After a long transition back to the U.S. that required extensive planning and great perseverance, we are finally (relatively) settled in Virginia for three months of training.
We have been living out of suitcases for the last four months and are carting around several large boxes from Saudi Arabia which we will be shipping off to Baghdad in a couple months. The whole prospect of what we’ve been through and what we still have left to tackle sometimes feels overwhelming, but for the time being we are keeping calm and staying positive.
This blog post is called “Home Leave” because we just spent the whole month of July enjoying the beauty of this benefit that the Foreign Service enforces all employees to take between assignments. The idea is that after serving overseas for two years and before going back, your family needs to spend time in the U.S. to remember why this country is so great. We are serving the U.S. overseas after all. So we had mandatory vacation time. Yippee!
The decision to go to Maggie Valley, which is a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, was made very quickly after we thought about where we were coming from and where we were going. Desert – aaaand then back to – desert. We needed some color and depth in our lives and the Great Smokies provided just that. With green trees, mountain streams and rivers, a high elevation, and rainy weather that came and went in the afternoons, we couldn’t have asked for a better contrast to our life in the Middle East.
With no itinerary or schedule, we let ourselves relax and decide how we would spend our time each day as it came. Among our hikes into the mountains and walks around the lake, we white water rafted down the Ocoee River in Tennessee, rode horses, ate some amazing BBQ and southern comfort dishes, floated in inner tubes down Oconaluftee River in Cherokee, and spent time with family and friends.
It was hard to leave such a peaceful and charming vacation, but we are grateful we had such an opportunity to explore and have fun in the mountains.
Now, once again, it’s back to work!