American Southwest Family Vacation

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Over-Scheduled or Under-Resourced?

It's been a busy summer and we're just about to start getting back into a regular weekly schedule, so I hope to get some of our summer activities up soon. But my head is still spinning from everything we did to "relax."

The summer time tunnel...where did all the time go?
We went back to the States for R&R this summer. There are two schools of thought when it comes to R&R:
  1. Try to go everywhere and do everything and see everyone, or 
  2. Simply go to one place and say "Come see us if you want to." 
This summer's R&R was very much the former. It was a whirlwind spanning several states and countries over several months. Well, at least for Kacey & the kids.

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School is also starting up, and that has been...interesting. Let's just say that we still feel like some of the information isn't getting to us in a timely manner. Also, having young children in the Foreign Service can be hard on the wallet until they get into kindergarten...but sometimes special arrangements can be made (even if they are last minute).

I'm in the middle of upgrading my computer to Windows 10, which means a lot of back-up preparation for photos and files. Which in turn creates ample diversion to distract myself from other things while organizing my filing system. Let the culling begin!

Lastly, we've got plans to visit Turkey in September, so that has involved some planning and online research. I even got to use a few tips I picked up during my trip to Beirut to add to my previous experiences in Istanbul.

Work has also picked up, and I've found that I come home exhausted and the last thing I want to do is stare at the computer screen any longer than necessary. Which is kind of ironic, since I occasionally use the need to be at my computer during work hours as an excuse not to have to walk through un-air conditioned buildings during the middle of the 120F (wet-bulb) day.

So, yeah, more to come when the work-life balance swings back towards the center.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Al-Naseef House

While I'm not really a fan of much that Jeddah has to offer, I will say that the Hejaz architecture here is interesting. One of the more famous houses in the area is the Al-Naseef House. Kacey took a tour of this building, and was given a pamphlet from which I pulled some of the following content.
Al Naseef House in Jeddah
 You know the place has got some status because Starbucks put it on their Jeddah CityMug.
Giving credit where due, the following content in italics was prepared by Tour Guide Muhammed Amin Turkistani (mt.tour02@gmail.com) for "Nassif House" and I've thrown in a few of our photos for good measure.

Nassif house is a rare architectural masterpiece in Jeddah for 143 (?). It is the first house in the Hijaz designed upon this method. Turkish engineer called "Sarsar" built it. This house had been built in twelve years as builders, carpenters and laborers who were working in this house lived in it during the construction period and some married in the house then came out of it after construction is completed with a number of children who were born in the house during the period of construction.
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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Time for a little R&R

One of the most popular perks of being in the U.S. Foreign Service is a benefit called Rest and Recuperation (R&R) travel. While the R&R benefit varies from post to post, it's best described as a government-provided plane ticket for the whole family to get away every so often. If you want the formal definition:
3 FAH-1 H-3721.2: “Conditions of life at the post present distinct and significant difficulties of sufficient severity to justify temporary relief for an employee and employee’s eligible family members during a period of assignment.”
Of course, since the government is providing the air fare, it comes with a lot of restrictions and regulations, which can be found in 14 FAM 530 and 3 FAM 3720. Also, not every post gets as many R&Rs per assignment, but for a two year stint in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, we are authorized two R&Rs during our tour. This summer was our first one, and we aimed to make the most of it.

Like most expat families in Saudi Arabia, once the schools are out there is very little reason for anyone without a job to stick around. Especially when there is an overlap with Ramadan like there was this year. So, Kacey took the girls back to the States when school let out and I stayed in country for a month longer, participating in my first Iftar and Eid celebrations before catching a flight back as well.

Here's where we went on R&R:
Life's a Beach
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Saturday, August 08, 2015

R & R in Paris

What little girl doesn't want to go to Paris? There are only so many Madeline books you can read before they say "Je veux aller à Paris." Our flight back from R&R in the U.S. connected in Paris, so we took a few days of leave en route to break up the trip into something a little more manageable.

Looking at the map at a street cafe.
Our Lady of the Excited Cheer

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Then there was all the stuff for kids to do at Luxembourg Garden.
Sailing toy boats in a fountain? C'est bon!
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End Of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We spent two and a half years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State. As you migh...

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