Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall 2009, Part I

Nick's First Home Leave

Meeting Claire for the first time


Cheering on the Spartans

Hanging with the boys
Taking in the sights....

...and tastes of NYC


Visits with family....


...and friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Never in a million years

If it didn't feel real before, it certainly does now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Peek-a-boo

In case the lack of visual evidence has you thinking that Nick and I have constructed this whole Afghanistan thing as an elaborate ruse.....




PS: Thanks to those who left messages. It's funny to think that we have readers other than family and friends!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Headcount

Might I be so rude as to make a small request of you all?

I'm curious to know how many people are following along with this blog. And although I'm fairly computer savvy, I can't for the life of me figure out how to get a hits count out of the Google blogger tools. Maybe that's not a feature.*

Anyway, I would be most grateful if each person who reads this would make his/her presence known by noting their visit in the comments section. You can be anonymous, you don't even have to write anything. Just leave a mark to let us know you were here.

*Edit: I figured out how to add a hits counter, so now the headcount will be done automatically. But I still want to get an idea of who's reading. So please still leave a mark!

Cheers all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Forward Motion

I know. I know. I owe everyone a post on Nick's home leave. I have pictures and video and stories...and absolutely no attention span to do anything with any of it. I'll get to it soon, I promise.

In the mean time, here's the big update I promised. I'm sure you guys have been waiting for this with baited breath ever since my little teaser post yesterday. Right? Right? *crickets*

So, I'm going to Afghanistan. For realz. In November.

After months and months of delays, bureaucratic hurdles, and a few weeks of zero communication thrown in for fun, the process of getting me out to Kabul seems to have landed itself on the fast-track express. Not TGV fast, but fast enough that I should be in Kabul well in advance of Thanksgiving.

I'm not sure how it happened. Maybe Nick's less-than-subtle hints that the difficulties we were experiencing could lead him to reconsider his commitment to serving a second year were finally taken seriously. Maybe we just happened to make contact with the right HR person, one with all the answers (or at least the ability to direct us to the people with the answers. And hey! Sometimes she even asks the questions for us, because that's her job and what she's expected to do! What a novel concept. {Thank you, thank you, thank you Michelle! Special thanks to Seetha as well, who's been a steady help throughout}). Whatever the reason, I can finally say that as of September 24th, we've been making significant progress.

Of course it wouldn't be the government HR without a little last minute bureaucratic fun, right?! Nick found out on Monday, September 28 that if I wasn't on his orders by the end of the fiscal year -- that is, by Wednesday, September 30! -- we would suffer dire consequences. Cue several days of panicpanicPANIC. But, I'm not yet on his orders, and so far nothing dire has happened. No delays, no additional red tape. Keep your fingers crossed that it stays this way!

So we find ourselves back to the familiar task of jumping through the government's hoops, except now it's different. Now when we jump, we actually move forward. Last week I jumped through the medical clearance hoop. (There's a funny story in there about having 1.5 hours to eat in between the end of the 24 hour fast for Yom Kippur and the start of the 12 hour fast for my blood tests, involving bipolar behavior caused by drastic swings in blood sugar. But I digress). We're waiting for the results, but we assume that everything will come back ok. No reason that it shouldn't. Once I get medical clearance I can be added to Nick's orders, which will release funding, which will open many, many of the doors that currently stand in my way.

Right now I'm jumping through the diplomatic passport and visa hoops, involving lots of forms and back and forth with various HR folks and some problems caused by lack of funding, as metioned above. But here too I am making progress.

Additional evidence of said progress is that I'm booked for my mandatory trainings. The first one (Oct. 19-24) is the FACTS course, where I will learn all about super fun stuff like how to triage bombing victims, how to identify an IED, and what to do if the car I'm riding in/driving comes under attack. It's like something out of a James Bond movie, except without the special effects and with actual cars -- which I will be driving -- and actual explosions.

Confession time: I do not do well with situations that require split-second decisions. I am a compulsive researcher who needs to examine a problem from every angle and who dreads giving the wrong answer. As a kid I used to panic whenever I didn't know the right answer to my Alphie Doll's question (anyone remember Alphie? The little quiz robot?) or when the timer on Perfection was running out and I didn't have all the pieces in place. It was the pressure of the countdown and knowing that I didn't have as much time as I wanted to think everything through that killed me. I think my experience on the driving course will be just like that, except instead of deciding on where to put puzzle pieces, I will have to decide whether to ram the terrorists' car blocking the road or throw my car in reverse and hightail it out of there. While imagining I'm being shot at. *gulp*

Every guy I talk to thinks it all sounds super awesome!, to which I respond that I am currently accepting volunteers to dress up in drag and go in my stead.

The second course (Nov. 2-6) is the Afghanistan familiarization course. I think I can handle that one. Assuming there's no driving.

After I complete both trainings I'll be authorized to head to post. The only obstacle that will remain will be the packing. For those of you wondering about the outcome of the great 90 day packout deadline debacle, it turns out that we can plead our case to the government to get a 90 day extension on the original deadline (hooray for clear answers from Michelle!).

I don't think that the term "packing" adequately captures the task that lies ahead. I think I will call it "logistical task of DOOM." Getting this task organized is rather daunting, and I'm having trouble finding the most efficient way to get it done. I have to sort our belongings into 5 piles and dispatch as necessary, according to destination: Kabul, government storage, Uhaul storage, Albany storage (aka parents' house), garage sale/Goodwill/trash. And then I have to hold said garage sale. And tranport the Uhaul pile to said Uhaul storage. And bring the Albany pile -- including my car -- to Albany. And then shop for 6 months' worth of Kabul-bound consumables. While in DC without my car. And while taking my trainings. Crap.

Somewhere in this jumble I have to extricate myself from my job at the World Bank (I'll save that story for another post), get the apartment ready to be rented, disseminate our wedding photos, shop for additional work clothes, celebrate my dad's 60th birthday (yay!), keep up with my workouts, make the rounds to say goodbye to family and friends, fill up on vegetables and unprocessed foods, and squeeze in as many trapeze and silks classes as possible.

So to conclude this post using proper blog style (tie everything back to the start of the post), I will say that if you're looking to wag a finger at me for being late with a post about Nick's home leave, please reread the paragraphs above. I think they collectively qualify as a valid excuse, no?

The end is in sight, folks. We're plowing ahead; in fits and starts and maybe a little bit unsteadily. But at least we're achieving forward motion.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yipee!

I had a great silks class on Saturday, finally performing two tricks that I'd been stuck on for a while. Luckily I had someone document one of those moments for posterity.

That's all for now. A big update is on its way, so stay tuned......