Six Months

It’s hard to believe we’ve been living here for six months already. Time is going by so quickly. It’s especially crazy to think that in another six months or so, we’ll be talking about bidding on our next post (in addition to a few other life changes!). I bought two cartons of milk at the grocery store this morning, and when I got home, I put one in the fridge and one in the pantry, without thinking much of it. And then I realized how that is something I’d never do at home, but it’s perfectly normal here, because milk is different and can be stored at room temperature. Look at me adapting!

Work is going really well. Right now I’m working on a project involving youth leaders in Kosovo. Some figures estimate that more than half of the population of the whole country is under 25. Unemployment rates are also alarmingly high, around 45%. Young people are the future here (and everywhere, really) and there is no shortage of bright, motivated youths in Kosovo looking for opportunities to better themselves and their country. I’m also working on some of our educational and professional exchange programs. So far, I’ve had the chance to travel to a few different cities and I really love that I can see more of the country.

Last weekend was the 238th Marine Corps Ball which is an annual birthday celebration of the Marines and is usually one of the largest formal events each year for Embassy communities worldwide. It was fun to get all dressed up for a fancy night out with our friends and to witness the formal ceremony put on by our Marine Detachment here at post.

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In other exciting news, we hired a housekeeper! I made a rookie mistake by agreeing with JR that we wouldn’t hire a housekeeper until I had a job. I won’t fall for that again. But now we have a lovely lady named Yllka who will be coming once a week (hopefully twice a week soon, I just need to work on a power point presentation to convince JR of why that will be better for everyone). What Yllka lacks in texting ability, she makes up for with charm and excellent cleaning skills. It is the best feeling in the world to come home to a clean house. I still prefer to do my own laundry, but I happily hand over the ironing to her. I think I’d rather scrub floors than iron – I hate it that much.

Of course, I still feel this desire to clean before she comes. I don’t want her to think we’re slobs. For a few years when I was younger we had someone clean our house on Fridays. I always remember my mom’s rule – if your room isn’t picked up, the door stays shut and she’s not cleaning it. And then I’d have to do it myself. I didn’t understand it then. Why am I cleaning up BEFORE a housecleaner comes? But it stuck with me, and now I like to have things neat and put away before someone else cleans.

We also just got our first bulk order. So, we have an employee association here, and if you are a member, you get a few benefits like a discount on dry cleaning, discount at the commissary, and you can participate in the bulk order. Every few months, we get an e-mail with a few spreadsheets attached, listing out all of the items available for purchase. Then the association makes one large order through a military base in Germany, and a month or so later, the items arrive here. The spreadsheets are daunting. There are like 40,000 items available. And sometimes the name is written in shorthand, and you have to kind of guess exactly what it is, and how many you are actually ordering.

It’s also tricky because you are ordering in bulk (hence the name). JR does not understand why we needed 12 boxes of pancake mix. I, on the other hand, feel confident that we’ll eat them all. If not, we’ll give them out as gifts. One family ordered a CASE of mayonnaise, and they said they’ll eat every jar. A few other items we ordered:

– Roasted garlic triscuits
– tater tots
– texas toast
– pillsbury biscuits
– chicken noodle soup

Very happy we have an extra freezer!
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Our commissary recently had a Grand Opening. It’s a small store, but they’ve managed to fit a lot of stuff in there. I helped with ordering, and you can see that reflected in some of the items for sale, like Smucker’s Strawberry Jam, Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, more Diet Coke than I could drink in a year, and Oreos. It’s nice to have easy access to a few favorite items from home, and I think the commissary will do really well.

Hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving, but we’re looking forward to it!

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? 🙂