Returning to DIT-2

Usually the parking lot is packed with cars.  I had no idea there was a fountain.

Usually the parking lot is packed with cars. I had no idea there was a fountain.

Before I left in August on OB medevac, I went to DIT-2 fairly often.  Then the unpleasantness happened, and DIT-2 was outside of the red line and, therefore, out-of-bounds.

Recently, the red line shifted, and now we can go to DIT-2 again.  And that is kind of a big deal because now I can resume buying jewelry with reckless abandon.  Nate is thrilled.

A small sample of the pearls available here

A small sample of the pearls available here

I can’t mention DIT-2 without talking about the last time I went there before flying back to the U.S. It was a Sunday in the beginning of August, around 10 a.m., and it had rained a ton overnight.  Most stores are closed on Sundays, and a large part of the DIT-2 parking lot was roped off, so my driver dropped me off near the curb in an area loaded with enormous puddles.  At this point I was 33 weeks pregnant and my sense of balance was… off.  Anyways, I thought it would be a good idea to leap over one of the puddles, so I aimed carefully and jumped over a puddle probably five feet wide.

Except my foot didn’t hit the spot it was supposed to.  In fact, it landed in an underwater pothole full of six inches of water and I hit the ground in a spectacular fashion.  All I can say is thank god I decided to wear pants that day instead of a skirt.

I fell on my knee and banged it up so badly, it was sore for several months and, now, over six months later, it is still red and scarred.  My handbag and shoes got filled with water and I twisted my other ankle, scrapped my hands, tore my pants and got blood everywhere.

Fun times.

As much as I’m glad we can go back to DIT-2, I think the vendors are even happier.  I have a jewelry vendor that is my favorite, and he was very excited to see me.  Undoubtedly because he knows I’m an easy mark.  Anyhow, here are some photos from my most recent trip to DIT-2.

The DIT-2 Anthropologie of knobs

The DIT-2 Anthropologie of knobs

Compasses and other ship paraphernalia

Compasses and other ship paraphernalia

Sari stamps

Sari stamps

Lots of brass stuff

Lots of brass stuff.  I wonder if that gramophone works.

 

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Our awesomely wonderful supplemental HHE shipment

There are some countries for which, if you are posted with the State Department, you get a consumables shipment.  A consumables shipment is an extra allotment of weight that you can use to buy things you will use up during your tour.  So it’s really great if you are already close to your weight limit and you’re going someplace where you can’t buy stuff like laundry detergent, wine, beer, liquor, peanut butter, and so forth.

You don’t get a consumables shipment for Bangladesh.  It’s not really the end of the world because you can get most things on the local market or at the commissary.

Even so, there are some things we wish we could get here more easily.  Like real maple syrup, chocolate chips, cheap sparkling water, good inexpensive jam, and scent and dye-free laundry detergent.

Luckily, State lets you do a supplemental HHE shipment if you are still within your first 12 months at post and you haven’t reached your HHE weight limit.  So when we were back in the U.S., we figured that since a moving company was already coming to do a layette shipment, why not have them do a supplemental HHE as well?  Plus, we’d already spent some time in Dhaka, so we had a good idea of what we needed.

We went to Trader Joe’s and it was, by far, the most fun I’ve ever had there in my life.  Anything and everything that I thought I might want to eat before May 2017 (and didn’t need to be refrigerated) went into the cart.  It was glorious. The limiting factor was the size of the cart; we stopped once we couldn’t fit anything else.

A cart full of amazingness!

A cart full of amazingness!

When Nate checked out, the cashier asked him if he was stocking a bomb shelter.  Because who doesn’t stock a bomb shelter with baking mixes, fancy crackers, whole wheat pasta, massive bars of chocolate, whole coffee beans, and cases of sparkling water?

Then we went another grocery store and stocked up on even more stuff.  Our cart was so heavy, I could barely push it.

The mini pack-out went well, other than a small incident in which Nate thought my dad’s cat Mango might have accidentally begun a global adventure in the shipping crate.  The movers left the crate open and Mango likes to explore new places, and Nate couldn’t find her after they left.  He called the moving company to ask if they had a stowaway cat, and they said they did not, but everyone still breathed a sigh of relief when Mango reappeared that evening.

Well, our supplemental HHE arrived a few weeks ago, and I’ll be damned if I did not actually squeal in delight as I opened some of the boxes.

It’s the things that I randomly tossed in the cart, like Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups, jars of fancy olives, scone baking mix, shelf-stable pepperoni, organic pumpkin pop tarts (why did I only grab one box?!) and dulce de leche that are the most exciting.

We also now have more maple syrup than we could possibly use over the next 15 months.  If you’re in Dhaka, and you want some real maple syrup, let me know!

The best part is that we no longer need to ration things.  We can pour as much syrup as we want on our pancakes, put salsa on everything, and not feel bad about pouring out the coffee at the bottom of the pot that we don’t drink.

And now it’s time to find some new pancake and maple syrup baking recipes to try, because I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I bought that much maple syrup.

Thailand vacation: Dolphin Bay

A sight for sore eyes!

A sight for sore eyes!

After a few days in Bangkok, we headed to Dolphin Bay Resort, around 3 hours south of Bangkok, and about 30 minutes south of Hua Hin.  We wanted to go to a beach within driving distance of Bangkok where we could just relax and do nothing, and this fit the bill perfectly.

The hotel (it’s definitely not a resort, despite the name) is across the street from the beach, and has a few salt water pools and a good restaurant.  The beach isn’t the pristine aqua blue water beach that you see in the Thailand guidebooks, but it was shallow, there weren’t many waves, and the water was nice and warm.

There were massive jellyfish that washed up on shore  each afternoon as the tide was going out, but luckily we didn’t encounter any in the water.

The view down the beach across the street from Dolphin Bay Resort

The view down the beach across the street from Dolphin Bay Resort

It’s definitely a family-friendly hotel, and everyone there either had kids or was retired.  There are a bunch of excursions you can go on, and we would have taken advantage of that if we thought M could have handled it.  But we were pushing the baby envelope enough by introducing him to water, sand, heat, having to wear a hat, and swimming pools all at one time.  So we just hung out on the beach, by the pool, and in our air-conditioned hotel room.

The hotel also has a spa  where you can get Thai massages and other stuff.  One afternoon we took turns watching M and each of us got an hour-long massage.  It was heavenly.

If I’m being honest, my favorite thing about the hotel was going downstairs every morning for breakfast and being greeted with the smell of bacon.  Every morning, I ate bacon.  It was wonderful.

The hotel restaurant was good, not spectacular, and slightly expensive for Thailand, but inexpensive for a hotel restaurant.  The panang curry, however, was extraordinary, and I can be picky about restaurant food.  The burgers were also better than expected.

After a few days of eating at the hotel restaurant, we decided to venture out a little, and we discovered a wonderful place called Meaw Restaurant that had tables and chairs set up in the sand by the beach.  The food was better and less expensive than our hotel, so we went back for lunch and dinner every day after that.  Plus the waitress would bring our food and then take M, fan him, and coo at him while we ate.

We almost didn’t give Meaw Restaurant a try simply because of the name.  It looked too much like “meow,” which is a little ridiculous, but we wouldn’t go to a Woof Restaurant or a Neigh Restaurant, so there you go.

One night while we were eating dinner at Meaw, a very nice young lady asked if she could hold M.  We said yes. Then she gestured, asking if she could take him to the open-air bar next door.  She seemed harmless enough so we said yes (questionable parenting choice? maybe.), and she was back less than a minute later because M was starting to get fussy.  Apparently she walked up to a dude there, claimed M was his, and that he needed to give her money.  Ha!

Overall, we had a nice, relaxing vacation in Thailand, to the extent that that is possible with a baby. Neither of us wanted to leave!

Thailand vacation: Bangkok

We had a chance to get out of Dhaka for about a week, so we headed to Thailand.  Since this was our first “vacation” with M, we wanted someplace where we wouldn’t have to do too much in order to have a nice, relaxing time.

Grand palace (1 of 1)

Temples in the Grand Palace complex

We spent a few nights in Bangkok when we arrived, and then another night the day before we flew back to Dhaka.  We had one full day before heading to our hotel on the beach, and I thought it would be feasible for us to see the Grand Palace and one of the other temples.  Well, we decided to shlep to a bagel shop for breakfast that was further away than we thought (everything looks so close on the map… but it’s not) so we didn’t get in a taxi to go to the palace until about noon, and then traffic was horrid.  We arrived at the palace around 1:00, made our way through the literal hordes of tourists, and by 3:00, M had reached the end of his baby rope and was screaming bloody murder.  So we hopped in the first taxi we found and went back to the hotel.  We knowingly fell victim to a common taxi scam where the driver quotes you a flat rate probably twice the price it would cost with the meter running, but we needed air conditioning as fast a possible, so whatever.

Grand palace2 (1 of 1)

The entrance to the Emerald Buddha temple. Except it’s actually made of jade.

We didn’t make it to the other temple I wanted to visit, so I guess I’ll have to wait until the next time we’re in Bangkok to see the world’s second largest reclining Buddha.  That’s traveling with a baby: you are no longer in charge.

The main highlight of our visit to Bangkok was finally getting to see Star Wars.  Nate cared about this more than pretty much anything else, so we utilized the hotel babysitting service and went to a nearby theater. The total cost for 4.5 hours of babysitting, movie tickets for 7:30 on a Friday night at a nice theater, popcorn and soda was about $55!  In the U.S. it would have been at least double that.

Oh, we also found this nice grocery store called Food Hall or something like that, and I was in grocery store heaven.  It was aaaaaamazing.  It was basically a Thai Whole Foods, and I bought mangosteens, avocados, dried fruit, and Ghiradelli chocolate chips to bring back to Dhaka.

I could have spent another hour there, at least, but once again M insisted that things be done on his schedule (are you sensing a theme here?). I’m making the kid sound like a terror, but really he wasn’t that bad.  He did a good job considering how much time he spent in his Ergo and how stinking hot it was.  And honestly, there were times when he cried that I would have cried too, I was so hot and tired of the crowds, but it’s not socially unacceptable for adults to do that.

The first two nights we stayed at Ibis Siam, which is super convenient if you want to get out and walk around and do stuff, with a sky train station practically in front of the hotel.  There’s also a 7-Eleven in the lobby, which was awesome.

The night before we flew home, we stayed at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park, and it was fabulous.  I booked it specifically because the hotel had a babysitting service, and the more I thought about using a hotel babysitter, the more nervous I got, but the babysitter was a very kindly older Thai lady that M took to immediately.  When we got back from the movie, he was in his pajamas, sleeping soundly.  This hotel also has an amazing pool and a super tasty breakfast.  I ate so much for breakfast (crepes! pastries! donuts! bacon! waffles! roasted pork! dude, they even had dim sum!) , if I’d eaten another bite my stomach would have exploded.

Not the best photo, but you get the idea

Not the best photo of the Swissotel’s pool, but you get the idea

We booked the hotels through Agoda.com, which has the best rates I’ve ever been able to find anywhere.

Also, if anyone else is like “OOOOOO there’s a bagel shop in Bangkok?!” here you go: BKK Bagel Bakery near the Chit Lom BTS station.  It’s near the Haagen-Dazs, kind of on a side-street, next to the Kipling Store.  We bought a baker’s dozen to bring back to Dhaka with us, and they are actually pretty darn good bagels.  The sandwiches in the store are also tasty.

We really liked Bangkok, and since it’s so easy to get to, I know we’ll be back!

On being an EFM

Nate and I are equals.  Neither of us is more important than the other, and we have a lot of respect for each other.  Our relationship wouldn’t work any other way.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in the Foreign Service. Nate is the FSO, and I am the EFM (eligible family member), or, even worse, the “trailing spouse.”

I just started typing a list of why being an EFM sucks, but it was super-whiny and I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me (too hard, anyways). So I deleted it.  I’ll simply say this: being an EFM has its ups and downs.

The reason I mention this is because on a Facebook group for EFMs, FSOs, and others involved in the US’s diplomatic mission, someone recently asked if there were other EFMs that didn’t like the FS lifestyle.  The moving, being far from family, living in other countries, etc.

Wow, were the responses interesting.  Some people truly hate it.  I mean, with a level of vitriol that I found shocking.

The Facebook post got me thinking about why we joined the FS and what my own EFM experience has been like.  Spoiler alert: It’s actually pretty great.  In fact, a lot of EFMs like the FS and appreciate the opportunities that it gives them.  Not everyone is miserable.

Granted, I get annoyed sometimes by the fact that I’m an EFM, but it’s generally not that bad.  It can be occasionally silly (like the fact that I can’t even request for the embassy to come and fix, for example, an air conditioner if it breaks), and I roll my eyes at FSOs that think they’re better than me, but I think of it as water off a duck’s back.  It just rolls off.

Yeah, moving frequently sucks, and having to readjust to a new country every few years probably isn’t easy.  And neither is being far from family, especially now that we have a baby.  On the other hand, we get to explore new countries, learn  new languages (which for some might be a chore, but I love it), and we have a nanny.

As with almost anything in life, there are positives and negatives to being an EFM in the FS.  I have a portable career in public health, and there are lots of mosquitoes in Bangladesh, so that’s good; we both love to travel and explore new countries; and it is important to me that our children be raised overseas. So for us, the FS was a good fit for both of us and our family.  If it wasn’t for Nate being an Officer, we wouldn’t get these opportunities.  We are in this situation because of him, not me.  I get that.

Am I content with my EFM status?  Yes and no.  On a day to day basis, and I happy?  Yes.  Can I ride out my EFM-ness because of the opportunities the Foreign Service gives me and my family?  Hell yes.