“Papa has a nice body. And mama – mama has a big belly,” Munchkin declared thoughtfully after waking up in our bed the first morning of our Namibia trip.
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The first four months of our Rwanda tour we mostly stayed put, only leaving Kigali a couple of times for weekend trips to Akagera and Nyungwe and venturing out of the country once to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Kampala. Starting with D’s trip to Bangkok, the last two months by contrast have been full of travel and adventure. We made a couple of jaunts north of the border to Uganda, spent a weekend tracking golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park, and just returned home from two wonderful weeks in Namibia and a visit to Victoria Falls.
Was 2016 good? Will 2017 be better or worse? As with most things in life, the answer depends on perspective. Looking back, do you focus on one or two events and let them define the year or do you take a step back and appreciate the good moments while acknowledging the difficult ones? Looking forward, do you fear the challenges that lie ahead or welcome the opportunities that life will surely present?
This week marks the beginning of our sixth month in Rwanda. 2016 has flown by in a flash and it’s a bit hard to wrap our minds around the fact that we’re nearing the midway point of our first year in Kigali. It’s even harder to believe that our car, which we shipped well before leaving Washington, still has yet to show up in Rwanda.
Up in the dead of the night — alarm set for 4 am, but too much nervous energy to sleep. 2:45am. Election coverage on one browser, the Penguins game on another. The first results start rolling in. Kentucky. Indiana. Both red, as expected, but also a bit redder than predicted by the polls. Too early to tell anything other than that the final tally will be close.
One of the more memorable modules from D’s orientation training half a dozen years ago was called “composure under fire.” The exercise consisted of a barrage of difficult questions regarding U.S. foreign policy in a particular country; the goal was to maintain one’s cool while avoiding saying anything that might make front-page news in a less-than-friendly publication.
Seven years in the making, an ambitious amendment to the Montreal Protocol was adopted in Kigali in the wee hours of the morning last Saturday. Over 170 nations committed to phase out the use of a powerful heat-trapping chemical, which will cut one degree Fahrenheit from the projected increase in atmospheric temperature. With the whole Embassy working tirelessly to support our negotiating team, this diplomatic achievement feels incredibly gratifying – both because it is a big deal in the fight against climate change and also because it feels good to make a contribution, however small, to bend the arc of history in the right direction.
Last week, President Obama hosted a summit on refugees, bringing together world leaders who pledged their countries to increase financing of humanitarian support for the 65 million people who have been displaced by conflict worldwide, promised to increase the number of refugees accepted for resettlement, and committed to providing a more dignified life for refugees by increasing access to education and employment opportunities in frontline nations that are hosting large refugee populations.
Even without Munchkin’s recent antics, there are plenty of worries that keep S up at night. The one that comes up again and again is her career, or — rather — what oftentimes feels like the lack of one. We have written about the travails of being a trailing spouse in the Foreign Service community before, and many of the same realities S found challenging when we embarked on this life path five and a half years ago hold just as true today. Even with an excellent job — and S feels extremely fortunate to have landed a fantastic position in her field — the worry lingers at the back of S’s mind: what happens when this tour ends? Usually, it’s back to square one.