azriona: (cat in a box)
So I think my head's screwed on a little more straight today - I've got a lingering cough, which is funny since I didn't actually have one on Saturday - but otherwise I feel pretty good. Which is just as well, since Bill came home early from work yesterday, went straight to bed, and hasn't really been seen since.

(Apart from about ten minutes this afternoon while Charlie was napping. I was working on the current story, and he sat in his chair opposite mine, said, "I have something to tell you," and then went quiet for about five mintues. He will tell you it was less than five minutes. I will remind him that he had a 103F fever at the time and his sense of time is therefore suspect.)

(Just now, he appeared at the office door holding a glass of water and looking pathetic.)

Bill: I came downstairs for some water and the thermometer and I went back upstairs with the water because I forgot the ear condoms* upstairs but forgot the thermometer downstairs and then I came downstairs for the thermometer and forgot the ear condoms for the thermometers upstairs. Do I look like I have a fever?
Me: You look sweaty and gross and I'm not touching you. I'll go get the ear condoms.

*We have one of those instant-read ear thermometers, but you have to use these little plastic sleeves. We are weird, so we call them ear condoms.)

I have just about concluded my experiments with local sugar. I have determined that local sugar is weird. I was able to make Andrew's cake out of it, but every attempt to make brownies has been a failure. The flour's fine, I've been making all sorts of stuff with the flour, but the brownies aren't working, and we're 99% sure it's the sugar, because it doesn't seem to be melting into the batter - the brownies have sugar granules on the surface. It might be the flour, but my money's on the sugar. They taste great, if a little chewier than usual. I've ordered American sugar from the commissary, it should be here on Thursday so we'll see how that goes. If I can make my brownies with American sugar and local ingredients for the rest, then I'm fine.

In other news, I definitely do not have a DVD copy of Doctor Strange on my desk. I definitely do not plan to watch it in the next couple of days, assuming Bill is well enough to watch it with me. I defintely did not purchase it from the bootleg DVD guy, who informed me that while it's totally watchable, it's definitely not in HD, which is definitely not a problem, because it's not like I didn't watch the last Star Wars prequel all in Russian and at a slight angle one week after it premiered, since that was my only option then, too.

I'll let you know if there's definitely heads bobbing at the bottom of the screen, though. 
azriona: (cat in a box)
Bill took the boys to the beach yesterday - I stayed home because I woke up feeling horrible - tired and achy and running a low-grade fever. Considering that I've managed to make it through the year without getting anything worse than a general head cold, I think I'm still ahead. It was almost as if my subconscious went, "Hey, there's this plan to go to the beach on Saturday; we don't like the beach that much anyway, let's be sick on that day."

Which is true enough, I'm not a big beach person.... but Andrew and Charlie are, and the beach in question is one where I can wear a swimsuit without an abaya in public, and considering my default state is Stuck On The Compound, I was totally looking forward to getting off of it. Plus, it's the Red Sea! How can you not want to go swimming in the Red Sea???? I keep thinking of that scene from Prince of Egypt when they're walking through the Sea and there's lightening and then BOOM, you can see all the whales and sharks and awesomeness.

(Point of fact: there are actual whale sharks in the Red Sea, and you can apparently go and swim with them. They are super gentle and only eat tiny little plantons and are really that flippin' ginormous and Andrew really wants to swim with one and I think I am staying out of that conversation for the next three years.)

Anyway, I stayed home and curled up in bed and in between naps, caught up on the last season of Downton Abbey (subtitled: The Season That Lets Anna and Mr. Bates Be Happy). This was about all I had energy to do. I thought about writing. I dismissed that pretty quick when I realized that I didn't remember how to form sentences.

The boys had a marvelous time. Charlie had an epic nap on the beach under an umbrella. Andrew rode a boat into the water and saw a coral reef and crabs and a Dory fish. Also there was a pool with a swim-up ice cream bar. I'm not sure which of these events was the best part of his day. Bill came home exhausted and with the astute observation that it is very difficult to entertain two boys of differing ages at the same time. (No kidding.)

But no writing from me since... oh, Wednesday of last week, I think. I'm maybe halfway through the book? If I can write like the wind this week, and finish it, I might be able to push it out before Christmas, but then it's a question of whether or not I want to. I feel like I need to have something come out in the next couple of months, but... I got nada. *sigh*

It was nice to catch up on Downton Abbey, though. Wish I hadn't had to stop in between episodes to nap, though. (Seriously. I napped. I don't nap. But I napped.)

And now I need to post this because I keep watching that gif loop over and over.....
azriona: (cat in a box)
Andrew's birthday party was last night, which was a kind of odd time to have it, since it's essentially Sunday night in this part of the world. But it was the only night we could have it, and plenty of kids showed up, so there's that. Then again, part of that might have had to do with us holding it at the local Chuck E Cheese, which I think is hands-down the best Chuck E Cheese I have ever been to, ever.

It's two storeys. There's a bowling alley.

Also a carousel.

It has bumper cars.

It has a roller coaster.

After that, the pizza and games are all kind of secondary. Anyway, Andrew and his friends all had a good time, and we fed them pizza and cake and then sent them home for their parents to put to bed. Mwahahahaha.

(Incidentally, I got a huge thrill out of watching the women drive the bumper cars and play the racing games. Word of advice: do not do bumper cars with LoL women. They are intense.)

Mostly, though, it's exactly like a Chuck E Cheese in any other part of the world. Even the games were the same (beyond the roller coaster et al). They had skee ball and the gyroscope-bicycle-helicopter thing, and the shoot-em-up games and the racing games. They didn't have the coin-drop games that are my total downfall, but I suppose those are a little too much like gambling to really count. The kitchen closes during prayer times, and they don't run the rides during the actual call to prayer, but the rest of it remains open and anyone playing the games can keep playing. (My understanding is that this is typically the case in kids' establishments.)

This morning, Charlie and I went to IKEA to continue trying to outfit the house. We ended up getting there late enough in the morning that we stayed through lunch, because there was no way we were going to manage to get out before prayer time shortly after noon. I thought IKEA did a nice job with that, actually - usually you just hear the call to prayer over the loudspeaker and that's that, but IKEA played the call, and then had an announcement telling people where to find the men's and women's mosques, and invited people to continue shopping. After about twenty minutes, there was another announcement saying the store would re-open in five minutes and would all employees plese go back to their stations. (That's the part I found particularly nice, because usually opening is much less regimented than that.)

For those wondering what the food's like... breakfast is served until 11:30 so we ended up eating that. They've got Arabic and English breakfasts. The English breakfast is just about all meat, and the Arabic breakfast featured eggs with peppers and samosas and hummus, so that's what I got. The eggs were plentiful but not as good as in the picture, and the samosas and hummus were OMG DELICIOUS, and worth the price of the food. They do apparently also have the meatballs (I'm assuming sans pork) and salmon dishes, and probably a few other things as well. And strawberry juice. I love strawberry juice. It is a total Middle Eastern thing, they had it in Egypt too, and drinking it is like the best strawberry in your entire life.

(This part of the world just does good breakfasts. There's this salty cheese that you eat with cucumbers. I don't know what it's called, it comes in triangles and it's salty and fabulous. I love it desperately. I should probably find out what it's called so I can buy it but I bet it wouldn't taste as good as in the restaurants.)

At the moment, I'm feeling pretty content... but that's probably because Charlie and I got out for a while this morning, and getting off the compound and into the city, and pretending that I am under my own steam always puts me in a much better mood than the days where we don't leave the compound.

It's not the abaya that is difficult. I couldn't care less about the abaya (although I do really want to find one that isn't black and also doesn't cost a couple hundred dollars. [Yes, I said dollars. OMG, you could spend so much money on an abaya here, it's ridiculous.])

It's the inability to just up and... go. I haven't had a problem with using the motorpool yet, but it does require planning ahead since it takes them about half an hour to get to me, assuming they're not already driving someone. I think that's the hardest part.

Bill and I started talking last night about where I should go on my first long weekend out - without him, without the kids. It's going to be the first time I get to go anywhere without any obligations whatsoever. (Because as fun as Gridlock was - I was on panels for both of them, so there was that sort of obligation-y aspect.)  I'm trying to decide where to go. On one hand... stay close, and therefore get there sooner and thus have more time to play/write/whatever? Or go a bit further (like, say, London, which is at least 5 hours by plane), and be in somewhat familiar territory? (Not that London is completely familiar, but I've been there enough that I'm totally confident in what to do once I'm there.)

Not that it'll happen anytime soon. I floated the idea this morning that I could go and do the Christmas shopping in London, and Bill laughed for five minutes. IT'S AN IDEA!!!!

Anyway, there's Toys R Us here, and Hamley's, as well as various local toy stores, plus a Centrepoint that had wow good prices on toys. I'm not overly worried about it.
azriona: (cat in a box)
The warehouse guys from the consulate came out this morning and took away a bunch of extraneous furniture from the house. Dressers, mostly, because OMG did they throw all  sorts of dressers at us. They also moved the second desk from upstairs into the downstairs study, and I moved furniture around and got it set up the way I think I'd like it to remain. The desks are facing each other, so now Bill and I each have a place for our laptops to sit permanently, and we kind of face each other, which is nice. We sat like this in Cairo and I loved it, because we could browse and then look up and see each other and discuss what we were looking at.

Also, I've found an online Battleship game, and I really, really want to play it now. I am such a nerd.

Once Bill sees the room and gives it the thumbs-up, I'll take a picture and show everyone. I like it, it's bright and airy and I can see straight outside to the courtyard and I think it's a very pleasant place to sit and work.

Speaking of... first world problems under the cut )

Andrew's birthday party is this weekend; he has requested an Oreo cake. I am taking him literally, and assuming I can source round cake pans (someone in this complex has to have some), I'm going to make a chocolate cake with a thick oreo-cream filling layer and top it off with chocolate ganache upon which I will write "Happy Birthday Andrew" in a script that will hopefully resemble an Oreo cookie. We're having the party at the local Chuck E. Cheese, which not only boasts the old animatronic mouse theme show, but also a bowling alley, a roller coaster, and a carousel. This is gonna be fun.
azriona: (Cleo - Invasion)
Charlie and I went to a local pet store this morning. I had an idea that I'd probably end up just buying everything I needed for Cleo online afterwards anyway, but I like to try to buy local as much as possible (especially overseas, when shipping can take forever). There's exactly one pet supply store in our city, and luckily, it's just around the corner. So off we went.

It was actually a really cool pet store. I mean... I'm pretty sure PETA would still have words for the owners, since there were dogs and cats in some not entirely spacious enclosures (and those poor dogs looked super sad), but as far as supplies go, it was pretty good. Plenty of food and litter and bowls and leashes and collars and grooming supplies for cats and dogs alike. Not a lot of toys, but some. TONS of fish and fish bowls, and more birds than I think I've ever seen - including some really big ones by the entrance that were OMG LOUD and kept making Charlie jump. It wasn't cheap - I bought Cleo a covered litter box for about $50 - but at least I'm not waiting a month to receive it (and then taking the chance that it doesn't break in transit).

But oh, the kitties. There were some gorgeous kitties there, little babies on up to bigger ones. Most of them were grouped together in their enclosures, in twos and threes, though some were clearly happier on their own. (For the given definition of "happier", anyway.) Charlie was fascinated, and kept going up to the windows and talking to them. (For the given definition of "talking".) After a while, another little girl, maybe about a year older, came in with her father, and both of the kids had a fun time cooing over the kitties.

Right up to when one of the employees, having seen their delight, decided to make their day and went in, selected a kitten at random (fluffy white, maybe two months old), brought it out, and handed it to the little girl.

Who stopped dead in her tracks and just STARED. The kitten, on the other hand, was fairly chill, as kittens go. It didn't fuss or wriggle, though it did kind of cling to the hand holding it, and I don't think the little girl was all that interested in actually holding the ball of fluff. Charlie, of course, was right in there, reaching out with two hands, and diving (literally) into the kitten.

It was a very sweet little kitten, and then the employee told us the price: $500.

(The dogs were even more expensive. Though I should note that I saw very, very few prices anywhere in the store, so I'm wondering if we weren't being given the Foreigner Markup. Pretty sure the dad and his daughter weren't Americans either, or it was guilt by association with me.)

The kitten went back, the kids continued cooing over the dogs, and then it was time for Charlie to be terrorized by some oversized birds while I checked out.

I do wonder about those kitties, though. They were all beautiful cats - groomed and brushed and probably handled too, considering they didn't seem more afraid of us than you'd expect from a kitten randomly shoved at small children. It's pretty easy to imagine every one of them decked out in a fancy cat collar with some serious bling, living on sardines and salmon while snoozing on a velvet cushion in the sunlight. And for a few, I'm sure that's what's in store.

Not sure what happens to the ones who aren't purchased, though. I didn't want to ask - then again, I'm not sure they'd want (or be able) to tell me.

Charlie and I managed to get our main errands done with about an hour to spare before the next prayer time (score!), so we stopped off at the HyperPanda on the way home, because there is always something I need at the grocery. The driver had just dropped us off at the door and we were about to grab a cart and head in when I heard, "mew."

I looked down, and there by the carts was the tiniest, scrawniest little kitten I think I've ever seen, all by itself. If the kitten at the pet store had been two months old - this guy couldn't have been more than a few weeks. So little. And definitely not one of the fuzzy beauties from the pet store. Most of the stray cats here are calicos - mostly white, with black and orange splotches here and there.

Nobody noticed him. Except us, of course. Because we are bleeding heart Americans who are total suckers for animals. Bill jokes that half the strays in the LoL live in the American compounds, because they've figured out that Americans will always feed stray cats. (This is mostly true. But we also tend to shell out money to spay and neuter them when possible, so there's that.)

$500 for a cat of dubious pedigree from a local pet store. Or nothing, for the stray sitting at the front door of the HyperPanda, mewing for scraps.

Cleo's been outside a few more times - always supervised - and she's now registered with the complex and has a tag to prove it. She's very anxious to get outside again now - and the strays who circle around haven't been hanging by out door quite as often, so I think the time is coming when I'll let her stay out longer. I've set up her new litter box (top off for now; she's never had a covered box before but it's really going to be a much better thing in this house so I'm hoping she'll grow accustomed to it) and I've got some new food bowls for her.

Me: You are a very lucky cat. I hope you know that.
Cleo: Meow.
azriona: (cat in a box)
Bill found out from the Powers That Be in regards to our shipments that they're still in DC. Which doesn't surprise me, honestly, it took two weeks for Bill to actually track down the person at the consulate in charge of getting our stuff here and convincing him that yes, we do in fact exist.

No, what is annoying me at the moment (apart from the election) is that according to the Powers That Be, our stuff is not only still in DC... but probably won't leave DC for another month.

And then it'll take another month on top of that for it all to clear LoL customs.

And that's just our Air shipment... which is technically supposed to arrive three weeks after we arrive in country.

Basically... if we get our Air by Christmas, it's be... well, like Christmas.

Of course, all that's in our Air shipment is clothes and toys, and DVDs. All the rest - including all of my kitchen supplies - are in Surface. Who knows when all that is gonna get here. I'm at a point where I don't even care anymore, I'm starting to buy some replacement things. Not big things, but... zesters and pastry cutters and can openers and measuring cups. Some of them are super tricky to find here (pastry cutters, for example, and a microplane). Some things I can borrow from neighbors (because our Welcome Kit absolutely sucked in terms of basic kitchen supplies. There's a reason I had to buy a can opener, folks. And the only baking dish in the kit was a loaf pan. You can't do squat with a loaf pan. Except, you know, bake loaves of bread.)

Andrew has already informed me that he wants Thanksgiving Dinner here, at our house. I know he expects all the traditional foods on the table, too (even if he will then refuse to eat half of them). How the hell anyone expects me to make a full T-Day Dinner with a loaf pan, I have no idea.

I've been relying on my neighbors, all of whom are totally understanding and have also been in the same boat, so many of them have multiples of lots of things. Someone's already offered me an extra turkey pan, which is awesome. And of course there's an IKEA (just getting there is a bit tricky). So I'm not in COMPLETE dire straights.

But.... I want my stuff.  I miss my stuff.

I'm also trying to get presents settled for Christmas and Hanukkah. We're not coming back to the States - we just can't handle that jet lag again, not with the kids - and in order for anything to reach us in time, it has to be in the mail by November 18. So I've been trying like mad to think of what the boys might like that we won't be able to find here. There's a Toys R Us nearby - I went to it the other day, and it's not badly stocked, though it's small. The prices aren't even that terrible - I got Andrew a remote-control helicopter for his birthday for a fairly decent price, given the toy. Maybe $5 or $10 than in the States, which I don't consider a ridiculous mark-up. But it's hard thinking of what they want that isn't just a repeat of what they have coming. (And frankly, if that Air shipment shows up before the holidays, I don't think either would notice if their piles are leaner than normal since the Air shipment is basically all their toys.)

(Honestly, if we just gave Charlie all the balls in existance, I think he'd be happy. And maybe some shoes, this kid loves shoes. I'm also sorely tempted to get him a dolly, he keeps picking them up at other houses and hugging them which is about twenty kinds of adorable.)

Andrew's a tougher nut. He really, really, really wants a Nerf air gun, and I really, really, really do not want to give him one. Especially since another parent told me the other day of this exchange.

Other Kid: Here Andrew, you can borrow this Nerf gun.
Andrew: No, thank you. My mom doesn't want me to touch guns.


Ideas, people. What do you get for a seven-year-old kid who wants a Nerf Air Gun but is not going to get a Nerf Air Gun? I really want to get him a riding toy of some kind, since he's going to be without his bike or scooters for a little while longer, but I'm not sure what else is out there in terms of riding toys, tbh. Bill's talking about a Wii - but I'm kind of at a loss there, too, since I don't know much about that game system to know what we need to buy.

On the plus side.... free shipping at Target right now. I might end up being Queen of the Mail Room again. I haven't been Queen of the Mail Room since Bishkek, that'll be nice.
azriona: (cat in a box)
The pre-orders for The Country Alpha are live - actually, they've been live since last weekend, I've just dropped the ball about promoting them, which is mostly for stupid reasons along the lines of not preparing better on my end. Anyway, they're live now and I've started the media blitz about promoting them.

TCA-Veronica-Final.jpg TCA_M-M3.jpg

(Click the covers, they'll take you to the correct Amazon pages for your prefered Amazon service.)
Read more... )

In the meantime... I've started doing "reading research" for the next story. Not the last Downing Cycle book... I'm going to write another m/m standalone first. One thing that seems to be very popular in the alpha/omega mpreg genre is to actually have more of the pregnancy within the confines of the story. There's also a fascination on the m/f side with royalty and millionaires and all that - so I'm going to try to combine the two. I have an idea, and it's not terrible, though it's kind of corny. Which actually isn't a bad thing for this genre. Only I came up with it last night at 2am while Charlie wasn't falling asleep, so the soundness of the plot might be suspect.

Everyone else: What an adorable toddler! I just want to steal him away!
Me: Yes, you may have him at 2am.
Everyone else: Hahaha, you're so funny!
Me: No, I'm serious. Here's the house keys. See you at 1:59.

azriona: (cat in a box)
Today, Charlie and I went to IKEA.

And I swear I feel like it was a total highlight of the week.Which is really, really silly, because come on, it was IKEA, and I promise, it looked exactly like every other IKEA I have ever been to in my entire life. The exterior (big blue box, big yellow letters) was the same. The parking lot (under the store) was the same. The escalators, the push-carts, the big yellow and blue bags: same, same same. Even the signs were the same (although along with the incomprehensible Swedish names for things, they were also in Arabic). I could have been in an IKEA anywhere in the world.

I wanted to take a picture of it, to show - but the place was packed, and I'm not quite at a point where I feel comfortable whipping out my cell and taking random pictures of places when there are a TON of people in the shot. Also, I'm in a weird nether space of not actually having any of my identifying documents on me, because I had to hand over my passport in order to get my residency card (which I'm told will be ready by the end of the week). So until I have that magic green diplomatic resident card... I'm playing it safe.

(Next time, though.)

But yeah - highlight of the week. Bill was going in late to work, so Charlie and I hitched a ride with him since the IKEA isn't too far from the consulate. We got there right after opening, and already it was busier than I'd expect for the middle of the week. I found what I needed, a few things I didn't, and some things that I don't recall seeing in IKEA before. (Wireless chargers? Dress-up clothes for kids? And no random wall-art section.) We sped through in about an hour, and had enough time to do the grocery shopping afterwards before we had to head home for Charlie's nap.


I think the biggest learning curve I've got currently is the shopping. The problem isn't so much with shopping, because of course, just as with IKEA today, shopping is more or less the same the world over. Every time I go out, I see more stores that I know from somewhere else in the world. (Today, I saw Payless Shoe Source, Mothercare, Pottery Barn Kids, and West Elm, and that's just what I remember of the top of my head.) This makes some degree of sense; most of the LoLians are very well off, and there's not much that is actually manufactured here, so a lot of stuff ends up being imported in anyway. Might as well import the good stuff.

No, there are two aspects of shopping in the LoL that are throwing me for a loop.

1. Transportation. I'm not allowed to drive here, and the consulate's current guidelines prohibit me from either hiring a driver or using any form of public transportation (to include taxis). So basically, I'm limited to either asking Bill to drive me around (which he can't do since we don't have a car yet), or depending on the consulate motorpool, which I'm allowed to do whenever I like, as long as they're not driving someone or something around for work purposes. (Which I totally get.)

I don't mind asking motorpool for rides, but... the consulate is half an hour away from the house. I can't just say on a whim, "Oh, let's go here!" I have to plan ahead by at least half an hour, and then it might be longer, or my trip has to be wedged into the driver's day, so I can't stop at all the places I'd like, I can only hit one or two. There's been at least one trip where I had to make a choice about where I wanted to go, because I didn't have time for everything.

Which wouldn't be so bad (I've had to make choices like that before), but at least then, I was under my own steam, and I knew I could always duck out the next day to get it done. Here, not so much, because ultimately I'm dependant on someone else's schedule. On a lot of someone elses' schedules, really.

2. Prayer Times. I've mentioned before: when prayer time happens, everything closes for about half an hour. Which is fine, it's just something I have to keep in mind and work around, because it's another barrier to getting things done when I'm out and about. Especially in the afternoons - starting around noon, there's a prayer time once every 2-3 hours. Factor in Charlie's nap, Andrew's after school activities, and trying to get dinner on the table... the only time I can do anything is morning, and then it's a teeny tiny window of opportunity between when I can get that driver, after they're done with their morning rounds, and when the first prayer time and Charlie's nap intercede.

The good thing is these aren't insurmountable issues, and they're things just about everyone else here has to deal with on some level. (Well, the transportation thing is easier for those not living here via the consulate, because everyone else can take taxis. And I could, it wouldn't be the first time I ignored a warning from the RSO, but I'd be better off not getting caught doing it. Also, I can't speak Arabic, which makes taxis a bit tricky.)

So getting out this morning with Charlie was a huge treat. We were out! Shopping! Under our own steam! Buying things I've needed for the last two weeks! It was a total heady thrill. Not lazy shopping, though - I was mindful of the time, conscious of a driver waiting for me, and the ever-ticking clock reminding me that naptime and prayer time approached.

But I did get two things knocked off the list, and now the boys have nightlights, and I have a place to store our shoes near the door, and hooks for the bathroom and for my abaya, and we're very well stocked in Charlie's rice milk and bread and peanut butter and fruit. Also I found a plastic bin that should do Cleo for a temporary litterbox.

Now to put all my purchases away. And build that shoe storage thing. IKEA construction! Fun times ahead, indeed.
azriona: (cat in a box)
Because what you do is get in your Halloween costume and sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Naturally.

azriona: (cat in a box)
Both kids are napping at the moment - Charlie because it's naptime, Andrew because he's tired. To be honest, so am I, but I want to write about the first couple of days before I forget in a haze of exhaustion and jet-lag.

The (Not) Joys of Packing )

The flights )

So. The LoL.

First, it's hot. Really hot, and super humid, which makes it even more hot. And it's brown - I mean, there's sand everywhere, and the air is kind of hazy, probably with the heat and the sand and the humidity. We got to the terminal, and saw our expiditer waiting for us. We handed him our passports, and off he went to get them processed. It took him about ten minutes, maybe, and we did a little bit of people-watching while we waited. It wasn't terribly busy or crowded, but I'd say the overwhelming majority of people were men, and the overwhelming majority of the men were wearing traditional LoL clothes. (White robe, red-and-white checked headress.) There were a lot of men wearing the traditional clothes for people going on hajj (although since it's no longer hajj season, it's called umrah). These consist basically of white towels.

The women I did see were wearing abayas and hijab. Some even had a veil over that, covering not just their mouth and nose, but also their eyes - basically, think of a sheer black piece of cloth, draped over their heads. They can see out, we can't see in. At this point, I wasn't wearing an abaya. I wasn't overly worried about that. Mostly, I was worried that I'd do something to otherwise insult someone. Don't cross my legs! Don't show the bottom of my shoes! Watch my language! OMG SIT QUIETLY AND DON'T ATTRACT ATTENTION. There'd been other women on the flight, but I didn't see them anymore, and I had no idea when they'd donned their abayas (not during the flight, I can tell you that).

I think I attracted notice - at least, I noticed that some of the guys would look at me, and just keep looking, although I didn't read anything more than curiosity into it. And no one said anything, no one's expression was annoyed or insulted or anything other than, "Ah, foreign woman, not wearing an abaya. Huh. Curious. What's she doing here? Curious." So I didn't mind it too much.

Anyway, the expiditer finally came back with our passports, and led us straight through to the baggage claim. At which point I did put on the abaya. It's a loaner from the consulate, and wayyyy too long for me. It snaps down the front, it's fairly light, considering, and it has grey sleeves with black-and-grey rick-rack. (All-black abayas are apparently not necessarily required in this part of the LoL, which is considered to be more cosmopolitan than the capital. I've even seen a few that weren't black at all - one was a dark blue, and another was a tan color, very pretty; it bascially just looked like a long robe, and the woman wearing it could have worn it anywhere else in the world and I don't think anyone would have realized what it was.)

Eventually all of our luggage showed up, and then we headed out through security (and skipped having our bags x-rayed, which was handy since that was a bit of a line and I really didn't want to take Cleo out of the carrier again). We went through the airport, me super conscious of not tripping over the abaya, and to the car, which was waiting at the curb. We loaded up, and headed out.

Everyone had said how crazy traffic here is. I don't know what they're talking about, I think traffic is actually pretty good. I mean, there's a lot of cars on the road, and the way the roads are designed is a bit strange, but it does make some sense and it was fairly well organized. I mean - there were lines on the road, and everyone obeyed them! No one was driving recklessly, there weren't children hanging out of the backseats of cars, people were clearly following the patterns and being considerate drivers, more or less. The road we were on - which I think is one of the main roads in the city, though I haven't been out much so I could be very wrong here - is set up so that there's a kind of express lane, and then a local lane to the side. Instead of turning left to get to the other side of the street, you have to go until there's a structured U-turn, make your U-turn, and then work your way back to the local lanes on the other side before getting to your destination.

It took maybe half an hour to get to our house, and then we loaded everything in. Our sponsor had ordered us pizza for dinner, which was pretty good. Andrew had pepperoni (undoubtedly pork-less, but still tasty) and Bill and I had sausage and peppers (which was really good, though the sausage tasted a lot like lamb). And then we all went to bed.

Yesterday was a whole other bunch of adventure - including my first trip to the local grocery store, which is called the HyperPanda. The kids came with me, Bill was at work, and one of the consulate drivers took me there and back. All spouses here get to use the consulate motorpool for our own thing, since we're not allowed to drive. We're not priority, exactly, but no one minds if we use them for shopping or whatever. This isn't typical - every other time I've ever used the motorpool it's been for travel-related things, or on the weekends, but here, I can use them basically whenever I like, as long as they're not driving someone else around on consulate business. Or one of the single women who are here, who get priority over me - which makes total sense, I'm not going to complain about that.

And now Charlie's awake, so that ends today's post. Tomorrow and Saturday are the weekend here, so I don't know what we'll end up doing, but I suspect I'll have more to relate before too long.
azriona: (cat in a box)
So, the first news to relate is that we are here, and all have arrived safely. I will not say "soundly", because OMG that was probably the most goat-roped travel ever in the history of travel. Let's just put it this way, friends: the purser on the flight to Frankfurt came over to say how very calm and cheerfully we were handling the shit-storm that was our flight.

(In retrospect, it was not that horrible. Just... it was one of those days where you're wondering at what point you said, "WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?")

But yes, the cat is fine. No problems with Cleo, she slept for about half the flight and cried for the rest, and was good as gold when she had to get out of her carrier. She didn't even try to escape much when Bill decided to give her some water in Frankfurt (I was in the bathroom with Charlie) and she went and hid under a bank of seats until I got back and dragged her out and popped her back into her carrier.

Bill: I was trying to keep her from getting dehydrated!
Me: She is fine! Do not worry about the cat! Did you think she was going to step out of the carrier and drink the water and then go back in?
Bill: I only do one nice thing for the cat and year, and she repays me by running away.

(She didn't run away, she's fine and meowing at my feet. And I don't think any of the airport employees noticed, but some of the passengers did.)

It's about 4:30am here, and I've been up since about 1:30. I think I might have slept for maybe three or four hours? I'm not sure. And I really don't know when I slept before that, because I didn't do more than doze on the flights. And I woke up early on Monday morning, but I don't remember what time because that was about five thousand years ago.

I am tempted not to tell the story of the flights just yet, because I think if I wait a little bit it'll be funnier.

Me: This will all be funny in a year, right?
Flight Attendant: Give it two weeks.

But, in short, things I have learned in the last 48 hours:

1. No matter how much you think you've underpacked, mail a damn box of stuff ahead of time. Heck, mail two. Or maybe ten.

2. Always pack children's Tylenol. Or children's ibuprofen.

3. Always pack extra clothes for everyone.

4. (Strongly consider packing extra shoes.)

5. Murphy's Law: when you pack snacks, the children are not hungry. When you forget the snacks in the drawer at the hotel, the children are starving.

Anyway, quick iimpressions from the brief drive from the airport to our house. It's super warm here but not quite as humid as everyone said - perhaps that was because it was night already. The house is nice but echoey, and I haven't been able to unpack anything for more than five minutes at a time, and I have no idea where anything is, so settling in might take a while. The city looks nice and orderly. Everyone kept warning be about crazy traffic, but honestly? From what I saw, it's way calmer than in Cairo. I mean, here, the cars actually stay in between the lines. And use headlights at night. I might have even seen a turn signal or two. THERE WERE TRAFFIC LIGHTS.

It does look a little like Cairo, too - not as busy or as large, though I can't really say on my 30-minute evening trip. But a lot of what we passed looked so much like parts of Cairo, and it didn't feel that unfamiliar. But that might have been because we saw a lot of American restaurants, too: McDonalds, of course. Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Applebees, Hardees, Baskin Robbins, Krispy Kreme. Bill says there's a Tim Hortons, which just cracks me up, because I've never been to one before, so of course the first time I'd go would be here.

Anyway, I'm going to try to get some sleep - or at least lie down for a little bit.

Bill: I think the flight attendants know we're having a bad flight.
Me: Why?
Bill: They just offered me my choice of Bailey's or rum.
azriona: (cat in a box)
...I have now accomplished the following:

1. Mailed off my absentee ballot.

2. Subscribed to a VPN.

3. Changed my address... for most places. I think.

4. Figured out what we're going to do with the cars. Sort of.


6. Tried to figure out what to do with the State-side phone. Am being indecisive. (I do not want to lose my cell number; I've had it for 10 years now. It's handy to keep it, and it's even handier to have a phone ready to go when we cycle back for vacations and whatnot. But keeping it and not using it regularly is a potentially expensive proposition, more so than the last time we went overseas 4-1/2 years ago; the cheapest plans are still around $45/month, unless we switch providers, and I'm not sure I have time to deal with that nonsense. And even then it's $30/month and that's... a lot more than I think I'm willing to spend. OMG, why can't I just claim my number and keep it forever?)

I'm pretty sure we're forgetting something, but I have no idea what that something is.

Still have to: )
azriona: (cat in a box)
Imma gonna give away the ending here: Cleo is cleared for both take-off and landing, and will be going with us to the LoL next week.

Now I'll back up and catch all of you up on what happened Thursday and today (though it's all very anti-climatic).

Cat on a Plane! )
So we're pretty much set for travel... there's a bunch of little things that need to get done, and I've been remembering most of them all day. The only big things to do are to sell the cars, but I don't think that'll be hard. Just a bit time-consuming. And I really want to make sure we're stocked on snacks and activites for Charlie especially - Andrew's pretty much covered with his iPad. But I've got most of the weekend to do that, I just have to coordinate with Bill to see what he needs to get done.

(And I should note that Andrew is totally jumping off the ceiling at the moment; he so could have gone to school today. Argh.)

I do have to say, I feel so much better having Cleo settled. I'm sure that at some point, I'll start worrying again and imagining what else will go wrong... but for now, I'm feeling good. I think we're set.

If only Andrew would stop. Coughing.
azriona: (cat in a box)
Okay. It's all okay.  For the moment, anyway.

The Adventure Continues )

Moral of the Story:

If you join the foreign service, do not own a pet. (Seriously. I am the current poster child down on the playground for this moral.)
azriona: (cat in a box)
Shit shit shit shit shit.

Andrew is running a 101-degree fever and will probably end up missing school tomorrow.

The vet gave Cleo a 3-year rabies vaccine last month, which I only realized today. The LoL does not recognize the 3-year vaccine. I don't know if this means she is barred from entry. The vet knew this. The vet does not care. We can't give her another at this point; vaccines need to be given at least 30 days prior to entry.

Shit shit shit shit shit shit.
azriona: (cat in a box)
Tomorrow starts the big push for getting Cleo to the LoL: first step, the vet visit, which is probably going to be the easiest step of the lot. She's healthy and she's up on all her shots, so really this is just for the vet to confirm that she's got her chip and then fill out the appropriate paperwork. Unfortunately the LoL also requires a letter from the vet, and I anticipate that to take up a chunk of time while it's typed up. (I... might be willing to just pick it up Tuesday morning on the way to Richmond, since it's sort of on the way and that way I'm not hanging out in a boring vet lobby with a cranky cat and two small children. But I also don't want to chance it not getting done because someone forgot about it, and then end up missing our appointment in Richmond.)

I have printed out every possible form we could possibly need, so really I'm feeling very set. There's only one other thing I'd like to print out, which is the guidance that all of this has to be done in the ten days before we land in the LoL, but that's more for the State Dept's edification than anything else, and so far, everyone agrees that when all else fails, Tears Will Work.

(This is why I'm bringing Charlie when it's time for State to Authenticate things. No one is immune to a crying adorable toddler.)

Cleo definitely knows what's up, too - she's slept on our beds fairly consistently the last week. She's been napping with Charlie in the afternoons and snoozing with Andrew during the bedtime routine, which is actually super savvy of her, because now I can truthfully claim that she does these things.

It will all be fine, it will all be fine, it will all be fine.

In other news, the weather has turned cold and windy, and we should have enough cold-weather clothes to see us through the next week, as long as it doesn't snow. (Which of course means it will snow.) There's another family here in a similar boat; they're heading to Cairo in two weeks, and she's also trying not to buy more cold-weather clothes than necessary for the same reason. I did think to pack Charlie's red rain boots, and he's fallen in love with them and insists on wearing them everywhere. I tried to put sneakers on him and he got very upset with me, walked over to the closet, pulled out his boots, and handed them to me before sitting down on my lap and proceeding to try to put one on himself. The fact that the boot was going on upside-down did not deter him in the slightest.

(Was Andrew this hysterical at 19 months? I can't remember. Charlie just cracks me up.)

I started a bullet journal yesterday. I blame [ profile] sadbhyl. It is very boring-looking, and everything on the to-do list is stuff that needs to be done in the next week, which is sort of horrifying to realize. I ignored the advice about not looking at the fancy-schmancy highly decorated bullet journals posted on Pinterest, and yes they're all very pretty and fancy, but honestly, my only thought about them is envy that anyone has that much spare time to make a daily page that flippin' pretty, when they're only going to look at it for a couple of days.

Anyway, mine is teal blue and lined, because it was on sale at Barnes & Noble for $6. I want to start a Collection page, if I can figure out a good topic. Then again, I'm pretty sure I'll have topics aplenty once we get to the LoL and I have to start remembering names and phone numbers and whatnot, so I'm not overly stressed about it.
azriona: (cat in a box)
So I've reached the point in the moving process where there isn't a heck of a lot I can do, so instead, I sit and I worry about all the things that could go wrong. In my experience, the bigger the move, the bigger the things that could go wrong.

Cleo's paperwork is... well, it is. The only real information to update is that I've got the Consulate in the LoL on my side - they've sent several emails to State's Authentications folks explaining the situation and what is required, not that the Authentications folks have responded. I did call them back on Wednesday, and this time spoke to someone who was MUCH more sympathetic, and while I still don't have an appointment, he indicated that I should be able to get what I need when I go in this coming Wednesday.

If nothing else, I'm bringing Charlie, who will be super adorable right up until he is Done With Everything. Bill says there's someone at the Consulate who got what she needed from the Authentications folks by crying. I figure the double whammy of both me and Charlie crying should get the job done.

I also found a company who can take care of the LoL Embassy's side of things for the grand total of $50. That would be $50 well spent, I think. I figure I'll take them all of the papers right after I leave the State Dept.

But until then... not much I can do, expect entertain the kids. Charlie's fine, except he's teething and therefore doesn't want to eat and therefore is hungry and cranky. Andrew has decided that he doesn't want to go to the LoL, possibly because his class is gearing up for a field trip to the recycling center which won't occur until after we leave. (I can't blame him for being mad; the trip sounds kinda neat.)

Pen's next books are currently going through what is hopefully their final reviews and edits, and then at some point I'll have to sit with a calendar and figure out when I'm going to release them. I haven't picked a day just because I'm not sure how internet is going to go with the LoL - I want to make absolutely sure I can upload them to Amazon before I say when they're coming out, or even put them up for pre-order.

(I'm trying to decide how much of a contingency plan I need to have. I'm trying not to think about how I have less than two weeks left to make a decision about that. I also have less than two weeks to decide if we're storing or selling the RAV4, and that's another decision I don't want to make.)

Currently addicted to Spirk fic. (Spock/Kirk.) I was never into it before, I'm not sure how the current bug got me. But it got me. Pon farr, baby.

In the meantime, Andrew's bus arrives in about 20 minutes and Charlie's still sleeping hard - he's going on 3-1/2 hours, so I won't feel too bad waking him up. Except he always gives me a look like, "Aw, Mom, why you gotta go and be like that?"
azriona: (cat in a box)

So the good news is that we have visas for the LoL, and not only do we have visas, but we also have PLANE RESERVATIONS, which is even better.

And also sparked the part of traveling that I hate the most: getting the cat there. Friends, if you ever consider joining the State Department, let me tell you. Do not own a pet. The State Department does not assist with getting pets overseas. That's all on us. And it sucks.

Anyway, I found out about the tickets about two hours before Charlie's nap. As soon as he was asleep, I went into action.
Turns out, it's not so much the plane that is causing the headache this time.... )

Yeah. Definitely, don't have a pet and join the State Department. Just don't.
azriona: (cat in a box)
Google wished me a happy birthday!

THANKS GOOGLE! I did not realize I was that popular on the internetz.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it's a computer thing, shut up and let me glory for a minute.)

I also just checked and the free promotion has so far garnered 85 free downloads of The Country Omega.

I am so seriously stoked, guys.

(Go get your free copy, folks. There's a sneak peek for the next book in there, plus it'll help the ratings when the book switches back to paid on Monday morning.)

Anyway, back to work - I have a ton of editing to do, and Charlie went down for nap early so who knows how long he'll sleep.
azriona: (cat in a box)
Andrew's first day of first grade! He's not due home for another hour, and I've been editing for nearly two so I'm taking a break. Charlie's still napping like gangbusters, which is good news, too.

Utter Chaos at the Bus Stop )

It was awfully nice to edit without having PBS Kids in the background, though.

The latest in the Moving Saga is that we are probably not going anywhere before the end of the month. Today marks the first day of Eid vacation for the LoL's embassy, so they're closed for the next two weeks. Which means we aren't going to get our visas anytime soon (not that I think the paperwork we need in order to apply for the visas is ready, anyway). Of course I've got email from both the CLO and the school in the LoL asking when we're arriving, just in case I found out the date in the last 48 hours and neglected to tell them.

(And I have no better way to conclude this post, so I shall just go and see about the clothes in the dryer now...)

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