Our New Normal ...

After 10 years and thousands of thousands upon thousands of dollars, we have finally entered a new stage in our lives.


On Tuesday, Riley and Sheridan began their first day of school, and yesterday, Grady started Kindergarten.  I could tell you that I shed a tear or three when they all got on that Embassy bus, but I'd be lying.  Yeah, I probably should have been a wee bit sad that my last baby left to spend a full day in kindergarten.  But they are all out of my hair house for nine hours.  NINE GLORIOUS HOURS.  Instead, I did a happy dance.  I showered with no interruptions.  I pooped in peace!

Up at the ass-crack of dawn as their bus pick-up is well before 7 am, the kids can leisurely get ready for school every morning with very little stress.  Why you ask?  Because all they have to do is throw on their ugly school uniforms and away they go.  No worrying about their shorts being too short, if the shirt matches, if what they want to wear is dirty, or if one of the girls "mistakenly" wore the other ones clothes that day.  Nope.  All they need to remember is what day it is, and if they need to wear their formal uniform or PE uniform.  So. Flipping.  Easy.

What I truly love about schools overseas are the small class sizes, and this one is no exception.  Grady has only 16 kids in his class, Sheridan has 19 kids, and Riley's eight different classes vary in size from 8 - 20 kids.  All three kids have daily SSL (Spanish as a second language) and it appears their PE and Music classes are taught in Spanish as well.  By golly, they're going to learn Spanish whether they want to or not!

Hello 2014-2015 school year.  You may have only just begun ... but I have a feeling this is going to be our best year yet!


Riley and Sheridan on their first day.  Riley in her formal uniform.  Sheridan in her PE uniform.

All three kids on their first day.  

 Think he looks ready for school to start? 


Embrace The Suck

This week, San Salvador is observing the Festival of El Salvador del Mundos ... known as Agostinos, a celebration of the patron Saint and Namesake of El Salvador.  For the Salvadoreans, it is a national festival, with everything (including the Embassy), closed for six days.  For us?  It means that our HHE ... which arrived and cleared customs this past weekend ... can't get delivered for another week. 

As we are beginning to self destruct with nothing more than the kids' iPads, Wii, and a few groceries in the house, we have been trying to get out as much as possible to see El Salvador. 

Today, we went with a van full of Embassy friends, to Parque Nacional Cerro Verde, also known as the Santa Ana Volcano.  At 2381 meters (7811 feet), this volcano is the highest in the country.  It last erupted in 2005 shooting ash, the size of cars, over a mile away.

With a guide and a driver, we arrived at the volcano around 10:30 am, and after outfitting ourselves with sunblock, bug spray, hats, snacks and water, we joined a large group of hikers accompanied by guides and police, and began the journey at 11:00 am.

By 11:05 am, Grady was done.

By 11:10 am, Matt was done with Grady.

By 11:30 am, I was ready to channel my inner Jesus, and turn our 5 bottles of water, into wine.

The hike took a total of 3.5 hours ~ 2 hours going up, and 1.5 hours coming down, with a 30 minute reprieve at the summit to eat, refresh and take as many pictures as we could before our my iPhone battery died.  Oh and pray to the gawds that sometime in those 30 "relaxing" minutes that Grady would stop crying, for I had enough of his complaining and Matt's ever-so-helpful suggestions for him (which he always said through pursed lips and clenched teeth).  "In order to experience the pleasure of the views, you have to endure the pain of the hike."  Or, "Shut the front door, we're all tired."  And my favorite, "Suffer in silence."

Matt exaggerated the truth and told us that the hike would be fun and easy.  He later revised it, saying that the fun would come on the ride home.  It certainly wasn't for the faint of spirit or the average 5-year old, and unbeknownst to us until we began the hike, no one under the age of 10 is actually allowed on the trail.  So Matt and our guide had to 'grease the machine' in order for the police to allow Grady to climb with us, which cost us a whopping $5 ...

The scenery was gorgeous as we went from a tropical jungle to a volcanic moonscape.  It became more technically challenging as the trail grew steeper and more rugged.  In all, the trek was worth all the effort as the views from the top were spectacular.  Just don't ask them to do it again any time soon. 

 We hiked to the top of the mountain directly behind us.

 Spectacular views as we traversed up our volcano.

 Posing in front of Lake Coatapeque, where we went LAST Saturday.

The view inside the crater of the volcano.


Do You See What I See?

Look what knocked on my door today.  6 weeks to the day it was loaded on the flatbed and delivered to the port in Baltimore.  Where, despite it being picked up two weeks after our pack-out, managed to arrive here in San Salvador, two weeks before our belongings.

With a scent to end all scents.

But I'm not complaining (too much).  Because I have my 'Land Yacht' back ... and the biggest car on the road here wins.


Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

Riley and Matt played in a softball game at the Embassy today.  For 'Team Gringo'.  Against San Salvador's 'Team LGBT'.  She was the only kid out there, and she managed to hold her own.

Even cooler was when they allowed Grady to be the lead batter (he hit a foul ball) and that the Ambassador came to watch the game to show her support the LGBT community and pose for pictures afterwards.  Not too shabby, eh?


Road Trip!!

We hopped into an Embassy bus yesterday with 15 people and caravanned with six other cars on our first road trip to Lake Coatepeque, a volcanic lake situated in a crater, about an hour outside of San Salvador. 

Several families got together and rented the house for the night (something we'll definitely do in the future), while the rest of us tagged along to hang out at the lake or swim in the pool for the day. 

The day was filled with food, cocktails and meeting new friends.  We spent most of our time at the end of the dock, relaxing in the lake, enjoying the beautiful lush surroundings, and playing games in the water.  After just enough sun and chips, we began the drive home mere minutes before the nightly torrential rainstorms.  Grady annoyed entertained everyone with his endless questions and games and earned his new nickname, "Cowboy Master"... right before he fell asleep on one of our new dad-friends.

I think we're gonna like it here.


Bienvenidos a El Salvador!

It wasn't the prettiest of arrivals ... with no van driver readily available from the hotel to take us to the airport, needing every available minute at the airport to get to our gate just prior to take-off, and our bags being the VERY LAST ones off the baggage carousel (causing MAJOR heart palpitations after what happened in India).  But we made it.  Relatively unscathed.  And we've now had a week to settle in.

My first impressions ... .

Learning Spanish is a necessity.  Sadly, my three years of high school Spanish did not help me much when the gardener asked me for garbage bags and I gave him a glass of water. 

Starbucks tastes the same here as in the States.  However, my triple grande Caramel Macchiato seemed to also come with a two-pump shot of Dulcolax, which left me a "new woman" an hour later.  Unfortunately this happened when I was in aisle 9 at the Super Selectos grocery store ...

Driving here is a free-for-all and traffic lights, lanes and stop signs are merely a suggestion.  We also live near a rather notorious 4-way Stop Go, lovingly referred to as the Headless Chicken Intersection ... so that's always fun.

As with most developing nations, everything here takes three times as long to get accomplished.  It took me three attempts to get a suitable rental car for us to use until our car arrives.  The cable installers showed up three hours late.  And it appears it will take a third attempt to actually get a SIM card for my cell phone. 

Despite all of this, we are adapting quite well to our new home.  Speaking of home, our house is gorgeous.  About 3000+ square feet of white marbled floors, a 15' domed master bedroom, huge American style kitchen, an intricate frescoed grand entrance, 3-car garage, and an patio and garden complete with ivy covered walls inside and out.  Pictures forthcoming when we finally get our household effects.

The kids are enrolled in their new school and excited to start in two 'not-so-short' weeks.  They have placement testing next Tuesday and by Thursday should have a closet full of school uniforms.

We've spent a lot of time at the Embassy and Embassy pool this week, attended two dinner parties, shopped at Wal*Mart and PriceSmart (a virtual Costco equivalent).  We've taken then kids out to dinner a few times, completely unpacked and organized our meager belongings, added a second router downstairs so we could use wifi throughout this entire concrete home, and tomorrow are heading to the lake to enjoy the day with new friends.

All in all we are wicked excited to begin our new adventures here in El Salvador.  Together as a family.  So stay tuned ... the stories are just beginning. 


Pass The Tissues

The tears.  They just keep falling.  And the ugly cry?  With the runny nose and the big heaving sobs?   Oh yes.  We Perl Girls have no problem showing our emotional side.

I hate goodbyes.  It's one of my least favorite things in this Foreign Service lifestyle.  Especially here in the States where many of our friends are living in their forever homes, and our short Stateside tour near them is on borrowed time.

In less than 6 hours we will be on a plane to El Salvador.  The culmination of 18 months of planning coming to an abrupt end in far fewer hours than a 5-year old child's attempt at a good night sleep.  As much as we are all looking forward to our new adventures, these past 24 hours with so many of our nearest and dearest friends have reminded us how lucky we have truly been. 

From a rockin' dinner and sleepover with Riley's bestest friends and their families, to a friend who opened her house while she was out of town for me to do our stinky camp laundry, to endless friends stopping by our hotel to give us hugs and wish us well, to an angel of a girlie who helped me deliver Matt's car to its new owner and pack several bags while I laid on the floor for 2 hours with a splitting headache, to our last supper with Grady's group of preschool friends and their families who have become my dearest circle of girlfriends. 

Despite being ready to go for so very long, it is always hard to leave.  Especially when you see your daughters' fiercely hug their besties goodbye while the tears of love and friendship, sadness and apprehension fall from their cheeks.  There is no way to adequately describe the roller coaster of emotions we are all feeling tonight. 

Thankfully this isn't goodbye.  Only until we meet again ...

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