Sunday, March 1, 2020

R&R#2 in the books.

Ian is back in Baghdad and I've started my job.  It's been a busy 8 weeks. January and half of February was dedicated to ConGen, the generic term for the consular training course at FSI, and Ian arrived stateside on Feb 7 with out HHE delivery on 10 January, so you know... busy. I'm still working on boxes. There is no way that the stuff for a family of 6 that filled a 3-story/5-bedroom house in Jordan can easily fit into 1185sqft of apartment. I feel like the paring down I did in Frankfurt was a good start, but that's all it was, a start.  I didn't really think how "paring down" to 12 pots and pans still wouldn't fit in a single kitchen cabinet. So. Much. Stuff.

So Ian arrived on 7 Feb, and so did Nicholas.  We had Nicholas with us for 10 days, a wonderful time as he'll be heading out on some cold-weather training for 6 months and won't be available again until the fall sometime.

But I have to admit, this R&R was just so different from #1.  For one thing, dishes. And laundry. Taking a bus to class.  Let's just boil it down to, I had to set an alarm.  An alarm!  I couldn't just BE with my spouse and my kid, there were other things pulling me around, and I didn't really like that. We were out every night the first week, which was great but tiring. Dinners with friends. Celebrating Katherine's 24th birthday. "The King's Speech" at The National Theater.  A Caps game. Valentine's Day. Dinner with my parents. The following Monday was a holiday, Katherine and Erich came down for an escape room which we blew through.

So. Many. Boxes.

Something we've noticed with Escape Rooms - as we get better at good rooms we spend less time in them. It's a catch-22, but still a fun one.

The next week, Nicholas returned to Camp Lejeune, we had another sad Caps game, and then Friday Ian and I flew to the UK to visit with our youngest at university.  We strongly recommend the four-poster room at the Rose and Crown Best Western in Colchester. There's a delight in staying in a converted 15th century pub house. The other Best Western I recommend is in Istanbul, it's just gorgeous.  Let's lay it out there - the international branch of Best Western is nothing like the US branch.

Oops, fuzzy, but yes, we had to duck.

Between the raindrops, we checked out the school (we did a college tour in June 2018, very different from gloomy Feburary), saw the boy's dorm room, ate on campus, saw his classrooms and some of his projects, and most importantly, took him off campus for a bit. The weather really didn't cooperate, so the blustery, cloudy, and periodically heavy downpours kept us from really wandering - the required rain boots or hiking boots didn't fit in my carry-on - but we did amble through Colchester High Street by the castle in the oldest settlement in England, and visited the tiny village of Dedham. Dedham has a nice restaurant we tried to go, The Boathouse, but as it was all reserved we had delightful light fare at the Tiptree Tea Room. Tiptree tea rooms are all over Essex and super cute, with cakes and sandwiches, and of course afternoon tea.  That's something I haven't had an opportunity for yet.  We just figured out that upstairs dining rooms in pubs are the place to eat, not the communal tables by the bar - tea rooms are a step beyond that we haven't reached yet. We did an Escape Room with Jonathon too, another successful outing.

The boy.

The last night we had him we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which shockingly was out of fish and chips (we remedied that the next day in London). I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner with these 2, chatting, having dessert, and some awesome Strongbow cider. Though we'd planned to see him for breakfast the next day before our departure, school got in the way so we said our goodbyes.

As happens every time we leave one of the kids or the kids leave us, I get weepy. Ian hadn't seen J since June, and he won't see him again until July when he comes home.

Colchester is just under 2 hours from Heathrow, but still too far IMO to do the drive the same morning as our flights.  So we returned to the airport, turned in the car, then took the train into town where Ian gave a talk to the Consular ELOs about his time in Baghdad, before we had our fish and chips and caught a showing of "Magic Goes Wrong." I hadn't ever heard of it, but Ian had and we're fans of Penn&Teller. The crazy thing with the show is that they do some actual magic, but there's so much silliness going on you don't really pay attention to the slight of hand. The Mischief Theater Company has 2 other shows currently running in the West End too, so be impressed they've secured so much stage space.

Wednesday morning came too soon.  Ian went to his gate and I went to mine, and 12 hours later we'd arrived at our respective "homes." Opposite directions.

One more R&R to go.

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