You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.

Note: While I was abroad for the past year, I had quite a bit of time away from the day-to-day hassles to think about and research some of the ways I wanted to improve my life. I have a long list of things that I want to do or try out. You’ll probably see posts about some of these in the future.

I read quite a bit about people who have cut down on the amount of chemicals they use in their homes. I have been wanting to try simple cleaning with vinegar, or in combination with water, baking soda, or salt, for many months. I thought I would try to incorporate it into some basic cleaning.

However, when I got to Dallas, there was a need for deep cleaning. I wasn’t sure how/if it would work, although I had read that the vinegar and baking soda combo works great on hard-to-remove oven grime. So I put some vinegar in a sprat bottle and applied it to the sink.

I should note that I started with the side that was dirtier, and even had areas with rust, and as you can see from the pic, everything came off.

Also, the right sink has the tray from the bottom of the water dispenser of the refrigerator. Water sat there so long that the tray turned green. I sprinkled a little salt on it and added vinegar, and all of the green grime lifted off the metal to be easily wiped away.

For more tips for using vinegar, try this link.

Edit: Since I wrote this, I used vinegar and water for cleaning the inside of the microwave and the bathroom mirror. Note – in the above link, it’s suggested to use an ammonia combo for glass and mirrors. Instead, I found this example and was going to add a couple drops of dish soap, but first, I tried with just the water and vinegar — I got a clean mirror and no streaks, although that may be because it probably has been 6 months since the mirror was last cleaned!

I thought we were just taking a long drive in the morning. I was saying things like “I’ll just throw my big coat in the trunk in case the temperature drops” and “Should I fill up a couple water bottles to put in the car?”

That’s when M had to tell me that we would only be driving to the airport… The Airport! Yes, I should pack for the airport. It took me a while to believe he wasn’t joking.

The next morning, just before we boarded, I finally learned that we were going to CA for the weekend.

Seriously, isn’t this the kind of thing you see in movies??

He put together frequent flier miles and some other rewards to plan an unforgettable weekend. I finally got to see Highway 1, which was so stunning with blooming flowers and wildlife. We saw sea lions along Hwy 1 and again in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39. We hiked in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. And my favorite part was horseback riding through Redwoods.

My birthday fun just kept going…that is until the actual day of my birthday when I came down with a cold! While this cold was another “surprise,” in some strange way, I didn’t mind. It’s the first illness I’ve had in over 3 months, and that shows that I’ve come along way from Afghanistan.

I’m having so much fun that I feel like I’m celebrating my birthday all month.

I had a great time visiting with my friends in DC. The real advantage of crashing on a couch or staying in a spare bedroom is that you have so much time to catch up. (Usually, it feels a bit forced when you’re trying to catch up on so many things in a short time.) I really enjoyed getting into the flow of my friends’ lives. I was also supposed to be working while in DC, but since most of the people I wanted to meet with weren’t available, I ended up with more time to hang out with my friends and enjoy the beautiful weather.

I also peeked into my storage unit… That was a strange experience. To start, I was happy to see that a year ago I labeled about 85% of the boxes, which meant I didn’t open too many unnecessary boxes (of dishes or cleaning supplies). I needed to grab some summer clothes and some suits. After a year of wearing clothes from only 2 suitcases, it was pretty exciting to see my clothes. There were so many different colors! It was difficult to decide what to take and what to leave. And, every day that I put on a “new” shirt I feel as if it’s a gift.

The humidity in Dallas is pretty oppressive right now. The people who live here say the weather is nice… Stepping off the plane felt like stepping into a sauna to me. However, it’s perfect for roller blading, eating frozen yogurt, and bbq sandwiches.

And so my adjustment to living in the US continues as I turn one year older.

I’ve been thinking for some time about writing one more post about Spain. There are so many different impressions made and experiences had that I couldn’t pick one topic. There were the incredibly friendly people, hearing people talk about their shopping experiences in the US, suddenly having the ability to use a credit card again, suddenly adjusting from using dari as my second language to speaking in spanish, or my enjoyment of just walking winding streets, hearing the bells from the town church. I was thinking about this as a rounded a corner yesterday, and it hit me that I had to make this post about something that recurred so many times that I stopped counting after around the 9th time, despite my initial surprise and curiosity.

I lived outside Washington, DC for 4 years. Since it is the capital, it’s not surprising that a lot of protests and demonstrations are staged there. People want to have their voice heard by the people setting policy and create visibility. And the range of topics vary from pro peace, anti tobacco, pro tea, anti bankers, to pro abortion. One time I saw a group of people get on the metro with t-shirts indicating that they had just been at a rally to support “grandparents rights when raising their grandchildren.” (It made me think of my parents who did just that.) The topics are just that diverse.

In Kabul, I was always aware of any demonstrations happening in the city, and there were lots of them. Our security team made the area of any demonstration out of bounds, and if there was enough concern, we would be restricted even further. While these seemed a bit excessive, there were plenty of reasons why my security took a hard stance. I still remember the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident with Afghan fatalities in Kabul.

Yet, given all of this, I was so surprised by the people in Spain protesting. At first I would try to figure out from the signs or chants what the issue of contention was, but after seeing 5 different protests about 5 completely different topics within 2 weeks, my tactic switched to avoiding them (the noise of whistle blowing really is obnoxious).

Maybe it’s Spring-Protest-Season, or maybe this is an atypical year, but whatever it is, the people of Spain definitely participate in their right to demonstrate no matter the size of the city or town.

A lot has been written about expatriates (people working outside their home country, which I’ve been doing) and repatriates (people returning to their home country after working in another country, which I’m about to do) particularly around work. It’s very important to companies to do what they can to make the transition successful.

After 2 months in Spain, I’m not too concerned about transitioning to the US. Transitioning back to a full time job is another matter!

I’ll be returning to the US at the end of this week. During this month, I will spend some time in DC, Dallas, and in my home town. If you’re in one of those locals and want to meet up, drop me a line.

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