Saturday, March 24, 2007

Inital Malta

March 14, 2007
When we arrived at the airport and checked in, we were told that although our bags were checked straight through to Malta, we could only receive boarding passes for the Dulles to Frankfurt leg but we would have to get our Frankfurt to Malta boarding passes when we got to Frankfurt. Trusting the competency of Lufthansa and the efficiency of the Germans we decided this was no big deal. Our flight was relatively uneventful, with the highlights being that the movie wasn’t working and the food service was exceedingly slow (normally they have us fed within an hour or so and get the movie on to keep us shut up and happy, the modern day version of bread and circuses). We were tired so we did sleep all 3 hours between dinner and breakfast.

We disembarked in Frankfurt and blearily tried to figure out which way we needed to go to find our next flight and get boarding passes issued. We thought we were doing very well, given that the plane landed almost ½ hour early. Well, we needed every minute of it. We were directed to an extremely long line that wasn’t moving very fast (in a 10 minute period at one point we didn’t even move up a single person). When we got to the gatekeeper person she told us we could go to the gate, we told her we tried that but the gate are itself had another security check and we needed boarding passes to get through, she said the line ahead of us was too long, we would never make our flight, and we stifled the “duh” look while she decided to let us go ahead in the 1K/First Class line. When we stepped up to the ticket agent, he asked if we were going first class. We said no, but that our plane was leaving in about ½ hour (true). In stereotypical German fashion he sternly told us that everyone else was waiting in line. We said his colleague had sent us into that line and he did grudgingly issue us out boarding passes. We ran downstairs to our gate, again waited in a long line, this time to get through security, then into yet another line to get onto the shuttle bus that would take us to our plane. Note, the plane was not some tiny prop plane, they just don’t have enough gates.

March 15, 2007
Surprisingly, every one of our bags arrived and we headed out to where our sponsor, Carlos, his wife Judith and his son Juan were waiting for us, with a rose for me. What a welcome! They helped us get our bags outside where Charlie, another embassy employee, waited with the big van to carry us and our bags to our apartment. Carlos handed Terry his work cell phone, on which there was already a text message from our Community Liaison Officer (CLO) Lisa asking if we got in OK. Judith went to get their car and came out with the next happy surprise – bags of groceries to get us through our first few days. They included ham and cheese and bread for sandwiches. Like my very lovely client who sent me a Honeybaked spiral cut ham with a 6 pound wheel of Swiss cheese to thank me for something around Christmastime, our sponsors have a strongly Catholic background and the concept that there could possibly be a Jew around probably never even occurred to them. It gets even better.

Our apartment is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath seaside apartment in one of the “hotter” locations on the island. The floors are all stone and it has a balcony where we have already spent hours standing out and looking at the sea and the promenade next to the sea. One thing I have to say about the building materials used here – it is freezing in this apartment. When it is almost 80 degrees outside, even Terry has a hoodie sweatshirt on inside because these buildings keep their cool very well. Yes, July and August will be miserable, but it will probably be comfortable inside the home otherwise.

In our effort to stay awake until bedtime, we went ahead and unpacked all the bags, took showers and went outside to see the neighborhood and get some sunshine. We also decided that Maltese money would be very good to have, so we went off in the direction of the HSBC bank, which we knew would take our foreign ATM cards. It turns out that in Malta the ATMs only take money out of checking accounts, not savings accounts, so we were unable to get money out of our joint account. Luckily, I remembered I should have had some cash in my personal checking, so I got out a pitiful LM10 ($30) and we went to find me a snack, since I was of course by this time starving. Thus, I got to try on my very first day the pea pies that I had heard about in several guide books. They are basically English meat pie type foods with curry spiced peas inside. Yummy! While we sat with my treat and some hot beverages, Carlos called to see where we were because he was going to come over with dinner cooked for us by his wife. You guessed it – pork cutlets, and a rice dish with sausage and pork, as well as potatoes and salad. I was able to pick out the meat from the rice and it was very tasty, and Terry said the cutlets were delicious. Judith can cook.

After dinner we went back out, mostly because it was the only way to keep us from falling asleep. This time we walked the other direction, along the water, where we discovered about a dozen or more stray cats hanging out. We also saw some really amazing playgrounds. In Maltese fashion, we got some fruit at a produce truck – we have been advised that produce and fish are best gotten from folks in trucks who set up on the side of the roads. It is weird handling such “small” sums of money, because the Maltese Lira is about $3 = LM1 so a bag of fruit cost 1 lira and change. It looks like we can get almost any fruit we want here, from apples and plums to lychee and pomegranate. We make a salad and try the tomatoes – they are ALMOST garden-good, and at least a thousand times better than any tomato found in a USA grocery store. We congratulate ourselves on finding something we like about Malta. We had gotten home around 7pm and by 8pm we were dying and finally let ourselves go to bed.

March 16, 2007
Today began with a realtor picking us up to begin the fun search for housing. We had absolutely no idea what we wanted; to be honest we didn’t even know what all the types of housing in Malta were. Now we know that a “maisonette” is a duplex; a “bungalow” is a ranch house; a “villa” is any detached home with a pool; a “house of character” is any older home. Every house we saw had a pool, although some were small enough that nobody but a 2 year old could actually do laps. A few had indoor plants, meaning there were actual plots of dirt on the inside of the house – generally front entrance area – where plants grew. One house had a row of citrus trees – orange, lemon, tangerine. One house had a front area between the gate and the door which was where the animals used to be hitched – there was even still standing the food and water troughs, of course all cleaned out and looking like large built-in stone planters. Terry decided that would be a great house for us to house the goats. After 6 very different houses, we decided we had a better idea of at least where we wanted to be, and a slightly better idea of what we wanted. We discussed meeting up again on Tuesday to look at more places, and he dropped us off at the apartment.

We then called the other realtor, who had been recommended to us and arranged for her to take us out tomorrow, then we went back out to the internet cafĂ© we had seen yesterday to take care of a few things and to wander that area – it has all the fancy shops. Carlos called to see where we were, as he had been tasked with rounding us up for the “meet and greet” for us and a new Marine at the embassy. It was great to finally put faces to email addresses and as always nobody looked anything like we thought they would. The Ambassador even showed up to say hello and to meet us. Before coming to Malta we had joked that we would certainly be the only Pennsylvania license plates in Malta ... well, you know what they say about making assumptions. It turns out there are no fewer than 4 Pennsylvanians at the embassy – and the embassy only employs about 30 Americans. One lady is from outside Scranton and knows Harveys Lake very well – who ever would have thunk it? We are not complaining about this, but we are seriously over-represented.

Additional Pennsylvania coincidence #1: earlier in the day, while poking around the kitchen, we found Villanova Law School Alumni cups. This started an argument as to whether it was more likely that a Maltese person who happened to own, rent or know the owners of this apartment had gone to Villanova, or if this was the apartment where Michelle Pistone had stayed when she was here last year. (Michelle is the Villanova professor who came on a Fullbright last year and helped the University of Malta law school create a clinical legal program that provided representation to asylum seekers.) The embassy community is small, heck the Maltese community is small, so everyone knew the apartment where we are staying, and I knew Michelle had gotten to know some of the folks at the embassy. At the meet & greet I asked if anyone knew if Michelle had stayed there and the answer was yes. I love being right! I also scared one poor guy who, after being introduced with only his first name, I put his last name to it – Michelle had known him and given me his name.

Additional Pennsylvania coincidence #2: On our way to the grocery store, we saw a car with a Penn State sticker on its window. The car was an EU car, not USA plates, and the plates were “PSU 095”. Elissa, did you ever hear about any Maltese people at Penn State before you got there?

Terry’s boss had told him that the two of them would go into the office on Monday – a national holiday – so Terry could start to get up to speed with nobody else around. I was fine with that because I had already arranged to go for a walk/hike around the Dingli Cliffs with other embassy folks – an outing arranged by Lisa. Happily, Bruce (Terry’s boss) said he and his wife would be driving us to the outing – they only live a few blocks from where we are staying – so Terry gets to go! It is only a few hours, apparently, so they will go in after that.

March 17, 2007
Today began with a different realtor who only showed us 3 places, but they were all much more like what we are looking for than the stuff shown to us by the other realtor. She also has friends with sailboats who are always looking for fellow sailors (yahoo!). Two places we saw were on the same street at the Maltese President’s palace and the American Ambassador’s residence - think she’ll give Terry a lift to work ;-) ? We’re set up to see a couple more places on Tuesday – once she learned that we were able to look through construction and have a sense of what a place will look like when finished, she decided there were more places we had to see. For those of you who were along for the ride during our house renovation blog, you know we can look through blotchy red paint on a stucco-like surface and see what beauty might lie beneath, or in that case, by adding drywall above.

Like the USA 20 years ago, we are told, Malta is shut down tight as a drum on Sundays and because of the public holiday is closed Monday as well, so Terry and I had to get our grocery shopping done today to take us through the weekend. It was fun walking home with big bags of groceries and experiencing something we were beginning to think was only a story – rain in Malta! It was a drizzle most of the time, gathering force during our walk home and reverting to drizzle again halfway back. But, we can now say with certainty that precipitation does happen here.

March 18, 2007
Today we finally decided to take the leap and try to figure out the buses. One thing that makes this easy is that for the most part, all buses start and end at the Valletta bus terminal, so as long as we get on going towards Valletta, that is where we will end up. Although the embassy claims to be in the neighboring town, Floriana, you could probably crab walk backwards to the embassy building from the Valletta bus terminal (but you would get run over). The bus trip cost 20 cents ($0.60) and takes about 15 minutes on a Sunday without traffic. We’ll see how long it takes on a normal work day.

March 19, 2007
Today we met up with a bunch of other embassy folks and took a hike along the Dingli Cliffs. Yes, it is fun to say. It was a very, very nice way to get to hang out with some of the folks we will be living and working with for the next 2 years. We also got some good dog cuddling time, as several people have dogs and the pooches enjoyed the hike as much as the people! Terry’s boss and his wife live only a couple of blocks from us, so they graciously drove us to the outing, as there are no buses and our car probably won’t arrive for another month or more.

One very interesting phenomenon I am seeing is that everyone seems to assume I have been offered and accepted the secretary job at the embassy. I suppose that with only one applicant during the time that they need someone to fill the job, it makes sense, however I had assumed that as a government job I would need to at least make the face effort of applying. Our CLO is planning an orientation for me on Thursday, so when I am at the embassy I plan to find her husband (my future boss) and find out exactly what is what. Nobody wants to talk shop on a holiday, or I would have prodded already.

March 20, 2007
Today’s highlights include: seeing my 2nd favorite house, lunch at the Malta Yacht Club with my realtor, making my first solo trip to the fruit cart and the grocery store, and seeing a car flip (the elderly man driving it, after being helped out of the car that stood on its hood, walked away without a scratch. It was amazing, and of course quite frightening). Also, our landlord called to let me know the cable folks were coming on Thursday morning and after that is set up the internet can be arranged. So I will soon be able to put all these random musings up where unsuspecting souls can read the thoughts of a woman spending too much time on her own! OK that isn’t really true, I have been with Terry all weekend and realtors all week.

We also discovered that the one outlet near the kitchen can’t handle having 2 ovens and a space heater plugged in at the same time, so we blew the power just before dinnertime. Luckily, Terry did manage to find the right switch to get the power turned back on and we unplugged the space heater. We then decided to finally use the dehumidifier that has been sitting in one of the spare bedrooms and it does make a big difference in how cold this place seems.

March 21, 2007
Today I saw a new second favorite house. I also met a lovely woman who’s leaving in 2 months, and who currently holds the job I am most likely to be taking. She showed me her seaside apartment in Sliema, which seems to be the most popular choice of locale for folks who don’t have small children or dogs. Between meeting her, running around with our realtor – who showed me 3 places in the morning, came back for me around 3pm and is coming back again at 6pm – I have not had my nap, nor have I eaten as frequently as I should. Result – grumpy Lynne. The good news is I checked in with the regional nurse, who’s here only today from Tunis, and he confirmed that what I am doing is exactly what I should be doing, namely finding an OB/GYN in the economy, and letting me know we can work out details if I want to be medevac’d home to deliver or if I want/need additional testing that is not done in Malta. I also got the name of another realtor because I keep feeling like there must be more than I have seen – I have spent 4 days (well, parts of days, but I couldn’t schedule anything else) with realtors and only seen 15 places – 6 of which were entirely too far away and inappropriate for our needs.

March 22, 2007
I ended up spending most of my day at the embassy, quite unexpectedly. It started because Terry needed me to access a web site where he refuses to memorize the password, and print something for him from it. We decided it would also be a good time for me to get my embassy badge so I can come and go without having to have a specific person meet me and escort me around. Sounds simple enough, sounds like a couple of tasks that take 1, maybe 2 hours to accomplish. We must always keep in the forefront of our thoughts that this is Malta (to be honest, we also said that a lot in Singapore).

First, I ended up getting introduced around to almost everyone at the embassy, which was very helpful although of course I remember about half of the names, and that is only because half of the people are named “Jo/Joe” both male and female. Of course, putting the name, even Jo, to the right face is also a challenge right now. Then, to get the badge I needed to get a photo taken at one place then the badge printed at another place. The machine to print the badge decided to show who’s boss and chose to stop working, which required the expertise of two different technical folks – neither of whom were Terry – to come and attempt to solve the problem. I was finally told to go amuse myself and the badge would be brought to me. This was my opportunity to get on the internet to satisfy item #2 of my mission, and check email. Of course, the printer hadn’t been installed on that computer, but I was able to download what I needed and send it to Terry where he could print it. During my round of introductions, I met the cashier who told me Terry had arranged to meet him at 1pm to open our joint bank account. So, I guess I am sticking around until 1pm!

While hanging around the embassy, I got invited to the next (all-women) book club meeting – tonight, with a 600 page book I have never even heard of, much less read. I figure this is a good opportunity to meet folks I haven’t met yet, so I agree to go. It also helps that the woman hosting is lives only about a 10 minute walk away from our apartment. As Terry comes home at 7pm I am heading out, figuring that I’ll easily be home within a couple of hours. The women I meet are lovely, and our conversation ranges from the book for the night, the other books in the series that some have read, recommendations of realtors and doctors (for me), and discussion of life inside and outside the embassy. I finally wander into our apartment around 11pm and practically collapse into bed. There are times I really hate being Pregnant Lynne (not that Pre-pregnancy Lynne could stay up past 11). At least I can still get 10 hours’ sleep before getting up tomorrow in time for the realtor to pick me up!

Oh, and the discovery of today – in the back of our minds we remember being told that fruit and veg deliveries are made on Mondays and Thursdays so those are the best days to load up. Terry ran out while I was at book club because we were low on fruit and he was in love with the selection and quality. I guess that means we have new standard shopping days – like most of Europe, people here shop every few days and have very fresh foods rather than stocking up like we do at home.

March 23, 2007
Like every other day this week, it is cold, windy and rainy. From the embassy folks I am told that this is winter, and it normally lasts through January and February, and is easing off by now. This year, winter never came, and temperatures stayed mild and the sun stayed up. I guess this is our welcome to Malta – other than the rain I think Terry prefers this so I don’t complain … too much. The wind is awesome, though, and the sea is the choppiest I have seen it today. I am now questioning weekend plans of doing any wandering around if the weather is to be like this. We’ll have to find something to do indoors. My realtor for today calls and begs off because of a migraine. This is my first day to just laze around and do anything (or, more appropriately, nothing) since we got here. Conveniently, our landlord finally got us TV (basic cable, like many places back in the USA without at least basic cable there is no TV) – this is also the necessary predecessor to getting internet in the apartment. Just like in the USA, with a couple dozen channels, nothing is ever on! We do get the Discovery Channel, and it is even in English, so that is generally the best bet. Right now the thunder is causing some vibrations in the building. When the weather wants to be severe, it really follows through.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The temporary housing.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and have been starting to settle in. I took some photos of the temporary housing and linked them below. We are staying at a seafront apartment with a hell of a view. Thursday night we went for a walk and got some fresh fruit from one of the trucks. Mid-March and the fruits are really good here. We are at the end of the rainy season so things will get more sparse as time goes on. With this being the rainy season the island is actually pretty green. Again, we are told this won't last. Tomatoes are in season and awesome.

Friday we went with one Realtor that showed us a bunch of houses that were a little far out. You talk to some people and they say there is no where on the island that is too far out. The next person will then say that same place is way too far. Just for the record those place are probably about 9-12 miles from the Embassy. The big deal is how long it take you to get in with traffic. All the houses were much bigger than our house in Philly. All of them had pool and small to large gardens. We are told as you get closer to the embassy the gardens and houses tend to get smaller.

The first Realtor, who took us out on Friday, is a South African who married a Maltese woman. Some of the things he said contradicted what was said by other people at the Embassy and people Lynne had met. Realtor number two took us out on Saturday. This one was a Maltese woman who was very chatty and loved to call everyone sweety or sweets. Saw three places with her. All were closer in. One is very close to the night life. Again a large house with 3 terraces. There was a garden downstairs, but not a lot of dirt for Kirby. He may have survive pooping on pavement for two years. The second two were on the same street in Attard, which is a little village. It is a little farther from the sea but I don't think that one would be too bad. The first one had an amazing garden with a pool. The house was an older home that was being refurbished. It was very nice and had plenty of room. Both Lynne and I thought that was our favorite so far. Right down the street was another one that had a small garden and pool. The owner was a doctor who like to collect antiques. It was lovely but a bit intimidating with all of the things that could break on you. The other odd things was that you had to go through one bedroom to get another bedroom and bath. The one cool thing is the house had an old bunker from the second world war with steps carved in the bedrock going down into it.

Sunday we took the bus into Valletta to check out how the bus worked. We wandered around Valletta for a couple of hours then took the ferry back home. The weather has been pretty nice so far - not too warm and pleasant during the day. The house and apartments are largely built with marble and limestone so they don't hold heat. They are quite cool. This will be very helpful in the summer when it is brutally hot but right now it means the house is actually colder than outside which is not making Lynne happy one bit.

Pictures of the Temporary Housing.

I attached a file that has the location of the temporary housing in for Google Earth. You will need Google earth installed to use but for those that have it is here.
TempHousing.kmz

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Part II

Stormy took to his new home quite well, in fact much better than he took to our house when we first got him. He hid for all of 20 minutes, then his curiosity got the best of him and he started exploring. Gigi, the cat who was already queen of the house, was not at all interested in this interloper and hissed at him whenever she got a chance, but the dog Magena was thrilled to have a cat in the family who actually paid attention to her. Stormy liked having another cat in the house, even an unfriendly one (he grew up with 2 other male cats and one unfriendly female, so this was like home to him). The girls carried him around from place to place for the first day he was in the house.

I spent a very short weekend in Brookline with my dad, then ran back to PA on MLK day – if I picked Terry up at his dad’s on Monday morning and drove him back to Philly where he’d left the truck, I could avoid having to drive the round trip on Tuesday to bring the extra car up to his dad’s … so around 7am on Monday I got back in the car and trekked back south. The visit was short, but dad will most likely be our first visitors, in June, so we won’t even really have a chance to miss each other!

The rest of Monday I spent scurrying around doing all the last minute things I had forgotten to do previously, and being very thankful that I had the extra time to do so. On Tuesday I drove all the stuff we weren’t having movers deal with to the hotel I would be staying in for the rest of my time in PA. The government generously pays for up to 10 days of housing and per diem for packout, starting the day before packout begins – which makes sense because once you pack the sheets and pillows, what do you have to sleep on?

My friend Valerie arrived later that day to assist with the packout. Packout is what happens when the movers show up. We were told that we were not allowed to do any of our own packing, and later discovered that movers are happy to peek into a box, satisfy themselves that nothing inside is likely to break, then just wrap up the box as is. The packout itself went just fine, much more smoothly than I had expected, although after this experience I can say with full confidence that it is not for the single individual. Beg, bribe or pay homeless people to help you because if you don’t, all your things may get packed into cardboard boxes and taken out of your home, but you will never see them again because you will have no idea which thing was put into which box, and who knows what gets lost along the way. To add to the fun, one of the movers was adamant about fitting the most things into any box without regard for keeping like items together, so our mixer attachments are in 3 separate boxes, none of which also contains the mixer itself. Yikes! We’ll have fun looking for those things when we are back in DC or if we ever get a post that uses 110 voltage power.

Friday morning I bade Valerie farewell and headed off to my new adventure – my super cute, super short haircut! I had donated my hair for Locks of Love a few years previously, and had really wanted to do it again before we left. My hair hadn’t had time to grow quite so long as last time, so after Gina took off the minimum 10 inches, she then circled me in the chair muttering to herself “Now what can I do with this?” I trusted her completely and she did not fail me, although I do admit it never again looked as cute as it did after she styled it. It has been 2 months now and my hair is still the shortest it has ever been.
Monday I began my final journey to Virginia, arriving on Tuesday to begin my stay at the “retirement home”. To backtrack, Terry began his training in one location in Virginia in September, and moved to a different location way outside of anywhere in November. When he moved, he got a house with 4 other guys in his class, which they originally dubbed the “frat house.” Terry, Larry, Will, Jim and Yavuz learned what happened when people stopped being polite and started being real, except that MTV wasn’t paying for the housing or putting them into wacky situations. One thing they learned is that most of the house inhabitants were in bed by 8:00pm.

Because at this point the concept of spending one whole consecutive week in one location is just not fathomable, we decide to go up to the cabin my first weekend in Virginia, with friends from Terry’s training class. It turned into a lesson in outdoor survival preparedness as the well pump stopped working within about ½ hour of our arrival. Luckily, we had some amount of drinking water that we had left there and the stream was running – it wasn’t too cold up there – so we could get water for toilet flushing. It turned out that Terry’s dad had left 2 large buckets filled with clean water, and they had frozen, so Saturday night was spent boiling small quantities of water to pour over the ice and try to melt it, then re-boiling the melted parts so that in the end there was water for each of us to take what was essentially a sponge bath. I am pretty sure JT and Yoko have never roughed it like this before!

The next week was glorious for several reasons – one, the house sale was to close; two, the standard part of Terry’s training would be over and there would be a nice graduation ceremony; and three, we discovered I was pregnant.

As usual in my dealings with our realtor, there were problems. The main one being that although I had called her before I left Philadelphia to confirm that there was nothing further she needed from me, she failed to tell me she needed the receipts from the contractors who did the work that had been required by the home inspection. Her first proposal was for me to fax her the receipts. I explained that the nearest public fax machine was 12 miles away and it was her responsibility, not mine, at this point. Her next lovely idea was to hold our settlement check in escrow until the contractors sent the receipts, which she assured me would be the very next day. At that point I went ballistic, and the end result was that her commission check was held in escrow. Of course, the contractors did not send the documents as promised and I was slightly gleeful when she called to ask my help in getting any kind of document to prove the work was done and we paid them. Of course, she got us back because although she assured me that all utilities were paid out of the closing funds, Philly Gas Works is not so paid so we had to deal with getting a final bill and of course it was overdue. However, we were able to pay it without penalty and we got the settlement check a day or two after closing so in the end it all worked out very well.

That weekend I went to Florida to spend time with my mother before we left the country. In speaking with my sis-in-law before leaving, Heather told me that my mom thought I was going to get off the plane and tell her I was pregnant. So, of course, I had to consider it but thought of how she was then going to have to drive us home and figured it would be best to wait. I did tell her the next day and cautioned her that it was still way too early and I never would have told her yet if I weren’t leaving the country and I was still deeply in potential miscarriage territory. Her response was of course “pooh pooh and kana hora you say such a thing” but she did promise not to say anything. Of course, you’d think it was be a little telling when, later that week, we were driving a friend to the airport and helping bring her bags to the car and my mother was trying to wrest the bags from my hands. Yeah, very subtle mom. Various family responses to the news: from Heather “Really? Really? REALLY?” from Randy “Well THAT’s a bet I would have lost.”

After 3 ½ months in the retirement home, it was finally time to move on. In preparation for a month of hotel living, we brought both cars to PA and brought Kirby to stay with Terry’s dad. Unfortunately for us, the day we left was during the huge PA “unable to clear the snow” scandal that left three major highways closed for about 4-5 days. We knew the ride would be longer than usual because (1) our normal route took us on 2 of the closed highways and (2) like everyone else, we would be packing the one remaining major highway so the traffic would be insane. What we did not expect, although in hindsight should have, was that when we got onto the one remaining major highway a tractor-trailer carrying hazardous materials would jackknife on the side of the road we were on, thus closing the highway for a few hours. Adding to the fun were (1) we were in separate cars so we couldn’t even keep each other company; (2) I was in the car with no antenna and only 3 cassette tapes; and (3) I was pregnant, which if any of you know anything about pregnancy, means that I needed to stop for a bathroom break about every 1-2 hours. To keep perspective, though, we reminded ourselves that on the night of the actual snowstorm, people were trapped on the one (now closed) highway for us to 36 hours. No joke. This is why it was a scandal.

After 8 ½ hours on what is normally a 4 hour trip, we finally arrived at Terry’s dad’s house. The original plan to go up to the cabin that weekend was quashed because (1) we didn’t want to spend one more minute in a car ever again and (2) the third highway that was closed and not reopened during the weekend was the one we’d need to get there. Needless to say, the trip back to Virginia after the weekend never seemed so quick. We spent a lovely 5 day week at the Comfort Inn, where – luckily – a guy in Terry’s class was also staying so he drove Terry to work and I could have the car – this hotel wasn’t as centrally located as the retirement home was and I would otherwise be trapped with only a 7-11 for entertainment within safe walking distance.

Saturday was best because we finally moved into DC. It was wonderful not needing the car except for the trips out to Burke to see my family.

Other than the immediate family, we had been doing our best to keep mum about the baby until we passed the first trimester. Around week 9 (the week before we left), I was tired of not telling anyone and, hell, I was just damn tired. I went from the one who woke after 8 hours of sleep, no matter what time it was, to the one who went right back to sleep after the alarm went off and only woke again – briefly – to say goodbye when Terry left for work. And 2 hour afternoon naps didn’t leave me groggy, although they also didn’t leave me too well rested. I had also gotten an ultrasound at my 8 week appointment so it was confirmed that there was a fetus – only one – and it had a heartbeat, so I was feeling pretty good about everything. According to the ultrasound, baby looks a lot like an anvil-shaped white blob.