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A Traveler In The Foreign Service: The Best Foreign Service Blogs, by Dave Seminara.

Guest Post by Dave Seminara

smoking huge joint womanThe World Wide Web is saturated with amateurish blogs created by people who’d be lucky to command the devoted readership of their immediate family members, let alone the wider public. There are scores of blogs managed by Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and while many of them are worth reading, some aredownright bizarre. This post will steer you toward some Foreign Service related blogs that are well worth your time.
I started this series nine months ago to help people get a better understanding of what life in the U.S. Foreign Service is like. Many of the posts have been about my experiences but I’ve also introduced readers to an intrepid, single female diplomat fresh off of tours in Syria and Pakistan, a diplomatic courier, a USAID Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Afghanistan and others. But spend some time at the sites listed below to get a flavor of what it’s like to represent the U.S. Government in The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Pakistan and dozens of other exotic locales.

One major caveat here is that FSOs have to be careful what they write because free speech only takes you so far in the precarious, uber-cautious world of government service. Most FSOs have disclaimers on their sites warning that the views expressed are their own, but many still tend to steer clear of tackling political issues or anything controversial.Peter Van Buren, a now retired diplomat who wrote “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” was effectively driven out of the Foreign Service partially because he posted a link to a cable on WikiLeaks and made some disparaging remarks, which he later apologized for, about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his website.There’s no doubt that his experience has had a chilling effect across the board, so visit the sites below to get the low-down on the Foreign Service lifestyle and the travel opportunities, not the dirty underbelly of how diplomacy plays out overseas.Some of the blogs below contain little, if any biographical info, and I wasn’t able to read each one in its entirety, so my apologies in advance if my impressions of these blogs below miss the mark. That said, I would invite the authors of these fine sites to tell us more about themselves, if they dare, in the comments section.DiplodunitDomani Spero has no U.S. government connection and thus has the freedom to write about the world of diplomacy without having to worry about his career. Diplodunit is as close as you’ll find to one-stop shopping for a candid look at what’s going on in the Foreign Service community.

Adventures in Good Countries- Getting Along In The Foreign Service

I love this blog. The author, apparently a single female public diplomacy officer who, “doesn’t date outside the visa waiver program,” blogs with style and passion about life in Japan, Pakistan, Jordan and elsewhere, coping with Multiple Sclerosis and whatever else pops into her head. How can you not like a writer who offers advice to protesters on how to construct a good effigy? (“Don’t just throw something together with the rationale that you’re only going to burn it anyway – take some pride in your work.”)

We Meant Well

You might not agree with Peter Van Buren but you will want to read his blog, which is sometimes offensive but never boring.

Third Culture Children

This blog, which details the lives of a family of five living in Recife, Brazil, La Paz, Bolivia and elsewhere, is one of the very best Foreign Service related sites out there. It’s a particularly good resource for parents who are wondering what the overseas experience will be like for their children.

amy gottlieb usaidAmy Gottlieb’s Photography & Blog

Gottlieb is a doctor and a USAID FSO currently serving in Vietnam. Her portraits from Jamaica, Nepal, Vietnam, South America, Africa and beyond are as good as any you’ll find anywhere.

Adventures Around the World- A Foreign Service Officer’s Tales of Life Abroad

The author of this refreshingly candid and well-written blog is currently in Kabul and has previously served in Iraq and Nepal. Here’s how she described the “honeymoon” period at a new post: “The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place ‘character’ and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the ‘adventure.’”

Worldwide Availability

This is a stunning photo blog from an American diplomat who was born on a farm in China and is currently serving in South Korea. Visiting this site is the next best thing to booking a ticket to Seoul. Also, for those who are curious to know how long it takes to join the Foreign Service, take a look at his instructive personal timeline for some clues.

Wanderings of a Cheerful Stoic

Anyone who features a photo of themselves (I presume) with a Gambian poached rat on their homepage is all right by me. This is a blog from a FSO posted in Conakry, Guinea, a place where “you tend to find yourself without a really specific reason.”

The Slow Move East- Thoughts on Being an Expatriate

Hannah Draper, a FSO currently serving in Libya, might be a “Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East,” but her writing is compulsively readable.

Where in the World am I? Notes from the Streets of Hyderabad, India

A FSO in Hyderabad who previously served in Burundi blogs about food and life overseas with gusto.

Cross Words- A Blog About Writing and Anything Else That Comes to Mind

Ted Cross, a FSO currently living in Budapest who apparently just signed up for Facebook last week (Friend him!), tells us on his homepage that his “dream is to be a published author.” I like someone who isn’t afraid to tell the world what he wants. He’s into fantasy and science fiction, neither of which interests me, but his blog is unique and his writing is lucid.

Four Globetrotters- The (Most Likely) Incoherent Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Single Mother Living Overseas with her Trio of Kiddos

Anyone who can pull off being a single mom in the Foreign Service is someone I want to meet. This blog, written by a former Foreign Service brat, isn’t nearly as incoherent as advertised.

Beau Geste, Mon Ami- The Chronicle of my Journey to and through The Foreign Service

Even a quick breeze through this visually appealing blog will give you an idea of how varied and interesting life in the Foreign Service can be. If nothing else, do not miss the photos of the tribal warriors in Papua New Guinea.

Zvirdins at Large- Jamie and Andrew’s Excellent Adventures

If you want a slice of life from the Marshall Islands, this is the place to go. I love this blog but I couldn’t bring myself to click into the video entitled “Pig Shooting” in a post on “Pig Butchering.” Yikes.

Let me know in the comments section if you think I’ve missed any great FSO-related blogs and if you’re the author of ones of the sites mentioned above, tell us a bit about yourself.

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

(Photos courtesy of Amy Gottlieb)

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

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This year’s April issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ, April 2012) discussed the Family Member Employment, and the search for meaningful work overseas. Reading through the whole edition, you’ll find great stories about living and working as a Foreign Service spouse. Several FS spouses shared their experiences and impressions regarding working overseas. It’s an honor to be one of the contributors to this edition. Congratulations to all who contributed to that month’s issue. Here’s the link to another FS blogger, also sharing her impressions about family member employment.

Giving expats a hand

A Traveler In The Foreign Service: A ‘Trailing Spouse’ Speaks Out (gadling.com)

Career options overseas (anagentswife.wordpress.com)

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7 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2014 in expat, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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{Weekly Writing Challenge} Parenting as a Cliffhanger…

When being called “Incredibly Good” is really not good for children?

Great Wednesday, although it began with a not-so-welcoming weather in La Paz – the rainy season has arrived, and flooded streets displaying the hectic driving behavior are definitely not the best place to be! The inspiration for this ‘quasi-op-piece’ comes from the idea of leaving the readers ‘hanging’ [thanks, Michelle W., btw!]‘, while I freely start a discussion on possible strategies on parenting well-rounded children [or lack of thereof!].

Back to work, as expected, and having the opportunity to read the paper before the work day starts is key! The Washington Post column on ‘Parenting’ called my attention with an article on ‘Stop heaping praise on your kids’, by Amy Joyce, really brought some thoughts up, as well as, a few questions and concerns.

STOP PRAISING YOUR KIDS??

Not really, but let’s keep on moving on. Also, nobody should be telling us what to do regarding the way we bring our kids up, correct? :o

We’ve all done it, stated Amy Joyce. But I’m sure not all of us knew we might be hurting our kids by doing it… At least, I did not know. How could I? Simply trying to work my best magic tricks when it comes to parenting…

Why would we, parents, knowingly harm our children?

Let’s start thinking! Continue reading

 
19 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2014 in children, expat, FAMILY, foreign service

 

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‘Backward’ Tale – The Boy and The Girl.

 WeddingIt’s been a nice hand, more precisely, a full house,

with three Queens and two Kings

It’s been a roller coaster… living and moving…

And adjusting… and moving again.

They traveled because of work,

They moved because it’s their passion.

It’s been nine years and eleven months
Since the boy and the girl have wed.

One decade awaits to celebrate their togetherness

But it was not always like that


The boy had dreams

The girl had fears

And yet, they were so alike…

The girl had left her home country,
Her job would take her to a far away land

The boy would wait for her.

He had found a job, he had finished school.

His job would yet take him to far away lands

But the boy liked to travel

And so did the girl.

boy and girlThere have been financial difficulties.

There have been physical distances

There have been emotional challenges

But the boy and the girl have never given up.

That boy and that girl had met some twelve years back

And could not wait to meet up again… and again…

They traveled to see each other

They traveled because of work.

They traveled to unknown places, for the ordinary pleasures of moving, seeing and learning…

Even if there had been no money to travel, they would still do it

And simply pay for it later.

Some twelve years ago,

The boy had gone to the girl’s home country

To learn a new language,

To learn a new culture,

To find himself into a whole new adventure.

Without even looking for it,
He discovered love

And so did the girl.

Neither one of them had ever believed in love at first sight.

The boy and the girl were probably the most skeptical people on the face of the Earth,

But those two were so wrong!

And they found what they were missing, on each other

Some twelve years back…

Now, the boy and the girl have aged

And they are proud to show their hand: they’ve got the most perfect full house

With three Queens and two Kings….♥

king-and-queen-of-hearts-playing-cards-courting-each-other

This post is written in response to WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge. The details of the challenge can be found here.

 
36 Comments

Posted by on September 9, 2013 in FAMILY, foreign service, LOVE

 

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UPDATED: “Moving is the 3rd most stressful life event”…

A long time has gone by since I prepared this blogpost… And yet, it remains so current! Even celebrated my birthday surrounded by bubble wrap & moving boxes – it was pack out season! :o The original post was “Inspired by the FS Blog Round Up, I decided to do some research and put together a pack of interesting information about moving and packing, including my personal comments. Some of the “facts” were actually quite new to me.

Others, made me laugh. What about a bit of my life as a ‘rolling stone’? :o That’s exactly how I feel, moving every so often!

Also found some “advice” on moving with small children – supposedly, “moving with kids could be a breeze, if you plan ahead”. This is probably my favorite, and I ask: “how much ahead to you need to plan? maybe before you were joined by your kids??” :o

Anyway, here are some of the ‘facts’ about moving and packing:

Comment: Really?! Would have never guessed! :o Moving is trauma, ranked right up there with getting a divorce, losing a job or burying a loved one. But chances are you already know that. So here comes the question:

So.. Why we do it???

** just a rhetorical question! We all look forward to those intense

finding-sorting-wrapping-packing-storing days!

  • One-sixth of all Americans, an estimated 43 million people, move each year. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Comment: And 50% of all moves take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day – that’s just weird – no idea why the preference! [** And recently I learned it was because of the U.S. school year/calendar (thanks, Carla!)... now it does make sense - another hint that I'm a foreign-born spouse!] :o

  • Individuals move 11.7 times in their lifetime. (from: U.S. Census Bureau)

Comment: Already crossed that mark, even before meeting the husband and joining the FS…

  • The typical moving customer is a married couple between the ages 25 and 44, with one or two children between the ages of 2 and 11.

Comment: Good to know we’re not alone. It comforts me to know there are several other parents out somewhere, screaming and kicking … 

And here are some of the “advices”:

  • Get back to normal: For the sake of the entire family’s happiness, try not to take too long to resume doing what your family enjoys.

Comment: I’d really appreciate knowing how to get back to normal after a move, not taking long to resume to your ‘normal’ routine. Maybe I’m always too busy trying to prevent the kids from killing each other, that I may loose focus…

  • Pack late (late?) – The actual process of packing up and putting things away in boxes may be emotionally trying for preschoolers, as they see familiar and favorite objects disappear into boxes. Try to pack your preschoolers’ belongings as late in the moving schedule as possible, and reassure them that their belongings will be going to the new house.

Comment: You don’t realize how much stuff your kids have until you start packing.  BTW, where are the kids? Make sure the answer to your question is on the top of your to-do list! 

  • Pace Yourself: Your already busy schedule keeps you on your feet at all times, and moving adds a whole new list of things to do.  Plan ahead. Give yourself several weeks to pack for your move, that way you are only packing a few boxes a day. This will decrease the amount of time you need away from your everyday responsibilities, including your kids. In other words, it’s not only about keeping your kids busy, but it’s about making yourself more available during your move.

Comment: Would love to know how to pace myself. One day I’ll learn. Not next year. Not in this decade. Also, how could I “buy” several weeks ahead, for packing before a move? If I’m able to manage a semi-smooth “packing & moving” event, ensuring that our car keys and travel documents won’t be packed away with our HHE, I’ll be pretty lucky!:o  Here is some good advice (at least for me!) about keeping it real for the traveling children (thanks to “Family-Travel-Scoop”): Do talk frankly with your children about the move Do let your child express his/her feelings Do acknowledge their frustrations/anger Do research the country you are moving to with your child Do let your child say goodbye properly to the place you are leaving Do expect an adjustment period when your child has mixed emotions Do keep traditions from home alive in your new home Do maintain regular ties with family back “home” Do bring items (e.g. framed pictures) and put them in each home you live in a similar place Do involve your child with any decisions that may affect him/her if possible

Good luck to all the ones moving out this season! I’m glad we don’t have to think about packing for at least, another year…

 
24 Comments

Posted by on April 8, 2013 in FAMILY, humor, TRAVEL

 

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‘Hardship Homemaking’: contributing to the collaborative blog…

Post originally prepared as a contribution to the Hardship Homemaking collaborative blog, which is a back to basics blog for recipes, tricks, and tips to make life overseas at hardship posts easier”. The blog is a collaborative effort, with several authors, each one sharing unique experiences and life backgrounds, most of them, with real examples of life in the Foreign Service, its implications, challenges and strategies to overcome them.

“Handling Fruits and Vegetables: Sanitary Tips

Living at hardship posts offers more than challenges to all ‘household managers’ out there. If offers us the opportunity to learn – through advice from our peers, through our own research, through experience and why not say, through mistakes – ours or someone else’s – while facing similar situations. A common concern among families living at hardship posts is ‘how to offer the best, healthiest diet to my family?’- and that includes not only how to “optimize” your grocery shopping budget, but how to ensure those beautiful fruits and veggies will be safe for consumption, even before they’re tossed in the fridge, or beautifully displayed on a fruit bowl!…” [continue reading]

Curious to learn more tips on this and other topics? Hope over to the Hardship Homemaking collaborative blog! Thank you for the interest…

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2013 in expat, FAMILY, FOOD, foreign service

 

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23 months of blogging, with over 120,000 visits… Thank you!

120,000 hitsMarch 2011 marked my very first blogpost: shared impressions from the world’s largest street carnival. It was obviously in Brazil, the country that lives and breathes popular festivities, and our assignment with the foreign service from 2010 to 2012.

From that point on, blogposts began to come out quite often, increasing the number of subscribers, comments, Facebook Page fans [over 230], Twitter followers [over 350], and blog followers [now at 983]. Being picked to be Freshly Pressed a couple of times by the WordPress editors was definitely a good burst on the social part of it, coupled with the recent popular vote for best Expat Blog about our current home, Bolivia; and the mention of being one of the best parental/family blogs for families wondering about life with kids in the foreign service, according to Gaddling, the world’s top travel blog. Many thanks! 

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 8.40.18 AM

Today, another milestone was reached, having me surprised and pleased, finding out that our ‘family travel & photoblog‘ displayed over 120,000 visits.

Being passionate about your life experiences, sharing images and impressions, reporting what one sees happening around, somehow, pays back. At least, in the blogsphere… I’m inspired by the several bloggers who take part at the writing prompts, Weekly Photo Challenges, FrizzText and Jake Austria, probably being my very first inspiration (thank you both!); as well as, all the beautiful ideas shared by Ailsa, from ‘Where’s my Backpack?‘, with her travel theme challenges, and The Island Traveler, a parent, like many of us, who decided to share some beauty from their regular lives with the world…

Thank you all out there, parents, expats, bloggers, friends, for reading, commenting, following, and for offering a great deal of inspiration… blogging is fun! :o
What is your NEXT MILESTONE? Your Blog Milestone? Share here, if you care! Thanks!♥
 
12 Comments

Posted by on February 27, 2013 in expat, LANGUAGE

 

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Just another regular day in my life… Can you relate to it?

Kids driving me up the wall is actually, a source of inspiration
Who’d have thought of that?
Just decided to express [using a simple comic strip]  the way I usually feel – do you really believe I sometimes try to hide from my own kids???
That wouldn’t be something a Real Mom would do, right? :o
More of my random thoughts’ on parenting here… recently revisited… :o

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2013 in ART, children, FAMILY, humor

 

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{Weekly Writing Challenge} Why do we, parents, do what we do? A few visual reasons…

IMG_5689

Parenting isn’t an easy task. There aren’t many solutions out there for our ‘day-to-day challenges’. Yet, we all keep on going… And why? Many bloggers/parents may relate to these statements, and who knows, even add more to the pot! With that in mind, and a bit of inspiration provided by this week’s suggested writing challenge from The Daily Post [Image vs. Text], had the perfect scenario for a ‘pictorial explanation’ of, ‘why we do what we do’ for our children!

Hopefully, the plan for this post will work. The images should provide at least a clue about the answers to these proposed questions… check the list below, and let’s see if you agree with the ‘suggested reasons’! ♥

* Why trying to prepare that special treat they love, knowingly we’d be tired after a full week of work, and the weekend is our only chance to recover and rescue ourselves before the upcoming work week strikes again? :o

Slide1

* Why teaching our children the importance of group activities, the meaning of camaraderie and why being part of a team is greater than knowing how to work alone?

DSC_7455

* Why having your house ‘invaded’ by little ‘barbarians’, who love to scream and cry, fighting over toys and games with their peers, during a so-called ‘birthday celebration’?


* Why teaching kids to love and respect their cultural traditions, their distinct backgrounds and their personal stories? 



* Why getting up early in the morning, making sure our children have all they need for that particular school day, even if sometimes, we need to come up with a ‘last-minute’ solution for a very special request for some school activity?

IMG_5142

* Why going over and over their school homework, despite sometimes having a splitting headache and zero inspiration to help them with their writing assignments? :o

IMG_4718

A letter of ‘appreciation’, from my resident first grader…

* Why volunteering your very scarce free time, to join them in some activity at the school?

August 2012: New life, new school, new friends. School kids receive their 'welcome' with a traditional 'Salteñada'.

 

* Why teaching our children that they need to share their life skills and abilities with others, in a selfless way?

IMG_4796

 

* Why is it necessary to show our children they’re special, unique, important in their own way, and always, unconditionally loved?

"Kids in Red", Delaware, USA.

* Why we, parents, end up doing exactly what we do, despite our list of countless complaints, which include tiredness, lack of resources and sleepless nights? We do it because we care. We care for their well-being, we care for raising emotionally resilient children, who will mature to become grounded adults, for a more compassionate and stable society. That’s why we do what we do… ♥

Hail... to The Redskins! Hail Victory!

♥ Thanks for the inspiration, and for reading! :o

 
23 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2013 in children, FAMILY, photography

 

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Happy Birthday to our Valentine’s Day baby girl!

She’s not a baby anymore… better to say, she’s a young lady… a ‘señorita’:o

Like her parents, this young lady has already moved quite a bit…

She was not born in Rio de Janeiro, like her momma, not in Virginia, like her daddy. She did not have her Brazilian ‘vovó and vovô’  to welcome her into this world, nor her American ‘nana and abuelito’ to greet her when she first smiled… She was born 5 years ago, while our family was stationed in Mozambique, and was fortunate enough to have the unique Pretoria (South Africa) as her birth place.

Despite not having our families around, she was [and still is!] surrounded by love, through her parents’ friends, the extended family, and her now, personal friends in Bolivia.

This morning, before getting ready for school, still recovering from the very intense and fun Carnaval in La Paz, our girl came to our bedroom, holding her index finger upright: “Mommmy, would you believe we’re only ONE DAY away from my cumple?:o She’s right: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and she knows it! For our family, this particular day will aways transcends all the commercialism, the consumerism associated with the date – it goes beyond that, it’s definitely, truly, unconditionally related to LOVE. The love between parents and their daughter…

We’re pleased, lucky and grateful for all the experiences we’ve been through, and we’re grateful for having had this intense, warm, active and loving girl into our lives for the past five years… Half a decade ago, husband and I received the best gift one could ever expect for Valentine’s Day: the birth of a baby girl! ♥ And, for the ones who may find hard to believe that there are no boundaries, limits nor geographical barriers for friendships, that little baby girl got some visitors… friends from DC [pictured below] came to meet her, while visiting South Africa… :o Our deepest appreciation for such a great demonstration of friendship! ♥

Baie Dankie, South Africa for such a wonderful Valentine’s!

Marcelas Birth 038

 
19 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2013 in children, expat, FAMILY, foreign service, LOVE

 

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It’s [Girls Scout] Cookie time! [Sharing information from The Dinoia Family]

This community we’re part of [Foreign Service] is all about networking and sharing… sharing information, advice, comments, experiences… In sharing, we all become stronger, and able to keep moving forward! :o That said, I’m now sharing some information learned from The Dinoia Family‘s Blog, about this year’s Girls Scout Cookies Initiative, involving a couple of other very active ladies [and their daughters!] from the FS community – definitely, a great one! And I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be sharing their initiative and efforts! :o

Quoted from The Dinoia Family’s blog:

“Yep…it’s cookie time!

Girl Scout cookies are back and we are on those orders!  In fact, this year, we are working together with Jill and Riley to spread the cookie goodness far and wide throughout the Foreign Service.  We have made it terribly easy to enjoy those once-a-year treats that you buy en masse because they are so darn yummy (and ship well!).

To make it easy, I have copied the “how to” from Jill’s blog.  Follow these simple instructions and you, too, could be enjoying those cookies very soon!  And now…Spanish homework is calling again…

Want cookies?  Read the excerpt from Jill’s post below and just follow the instructions!

First and foremost, we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, so our joint efforts are focused on providing Girl Scout Cookies solely to our Foreign Service friends overseas, where we can ship to an APO/FPO/DPO or pouch address.  If you are our family members or personal friends and want to buy from us rather than from the little girlies who are SURE to knock on your door sometime in the next few months, that’s great too.  But we’ll take care of you outside of this joint venture.
Just like the last few years, the cookies are only $4 / box … with all your favorites returning!
  • Thin Mints
  • Samoas
  • Thank You Berry Munch
  • Trefoils
  • Dulce de Leche
  • Tagalongs
  • Do-Si-Dos
  • Savannah Smiles
Here’s how to order:
1) Attempt to narrow down how many boxes you want (versus how many boxes your eyes and stomach want.)
2) Send an email to DSforGS@yahoo.com by Friday, January 18th, with …
* Your Name
* Your Post
* Your Address
* Exactly how many of each kind you’d like
3) When the cookies come in, send us your payment via paypal, and we’ll get them out to you ASAP.  We’ll send you an email invoice letting you know your totals.
It’s THAT simple.
We will be shipping the cookies in the USPS Flat Rate boxes. The current APO/FPO rate is $13.45 for a 12″ x 12″ x 5 1/2″ box … and we can fit 8 boxes of cookies in them.  And as an incentive … you pay the first $10 / box, and we’ll pick up the rest!
A wee bit of additional information  …
** If you are at a post overseas, pass along this information to any of your friends.  We would LOVE to outfit your entire Consulate or Embassy.
** Consider combining orders with your friends to help reduce shipping costs.
** Between the two families, our girls sold over 1100 boxes of cookies to 50+ countries during the last two years to FS personnel.
** We set up the DSforGS@yahoo.com email address so that we could make it easy to get more cookies shipped out to more places.  If you know either of us personally and want our daughters to send out your cookies – no worries.  Just say so in your email.  Otherwise, we have divided up the world behind the scenes so that all you need to do is send in your order, and let us take care of the rest!
Now what are you waiting for?  Happy ordering!”
Please hop back to Jen Dinoia‘s blog for more information! Thank you!♥

 

 

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Saying ‘Goodbye 2012′ in style. 80s Style!

Celebrating the arrival of 2013, and bidding farewell to a dear 2012… All with style – 80s style! Could there be a more fun way to do it?

Screen shot 2012-12-27 at 10.45.17 AM

[A confession, thank you very much, Robert Smith, for not only making my high school/early College years bearable, but also for helping me endure my recent parenting years, as a mother of 3 little ones...

Only another tired mom would understand the calming and motivational power of an 80s song...

 

 

:o Especially if, that same mom is ready to give up on her first-grader's homework on a Saturday morning!

Somehow, the 80s music finds a way to 'reach out to me', and bring me back to reality... Not in high school anymore... the sleepless nights are not due to some term paper or exam...

now, the short nights usually come from a crying kid with fever, or, another one having a nightmare; or simply, missing my well-deserved beauty rest by having a couple of extra 'bodies' in our bed... every single night, since 2005! ♥

But well, that's the path we chose, and the 80s music have always helped me thru 'tough times'... ♥ My favorite, without question, The Cure...

80s Party 06

Wonders that only a blond wig can do! 5 years later, 3 kids, 2 more countries under the belt… the forties have arrived… let’s see what type of hairstyle this mom will bring out! :o

80s Party, 2007Let’s see what the New Year’s Celebration brings!

Now, not only I’ll go to a party with ‘my guy’, but a handful of other ‘accessories’, which will include a 7-year-old boy, who loves 70s & 80s music; an almost 5 year old girl who loves to dress up [like her mother!] and is ‘addicted’ to dance… and a 2-year-old girl, which’s still a bit young to define her style… time will tell…

80shairThat said, getting these bad boys out of the closet [I mean, the leg warmers! mine are pink with white stripes], making sure the hair will be ‘par’ for the celebration, check the clothing colors [lots of them, and they better be bright!], accessories, make-up… and head to the party humming my favorite tunes!

NOW: on my way out to the local market, trying to find some ‘miracle hair products’ for tomorrow night’s bash! :o

 Happy New Year to all of us! 

 

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Twenty months of blogging, and the 100,000 hits milestone is reached. Thank you!

Credit: Google Images

http://sassandbalderdash.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/one-lovely-blog1.jpg?w=227&h=270&h=270 March 2011 marked my very first blogpost: shared impressions from the world’s largest street carnival. It was obviously in Brazil, the country that lives and breathes popular festivities, and our assignment with the foreign service from 2010 to 2012. From that point on, blogposts began to come out quite often, increasing the number of subscribers, comments and blog followers. 

Today, a great milestone was reached, having me surprised and pleased, finding out that our ‘family travel & photoblog‘ displayed over 100,000 visits.

Being passionate about your life experiences, sharing images and impressions, reporting what one sees happening around, somehow, pays back. At least, in the blogsphere… I’m inspired by the several bloggers who take part at the WordPress writing prompts, Weekly Photo Challenges, FrizzText and Jake Austria, probably being my very first inspiration (thank you both!); as well as, all the beautiful ideas shared by Ailsa, from ‘Where’s my Backpack?‘, with her travel theme challenges, and The Island Traveler, a parent, like many of us, who decided to share some beauty from their regular lives with the world… It’s great to have wonderful people out there, to look up to! I’m very grateful for all the support, and couldn’t have found a better time to show my gratitude [Thanksgiving just around the corner!]

Thank you all out there, parents, expats, bloggers, friends, for reading, commenting, following, and for offering a great deal of inspiration… Now, moving on to the next 100K visits… blogging is fun! :o

Now, now is it, for you all? What is your NEXT MILESTONE? Your Blog Milestone? Share here, if you care! Thanks!♥

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in expat, foreign service, LANGUAGE

 

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If “moving is the third most stressful life event”, let me turn it into a fun inspiration for Halloween!

The  “packed out”  couple.
“UNACCOMPANIED AIR BAGGAGE” & “HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS”

Memories from last June…

A year’s gone by since I prepared the original blogpost about packing and moving, focusing on the FS events… More than four months have past since we packed out from our last post assignment, Recife, Brazil.

This year, I even celebrated my birthday surrounded by bubble wrap & moving boxesJune was our pack out season – but husband and kids found a way to bring joy to my special day, despite the craziness we’re all familiar with, when it comes to have your house taken down by movers, packers, filling endless forms and making sure you don’t lose track of your life during the process! :o

[UAB to HHE] “why are you taking so long to come home?”  [HHE]Sorry, dear… you know how it is at the port… you meet a couple of cool young boxes… begin chatting, talking about the midlife shipping crisis… and you lose track of time!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, now it’s the end of October, and since we STILL DO NOT HAVE (not yet! I’m always hopeful!) our household effects, I thought about turning the frustration into something, at least, fun, for this year’s Halloween at our local Marine Detachment House. Husband and I went as ‘pack out couple’... Well, a bit of crafting skills, an open mind and a good sense of humorwere the perfect recipe for this year’s costume!

Did you have any last-minute, crazy idea for your adult costume? I’d love to know!

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in FAMILY, humor, TRAVEL

 

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Picture the World Project: Representing Brazil!

Watching the sunset behind the "Morro Dois Irmãos" (Two Brothers)

Four months have gone since we left Brazil…

A short stop for a well-deserved home-leave with family, and, now, we’ve been at our newest post/assignment for almost 3 months… Memories for our departure from Brazil? Many, but this post summarizes it. Four months ago, this photo was chosen to represent Brazil, and its unique landscape. Here is the original post, and my appreciation to the country gifting us with such beautiful memories!

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What an honor! Great gift for our departing family – we leave Brazil with our heart filled with emotions and wonderful memories. The best way to celebrate our departure is knowing we’ve contributed to a fantastic project: one of our travel photographs will be part of the Picture the World Project.

The Departure Board website has a great initiative to create a gallery of wonderful photos, one from each country in the world.  I am so honored to be nominated to offer a photo from my collection to represent Brazil. What to choose from? I went with nature – one of the most beautiful beaches my ´Brazilian eyes´ have ever seen! :o The picture chosen for the website is the one presented earlier – a unique orange-toned sunset, overlooking the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean…

Just like the Atlantis, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago has caught the imagination of travelers for centuries and many urban myths are associated with this gloriously surreal island. With its powdery beaches, lush rolling greens and crystalline azure waters, Fernando de Noronha is a tropical paradise of sublime beauty that is steeped deep in mysticism and mystery. The archipelago – named after a 16th-century Portuguese nobleman who may never have actually set foot there – exists in the proud Brazilian imagination, as well as a beautiful group of a main island and several islets. The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, with its 20-something volcanic rock islands, pictured here. Made up of one 11-square-mile chunk of volcanic rock and 20 smaller islands, three degrees south of the equator, 220 miles from Brazil’s north-eastern coast, Fernando de Noronha’s claim to fame is its diverse and rich ecosystem. Here’s another reminder of the archipelago’s beauty, now during the early morning hours:

It’s my duty to nominate two people to submit photos of another country.  I would like to nominate Heather, from  The Wandering Drays, who has moved with her family to Egypt. I would also like to nominate Carla, from Carla Runs the World, currently in the Philippines, and getting ready for their next move in January 2014, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

Thank you so much, Catbirdinoman - “a nomad, a pilgrim, a vagabond, a wanderer… who’ve discovered the art of living and working abroad, and now is hopelessly addicted”, as she likes to describe herself –  for the nomination! :o

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in photography, TRAVEL

 

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My ‘Circles of Happiness’!

Simply loved this week’s photo challenge! The latest inspiration at WordPress is Happy“. And I’m using the new feature, displaying the images in circles, which I’m calling today, “circles of happiness”… According to the “happiness engineers” from WP, lots have been waiting on pins and needles until they could share the new gallery formats which were announced yesterday on the WordPress.com blog! So now that they’re out, let’s put them to good use! We’re going to have a multi-photo challenge!

Let me know what do you think about this new way of telling our traveling family/expats/multicultural experiences! That’s what the ‘comments’ section’ is for! :o

What’s keeping me HAPPY, these days??

The love we nurture within our family, the joy shown by our kids, well-adjusted to the new school, new cultures, new language, and their ability to ‘translate challenges into adventures’...

The love and support from a good husband, our joint passion for exploring and learning new South American traditions (La Paz, Bolivia), the music and dance expressions, the food (hummm!)… my endless affair for anything-chocolate… the proximity to the holidays (Halloween & Thanksgiving just around the corner!)…  so many things are keeping me happy these days!

The beautiful landscape, living surrounded by peaceful mountains and unique natural features, and my recently ‘re-discovered’ passion for painting, a way to express my love and care for this new place, we’re calling home…

All in all, we’re happy… ♥ Very happy…♥

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in BOLIVIA, photography

 

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Sixty Days in La Paz – and I’m in love…

The Queñoa Tree, with its beautiful red bark, grows higher than any other tree in the world.

We’ve been at post for two months now. A lot has happened during this period, especially regarding our foreign service community, worldwide. We’ve got friends posted everywhere. We’ve got friends working back home. We’ve kept in contact, ensuring that all of us are well, safe, sane… We’re all, somehow, moving on with our lives. It’s our work, our lifestyle, our choice… And we’re proud of the choices we’ve made.

These past two months have been filled with cultural, linguistic, social adjustments for our family. For the five of us. Our oldest son is an active first grader, and thrilled with the discoveries that the ability to read has brought him. We, as parents, are pleased and keep encouraging his success. Our middle daughter has a more intense social life than her parents do, often invited by her kindergarden peers to play dates and birthday gatherings. And our baby girl, who’s approaching her second birthday, is simply enjoying life, chasing birds in the yard, having picnics on the grass with her mama, exercising her constantly learned Spanish skills

All in all, we’re fine. And as I stated earlier, I’m in love. I’m in love with this new, calm, high-altitude, slow-paced life. I’m in love with the possibility to spend more time with our kids, and to be more involved with their school, offering my help and skills to the American community.

And I’m in love with our yard, our Fall-colored plants (even though it’s Spring here!), the eco-projects I’ve been working on, and, most of all, I’m in love with our tree, the typical Andean Queñua (or Kenua) – the first thing I see in the morning, from our bedroom window. I wrote about it before [excerpt below], and, as a way to bring my mind back to good things, a strategy to temporarily forget about recent unhappy events, I decided to create a memory of this one natural feature, painting it on canvas. We still don’t have our HHE, nor my brushes, paints, but a simple problem that was easily solved. So, in order to honor my ‘newest love’, here it is, the recent creation, with a few other ‘creations of mine’… and I’m proud of all of them! ♥

Cheers to building memories!

Feeling very proud of my ‘creations’, right now…

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[From original post about the Queñua Tree]

[Español] La keñua o queñoa de altura (Polylepis tarapacana) es una especie de planta con flor de la familia de las rosáceas (Rosaceae). La especie se distribuye a lo largo de la Coordillera Andina desde Perú hasta Chile, incluyendo Bolivia.

La especie se encuentra en floración entre diciembre-enero y marzo-abril. Fructifica abundantemente, en racimos. Parte de las hojas y de las últimas ramificaciones, cae durante el invierno; cuando el nuevo follaje está completamente desarrollado, se desprenden las hojas restantes.

La especie se distribuye en un rango elevacional entre 3900 hasta 4700 m, algunos individuos aislados pueden llegar hasta 5200 msnm en el Parque Nacional Sajama. Es conocida mundialmente porque en su distribución la especie alcanza más altitud que cualquier otro árbol en el mundo. Queñoales eres una comunidad vegetal en que es dominante la Queñoa (Polylepis spp.), árbol característico del Altiplano. Los troncos, de madera dura, son generalmente retorcidos, y están cubiertos por una corteza exfoliante, formada por múltiples láminas de color castaño rojizo.

[English] Polylepis woodland is a distinctive, high-elevation Andean forest habitat that occurs above cloud level (3,500-5,000 m) as patches of woody vegetation surrounded by paramo (e.g., Festuca species) or puna (e.g., Ichu species) grass and shrub (e.g., Baccharis species) communities. These high-altitude woodlands tend to be relicts of a once-widespread habitat and comprise mainly evergreen trees of the genus Polylepis (Rosaceae) which are highly drought tolerant. The trunk and branches are laminated with brown-reddish bark that peels off in paper-like sheets as a protection against extremely low temperatures, and often have mosses and lichens growing on them.

Learning something new everyday here! :o

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in ART, BOLIVIA, expat, foreign service, photography

 

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Snapshots of The Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington DC.

Well, we’re in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia… and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! :All of that will be presented here… one at a time, though! :o 

Fifth stop: Halls at the Museum of Natural History, Washington DC: Link to the exhibit is here.

 

As a Biologist, mom/teacher and former volunteer at the Natural History Museum (2004), I can say the visit, the explanations, and the teaching/learning combinations are well worthy a day trip with your own children, class students, friends, or simply, a ‘curious soul’… Related articles

 

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Images from an exciting visit to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, in Washington, DC.

 

Before assuming post at our newest work/life assignment in La Paz, Bolivia, like many other foreign service families, we spent our four weeks of home leave in the US. We visited with family in Virginia and Delaware. We reconnected with friends from the past and from the present. We had fun at parks, public libraries, museums and galleries. We learned and shared experiences about history, culture, nature and life, with our kids. A very intense period – and totally worthy! A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! All of that will be presented here… one at a time! :o 

Fourth stop: The O. Orkin Insect Zoo, part of the Museum of Natural History [Smithsonian], in Washington, DC: Link to the exhibit is here.

At a Glance

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo is a special exhibit hall on the 2nd Floor of the Museum where visitors can observe live insects and their many-legged relatives. Volunteers conduct tarantula feeding demonstrations, work with live insects that visitors may touch and hold, and answer questions about the many-legged creatures that live in the Insect Zoo.

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As a Biologist, mom/teacher and former volunteer at the Natural History Museum, I can say the visit, the explanations, and the teaching/learning combinations are well worthy a day trip with your own children, class students, friends, or simply, a ‘curious soul’… 

 

 
 

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Snapshots from Home Leave: The Flag that Inspired the National Anthem [National Museum of American History, Washington DC].

The Flag that inspired the National Anthem

Well, we’re in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia… and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! :All of that will be presented here… one at a time, though! :o 

Third stop: The Star-Spangled Banner Exhibit, Washington DC: Link to the exhibit is here.

Getting ready to unfold the Flag and sing the National Anthem. Curious eyes follow every step of the way. All visitors become part of the interactive visit to the Museum of American History – at 3pm, the performance starts…

 

Our children watched, mesmerized, the visitors below, singing and honoring the National Flag – what a great way to share with them information about the greatest symbol of the country… learning should never stop… a live experience they’ll always hold in their hearts!

Next time, our fourth stop, where we’ll share images and comments of our visits to several halls at the Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian). Children’s curiosity is endless! :o We had the pleasure of being joined by a dear friend, whose patience and care for my children are priceless… Thank you very much, Cherise! ♥

 

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Snapshots from Home Leave: An afternoon at the Clemyjontri Park in McLean, Virginia.

[Backstory: Well, we're in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia... and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our 'home leave', now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! All of that will be presented here... one at a time, though! :o

That said, let's continue with our tales & reporting from our time back in the US, during this year's home leave. Before, I shared here some unique images from an intriguing visit to the Butterfly Garden, hosted by the Smithsonian [Natural History Museum], in Washington, DC. Without question, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is the United States’ public playground, with loads of open space for tourists, and kids in particular, to roam. There’s not much here in terms of specific play features, but you’ve got leafy areas for picnics, a carousel, paddleboats on the Tidal Basin, and lots of biking and walking trails.

Second stop: The Clemyjontry Park, McLean Virginia: Link to more information about the park, its hours and features, here.

As in, the packaging for a new toy can be as entertaining as the toy itself. I find that traveling with young kids follows a similar logic. You can do all the museums, monuments, churches, and castles in the world, but what kids really want is a place in which to run around like they do at home. So to aid in that quest, here are my recommendations for small-people spaces in big-city places—namely, adventuresome playgrounds that will stand in for that well-worn play area at your neighborhood school or park.

We had the pleasure of being joined by a dear friend, whose patience and care for my children are priceless… Thank you very much, Cherise! ♥

 
 

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Snapshots from Home Leave: A visit to the Butterfly Garden at the Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC.

 

Well, we’re in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia… and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! :All of that will be presented here… one at a time, though! :o 

First stop: The Butterfly Garden, Washington DC: Link to the exhibit is here.

We had the pleasure to visit the $3million butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The exhibit “Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution” features a 1,200 square foot tropical butterfly garden with approximately 400 butterflies. In the exhibit’s main hall, visitors learn about the co-evolution of butterflies and plants.

The butterfly garden at the Smithsonian is located on the Ninth Street side of the National Museum of Natural History building. 

Four distinct habitats – wetland, meadow, wood’s edge and urban garden — encourage visitors to observe the partnerships between plants and butterflies.

The garden is a joint project of the Horticulture Services Division and the Museum with partial funding from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

The garden, on view at all times, is a perfect complement to a visit to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo on the second floor of the Museum. [Stay tuned for upcoming posts on other visits to the Smithsonian wonders!] :o

As a Biologist, mom/teacher and former volunteer at the Natural History Museum (2004), I can say the visit, the explanations, and the teaching/learning combinations are well worthy a day trip with your own children, class students, friends, or simply, a ‘curious soul’… We had the pleasure of being joined by a dear friend, whose patience and care for my children are priceless… Thank you very much, Cherise! ♥

 

 

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UPDATED: “Got Greene?” – Greenes’ roots in England and fun Facts!


The Greene Family, Burke, Virginia, July 2012. A long-waited family reunion enable almost 40 of us to get together and celebrate family ties! :o

The Greene family has a very rich history in the United States and England that  has been well-documented by researchers.  The Greenes were among he earliest colonizers of the United States, having arrived in 1635.  Related branches of the Greene family trace back to at least three Mayflower passengers:  William BrewsterRichard Warren, and George Soule.

The first Greenes were likely Norman French before arriving in England, and the original spelling was de Grene de Boketon – which means Lord of the Deer Park.

Greens Norton in Central England was where the original Greenes lived, and the town still carries their name.  Our line later moved to Gillingham on the Southern coast of England.  It is from this town that our Greenes sailed to the New World.

 While no Greene was on the Mayflower, our Greene line traces directly back to at least three Mayflower passengers:  William Brewster, George Soule, and Richard Warren.

  • The first Greene of our line to arrive in North America was John Greene “the Surgeon”, who arrived on the ship James on June 3, 1635.  He really was a surgeon.
  • John Greene was a friend of Roger Williams.  He was also one of the original proprietors of Providence, Rhode Island and a co-founder of the town of Warwick.
  • Our line from the arrival of the first generation until my grandfather goes like this:  John-James-David-David-David-David-Joseph-David-Hosea-Hosea-Shirley.
  • David Sr. (third generation) was the first of our Greene line born in America.
  • David III (fifth generation) was a Private in the Rhode Island Militia during the Revolutionary War.  He was a second cousin of the famous General Nathanael Greene, considered second only to George Washington in military ability.
  • David (eight generation) was a private in the CT Volunteers during the Civil War and fought at Winchester, VA before his discharged after a year of service (1862-3).
  • Hosea Jr. (tenth generation) was a Private and appointed musician in the CT Volunteers during the Spanish-American War.  The war ended before he saw action.

Five years ago… We began the search for the Greenes’ roots:
The Miranda Family headed back to Washington, DC, for our well-deserved R&R, after almost a year in Mozambique during our first hard-to-fill assignment.
We decided to stop in England, one of Leonel’s long lost plans as part of his genealogy hobby/work…
The family enjoyed time in London, visiting the Big Ben and Parliament in Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the plaza of St. Margaret’s Church, the Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge and Tower of London.
And, of course, experienced the famous “London rain”…
Leaving the capital, we visited Greens Norton, the historic home of the Greene Family – St. Bartholomew’s Church, and headed out to Oxford, the home of the famous university, and visited sites like the Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate, the city’s oldest building.
After Oxford, we drove to Bath. City used to be a spa resort built by Romans in the 1st Century, with its various architecture examples, including the medieval wall at the Bath Abbey.
Continuing with the search through the family ancestors, we visited Gillingham, the last home of the Greenes before moving to the new world in the 1630s. Road trip continued to Shaftesbury, Salisbury and the mysterious Stonehenge, before heading back to London on our way to the New World!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in ENGLAND, EUROPE, FAMILY, TRAVEL

 

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When you’ve got more than one place in your heart… [living in-between cultures]

…you’re expected to love, honor and respect them both.

This week we are honoring the US Independence, bringing back memories from other assignments, sharing our thoughts:

Living in-between cultures, besides being an exciting experience, could be pretty challenging, as well. Raising children from hybrid cultures offers countless possibilities to keep traditions alive, maintaing memories and links to the home country always fresh. It takes a great deal of effort. But it’s worth the trouble. Witnessing your kids cherishing different traditions, honoring and respecting your and your spouse’s home countries, is worth any extra work. It’ll pay forward. 

Our kids are learning to love and respect their mixed culture. They’re beginning to understand historical events, their causes and consequences. They’re learning that any country is not just about land, but also, its people, their beliefs and their sense of social respect. Hybrid cultures are a rich experience. Hopefully, our three TCKs will grow up comprehending that the world they live in is much bigger than geography may present itself. And a country’s boundaries go as far as its people. We bring our culture with ourselves. Our traditions, our honor, our respect to others. Wherever we are. Wherever we move to. It’s good to know that some of us in the Service bring more than one country in our hearts..

This week, our hearts are proudly filled with red, white and blue colors… and as we’re heading out of Brazil, our hearts are overflowing with green, yellow and of course, blue! :o One day, I’ll look back at our time in Brazil as a family, piece together the best moments, best images, the favorite memories. One day, but not today. Not this week… We’re in-between cultures right now…

Love & Peace to All!

We’re out! :o

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in children, TCKs

 

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Peace & Love, Fashion & Faces: ‘Goodbye Brazil’ in style!

c-maria-do-ceu-vasconcelos-alejandro-hurtadoc-heidi-jonathan-merrmis-cava-usha-pitts-leonel-raquel-miranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the series of “despedidas”(goodbyes) continues in Recife, Brazil, as our family gets ready to depart from post… Fashionable people and colorful memories celebrated this bittersweet moment!

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Travel Theme: Secret Places

Every time we feel sad, lost, or a bit scared of the ‘unknown’, I tend to go find ‘shelter’ and comfort among some of our dear pictures, our memories from previous postings, and this brings me back to a more ‘stable’ self… Anyway, this week’s been bittersweet… Last days of school for our children, a few days left in country… so much to do, people we’d like to see/visit again… so little time… Moving is not easy, and this week, a little ‘less easy than usual’… This blogpost represents the transition that’s waiting for us – my appreciation to Where’s my backpack? for the inspiration! :o

African Bath

Our family is also getting ready for our new assignment: 2012 marks the move to our first Spanish speaking post: La Paz, Bolivia. Our household will formally have 3 languages… we’ll be writing our stories and tales in different ways now… Hope it’s appreciated… :o

 

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Saying ‘Goodbye Brazil’ in style!

♥ Getting ready to party… you don´t wanna miss this bus, do you? :o

♣ Stay tuned! More to come! :o

 

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A Traveler In The Foreign Service: A ‘Trailing Spouse’ Speaks Out

Like many of us, Jennifer Seminara is another FSO spouse, who worked while her husband was serving overseas in Macedonia, Trinidad and Hungary. She’s been invited by Dave, the husband, to offer her thoughts on what it’s like to be a “trailing spouse.” Not pessimistic, and not overly optimistic. Just very honest, clear, realistic and sweet. My appreciation to Dave and his wife Jennifer for sharing this. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Good reading!

“I really had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to be a Foreign Service (FS) spouse. My boyfriend of five years joined the Foreign Service and asked me to marry him right before he left Chicago for his training in Washington. I didn’t know where he was headed but a life overseas as a diplomat’s wife seemed exciting and I was in.

I was in graduate school at the time, pursuing a master’s degree in public health and had grand ideas about working on public health programs in developing countries. At the time, I didn’t realize how difficult it is for the “trailing spouse” to have a career.

Being a FS spouse can be a great opportunity to stay home and raise children or pursue hobbies. Housing is covered by the U.S. Government, which makes it much easier to get by on one income, especially when living in a country with a low cost of living. Having a career as a FS spouse, however, is not easy for most.
For those that would like to work, Eligible Family Member (EFM) positions are available at most embassies but these administrative and/or low level (and usually low paying) jobs can be difficult to secure since there aren’t enough jobs for everyone who wants one. I worked as the Community Liaison Office Coordinator at two posts; there were also EFM positions for Consular Associates (which requires CON-GEN training) and Office Management Specialists (OMS/administrative assistants) in various departments. My CLO predecessor at our first post described the position as the cruise director for the embassy. There are the more serious and important parts of the job, which include providing information to newly assigned employees and families, advocating for employees and families, advising post management on quality of life and reporting to the Family Liaison Office in Washington, D.C., on education and employment at post, but a large part of the job is to build community spirit and enhance morale. In other words, the CLO plans a lot of parties, happy hours and all kinds of events to help maintain American traditions (super bowl parties, Easter egg hunts, BBQs, trick or treating, visits by Santa, etc.) and tours to help Americans get to know the host culture. I really enjoyed being a CLO but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting to do as a career and the salary I earned was far below what I could have been making in the U.S. in my field. Spouses who would rather work outside of the embassy have limited options. Despite reciprocity agreements, which the U.S. has with a number of countries, it’s difficult for many spouses to secure gainful employment at many posts around the world. Even when spouses have the legal right to work in a country, many lack the local language skills needed to find jobs.

Spouses are entitled to take language training at the Foreign Service Institute but many can’t afford to devote months to classroom study due to financial or family issues and those who do still may not be able to achieve the fluency needed to get jobs. Also, finding a job in many foreign countries is all about networking and who you know, and if you don’t know anyone and can’t speak the local language, you’ll have an uphill climb. And even if you can find a job on the local economy, salaries in many countries can be as low as $500 or $1,000 per month. FS spouses that tend to have the most luck finding work are often in fields where they can find a U.S. job that will allow them to work remotely. Teachers are always in demand, as there are international schools everywhere and you need not know the local language to teach at most of them. Personal trainers can find work in some posts, as can nurses and development workers. For spouses that don’t find jobs, it can be difficult to adapt to life overseas. Foreign Service Officers (FSO’s) have a network of Americans to interact with at the embassy, but the stay at home spouse can feel isolated and bored, especially if they don’t speak the local language well. In a way, they’re the ones who are truly living in the local culture, while their spouses are in an English-speaking, American bubble at work. Up until the 1950s, the wives of FSO’s were given formal evaluations along with their husbands, and spouses who weren’t viewed as being good hostesses – planning and hosting representational events – could negatively impact their husbands’ careers. While that’s now ancient history, some spouses do feel subtle pressure to attend all sorts of cocktail parties and events that might seem glamorous but are actually quite boring. Most trailing spouses are female and posts with large expatriate communities have plenty of groups they can join, and a lot of women manage to forge their own networks easily. But trailing men often have a harder time, because some feel awkward joining female dominated clubs or groups, and men with no jobs tend to feel a loss of identity more acutely than women do. But despite all the personal drawbacks, and career sacrifices, being a FS spouse can also be a lot of fun. Many spouses make really close friends overseas and become part of social circles that are tighter than the ones they had at home. Since all expats are by nature away from their lifelong friends and relatives, everyone has an incentive to be open to meeting new people and making friends.

Last, but definitely not least, is the fact that life overseas can be more exciting than life in the U.S. If you’re an adventurous person who is curious about the world, you’ll enjoy having the opportunity to experience a new culture, not as a tourist but as a local. And if you love to travel, living overseas will open up possibilities that would be impossible when based in the U.S. If you want to live overseas, but aren’t sure if you could do it on your own, doing it as a Foreign Service family is the way to go. You’ll have a U.S. mailing address, so you can order products online to your heart’s content, you’ll have a network of people at the embassy to help you navigate the local culture, and you’ll have free housing and education for your kids. And for those in countries with a low cost of living, you can afford the kind of household staff – cooks, cleaners, nannies, gardeners – that would be impossible in the U.S. Some get a little carried away and get so addicted to this sort of neo-Colonial lifestyle that they don’t want to return to Washington, where they have to live the kind or ordinary middle class lives they left behind before they joined the Foreign Service.” Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

The April issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ, April 2012) discussed the Family Member Employment, and the search for meaningful work overseas. Reading through the whole edition, you’ll find great stories about living and working as a Foreign Service spouse. Several FS spouses shared their experiences and impressions regarding working overseas. It’s an honor to be one of the contributors to this edition. Congratulations to all who contributed to that month’s issue. Here’s the link to another FS blogger, also sharing her impressions about family member employment.

Giving expats a hand

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2012 in expat, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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