Friday, May 13, 2011

It may not be vice, but it sure ain't virtue!

I've been meaning to post this photo for a while. But this week the story has gotten even more intriguing, so it's finally time.

A couple of months ago, I was driving being driven home with a group of friends after a girls' night, and I spied this sign while we were stopped at a red light.

I couldn't even speak I was laughing so hard. Those of you who know me in real life and have witnessed one of my laugh-so-hard-I-can't-breathe episodes know what I mean. At first people were worried about me. Then someone else saw it, and then everyone, and the van erupted in fits of laughter. I mean, this sign would never appear so publicly in the U.S., let alone at multiple stop lights on one of the busiest roads in the city. Even better, the Arabic version roughly translates as "laser cosmetic surgery for women." (Or at least most of the versions do. I can't read the second word in this one closely enough to double-check. This is a friend's photo; I never managed to time my photography well enough.)

In a country where the Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue goes around separating groups of unrelated men and women and forcing women to cover themselves, this advertisement just seemed so incongruous. And yet, it became the biggest joke in the city, delighting residents and visitors alike. Around the same time, at least two electronic billboards in town started prominently displaying ads for a certain personal lubricant.

The plot thickens slightly - yesterday I realized that a number of the English sides of the sign had been replaced with other advertisements. Apparently someone clued in. Disappointing. But, it certainly livened the otherwise humdrum commute while it lasted!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Good Genes

Happy Mother's Day!! (only a few days late...)

As always, some of my most inspired blog posts come while I'm procrastinating. Tonight I'm writing in order to put off my cardio session a wee bit longer.  It's been a long week, and the couch sounds oh so much more inviting right now.

I just passed the nine month mark in Saudi - a full human gestation period! And, of course, the accompanying sadness that comes with each month's mark is present. Perhaps fittingly, I came across a reference to Hattie in a very unexpected place today. The reference answered a few of my questions and raised a few more. They'll never all be answered, and justice will never be truly achieved. It's part of the horror that surrounds her untimely death. But I don't want to spend any more energy writing about it right now.

So on to happier topics, somewhat related to human gestation periods...

In honor of Mother's Day, I want to write a post honoring the women who have guided and nurtured me my entire life. To begin, I was named for a maternal great-grandmother, who unfortunately passed away before I was born. My middle name is a slightly altered spelling of my mother's middle name. I've always loved these connections.

My maternal grandmother turns 91 next month. She has numerous children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and, now, a great-great-grandson. Last summer all of the children and most of the grandchildren and great-grandkids all got together for a wonderful 90th birthday party. It was a fitting tribute and a wonderful time. And she even laughed at my wholly-inappropriate gag gift :-). Grandma is still going strong at almost 91, building phenomenal gardens and keeping up with the adventures of her many progeny. I love that I can always connect with her via email even when I'm thousands of miles away.

I was born the year following my grandfather's death, and Grandma had just moved from Indiana to live with my parents in NH. We were close from the start. I have a wonderful picture of me as a toddler playing in the sandbox with Grandma. She tells hilarious stories about the games we used to play. We've stayed close all my life, and she's been there for all the milestones.

Grandma decided to go back to school late in life, graduating with a BA when she was 69.  It's not every seven year-old who can attend their grandmother's college graduation! Fittingly, I also have pictures with her at my own college graduation. In a move that I'm sure somehow influenced my own wanderlust, Grandma spent a semester studying abroad in Greece. I must have been extremely young, but I remember when she came back and opened her suitcase of treasures. I have a habit of doing the same thing, and I'm sure there's a link.

There's more to tell than could possibly fit here, but these are among the first things that come to mind when I think about the amazing woman who is my Grandmother. Can't wait to see her next month!

Aaaaaaaaaannnnnnnddddddd an hour later...

(Is it completely sad when I procrastinate from my procrastination by actually doing what I was avoiding doing instead of doing the avoidance activity? Oh well. At least I got my cardio in.)

And now a few words about my mother. This is hard, because no amount of words could do justice. My mother has been there for me every step of the way. More importantly, she has consistently supported me in all my choices. Even if they weren't the best choices. But she let me make mistakes and learn and make better decisions the next time around. As an adult, my mother is my best friend, one of the first people I go to with happy news or sad news. She lets me vent about work or life or whatever and expects me to do the same. She's always up for an adventure, whether it be a relatively spontaneous trip to Texas just to see a concert or a planned- and saved-for three week sojourn in South Africa. She even agreed to visit me in Saudi Arabia. I'm not sure it'll work out to get her here before I leave, but it's the thought that counts.

Mom worked full time when we were young, while my Dad worked from home and was there during the day with my brothers and me. I think that role reversal was a powerful influence on me. While she may regret long hours and not always being at home with us kids, she taught me that it's possible to have a family and a career and work-life balance, and for that I am very grateful. I hope to be able to do the same someday with my children.

Mom and I have a similar sense of humor and enjoy passing funny internet videos or pictures between ourselves. But we both strongly believe that sending out chain letters or the like to large groups of people should be reserved for only the truly funniest items. (The same cannot be said for everyone in our address books.)

My mother also indulges my over-protective and worrying tendencies as long as I let her do the same. So when she and my father go on a road trip, she always checks in after safely arriving. Mostly because she knows I'll email or call incessantly if she fails to do so. Just ask what happened when they once unexpectedly stopped at Gettysburg for a few hours on the way back to NH from DC... I hadn't quite stooped to calling hospitals and the police, but it was close. This expectation stands when I'm 6,000 miles away too. I try to reciprocate whenever possible. Perhaps that's the best feature of my work Blackberry - the ability to check in from Sri Lanka when I'm having a computer-free getaway. (And to be fair, if my parents had added cell phones in their arsenal of portable electronics, the whole Gettysburg debacle could have been avoided...)

There's really nothing like sitting at the kitchen counter at home, watching my mom cook something wonderful, chatting about everything and nothing, and hampering her efforts by stealing cheese or cookie dough or walnuts or whatever when her back is turned. Even scarred knuckles from raps by wooden spoons aren't a deterrence. It's a timeless shared experience. One I'm excited to repeat in a few short weeks.

In addition, I have a whole collection of amazing aunts, cousins, and other important women in my life who I won't embarrass here. We're spread around the world and have all taken very different life paths, but boy is it fun to get together with them! So in honor of all of these amazing women, and all the women in your own lives, Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 9, 2011

How Long Has It Been?

Fellow graduates of my alma mater should now break out singing the fight song...

It's been way too long since I wrote a blog post. I started writing one a few times, but fell asleep or got distracted before I made any headway. I'm going on day 11 of 12 straight days of work with mucho visitors to control, plus I started a new project in my free time that's time-consuming (but oh so worth it), so I'm busier than usual. If any of you have been reading the news lately, you'll also know that there are some current events keeping us hopping (a topic for another post). What a week!

Twenty-three days until R&R. If they manage to buy my ticket in time. Still one approval away, even though it's been in the system more than two months.

My office is short-staffed these days, and we're busier than ever, which means longer days and nights and weeks and less primping of hair and eating chocolate around the water cooler. (Actually, since today we ladies in the office spent a few minutes primping our hair at the beginning of the day with an exciting new product, MORE hair primping. But it was the first time we've ever actually done that, so I think we're entitled. And when a colleague commented on my hair in a meeting later, one of my office mates and I couldn't help but burst out laughing. Giddiness, or perhaps lack-of-sleep-induced insanity. Either way.) Anyway, we're busy. And tired. And giddy. I do have to admit that we almost always have chocolate near the water cooler, but it's the go-to office gift whenever someone travels, and someone is always traveling.

In honor of Mother's Day, I should write a post about the amazing women in my life. And I will. Just not tonight. Sorry Mom, Grandma, and assorted aunts and cousins. I did manage to get it together in time to send my mom flowers at work last Friday; her present will fly home with me next month. (And I promise I haven't cheaped out and won't declare myself said present.)

So there you have it - the most boring and rambling excuse post ever. I hope to have a full weekend off starting Thursday, and many tasks on my to-do list, so hopefully a more detailed blog post is among them.

One other thing - have you registered to take the Foreign Service Officer Test next month?? If not, hop on over to and get to it! We're offering it at many overseas posts, including mine, so now's the time. It's free, it's computer-based, it's three hours of your life - what do you have to lose??

And with that, and another egregious fight song reference (lie down forever, lie down), it's time for bed!