So it has been a while. A long while. 7 months of Arabic training. A month of other random training. Some home leave. Some vacation. A curtailment. A reassignment. And here I am in Manama. About to write about Madrid. No Libya for me at the moment, a fact that made my family very happy. But in a post-Benghazi Foreign Service world I am making the most of my "snow days" resulting from an "abundance of caution". Between D.C. shutting us down and the Eid holiday and my passport being held who the heck knows where I have been given ten days to get to know my apartment.
I have always been a gal with a healthy work-life balance but I arrived here to be the Deputy Pol/Econ Chief and was immediately acting as the Chief, a fact which led me to be a workaholic for the first time in my life (helped also by the limiting social options of Ramadan and the sad fact that everyone I work with is either married with young kids or works for me in some capacity). I find it ironic that just when I am fully and absolutely loving my job and wanting to be in the office with all my plucky little heart I am not allowed in!!!!! I think it is the universe putting me back in my place....
And having already spent time dancing randomly around my apartment, reading lots of Game of Thrones (dang that is a long book, don't buy the four book pack on the Kindle....it takes so long to even go 1% up....egads), watching bad TV downloaded to my iPad, finding the Navy Base and trying a spin class for the first time (ouch), having the interns over for dinner so they can say good-bye to their old apartment (yeah the 5 interns lived in my apartment before me, Real World Manama), I am now finally getting around to a long overdue project....getting my pictures in order.
When in Pakistan I thought my computer wasn't working because I had too many pictures on it so I put them all on memory sticks and deleted from hard drive (is that what it is called?). Turned out that one of the times I dropped the computer must've harmed it and it needed a new hard drive (again I think that is it). But when I finally came back online I realized all my Facebook albums had been deleted also. I felt kinda like a character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind since my memory not so great and I used my Facebook albums to remind me of what the heck I'd been doing.
So now....I am reuploading my photos to Shutterfly...and I've decided to work on posting them here in batches telling the stories of the trips so I can have a record. I'm starting with Madrid December 2011. Because they were the first photos I uploaded. Yeah that is how organized I am.
Scenesetter....I was living in Pakistan. In Karachi on a compound. All travel, requested at least 24 hours in advance, was in a fully armored vehicle with an armed guard to destinations pre-approved. So no strolling the streets, no whimsical side trips, no chance meetings or making new random friends. Sad since Pakistanis are ridiculously nice and inviting and there appeared to be a lot of silly fun to be had on the streets. Thankfully the people I worked with ruled so compound living for me was kind of like a big adult dorm, a lot of drinking and laughing but without the drama. After a while though it could feel pretty repressive so my trip to Madrid was much needed....
|Madrid, December 2011.|
Here's my friend Maggie and her boyfriend. I met Maggie when I was living in Philly and working at Moody's. She's Bulgarian and living in Spain (now London). These two ruled. They picked me up at the airport. My luggage was lost, boo hiss, so I borrowed clothes from Maggie but I bought some new underwear. Now European sizes in general are smaller and I know that. Americans have gotten bigger and bigger and the clothes industry in an attempt to still have a market in popular stores have resized clothes so that today's size 10 is yesterday's size 14 probably. But not in Europe! And I knew that. And I thought I adjusted for that. But I sadly did not so I spent the first night until my luggage arrived with my knickers in a seriously uncomfortable knot. Way too much information. Sorry I digress. But Maggie and her boyfriend were awesome.
This is a cool tapas bar. You just keep picking out things and then pay at the end. Yum.
Me and Maggie. She took me to an awesome restaurant to get Paella. I had never been a huge fan. BECAUSE all my life I'd been eating some craptastic fake paella. Holy heck the real paella is wonderful, beautiful, life-altering. My mouth is watering thinking about it. I might have to go back to Madrid. Like now. Crud....just remembered my passport is, well I don't know where it is, but that is really irrelevant to this story. Or maybe lack of story.
Yeah. Those are pork legs. They seriously love the pork in Madrid. Traveling there from a Muslim country, I was overwhelmed. Ham everywhere. Including amazing ham that comes from little black pigs that eat acorns. Seriously. Heavenly. But not like that crappy Heavenly Ham that my grandmom always had for Easter when I was a kid. I mean, I used to love that stuff. But then I had real ham in Madrid. Kinda like the paella experience. I didn't smuggle a pig leg back to Karachi (though I thought about it) but a few packs of ham and some really good riojas and some manchego might have jumped into my suitcase....it has a mind of its own!!!!
Nighttime revelry. I really had no idea what was going on but there were a lot of people.
My Maggie again! She's so pretty!
This sangria bar ruled. We navigated through some fun old school European streets and then went underground (okay down stairs to a basement) to what really looked like a cave. The walls were crumbling, the tables were worn, the banquettes were kinda greasy. And the sangria was divine. Kinda like the paella and ham experiences.
On another note, see the bracelet....My mom had sent me a bracelet like that when I lived in India and even though I had never been a bracelet kind of girl I loved it and started wearing it everywhere. Until I was in Sri Lanka and I took my bracelet off and left it in my hotel room when I went to the spa. And...okay really this is another story that I won't tell here....well, monkeys broke into my room and among other things (Holly's birth control, my cigarettes, Wasa bread, these monkeys knew how to PAR-TAY) they stole the bracelet. I was super sad. A year later in Pakistan I get a birthday card from my mom and the bracelet is inside. And of course my first thought was "How did my mom get it back from the Sri Lankan monkeys????? She is MAGIC." Once I talked with her though the more likely scenario of her going back to the vendor and buying a new one emerged. Sigh. I kinda loved the idea of my mom being in the know with the monkey thieves.
Oh I forgot about the bar we went to where they served some sort of mojito but it was made with crushed strawberries. And it was amazing. I loved Madrid.