Housewife No More

Tomorrow I get up and join the work force again! I’ve been thinking about what to wear for weeks. I might even make JR take a “first day of work” picture of me. I’m so excited that I don’t even have my normal new job nerves (I hate not knowing what I’m doing, and that’s basically a given at a new job). Luckily, I know I will be working with some great people, and doing some really interesting work.

In other news, I had a TERRIBLE toothache last week. It started last weekend, while JR was away in Ghana for some sort of training for his job. When he got home on Sunday, it was pretty bad. Monday was federal holiday, and Tuesday was a local holiday here, so I really didn’t think we could do much about it anyway. But by Monday afternoon I was in so much pain, I begged JR to call someone and try and get me an appointment. Luckily, the same dentist/oral surgeon JR saw in the summer was able to see me.

Now, I hate the dentist. I mean, I’m sure dentists are lovely people, but I just loathe going there. The smells, the sounds, the scraping tools on my teeth, I can’t even deal. When the dentist told me I had a bad infection and needed the tooth pulled, I was partially relieved because I wanted it over with, and then also terrified because who wants to get a tooth pulled? After several sleepless nights, I showed up Wednesday morning with my heart racing.

First he sprayed some horrible tasting numbing thing on my gums. Then he used an EXTREMELY large needle to put more numbing solution in my gums. By the third shot, on the inside, it hurt and I started to cry. Because I’m a wimp. I have zero pain tolerance. So now I’m crying, and when the tears started I just couldn’t stop them. The dentist was concerned. He started telling me that I didn’t need to be worried, he was an oral surgeon, very experienced, he studied in the US, and on and on. I’m trying to tell him that is all well and good, I don’t care where he studied, I’d still be freaking out in the U.S. as well. Finally I calmed down, and he started. The assistant stood behind me and held my head still while he basically took pliers and yanked my tooth out. It was like straight out of a horror film.

He’s a good man, that dentist. He was very patient with me (I think he pitied me). I had to go back a few more times to make sure the infection was healing, and thankfully, the pain has FINALLY started to fade. I’m like a brand new person, just with one less tooth – for the bargain price of 30 euro! Eventually I will get a crown put on, but I’m in a no hurry to go back there.

Hello, October

At first I thought September was kind of dragging along, and then all of sudden it’s October. Funny how that works.

Over the weekend, Stacey and her husband hosted a cookout for the whole Embassy community, and it was great. They had a ridiculous amount of meat – pork and beef bbq ribs, hamburgers and chicken – and everyone else brought a side dish. Because they are from New Orleans, JR wanted to make his special jambalaya. It worked out great for me because I didn’t need to cook, and everyone at the party loved it. Success!

Apparently people from New Orleans take their grilling quite seriously – look at that thing. This was the second round of meat, I was probably busy eating and didn’t get a picture the first time, but the whole grill was full.

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There was also a surprise guest there – this ADORABLE little puppy. One of JR’s co-workers found the puppy wandering around outside the Turkish Embassy, and took him home hoping to find a permanent home for him. When JR first told me about the puppy, we had a lengthy discussion about whether we should get a dog right now (spoiler alert, this does not end with us getting the puppy!). We agreed it wasn’t great timing, but that was before I actually saw this adorable creature, and when I did, I wanted to take back everything I’d said and take him straight home. Logic prevailed, and our friend Amy, who’s been looking for a puppy, adopted him! Isn’t he the cutest thing?

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Now that it’s October, Halloween planning is in full swing. It’s JR’s favorite holiday, and he’s coordinating all the volunteers for the children’s party hosted at the Embassy. At last year’s party, they went through 150lbs of candy in an hour! So our CLO office has been asking for candy donations. JR forwarded the e-mail along to our families, and they have been AMAZING and have sent so much candy for the kids. (I swear, it’s for the kids. JR won’t even keep it in the house because he’s deemed me somewhat untrustworthy around candy). Here’s a picture of just one package we got.

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Our families have been awesome about sending care packages. Most food items are available here in some capacity, but it’s still really nice to have my mom send me a random package with jello, frosting, muffin mixes, and mints! Now if we could just figure out a way for her to send me an East of Chicago pizza, I’d be set!

In case you were curious, it’s October and I’m still not working. I’m really close, but the government shutdown is not helping my situation. At this time, JR is going to work per usual, and we are very much hoping that his paychecks are not delayed. No one really knows what to expect or how long this will last. I am disappointed that it came to this, and I really feel for our friends who were sent home from work yesterday, and don’t know when they can return. My proposal is that we kick everyone out of the House and Senate and start fresh with new people. Except Sherrod Brown, because he’s basically perfect.

So stay tuned to see if I ever actually work again!

Interview Expert

I’m wondering if I can add “Professional Interviewer/Interviewee” to my resume.

In July and August, I had 5 interviews for 5 different positions. Just as I was scheduling interview #6, I was FINALLY offered job. Woohoo! Super exciting. I’m still not working though. I have to wait for a security clearance and a start date, which they tell me could take up to 90-120 days. I’m pretending they don’t mean that, and the call will come at any moment. It’s hard not to be frustrated by the fact that we’ve been here for over 4 months now, and I’m still not working. I really thought it would all be taken care of by now and I could get excited to start working, but I’m just waiting on news from DC.

In addition to going to my own interviews, I’ve been a part of three different interview panels since we arrived. I mentioned before that I volunteered to be on the board of the employee association. As a board member, I participated in the first and second round interviews of candidates as we searched for a new manager for the association. It was interesting being on the other side of the interview process, but I also had the overwhelming urge to hire every single person.

Mostly recently, I served on interview panels for two prestigious scholarship opportunities. First, we interviewed candidates for the Humphrey Program, which is designed for mid-level professionals to do a year of study in the U.S. (More information can be found here: https://www.humphreyfellowship.org/). We had a great group of interviewees (I really don’t know if that’s a word but I’m going to keep using it) and they each presented a very compelling idea for their study in the U.S. It was difficult to narrow down the field, but we felt really great about the names we sent forward for consideration.

This past weekend, we interviewed a very large group of candidates for the Fulbright Program (http://foreign.fulbrightonline.org/). I was vaguely familiar with Fulbright because a close friend applied a few years ago, and one of my favorite professors of all-time, Gerry Hudson, is a Fulbright alum. Again, we had a difficult task because all of the people we interviewed were intelligent, motivated, and eager to study in the States. The exchange of students, ideas and study between the US and Kosovo (along with other countries around the world) cannot be overstated, and I’m glad I was able to take a very small part in it.

So with all that experience, maybe I can start getting paid for interviews? 🙂

Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

It’s officially the longest I’ve gone without a haircut since I can remember, and the longest I’ve gone without a job since I first started working in high school (with the exception of first semester of law school, because we weren’t allowed to have a job). I keep thinking of a song my stepdad used to sing around the house – “Get a haircut, and get a real job. Clean your act up and don’t be a slob. Get it together like your big brother Bob.” Great song.

I’ve always liked to make money. Ashleigh, my childhood best friend, and I had a Snoopy Snow Cone machine and spent one summer selling delicious snow cones to our neighborhood friends.

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When the Snow Cone business slowed down, I had to get creative. In our house there was a random box of these strange glass figurines that were actually perfumes. As a 10 year old, I had no use for perfume. But I had the awesome idea that I could make potpourri! I pulled up grass from our yard and put it in little sandwich baggies, and then poured perfume all over the grass. I sealed up the baggies, loaded them into my wagon, and walked around the neighborhood selling my homemade potpourri. Shockingly, it was not a very successful business.

Like many teenage girls, I did a lot of babysitting while I was growing up, and I liked it. But what I wanted most was a real job. When I was 15, I started working as a hostess at a small cafe in my hometown. I thought it was the greatest job ever. I got to dress up nicely, talk to people, and like many a young hostess, I felt like I was super important.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of part time jobs. In high school, I worked at a tanning salon, and as a waitress, and that was also the year my friend Kristen and I started a purse and embroidery business. It started when I was envious of another friend’s Gap purse, and my grandma said she could make it for me. She actually sewed me a purse out of a dishtowel! I was super impressed, and saw visions of selling purses all over the world. Kristen and I learned how to sew a few different shapes and sizes of purses, and started taking orders from family and friends. We debated on a name for our new business, and decided on The Bag Ladies (although Purses for the People was a close second). We even had business cards (what I wouldn’t give to still have one of those).

We spent every Sunday morning at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and then we went straight to my grandma’s house to sew for the afternoon. We sold our purses at craft shows, and we even had a display at a store in town. We also made personalized fleece blankets. Sadly, we were headed off to separate colleges and our business venture ended.

The summer before college I was an on-call factory worker for the GREATEST JELLY AND JAM MAKER IN THE WORLD. While it was pretty cool to see how a factory worked, it was only about 2 hours into my first day on the job that I realized I was not cut out for manual labor.

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During college, I worked as a computer lab assistant, a sales associate at Things Remembered and Gap, a waitress, a resident advisor for my dorm, history department assistant, a receptionist for an advertising agency, and a bank teller (a terrible job for someone with a lifelong struggle with math). I usually had two part time jobs during school, mostly to help pay for my Banana Republic credit card.

With law school came more serious jobs and more responsibility. Although two summers ago, a Jeni’s Ice Cream shop opened across the street from our house in Columbus and I just had to work there. It combined my love of ice cream, sales, and talking! It was maybe the greatest job ever. My boss (a sweet 21 year old student) told me that I really set the bar high for the other scoopers at our shop – which I took as a very nice compliment.

All this to say, it’s been very strange for me to be unemployed for this long. My parents (I’m blessed to have three of them) instilled a strong work ethic in me from a very young age. Truthfully, it’s hard to feel like I’m doing my part when I’m not working or bringing home a paycheck.

I’m feeling very optimistic that my employment status will change soon. Oh AND, in equally important news, I have a haircut scheduled for this Friday.

Raspberry Beret

Friday night there was an official 4th of July party at the Ambassador’s residence for very important people. Because we are not very important, and somehow JR lucked out and did not have to work at the event, we were invited to attend after 9pm. This worked out well, because if we had arrived at 5, I would have been ready to go home at 10.

The Ambassador’s residence was newly renovated and beautiful. They had great food, fun decorations, and an awesome band. There was this cake:

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For a half a second (or maybe a half a minute – but who’s counting?), I thought it was in the shape of Texas. Oops. The cake was still in tact when we arrived and we think nobody wanted to be the first to cut into it because it looked so nice. In fact, I’m not sure the cake was ever actually served!

We danced and we sang and we danced some more. The singer was fantastic, and she is apparently competing in a European version of The Voice (or American Idol/X Factor/something else). We cheered for an encore, and to my ABSOLUTE DELIGHT, she sang “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” (Fun fact, I walked down the aisle to that song, performed by two violinists.) Once the band was done, we switched to various people plugging in their iPods and taking turns as DJ. The Ambassador was getting ready to play the Prince song “When Doves Cry”, but after looking at the list of available songs JR told her if she wanted for people to dance to Prince, it needed to be “Raspberry Beret.” She was a bit skeptical (and maybe surprised that he fancied himself a Prince expert) but let him play the song. The dance floor loved it. The Ambassador told him he made the right call, and asked him to continue DJing, a responsibility he took quite seriously. (Fun Fact #2, when JR and I were in law school he enjoyed playing music and half-jokingly referred to himself as DJ JD.)

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As I said, the music selection was serious business.

On Saturday we had a trip planned to visit a fruit farm and food processing plant outside of the city. The event was part of a week-long visit from a group from Iowa, who were in town to sign a Sister City and Sister State agreement in Kosovo. (You can read some more about it here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/13/iowa-kosovo-sister-state-deal/2420239/ and here: http://oskynews.org/?p=57290.) We were treated to a great lunch and then given a tour of the farm and the plant. It brought back memories of my time working in the factory at Smucker’s. (It was a short term job – I’m not really cut out for manual labor. But I did have fun there and I’m VERY proud of my hometown and Smucker’s connections!) We also took a walking tour of the orchards.

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Oh and I finally learned how to take a panoramic picture on my iPhone. All in all, a very successful weekend!

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Tales of a Housewife: Week 4

I initially thought about calling this blog Tales of a Housewife, but JR astutely pointed out that I was not going to be a housewife for long. And hopefully he’s still right about that!

It’s just weird not having a job. When JR gets home from work, he’ll ask, how was your day? What did you do? And I look at him blankly while trying to think, how in the world did I spent the last 9 hours? More importantly, I need to come up with a better answer than “Oh, I found a new TV series on Netflix and I watched an entire season today.” (By the way, I highly recommend Scandal!)

Trailing spouse is an actual technical term in the Foreign Service. I’ve used it when introducing myself here. Hi, I’m Jenni, I’m a trailing spouse. It’s not exactly flattering, but it’s pretty accurate. We both knew what we were getting into when JR accepted this position. I hope I’m able to work at each post, but there are no guarantees. It’s unlikely that I will have a career, in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t really bother me. I’ve had an interesting mix of jobs over the years, so I’m pretty open when it comes to that. I keep telling JR I would make an excellent assistant or secretary. That being said, I was still a bit surprised when a couple I met this weekend told me they both worked as prosecutors before the wife accepted her position here in Kosovo. So her husband, a former federal prosecutor, is now a trailing spouse and working in the mail room. But he’s happy with it, because he wants to be working, and they’re living the lifestyle they wanted and enjoying life overseas. That’s what we’re looking for, too. So maybe I should see if the mail room is hiring.

In the past when I’ve been in search of a job, I’m used to that being its own job. You need to be researching positions, updating your resume, doing cover letters, scheduling informational interviews, and that awful word: networking. People who know me know that I like to do things quickly and I can be kind of intense about it. So that’s what I feel like I should be doing here. Instead, pretty much everyone we’ve met says that I just need to be patient, and that I will most likely get a job soon. We’ve heard that the higher ups at our post are advocates for spouses, and will do everything they can to help them find work. It’s just that things move a bit slower here, not only with the government in general, but definitely in Kosovo. The pace is slower – which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just new for me. It’s also transition time, so many people will be arriving and leaving post over the next few months.

So I’ve basically been advised to hold tight and be a housewife for a little bit longer. I’m planning on taking full advantage of it, so feel free to recommend some good books or tv shows! 🙂