A couple blog posts ago, I described the position I currently hold here in Baghdad. It is a big job for one person at the largest embassy in the world, but I finally have found my groove with managing the workload and am ready for the next seven months. The hiring freeze is not great – frankly it’s bad for the Foreign Service since it means that trailing spouses cannot get hired at post. Luckily I got my job back in November and am not currently affected, but if the freeze continues by the time we move on to our next assignment, I will not be able to work. Hopefully we will be able to educate this administration regarding EFM (Eligible Family Member) employment and they will thaw the freeze. However, if it continues, there will be no one to fill the two positions I am currently holding up when I leave. These are vacancies, not the creation of new positions.
Anyways…I had to preface that with the real reason I am writing this post. Training in Kuala Lumpur! Respectfully, the Community Liaison Office program requires training for coordinators and DC holds regional training overseas for those of us living away from the States. Lucky for me, I got to go for one week of training in Southeast Asia! It was a rewarding opportunity and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even though we did forty hours of training, it felt like a vacation! I made some great connectionss and spent time with a good friend, enjoyed delicious food and nightlife, and took advantage of the cheap spa services. It was awesome!
The training is good for five years, so I won’t be getting lucky like that again. I am very thankful for the traveling I have been able to experience because of this Foreign Service life.
The power is out on the compound now which is actually a blessing in disguise because it’s finally given me an opportunity to write my next blog post. It is quiet at the embassy since it is Saturday, the sun is brightly shining and the weather is a nice cool spring morning. It’s *rare* days like this one that make Baghdad feel like a liveable place, a normal life for those who call it home. Of course, this peaceful feeling is nothing more than wishful thinking and nostalgia for my own experiences growing up in the desert and enjoying the springtime weather reminiscent of my happy childhood, since Baghdad and the greater country of Iraq is still rife with conflict.
Two days ago the embassy played host to children who have been displaced from their homes. They are living in refugee camps and have come from cities in Iraq that have been overrun by ISIS and other struggles. For many of them, their homes no longer exist – they have nothing to return to.
These children came and played sports, crafted, and danced with us for several hours, they ate candy and ice cream, and went home with some toys. It was a magical day for everyone, Americans included, to live innocently and carefree if only for a fleeting moment. A reminder of the peace we would like to see in Iraq.
Contrast this world against that which we experienced on R&R. I try not to take for granted the opportunities we are rewarded for our time served in Iraq – it is generous and appreciated. Our lives are not like those of the children living in refugee camps and it would be wrong not to recognize our privilege.
As part of our deal for working one year in Iraq, we are afforded three R&Rs that are each three weeks long. These breaks are indeed necessary as the pace of our work can be taxing. Many have trouble sleeping here since we are always connected to the job – for the most part, we eat, sleep, and work. So after three-and-a-half months of six to seven work days a week, David and I were ready for that first R&R. And no surprise, we went back to our beloved France, but this time we added a leg to Germany which gave us an opportunity to see Bavaria and Salzburg, Austria.
I won’t be able to write out the details of our journey because three weeks was indeed a long vacation and even we were surprised at how much time we had off. But I want to share some pictures and the highlights. It was a beautiful trip with many adventures. Alhamdullilah.
Craters left behind at Pointe du Hoc – the site of German occupation and the confrontation of 250 American Rangers who scaled the cliffs for a surprise attack.
Omaha beach at low tide. The sculpture symbolizes the rise of freedom and the wings of hope.
The American Cemetery in Normandy – 25,000 graves.
Amazing to run into friends while traveling around the world!!
Skier beginning their decent of the mountain. Some appear to be right on the edge! In the background is the Matterhorn.
Up in the heavens standing in front of Mont Blanc at 15,780 feet. We took the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi at 12,600 feet.
On the train climbing the Alps to see the glacier. Below is Chamonix.
Inside the ice cave carved into the glacier Mer de Glace
The winter wonderland after the snow storm
Davao Concentration Camp – the first one just outside Munich.
Beer garden in Munich on a typical Saturday morning at 11AM – doesn’t take them long to enjoy the weekend!
The Sound of Music gazebo – gifted to the city of Salzburg.
On a walk in Munich’s English Garden. Nearby is the U.S. Consulate…lucky them!
Neuschwanstein Castle, built by the “Mad King” in 1869. The Disneyland castle is inspired by this beauty.