Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find websites and information, upcoming webinars, programs and events. FLO does not endorse organizations or companies linked-to in this blog, the views they express, or the products/services they offer. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Civilian Surge - CNN's Indiana training clip

CNN reports on the civilian surge in Afghanistan as Jill Dougherty reports from the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville, Indiana.  

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lavash and Torshi and Biryani - oh my!

Sherri and her family recently ate at an Afghan restaurant in the DC area called Bamian in Falls Church so this got us wondering what other restaurants are in the area with cuisine from some of our unaccompanied posts. So we did a quick search of Afghan and Middle Eastern restaurants and found out that there are quite a few. Not sure how authentic they are, but we’d love to hear from you if you have been out to that region about which is best. We’d be happy to get a group together to go try some if you’re interested. We heard there’s a good place on Route 1 as well. Send any reviews our way and let the restaurant wars begin! (Note: we found quite a few through Yelp which is not just for the DC area.) This just in— a FLO staff member just told us that the name of the restaurant on Route 1 is….wait for it...the Afghan Restaurant!

A horse ! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! Or maybe just a cup of buttermilk

Okay so you don’t always have everything you need in the kitchen (and even a more limited supply in a hooch) and might have limited ingredients on hand. So, you may need to consult a substitution guide like the one from allrecipes.com.

No kitchen? Just nuke it:
Microwave Meal Magic
Microwave Cooking Recipes
Microwave Recipes
No microwave? Just iron it:
When is an iron not just an iron? When it’s a grilled cheese maker! Besides an iron, the other ingredients you need are tin foil, bread, and cheese. For more details on using your iron as a Panini press or quesadilla maker and other clever dorm (or hooch) dining tips check out Campus cooking – the advanced course.

For extra fun, have a grilled cheese Throwdown a la Food Network star Bobby Flay or turn up the heat in your own Kitchen Stadium the Iron Chef way. Not a grilled cheese fan? You could think about hosting a “cooking in your hooch” demonstration, class, or competition. Please be safe when cooking (remember contents may be hot) and have fun!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With Café jars and Afghan seeds and pretty hooches all in a row!

Here’s how you can make a terrarium fit for a hooch:
  1. Find a good sized bottle
  2. Use it upright or turn it on its side
  3. Layer damp sand and small pebbles on the floor of the bottle. Consider a layer of activated charcoal to absorb any smells and a layer of moss to keep the soil from settling. Add your soil. Choose seeds from small plants with similar requirements that can stand a good deal of humidity.
  4. Place your mini-greenhouse in medium sun and tend it carefully.

For more details, see WikiHow. (image via Medoria's Flickr Page)

When the going gets tough, the tough seek help

While surfing the web for articles and resources for our UT community, we came across a good web site for health issues.  We all have ups and downs in life and some of these may be temporary due to an unaccompanied tour. If you find yourself worrying more, unsure of what to expect after the UT, or started to drink more, you may want to check out these brochures:
When worry gets out of control
War-zone related stress reactions: What families need to know
Tips for cutting down on drinking

All things considered

From a reader - I’m at a PRT in Iraq and because things change here so quickly, I contacted one of the State people over there to find out about what it was really like and what I needed to bring, what it was like traveling there, and how internet/phone is set up so I could tell my family ahead of time what to expect. I also asked if there was anything the people at the PRT missed that I could bring out with me. Yes, I only brought one suitcase, but actually mailed them a little ‘care package’ before I left. Even though I arrived dusty and tired, I made a good first impression!

The Nightingale by Morgana Gallaway

Set in modern Mosul, Iraq, this book offers a glimpse into the challenges of everyday life and the changes war brings to a family. Leila al-Ghani and her family lived very will during the regime of Saddam Hussein, but when Hussein’s regime is toppled, Leila’s once-modern family begins to shift towards conservatism. Leila finds she is living in a very dangerous city which may hinder her goal of becoming a doctor.

Nat Geo, more than just the Dog Whisperer

From a reader - My brother’s at a PRT in Afghanistan and I wanted to read up on the country. National Geographic has some amazing images, articles, and video clips that helped give me an overview about what life, the countryside, and the people are like. It’s hard having him over there because I worry, but at least by reading up on the country and what’s going on, it helps me feel more a part of the work he’s doing.
(Editor’s note: you can also find info about other countries whether it be Sudan, Iraq, or Indonesia.)

Zoobomafoo? Getting warmer...It’s Zoobuh!

From a reader - I found this website, Zoobuh, where you can set up parental controls like restricting with whom my kids can communicate. It’s really easy for my 9 year old to use! 

We’re not quite there yet, but maybe you are - Reunion and End of the UT

Our website will soon be featuring an "After the UT" section with lots of resources and information. In the meantime, check out this website.  Yes, it is geared towards the military, but much of it is still relevant to civilian deployments. Military Deployment Guide, Reunion Section includes:
· Five Phases of Reunion
· Reducing Homecoming Strain
· Problem Solving Steps
· Fighting Fair

Just whistle while you work

We all sometimes (or often) feel that there are just never enough hours in the day to get everything done. Some of us are procrastinators and seem to find it easy to have an excuse not to clean (yes, I’m sometimes, or often, guilty of this). But really, after reading “15 ways to make time to clean”, it seems a little more manageable:
· Kids can help too, especially when it comes to cleaning their rooms:
· Only have 15 minutes to clean your kitchen? No problem.
· Surprise visitors coming over to your apartment? Check out this video for some quick cleaning tips. 

House Rules for Dogs and Cats. Post them where they can be read by your pets.

Dear Dogs and Cats,

The dishes with the paw print belong to you and contain your food. The rest of the dishes belong to me and contain my food.Please note, if you put a paw print in the middle of my plate or food, that does not stake a claim for it. It is still mine. I also do not find it aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

NASCAR did not design the stairway. It is not a racetrack. Trying to beat me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me will not help you win because I will fall faster than you can run.

A king-sized bed is the largest that is made. I cannot get anything bigger. I am sorry about this. Do not expect me to continue to sleep on the couch to ensure your comfort.

Dogs and cats are capable of curling into a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular next to each other and stretched out to the fullest extent possible.

Sticking your tail out straight and hanging your tongue out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.
For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I manage to beat you there and get the door shut, it is not necessary to whine, meow, claw, try to turn to doorknob, or squeeze your paw under the door to try to pull it open. I have to exit through the same door I entered.

Also, I have been using the bathroom for many years -- feline or canine attendance is not required.

Taken from http://www.jokesclean.com/Pet/

Stones into Schools by Gregg Mortenson

The latest book by Mortenson picks up where "Three Cups of Tea" left off in 2003.  Recently released on December 1, it describes Mortenson's relentless efforts to establish schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This book talks of the massive earthquake that struck the region in 2005, Mortenson’s armed abduction by the Taliban, and describes his unique approach to build relationships with Islamic clerics, military leaders, and tribal leaders alike. By using beautiful, rich, personal stories, Mortenson has the ability to make us a part of his vision of peace for the region. This book differs from "Three Cups of Tea" in that the author opens up more to reveal his views and vision on Islam, women, peace, and military matters. If you haven't read "Three Cups of Tea" please take the time to read it and then be sure to read "Stones into Schools".

PDFs, no not the Adobe kind

The State Department is pleased to announce the FLO Professional Development Fellowship program open to spouses and partners of civilian direct hire US Government employees under Chief of Mission Authority. This program is designed to assist those spouses and partners who are not in a position to pursue their career paths overseas to maintain, enhance, and/or develop their professional skills. Proposals are due to FLO no later than January 11, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane

From a reader - Here’s a useful item to share with folks travelling back to the States. Thanks to Google, “When you’re traveling this holiday season, you can enjoy free WiFi at 54 participating airports and on every Virgin America flight. Just bring a WiFi-enabled laptop or mobile device and stay connected to family and friends for free while you travel now through January 15, 2010.” (Editor’s note: when this tip was first sent it, DC airports were not included, but now we see that additional airports have been included – Reagan and Dulles too!)

Welcome to our new blog!

Welcome to our new UT blog! This used to be in an newsletter format but to change with the times and technology we've moved to blogging. We'll be able to share more information, programs, and resources with you much faster and since blog's are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you.

A little bit of background...this blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Here, you’ll find tips from the field, about town, websites and information, who moved my hooch, upcoming programs and events, book club, Rambles' Musings, and UT in the news. Let us know what you think!