Poking, clawing, and kneeing

Our family motto is “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

With that in mind, a few months ago Nate and I took a self defense class at FSI.

The idea of violent assaults is an uncomfortable one.  A lot of people think it won’t happen to them, and it’s not really the kind of thing that you want to plan for.

Aside from some kickboxing classes over five years ago, the ability to scream bloody murder, and the knowledge that, when making a fist, you should keep your thumb on the outside, I don’t know much about how to protect myself.  Even by avoiding situations that could predispose you to danger, sometimes you simply are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was nervous about going to the self defense class. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable. What if they made me do some kind of attack simulation? Nate reminded me that I only had to do what I was comfortable with, and he was exactly right.  It wasn’t like I was being graded or something.

Spoiler alert: The class was great!

It was taught by three DSS guys with experience in martial arts and self defense, and they kept it light-hearted and low-key while still acknowledging the importance of being able to protect yourself.  There was a woman taking the class with her teenage daughter, several younger and older women, and some guys in the class, and no one was singled out unless they wanted to help with a demonstration.

We learned some punches, knee and elbow jabs, and things to do with our hands (poking and clawing at an attacker’s eyes) to debilitate someone long enough to run away as fast as possible. We got to practice on these rubber torso dummies, and it was definitely a useful way to spend an evening.

Since then, I’ve started tagging along with Nate to his Muay Thai classes.  I like punching, kicking, kneeing, and elbowing things, and it’s a lot of fun.  Although not the ten minutes of plank exercises they make you do at the end.  Those are not fun.

Honestly, one of the things I like the most about Muay Thai is what I was most worried about with the self defense class: you are put in uncomfortable situations.  But that’s actually a good thing, because then you learn how to get out of them and you don’t just freak out because you’ve never been punched, kicked, pinned or held like that before.  It turns out you don’t need a lot of space to be able to knee a dude in the junk.

As Scar said, “Be prepared!

Accepting risk

The first thing most people ask when we tell them we’re moving to Bangladesh is “Is it safe there?”

Generally, yes, it is.  Although over the past several weeks, months even, there have been a number of hartals.

Hartals, from what I understand, are political protests or strikes that occur when the government does something unpopular, and sometimes they can turn violent.  When there is a hartal in Dhaka, the embassy community is told to stay in the diplomatic zone and not to walk around at night.  There are other precautions that I’m sure we’ll learn more about when we get there.

When we decided to rank Dhaka “high” on our bid list, we knew about the possibility of hartals. All things considered, the possibility of political strikes in a city that, otherwise, meets all our criteria for an amazing post, wasn’t enough to deter us.  And we don’t regret this decision.

We have to accept a certain amount of risk in our lives just so we can live as human beings and do the things we want to do.  I realize I could get hit by a car, which is why I look both ways when I cross the street.  I could get in a car accident (been there, done that… twice), so I drive carefully and wear my seatbelt.

Last week, on the metro, a yellow line train travelling to Huntington got stuck in a tunnel due to some sort of electrical fire, passengers were instructed not to evacuate, the train cars filled with smoke, and a woman from Alexandria died.  If this incident had happened literally two hours later, I probably would have been on that train.

All of this is to say that life can be dangerous no matter where you are.  We try to maximize our safety while also doing the things that we love.  The hunger to explore new places and experience different cultures is a huge part of who both Nate and I are.  We did, after all, meet each other while we were serving in the Peace Corps.  And we are so excited to continue our journey in Bangladesh, hartals or not.

A weekend in Charleston


Over the weekend Nate and I headed to Charleston, South Carolina for the Charleston Marathon.  Nate ran the full with a friend from his A-100, and they both rocked it!

I had signed up to run the full marathon, but when I realized my knee wouldn’t be able to handle 26.2 miles I switched to the half.  Then I tripped and fell walking home from work, banging my ouchy knee on the pavement.  I was thinking maybe I’d run/walk the half, running as much as I could and then walking when my knee started to hurt.  Then on Friday I got a cold.  I decided it was the universe’s way of telling me to just take it easy, so instead I cheered for the runners.

Runners coming up King St.

Runners coming up King St.

Cheering for the marathoners was fun, and it was time for me to give back to my fellow runners by being a good spectator.  So I cheered for all the runners, didn’t tell them they were almost done until the finish line was in sight, and clapped until my hands hurt.  Now I understand why people use cowbells.

A statue of John C. Calhoun, who apparently had big hair and was a jerk

A statue of John C. Calhoun, who apparently had big hair and was a jerk

Anyways, we ate at some truly amazing places in Charleston and I’m only sad that we didn’t stay there longer!

On Friday night we had dinner at Coast, which had pretty good Yelp reviews but was a bit of tourist trap.  The crab dip was boring, but the shrimp and grits was tasty and Nate liked his fish entree.

Saturday night we did a pretty serious restaurant crawl.  We started out at Slightly North of Broad, which was awesome.  The cocktails were super (especially the sangria), and we shared the charcuterie and cheese plates.  I’m a sucker for some good chicken liver mousse, and their’s was great.

Then we headed a few feet down the road to The Gin Joint.  Wow, talk about phenomenal cocktails.  Nate had the Ichabod Crane, which was one of the most unique drinks I’ve ever tried. The food was alright; this place is definitely more about the drinks than the food.

After than we went to The Ordinary.  I’m glad this was our third stop and I wasn’t exactly hungry by the time we arrived here.  Otherwise I would have ordered the entire fricking menu.  The food was spot-on perfect.  We had the oyster sliders, scallop hush puppies, and the seafood platter.  The food and drinks here are both killer.

We rounded out the night at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.  We were so stuffed at this point, we just took our biscuits to-go and ate them at the airport the next morning.  The blackberry jam biscuits were my favorite…. soooo good.

Words to live by

Words to live by

We’re going to try to make it back to Charleston again before we leave, but our weekends are filling up quickly.  My parents are coming to visit before we leave, we are taking a short trip to Boston, there’s the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and then FACT training, and we’re trying to spend as much time with our friends as possible!

Sorting stuff and more stuff

In less than four months we are moving to Dhaka.  It’s getting real!

We have started going through all the stuff we’ve accumulated since we finished Peace Corps and before.  I’m amazed by the amount of crap I’ve kept over time.  I still have my undergraduate textbooks and language workbooks.

Some things I’m glad I kept, like the map of Moldova that PC gave us when we first arrived in country, and all the random photos and cards.  I’m not entirely sure why I kept my notebooks from undergrad, but they did make for an interesting read before going into the recycling.  I also found several rolls of films that I shot in Moldova, and I need to get the photos put on CDs before we move.

A few weeks ago I took down our Christmas decorations and sorted everything into plastic containers for either storage or the cargo ship.  In addition to extremely breakable or sentimental Christmas ornaments, we are also putting all our inherited china and crystal and anything else irreplaceable into storage.

We have been in touch with the embassy regarding bringing Athena with us.  It seems like all we need is her vaccination history and a generic health certificate, but, honestly, I don’t know.  We are planning to send the documentation in about a month earlier than necessary to give ourselves some time in case they need anything else.  Also I guess there’s an international microchip that’s required for a lot of countries, but not Bangladesh.  I think when we take Athena in for her health certificate we will get the microchip anyways, because she’ll need it for later posts and if we can take care of it now, that’ll probably be easiest.

Ha.  I just read the paragraph above and it’s clear there are still a lot of questions.  I didn’t know I had so many different ways of communicating uncertainty.  “It seems like,” “I don’t know,” “I guess,” “I think,” “in case”… we will figure it all out eventually!


Athena basking in her favorite spot in the yard on a warm sunny day!

Athena basking in her favorite spot in the yard on a warm sunny day!


New year, new everything

Happy New Year!

2014 was a seriously awesome year. We went on an amazing trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, Nate changed careers and became a diplomat, we found out we are moving to Bangladesh, I fell in love with running, and we spent a lot of quality time with good friends and family.

Looking ahead to 2015, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for what is in store.  I know it won’t be easy or fun 100% of the time, but it is going to be an adventure!

At my office Christmas party, Nate and I were talking to the head of my division, and he said “Friends don’t let friends go to Bangladesh.”

Come on, now.

I realize we’re not going to Paris, or Buenos Aires, or Bangkok, but I’m a firm believer that any given experience is what you make of it. If we go to Dhaka expecting it to be terrible, then that is most likely what it will be.  But we are excited, full of anticipation, and mostly just really happy about this next step in our lives.

A lot is happening this year.  We are going to rent out our house, move halfway across the world (which includes figuring out how to move our 45-pound dog with us), make new friends, travel to new countries, adjust to living in a completely new environment, and I’ll probably get a new job. There are lots of “new’s” thrown in, which is a little scary, but it’s a challenge that we are ready to meet.

Bring it, 2015!  I can’t wait!!!