I’m Back!

In the last year I’ve wondered whether or not I want to keep blogging. I don’t always have exciting or funny stories worth sharing, especially since I’m not actually that funny (at least not intentionally, according to my husband), and other times I just can’t find the energy or time. Earlier this summer I decided I did, if for no other reason than to share stories of our lives with the kids someday. So here we go, starting now and hopefully using some time this year to catch up on the 1.5 years I missed (thanks COVID).

Last week we were scheduled to return to Cairo after 6+ weeks of home leave in the US. A few hours into a pretty stressful morning at the airport, I texted my girlfriends to say “Hey! At least I’ll have something to blog about again!” A friend quickly reminded me to be careful what I wished for….and she was right.

It all started two days before our scheduled travel back to Cairo. Abby, JR and I were required to get COVID tested to go back. We used an urgent care one town over, one of the only places nearby that guaranteed results and a stamp in less than 24 hours. Egypt inexplicably requires a wet stamp or QR code, which is not standard in America. We did the nose swab – much more pleasant because they no longer try to reach your brain – and continued our day packing and preparing. That evening, Abby and JR’s results came back negative but mine were inconclusive. Awesome. First thing the next morning I called their office. The nurse was very helpful, she said the lab would run the results again but wouldn’t know the results until around 11am. Since we were less than 24 hours out from our departure, I had to find a backup plan.

We also had to return our rental car to the Akron Canton airport that morning, so we made our way there while I found a testing place about 30 minutes from Akron that offered results in less than an hour. After returning the car, we waited outside the other new testing place until 11am, when I heard from urgent care that my test was still inconclusive. I went into the testing place, took a second test, and quickly got my negative results – thank goodness!

After spending the morning running around, the afternoon was dedicated to more packing. William was missing his favorite new toy, so I was out in the garage searching my mom’s car for it when I saw my travel stroller in the corner. Here’s my inner monologue: “Oh! I would have completely forgotten about that, thank goodness I came out here. I’ll move it over to this pile….wait. Where is the other stroller? Where is the City Mini? No. No. NO!”

I went back in the house and asked my mom and JR if either of them had removed the City Mini stroller from the rental car we had just returned earlier that morning. Nope. And so, JR was off to the airport for the second time that day to retrieve it. Thankfully, the nice people at Enterprise were able to grab the stroller from their Lost & Found rather quickly.

Also yes, we still travel with multiple strollers. Come at me, bro.

The rest of the day passed without issue. I couldn’t sleep that night and dreaded my 4am alarm, but once we were up and moving I was ready. Except our transportation to Cleveland airport never showed up. They were supposed to come at 5:15 and JR started calling them about ten minutes later. The driver said he had a flat tire and was 40 minutes away. But during the next call 15 minutes later he said he was still 40 minutes away. Alarm bells were ringing. We quickly had to think of a Plan B in the likely event that the driver wasn’t going to make it on time.

My mom and I had the kids in her car driving to my grandma’s house on the other side of town to borrow her van. Keep in mind, it’s super early in the morning. It’s dark out, and my elderly grandma is sleeping. My mom and I are calling her repeatedly. We have a garage door opener to her house, but the door to get inside is locked and we know she sets the alarm. My mom is looking for keys get in the house (her copy was conveniently back at our house), but we’re also scared to use it even if we find it because the alarm will go off and it will probably scare the crap out of grandma. Eventually we decide to drive back to my mom’s house to get her key. Poor JR is just standing in the dark driveway with all of our luggage, pacing and waiting for someone to show up. Just as we drove away from her house, grandma called – she’s awake! So we rush back to her house, grab her van, call the driver who was still MIA and inform him his services won’t be needed anymore, go back to my mom’s to load the luggage, and race to the airport.

JR is reassuring me the whole drive. We have enough time, this is okay, just don’t get a speeding ticket. At the airport, I parked grandma’s van and then met everyone else at check in. We said a hasty goodbye to my mom and got in line to check-in. At the check-in counter, the United employee informed us that William’s passport didn’t have the required 6 months validity for travel to Egypt. He was about 20 days short. Mind you, it is 7am at this point. Our flight leaves at 8:35. The security line has grown alarmingly long and goes further than I can see. I am PANICKED. I started texting my coworkers, asking them to have someone from the travel office at the Embassy call me. I got a call from Susan, who worked some serious magic. She spoke to the gate agent, explained why this was all ok and not an issue, and then we just had to wait for the gate agent to get approval from her supervisor. The minutes were ticking by. I asked her if we were going to make the flight. She said she would get us to the front of the security line and we should be fine.

And she was right! After about 30 minutes at the counter, we were checked in and being ushered to security. We collected our things after the checkpoint and started husting to our gate which is always, without fail, the furthest gate from security. How is that possible? But we made it, even with a few minutes to spare, boarding the plane at 8:15. I’m dripping sweat, my heart is racing, and I am like, wow that was enough excitement for the month/year! We settled into our seats and I sent that fateful text to my girlfriends – “Hey! At least I’ll have something to blog about again!”

About 15 minutes later, the pilot came on the speaker and said we were experiencing a maintenance issue and would be slightly delayed. Because of course. I wasn’t too concerned because we had a full two hours to transfer in Dulles airport. Around 9, the pilot further explained the maintenance issue and said it could take some time (no specifics were given). He said anyone with a tight transfer in DC should get off the plane to speak to the United agents to rebook. JR and I discussed and felt like we still had time, even if it meant another race through the airport in Dulles. At 9:30, the pilot gave more details and said they needed to get a part from a different aircraft, install it, and then run through safety checks. I called Susan at the Embassy again – bless her – to talk through our options and we got off the plane. The kids were SO confused. Because our onward flight was Egypt Air, there wasn’t another flight from DC to Cairo until…two days later. Awesome.

After another hour plus of waiting and phone calls and lines and decisions and begging for our luggage to be taken off the plane (we got 8 out of 9 bags back, which is it’s own story), we found ourselves waiting outside the airport for my mom to pick us back up, a mere 5 hours after we had said a tearful goodbye.

We sure made the most of that extra 40ish hours in Ohio, redid our COVID tests (my third in 4 days – FUN!), said our goodbyes once more, and I’m happy to report that we are now back in Cairo! The second attempt two days later went much smoother than the first, with the only notable exception being William face-planting in the Cairo airport and having the worst nosebleed I can recall seeing. Blood EVERYWHERE and kids screaming going through customs. The perfect way to end about 24 hours of travel.

Now we’re recovering from jet lag and settling in for two more years in Egypt!

Weekend at Lake Ohrid

Continuing to cross places off of our Balkan Bucket List, last weekend we drove to Ohrid, Macedonia.  So we loaded up the car (and I mean loaded -we still haven’t mastered packing light with Abigail in tow) and drove about 4 hours to Lake Ohrid.  Our inn was located in the old town, which was very neat for walking and sight seeing, not so great for driving and unloading your car.  I nearly cried when the lady at reception told me the parking spot was very, very far away.   Luckily, JR is a great sport and he did all the unloading, and then went to park our car.

In spite of the parking issue, I highly recommend Vila Mal Sveti Kliment for lodging in Ohrid.  The room was small but adequate and very comfortable.  In the future, we’ll try to get rooms that have a separate bedroom/living area, or are a bit larger.  It’s kind of hard to do much when the baby goes to sleep at 8pm, and we are whispering and hanging out in the dark!   The Vila makes their own wine, and had a nicely stocked mini bar.  Unlike the US, I find mini bar prices here to be very reasonable, so we took advantage by drinking wine in bed to the light of our iPhones while Abby snored up a storm.   I’m not cut out for room sharing with that one.

Here are some pictures from our weekend:

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Romance in Paralia?

No.  The answer is no.  But our hotel room really was intended for L-O-V-E.  Check out this bedspread in our suite!

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We decided to visit Paralia, Greece for the 4th of July weekend.  Paralia is pretty much the closest decent beach for us, about a 4 1/2 hour drive going through two borders, Macedonia and Greece.  That drive can be a bit longer if you make 3 2 wrong turns.  (I’m directionally challenged and we’re buying a GPS with a European chip).  Luckily for us, Abigail continues to be an excellent traveler.   We made a pit stop to feed and change her, and then continued on our way.  And to my absolute delight, the gas station in Macedonia sold Snicker’s Ice Cream bars!

The weather was beautiful and as always, we love the beach.  It was extremely crowded but still nice to get away!  This was the view from our hotel balcony.

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Oh, and there was a man selling donuts on the beach.  Let me repeat that for you.  This fellow (and many more just like him) walked around the beach selling fresh baked, big-as-your-face donuts for 1.50 euro.  Aces!

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On the recommendation of the hotel staff, we went to a restaurant a few blocks away called Poseidon.   We had a nice family dinner on the beach.  If you can’t tell, Abigail is hidden away in the carrier and she let us have a peaceful meal, for which we are very grateful.

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This was our first beach experience as a family and it was quite different than what JR and I are used to.  Usually JR and I are out all day enjoying the sun, water and drinks with a possible break in the afternoon for a short nap before dinner.   Like everything else now, Abigail dictates our schedule and we only stayed out a few hours during the day and underneath the umbrella for most of it.  Even though it was a very different experience, we loved sharing the beach with her for the first time.  JR took her to get her feet wet in the Aegean but got a little excited and put her in up to her chest.  She didn’t enjoy it as much as JR did, so the experience only lasted about 20 seconds.   We’ll do better next time.

And a few more cute pics of Abby at the beach.

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By the time we got home on Sunday, she was tuckered out.  But she can’t wait to visit Greece again!

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Valentine’s Day in Bulgaria

We did Valentine’s Day a little bit differently this year.  We traveled to Bansko, Bulgaria, a popular ski resort town, for a weekend of fun with a group of friends.

Traditionally, JR and I make lasagna (truth, he normally makes it) and we watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  The first time we celebrated Valentine’s Day, we’d been together for about 4 months.  JR was not so much into making things official, so no girlfriend title had been bestowed upon me.   When he talked to his family about me, he was very casual and didn’t provide many details.  In fact, one of the only things he shared with them was that my favorite movie was Crossroads (not entirely true, but I do love that movie) and I’d never seen Lord of the Rings, so he didn’t see us staying together for very long (muahahha, little did he know!)

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Anyway, back to present day.   We got up Friday morning and picked up our friend Katie to make the drive to Bulgaria.  JR and I are always excited to add a new country to our list.  We only had a few problems with directions, and we only made two stops (this was a real feat considering Katie and I are both pregnant).

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The drive there took about 6 hours.  We had lunch and then napped before meeting up with everyone else for dinner and drinks.  The next day, JR treated me to some quality time at the spa – I had a relaxing massage and facial.   We rode the gondola up to the top of the mountain to check out the view, which was beautiful. Even though we were at a ski resort, neither of us skied. Obviously, I couldn’t, and I’m not sure if JR chose to sit out in solidarity, or because these mountains looked a bit different than any ski resorts in Ohio.

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Gondola ride up. Only the top of the mountain and the ski slopes had snow.
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I had no idea paraskiing was a thing – looked terrifying!
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Saturday night we had a big group dinner, complete with a birthday surprise for Katia!
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We drove back on Sunday and didn’t get lost once. It was a really fun weekend and very cool to visit a new place.

Travel Tips for Paris

I have no idea how helpful this will wind up being, but I wanted to share some things we discovered (some through research, some through trial and error, and others through dumb luck) that would have been useful to know ahead of time about sightseeing in Paris.

Paris Museum Pass. The pass can be purchased for 2, 4, or 6 consecutive days. It seems like a lot to pay up front. We bought the 4 day pass for 54 Euro each. It includes many of the major sights – Notre Dame (entrance to the church is free but climbing the towers isn’t), Versailles (probably the most expensive sight), the Louvre, the Pantheon and Les Invalides. The Eiffel Tower is not included. To figure out if it made sense for us, I wrote down all the things I knew we wanted to see, and added up their individual cost. That was significantly more than the 54E for the pass. Then I had to try to arrange our itinerary to make sure we could see all of those sights on 4 back-to-back days. This made for a really busy schedule, and a lot of planning and walking. For us though, we felt it was worth it.

The pass will allow you to avoid a line at some attractions, but not all. It’s also not always clear when that’s permitted and when it’s not, so watch carefully for signs and don’t be afraid to ask around.

Saint Chapelle. We didn’t visit on the day we were scheduled because the line was too long. We went back the next afternoon and saw another couple skip the line with their museum pass. There was NO sign indicating you could do this. So we walked right past everyone in line outside. Once you got past the ticket window, where we just showed our passes, there was yet another long line to get inside the church. Up ahead, we saw a somewhat marked path for museum pass holders, so we were again able to bypass a very long line to get inside. This was a favorite stop for both of us, and it’s not to be missed.

Versailles. We had every intention of being on an 8:15am train to Versailles to beat the crowd. Well, we slept in. Then we got on the wrong train. And then we picked the WORST station to turn around at because it took an hour. So, by the time we got there the line was insane. JR was confident we didn’t need to wait in it, because of our pass, but we were repeatedly told that the long line was for ticket and pass holders. And so we waited. FOREVER. Probably 90 minutes? And the truth is – I feel like this is something you aren’t supposed to admit – it kind of sucked. It was far too crowded to enjoy any of the rooms. We felt like we were cattle being herded from room to room.  With us being literally shoulder-to-shoulder with people moving through the different rooms, there was no time to appreciate it or truly look around. And the crowd around us seemed just as annoyed as us. My advice would be either MAKE SURE you can get there by say, 8:30am (doors open at 9), or a later time in the day to skip the crowds.

Notre Dame. We stayed on the island right beside Notre Dame on the River Seine, Ile St. Louis, so we walked past it almost every morning. The first morning we did our visit there. The church opens at 8am and the towers at 10. There was hardly anyone at the church when we arrived at 8:30, and we didn’t ever see a line that early in the morning. We spent an hour in the church, and it was nice because it was not crowded at all. Around 9:30, we walked outside and got in line for the towers. That line probably had 25 people in it, although it started to grow steadily after we joined. By the time we made our way up the tower and looked down at the entrance to the church, there was a pretty long line just to get in. So go early!

Where to stay. A friend recommended that we try to stay on the Ile St. Louis in the center of the city near Notre Dame. A quick search of hotels showed it to be a very pricey location. JR suggested that we try to rent an apartment since we’d be staying for a whole week. We reasoned that an apartment would give us more space, allow us to possibly eat-in a few meals, and hopefully would be more affordable than a hotel. We used airbnb.com and found the perfect place. Well, minus the fact that it was on the 4th floor with no elevator, which really kills your legs after a full day of walking around the city. But we loved the apartment and felt like we picked a perfect spot.

Rick Steves’ Audio Tours. Another friend suggested that we download Rick Steves’ Audio Tours for our iPhones. We downloaded his app first (which is free) and then downloaded his Historic Paris Walking Tour, the Louvre, and Versailles. We really enjoyed having these to listen to while we explored the city. It saved money on getting the audio guides, and it gave us some interesting tidbits that we wouldn’t have known. I highly recommend checking out his website to see what other locations he has available.

Vaux le Vicomte If you are interested in visiting Vaux, there are some tours that leave directly from Paris or you can travel there on your own. We took a 25 minute train ride from Gare de Lyon to Melun, and then we were able to get a taxi right outside the Melun train station. It was a ten minute (and to JR’s chagrin, 20 Euro) cab ride to Vaux from the station. The staff at Vaux called for a cab pick up when we were done with our visit.

In general, we had difficulty using our credit card at the train station and metro stops. It was very hit or miss. Those machines would accept cash, but only coin. This was fine for the 1.70 Euro metro ticket (a great deal) but for longer trips, we needed the ticket window to be open to use our credit card. It caused us to miss a train because we couldn’t get our ticket purchased in time. We found the city to be quite walkable, we’d either walk all day, or take the metro to one destination and walk everywhere from there. The only time we took a cab was in Melun.

Also, eat as many crepes as you can from the street vendors. You can’t go wrong with a nutella and banana crepe!

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Vaux le Vicomte

This post is pretty gushy, so just a warning if you want to click out and pretend you never saw it.

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I loved studying French in high school. I think 2 years was required, a third year was recommended if you were headed to college, and French IV was completely optional. There were maybe 8 of us in the French IV class. By my senior year, I had enough credits that I could leave school at noon and be done for the day. The problem was that French IV was only offered 8th period. Faced with that choice, I left school every day at noon and went to one of my part time jobs for a few hours (waitressing for the lunch crowd at a cafe) and then returned to school faithfully every day (okay, almost every day) for 8th period French class. I loved the class, and I absolutely adored my teacher.

I’m not certain if it was in French III or IV, but we did projects on a location in Paris, and I either picked or was assigned Vaux le Vicomte. It’s a chateau located outside of the city, built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicholas Fouquet, the superintendent of finances for King Louis XIV. Unfortunately, the good man Fouquet tried to impress the King and others with his fancy chateau and instead wound up making the King jealous, and suspicious of how he was paying for it all. Fouquet hosted a grand party to celebrate the chateau, and while the King celebrated with him publicly, behind his back he made plans to have him arrested for using public funds. Shortly after the party Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life (19 years), and the King confiscated furniture, tapestries, and even the orange trees from Vaux le Vicomte. He was so impressed with the chateau that he also had the team that built Vaux Vicomte get started on his own, slightly more famous palace, Versailles.

So things did not turn out well for Fouquet. But this beautiful home was built and I was in love with it. My 18 year old self firmly believed that I could get married there some day, and my independently wealthy husband-to-be would fly all of our family and friends to France to join us there. Clearly, it didn’t work out for me, although Eva Longoria pulled it off. (Sort of. She’s divorced now so I’m not sure if it counts).

The point of this story – because I swear there is a point – is that I loved this place and dreamed about seeing it in person. Yes, my dreams were a bit far-fetched. But only 10+ years later, it happened! When JR and I first began making travel plans, I asked him if we could take a day trip to see the chateau and he was excited about it.

Not only did I finally see Vaux le Vicomte in person, but I just felt so lucky to be there and to be living this life that we’re living. There is really nothing in my life that is how I pictured it might be, back when I was daydreaming in school. Well, that’s not true. The specifics are way different (I don’t know that I knew what a Foreign Service Officer was back then. Or where to find Kosovo on a map.) But the big picture stuff – I’m married to a truly wonderful person that I love with all of my heart, I have amazing friends and family, and I’m going to be a mom soon – that stuff all came true, even though the road to get here has been very different than I imagined.

While we were walking around the grounds, I just kept thinking of this quote from Sweet Home Alabama.

It’s funny how things don’t turn out.
…Yeah, it’s funny how they do.

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J’aime Paris

Way back at the end of July, we made the spontaneous decision to spend a week in Paris during the holidays. We had no idea of the big changes coming our way over the next few months, but the tickets were booked and we were going to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris! JR and I have both been to Paris before but we wanted to experience the city together. Plus, I wanted to work on my French language skills long dormant from my high school classes.

As our departure date became closer, I told JR I would spend some time loosely researching the sights we wanted to see and making a plan. Well, once I started I couldn’t really control myself and the next thing I knew, we had a 9-page detailed itinerary that had us hauling butt all over Paris to see as much as possible.  I am so my mother’s daughter.   We stayed on the Ile St. Louis and had a wonderful time.

Paris in pictures.

Notre Dame

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Eiffel Tower

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Les Invalides

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Rodin’s The Thinker

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Saint Chapelle

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View of the Louvre and Siene

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Gardens at Versailles

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My favorite crepe maker

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Sacre Coeur on New Year’s Eve

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Christmas Markets and Arc de Triomphe in the background

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Catching up

I had a wonderful visit with family and friends in Ohio for almost 2 and 1/2 weeks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures – the only ones I took were of the delicious food I enjoyed! I joked with my mom that I spent most of my visit napping and eating. It’s not really a joke, because that’s basically what happened.

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Before I left for Ohio, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving abroad with some of our good friends. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and so much more. We were even able to watch the Macy’s Day parade and some football so it actually felt pretty similar to being at home!

The next day, I woke up early to catch my flight(s) home. As soon as I landed in Newark, I could smell the McDonalds. You don’t realize how much you miss it until you can smell it, and my nose led me to a large order of fries and a fountain Diet Coke with no ice. Pure bliss! Plus, I was able to use my debit card for the first time in months, which felt super exciting. That same debit card would later get me into trouble at Target, Old Navy, Sephora, and various other places. What, it’s Christmas!

Thanks to my Mom, I was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment while I was home so I could meet my OB (selected by my Mom, of course) and have another ultrasound. Everything went well, and my mom and sister were able to see the baby and we took pictures and video for JR. They showed us some images in 3D which frankly alarmed me, but I was assured the baby will look better in person.

Lest you think that JR spent that two weeks pining away for me in Kosovo, he was actually in Bangkok for work. I like to think he was still pining a bit. I’m trying to convince him to do a guest blog and write about this trip, but considering how motivated I’ve been to blog myself, this is looking less and less likely. To summarize, he stayed safe during the protests and he enjoyed all of the markets and local vendors.  His suitcase was 22lbs overweight on his return flight because of all the presents he brought back!

Now that we’re both back home (home is such a funny word to me right now, because I feel like I have a few homes!), we are back to work and getting ready for Christmas. JR excels at wrapping presents and traditionally wraps his own once I put them in a box, so he’s been hard at work on that. Our CLO office and friends here have planned several fun holiday events. So far we’ve had cookie exchanges, a silent auction, a door decorating contest, and an Ugly Christmas Sweater competition on Friday. Also, one of our friends is having a Winter Solstice party tonight, so we’re headed over there shortly.

I can’t believe Christmas is next week!   I mentioned we have a lot of presents, right?

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R&R

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Soon I will be leaving for my first R&R (rest and recuperation) trip back home. Here’s my very basic understanding of how R&R’s work in the Foreign Service.

Your posting determines how many R&Rs you receive during your tour – I think the norm is one R&R per two years. Kosovo is considered a hardship post, and so officers and their EFMs (eligible family members, that’s me!) are entitled to one R&R per year. That means that JR’s work will pay for one airfare ticket for each of us to the designated R&R location – which for Kosovo is London – or to anywhere in the U.S. If you wish to use your R&R ticket to visit some place different, you can do that, but you have to pay the difference in the ticket price.

You can take R&R for as long as you like, obviously subject to your vacation allowance and how much time you can spend away from the office. You do not get any special leave or paid time off while on R&R, so you are using up vacation days when you go. Or in my case, going LWOP (leave without pay, because I haven’t been working long enough to accrue any paid time off). It seems like the standard length of an R&R is two weeks, but again, it’s up to the officer and their family.

There are a few other restrictions to keep in mind, but we have heard that if you have extenuating circumstances, there may be exceptions to these rules. You can’t use an R&R ticket until you’ve been at post for six months, and you can’t use a ticket in the last six months of your tour. You must use one ticket per year. So really, with us arriving in mid-May 2013, we couldn’t use our tickets until now, but we have to use one of our R&R tickets by May 2014.

A nice perk is that we don’t have to use our tickets at the same time. This is especially helpful for JR & I, because we plan to use his first R&R ticket to allow him to fly home when the baby is born. My flight at that time will be covered under the med-evac (I’ll do my best to explain the med-evac later). Basically, this meant that I have an R&R ticket to use or lose, and I’m only going to be here until late March, 2014. I’m also thinking that as I get further along in the pregnancy, international flights will be less comfortable/desirable.
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When we looked at the calendar to decide when it would make the most sense for me to visit home, we considered other factors like JR’s work and travel schedule, the holidays, and whether or not I could visit a local ob/gyn while I was home. For a while it looked like my trip may not happen due to ongoing budget issues and pesky paperwork details, but we got the final approval a few weeks ago!

So while yes, I could technically use my ticket to visit Florida, California or even Hawaii, if you know me, you know where I’m headed – O-H-I-O!!!

More London

Our first stop Friday morning was to walk across the Tower Bridge, and then take a tour of the Tower of London. The Tower is guarded by Yeomen Warders, more commonly known as Beefeaters, who are retired members of the Armed Forces and technically their job is to guard prisoners of the Tower. Now they act as tour guides, and we had a really enthusiastic and funny guide to show us around. We saw Traitor’s Gate, the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded, and the Crown Jewels. In a stroke of pure genius, they have those moving sidewalks (people movers, like in airports) that move slowly past the Crown Jewels display so that people can’t stand in front of each item forever and prevent others from seeing things. So smart, those Brits!
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After that we started the bus tour to see the the city. One unexpected sight while in London was the amount of signs promoting the NFL and people wearing NFL jerseys. There was a huge promotion of the NFL going on in the days leading to the game on Sunday where San Francisco was playing the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. One of the tour guides on the bus was explaining this game to the tourists and remarked that San Francisco was playing the “Jacksonville Jackals.” JR corrected the tour guide and said that they’re actually playing the “Jacksonville Jaguars” but he then went on to say “it doesn’t matter, the team’s rubbish anyway.”

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We saw several street performers – playing bagpipes, guitars and other instruments, but I was most impressed by these guys. I could have stared at them for hours! Seriously, how do they do that?

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We also did a walking tour called “Ghosts and Gaslight”. Our tour guide was fun and showed us around to several local pubs while telling us legends and ghost stories.

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JR tried a Sherlock Holmes Ale at this stop.

On our last night, I still hadn’t found my cheeseburger. I knew I needed to visit an American establishment to ensure I got what I wanted, and JR made quite a fuss when I suggested Five Guys. So, I convinced him to let us eat at the Rainforest Cafe (he’d never been to one before). Oh how I will pay for that choice. First, even though we went at a random time, it was beyond packed with kids running around screaming. JR kept saying “why are we eating at a Chucky E. Cheese in London??” I didn’t even care because my dinner was so delicious, and I followed it up with a fantastic dessert. I was also excited because they appeared to have fountain soda, which we never get here in Kosovo (or really in Europe anywhere). I had 3 Diet Cokes with my dinner and enjoyed each one. Free refills, hurrah! Until our bill came. We were charged 2.85 pounds PER Diet Coke.

I spent $14 in Diet Coke. Oops. JR’s face looked something like this.
shatner wtf

Overall, we had a great trip and hope we can visit again soon!