Crete - on the cheap

We have traveled quite a bit at our current post. There are lots of places we can drive, flights can be dirt cheap and at this point in our FS adventure, I really need to get out of town a lot.

I know plenty of our non-FS friends are jealous, and even some FS friends, but I am here to tell you, we travel on the cheap. Not quite camping in tents, but we are not staying at the Ritz and flying first class either!

This summer we were stuck at post. Boring, dull post with no other kids around and nothing to do. So at our very first chance, we left town. We went to Crete and it was glorious. We drove three hours to a neighboring countries airport for a cheap flight, at dawn. I think everyone's RT tickets were well under $100. We rented the cheapest, smallest car there was...finding automatics in European can sometimes be a trick. We did Airbnb which was cheaper than a hotel, enabled us to cook and had room for everyone. We also picked a tiny small town sort of in the middle of nowhere and we enjoyed a few offbeat things. Nightly walks to the beach near our house to throw stones and listen to the sheep with their bells. Starbucks in the big city was a huge treat for us all. And we went to a tranquil Nazi cemetery that German funds are clearly paying for.

So Crete on the cheap - thumbs up. Now off to check SkyScanner for our next trip out of town!

I can do whatever I want

In an effort to look at the positive of living where I do, I shall now list what I have come up with...a slightly snarky list.

- I do not have to deal with any townhouse ladies because there are not any, though there are some town house lady wanna be's.

- I can read ALL the books. Free time all day, every day? If a book comes in Kindle form, I can read it. All the time in the world.

- Same goes for Netflix viewing. Can binge watch anything without feeling like I should be doing something else.

- I can grow a big container garden. A really really big container garden. In fact this weekend is step two in that operation - the part where we go to 'plastic' street and buy lots and lots of flower pots and dirt for a song.

- I have gotten over the email manners here. So I am never very stressed about owing anyone an email. I rarely get any from people here and certainly don't get replies. So no worry.

- I have also accepted there will never be a CLO event of any interest to my, oldest kids at post, kids. Easter egg hunt for the preschool set? No thanks, and everyone in my house is happy with that.

- Knitting and sewing all the things. Do I want to spend a year knitting nothing but shawls? Quite possibly and since there is no craft group, I have no one to roll their eyes about it.

- I started an Etsy shop and have already had a few haters contact me or higher ups to try and tattle. Sorry bitter FS types, but I use local mail. For real. I order all supplies from European Etsy sellers, and I know exactly how to mail a package using the local post office. My post man likes to chat with me about his brother living in NJ. If your interested, my shop is called The Practical Life. I sell bags. I also now have two friends who run a tiny little notions shop in the market. They speak perfect English and can get me anything. I want a 9 inch zipper? Just a minute...and they come back with a 9 inch zipper. Local finds can be fun. Last time I was in the shop, they offered me tea, delivered by a guy with a tray a la Istanbul markets.

So it is not all bad. Lonely sometimes yes, but I am figuring out how to do things that I am quite sure no one else knows how to do here. And that is an empowering feeling.

Dressing the kids in the Foreign Service

basics - 10 year old girl

I have always been a shopper and always liked to be prepared. As a child of the FS, I can still very much recall shopping in rural South Carolina while on home leave as a kid. My mom would buy two years worth of clothes sometimes, planning ahead for holidays and growth.
I have put together some very basic basics for my 10 year old daughter. Nothing fancy but things that will get us through the Embassy Easter party, the inevitable last minute pajama day at school, the family 4th and possibly dress like your home nation day, and of course the last minute swim block in pe, one pieces only please.
None of these items are crazy pricey and all come from the following online stores - Hanna Andersson, Zappos, LLBean, Amazon and Old Navy. Since she is almost 11 we also hit H & M and Forever 21 sometimes. She has a few things that still fit this spring and we will end up ordering a few more pairs of shorts, some capri leggings, a shirt or two and a few more t-shirts. These clothes are quite literally things she already owns or are in the virtual shopping cart. So - plan ahead and happy shopping!

for those who want the deets on these items - all shoes, zappos, bathing suit, dress, shorts, red top - HA, jackets - LLBean, jeans and two tops - Old Navy and watch off Amazon.

6 months to the day

This has been the dullest 6 months of my life.

 But yesterday, which marked our 6 months at post, I heard as interesting/fun story. From my local doctor. Back in the Yugoslav days, he and his brother were drivers for the American Reading Room. Um okay? Why? Because they learned to drive as high school students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. On automatic cars. The American Reading Room owned a giant bus of an American station wagon and no one else wanted to drive it. I thought this was weird, since an automatic is easier than the manual cars they all drive here, but it is a thing, as our housekeeper told me she could NEVER drive an automatic car. Weird. So back in the day two Yugoslav brothers who were doing pre med at a local university, were the official drivers for the American Reading Room in Skopje, Yugoslavia.

a week shy of the 6 month mark

Everyone says 'give it 6 months' or 'give it a year' well we are a week shy of our 6 month mark in Skopje and some miracles better start happening at lightening speed.

What has made this posts so hard? Surprise pollution, poor school, isolation, trash everywhere bothers me, poor hiring practices at the one place I can work, my emails to anyone and everyone go unanswered, the women's group really is not a thing, Girl Scouts will probably fold next year as I cannot stand the disorganization, sponsors that dropped us after day 1, and finally, not a single friend. That has been the hardest part.

So I will spend the next week hoping for some progress in at least one of these areas. I am always hopeful, but I am also trying to figure out how far the VSMA might go....

This is plan B

I wish I could say life at our new post is super fun all day every day. It is not. Driving is stressful to me. The pollution was not a thing in any post reports. Grocery shopping can feel very third world in that one day there will be nice yogurt and then you never see it again. The school has been a let down. Unlimited internet is a big fat lie.  It has generally made things a bit hard.

So....I have been making. Making a lot. Using up the stash is the grand plan. I think these socks have all been made in the last 5 weeks. A monster quilt is getting quilted. I tried dyeing yarn yesterday. And I have mastered sewing in zippers, most days anyway.

a get away

After 3 years in Siberia, I mean Moscow, where tickets out of town were $$$, I was excited to give Wizz Air a try. So last Monday we got up at 3 am to head out of town to Oslo. Easy peasy. Except for the time....the flight back was also early when you factor in the fact the Wizz Air airport was actually a 2 hour train ride from Oslo....but all good otherwise. Highly recommended an Oslo Pass. Sort of expensive up front but totally worth it if you go to five museums, which we did and then some. Oslo is easy though, everyone speaks English, lots of diversity, lots of cool stuff. We saw the Scream so the kids are happy campers.

And I am a happy camper because we went to this place - the department store, Glasmaginent. So lovely. In the basement is a fabulous yarn store and all the Norwegian folk costuming you could dream of.