Pakistan and Pierogi

Good Morning Friends! I have some very exciting news to share with everyone today.

My next post is…….

Pakistan

Bet your first thought wasn’t “Pakistan!” when you saw this pic 

Pakistan! For one year, Kyle and I will be in the capital city of Islamabad. We are very excited to get to be a small part of diplomacy in this region of the world. Yes, we will be continuing our South Asia tour – for those of you who are geographically challenged like me, Pakistan is just on the other side of India from where we are now, I think about a two hour flight from Kathmandu.

After our year in Pakistan, we will be spend three years (yes, three glorious years) in…..

Warsaw

Old Town Square, Warsaw

Warsaw, Poland!! For those of you who know me well, a chance to live and work in Poland is more or less my dream come true. My family is Polish on my mother’s side, and my immediate family hasn’t yet been to Poland. Family – Prepare to be summoned to the homeland! You are all coming to visit me! We shall have Pierogi and buy pottery and tour all of Poland ’til our hearts are content. Friends – you are welcomed too. 

I truly cannot express my excitement for these assignments in words. I am just so grateful for my job, my supportive family, and for the opportunity to live and work in some wonderful, fairy tale places. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. 

PS – I haven’t started a Pakistan board yet on pinterest, but if you’d like to see more amazing images of Poland, check this out – http://www.pinterest.com/sweetmezzo/poland-is-for-lovers/

 

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Categories: Transitions, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

I really wanted to write you a blog. A normal, slightly-funny-but-I-actually-have-a-valuable-thought-to-share blog. However, I’ve tried three times now, and each time I’ve come away with an almost complete blog entry, only to think it was one of the following:

A. Too whiny
B. Too preachy
C. Boring
D. All of the above

So instead of a blog entry, I’m giving you a list. It will be quicker to read and I won’t feel obligated to have bothersome things like an introduction, a conclusion, and transition sentences. I apologize. I am sure a real blog that is none of the choices above will come back to me eventually.

1. Sour Cream is a delicious food and you are not appreciating it enough. It’s just so thick and smooth and creamy, and no true American can have a baked potato or a quesadilla or a potato chip dip without it. Please take a moment today to tell sour cream how great it is.

B. Dressing up for the Fourth of July – is it just a Southern thing? A leftover from college thing? Or is it not a thing at all and I am remembering incorrectly? I recently had a 4th of July party and I was the only one present who had worn a slightly over the top outfit. Basically, every patriotic item of clothing I have, including patriotic underwear (which no one saw but still, I knew it was there) and my “jazz hands America” pin which is what Kyle calls my bright and sparkly American flag pin. Seriously, everyone else just wore normal clothes. I found that perplexing.

III. Returns – does anyone else out there have a serious phobia of returning things? I am really bad about it, which hasn’t really become an issue, but since I do 100% of my shopping online now, you would think I would get a handle on it. When I order something just plain awful/the completely wrong size, I usually just put it in my closet with the rest of my clothes and shoes, maybe because I think I’ll change my mind about it? And then after enough time has passed, I guiltily take it up to the third floor storage room and at it to a growing pile of give-away things. I used to frequent goodwill in the states but they don’t have something like that here, though I am sure I can find people who want to take my stuff before I go. Boy are they going to have a field day….I think Kyle and I could open a second hand shop.

iv. Back to food for a second (when am I not thinking about food?!? And it just going to get worse as America gets closer and closer…..) anyways. Burgers. Another thing I miss dearly. I never even ate that many burgers, except at Sesame and when my Dad makes them on the grill (man I miss dad grill nights!) You wouldn’t think a burger would be that difficult, but they taste VERY different here. The beef isn’t right, it’s got way too many spices and onions up in there, don’t even get me started on the non-mayonnaise and vinegary ketchup they put on them. Anyways, I feel I’ve veered towards whining again so I’ll stop, I think Fourth of July just gave me some grill envy.

5. Why do we have to wait so long for more Game of Thrones? Does anyone else think that Jon Snow is going to marry Dragon girl in the end? Or is that too happy? At least one of the original characters has to make it all the way to the end, right?? I have read all the books except the most recent, which I guess is the second-to-last – I didn’t want to start that one until the final book is out, because I’m just sure it has a cliffhanger ending. Wow. I feel like a mega nerd for including this point but I can’t help it. I miss good TV. 

And in conclusion, there are 104 days until the wedding. Not that I am counting.

I  am 100% counting. 

Happy Belated Birthday, America!!! I have never appreciated you more. 

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Confession

I have a confession to make. Lately I have been feeling really homesick and grumpy. It stinks.

When we first got here, things were SO different, I think I experienced a bit of culture shock (normal) but I was also distracted by learning my job, meeting new people, and by doing all the fun things there are to do in Kathmandu. After nine months, we got our first trip home, and it was such a relief to see our families and to be back in America for a few weeks. But of course, we had to come back, and it just seemed like things were getting harder and harder to deal with. Everything was driving me crazy: the pollution, the roadwork, the lack of sour cream…..it was a total downward spiral. We did spent a week in Thailand for some training, which was a much needed break and a fabulous reminder of how much I love big city life. But then we came back again. And we have a goodly amount of time to wait before we get to go home again.

I HATE being grumpy! I really do! It’s just not a good color on me, as they say in the south. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer about life here. I want to be positive, but lately It’s been tough.

Anyways, this weekend someone suggested that a bunch of us go up to Shivapuri Cottage, which is an adorable bed-and-breakfast-y place about half an hour from our neighborhood. It was the best idea. We had gone before but we had never spent the night.

Shivapuri Cottage is beautiful and quiet, up on the side of a mountain above the pollution, and overlooking the valley. I was a little sad because it rained and I was hoping to see some stars, but the company was fantastic, the food was great, and it felt good to be reminded of the nice things Kathmandu has to offer. I am not much of an outdoorsy person, but I do appreciate a good view and the smell of trees.

This was the view from outside our room:

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It was a really lovely time. Despite this terrible monster that tried to kill me:

Image

Anyways, I am going to chose to overlook the spider’s attempt on my life and focus on the positive. In fact, I’ve made a list of things that I am hoping will pull me out of my funk:

1. I think monsoon season will start soon. This means cleaner air, which I am a big fan of.

2. I downloaded some new workout music to inspire me to continue gym workouts, Marine PT and Zumba. Gotta lose some of this padding for the wedding!

3. Kyle’s niece, who is now my niece (I feel very cool) is coming to visit! I am SO EXCITED that we are finally getting a visitor. I am cleaning up our junk room and making it into a proper guest room. While she is here we are going to go sari shopping and it will be a great excuse to visit all of our favorite Kathmandu places…perhaps we will even do a mountain flight!

4. Music!! I am starting to teach some voice lessons. I think it will be great to get myself on a schedule and sing more often. I hope the kids like me.

5. Lasagna – This is going to sound sill but my mom has had this cookbook forever called Beat This! and it’s full of really great recipes. It’s one of those cookbooks that you can read like a book because the author is so funny. Anyways, she has this crazy recipe for Lasagna in there that I have always wanted to try, and I realized that all the ingredients can be obtained here in Kathmandu (instead of Ricotta it uses a bechamel) so I am hosting a girls night for my office so we can celebrate and I can make it. Cross your fingers that it turns out…..man I love Lasagna.

Anyways, I was feeling bad that I hadn’t blogged in a while but I try really hard not to blog when I’m feeling grumpy….so this is not a grumpy post, but a cheer-up Katie post, which would not have been possible without the lovely day we had yesterday.

Now on to enjoying the rest of Memorial Day!

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life….

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It’s Not about the Money – or is it?

A week or so ago, Kyle and I were fortunate enough to get to go to Bangkok, Thailand on a mini-vacation. It was a mini-vacation for me anyways, I went to training most of the time I was there, but Kyle got a full week off (lucky.) 

Things to note about Bangkok:

1. It is hotter than Hades. Think of the hottest, sweatiest, sunniest, most humid day you’ve ever spent in Florida and then realize it is like that all the time, including before dawn and after dark. 

2. They have amazing shopping malls. I thought we were good at this in the USA – we pale in comparison. Seriously. Maybe it’s just because I am shopping deprived, but if Willy Wonka had designed malls instead of candy factories, he would have created the Siam trifecta of malls. 

3. The prices varied widely from what I am used to. 

So let’s talk about this for a bit. In Nepal, the unit of currency is the Nepalese Rupee. Currently, the exchange rate is approximately 1 US Dollar = 100 Rupees. So 10 US Dollars = 1,000 Rupees, and so forth. It’s easy enough that even I can remember. In Bangkok, not so much. In Thailand, the unit of currency is the Thai Baht, and 1 US Dollar = 32 Thai Baht. So 10 US Dollars = 326 Baht. Anyways, all the currencies and conversions and shopping made me spend a good deal of time on the trip thinking about money. 

In Nepal, I feel like things are uniformly cheaper than they are in the United States. Of course there are some things that are still expensive, but overall, in my humble and non-expert opinion, the prices make sense relatively. For example, I am now looking at my receipt from Saleways, my local not-publix. On my last trip, I got three mangos for 112 rupees, or just slightly over a dollar. I got a package of chicken breasts for 350 rupees ($3.50) and I got a package of cream cheese for 740 rupees (yikes! $7.40! But that’s normal since dairy here is often imported). Today I went to a “trendy” fair trade home goods type store called Duhkuti. I got a throw pillowcase for 400 rupees ($4) and pillow inserts for 375 rupees ($3.75, approximately) that’s around $8 for a throw pillow. Do you know what throw pillows cost in the states? Have you been inside a Pier 1? Anyways. 

In Bangkok, some things were cheap – for example, I got a manicure and a pedicure for 450 Baht ($14). I also got an hour massage for about $10. However, When I walked into the GAP at the Siam Paragon, the first cardigan I touched was over 2,000 Baht – like $70! When was the last time GAP sold $70 cardigans? I also went into a few shoes stores – Bangkok has a plethora of stand-alone shoe stores selling ADORABLE shoes, but every pair was at least 2,800 Baht  ($85.) Also, at the beginning of the trip I felt like a turd when I agreed to a 2,200 Baht “taxi” from the airport to the hotel – We had just arrived and I was thinking in rupees and I thought, ah $20, no problem. (It is a 45 minute drive.) When the fancy pants Mercedes rolled up to take us to the airport, I realized what happened – le sigh. Just in case you were wondering, we took a regular taxi back to the airport on our last day, and we spent about $6.00. 

Nepal had a GDP Per Capita of $706 US Dollars in 2012 – according to the Google. In case you are wondering, I think the USA’s is around $50,000. I have to admit that to write this blog I googled the definition of GDP Per Capita, and I will share it with you here because it’s not exactly what I thought it was: 

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a year, or other given period of time. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living.[2][3]

GDP per capita is not a measure of personal income (See Standard of living and GDP). Under economic theory, GDP per capita exactly equals the gross domestic income (GDI) per capita (See Gross domestic income).

Thank you Wikipedia. 

Take a moment and think of the last time you spent $700. Well, I spent more than that on a hotel in Bangkok for a week. Most of you probably pay that much or more in rent every month. Heck, I know some people who pay that in student loans every month…..now imagine that was the amount you had ANNUALLY. Wow, even that $3.50 package of chicken and the $8 throw pillow seem out of reach now, don’t they?

Being in Nepal has started to change the way I look at money. Back in the early stages of wedding planning, I was having a really hard time looking at $2,000 wedding dresses and $200 bridesmaids dresses and $100 per person dinners. In some ways I am kind of a tight wad about money (ask Kyle about the freak out I had spending $700 on an iPad) but I can’t pretend like I don’t have a ton of shoes and clothes – I obviously spend money when I want too. Anyways, I finally came to the conclusion that if any economy needs my wedding money, it’s this one. And that’s why myself and all my bridesmaids are wearing saris, and all my favors are coming from Nepal, and why I bought a ton of beautiful handmade paper and sat down at my kitchen table and punched myself a gallon sized zip-lock bag of heart-shaped confetti. Don’t worry, I’m still spending a goodly amount of money in the USA, but it helps me feel a bit better about spending the money if I can help an economy that needs it. And let’s be honest….boring pastel disaster dress you will never wear again or sari from Nepal? I am so, so glad that my bridesmaids are excited about the sari plan. Yes it’s going to be stressful shopping for them and taking them to the tailor and explaining they have to use the measurements and that they people aren’t showing up in person, but it’s going to be worth it. 

Do you think living in a third-world country for a few years would change your relationship with money? How?

When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is. – Oscar Wilde

It’s a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money. – Albert Camus

 

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Woah, We’re Halfway There (Livin’ on a Prayer)

Yesterday, April 13, was the one year anniversary of our arrival in Kathmandu! I can’t believe it. 

Ours is a two year tour, as most entry level assignments are. So the year mark is pretty exciting. When I look back on all the things we’ve done over the past year, I am pretty amazed. And proud of myself (and Kyle.) We took a big leap of faith and landed on the other side of the world and we are still kickin’ it, as Kyle would say. Part of the appeal of the Foreign Service is that you move around a lot, but it’s a double edged sword. Am I excited to go someplace new? Yes. Am I excited to go home for home leave? Hell yes (home leave is about a month off that we get to take between tours.) Do I look forward to moving my cats around the world (again) and packing up all my crap and figuring out which airlines fly pets to Uganda? Not really…..

Anyways. All that is still far in the future. And before it’s time to leave, it will be time to go home for our wedding celebration in October! Planning from halfway across the world hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would  be, thanks to my friends and family, and also to the fact that Charleston is a wedding town. The most exciting part of planning has been figuring out how to tie Nepal into the ceremony. I am not sure it’s really a secret anymore, but after numerous arguments discussions about bridesmaids dresses, we decided to get all the bridesmaids saris! We are also purchasing all our favors here in Nepal – and trying to make sure as many as possible are fair trade. I also spent about an hour this morning punching hearts out of the amazing handmade paper they have here. Anyways, this is not a wedding blog, sorry. 

Have you noticed how often I use “Anyways” as a transition?

I am having so much trouble with this entry because I don’t really have a lot to say other than “Wow we’ve been here a year!” Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to change the world in that time. Originally I thought I’d write about all the things I’ve learned being here but that would take forever and just thinking about trying to verbalize what it’s been like brings on ALL THE FEELINGS as my friend Kat would say. So rather than make a list of what I learned or a list of what I want to do with the time I have left (I really love lists) I will leave you with a picture I took this weekend that I think really sums it up…..

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These girls said hello, we said Namaste. They smiled and showed us the peace sign. And that’s why we do this job. 

 

 

 

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Win or Wups

We are almost halfway through our assignment in Nepal! I can’t believe it either. 

Looking back on the things we bought for this move, I realize that I made some good decisions and some very, very odd ones. I guess moving across the world in a short period of time will do that to anyone, but I thought it might be fun to review some of those decisions in a game I’ve titled “Win or Wups”

Contestant #1: Lululemon Yoga Pants

ImageI have to admit, when I was in DC for training I LOVED shopping in Georgetown on the weekends. Even in the freezing Siberian tundra that was January in DC. Fancy stores, cute restaurants, a sprinkles cupcake place, Georgetown is the best. I felt very fancy-schmancy going into Lululemon and telling them I was moving to Nepal (capital of all things yoga) and that I was happy to spend $98 on a pair of yoga pants. After a year later, they have traveled with me to many of Nepal’s tourist centers, hiking paths, and to exactly one actual yoga class. Pluses: They make my butt look really good. On the downside though, they are really thin. Scary thin. Sort of “am I actually wearing pants” thin. They are also wearing between the thighs, and as much I don’t want to admit this, they aren’t any better than my $12 yoga pants from Costco. 

Verdict: Wups. 

 

 

 

 

 

Contestant #2: Wet n’ Wild Mega Shield Lip Color SPF 15

ImageI know. I know. This is the lipstick that we bought in high school when our moms weren’t looking. It’s embarrassing. On my first trip to Sephora in DC, I decided I need a professional, grown-up lipstick that looked great, money was no object! So I talked with a nice lady and walked out with a great lipstick from Laura Mercier that cost me $28 for one tube. Yikes! While stocking up on makeup to take to Nepal, I figured that $28 a tube was too much. I read in some magazine that the above mentioned “Wet n’ Wild Mega Shield Lip Color” was actually really nice. So I got four different colors from the CVS in Crystal City for $2.99 a piece. And you know what….it is really quite nice. Smooth, moisturizing, fairly long lasting, smells nice or not at all – I have a major problem with make up that smells bad. When I went home on R&R I wanted to get more, but I let brand embarrassment fool me into trying some other, slightly more respectable drugstore lipsticks by L’oreal and Revlon – no. I was wrong. I should have stuck with what I liked, snobs be darned – this $2.99 lipstick is the bomb.

Verdict: WIN

 

Contestant #3: Foundation

ImageFor some reason, the same person that thought “yes I want $98 yoga pants” also thought “I probably don’t need to wear foundation in Nepal. It’s very rustic. I’ll just bring concealer for true emergencies.” HOW DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE, KATIE?! Somehow I got here with one, random, tiny sample bottle of foundation, a stick of yellow-ish concealer, and nothing else to cover up the dark circles under my eyes. Really? I’m still trying to figure out how I rationalized that. Anyways. I quickly realized that while Nepal is definitely outdoorsy, I still work at an Embassy. I still have to wear a suit sometimes. And I still need freaking foundation. Thankfully this beauty is small enough to be delivered through the pouch. 

Verdict: I am an Idiot. 

 

Contestant #4: Very Expensive Hiking Shoes

ImageAfter getting over my initial shock, I decided to embrace my new assignment by buying really good hiking shoes. I was imagining myself trekking through gorgeous wilderness like a very glamorous Steve Irwin. I forgot that I am actually kind of out of shape and hate bugs of all kinds (remember the leech hike?) Additionally, I have never pooped in the woods or actually gone “real” camping. I have worn these about…..three times. I am still refusing to admit defeat………but unless I get really brave and go on a real trek, these babies may not have been worth the price. 

Verdict: Jury is still out

 

Contestant #5: Baking Supplies

ImageBy the time Kyle and I were purchasing our consumables, just a couple weeks before we left, we were starting to get worried about the financials involved with moving across the world. While many aspects of the move were covered by the job, certain things (like the cost of flying the pets) were not. So while we were allowed to ship 2,500 lbs of consumables, we had a strict budget and only ended up shipping about 600 lbs. In that 600 lbs, we had flour, the holy trinity of sugars (white, brown and powdered), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cream of tarter, sprinkles, cocoa powder, sweetened condensed milk, parchment paper, and 20 lbs of chocolate chips.  It was definitely the right call. While you can get some of these things here in the commissary, they are very expensive, and sometimes things like chocolate do not travel well, and they just don’t taste the same after being melted over and over. I really like to bake, and it helped us to feel at home after we first got here and needed some comfort food. In short, an important lesson for those of you moving across the world – don’t skimp on the stuff you know you love. If you are a baker, or a knitter, or an artist, or whatever it is that is your hobby: don’t feel bad about making those supplies top priority. 

Verdict: WIN

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30 Things to do before I Turn 30

I have 364 days left. 

1. Marry Kyle (again – tentatively scheduled for October 17th, 2014.) 

2. Participate in NaNoWriMo – nanowrimo.org (Not sure I would still count as a young writer, but I have always wanted to try this)

3. Take a fabulous picture with my bridesmaids, something like this: 

Again, tentatively scheduled for October. 🙂 

4. Take the Mountain Flight over Mt. Everest

5. Visit Bangkok, Thailand (tentatively scheduled for April 2014)

6. Paint a picture that I’m really proud of (meaning I’ll have to paint a lot more often)

7. Ride an elephant

8. Successfully bake french macaroons 

9. Host a wine tasting party (sorry Kyle, you don’t have to come)

10. Make homemade Jam

11. Organize my memory box – it is currently a total mess

12. Learn how to play at least three songs on the guitar

13. Do a voice recital for the kids at the international school

14. Teach my Access kids at least three songs

15. Speak to more schools about important but difficult subjects (like gender violence)

16. Take Kyle to Pokhara 

17. Go White Water Rafting 

18. Create a photo book of my time in Nepal (Via Createspace!)

19. Organize another show with Kyle for the American Club

20. Lose 20 lbs (for real – and preferably before October)

21. Watch all the Best Picture Nominees before the Oscars 

22. Make homemade Ricotta and Mozzarella cheese

23. Spend at least one night in a tent (you know, like camping) for stargazing purposes

24. Learn a new Aria (haven’t learned an entirely new one in a year for the first time…probably since I started singing. Not acceptable!)

25. Learn how to mix at least three drinks respectably 

26. Plant an herb garden and keep it alive 

27. Forgive someone from my past 

28. Learn a song in Nepali

29. Create something truly useful for my department at work 

30. Find some new musicians/bands before I drive Kyle and myself crazy with itunes radio 

Putting this list online means I can be held accountable for it a year later….yikes!!! But I think it’s a pretty good list, and almost everything on it will yield measurable results that can be shared…stay tuned for the proof, friends!

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To my 128th Specialist Class Friends….

Next Saturday is my 29th birthday! I’m excited. I don’t really have any plans (we’ll save up for the big 3-0) but birthdays are still exciting  even without plans. And 29 seems like an awfully important Birthday! I am working on a “30 things to do before I turn 30” list, inspired by my friend Josh. That will probably be my next post, but lately I’ve been thinking about my last birthday, which I spent in Washington DC with my 128th Specialist Class. 

I remember that I went to Harris Teeter the weekend before my birthday, and that it was freezing cold and snowing and I bought so much stuff, I had to bring my granny cart. (No car = occasional trip to Harris Teeter with the granny cart.) I made a few of my favorite things but nothing crazy, we had a cheese plate and rotel dip and yes, we even had those cocktail wienie things that are good at parties. For my 27th birthday, I had a tasting party at my apartment in Charleston, and I went all out cooking lots of “fancy” party items in tasting size. It was super fun, but last year I just didn’t have the energy for all that, being in the midst of preparing for the Kathmandu move and all. Also, Kyle had just come up to DC a few weekends before (so we could make our very important run to the courthouse) and couldn’t make the trip up for my birthday. So I invited my friends from my class over to my one bedroom apartment at Oakwood and I sort of figured, well, at least a few people will come.

Oh. My. Gosh. We must have fit at least twenty people into that tiny apartment. Tia made amazing cupcakes. John bought me a cake. Patricia and Tia brought me a pink purse that I still use and has held up amazingly well in Kathmandu, Serena and Kari got me a scarf, someone (so sad I can’t remember who) got me a sparkly flag pin I like to call “Jazz hands across America.” Valerie got me the first season of Girls on DVD (LOVE girls) and Raymond and Lauren brought me wine and a hilarious card, something about a drunk chicken. I got lots of wine, actually, which was good, because I think we went through about 14 bottles that night….and some beers. We obliterated all the food, in fact, I should have had more.

You know how sometimes you plan a party in your head and you think…well, there will be a few people, it will be a wine and cheese sort of thing, I’ll play some Jazz in the background and we’ll talk about life. Those parties never happen that way – they turn into twenty people in your one bedroom apartment, cake all over your floor, and dancing on your balcony at a rather late hour, and apologizing to the nice old man from the desk who has to come tell you to be quiet. They turn into reunions where friends you hadn’t seen in forever but who live in the DC area come to visit you and meet all your new friends, and politely ignore all the new jargon you and your specialist class are throwing around all evening (“have you decided what’s going in your HHE? when are you packing your consumables? Did your TMTWO get done?)

They also result in the worst hangover of your life thus far – it was so awful, ya’ll – I think I stayed in bed feeling like crap until about 1pm, when I finally felt good enough to crawl to the kitchen for some water, and then binge watched Dowton Abby and ordered Chinese take out for dinner. 

And let me tell you I would not change a thing about that whole weekend. Did it go how I planned? No. Did I pay for the wine I drank? Ugh, yes. But will I always remember those awesome friends whom I had just met a month earlier turning up to celebrate with me? Heck yes. It makes me so sad that we will never be in the same place again. 

128th, I hope you are all having a wonderful time at your posts. I miss your faces. Thanks for being so awesome, not just on my birthday but on Flag day, and watching the Superbowl at the dog/fish/butt/head whatever place in Arlington, and for all of our dinner outings and lunches freezing our butts off waiting for the food trucks at FSI. I am so lucky I got to meet you all, and I hope we cross paths again sometime soon. 

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It’s 5am and I think I’m blogging

Well, today is a day I had been decidedly not thinking about – the day I go back to work after my first R&R. On the way to R&R, I had total vacation brain. All I could think about was going back to the good ol’ USA and seeing my family and friends and eating seafood and cheese and ice cream. And then I did all those things and they were all wonderful. Its funny how being away makes little things seem special – “You want to go to Publix? OMG. Of COURSE I want to go with you! YES!” And for the record, I did tear up the first time I went to Publix. It’s a cheese thing.

In Publix and in basically every place I went, I felt two strong, contrasting feelings – the first was “Holy Crap you have to buy all the things because you can’t get them at home” and the second was “but what do I buy? I can only physically take so much back with me….” And from there indecision reigned. I did manage to get/accomplish  most of the things I set out to do, so that made me happy. But overall it went so fast, and even with the people I spent the most time with I kept saying “I’m so sorry I have to go!” I could sit in my parents kitchen and drink wine and eat cheese with them every night. Does that make me a huge nerd? Probably. But I am a huge nerd because I got lucky – my parents are pretty much the best.

Anyways, as much as I’d like to take you through the ins and outs of my FABULOUS vacation and what I bought there (Flamingo printed crops ya’ll – they are going to be trending soon in Kathmandu) I did have two substantive thoughts that I wanted to share.

The first came to me while I was thinking about my one year anniversary with the State Department and how my life has changed over the past year, and while I was pinteresting. (yes, that’s a verb.) I saw a pin that said “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?” and my first thought was – shit. I don’t think I specifically said thanks for anything yesterday. And it got me thinking about all the things I am thankful for, and I realized how much better my life would be if I spent more time each day saying thank you. I think regardless of what religion you do or do not follow, no one can argue that taking a moment to say “thanks for this awesome breakfast” and “thank you for my family” and “thank you for my cats please let them stop hating me for leaving them while I went on vacation” will have only positive effects on your attitude.

The second thought came to me over vacation, as I was lying in my bed with a full tummy and a full heart.  For whatever reason, I starting thinking about this game I used to play when I couldn’t fall asleep. When I had trouble sleeping, I used to dream about winning the lottery. Not just like, a little bit, but the mega-jack-pot. I imagined myself flying my whole family to California to surprise my brother with the news that we were now filthy stinking rich. Then inviting my friends in Charleston to a fancy lunch, presenting them each with huge wads of cash, and hiring a limo to drive us up and down King Street as we obnoxiously shopped at all the places we never could before. Then I’d buy a fabulous house downtown and become one of those people who has personal trainers and does yoga on her porch every morning. I’d imagine how great it would feel to give tons of money to the local theaters who cast me, while making a show of not giving any to the ones who never would (I am not a very nice person sometimes) Anyways, you get the picture. And then as I was thinking about this dream I used to dream and how happy it made me, I realized that I haven’t done that in a long time. In, gosh, in at least over a year.  And I think that maybe I haven’t needed to dream that dream anymore because  by coming to Kathmandu I gained some serious perspective on life, and I think I’ve realized that whatever life lottery is out there, I have already won it. I am one lucky SOB. Hopefully this isn’t too boring/annoying to read – I find that the easiest way to annoy someone is to either complain all the time about how much your life sucks or to do the opposite and claim everything in your life is perfect – I promise that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I just….wanted to try and explain how coming to Nepal and spending some time in a totally different culture has really opened my eyes to what is important in this life. The funniest part is that I thought I knew before I got here. I thought I already was grateful for what I had. I thought I already knew. But I didn’t. I didn’t know anything.

When our dad used to drop us off at school, he would say “Learn more than you are supposed to.” We always rolled our eyes at him but now it’s one of my favorite memories. And now I know that I will never, ever be able to learn more than I’m supposed to. But I can sure try.

So now It’s 5:42am and I have to go to work today.

Dear Jet Lag, please go away as soon as possible.

Love, Katie & her gigantic cup of coffee.

 

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Kathmandu Christmas

Merry Christmas! And yes I can still say that, because as my mom always likes to remind me, the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas day and last until January 6th. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s still the Christmas Season.

Because I am a huge loser, this was my first Christmas away from home. Literally, ever. In my entire life. And yes, I’m 28. On the plus side, I had Kyle (who is currently disco dancing to his new record player, really wish I had a picture to share) and my new embassy family. I gathered up some friends and invited them over for my first solo Wigilia, which, in case you didn’t know, is the Polish meal my family has on Christmas Eve. Overall it went really well, my pierogies came out nicely and the commissary magically had sour cream for the first time in 8 months – it was a Christmas miracle. For anyone who doesn’t know me, eating a pierogi without sour cream is like….(shudder) I can’t comprehend. Another part of Wigilia is that we don’t eat meat, we have seafood instead. However, I am in a landlocked, third world country, and I was cooking for 13 people (my own fault – I got excited and over-invited) anyways, the new Pope is really forgiving and kind and I wrote him a letter and he gave me permission to have roast chicken instead. Though I think he was harboring some resentment because the last hour of chicken roasting was interrupted by around 30 power surges, which caused dinner to be served an hour late. Not to worry, I had lots of appetizers to keep people busy, but by the time we ate all the appetizers and then dinner, no one had room for cookies. Literally no one…I don’t think I saw anyone eat a single cookie.

Cookies for Christmas are definitely a thing in my family. This year, despite being solo, I wanted to keep up tradition. So I made our family favorite, molasses cookies, and Kyle’s favorite, snickerdoodles. I also made chocolate espresso snowcaps, almond-orange cookies, three kinds of cake truffles, decorated sugar cookies, and a new kind of cookie that was really delicious, some sort of shortbread with white chocolate and cherries. Oh, and I made potato tort, another Koehler family tradition which involves a chocolate cake in a special triangle pan. Anyways. I had cookies for days (and still do) nom nom nom.  Not very good for my work outs but great for my mood.

I also dealt with a pretty serious bout of homesickness this month. Kyle and I have been here for a good while, and we haven’t been on R&R yet, but we are finally going in January. I was so focused on getting to January, I wanted to get out of here so badly, that I wasn’t even in the Christmas spirit for a bit. Kyle noticed, and by pointing it out to me helped me snap out of it. One of the things I promised myself this year was to stop missing out on the present because I was so focused on the future. And that’s exactly what I was doing! I was going to miss out on Christmas fun just because I was homesick/looking forward to vacation?! What a scrooge. I guess the fact that I caught myself about a week before Christmas means I’m improving, but that is probably going to be a personal goal that needs to stick around, I obviously have a long way to go.

On Christmas Day Kyle and I felt so loved, we had so many lovely things underneath the tree. We also go invited to a friends house who had the traditional turkey dinner, which made Kyle very happy, and me too, especially because I didn’t have to cook a big dinner two days in a row. It was tough going back to work on Thursday (can December 25 always be a Friday, please?) but we worked through it and now we are just coasting until New Years and vacation.

I guess that’s about it. Thanks to all who send us care packages and Christmas presents, it was very much appreciated and helped us feel connected with everyone back in the states. Thanks also to everyone who invited us over or came over to our house on Christmas Eve, I’m really glad my family tradition is on Christmas Eve instead of real Christmas so it’s easy to invite others without stepping on their traditions.

And if you are in Kathmandu and need cookies, please let me know. Good God I have a ton of cookies. Guess there is nothing to do but eat them.

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