Saturday, December 15, 2012

Italy 2012

It’s been ages since I’ve written on my blog.  My bad.  So much has happened in the last couple of months...where do I start?

In early September, I went to New Delhi, India for a week of training.  While I was there, demonstrations took place back in Pakistan as a result of the video made portraying the Prophet Muhammad in a very negative light.  I returned to Lahore on September 15 and was told to stay in my house.  Four days later, on September 19, those of us who were considered ‘non-essential personnel’ were told to pack our bags.   We were being flown to Dubai on authorized departure.  We had no idea how long we would be gone.   I was scheduled to leave on my first R&R on October 1 so I decided to pack what I planned to take/wear on my trip, just in case my departure city changed from Lahore to Dubai. After 5 days in Dubai, we were informed that things were not improved enough to return and we would be there at least another 6 days.  Having served in Muscat, Oman, I had been to Dubai 4-5 times before.  The first few days were OK…did some shopping, pigged out on the breakfast buffet and slept in.   I don’t normally eat breakfast but since things were so expensive there, I would fill up at breakfast and then just skip lunch. Dinner was usually $40-60.  So, when we got the news that our stay would be extended another 5 days, I decided to head back to my favorite place…Muscat.  I had to give up my daily per diem for the days I would be out of Dubai but it didn’t matter to me.  Muscat had beaches, a nice place to stay with friends and a chance to visit some of my favorite shopping sites.
I emailed the Travel office back at the Consulate and asked her to change my flights so that I departed for Venice from Muscat instead of Lahore.  I had her email the new itinerary to a friend at the Embassy.  When my friend got it, the font was so tiny, we could hardly read it.  We tried enlarging it but still had trouble reading it.  But the bar code was readable so it seemed OK.

All flights depart Muscat in the middle of the night.  My trip took me from Muscat back to Dubai and then after a 6 hour layover, on to Venice.  Or so I thought.  Travel in this part of the world is not the most fun thing because it seems it’is always in the middle of the night.  Half asleep, I boarded my flight from Dubai to Venice and then tried in vain to get some sleep.  Shortly before landing, the pilot came on and made the usual speech.  This pilot had a very strong accent and I paid little attention to him since I fly all the time and rarely pay attention to the announcements…unless they say “PREPARE FOR A HARD LANDING!”

Anyway, we land and I get off the plane.  Something isn’t quite right. I’m not hearing Italian.  I’m hearing people talking like Arnold Schwarzenegger!   Oh hell…I’m not in Venice…I’m in VIENNA!  Panic sets in as, in my state of sleep deprivation, I try to remember which country Vienna is in!!  And once I figure out it’s Austria, I try to remember where Austria is on the map…and just how far away is Venice???  I look to my left and see the ticket counter for Austria Air.  Just my luck, one seat is left.  Once I had my ticket in my hand, I had to laugh.  Emails from my travel person referenced Venice but when I looked at my boarding pass, in black and white, it said VIE.  Who knew VIE was Vienna and not Venice??  Finally, 3 hours later, I am in my room in Lido, Italy!  Lesson learned…pay more attention to the first announcement that says the flight number and destination!

One of my covert photos of the Sistine Chapel
My 3 weeks in Italy were a dream!  What a gorgeous place!  I started in Venice, moved on to Florence and finally to Rome, spending a week in each city.  I rode a Vespa through the countryside of the Tuscany region, having lunch at a beautiful vineyard.  I floated through the canals of Venice in a Gondola.  Every church I came across, I went in and was amazed at the beautiful sights inside.  I even went in one and a gorgeous wedding was in progress.  I saw beautiful art in the Vatican Museum and covertly took pictures in the Sistine Chapel.  I basically ate my way through Italy!  Pasta, spaghetti, gelato…every bite was amazing.  I walked miles and miles every day and actually ended up losing 9 pounds.  Nice surprise when I returned home and stepped on the scale.  I was even lucky enough to be at St. Peter’s Basilica when the Pope was giving his weekly message. And inside the Basilica…no words exist to describe it. Also in Rome…the Coliseum,  the Pantheon and making pasta with a chef at That’s Amore. 
The Arno River, Florence
By the time I reached Rome, I was so tired of the 4 outfits that I had, I was ready to burn them!  I wore them from September 19 until I returned to Lahore on October 20.  I haven’t worn them since.
Things have quieted down here in Lahore but another crisis could be brewing.  Another movie, “The Innocent Prophet” is scheduled to be released December 14 and could very well cause more protests and demonstrations.  The world is full of knuckleheads who feel the need to make stupid films when they shouldn’t. 

It will be time for my second R&R in February.  I believe it will be London this time.  And in June, I will take my last Home Leave to Texas.  After that, I return to Lahore to serve my final year before I retire in June 2014.  Time is flying by so fast…but I think to myself…this is one time I wish it wouldn’t!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Family That Rides Together...

The Answers:
A love seat and cushions
A lawn mower
3 women
3 women, 3 young boys and a baby
A goat
A man holding an automobile windshield
9 brass milk jugs
A man holding 46 boxes of shoes
A mother, baby and a standing floor fan
A 3-drawer filing cabinet
3 adult men
A large roll of carpet

And the Question:

Who/what (besides the driver) did I see on a small motorcycle this past week on the ride to and from work?

Motorcycles are pretty much the major mode of transportation here in Lahore.  They monopolize the roads and when you’re stopped at stop lights, they wiggle their way to the front and line up like cattle.  Any room left between you and the car in front of you will be filled with motorcycles by the time the light turns green.  The traffic lights only work 12 hours out of every 24, every other hour, due to load shedding (shutting off power to the city) so intersections are always every man for himself.

Often, you will see the rider of the motorcycle with his helmet on his gas tank. There's a helmet law here so they carry it just in case they're stopped and then they put it on.  Never do you see any of the other riders wearing one. 

All the women ride ‘side saddle’ and often have a child in their arms and one of more squeezed in between them and the driver.  Young children will ride on the gas tank and I’ve even seen foot rests welded to the frame for the kids to rest their feet on.  The most kids riding on the gas tank I’ve seen on one bike was 4, with the youngest in front, next youngest behind him and so on.  It reminded me of the kids from the movie The Sound of Music.

When you can’t afford a car, you use whatever means you have to get from point A to point B.  And you transport whatever you have, whether it’s kids or animals or windshields on that bike.  You would think that if you had to use a motorcycle to get around with a family in tow, you wouldn’t have any more children than you could fit on that bike.  So far, the most kids on a bike with Mom and driver that I’ve seen is 5.  That’s 7 on a small motorcycle.   I've seen pictures of more than that!

Not bad, just driver, mom and baby. The kids learn from an early age how to ride on a bike.

Carpet delivery man

These large jugs are used to transport milk. Note the one by the front wheel. 4 were on each side with one behind the driver.

Mom, Dad and 3 kids.

These young men were passing a cigarette back and forth...2 on the bike on the left, 3 guys on the bike on the right.

The back bike had 2 kids riding on the tank and a case behind the driver.

Mom, Dad and 4 kids...see the baby?  And a large bag.

Bag hanging below the driver holding the fan in front of the baby being held by Mom.

The monsoon season began a couple of weeks ago.  We were on our way to see the carpet company and it started pouring.  We came up to an overpass and I had to laugh that 2 of the 3 lanes had turned into a parking lot.  Oh...driving in Pakistan is an adventure!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hand Knotted Carpets 101

I’m now on my 3rd and final tour with the Foreign Service, serving in Lahore, Pakistan. Oh, how I wish it were not my final tour but mandatory retirement will shove me out the door June 30, 2014. 

While serving in Muscat, Oman, I fell in love with the hand knotted wool and silk carpets that were available.  I am the proud owner of 15 gorgeous carpets, some wool on wool, some silk on silk.  And if you have never had the pleasure of walking on a silk carpet, you’re missing out on a real treat.  These carpets are really works of art and beautiful on the floor or hanging on the wall.  I jokingly said I needed to enroll in the 12 Step Program for carpet purchasing!  Well, I’m  once again back where carpets are produced and recently I had an experience (and temptation) I won’t soon forget.
Several of us from the Consulate took a trip to the Lahore Carpet Manufacturing Co. ( here in Lahore, Pakistan.  This was my Disneyland moment in Pakistan!  I learned so much about how the carpets are produced and brought to market.  I now understand why these things of beauty cost so much.  I’ve always believed that each one was an investment and now that I’ve seen just what goes into the making of a hand knotted carpet I understand why they cost what they do.   This is just one more reason why I am grateful to have served in this region with the opportunity to buy and learn about this wonderful art form.  Leading the tour of this 150,000 square foot facility with over 400 employees were the 3 partners of the company. Their father established the company in 1949 and they are carrying on the tradition he began over 60 years ago.  This is an art that goes back to the 5th century BC.  I was amazed at the entire process, from the way the colors are established to just how many times each carpet is inspected before it is ready to hand over to its new owner.  We were told that the U.S. is their biggest customer, with approximately 60% of their business going to Americans.  Believe me when I tell you that designers are beating down their door for these carpets, another reason that these carpets are an investment!  Turkey is another good customer, so if you’ve served in Istanbul and bought a carpet there, it could actually be from Pakistan.  China, who used to enjoy the majority of the market in hand woven carpets, is now one of their customers, due to the economy.  Below is my photo trip through the Lahore Carpet Manufacturing Co.  Enjoy!

Initial designs are hand drawn on graph paper and filled in with color.   The designs then go to the people who write the ‘code’ or special language called Talim, which is what tells the weaver which colors to use on each line.  The design originals are archived and copies are sent to the weavers.  I was surprised to learn that weavers are located all over Pakistan and Afghanistan.  None of the weaving is done on site and we were assured that no child labor was used in the making of these carpets…and no child was seen on our tour.  I asked about the workday hours and was told that the work schedule is 8 hours a day, strictly enforced.  

Once the design is complete (the picture  below is a part of the completed design on the graph paper), the yarn is dyed.  Color schemes are driven by styles and trends…they already have the colors that are scheduled to be in style for 2013-14.  This information is vital in order to get the wool and have it dyed and meet the carpet demand 1-2 years in advance. Their wool comes from all over…Australia, Afghanistan and New Zealand to name a few.  Some sheep are sheared once a year, yielding a longer strand, others twice a year with shorter strands. This all comes into play in carpet manufacturing. 
Depending on the complexity of the design, size of the carpet and the number of knots per square inch (the most important detail), it could take 2 years for one weaver to make a carpet. Sometimes 2-3 people will work on the same carpet at the same time, reducing the time to completion.  Once complete, it is sent back to Lahore and their process of finishing it and readying it for sale begins.
The carpets are received and inspected.  They are then cleaned, and I mean scrubbed!  They are then laid outside in the large courtyard on clean river rocks to dry, or in some cases, hung out to dry! Carpets are hung wherever there is room to hang them!  The weather is watched and if the forecast is for rain, the carpets are brought inside. 
Once they are dry, the process of getting them ready for sale begins. They are inspected over and over, at every step in the process. This results in finding small errors in the pattern which are corrected by a team. The rugs are stretched to make sure they are exactly straight and true to measurements.  Rows are checked to make sure they line up the way they are supposed to.  After each process they are once again cleaned.  I learned that lots of water will NOT hurt your carpet!  The backs of the carpets are hit with fire to seal the knots and keep them from coming loose.

When the carpets are received from the weavers, they are not trimmed to the short length you're used to seeing; they're really shaggy.  So, off to the room where the shaving takes place!  There are different lengths to a pile and these men have instructions on just how short to shave each carpet.  They have electric ‘razors’ with rotating blades. I didn’t see any guides on them so I assume they just know low, medium or high. After the shaving, the carpets go in a tumbler that removes any excess wool that was shaved off, even though there is a vacuum that sucks up most of the shaved wool. By the way, the many bags of shaved wool are donated to a group who use it for stuffing for cushions and other puffy things.  Nothing is wasted in this process!

Then it’s off to the binding area, where the men stitch around the edge, just inside the fringe, making sure the rug is securely stitched so that nothing unravels.  Once that’s done, it goes to another section for further inspection, stretching, corrections and even re-dying.  Yes, due to demands, more bright colors are being requested by the younger generation of carpet lovers.  Colors like purple, pink and teal!  So, once a rug is completed in the colors of the Talim, the carpet is re-colored by hand.  Yes, the browns, beiges, blacks or reds are transformed to pink, purple, orange or fuscia, depending on the order.  All of us just shook our heads but if the demand is there, you have to supply.  They even have carpets that are a patchwork.  They cut up completed carpets and then stitch them back together to form one patchwork carpet and then (ugh) they are “over colored” to a palette of all blues or purples or reds.  None of us liked this process, but again…supply and demand. 
Once the carpet has been through this long process, it finally makes it to the showroom floor. The showroom is actually like a large warehouse where stacks and stacks of carpets wait to be sold, shipped or repaired.  They are organized by style, size, technique and price.  And those over colored ones?  Those have a place in the back corner! You can see some in the picture below...not my favorites.

This is when we had the opportunity to shop…at wholesale prices!  I found one I liked and it has been delivered to me and has a home under my dining table.  Before it was delivered, it went through one final inspection to insure it was perfect.  One more carpet to add to my collection!  That's it below!
My new carpet!
This tour gave me an increased respect for this art.  In Oman, I was told that the youth in the Kashmir region, where most of the carpets came from, are not interested in learning this skill from their elders.  We can thank the computer age for this reluctance to carry on tradition.  I fear that one day, all carpets will be made by machine and we will have lost yet another art done by hand to machines.  Machine made carpets are beautiful, but just not the same as hand made.  How can you tell if a carpet is made by hand or by machine?  I’ve been told to take a close look at the fringe.  A hand made carpet will have fringe that is an extension of the weave of the carpet, as the fringe runs all the way through the carpet to the opposite end. A machine made carpet will have fringe that is sewn on and you should be able to see this.
The picture here shows how the design charts are bundled and saved. I asked if they had a good sprinkler system in case of fire.  He told me they were in the process of scanning all designs in the computers so they will never lose them. 

All dyes are natural.  These are some examples of the colors used. Brown is never always the same old brown...the varying shades of colors is endless. 

I’m being realistic when I say I am not done buying carpets. I have about 22 months left to serve here in Pakistan and I know there will be more trips to this carpet company. And when I return, I hope to pick up more details that I missed this trip, as well as another carpet or two. 

I love my life.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Lifestyle Change in a Big Way

View from inside my front door
Change is always good. We become so accustomed to our lives that sometimes it’s a good thing to dramatically change things up. That’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve left the comfort, beauty and safety of Muscat, Oman and am now in Lahore, Pakistan for the  next 2 years.

I knew I was going to experience some pretty drastic changes in my lifestyle and so far, I've been, as they say, spot on. The only similarity is the weather, with 7-8 months of hot/hot and the rest of the time very pleasant. And that’s where the similarity ends.

I already miss my walks on the beautiful white beaches in Muscat. No beaches here in Lahore. I am driven to and from work and thank goodness for that! The streets of Lahore can only be described as insane with hundreds of motor bikes and bicycles intermingled with cars, all lobbying for the same lane and most of the time, creating their own lanes. Families of 5-7 all ride on one small motorbike. Donkeys pulling carts are frequent sights as well as non-functioning traffic lights, making for chaos at some intersections. It’s every man for himself. And come to think of it, I haven’t seen a female driver.

Naturally there is increased security for me here because, after all…I’m in Pakistan. I have multiple guards, 24 hours a day, at my house. I think I have 4 from dusk to dawn and then 2 during daylight hours. They are all armed. I live in a large 2 story home that was made into 2 residences, one downstairs (mine) and one upstairs. When I got here, I had 2 couches, 3 loveseats, 2 overstuffed chairs, 2 straight back chairs, 4 bookshelves, a desk and chair and 5 tables all in my living room. Yes, my living room is huge! I have since moved things around, putting a loveseat in my bedroom, moving the dining table back into the dining room and creating a den where the dining table once was. To summarize it…I have huge living spaces! As soon as all my personal belongings get here, I hope to make this large space more like home because right now, it feels like an auditorium. And I have not escaped highly polished tile floors!

There are frequent power failures here and I have a very large, VW size generator in my front yard. I had this same issue in Honduras and you get used to things going off and on. One thing I will have difficulty getting used to is closed drapes. There are houses on both sides of me and by virtue of where I am, I really don’t want people looking in my windows. Perhaps I’ll get over this but for now, both drapes and black out drapes behind them remain closed.

On the bright side, I really like the people I’m working with in the Consulate. I think it’s a great team and I look forward to 2 years of good times. For my third and final tour with the State Department, I am once again in the Regional Security Office but believe me, things are totally different from the previous 2 posts. Being in Pakistan, I will be learning a whole new level of security procedures that I never had the need to know before.

In spite of the negatives, I’m certain my time in Lahore will be positive for me and will result in an interesting and memorable 2 years. Stay tuned…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Dad

Last week, at the age of 97, my father left this world and passed into the next.  I was able to be with him until 2 days before he died.

My father lived a wonderful life and I am so fortunate to have been born his daughter.  He was full of life lessons and no matter what, he always stuck to his guns.  He was very headstrong (probably as a result of his Greek and Turkish heritage) and would let you know loudly when he thought you had screwed up! 

When I was considering joining the Foreign Service, the one thing that caused me to hesitate was that I would most likely be living far from Dad.  I talked to him about it and he encouraged me to "go for it."  For me, being away from him was one of the most difficult parts of being assigned overseas.  When I found out I was going to Pakistan, it took me a month before I could write to him, letting him know where I would go next.  When I got his response, saying that he trusted that I knew what I was doing, it was a huge relief.  And I know he was proud of me.

I know that when I'm in Pakistan, my father will be with me.  He is at peace now, taking wonderful deep breaths without coughing. He's probably on the back nine with Ben Hogan, hitting the ball long and straight. 

I love you Dad.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Home Leave: Our Reward for Service

I have completed my tour in Muscat, Oman and am now spending the first half of my 25 days of home leave on the beautiful island of Kauai.  My son lives here with his wonderful wife and their adorable 3 grandsons.  Home Leave is mandatory and must be taken between overseas assignments.  And when I say 25 days,just weekdays are counted in that 25.  This does not include weekends and/or holidays.  It's a time when you reconnect with family and friends and it helps you stay grounded after serving overseas for an extended period of time. 

I'm a workaholic, to a certain degree.  So, for me, home leave can be painful.  I'll be ready to get back to work after about 3 weeks.  Keeping busy is key for me.  Currently, I have no problem doing that!  Today I took my 5 year old grandson, Gavin, on a trip to 2 different beaches here and we had a blast.  He insisted on bringing his pail and fishing net just in case we saw fish.  We didn't.  But we did encounter a monk seal at Haena Beach.  At Ke'e Beach (or End of the Road Beach) we saw some pretty wild surf.  You could see 2 para surfers surfing at Tunnels, on the outer edges of the reef.  It was beautiful. It was kind of a rainy day but's Hawaii and who cares if a little rain falls on you??  On the way back, we stopped and had a Bubba Burger in Hanalei. Gavin is so much fun to be with and we had so much fun today.

In about a week, I head for Home Leave, Part 2 in Fort Worth, Texas. It will be wonderful to see my 97 year old Dad again.  And have some great Mexican food!  But until then, I will continue to spend quality Home Leave Time with Gavin and my other 2 grandsons, Micah and Makana.
Gavin, ready for a fish sighting

Monday, April 16, 2012

My New Photography Blog

This blog is and will continue to be a running commentary of my life as I travel through it.  I decided I also wanted a blog to just post photographs. So today I created a second blog for just that post my photographs.  You can find it at  I'll still be writing here but will use the other site to post just photographs, with maybe a comment as to where the shot was taken.  I hope you'll visit it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Webster's defines bittersweet as "a combination of the standard tastes of sweetness and bitterness, and is often used as a metaphor for experiences which have elements of both happiness and sadness."

That would be me right now...happy and sad.  I'm sitting in my hotel room in London, having departed Muscat, Oman last night.  When something and someone is so good and you have to leave it/them but you are headed to see your grandsons...well, that equates to bittersweet.  My 21 months in Muscat were the best.  I loved my job, my friends and the country.  Leaving such a wonderful place was hard to do. The friends I made were a bonus. What a bonus!  And leaving them was harder than leaving Oman.

The benefits of doing what I do are unending...I travel, I have an interesting job that makes me WANT to come to work every morning, I meet fantastic people and have the opportunity to live around the world and meet and learn to understand people of other cultures.  That last one is really important.  The more we learn about other people, their culture, their beliefs, their traditions...the more we understand them. You realize very soon that understanding is powerful.  It softens any negative attitudes you might have about a certain culture or country. It promotes tolerance.

What we need is more tolerance of other cultures.  And what I need are fewer goodbyes.  And the bittersweet of this...I look forward to the many 'hellos' I'll get when I arrive in Lahore, Pakistan.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time Flies, Even When You Wish It Didn't

It's now 2 weeks before I am wheels up and leaving Muscat, Oman.  What a fabulous place!  I will miss so much about Oman.  There are gorgeous beaches, beautiful striking mountains, lots of sand and camels...and wonderful people.  Right now I'm taking a break from trying to sort all my stuff into piles...things to go in my suitcase, things to ship that will go by air and arrive in Pakistan soon(er) than the things that will be shipped later, things that will go into storage for 2 years....yes, 2 YEARS!  Can you imagine not seeing some of your favorite things for 2 years??  Due to where I'm headed (Lahore, Pakistan) I am not taking anything with me that I have an emotional attachment to...just in case I have to leave fast, abandoning all my belongings. It makes it easier to sort but harder since I know I won't see my stuff for years.  *sigh*  But...that's the Foreign Service for you.  Most of the time, most of your stuff follows you everywhere.  It's just that I have so many decisions to make that my head is not processing it all like I wish it would.  I also need to pack my suitcase, pack a box of things I want to mail to Lahore so it will be there when I arrive.  Things like my favorite Hawaiian coffee, some work clothes and shoes (things I don't want to take up room in my suitcase).  The list goes on and on.  Oy.  Fortunately, it will all come together in 2 weeks and I'll be able to breathe again without feeling the stress of a move to another country.

Although it may sound like I'm complaining, I wouldn't trade these times for anything.  I have the best job in the world and moving every 2-3 years is something you eventually get used to.  It sure does keep you from accumulating too much 'stuff' along the way. We do have weight limitations on our shipped things so we are always being careful about just what we collect.  Of all the things I will have collected during my short 6 year career  as a Foreign Service diplomat, the memories will weigh nothing and I will take them with me wherever I go.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grocery Shopping, Omani Style

One of the great things about my job, and all the traveling I get to do, is grocery shopping in a foreign country.  At my last post, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, so much was available, with fresh fruits and vegetables out of this world!  Shopping was a dream and the prices were great.  Here in Oman, so much is imported that the cost of everything is very high. The fun part comes when you read the cash register receipt and see where things come from.  For example, today I shopped for vegetables and salad fixings to make a really nice salad for a dinner I'm going to tonight.

As you can see, everything is beautiful...fresh, great color and tasty.  But the fun is finding out how far each of these things traveled to end up on my plate tonight.
  • Cucumbers are from Oman
  • Cauliflower is from Iran
  • Bananas are from India (and they are not your standard peel-and-eat variety...very bitter!)
  • Carrots are from Australia
  • Tomato is from Oman
  • Fresh beets are Omani
  • The gorgeous red pepper is from Holland
  • The lettuce is from Jordan
  • And the huge sweet strawberries are from the U.S.A. And at $7.80, they better be good!
Such an international salad I'll have tonight!  I have a garden of my own here and have been very successful in growing some things.  I bought a tiny, 10", fig tree shortly after I arrived here in July 2010 and now it is about 10' tall and covered in figs. I hope some of them ripen in the next 49 days so I can enjoy one!  I've also grown basil from seed and at one time, had 6 large basil bushes.  The plants were so big and healthy that I was supplying the embassy cafeteria with basil and bringing it to work and giving it to my co-workers.

I have some small tomato plants now, and will harvest the first tomato of the season today.  It will go on top of my salad tonight.
It's the size of a walnut but I'm sure it will be delicious!!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

In shaa'Allah

In shaa'Allah (Arabic: إن شاء الله‎) An Arabic term to indicate hope for an aforementioned event to occur in the future.  The phrase translates into English as "God willing" or "If it is God's will."  In Arabic speaking countries the term is used by members of all religions, meaning the term in and of itself does not denote a religion, but simply means "God willing."  
If you are living or traveling in a country where Arabic is spoken, you no doubt have heard people say In shaa'Allah.  It's used in so many instances that it really does become a part of everyday language. 
  • I'll see you tomorrow. In shaa'Allah.
  • I'll get that report to you before 5:00. In shaa'Allah.
  • Your flight will depart at 11:35 sharp. In shaa'Allah.
So you can see how In shaa'Allah can become a real part of your vocabulary.  Living in Oman, I have really bought in to the a certain point. 
I was having a conversation with an Omani couple the other day and we were discussing the very large numbers of people killed in auto accidents in Oman.   Children never appear to be buckled in...they're standing in the back seat or standing in the front seat or sitting in someone's lap.  The statistics are terrible when it comes to death on the roads here.  It doesn't help that there is no such thing as common courtesy on the road.   I asked why children were not restrained in seat belts. Her response...In shaa'Allah.  The prevailing attitude is that things are predestined and if Allah is ready to accept you or your child in death, you go.  I asked if this person went to the doctor when they were sick. Yes, she did.  Did they fastened their seat belt when they flew? Yes, her husband said they did.  I asked if they looked both ways when they crossed the street.  They did.  It looked like a light bulb came on in their heads.  I then asked them why, if they take other precautions for their own safety, did they not do the same for their children while riding in a car.  They had no answer.  Before we said goodbye, I asked again if they thought they would fasten the seat belt on their children the next time they rode in the car.  The lady looked at me, smiled and said she would.  In shaa'Allah.
Living in foreign countries, you learn there is a cultural barrier.  Most of the time, you won't convince someone to do something that, all their lives, they've done it their own way. I don't try to change anyone's culture, but sometimes a little conversation might make a difference.  In shaa'Allah.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

January 1, 2012


Another year. I wanted to write something here but haven't decided if I want to reflect on the past year or think about what's in store for me this new year.  Since I seem to be very preoccupied with planning for what's happening now, I think I'll share what my thoughts are about 2012.

This is the year I will move to my next post.  Life in the Foreign Service is a have to be careful not to accumulate too much "stuff" because you have to pack out every 2-3 years and move to a new 'home.'  During my short 6 year career, I think I'm safe and will never exceed the weight limitations we have for government moving.  But that doesn't mean I won't buy lots of stuff!  During my first tour in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I bought things like beautiful baskets and some traditional Lenca pottery, made the same way as the Mayans did centuries ago.  There was also some paintings I fell in love with (thank you Julio Mata Sanabria!) and ended up with 3 of his best.  So far, so good.  Fast forward to Muscat, Oman.  It's a good thing I didn't spend too much in Honduras because I discovered the gorgeous carpets of the Middle East here!  Oh boy...did I ever!  The one below is one of my favorites of the silk-on-silk.  It is gorgeous! I have 5 silk (3 4'x6' and 2 3'x5').

This is the first one I bought...a Persian wool and the largest at 10'x13'.  I hope that when I leave this job and return to a normal life that I have a house big enough for it! 
All totaled, between what I have bought here and in Istanbul, I am the proud owner of 11 carpets.  And I still have 3 1/2 months left here.  That number could go higher!

So...back to what all is on my mind for 2012.  I am up to my neck in the paperwork it takes to get me from Oman to Pakistan.  There is so much to do and if you don't think of all the questions and get answers before you get there, for some things, you are out of luck!  For example, my job is for 1 year but I want to extend for the second year.  This would be perfect as it would take me right up to June 2014, which is the month I have to retire.  If my request is granted, I am entitled to a bit more weight in my shipment to Pakistan.  However, if I don't find out until I get there, I have lost out on bringing a few more precious belongings.  Hopefully, I'll get word soon on my request.  This past week a couple things were finalized and I now no longer need to worry about where I will stay in DC during my 2 weeks there.  I also found out I will be able to put my car in storage for the duration of my tour.  These were big ticket items that were causing me to lose sleep...not any more!  I know that with the holidays, emails were slow to be answered and some people in DC were on vacation.  Now that the holidays are over, I feel certain that things will move along faster.  My biggest fear is that I won't think to ask something that I shoul have and will live to regret it. 

I've started gathering up things I will want to sell in a yard sale before I leave here.  I found out last week that a friend has already gotten that ball rolling.  She and her family are departing post about the same time I am and she is going to have a multi-family yard sale.  Yee now there is one room in my house where I am putting things I don't need to keep any longer.  This is a good thing because I have lots of beaded jewelry that I make and it will be a great opportunity to sell it. I've been making jewelry for a few months now and figure by the time I get out of the Foreign Service, I may have a few pieces to sell to add to the measly income I will have until I find a real job!  I use gemstones, pearls and mostly silver in my designs and make necklaces, earrings, bracelets and  
badge lanyards for those of us who have to wear badges at work.  It's much nicer to have a piece of jewelry to hang your badge on than an old standard issue chain.

Anyway, I'm gradually adding to the pile and hope to rid myself of some added weight and 'stuff' that I really don't need.  Of course, all my 'stuff' is excellent 'stuff' so I'm sure it will fly off the sale table!

I will leave Oman on April 12th, fly to Kauai and spend 2 weeks spoiling my 3 grandsons and then fly on to Fort Worth, Texas.  It will be great to see my father again and spend time with friends for another 2 weeks. Then on to Washington DC where I will take a week's worth of training for a high risk assignment, do a little shopping and then, on June 2, board a flight for Pakistan.  I have no qualms about going to Pakistan.  I will be fine and as they say here, Insha' Allah, or God Willing, nothing will happen to me.  I know He is watching over me.  Every decision I have made has worked out and there is nothing to make me think that will change now. When you make decisions with your heart, they are bound to work out!