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.
Posts tagged ‘travel’
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.
One wonders what the United States would look like now if the first colonists had landed on the shores of California instead of at Jamestown and Plymouth Bay. Would the lands comprising California’s nine national parks have survived in their pristine state if colonization and the War of Independence had played out on the West Coast? Would America’s eastern shore have been spared some of the ravages of industrialization?
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.
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.
Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.
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.
The tendency when one is serving overseas is to use each posting as a springboard to explore the region, to travel around the continent one calls home for a few years. In Africa, this strategy hits two snags. First, the continent is immense. Second, with the exception of a handful of hubs, intercontinental flights are unreliable and expensive. Serving in eastern Africa, for example, South Africa was accessible but the countries of the Maghreb not at all.
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.