Sunday, June 5, 2016

Operation Explore, Eat, Relax (EER) R&R: Setting the Tone

(Note: I am woefully behind on posting. This trip ended more than a month ago, and I'm currently on the next adventure. But bear with me as I take advantage of speedier internet in Europe to get caught up on this amazing Asian vacation.)

I think it's only fitting that my April R&R can be summed up by the acronym EER (explore, eat, relax). For non-FS folks, April is when the entire Foreign Service comes to a standstill to write employee evaluation reports (EERs). This year's form is shorter but - surprise! - asks for more. I finished my own EER draft and those of my officers before leaving, so I feel they're all in a good place. I'll need to probably do some editing when I get back, but the hardest part (for me) is over.

So, on to EER R&R!

I've been planning this R&R since late 2013. As soon as I knew where my friend D (of A-100 and Kampala fame) was going to be posted, I started scheming. The other portions took numerous forms over the years, but I finally settled on a winning combination: Taipei, Bangkok, and Bali.

D's posted in Taipei right now, and I thought that was a perfect reason to go visit this charming island. Plus, the food. I hadn't been to Thailand since studying abroad in Khon Kaen in 2002 (and I'd never done any touristy things in Bangkok then), and I also wanted to get some clothes made. And Bali. That was kind of a whim, but I am so excited. (And before you ask, I have neither read nor seen Eat, Pray, Love, but given how many people have asked me about it, the blog title is a bit of a cliched take on that.)

So two+ years is a long time to plan and R&R, but to be honest I am actually winging a lot of this. Not in terms of flights/hotels, but tours and things. I usually sign up months in advance. I only signed up for the Bangkok tours a few days before leaving and I am still not booked for anything in Bali (though I have a decent idea of a few things). Taipei I'm going to tackle day by day while D is working. But the overarching theme going into this is definitely explore, eat, relax.

From dumplings and night markets in Taipei to three different food-related tours in/around Bangkok to a hosted meal in a village in Bali to copious amounts of pork products in all three places - food, glorious food! I do miss E/SE Asian food in Beirut...

I'm going to hit the highlights in all three places for exploring but not kill myself doing it. Which feeds into relaxation. That is really one of the keys here. Spas, walking, sleeping in, naps, more spas, people-watching, and avoiding the work email are the order of the day.

Stay tuned for more updates - with pictures, I promise! - in due time. I caved and brought my laptop on this trip since I wanted to be able to write and catch up on internet stuff (I have yet to start my 2016 photo calendar...), so it's worth the extra hassle. So the goal is to upload photos while still on vacation and have things ready to go once I get back.

Here's to EER R&R!