Seven days left. The countdown has begun and I believe it is a fine time to plunk down in front of the computer and do some blogging. I’m disappointed with myself for only managing two posts in all of last year. I am amazed with bloggers who are posting regularly while working full time jobs- since I’m relying on that as my excuse. What follows is around 5 posts packed into one.
Two years have gone by and it’s never enough. Two years offer a taste of that sweet spot when you’ve got your life as organized as lives get with friends made and routines established. And here we go again- time to sell the plants, just as they’ve revealed who prefers which window and how long you can be gone before everyone starts to lose it.
Last I checked in was early November. My birthday came on the 13th and a friend and I took a long weekend to Elqui Valley, filled with vineyards and pisco distilleries. It is a 6-7 hour drive northwest out of Santiago. We enjoyed a relaxing few days out of the city and I logged the longest stretch I had spent away from the Bushbaby to date. (She’s 4 –and a half!! –now). Back in Santiago that Sunday, I was welcomed home with a butterfly cake, birthday songs, gifts and endless kisses. A perfect ending to the weekend and ideal preparation for what was soon to come.
December kicked off with our second annual Gingerbread house party. Last year we kept it to a modest roar with 3 of her friends, but had a harder time narrowing the guest list this time around. Snakes and I started early in the week leading up. We mixed, rolled, baked and assembled EIGHT houses. Colette was SO excited to host her friends and reveal the thrilling project waiting on the dining room table. She parked herself at the front door, as a good hostess should, eager to greet her guests as they stepped off the elevator.
Mountains of gummies spilled from a center bowl on the table, individual dishes of royal icing to stick everything into place. A success for sure- and a tradition to continue.
The weekend after was her end of year party and ballet recital at school. It was much more emotional than I expected. She got a special little mention in the welcome speech from the school’s director about how when she’d arrived two years ago, as the school was just opening its doors, she was the first english speaker and knew no spanish. When she walked out onto stage to introduce herself on this night, she did it first in English and then followed up with Spanish. I try not to brag (too much) on here, but I was so proud of her!
Christmas Eve and Day were spent with friends having BBQs and pool parties. I was more than a little distracted since I was heading to Chengdu, China for a 3 week work trip that evening! As I mentioned before, I’ve been working at the embassy this tour. A rare opportunity presented itself (for any working spouse with a current top secret security clearance) to take a temporary assignment in Chinese consulates as a biometrics clerk. Our circumstances and good fortune allowed me to accept.
I hopped on a plane at 11pm on Friday evening and stepped out into the bitter Chengdu haze around 8pm on Sunday.
This was the view on most days from the window of my hotel. It’s a color photograph. Despite this dreary forecast, I was entirely pacified by the bright flavors and endless selections of addictively delicious and affordable food. After a solid 6 hours of recording fingerprints each morning, I would walk the streets of the consulate neighborhood taking photos and pushing into busy cafes with a smile, a nod and a fistful of cash. My vocabulary was limited to words like “right hand”, “left hand”, “thumbs, please” and “press harder”. As such, I was only able to order by motioning to a fellow diner’s lunch and smiling while offering cash to the clerk. I never had much success ordering a beverage, the closest I came was to receive a tall glass of murky noodle water one afternoon. Oh, but the FOOD!
Absolutely nothing like the glossy brown gravy choked “Chinese food” of my midwestern youth. I would happily return for this experience alone. Once other temporary assignment officers arrived, both of whom spoke fluent Mandarin, doors blew wide open and group lunches blessed my days. Instead of my usual modest bowl of noodles (around $2), we’d dine together and order many dishes to share. It was absolute heaven, each plate better than or perfectly complimentary to the last.
The 3 weeks passed quickly, but I missed my sweeties with a palpable and increasing actual heartache. I arrived back in Santiago on a Friday morning and that Saturday began our family vacation, our first cruise ever, a two week journey from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Did you know they offer free child care?) I hope to pick up tomorrow evening right here since this is already too long and I need to get crackin’ on this packin’! The computer will be gone in two more days so it’s my last chance for a while. Until then, wish me smooth sailing!