Wednesday, June 3, 2015

London, DC, and Beirut Catch Up

As I relax at home at the relatively early hour of 6:30pm (I'm leaving work as close to on time as I can while nursing a nasty cold that already kept me home 1.5 days last week), I realize it's time for an update. I still owe a lot of safari posts, but my internet has not been cooperative for photo uploads, so those will have to wait.

So. Beirut continues to challenge and reward me professionally (hence the long hours), and I'm trying hard to achieve a decent work-life balance. It's fine when everybody is here, but anytime anyone is on leave (which is often, because we all desperately need our leave and I encourage folks to take it early and often) it means more work for the rest of us. That's just the reality of operating in a place where the infrastructure doesn't allow for additional officers to be here. I really am not trying to complain, because I love it here and look forward to two more years (I extended to get onto summer cycle), but I don't want to gloss over the realities of life here.

I had my own much-needed break from Beirut recently, escaping to London for a few days before a week in DC for training. London was lovely. The weather was absolutely perfect when I was there except for one day, and I spent that day luxuriating in being in a nice hotel with good internet. And raspberries and M&S salads of course.

Being in London meant getting to spend time with my amazing friend L and her lovely family. We spent many hours in the park playing with her toddler and had a great picnic on Hampstead Heath one afternoon with other friends. We also escaped for an afternoon to Belgravia where we indulged in a stunning afternoon tea, recommended by fellow FS blogger In-Flight Movie. Her description is great and entirely accurate, so go check out her recap! We arrived a little early but they seated us anyway in a cozy window banquette, and we whiled away several hours chatting and eating and having a lovely time. I didn't do a whole lot most days as I really needed rest after a long four month stretch in Beirut. But that, in itself, was great. Doing nothing much in London during the springtime is one of my favorite things ever.

After London I flew to DC and spent a lovely Sunday afternoon with another amazing friend, D (of Kampala stories fame!). We walked to Subway so I could buy more raspberries and then ordered Chinese delivery while we gabbed and caught up on six months of news. This recap of DC time focuses mostly on food since almost all I did aside from training was go out to eat, as one does in DC.

After a first day of training on Monday (and running into some friends at FSI, including the awesome Is It Better than a Brownie?), I headed back to the hotel for an exciting reunion with my parents! They had been in PA for a wedding that weekend so drove down to DC to spend the week with me. We had a wonderful time, and they had some even more wonderful long days of sight seeing. Monday night I drove us to Pentagon Row for a Nando's fix. My parents had been hearing about it since I was first in South Africa in 2003, but this was their first time trying it. (Even though my mom came to South Africa for three weeks in 2005, I guess we never tried it then. Huh.) Anyway, I was very happy that it lived up to all the hype, and they are now Nando's converts as well!

Tuesday they covered the Mall's monuments and the American Indian Museum before we met up for dinner and walked up the hill in Rosslyn to Rhodeside Grill. I happily indulged in the traditional reuben I have every time I'm in the United States. Wednesday they went to the Spy Museum and a few others, and we met up with my aunt and cousin at Lebanese Taverna for an 'authentic' Lebanese mezze feast. The food was fine though not nearly as good as what we get here, but we had a wonderful time catching up.

Thursday and Friday I managed to have lunch at FSI with good friends, which is the magic of FSI. It's nice to know we always end up there at some point or another. On Thursday night we met up with D for pho, which we'd taken my dad to for the first time last November, and this was my mom's first time. It was absolutely delicious, especially on a cool, rainy day. Friday night we met D for a quick dinner at Panera and then headed into DC where we met up with another friend, P, and went to a Capitol Steps show. I'd never seen them before but had heard their songs, and I had an absolute blast. It was laughter from start to finish. The great thing about them is they make fun of absolutely everyone, so it's impossible to get offended about one person or party's depiction. I highly recommend this affordable and accessible weekly show!

Saturday was the only day we had where I could go sightseeing too, but since it was Memorial Day weekend we figured the Mall or environs would be overwhelmingly crowded with tourists. So we headed to Eastern Market and spent a few hours exploring the outdoor stalls. I bought a few pairs of earrings and adored the many lovely dogs hanging out at the market. We had brunch at my dad's favorite tavern (Boxcar) and headed to the hotel for afternoon naps. Our last dinner out was at Cafe Asia, where we enjoyed the great weather and ate on the patio.

Sunday morning was an early start since my parents were starting their drive north. We said goodbye (not too tearful since I'll have R&R relatively soon), and I headed to Mosaic for a day of pampering. I had my nails done, got a massage, had a lovely lunch, had my hair cut, and then shopped at Target for a few more essentials. After that it was off to the airport and back to Beirut. The flights were full and uncomfortable, and I was so incredibly happy to get home and see my cats and sleep in my own bed.

And now, after this long, picture-less recap of the past few weeks, I find it's almost time for bed. Probably because I go to bed ridiculously early, but also because I'm still a wee bit sick. Anyway. My next three trips over the next six months are on the books, and I hope I'll sneak in another weekend getaway or two. So more stories and photos soon, I promise!