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.