Sunday, June 21, 2009

Your burning questions answered

This is the first installment in what I hope will become a regular feature, in which I save time by answering the most commonly asked questions en masse. Not that I don't care about you all and love sharing with you....but I just loathe inefficiency.

1. When are you leaving for Afghanistan?

Good question. We don’t know! My interim security clearance was denied, so now we think I have to wait for a full background check. The government has a target completion date of August 28. And yes, this throws a giant wrench in our plans. Nick and I had an apartment management company lined up to take care of our condo and a potential renter waiting in the wings. We only have until mid-August to have the movers come back and pack up the rest of our belongings for storage; any later and we have to pay for the moving and storage ourselves. And once my security clearance comes through, I still have 2 weeks of training and a medical clearance to schedule and complete. I need to make travel plans to visit my sister, my parents, and I’d like to do at least a mini summer vacation at some point. But not knowing what’s going to happen next is making it impossible to plan anything.

2. Why was your clearance denied?

I don’t know, and the government won’t tell me why. My first notice was an automated email saying “Interim clearance – DENIED.” When I emailed asking why, I was informed that they couldn’t tell me pending completion of the investigation. Scary. I usually make joke about the reason why it was denied, but it’s not the kind of joke I should put on the interwebs while the government is doing a background check.

3. So what happens now?

We wait. Patiently. Although it turns out I’m not so good at the whole patience thing when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy.

4. Do you know anything else about what you’ll be doing once you get out there?

Not really. I’m supposed to be working in the Joint Visitor’s Bureau (JVB), which handles all the travel and meeting logistics for visiting diplomats, dignitaries, etc. The only other thing I know about the job is that the salary, even with danger pay is…well, let’s just say it’s less than I would like to be making.

5. How often do you get to talk to Nick?

We usually video chat twice a day; once just as he’s getting up in the morning (around 10pm DC time), and once when he’s going to bed (about 2pm DC time). Luckily the World Bank allows staff to have Skype and Google chat on their computers. Nick and I also IM, mostly in the early morning DC time while he’s still at work in Kabul. And once in a while he’ll call.

All in all we get a pretty good amount of chat time in, but it’s not entirely satisfying. I mean, talking is nice and all, but that’s not how Nick and I sustain our relationship under normal circumstances. It’s not very often that we sit face-to-face on the couch and just talk; this is pretty much all one can do on Skype, so although it’s nice to see and talk to one another, it doesn’t feel very natural. We’re used to doing stuff together: going out to eat, riding our bikes, just sitting outside reading books, doing chores around the house. So sometimes we Skype each other and then just leave the computers on in the background as we go about our day. So I’ll be doing one of my workout videos, or cooking dinner while Nick is getting ready for work. We can see and hear the other person moving around, which feels normal and comfortable and right.

We’ve also discovered that we can create a reasonable facsimile of our weekly date nights, courtesy of iTunes and Google chat. Although, for Nick it’s not so much as date night as it is a date “I-have-to-get-up-at-what-time-in-the-morning?” We both download the same episode of How I Met Your Mother (awesome show!), connect to one another using Google chat (just a voice chat), sit down with our respective meals (dinner for me, breakfast for him) and then press play on our computers at the same time. It syncs up pretty well, and we can hear each other laughing/chortling/groaning at the same time. It’s very comforting to share an activity, and a nice little reminder that the separation is only temporary and all the things we like to do together – and that we like about each other – will still be there when it’s over.

6. Do you miss him?

Not at all. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

6. No, really. Are you lonely?

I have good days, and I have bad days. Weekend days when the weather is nice are especially hard. And we’ll just leave it at that.

7. When will you get to see him?

Well, our original plan – when we thought I’d be leaving shortly after he left – was for him to come home in late July to help me pack up the apartment and then we’d head to Kabul together. Now that’s all kind of up in the air. However, he is still going to try and come back for a visit in late summer so that we can go meet our new niece together – provided her mom and dad will be up for visitors!

8. Has Nick’s stuff arrived?

It’s arriving as I’m typing this….

9. Did Nick have a nice birthday?

Yes, but I’ll leave that for him to write about in his next post. And now I get bonus points for figuring out how to close this blog post and segue into the next one...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nick says buh-bye to his 20s!

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday Mr. Diplomat
Happy Birthday to you!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tell me a love story

It was suggested that I avoid work topics in my blog for fear of retribution. I am not that scared because I am already in one of the most dangerous places on the earth for an American. With that said I am dedicating this blog to a lighter side of my life, and yes my wife is smaller than I. This entire blog will be for Elizabeth, who is still in DC waiting to hear from the U.S. Government, which is moving at the speed of bureaucracy.

You may ask yourself “why is Nick writing this blog,” and “I hope it is funny.” To answer your first question, I am writing this because my wife is more than just a phone call over Skype; she is my bacon, my sausage, and all the stuff that makes me feel good about being alive. On the second point…yes, this blog will interject dry and witty humor because it will be full of lame movie quotes about love. Guys, you know the movies I'm talking about; they are the ones you don’t want to see but go see anyways because you are guaranteed some nooky or at least a good laugh because you wonder why anyone would cry at such crap. Anyways, here are the quotes and my wisdom (if you can call it that).

“A life without love is no life at all.” I would generally agree with this statement. Before I met Elizabeth I had a vague idea of what love was and how integral it was to life. Without you, Elizabeth, I would never had the opportunity to fully enjoy being alive.

“If you're not willing to sound stupid, you're not worthy of falling in love.” I am this quote; I live this quote, for the one simple fact that I can’t keep my farfignugen mouth shut. Elizabeth, if it weren't for you I would not be as funny or as witty as I am today. I wouldn't be as articulate and well-spoken if it wasn’t for you.

“The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” Short and simple just how we like it. I do not need anything in my life expect to love my wife and to have her love me back. Everything else that I have is just icing on the cake.

“And I love you. Because I've learned that Platonic love can exist between two grown men.” You know who you are. *wink*

“The sensation you are feeling is the quickening.” This is the strange feeling I get when I see Elizabeth, because every time I look at her it is as if I am looking at her for the first time in my life. By the way, the quote is for the Highlander fans; it is like one of the best movies of all time…it won like six Academy Awards.

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” Well, I am not dead, but I am 6000 miles way. This distance will never stop the love I have for Elizabeth.

“Make of our hands one hand. Make of our hearts one heart. Make of our vows one last vow. Only death will part us now.” Enough said. Elizabeth I hope you like the quote because I put it in just for you.

Elizabeth, I will love you my whole life. You and no other.

To end this cheese fest I leave with one last quote. It sums up who Elizabeth and I are and how we seem to get along even though we have such different views and beliefs.

“It doesn’t matter if the guy is perfect or the girl is perfect, as long as they are perfect for each other.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

My new obsession

If you find yourself in NYC, and are wondering if there's anything good on Broadway right now, might I recommend Next to Normal?

Somewhat sadly, the stud who plays the son (Aaron Tveit) is on leave from the show until mid-September to star in the out-of-town engagement of the new musical Catch Me If You Can. This is only "somewhat sad" because his co-star in the show is the one and only NORBERT and that is just awesome. The show is aiming for Broadway, possibly for the end of the 2010 season.

But I digress. Go to NYC, support new and original American musical theater, and see
Next to Normal.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Get to the Chopper...The Chopper

Arnold is the king of one liners, and since I tend to steal everyone else's lines and pawn them off as my own, this blog entry will be dedicated to Arnold Schwarzenegger.


I had my first trip out of Kabul this week and it was interesting. This past Saturday I received a message from the Aid Director telling me that I needed to get my 'ass to mars' --Mars being Bagram Airfield up north -- to retrieve information on how development funds are being used in the various Afghan provinces. To get my ass there I had to employ the services of Aid's Airforce (yes, Aid has its own Airwing) and had to 'get to the chopper' by 9am. We loaded up on the helo and headed out, but turned around shortly after takeoff because the airbase was closed for a ceremonial changing of the guard. After a few hours we took off again and headed to the airbase. On the chopper it was me, another guy, and two former Royal Marines with AKs (and it was a good flight because they did not have to user their AKs). We landed safely and I was escorted into the base for my meetings.

The meetings went well, and I got agreement from the Lt. Colonel to provide me with the info. If he hadn't agreed to give it up I would have said 'screw you Benny' and gone above his head. After the meeting it was lunch time and I was lucky because 'I eat Green Berets for lunch and right then I was very hungry.' After chow I made the rounds and was introduced to other people involved with Civil Affairs.

After a few hours it was sleepy time. The military was kind enough to put me up in a B-Hut, which is military-speak for a wood shack with eight other guys next to the air fields. Between the 7 snoring guys and the F-18s taking off all night long, I did not get much sleep.

The next day I received a text message from the Director saying that if I did not get the requested data that I was to 'stick around' the airbase permanently. Lucky for me I had the data in hand and headed off to catch my flight back. The most interesting part of the flight was getting to the plane. No one at the airbase had any clue about Aid's Airwing. Ultimately I had to run across the airfield, dodging A-10s, to get to the plane. When I landed at the Kabul airfield I was picked up and taken back to Aid. With the response I got when I returned with the data in hand, you would have thought I was carrying the Holy Grail.

I was so tired after my trip that I made a sign that read 'Don't disturb my friend, he's dead tired,' and hung it on my door. All in all it was good trip and I returned to the compound a hero.

Well I need to plan for my next adventure to the far unknown. Maybe after my next trip I will infuse my blog with Chuck Norris jokes. Did you know that Chuck Norris doesn’t go hunting? Chuck Norris goes killing…hunting implies failure.

Talk to you all later.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ok, we have a blog. Now what?

I have been avoiding writing in the blog because I am not exactly sure how to treat it. Should I treat it like a diary, and be frank about how I've been getting along on my own? Or should I take a more journalistic approach, using this space for a record of what I'm up to and objective observations on the large bureaucratic entity to which Nick and I have submitted our lives, avoiding too much discussion about my feelings (or feeeeeeeeeeelings , as Amalah would say)?

Maybe I should dabble in a little of both. Today I think I shall try the journalistic approach:
  • Bureaucracy is no fun. Nick's stuff was packed up on May 20th; it's now June 3rd and apparently his stuff hasn't left DC because the movers haven't received payment from USAID. This is very frustrating.
  • There is still no word from HR on when I might head out, how I go about obtaining all my clearances, the terms of reference for my job, my salary, etc. I think I am having a hard time getting a response because I am not a government employee, and am therefore outside of the system.
  • The World Bank is a strange place to work. I don't think I could do it forever. The work-life balance is difficult.
  • I cannot, for the life of me, find new black dress pants. Misses' pants are too big; pants from the juniors' department are too hoochie. I am down to just two pairs of work pants, which I wear in rotation. This is pathetic and more than a little gross.
  • Spring has finally sprung in DC -- just in time for summer, of course -- and this past weekend was simply glorious. I spent a good chunk of time reading in Logan Circle with my toes in the grass. I made significant progress in finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and am now suffering from another round of food-related guilt and wishing I had a yard in which to raise my own vegetables and flock of turkeys. After my experience with reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, you'd think I'd know to stay away from books about the ethics of food and sustainable agriculture.
  • I saw Rent for the umpteenth time on Friday night (thanks Toad!), which is not lame; in fact it makes me awesome. Adam Pascal was sick and during Act 2 kept wiping his nose on his scarf. Then his guitar was out of tune for the big 11 o'clock number. I love live theater.
  • In preparation for my departure, I finally got a pair of glasses, just for back-up. For the past 15 years I have been a contacts-only girl. These glasses will only be used in dire emergencies (not even pink eye counts), and no one except Nick will ever see me in them. Because I look like an idiot in glasses.
  • Life continues on pretty much as it did before Nick left, except there is a lot less mess in the house, each week I barely have enough laundry for a single full load, I am no longer forced to watch Law & Order, and the toilet seat is always down.

So, yay or nay on the journalistic approach?