Congratulations, Shannon and Ryan!

Wow it felt sooo good to see everybody over the weekend!  I have missed you all tremendously and was in major need of hugs.  A weekend was definitely not enough time - it was really weird to leave knowing you all were going back to Des Moines and I was going back to DC but Joey and I have such a jam-packed schedule coming up, Christmas will be here before we know it!  This weekend is my big marathon (getting nervous!), next weekend Mal and Steve are coming (yay!), then two weeks after that Lizz is coming for Thanksgiving (yay!), the next weekend our friend Lauren is coming (another yay!) and then Christmas is only three weeks away - and our move to Nigeria!  And one of the few empty weekends in there I think our friend Bill is coming to visit too so time is definitely going to fly.

Shannon, you were a beautiful bride and I loved your dress!  The wedding was intimate and gorgeous and Joey and I were really glad to have been able to be there.  And Ryan, the blueberry cupcakes were awesome!  We also really enjoyed our weekend in New Orleans.  What a cool city - from the stunning architecture to all the different street performers, from the rich food and unique cocktails to the coolest cemeteries I have ever seen, New Orleans and all of her charming residents were a welcome change from the "Northern charm and Southern efficiency" (JFK) of DC!

A "2nd Line" Procession
The preparation of "The Green Fairy" cocktail, made with Absinthe!
The taste of "The Green Fairy" cocktail
Seriously, does it get any cooler than this?
From a balcony on Bourbon St., about midnight.   People were just getting warmed up.

MMM!  Yummy beignets at Cafe du Monde tasted like funnel cake - perfect with chickory coffee!

When I returned home Monday, it was business as usual.  Moe had locked himself in the bathroom (went in for a drink of water and accidentally shut the door behind him with his cone) and somehow managed to claw the door frame beyond recognition.  His tail was also kind of bleeding through his bandage, and the vet recommended bringing him in, so after Joey got off work in Virginia (4 pm), he drove home to DC (5 miles, 40 min), picked up Moe and me, drove back to Virginia (5 miles, 30 min) to the vet.  The vet said everything was okay and actually moved up his appointment to get his sutures out to Thursday instead of next Monday - yay Moe doesn't have to wear his cone all weekend!  So then we drove back to DC (5 miles, 40 min), where we dropped Moe off, picked up some African beer and headed back to Virginia (you got it, another 5 miles, 40 min) for the 156th African potluck.  Just another day in the life!

Our dinner was actually quite enjoyable.  All of the people in Joey's A-100 class who got posted to Africa were in attendance, and most brought food from their country or the region.  I have to admit - I liked everything I ate!  Everybody shared their hopes and anxieties about their postings and it was really reassuring to know I'm not the only one who is apprehensive.  I also heard an even worse could-be-worse tale that I thought I'd share because this one makes Niger sound tolerable.

Single woman, 24, sent to Central African Republic.  Post size: 5.  Other 4 Americans?  Middle aged men.  Living situation?  Studio or 1 bedroom apartment, shared with another FSO.  Computers: None.  Not even in the embassy.  Apparently they are always stolen so no computer, no internet for two years - in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa!  Told to bring a gun.  Also told not to go anywhere alone or she will be raped.  Finally, told to bring all of her food for two years.  That's right.  Canned food.  Canned meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit.  Two years.  Nigeria is starting to look pretty nice!  (By the way, this woman is apparently in Joey's training and he says she is exceptionally positive about her move - she said everyone keeps asking her how she's doing and she says she is fine - no big deal - she is ready.  I can tell you straight up right now - no flipping way.  If that was Joey's post?  Honey, I love you, have a great time in Africa.  I'll see you in two years.  She is a waaaay better person than I.  That is probably why she is a diplomat and I am not.)

I thought I would start sharing some facts about Africa.  Today I got a Sherman's Travel Bulletin with the Top 25 Travel Deals for the week.  One of them was a Kenyan safari.  So I looked to see how much a ticket from Abuja to Nairobi would cost.  $1600!?!  Why?  Well, I looked at a map and Kenya is on the opposite side of Africa as Nigeria.  Which is 2137 miles.  Just to put that in perspective, the driving distance from San Francisco to Chicago is 2135 miles, and on American highways that would take you 31 hours and 18 minutes.  And both Nigeria and Kenya are situated where the African continent starts to narrow out.  Here's a great map I found to provide a frame of reference. 


How Moe Lost his Tail

A tired Moe and his little nub
Moe lost his tail yesterday.  He still has a little nub - a little longer than George's - but the long, bloody whip that was his tail is gone. 

When we went to pick him up at the vet, the technician sat with us for about fifteen minutes to go over all of his medications and care for his wound.  After explaining everything, she went back to go get him.  Moe and his giant cone burst through the door, flailing everywhere and dragging the poor little technician behind him.  While she was doubled over with both hands on the leash trying to hold onto him, he had already managed to lose his bandage.  So after a quick greeting, the technician picked the bandage up off the floor and took Moe back for bandaging round two.  When he came flailing through the door the second time, she was holding the cone - she suggested that maybe one of us sit in the back of the car with him to prevent him from licking his tail - and she told us to feel free to call in fifteen minutes when the bandage came off again.

A very sleepy Moe snuggling his very sleepy Daddy snuggling his very adept, contortionist photographer wife on our very small couch

Banging his cone into the door
We took Moe for a little walk before putting him in the car; he kept wobbling off curbs.  We're not sure if its the cone, the loss of his tail or the drugs - probably a combination of all three - but his balance was pretty off.  Today it seems better and so far the bandage has held, but man he hates the cone.  Last night he just stood there and kind of moaned whenever he was wearing his cone.  Today he alternates between pouting and running around the house trying to smash it off - banging it into the doors, walls, furniture - much like he used to do with his tail come to think of it...
This morning, pouting.


Pics from lately

This was taken by our friend James the day after Flag Day. 
We spent Columbus Day at Mount Vernon
The back of Mount Vernon - facing the Potomac - despite all the people it was exceptionally peaceful there.
Also at Mount Vernon
The next day we caught a glimpse of our current president.

At Coco Sala, a chocolate boutique and restaurant.  My champagne flight is in the foreground - Joey's scotch flight is in the background.  We went for their three-course "dessert experience."  Talk about fat girl heaven.
Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian American History Museum
At the National Building Museum - they were setting up for a benefit dinner.

Okay seriously, this is just not right - I can't decide who is more fearless - the squirrel for getting so close to a human or Joey for getting so close to a squirrel - ew!

Since we went to Mount Vernon last weekend I thought it only fair that we visited Monticello this weekend.  I didn't realize that it was a 2 1/2 hour drive...oops.

A giant bumble bee at Monticello

The view at Monticello - wow


Swearing In

Taking the oath
Joey was officially sworn-in to the State Dept yesterday. His brother, Ricky, and I watched as he took his formal oath.  The ceremony was nice - short and sweet - and it was really neat to hear them read the names of each newly sworn-in officer and where they are all going.
The 156th A-100 class (and a few ambassadors in front)

I thought I'd share a could-be-worse story.  One of Joey's classmates, Jeff, was assigned to Libreville, Gabon, on Flag Day.  I was envious; Libreville was our favorite African post since its not very dangerous and you live right on the beach.  Since Libreville is French-speaking, Jeff, who doesn't speak French, anticipated arriving sometime next summer, once he had completed his French courses here.  Thursday morning Jeff received an email from his CDO (career development officer), which said something like "Give me a call ASAP, hope you're flexible :) "

Jeff called his CDO, who said that it turned out the Libreville posting had actually already been filled and so they were going to need to send Jeff to Niger.  Before Christmas.  Double-whammy.

Niger, Nigeria's neighbor to the northwest, is 98% Muslim, which doesn't work out so well for Jeff, who is gay.  When we talked to him yesterday after the swearing-in, he was still pretty shell shocked.  He said that the post reports recommended buying a horse.  His partner, Michael, also seemed exceptionally overwhelmed and told me he wasn't so sure if he was going to accompany Jeff or not.  Whatever they choose, I wish them nothing but the best.

And now I am very, very, very happy we are got posted to Nigeria and not Gabon.


Cut It Off

Its time.  After two and a half years of Moe's bloody tail, we finally decided it is time to just cut it off.  I think its fair to say we have literally tried everything.  When Moe's tail first started bleeding two and a half years ago, we still lived in our townhouse.  The vet called it "Happy Dog Syndrome" and told us to keep him in the center of the room.  So after Moe used his tail to decorate the townhouse much like an ax murderer would (huge splatters and brushes of blood), we decided we needed to move.  Immediately. 

So we bought a house with a big yard and it helped.  Initially.  But, especially in the winter months, his tail would bleed intermittently and I'd resign myself to going around the house with Lysol wipes every week or so, wiping down walls, doors, woodwork - pretty much everything Moe's tail touched.  Which was pretty much everything.  We learned that if we left him out of the kennel, it helped quite a bit, so for about a year we didn't have too much incident with the tail.  Then we had to put the  house on the market, which meant no more kennel-free getaways for Moe.  His tail began bleeding again and by the time we moved downtown, it had gotten really bad. 

We took him to a different vet who used "laser therapy" to help heal his tail, but also advised us to keep him out of the kennel.  Well that was no problem in our big, industrial loft which was not only impossible for him to destroy but the concrete acted as a nice sound barrier, so he could bark as much as he wanted.  Not so much here, in our teeny tiny and decorated entirely in white rowhouse, of which we only occupy the first floor.  So not only does the woodwork on the windowsill take a beating whenever someone walks by (um every three minutes), but the family below us and the guy above us hear about it too, courtesy of Moe.  As such, he has to be kenneled when we're not home, so when we do get  home, it results in the now time-honored ritual of me chasing after his tail with a Lysol wipe, trying to remove the blood from the white couch, white comforter, and white carpet before it stains.   Despite all this, however, I was unwilling to consider amputation - I'm unemployed (blissfully) and its not like it really puts me out to clean the blood - except when it gets on my clothes and I have to take them off immediately to rinse with cold water and wash - but the hardest part about that is finding a new outfit - really, my life is rough - unwilling, until this past weekend. 

Joey and I have tried bandaging his tail in the past.  Usually it stays on for all of three minutes, sometimes it might last for an hour and one time we tried duct tape and it lasted for a day (the poor dog looked like he had an antenna).  We decided that since duct tape had been successful in the past, we'd try it again.  So Joey bought black duct tape (so rather than the tin man styling he looked more dominatrix - and when that tail hit you it felt more dominatrix too), and we wrapped that sucker so tight it was going nowhere.  Moe was not a big fan of the duct tape and steadily worked to get it off - and had kind of worked through the tip - but a few days later it was still holding steady.  Then the crying started.  Before, whenever Moe hit his tail on anything, he seemed pretty oblivious.  A few days into the duct tape and he started crying when his tail hit things - which is a lot.  He has happy dog syndrome, remember?  So we tried to get the duct tape off but Moe wouldn't let us near his tail.  We kept trying to unravel it and he was having nothing of it, so being the mean parents we are, after two days of Moe crying and not letting us help, we decided to take him outside (which he believes to be super scary), and cut it off (the duct tape, not the tail).  So on Saturday when we got it off and found a very raw, swollen, tip of his tail.  Of course he keeps licking it and his tail is so long its not like we could put a cone on him because he could still reach it (we learned this with Tina and his hotspot), so Tuesday I called the vet.

We went this morning and the really nice vet and I talked a little about how his tail has been pretty chronic and how we're leaving soon for Nigeria and pretty much decided that its time.  So Monday morning my poor baby goes under the knife - they're cutting off like 6 inches!  We'll pick him up Monday night and she said he should be doing pretty well.  She also said that he'll be okay by that Friday, when we leave for New Orleans,
so lets keep our fingers crossed for that!  (I have a whole diatribe on trying to find a kennel in this town but I'll save that for later).


Need Ice Cream

I'm having a bad day.

First, I signed up last week for a photography class, "DC Photo Safari."  It started today at 9:45 and who was fifteen minutes late even though she left half an hour early because she walked past the meeting point?  Oh, me.  I forgot the stupid diagonal streets in this town mean that just because one side of the street is one name, the other side isn't necessarily the same street!  Take for example, Pennsylvania Avenue.  Kinda hard to miss, seeing as the White House is on it, right?  Well I figured that because you take New York Ave to get to the White House, the other side of the White House must be the Pennsylvania side since that is New York Avenue.  Um, no.  So I walked past Pennsylvania Avenue, right past my group, an extra three or four blocks until I passed the other side of the White House...luckily by then the instructor had called and directed me back to where I needed to be.

Then, maybe ten minutes into the photo class, my battery started losing juice.  Within an hour it was completely dead.  Come on!  So I got some pictures but none using the time I would have liked to compose them and none actually employing the techniques we learned today.  At least I had already gotten the instructor to agree to let me attend the afternoon session next week so I didn't have to leave the dogs unattended all day, so I will have a fully charged battery next time, but still!

After discovering a great salad place, Chop't, I headed home to let the dogs out.  I took Moe and George separately over to the little "dog park" by our house.  I came back inside to discover I had stepped in shit.  It was all over my shoe and pant leg.  Disgusting.

Then I got my period.

Then, after a trip to the grocery store, I attempted to stop at a dessert place, because chocolate was very called for at this point.  In parking the car I almost ran over a biker, who knocked on the window of the car to tell me so. 

The dessert place was closed, so in a last-ditch attempt to make the day better, we stopped at CVS for Ben & Jerry's.  They closed 4 minutes earlier.   Now I am ice cream-less, hormonal, and crabby, and just spent the last half hour scrubbing shit off my shoe and blood off the carpet (because of course Moe's tail is bleeding).


Seriously, Nigeria

Before,  full of hope and promise
All of the flags to be handed out.  I didn't even know what the Nigerian flag looked like before Friday.  I also didn't know where the hell Abuja was, let alone Nigeria. 

I don't even know how to start this post.  Let me see if I can draw a picture in your mind.  Picture me, clad in a camel pencil skirt, silk blouse and 4 inch leopard-print platform pumps, sitting in a crowded room of people, and receiving the news that in less than three short months, I will be moving to Ni. Ger. I. A.

I just looked at this picture.  Could I look any fuglier?  My big zit on my forehead is even more excited than I am to go to Nigeria.  In case you can't tell from this picture, Joey is deer-in-headlights and I am trying not to cry.

Oookay so yes, when Joey passed the oral interview in March he signed several forms stating his "worldwide availability."  And then when he started work he signed several more and throughout the bidding process was continually reminded that you are "worldwide available."  And sure, I joked about going to Africa, but let's be serious.  Worldwide available meant Costa Rica.  Or Europe.  I mean my idea of camping is sleeping on the couch.  I don't do bugs and snakes and who the hell knows what's in Nigeria.  Actually, here's the thing.  We bid thirty posts high.  We didn't get a high post.  I had looked into the African posts that we bid high and they were cool.  On the beach, lots of culture - Nigeria?  Doesn't so much have that.  Nigeria is more of the car bomb and scam you out of your money realm.  Take for example, our cab driver Friday night.  He was from Ethiopia.  We told him we were moving to Nigeria and he told us to be careful.  He said it was rough.  The dude is from Ethiopia and he says Nigeria is rough.  I am from Iowa!  I think the East Side of Des Moines is rough! 

So after pouting Friday night, Saturday morning we decide to read some of the post reports - maybe it'll be cool.  Not so much.  Every post report written talks about how boring it is there, how even those with the best attitudes end up depressed and how it is corrupt and dangerous.  F***!  At this point I'm bawling and hiding under the covers and Joey doesn't even know what to do.  After laying in bed until 3 Saturday afternoon, Joey finally coaxed me out to do a little commisserating with some of his friends.  Turns out only one of them really got the post she wanted (bitch got Paris).  The rest all would prefer to be somewhere else - we joked before Flag Day that the placement officers played darts with the bid list and our names but it appears that is exactly how they choose where you're going.  Sure, this job is a great management opportunity for Joey but HELLO not a good living opportunity for his wife.  I know I shouldn't be this negative and get all of you worked up and I'm trying really hard to remind myself that we signed up for this and that it'll be okay and it's only two years and we get mega equity from this post so the next one we're virtually guaranteed to go where we want (WESTERN EUROPE) but its still a hard pill to swallow.  I think the part that makes it hardest is we move right after freakin Christmas.  We both really thought we'd be in DC through Spring and possibly into Summer and now that I finally feel comfortable here I have to leave.  TO GO TO NIGERIA.  Then Friday when we got home my box from Amazon had arrived with all the guidebooks and maps to DC that I ordered. 

Anyways, I'm going to make the most of it.  I think I'm going to try to get a part time job at the Embassy and look into some volunteer opportunities.  I guess since they speak English that's one less aspect of culture shock...and we have a lot to do in the meantime - figure out a car, figure out how to get the dogs there, figure out our consumables shipment (2500 lbs of dog food, shampoo, cleaner, etc. since its so hard to get there), and get immunized.  Apparently I have a lot of shots to look forward to.  Which just adds salt to the wound because I don't really want that shit put in my body, not to mention the malaria pills I'll have to take weekly but I'm trying really really really hard to be positive - at least I'm not bawling or catatonic anymore....

On a positive note, I had an amazing 20-mile run yesterday.  It took me 20 minutes less than the time before and I'm ready to kick ass at the marathon.  It must be an infusion from Nigeria....


Tomorrow is Flag Day!

Wow I've been kind of slacking on my blog.  I suppose that's a good thing since it means I've been keeping busy with things other than blogging, Facebook and John Stewart reruns.  Hmm where should I start...first of all, a very happy and belated birthday to my beautiful godson, Levi.  On your birthday, last Monday, I thought about you all day and then this happened:

and I was overwhelmingly sidetracked.  As excited as I was for my coats, Ugg boots and hangers, I didn't realize exactly how much of everything else there was.  400 lbs of stuff doesn't seem like a lot when they pack it from your 1800 sq ft apartment but when they deliver it to your 900 sq ft apartment it seems like more than a lot.  So after three days of procrastinating, I finally went at it the way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.  Now my living room looks like this:
and the second bedroom is full of boxes....

Friday night our friend James introduced us to the coolest bar, The Gibson.  Its a prohibition-style speakeasy and if you were walking down the street you would never be able to find it.  Standing outside of what looks like a completely abandoned storefront was a man in a tie with a notepad.  James asked the man if he had room for two and the man sent someone inside to check.  We were in luck, and so the man in the tie escorted Joey and me (James had another engagement) into a hallway and then through another door to the coolest bar I've ever seen.  It was completely candlelit with black walls and glass tables and dark leather booths with little red accents everywhere - we were led through the bar to this fabulous patio with strung lights, little round tables and more candles.  Then there was the menu.  Though we're talking major DC cocktail prices here (hello $15 for a drink), I found the holy grail of cocktails: ALCOHOL AND GELATO FLOATS.  There was a whole section of drinks made with homemade gelato - and wow they actually tasted better than they sounded.  So two drinks each later, we waited in line with several other slightly inebriated yuppies at Ben's Chili Bowl (apparently one of Obama's favorites - as evidenced by the sign on the register that read "The only people that eat free here are Bill Cosby and the Obama Family), a U Street favorite since 1958, so Joey could get a chili dog and chili cheese fries (I ate the fries that didn't get coated in chili - ew).

Saturday morning joined several other members of Joey's class at the Black Ankle Winery in Maryland for a wine tasting.  

The day was so beautiful we decided it should be spent sampling all of the wines Maryland had to offer, so along with one of his classmates, Danye, we went to three or four other wineries in the area.  Danye interned with State three times before officially joining the foreign service, so while we drove between wineries she told us about her stays in Thailand and Japan (her third was in DC).  She also introduced me to a phrase that I think will become part of my vernacular: "that's my fat girl heaven" (in reference to cheesecake and ice cream).  I'm not sure what isn't my fat girl heaven, but gelato is definitely on the list. 

Saturday night we decided to check out the Moroccan restaurant by our house.  When we got there, starving, I almost ate Joey's hand because the restaurant has no windows and the big, forboding wooden door says "By Reservation Only."  Luckily for Joey's hand, there was a valet station next door, so Joey asked the guy if they'd let us in and he said we should just try and knock.  So after knocking on the door, a petite Middle-Eastern woman dressed in a long tunic opens the door to a tile mosaiced wall complete with three faucets and running water and a curtain, behind which we're told is a seven course meal.  Done.

A waiter, garbed in Harem pants, shiny vest and fez, took us to a corner of a low couch in a dim, yet warmly lit room, where after our hands were washed (no utensils here), we settled into pillows and chowed down.  It was a really unique dining experience and I'm happy to report that Moroccan food does not taste like Ethiopian food. (By the way Ethiopia is on the bid list and if we get that tomorrow I am going to binge until I get there).

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday evenings with other members of Joey's class, trying to assuage our fears of flag day with alcohol.  We ended our gathering last night in the best way possible: with a trip to Dolcezza, a delicious DC gelateri.  I had dark chocolate (70% cacao) and lemon ricotta.  YUM.

Tomorrow is the big day where we finally figure out everything - where we're going, when we're going, what language we're learning, when language school is - we can finally plan the next two-three years of our life - finally!  Apparently every few flag days see some theatrics from FSOs or their spouses who really didn't grasp the whole overseas portion of the job - so I'm hoping that A) that's not me and B) someone provides some entertainment.  Is that bad?

That pretty much sums up lately, so here's a gratuitous picture of Joey for you all.  Poor guy's been working his butt off lately and is absolutely exhausted.  He really fell asleep this way and didn't even notice when I took his picture. And I know, Mom, I should have made my bed.