Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I could have added a couple more positive things about Guangzhou in that last post.  Like how many freaking restaurants there are here, and how a large majority of them have really cool interior designs.  It's like they go above and beyond expectations with their decor, adding anything from real trees with swings attached to them as the seats at your table, to koi ponds all over the place and small bridges to walk over.  I'm really impressed with their restaurants. 

And the food is good too! 

I've probably been to more Western restaurants than Chinese since arriving here, but the food has mostly been excellent (in my opinion).  I have only been to two Chinese restaurants to which I would consider going back.  I went to one of those Chinese restaurants for the first time last night.  I'm not sure what its actual name is, but it was a Tibetan Chinese restaurant, and it. was. AWESOME.  Now, I can be picky with the type of meat I'll eat - basically, if it's seafood, I'm probably not going to eat it...and don't try to make me.  If it's a land animal, I'll try it, as long as it's not some organs or stomach lining.  So when I saw that the menu was full of dishes made from Yak and Sheep meat, I was a little nervous.  Luckily two other people went ahead and ordered for us.  I'm glad they did, because otherwise I would have probably tried to find the only chicken dish on the menu, and I would have neglected to try the DELICIOUS yak steak and sheep/lamb leg.  I definitely recommend yak!

Along with our amazing food, we got to experience the very colorful decor (a bit different from normal Chinese decor, ...kind of reminded me of Latin America) and a singing/dancing show in which some of us took part (including me).  It was so much fun.  I can't wait to take visitors there.  I'm so excited to have found an actual Chinese restaurant that I'm excited about, even if it is representative of another part of China, far from where we're living right now, and a part of China that I probably won't ever get to visit due to restrictions by the Chinese government.  Bummer about that, but at least we can experience the food whenever we like!


I know it's been a bajillion years since my last post.  Not going to make excuses though.  I mean, the rest of June and most of July were pretty busy,... but since then things have really mellowed out.  So I really have no excuse for not posting.  I guess I was just nervous to, because despite how many times I say in public that I'm adjusting well to living in Guangzhou, the truth is that I don't really love it here.  By the way, I hate it when people ask me how I'm adjusting.  What am I supposed to say?  "This place sucks, I want to leave my husband here to finish his tour while I go back to the U.S. with our kid and look like the most selfish person on the face of the planet"?  Yea, I'd rather just lie.

I honestly am trying to figure out if it's a matter of culture shock, or if it's Guangzhou.  I'm hoping that going to Hong Kong this weekend will help me figure that out.  I feel like the fact that I have a degree in Anthropology and have spent time in other countries would help me a little bit with the culture shock thing since my whole degree is based on the fact that other cultures are cool.  I mean, I literally fell in LOVE with Quito when I spent 10 days there 3 years ago.  But of course, the other countries I learned about and visited were almost exclusively Latin American, and Italy.  None of which come close to matching Chinese culture, unless you count rice and noodles as food staples (I guess since the Italians got the idea for noodles from China, that counts a little bit).

Anyway. I currently believe that I might like almost any other Chinese post besides this one.  For one thing, it's humid and hot everyday.  And with the humidity comes mosquitoes, which I have always attracted in large quantities.  It's summer here, so that is to be expected.  But, I heard that the humidity doesn't really go away, and it stays pretty hot most of the year.  It's a tropical city though.  I'm a huge fan of Autumn, so that's kind of a bummer for me.  Also, they are doing shit-tons of construction right now while they get ready for the Asian Games in November (apparently the 2nd largest sporting event IN THE WORLD... second only to the Summer Olympics...and I bet you United States-ians have never heard of it, have you?  Yea, me either, until I moved here.).  Construction is really making the city look fugly, especially when they tear up curbs and sidewalks...this also makes it difficult to leave the house with a stroller-child.  But, maybe once the construction ban goes into effect on Sept 30, it will be better here.  Then there is the pollution, which is INSANE.  I've never seen anything like it.  It literally blocks out the sun some days.  I actually have a theory that the reason I haven't gotten sunburned here is because the pollution blocks out UV rays THAT well.  I haven't used any sunblock whenever I've gone outside and spent huge amounts of time in the sun.  Usually that's a big deal for me since I'm really pastey white and always burn, but I really think those UV rays are blocked by the pollution!  I guess that's good, but on the flipside, think of how much pollution there has to be for me not to get sunburned.  But again, once the construction ban is on and the Asian Games are about to start, the pollution will probably go down for about a month, so that will be nice.

I think the biggest thing I dislike about here is that I'm so far from old friends and family, and it's going to be so long before I see them again, even if I do see them on Skype.  But, I discussed my desire to move to Dallas and live out my last days amongst those friends in my last post.

There are a number of cool things about Guangzhou, but I feel like the cool things would be true for every Chinese post, and probably many Asian posts in general.  For one thing, salon and spa services are like 1/4-1/8 the price of what they would cost in the U.S.  For instance, I got a mani/pedi for $11 USD, and an 80-minute massage for $20 USD.  Those things are usually about $55 and $100 respectively back in the U.S. (well, not sure about the massage, but definitely sure about the mani/pedi!)!!  So that's awesome.  Also, we have household help.  Our ayi is just awesome.  She's playing with my son right now while I write this post.  She's so inexpensive too, and I think we pay her more than most families here pay their ayis... and she's still so cheap to have around!  It's so worth it to have her, because leaving the house here with a baby is SO difficult.  I already described why strollers are a pain in the ass.  The other pain in the ass parts of taking a child anywhere are:

1) You get swarmed by Chinese people who act like they've never seen a baby before (perhaps they've never seen a white baby?) and want to take pictures with him and touch him everywhere and hold him.

2) High-chairs in restaurants are not too common, so you either have to keep him in the stroller (which he hates unless he's moving or sleeping), or hold him on your lap (where he can reach EVERYTHING and wave it all around dangerously).

3) U.S. sized carseats generally don't fit in cabs here (nor do strollers that are bigger than an umbrella stroller), so we have to hold him on our laps (for dear life) when we take him places.  Aside from the obvious safety issues, we have a baby bouncing and crawling all over us the entire trip to wherever we're going.  He doesn't sit still, so it's really a huge pain in the ass to have to sit with him on my lap.

Anyway.  I don't like to be a downer, so I'll add to this that, despite my inability to speak Chinese, I'm not finding the whole language barrier thing to be tooooo terrible.  It's definitely not one of the reasons I dislike being here.  I've picked up a few phrases - I've learned how to direct a cab and say "I don't understand" whenever they ask me follow-up questions.  I use Google Translate to communicate with our ayi (even though she does know a little bit of English!).  And I'm planning to take some language classes sometime in the near future.

So I hope to enjoy it here soon, but I need to take it at my own pace.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bye Friends

Can I just take this opportunity to proclaim to the world (or... to the one or two people who actually read this) how much I love my friends?  Specifically, the friends I made in college and one I made before.

So our "goodbye tour" kind of started back in April when we went up to see our friend Chris in NYC.  Chris is in med school and currently doing rotations at a hospital in Brooklyn.  I've known OF Chris my entire life, at least since starting elementary school.  We went to the same church, same elementary school, and same high school (not the same middle school though).  He was a year ahead of me so we didn't become friends until my sophomore year of high school.  However, since becoming friends in 10th grade, we have remained incredibly close.  Aaron met him through church and school in 11th grade, and they pretty much hit it off as good friends from the start.  In fact, Chris was Aaron's Best Man in our wedding, and I would probably have had to make him my Maid of Honor if he wasn't the Best Man.  It's pretty much impossible to NOT like Chris though, and anyone who doesn't like him must just hate everyone and probably has a very sad existence.  Ahem.

But anyway, I expected to see him again after our trip to NYC before actually leaving for China, since his family lives about an hour from where we're currently living, and I figured he'd be back down to see them before July.  However, it's now exactly three weeks out from our departure date, and I still have no idea if we'll be seeing him again.  I hope we do, but, either way, our trip up to see him in NYC was just plain awesome.  I would recount it, but that would make this post even longer than it will probably end up being, so here's a picture from that trip:

I am so glad we got to take this trip up to see him.  We had been putting off going to NYC for years just because of how expensive it is to stay there, but knowing that we were about to move out of the country and knowing that Chris was living up there made us finally make the plunge, even though we had the added complication of having a 7-month-old accompany us.  But everything with Chris is so much fun!

So that was in April.  We held off on any more trips until the beginning of June, where, so far, we have taken two trips (and won't be taking any more until our journey to China begins).  Our first June trip was to Virginia Beach to visit our dear friends (who are Augie's Godparents), Bibi and Eddie.  We didn't actually go to the beach for more than 10 minutes, which is probably good since this is the reaction we got from Augie in those 10 minutes: 

He doesn't like the sound the waves make.  Maybe when he gets older!  So we spent our day there at Eddie's mom's house, and Augie got to swim in her pool, which he loved.


Augie had a great time visiting his Madrina and Padrino.  We had a great time too, and it was very sad to leave them knowing that we probably won't see them again for at least a year.  On average we see them about twice or three times a year, so we rarely go more than 6-months without seeing them.  But this time it's for longer.  I'm hoping that by the time we get back to DC, they will have moved up to the DC area since a lot of Bibi's interests lie in government-type work.  Aaron has known Bibi since high school, and I got to know her when I transferred to OU.  She's truly a special person in a great way, and she picked out one of the nicest people possible to be her husband, too.  We met Eddie a few months after they started dating, and we really had no problems accepting him as a friend, he is so funny and so much fun to be around.  Definitely can see how they ended up together, they are a perfect match!  So we love them both a lot (as evidenced by, if in no other way, the fact that we made them our son's Godparents) and hate to say goodbye to them for over a year.  But it is what it is.

Our second and last June trip was to Dallas this past weekend.  We did not bring Augie to this one, which sucks since these friends haven't met him yet, but it would have been too hard to have him with us.  We have four main friends in Dallas who we met in college.  Listed in order of meeting them - Josh, Sergio, Derek, and Heather.  These are the people we spent most of our time in college hanging out with and partying with.  Sergio and Aaron lived in a house together in Oklahoma, Josh stayed at this house often because there were many parties there and he and Sergio are best friends.  At one time or another Josh and I almost lived together (as friends, I was dating Aaron all through college), but unfortunately he ended up having to move back to Dallas before that could happen.  Derek, Aaron, and I met on a college mission trip our Junior year, and Aaron and I convinced Derek to move into this house (where Sergio was still living, but unfortunately Josh had already moved back to Dallas at that time).  Derek introduced us to Heather (his girlfriend at the time)after the mission trip, and Aaron and I went out often with Derek and Heather, and we all partied together very often.  In fact, Derek and Heather were both in our wedding as a Groomsman and were Josh and Sergio as ushers.  Later on after Aaron and I had graduated, Derek and Sergio moved in together, and then all of last year Derek and Josh lived together.  So the six of us are very interconnected, and very close friends.  I'm just as close with the guys as Aaron is to them, if not closer.  I've just always had an easier time making friends with guys than girls, which I hope does not get me into any drama one day now that I'm hanging around a lot of married people!  Everything is totally platonic though, always has been.  Making friends with Heather was easy though, which is why I know she's a very awesome and special person, and one reason why I value her friendship so much.  It's not always that easy for me to make friends with girls!

So our reason for being in Dallas this past weekend was Derek and Heather's wedding.  I think I mentioned this was happening in earlier blog posts.  Aaron and I were in this wedding (as were the other two friends, Josh and Sergio).  It was so beautiful, I am honestly made of stone but this wedding made me cry a lot.  I didn't shed a tear at my own wedding, but this one had me bawling for a few minutes.  We also had so much fun hanging out with our friends.  We always do though.

 Josh, Sergio, and Aaron

Derek, Heather, and Me

If I could chose to live in one place in the world, I would chose Dallas or as close to Dallas as we could get (I was really hoping that we'd get posted to a border town, but I guess it's safer that we didn't), just because of how many close friends we have there.  I'd seriously move there to be near them, that is how much they mean to me.  I think Aaron thinks similarly but doesn't like to think about it since it can't happen.  I hated saying goodbye to these guys, but I'm told that at least Derek, Heather, and Josh will try really really hard to come visit us in China.  So I hope that works out.  Either way, it's going to be at least a year before we see these guys again, which is longer than ever in the past (usually we see them two or three times per year).

It really sucks to be in long-distance friendships with basically all of our close friends, but I know that is a reality of the Foreign Service.  I just wish we hadn't had to start that reality 2 years before joining; we've been doing this since graduating from college, so we're really pros at this and had plenty of time to grow tired of it before A-100 started.  But we do love all of them, including the ones I didn't mention here because we didn't get to see them so they didn't fit into my "Goodbye Tour" theme.  And we can't wait to see them again, in 1 or 2 years.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Wow.  Is it really June?  I can't believe how quickly the months have gone by.  It seems like time was really dragging for a while, but now it's picking up at 4x the speed.  In exactly 5 weeks, we will be packing out.  In 5 weeks and 2 days we'll be heading to Seattle, and in exactly 6 weeks (and a few hours) we'll be boarding a plane in San Francisco headed for Guangzhou (via Shanghai). 

Mentally I'm as ready as I could possibly be.  However in most other aspects, not so much.  We have taken care of tenants for our apartment... well, the lease isn't signed yet, but they seem committed.  I'm going to assume that's going to work out, because I try to be optimistic (hopefully I didn't just jinx myself).  We will need to sell my car soon.  Maybe we can start that process after our trip to VA Beach this weekend.  Oh yea, and we'll need to categorize our crap and start packing.  Ugh, didn't I JUST do that?  At least I'm not pregnant this time.

Of course, finding the time and motivation to do all this will be the challenge.  We literally have something planned for every weekend until the weekend before we move.  Not that I need to save this stuff for weekends, but some of the plans for our weekends are going to take some prep time during the week, so that's where my motivation to prep for China is lost.  For instance, this weekend we're going to the beach.  Augie doesn't have a bathing suit yet, so I need to get him one.  And I need to wash clothes and pack for that.  Next weekend we're going to Dallas for our friends' wedding, so I'll need to unpack from the beach and repack for Dallas.  After that, we're not traveling again until we go to Seattle, so I guess it's safe to say that very little China prep will be done before we go to Dallas.  Hopefully the pressure of being less than a month away from leaving will be a good enough motivator for me/us by that time!

At least this past weekend was a pretty good and relaxing one.  Yesterday was Aaron's birthday, so I arranged for my parents to watch Augie on both Saturday and Sunday nights so that we could have a nice baby-free weekend.  (Sidenote: I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but my parents live in MD during the summer and AZ during the winter.. anyway, they are back in MD for the summer so they're only 45 min away.)  Saturday night, we ate dinner at Macaroni Grill (trying to hit up some American chains before we go to China), which I always enjoy, probably my favorite of the Italian-food chains.  Then, we went to see "Date Night" with Tina Fey and Steve Carrell.  I thought it was pretty good, definitely worth seeing.  I'm not sure it's worth seeing in a theater, but quite honestly, I only think action movies w/ crazy special-effects are worth seeing in a theater because of the big screen (I generally don't like to spend $11/person to see a movie if it's not worth seeing on a big screen...).  Although, one could argue that "Date Night" is an action comedy.  Anyway, I love both Tina Fey and Steve Carrell  so I'd definitely watch it again (at home).

After the movie, Aaron decided he wanted Cheesecake Factory cheesecake for dessert.  And he decided he wanted to go to the one in Clarendon.  But he parked in Ballston, thinking that it was in Ballston.  So we walked for about 45 minutes between Ballston and Clarendon (which isn't so bad if you're not wearing heels like I was...I seem to frequently make bad shoe choices).  At least we walked off some of our cheesecake before eating it!  The cheesecake was great, of course.  We did take the metro back to Ballston, my feet were not going to take another 45 minute walk back.   

On Sunday, we got up and went to church.  Then we just relaxed until about 4, when we went to see another movie, "Iron Man 2."  Before having Augie, we weren't frequent movie-goers, we'd usually see one in a theater every 6-8 months.  We've always rented a lot of movies, but rarely did we actually go to the movies since it's so freaking expensive.  Anyway, now that we have a baby and are barred from taking him to the movies (or at least, it's not something I'd ever attempt, I can't trust him to be quiet the whole time), we go see as many movies as we can fit into the time that he's being watched by my parents.  So we went to see movie #2, "Iron Man 2."  I liked it (of course anything with Robert Downy Jr. is great).  Aaron said he was disappointed and liked the first one better.  He said he liked "Date Night" a lot better than "Iron Man 2."  I don't know, I think he got his hopes up too much and expected more out of it.  I thought it was entertaining enough, so I am glad we saw it.

After the movie, we went to the other place we can't go with a baby - a bar!  We met up with a few people at The Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring, which is a bar w/ a great beer list, decent food, and good service.  It was a really good time, and I'm really glad people were able to come out.  I hope we can go back to that bar before we leave, but I am not sure it will be possible. 

Yesterday, on Aaron's actual birthday, I made him a cookie-cake (which ended up being more icing than cookie, but the icing was really good so I think he forgave me).  My parents brought Augie back around dinner time.  We had Filet Mignon steaks for dinner, made on our electric grill, followed by the cookie cake for dessert.  All in all,  I think Aaron was pleased with his birthday weekend (it was much better than last year, I have to say).  I know I had a good time!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Importance of Typos

We got our housing assignment for Guangzhou on Thursday.  It was great to find out where we'll definitely be living, to know it's 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms (well, 2.5 bathrooms, but I don't think we need 3 showers/tubs).  Of course, in the email from the housing FSN, she says that this 3br/3bath apartment is 996 square feet in size.  When Aaron told me that I basically blurted out "You're f***ing kidding me.  Tell me that's a joke.  You're kidding."  In Northern VA right now we currently live in a 1046 sqft apartment.  It's size has served us very well, but in finding out we were moving to a 25% hardship post, the very least I expected was that we'd get an apartment that was more than 1000sqft in size (in all honesty I was okay with 1200 or more, but less than that seems like we're getting shafted).  I would expect us to get a 996sqft apartment in Europe or somewhere with little to no hardship pay, but China?  So yea.  996sqft = me no happy. 

So I took a look at the layout.  Everything looks so huge!  How could it possibly be only 996 sqft??  The bedrooms don't look like they are the size of closets, and there is even a laundry room in the apartment.  The dining room looks to be bigger than the one we have now, and it's way more separated off from the living room than our current apartment.  I don't get it, how is it so small, it looks like it could be twice the size of our current apartment!  All night I was honestly pretty upset thinking about how tiny our apartment was going to be.

So Aaron sent an email to the actual apartment complex in Guangzhou where we'll be living, and inquired about the size of the 3-bedroom apartments, wondering if maybe the FSN got something wrong.  He received a response the next day saying that the 3-bedroom apartments are 185 square meters in size.  185 square meters.  That translates into about 1996 sqft!  We realized that the housing FSN must have left the 1 off in front of that 996.  That is a pretty important 1, that makes the apartment over twice as large as we thought it was going to be!  So in realizing that, my slight depression changed into exuberance, I don't know if I've ever really lived anywhere so big!  Definitely not since moving out of my parents' house.  And it makes much more sense too, the layout couldn't possibly fit into less than 1000sqft unless everything is the size of closets or something.

So when our friends who are also going to Guangzhou found out they, too, were getting a 3br/3bath apartment, the same FSN told them 996 sqft.  So another email has gone off to the apartment complex in Guangzhou to make sure that US Gov employees are not getting "special" apartments that are 1/2 the size of their normal 3br/3baths.  It is China, after all.  But I'm pretty confident we will be getting the 2000sqft apartments.  I'm not quite sure why the FSN hasn't fixed this typo yet, but I'm pretty sure either Aaron or our friends will be correcting her on this once we have confirmation on the size.  Maybe she is used to dealing with square meters and doesn't realize just how much of a difference 996 sqft and 1996 sqft is.  Either way, since I'm pretty sure it's 1996sqft, I'd just like to get there!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Yay Aaron!

Aaron took his Chinese test today, and got a 2/2!  Yay Aaron!  He needed a 2/1 to pass, so he outdid himself a little.  2/2 gets him some incentive pay, so he's doubly excited, and I'm proud of him.  Woohoo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


We have flights to Guangzhou!

I'm kind of excited about it.  It's hard to believe it's only 11 weeks away... more like 10 in some ways, since we're leaving for Seattle on July 8 and then just continuing the journey West (to end up in the East, that's funny).  That whole Seattle trip is going to be both insane and short... and insanely short, I wish we could be there a little longer, but oh well.

So yea, we'll leave July 8 at 8:00AM on a direct flight to Seattle.  We'll stay in Seattle until the evening of July 11.  On that evening, we will fly from Seattle to San Francisco.  We'll spend a full day (July 12) in San Francisco, Aaron will take care of some DHS appointments and hopefully we could do something fun and touristy since we'll be there afterall.  Then, on July 13 at 1:49PM we will take off out of SFO, heading to Shanghai.  We'll land in Shanghai around 5:30PM local time, then take a 2 hour flight from Shanghai to Guangzhou, arriving in Guangzhou at 11:10PM.  So unless visa issues hold things up, this is our plan!

As far as flights to Dallas for our friends' wedding... we're still working on that!  Hopefully we'll have those later tonight.  Aaron is talking to the groom at this moment.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Sometimes I wish that Texas would secede from the U.S.  I'm not from Texas, and I honestly don't think it'd be in Texas' best interests to secede.  But, if they did, then maybe we'd set up an embassy there.  And then, maybe Aaron could get posted there.  AND THEN.  We could finally live near the vast majority of our friends, which is where I'm going with this.  I suppose we could live in one of the Mexican border towns, though.  But they are so dangerous right now.  Maybe in a few years they will get better. 

Which brings me to a side-tangent:  On Aaron's bid list there were quite a few opportunities in Ciudad Juarez, and since Aaron studied Spanish for like 20 years (okay, more like 6), we knew it was a possibility for us to be sent there.  And because of all the drug killings in Juarez, we were a little concerned about that, because, you know, we want to not die.  Anyway, when we met with his CDO (same meeting as mentioned 2 posts ago), we mentioned our concerns about how dangerous Juarez is.  And she was like "What is everyone talking about?  I have no idea why people think Juarez is so dangerous.  It's perfectly safe there!"  And then about a month ago those consulate employees were killed in Juarez.  THAT is what everyone is talking about, you oblivious CDO. 

Anyway back to my original point.  We have just been missing out on so many cool things w/ our Dallas friends because of Aaron's job, and we are just going to miss out on more.  And it sucks.  And I miss them.  That is all.

Friday, April 16, 2010


So to follow-up on my last very angry post, I think that we've determined that it was all a power-play on the CDO's part.  Aaron talked to a friend at the mid-career level, and that's the only explanation they could come up with, since his whole proposal for changing his schedule seemed pretty reasonable.  And unfortunately there is nothing he can do about it since he's such a newbie.  So that sucks.  He is still exploring other options in order to at least get the Friday before the wedding off, so hopefully one of those works out since he'd really like to avoid getting any formal complaints or anything on his file, and since we'd at least like to make the rehearsal dinner.

I am wondering now if there is a system in place for people to review their CDO's?  Because I really think there should be, if there isn't.

EDIT: Update - I think the CDO felt bad about the whole "2 weeks paternity leave" thing, because she decided to go ahead and let Aaron change his schedule.  That's enough to bury the hatchet to me!  Yay guilt.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bureaucracy Everywhere

I am beyond angry at Aaron's supervisors.

I'm not even sure if it's worth explaining the situation, it's just such a complicated story, especially for anyone who is not involved in the Foreign Service life.

Basically, a year ago our incredibly close friends, Heather and Derek, got engaged and set their wedding date: June 12, 2010.  And they asked me to be a bridesmaid and Aaron to be a groomsman in their wedding.  Of course we accepted, we love them to death and they were in our wedding as well. 

Cut to August 2009.  Aaron is determining the order of his bid list, I am the biggest pregnant woman on the planet.  We (yes, as a "family friendly" organization, I got to go as well... now I'm pretty certain it was just for show) go to meet with his Career Development Officer (CDO) to discuss post possibilities and any concerns and preferences we have.  The CDO is basically his HR supervisor and determines where he'll be posted and his training schedule.  We brought up two very important issues relating to Aaron's yet-to-be-determined training schedule:  the baby I was weeks away from having and the fact that he was wanting to take a few weeks off for that whole situation (which he is allowed by LAW), and our friends' wedding in June. 

At the time of this meeting, his CDO acted as though she was going to be attentive to the baby situation and accommodate him in such a way that he would be able to take a few weeks off when he was born.
He was given Guangzhou, China as his post.
He was immediately put into Chinese language training.  When he asked his language teachers about the possibility of taking off for the birth of his son, his teachers laughed and told him that he'd definitely fall behind and would most likely delay his post arrival date, and that they really recommended he try to miss as few days as possible.  So when the time came for Augie to be born, Aaron took off the entire day that he was born, which was a Monday.  Then he took a half day on the day that we got to take Augie home from the hospital, which was a  Thursday.  Literally, the bare minimum.  He was at work every other day.  Take note of this because the issue will come up later.

In regards to the wedding, during that fateful meeting back in August, she told him not to worry about it now, but that if he was in Consular General (ConGen) Training at the time of the wedding, to try to make up the days he'd miss prior to missing them (ConGen is a 31-day course that teaches him how to do his real job, and doesn't allow you to take vacation leave).
It turns out that Aaron WILL be in ConGen at the time of the wedding.   So Aaron went to talk to the director of the ConGen program about preemptively making up those days.  He said that they DO NOT ALLOW THAT, and would like CDO's to STOP SUGGESTING THAT THEY DO.  He also said that he cannot grant vacation leave for that time.  We would both like for him to be able to take off maybe a half day on Thursday, and then the entire day of Friday before the wedding so that we can actually attend the pre-wedding events that we SHOULD go to considering we are IN the wedding.  Plus we want to be there!  They are our friends, people we rarely see now, and may not see for 2+ years after we go move to China. Aaron asked if there was any way he could get into an earlier ConGen course that would make it easier for him to make it to the pre-wedding events.  The director told him that would be fine, if he was able to pass his language test.  So after kicking ass at his Chinese progress test (which is similar to the language test he has to pass), he decided that he could definitely pass the real language test.  The Chinese teachers agreed, and scheduled him for a test on April 29 so that he could start his ConGen course on April 30.

So everything sounds like it's working out right?  I mean, all the people who would be involved in this whole schedule change seem fine with it, right?
Enter his CDO.
When he contacted his CDO to clear this whole thing with her, she said NO.  He asked WHY?  In her first email she said the reason he could not change his schedule was that there were no seats available in any other ConGen course.  So Aaron looked it up, and it turned out that there were 3 seats available in the course he was looking at.  So she wrote back, saying that the reason he cannot change his schedule was because he needed approval of the language department (basically their word that they felt he could pass the test).  So Aaron told her that they had actually been proactive in scheduling him for a language test and that he could easily get a more formal approval if needed.  So then she wrote back again with two new reasons for why he couldn't change his schedule: 1) that it would waste taxpayer money because it would create "gap" days, days where he's not in training or at post, and 2) that they already accommodated him for one timing issue.

Let's address separately the reasons for why these reasons are ridiculous (especially reason 2!!!!).

Reason 1 is just total BS.  If he has any gap days, he wouldn't be on per-diem, so that wouldn't waste any taxpayer money.  If he has nothing to do to prepare for post, he would be at State working in an office.  Basically, he'd only be getting paid his salary if he was doing something  related to his job.  Otherwise, he'd be taking leave.  In fact, since they won't allow him to change his schedule, he might end up actually wasting taxpayer money since if he misses those days for the wedding, he might have to delay his arrival at post to make up what he misses.

Reason 2 is probably the most infuriating reason thus far.  Aaron was confused by this reason, and replied asking for a clarification on what exactly she was referring to.  She replied, saying that he took more than 2 weeks of paternity leave when I had Augie.  SAY WHAT?  Two weeks?? Yes, that is how much I begged him to take, that is how much we discussed that he'd take before he got his training schedule and before this b put him in CHINESE LANGUAGE TRAINING.  Chinese is arguably the hardest language in the world.  It's definitely among the top four (other 3 being Japanese, Korean, and Arabic).  The reason is arguably the hardest is because it lacks what just about every other language has - a freaking alphabet.  So this woman thinks that she was ACCOMMODATING to both me and him by starting his training into the hardest language in the world a week before his son was born.  On the day that he found out we were moving to China, she actually came up to me and asked me why I looked upset.  The nerve.  I was too nice at the time to tell her "because we're moving to freaking China, and because his training schedule makes it impossible for him to take leave when our son is born!!  Which is the opposite of what we talked about at our meeting!!!"  I would go back in time and tell her now.

SO yea.  She thinks that she accommodated him by putting him in Chinese training starting the week before Augie was born, and she thinks that he actually took 2 weeks off from Chinese training (because what, he's suicidal??).  For one, he most certainly did not take off for two weeks at that time.  As I stated before, he took off for one and a half days.  But also, he is allowed that time BY LAW, so even if he had taken that time, she cannot use that against him!  What gets me, is that on these emails she is saying all this, and HER supervisor is CC'd, and just agreeing with her!

So yea.  Aaron wrote back telling her, once again, how wrong she was.  He got a reply from her supervisor basically saying that he needs to stop emailing.  Didn't even admit to being wrong about the paternity leave thing.  I am just so irate it's not even funny.

So we still don't know when we're getting to our friends' wedding.  But apparently he should have just called in sick after the fact.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Travel Wishlist

Travel wishlist (within China, anyway) for while we're in China... this is where I'd like to go in the 2 years that we'll be living in Guangzhou:


Taiwan (Taipei)

Hong KongMacau

I'll make another list later of places I'd like to go outside of China.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring is here

I know in my last post I said I'd make a post about Augie's birth story and about the visitors we've had and trips we've taken between October and now. It's been so long since any of that happened, though, that I don't really know how interesting it is anymore. I think anyone interested has heard about the birth story. It did start out funny - having my water break as I was walking out of the Labor & Delivery ward. But if you are really interested just comment and I'll make my next post about that. Honestly no one reads this yet, I'm planning to make it public once we get to Guangzhou, which is when I intend to make these posts both more often and more interesting.

In a nutshell, Augie was born September 14, 2009.

Aaron's parents and little sister visited for 5 days in October, and then our good friends Bibi, Eddie, and Jennifer came to visit later in October for Augie's Baptism (Bibi & Eddie are his godparents).

In November we took two trips. Aaron and I decided to take a spur-of-the-moment trip out to Dallas to see our friends from college - Derek, Heather, Josh, and Sergio. My parents were more than willing to take Augie for the weekend. We had a blast in Dallas, as we normally do. They really know how to have a great time out there.

At the end of November, we headed out to see Aaron's family for Thanksgiving in Spokane, and Augie got to meet his Aunt Zoe, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Anthony, and cousin Samantha. This was also Augie's first trip on a plane. He did really well on the way there, but was a little more fussy on the way home. He was fussy and hardly slept the whole time we were in Spokane too. I blame it on the timezone change, and possibly on the bitter cold temperatures (Aaron's dad doesn't like to put the heat on too high in the winter, so the house was at or below 68 degrees except for when Aaron sneakily turned it up). Luckily he went back to sleeping through the night as soon as we got back to Virginia.

Christmas was spent with my family in Maryland.

In January, Augie stayed with my parents again while Aaron and I met Derek, Heather, and Josh in Las Vegas. Once again, we had a blast with our Dallas pals. I couldn't have had a better time in Vegas, and I can't wait til we can go back someday.

After we got back from Vegas, my parents left to drive out to their retirement home in Phoenix, AZ. In mid-February, we took a trip out to visit them.

It was so nice out there, their house was gorgeous and the weather was fantastic. Since the DC area had been hit by 3 major snowstorms over this past winter, I was ready for nice warm weather, so I was definitely happy to get to Arizona. We went hiking and took nice walks, it was a great time. This was Augie's second experience flying. On the way out there, Aaron was with me, and Augie was a giant pain in the ass. He wouldn't sleep, and he was exhausted, so he just cried and cried the whole time on the 4-hour flight. I was planning to stay in Phoenix longer than Aaron was able to, so I was terrified of how Augie was going to be with just me on the way back. Well I really lucked out - when I was going to check Augie's carseat, I found out that it was $50 to check it with checked baggage, or free if I checked it at the gate. Naturally, I decided to go with the free option, so I carried it with me (while carrying the rest of my crap and Augie in his Baby Bjorn carrier) through security. When we were getting onto the plane, the gate attendant told me that since the plane was only half-full, I could carry the carseat on and give Augie his own seat. Augie getting his own seat was the best thing that has ever happened to me while flying. He was perfectly happy in his carseat, and he even was able to sleep when he got cranky! IT WAS WONDEFUL. This makes me feel a little better about the 20-hour flight we'll be taking in a few months, since he'll get his own seat for that flight too.

Speaking of which, I am feeling much better about the move to China. I'm actually looking forward to getting there now, I just want to get it over with and get there. The flight and the packing and all that is going to suck, but I think it'll be a good time once we get there. I've even started planning out a couple of trips once we get there. For instance, it's only a 3-4 hour flight to Singapore from Guangzhou, and Aaron is off for a few days around my birthday for China National Day or some holiday, so I was thinking we'd go to Singapore to celebrate my birthday! And then he gets off for 5-7 days for the Lunar New Year, so I was thinking we could go to Thailand for that. We'll also try to make it to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand while we're in China, as well as the other Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and some other places. And of course we'll make frequent trips to Hong Kong and Macau since they are only about 1-2 hours away.

We still have a few things planned for our time left here in Virginia, though, before we move to China. For starters, we're taking a trip up to New York City to visit our good friend Chris who is in med school at a hospital up there. We'll be going there April 22-25. Then, June 4-6 we are going to Virginia Beach to see Bibi, Eddie, and Jennifer (and maybe Jon, Jennifer's fiance). And then the next week, June 12, Heather and Derek are getting married, so we will head out to Dallas (without Augie) to see our Dallas pals one final time before moving to China. After that we'll be packing up and figuring out logistics as Aaron finishes his training. Then, July 8, we should be leaving to visit Aaron's family in Seattle (his parents, Annette, Jim, Zoe, Anthony, Samantha, and HOPEFULLY new baby-girl Singleterry if she decides to come a little early). We will spend about 3 or 4 days in Seattle, and then head to either L.A. or San Francisco for DHS consultations. Then, on ...July 14? I can't remember which date exactly, but I think it's the 14th... we will head to Guangzhou. That flight isn't finalized yet, but I just know it won't be non-stop so we'll either stop in Tokyo, Beijing, or somewhere else on the way. So that is that!

Okay this is long.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Been a while

So yea. I meant to update this months ago but, well, I lose track of time. I guess the one advantage of working was that I was forced to sit in front of a computer all day (with very little to do) so I could easily find the time to update. However, after that last day of work, life got pretty hectic.

For starters, on that Monday, August 31, Aaron and I found out that we are being sent to Guangzhou, China, in July 2010. It's been taking me a while to accept that, even now in February 2010, I am having a hard time with it. I was totally convinced we'd be going to Latin America. I've been to Latin America and I'm comfortable with Latin America. Hell, I know enough survival Spanish to get by pretty well. Plus, the plane ride to get to China is over 15 hours long, even if it's nonstop. I'm really uncomfortable with that, if we were staying in this hemisphere I think the absolute longest we'd have to be on a plane would be 12 hours, maybe. For someone who flies pretty often, I have a very strong hatred for planes. Anyway, the one good thing out of us going to a post that I never wanted to go to (or at least, I was willing to go as our 2nd or 3rd tour, but not our first), means that our 2nd tour to be to a place of MY choosing. Aaron said that I get to pick it, order the bid list, and everything. So, my first pick will be Spain. Aaron never wanted to go to Europe, but I did, so if there are jobs in Spain, he's bidding on them. Barcelona or Madrid. Thank goodness for consulates! Second and third choices will be Chile and Argentina respectively. Aaron has no problem with that. Actually Aaron doesn't have a problem with any other Latin American posts I've picked, just Spain. But I do hope very much that we get Spain.

Okay so there's that, we're moving to China. Also, 2 weeks after I started my maternity leave (or exactly 1 week early), I went into labor! Augustine (Augie) was born on Monday, September 14, 2009, at 7:00(ish) AM. I guess my next post will be his birth story. He's now 4.5months old, and pretty much the best little kid in the entire world (especially since he's been sleeping through the night since he was 2 months old!). He has kept me pretty busy though.

We also had a ton of visitors in October, and then we took a bunch of trips between November and January. Actually, we're taking another one later in February. I'll make a post about those visitors and trips in the near future. I have to go flip Augie over, he's stuck on his stomach.