The first thought that struck D on arrival in Prague was that the city was overrun by Russian-speakers. The Armenian taxi driver who picked D up from the airport and could barely string three English words together; the management company for the apartment D had hastily booked on hotels.com; the students and old ladies exchanging news on the street corners; even excluding the massive Russian tour groups, D heard about as much Russian during his first couple of hours in Prague as he had in Minsk.
Posts tagged ‘friends’
It seems only natural that, having met on the backpacker circuit in Ecuador, we would spend our life together indulging our joint passion for globetrotting. Although we have now been to 31 countries together (not counting the ones we have both visited, but separately), we have also traveled individually at times – S with her parents when D was unable to get away from work, D on various work trips to several countries well off the typical tourist circuit. This has enabled us to keep up a friendly, although admittedly one-sided, competition (D keeps meticulous lists; S has lost track of the number of countries she has visited).
We spent the last two weeks on the road in the western part of our country, reconnecting with friends in Salt Lake City, visiting a couple of national parks in Wyoming, soaking up Americana on July 4th, and exploring Idaho’s natural wonders – a beautiful state that had sneaked under our radar until now.
As with our previous Foreign Service assignments, we have decided to mark the end of our tour abroad with an American road trip. After Kenya we had spent three weeks driving around California; following two years in Moldova we had returned home just long enough to drop our bags before heading to the Southwest. This time we strung together an itinerary that starts off in Salt Lake City and takes in parts of Wyoming and Idaho before culminating in Boise.
After one final morning in the office – to pay bills, tie up a dozen logistical loose ends, and formally hand over to his successor – D walked the 45 minutes home from the Embassy, something he had been meaning to do but never quite found the time or energy for. He got a bit of the typical mzungu treatment – an exuberant shopkeeper offered passport photos, a handful of kids recited “give-a me money” in heavily accented English, several passing moto-taxis honked to offer a ride – but mostly D was left alone with his thoughts as he soaked in the sights and smells of Kigali one last time.
You’d think that after half a dozen major moves in as many years, we’d be pros at this, but this transition is shaping up to be the most chaotic of our Foreign Service tenure. We have been so focused on tying up a thousand and one loose ends that we have almost completely neglected planning for our home leave. We have our sights set on another road trip out West, but have done next to no research and have just now booked accommodations, with the trip only a week out at this point.
After a record-setting rainy season that wreaked havoc all over the country, Rwanda has settled into a sweet spot. Each day for the last couple of weeks has featured clear blue skies, ideal temperatures, and gorgeous sunsets. It is almost as if Kigali has decided to showcase its best side to make us rue our imminent departure. Last weekend, we took a brief break from packing, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to do our family photo shoot.
Roughly four centuries before bitcoin captivated the public’s imagination, a similarly unlikely commodity fueled the world’s first recorded speculative bubble. At the height of the Dutch Republic’s tulip mania, a single bulb of some tulip varieties sold for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. The bubble burst in 1637, but the Dutch obsession with tulips persists to a lesser extent to this day, as we learned during our brief stay in The Hague. We missed National Tulip Day, but even better — our visit coincided with the heart of the tulip season.
The Ardennes Forrest covers a sizable portion of southeastern Belgium, spills over into neighboring Luxembourg, and extends into parts of Germany and France. Castles and other medieval ruins dot the landscape, extensive networks of subterranean caverns lie hidden in the Ardennes mountains, and Trappist monks continue to follow centuries-old recipes to brew perfect beer and make sumptuous cheese in abbeys scattered throughout this rugged corner of Europe. In other words, we expected to find a little slice of heaven and, despite our unpleasant reception in Dinant, the Ardennes did not disappoint.