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, January 28, 2011

FSI Orientation Session for UT

Orientation Session for Employees and Families Separated
Unaccompanied Tours

The Family Liaison Office (FLO) and FSI’s Transition Center will conduct a brown bag "Orientation Session” on Friday February 4th from noon to 1 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-4).  The session will be held at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center (NFATC).  Directions are available upon request. 
We (Sherri and Lola) hope to see you there!

Please write FLOaskUT@state.gov or call 202-647-1076 for more information about the event.     

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Take a moment...

...to read the blog entry, "Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?", by Jill Perlman, author of The Perlman Update blog.  With three young children and her husband serving in Baghdad, Jill's entries document her life during the ups and downs of the unaccompanied tour.  A creative, heartfelt and honest blog well worth following...
Today marks exactly six months to the day that Matt has been in Baghdad, Iraq.

180 days behind us. 180 days to go.

Sometimes it feels like the time has gone by so fast that I know when I blink my eyes we'll be moving into our new house in Virginia. And other times, the days drag on so slowly that I literally count the minutes until it's time to put all three kids to bed.

I've learned a lot about myself in Matt's absence. I enjoy having total clicker control and have a renewed adoration for chick flick TV. I love to sleep diagonal in the bed. I don't miss the extra laundry. It takes me about two months to go through a large tube of toothpaste, and about three months to go through one bottle of shampoo. Oh, and I'll never get white slip covers for the couches.

I also discovered when I don't get any breaks, that my patience is sadly very thin. I've managed to make-do with our simple meal preparations, but really yearn for someone to appreciate the effort I go through to get a well balanced dinner on the table. In fact, there's a huge void in our house of grandiose dinners and at-home entertaining. And as much as I can handle just about anything ... I don't always look forward to doing it alone.

That's really where the biggest challenge of our separation comes into play. Being apart from Matt is very lonely. Sure we talk every single day. Sometimes twice a day. Or four times a day when we were house hunting. We Skype as often as the girls are willing to sit still (read ... not very). We email every day. But from about 7 pm until I go to bed, I feel the void. I feel it even more when I lay down every single night in my lumpy queen sized bed. Alone.

Lest you think I'm crying in my Cabernet every night, let me reassure you that I'm not. I absolutely have my moments. Sometimes even my days. But for the most part, I feel blessed for the opportunity to rediscover myself. To reinvent the person I once was many years ago ... before kids ... before we moved overseas. I have the chance to do a lot of soul searching. Which takes time. A precious commodity that I am willing to spare.

As I reflect on these past six months, I realize that I would not be where I am without our family. Nor without the cohorts going through similar situations here and abroad, who I've been connected with via the State Department yahoo groups ... and through Facebook ... and blogging. Or without the friends, who have stuck it out while we've lived overseas, reaching out from near and far, making any effort to stay in touch ... while sometimes getting so little in return. And especially not without those who continue to help me in ways that may seem so minuscule, but are so endearing to me.

The cards, the notes, the emails, the texts, the phone calls ... they don't go unnoticed. And I appreciate them more than you'll ever know. I gush, therefore I am.

But the question still begs. As I sit here, looking forward to Matt's second R&R next week, I am able to make out a tiny little light at the end of the tunnel. Or is it much larger than I originally thought.

Is the glass half empty or is it half full?
Below is a drawing by Jill's daughter for her father...too cute!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Did you know?

Are you in the D.C. metro area?  Did you know that the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts has free events every night at 6PM?  You don't even need tickets!  I was there just a few nights ago and loved it.  It felt very fancy and formal--- the high ceilings decorated with beautiful chandeliers and deep red velvety carpets--- I couldn't believe it was free.  Each night there is a unique show, ranging from classical symphonies, urban dancing, jazz music, to U.S. Army band performances.  As snacks and beverages are also for sale, it could be a fun place to meet friends after work and stay warm in this cold, cold weather.  If you would like a list of the performances and dates check out the Kennedy Center's website here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Take a look at the essay Diplomacy in Tough Places.  The essay is written by a Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Iraq, who is also the author of an insightful blog about life in Baghdad, Wing Tips on The Ground.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Have you seen http://flatdaddies.com/?  You can order life-size printouts of mommy or daddy and the kids love it.  Check out the website for information, photos and testimonials! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the D.C. area? Tomorrow at MainState...

“State of the Arts” Series

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

12:30 – 1:00 P.M.

Dean Acheson Auditorium

Join award-winning poet and writer Jehanne Dubrow for a reading of poems from her third book, Stateside.  This riveting collection, which has been featured on NPR and PBS, is an exploration of Dubrow’s experiences as a military spouse before, during, and after her husband’s deployment.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Contact FLOaskUT@state.gov if you have questions about the event.

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Stateside(Northwestern University Press 2010), which describes her experiences as a "milspouse" (military spouse).   Her first book, The Hardship Post (2009), won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award, and her second collection From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers' Publishing House Poetry Competition (2009).  Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, The Promised Bride, in 2007.

Her poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared in journals such asThe New RepublicPoetryPloughsharesThe Hudson ReviewThe New England ReviewBarrow StreetGulf CoastBlackbirdShenandoahPrairie Schooner, as well as on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily.  Her work has been featured on NPR's "Fresh Air," on the PBS News Hours "Art Beat" blog, in “Stars and Stripes”, and on the Academy of American Poets website.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just to share...

As a present this past year, I was given the gift of becoming a proud foster parent of a rescued baby elephant in Kenya for a year.  It was my favorite 2010 present!  If you are interested in how to adopt an elephant, check out this website
The above picture of an elephant was taken by my grandma in Kenya in 1974 and was digitally converted from slide to digital.  Do you have a lot of slides that are just sitting there gathering dust but you wish you could share them with your friends and family on Facebook?  If you want a project, you can purchase a scanner which actually allows to you to convert the slides yourself and upload them straight to your computer.  Be warned: it is very time consuming.  If you'd rather get it done quickly, call one of your local camera stores and they should be able to convert the slides for you.  Be warned: it is usually pricey. 

Whatever you decide, it is well worth it to preserve those memories. 

Happy Friday UT bloggers.  Enjoy your weekend!   

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the area? Check out this event...

Celebrate the Rich Artistry of Afghanistan
While Supporting Afghan Literacy
Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction
Saturday, January 29 – 6:00 pm
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814
Tickets, $50 per person
• Authentic Afghan dinner
• Keynote speaker Dr. Susan Andersen, who will report on her trip to
Afghanistan and her work with women parliamentarians
• Kabultec founder Nasrine Gross will report briefly on her 2010 activities in
• Raffle of unique Afghan textile, glassware, and beaded bag (tickets, $10)
Silent Auction to include
• Afghan cooking class with Nasrine
• Hand-crafted items from large and small textiles to jewelry, pottery, woodcarving, and metal work—all from Afghan bazaars and women’s groups

Proceeds will support couples literacy classes in Afghanistan through Kabultec.
Nasrine has been working on Afghan women's rights since 1996.

Deadline is Thursday, January 27, 2011, but tickets may sell out sooner
Mail checks made out to "Kabultec" (a 501(c)3 organization) to:
Eleanor DePaola
7941 Inverness Ridge Rd.
Potomac, MD 20854-4010
Directions: http://www.cedarlane.org/directions or call (301) 493-8300

Monday, January 10, 2011

Check out these EFM opportunities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan...

Is your direct hire spouse/domestic partner thinking of bidding on an assignment in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq?

Did you know that there are EFM employment opportunities at these posts for you to accompany them?

NEA-SCA/EX coordinates the rewarding and valuable EFM opportunities to these unaccompanied posts and they would love to hear from you.

Additional Information and to apply:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

APO huh?

Do you suddenly crave a certain food item while living overseas and wish there were an easy way for it to suddenly appear before your eyes? Ever wonder what APO stands for?  An APO address is an overseas military address APO which stands for Army Post Office.  

What should you consider when shipping to an APO mailing address?  Allow extra time-sometimes delivery will take a little longer than normal.  There might be an extra shipping cost.  Also, remember not all sites will mail to an APO address; here are just a few APO friendly websites:

If have additional questions about APOs visit the US Post Office site http://www.usps.com/supportingourtroops.

Does anyone have any other suggestions to share for APO friendly websites?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

When the British Empire left Pakistan in 1947 it did so by dividing the country of Pakistan in two.  
East Pakistan spoke mostly Bengali, West Pakistan spoke Urdu, with different religions and cultures the two sides were as Anam says “poised on either side of India like a pair of horns”.  As the novel opens we learn the protagonist, recently widowed Rehana, has lost custody of her children to her deceased husband’s brother.  The children are forced to live in Lahore until Rehana is able to go to court and win them back.  Hardworking Rehana then struggles to build a small house which she then rents to a Hindu family.  Life goes on as normal until the revolution begins in Dhaka.  In the middle of all the chaos with family and friends, Rehana dreams a simple wish: that “the country would go on being her home, and the children would go on being her children. In no time at all the world would right itself, and they would go on living ordinary, unexceptional lives.”

I really enjoyed reading this book; it is well written and does an excellent job illustrating the problems of the region.


~Tips from the Field~

Know before you go… Install Skype prior to leaving and be sure that it is functioning.
Cleanliness is next to godlessness…. Don’t like to clean up?  Send paper plates and cups because work hours are long.

You can have too much of a good thing…. Don’t ship too much!  Space is limited.

Packed and ready to go…. The PX has limited amount of toiletries, and the APO takes two weeks, so be sure to pack whatever beauty supplies you need.

Eyes Wide Open…. Someone from Lahore reported, “Homes are spacious, with high ceilings and windows- recommendation bring blackout curtains or a sleeping blinder/eye shade to block out the light.  Also, many homes have marble floors- suggestion bring a pair of slippers to keep your feet warm.”

All dressed up…. Bring light weight clothes and sturdy shoes.  The weather and laundry are hard on clothes. 

These boots are made for walking…. If you are not going to be working in the embassy, purchase a pair of hiking boots and chinos to wear every day.

Do you have any tips from the field to share?  Please do!