Sunday, November 7, 2010

Here I Am In Honduras

Well, it's been shamefully long since my last post - nearly a year. And in that year, I've left Istanbul, spent 5 weeks on Home Leave (best invention EVER! Thank you Congress!), bummed around D.C. for 5 weeks (i.e. for training), and moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Life here is settling into it's own patterns and rhythms and they are very different from those in Istanbul. Tegucigalpa is hardly a cosmopolitan metropolis so the rhythms are slower, the patterns less rushed. I'm taking this time to check a couple things off my bucket list, including taking horseback riding lessons and reintegrating yoga into my life.

As far as work goes, I'm now in the Regional Security Office so the work is much different from what I was doing in Istanbul. I work longer hours than I think I ever have in my life. No, I take that back - I know I've never had longer work days than this. That has been a learning experience in it's own right - learning to leave things unfinished until the next day certainly didn't come easily to me and has been a challenge. I think I've got the hang of it now, though!

Jason and I continue our long distance marriage (he in Troy, NY - where he is kicking butt at being a student again and honing his rugby skills - and me here in Tegucigalpa). Managing a long distance marriage has turned out to be quite similar to managing a long distance engagement or dating relationship. We've become pros at it, though we are thoroughly enjoying being able to see each other more often and for longer periods of time (second best invention ever is the month long winter break at RPI which means we'll be able to spend a whole 4 weeks together!).

I just received my second HHE (Household Effects) shipment from the States and will be making a little project out of it. This is all stuff I haven't seen since 2004 and as I unpack these boxes from a couple lifetimes ago, I'll be posting pictures of the most entertaining (and possibly embarrassing) things I come across.

For now, you'll have to content yourself with some photos of my time between Istanbul and Tegucigalpa.

Me, Grandpa Reif, and Jason in Cunningham, KS

A long weekend in Utila, Honduras diving. Yeah! Utila Dive Center - best dive center I've encountered.

Jason (in the middle) playing rugby with the RPI men's team

With Karen & Preeti in D.C.

Monday, January 25, 2010


The snow in Istanbul continues! It has been snowing pretty much non-stop for the past 3 days which has snarled the city but also meant a "liberal leave" day for consulate employees; meaning if you didn't/couldn't make it to work, you could use a vacation day and stay home. I opted out of what I'm sure would have been a harrowing trip to work and instead tried to spend my additional day being productive. I have been only mildly successful at that (but at least my apartment is clean and relatively clutter-free now!). And since I have sufficient food and libation, I haven't left the house in three days. Out of boredom, I will probably try to make my way into work tomorrow - at least for a few hours.

The view from my windows today

The Bosphorus is over there. . .somewhere

Monday, January 18, 2010

At Long Last!

I've finally found the energy, the desire, and the time to post an update. I know it's been months (and months and months and months), and they've been busy. To catch everyone up, here's what's happened:

President Obama came to Istanbul and spoke to the Consulate in April '09

(The President of the United States of America)

Cody was in town for the President's talk after which we headed to Prague to celebrate his 30th birthday

(Cody and President Obama)

(In Prague at a statue memorializing Franz Kafka)

(Bringing beer)

(Drinking more beer - we drank a lot of beer)

I found out I will be heading to Tegucigalpa, Honduras for my next post

Jason arrived after shortly after we got back from Prague and not only spent a lot of quality time with Cody, but also asked me to marry him (I said yes - in case you were wondering!)

(The rock!)

Karen and I said "See you soon and stay safe!" to Preeti when she left Istanbul in May for Kabul (hence the "stay safe" part).

(Preeti "scaring" Karen)

Mom came to visit in May - we had a great time exploring Istanbul and Ephesus together

(Mom checking out the library at Ephesus)

(On the main road at Ephesus)

In July, I went back to Norway to visit Jason. We toured the country with Norway in a Nutshell, hiked to Preikestolen, wandered around Stavanger, and took our first overnight train

(On the train from Oslo to Myrdal)

(At Preikestolen - a.k.a Pulpit Rock)

(Overlooking Lysefjord)

(Hiking up to Preikestolen)

My Dads made the trip to Turkey in September. I sadly had to work most of the time, but they explored (and I think fell in love with) Istanbul. We also spent a few days together in Sirince, Selcuk, and the area.

(Garth and Dad at the entrance to St. John's Basilica in Selcuk)

(Dad leaving Mary's House - where the Virgin Mary is thought to have lived before her ascension to Heaven)

(Garth wrapped in one of his prizes from the Grand Bazaar)

My good friend John was hot on the Dads heels and arrived only a couple weeks after they left. In classic Peace Corps style, John explored the city and a huge chunk of Turkey with just his backpack to accompany him.

October and November were busy - Jason arrived for a month-long visit (the longest period of time we've ever spend together in the same country, city, apartment as a couple. His mom Carol and her friend Sharon also made the trip for a couple weeks of touring Istanbul and Turkey.

Jason and I were married officially (i.e. at the courthouse) December 17, 2009. On December 19 we had a small ceremony at Fox Acres Country Club in Red Feather Lakes followed by a big party the next day at the Rio in Fort Collins. We had a great time and are getting used to using the words "husband" and "wife" to describe each other in our every day lives.

While I get ready to pull my life up in Istanbul, Jason is settling into his new life in Troy, NY. He will be attending Renssealer Polytechnic Institute starting in a couple of weeks.

I will be leaving Istanbul shortly. Sadly, one adventure must come to an end for another to begin so I will say good-bye to Haya Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and Tike in early March. I will not however, be saying good-bye to the dear friends I have made here, but rather "See you soon!" as the world of the State Department is small indeed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The New 'Do

Spring is trying to spring here in Istanbul; Saturday was a crisp, clear day with more sun than the city has seen in a long while. It was also Salon Day for Karen, Christina and me and in a fit of spring celebration, I cut off all my hair. Okay, not all of it, but it is the shortest I remember ever having it.

Me, Christina, and Karen with our new 'dos

Turkish women are a high maintenance bunch so the salon is quite the event. Remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and crew get cleaned up for their audience with the Wizard - with all sorts of people doing all sorts of primping to them at the same time? A high end Turkish salon is much the same. At any given time, you may have upwards of 5 people working on you - 3-4 working on your hair (the main stylist and a couple of "interns" whose job it is to hold the blow dryer for the stylist), 1 giving you a manicure/pedicure, and one shaping your eyebrows. It is a common to watch a woman with the above noted entourage working on her while she chats away on her cell phone, deigning to notice the people working on her just long enough to give directions to the stylist from time to time, while sipping on a diet Coke.

Salon Day, while definitely needed, had another purpose - preparing for the Presidential visit happening in April. Hair is being styled, clothes are being purchased, and the entire consulate is in a state of mostly-organized chaos. Visits of this magnitude are labor intensive to say the least. It has been amazing to watch all the moving parts - motorcade, baggage control, passport control, site selection - come together. The folks at the consulate definitely know what they are doing - official visits are nothing new to them and they all have similar needs regardless of level. Nevertheless, the next few weeks are going to be very busy!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What Is Art?

Not since the days of following Dad and Garth through weekend art shows in Denver (guys, you know the ones I'm talking about - over by the stadium), have I spent so much time going to art shows. Viewing art in Istanbul is always worth it. If the art is not my thing, there is always the venue - an ancient water cistern, a warehouse-turned-art-museum on the Bosphorus, a tiny gallery tucked away on a back street. And there are is always, always people watching!

Saturday evening found me at a collaborative art exhibit by Take Me To The River ( which was focused on water and our relationship with water. And Sunday I headed down to the Istanbul Modern art museum to view the "In Praise of Shadows" exhibit which includes work by Kara Walker ( and

I didn't find the Take Me To The River exhibit to be very interesting and I can't say more about why than that it didn't make me think about anything. At least not about the art itself. I did find watching the people viewing the art to be rather interesting.

The work by Kara Walker at the Istanbul Modern was thought provoking and very raw. Her work discusses the brutality of slavery in shadow cut-outs. These cut-outs are, at the same time, very detailed and very vague. Full-size, black cut-outs on a white wall. The outlines show hair, teeth, bone, but it is just the outline, the shadow. As I looked at her work, I wondered how the Turks were viewing it. Did they see the emotion there, the brutality, the power battles? Was it reinforcing broad overviews of slavery in America? How do they view something that is so much a part of someone else's history? How does anyone? How does it effect them, having not yet traveled this far down their own country's brutal past? I was too captive by my own response to the images on the walls to step back and observe other's reactions to it. Perhaps I will go back to watch people viewing the art.

These trips have raised, for me, the eternal art questions - what is it and how do people view it? To answer the last of those, I've started watching people view it. Just watching. How do they move around a particular exhibit? Are there common reactions to it or does it effect everyone differently? Some people approach art methodically. They take their time, move around the piece, see it from different angles. Others park themselves in front of it and stare. Still others look at it quickly and move on, sometimes making several passes by one piece or the whole exhibit.

The first question is harder to answer. And I think that is as it should be. Art should, at the end, evoke a personal reaction. The reaction does not have to be good or bad, one of acceptance or denial, but it does have to be a reaction. If there is no reaction then it is not art.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Final List

Last Friday I took the leap and submitted my bid list to my Career Development Officer (CDO). There were some last minute modifications to the official list - Baghdad was added and Port-Au-Prince made a reappearance after being dropped off. I had to bid on 15 of the 27 offered and had to rank them as High, Medium, or Low. Here is my final list (city, country, and office):

1. Baghdad, Iraq RSO
2. Tegucigalpa, Honduras RSO
3. Algiers, Algieria RSO

4. Accra, Ghanna RSO

5. Port-Au-Prince, Haiti POL
6. Jakarta, Indonesia ROVER
7. Lima, Peru ECON
8. Lima, Peru RSO
9. Managua, Nicaragua RSO
10. Kuwait, Kuwait ECON
11. Brussels, Belgium ECON
12. Mexico City, Mexico POL
13. Guatemala, Guatemala RSO
14. Quito, Ecuador RSO
15. Beijing, China RSO

RSO = Regional Security Office
POL = Political Affairs Office
ROVER = Roving position between several offices
ECON = Economic Affairs Office

There are days when I get pretty attached to my list, especially the top 3, and can't imagine going anywhere else but for the most I don't feel as though I have much invested in it. Because I don't. The decision will be made solely based on my departure date from Istanbul and the brief narratives I submitted with my top choices, without any feedback regarding my job performance or input from my supervisors or peers. So now I wait. Hopefully I will hear back from my CDO in mid-April.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chasing the Northern Lights

Ah, Valentines Day! What better way to spend the ultimate romantic holiday than tramping through the snow with snowshoes strapped to your feet and your Valentine by your side (occasionally pushing you into snow drifts)? Jason and I certainly couldn't think of one so we headed waaaaaay up north to Tromso, Norway to chase the Northern Lights and play in the snow for a few days.

Things weren't looking so good for viewing the Northern Lights when we landed in Tromso - the sky was a heavy gray and showed no sign of clearing up. But we hopped in the tour van all the same and, after picking up a few more people, headed outside the city and away from the city lights. The weather in that area proved to be very localized and we were soon cruising along under starry skies. We were not disappointed!

What you may not know about the Northern Lights is how coy they are. As we drove from one viewing spot to another, they would appear over the tree tops, often fading as soon as we got out of the van, only to reappear brightly once we had started driving again. They are eerily beautiful - wide streaks of ghostly green flowing across the night sky as oil flows down a slow moving river, caught in the ebb and flow of the currents of the universe.

There was also snowshoeing! An activity I love but haven't done in years! Next time we make our way up north, I would like to combine the two - snowshoeing and chasing the Northern Lights. Get my exercise and be humbled by the mysteries of the nature at the same time!

When we weren't looking at the sky or playing in the snow, we were staying warm and eating ourselves silly at the breakfast buffet (who knew Swedish meatballs, beans, and crepes with raspberry sauce could be so incredibly yummy for breakfast?).

While the natural beauty of the area was striking, the town is not nearly so. It feels very much like the college town that it is (home to the northern most university). Not there there weren't opportunities for photos!