Things that are bringing me joy right now

After some of my recent blog posts, you might think that things here are all doom and gloom. But they aren’t! There are some bright spots.

I love nothing more than a good list. So here’s what’s making me happy these days, in no particular order:

  • Cooking dinner. Really. Working from home gifts me an extra hour at least to make dinner. That means I can have a glass of wine, listen to a LP and leisurely spend some quality time in the kitchen by myself. And these days, my weekday dinner game is on fire.

    My favorite corner of our house

  • Listening to audio books. Specifically Calypso, written/read by David Sedaris. Wow is this book hilarious. The essays “The Perfect Fit” and “I’m Still Standing” particularly were my favorites. It’s poignant, funny and just awesome, exactly what you’d expect from David Sedaris. Other good ones include Children of Blood and Bone, The Song of Achilles, Bad Blood, and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.
  • When Artie poops right by a house where a dog is barking at her. I don’t pick it up. One good turn deserves another. There’s this one house where there are three dogs that just go ape-shit every time we walk by. I wish she’d drop a big one there but she hasn’t yet.
  • Emptying out the vacuum cleaner canister. There are few things that make me feel more accomplished than getting visual confirmation of all the cleaning I’ve just done. It’s an obsession.
  • My “wine cellar.” I could call it our wine cellar, but I’m the one who, a) picked out all the wine, b) cares about it, and c) drinks most of it (Nate prefers beer). With our last lockdown, the sale of alcohol was prohibited. I wasn’t about to go through another lockdown rationing wine, hesitant to give it to friends in need lest I run out. So we currently have more than 150 bottles of wine in the garage. It’s glorious.

    Divided into boxes of red, white, rose, white bubbly and rose bubbly. I ran out of wine boxes so I used an empty camping gear box.

  • Dinnertime. We light candles, set the table and spend at least 30 minutes together, chitchatting. We listen to an LP, M tells us about the monsters he’s trained (he genuinely believes he is a monster trainer, and we’ve learned the hard way not to joke about it) and we tell stories or have a dinnertime poetry slam. M is surprisingly good at putting together fairly long rhyming poems on the fly. We talk about the gods (yes, plural) and more monsters, and we negotiate how many more bites he has to take before he gets dessert. It might not sound like much, but I do enjoy it.

    When we can’t go to restaurants, we create one at home

  • Care packages. A friend from Muscat recently sent us a box full of Trader Joes goodies and I almost cried. And the other day I was talking to my mom and I mentioned how much M has been drawing lately, and then two weeks later we got a care package full of sketchbooks and new markers.
  • Scouting out all the strange/ostentatious houses in our neighborhood. We live in a fancy part of Windhoek. This was actually one of the strangest things about our first Foreign Service tour: our house was in the rich neighborhood. This was not something I was used to. We can’t afford that shit. But most embassy housing is in the nicest neighborhoods because they are generally the safest. So I enjoy wandering the neighborhood, looking at the ridiculous houses and wondering how people have enough money to build houses like that. Or why exactly they’d want a house like that.

    Where did they get the money to build this?!

    What the heck?

  • Not wearing socks. Winter in Namibia is COLD. Surprisingly so. And despite being technically from Wisconsin, I am a child of the tropics. I grew up wearing flip-flops and my feet don’t like socks. They make my toenails, no matter how short they are, uncomfortable and they smell awful.  Hurray for summer (spring doesn’t exist here) and a happy sock-free existence.
  • Playing Gloomhaven. The box is enormous and super-heavy and the game costs nearly $100. But we bought it with Amazon gift cards, anticipating a day when we wouldn’t be able to leave the house much and it’d would be just the two of us. Let me tell you, Gloomhaven is SO WORTH IT. It’s like a choose-your-own adventure game with each round being completely different from the last. We each play two characters and at this point I am emotionally attached to mine (I named them Samantha the Scoundrel and Isaspella the Orchid Spellweaver). We set the game up on Saturday afternoons and play as many rounds as we can before putting it all way on Sunday night. It takes up the entire dinner table.
  • Planning future trips. We still have two R&Rs to take in the next 22 months, plus a lot of travel in Namibia that we want to do. Figuring out itineraries, the best places to stay, etc is my happy place.

Wow, that’s more than I expected, honestly.

The State of Emergency in Namibia has been lifted and things here are heading back towards “normal,” not because it’s epidemiologically warranted but because there’s no more public or political will for restrictions. Things were starting to improve but then they loosened all the restrictions at once and this past week kids went back to school. I hope there won’t be an increase in cases and that things were under control enough beforehand for it to not be a complete disaster, but we’ll see. In the meantime we wear our masks, take calculated risks and try to make the most of it. We are glad we can finally leave Windhoek again!

Life lately (or Welcome to the Shit Show!)

I have so much to blog about. So many feelings, emotions, thoughts, random crap I want to capture for posterity. But getting it all out in written form has been a first rate chore. And you know what. I DON’T NEED MORE CHORES RIGHT NOW. So here is my ineloquent (ha who am I kidding, I’ve never been eloquent) word vomit.

Things here are a real mess.

A few weeks ago we sent our housekeeper home a few hours after she arrived because she kept coughing. Um no thank you.

After she left I wiped down everything she could have possibly touched with Lysol spray, and we carried about our daily business. By which I mean Nate and I kept working and M watched television all day.

A few days later, two to be exact, M got a fever and our housekeeper called to tell us she was hospitalized, needed supplemental oxygen and had been swabbed for COVID. Well FUCK.

We immediately starting quarantining ourselves. At that point the president had announced a lockdown for Windhoek and we couldn’t go anywhere anyways. The biggest issue was that we couldn’t walk Artie and she went crazy with energy/resentment and felt the need to pee everywhere.

Luckily our housekeeper got her test results back eventually and she was negative. Whew.

As I’m writing this the president of Namibia is giving an address, undoubtedly announcing that Windhoek’s restrictions aren’t being lifted, as case numbers continue to rise and the situation deteriorates further. The funny thing is that there are a number of mitigation measures in place which SHOULD have prevented/decreased the spread of COVID-19. Like mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, hand hygiene, limiting of gatherings, etc. HA. I suppose maybe it would have worked if people were actually following the rules. It seems like most people here are relatively fatalistic about the whole thing and figure they’re going to get it anyway so why should they try to delay it.

Um, because hospitals will be overcrowded, there’s no vaccine yet, and the longer you can put off getting COVID-19 the more we’ll know about it and the safer you’ll be???

And then there’s other people  that think it’s all because of 5G or some scam by the government of Namibia to get money from the WHO. That’s just laughable.

I can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve left the house in the past 15 days, other than to walk the dog. Every time I’m struck by the number of people without masks, pushing their way into someone else’s space. I want to shout “Don’t you know there’s a pandemic you goddamn idiot? Are you trying to kill your grandma?”

Exactly three weeks ago, I was at E.A.T., a little place that sells coffee, prepared food and some other stuff, basically Society Fair in Windhoek, by a gas station. I was buying sandwiches for our camping road trip that afternoon. Some jerk without a mask pushed me out of the way at the cashier to ask about his coffee order. I looked around and realized everyone was crowded by the cashier waiting for their coffee, no masks like the entitled assholes that they were.

I got home and announced that I didn’t think we should go to E.A.T. anymore until people get more serious about disease prevention. Then the lockdown was proclaimed and it was a moot point.

I’ve heard some people say “We have to learn to live with this disease.” Yes that’s true. We do. But does that mean we throw all caution to the wind and pretend it’s not there?

Ugh.

Every day I’m grateful that we took advantage of the time between lockdowns. That I went to the bookstore and bought M literally bags full of activity and sticker books. That I splurged on a new Dutch oven at the Le Creuset store, knowing I’d be spending a lot more time in the kitchen in the months to come (omg it was so totally worth it). That we let things get disorganized and messy at home while we went off camping and exploring. That I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for a game night we hosted and froze half the dough. That I ordered a bunch of two-player board games on Amazon a month ago.

I remember thinking “When we’re stuck at home during the next lockdown, I’ll won’t regret a minute of this.” And it’s true. I’ve always felt that it’s important to go and do all the things while you can, and this pandemic has really reinforced that. Go visit that new city, go explore, if you see something you really want BUY IT (within reason of course), go to that fancy restaurant.

Live your best life now goddamnit. You never know when things will change.

Six months with Artie

Artie surveying Lake Oanob.

How has it only been six months since we adopted Artie? She’s such a natural fit for our family, it’s like she’s always been here.

After Athena died, it took us a few months to realize we wanted another dog. So back in February I reached out to a friend who works at the SPCA, asking if she could suggest any dogs that would fit our criteria (less than 40 lbs, youngish but not a puppy, good with kids) and she sent a short list. We went to the SPCA on a Friday afternoon and Artie, at that point her name was Keily, was not a dog I would have even noticed had her name not been on the list. But she seemed friendly and relaxed, and we took her into a little garden area to spend some off-leash time with her. She didn’t mind M and when I bent down and called her over she came running with her tail wagging. Which is more than you’ll get from lots of other dogs.

Nate and I looked at each other and were like “She’ll do.”

Often running, always happy

The next day we went back, signed the papers, got her microchipped and the rest is history.

Her easy-going, happy, playful personality and natural recall make her an all-around fun dog. She’s a great camping companion; she keeps an eye on M, goes exploring with him and she’s happy to snuggle up by the campfire at night. When we holler for her and shake a bag of treats she runs back so quickly you hardly realize she’d wandered off. And she does a GREAT job of keeping rock hyraxes, birds and all other wildlife away from the campsite.

Giving me a heart attack at Spitzkoppe (photo by B. Johnson)

She’s so amiable we’ve been lazy about training her. She knows “sit,” but that’s about it. We’ve decided to train her while we’re on lockdown for the next few weeks (months?), and she’s making fast progress. She still pees in the house from time to time but we’re working on that.

More exploring at Spitzkoppe

Artie is also officially a garbage dog. You can take the dog off the streets, but you can’t take the streets out of the dog. She will leave kibble in her bowl for hours and turn her nose up at treats. But if she finds a chicken bone or anything even remotely edible outside, she’ll eat it before you even realized it was there. And may the gods help you if you leave the trash sitting by the door and don’t immediately take it to the bin outside.

But no dog is perfect and these are flaws we can live with. If the past six months are any indication, the next decade with Artie is going be great. We love you, Artie Fartie!

Our girl Artie

Here we go again

The sign outside M’s school

Before we get started, I have no idea what’s happening with the formatting here… but I don’t care enough to fix it right now. Just imagine that there are in fact paragraph breaks.
At first it seemed like Namibia had done such a great job of nipping the COVID pandemic in the bud. There was an early lockdown, the borders were basically closed, and a number of other mitigation measures were put in place.
But in the second half of May, after a 45-day window of no new cases, cases started being reported again. At first it was just in returning quarantined Namibians and permanent residents. Then some truck drivers coming from neighboring countries tested positive.
Then some people escaped quarantine and oops they tested positive and spread the disease.
Then parts of the Erongo Region– the towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund– were locked down.
Oh, but guess what? There are five roads leading out of Walvis and Swakop (three paved roads, two dirt roads) and there were only police checkpoints on the three paved roads. The people in that area were free to come and, most importantly, LEAVE, using the unpaved dirt roads.
And so here we are. Every region in Namibia is reporting cases of COVID-19 and there is rampant community spread in many cities, including Windhoek.
The situation in Windhoek has been deteriorating for weeks now. On Wednesday afternoon a new lock-down was finally announced. This time there’s even an 8 pm curfew.
To be honest, it’s hitting me harder than I thought it would. Part of it is frustration with the fact that the lockdown didn’t happen sooner, which could have literally saved lives; part of it is that this is lock-down Round 2. We already did this once. If everyone had done their part and followed the rules, we wouldn’t be here again.
We are busier at work now than ever, and our nanny/housekeeper is no longer coming to our house. M had a short 4 weeks of in-person school back in July, which stopped on August 4 when it was clear the situation in Windhoek was going to hell. So he’s stuck at home with parents who hardly have time for him during the day, bored and watching too much tv. Luckily I did some shopping while the restrictions were loosened and we have a stockpile of a wide variety of books for him. And his new Kindle just arrived in the mail. Parents of the year, right here.
Every time I cough or M spikes a fever, I wonder if we have it. Where we could have gotten it. Who we could have given it to. Who they could spread it to. What the outcomes might be.
We are glad we travelled and explored while we could. Maybe now that we’re not going anywhere I’ll finally have some time to write about some of it.

Camping hand washing station

For now, I am frustrated, saddened and disheartened. But I’m ok really.
We will take care of projects around the house. I’ll have more time for painting and writing, being creative. We will play lots of Gloomhaven. We’ll try out some new recipes. And some new wines.
I’ll get through this. We will all get through this.

COVID-19 in Namibia (as of 03 April)

A drink for our times, Namibia-style.

What a fucking crazy time.

For real.

There are currently 14 cases of COVID-19 in Namibia.  The reporting of confirmed cases has slowly been increasing in frequency and magnitude. It’s unclear to me how many are local transmission but there is no confirmed community transmission yet.*

We’ve decided that we are going to ride this pandemic out in Namibia. We are not going back to the US. (Unless we are forced to.) We are prepared to shelter-in-place in our house for months, we are ready to cut social in-person activities, and we have experience with the whole “no walking outside” thing, if it comes to that. We are ready. Is it crappy and will it get even crappier? Yes.

There were a number of factors to consider, many of which are, at this point, huge gaping question marks. But ultimately we decided that we are safer (both health-wise and emotionally) if we stay here. Only time will tell if we made the right decision. Or maybe we’ll go to Ordered Departure and then we will have to leave. Who knows. I have no idea what can/will happen.

We have some advantages here in Southern Africa**: we’ve watched this virus march across the planet and we’ve learned a lot from the responses of other countries. Many were slow to start testing and social distancing, quarantine advisories were implemented too late, and most countries didn’t do much until transmission was already out of control. Here, we’ve had time to practice habits like social distancing, washing our hands ALL THE TIME, less touching of faces, etc. Plus the science behind COVID-19 is improving and we are learning more and more. Will this work out to our advantage? We’ll see; only time will tell.

People around Namibia, including the government of Namibia, are taking this more seriously than I expected, honestly. About a week ago restrictions went into place. Nonessential shops are closed. You can’t buy alcohol. Restaurants are only open for take-out. No exercising or walking outside in groups of more than three people. Police are driving around enforcing the rules.  All points of entry into Namibia, with the exception of the international airport in Windhoek, will be closed for non-commercial travelers. These restrictions are in place until April 17.

We’ve been baking a lot over the past week. These cookies sprinkled with salt were a definite winner.

What will happen after that? Who knows. The epidemic in Namibia is only starting, and I can’t imagine that on April 18 the disease will magically disappear.

In the meantime we are working from home and who knows when M will go back to school. I have to keep reminding myself that this is hard for him too. He’d rather be at school, playing and learning with his teachers and friends, and going to dance and swimming classes than being cooped up at home with distracted, working parents who don’t always have time for him. Sometimes he gets upset, and we give him even more love and attention. There’s been a lot of hugging and talking about our feelings, much of which he initiates.

My new favorite coworker, lying beside my buffet-table-turned-standing-desk

There’s a fine line between staying up-to-date on the COVID-19 news and science, and getting drawn into a doom and gloom pit of despair. Here are some resources/websites I find helpful and look at daily:

  • Trying to stay up-to-date on information and public health measures for COVID-19? Look at the CDC website. I don’t like the WHO website;  I find it to be confusing and less helpful if you are a person who just wants info.
  • Trying to keep up-to-date on what the State Dept is doing? Check out Diplopundit.
  • Looking for a way to explain COVID-19 to your kids? I find this infocomic to be really helpful.
  • Looking for easily digestible graphs that explain COVID-19 epidemiology and trends? I like how the data is displayed on Information is Beautiful but it’s only updated once or twice a week.
  • Looking for better information than the Johns Hopkins tracker provides? Worldometer has a lot of helpful information by country, including cases per one million population, epi curves (new cases per day), mortality statistics, etc.

So, here we are. Who’d have thought we’d be in a situation with a global authorized departure. But this too shall pass, and at least this time we don’t have terrorists trying to kill us! There’s always a bright side.

*Local transmission is different from community transmission. Let’s say you are a tourist and you’re COVID-19 positive. If your receptionist/driver/etc gets COVID-19 from you that is local transmission. Community transmission is when a disease is transmitted from one person to another without a link to travel.

** We also have some major disadvantages here like poor/insufficient health care and some people that are malnourished or immunocompromised, etc. The baseline situation in Namibia is not cupcakes and rainbows.

Welcome home, Artie

Our newest family member!

Well, we are apparently 100% incapable of taking our own advice.

I don’t know how many people in the Foreign Service we’ve advised not to get a dog. There are a multitude of reasons. Transporting your dog is, by far, the most difficult part of changing posts. Not to mention finding a good vet, discovering what unique challenges that post will pose for your dog (Maybe your post will ban walking outside. Seriously. It could happen.), figuring out what to do when you’re used to a yard and now you have an apartment, finding someplace to board your dog or someone to watch him/her… the list goes on. And god help you if you get assigned a post that bans your dog’s breed. Or if you get assigned a post that you can’t take a dog to. Having a dog in the Foreign Service is NOT easy. In fact, this blog was partially born out of the difficulty of having a dog in this lifestyle: to show that it can be done and to hopefully provide some helpful info on how to make it work.

So, what did we do? 

We got another dog.

And it makes my heart so, so, so happy.

Surveying the greenery, which she was probably seeing for the first time ever

The thing is, and sadly it took losing Athena for me to realize this, when your dog is a member of your family, all that hardship and struggle is worth it. Our house doesn’t feel like home without a dog running around. It might be expensive, inconvenient, or a pain in the butt, but the tail wags, those snuggles, and all that unconditional love in return is just so darn worth it.

If those things don’t make it worth it for you? Then you shouldn’t get a dog.

We adopted Artemis, AKA Artie, from the Windhoek SPCA and she is such a sweetheart. She doesn’t freak out when M comes running towards her, she sleeps in her crate at night, she loves playing and fetching, and she comes running as soon as we call for her. She also forages in the garbage, pees on our nice rugs, has zero interest in sitting or heeling, and is picky about her treats. But these are things we can fix (mostly) so I’m not stressed about it.

Life is good again, my friends. We still miss Athena, but the pain isn’t as raw. My heart is buoyed by little Artie running around, eager to love us, knowing that we’ve given her the best thing yet: a family to call her own.

We love you, Artie!

At home, finally

Sunset from the back yard

We’ve been here in Windhoek for nearly four months, and it’s feels like home. We’re developing weekend routines, weekdays are starting to feel less insane, and I don’t need to use Google Maps to go everywhere.

Pandemonium in the living room on HHE delivery and unpacking day

Our sea freight shipment, or HHE, arrived just about a month ago, and it’s already 90% put away. Our house here has lots of built-in storage space and a huge kitchen, plus a garage (a garage!!!! We’ve never had a garage before!), so it was surprisingly easy to find places to put things. Although some stuff got shoved into closets, all of which I promised myself I’d deal with later.  Our photos and art are on the walls, our carpets are on the ground, we’re eating off our own plates with our own silverware, M has his books, I have all my kitchen gear and cookbooks, and Nate has his record players. Everyone is happy.

Life here has been relatively easy for us to adjust to. Most of the social culture is outdoors and it’s awesome. Plus you can easily buy just about everything you need, including pork products and alcohol. And things here are so darn inexpensive. It’s glorious. It’s just so nice to be someplace where it’s comfortable to be outside. I can’t stress that enough. Granted, we haven’t been here during the worst of the summer heat, but there’s no way it will ever be as bad as Oman. Nate and I were outside this morning at 11 am, hauling around bags of dirt and shoveling the soil, attempting to get a garden going. We never could have done that during an Omani summer without suffering from heat exhaustion.

One of many overwhelming aisles at Embassy Liquor. Yes the store is called Embassy Liquor. It’s almost like they knew who their best customers would be…

Speaking of Oman, we took some of the lessons we learned there and applied them to our life here. One of those lessons was to get our adventure car as soon as possible. We purchased a bakkie, or pick-up truck, and it is a big powerful vehicle. It’s the perfect 4×4 to explore Namibia with, and we’ve added a big metal top, or canopy, as they call it here, to the back. There’s so much storage space it’s amazing! We still need to get a roof rack and a steel rear bumper, but we are ready to go!

The workweek here took some serious getting used to. Monday through Thursday we work from 7:30ish to 5:15ish with a one-hour lunch break, and then on Fridays we work from 7:30ish to 12:30ish. We’re always running around like chickens with our heads chopped off trying to get to work on time (which never happens), and then in the evenings we scramble to get dinner on the table before M goes to take his bath around 7:45.  It makes me appreciate the Muscat workweek and commute, which had us leaving the house around 7:30 am and getting home by 4:45 pm each day. Thank heavens for our housekeeper; without her we’d be spending all our time doing laundry, tidying up or cleaning the kitchen.

Cloudy sky

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings is to go to the farmer’s market. There are all kinds of vendors, and when you want to buy something, the vendor sets your stuff aside and gives you a receipt. Once you’re done visiting all the stalls, you take all your receipts to the payment area, pay your bill (you can even pay with a card!), and they mark all your receipts as “paid.” Then you go hand your paid receipts to the vendors and you collect your stuff. It’s ingenious. It’s nice to be able to stroll around without lugging heavy bags everywhere. Although it’s also kind of bad because you don’t realize exactly how much you purchased until you have to collect it all and you leave with far more than you actually needed.

Another cloudy sky, this time in the morning

We’re glad we’ll be here for three years. We are settling in, and M is happy at his “tall house in Africa.” Our time in the U.S. over the summer (about 7 weeks) was really hard for him and he kept asking to “go home.” We tried to explain to him that Muscat wasn’t our home anymore, that we were going to have a bunch of different homes over the summer, and that we’d finally arrive at our new home in Namibia, but what 3-year old really understands that? When we finally pulled up the driveway to our house in Windhoek, he said “Are we at my house in Africa?” We were very relieved to finally tell him we were home.

It’s like we can all finally exhale after a summer of holding our breath, now that we’re here. And that’s a nice feeling.

The polarities of Foreign Service life

I wrote this post back in November of 2018 but I could never bring myself to publish it because it seemed like I would be jinxing myself. I almost published it when we were leaving Oman, but I just couldn’t. I’m glad I didn’t because then I’d think I had jinxed us. Turns out shit happens whether you tempt fate or not.

Without editing or further ado…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” While this quote was used by Charles Dickens to describe 1700’s London and Paris, it also applies to life in the Foreign Service. We only have about 8 months left here in Oman, and the past year has been absolutely amazing. That’s in stark contrast to our Dhaka tour, which ended up being a complete shit-show.

This got me thinking about life in the Foreign Service and all of the ups and downs. Sometimes it’s fun and fancy, full of incredible adventures, while other times it’s literally the stuff of nightmares. (Keep in mind, we’ve only been doing this since 2015, and there are a lot of more experienced voices out there than mine.) The same could be said for life anywhere, but sometimes you have to accept more risk to get more reward. Some of the best and worst times of my life have happened since joining the FS, most of them directly caused by our choice to live this lifestyle, which gives us so much, but also takes away a lot.

You never really know what you’re going to get. That’s a risk that we, as a family, are willing to take. For now, anyways.

Over the past year, we’ve done so many amazing, incredible things, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Watching M grow into a little boy who loves the water and hiking, strolls around the Muttrah souk like he owns the place, loves his nanny and his teachers, begs to FaceTime with his grandparents, and runs to the door shrieking “Let’s go on an adventure!” is absolutely priceless. We are so very lucky to have the opportunity to live in Oman, and we appreciate the good times like they might never happen again. (Fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc. that nothing catastrophic happens here over the eight months)

Then look at our experience in Dhaka: it was fine, great in fact, until it turned into a descent into literal  hell. It started with an Italian NGO worker getting shot to death outside of the grocery store that we shopped at every week and then a few months later one of the local staff at the embassy was hacked to death with a machete in his apartment. A few months after that was the terrorist attack at Holey Bakery, which resulted in the quick departure of over half of the embassy community.

Maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse writing about how great Oman has been, because things could turn on a dime. But even then, we still would have had the past 14 months of pure awesomeness. Things were never awesome in Dhaka. Our best times were spent hanging out with our friends in each other’s houses, and on vacation in other countries. We never got to experience the real Dhaka or Bangladesh.

I suppose that all of this is to say that I’m grateful for life’s upswing that we’ve had here. We’ve been lucky, and we know it. Maybe Oman was our cosmic payback for enduring Dhaka, but we are very cognizant of how good we’ve had it over the past year. Bracing for our next tour, we go into it hoping for the best. But in the back of my mind, there are thoughts about how it could go wrong and what contingency plans we’ll need. Nate will continue to always sit facing the exit in any restaurant we go to, and I’ll always be jumpy about people walking behind me.

Our family motto has been and will continue to be “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.” There’s no time like the present.

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.