Sunday, May 22, 2016

WWW 2016 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Last year Rebecca and Nicholas went to Vietnam for their Week Without Walls trip.  This year they returned to Chiang Mai, Thailand - 13 years since their last visit.




Making friends with the local wildlife.



Elephant kisses.




Yes, they are.







Enjoying the rain.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

You only celebrate your 20th Anniversary once.

This year was different. All the stars and planets were aligned and we decided that it was well worth the cost to take some time just for the two of us.  The kids were sprinkled around the world (US, Thailand, and down south here in Jordan), Ian was off work, and I am off work.

"But," you say, "you've had a bunch of trips this past year or so that were just the two of you!"

In that, you are correct. Those were "let's see something new" and "oh, there's a cool thing happening" or "hey, we have free tickets."

This one was just for us with absolutely no expectations of doing anything, only to celebrate being together for the past almost 22 years, and married for the past 20 years. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed being together.












Quiz night success.



SOFEX 2016

Being a senior in high school means that the last few weeks of school really aren't school. Exams are done early due to AP and Capstone requirements. Week Without Walls just happened so there are no big projects still looming. Really, Becca's last day of actual school was roughly 2 weeks ago (and the boys don't finish until 8 June). So when an ad came in the newsletter looking for someone to staff the USA Security and Defense pavilion Exhibitor's Lounge for the Special Operations Forces Exhibition (SOFEX), Becca applied.

For three days she made coffee, offered cookies, cleaned up, ran errands, handed out pamphlets and schedules, and provided a smiling face to the lounge. On the third day, we got to join her and see what it was all about.

With that badge, she can make any coffee you want.


Rope? What rope?
They even turned on the lights for him.
At the end, Becca was palmed an AUSA coin from the general who runs the program that pulls these pavilions together, and when asked her thoughts on it, she was honest - some moral and ethical confusion lingers between the "security"/"defense" and the selling of war.

She made a good amount of money for those 3 days, got rides with the organizers in the mornings, and had her lunch paid for. Confusion aside, it's one of those things that looks kinda interesting on a resume. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

For Sale

Folks, we're really trying to sell our car. So if you know someone in Amman looking for a great family car, or someone coming to Amman looking for the same, give us a holler!


2008 Dodge Durango SUV, Duty Unpaid, ~65K miles, red exterior/tan interior, 5 CD changer, sun roof, high clearance, automatic, power windows and side mirrors, rear window wiper, foldable 3rd row for tons of trunk storage, roof rack. Outlets in 2nd and 3rd row for charging Gameboys and laptops. Remote keyless power door locks.

Bought in Amman from previous Embassy employee, great car with V6 engine has the power to handle hills, snow, and more. Pre-nicked so you never have to worry about Amman traffic and parking.
$10,000
Contact Ian at imhopper@gmail.com with any questions.

Available 9 June 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A farewell

My coworkers put on quite an event for my farewell. Today was my last day of work and I'll admit to lingering a little longer than I needed to - to delete every last email, to clean the desk, and make sure I got my mouse pad, that sort of thing. But on Tuesday there was a party, a High Tea sort of thing held at the Ambassador's residence.  I had suggested a coffee and snacks in our office library for people to drop by when they wanted. I was told to just shut up.






Quite a few people came and almost as many stopped me afterwards and the next couple days to apologize for not coming. It was remarkable and unexpected. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

The list is made.

And in an Excel sheet to keep it alterable.

Date         Location/Activity
25-Apr House review
26-Apr High Tea - farewell at CMR
26-Apr BASEBALL  practice @ 4
27-Apr Nicholas Physical
28-Apr Last day work - M

29-Apr Friend's Birthday
29-Apr BASEBALL game
30-Apr PeepORama Contest
3-May BASEBALL practice @ 4

4-6 May Yard Sale Prep
7-May Yard Sale
9-12 May SOFEX
10-May BASEBALL practice @ 4

13-May BASEBALL game

22-May Packout Survey
22-May MGT Farewell
26-May M&N to Zaha
28-May Cats picked up by Judith

Packout Prep
29-May Packout Day 1
30-May Packout Day 2
31-May GRADUATION!
3-Jun Last baseball game
5-Jun Ian going away @ CMR
8-Jun Last day school

The list is actually about twice as long, but involves travel and dates, and you know how that is. My mom's visit is in there as well, and we have our summer mostly planned out. There's another column with all the flight details, places we're staying, packing reminders, summer camp information, etc. That's all best kept with me rather than in the blogosphere, but it's pulled together and I can rest easier.  My pile for the yard sale is coming together. My UAB pile is growing. I'm thinking about the things to mark for storage (*silent weeping* you know that Europe housing is quit a bit smaller that the 3-stories and 5 bedrooms we have now - we also know that it's the personal furniture and other camouflage that make our Drexel houses our homes... but there's no returning furniture in Frankfurt).

Game on.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Break, and the Living is Easy

Finally, after 3 1/2 years in Jordan, I went to Wadi Rum for an overnight.  Jonathon has slept under the stars there on a class trip (and oh, the stars!), Nicholas has hiked through it, Becca did a Tropical Desert climbing trip through, Ian has skydived over it, but finally it was my turn (with all of them) to enjoy it.

We highly recommend Wadi Rum Green Desert Camp for a simple overnight.  We were met at the Wadi Rum Visitors' Center by the owner, Nadjah, and then followed Suleiman (with 2 of our kids) in the truck to the camp about 10-15 minutes into the desert.  The camp is small with 5 small cabins and 2 family cabins.  They are called tents but they're more like soft-sided cabins, really.  The beds are cots with foam mattresses and head rests though the covers were soft. While I had no intention of using the blanket folded at the end of the bed it was so cold at night that we slept fully-clothed and I was glad I also brought blankets from home for each of us. The wind whipped through steadily, the lights needed to be screwed in to turn on, you get the idea.


They have a bathroom with running water and flushing toilets.  For the truly brave, there is a shower stall.  No lights actually in the stalls and the doors are solid and block out 98% of the "hall" light, so visits at any time of day or night are interesting. At one point during dinner Nicholas commented that he'd knocked off a scorpion from his leg which caused a minor rush to find it by our hosts, and it was actually something akin to a Middle Eastern earwig. Our host encouraged us by saying that all the mats had been shaken out that day, so no scorpions. I wonder if they shake out the bathrooms to be as certain there?

Wadi Rum is spectacular.  The kids wanted to go out on 4X4s but they are forbidden inside the preserved area. Instead we enjoyed a ride in the back of the truck.






Yes, we're all in the photo, look hard!








So yeah.  Wadi Rum, rockin'. See what I did there?

We had a couple nights at the Moevenpick in Tala Bay, Aqaba to wash off the Wadi Rum dust. In December of 2012 we stayed at this hotel and haven't been back since.  The severe drop in tourism is evident everywhere in Jordan, yet this was the first time we really felt it.  The Moevenpick name, like so many others, suggests a certain level of care.

Unfortunately...

  • We'd asked for early check-in since we were arriving from Wadi Rum.  Though we arrived at 11 a.m. our first room was ready at 1:30 p.m.
  • Our second room was ready at 4:30 p.m., but only after getting a manager involved.  The first person I asked said it was still with house-keeping.
  • The deadlock bolts on both rooms were broken.
  • The grout in the bathroom was less than stellar.
  • The shower drain didn't drain properly, thank goodness there was a 2 inch step up.
  • Our minibar (free!) was not refilled the second day.
  • The other room minibar (free!) was never filled the first day.
  • Though there were people with lifeguard shirts on, every lifeguard chair by pool and beach was empty.
  • The towels were all frayed. Minor, but back to the name.
  • Every pool was missing a large number of tiles, Nicholas got cut. Some tiles were found on the beach.
  • The beach wasn't cleaned up as often as it should. As we were downstream from the public beaches, the off-beach SCUBA area had plastic bags and other garbage floating all through it.
  • No pork products at the buffet. Seemingly minor, but if you lived here you'd get it.
  • The SCUBA reservation that Ian made in February through the hotel website never made it to the SCUBA shop.
  • Neither did the sunset boat ride.
  • But a snorkeling trip we didn't reserve was booked for us. Figure that one out.
  • The gear at the SCUBA shop was more than a little worn. Some pieces look like they'd been chewed on by sharks.  The boots were more hole than boot.
  • And worst of all, the bread rolls were hard and the muesli, the one thing Ian was really excited about, wasn't as good as he remembered.





But at the end of the day, the kids had fun.  They did SCUBA. They did The Molecule (shown above). They went jet skiing. They swam in the pools. They skipped rocks into the Red Sea. The Molecule left them with rub rashes from flinging off left and right as the motorboat whipped them around. Everyone came home with some level of sunburn. Fun times.

The drive there and back was easy. Portions of the road were really bad, portions of the road were really good. There were only a few idiot truck drivers. What 18-wheeler decides to pass another one while going uphill? Oh, there are plenty. Drives are our time to listen to family favorites - Jonathan Coulton ("Still Alive" is one of the best songs out there), the Hamilton soundtrack (a new one for us), Bare Naked Ladies, and They Might Be Giants, of course. The DS games come out for road trips, and Becca's laptop showed The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Whether we're flying or driving, four hours is barely a blip.

So we've done the family thing.  Now we're back home and some kids are doing Spring Break things the rest of the week and others are traveling out of Jordan. I'll be at CPR class tomorrow.  It's just how we roll.