Bit by bit

Poco a poco, we’re getting settled in. It’s been adjustment-times-two for us: adjusting to a new country and a new style of living. We’re installed in our over-sized home on the edge of town (visitors more than welcome!), Colin is finding his way at work, I’ve started Spanish classes. I think I’ve already said this but it’s worth repeating, everyone in the community has been so, so kind and generous.

Before we had our final timeline, Colin had been looking forward to celebrating July 4 in the States. I was too; I was hoping the timing might line up for one final crazy beach weekend with some college pals. Of course that’s not how things shook out, and now we’re here, volunteering to help decorate and to act as two of the many “hosts” during the big fancy work party, and also looking forward to the cook-out happening on actual July 4. I’m eagerly bookmarking recipes as possible side-dish options to contribute to the potluck, limitless options since our pantry is barely stocked anyway. I don’t quite understand how we can spend $50 at the regular supermarket and $200 at the PriceSmart and still feel like our cupboards are bare. I tried real hard–there were lists with menu ideas written on them!

We’ve been spending our recent evenings making plans to get out of town. Early August brings a nice fat week of vacation, so we’re scrambling to book an adventure before it’s too late. We realized we missed the boat on the Galapagos, and Argentina is awfully expensive at this late date. So we bought tickets to Peru! It’s not clear if we’ll be able to hike the Inca Trail, which one needs a guide for, but there are other ways to hike around Machu Picchu and so much other stuff to do as well.

We have also finally taken ownership of the car we bought down here. That doesn’t yet solve the no license plate or insurance issue, but like I said, poco a poco.

New place, new post

First update from our new home: We landed in El Salvador yesterday and were greeted at the gate by our first embassy friend, who arranged for someone else to grab our bags from the carousel while we waited in a private lounge. He gave us a quick tour and we stopped at a mall for breakfast, because malls are where it’s at, still, here.

For now we’re installed at a very nice hotel with a lovely little pool and strong wi-fi. We were able to stream a movie last night, no problem, and it’s a nice change of pace to do something relaxed like that (and the three-hour nap I took in the afternoon) after our rather frantic final weeks in DC. I feel compelled to explore the city, but movement is rather limited as we don’t yet have our car and walking and taking the bus is discouraged. That should change by next week, though; we’ll be moved into our house by then and will have our little SUV.

One of my greatest complaints at this point is that El Salvador isn’t showing any of the Women’s World Cup matches, so I think that means life is pretty good.

Heavy clouds over the city; view from our hotel window.

Heavy clouds over the city; view from our hotel window.

I definitely owe you an update

Life in Arlington continues. School, work, Spanish, rest, rinse, repeat. We renewed our membership at our climbing gym and I am sore from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes. Colin is on Congressional Record as being officially nominated to the Foreign Service: his name in size 9 font on a list of many, we didn’t get to go to the Senate or anything. I hosted some gals this weekend for a bread workshop. I’m hoping they find as much enjoyment and therapy in the hobby as I do.

The move to El Sal creeps ever closer. They’ve invited us to fill out a housing survey, though we won’t know the results until just before we leave. New friends who received an English-speaking post have already shipped their sea freight and are down to their final few weeks in the States.

We are healthy enough and looking forward to the holidays. Our apartment was plagued with butterfingers over the weekend: a salad tong fell and broke, a knife dropped onto a bowl of hot soup, breaking the bowl, and a glass of eggnog and a glass of wine spilled at once all over a board game. At some point you just have to laugh.

There are probably only about 30 flags to remember

OK friends, we’re a week out from getting our flag. That flag will reveal our home for the next two or possibly three years*. My father-in-law will be here; my brother will be here; dozens (maybe A dozen) of people on the West Coast will be anxiously awaiting the results.

There’s a not-so-good joke about people going up to accept their flag but not actually knowing what country it represents, and there’s a rumor that someone made a cheat sheet for all of the possible flags on our list. If I only have a week to go before I’m responsible for matching flag to country for our two guests while Colin goes up for a handshake, I should probably start studying.

*Two years in the country plus possibly one year here for language training.

Stufffffff

Getting by the whole summer wearing mostly a single pair of Reef sandals makes me wonder about the necessity of the 15 pairs of shoes I unpacked today, having picked up a carload of our stuff from some friends’ basement.

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But I’m nonetheless really happy to have these Chucks back.

Back to school

About two years ago, Colin met me at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, the beginning of our eight months in Morocco. Even though a number of Life Events have been tucked into the period since, it is hard to believe two years have gone by.

Today, Colin is in his second day of “diplomat school,” and I’m off on my second trip of the day to a grocery store, stocking the shelves of our temporary, hotel-like apartment. “Teacher school” starts in a couple weeks, and in the meantime there’s health insurance to pick, joint bank accounts to establish, and posts to research. Today or tomorrow or Thursday, Colin will bring home the list of all the posts we could possibly be sent to, and then we get a week to research and rank them. Clean air and a school I could teach at: those are our basic requirements. That should leave us plenty of options, right?

Road trip day 12: Home stretch

Miles: 391

The final day was basically a delirious, smelly, trafficky mess until our triumphant arrival in Bethesda, MD.
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Grand summation
Miles: 4,144ish
States: 15
Fantastic, generous hosts: 3
Subway lunches: 4
Tickets, car troubles, other serious mishaps: 0
Highlight: midway through Peekaboo Trail in Bryce Canyon NP
Lowlight: leaving New Orleans and being thwarted at three potential campsites before finally going to sleep in the car along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast at 11pm

I’m glad to have made the coast-to-coast drive, and it was so fun to watch the country change from region to region. We saw many interesting corners we never would have seen otherwise. We sought out a lot of delicious food but also ate a lot of junk. The car and the relationship survived intact, so I think that counts for a win. All that said, though, I’m in no hurry to do it again.

For more great photos, check out Colin’s blog!

Road trip day 11: Road weary

Miles: 265
Fried green tomato (slices): 3
Carolinas: 2
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A couple days earlier we’d finished our truly riveting and time-passing audio book, Under the Banner of Heaven, and so now we were left with commercial-heavy radio, months’ old Radiolab podcasts, and each other’s company to fill the silence. Our mile count wasn’t nearly as high as it had been our first few days, but these miles seemed so much longer.

It got less scenic as we drove north from Charleston, where we had enjoyed a truly fine rendering of chicken and waffles for lunch. We’d also stopped at a roadside stand to buy a snack I’d thought I’d probably never have again, boiled peanuts.

After following one bad lead, we arrived at dusk at a North Carolina campground. The ranger came by on his way out for the night and told us we could pay in the morning if we were still there, but if we had to get on the road before that, to have a safe drive and come back and see them again some other time.
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Road trip day 10: Gullah country

Miles: 191
Unintentional detour (minutes): 20
Angry cars behind us at the gate: 8
Gators: 0
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Our Jacksonville friends treated us to a seriously delicious biscuit breakfast before we left, headed north for the first time since leaving Utah. My opinion of the South is based on mostly unflattering statistics, but it does have some beautiful historic cities and charming scenic byways. We walked three miles around Savannah and found lunch in the hippest, artsiest cafe in town. We crossed Savannah’s beautiful new bridge into South Carolina and headed to Hilton Head Island, land of the occasional gator and home of our host for the night, Kyle’s mom.

Road trip day 9: The Gulf

Miles: 520
Last year Colin saw Jim: 1998
Times Kirby the dog excitedly peed on the carpet: 1
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We watched the sun rise over the Gulf and had breakfast at Waffle House. The coastal road was perhaps the prettiest route on the trip, and certainly with the most interesting homes—beautiful mansions up on stilts. We stopped in Mobile, AL but didn’t even need the full two hours for our parking. Our goal for the night was Jacksonville, FL, the home of one of Colin’s childhood friends and his wife. The guys figured they hadn’t seen each other for 18 years, and we had a nice time re-acquainting over dinner and a bottle of wine.