Self-help books, mindfulness blogs, and mental health articles abound with exhortations to live in the moment and advice on how to make the most of each day. Aside from the clichés of squeezing every drop of joy out of each unique experience we accumulate when serving overseas, being able to focus on the present while relentlessly planning for the future is a requisite skill for the Foreign Service. Considering how often we relocate, the temptation is always there to cast our sights toward the next assignment, the next move, or the next country – to envision the possibilities and continuously stress about the unknown. Without a firm grip on the present one can easily descend into madness.
Posts tagged ‘Emmie’
7:12p.m. Giggles and tears. Junebug, who has recently learned to use the potty, darts out of the bathroom in which she and Munchkin had just enclosed themselves. Her own pants around her ankles, she is clutching a bundle of clothes, which are soon revealed to be Munchkin’s. “Give me back my pants,” he whines from the bathroom doorway, undecided as to whether he should run after her or go back to the toilet. She scampers away and he gives chase, wresting away his shorts and underwear after a brief tussle that ends with Junebug crying at the injustice of having her scheme foiled. We watch helplessly – S because she is torn between trying to help Munchkin recover his clothing on the one hand and protecting Junebug on the other, and D because he is doubled over with laughter.
A friend of ours is fond of saying that there is no such thing as cold weather; rather, the problem lies in poor clothing choices. Junebug, for one, disagrees with this sentiment. It does not matter how warmly we dress her or how much we play up the fun to be had with fresh powdery snow. The last few months she got her first taste of a proper winter – with snow and temperatures in the teens during our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and a snowstorm in DC this weekend. To say that she did not enjoy her exposure to the frosty weather would be an understatement.
For months we had been talking about taking a day trip to Shenandoah, but never quite finding the time or energy to go. Tied up with seemingly never-ending settling-in errands, catching up on language study and sleep, foiled by a handful of rainy weekends. The park entrance is less than a two-hours’ drive from DC, but for some reason the outing felt like it necessitated a three-day weekend. Columbus Day would have been the perfect occasion to go, with the fall foliage in its fully resplendent display, but D was away on a work trip.
It starts with the departure of friends and colleagues. Although the bulk of the turnover won’t take place until the summer, a few positions rotate earlier, and this season’s farewell parties have already started cropping up. We tried to put off thinking about our own forthcoming departure from Kigali until after our return from South Africa. Now with only about four months left in our Rwanda tour, moving anxiety is beginning to grip our household.
Our first Thanksgiving together very nearly caused some family strife. S’s parents had invited us to spend the extended weekend with them shortly after we had started dating – many months before the actual holiday – and when D’s mom got wind of the plan, she laid on a massive guilt trip, accusing D of sabotaging her favorite family holiday over “some girl he barely knew.” We wound up doing two Thanksgivings to mollify her, flying from Chicago to Connecticut and then driving to Maine, making sure to spend equal amounts of time with both families.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, so the saying goes, but there are exceptions, and this was one of them. There was no doubt in D’s mind as he transited three airports over the course of 27 hours that the return alone from Portland to Kigali was going to be a bit of a downer. What he hadn’t quite counted on was to find the saying to have literal implications as well. Rwanda is a lush, verdant country for most of the year, but D returned during the height of the dry season to find the countryside sere, the grass wilting brown, and the air pregnant with dust.
There is one respect in which Kigali compares quite poorly to the other places we’ve served. It should come as no surprise that land would be at a premium in the most densely populated country on the continent, yet we still find the utter dearth of green public spaces in the capital remarkably disappointing.
Some hiccups with our house notwithstanding, we are beginning to feel settled. While there are some stark differences between Kenya and Rwanda, there are plenty of similarities as well. Also, we both have spent time in Kigali previously, so the move does not feel nearly as disorienting as going to Moldova from Kenya felt for S, for example. The transition has been a little more challenging for our little ones, however.