Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things I love about Estonia

I started this post month's before I depart post, because I keep thinking of all the things I will miss about Estonia.

For example:
* My staff
They sent me this when I was in the hospital
* The beautiful people and their beautiful Estonian flag


* The beautiful Estonian language

* Long summer days
About 11 p.m.
* Beautiful old churches
Kaarma Kirik on Saaremaa
* The pagan symbology in some of those churches
Pentacle inside Kaarma Kirik
* Maausk (earth religion), from which that symbology derives

* The Christmas market
Old City Christmas market
* Crisp, clean air

* The Old City



* And how the Old and New come together in Tallinn

* Regional Outreach to the island of Saaremaa
Kuuressaare Castle
* Estonian humor

* Kuum shokolad at KehrWieder (like drinking a chocolate bar!)


* Cafe VS (The Indian food there is awesome!)

* Smoked cheese soup, especially the tomato kind at:

* Van Krahli Aed

* Wi-fi that is faster and usually cheaper (often free) than in the U.S.

* How well everything works

* Like the narrow streets. People actually take turns letting each other through. That would NEVER happen in the states!

* Helkurs (reflectors everyone wears on their coats so they can be seen by cars on the long winter nights...the ad says Don't Forget the Helkur...You are hard to forget.")

* Frozen waterfalls
Jagala Falls

* Studded tires in the winter (yep, those are metal studs...I am taking those babies to Kosovo!)


* Tartu (especially that cool, leaning building)

* Going mushrooming
Don't eat that

* My shower (it reminds me of an old Star Trek transporter tube and has a radio).

* Narva (and being closer to Russia than Sarah Palin!)
The Narva River, Estonian-Russian border,
with a castle on each side (Russia is on the right)

Ivangorod castle in Russia from inside Narva castle


* The Narva Soap Box Derby
Turbo Chicken...his crash was spectacular!

* The TV Tower
The famous TV Tower

A long way down from the top

And to be fair, I should also list what I dislike about Estonia:

* Leaving

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Packout Day Two: They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha! Ha!

Or my stuff anyway.

Bonus points if you know the song reference. Bigger ones if you can name the show that regularly played it. (I listened ever Sunday...that might have been a sign...)

Our stuff is gone. Our apartment echos (echos....echos....). And now we just wait to leave.
Ghost bike

Bye bye Birdie (cage)
The movers arrived promptly at 8:55 am, of course...or at least BY then. I found them outside waiting when I took Noostie out this morning. No idea when they got there.

There wasn't a lot to be packed today. Most of that was done yesterday. Mostly it was just some of our paintings (because they ran out of bubble wrap yesterday) and our television, which they kindly left until today so we could watch TV last night.

So today was just them taking the boxes (lots and lots of boxes) downstairs and loading them up. And hopefully not annoying the neighbors too much for monopolizing the elevator.



In all, we have four crates worth of stuff...I have no idea what that translates into in pounds yet, though a benefit of tandemhood is that we have the luxury of not worrying much about being over. We each get the 7200 lb allotment that each officer is entitled to, and we so far have never used more than one of ours.


Of course, my wife does have a bit of a book habit, so that could easily change.

Once they left, we went back through our suitcases, made sure we didn't have anything in there we needed to mail instead. We bagged up our embassy radios and blackberries to return tomorrow when we go back into the office. We'll hand over our keys and cell phones when the driver drops us off at the airport.

Goodbye stuff. Safe travels!

All that is left is to say goodbye.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Packout Day One

I discovered today that I really don't like the sound of packing tape dispensers.

Today was the first day of our scheduled two-day packout of our Household Effects (HHE). Most everything we own is now in a box

The cats are not impressed with our redecorating.


The movers arrived right on time (because the are Estonian...so of course), and brought in all their packing materials (including bubble wrap....I love them!...okay, except for the one with the cell phone with breaking glass as a ring tone. I could see the humor once my heart restarted.). The cats and the parrot were safely tucked away in "safe rooms," marked like this:



And yes, it actually worked.

Something about packing out makes it all really real. It is like a break...you have been saying goodbyes, trying to wrap up your work, and yet your place still looks the same. Your routine is largely the same. So how can you really be leaving.

And then people come into your house and put everything in boxes.

We have a lot of books.
And I mean everything.

This pile is taller than I am...
of course, that really isn't saying much!
They even took away our car.

And suddenly you really feel like it is time. Your place no longer feels like your home...it more closely resembles a corporate apartment...though one filled with boxes. All your stuff has been replaced by those boxes . And most of them are not shaped like your stuff...well, except for my recliner.



Tomorrow they will come back, load all the boxes onto a truck and take our stuff away.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tomorrow

I have had nightmares for the last several nights in a row.

They are all variations on a theme. Either someone is breaking into our house to steal our stuff, or they have already taken it.

Of course, the reason is pretty clear.

Tomorrow, they are coming to take our HHE.

I think we are about as ready as we can be. The suitcases are packed and weighed. All are under the allotted weight (50 lbs). I have a few more things to add, but I think I can keep all of them to about 45 lbs.

All our electronics are packed in their original boxes except for the TV and the AFN box. I'll put those in the boxes when they are ready to take them, so tomorrow or Tuesday. I want to keep our TV as long as possible!

We have two "safe rooms." Nothing in there will be packed by the movers.

I alternate between feeling calm and feeling like my heart is going to pound out of my chest.

I really hate moving.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What is "Home"?

We have one week left in Tallinn.

That we could be leaving this place for good (not counting planned visits back) in just seven days is beyond surreal.

When I talk to my non-Foreign Service friends, they usually ask me when I am coming home. (My FS friens tend not to phrase it that way...it is usually, when do you leave post? when do you get to DC? when are you back in the states?) Coming home isn't what this feels like.

For me, home is mostly where my wife and our pets are. But you, or at least I, do tend to "nest" in a particular place.

We are leaving here to live in a state we have never lived in, in a house we own but have never set foot in. Neither of us has family there, nor really any friends there yet (except our current DCM, who I have come to consider a friend, but though her house is only about a mile from there, she won't be back until a year after we have left for Kosovo).

So I don't know that I can call that home, at least not yet.

South Carolina has always been home for me, but as more and more states move towards recognizing our marriage and yet South Carolina still does not, it feels less and less like home. Our place in Virginia, which we lived in during our four years back in D.C., felt like home. But Virginia too treats us like legal strangers, plus we have renters we have never met living there. It not longer feels like home.

So while America is home with a capital H, home right now and for the last four years has been Tallinn. It is where my wife and pets are, yes, and also where we come home to from work each night. It is where we sit at the table together every evening to eat dinner together and discuss our days. It is where we can laugh at each other singing too loudly in the shower (or my wife singing too loudly on her treadmill, the music from her iphone playing only in her ears!). It is where our cats play chase up and down our long, hardwood floor hallway, skidding into the walls as they try to take the corner. It is where our books are, our art is. Pictures of our families.

Tallinn is home.

And when we leave, I will be home sick. Home sick for Tallinn.

I know, or at least hope, that our new place will become home. That we will make memories grilling out on the deck we are planning to build, sitting on the porch swing we are buying or the hammock we are getting. Playing with the cats on the screened porch or with the dog in the first yard she will have had since we joined the Foreign Service.

But we aren't there yet.

A week from today, we won't be going home.

We will be leaving it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

178th A-100

Welcome to the 178th A-100, which just started today!

I especially want to welcome bloggers who have joined the Foreign Service this time.

So welcome to:

All Points Forward

If you know of any other bloggers, let me know and I will add them to this post and to the blogroll.

And welcome to the Foreign Service!

ON EDIT:

Two more bloggers in the class to welcome:

Adventures in the Foreign Service

and

Collecting Postcards

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Forty-five Years Since Stonewall

This June marks the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The distance we have come in that time is nothing short of astounding.

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, spoke on the occasion at the "Stonewall at 45" Commemoration on Thursday.

She said:
"So, as we look back over the 45 years since Stonewall, we can see how far we’ve come, thanks in large part due to the work of brave individuals like [Foreign Service Officer and GLIFAA President] Robyn McCutcheon, and the three advocates you will hear from today.

But we can also see how much further we have left to go. Yes, we have amazing projects like, “It gets better,” which didn’t exist when Bill and Zachary were growing up. But we still need projects like it – and the phones at the Trevor project keep ringing, day and night – because in some parts of our country, in some communities, and in some families, it still can be very, very bad. Because some LGBT kids need to hear that it won’t always hurt as much as it does right now. And they need to hear that before the pain becomes overwhelming for them; so long as those kids are out there – so long as those phones are still ringing – we still have work, real work, to do.

And I’d go one step further – and, full disclosure, it’s big step. Marin Luther King once said famously: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we believe that to be the case, and I think we do; and if we are truly universal champions of LGBT equality, as I know we are; and if we are witnessing such an alarming backlash against LGBT rights, in so many parts of the world, as we unquestionably are; then it is our duty to take the lessons we have learned in our own movement and share them with the people who are waging this struggle beyond our borders. They too need to know that “It gets better.” They need any help that we can offer in making it better.

Who better to help them answer that call, as we look back upon the 45 years since Stonewall, than us?"

You can read her entire speech here. You can read a story about the event here.