Sunday, August 05, 2007

Home Leave

We apologize for jumping ahead in the script a bit, but the staff is currently on Home Leave in Colorado and quite enjoying it. The staff photographer took approximately one million pictures on the way through Mexico of which 999,990 will need to be discarded, and your correspondent hasn't written a word about the trip. But we took a much more manageable number of pictures on a trip out onto the Eastern Plains of Colorado, to such exotic Colorado locations as Brush, Anton, Akron, and a town that is literally no-joke called Last Chance.

For those who are curious, "Home Leave" is a required month of vacation in the United States between Foreign Service Officers, so that we don't forget what's so great about the country we're out there representing or go native or start identifying with the terrorists or what-not. We're struggling through.

Anyway, if you want to see what the staff photographer has been up to since our arrival, and get to know the part of Colorado that doesn't look like Aspen, check out this quick slideshow at Flickr.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Of Moving

We are filing this report from beautiful Windsor, Colorado. It has been a superb week of travel by land from Guatemala through colorful, beautiful Mexico and less colorful, but still beautiful, Texas and New Mexico. Further reports and photos of the journey coming soon in this space.

But starting at the beginning, we had to first get ready to get out of Guatemala. It got off to a rocky start when the moving company "forgot" to show up at the appointed hour, but it was all uphill from there. The State Department generously allows employees to skip work while the moving company is packing up their belongings. While it might be more useful to have a couple days off for preparation before the movers showed up, your correspondent can't complain about his days spent alternately observing the moving company to make sure they didn't accidentally put any of our super-valuable household items in their pocket instead of the boxes (no problems observed) and reading a history of the Baltic Revolution against Soviet rule in preparation for future assignment in Latvia (problems definitely encountered in the somewhat dry text, but we soldiered on).

Having a moving company pack up all your stuff is, to use one of our favorite words, awesome. It doesn't mean that moving isn't a pain in the ass. It is still a massive pain in the ass. But it does transfer a lot of the physical labor to someone else. I don't know what we'll do when we have to actually move ourselves again someday, although with all the moving we've done over the last few years, we're considering becoming those shut-in types who don't move for fifty years once we land back in the U.S. for good.

Anyway, watching the moving guys work is also impressive. Everything - and we mean everything - is wrapped in paper before it goes in a box. So when unpacking you find things like paperback books carefully protected in a newsprint. This is not a complaint, because the thorough job the Guatemalan packers do should mean very little breakage. We hope. In any case, everything must be wrapped, which means even the odd-shaped pieces of furniture are mummified in paper-bag brown paper. It was almost like watching a master artisan at work seeing the old moving guy whip out a perfectly coffee-table-shaped package for our coffee table. It wound up being, truly, exactly the shape of the coffee table, tightly bundled in a half-inch of cardboard. For example, our couch, as seen from our balcony on the way to the truck:

In all, the army of guys needed just over one work day to completely pack up all our worldly belongings and put them on their truck. We were left with a few suitcases for the trusty Nissan Sentra's trunk as our only possessions for the next month, when we hope to be reunited with in our nation's capitol.

Coming next (and hopefully soon): Driving through Chiapas.