Friday, May 30, 2008

Our Mighty Mazda: Transfering the Lease

After the birth of Sicily and a few tries to get the entire family safely in the Toyota Echo, we decided to get a new and at least medium-sized vehicle. The result of our research was choosing a Mazda 5, a really great car for a family in the Washington D.C. area.

We decided on a lease for a number of reasons and now find ourselves with about 10 months left after our departure date. The solution is to transfer the lease to someone else.

After researching the process, it is also a great option for getting a car in the short term, like the next time we are in DC for training.

Some sites to find a lease include: and

Image from AOL Cars

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Minding Our DiploManners

Saturday I spent the day at FSI attending the MQ116 Protocol and U.S. Representation Abroad course, an engaging course offered by the Overseas Briefing Center. The class was full of both FSOs and their partners and included exercises to put rules to practice.

Diplomatic protocols were established at the 1815 Congress of Vienna, including the order of precedence and diplomatic titles which are still used today. We also learned about receiving lines, invitations, seating charts, business cards, place settings and entertaining.

One interesting fact was the difference between the Continental style of eating (fork in left hand, knife in right) from the American style of eating (knife in right for cutting with a switch to fork in right for eating).

The American style or zig-zag style was common in Europe and the U.S. prior to the American Revolution. After the American Revolution, the Europeans evolved the zig-zag style to the Continental style for more efficiencies, but since the Americans wanted to reject everything British they maintained the zig-zag style which was then renamed into the American style. Whew!

Regardless, it was a great course that I recommend to anyone that has the chance to take. One couple brought their teenage son, which was a fantastic idea and he really enjoyed it.

Image from the Washington Post

Monday, May 19, 2008

Moving Coco

One of the more anxious tasks is making arrangements for shipping Coco, our labrador retriever. We are looking forward to:

1. Get all of her immunizations up to date, with rabies no more than one year and no earlier than 30 days from when she lands
2. Get her a microchip
3. Order food and supplies for early delivery in Kolkata
4. Get a crate big enough to fit her
5. Make reservations on Luftansa
6. Get a USDA certified health certificate no more than 10 days in advance of when she lands (certified in Annapolis)
7. Make sure her crate is prepared for the flight
8. Get her to the airport
9. Get her in her crate - the hardest activity of all

We are also exploring having a pet shipper handling 4 through 9, since logistically those items might happen after we leave.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Getting Organized

Several tools are making our lives much easier: Google Calendar, Ta-da Lists, Google Chat and Google Documents, with a nod to Blogger.

We have set of lists in Ta-da that we use to manage what we need to get and do. This is great since we can access it online from anywhere, so if we have a minute here or there we can take a look at the list and see if we can work on something.

Google Calendar has been great as well. We keep our time based activities in there such as daycare payments, trips, training, appointments and social events. We also move things to do in the calendar and assign them to a day. This is good for planning what to do when.

We use Google Documents to share information like parts of the FAM on allowances and logistics manuals. This is very helpful for easy reference.

We are more of a Google Chat family than AIM, since you can use it in your Gmail interface, where we spend most of our personal online time. Currently Alan is meeting with the shippers to conduct a pre-survey of our household and he will talk to me via Google Chat when a question comes up. This is a little easier than calling or texting.

And finally, I want to praise the use of Blogger. Since all of this is happening so fast and it can be time consuming to document our activities in other ways, we are using blogging to document how we managed the move and our experiences with our FSO life to-date.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flavors of Bengali

My next fun research project is becoming more familiar with Bengali food prior to arrival. We have heard that Bengali food is amazing and I can't wait to try the real stuff.

There is a site called Bengali Food on the Web that has some great information. I will start with uniquely Bengali foods listed there:

Pora: a vegetable cooked mostly with eggplant, it is roasted and mixed with salt, green chillies, coriander leaves, onions and mustard oil.
Jhaal: especially for fish, this gravy is of freshly ground mustard sauce.
Doi maach / doi patal: fish cooked in gravy of curd.
Pithey: a pancake-like sweet dough base of semolina or flour which is rolled and filled with a variety of fillings like coconut and kheer, and fried in ghee.

Our friend Shivani told us that the mustard oil really makes food distinctly Bengali. Sounds delicious!

Image from

Toddler Immunizations for India

Sicily had her 12th month check-up today. We have a wonderful pediatrician at a clinic of the National Children's Hospital, Dr. Nathalie Quion (great first name as well!). She reviewed the list of recommended immunizations for India and suggested that Sicily get one for Hepatitis A outside of the regularly scheduled immunizations for the U.S., unless her TB shot came back positive.

We discussed malaria and her opinion was that since we would be in a big city we should use preventative measures like bug spray and mosquito nets instead of putting Sicily on any medication. She has experience with living in other countries, so she was very comforting to talk to.

She also told us to ask for a health certificate from any care providers we may get outside of the U.S., since that is a common be a way to get TB.

We will miss her for these next two years, but we know exactly where to go when we are back in D.C.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Consumed by Indian Movies

Looking at our Netflix list now, it is full Indian movies: those that we could find either based on or filmed in Kolkata, and good Indian movies in general. Our list so far includes:

The Namesake, 2006
Black, 2005
Parineeta, 2005
Veer-Zaara, 2004
Calcutta Mail, 2003
Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, 2002
The Legend of Bhagat Singh, 2002
Hera Pheri, 2000
City of Joy, 1992
Earth, 1998
Mahanagar, 1963

We got lucky with a post that has so much internationally popular media. We have a treasure trove on Netflix and many Internet radio stations that we are listening to every day.

Images from Netflix

Monday, May 12, 2008

Trial Toddler Travel

Sicily and I went on a trip to France April 30 to May 7 with Mima (Felicia) and met up with Grandma (Ruth), Grandpa (Dave), Brian and Molly. We spent two days in Paris and the rest in Avingon and Arles.

Alan was unable to go because of training at FSI. Luckily Air France gave us a refund because of his appointment, a rarity now-a-days. Sicily already had her passport and I brought a notarized letter signed by Alan stating that he agreed to Sicily leaving the country with me. I didn't get any questioning even though my last name is different than hers, but it made me realize that I really should change my name since it would make all of our future travel much easier.

Other lessons learned from the trip for our future travel:

1. Don't plan on doing too much with a toddler. It is not like our pre-child days. We typically got out for 2 hour stints. Means a decent hotel room is much appreciated.

2. Sicily more easily adjusted to jet lag traveling West to East - or it was easier for us when she got up later in the morning and went to bed later.

3. Always bring a change of clothes on flights, including shirts for yourself. This is extremely helpful when your toddler decides to vomit a bottle full of liquid one-hour into the flight.

4. Sicily was entertained most by activity books on the flights, although plastic water bottles came in a close second.

5. All of the hotels in France offered Pack-n-Plays for Sicily to sleep in. Our latching high-seat came in handy for dining, although she most often ended up in my lap.

6. The umbrella stroller was a good choice. We were able to bring it on the plane and it was helpful when having to climb stairs.