Nobody in the whole goddamn world has it all. Everyone has to make choices. Ignore, for a moment, the institutionalized sexism that women face every day. As an Angry Militant Feminist, I’m telling you that the sexism doesn’t matter.
Get angry about the sexism.
Fight the sexism.
But don’t let the fact that sexism exists blind you to the fact that everyone has to make choices. All grown-ups have to decide between having THIS and having THAT. Hvaing your cake and eating it too died out with fuedalism.
Guess what? This week, I had to choose between taking my daughter to visit her grandparents on her first birthday and being in Freetown to do my job on her first birthday. NO BRAINER. I signed up to do a job, and I am going to do it.
Guess what else? Today, I had to choose between going into the office on a Saturday and working for 3 hours, or writing from home, where I could be close to my daughter, and working for 6 (because babies require attention). NO BRAINER. I am at home.
More choices: ordering pizza for lunch or not eating dairy because it makes my daughter sick. Leaving my daughter with the neighbors so that my husband and I can have a quiet evening out or cabin fever because TOO MUCH BABY. Leaving the house before dawn every day so that I can get out of the office in time to spend the evening with my daughter, or sleeping in and getting to work at a reasonable hour.
These choices are not unusual. They are not rare. They are not an indication that I do not “have it all.” “Having it all” is code for, “Woman, you will never be good enough. Whatever choice you make, it will be the wrong one.” That is bullshit. I am good enough.
And so are you.
I cannot maintain more than one blog. There, I said it. It’s too much effort to have to think about tone, professionalism, cross-over, and what my State colleagues and future supervisors will think of everyhing.
I’d intended to keep blogging about food and homemaking on HMNIT, and professionally on SVO, but Foreign Service is life is that I’m not actually doing much professional blogging these days. SVO has been around for almost 7 years. It got me through Peace Corps, People Online, and now, the Foreign Service. I don’t want to shutter it.
Today I merged himynameistheresa with SubjectVerbOject.
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.
The good news is that cutting grains out of my diet has cured my digestive ills. Coworkers, I owe an apology to anyone who got stuck in an elevator with me my first two months in Freetown.
The bad news is that it is really hard to go out to eat in Freetown and avoid grains and potatoes. As I learned when I had to start avoiding dairy and soy for Jasmine, the only way to really avoid eating something you don’t want to is to avoid processed foods all together.
Jasmine appears to be more and more OK with small amounts of dairy. A chocolate here or a piece of cow’s milk cheese there don’t seem to have major effects on her system. That said, a chocolate binge + a wine and cheese party yesterday = a gassy Jasmine last night and a big breakout today. Oops.
At this point, no grains + no dairy + no soy = basically a paleo diet. The only things left to cut out were sugar and beans. 7 lbs later, the experiment has been a resounding success.
All natural, all the time has also forced me to spend a fair amount of time cooking. This week’s lunch prep:
- 1 roast chicken
- 1/2c baba ganoush
- 4 salmon patties
- 1 dozen hard boiled eggs
- 6 carrots, sliced
- 2 green peppers, sliced
- 4 plum tomatoes, sliced
Bertrand’s all like, WTF? The kitchen was spotless just a few hours ago!
So it goes.
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.
Perhaps you’ve seen the gorgeous egg-in-avocado recipe that’s been floating around Pinterest. My version was also beautiful. Unfortunately, beautiful != delicious.
I always forget how bland avocados are when baked. The texture was luxurious, but combined with the egg, the dish needed more than just a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
I’m sure there’s a good way to do this. Bertrand suggested mashing up the avocado with garlic, scallions, salt, and pepper first, but that would ruin the aesthetic of dumping an egg into the center of the avocado.
We have indeed arrived in Freetown. I have walked 10k+ steps every work day since I’ve arrived. I’ve also lost five pounds, which is pretty incredible considering that I eat DELICIOUS CARBS AND OIL for lunch every day. And dinner. And snacks. Mmmmmm.
Our kitchen is awesome. We can actually fit all of our tupperware and dry foodstuffs and dishes and pots and pans INSIDE the cabinets for the first time since Bertrand and I started dating.
So. Food. Fitness. Family. Foreign Service. I’m not going to announce any plans on here, because, as loyal readers know, I’m not actually capable of commiting to anything whatsoever in my personal life. It’s so strange that I’m so good at project management in the professional sphere, but so bad at it at home. To this day, I wake up surprised not that Bertrand and Jasmine are in my life, but that I actually managed to commit to marriage and parenthood.
Foreign servicewise, I am livin’ the dream.
Familywise, Jasmine is the cutest cute cute that ever did cute. Bertrand is as solid as a rock. And we are damn happy to be back in the West African heat.
Fitnesswise, I’m no longer training for a half marathon. Not that I ever was. Next week, I’m going to get into the office even earlier so that I can leave on time. I don’t mind not being home when Bertrand and Jasmine are sleeping, but every moment I stay late in the evening is a moment with my daughter that I’m going to regret not having when she’s older.
So no gym. We’re back to workout DVDs, my friends. 30-day shred, here I come.
Foodwise, I’m going to be ordering a lot off of Amazon (and drugstore.com <3 <3 <3), and making a lot from scratch. And eating a lot of fruit.
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.