Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I am still alive, I promise

Last you heard I was trying to purge the house of unwanted stuff, while the kids were at camp, and Murphy's law was in over drive. This week I am purging, packing, and organizing like a mad woman because the movers are arriving next week.  I am on a deadline here. Failure is not an option. Actually there is no failure, everything in the house right now is heading to Oman in one big shipment so actually I could quit right now and it would all be OK, at least until I start unpacking boxes.  I am setting things up so that future me doesn't have quite so many problems when the shipment arrives in Muscat, and so that things will go just a little bit smoother when the packers arrive.  I keep telling myself that I will thank me later.

So what else have I been doing other than preparing the house for pack out, swearing I will be more organized in Oman (even I have to say "Yeah right!"), and pre-packing things that are really important to me?  Is that all I do for the last few months at post?  Not hardly.

Earlier this month we celebrated Alonzo's 13th birthday, his actual birthday is tomorrow, but since I knew this week would be crazy, and some of his friends ditched the last week of school and left post slightly early for summer in the states, we celebrated early.  I can't believe he is going to be a teenager.  What the heck happened, and are really going to do this teen thing again?  I barely survived Dakota's teen years.  Dave and I have arranged a special treat for him, but I can't tell you dear readers since he also reads the blog.  You will have to wait, but trust me it is a very cool treat.

Lat month we made one last trip to Zambia for one last fabulous safari.  There is nothing like camping in Africa.  Was that a lion I just heard?  Yep, that was a lion.  Wow, the hippos are loud tonight. Ohh that elephant sounded really close, wonder what upset him?   And yes the animal do move through camp, but usually not until later in the evening after camp has quieted down, sometimes the sounds are right outside the tent.

There was one really scary moment this time, but the boys handled it well.  Shortly after dark, but long before the camp had settled in for the night, Dave and I walked from the tent to the bar to grab a soda (him) and a Mosi beer (me) before it got too late, and the animals started wandering through the camp.  Yes, Wildlife Camp has a bar, and a swimming pool, and hot showers. We really know how to rough it. As we walked by the pool on the way back to the tent we stopped short because there was a hippo standing on the path munching away.  Hippos are seriously dangerous animals and this thing was between us and our kids who we had left sitting outside the tent at our campfire.

We backtracked, alerted the staff who began shooing the hippo towards the river, and then circled waaaay around the hippo.  When we arrived at the camp we found two kids sitting in the car faces pressed against the glass, and the third hiding under a picnic table. Apparently this thing walked right by the kids on it's way from the lagoon to the river. Two of the kids went "Eeek Hippo!" and ran for the car before it got too close, the third went "It's too early, its not a hippo." and stayed his ground until it was really close when he went skittering off to the nearest shelter, the picnic table.  As long as he stayed quiet the picnic table wasn't a bad choice for dealing with a hippo then tend to treat large things like picnic tables and tents as if they were rocks and just walk around them.  Good thing it wasn't a lion or leopard though.

We've made our last trip to the swimming pool at the Tamerind club, it's just too cold now for swimming. We've made our last trip to Mua Mission with some friends where we bought the coolest Guli Wan Kuli carving.  We continue to go out Wednesday nights with friends to eat out.  Tonight is Chinese food.  Yummy!  I'm ordering the spicy tofu and the green beans. We have already said good by to many friends, I hope that someday, somewhere, our paths cross again. There are still more goodbyes to come.  SOB!  We have finished homeschooling this year, although we will continue with a much lighter summer school schedule after pack out is finished.  The boys are not real happy with me. Oh well, suck it up cupcake.

And now...I saved the best for last. In March David and I closed on our own little house in San Antonio.  YAY!  YAY!  YAY!  We are homeowners!!!

We are so excited.  It is little and cute and in the same neighborhood as most of our friends, and some of our family.  We've spent countless hours pouring over websites trying to decide what furniture we want.  We finally, just in the last few weeks, have ordered the beds for the kids, the dining room set, the sofa and coffee table.  We maxed out our airfreight sending mementos and stuff back to make the house feel like home.

San Antonio is our home base where we go every home leave and most R&Rs.  Which means either renting a house $$$$$ or camping at a relative's house. Our family has been very gracious to put us up, but if you have ever hosted someone for an entire month, or been the guest for that long, you know after the first few days it can be tiresome and difficult for everyone. Especially if you are hosting a whole flock of people and not just one person.

Backstory for the those unfamiliar with the foreign service, R&R is a privilege allotted to those of us serving at hardship posts to allow us rest and recuperate, generally once or twice during a 3 year tour. It may be taken overseas, or in the states.  There is no set time limit for R&R.  Home leave is a different beast.  Home leave is mandated by congress for 20 working days, in the states, for the purpose of repatriation.  For both of these we receive airfare, then we are on our own. This seems reasonable until you realize we are mandated by law to take a month long vacation, every 2-3 years.  Could you afford to stay in a hotel for a month?  Would you want to?  How about renting a car so you can get around? Rental cars and hotels are expensive.  If you don't plan carefully it is easy to come out of home leave or R&R with a huge mountain of credit card debt.  Often you end up camping on someone's sofa, and borrowing the family beater,  like a kid home from college, to cut a few costs. No more couch camping for us!  YAY!

We will have one week to turn an empty house into a functioning vacation home.  Why one week?  Because we signed all the kids up for camp that first week back in the states.  While they are at camp we will be unpacking, assembling, and shopping. I am giddy at the prospect.  When we had our house before the FS it was sort of put together haphazardly with hand-me-downs and bargain clearance items.  It was what we could afford back then.  This time we have been able to piece together a look that reflects who we are now, not what we can afford.  Don't get me wrong we have a budget, a really tight budget, but we have managed to cut corners here so we can splurge there, and it all seems to be coming together nicely.  Now all that remains is to see if what I am picturing in my head really works when it is all in the room together.  I will post pictures later.


Nomads By Nature said...

Sounds like you are all doing great - especially with that last Hippo Safari Camping Adventure under your belts! I was hoping your silence meant you were getting out for a few last Africa wildlife meet and greets. And congratulations on being a home owner in a great neighborhood! That's a big step but will make R&R and homeleave so much easier.

Word to the wise: make sure you have some money saved for Oman in your first week. When you register your kids at school you will be needing to buy the uniform polo shirts and PE shorts/PE shirt for each kid. It isn't cheap. We got away with three shirts per child and one full PE kit to last through the week. They just wore blue jeans or beige pants for the bottoms. Saves on buying lots of back to school clothes because all week long they will be in school dress. I would guess that you need $70.00 per child. It's not pretty news, but better to know now and be ready rather than shocked and panicky while registering your children at the school.

Nomads By Nature said...

Oh, and have the kids have good swim suits - the school pool is lovely and the swim program is tops!

Shannon said...

$70 is so much cheaper than shopping for school at the mall, easier too. Thanks for the numbers. It helps to make plans. When I cleaned out the kids dressers a few days ago I found that all of them have multiple swimsuits, but I will still be stocking up on suits anyway. We love the beach and all things watery.

The house was planned for. We had been saving for a long time because we honestly thought we were going to DC for our next tour, not Oman, and DC housing is ridiculously expensive. And we have no plans on bidding on DC again since we don't want the kids in American high schools. Snobbery I know, but it is what it is. We figured that we should look at buying a vacay/retirement house. I can't even express how totally thrilled I am with the house purchase.

Nomads By Nature said...

I can hear the happiness in your typing voice!! Yes, shopping was easier when you only had a few items to get because the kids were in polos or PE kits. Just had to make sure the pants fit the dress code. And with it really warm until November and then warming up again in April - shorts are king! We only had to worry about long pants and major growth spurts for the cooler months. Also, they will need one pair of black pants and a white button down shirt for their performances (band/choir/MUN/etc)
It was an easy outfitting place looking back. I'd add a pull over for when the weather turns chilly; they have PE ones as well to buy. That might bring your total to a bit over $70.00 per kid. Ms. Nirmala will help get you all settled in -- she totally ROCKS!

Becky said...

Hooray for the house! Is it in the same neighborhood as Monica? I really liked that area. So excited for you guys! (And yay for uniforms. I loved that we walked into the school 4 days before school started and walked out an hour later with the school shopping done. I had to buy socks and shoes in the US but the uniforms were such an easy way to go.)
WIshing you guys all the best!

Shannon said...

Becky YES!!! About a block away from Monica's. My kids are already nagging me to put a gate to the greenbelt in the back fence because they say it will be quicker to get to Monica's house than having to walk all the way on the sidewalks. LOL!

I am a total fan of uniforms, it makes it so much easier getting them up and dressed in the morning.

Nomads By Nature said...

Becky - at WAB your kids will wear the WAB kits every day. They are comfy and well made - my kids finally had to let their last shirts and shorts go last year because they finally outgrew them. Now the cousins wear them! I think you have to deposit about $50.00 per kid into an account even after you have purchased their clothes -- for future purchases. It feels like a whole lot of money up front, but it was well spent in the end.

Shannon - how awesome to be back with great neighbors and friends! I agree with the kids about the shortcut gate. Remember, you can use it too! You all are gonna have an awesome summer!

Becky said...

HOORAY! That is so awesome! If I am ever in SA again we're coming to see you guys. That neighborhood is seriously awesome. I bet your kids are over the moon.

(Nomads, they really can just wear their kit? I'd love that! And $50 would be fine by me! I dropped almost 2 grand USD here buying all their uniforms when we moved in. Granted it was for 4 kids for 2 years worth of clothes but it still was expensive. I will have one in Junior High though at WAB. Not sure how that kid will feel about the kit but I think the younger ones would go for it.)

Monica said...

so psyched, friend!!! good luck and we are beyond excited for y'all to get here!