Monthly Archives: July 2011

I’m a Little Bit Country

Ok, so I just came home from a bar where my parents like to hang out. It was about as hick as they come. So, for hick bars and small towns everywhere, and inspired by the hick bar I just left, here’s a list off the top of my head of “How You Know You’re In a Hick Bar:”

1. There’s a wedding reception going on. They haven’t just stopped here on their way to the reception, this is where the reception is. In place of a band or DJ, they are using the bar karaoke for music. The wedding cake is a sheet cake.

2. They don’t take credit cards – only cash.

3. There are various animal heads adorning the walls – and they are decorated.

4. They have concealed carry classes in the bar.

5. Someone gets up to sing karaoke and they can carry a tune and you think they are AWESOME, just because they are compared to everyone else.

6. You may be a little bit country, but everyone else is a LOT country and not even a little bit rock and roll.

7. The only place you find the name of the bar is on the white board, just in case they want to change it.

8. The closest you get to diversity is the really tan guy in the cowboy hat with the cane.

9. There are more pickup trucks in the parking lot/lawn than there are beer signs in the bar. Oh, and there are a few horses tied up outside.

10. When you and your brother are introduced to someone new, they are more interested that your brother works in a bullet factory than they are that you work overseas.

I Fall in Love Again

I’ve fallen in love. I don’t know how it happened, only a few days ago I was infatuated with another – how quickly things change. Who is this latest love in my life? Who has taken my heart forever? New Orleans.

I’ve only been here a few days, but it’s made me realize once again how much I love music, and how much I need it in my life. The sheer amount of great musicians in this town is mind-boggling. I could go out every night and see a different band/musician/group as long as I can keep myself awake. I look around at other people while watching and listening to the music, and a lot of times I’m the only one moving. For me, music is infectious and my body just reacts. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have the same reaction to music. Why is it that I can’t help myself? If I have one addiction, it is music. And New Orleans is the dealer. She’ll supply you with anything you need, and keep you coming back for more.

I’ve seen great music in my time here. Sunday afternoon I went to a place called The Spotted Cat Music Club. It was a great little place with music starting from 3pm to late in the evening, with 3 different bands. No cover, just a one-drink minimum per set. The first band was called Rights of Swing. One thing I learned was that, in the great New Orleans tradition, musicians work for tips. When I first got to the club, there were only a few people there. I wondered how they could afford to pay a band to perform with so few people there. It was 30 minutes or so into the set when I learned that they DON’T pay them; we do. I love the thought of so directly supporting music and the arts. In addition to the music, I met some great people there! I met a number of people that night; all great people, including one, Tracy, that I may have talked into applying for the Foreign Service. πŸ™‚ The couple I ended the night with, Dan and Danielle, I danced with, I ate with, they even drove me back to my hotel! Pooh had a great time!

I went to another place (Margaritaville) on Monday, where I watched a musician named Truman Holland play. I think my favorite was a song he wrote about waking up to someone cooking bacon in her thong. πŸ˜€ I know more than a few men that would dream about that. Walking back to my hotel, I heard numerous street musicians playing. I think my favorite sight was a man walking down the street with an enormous sousaphone (a tuba that fits around your body, making it easier to carry) – where else are you going to see that?

Each day I learn something new – about the world, about myself. I’ve learned, being here, that food isn’t a high priority for me. Of course, while in New Orleans, I did make sure to try some specialties, but I think I only did that because it was something you should do while here. I had beignets and chicory coffee; I had some gumbo and po’boys. But food doesn’t satisfy me like music does. Food is for sustenance; music is for life. My time has been too short here; I know I need to come back.

If you get the chance, I would, run, run, run to New Orleans. You won’t regret it!

Key West – Welcome to Paradise

I thought about wasting away in margaritaville… I even found a book entitled “How to Quit Your Job and Move to Key West.” It’s quite tempting, but I’m now sitting at the airport about to leave. I had a great time, met some great people,

ate some wonderful food,

drank a few delicious beverages,

and saw some beautiful sights.


I’ve had my share of Key West specialties while I’ve been here – fresh seafood, conch fritters, rum runners, key lime mustard (the best!), and of course, key lime pie. What could be better than key lime pie in the keys?

Being in Key West has been wonderful. I’m so happy I came here, and I can’t wait to return for another warm, relaxing vacation. Thanks to 50 SPF sunscreen, I’m leaving with a nice light tan, rather than a nasty burn. Home leave – week one has been awesome! I’m so glad I changed my plans at the last minute. Now, onto New Orleans and some great jazz!!

Viva Las Vegas

What do you think of when you think of Vegas? For most people, Vegas means gambling, showgirls, headliners, and excess. What do I think of? Family. I always leave Las Vegas happier than when I got there, because of my wonderful extended family there. And of course, when I win a little money, it makes me even happier! πŸ™‚

I had a great stay in Vegas – I have some wonderful cousins that let me stay with them. While hanging out with the kids and just watching them interact, I realized something about myself. I watched the older one patiently talk to the younger when he kept on wanting her attention for anything and everything – “Look at this, look at that, hey, hey, hey…” I realized that because I was the youngest, I never had that experience growing up. I didn’t have to have that patience because no one demanded that I pay attention to them. It wasn’t really until I had nieces and nephews that I experienced that. Even then, it was a definite adjustment. I would say patience still isn’t a strong suit of mine, especially when it comes to people, but I’ve gotten a lot better. I’m much more patient with kids than I ever used to be.

I also realized that this may be part of the reason why I don’t want children. Because I didn’t have these experiences as a child, I didn’t grow up with kids younger than me, so I was always trying to be older to keep up with my siblings. Because we’re so close in age, trying to be older wasn’t so hard, because I didn’t have to try to be MUCH older. Sometimes people thought I WAS the older sibling.

I’m off to Key West now – looking forward to some fun, sun, and beaches – and more interesting insights into myself. I’m having a great home leave! See you around the bend.


I’m Going Home

And so starts home leave. For those of you that don’t know what home leave is, here’s a quick explanation. For employees of the U.S. Government doing extended tours overseas, home leave is congressionally mandated leave after an overseas tour. It’s designed to reorient and re-expose us to the United States. You know, so we remember what it’s like back here.

It’s easy to lose touch with lots of things. My first day back, I turned on the TV and saw a political ad – I don’t think I’d seen one in the last 2 years. It was a little strange. Getting used to the culture of customer service again is an adjustment as well. Belgians…well, let’s just say they aren’t known for their customer service skills. The dizzying array of choices here is overwhelming at times.

The more I serve overseas, the more I realize how important home leave is. When I look at the TV lineup and don’t recognize half the shows, I realize it. When I know what’s going on in the world because of my job, but I don’t know how Americans feel about it, or if they care, I realize it. When I hear myself saying thank you over and over, just because people are so nice and friendly, I realize it. It reminds me of what America means, for better and for worse.

Some people complain that it’s a hardship, as you’re required to be back in the states, but you’re also required to figure out where you’ll stay and how to pay for it. Home leave is paid time off and a plane ticket. Where you stay is up to you, personally and financially. While it can be difficult, it’s important to reconnect. Not only with the U.S., but with friends and family as well. I’m currently in Las Vegas, staying with my cousins. I haven’t seen them in two years; it’s wonderful to see them and just be around family. More relatives tonight, even more as I travel through the rest of my home leave. I look forward to all my time in the states, even as I look forward to my next adventure.


Leaving on a jet plane

It’s fitting that the day I leave Brussels is an average Brussels day – grey, rainy, sad. It’s a weird feeling, leaving, knowing I’m not coming back. So, looking back, here are ten things I learned in Brussels:

1. ALWAYS bring an umbrella.
2. Cars will come flying out of nowhere from the right, and you have to stop for them, unless:
3. You’re a pedestrian, then everyone has to stop for you.
4. Doner kebabs are best at 3 am.
5. If you want real Belgian frites, you have to go to a frites stand.
6. You can get pretty much anything with a picture of a peeing boy on it.
7. Some bus drivers think if they race to the end of their route, they can have a longer coffee break. Or, they just decide to go on strike.
8. Brussels is the unofficial capital of Europe, and also the unofficial capital of protests.
9. You don’t actually need a functioning government; they’ve taken the record from Iraq for most consecutive days without a government.
10. You can make great friends in the NATO cafeteria.

Farewell to all my friends staying in Brussels; those of you I’ll see on home leave – I’m coming! Everyone else – see you around the globe!


I Don’t Wanna Be

It’s my last weekend in Brussels, so I’ve been checking out this week at work. I had an out-brief meeting with the DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission) this week, and I had to laugh. He asked me, “Where’s home for you?” I told him about my blog and how I had just written about that very thing. But I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave just yet. It seems like it’s gone by so fast; just as I become really close to someone, I move on. Whether it’s the best boss ever, or the great co-worker, the lunch buddy, someone I pass in the hallway and say hello to all the time but never actually introduced to so I don’t know their name… it’s always hard knowing I may never see these people again. Luckily, that’s what facebook is for! πŸ˜‰

I like to know that I made a lasting impact, and that people will miss me when I leave – I suppose most people feel this way. I received an email from someone the other day from someone I’ve just met a few times, only at bowling. She saw that I was leaving and told me that I will be missed. It’s people like this that remind me that I touch others lives even when I don’t know I am. It always surprises me. What makes me stand out from the crowd? Is it because I don’t worry about what people will think of me? Is it because I’m not afraid to get up and dance – no matter if there’s music or not? In the words of Gavin DeGraw, “I don’t wanna be anything other than me.” I’m comfortable with me – I have been for a long time. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with themselves – maybe that’s what makes me so memorable. I’ve never been one to do things to ‘fit in;’ I relish my uniqueness. Who wants to be like everybody else?

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