It’s official. I’m pregnant.
No, “we” are not pregnant. Bless my husband’s heart, he’s wonderful and supportive and putting up with my oddball cravings (thank goodness for a MEDEVAC to London where I was able to eat all of the strawberries and cheese and peppermint tea I wanted).
But he’s not 13 weeks in and already showing (and already up a cup size! ARGH!). He doesn’t have pregnancy acne (yeah, all of you women whose skin clears up? I HATE YOU RIGHT NOW). And he certainly isn’t getting up to pee eight gazillion times a night (it’s hormones, not the baby pressing on my bladder … yet).
And Jasmine’s going to be a big sister, which is going to be awesome and funny and horrifying all at the same time. I hope she treats the baby with more respect than the cat, although watching
Baby J Toddler J chase a crawling baby around the house is going to be be riotous.
We are terribly excited. As wonderful as it was to raise Jasmine in Freetown, I think it’ll be that much easier to raise the new rugrat in DC. We’ll move back to the States for training when Jasmine’s just over 2. The newborn will be 3-4 months old, depending on the exact time of my departure from Freetown.
Changes are a-foot. And it is awesome.
Oh, Internet. We canceled our Internet subscription, but haven’t yet been cut off. Bertrand and I could live with the piss-poor quality as long as the Internet provider actually picked up the phone when we called to complain. When they started ignoring our calls, we decided to pull the plug.
We can both think of a lot of things we can do with $240/ month that don’t involve throwing money down a whole for a service we really don’t use. We can access Facebook and Amazon on our iDevices, and the bandwidth was too restricted to access YouTube anyway.
I’m back to operating like I did in Benin … writing long emails out ahead of time, then sending them when I have a brief connection to the Internet. I blog in gedit (Ubuntu’s notepad.exe), then copy-paste when I can get online. And I don’t upload pictures anymore at all. It makes me sad, but as I get older, I’m discovering that my desire to put Every Little Thing online is lessening.
It’s strange to think that once our ISP finally gets around to cutting us off, I’ll actually have the same Internet access I had in Benin as a PCV. It’s even stranger to think that I’m kind of looking forward to being disconnected for a while.
Plus ca change …
Mmmmm … bidding. The ELO Winter Generalist bidlist is out, and it’s just about all Latin America (with a bit of China thrown in for good measure). Bertrand and I hashed out my bidding strategy in advance, which has made putting the list together much simpler than I expected. Sweet love.
It’s really been fun to imagine our small family living all over the world. It’s really shaken up my ideas about my career, and our ideas of where we’d like our family to go. We could go anywhere! What a liberating experience. Bidding as an ELO is awesome!*
Everyone in Freetown is super excited for me and thrilled to share their knowledge. Thanks to eveyone who’s answered my weirdly detailed questions about EFM employment. ;)
* I reserve the right to change my mind if my CDO sends me to Siberia, which isn’t even on the list, so I don’t know what I’m worrying.
Bertrand and I lost a good friend this week. It’s hit me pretty hard. I’m happy to far from the newspapers and the gossip and the speculation surrounding his passing, but not being able to fly back to Benin to be with family and friends has been more difficult than I expected.
I knew when we left for Freetown that flying home for funerals would be difficult. When my grandmother passed, I decided not to go. By the time I would have been able to get out of Freetown, I may or may not have been able to get to Virginia in time for the service. Coming so close and missing the ceremoney would have been more heartbreaking for me than mourning from here. So I didn’t go.
This time, we don’t know what the funeral plans are. Beninese Christian funeral customs are … well, for this outsider, they’re complicated at best, byzantine at worst. We don’t know all of the details, and perhaps we never will.
And of course, life goes on, even when you wish you could step back for a few minutes to appreciate the silence.
Oh, Ferber sleep training, I am so sorry I thought I was too good for you. I am so sorry that I thought letting Jasmine cry was cruel. I am SO SO SORRY.
We should have done this month s ago.
Before anyone gets their hackles up about TERRIBLE MOTHER and CRUELTY and HOW COULD YOU JUST LET HER CRY, let me explain that we have tried everything. EVERYTHING. Amazon is chortling with glee becuase I have paid a fortune for utterly useless books that promised to show us how to get our baby to sleep. No tears? HAHAHAHAHA.
Obviously, you have not met my daughter.
She is adorable. She is cute. She loves people. She is a ham. And she is manipulative. OH BOY DOES SHE KNOW HER MAMA AND PAPA WELL.
We were so fucked.
All this to say, 20 minutes of tears was well worth 7 hours straight of sleep. Even if I was clutching my husband’s hand and sobbing into a pillow because it was pretty damn unbearable.
Is there anything more beautiful than a full night’s sleep?
As GSO, I recognize the importance of eating my own dogfood. If I’m going to deny a privilege to the rest of the community, it’s important that I deny it to myself as well. That said, it was awful hard to ignore the niggling voice (aka Bertrand) whispering that it wouldn’t hurt anyone if we got our stuff out of the warehouse.
Ladies and gentlemen, the location and storage of our household goods is no longer a source of tension in my marriage.
Four months into my first tour, and we’re finally in permanent housing! Which means … DUN DUN DUN … we finally had our HHE delivered. After four months, my Pollyanna enthusiasm was starting to wear off, and the reality of being in charge of logistics in a place like Freetown was setting in. However, now that I have unlimited Coke Zero, all of my crafting supplies, and my favorite brand of laundry detergent, I think I can handle another 20 months of Freetown.
As we unpack, we’re asking ourselves questions like: “Why did we bring 5kg of hot pepper, but no dishrack?” “Why did we decide not to buy a DVD player again?” “How did the GSO let the landlord get away with not installing towel racks and toilet paper holders in the bathrooms?” Oh wait …
Needless to say, we’re enjoying settling in to our new home.
So. Housing. I have seven portfolios here in Freetown, of which every single one takes up more than 50% of my time. You’re telling yourself that 7 * 50% is actually 350%, and a person can’t have 350% of a day, but that’s where you’re wrong.
Anyway, housing. If I weren’t the GSO, I’d be ranting and raging about living in temporary housing for THREE WHOLE MONTHS, and the fact that that heinous self-rightous GSO has stored my HHE in the warehouse, and the fact that actually my current apartment is pretty awesome and WHY IS SHE MAKING ME MOVE?!!!? WHINE ANGER GRAR.
Eventually, we’ll move out of our spacious, marvelously located, and falling-apart-around-our-ears apartment into a single family home. We don’t have a lot of stuff, and most of what we do have is for the kitchen or Jasmine.
My sincerest hope is that once I
get give the go sign, we’ll be up and out in a day or two. Until then, we ain’t packin’ shit. Some The has been promising us that we’ll be moving “any day now” since the day we arrived, and I won’t believe her until we see it.
Three months in and I still love my job. I’m told that the low point is at about six months, so I figure I’ve got three more months to enjoy myself before frustration sets in.
Right now, the most frustrating parts of my job has been how inadequately trained I am, not in hard skills (GSO School was great, and I was already an excellent project manager), but in soft skills. Managing a section of over 50 people is small potatoes to many of you, but to me, it’s been one adventure after another. It’s one thing to take leadership and supervisory courses at FSI and read the (actually quite excellent) resources that the Department provides, quite another to apply those skills to Getting Things Done every day.
Learning how to be a GSO at the same time I am learning how to manage up and down has been more difficult than I expected. With all the arrogance of a freshly commissioned ELO, I thought I’d be able to sit down here and get straight to work. Well, I have been able to get a fair amount done, but I’ve discovered that here in Freetown, my technical competence (very high) is far less important than my managerial skills (lower, but improving every day). I imagine that this is the case in most Posts.
I keep reminding myself that becoming an excellent leader and manager takes time (decades!). I’m as arrogant and ambitious as they come, and I have to master this skillset to do what I want to do in the Foreign Service. All managers had a first management job sometime in their career. For better or worse, I’m getting my first one over with on my very first tour.
Sundays are cooking days. I get up early, go to the market, then prep all of our meals for the week. Here in Freetown, the routine is changing somewhat because I don’t have any way to get to the market. Until my own car arrives in a few months, I have to use motor pool drivers. And since the motor pool falls under my command, I can’t really get on other folks for abusing car privileges if I do so myself. That means no last minute requests, which means that damn, I should have requested a car on Friday.
Rich white girl problems? In a country like Sierra Leone, definitely.
Anyway, back to Sundays.
Every Sunday, I get up, make coffee, and take my iPad out to the balcony to write. There’s something marvelous about watching cities wake up. I like watching taxis and pota-potas collect their first passangers. Motos slowly make their way up the hill my building sits upon, then speed back down once they’ve picked up a passenger. And the view of the city is spectacular.
Eventually, we’re going to have to move. We’ll be in a single family home with a small patio, plenty of furniture, and a bit more space. Our HHE will arrive from the warehouse where it’s currently stored because those of us in temporary housing don’t get our personal effects (yes, as GSO, I’m eating my own dogfood). And I won’t have to worry about the black mold that’s going to take over the apartment during the rainy season.
But damn, I’m going to miss the view.
The trip to Freetown was not as difficult and harrowing as expected. On all three legs of the trip (DC -> Brussels, Brussels -> Lungi Airport, Lungi Airport -> Freetown), people were incredibly understanding and helpful about the baby. As someone whose friends are largely child-free by choice at this point in my life, it’s easy to forget that most of the world are parents. And parents understand how frustrating it can be to travel with a newborn.
Our “temporary” apartment is gorgeous. Temporary is in quotes because, um, I’m the GSO, and I know exactly how long it’s going to take me to get moved into my permanent housing.
In any case, our apartment is more than big enough for the three of us. The kitchen is enormous, we have a balcony with an incredible view, and hey! The air conditioning doesn’t blow the fuse for the entire apartment like our place in Cotonou did. Actually, this place is a lot like our Cotonou apartment, except that every thing works, and when it doesn’t, we can call someone to get it fixed.
Life with the State Department is sweet like that.
Work is busy. Very busy. That was expected. I knew that I’d be expected to hit the ground running as a fully functional GSO on the first day, but I really didn’t understand what that meant until I was deep in the weeds of installing fuel meters! and signing leases! and writing cables! and! and! and! and!
Yeah. I signed a lease in the name of the US Government today. That was awesome.
Bertrand bought fresh fish straight off the boat for our housekeeper (housekeeper! more awesome!) to cook yesterday, and today we have enough baked and fried fish to sink a battleship. I think he missed cheap and convenient access to fresh fish.
tl;dr We’re having fun.