Saturday, June 11, 2016

Non mettere in bocca! (aka: Don't put it in your mouth!)

Italians love babies. I mean, they really love babies. And since I have a baby, we are a hit anytime we are off base. Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Rome twice. And I think Maddie might just be the most loved baby in that historic city. The funny and endearing thing about Italians is that they have an opinion about everything when it comes to babies. There is no privacy. There is no belief like we have in America that the way you parent is your choice. They say it takes a village, and in Italy, they take that saying seriously. So here are my favorite baby moments from our trips!

- Lei è freddo. Translation: She's cold! Now first let me paint you a word picture. We're in Rome with about 3 million other people. It's in the 80s. Maddie is wearing a short sleeved onesie and no socks. And she's a chunker...the kind of baby that makes people count the rolls on her arms and thighs. And she does NOT like the heat. She turns red, gets a rash, and wails. I don't think she's ever been cold in her life. But over the course of those trips, I probably had a dozen random strangers stop me to point out that she wasn't wearing socks and must be FREEZING. They would tug her shade blanket down over her feet, rub her feet to show me how cold she was, or just repeat over and over, lei è freddo. There are now a bunch of italians that think I'm a terrible mother because I didn't put socks on my baby.

- Non mettere in bocca! Translation: Don't put it in your mouth! We took the train to and from Rome. Maddie was a hit on every trip. On our return to Naples, we sat across from an italian grandmother. She was very interested in Maddie, but spent most of the two hours scolding her (and us!) for putting things in her mouth...including her own fingers. She would reach across the seats, pull Maddie's hands out of her mouth, and say "Non mettere in bocca!" She was also completely appalled that I would let Maddie take toys that had fallen on the floor and put them back in her mouth. I went so far as to use google translate to communicate that germs are healthy for babies. It fell on deaf ears. She was also a bit upset that I wouldn't give Maddie water even though I told her that I was breastfeeding. In the end, after a very animated conversation with several other italian ladies sitting around us, they decided that Maddie was healthy but should probably be fed more italian food.

- The mystery of the nursing cover. On one of the train rides, I sat beside two very nice italian ladies. One spoke English and translated for the other as they coo'd over Maddie. When I took out my nursing cover, they stared. Finally, one of them asked me what I was using. I explained that the nursing cover was used in America for privacy and so that others would not be uncomfortable. They had never seen such a thing and spent a great deal of time discussing how prudish Americans are and how an italian would never cover while breastfeeding. I actually love this aspect of my current home! As a side note, they loved Maddie so much that before she left, one of the ladies told me that after meeting us, she now is thinking that she will have a baby this year :-)

- Indian photobomb. This favorite moment has less to do with italians and more to do with the eccentric moments of traveling. While we were in the Vatican, Maddie was hanging out on me in the carrier when an Indian couple walked up to us. They started touching her hair (which is red in the sunlight) and then asked for a photo. I'm not sure why we were an attraction...her red hair? Her very pale skin? The carrier? But somewhere on Indian facebook is a picture of Maddie and I in the Vatican!

- And finally, the Italian restauranteur. I think my favorite Italian on this trip was the restauranteur pictured below. This was a lovely lady who spent about 30 minutes with us while we waited to be seated for lunch. She loved Maddie and my nephew Jake and finally grabbed Maddie out of my arms to go show her around to all the other restaurant patrons.

Like in any culture, I have moments when things irritate me here in Italy. I roll my eyes or give a sigh and think about how much better things would be in some other place. Anyone who has lived overseas knows that this is just part of the cross-cultural experience. But these are the moments that make me love this life. And I am privileged to see this part of Italian culture!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ikea + Italy = Sad Faced Emojis

Life has changed a bit more since my last post. I am dubbing this the year of life transitions. We now have TWO kids in the home! Nope, I didn't have a secret pregnancy. But we did welcome Marty's middle son Brenden into our home and into our lives as a forever change. So Maddie now has one of her big brothers living with us and we couldn't be more thrilled. It's a lot of change in a short period of time, but we wouldn't have it any other way. So all that to introduce today's topic...cue the Jaws theme...Ikea. I know, it's such a small innocent sounding word. And yet it strikes fear in the heart of any shopping-hater or crowd-o-phobe.

So last Saturday it was time to furnish Brenden's bedroom. Furniture costs at our base store are ridiculous, so we decided that the best move was to take a deep breath and embrace the Ikea experience. We loaded up our two cars (because you need a lot of space to bring home a dozen ikea boxes), said a quick prayer that Maddie wouldn't devolve halfway through the Ikea maze, and set out on our adventure. Little did we know that it would end up being only the first of two Ikea trips that day. And in an attempt to process my Ikea-related PTSD and find true healing, here are the highlights and lowlights from our trip(s).

1. First and foremost, Ikea and Italians don't mix. I blame this more on Ikea than on the Italians. A large multinational store should do a little more cultural contextualization and planning before moving into a new market. For anyone who has never visited an Ikea, their stores are planned out in a complex maze system that takes roughly 1-2 hours to navigate if you're not stopping to shop. There is a central corridor with arrows pointing you in the correct direction, sample rooms and furniture models on all sides, and hidden doors that can serve as cut-throughs if you knows where you're going. If everyone follows the arrows, you have organized chaos. If no one follows the arrows, you simply have chaos. Italians don't follow arrows. Or street signs. Or directions. Or commonly accepted crowd control rules. They also don't believe in stepping to the side of the walkway if they want to get into a deep and heated discussion with 20 of their closest friends. So you're left with large loud milling crowds of people wandering in no consistent direction and blocking any means of navigating the store in the manner it was intended.

2. We have conquered the yellow tags! This is a big win for our family. When we shopped at Ikea upon arrival in Italy, we had to spend some time learning their tagging system. We figured out that red tagged items meant you could pick up your items yourself in the warehouse. All we could gather about the yellow tags was that we had to stand in line and talk to someone in that particular department. We had no idea what happened after. So we only purchased red tag items. This time, we realized that all of the mattresses were yellow tagged, and since Brenden needed a bed, we had no choice. It was time to figure out the yellow tags. So we stood in line and after much pointing and use of google translate, we got a nicely printed paper. We had no idea what to do with the paper, but luckily we ran into an American couple who explained that we simply had to pay downstairs for the items on the paper and then go to the depot to get our purchase. Yellow tags, conquered!

3. I need to learn some Italian. I (wrongly) assumed that at an international store like Ikea, there would be at least a little English capability with the customer service staff who help with the aforementioned yellow tags. I actually really enjoy cross-cultural communication in most aspects of life (I am an expert chicken clucker when ordering food while traveling), but in a high stress environment like Ikea when there are a dozen people waiting in line behind me, my inability to communicate becomes a problem. I fully realize that it's my problem and not theirs, hence my need to learn some Italian. Thank goodness for google translate...a beautiful useful crutch for this busy mamma who hasn't had time to study Italian since Maddie's birth!

4. Cute babies are universally able to transcend the language-cultural barriers. While standing in line for the yellow tag, I was pushing Maddie back and forth in the stroller trying to keep her asleep. I've found that using a white noise app on my phone and tucking the phone into the stroller helps her sleep through pretty much anything. So as I rocked her back and forth, the couple in front of me started looking around and with my limited Italian, I realized they were trying to figure out why they were hearing an odd noise. So using my excellent cross-cultural communication charades skills, I explained the white noise app. Then of course they wanted to see the baby (because Italians love babies!), and I soon had a whole cluster of Italians cooing at Maddie and saying "bella." I seriously think that with enough time in Italy, she will think her name actually is Bella.

5. Sadly and as anyone who is an Ikea shopper will tell you, assemble yourself can sometimes mean assemble-yourself-until-you-realize-a-piece-is-missing. And so after Marty and Brenden brilliantly packed all of our boxes into the cars and we made it home, carried the boxes up the stair and began assembling furniture, we realized that yes, we were missing the central support leg for the bed. To be fair to Ikea, apparently it doesn't always come with the bed and you have to buy it separately. But I feel like that could have been mentioned when we were getting the other pieces. Saturday also happened to be our once a month parents night out where our daycare opens on a Saturday evening so parents can have a date. So you guessed it, Marty and I spent our date night going back to Ikea for the missing leg. 1.5 hours later we finally staggered away from Ikea with our $5 support leg. Because...and this brings me to item #6...

6. Who knew that the only time Ikea in Italy is more crowded than a Saturday afternoon is on a Saturday at 7pm! Apparently all of Naples likes to hang out in the corridor of Ikea on a Saturday evening.

So a little the worse for wear and still occasionally having flashbacks, we have conquered Ikea in Italy.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Jet Setting Mommy (aka: 6 flights with a 4-month old!)

Once again, life got busy and blogging went into a deep deep drawer. But I'm determined to find ways of self expression during this journey of motherhood, so today while Maddie is (hopefully) happily playing at daycare, I am taking a breath and sitting down to write.

Our most recent adventure included a little bit of Italy, a little bit of Germany, and a lot of the good old USA. We just returned from almost 3 weeks in the states enjoying some much needed family time and a lot of Maddie introductions. Growing up overseas, I know that one of the most painful aspects of living internationally is being far from family and friends. As a new mom, this fact is particularly difficult since I want Maddie to know and love those people that I know and love. In light of that, Marty and I are committed to at least Maddie and I getting back home a couple times a year during our stay in Italy. And so, a few months ago I found myself purchasing plane tickets to visit my mother-in-law in Virginia and my own family in Orlando. I'm a fairly self-assured traveler, but traveling with a baby is a whole new ball of wax (shout out to my parents who flew all over the world with FOUR children!). 6 flights, amazing family time, and way too much American food later, here are my top ten observations from my first solo travel with baby:

1. Babies experience the same bubble-guts as adults during airplane travel. This results in stinky explosions the likes of a sewer plant meltdown. Thank goodness for travel blogs that recommended bringing one diaper per hour and multiple changes of clothes. All were needed. On that note, changing an explosive diaper in an airplane bathroom requires the skills of a contortionist and the balance of a gymnast.

2. People are really nice to moms traveling alone with a baby. Which made me feel intense guilt for the many mean things I have thought during my many travels (please Lord don't let me be sitting by that mom with her baby! why can't those parents make their child stop crying? can't they make airplanes with no children allowed?). Lord forgive me. People were actually approaching me on the plane to tell me that they were sitting in row x seat x and if I needed any help just come get them!

3. I have an amazing baby. She was the only baby on our long haul (9 hours 40 minutes!) flight to the states and when we disembarked, people stopped me to say they hadn't even known there was a baby on the plane.

4. American food is good. I mean, really good. I'm not sure who gained more weight during our trip, Maddie or me. But we both definitely came back slightly pudgier than when we left.

5. I miss family. I love living overseas, but my time spent with my mother-in-law and my family was water for my soul. I loved watching them love on Maddie. I loved watching her get to know them. I loved conversations with people who KNOW me. I loved the fact that they encourage me as a new mom but also know that I am still the person I was before becoming a mom. Honestly, I miss my family.

6. If you have to do layovers with a baby, do them in Germany. I flew through Munich on the way, and Frankfurt on the way back. All is efficient. Airport and airline staff are helpful. Everything is clean. Most things are on time. Two thumbs up, Germany.

7. Italy is the exact opposite. Nothing is efficient. No one is helpful. Nothing is clean. Nothing is on time. I love living in Italy, but it doesn't get two thumbs up right now. After 24 hours traveling back, the baggage handlers decided not to unload the luggage onto the conveyor belt in Naples. They just didn't do it. Marty and I had decided that I would hand off Maddie to him outside security (I had to get special permission from the Italian head of security to do it) and I would go back inside and wait for the luggage. Well an hour later, Maddie was hollering at the top of her lungs for food and I was stuck inside under strict instructions from security that I couldn't leave or else they would send all my things back to Germany. I finally just decided to buck the rules in desperation and went out to my hungry baby. It took 2 more hours for the luggage to come out and for me to get permission to have my bags released to me. All this after 24 hours of travel and 3 flights. Two thumbs down, Italy.

8. Baby jet lag is real, folks. Maddie has been a champ, but her poor brain doesn't know night from day. And this tired mamma has decided that jet lag in mom and baby is a very unfortunate combination.

9. Baby bassinets on airplanes are awesome, except when your baby decides she doesn't like them and only wants to be held. For any of you who travel, Lufthansa and some other airlines offer bulkhead seats with an attached bassinet. The bulkhead seat is awesome regardless, as it affords some extra space. The bassinet is also awesome if you have a baby who is willing to sleep in it without hollering.

10. Travel with a baby is hard. Everything aches after many many hours of holding the baby and lugging way (way!) too much stuff through the airport. On a side note, the Frankfurt airport is way too big for transit with a baby. When the sign says 18 minutes walk from one gate to the other, it's just depressing. I also decided that I will never travel alone with that much carry-on stuff again. Next time I'm paying for an extra suitcase.

But guess what, even with the aches and pains and fatigue and stress, it's so worth it. And so on June 27th I'll do it all over again, heading to the states for some family time and a work conference. From what I hear, it's harder the older Maddie gets. But so worth it!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Motherhood (or a lifetime without sleep)

It's been far too long since I pulled up this blog. The reason? Motherhood. As I think back on the life journey whose moments are captured in this blog...from Kuwait to DC to marriage to Virginia Beach to Italy, I am amazed at the twists and turns that led to this beautiful moment in time. Marty and I have a daughter! And she is amazing. So this blog is now a blend of life. It is mommyhood with its ups and downs. It is Italian living and European adventures. It is self discovery as I take on the biggest challenge of my life: finding a way to be wife, mommy, employee and still myself. It is adventures that now include a beautiful squirmy delightful little girl. It is getting up in the middle of the night because Maddie May is sick and my sleep is secondary to her cries. It is lying in a hospital bed moaning in pain during that messy horrific incredible experience of childbirth. It is filling up my phone with pictures of our daughter as we explore the French Alps. It is learning to parent with Marty and feeling my heart fill with joy as he dances around the living room holding Maddie and singing Piano Man. It is the pain of separation as I drop her off at daycare so I can resume managing the global operations of a nonprofit literacy organization. It is fighting the guilt that I'm not that perfect mom who already has the baby book filled in with special moments and keepsakes (at least I'm keeping the keepsakes even if they're just being thrown in a pink box). I'm not just Global Nomad Gal now. I'm a whole bunch of other things and this is life. And I wouldn't trade it for the world...although in my crazy moments I might trade just a smidge of it for a good night's sleep.

This blog is one way that I still find the "me" in the midst of all my other roles. It is my creative outlet. It is the clickety clack of the keyboard while the baby monitor hums with the sound of white noise and sleeping baby grunts. It allows me to take a moment to think of adventures lived and special moments to memorialize. Writing allows me to share stories with those that I just can't always find the time to connect with in this new crazy life. In mommyhood, I find that time takes on a strange pace. It races by during Maddie's happy moments. And it slows to a crawl on sick days and cranky days and gassy days. There aren't enough minutes in the day to do all that I would like to do. I want to be the perfect mom. I imagine most moms want to be perfect. And we set for ourselves an impossible goal. I will never be perfect. I'll never have enough tummy times for Maddie. I'll shout to the rooftops that I got her into a sleep routine and she's logging 8-hour chunks at night, and then she'll get hit with a bug and she'll wake up more times than when she was a newborn. I'll get her dressed in the perfect outfit and time it perfectly for that morning spit-up. And then I'll realize that all of the clothes that still fit her are in the wash and I'll take her to daycare in PJs. I'll plan the perfect schedule to have dinner ready when Marty comes home and then be inundated with work and forget to thaw the chicken. I'll make grand plans to learn Italian and take music lessons and then I'll cancel everything because you know what? Maddie and Marty are more important. But I also know that there is still an entire life left to live. And there will be time. But for this moment, family is my adventure. And I'm lucky enough to be living my family adventure in Italy. We get to raise our daughter in a place where her 9 week birthday was celebrated at a chalet near Mont Blanc. I got to drown the sorrows of hearing her first cough in baguette and French chocolate. She got to be baptized by a British Anglican priest in a beautiful old church in Naples, surrounded by family and people from a multitude of nationalities. She gets to hear English and French and Italian and Spanish every day as she learns to speak. She got to ride a train to Rome with mommy and daddy and Nana when she was only three weeks old. She was nursed sitting on a bench in the Pantheon. And on the side of the road in Northern Italy. And in a charming little restaurant in France. These are the moments to treasure.

So as I get back on track with my favorite creative outlet, I hope to share these moments. I don't want to stop being Global Nomad Gal. But now I get to be a Global Nomad Mom raising a new little global nomad girl, and that's pretty awesome.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Napoli Sundays

This week has been primarily focused on settling in...and by that, I mean that Marty has been bravely assembling furniture while I unpack box after box (after box after box). We're finally making a dent in the piles of cardboard. And the best part- we finished the nursery! And I love it. The living room is still a work in progress. The 8 "some assembly required" bookshelves still sit un-assembled in a corner, surrounded by the 500 lbs of books that we brought with us. The bedroom is sparse at best. And all my beautiful wall hangings lie piled in the guest bedroom. We're saving those for last, ostensibly because you should always wait to decorate until all of the furniture is assembled. But mainly because our walls are plaster and Marty needs time to prepare his heart for the arduous task of putting up anything on the walls. But our apartment is starting to feel like a home and we finally feel a bit more ready for this baby to arrive.

We haven't had too many Italian adventures this week, but Sundays are our Napoli day since we've decided to attend a church in the city. This means that every Sunday finds us driving 45 minutes from our home to downtown Naples, where the beautiful Christ Church Naples is located. The church was built in 1863 and is the largest Anglican church in Italy (although like any non-Catholic church in this beautiful country, large takes on a different meaning with about 35 attendees). We've really enjoyed it thus far, and are settling into the slightly different "feel" of the Church of England versus our Rwandan-affiliated churches back home.

One of my favorite parts of Napoli Sundays is the drive. We've been experimenting with different routes into the city. Our biggest issue? Cobblestone streets. It doesn't sound like a major problem, but driving over those paths makes for a bone jarring teeth clacking labor inducing trip. So our new goal is not to find the quickest path or the shortest path, it is to find the path with the least cobblestone. Potholes are acceptable...otherwise we wouldn't be able to drive anywhere. But smooth roads are the goal. Today was fairly successful, although I did almost get into my first Napoli accident. As we learn our way around, we've found that me driving and Marty navigating is the best process (since I have zero sense of direction). So Marty puts a lot of faith in me as I navigate the beautiful chaos of these roads (my Kuwaiti driving experience comes in handy here!). In our area orientation, we received several hours of lecture on how to drive here...I like to call the course "the many ways to die in Naples." But a lecture and practical application are two different things, and the only way to learn is to try! I've done a pretty good job if I do say so myself, but today I got caught between two trying to merge off the freeway from the middle lane, and one trying to merge into the middle lane from the on ramp. Where was I? In the right hand lane exactly where I belonged, but we still almost went crunch. Luckily Marty's sharp intake of breath and the view of two vehicles inches from our car saved us from our first mishap. Success! So this week marks the start of our third full week here. It already feels a bit like home. I'm eager to continue exploring and to start learning Italian, but as Marty wisely reminds me, we can't do it all at once especially this close to baby time. Step by step!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Introducing the New Adventure: Welcome to Napoli

After going dark on this site for the past 3 years, it's time to come back online. Welcome back to my blog! You'll probably notice a few changes if you used to follow my adventures, namely that the location has switched from Kuwait to Naples, Italy. Oh and I'm married, living overseas as a Navy dependent, and...surprise! 8 months pregnant. I've also left the counseling field, and have a job that I love managing all of the international work for a global education nonprofit. And last but certainly not least, Marty (husband), baby and I were accompanied overseas by our loyal collie, Aiya. So this blog will hopefully be a renewed look into life overseas, with all of its adventures, misunderstandings, culture shock, language learning and surprises...just from a slightly different perspective than what I was writing a few years ago. So let's jump right in...

We landed in Italy 9 days ago. This move overseas was so much different than past moves. I've always traveled and moved solo. This time it was with an (awesome) husband, a dog, a bun in the oven, and a whole lot of help from the US Navy. When we found out that we were going to be stationed in Italy, I got a quick lesson in moving with the military. It's a whole different ball of wax. No longer was I packing 7 50lb suitcases and hopping on a flight. Nope. This time, we had movers. And when I say movers, I mean we had THREE different packing experiences. The Navy allows us to put some of our stuff in storage, ship some of our stuff in an express (air) shipment, and ship everything else on a cargo ship. Sounds great, right? And it is. Except, what needs to happen before the movers arrive? Well, you have to sort your stuff into these three different categories. All your stuff. Every single item in your house. And don't forget, there is a 4th category: whatever is going into the 4 70lb suitcases that you will live out of during transition and that will go on the plane with you. So June and July were a time of organized chaos as Marty and I sorted and sorted and sorted. And then the storage people came. Followed by the express shipment people. And finally, the cargo shipment. And then we said goodbye to our first house as a married couple, packed up the cars and the suitcases and the dog, and spent 8 weeks visiting family, traveling up and down the eastern seaboard, sleeping in more hotels than I can count, and attending a 6-week schooling for Marty. And then the day finally came when we boarded that military flight for Italy and began our new lives. And I can say this with certainty...moving overseas solo is fun and adventurous. But moving overseas married brings a whole different level of joy and fun and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Since most of this initial post is catch-up, I thought it would be fun to post one Napoli (Italian for Naples) adventure story, so here goes. Our first week in Naples was primarily spent in an orientation program, learning about the culture, doing paperwork (lots and lots of's the military way!), buying a car, and getting settled into our apartment. But today we decided to venture into downtown Naples. We visited the area back in June and did some exploring in a rental car, but today we decided that it would be smart to try out public transportation so that we could see what works for visiting family and friends when they are in town. Being 8 months pregnant, we didn't want to be too overeager so we decided on one destination: Christmas Alley. It's a year-round market street in Naples that sells absolutely stunning nativity scenes. We had done some research into how to get into Naples, so we put on our walking shoes and headed off. It's important to note that the area where we live is fairly isolated, so there is one bus that goes by roughly once an hour. That bus takes you to a train station about 10 minutes away. Then you can train into the main Naples station and catch the metro from there to other parts of the city. Simple, right? But this is overseas living, so it's never simple! So in 10 simple steps, here is a recap of our day:

1. Drive from our apartment to the espresso shop where they sell public transportation tickets. Decide (wisely as it would later turn out) to spend more on the 140 minute tickets instead of the 60 minute validity tickets. Leave the espresso shop feeling very accomplished, tickets in hand.

2. Park near the gate, walk through the roundabout, and to the bus stop across the street. Realizing there is no bench, perch on the edge of a random box sitting in the stop and try not to touch anything since the entire street is covered in trash. Avoid swarms of bees lurking around said trash. Look up expectantly at every vehicle approaching since you expect the bus to arrive momentarily according to the schedule.

3. One hour later, sweaty and stinky, decide that it is entirely possible that the bus will never come. Decide with Marty that we wouldn't want our visitors to go through this, so we'll just drive them to the train if they want to go into town without us. Decide that we should learn how to drive to the train so that we can be ready for visitors. Walk back toward housing, get car, and successfully drive to the train station. Feeling very accomplished as we find a parking lot and make our way into the station!

4. Find the correct station track and sit down. Realize that we are now 1.5 hours into our adventure and have only made it 10 minutes from home. Sigh with 8-month pregnancy fatigue but decide to power on. Wait expectantly for the train that is due in 5 minutes.

5. 25 minute later, hear multiple announcements in Italian that seem to indicate that various trains that might or might not be ours might be late. Start asking some very kind Italians for guidance, and realize that yes, the train is late. After 40 minutes of waiting, the train arrives and we are off to Naples!

6. After 2+ hours in transit, we make it to Naples. This pregnant lady is starving, so instead of catching the metro to the Christmas Alley stop, we exit the central station and stumble upon a Kabob shop. Excitement ensues! Giant sandwiches in hand, we decide to hoof it to our destination instead of going back to the metro. Thank God I am married and my man is good with directions. 20-something minutes later (traveling at a snail's pace due to the aforementioned pregnant me), we made it. And it was so cool!

7. Walk through Christmas Alley oohing and ahhing at the exquisite creations. Make our first Napoli purchase- a very cool ceramic pasta measuring tool. End up at a gelato restaurant and thoroughly enjoy a Nutella gelato cone.

8. Overcome by fatigue, we head back to the closest metro station. Unfortunately, we had to climb a mountain to get there. But we made it, easily got on the correct metro, and rode it to the central Naples station so that we could transfer to our train back to the suburbs. Unfortunately, our orientation did not include instructions on how to get back home. So with phones in hand, we did some quick research, decided we knew which train to board, and headed in that direction. We found a train bound for our town, got on, and quickly realized that this was a very different looking train (individual compartments). After walking the entire length of the train, we saw an official looking dude and asked him for help. It turns out that we were not on the local train, so we quickly exited stage left with 2 minutes to spare before the train took off.

9. Stopping for more directions, we were pointed toward the correct train. And miracle of all miracles, it all went smoothly! We got on the train, successfully arrived at our stop, and easily drove back home.

10. Enter house, collapse on couch, don't move for next 2 hours. Decide that any other public transportation trips will wait until after this baby arrives.

And here are a few photos from today's Napoli adventure...

Monday, March 5, 2012

The one-year anniversary

Last night I realized that in just a few short weeks, I will mark the one year anniversary of my departure from Kuwait. Strange. Maybe I'll celebrate with some good old fashioned hummus and pita bread. And on the tail end of this realization was the reminder that my blogging has been virtually non-existent over the past six months. I have realized that life in America is hectic. It is fast-paced. And it is so cluttered with electronics. Between my work computer, laptop, ipad, kindle, and blackberry, by the time I lay down to sleep at night my eyes have become just the luminescent reflection of pixels. I know that's not a very good excuse for the lack of blogging, but it sounds better than "I just didn't feel inspired."

Much of my writing comes from a place of emotion, whether it is anger or sadness or frustration or excitement. My inspiration is the feeling that if I don't write out my thoughts, I'll implode. And so, since my return from Kuwait, I have felt less inspiration. I guess that's a good thing. It shows a renewed balance in my emotions (a far cry from the angry exhausted woman who boarded that last flight from Kuwait almost a year ago).

It has been an incredible year, full of so many blessings. Anytime I speak of Kuwait, or think about Kuwait, or write about Kuwait, or read about Kuwait, I feel this odd mix of relief and angst. Many have asked me if I would do it all again. If knowing what those 2 years and 3 months would do to me, I would change my mind and skip that particular "adventure." My answer is usually no, although there is often a short pause of consideration before the answer. Kuwait was my grand adventure (not my only adventure, but certainly a big one!). It was also my desert experience. Yet I wonder if it is possible to enjoy God's incredible blessings to the same extent if they do not come at a time when the desert has parched all from your soul? America is not perfect, and already I am feeling the antsy pull of the nomadic life. And yet this past year has been full. After waiting for several months, God provided the perfect that allows me to travel and get out some of that angsty nomadicism so that I can more fully enjoy my everyday life in DC. I have journeyed back into the church and the community of believers, finding a very solid place in a new theological realm (Anglicanism). God has brought me an amazing man and I look forward with anticipation to the future. There is much that is good on this side of a desert.

And so. I continue this journey into the unknown. Confident. Believing that despite the odd twists and turns, the desert experiences, the disappointments, the anger that still lurks in dark corners of my soul when I think of Kuwait, despite all this. God is good, and greatly to be praised.