Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Our next adventure has started.....

So I worked hard and got all caught up on the blog about the fun we'd had during home leave and training, then all our household effects (HHE) from Fiji arrived and we were swimming in boxes....so blogging took the backseat. We have a little more HHE coming from the states (we didn't use all our allotted weight despite buying lots of hand carved wooden artwork). Our supplemental HHE is set to arrive in country later this week (not sure how long customs will take) and our car just arrived and is waiting on delivery/plates. So I thought I would take this little lull to update.

I had put some fabric I picked up in Fiji and my staple gun in our UAB (air shipment) and covered our kitchen chairs. Beyond the regular wear and tear, we will be charged for damages made to the embassy furniture we are issued. So kids + light colored seats + food.....covering was a natural decision (we had put a towel down on Clarissa's chair at our last post, but she's too big for that now).

Before Khaki & After Dark Brown w/Green Palm Tree Pattern

It's been hot here....duh Deb you live in the desert. Oddly enough, it is not like the "dry heat" in the hot deserts of US Southwest. We have humid desert here. So at bus stop time (ie early am), temps are usually mid-90s (mid 30sC) with 50-70% humidity...which makes it feel like 110-120F.... It is like stepping into an oven when you walk outside. Speaking of ovens....no more easy-bake oven for me!  Our oven is American size!!

We keep hearing that in about 1.5-2 months the weather will cool down and be wonderful. Waiting for that! In the mean time, we've gone to the neighborhood pool (which cools the water).

This is not quite half of the pool. It is great that a large portion of it is covered and there are wonderful views as it is on the roof of the neighborhood clubhouse.

Richard and I have both done some tours of the Souq Waqif (standing market)....I'll give those their own post. The company that did the tours offers lots of other fun things...we are just waiting on the weather to cool down a smidge! As you saw Monday, we had a fun little photo shoot with Isa and some American Girl glasses....while this one is not the most focused I think it portrays her feelings towards the photo shoot.

Another way to entertain ones self in stifling heat, is to head to the mall. To which there are plenty to choose from. We've gone to four different ones so far (some multiple times, as a grocery store tends to be attached to the mall). The mall that go the most "whoa's" so far has been Villaggio Mall. When you step inside, it suddenly feels as if you are in Venice, Italy....complete with a canal and gondolas. So naturally, we had to take a ride!

There are little bridges you can cross over the water and ceiling is painted blue with fluffy clouds. We spent hours there and when we walked outside to complete darkness it messed with our minds...lol.

We had to take care of some cell phone/internet business. So we found our way to that shop. What should happen to right around the corner from there? Gondolania Theme Park ....a theme park/carnival inside the mall!!

Kids were amazed to see the bright lights and rides...and since we had an afternoon to pass....we said why not and went on in to ride the rides!! Clarissa had fun driving a pink swan around a little lagoon while Mason and Richard went on a full fledged roller coaster (you can barely see some of the track going along the building facades as well as past the entrance).

Both kids rode on a little "under the sea" lazy river ride. We then rode the bumper cars, I think we did those two or three times in a row....super fun. We ran into each other a lot, but culturally we weren't sure how it would be taken to ram a complete stranger....so I just said to Clarissa we were racing them...lol.

Clarissa and I rode on the ferris wheel (here's a not so flattering selfie but it shows how high up it went and all the fun below us).

While we were on the ferris wheel, Mason and Richard rode the 'drop ride'. We happened to stopped near the top to load/unload people while they were riding....so we had an awesome vantage point to shoot a little video. There are the only two on the right hand side of the drop.

As I mentioned, we don't quite have our car yet (it arrived in country around midnight last night...not that we've been stalking it or anything). So we've mastered Uber (even let Mason Uber home from school one day), we are enjoying life with food delivery (there is an app called Talabat that allows you to order from practically every restaurant....at times it takes longer to decide where to get your food from than it takes to actually get said food!), and finally we have been busy with all the start of the school year events from new student orientation, meet the teachers, back to school night (just learning about the curriculum/grading methodology), and back to school coffees.....wooh! I get tired writing all that and thinking about all the things we've gone too. For the middle school new student orientation, they talked to everyone, then the middle schoolers went off for a tour while us parents got some more talking, finally we got a tour. Given Clarissa's orientation was right after the middle school one, she was with us....it appears she took a bit too much pleasure invading Mason's locker.

So nothing out of the ordinary here....just getting up, going to work/school/unpacking, and then doing it all over again. Same routine, just a different country!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Something Adrift

So a few weeks back, I mentioned I may have been a movie extra....well confession time....I may have given some bogus details then....here's the real deal!! The Film Fiji (ie the gov't film commission...who knew!) has been doing a great job in recent years at attracting production companies to Fiji. While we were posted there three seasons of Survivor were filmed (and I think they are still filming there), Wrecked Season 2 was filmed (we witnessed a couple scenes being filmed when we went away to a resort one weekend and went on snorkel trip with some of the production team...and personally I know one of the high profile extras) and Season 3 was starting filming when were leaving. Just after we left (ie we heard the calls for extras but couldn't apply) three more movies were filmed there - The Other Side of Heaven 2 and the Hallmark Movies A Summer to Remember and Pearl in Paradise! Those last three were all made for TV movies....but one major motion picture filmed while we were there was Adrift with Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin!

As usual, there was a call for extras. Fiji has rather stringent work visa laws (why I didn't work outside the Embassy while posted there). Though part of the process of applying for our long term residency visas included getting a TIN number for everyone. So when the casting crew called for extras they said you must have a TIN number....hmmm. So I talked to HR at the Embassy to verify visa requirements and given extras typically make peanuts they were okay with applying. Mason having always been a big movie buff and has toyed with being the "next Steven Spielberg" he really wanted to be an extra. Clarissa on the other hand hates strangers taking her picture....so she had no interest what-so-ever. So we went and applied, had measurements and photos taken....and got the call for a day of filming!! So we marked the calendar.

We also received a two page pdf of things were were not allowed to do or bring with us! In the mean time, Mason came down with pneumonia! Full blown getting chest x-rays, out of school for a week, on antibiotics pneumonia! So I did what any good mother would do....said rest all day, lunch is in the fridge, call Richard if you need anything....and I went to be an extra!! The instructions said to come to set with clean dry hair and no make up (and deodorant....I thought that was funny it had to remind people to wear deodorant). We were inspected by the head of the extra crew, some people were sent to costume, while a few of us were lucky enough to get sent to make up first. It took about an hour of magic and viola....

all my tattoos were gone! I had been a bit excited to get some 1980s style eyeshadow and big hair...but no....the only make up put on us lowly extras was to cover-up tattoos. They did a really good job - though you can see some starting to come off after 12 hours (I took this at home...I was good and followed directions and didn't take my phone on set). I was there for 11 hours and made a $100FJD (a little less than $50US) and was in the background for 3 scenes. The first scene shot is where 'Tami' is writing her mom a postcard in a little local cafe. Us extras were mulling around in back like tourists, but the way it was shot/edited you don't really see anything outside the cafe. Shailene did a wardrobe change and another take was done and either that was completely cut out or they really adjusted the lighting and it was the scene at the beginning where she is eating in the little cafe. Again you can't see anything outside the cafe. What is "funny" is initially me and another extra were pulled into the cafe and told that we would be handed a plate of food, then we would walk to a table and sit down. Then they decided it needed to be more of a locals cafe (not a tourist cafe), so we were swapped out for some Fijian extras....sigh...

The second scene shot (and the majority of the day....as in about 6 hours total, we even broke for lunch and came back to the same scene) was Tami & Richard - the main characters - shopping in the market. They gave us shopping bags, I got some flowers (I was at the market after all), they also put a frangipani in my hair and were suppose to just act like we were shopping at the market. On one of the takes, I accidentally hit (and naturally apologized when we were resetting) Shailene with my flowers. Given this scene was shot for so long, from three camera angles, and I was so close to the main characters if I was going to make it in the movie....this is the scene that would provide me with my 0.3 second of fame!

Look there I am....totally recognize the back of my head don't you!! Lol. I joked with Richard that one of the camera angles the camera man was literally right behind me...I was all they are going to use that one and my butt will ginormous on the big screen and just to make Shailene's butt look tiny! Thankfully it's just the back of my head! So all in all, I think the back of my head got about 4 seconds of screen time - enough for me to get two screen grabs in different spots!

At lunch, I sat a table with Jeffrey Thomas (he is the older gentleman in the next screen grab). He was a friendly fellow. I felt so bad for the guy with the bananas. Our reset points (ie after every take we went back to the exact same starting point and then did the exact same thing) were right next to each other. His arms/back were so tired by the end of the day and the banana bunch had definitely seen better days (some smushed, others dangling off). 

After the market scene was done shooting those of us in "highly visible" areas had to go change into new outfits for another shot to be filmed. This last shot only took one take! I was standing with two other ladies so this may be me in the middle (it is quite hard to tell, lol). This was shot at rush hour and the bus station was packed. They had us extras stand/walking closest to the sidewalk/road to "block" the modern clothing of the locals (as well as draw attention away from the phones and tablets they were holding up and taking pictures/videos with). I understand aperture settings and depth of field, but I'm still pretty amazed that it blocked out so well!

All in all, it was super fun to be an uncredited extra. It has also been fun to watch the movie and look for friends/acquaintances I know from Fiji that were extras in the movie too. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend the movie Adrift....not only does it give you a glimpse of what Suva looks like (I took dive boats out the "marina" used in the movie), it is a very moving film...based on a true story!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Promotion In the Foreign Service

Promotion within the Foreign Service is different than the private sector. You aren't promoted just on doing a good job - you are promoted based on continuously proving you are/can work at a higher level AND there is a slot open in at the higher level for you.

Here is how it works. For IMS, we all come in at a Grade 5 Step whatever. In 1 year, you are administratively (ie automatically) promoted to a 4. Then you get in line and wait to be promoted to a 3 (then to a 2, then 1, etc). Every year all State Department Foreign Service officers submit what is called an EER (Employee Evaluation Report). EER's are different, in that you write about what you did. Then your supervisor (called a rater) "rates" you. Hopefully he or she will say how awesome you are and you deserve to be promoted. Then another section has a "reviewer" write about you. For IRM, usually that is the Management Officer but depending on the Post and your position it could be the IPO, IMO, DCM. Who knows. Again you want them to say how awesome you are and you deserve to be promoted.

All of our evaluations are due each May. So from March - April everyone is frantically writing, and rewriting their EERs. Then it is submitted to an internal (Embassy) panel for review. Basically they are looking for grammatical errors, things that are inadmissible, etc. Once panel approves it, your EER goes off to Washington. Each summer the Department convenes the Promotion Panels. It's a group of about 4-5 individuals who look at hundreds (thousands) of EERs. I've heard they only have about 5 minutes to read and make a decision. So it all comes down to how well you write and convey what you've done for the past year (why you are the most super awesome person in the world and deserve to be promoted). If you pass the first round, they put you in the pile to be reviewed again. If you are in that pile they go back and read it a bit more carefully, and the board can even go back and look at previous EER's. As I mentioned above, there are only so many promotion slots. So you want to be the best shining star you can be.

Last year, I didn't even make the bridesmaids list. The bridesmaids list (not an official term) means the promotion board liked what they saw but you didn't make the final cut. In years past making the bridesmaids list got you an MSI, or Meritorious Service Increase (ie more money). Now the MSI is a separate process. Being a bridesmaids means you get bidding privileges and a "way to go" pat on the back. Last year I was mid-ranked, meaning I was doing my job right but not to the point of promotion.

The promotion results usually come out the Friday of Labor Day weekend. If you are in a different time zone than Washington, you usually find out you got promoted (or not) from friends sending you emails/texts etc. This past Friday night Deb and I were watching tv. About 1045pm my time I glanced at my phone and saw an email from a colleague who is in Washington. I know this person doesn't email a lot, so I was intrigued. I opened it up and there was the "congratulations" email! Next thing I know the congrats started flowing in.

So now what? Well the 03 grade (for IRM) is the "sweet spot" when it comes to overseas Posts. There are lots of opportunities out there. However, for those wanting to move up the 03 can also be considered "the wall". Making that jump from 03 to 02 can be challenging, and take a long time. But for now, I will just enjoy the moment.

Onward and upward....

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday's Moment: First Day of School Déjà vu

First Day of School Year - January 2018 at International School of Suva  
Year 8 and Year 2

First Day of School Year - August 2018 at American School of Doha 
Year 8 and Year 2

*Note: new school rules dictate when coming from the southern hemisphere, if the school year was not completed, then students must restart the school year...and after a 5 month (yes FIVE) summer break....that might not be a bad idea! No worries...we have been doing worksheets and reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Laws, planes, and PCsing.....

So there are laws every where...helps keep us civilized, which is always a good thing! There are some odd laws on the books! Thrilllist did an article recently listing the weirdest state law from all 50 states...they even link to the legalese....so no eating your contest frogs in California if they happen to perish or in Kentucky you can't sell dyed baby chicks in a quantity other than six or you could be fine $750+ if you fail to close a fence gate in Wyoming! Our own lovely, Charleston has an intersection referred to as the 'Four Corners of the Law' downtown. At this intersection there is a City Courthouse on one corner, County Courthouse on another, US Post Office/Federal Courthouse building on a third corner, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on the fourth corner....any law broken could of been taken care of in one of those four buildings back in the day! (I used to work a couple blocks from this intersection and have sat through hundreds of red lights here....yet I could not find a single photo....if I ever do I will edit and add!).

So while on the topic of laws....for our final transfer flights, we were victims of the 'Fly America Act'. You can click the link for all the legalese. Cliffnotes version, when on official travel we need to fly American carriers or a foreign carrier with a code share with an US carrier (as American carriers do not fly everywhere on earth). In March, American Airlines broke their code share with Qatar Airways....which meant we could not take the direct flight from DC to Doha....no 14.5 hours and done. Due to no code share, we could not take off from US soil on Qatar Airways....so we had to take either an United flight to Frankfurt, Germany or an American Airlines flight to London, England. Then, from either of those cities we would fly Qatar Airways the final leg into Doha (aka....we still ended up flying Qatar Airways as they are the predominant carrier in Doha). When booking, we were planning to have the cat with us and pets are not allowed to transit through the Heathrow Airport in London.....so Frankfurt it would be. Now our flight time would be DCA-FRA 8 hours plus FRA-DOH 6 hours. There was about a 2.5 hour layover, but with the cat we discovered she could not be interlined transferred. What does that mean? We would need to exit security, pick up Isa in her carrier from the cargo area, recheck her with the new airline, and get back through security....not something doable in 2 hours (international pet pick up in cargo is never quick). So we would have to take the evening flight at the earliest....making for about a 12 hour layover.  So our transit time had gone from 14.5 hours to 22.5 hours.....which entitled us for a rest stop. So overnight in Frankfurt it is (you can only power on for so long and when traveling with kids, they have a lower threshold)! In addition, unless you get a huge suite, most European hotels limit the number of people per hotel room to three and we were a party of four....we would be required to get to two rooms. Less you think we were trying to waste tax payer money, we did put in for a waiver since the flight with connection was more expensive (plus the two reimbursable hotel rooms). The waiver was denied since cost/time is not considered a valid justification. So that is my two cents about a crazy law where I understand the point (supporting America carriers)....but there should also be a common sense override option....two days of travel vs one and less $$.

Anywho, back to our adventure! We had our last meal stateside....EVO Pizza! The one place everyone craves, usually our first meal out (and many in between), and typically our last meal before departure! Our flights to DC and Frankfurt were pretty uneventful. Richard and I even commented on how short the 8 hour flight was....we barely got any sleep as we were so used to the extra 4 hours on the flight to Fiji. Once in Frankfurt, we made it through the long passport kontrol line, retrieved our luggage, then headed to our hotel (it was connected to the airport). Our room would be ready in about an hour, so we had some breakfast and then made it up to our room to shower and get out of our airplane clothes. Our eyes were all so heavy....so very, very heavy! So we decided a two hour nap would be best. We all conked out quickly and then I had to drag everybody up after the alarm went off....but to get over jet lag you have to power thru. We decided to walk back over to the airport and head to their food court/shopping area (outside of security). We had a meal, looked around some shops, and then after seeing some signs decided to take an airport tour!

What is an airport tour??? We had no idea either....but why not check it out. It will give us something to do and help keep us awake. So the tour was held in all German...so we didn't understand that, but if we asked specific questions they would be answered for us in English. So once we were screened through security, we hopped on a bus that toured us around the tarmac, we saw the planes, the fire station, fueling station, the cargo hangers, and lots of other stuff (but unfortunately we don't speak German so I can't tell you what it was).

We saw an Air Canada Dreamliner. The Dreamliner is currently manufactured in North Charleston (near our old house) and we saw many take their first test flight....was this one of them?

Pegasus Airline is a Turkish airline. Though at first glance, it appears their plane says 'fly pigs'...always good for a laugh as it reminds you of all the things you get to do 'when pigs fly' as the expression goes!

One of Emirates Airline's A380 - largest jet liner in the world! Seriously not sure how this two story beauty defies gravity and gets off the ground.

There is the type plane we would be flying the next day, a Qatar Airways 777.

Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but this stop for crossing jets sign just cracked me up every time we saw it. Naturally, I had to take a picture to share it!

After our tour, we had some Starbucks (still in deprivation from 2.5 years without it mode) and then opted to just relax in our room. We watched the Big Bang Theory in German. It was an episode we had seen on rerun a couple days prior, so it was oddly amusing....we ordered some room service and I think we all managed to stay awake until about 7:30 pm! The next morning, we took the long walk across the road and checked in for our flight to Doha. Another pleasant flight, though since we were flying during the day we didn't try to sleep, we just watched movies and played on our iDevices (I personally read a good bit of a book). We arrived in Doha around 5:00 pm....the airport is so bright, clean and sparkly compared to the Fijian open air airport we were used to sweating in....lol. Trying hard not to compare everything to Fiji, but it happens.

Less you think we forgot about Isa Lei. When we started thinking about poor little Isa....an 8 hour drive back to Charleston, boarding while we were in St. Louis, then a flight to DC, we would need a bit of a layover to change carriers, then take 2 more flights, with a possibility of missing a piece of EU paperwork to allow her out the airport in Frankfort for the overnight stay/or back on the plane for the last flight.....eekk! So we opted to board Isa in DC and use a pet shipper to send her on the direct flight. Isa arrived in Doha about 2 hours prior to our arrival. We weren't able to pick her up from the main terminal. So an embassy rep/our sponsors that met us at the airport took us and our 8 suitcases to our house, then the rep and Richard returned to the airport to get Isa. The kids and I got Isa's food/water ready, her litter box all set up, and I found the pet shampoo in the luggage. About 3 hours later, Richard arrived home. We gave Isa a quick bath and then she ate. By this time, it was close to midnight, so we all headed to bed. The next morning, Clarissa and Isa got all caught up on! 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Air Travel Tips Guest Blogging....

Not only have I been busy catching up on our blog...I've also written a guest post over on my sister-in-law's blog with my tips on Air Travel with Kiddos! Check it out over at Pancakes and Perseverance!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The craziness that is vacation after home leave after training.....

You think the title of the post is crazy....our lives were crazy this summer. I just counted up. I think between our March pack out and arrival in Doha, suitcases were packed/unpacked for trips/moves/relocations twenty...yes as in 2-0...times!!! I was so ready to get to one place and stop packing/unpacking! Anywho, after training, we had a couple weeks left stateside before we were heading back overseas. It gave Clarissa a chance to see the baby deer that had been born/spotted in the backyard while were in Charleston the first time were getting big!

I had another cousin from St.Louis that was down in Hilton Head with her family and we were able to coordinate a meet up at the Angel Oak tree....aka the oldest tree east of the Mississippi River! This massive live oak tree has been standing for 400-500 years!! It was a tree before USA was well, USA!

Afterwards, we went blueberry picking (a yummy treat we don't get to do very often overseas) and then out to lunch. It was great catching up with them. Richard's brother and sister-in-law took us out on their boat. Clarissa had the chance to drive before being pushed overboard! We joked and said it would be like swimming in kava (since it looked like muddy water compared to the Fiji crystal clear waters we were used to).

Clarissa was able to catch up with her oldest friend (from 2 year old preschool) and we also met a friend of mine who just had a baby at local park....for some reason the baby didn't want to play in the fountain with Clarissa...lol.

Finally, we had a little situation to deal with....Clarissa is 8 and never been to a Cardinals game! It was completely unacceptable!! So we took a trip to St. Louis! Since there were no direct flights, we opted for the connection in Houston....where we picked Mason up on the way there! Perfect timing!! Some of the highlights included going to the arch again...why? Right before our trip, we kept seeing all the morning talk shows coming to us from the St. Louis Arch...huh?!? Well apparently, the Arch had been closed for renovations and a complete overhaul of the museum. So we had to go check it out.

I think the thing I liked most about the renovations was they replaced the glass windows you see at the top of the arch (sorry for the random people in the photo). The last time I had been (pre-renovations) the windows were all scratched up from 50 years worth of people pointing out and touching them. Now it is so clear and sharp!! Check out this photo of the Busch Stadium from the top of the Arch!!

Afterwards, we walked over to the Old St.Louis Courthouse (Richard likes history stuff). They were displaying a huge 33-star American Flag. We were guessing this was the flag when Missouri became a state, but a little research tells me Missouri was the 24th state....so I don't quite know the significance other than it was the flag when Abe Lincoln was president and this was the court house where the Dred Scott case started.

Richard has heard stories of my brothers eating bowls of Polish Kielbasa at Christmas (as in there was the community bowl, Bob's bowl, and my cousin Matt's bowl). So we had a special request for this trip....would my grandmother/aunt please make some kielbasa for Richard....

They did!! My grandmother is almost 100 (lol by the time I get this finished and published she probably will be 100!), so my aunt helped a good bit....but the kielbasa was enjoyed by all (non-vegetarians that is...)! Richard really enjoyed it and now understands the hype!!

It was great for Mason and Clarissa to hang out with their cousins (and my besties kids....uh, you know I was seeing her all the time!!). They shared social media contact info of course....

Have to post the family in front of the fireplace photos! Busia (Polish for grandmother...a name she adopted when she became a great-grandmother). Here she is with her great-grandkids! Fun fact, the one in black (you remember honey-bunny) is carrying Busia's first great-great grandkid! That's what 100 years gets you!!

That evening, Richard took Mason (along with my Bestie taking her girls) to his first concert! Fiji was not exactly a hot spot for concert tours. Imagine Dragons (Mason's favorite band) was in town and we were able to make it work. Apparently shadow photos are all the rage now! That way everyone knows you were there but can't prove it was you?!? (Clarissa and I opted to stay behind and get haircuts from my cousin and catch up on the family happenings).

So being that we were doing everything St. Louis, we went the Missouri museum (I may have been as a child, but I don't recall). They have a new kids section....what did Clarissa choose to play with....the 1904 World's Fair International Cafe...of course.....

We had some Imo's Pizza for lunch and then headed to Anhesuer-Busch for a brewery tour! Clarissa was super excited for the eagle....her house at school in Fiji was Eagles.

Not seeing American TV commercials very much, we really didn't understand the whole Dilly Dilly thing (lots of attire in the gift shop)! The kids did enjoy playing in the little prison set up. Afterwards, since we just happened to be in the area, I had to introduce Richard to Ted Drews! He enjoyed it a lot!

That evening, my bestie and her girls came over to swim in the hotel pool. We then headed out for a some dinner for those that were hungry (and more bestie time).

The next day was sadly our last in St. Louis. We headed out to Illinois to catch up with my older brother and his family. We had a great lunch!! Clarissa was a bit aloof to him (maybe worried he was Santa undercover?!?).

Mason has passed one uncle in height!!

After lunch, we headed over to Cahokia Mounds...sneaking in some more history this summer break!! They were having a special art show, Mason ended up chatting with this Native American gentleman from a tribe in Texas near Houston.

Another bonus to Cahokia Mounds, it put us directly across the river from the ball stadium. So we didn't have to worry about traffic. When the museum closed, we headed downtown. My Dad and group of his buddies bought a paver brick when the stadium was being re-done back in 2004. So we got downtown a little before the game to find his brick....which we did!!

Yes - it says 'Old Fart's Club' and then lists the members (including my dad)!

It was cowboy hat night at the game....so once through the gates and geared up in our cowboy hats, we found fun things like giant pigs and huge bobble heads!

We eventually made the long, long, long trek up to the nose bleed section (but we had an awesome angle of home plate). Man it was HOT! The air was stagent and I think we all sweat buckets!

Clarissa asked lots of questions about what was going on. She really enjoyed doing the cheers (Let's Go Cardinals, Let's Go...clap clap, clap clap clap) and the wave came by two times! So exposing Clarissa (and Mason again) to proper major league baseball - check!

The next day, we flew back to Charleston. We got to the airport a bit early (not knowing how long rental car return/shuttle might take), so the kids had the chance to play in this awesome play area designed like a mini airport! There was baggage screening, loading it on the plane....

Then I caught Clarissa doing the safety briefing (she could likely do it by heart) and pointing out all the emergency exits on the plane!

We had a couple more days in Charleston, a few more doctors appointments, some cousin time, lots of laundry time, and of course the final packing of our suitcases before flying out.

So that's it for our time in the States....next blog post, we will be en route to our new home....coming soon!