Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's 2018 already

Somehow, it is 2018 already.  2017 flew by pretty quickly.  We are already on the down slope of our tour in Riyadh.  2018 will see us jet back to Washington DC where I will start a two year tour as a desk officer.  For the third year in row, I am choosing a word of the year.  2016 was ‘support’ and 2017 was ‘survive.’  I chose ‘survive’ in 2017 because 2016 was so hard and just getting through what was sure to be a difficult year was going to be enough.  I think that I, along with Sara, did more than just survive 2017.  By no means has the year been easy.  Being separated for six weeks from my family was tough.  I lost my grandfather and namesake in May.  The Saudi summer was rough.  And I have probably never slept as little as I have this year.  But we have two healthy, happy boys.  Sara and I have developed a routine here in the Magic Kingdom that is heavy on time together – the way we want it.  We have friends and family who love us.  The year has been better than I hoped twelve months ago.

Before we flip the page to 2018, I want to take a look back at my 2017 goals and see how I did.

·                     Have a healthy baby boy
    • Sara is way more responsible for this than I am, but it’s my blog so I will call it a goal achieved.  Crosby is doing fantastic.  He will be crawling within weeks.
·                     Get promoted at work
    • Joy! Relief!  When the promotion list came out in September, my name was on it.
·                     Visit two new countries
    • We visited Dubai in February, Bahrain in September, and Egypt in December.
·                     Watch at least two sunrises and two sunsets
    • There are some beautiful sunrises and sunsets out here in the desert.  We have a desert landscape path here which gets really beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
·                     Get a "good" new  post during bidding season
    • Returning to DC was our back-up option.  I really am looking forward to the position I will be working in, but we preferred to stay overseas.  So, this counts as a fail.
·                     Weigh 185 lbs or less by end of year.
    • Complete fail.  Instead of losing 10 lbs., I gained 15 lbs.  I am not sure if it is Saudi or kids (it’s kids!), but finding the 30-60 minutes to workout when I am constantly exhausted was difficult.  And it turns out, I stress eat when I am tired.  Not a good combo.
·                     Work out 3x/week for at least 30 minutes
    • Failed on this one.  If I average over the whole year, I probably managed 1.5x/week.  I am hoping to schedule more dedicated exercise time for 2018.
·                     Run a race of at least 10k/6 miles or more
    • I managed this one this summer in San Antonio.  I even managed to set a PR in the 10k.  The best part was I convinced my Dad and sisters to race as well (Dad and Katie walked the 5k).

So, my word for 2018 is going to be “juggle.”  There is going to be a ton of change in the next year.  We will leave Riyadh to return to DC.  I will start a new position.  Sara will find a new job.  We will move to a new house.  We will spend most of the first half of the year with one foot headed towards DC and the other foot planted here in Saudi Arabia.  Once we get back to the U.S., we have to balance work, kids, family, money, health.  The whole situation feels like one giant juggling act – a year spent to keeping all the balls in the air.

  • ·         Support Sara in her search for a new job in America
  • ·         Find a house and childcare that works for our family and our budget
  • ·         Pay off my student loans (with help from Public Service Loan Forgiveness)
  • ·         Visit 3 new countries and 1 new state (ND, WI, MI, MS, ME, VT, CT, AK, AR, RI)
  • ·         Attend at least two college/pro football games
  • ·         Attend at least two concerts
  • ·         Weigh under 200 lbs at the end of the year
  • ·         Spend at least 21 days with my dad or Sara’s mom.
  • ·         Complete a race of at least 10k/6 miles (I thought about making this a half-marathon, but I don’t think I can pull that off this year with the timing of our move).
  • ·         Go desert camping/glamping and see the stars
  • ·         Watch at least two sunrises and two sunsets
  • ·         Join an organization or board or volunteer with a group when I return to US
  •      Learn to juggle :)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Things I'll miss from Saudi

We're headed back to Washington for our next tour and even though we don't leave until summer, we have already started dreaming of trips to Target, college football Saturdays, and being in the same time zones as our family.  But I have spent the past few days thinking of things about our time in Riyadh that I will miss.

  1. The commute to work.  Without a doubt, you simply cannot beat the commute here in Riyadh.  It only takes me fifteen minutes door to desk walking through a park each day.  In the evening, I am often greeted by the call to prayer echoing in the evening air.  The best part of the short commute is a get to spend so much time with Sara and the boys.
  2. New public artwork in Riyadh.  Throughout the city over the past year, the government has installed a number of public works art projects.  Most of them are beautifying projects along the highways (which are generally very ugly).  My favorite is at a nearby interchange to the DQ they installed about two dozen up lit green metal trees.  They look like a scene out of a Dr. Seuss book.
  3. Winter weather.  The weather is brutal 8 months out of the year.  Super brutal.  But those other four months are fantastic.  We are right in the middle of the wonderful period of wonderful weather with highs in the 70s and brisk morning walks to work.
  4. Riyadh community - since there isn't a whole lot going on here in Riyadh, the community is pretty welcoming and friendly.  We have made some very good friends here and Jack has a wonderful toddler group of friends.
  5. Affordable domestic help.  We have a nanny who helps with childcare and cleans the house.  I love not having to do laundry or clean bathrooms.  It is so much better to spend that time playing with the boys.
  6. Call to prayer.  There is beauty in this daily devout ritual.  When you first arrive, the call feels loud and obtrusive every time you hear it.  Over time, it begins to blend into your day and become a part of the ambiance of life in the Islamic world.  After almost 18 months here, I welcome the lyrical melody of the call.  It brings peace and some comfort.  This time of year, the call for evening prayer generally comes as I walk home from work and see the palm trees and mosque silhouetted in the setting sun.  I will miss it.
  7. Magic trash elves.  In DC, failure to move your trashcan the 3 feet from the front of your house to the edge of the sidewalk would often result in no trash pick-up for a week.  Occasionally, you'd find yourself hunting for a less than full trashcan down the street to deposit the overfull trash bag.   None of that here.  We have a locked outdoor trash room off our car port.  There is another locked door that leads to the street.  Almost once a day, someone comes and empties the trash room.  Just get your HHE and have two tons of paper to dispose - no problem, the trash elves will take it.  Throw a kids birthday party and have five trash bags worth of party trash - trash elves will get rid of it before you even know there is a problem.  Neither Sara nor I have ever seen the garbage men - we don't know when they come... but they are good at their jobs!
There are other things I will surely miss, but this is my first post since January (lot has happened since then), so we'll stop here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Arabian Nights

One of the coolest aspects of my life and my career is when I get to experience something that most people will never get to do.  I have had snowball fights on erupting volcanoes, I've passed out at Oktoberfest. I've attended a papal funeral and gone SCUBA diving in the Blue Hole.  Last night, Sara and I and some friends of are got to go to a Saudi gala in the middle of the desert, held in honor of, I kid you not, some Arabian horses.  

The whole evening was spectacular.  The event was held out at the desert stables which are home to some very well-bred Champion Arabian horses.   They are show horses, not race horses.  During the day, there was a festival showcasing these horses (which we didn't attend) and this was the gala dinner to conclude the festivities.  The event was under the stars where a dance floor of sorts was built with carpets and some 30 foot palm trees that I am pretty sure were brought in solely for this occasion.  On the dance floor, a bedouin band played and sang throughout the night.  The music was a few drums, a single stringed instrument I had never seen before, and men's voices and clapping.  The 30 member band sang call-and-answer songs that echoed off the surrounding dunes.  On occasion, a few members of the troupe would get up and dance.  Later, more men - guests - joined in the dancing.  Although there were women at the party (probably one out of five guests were women), we never saw any dancing.

In addition to dancing, there was an exhibition of the horses.  Arabian horses are known for being lightening quick for short distances, but not as strong as horses we are used to in America.  I don't really know what I am supposed to be looking for, but these horses were very pretty and powerful.  The highlight of the evening, the highlight of our lives if you ask the announcer was the introduction of EKS Alejandro.  They spun up the hype machine to 11 for this horse.  The intro was so over the top, I assumed we were about to see a horse that was like 30 feet tall or something.  In the end...just a horse.

The man said I would tell the world about the night I saw EKS Alejandro.  Apparently, he was right.
After the horse show, they served the dinner.  Five hundred people converged on a sumptuous buffet 100 feet long, with salads of all sorts, savory pastries and meat pies, fish, meat, rice, stew, lamb on a spit and it was all delicious.  We filled our plates and ate until we were stuffed - all failing miserably to identify our favorite part.  After dinner, we conversed with a pair of Saudi men who sat our table and heard stories about their lives in Saudi, their experiences in America ("what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" translates into Arabic well), and heard stories about their children.  Sadly, this was the first extended conversation I have had with a Saudi, but all the more enjoyable for that fact.

After dinner, the music resumed and they continued to dance long into the night.  We huddled on comfortable couches on the desert sand.  We laughed about EKS Alejandro.  We even had the chance to ride some camels.

Dot: "Hey, I used to just read this blog.  NOW I am in it!"