Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Ok, not really.  But at the moment, it felt death-defying.

This week I needed to leave work early on Wednesday.  I HATE taking a taxi from downtown Cairo all the way to our home 8 miles away.  Because it takes like 45 minutes (if you're lucky) in traffic.  Plus my Arabic really blows, so it's pretty much an adventure trying to get home.  If the corniche is uber-busy (and it always is), then the driver would probably take the bridge to over the river (that's the Nile) and then another bridge to back over to our side.  And if he didn't really understand where I asked him to take me (and he wouldn't...because my Arabic blows!) then I could be lost.Somewhere.In.Egypt.  Oh, I get lost all the time.  But it's usually in our neighborhood and it's usually close to home.  Not over the river in Giza kinda lost.

So, I thought I'd be all urban and take the metro (subway).  ALONE.  That's right.  Me with my non-existent Arabic.  But a friend had shown me the way weeks ago, and the fab hubby had accompanied me a week ago, so I know it well enough to get home.  It's cheap (1 Egyptian pound to ride!  =17cents American) and clean and fast (20 minutes to home).

I left the clinic and slung my purse over my shoulder.  I put my fast-walking-I-live-here face on and went to the Metro station.  Down into the tunnel (it's stifling - can't imagine what it's like when it's 100 degrees in the summer), had my ticket in-hand.  Found the right direction train and walked the platform.  I was feeling so cool!  I live here now!  I can find my own way home!

And a train had just pulled in.  I hopped into a line of 20+ women (cars are segregated by gender, although women can ride the men's car, just not vice versa) pushing to get into a car.  I was gonna do it.  I didn't want to wait for the next train.  Pushing and clamoring for a ride!  So not fun.  But I was determined.  The whistle blew.  What does it mean?!  Almost to the door.  It blew again!  The doors were closing!!  NOOOOOO!!  The whistle blew again!

I threw my body into the train.  An EPIC fail.  I got caught in between the closing door.  Cut right down the middle - my head, right arm and leg INSIDE the train.  My left arm (with purse) and left leg OUTSIDE the train.  The train was moving! I was terrified that my outside-the-car body parts were going to get ripped off.  I looked desperately at the women in the car.  HOW DO YOU SAY HELP ME IN ARABIC??!!!

It didn't matter.  Turns out my OH-MY-GAWD-I'M-GONNA-DIE face said enough. Three women started prying the doors apart.  I was panicky.  The doors wouldn't move.  But then, they inched apart, just a little.  We forced them open a bit!  I managed to get all of my left leg and a bit of my left arm inside the train.  But I was still caught - my purse!  My left arm from elbow to hand and my purse were still dangling outside the train.  It occurred to me I might have to drop my purse to save my arm and hand.  But I refused!  We pried some more, and pulled the doors open just enough that I was able to just squeeze my arm AND my purse into the car.  ::sigh of relief::

I turned and said "shokrun" (I got 'Thank You" down in Arabic!!  Yes!!).  And then....everybody laughed.  Giggled.  Howled.  That's right.  Because something like this is hysterical, no matter what culture you come from.  And I had the added bonus of maintaining ALL of my body parts and not losing my purse.

At my metro stop, I hopped off the train and went to a grocery store.  I grabbed a few items and then hailed a taxi.  Dude.  This guy's taxi was super-shagadelic.  I mean pimped OUT!  Shag purple carpet on the dash, shag covers on the seats!  Fuzzy dice.  I was so enamored by the pimpiness that I hopped in without doing my patented 'make sure he speaks enough English to get me home' conversation.  And wouldn't you know it.  The man spoke less English than I speak Arabic.

Good news though.  We have now lived here long enough that I knew how to navigate him home.  I used the universal point and talk loudly communication.  (I really hate myself sometimes.  I don't know why I fall into the talk louder trap).  But I also found I knew enough Arabic to tell him "no" when he tried to turn the wrong way ("LA!" followed by crazy pointing) and when to stop 'here" ("Henna!").

In fact, I am finally starting to really know our neighborhood.  I went for a run today.  AND DIDN'T GET LOST.  It's a first.

In other, unrelated news, we took the kids to a Halloween party at the local American club this afternoon.  Lots of candy, lots of good times with friends, lots of Halloween music, and lots of swimming.  Because it's still 80 degrees and sunny here.  That's for all of my friends back on the East Coast! Welcome to perpetual summer.

Happy Halloween, all!  No matter where you are in the world.  I'm just happy to have lived through my subway escapade to enjoy this Halloween!

The fab hubby with our adorable Ewok.

Abby the Fairy with her super cool vampire teeth.
Owen flat-out refused to let me take his picture.
His friends were there and I think he wanted to be cool.
Apparently, Moms taking photos aren't cool.

Who doesn't love perpetual summer??

One more Ewok photo for all his adoring fans!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Not an Oopsy Baby

What do you get for the baby who seemingly has everything his little heart could ever desire?  I mean, he already has two passports, a globetrotting lifestyle, and all the fresh mango he could ever want to eat.

Maybe something from the PX because the rocking horse that Mommy ordered three weeks ago didn't arrive on time?  I hate you, target.com.  And you, too, USPS.com.  Both of you are cramping my online-shopping style.  Of course, when packages DO finally arrive to us in Egypt, we do a *happy dance*.

Anyway, Kellen turned one year old on October 20th.  It's hard to believe that just a year ago, the fab hubby was home on his first leave from Baghdad, I was popping out a baby, and we were trying to adjust as quickly as possible to a third kid with the not-quite-in-the-back-of-my-mind-Jason-has-to-return-to-Iraq thoughts hovering a black cloud over my head.

Day One.
Looking back, the new little man in our life sorta made the time away from Jason a little easier.  Well, at least for me.  All the midnight feedings, the diapers, and adjustments forced me to focus on the baby (and the big kids, too!), while taking my mind off of the separate living arrangements.  Can't say that it was easy, but then nothing worth doing is ever easy.

My favorite men.
Kellen is 2 weeks here.
Many people look at our older munchkins (Owen is 8 and Abby is 6) and then see Kellen and think "obviously an oops baby" because of the big age difference. Some even outright ask if he was an oopsy baby.  That's always a fun one.  Nope, he's wasn't an oopsy.  Previously, we had thought two kids completed our family.  But later, we decided three was the number of kiddos for us.  Wondering if we might like to add a fourth one?  Wonder away.

Six years difference.
Makes people wonder...
And so here we are.  How quickly the time passes.  The midnight feedings, the thousands of diapers, baby puke, the diaper blow-outs, the first smile, learning to crawl, the first word (MaMa), the favorite word (DaDa), learning to walk.  The wonder, the fascination with simple things, and discovering all the stuff he shouldn't get into.  It all happens too fast and in such a blur.  I love every moment of it, even when I don't think I do.  How very lucky we are to be a part of something so beautiful.

Happy 1st Birthday, Kellen. We love you so much and love watching you learn and grow.  You might be little and new to the world but you've completely stolen our hearts.

Did we celebrate?  Of course!  Here are the photos from his birthday party.  Sure we're in Cairo, but smashing the cake still rules no matter where you are.  Thanks to all of our new friends who came to celebrate with us.  It was a truly special day!

One of the mom perks.
I get to taste the cake first.

Many of Kellen's adoring fans arrived to celebrate.
See the bouncer in the background? It was FREE. Sorta.
The party after ours paid for it, but it was set-up during
our party.  So all the kids in our party got to "test it out".
*Happy Dance*
The smashing of the cake.
A rite of passage for one-year-olds everywhere.


One of the only occasions that it's ok to lick the plate.

This were from earlier in the morning.
Our wonderful nanny made him a special birthday surprise!

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's Just Regular Life. Really.

Mmmm...a delicious, normal, caramel
macchiato.  Just not a Starbucks.
We've been in Cairo a little over one month.  I think one more month and we're something like official veterans of Cairo.  At least to all the new people still arriving from other places.

I don't know what I was thinking when we lived in Ohio, but somehow I thought living in Cairo would feel more...exciting, exotic, exuberant, existential?  Like it would be one long vacation?  In any case, I really really thought it would feel different.

But the longer we're here, the more I realize it's pretty much regular life.  I wake up, take a shower, drink a coffee, harp on the kids about getting on the bus on time.  Kiss the baby, go to work, see some patients.  Each lunch or go to the gym.  Gripe about the 2:00pm "OMG.  I ate too much and I need a nap."  Don't get a nap, see some more patients, wonder what's for dinner.  Talk about the weather ("Sunny today, eh?"), eat a snack, pack up my stuff.  Go home, kiss the baby, eat dinner, help the kids with the homework.  Watch a bit o' TV with the hubby, set the alarm, go to bed.

Really.  Normal. Regular.  Day-to-day patterns.

Then I think about it some more.  Really, it is different, right?  I mean we talk about things here like vacationing at the Red Sea over the Eid (holiday), traveling to Luxor for a weekend, and flying to Cyprus next year (fingers crossed).  But we say it as simply as if we were flying to Walt Disney World for a week.  We make statements like "Call a driver so we can go shopping" and "Does our (seriously awesome) nanny/housekeeper take the baby to shop or does she have the boabs get the stuff delivered?"

But we also worry about the recent violence and the rioting the streets, checking our emergency radio and making sure we have supplies for a safe haven and a plan for evac, should the needs arise.

And on the flip side, I get to ride to work with the fab hubby every day and we get to eat lunch together.  After he spent that year in Iraq, I'm glad to have this kind of new normalcy.

I find myself saying "Alhamdulilah" (praise be to God) when things happen like...my espresso machine FINALLY arrives via USPS.  A full month after I shipped it from the States.  Sure, it was beat up and broken, truly destroyed.  But it arrived.  Or when the commissary has actual bacon in the refrigerated case.  Mmmm...bacon...Alhamdulilah...

And that dinner I'm wondering about around 4pm when I'm finishing up at work?  Our (seriously awesome) nanny/housekeeper makes the best stir fry.  Ever.  And seeing as how I am quite possibly the worst cook in the world, I am thankful every day for this.

Let's see.  I've observed pick-up trucks with slabs of meat stacked up in the flatbed with men sitting on top of it smoking cigarettes (apologies for not taking a photo).  While it was driving 50 miles and hour down the road, zigging in and out of traffic.  I've seen cars drive on the sidewalk.  I've seen women sit side-saddle on motorcycles holding on to children in each arm.  At first it was, honestly, a little shocking.  But now?  It's just part of the day to day.

Donkey carts. Camels. Goats in the street.  McDonald's, TGIF, Chili's --- all delivered directly to our house.  Drinking only bottled water.  Water shutting off, no water, then water forcefully spraying through the faucet and soaking me.  No cable; only satellite.  Riding the metro subway and trying to read all the signs in Arabic and relaxing when I realize that it's also written in English.

Oh, Alhamdulilah!  Lots and lots of chocolate and pastry shops.  And fresh local bread delivered to our door twice a week.  

Now lots of this sounds different, huh?  Like all exciting, and crazy, and hyped up!?  

But somehow, it's just not.  Somehow it all, the good and the not so good, becomes 'regular' life.  Normal.  Just...life.

Then I think, that maybe, just maybe...this might be the key to getting through and enjoying life in different countries.  We're only here in Cairo for two years, and who knows where two years from now*. 

If it's all exciting, crazy, and hyped up!, how will we ever get to just enjoy life?  It HAS to be regular, normal life.  It's not that I don't appreciate it all.  Because I do.  I really, really do.  I just think that I appreciate it more because it is regular, normal, day-to-day life.  At least for us.  

Whatever 'normal' is. We have it here.

Just another 'normal' nap.

[*Please let our next assignment be hot, near the ocean, and sunny year-round.  If you're reading this, State Department, make note of Heather's wish list.  Thank you.] 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A REAL Run, Finally.

This is me after an awesome run.
The super fab hubby took me to the Wadi today.  And it was awesome.  Really, really awesome.  Flat run, open area, miles of uninterrupted running.  A way to get away from the crazy of Cairo.  A way to unwind, relax, and enjoy a run.  An honest-to-goodness good run.

Total relief.  Because I was going a LITTLE.BIT.CRAZY.

Remember yesterday's post about regular running in Cairo?  It would make anyone crazy.

But today?  I felt the sun on my shoulders, found my pace, my breath pattern, my stride.  I didn't have to worry about getting run over by cars and didn't get a single stink eye. Not one.

The fab hubby even, begrudgingly, said he'd feel ok with me running there alone (although he really preferred I'd find a partner).  And I know someone who was thinking about training for a 1/2 Marathon in January.  In any case, my intent is to hit the Wadi at least once a week for my sanity run.  Maybe twice.  Otherwise, I'm thinking I'm going to get up early before work so I can avoid the traffic and pound out a few extra miles each week.

I'm still vigilant, but maybe less weary?  A good run will do that for you.

Really beautiful terrain.

So if you're a fan of Star Wars...
we were totally prepped for a Jawa caravan to be
attacked by the Sand People.

Found a Chili's for lunch afterward.
Chips and Salsa EXACTLY LIKE THE U.S.
Perfect! (P.S. found a different Starbucks.
And it was also AWESOME!)