settling in and missing out

Back in Luanda for a week now and as predicted things are much better with a bushbaby in tow and a less bionic sense of smell. Snakes was able to take this past week off to help us get situated and to spend time together as a family. My reunion with Banjo was beautiful. Slow motion, we ran to one another with our arms out and tails wagging, “never tear us apart” playing in the back ground of my demented mind. He had become progressively more crotchety in the last month, maybe losing faith that I’d return. I’m pleased to report he’s back to his well-behaved self. No big reaction from either dog toward the baby. After a couple of sniffs they both lost interest. I suppose they’ll revisit that once she starts flinging food. (Banjo and the baby’s toys are a different story…)

The last few weeks have been action packed. My mom came for a 10 day visit during our last couple of weeks in Johannesburg. It was a blessing to have the extra help, but mostly I’m grateful for the memories of her swaying and singing soft lullabies to her newest grandbaby. Skype is great and all, but there’s nothing like the smell and the pure snuggliness of a new little love dumpling. I’m so glad they had the chance to meet each other before that phase is over. After Colette was lulled to sleep we’d sip wine and work on sewing projects, laughing and catching up in the way that phone calls never allow. We managed to hand-stitch a little dress in a few evening’s time. (pictured above and below)

Oddly, when we joined the foreign service it never dawned on me how difficult it might be to be so completely isolated from family. Especially at times like these. I think we get so caught up in the “glamor” (wait…what??) and excitement of it all. Wow. My husband is a diplomat. Excuse me while I go try on cocktail dresses and cluck around the house trying to figure out high heels and red lipstick. It never once crossed my mind that I’d miss my mommy. Or that I’d have a little one who would only get to know her extended family through one big blitzy visit (if that) each year. How well will she know her grandparents? Her cousins? Her adoring aunties? There’s only so much the pixelated and delayed skype conversations and the strange, pseudo “connection” of facebook are capable of. Among the thousands of things I’ve taken for granted before moving here is the ability to see my family at will. It didn’t happen nearly as much as it should have. Hindsight’s a bitch.

Beyond my postpartum introspection and ruminations on the nature of family, it’s been phenomenal being back home and all together. As you may recall our huge shipment of household stuff arrived a week before I left back in July. Although we managed to unpack and somewhat organize the bulk of it, I didn’t have time to really stare into the spaces and sort out the proper homes for everything until now. I rearranged the entire living room, incorporating my Johannesburg treasures as I went. I’ll have to do some “before-after” shots, as promised. Oh! and Snakes hired a housekeeper! With two big dogs and a dusty city on our doorstep it is a incredible blessing to have her here 3 days each week. With a buff of the floor and a pass of the iron, she’s wasted no time in reminding me that housekeeping is not my strongest suit. I may actually have time to get back into my studio sooner than I thought!



10 thoughts on “settling in and missing out

  1. I think the long-distance issue is a worry for many. I moved away from my grandparents when I was 7 (we were not FS) and rarely saw them until my mother moved back to her hometown when I was in college. Despite that, we were still close and I treasure the collection of hand-written letters I have, as 3 of 4 have passed away.

    As far as my own kids go, they see the grandparents at least once a year (generally more if we are in the U.S.), even if we are overseas (sometimes twice). The visits tend to be filled with quality time and I would say that while it isn’t ideal, they have had much more time with them than we expected when we started this adventure. It’s not perfect, but we have realized that many folks who are not FS have similar issues (moving due to a job) and it all still manages to fall into place.

    What a sweet, sweet wee one!

  2. she is just so sweet. and what a gorgeous dress! glad you are settling back into Luanda. I’m really happy for you that you have a housekeeper!
    I know what you mean about the family…one thing that’s been great for us is Vonage- we and they can just pick up and call w/o thinking about it. But it’s not easy…

  3. I hear you about the family thing. I haven’t lived close to my family since high school, and I was A-okay with that until you threw a baby into the picture. Now I feel like I’m depriving both him and them of so much, not to mention all the free babysitting hours we’re missing out on! Okay, kidding about that one. =) But seriously, I have no idea what the answer is. We Skype a ton and it seems to me like Flynn gets excited and recognizes voices and maybe even pictures from Skype, although I also realize there’s a high probability I’m fooling myself. I do feel fortunate for home leave, though. With any other job there’s no way he’d get a full month or two of concentrated extended family time. That’s pretty cool. Plus, post #2 doesn’t necessarily need to be as far-flung as, say, Cotonou or Angola. I used to not understand why anyone would join the Foreign Service to serve in, for instance, Canada. Yet these days Canada is sounding like a pretty sweet gig….

    1. so true, Alex! We both wistfully talk about being posted in Toronto or Vancouver. Does Montreal have a mission?? Plus in canada you have to find your own housing and pull all of your things from storage, which I would actually LOVE to do!

  4. Congrats on your baby. I just found your blog trying to find Expats in Luanda. We are also in the FS and have bid on Luanda, coming out of Caracas. There is a good chance we might end up there. I’d love to get more insides from you especially on life there, groceries, etc. I am very nervous as they say it’s the most expensive city in the world for foreigners. Thanks in advance.

    1. Kathrin- Oh, dear. There’s NO denying that this is an incredibly challenging post. Despite being pretty expensive (there are plenty of ways around this) you can save TONS of money. It is imperative to always stay focused on positive aspects of life. You’ll definitely need a hobby or 3. They say it’s okay for animals- but we have two dogs and find it challenging to walk them or find places for them to run around besides the embassy grounds. There is very little in the way of extra curricular activities. Feel free to contact me through my email address which is listed on the “me” page with any specific questions regarding housing, groceries, consumables, etc. Happy to help and do whatever I can to lessen the blow of landing here.

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