Sunday, November 16, 2008

My, How My Garden Does Grow!

I thought it was time to post an update on how my garden was doing. When I moved in, there was very little in either the front or back garden areas. That just wasn't going to work for me because I'm a real visual kind of person and I like looking at pretty things. So I would buy plants, mostly small, and have Jesus, my gardener, plant them for me. As much as I love working in the garden, the economy is such that employing gardeners and maids is such a help to the economy and...who am I to buck the system?? When he would go with me to the nursery, I would pick out some plants and he would say, "No quieres mas grande?" (don't you want it larger?) I would shake my head and tell him he would make sure they grew to be large in no time at all! Well, this whole process started in mid August and I'm here to tell you that living on the equator is wonderful for gardens!!

Here are some pictures of the back yard, before and after shots.

This is the before shot. There was really only a large Bougainvillea and a Bird of Paradise and an ugly shrub on the left. Note that there were no flower beds at all. I'm not sure why, but it seems that everyone has a drain in the middle of their yards (the square black thing in the lawn).

And now here is the after shot! This doesn't really show how really pretty it is. With photography, unless you're a real professional, it's hard to capture the real beauty of the subject, whether it's plants, a sunset or a child. But I'm trying! All the 'little' plants that I bought are growing like weeds and the garden is filling in beautifully. There are roses, Mexican sage, dusty miller, Bird of Paradise (4 cuz I love them), vincas in a gorgeous orange, hibiscus, ginger, tropical orange flowers, begonias, gerber daisies, candle flowers, rosemary and basil, and some beautiful red and pink flowers. There's more but that's all I can remember! And since I'm working on my photography skills, my garden is my best subject. I would love to drive around shooting local people and sights, but I'm afraid I wouldn't get back home with my camera.

This is a view from my dining room, looking out into the back garden in August. I was getting ready for my first dinner party and thought it was a pretty picture...Sally's Guatemalan place mats, the Ginger flowers I bought for about $2.00 and my 'lovely' back yard.

Here's the same shot, taken yesterday (11/15/08). As you can see, I really like flowers on my dining room table! What can I grandmother had a wonderful garden and I remember, as a child, getting lost in it, exploring for flowers and critters. Thanks Gram, for instilling in me to appreciate the natural beauty around us!

This is a view taken from the back of the yard toward the house. Again, it doesn't really capture how pretty it is.
I love close up shots, so here are a few of the flowers in my garden. This blue flower, I am told, is Mexican Sage. The flower, stems and leaves feel like velvet. It's beautiful!

I'm not sure just what this little flower is, but I love them! I have them in a bright orange and yellow, planted around the garden. The hummingbirds love them!

I love this shot taken from the table on the veranda. I've never been a big fan of orange but for some reason, it works here. These vincas are growing like crazy. I had to cut them back about 2 weeks ago because they were beginning to cover the red hibiscus behind them.

And the lovely gerber daisy. Not sure how I got white...maybe the plant looked so healthy that I didn't care what color it was!
So, that's the back yard. The front is not bad either, as you can see here. It too, began as pretty much the climbing plants in the right hand corner and 2 overgrown bougainvilleas that were moved. Roses, vincas, bird of paradise and other flowering plants are now on the way to making this a lovely spot to see when you enter my front gate!! Here are the before and after shots of the front.

Before....and after.
Better, huh?

I realize that if you have no interest in gardening, this post will probably rank pretty low on your list of favorites. But when you live in a third world country and your home is, literally, your castle, an important thing is to surround yourself with things that make you happy. Flowers make me happy and sitting at the table on my back patio in the morning, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the hummingbirds make their rounds...that's my little escape. Fortunately, plants grow very fast here. The time span of the before and after pictures is from mid-August to mid November...3 months. It will be hard to leave this garden in 16 months or so!

By the way, I post lots of my photographs on a site called JPGMAG. To see them, go to

Monday, October 20, 2008

New England Beauty

New England in the Fall is a beautiful thing. I was in Washington DC October 11-16 for a reunion of my high school friends. Unfortunately, most of the spectacular color was gone…except for 2 trees at the home of my teacher, who was so gracious and let me stay with her and her husband. One tree was glorious in yellow and the other was absolutely beautiful in all its red. If you’ve never been to New England in late September-early October, you really are missing out on one of the most beautiful areas of our country. I’ve made the trip during ‘leaf peeping’ season several times and am still in awe of the beauty. My eyes are treated to such beauty at every turn.

The tree with the red leaves is included in the registry in Chevy Chase, Maryland so you know it’s special! Sherry, my teacher, told me that people often stop to take photographs of it and school children stop to collect leaves for their classrooms.

By the time I left, the vivid red had turned to a dark rust and the leaves began falling…and falling and falling. The front lawn was a carpet of color, a mixture of greens, reds, browns, yellows, pinks, beiges….it was beautiful!

The only way I could have gotten a picture of the entire tree was to cross Connecticut Avenue and I didn't want to do that. You'll just have to take my word for it that these 2 trees were a magnificent sight!

Maybe one day I'll be able to visit this area every year and enjoy the beauty. One thing is for sure...this was definitely not my last visit there!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Rain In My Living Room

Last weekend was definitely not one of the better weekends since I arrived in Tegucigalpa the end of May.

Saturday, the sky opened up and a deluge of rain pounded the city. At about 7:30 PM, I was sitting at my dining room table, listening to a DVD of Jeff Foxworthy, a truly funny guy. If you ever need a good laugh, buy one of his CDs…worth the few dollars. Anyway, back to my evening. I could hear the rain coming down in buckets outside. I got up to go in the kitchen and was washing something at the sink and when I turned the water off, oddly enough, I could still hear water running. I walked into the living room and apparently the roof had a weak spot because it was literally pouring in my living room! In just 5 minutes, my living room went from nice and dry to Niagara Falls of Tegucigalpa!! It was coming down the walls, over the edge of the upstairs loft, was already running down the stairs from upstairs…it was coming in from so many different places, I didn’t know what to do first! I quickly moved the furniture away from the waterfall (and I do mean waterfall…it was coming down from upstairs in a sheet of water 10 feet wide!). I then ran upstairs and nearly slipped and fell on my butt. Never try to run on wet ceramic tile! The stairs were already flooded, the water was running down each step to the step below. Water was running down the walls in about 6 places and dripping from the stair-stepped corners at the tops of the walls. My stereo…it was soaked! I grabbed it and threw it in my bedroom, moved my gorgeous picture of the ocean off the wall since it was about 6 inches from a waterfall, and grabbed 3 pictures I bought in Hawaii that I JUST had framed…one is ruined, the other 2 seem OK. I then called Bryan, one of the security officers I work with, and told him I was in trouble. He called the embassy GSO person on call and told him to get here quick. Bryan came over with towels and by that time, the rain and indoor waterfall had slowed down. But not before the carpet in the living room was soaked in one corner and one of my tall plants collapsed from the sheer force of the water coming down on it from upstairs. It just snapped. GSO finally got here and of course, told us there was nothing that could be done tonight. He also told me that another American had 12” of water in his house from this storm. It looked like the rain was letting up, but you never know. I sent Bryan back home and I rung out the towels as best I could, rolling them up and placing them on the floor, just in case it started up again during the night. Before I went to bed, I went in to my office to make sure I had turned off my desk computer and was pleasantly surprised to see my desk covered in water! UGH! I quickly unplugged everything and moved it to…jeez, where was it safe??? I went back downstairs and got some large trash bags. I put the CPU and monitor in a bag and put them in the bathroom. Don’t ask me why…I just figured it was safe there. I had to take the glass off my desktop because the water had gotten underneath and was just sitting on the wood. The carpet was all wet underneath the desk. I finally got things squared away in this room and decided to do a sweep of the house once more. I half expected to see a puddle on my bed but no…it was dry. I found no more water and fell into bed.

On Monday, the owner of the house came by and had his man go up on the roof. They found all the drains stopped up and cleaned them out. He said that would fix the problem. However, I have no idea how clogged drains would cause leaks in the roof at the tallest point. Oh well, we’ll see. The next time it rains really hard will tell if he really did fix the problem. Something tells me it wasn’t the drains but I’m not the expert.

One thing’s for sure…when I leave for El Salvador and Washington DC next week for 10 days, I’ll have big sheets of plastic covering my furniture and my computers will be in plastic bags!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Weekend Away From Tegus

Two weekends ago, I took my first weekend trip since arriving in Tegucigalpa about 4 months ago. The language instructor at the Embassy sponsored the trip and about 12 of us signed up to head north to the coast, to a little town called Tela. It's a great little place with a beautiful beach and islands off the coast.

On the way down, I made quite a few observations. We were in a chartered bus and I decided to NOT read as did so many, but instead, to just look out the window at the life that was flying by as we drove along.

  • I saw lots of crosses by the side of the road. This didn't surprise me since this is a pretty dangerous road. Honduras is very mountainous and this 2 lane road winds in and out of the mountains and the people who live here have no concept of the dangers of passing on blind curves. It's no surprise that there are so many deaths on the highways. Even old hand-me-down orange school buses from the U.S., filled with people, pass on curves. They just expect any oncoming traffic to move over. But it's not always the case. On our way back, we came upon an accident that must have just happened. A bus was across both lanes, crashed into the side of the mountain. On the other side of it was a small white car with a man laying in the road...obviously dead. That's another thing...they never cover the victims. It's all about sensationalism here. On the television news, as well as all the newspapers, it's like a contest to see who can show the most dead bodies.

  • There is an upcoming election here. Nailed to the trees for miles and miles were the sidewall parts of tires with the candidates names painted around the black smooth part. I guess the budget for campaign signs on the highway is next to nothing. I even saw some signs that read "Jesus por Presidente." Wishful thinking, I'm sure, as the choices of candidates aren't good. So much corruption here...

  • It's amazing how many buildings there are that are in varying stages of completion. Some are just shells with the concrete blocks going up one or 2 stories, with the steel rebar sticking up from the tops of the blocks. And they seem to just stop. Even in Tegucigalpa, you see buildings that seem to be complete for the first few stories, but there are those steel rebar sticking up. It's like...OK, we've run out of money for now...go ahead and occupy the bottom floors and we'll see you again when we get more money!!
  • Cornfields are EVERYWHERE. Some are in perfect rows and seem to be cared for very well. Others are just random, with no plan at all. Since drugs are such a huge part of the economy here, I had to wonder if the cornfields hid other kinds of crops under their large leaves and tassles.

  • Lots of people sell their fruits or vegetables on the side of the road. And when I say the 'side' of the road, I mean it! For examples, there were several selling what appeared to be oranges. They would stack them up in bags and they were so close to the side of the road, you could run them over if you weren't careful! And there would be 3 or 4 different places with these stacks yet I would rarely see anyone. They must have been safely behind a rock or tree and if you stopped, they would appear out of nowhere! The idea of placing these stacks of oranges or watermelons or whatever they were selling at short entervals was probably for a good reason. If you passed one and said to yourself "Darn, I'd love to buy some of those!" there would be another stack in about 100 yards!
OK, so much for my observations on the way to Tela. Once there, we had a great time. The rooms were very nice even though we didn't get in the newer section by the 2 swimming pools. We arrived at about 4:00 PM and after checking in, we were back on the bus to head for the Botanical Park of "Lancetilla." This was a gorgeous area with lots of lush greenery. I was a tiny bit disappointed that there weren't more tropical flowers but it was beautiful anyway. Here are a few pictures of Lancetilla:

Huge bamboo...sure makes me look small!!

At the beginning our our walking in the white pants.

These red palms were gorgeous...bright red trunks! I want some!

After our tour of this garden, we returned to the hotel and had dinner. Some went swimming in the pool. I had noticed the thatched roof bar down at the beach and headed for it! I watched the sunset and drank Margaritas! It doesn't get much better.
The Dolphin Bar The Sunset...ahhhhh!

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and headed for a boat trip. We were on our way to Punta Sal, the islands off the coast. It was a trip of about 45 minutes in open water...not quite the "Three Hour Tour" that Gilligan took, but as land became smaller and smaller, I began to least we all had life preservers on! We hiked the island, saw beautiful trees and even talked to the monkeys that live on the island. We were supposed to do some snorkeling but the water was choppy and it wouldn't have been clear enough to see anything.

On our Way! Hiking

Back at the hotel, we had another great dinner and, yes, I was back at the little thatched hut bar called the Dolphin. There's nothing quite like an open air bar, a good margarita and a sunset. This was an all inclusive resort and the first margarita was really good...if you ordered it without tequila! The next one I ordered, I slipped the waitress 50.00 Lempiras and asked her to please have the bartender put some liquor in it this time. He did. :o)

Everyone had a great time and on the way back, I asked the bus driver to please stop at a pottery place I had seen on the way to Tela. I have this huge indoor planter in my house and some very very large terra cotta pots would look great. He did, I ran across the street, with our tour guide and one of the drivers and spent about $50 US and left with 4 gorgeous pots/urns/containers (whatever you call them). They look gorgeous in my house and will travel with me to my next post. Even if I don't have an indoor garden, they will look great in a garden and will remind me of my fun trip to Tela, Honduras!

Aren't they beautiful? The tallest is about 3 feet tall. The 4th is in the background with the plant in it. I love them!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Construction, Honduran Style

Look closely at the picture to the left. You can click on it for a larger version. This construction site is across the street from Paiz, one of the grocery stores where I shop on a weekly basis. The progress has been slow and yesterday when I went with Sally, we both had to laugh...once again. But this time I had my camera!! The building is constructed of cement blocks and just look at how they are transporting the blocks to the upper floor. At the top of the building is a worker who has constructed a pulley and the guy at the bottom (still laughing about this) ties 1 brick at a time to the rope and the guy at the top pulls it up.

And people wonder why things happen so slowly here! To my friend're an something!!! Maybe it's job security or something but I'm sure that building will still be under construction when I leave here in May of 2010!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Day In The Life

The images of desperate poverty notwithstanding, the initial impression of Tegucigalpa is one of…Have I really left the United States? After a terrifying landing, (google 'landing at Toncontin Airport) you enter a very modern airport, all marble and chrome. The very unpopular president Manuel Zelaya (affectionately called Mel) probably wanted a good first impression. Well, it stopped at the door on the way to the street. As you drive into the city, you pass modern shopping centers, gas stations with familiar names like Shell, Texaco and Esso, all with convenience stores, and every fast food joint you remember from home (McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Applebees, TGI Fridays). If you are TDY (Temporary Duty), you are staying at either the Marriott or the Intercontinental. I stayed at the later for a few days and it was wonderful.

First you start noticing the guns. After a day or 2, you realize that each gas station, restaurant, grocery store and retail outlet has at least one private security guard (32,000 registered private guards to 8,000 police on the street) armed not with a six-shooter but with a shotgun or assault rifle or AK-47. From the way most guards carry and handle these weapons, as they lean it against a building while smoking a cigarette, it is doubtful most guards have had any proper training in either handling the gun or in resolving issues without opening fire. And on a side note, cigarettes are about $5.50 a CARTON. If you smoke, you can consider this a perk. I don’t so it only means that many more poor people can afford to smoke themselves into an early death. Anyway, back to the armed guards…you begin to wonder, though you never ask aloud, does he have rules of engagement? And if he does, what the heck are they?

Driving in the city and the country as a whole has been described variously as a free-for-all, bumper-cars or a geometry problem of how many vehicles can fit in a given space at the same time. Normal behavior includes right turns from left lanes or the oncoming lane, creating a new lane so far to the left that you are obstructing oncoming traffic and turning right across 2 lanes. Passing on the right and using the sidewalk for your vehicle is considered accepted practice. As far as traffic lights go, a red light is just a suggestion that you might stop and take a look before proceeding. Many pickup trucks serve as passenger vehicles, their beds packed with people standing who hold on for dear life as the vehicle swerves back and forth. Motorcycles pass on the right, on the left or wherever space permits. Passing uphill, on a blind curve, 3 cars abreast is not unheard of. Almost any behavior seems to be acceptable behind the wheel…with the exception of talking on your cell phone. You will get a ticket for that.

On your next visit to the grocery store, you notice the usual pictograms for no smoking, no outside food and no drink. But there is another one you haven’t seen before: a revolver with the international red circle and slash. No guns are allowed inside, though if you have one, the store is willing to check it for you if you admit you are carrying one. And oh, by the way, there are no metal detectors.

You also notice that all the cars in the parking lot have heavily tinted windows, not as protection from the sun but to obscure view of the passengers from outside, making it less obvious when potentially vulnerable people are traveling. To afford the passenger even more protection, the front window is often blacked out also. This makes for very interesting night driving. When your car arrives from the States, RSO (Regional Security Office, where I work) recommends you tint your windows as well. The tinting on the back seat is darker because you’ve heard it’s useful to make people think that you might be traveling with an armed bodyguard in the back seat. The most wealthy (and also most scared) families do this, when actually it’s only the one-year old who occupies your back seat. You never, ever lower your windows and always run the AC. The air quality is really bad here.

With all this security, you feel safer. But never safe. One afternoon you go to the barber across the narrow side street from the Embassy and within sight of the Embassy guards, and get a haircut with no problems. Twenty-four hours later, two armed “customers” rob it, threatening clients so that the owner will turn over the cash. They then rob all the clients at gunpoint. You go out to lunch; later that day, the restaurant you visited (which had armed guards out front) is invaded and robbed by six armed assailants. One Saturday morning, you and visiting family members visit the most sacred place in the country, the basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. As you enter the church, a gun is poked into your side and your purse disappears into the crowd. Even this sacred place is proven unsafe and is then put off limits to the Embassy community.

The next morning, you take your child to school at the American School, which is located in the center of our housing area. As you turn up the drive, you notice the police tape marking off the site of yesterday’s shoot-out between private bodyguards and home invaders, which resulted in one person dead and another hospitalized. Three weeks before that, in the same block, a local attorney was ambushed and shot 7 times but lived. This occurred in front of the apartment where I was living and when I returned home from work, I had to cross under the yellow police tape and show my embassy ID before they would let me go into my apartment building. Parents must pass by armed guards, identify themselves to the guards at the barbed wire topped gate and go into the compound of the school when dropping off their kids. You walk your kids to their classrooms. As you turn to leave, her classmate arrives, escorted not by mommy or daddy but by 2 large men in suits, with sunglasses and wires in their ears and odd bulges under their suit coats. Honduran parents are worried; the daughter of a prominent retail family was snatched from inside her day-care the week before.

Back at home, if you are lucky, you live in one of the 1/3 of the Embassy housing that actually provides you with the extra space this Class 3 post is supposed to have. If no, you may have as much space as you would have in London or Paris, which isn’t much. Embassy families are housed in a limited area due to requirements for local guard response time; this limited market gives post few options. You escape for a moment by turning the TV to local stations from Denver. Honduras is very clever and pirates the signal from whomever they can and for now, Denver must have easy codes to crack! During a commercial, your eyes wander to your window. Through your security bars, you see not a vista of the Rockies, but a solid anti-climb wall at least 9 feet tall, topped with from 1-3 rows of razor wire. Just then, you hear the unmistakable bleep as the Embassy mobile patrol logs in his visit to check that your outside doors are locked and you are safely imprisoned.

A bit later, you request a car from motor pool. You have an appointment for tests at the best available hospital, but it is in a NO-GO zone so the driver must take you. You are having tests due to respiratory problems. You are trying to discover whether they are caused by the seasonal burning of the fields and the forest and brush fires that occur annually for 2 or 3 months each Spring, regularly closing the airport or just a result of the poor air quality. (The average concentration of breathable suspended particulates [PM-10] at the two monitoring stations in Tegucigalpa in 2003, the last year for which data is available, was about 120 micrograms per cubic meter of air. This is five times the comparable figure for Washington, D.C., more than twice the highest level recorded on any single day that year in D.C. and 140% above the U.S. EPA maximum permissible limit. Take a deep breath and enjoy those stats!) However, the tests may not tell you much. M/Med has once again lowered the quality rating of medical care now down to Class One, on par with the poorest and least developed nations in Africa. Your friend was one of 2 women recently who through self-exams discovered a lump. Each of them had mammograms done locally to take along on their MedEvac to the states. But, alas, they were of such poor quality, they were unreadable and had to be repeated by a stateside facility. You wonder if the clean bill of health you received when you had your mammogram here a month ago was truly accurate.

You finish at the hospital and you and the driver start back. Just as you are beginning to notice that the traffic is unusually heavy, the radio crackles with a message from the RSO. The main road (note the use of the singular road) through our housing area is blockaded by taxi drivers in front of the Public Ministry protesting again, a monthly occurrence. The driver is able to use back roads to reach your home, but you hope it ends soon because until it is resolved, you cannot pick up your child from school. The only road into the campus crosses the blocked main road.

There is additional danger at intersections, when beggars of all ages, from preschoolers to seniors, the disabled, vendors and entertainers, fire eaters and jugglers move among the stopped cars. As much as you may want to help by giving them a bit of money or food, you cannot risk lowering your window as it could invite an armed robbery or carjacking.

When you are finally able to pick your child up, you notice that she is scratching a bite, hopefully not from an infected mosquito. Dengue fever has become endemic in Honduras. Last year, at least one official American child was hospitalized with hemorrhagic dengue, which is potentially fatal. (As of today, there are 2 confirmed cases of dengue at the embassy…and there is no vaccine.) You make a mental note to have your spouse take the Reduviid bug you found in your garden to the Embassy to have it tested for Chagas disease.

You start dinner. If you didn’t do it when you got home from shopping, you begin bleaching all the fresh vegetables and rinsing them in bottled water. The fertilizer here is, shall I say, different. Just as you turn on the oven, the house goes dark with yet another power failure. You fumble through the drawers looking for a candle and matches or a flashlight, go out to the back to flip the switch and then travel through the blackened house and out to the garage to fire up the generator. After dinner, you turn on the local news to see what new crisis is facing you and the nation. The public school teachers are out on strike again and will be marching to the President’s Palace in the morning, so the Spouse’s Coffee at the Marriott is cancelled. The body in the street your spouse passed driving home turns out to be the victim of a botched carjacking; the driver was attacked a quarter-mile from the Embassy and was shot while driving off. He drove toward the Embassy, knowing there were SWAT police protecting it and he would be safer. But he collapsed and died as he got out of his car on the boulevard in front of the Embassy. You turn off the TV and flip through the newspaper. Not a bad news day…only 2 pages of morgue photos, with body bags unzipped and corpses turned to the camera so you can best see the entry and exit wounds, not to mention the blood and mangled tissue. You hide the newspapers from the kids so they will not see these things and ask questions. You decide to go to bed but before that, to have a relaxing hot bath. Two minutes into filling the tub, the water stops…the cistern is dry and no water until morning with the motor pool can send the tanker. You sigh, close the windows, set the alarm and turn on the AC, not only to cool you but also to drown out the music from the neighborhood bar and the random gunfire that rings out through the night.

Just another day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras as another day draws to a close.

Sound like a plot for a movie? Not hardly. Recently here at the U.S. Embassy here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, we were faced with the task of supplying information and hard data to our State Department as to why we should retain our now coveted 15% differential. That means that because of the conditions in this country, we receive an additional 15% of our pay as a “differential” or reward for agreeing to serve at this post. The above is the factual based commentary on life here in Tegucigalpa that was submitted to Washington. The people who contributed to this used very recent personal experiences as their examples. If it sounds like it was made up, believe me, it wasn’t.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cause for Celebration!

I went to the store today with Sally to get some of my favorite hearts of Romaine lettuce. You know, the ones packagd 3 to a bag all sealed and nice...and that come from the U.S. so I don't have to do the clorox bleach soak thing. We were cruising the aisles of one of the stores that usually carries American products (for a pretty price, I must add) and what do I see, and am totally blown away by seeing??? It's only my favorite non carbonated drink...the one I was introduced to by my son on one of my visits to was Arizona Tea's Arnold Palmer Lite Half Lemonade/Half Iced Tea!!!!! I stopped in my tracks and my jaw dropped!! The only place I've EVER found this was on Kauai. Not in Foat Wuuth. Not in Washington DC. I had to come all the way to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in my little store, Mas Por Menos, to find my favorite drink!! When you see something in the stores here that you like, you darned well better buy it cuz it may never return! I bought all 6 cans! I will covet those cans and drink them only on special occasions. And since I found them today, that constitutes a very Special Occasion!

OK...a final word. No, I've not gone nuts living here. You just have to understand that sometimes when you see something that you love and you just can't find any more...and when you finally see it...that's a real reason to celebrate! Now...where can I find Jujubes!!!!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Slideshow Of My House

Here's a little tour of my house here in Tegucigalpa. I love it! (**Correction to the reference to the flag. That flag is NOT the Texas flag, as I originally thought. It is the Chilean flag and that's the Chilean Embassy across the street from my house. They look sooo similar!)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Plumbing in Honduras

Yesterday, the landlord came to my house to supervise some repairs/corrections to the house I am living in. He’s a very nice man and coincidentally, he is the owner of the frame store where I have taken some things to be framed. I just love it when you find out there’s a ‘connection’ and he was very happy that I was already doing business with him.

As we walked around the house discussing the things that needed attention, one of the places was the maid’s quarters. This is a small bedroom and bathroom out beyond the courtyard. There was no dispenser mounted on the wall for the toilet paper. As I was pointing that out to him, I noticed something that made me go “huh?” As you can see by the photograph, it probably made you go “huh?” too. When I asked him what that electrical outlet right next to the shower head was for (“¿Que es eso?”) he gave me this explanation. In Honduras, it is not customary to plumb the maid’s quarters with hot water. So, to compensate for this, they put an electrical outlet so they can plug in a small heater. I was in too much shock to ask if this heater stood outside the tub enclosure or was wall mounted. He must have noticed the look on my face because he quickly said he would be happy to plumb it for hot water if I wanted. I told him I only had Gloria 2 days a week but if I ever found the need to have a live-in maid, I would definitely want her to have hot water.

For anyone out there who has ever had a maid or nanny or any other kind of live-in domestic help, I’m sure you would agree that the service they provide is wonderful. The respect I have for Gloria and how she makes my life so much easier wouldn’t allow me to make her bathe with cold water. Here in Honduras, the pay for maids is so inexpensive that there is no way you can’t have someone in your home. Besides keeping your home clean, they are there for scheduled repairs, as well as accepting the bottled water delivery. So now, everything is done on Tuesdays. Gloria is at my house all day on Tuesdays and on Saturdays she stays until she is finished what she thinks needs to be done. She goes shopping with me and she cooks. My refrigerator is always full of food and it’s wonderful. She has, in a short span of 2 weeks, spoiled me! The least I could do for her is to make sure she has hot water if she needed it. I value her services too much.

In my bathroom, I also have an electrical cord running along the top of the tile in my shower. I looked at it and it appears to be the line for my security system, which runs from outside the window, along the top of the tile and into my walk in closet, where the alarm box is. I doubt this would pass code inspection in Fort Worth where I’m from. But…as the old saying goes, when in Honduras, you just do whatever you need to do to get the job done!! It's like the project around the corner from the embassy. They started to dig a small hole in the road to make a repair. The small hole became larger and larger and any day now we expect the street to be closed. in a Third World Developing country! Ya gotta love it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just A Few Observations

I’ve made some subtle observations about my new life here in Tegucigalpa. Some are really subtle and others are, well, not so subtle. Here are a few.

I live in a beautiful house. It’s a 2 story home, 4 bedrooms/baths, formal areas and a huge kitchen. However, there is no heat or air conditioning. That tells me that the climate is very mild here and I like that. Homes here are constructed of concrete…no drywall. All have tile floors. They tend to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

There are these little clumps of growth that seem to cling to power lines and branches of the tree. They remind me of mistletoe. Back in Texas, I had 2 maple trees in my front yard and every year, I had to cut out the mistletoe or it could kill the tree. No one seems to be bothered about the growths here. They look like a mess of sticks forming a ball. I’m told that birds who sit on the wires and branches deposit the seeds of these little plants there and they just cling and grow…something in the air plant family, I guess. Sometimes the wires are just covered with these little things. It’s quite a sight.

When I lived in Texas, I could go to the store and easily spend $150. Here, for some reason, I have to really look hard for things to buy. Then I get home and wonder why I don't have anything to eat.

Tomorrow repairmen will descend on my house to make numerous repairs. Nothing major, just lots of little things. I wish they could bring some concrete nails so I could hang some pictures. Not sure if I could swing the hammer hard enough to penetrate the concrete wall but I’d give it my best shot. I like things on my walls and these walls are definitely way too bland for my liking. See how boring my office looks??

Not too much money is spent on road repairs here in Honduras. You never know when you’ll come up to a huge hole in the street. And people steal man hold covers so if you hit one, you really know it! I haven’t found out why they are stolen so much.

Street vendors and beggars are all over the place. Guys wander between the cars stopped at red lights with a flame stick and a bottle. You guessed it, he takes a swig of whatever flammable solution is in the bottle and spews flames! His partner wanders with him with a bucket, looking for tips from people who think that’s amazing and a good show to watch while waiting for the light to turn green. There are also people who push a person in a wheel chairs who has no legs, also begging. The toughest is the kids, many who can’t be more than 5 years old, walking between the cars in the street banging on your window, looking in to see what you might have. They don’t stop when you say NO…you have to wave your finger back and forth and I guess that’s the universal signal for “Get the hell away from my car!” Some run up and immediately start cleaning your windoes with their little window washer/squeegee thing and then get mad when you don’t pay them. I’ve told the trick is that when you see them approach, turn on your windshield wipers and wash your own windows. Such is the entertainment at the red light. At night, you do not…repeat, do NOT stop for red lights. We have been told to slow down, look both ways and then just go. We’re told not to be out after dark so sitting at a red light at 10:00 PM isn’t something you want to do. However, in most intersections, people pay little attention to the lights anyway. Every man for himself! I must add that most of the time the lights aren’t working so, you watch the car next to you and go when he does. Safety in numbers!

That’s about it for now. In spite of everything, I really like it here. And once I really can get to the stores by myself without getting lost, I’ll like it much better!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

July 4th. The 4th of July. Independence Day. For me, no matter how you say it, it brings up feelings of pride. It also brings back memories of growing up in Coronado, California. There would always be a great parade and fantastic fireworks that night in the bay. Well, as a child, they were fantastic to me.

Today was my first Independence Day as a member of the Foreign Service. Living in Honduras, I didn’t know what to expect. I did know it would be a grand event. I’m with the embassy here in Tegucigalpa and this celebration was to be held at the Ambassador’s residence. Employees of the embassy were asked to help out and I was more than happy to volunteer. My friend Sally and I were asked to greet every guest and give them an official program and a lapel pin. There were over 1000 guests, including the President of Honduras, representatives of other embassies in the city and reporters and photographers from all TV stations and print publications. Ambassador Ford gave a wonderful speech and received a wonderful appreciative applause.

The band played the National Anthem and one our own sang the song to perfection. Throughout the afternoon, they played American songs and my friend and I played “Name That Tune.” There was only one song that stumped us! We had a great time.

There were ribs, beans, BBQ chicken, hamburgers, a salad bar and a beautiful cake. It was truly an event I’ll remember for a long time to come.
The picture above (I'm the one on the right) was taken by the pool and we all wanted a picture of the floating bouquet. The only thing missing from this celebration was fireworks. I guess I'll have to wait another year to see my first fireworks in a foreign country celebrating my country's independence. I think it will be worth the wait!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts Of My Dad

Over the next 2 years, I’ll be writing quite a bit about my life here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. You’ll be able to read about my adventures, surprises, disappointments and travels (among other things) here in Honduras and the surrounding countries. But this morning, when I opened my eyes, there was one person on my mind. I must have been dreaming about him because his image and the sound of his voice was as though he was in the room with me. It was my Dad.

Most likely the reason for this is that I miss him. I’m no expert on dreams or the interpretation of them so I can’t be sure. I do know that I think about him every day…wondering what he’s making in his workshop, what TV show he’s enjoying and how he is tolerating the hot Texas weather in Fort Worth. My Dad is only 93 but you’d never know it if you saw him! When he has a task to do, don’t even get in his way! And don’t ever ask him to do something for you during dinner because he just might get up from the table and head to his workshop to do it right then and there!

As you might expect, he’s not as active as he used to be, but at 93, he gets around and does things people much younger wouldn’t even attempt. That’s my Dad! He’s always been a man who needed to be busy. I can remember him doing so many things when I was a little girl growing up in Coronado, California. He always provided for us and was a hard worker in so many ways. I can remember when he added on a family room and beautiful multi-level patio to our house. I remember the thrill my brother and I had when he made stilts out of 2x4s for us and we walked all over the neighborhood. I remember the shiny new bikes my brother and I got for Christmas. All of my memories my Dad created for me when I was growing up are wonderful ones. Even the strict discipline…I always knew Dad loved me. And I still know it today.

Who knows…maybe he woke up this morning thinking of me too. I’m so glad he was on my mind when I opened my eyes. Sometimes the best times are remembering…the best times.

Finding Something Special

Tegucigalpa has a certain charm to it. Sometimes you have to look hard for it, but you can usually find something here that will make you smile. Sure, there’s the air pollution that makes it hard to breathe sometimes and forces you to dust and mop the floor much more often than you otherwise would. And the drivers here, good grief, you’ve seen nothing like them!! It’s survival of the bravest! You have to constantly be on the lookout for a car coming at you in your lane! And the motorcycles…no rules for them!

Last night about 15 of us departed from the embassy in 2 motorpool vans to head for a little ray of sunshine in this city of poverty and struggle. We all climbed into the vans and soon found ourselves on very narrow streets, made even narrower by parked cars on one side. At times, I expected to hear scraping as we inched by the cars and sometimes even driving up on the curb. We saw shops that we knew we’d never ever want to go in as well as people standing on the street that we’d never want to meet in a dark alley. We were grateful for the very dark tinting on the windows of our van.

We continued to make our way through these narrow streets for about 20 minutes. Fortunately for me, Sam, one of the marines, was in my van. I asked him if he was prepared to be in this part of the city. He nodded yes. I felt safer.

Finally we arrived at our destination and we were directed to 2 parking spots. Waiting for us were armed guards…and when I say armed, I mean the AK47 variety. We got out of the vans and approached the door of the old building. Once inside, we found seats, noticing that the guards were now posted at the front door and, along with another person taking tickets, scrutinized everyone who entered.

It was a beautiful old building, built in the late 19th century. The ceiling was gorgeous, painted red and gold in an intricate pattern. Three crystal (?) chandeliers hung from the ceiling, providing most of the light in the room. Along both sides were box seats, slightly elevated and above them, another tier of seating. With the lights in the box seats, you almost felt like you were outside on a beautiful evening…lots of white stucco and wooden doorways.

We had arrived for a performance of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Honduras at the Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla. Yes, we were at the Symphony! It was a special program with selections by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Henry Mancini, Stephen Sondheim, John Williams (Star Wars!) and George Gershwin. For 2 hours we enjoyed wonderful music by a small, yet very talented young group of musicians. Billed as “Un Concierto de Independencia II,” it was a celebration of our Independence Day. How special was that??? A few times during the performance, you could hear car mufflers and smell exhaust from the street outside. Just a subtle reminder that I was at the symphony in Tegucugalpa, not Fort Worth.

So you see, even in a place like Tegucigalpa, Honduras to find something special, all you have to do is look hard. And at about $4.75, I knew I had found something special.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The World Through My Lenses

I've always loved photography. I can remember my grandmother getting us to stand still while she looked down at her little black box camera, moving it left to right, making sure all her grandchildren were in the picture. I always wanted to look in that glass window with her.

As I progressed through life, recording it with a camera became more and more important to me. I was always the one who arrived at an even with a camera in hand, ready to snap pictures. Then came children and an even more urgent need to record their lives with my camera. It worked...I have wonderful pictures of my children. Lots of pictures. I'm in the process now of scanning all those many pictures into my computer and/or on to CDs. Amazing how we progress from loving to look at pictures to wanting them on the computer!

I've had about 6 different digital cameras. My first one was a Fuji, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It took pretty good pictures for 2.0 megapixels! Now that I'm in the Foreign Service and will do quite a bit of traveling, I've decided to move up from a point and shoot to a 'real' SLR digital camera. So, I ordered a Sony Alpha DSLR A300. I can't wait to get it and start learning all about F stops and exposure and all the other things that I never gave a thought about when taking pictures. Hopefully, you'll see some examples of the results of my new camera!

I hope to have some images seen through the lens of my camera, but first seen through the lenses of my eyes!

Lifestyle Changes...Whether I Like It Or Not

As we stroll through life, we sometimes make lifestyle changes, whether we realize we're doing it or not. You may find a different route to work which is shorter to conserve gas. Or you may, without really realizing it, change your morning routine, leaving you an extra few minutes to goof around. With my move to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I have found many changes that were required just because I am now living in a third world country.

For example, due to the poor air condition, caused in part because auto exhaust and industrial pollution trapped because we're surrounded by mountains, things get dirty faster here. Taking 2 showers a day is almost a must. And mopping the ceramic tile floors throughout the house is, without a doubt, a daily routine. If you walk barefooted, as I do, you will notice that the bottoms of your feet become black with what I affectionately call "mysterious appearing black stuff" within moments of removing your shoes. And you don't dare walk around in white sox!

Another change is my loss of freedom to go where I want, when I want. Due to the crime rate here, I just can't run around like I did back in Texas. Of course, it's due in small part to the fact that I don't have a car yet, but that should change soon. I now know my way to and from work and to the store and back. But God help me if I make a wrong turn! On this same subject, I suppose I should add my loss of confidence to the list of lifestyle changes. But, as I venture out (whenever I get my car) and feel my way around, my confidence will return. Everyone tells me it will and I believe them.

Getting my mail on a daily basis has changed. Since the plane crash at Toncontin International Airport, incoming mail has been sporadic due to rerouting all large aircraft to another airport. All my mail comes to the embassy and I think it came in 2 times last week. Or else no one loves me!! Hopefully it will improve once the airport reopens to large aircraft.

There are many more changes, subtle ones to be sure, that I have made since arriving here. But I think I'm incorporating them into my new lifestyle in this third world country. I never disliked coming here but I'm finding more and more reasons why I like it here. Some of these changes will stay with me forever once I move on to my next post in less than 2 years and some, hopefully, will go away.

Change is good.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father and Son

Meet my son, Bobby and his son, Gavin. What a pair they are! Gavin will be 2 years old on June 21 and I wish I could be there for the celebration! His birthday is 4 days before mine and one of these days we'll celebrate them together! Until then, he's in my heart all the time. Hopefully, I'll be there with him and his little twin brothers and his mommy at Christmas!

I love you guys!!!
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Life In A Third World Country

I've now been Tegucigalpa a little over 2 weeks. Seems much longer than that with all I've experienced. Learning my job is getting better. There's just so much to learn and the person I'm replacing is leaving Friday, June 13th. Yes, for me, that will be an unlucky day!! Next week, it's learn it all or learn how to fake it realllllly well! I'm sure I'll be fine.

I still don't have a car. I'd love to say I don't intend to get one because you honestly take your life in your hands when you drive here. There are few traffic lights in the area I live so it's every man for himself. It's a must that I buy a car but for now, I have a driver, take a taxi or find someone going where I want to go and then plead with them to come take me too! So far, so good.

Yesterday around 3:00 in the afternoon, there was an attemped assassination on a female attorney. She had stopped near her residence and suddenly, 4 men came out of nowhere and opened fire on her. There were 14 shots fired, 6 hitting her. This morning's paper said she was still alive, but barely. I was at work at 3:00, fortunately. The shooting took place in front of the door to my apartment. When my driver brought me home, he had to stop about half a block away because of the yellow crime scene tape. Another embassy employee kindly offered to walk with me to my building and of course, we were stopped. I told the policeman that I lived there and he allowed me to pass. Today, the street looks normal. Such is life (once again) in a third world country. I know things like this happen in the US all the time...but I've never lived this close to the action before. I try to keep things in the proper perspective and tell myself that I AM careful, that I DO watch where I'm going and take all precautions I can. And fortunately, I'm not an attorney.

On a lighter note, I'm headed to Honduras' version of Sam's Club again tomorrow, PriceSmart. It's nice that so many American items are available. As you can see, on my last trip there I found many goodies. Note the Hellman's mayonaise...they love things in squeeze bags!!! Stuff like tomato paste, ketchup, mustard and so many other things come in the squeeze bags with the screw on cap. Of course when you realize that the packaging cost more than the contents, you think twice about buying it! I thought it was cute! The parmesan cheese that I use on so much set me back $7.00 and the chocolates...$9.00. But when you want something, who cares what it costs. It's all offset by the lower cost of other things in life. My haircut, color, blow dry and style was only $25 today and I'm now back to looking 10 years younger than I am!! The best $25 I've spent lately and I now vow to NEVER get assigned to a country where there aren't good hair stylists and manicurists!! God bless them!
That's about it for now. I'm taking my camera with me everywhere in the weekends now so I hope to have more pictures to post here. Maybe I'll find something interesting to shoot at PriceSmart tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Everyday Observations in Teguc
Tegucigalpa has some very creative lines all along the streets. Here's a picture of power/cabling/telephone/electric lines or who knows what at an intersection in downtown Teguc. In some places, there are lines down and just laying on the ground. Crazy...

Tegucigalpa, I've Arrived!!

Tegucigalpa, Honduras….The First 3 Days

I went to bed last Wednesday night looking forward to the beginning of the next chapter in my life in the Foreign Service. It’s taken forever for this day to arrive and now it was just hours away. I set my alarm for 4:30 AM (UGH) so I could be downstairs in time to meet my shuttle to the airport at 5:25 AM. I even set my cell phone as a backup! Well, I must have slept like a baby because I slept through both alarms! I rolled over, opened my eyes and looked at the clock. 5:07 AM!!!!!! I flew out of bed and somehow managed to be downstairs at 5:22, beating the driver by about 5 minutes.

My flight was nice. The plane was half empty so there was no one next to me in either of the 2 seats. About 30 minutes into the flight, the pilot came over the intercom and began to explain about the landing in Tegucigalpa. To paraphrase him, he said…DO NOT PANIC. I will not hit the houses that seem to be inches from the bottom of the plane. Just don’t look out the window! I swear I will never fly again!!! Well…not too soon anyway. What a landing! I know I gasped many times, as did a few other people. Some just laughed at our pain!

I was met by 3 embassy people and we left the airport in a really nice big black suburban with diplomatic plates. For the first night I was to stay at the Intercontinental Hotel. Very nice place. However, the guard outside the door caused me a bit of worry as he had an AK-47 slung over his shoulder as he stood guard very near the front door of the hotel. I was told later that there must have been a dignitary staying there. I felt so safe. NOT!

The next day I was picked up and taken to the embassy. After lunch, my sponsor and I went back to the hotel to check out and head to my temporary housing since the house I will live in won’t be ready until sometime in August. However, I can only stay here until June 8th or 9th and at that time, I’ll go to yet another temporary house until my official house is ready. Such is life as an employee of the government! The pictures below are of the kitchen and living room and dining room of where I am now. This is an odd set up. My bedroom is upstairs and is about 10’x10’. My sponsor felt this was not a good setup so someone at the embassy agreed to the rental of this ‘Living Area’ to be part of my room. So, I can spend time in my room or downstairs. Both lock and are for my use only. Kind of like a bed and breakfast setup. Both are clean and comfortable but a bit of an inconvenient setup.
Here's the view from one of the windows in the living area.

As you can see, houses are built just everywhere

Today I went with 2 of my co-workers to Valle, about 45 minutes south of Tegucigalpa. Or north. Actually, I have no idea which direction! It’s a quaint place with lots of tourist shops selling all the local things. I bought some wonderful baskets, a pottery wine glass and a wooden trivet. Ahhh…my first purchases! I’ve been warned to be careful about buying a bunch of things from every country I visit. It’s easy to accumulate lots and lots of ‘stuff’ from around the world as you travel from post to post. Here’s what I bought!!

With just 2 ½ days under my belt riding around this city as a passenger, I don’t know how in the world I’ll be able to do it behind the wheel. I guess somehow I’ll manage. I’ve been told that in about 6 months I’ll reach the point where I can venture out and not be scared to death. Wish me well!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day 2008

It's Mother's Day 2008 and I sit here, in my little temporary apartment in Washington DC, thinking of my 2 grown children. My children are my life, whether they know it or not. Many of my important decisions are only made after thinking about them. Many of the things I do preparing for my future are definitely decided after thinking about them.

My son is 33 and my daughter will be 35 tomorrow. (Jeez...that makes!) I love them so much. Those words are spoken often but the depth of the message may be missed because I say it so often to them. All the time, you hear people say that their children are their lives. I feel the same about mine. They have encouraged me in whatever I've chosen to do and have become my personal support system.

One time my son sent me a dozen red roses on HIS birthday. The card read, "Mom, thanks for the best 25 years of my life." I've always wanted to send them both flowers on Mother's Day, thanking them for making me a mother.
Ann and Bobby...consider this my bouquet to you both. It is sent with an abundance of love and an appreciation for all you have done for me. You make me proud to be your Mother.

Love always,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting Ready for Tegucigalpa

It is now a little less than a month away from boarding the plane to leave for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, my new home for the next 2 years. I'm sitting here with a very sore left shoulder. This morning I got the last of my shots, a tetanus booster and one to protect me from typhoid. I'm told the worst should hit me Sunday. Jeez...I can barely lift my arm now so I can't imagine how great it will feel by Sunday.

Tomorrow I will do some major shopping. I'm told many of my favorite everyday things are available in Teguc, but are a bit more expensive. I'm trying not to go crazy spending money on my favorite toothpaste or my nice soft kleenex tissues. But I have the opportunity to shop here, getting some great prices, and add the items to what I'm having shipped when I leave. Seems more logical to just buy some extra and be done with it. That way I won't have to worry about it shortly after I get there. Of course, it will probably take 4-6 weeks for my belongings to get to my new home. Until then, I'll just muddle through! I've also decided to wait until I arrive at post to buy a car. There are lots of people leaving for other countries so there should be a few cars available for purchase.

The more I read about Tegucigalpa, the more I look forward to my move. There is an abundance of wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables but you have to soak whatever you can't peel in these pills to get rid of the bacteria that is in the water and thus, still on the outside of the fruit or veggie. I can deal with that. The arts and crafts look wonderful and they don't have to be soaked! Have I mentioned the Mayan ruins??? Or the wonderful scuba diving? I plan on seeing it all, experiencing as much as I can and documenting it all here. I can't wait!

I'm grateful that my training coincided with the gorgeous blooms of the cherry blossom trees here in Washington DC. I took quite a few pictures and one of them is shown here. Everyone should come to DC this time of's just amazing!

Monday, March 31, 2008

An E Ticket Ride

Yesterday, as my plane was approaching Reagan National Airport and I gazed out the window looking at the cherry blossoms, I thought...finally. I'm finally experiencing what I've been waiting months to experience. I'm about to land in DC to begin the next chapter in my life. I found my shuttle and rode to Virginia. After checking into the corporate housing supplied by my new best friend, the Department of State, I was very pleasantly surprised by what will be my home for the next 6-8 weeks. I made contact with another lady here for the same reason and we went to dinner. This morning, there was an informal breakfast/meet and greet and I met several more new government employees. There were 4 that are going to be Diplomatic Security guys...ex marines, ex cop and an ex border patrol officer. The discussion came around to the marine and inevitably, he started talking about how the press never reported the good that was being done in Iraq...the schools that were built, the women who were no longer dressing in burkas, the 7 year old girls who were learning to read for the first time. Confirmation of what I've thought for months. Oh well...I'm getting off the subject.

We discovered we all had so many similar unanswered questions...questions about how long training would be, where we would be sent, just what we would be doing. Hopefully at the end of the day tomorrow, the first day of orientation, some of the questions will be answered. We all knew there will be a ton more unanswered questions to replace them too. Remember, we're dealing with the government here! We all agreed that what we were about to experience was going to be a roller coaster E Ticket ride at Disneyland. (Who of you know what I'm talking about???) And we all want to enjoy it to the max. After all, not everyone gets an opportunity to live out a dream like this. We all want to succeed so badly, to not disappoint ourselves. At the end of this journey we all want to say What a ride!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Life Is About To Get Very Intersting

That's my new motto...and yes, it really is about to get MUCH more interesting! As though suddenly being the grandmother of twins, making it 3 grandchildren, weren't enough, I'm now counting down the days before I leave for Washington DC. I will begin a whole new chapter of my life with a new job, new friends, new challenges and very new home addresses! I only have 3 more days here on Kauai with family and friends and then I head home to Fort Worth. Nine days later, I'm on a plane to DC. It's an odd feeling...I'm living out of 2 suitcases, I no longer have a keychain (think about that one!), no longer own a car and my home of 15 years is up for sale! I feel like I've entered a gypsy phase of my life! But it is sure to be short lived once I get to Washington. I have my apartment arranged and within a couple of weeks of the start of training, I should know where I will be headed for the next 2 years. My biggest hope is that there are no foot long flying bugs!!!

Spending the time with my son, his wife and my 3 grandchildren is just the 'send off' I needed. I will have a home leave every year and plan on coming here, as well as Fort Worth. I have taken hundreds of pictures of the grandkids, knowing that in about a month, they will be obsolete! My son is very good about sending current pictures as well as an occasional DVD with movies. I'll continue to send pictures of me so that the kids will recognize me when I see them again in a year. Time flies so fast and in no time, I'll be making my flight arrangements to return to Kauai!

When I get to Washington, my daughter will be there to greet me. She lives in Maryland and is also in the Foreign Service. How great is it to see both your kids and grandchildren in the same month when they live so far from you. It's wonderful! My daughter was my driving force to apply for the position in the Foreign Service and I will forever be grateful for her input. It was the best advice I've ever gotten!

Both of my kids are my inspiration...I couldn't ask for better kids. Well, maybe my daughter could email me more often but hey...I know she loves me!! My son calls me often and my daughter-in-law has even called me just so I could hear my grandson babble in the back seat of the car as she drove. It doesn't take much to make a grandma happy!

So, as I prepare to leave Kauai in 3 days, I count my children, my grandchildren, my new career, my health, my extended family here on Kauai and the new adventure awaiting me in DC. I'm someone who is never bored and I'm sure that whatever is in store for me in the next 6 years will allow me to be able to continue say the same.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Welcome to the World Micah and Makana!

March 5, 2008 9:58 am and 9:59 am
Micah and Makana entered their new world in Kauai, Hawaii! One was quiet and sedate, the other one very vocal! For twins, they are big...7 lb 3 oz and 7 lb 4 oz.
OK, there are the, can you see the huge smile on my face??? What beautiful little boys I now call my 2nd and 3rd Grandsons. I will be leaving Texas on 3/10/08 to go to Hawaii and spend 10 days with my son and his beautiful wife Nicole, Grandson #1 Gavin and The Boys. I'm still trying to adjust to having twins in the family since there is no record of twins in either family. My son has begun a dynasty!! However, we are assured that the family has grown all it will so the hard part for Nicole is over. Hmmm...or is it? My son has his golf foresome so I see golf clubs and surfboards in these boy's future!!