

I was told this might happen and it happened last night. I was driving home alone late after a party along Gulf Road. Traffic was light, I had my music playing loud, and was feeling pretty good after a fun party. But no, men playing games, trying to get me to look at them killed my mood. I don't understand how almost crashing your car into mine will make me want to flirt with you. Seriously, I'm just trying to get home here. And it wasn't one guy. There were multiple cars within a few miles, some with one man, some with a group of men, matching speeds, stopping next to me at lights, trying to force me to make eye contact. The scariest of course was the guy slightly ahead of me in the next lane over, practically hanging out his window waving his arm, almost running into me. If I slowed, he would slow down, if I sped up, so would he. But I got my chance to zig zag between some other cars to get away. Holy crap, they should have let me take the defensive driving course the people at danger posts get to take.