Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tabbies In Snow

Welcome to the end of the year from Juarez!
I haven't been able to write in a while as the last months here have been a slippery slide towards our inevitable departure. We're now in the final month, and in accordance with the "Life Cycle of a FS Assignment,"  we're visiting our favorite places for the last time, relishing the food we will have pangs for when we're thousands of miles away and are now facing the dreaded EER and pack-out time. 

But first... the holidays!

Christmas morning was simply gray, offering the perfect excuse to stay inside and not feel guilty at all about it. But the next day was quite a surprise; I'll let one of the Tabbies demonstrate what he found in the yard after breakfast:

Tabbies in Snow! First flakes we've seen in four years.
Snow in Juarez!  Big, slushy flakes that did not amuse Dodger as he quickly darted back inside the house, to be fluffed dry with the traditional "wet paws" towel that I haven't had to break out since about 2011 when we left the Pacific Northwest.  I can't say that the snow stuck on the lawn (it didn't), but it lightly frosted the mountains in the backdrop of El Paso/Juarez and made it feel like real winter. 

By the next afternoon the skies were already clearing and returning were the crisp winter sunshine and china-blue skies that are my favorite part of this region.  Here are a few more holiday scenes from our travels with visiting family:

Ciudad Juarez Municipal Palace and city Christmas Tree

Gate decoration at a lovely estancia near where we live. 

Church in Mesilla, NM old town plaza 

Organ Mountains outside of Las Cruces, NM under clearing winter skies

Showing family around the region was a nice way to run through our Favorite Last Places tour. But looming on Monday comes the heavy lifting of preparing for our pack-out just one more week away: 
What will we put into long-term storage? (Will we need garden tools in a Soviet-style apartment in Bucharest? Hmmm....) 
What will we need immediately that can fit in the car to drive to our home leave house? (It HAS to fit in the car, as we drive away two weeks after the packers leave.)  
What will we need at FSI, but not immediately? (Winter, spring and summer clothes, plus the first month of work clothing at our new post.) 
What does Goodwill get? (Really? But I love that sweater!) 
What does the housekeeper get? (Do you think she'd use a coffee grinder?) 
What can we pawn off on coworkers? (Anyone need large potted plants?) 

Ahhh... the decisions!  It's enough to make a minimalist of anyone.  We now eyeball any grocery store purchases with "Can we eat/drink/use all that within three weeks?" and we're not buying any green bananas or full gallons of milk. 

Besides the holidays, pack-out and getting sentimental about my "last times," the God of Stressful Things added an EER (annual employee review) that needs to be written (by three people), edited, fussed over, edited again, worried about, and finally, officially submitted before our last day arrives.  For all untenured officers, EERs are due on the anniversary of our arrival at post, which is also our departure date, making this last month extra stressful.   And then when we're tenured - the EER is due on April 15th - does that date ring a bell for anything else important on the annual To-Do List? Yeah, I don't know how that date got selected either.

So, that's what the final month at post is like.  Oh, and I should mention that they sent me on a last minute, two-week TDY to help out the Consulate in Guadalajara just before Christmas.  Sigh. 

Coming next: the final drive north.