Friday, August 17, 2012


The Foreign Service Blog Round Up is up at Jill's blog. You can see what people around the world think of where they're living. Check it out.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


My facebook status today:

RSVP'd for our first birthday party. Apparently Malachi's "in love" with her (Sara - weird, right?) and she with him. I was sending our live-in shopping and he requested she buy Sara a ring that she can wear, possibly with a barbie. In order to not pay Philippines prices on these presents in the future, I might just have to stock up on Amazon.

Now I have to go to the party and size her up, see if she's worthy. Oh the troubles of having an affectionate little boy. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Check-Ins (or…how many acronyms can I use in this post?)

Embassy Manila does check-ins on Wednesdays. Today was the first Wednesday since we got here that the Embassy was open. Sure, it was windy and rainy, and the waves threatened to flood Roxas Blvd again.

However, the bit of rain we experienced last night and today did not stop all of us from filling up conference rooms in five different buildings (NOX 1, The Chancery, GSO, CLO, ARC), with five different presentations. RSO seemed to be the most popular presentation, and CLO the least popular (sadly).
It was all very informational. Paper work was filled out, ETA’s given for both HHE’s and our POV.
I said many times today that I was very happy that I’d been at Post for three weeks already (three weeks today, wow). It was so overwhelming with all the information we received that any time sooner would have been too exhausting. It was exhausting enough today even though I’m now resting, and done with jet-lag and feeling quite settled.
Instead, when people asked how I’m doing I answered (truthfully) “well…really well.” I’m feeling better. I’ve had my few times of mini-breakdowns and childish moments when I get selfish and want to (and may have) hide in my bedroom for a few hours.
The Deputy HR Officer called e-Qip this morning and found out that they’re still adjudicating my clearance renewal. However, I handed in the final paper work two and a half weeks ago, so it should be done very soon. The NIV section is desperate for finger printers, so I imagine they’ll have me in the day after my clearance is announced (if not the same day!).
So, now we’re almost all checked-in and the paperwork for our car is moving along. As long as all goes as planned, we should have all of our things in hand by the end of Sept./beginning of Oct. This is good news to me!
The answer is ten, btw.

Monday, August 13, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

I have thought a lot about this subject, having mothered three infants. But now, you all will know how I really feel about it.

Breast is best.

I would never argue that formula is better. In fact I hate formula, it’s annoying to have to have it, it stinks, and it’s expensive.

I could not breast feed. I tried. I tried very hard. But with each and every child the feedings took an hour to an hour and a half and they wanted to eat every two (sometimes three, those times were amazing, thank you Coen) hours. This meant a 30-60 minute break between feedings. It also meant not much sleep. None of my boys were breast fed past three months (Malachi and I suffered together the longest, Simon lasted six weeks, Coen five (though Coen was breast fed the most because he was not supplemented at all, and the others were)).

I couldn’t handle the stress, and I couldn’t handle the idea that they were not getting enough and that’s why they ate for so long. What I wouldn’t give for a 10 or 15 minute feeding! I did all the things right, and followed all the suggestions.

But I’ve had body issues. And I don’t mean self-esteem issues. I mean, I’ve had problems with that part of my body (of which I will not go into detail). The problems were solved with surgery, and I hadn’t thought about it much since high school. I was meeting with a nurse practitioner a couple of years ago and she suggested the surgeries might be the cause for not being able to nurse effectively. It made sense and it helped me deal with the guilt I was having from not being able to nurse Malachi and Simon long. It helped me greatly (though not fully) when I had to stop nursing Coen.

The pressure to breast feed Malachi, especially since he was a preemie, was great, from so many different directions. It caused so much guilt and pain when it didn’t work out. Both Malachi and I spent most of his first three months crying. It was a horrible time, and I got so little sleep that I don’t remember much of it. I’m sad now, that my memories of his first three months are laced with tears and stress. I vowed I wouldn’t live like that with my second and third. It wouldn’t be fair to myself or my family members. So I quit much sooner with Coen and Simon. Both times it was choosing what was best for the whole. Everyone was much happier, though the guilt was pretty strong until I finally let go.

I don not feel guilty that I couldn’t breast feed. Yes, I agree, breast is best. I would have nursed all of my kids for 6-12 months if I’d been able to. That would certainly have been ideal. But it was not possible. And I am not going to dwell on it.

About Manila

The topic of the FS BRU (hosted at Jill’s blog) is: your current Post, the good and bad.

I’ve been here a couple days short of three weeks, so in my limited experience I’ll tell  you what I think.

The Bad

The People: Are there any people groups that doesn’t annoy you somehow? I haven’t found one yet. A few times we’ve had people say they’ll be here and don’t show up at all. One time a babysitter came to our house half way through the movie we were at (thanks to our sponsor’s daughter that saved the day). A few times we’ve been pleasantly surprised by people being on time. The people are unashamed. They’ll come to the door if they need work. I’ve put my helpers in charge of answering the door bell. I may have found a gardener that way though!

The Traffic: Oh the traffic. It’s bad. Think of the worst traffic jam you’ve been in, then multiply it by five or ten times the amount of cars. Then slow it down until you’re moving at about a mile an hour. That’s traffic here. People tell you it’s bad, and you try to prepare yourself, but it’s just so bad. There’s no preparation for it. It’s hard for people who get car sick easily. It’ll be so nice to have a car where I can sit in the front seat instead of the backseat of a taxi.

The TV: This is petty, and I know it. But when we had a bunch of networks from the US in Costa Rica it helped us stay connected to our home country. We don’t have any of that here. It makes me sad. We’ll find a way to keep up with what’s important (I guess this could actually be a benefit), but it’s just something we like to do with our evenings, and it’s been made a bit harder (and more expensive).

The Shopping: I know now, why people send their helpers shopping. The shopping here is crazy – why anyone would want to go out and do it, I don’t know. The stores are chock full of people. Even if we knew what we were doing we’d still have to spend two to three hours with the shopping. The lines are long, the stores are huge (hello variety), and the aforementioned traffic all cause your short trip to turn into a long one.

The Weather: The weather has been a bit of a pain in the a$$. Granted, we got here in the rainy season. Still, we haven’t had a typhoon yet, and there’s already been crazy weather. There was a typhoon near Taiwan that was causing it, but it’s a reminder that we’re on an island near lots and lots of water. The Embassy is literally on the bay and the wind can cause flooding in that area and make the roads dangerous or fully impassable. I’m sure I’ll complain about the weather plenty, I don’t think I need to go on about it. Just know…it sucks.

The Good

The People: The Filipinos can be so sweet! They can also be very helpful. The people that we’ve met from the Embassy community have also been very nice. Remember the neighbor who came with her kids and the cookies? She’s now a friend and is one of the emergency contacts at school. Everyone we’ve met from the community has been so nice and very helpful. We’ve even done dinner out and movie out with another couple who are young and have a son a few months older than Coen. The friendships of these people have helped make the last (almost) three weeks much more bearable. Oh – and taxi drivers tell me if they don’t know where I want to go! This is such a relief after spending way to much time in China trying to find our hotel because the people would just point us in a direction wanting to not embarrass themselves for not knowing.

The Food: This is something we’ll get to explore much more after we get our car, but what we’ve done has been fun. The selection of restaurants in Manila is staggering. We’ve only seen a small section of Manila too. I imagine it’s much greater than we know. We’ve had good Thai (and ok Thai), interesting Hungarian, and McDonald’s (which we had delivered to the house – can it get any more fattening than that?!).  Our live-in has made Lumpia (think Filipino egg rolls), bugogi, and today she made a soup with a plant in my yard and egg whites. It was ok. It’ll be really good on days when I just want a bland soup.

The Housing: Refer to here for a brief description of my house. I have a pool! Enough said. Disclaimer: not everyone has a house, some families are in apartment buildings. Not every house has a pool. Still, the housing here is pretty nice. Right on par (maybe a tad bit better (pools!)) with Costa Rica.

The School: I want to live there! The school is so nice. The campus is extremely pleasant to be on. It’s very green and has a big playground that I can bring the kids to. The library is enormous (think: two or three stories) with books for babies even, and parents can check out up to 10 books at a time, and can go when ever they want! Get hungry when you’re spending time at the school, just wandering and enjoying the view? Go on over to the middle school/high school cafeteria where you can have your choice of a few different types of Asian food, some vegan choices, and of course a dessert spot too. My middle school and high school cafeterias weren’t that awesome. Malachi’s teacher is so nice, and everyone on staff/faculty that I’ve met has been nice, professional, accommodating to our situation (Malachi’s Epilepsy, our arrival the week before school starts and not being able to get everything done on time, etc.). I could go on, and on, and on about the school, so I’ll stop myself. 

The Help: The help in Manila is world renowned. When we got our assignment in March ‘11, a girlfriend of mine asked if I would send her my nanny’s sister. There’s no shortage of helpers here. We hired the second person we interviewed to live-in with us, and the third, to be our part-time helper. Both of them take our requests and completes them. Neither of them needs directions. They work well independently and together (it seems), and they just do what needs done. My house is clean (except Sunday, the day we’re on our own), and my sheets, and clothes, towels, etc…they’re all clean! All the time. It’s cheap too! I’m not putting numbers online, but lets just say, it’s cheap!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What to Say?

We’re really getting into the swing of things here in Manila.

Malachi had to miss two days of school this last week because of the rain and consequent flooding. John had to miss three days of work because the Embassy was closed due to said rain and flooding. It turns out that there was a Typhoon near Taiwan that decided to find a comfy spot and stay put. We had Monsoon weather due to it, and the weather didn’t leave for three days. Once the Typhoon got bored and hit land at Shanghai, our monsoon weather stopped, and we got a break. We’ve even had a couple of days with a decent amount of sunshine.

Malachi and I missed his first day of school last week. It was pre-storm, or maybe just during the beginning of it. We had to go to the Medical Unit at 10 a.m., for his school physical, and Malachi’s appointment at school was at 11 a.m. The first day of school for 1st grade was an hour long event to meet your teacher, see your classroom, and meet some classmates. We were both sad to miss it. With traffic as bad as it is, and with us not leaving the Medical Unit until close to 11:30 a.m. there was no chance we’d make it on time to the school. On a side note – I had rides from motor pool that day in armored vehicles! Those were my first trips in armored vehicles and it was cool. I feel like it’s unnecessary in Manila, but who am I to say?

We spent our “days off” getting to know our live-in. She’s amazing. Ah.Maze.Ing. She doesn’t tire of taking care of us (or at least she hasn’t). Even so, I’m trying to make sure she’s not overwhelmed, for fear of losing her. I look like a giant next to her, she’s so tiny! She’s my age, but is unmarried and doesn’t have kids.

We hired a second helper on Friday. When I start work and school, my involvement in the house/with the kids is going to drop drastically. We’ll need the extra help for help with the house while our live-in does the kids. We’ll also need someone to do shopping because here it’s a very time consuming task. Even if we knew exactly what we wanted, and were able to go to a store knowing where everything took shopping would take at least two hours. The stores are crowded, the lines are long, and traffic is busy.

John thinks he’ll get to work a full week this week. If the weather is good enough for that, then the weather is good enough for the school, for sure. A whole week of “normalcy” would be great.

John and I still need to have our briefings because they’re all on Wednesdays and both Wednesdays we’ve been here the Embassy was closed. We’re crossing fingers for this week. We both need badges. I’m excited to go spend some time at the Embassy and see where I’ll be working and who I’ll be working with.

I’m going to draft an entry for the FS BRU next. The topic is your current post (5 good and 5 bad things) since it’s bidding season and it’s what people want to read anyway. I hope my 2 1/2 weeks at post provide some insight.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Mall, UAB, First Day Of School

We’ve had a busy few days! The monsoon weather has only slowed us down a bit.

Coen and Mommy riding the Carousel


Daddy and Simon right next to us


Malachi with Optimus Prime


The elevator is for freakishly tall people only


Coen doing his thing


Malachi and Simon enjoying the triple chocolate crepe with chocolate ice cream


How happy I look when UAB comes


Malachi’s a bit impatient and starts opening the box himself


Malachi has been dropped into the box with paper and isn’t upset by it at all.


The dining room after the UAB boxes have been opened and emptied with a fraction of the items


My fridges have been set up


The live in showed up the same day. Malachi made an activity list for her to do with him: TV, gams, fresbee


Malachi waiting for the bus (note: hair is wet from shower not rain). The umbrella is a laser.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Malachi’s School

Malachi’s school is a beautiful campus. It’s a large campus that houses Elementary School, Middle School, and High School. His previous school did as well, but this school is in a much bigger city.

Malachi and I went today to have interviews with the guidance counselor, and do a few pre-school things. We have more to do tomorrow including a school orientation, getting our badges at security, handing in our paperwork at admissions, and getting his teacher/classroom assignment. On Monday he’ll go to school for one hour and have a class orientation.

Then Tuesday they start half days. The next Monday they start school full on. We signed up for bus service today, which is necessary since we don’t have a car, or someone to drive it yet. 

Security seems really tight at the school. I love that. I tend to be security minded, and while Manila seems to be fairly safe I always wonder if our family is a target due to my husband’s work.

John gets to come with me tomorrow to see the school and go to the school orientation. I hope he’ll like it as much as I did.