Somewhere between the haphazard backpacking days of our youth and the meticulously planned vacations our parents favor lies the perfect balance of trip planning. Showing up in a new town without pre-arranged lodging or definite plans and only a vague timeline for departure still seems conceptually exciting but is no longer practical, especially when we travel with two little rugrats in tow. After years of travel we’ve learned to throw together a pretty good trip at the last minute with only minimal research — an approach that is not without drawbacks.
Posts tagged ‘bureaucracy’
A third of the way through our Southwest road trip, Christmas Eve found us in Artesia, NM – a small town that owes its name to a long ago depleted artesian aquifer and whose present existence is supported mainly by oil and gas refineries. A ghost town under ordinary circumstances, Artesia seemed doubly so as we navigated its deserted, halogen-lit streets. Even grocery stores were closed on account of the approaching holiday. The neon billboards of fast food restaurants, which remained stubbornly open, provided the only sign of life as night approached. We had stocked up on groceries before our arrival and hunkered down in our inn with a board game to while away the evening.
Hands down, the top highlight of our most recent trip to the Southwest was a visit to Chiricahua – a little-known national monument that is tucked away in the southeast corner of Arizona, near the border with New Mexico. The park receives between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors a year – less than one-tenth of the number of people who visit nearby Saguaro, where we had spent the previous day.
As a general rule, we avoid political, sensitive, and potentially divisive subjects in this blog. We write about our travels, our kids, and life in the Foreign Service while steering clear of the polemics of local politics and the issues we work on overseas. Despite spending some of our Foreign Service careers in Washington, we also try to ignore Washington intrigue and rarely discuss American politics. That said, it would be intellectually dishonest to continue posting about our goings-on without writing about the ongoing government shutdown, which is now in its 24th day and has come to be a prominent feature of our careers and our lives.
TV screens tuned to CNN and Fox News trumpeted the impending government shutdown as we made our way to our gate two Fridays ago, boarding our flight to Phoenix hours before a lapse in appropriations, which is now in its 13th day and appears to have no immediate end in sight. Our automated furlough notices arrived the next morning, as we started our second Southwest road trip with an ambitious itinerary of national and state parks in Arizona and New Mexico.
“A moment of silence, please/
for those who never get the chance.
They show up to the party/
but they’re never asked to dance.”
It’s funny, this quality that certain songs possess of burrowing into the subconscious and then surfacing on a moment’s notice when their lyrics come in perfect harmony with our lives, as if they had been written for us or about us. Songs of love and loss are the most obvious examples, given the universality of these human experiences, but there are other, more off-beat matches when a song’s lyrics mysteriously fit and the totality of the music expresses one’s emotions much more perfectly than words alone ever could. The song playing on repeat in D’s mind these days is Streetlight Manifesto’s “A Moment of Silence” — a loser anthem that cuts to the core of D’s current job search frustrations despite being written about something else entirely. Read more
Azure, still waters of an alpine lake, shimmering under the glare of the noontime sun, cold as the snow-melt that feeds it. The craggy contour of jagged mountains, dappled in snow, ringed by evergreens. The flutter of a bird-wing and its owner’s clarion song — nature’s calling cards, beckoning us toward adventure. These are the mementos from our home leave road trip this past summer, and the images that fill our imagination in planning our next sojourn out West over the winter holidays.
Yesterday was handshake day: the end of two months of nerve-wrecking lobbying for those Foreign Service Officers who received onward assignments and the beginning of the second round of stressful scrambling for those who did not. D knew well in advance of the formal announcements that he would be without a handshake, a first in his FS tenure that significantly raises the likelihood that next summer he will have a career but no job to go with it.
Since returning home from Kigali, we had been in a state of limbo. Naturally, we took advantage of D’s home leave to go exploring out west, but S was forced to cut her travels short, returning to DC for the start of her Foreign Service Orientation. The opaqueness of the assignments process and the temporary lodging she took up in Virginia while D stayed out west only served to further underscore the sense of suspense and uncertainty. Should we settle in and get comfortable? Or would DC serve as but a brief stopover before our next overseas destination? Until Flag Day, it was impossible to tell.