For those who want to skip this part, I am putting it in background.
January was tough in all respects. We heard on January 25th that Richard was accepted in the Foreign Service and invited to start work on March 5th. So we had about 6 weeks to be thrilled, to wrap up his legal practice, pack up all that he would need for a +/- six month stay in the Washington D.C. area, and say tough goodbyes to each other. Life intervened though and made our situation sadly more complicated as we got word two days later to get on the next plane out to Kansas City to spend our last few moments with his mother before she passed away. Helen, Richard's mom, had come to be very special to me and her passing was very difficult. Here are Helen and Richard on the front porch in Kansas (she's the smiling one).
We find ourselves missing her very much this Christmas and have added her traditional gifts of Topsy's Popcorn and Strawberry Hill Povititsa to our Christmas traditions (both highly recommended and available for internet purchases from as far away as Peru). So February was a combination of grieving, packing and doing our own couple's grieving about being apart for so long.
We then spent many months travelling back and forth and learning about our strange new life from people in the State Department who had spent decades travelling the globe and represending our country. We were charged by the new challenge and opportunity and enjoying the opportunity to live near the nation's capital and enjoy the museums and monuments on the national mall. We also learned to live a simpler life in Richard's one bedroom Oakwood apartment in Falls Church, Virginia - good practice for the life to come! We were thrilled to learn in April that we were to be assigned to a post in Lima, Peru - our top hope and dream from the list of options. Richard was then sworn in with a truly inspiring speech by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns (see pic)
More training followed for Richard while Kathleen continued working at Mercy Housing, wrapping up about the toughest year-end audit one could imagine. At the end of June I said a sad farewell to Mercy and set about packing up the house for our impending move. A brief pause here for the uninitiated - a move in the foreign service is just a bit more complicated than any I have faced before. All personal belongings become alphabet soup - HHE (household effects) get packed up to ship by boat to the next port, UAB (unaccompanied baggage) gets packed up to go by airfreight to the next post (usually arriving around the same time as HHE - either the planes or slow or the ships are really fast), the auto becomes POV (personally owned vehicle) to travel about the world by ship before arriving at port - ours just got here - and, the rest goes into a mysterious storage location somewhere in Maryland. So move day was really a three day adventure of sorting all of our wordly goods into huge piles. That is the picture I should have taken!
So at the end of July, I said goodbye to our lovely home in Denver
and drove east with two cats to start the multi-step trek to Peru.
I had the opportunity to take spanish classes at the foreign service training center for 6 weeks while Richard wrapped up his training and did special duty helping to sort out the backlog in passport issuance. We also had the opportunity to explore Washington D.C. together, visit more museums, and see a movie on the National Mall with the capitol in the background - a pretty cool experience.
We came to love Trader Joe's, the cheap gym near Oakwood and the Metro system in the D.C. area. More packing, more good byes to new found friends (a sad but real part of our new life) and, at the end of September, we headed off to Peru. And that's where the blog picked up from the start....
So now we get to the holidays and the answer to the question I have had from so many of you - what was our first Christmas like away from family and the familiar? The obvious and correct answer is - very different. We never quite got into the full swing of the Christmas season - it was Richard's first Christmas without his mom, we didn't get our car until a few days before Christmas, and summertime and beach crowds aren't in our Christmas traditions. What we did thoroughly enjoy though was good friends and new traditions. We had a couple of dinner parties to show off and share the abundance of Christmas decorations that we packed with us and attended many other parties and dinners in the homes of new friends.
Here is Christmas dinner in our Miraflores home....
This was without a doubt the most socially active Christmas season I have ever experienced. I think that it's tough on everyone being away from the familiar at a time that evokes thoughts and memories of home and hearth. We deal with it over here by being close to those who share our traditions.
We did learn of a new tradition though that we thoroughly enjoyed. Christmas Eve is the time of celebration here - a big dinner with turkey and Panatonne (Peruvian fruitcake but better tasting)served at midnight, or rather just after the fireworks shows that go off at midnight. As Richard and I were quietly opening our gifts we heard loud noises and realized that the fun had begun. We spent about an hour sitting on the balcony and watching a whole array of fireworks shows going off all over Lima. While we don't have the full 180 degree view of the ocean we would have loved, our view to the southern beach regions of Lima does give us a great fireworks display. Some of the pyrotechnics were so loud that they set off car alarms in the area - a sound I will now always associate with Lima. A week later the New Year's Eve fireworks display was even more extensive and we again had ring side seats!
So we survived and we enter the new year quite comfortable in our new home. The next adventure is braving the Lima traffic in our newly arrived vehicle. Stay tuned!