“Its the Final Countdown” ….


boredyoga30 days. I have to admit to feeling a little schizophrenic during this final phase.  I seem to oscillate between bored (with a bad dose of cabin fever) and peacefully calm; (watching all the pieces fall in place).  Notice I’m not frantic, frustrated, or overwhelmed at any point so far.  Should I be?  There’s also been a few waves of sadness as the goodbyes and final landmarks start to appear….and there will be plenty more of those.  The hardest part will always be leaving the people, not matter how much I miss the palm trees and beautiful beaches.  At times everything feels so mapped out, and we are just working down the list, checking boxes.   But there have been a couple of physical injuries that have thrown a spanner into the works, which just serve as a reminder that the unexpected is always a possibility and I am grateful that despite them it all seems to be working out.

My goal is to spend the next month best enjoying what remains (Latham’s graduation, last trips around Manila and the Philippines, last time with friends and last favourite things) and the least stressful exit I can manage…

60 Days: The Countdown Continues


lookingforward

We just passed the “60 days ‘til departure” mark.  And as I flick back to my “90 days” and 120 day posts, I realise that we have come a long way…both practically and mentally.  The departure still feels like its in slow motion – it will have been an eleven month process after all – but I do feel a sense of progress and an end in sight as we have tied down various inspection dates and the all important pack out date in June.  Its certainly nowhere near as hectic as our New Jersey departure.  (Preparing the house to sell and trying to sell the damn thing was overwhelming.)  I’m also not a hoarder so we don’t have piles and piles of stuff to clear through, and what needs sorting has been processed.

We’re starting to tie down details in Kathmandu also, and have our new housing assignment, and college details are coming together. Now we just have to pass through Latham’s finals, a three week tunnel that we are just entering now.  Time is definitely speeding up, every week seems a little shorter, and the landmark dates and experiences check themselves off….  See you at the 30 day mark. ;o)

90 Days Tick Tock…Tick Tock…


clock This weekend we have reached the 90 days until departure landmark. Its the unofficial start of the departure check list of things to schedule/do/complete before we go. And the list is long!  Its not that any of it is so difficult, there’s just a lot of it, and mixed in with family priorities going on at the same time, it pretty overwhelming if you don’t break it down into little doable bits every day.

Things would be a little easier if the people reviewing our travel orders could do so a little quicker.  They did stop by for a quick photo though:

supremecourt

This Kathmandu Thing is Starting to Look Real…..


moving to nepal

I hear that the truck that moves our stuff overland from Calcutta port to Kathmandu may have some similarities with this vehicle. Mmm….

We’re approaching the 120 day mark until we move and the months are starting to fill with due dates and moving realities.  Back in July, it was a year away and more conceptual than anything.  The lead up to Christmas was almost normal, although the realization was there that the one year mark had passed and seasonal activities and once-a-year events were not to be repeated during our stay in Manila.  The fun, to-do items on the Filipino check list got revised and prioritized, but not much else affected every day life.  Since Christmas with the countdown to departure looming, I have to admit I’ve been in a bit of a funk.  There’s no good, specific reason why I am feeling less enthusiastic or energetic than usual.  It seems to be a general rebellion against our life being put on hold until our travel orders are approved.  The organiser part of me is on a practical path to take care of details that aren’t move specific:  Taxes: in.  Closets: clean.   But the cheerleader in me is just sitting inert, looking at daily responsibilities and not feeling the love.  I just don’t like feeling like I’m in stasis, and that’s how it seems right now.  I know this will pass, and when it does it will be with a torrent of activity…(at least this time I don’t have to sell a house)… and I should be enjoying the quiet before the storm, but I’m not.  Let’s get on with this thing already….!!

Community Welcome Party


Every year, most new families arrive in the Summer.  We were Winter rotation and sort of showed up incognito, and had to learn alot of the “how to” and “where to” information about Manila on the fly.  This was nothing new to us, as prior to the foreign service, every time we changed country we were on our own to figure that stuff out.  So, it was sort of a surprise to us that the foreign service has a sponsor system utilizing families with experience of the post to show you around, plus different events to help you acclimatize.

Vendors setting up filipino goodies to sell

One of these events is held in September to welcome new families with filipino food, vendors, and a little filipino culture.

Tailors, vet, spas, local associations and others came to show newcomers their services

Organizing it was a real group activity with the ates (cleaners/helpers) doing lots of creative decorating with palm fronds, crepe paper and coconuts.  They built a simple nipa hut serving the traditional halo halo desert, a mixed concotion of shaved ice, fruits and evaporated milk.  A team of two filipino cooks prepared a filipino menu that included pork asado, chicken adobo and banana turon, all filipino favourites.  (We had been shopping for the food a few days earlier). Newcomers are sometimes immersed up to their necks in the challenges of settling into their new home and aren’t always the most appreciative of your efforts, but we had a pretty good turnout and I only heard good things from the crowd.

For me, the highlight of the day was the kids from the local elementary school who came to present a few traditional filipino dances and were just so adorable.  They were excited to come to the Embassy and did a really great job of dancing pretty intricate steps in gorgeous costumes.  They just lit up the room!  It wouldn’t have been the same party without them.

….Kathmandu!


kathmandu

Will I have these guys as neighbours?

In case you missed my earlier post, Kathmandu, Nepal will be our new home starting Summer 2013.  Dates and details (many thereof) still to be confirmed.  Its a long way off at this point, but curiosity takes over and I just have to find out more about the place. The first thing you have to do when researching Kathmandu as a new place to live is learn to spell it correctly.  Its “Kathmandu” not “Katmandu”, a common error which google predicts but other places can bring up some limited results.

I did quite a bit of research beforehand while we were bidding on the 27 locations on the bid list.  We could only bid “low” “medium” or “high” on locations, but had to bid on them all.  High or medium bids are by no means guaranteed, but it pays to know what you’re getting into when you bid high on somewhere.  Kathmandu was on our high list, it checked all the boxes regarding work preferences and practical family needs.  And for the first time, schools were not an issue — Kathmandu would be have been a non-runner if I had to look at the quality of the high school — and we were free to focus only on work and lifestyle issues.  We are VERY happy to have this location, but it isn’t without its challenges.  Leaving work/finances out of it, here’s a short list of pros and cons to calling Kathmandu home:

PROS:

The View! Obvious, really, but the scenery, trekking and wonderful travel.  The location, the mindblowing spectacularly exotic locale that just the name Kathmandu conjures up for everyone.

The weather.  No…its not cold.  Of course, it gets cold when you go up into the higher altitudes, but the city itself is temperate.  The weather goes between 55 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit year round.  Not bad.  And it will be nice to have real seasons again after the year round sweatfest that is Manila.

Good food.  Especially if you are a vegetarian <grins slyly>.  I hear the beef’s expensive and terrible….sorry, Robert!

Visitors.  We’ve watched lots of people’s eyes light up and run to Travelocity to find out the price of the tickets.  (The Philippines is a wonderful place to visit but doesn’t hit some deep, subliminal notion of romantic travel like Nepal does.)  I expect that a few will actually come!

CONS

The three main cons are all matches of the issues that are starting to grind on me in Manila:  Pollution, traffic and lack of infrastructure.  And now we’re going to do them again…really?!

Pollution.  I hear its pretty bad.  Some people have been surprised to learn that Kathmandu is polluted given the Himalayan location, but its in a valley and the smog gets trapped.  Apparently you can only see the majesty of the mountains just a few days a year.

Traffic.  Maybe not as many cars as Manila, but the driving is worse, if that can be believed.  Perhaps because there’s a few ox carts thrown in there as well.  I hear that its not that there’s so much traffic, just so much bad driving that the roads don’t function.

Infrastructure.  No trains, buses or any kind of public transport.  No easy way to get from A-B.  Power outtages, unreliable everything.  Mmmm…..

Anyway, the decision is made and we’re excited.  Now somehow we need to put this all to bed while concentrated on our Manila lives and slowly transitioning to this new reality.

And our new post is….


Breaking news folks.   We just found out the location of our new post starting Summer 2013.  Its been a hard couple of months waiting and guessing what we were going to get.  So I’m going to digest it for a day or two more but leave this little clue, should you be tempted to consult the google oracle sooner than that.

Our new post is:

At Your Bidding….


The State Department gives us about a year notice on the location of our next post and, unbelievably, our turn has come around.  I can hardly believe that we have been in the Philippines long enough to have arrived at that time, but here we are…   I’m not allowed to share the list publicly, but I can say that it is quite a mixed list with radically different places.   As this is only our second tour, we are still “directed”.  That means that we get to prioritize the list and tell them what interests us, but the powers that be have the last say.  And you may, or may not, get what you wanted.

This of course also raises the issue of “well… what is it that you really want?”  And the process of filtering through all priorities is sort of overwhelming and best dealt with in small bites.  Last time around, it was quite a bit simplier.  We had a high schooler who needed to go to a decent school that set him up well for college. Going into the second tour, he will probably be at college and we won’t be limited to posts with quality schools, or housing that is a shorter bus ride.  This opens things up, but also make it more complicated.  Robert is having a positive experience here, but it is only one type of work experience, and every post offers a unique experience in some way.  So growing and learning for him is obviously a big priority.  But there are so many others:  Do you really want to live there? What’s the housing like?  What do you do on your time off? How’s the work situation for me?  Does the new post offer some kind of respite from what ever taxes you here?  (For us that would be pollution, traffic and lack of infrastructure.)  Can you actually save money there? Nothing actually checks all the boxes.  One country’s fantastic scenery comes at the price of heavy pollution.  Another is a fabulous place that everyone will want to come and visit us, but the city is so expensive….  and so it goes on.  Its wonderful, overwhelming and frustrating at the same.  But I feel so lucky to be experiencing this, but you may need to remind me of that when they send us to the wrong place!  We’ll know mid-July.  Watch this space!

On reflection….


Unless you are a devoted blogger – which it appears I am not — it seems to be that there are periods of time when you are so busy planning, doing, and figuring things out that blogging doesn’t really make it on to the to-do list.  Its not that other people don’t use their blogs to reflect, plan, and report on small (and large) fears and joys as they experience them–on the contrary–it just seems that I’m not that kind of blogger.  And, as a result, this blog starts to sit dormant and looking like it might have gone dark.

Its not that I don’t like reading other people’s experiences of bad hair days, flat tires, and unexpected joys as they unfold in their lives.  Just the opposite.  Some of the best blogs I follow share the intimate details of these events and make really good reading as a result.  Its just that I prefer to go away and plan, reflect and feel the fear of whatever it is that’s happening to me, and not post it on the wall for all the world 15 people to see.  I don’t feel the need to write it all down in private either, I guess I just work through it differently.

This is all a preamble to fact that I am kind of overwhelmed – in a good way — right now with the events of the next six months or so, and trying to make them unfold in an order that pleases me.  A recipe for disappointment, perhaps, but we have to at least have a stab at making us feel that we are masters of our own universe, right?  So the blog has been silent for a while as I am embroiled in a considerable amount of event planning that includes college tours for the summer, major surgery, new job opportunities, visits from family, trips to exciting new places, summer school placement and our annual trip to Greece.  Mixed in with all the daily responsibilities, IB demands, and work schedules, it makes me wonder how I ever worked full time.  Except that not too long ago I did.  And managed to sell our house and move our lives halfway around the world at the same time.  Its all doable, I guess, I am just less exhausted and overwhelmed by everything:  busy getting through the pile, just not on an never-ending hamster wheel of demands.   That’s as near to balance in my life as I can imagine.

So, in my attempt to not totally wimp-out on January altogether, I think I just wrote a reflective post about being a non-reflective blogger!  Who knew?!