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down time

It’s been a while since we’ve felt the urge to tickle the keys of our laptops – more than a month has gone by since we’ve last added a page to this digital story of our Foreign Service life. A month spent in a whirlwind of work deadlines and pre-departure preparations, interrupted by the occasional social outing and a visit from one of our Moldova-era friends.

Munchkin’s “threenage” antics and D’s obsession with playoff hockey have meant scant sleep for both of us. During the last couple of months before S and Munchkin returned to the United States a week ago, D spent more nights than not either on the couch downstairs or in Munchkin’s bed – the little man has gotten into the execrable habit of waking up around 1-2am and angrily reclaiming “his space” in our bed next to S, at D’s expense.

And with baby #2 on her way, things are likely to get more complicated before they get any easier. As we anticipate having our hands full and will, in all likelihood, have scant time and energy for blogging as extensively as we have in the past, allow us to sign off by leaving a few book recommendations for those of our readers who are as enamored of the printed word as we are.

After spending a good chunk of 2016 studying French, our reading list bears the unmistakable imprint of our instructors’ influence. We stocked up on French books during our immersion trip to Paris, and half of the dozen novels D read last year were in French. Among them it’s worth highlighting Fainza Guene’s Kiffe Kiffe Demain and Les Gens Du Balto – quirky stories brimming with humor and steeped in the pains of alienation experienced by the Maghreb’s immigrant communities in France. We also enjoyed the twists and turns in Helene Gremillon’s Le Confidant and the simple humanity of Mouloud Feraoun’s Le Fils Du Pauvre.

The last book D read in French was Gil Courtemanche’s Un Dimanche A La Piscine A Kigali – the semi-autobiographical novel of love and loss that takes place during the 1994 genocide. A fitting book for our transition to Kigali, it prompted D into more serious literature: Anjan Sundaram’s Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship (about Rwanda); Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier (a remarkable first-hand account of the civil war in Sierra Leone); and Michela Wrong’s In The Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo (chronicling the decades of one of Africa’s most colorful strongmen).

The three nonfiction books were equal parts engrossing, informative, and depressing – and all are definitely worth a read for those who are interested in the recent history of the African continent. D is taking a break from nonfiction by losing himself in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. As ever, we remain on the lookout for good literature and enjoin you to leave recommendations in the comments below.

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