Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lake Bin El Ouidane- Starring Baby Kase

Almost a year ago (this delayed blogging is getting out of control) some of our dearest friends, Daniel and Michelle, brought their newborn Baby Kase to Morocco.  Because of a scare early in the pregnancy, G had been praying for Baby Kase every night for months.  He was beside himself to see this baby.

I understand the obsession.  Do you SEE that hair?

Anyway, we were so thrilled that they had made such an effort to come be with us...especially with a 2 month old!

After a few days in Rabat, the adults and Baby Kase (he got some SERIOUS attention having 4 adults to himself) took off on a Groupon Getaway we had purchased earlier in the year to a 5 star resort on Lake Bin El Ouidane, a 5-6 hour drive from Rabat.  On the drive we stopped and fed baby, used hole-in-the-ground potties, prayed for Joe as he dodged every kind of crazy truck on tiny mountain roads and listened to our favorite Mat Kearney CD.  

We were rewarded with this:

I know, pretty awesome.

It was the perfect place for us.  The resort is the middle of NOWHERE; quiet, all-inclusive, with a pool and spa.  We spent our time eating, taking naps, laying by the pool and taking a few excursions.

We went to the local weekly market.

Fast food.

 And visited the Ouzoud Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Morocco.

They are beautiful, and have turned into the local Myrtle Beach, AKA tourist trap.  

You can hire one of these bad boys to row you the few yards to the falls to get sprayed.  Pretty classy!

Daniel, Michelle, and Baby Kase with our guide. He spoke French for Joe and me and Spanish for Daniel and Michelle.

The completely covered woman in this picture is standing in front of the falls getting her picture taken.  As a Westerner it makes no sense to have a picture of myself in front of anything when you can't even tell it's me, but she was thrilled!  

The boys took their own excursion one day across the lake to a property the resort owns in/on(?) a gorge.  Evidently, they had one of the best days of their lives and to this day cannot stop talking/bragging about it.

However, once we saw the pictures on the camera, we began to refer to it as Joe and Daniel's honeymoon.  You know how when you look at honeymoon pictures, everyone just has pics of themselves as a couple and each other....



It should also be noted that they enjoyed open air massages side by side that day.

And I just love this picture: walking Baby Kase to sleep before dinner.

Meanwhile G and J hung with Khadija and her kids and had the time of their lives.

Great trip.  Great friends.  We love you guys and are so honored that you came to see us.  xoxo.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Foreign Service Spouse

*Obviously not my exact schedule because of those pesky security concerns

7:15 It's a new day

A few minutes before my alarm goes off, G runs into my bedroom (he's already been up with Daddy) and turns on all the lights because he is very proud that he can reach all the switches now.  His early morning requests range from,"Play Mommy's iPad?" (maybe) to "Wake Woo-Woo up?" (not yet) to "Go see Dija?" (she'll be here soon).  If I'm lucky, he'll crawl up in bed and snuggle with me for a few minutes.  Coffee.

8:00 More coffee.

Pick out school clothes for G/make sure he's had breakfast/Khadija arrives/Woo is up.  I finish getting ready while she gives Woo his milk and dresses G.  When we depart post I think I will miss Khadija in the morning the most.  Before G and I leave I give Khadija a small list of grocery items to purchase while on her daily walk with the Woo.  Another thing I will sorely miss- I hate grocery shopping.

8:45 Drive the carpool

Load G in the car and pick up our little friend A that lives down the block.  They are thrilled to see each other and we drive to pre-school.

Driving continues to be the most stressful part of our day.  Someone recently told me that Moroccans view driving as a game.  Well, that's great to know, very safe and all. We have all become offensive drivers out here.  My friend Denise always says she's terrified of getting into road rage with someone and then looking up and seeing those American plates...i.e., you will have to face them sooner or later at some embassy event.

We arrive at their pre-school, the only English speaking program that you can attend for less than 5 days a week.  It is currently run by a Dutch woman in a small villa and she does a great job.  Many of the American Embassy kiddos attend and there about 12 students on a full day.  I kiss G goodbye as he asks over and over if "Mister Jessica" is going to take him home.  (we're having trouble using "Miss" right now)

9:30 Go into work for a few hours.

I'm not sure I've mentioned on here that last May I got a part-time job at the embassy.  I write the weekly newsletter for our community as well as help out with welcoming newcomers and family events.  I exchange greetings in French with the local guards as I walk in.

There are many things that I never knew about our foreign embassies.  First of all, most of them are mainly protected by contracted local guards (like the one who was recently killed in Turkey).  We do have a small detachment of Marines, who certainly watch over post and provide security, but their primary job is to protect sensitive information within the embassy.  Second, our embassies are staffed largely by local hires, in this case, Moroccans. While Americans come and go every 2-3 years, these professionals have been working on average at the embassy for 20.  They all have a State Dept. Americans for a boss, but otherwise you can find them running Budget & Finance, Residential Security,  the Cafeteria, supporting the Econ Dept, working as translators, etc.  Most of them speak English fluently as a job requirement and are good friends with their American colleagues.

I log in, check email, bring up the newsletter and create a mental list of things to accomplish.  I chat with my co-workers Anne-Marie (Frenchwoman married to a Tennesseean Foreign Service Officer) and Ghita (Moroccan married to a Texan contractor building the new embassy here in Rabat).

After working for a bit, I make the rounds around the embassy.  These may be errands, meetings, or personal break chats.  I run into my French teacher (I take 2-3 days a week when I can) and while speaking with her I use the future-tense of a verb correctly.  We crack up laughing because we both know it is an accident.

12:30 Lunch

Joe and I, usually accompanied by friends, walk either to the American Club or another eatery down the street from the embassy.  Our current favorite is the new restaurant that opened up at the Italian Cultural Center.  We are quite certain they are flying in the ingredients fresh from Italy on a regular basis, as everything we taste immediately transports us back there.  This is another thing I am spoiled by here: lunch out with my husband on a regular basis.

2:00 Tennis Lesson

Morocco isn't known for its tennis but it is a great place to get cheap private lessons.  I can't say I look on my tennis lessons with fondness.  For one, they are in French, so not only is my body getting a workout, but my mind is exhausted.  Two, I am terribly out of shape since I stopped working out last summer when there was an uptick in Americans getting mugged (most notably my closest friend at post on OUR street).  Recently, my tennis instructor, while watching me huff and puff around the court, asked if I was a smoker.  Sigh.  Learning a sport in your thirties feels a lot like learning a language in your thirties.  Extremely unnatural, slow going, and a lot of work.

3:00 Khadija leaves

This is my daily free time if all goes according to plan.  The boys are down for their naps and I either prep dinner, email/blog, or take a glorious nap.  Khadija and I discuss the boys; what they ate for lunch, what time she put them down, etc.  I thank her profusely each and every day before she walks out the door because she is so wonderful.

4:15 Boys up

The mid-afternoon call to prayer from our neighborhood mosque echoes throughout the house.  It doesn't wake the boys because they are used to it but it is my signal that they will be up shortly.  I finish up what I'm doing and turn on the DVD player to whatever the boys are preferring these days; currently it's Baby Einstein Orchestra.

Many days Aunt Mary brings Carolyn and Baby William down to play (they live on our street) so that we can bide this time together.  G has NEVER been interested in a baby like he is William.  The cutest thing by far is how he pronounces William's name.  To G it is "Will-ill-iam".  The Mommies spend their time refereeing sharing, etc while finishing dinner, keeping baby happy, and catching up on the day.

5:45 Daddy(s) home

Joe and Matt walk in from work to very excited children.  We sit down to dinner together several nights a week as (1), it is more fun that way and (2), it means only one of us has to cook.  As you can imagine, it is rare if all 4 adults are sitting down at the same time because with 3 toddlers there is never a shortage of requests, tantrums, etc.  It's all very quiet and relaxing.  Some friends of ours here are pregnant with their first child and I keep telling them they need to come experience dinner time with our crew.

After dinner Mary and I sit in talk while Matt and Joe throw the football (in the house, mind you) and the kids run around, generally in more collegial moods by now.  When it gets warmer we move the whole thing out back which is really, really nice.  And then, we are magically at bed time!

7:15 Bed time for little boys

Because African homes are not known for their great use of space, we have a lot of open, unused area upstairs.  This has a great function at bedtime when Joe, like Daddies all over the world, proceeds to rile up both boys with chase, hide and seek, throwing them on the bed, etc.  Eventually we wrangle them into jammies, brush teeth, and get them on our bed where we read a story (currently "Llama Llama, Time to Share"), a very applicable title for G and J.

7:45 Boys in bed.

Freedom.  Last Call to Prayer of the day.

9:00 Netflix

While we have access to AFN (Armed Forces Network), the prime time schedule is done in Germany, which means it starts at 5 pm here, right in the thick of things.  So we rely on Netflix and Hulu for our entertainment.  The problem is that we have to use our VPN to get access, which slows down the speed considerably.  But on many nights the stars align: the internet doesn't go out and it's fast enough to keep up, so we get to watch a show or two.  Our Netflix program selection has its share of highs and lows.  During our time here we have watched everything from Mad Men (high) to Battlestar Galactica (low, in my opinion) (sorry Chris and Jessica).  Our current is The West Wing and we are loving it.

10:30 Lights out.

Sort of.  It invariably seems that this is the time that Main State in DC decides to send Joe all of the info/emails they've been putting together all day.  So we lay there and listen to Joe's phone vibrate. He may check one or two to make sure it's nothing that can't wait until the morning.  And then hopefully we all sleep through the night (ahem, G) and start again.

Monday, March 4, 2013

3 Weeks

Well, I'm about to get a little serious here.  But just for a minute.

This is the second (and final) post about our 3 week Christmas visit with our dear Bs.  Those weeks were one of the sweetest gifts God has given me and were so treasured that it made the next month of hardship easier to swallow.  Truly.  It was a time of just living life together, easy laughter, toddler woes, and honest talks.  Oh, and lots of Spanish wine, french bread, and cheese (which I especially cherished because GAPS diet, I know you are coming for my family and me soon).

So Joe and Bets, this post is dedicated to you.  And enough of the serious.

It was a trip of great import as again, there were TWO new people.

We all got a little closer to Joe B.

Joe and I sent the other Joe and Bets on a little getaway and kept 4 toddlers for 2 nights.

It was great to really be able to spend time with E and H, especially since we love them almost as much as our own and never get to see them.  H is a snuggly little bundle who will do anything for a piece of bread (which is how I was able to cook dinner both nights) and E is a way smart, funny and CHALLENGING  4 going on 17 year old.

A conversation with E while we were watching G get in trouble over something minor and Daddy was correcting him.

E: That was disrespectful.  He needs a consequence.
Me: E, how about I worry about G and you worry about E?
E: OK.  I'll just worry about H. (her little brother)
Me: Um, no.  I think I'll worry about H too.
E: OK.  I'll just play with H.  (because she has to have the last word.)

Another gem:

At dinner:
E: Miss Ashleigh, if you will turn on the movie again after dinner, I will like you.
Me: Well E, I hope you will like me even if I don't, because I like you.
E: Yeah, I probably will.

We got to open presents.

And have lots of Daddy play time.

I kissed Betsy on the lips for the first time. (It happened shortly after this picture was taken on accident, but I am still proud as Betsy isn't exactly the touchy-feely one in the group)

And then we had one of the coolest New Years' Eve ever.  The pictures can't do it justice.

We combined our spoils from Spain and had a tapas feast in front of a fire.

And then we watched Casablanca.  Outside.

I can't remember if we actually made it to midnight.  Probably not.

Cheers to great holiday memories, the Stephensons, who made it all possible (wish you had been there),  and friends that are family.