Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Arizona

As Belize is such a horrible, god-awful place, the State Department provides each employee on a two-year tour a Rest and Relaxation trip.  The general rule for R&R is that you can fly to (a) your R&R point or (b) anywhere in the United States or (c) anywhere on a cost-construct ticket, as long as the place you want to go is relaxing.  The R&R point is usually a first-world city like London, Rome, Sidney, etc.  For the Western Hermisphere, our R&R point is Miami, so I obviously was just going to go home.  The government only pays for the flight, the employee is responsible for the time off, housing, food etc.

As Belize is so close to Belize, I will make multiple journeys to the US, but I wanted to take my R&R at Christmas when tickets are usually the most expensive and when weather problems can cause the most headaches (the government generally buys higher fare tickets that are refundable and also bump you higher on any standby list).  In addition, I wanted to go to both Phoenix and Omaha.  I was able to cost construct and pay the difference in fare to go Belize-Phoenix and then return Omaha-Belize.

When I left Belize on December 23, I ran into five people that I knew at the airport.  Four of us were on the same flight out of town.  Belize really is a small country.  After a quick layover in Houston, my parents picked me up at the airport only ten hours after I left Belmopan.

Christmas is all about traditions and my family has many that I love:

  • Our Christmas tree is covered in unique ornaments that we find whenever we go on a trip, or we made growing up.  Every ornament has a story and putting up the tree is a walk down memory lane.  Now that I have my own tree, this is a tradition that I have continued.
  • On Christmas Eve, we usually eat Italian.  We had my father's delicious lasagne this year.
  • We also open our presents from each other on Christmas Eve.  We pass out all the wrapped gifts and go one-by-one opening a single present from youngest to oldest.  This year, my little sister's boyfriend joined us and for the first time, Katie didn't get to go first.
  • Our family loves to play cards and other games.  The game will change depending on who is there, but this year we've played 'hand and foot', progressive rummy, and scattergories. 
  • On Christmas morning, Santa comes with our stocking gifts.  Every since we moved to Shenandoah when I was in middle school, Santa started using large gift bags instead of actual stockings.  Santa is very practical at our house, he often brings underwear and socks, as well as toiletries or other useful items.  He also brings fun stuff as well.  This year, we decided to draw for Santas.  It was a nice change and I'd guess we'll keep it going next year.
  • We usually go see a movie on Christmas night as well.  This year, we saw "The Fighter" which was quite good.  Christian Bale was phenomenal.  It's nice to be able to go see a movie without having to take my passport.
 My older sister just bought a house and is moving into her house this week.  So, I get to spend a good part of my vacation helping her move a whole bunch of stuff.  Not my idea of a great time, but I'll do what I can.

I am also organizing a second HHE shipment.  Since I did not use all of the allotted weight during my first shipment, I can do a second shipment within the first year of going to post.  Since this was my first tour, they allowed me to amend my travel orders to allow for a shipment from Arizona.  I've purchased a 55" Plasma Multi-system TV.  I've also spent the past four days buying tons of stuff that is either not available in Belmopan or much more expensive there.  The amount of crap I've bought is astounding.  I am also getting a bunch of stuff from my parent's house.  I will hopefully get a photo before the packers come next week.

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