Sunday, February 27, 2005

What a day.

A quick overview since it's late. My headache finally went away and I'm about to go to bed.

This morning we "paid off" our car. Aka, we got the loan check from the bank and we now owe the bank gobs and gobs of cash. But it's done and all we have left to do is pay the darn thing off. Give us a couple years.
Following that, we went to Woodbridge to see the old house. You know, we lived in a gorgeous neighborhood and in an amazing house. Driving down the street I really missed not being able to call it Home. *sigh* We went by King Elementary, the grocery store, the ice rink, all the places we spent 2 1/2 years of our family life. *sigh* The house now has a tall wooden fence, but the green shutters, trees and porch swing remain. The boys didn't remember any of it.
Lunch at Famous Dave's followed by a long drive through Woodbridge, Lorton, Fairfax City, Falls Church and back to the apartment. Periodically we rolled down all the windows and opened the sun roof to enjoy the cold wind. It was a really nice drive down wide roads with few other cars. Peaceful, pleasant.
Back at the building, we spent time in the game room. With a boost from some chairs, the boys played air hockey and foozball. The rest of us played some pool, then everyone switched around. Eventually, the twins came down and played as well until all the kids went into a squash court and madly ran around playing with soccer balls. We found the indoor pool which was a warm 83degrees. I know what we're doing one time next week.
After the kids were all red-faced and sweaty, it was dinnertime and Katherine had made a pitch for Macaroni Grill. I know I know... we ate out again?? It was so worth it. I had a Salata Rossa... arugula, low fat feta, red onions, grilled chicken, strawberries and strawberry balsamic dressing. It was amazing. Eat it. Ian opted for the lobster lasagna and the kids had kid meals that beat kid sized meals anywhere else.
Of course, Jonathon has yet another fever and seemed to have difficulty breathing about 10 p.m., and all the other kids were so exhausted by the time we got home. I so wish I could figure out what brings on these fevers in the little man.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The latest out of Togo

So it seems that the pressure got to him some how and President Faure Gnassingbe will be stepping down. That's not to say that he's getting out of Dodge for it appears he's also accepted his party's (Rally of the Togolese People) nomination to run for president, stating "We've got to mobilize and organize so that we don't let power slip out of our hands."

-Guardian Unlimited,,1280,-4826830,00.html

I guess that's one way to avoid all those sanctions.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


I'm not lost, I'm talking about the TV show "Lost". We watched it last night and have obviously missed quite a bit but it was still fun. For those wondering, I caught right off the big guy on the television. I believe he was being ushered into a car.

It's the 3rd day of school...

And where are the kids today?

At home, watching TV, in their PJs. It's a snow day!

The weekend was so nice. Really, in the 40s and 50s and pleasant. A little breezy but that's OK. Then this morning *whomp* Snow.
Katherine was the last one up, even though I didn't actually crawl out of bed until 9:30. Hey, I was awake at 7 and had watched the weather report, I knew schools were closed. Ian still had class (no break if the Fed gov't is open) so he was out in the snow drifts at 8. But Katherine woke up, puttered around, worried about being late for school and finally, finally, looked out the window.
Commence the shouts of "It's snowing! It's snowing!!" While I am in no way looking forward to leaving the apartment, missing the only snowfall and chance to throw snowballs would kill the kids. So I'll suck up the misery of being cold and wet and we'll go out together. This afternoon. See, my thought is that if I took them this morning they'd be begging again by lunchtime. This way I can say such things as "Let's see if the flakes slow down a bit later" or "It should be a bit warmer this afternoon" or "If we wait, there will be more snow on the ground to play with." All of this leading from the hope that if we go out this afternoon we can play enough that we won't go out again. Sneaky? Well, yeah. But anyone who knows me knows that cold and I do not agree. If Ian were home, HE would take them and love it. Since it's plain old mom, they'll have to go on my terms.
I'm glad I went to Harris Teeter yesterday. Did you know that the one in Ballston has -2- floors? What kind of grocery store has 2 floors? Complete with elevator to fit two shopping carts. While the size of the place and the options (15 kinds of pickles? are people really that picky about pickles?) were overwhelming, even more surprising is the openness and friendliness of the people. Not just in the store, obviously, but everywhere.
You're probably thinking me mad. People in the U.S. open and friendly? Common man will walk by on the sidewalk and never give you a second look, you say. But wait, hear me out.
In Manila, everyone noticed us. We couldn't walk down a street without people ahead of us turning around. Jeepney riders would stick their heads out the windows to stare. Girls would giggle and talk to the boys and try to touch them. We were, I've said it before, spectacles. When asking anyone anything, we were always treated as superior, folks would scurry about pretending to do our bidding. Everywhere we went people would smile huge, vacuous smiles.
Here, none of that happens. And what a relief. People smile, and it's genuine. Store workers laugh and I know that it's partially -at- us (which to a lot of people would irritate them), but what it means is that they see us as people, not as odd beings. Everyone is helpful. If we ask, we get an honest answer and then some. When I inquired at the Barnes & Noble counter about kids' storytimes, one girl directed me to another counter where there were pamphlets, another girl found one at her station and brought it out to me and gave a direct answer to the specific questions I'd asked. On Friday, Ian and I had lunch at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon. Or waiter was a friendly guy who did his job, gave suggestions, took our order and when we changed something gave us an "Absolutely". Ian commented that not only would I be getting my chili, that cheese would definitely be on ithj
There's a paper trail a mile long on everyone here. There's an electronic trail too. A system of checks and balances is everywhere. It's behind the scenes, but palpable and for us it's reassuring. I can see why it would bother so many Americans who are used to being left alone and being trusted "just because". But we just arrived from Manila where no one is trusted and the paper trail is handwritten ledgers and the system of checks and balances is a group of four salesgirls behind every department store counter. Americans aren't perfect, but we believe in ourselves and in our fellow man. Sure, there's a camera to back it up but I'm an honest person and I like being treated as one. I guess you could say it's a bit confusing. I'd rather have a camera watching than 14 sets of eyes staring.
Ian and I are getting a better appreciation every day for the mandated Home Leave, which we'll officially be taking in August. We are loving our time here and the freedoms of just being able to Be. We have friends and family. The option of anonymity is a valid one. Everything and everyone is fast, bright, colorful, clean. I know part of it has to do with the area (northern Virginia is amazing, IMO) but when we drive west it will be variations of the same.
I'm happy to be Home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Week Later

Greetings from the U.S. of A. We have landed.

The past week has been the standard half-way-round-the-world mush.
The flight here was the standard painfully long trip. Almost 4 hours to Japan, 3 hours there, 11 hours to Minneapolis, 2 hours there, almost 3 hours to DC. Yup, almost a full day of travel. Northwest isn't a bad airline, the chair/beds were relatively comfortable, the food was quite good (even the kid meals), no one slept well or enough, and our body clocks were on the fritz. My mom met us at the airport bringing armfuls of winter jackets, actually a strollerful, and we spent the next three days at my parents' home regularly waking at unearthly hours even with 9 p.m. bedtimes. Actually, Ian went to sleep at 6:30 the first night because he didn't sleep at all on the trip. Someone had pilfered his blanket so he was too cold to doze. Why didn't he get a replacement? You'll have to ask him yourself, I have no idea. One night after our arrival I had to tell the kids at 3:30 in the morning to stop talking, put the toys away and turn off the light because it was certainly not time to be up.
Do you know how difficult it is to force yourself to lay in a dark room and demand "SLEEP!" when you've awoken fully at 3 a.m.?
Jet lag sucks.
But we're over that now. We got over it with the help of Miller Toyota in Manassas that kept us in their offices for 8 hours over Friday and Saturday while purchasing a new car. We're the proud semi-owners of a brand new Toyota Sequoia. There's a story behind that purchase.
Kristine back in Manila has a Sequoia. Everytime I saw that car I marveled at how huge it was. I never actually sat in it, never asked Kristine about it, just thought to myself "good grief that thing is huge." Ian and I have been looking at cars on-line for many months so that we'd be prepared to purchase something this past weekend. Afterall, with the van and Jeep sold, there was no way we'd manage renting something for six months so buying was in our interest. Our thoughts went like this... We needed something easily repaired in Togo: Toyota or Honda. We needed a car for the washed out/desert covered/complete lack of roads: SUV. We needed one that could fit all of us: Third row to seat 7 or 8. That brought us to the Toyota Highlander or the Honda Pilot. The Federal Credit Union has AutoFinder assistance, so once we decided on a car, they would find it for us and arrange the financing.
We'd decided on the Toyota Highlander without seeing it (didn't exist in Manila) but obviously didn't make a final decision until we went to the dealership and went for a test drive. What we discovered is that while it does have a third row, it's meant to be a part-time 3rd row. There's little leg room even for our boys and with the third row up there was no trunk storage at all. Basically we would have been squashed from day one. If the kids never grew bigger it still wouldn't have worked for us.
So we looked at something bigger. Much bigger. And that was the Sequoia. It's huge (huge enough to cause issues with parking at our apartment building) but we have plenty of space for our junk, we're all very comfortable in it and I know that I'll feel safer in it driving around Togo than driving a little runabout. Parking garages won't be a problem in Togo either.
So, I should have asked Kristine about her car. It would have given us something to consider before being faced with an on the spot decision at the dealership. The process is mostly over and done and I'll be thrilled if I never step into a car lot again.
We like our car and we like our apartment here in Courthouse too. Monday we took a walk around the neighborhood and know we'll be very happy here over the summer. Within walking distance is Barnes & Noble, Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn, Whole Foods... you get the idea. There's also Wendy's and Taco Bell about 2 blocks away. Oh yes, we ate Taco Bell. Good grief the portion sizes are gigantic and only Ian finished his food but it was sooo good. We sat for a long time just chatting and enjoying being there. We walked the nearby streets, found the dentist and the movie theater, the metro station and the bank. Did you read that? We -walked-. The air temp was in the mid50s, it was a brisk cool wonderful walk. A walk. We'll be doing loads more of those as spring arrives. It had better not snow on Thursday like the forecasters are predicting. The kids were able to play at the ASFS playground after school today and loved it.
Oh right, the girls started school today at the Arlington Science Focus School. The neighborhood school is Key Elementary and it's in walking distance, but it's also a Spanish Immersion school and that's not what we wanted for the kids before heading to a French speaking country in August. They have an interesting set-up where school boundaries are blurred because of the focus of each of four different schools. As soon as I saw a science option I was hooked and I really hope the kids enjoy it. Rebecca is in Ms Riverson's class. She wasn't completely alone though, in her class is Alex, a boy she knew from kindergarten at ISM. Alex's twin brother Nicky was actually in Rebecca's class at ISM. Small world. Alex and Nicky are stateside until July before heading to their next post in China. The classes are very culturally mixed as well, which I'm happy about. Katherine is in Ms Knisely's class (yes, like nicely) and has already made friends. While Rebecca said her work was too easy (I'm doubtful), Katherine said hers was fun. I think they'll have a good rest of the schoolyear.
The kids are still getting adjusted, as we all are. They miss the cats, but the cats are being well-cared for in Manila. We brought them to their new home last Tuesday and the look on Pomelo's face said one word... traitor. I don't blame him, he knew something was up, but I'm sure he never envisioned that. By the next day though, Christy said he was exploring his new house. I think he'll be fine. Bopis was discovering every miniscule hiding spot and causing the housekeeper to panic. She never was a friendly lap cat, so she'll do just fine as the rat hunting prowler.
OK, wrapping up. It's 10:30 Tuesday night and we're back on track with nights and days. The school day doesn't start until 9 a.m. with bus pick-up not until 8:30. Ah, sleep-in bliss. But it's not bliss unless I get to bed at a decent hour. So goodnight.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I woke up this morning to a quiet house. Only the sound of the air conditioners and the twittering of the birds outside, punctuated by a car honking or motorcycle driving by. The house is empty while suitcases lie open waiting for the last few bits to be crammed in. There is no TV. There are no cats. This laptop along with some cards and small travel games are our only in-home diversions. Ian and the kids are all sleeping while the sun slowly rises into the hazy sky.

Today is Wednesday, 16 February 2005. Our last day in Manila.

Saying "I can't wait to go home" or "We're sad to leave" simplifies the turmoil of emotions in each one of us. I'll need to wait a bit before writing it out because otherwise I'd be attempting to put into script a chaotic whirl of thoughts that don't translate to the written page. Suffice to say that today will be both an exhilirating and heartwrenching 12 hours.

Monday, February 14, 2005

We're OK, don't worry....

A bomb went off in Makati, a bus bomb at the Ayala MRT station (at the Glorietta SM on EDSA, across the street from our neighborhood... again) has killed 3 and injured ~60 people. Simultaneously, two bombs went off in Mindanao, one in General Santos City and one in Davao.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is currently at the station and information will be released as it's known. Suffice to say that we are all fine and weren't even home when it occurred, so don't worry.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Perfect Sunday

We had our last Mass at San Antonio parish. It was nothing special but the visiting priest could be understood and that counts for a lot here. Following Mass we stopped for a few minutes at Greenhills and bought an assortment of necklaces for pasalubong. Then it was off to lunch at Greenbelt's Bubba Gump and a final movie. Today's fare was "The Phantom of the Opera". Visually wonderful and of couse I love the music. It was very much like watching the stage version on the silverscreen. A show that didn't completely change when adapted for film, amazing! The only issues we had with it were the two leads. The phantom didn't carry the imposing stature or the amazing tenor voice he should have. Christine didn't have the the spark that would induce the phantom to go to such lengths for her. But putting aside those two things, it really was wonderful. The kids thought it a bit long and couldn't understand why the Phantom wasn't really a bad guy. They all gave it a thumbs up anyhow. I can't wait to buy it on DVD.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Truly an awesome day.

Looking at it from an alternate view, I could allow myself to get sad and despondent. I could begin grieving (a natural step in the process of any life change) for what we are losing, what's being left behind. But instead, today will be viewed as one of those sparkling days where everything went just right and was nothing short of wonderful. Filled with joy, happiness, friendship and just... just right.

The movers came at 8:30 and before noon were done putting our junk into big crates and on the back of trucks. Bye bye stuff. If we see any of it again, I'll be totally impressed.
The packers were still on our front step having their lunch when we locked the doors to our very empty house (but for gov't furnishings and the TV we haven't given up yet) and headed down the South Super to the Santa Rosa exit and to Enchanted Kingdom.
Katherine went last year with a birthday party and we've been promising the kids over and over that we would go. For over a year we've been saying it and here we are at the absolute last weekend in the Philippines with packers all morning and a promise to keep. When I decided several weeks ago that today would be the day I also told myself that there was no way the moving company could take more than two days for the job. Oh well, we weren't at EK at the opening, but we did make it by lunchtime (it takes about 40 minutes from Makati) and met up with two other families. All together we were a group of 14 with kids aged 3, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7, 9, 9.
Enchanted Kingdom was a happy surprise. Katherine had raved about it, but an eight year old isn't going to think about things like safety, cleanliness and such to the same degree as an adult. Rides were kept up, pathways were clean, food was decent, there was plenty of shade and no crowds. All on Saturday during the cool and dry season. The breeze was wonderful and thinking back on the day I think a huge joy was just spending the time walking outside. It's an activity rarely done in smoggy stifling Manila.
By the time we arrived the other families had done quite a few rides already but with an empty park it was easy to let the kids go again and again. The park is separated into five themes, but in all honesty it's tiny so you can see everything in an 8 minute walk around. Boulderville (an obvious takeoff from the Flintstones) is in the center and dedicated to the younger set. A playground, mini ferris wheel, hampster tunnels, and those rides where you pull the lever and go up and down, nauseating spinning teacups... the boys loved it all. I'll run through the overall favorites. The Roller Skate: a kid roller coaster even I could handle and it literally lasted 20-25 seconds, so we went twice. The rapids: family favorite, also done twice even though it had the only line at less than 10 minutes long, the first time was by family the second by age, I was thoroughly drenched after the second run, the others laughed and laughed. The Space Shuttle: a looped corkscrew rollercoaster that goes forwards then backwards, Ian took the girls, twice, Rebecca professed to love it but I think she loved the fact that Katherine didn't enjoy it so much so she could gloat (Rebecca still gets points for actually going though, extra points for being in the front. She said it was so she would be done first.) The carousel: the boys couldn't get enough.
What didn't fly? Nicholas hated the log flume. I survived the log flume. Jonathon was too short for the log flume. Jonathon was also too short for the bumper boats, the bumper cars, the virtual reality show/ride and he was a bit bummed but never bored. We ended up staying at the park until 7 p.m. with the rides, the food and the little sidewalk shows. A thoroughly pleasant day for P500 day passes and food that didn't cost more than a P65/person. Dinner of fried rice and sodas for all six of us totalled P540. Earlier I'd spent P140 on four ice creams for the kids. Affordable fun is putting it mildly.
With the park size, the number of adults and the ages of the kids, we generally stuck together without stifling anyone and we all went with the flow and the whims of the kids. I think the adults had as much fun, I really do. But what really made the day was the specific people we spent it with. Carol and Kristine are a blast to be with, their spouses are fun and their kids are great. I couldn't have asked for more laidback, fun people to spend one of our last Manila days with. I will truly miss them when we leave and I'm so thankful that they didn't get scared away by the idea of Saturday at an amusement park or of our bailing on arriving at opening. I'd set up the idea afterall and then came late, but they stuck to the plan and I'm grateful. Today will be a treasured memory for our family, a very fond farewell to Manila and to our friends. Thanks so much.

According to the news...

According to CNN, and allafrica, the Togolese are starting to fight back a little more strongly by burning tires in the street, bodyblocking the forced closure of independent radio and TV stations and getting some of themselves killed in rallies.

Read for yourselves:

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

We're home today.

It's 10a.m. and I took Jonathon's underarm temperature. 40C isn't good axillary, it converts to 104F. But adding the extra 1 to 1.8 degrees to get an "actual" temp means he is extremely hot. He's a bit lethargic, but still up, drinking water and watching TV. I'm glad today was a scheduled Stay Home day to do the last of the cleaning up and suitcase packing along with a trip to ISM. The housekeeper is here so Jonathon can stay home and nap this afternoon while Nicholas and I are out.


Now at 4:30, after his fever being controlled by Motrin most of the day, it has shot up again to 40.6C orally, which equals 105F. I'd wanted to let the fever run its course for a bit, but that's plain too hot for anyone. He's going to get another dose of Motrin now instead of waiting until bedtime. While his head and chest are burning up, his hands are feet are cool to the touch. I wish I knew what was going on with him besides yet another virus. Fevers are so general, alone they are indicative of nothing but "illness".

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

I enjoy keeping this blog

I enjoy keeping this blog, not only to keep for all eternity for my children to read about their experiences overseas (many of which they'd completely forget if I didn't take thousands of pictures and painstakingly write about every sniffle and elephant ride) but also because it seems to be a help to people round the world. Those who consider the Foreign Service life, those who want to move to Manila, those who want to travel with their kids, it's all good.

For our Embassy newsletter I wrote an article about our trip to New Zealand last summer, with all the kids of course. It was travel article and parental encouragement all in one. And if you're curious to read it, you can do so here: Click on Articles and Advice, Dispatches, then You Brought Them With You? (2/05)

Wrapping Up

Jonathon came down with a fever of 103 at preschool. Needless to say my afternoon plans just changed from a stop at the grocery store followed by packing and massive clearing, cleaning and purging to keeping the house quiet and making sure he gets his medicine and rest.

Last night he woke crying around 9 p.m. and when a regular trip to the toilet didn't calm him down I figured something was up. But when he's incoherent and crying and rolling in bed not wanting to be held there's not much to do but sit for a bit and rub his back. It seemed to help and he finally fell back into a deep sleep around 10. Obviously something is wrong because he's napping now and burning up. I'm glad I planned tomorrow as an at-home day for the boys. We'll be going to ISM in the afternoon to have little going away parties for the girls. The boys will have a going away party next Wednesday at Club Lunch with their AmeriKids friends.
Nicholas has been very sweet with his sick brother, sharing stickers and saying he didn't want to go to Katie's house since Jonathon was sick. He just wanted to come home and watch a movie. A quiet movie so it doesn't wake Jonathon. He really is a sweetheart.
In other news, Faure Gnassingbe' was sworn in as President of Togo and the constitution has been changed to allow him to complete his father's "term" through 2008. The African Union is not at all pleased with what's going on in Lome', calling it a military coup. An emergency summit will be held in Niger to discuss what options are available for getting Togo back on the road to democracy. It's interesting reading the replublicoftogo site to see the view from the ground, or at least from the mouthpiece of the Togolese government. They lambast the foreign media's portrayal of the change in government and say that everything is hunkydorey.
Read it all here. I have included a translation of my own, PURELY for my own practice. If you want to know what it -really- says, ask a Frenchman. :
Putsch militaire, coup d’état civil, monarchie, népotisme. Les médias étrangers tirent à boulet rouge sur le Togo. Sur le terrain, la situation est un peu différente.
[Military takeover, civil coup, monarchy, nepotism. The foreign medias have shot (a red ball? bullseye?) on Togo. On the ground, the situation is a little different.]
« On comprend la réaction de la communauté internationale » explique un proche de l’entourage du nouveau chef de l’Etat, Faure Gnassingbé. « Elle a pu être choquée par les procédés utilisés quelques heures après le décès du président Eyadéma, mais il y avait urgence ».
["We understand the reaction of the international community" explained a close member of the new Chief of State's entourage. "They are perhaps stunned/outaged/shocked by the procedures used several hours after the death of President Eyadema, but there was an urgency."]
Non seulement urgence mais vide constitutionnel car le président de l’Assemblée nationale était en Europe. Il fallait faire vite pour éviter que le vide ne s’installe.
[Not just urgency but a constitutional void as the president of the national Assembly was in Europe. It had to be done quickly to avoid having the void take hold.]
Et contrairement a ce qu’indiquent depuis samedi radios et télévisions étrangères, Fambaré Natchaba Ouattara, le président du Parlement, n’a pas été empêché de rentrer à Lomé, c’est lui qui a pris la décision de rester à Cotonou. D’où sa destitution intervenue dimanche soir.
[And contrary to what has been indicated since Saturday on the foreign radio and television, the president of the Parliament was not forbidden to reenter Lome', it was he who made the decision to stay in Cotonou. ?....? Sunday night]
En moins de 24 heures, l’ordre constitutionnel a été rétabli au Togo. Réunis en session extraordinaire, les députés ont élu Faure Gnassingbé au perchoir lui donnant ainsi la possibilité d’accéder à la magistrature suprême comme le prévoit la constitution.
[In less than 24 hours, constitutional order was reestablished in Togo. Reunited in an extaordinay session, the members had chosen Faure Gnassingbe' to... hmmm, it means something like they wanted to give him the position of the speaker to allow him to follow the constitutional provisions of rising to the presidency. I cannot wrap my brain around the actual word translations though.]
La solution d’urgence utilisée quelques minutes après le décès du président Gnassingbé Eyadema aura duré donc duré moins de 24 heures.
[The emergency solution implemented minutes after the death of President Eyadema lasted, then lasted less than 24 hours.]
Mais pour les médias étrangers, Français notamment, toujours prompts à accabler le Togo, ce qui vient de se dérouler à Lomé n’est autre qu’un putsch militaire, un putsch civil, un coup de force constitutionnel. Dynastie, monarchie, népotisme, voila, entre autres, les expressions récurrentes utilisées par les journaux, radios et TV pour décrire ce qui se passe au Togo.
[But for foreign medias, notably France, always ready to condemn Togo, what came to unroll Lome' was nothing more than a military takover, a constitutional coup. Dynasty, monarchy, nepotism, there among others, the recurring expressions used by journalists, radio and TV to describe what happened in Togo.
L’oscar de la désinformation revient sans doute à Radio France Internationale (RFI). « Cette radio ne respecte même pas la mémoire d’un disparu », s’étonne Pitang Tchalla, le ministre de la Communication.
[The oscar of disinformation goes without a doubt to Radio France International. "That station doesn't respect the memory of the departed" said Tchalla, Communications minister.]
« RFI s’est lancée dans une campagne de désinformation et de déstabilisation » dénonce M. Tchalla.
["RFI has launched a campaign of disinformation and destabilization" denounced Mr. Tchalla]
Il est vrai que depuis l’annonce de la mort du président Eyadema samedi soir, la radio française diffusant vers l’Afrique offre une large tribune aux opposants de tout poil, politiciens, journalistes, « experts » du Togo, historiens de l’Afrique de l’ouest, etc…
Ses tranches d’information depuis 24 heures n’ont pas accordé la moindre place à un responsable politique togolais susceptible d’exprimer une opinion contradictoire.
[It's true that since the announcement of the death of President Eyadema Saturday night, French radio is spreading around Africa, offering a large soapbox to opposition (something about hair??), politicians, journalists, "experts" on Togo, West Africa historians, etc. These slices of infomation over 24 hours should not be accorded the merest place in responsible Togolese politics (what does the rest of that sentence mean?)]
« Où est l’équilibre en matière de traitement de l’information ? » se demande Pitang Tchalla.
["Where is the equality in material and treatment of information?" asked Tchalla.]
La mauvaise connaissance ou tout simplement l’absence d’information sur les réalités togolaises conduisent les médias étrangers à écrire un peu n’importe quoi. A cela s’ajoute un parti pris évident de la part de certains journalistes qui ne voyaient en Eyadema qu’un horrible dictateur et qui considèrent son fils comme le dépositaire de pratiques condamnables.
[The bad information or simply the absence of information on the realities of Togo leads the foreign media to write what is untrue. This adds a party take evident on the part of certain journalists who did not see in Eyadema anything but a horrible dictator and who consider his son an agent of condemnable practices.]
Les jours qui viennent démontreront la faiblesse de leur analyse.
Enfin, on signalera que les capacités d’investigation de la presse sont étrangement limitées. Aucun journaliste ne s’est vraiment intéressé à l’ancien président de l’Assemblée nationale, présenté à l’étranger comme une sorte de martyr bloqué derrière les barbelés de la frontière. Il aurait été intéressant pour les lecteurs de connaître sa vision politique du Togo.
[The coming days will demonstrate the faults in their analysis. Finally, it signals that the investigation capacities of the press are strangely limited. Many journalists aren't really interested in the old National Assembly president, presented to the foreign community as a sort of martyr stuck behind the fences at the border. They are more interested in realizing their own political visions for Togo.]
Quand il était à l’Assemblée, il exposait volontiers son programme à ses visiteurs. Non à la dictature de l’Europe, non au dialogue avec l’opposition.
[When we was in the Assembly he voluntarily exposed his programs to visitors. not to the Euopean dictator, nor in dialogue with the opposition]
La communauté internationale étai-elle prête à avaliser ce discours. Sans doute pas.
[Is the international community ready to support this discussion? Without a doubt not.]
We wait with bated breath. And can I say my brain hurts from that pathetic attempt at translation? As far as I know Ian is learning French this summer no matter what, so it's good practice for me. But practice is all it is and it's exhausting.

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Good Sunday Afternoon

Our party went very well yesterday. We didn't do much planning aside from hiring the Mongolian Grill to cater and buying enough drinks to water an army.

We'd invited about 100 people to celebrate the departure of three JFSOs from post in the next 3 weeks. We extended the party to include Katherine's 9th birthday and it also (for us) was for the departure of Ryan and Laura on the 19th for a trip home and for Amy who's being medvac'd home to deliver her baby too. We were glad to see so many friendly faces gathered together and were especially pleased that the Ambassador came and stayed for several hours, along with the DCM.
Our home was the venue for several reasons. We wanted it here, our home is spacious and as we opened the party to entire families (of course!) the playground next door was perfect for 20+ kids to run around. The caterer was wonderful. They arrived at 1 p.m. to set up and provided everything we'd need. Originally eight 10-seat tables complete with tableclothes, goblets, silverware and slipcovered chairs with candles and beautiful floral arrangements in the center... we cut it down to seven tables because the eighth really crowded our indoor space. We ended with 2 tables indoors and five on the patio and along the covered driveway. Folks arrived in tshirts, jeans and sandals and felt out of place. They shouldn't have! The whole point was a relaxed get-together with friends just to enjoy an evening. Just because there were tablecloths shouldn't have worried anyone, they came with the package. But next time we know to ask what sort of decorative set-up is standard and perhaps we can request something more fitting.
People poured in, the grills (actually giant woks) roared to life, food was eaten, kids ran everywhere without becoming a nuisance, and if what our guests said was true, everyone had a wonderful time. Many asked us about the bar we'd purchased in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We knew we wanted to clear our the alcohol we've been holding on to for a long while so we'd put it all out only to discover at the end that, much like the loaves and fishes, we had more alcohol at the end than we'd started with. Our guests were very generous. We talked a lot about New Zealand, about Togo (one guest did his second tour in Togo back in its heyday) and about our time in Manila. Since we'll be in NoVA for so long we'll see many people over the summer. And if not this summer, then at another post or another time in DC. Again, a wonderful thing about this sort of life is that even though we leave so many people behind, and so often, it is never "goodbye" but only "until next time".
We had ordered our own desserts to complement the flan and tapioca in the standard menu, a couple cakes from the Pastelleria at San Antonio Plaza and a birthday cake from Goldilocks for Katherine. The round chocolate layer cake was a huge hit with the adults and the birthday cake disappeared with all the kids around. On the Pastelleria cakes we'd asked them to print Bon Voyage, Hasta la Vista and well, I don't have Arabic script, but what translated to Goodbye in Arabic. All the cakes were eaten before the writing was even noticed! That's OK, I didn't mind. We did call everyone together and sing a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday to an extremely blushed Katherine. She wasn't expecting that and it made her happy.
The party started at 4, most people had arrived by 5 and several tables worth stayed until 9. From my perspective it was a huge success as we were both relaxed, the kids were busy, the house was loud and full and neither of us had a headache at the end of it. I did have to bully Ian into eating something while the woks were hot but aside from that, it was perfect. Even better, I did no cleaning up after, the caterers and housekeeper did it all.
Have I even explained what a Mongolian barbeque is? Fresh and raw foods are layed out and each person gets a bowl and fills it with a variety of foodstuffs. A sauce menu at the end lets you choose the kind of flavor you'd like and one of the staff spoons in a scoop of this and that (you know, soy sauce, brown sugar, mongolian sauce, chopped garlic, etc). Then it's off to the wok where the chef tosses everything onto the sizzling pan, cooks it up and puts it into a clean bowl. Grab some chopsticks and you're off and eating. It's a perfect menu for those who want something extremely flavorful or for what most kids wanted, a bowl of plain rice.
We bid farewell to the last of our guests and then dealt with the sleepover girls which I already wrote about. It was our first foray into a party larger than a small dinner party and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Not to say all large parties are like that and I know that when we throw representational affairs it will be drastically different, but we took the safe road of surrounding ourselves with friends and we're so glad we did.
We felt like quite the adults.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

The President of Togo has died.

"Prime Minister Koffi Sama, reading out the government statement on national radio, said that to ensure security, Togo was closing its land, sea and air borders until further notice."


"According to Togo's constitution, the speaker of parliament, Fanbare Tchaba, succeeds the president in the event of his death. It was not immediately clear why the constitutional procedure was not followed."

Constitutionally, elections are to be held within 60 days.

The military has chosen his son, Faure', as acting president. Um....

We -may- not be hailing from Togo at the end of the year. We'll let you know.

Happy Birthday, sweetheart

What a mix of highs and lows. And what a day overall.

Katherine is finally sleeping peacefully in her bed. She has turned 9, had friends over, blown up balloons, eaten cake, opened presents, laughed and giggled and played.
Unfortunately, (most of) her friends she invited to sleep over are in the den watching Ella Enchanted. I had just dozed off as the girls finished watching a movie when Rebecca came in saying one of the girls was homesick and Katherine was crying. The friend went home and Katherine moved to her own bed to collect herself. The rest of the girls weren't sleepy yet. So here we are.
It's nearly 2 a.m. and it's time for shut eye. Goodnight.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Greeting from the month of February

Forgive me for any typos, I'm reduced to using Ian's laptop for everything. The packers came yesterday and took the PC.

So our 900 pounds of... stuff (I'd be hard-pressed to tell you anything we shipped aside from the PC, clothes and uh... some games I think) have been packed and are out of the house. The house suddenly feels much lighter, freer of said stuff. We backed up the computer info and aside from irreplaceable photos for scrapbooking I don't think we'd actually miss anything. Says a lot for what we deem important.
The rest of our stuff will get packed up on the 10th, and then we live out of suitcases for a week.
I spoke with Rebecca's teacher today and had a minute with Katherine's teacher. Of course the AmeriKids teachers know. Each of the kids is reacting differently to the impending changes. Katherine is internalizing as she does most issues. She's feeling sick and is on the verge of tears sometimes. Rebecca hasn't mentioned anything to her friends. Her teacher has tried to draw her out, but she doesn't want to discuss it in class. Nicholas has stated many times how much he'll miss Katie. Jonathon had a rough morning yesterday with some tears over the move. He doesn't know anything but Manila. We left the States when he was 18mo and he doesn't remember anything about "home". Of course we'll all get through it. Conflicting emotions are part of the deal and I'm trying to keep things normal but it's hard with items disappearing into boxes and suitcases.
For myself, the hardest part is when friends mention missing us when we're gone. I'm trying not to think about it too much, but we have the easier side leaving to familiar ground while leaving a small hole at post for those finishing up their tours. Even while we're slowly checking out, I'm still involved in some things between the movers and preparing for our party.
Many folks seem to find it odd that we're still around. "Aren't you leaving soon?" is the most frequent greeting at the moment.
Yes, we are, but we're not gone yet. Sixteen more days.
In other news, Nicholas's rash is finally just about gone. He came home from preschool last Thursday with pink cheeks and over the next 24 hours I took him to the doctor for the rash had spread to him chin, his exposed chest at his collar and along the underside of his forearms. It looked like a reaction to grass or some other topical problem but I didn't ignore the possibility of a food reaction. The med unit prescribed benadryl which i agreed with, but over the next 24 hours the rash became worse and spread all over his back and his cheeks were red from the irritation and his chin bothered him. Aside from keeping his skin clean and giving benadryl there was nothing else I could figure. He said he didn't roll in the grass at playtime and that he didn't eat anything different, so I can only come up with an environmental reaction, but to what I do not know. Aside from where it spread on his back it was only on exposed areas and not on his legs at all. Yesterday it looked much better and today it seems to be almost gone and he says it doesn't hurt anymore. Just another log in the Weird Things Kids Get files. We'll tack on Rebecca's fluke vomiting in the middle of the night last night too. All of Kristine's kids were sick over the past 5 days and something is going around Amerikids, so who knows what we'll be facing the next few days. As long as its all done before Saturday. Please.