A Tribute to a Mother’s Love

May 10, 2012

Judy Lee GrayI knew that Mother’s Day would be especially tough this year. I have been really missing my mother over the past several months. Judy Lee, my mother, passed away three years ago. My mother was very annoying; she wanted everything for me that I didn’t want. She wanted me to dress in nice dresses, skirts and dress shoes for school and church, while I preferred more of the tomboyish look of comfortable t-shirts, jeans and snickers. Yes, I was a tomboy growing up-you can blame it on my three older brothers who at times tried to plait my hair and who I tried to emulate on the t-ball field and later in band. She would at least beg me, correction, made me dress up for church and I would be the typical daughter and be upset with her. “Mom, God likes me just as I am, right? So why do I need to dress up?” I would say. There was no need to wait for a response or try to argue with my mom. I would proceed to go to my room and change into what I thought was a ridiculous dress that she had bought from saving her meager earnings from working in a daycare and in church nurseries to buy the overly priced dress from the Hub. She was a gentle giant in our now two-person house. She was kind and sweet, chiefly due to the fact that she never said anything negative, those at her homegoing testified so. But at the same time she commanded our house and what Ms. Judy said is what was done.

When I started experimenting with independence, I let her know that I am who I am and it’s my body and I’ll wear what I want to wear, do what I want to do when I want to do it and how I would do it. Bahahahahaha. Ain’t nothing like a mother, because she will check your shit. Well let’s just say it didn’t go down in Ms. Judy’s house. I still remember the day she slapped me. I think she only laid hands on me once, not that I got in trouble a lot or disrespected her, but when I got out of line, she could give me that look and I knew to stop whatever in the world I was doing immediately, but when she did hit me, I went flying straight across the living room and that was the first and last of that. I still don’t know how she got up off that couch so fast.

My mother had a deep love for children. During my life, in her passing and even today, people tell me that they loved my mother so much, because she gave so much love. She took care of their children at daycare. Parents trusted my mother with their children; no matter what color, handicap, sex of the child, my mother spoiled them rotten. She knew their distinctive personalities and everyday told me about her children-Jacob, Caleb, Zarkaria, Mya, you name them, she remembered them all even as they got older, they were all her children and it didn’t bother me that I spent so much time with my mother and with my “adopted siblings.” My mother could hold several babies at once, rock them all in her bossom, knew their distinctive cries. While many children didn’t want to leave their parents at other daycares, here they were jumping into my mother’s arms in the mornings. If Opera is to Pavarotti, then Taking care of children is to Ms. Judy. I saw babies grow up as I grew up.

It was only a matter of time, that my mother began talking to me about children. I couldn’t believe her; I mean she already had several other grandchildren. But like I said earlier, she always wanted for me what I didn’t want for my own self and on the topic of children, it was no different. Sometimes the arguments of children were intense. I thought she could focus on the fact that I was a successful educated woman, I was getting my Master’s degree in Washington, D.C. and later, worked as a diplomat. But she insisted on me having a family. I wrestled with the idea-I couldn’t really see myself with children knowing how selfish and self-centered I am. How could I be responsible for taking care of something/someone 24/7? Shouldn’t I get a dog first as a trial run I thought? And even that seemed overwhelmingly. I came to the conclusion then that my mother had missed the whole woman’s right and civil rights movement. After all, she had graduated from Bate High School-the all black school in Danville, KY in 1964. I thought she really hasn’t grasped this whole idea of equality. “We are in the 21st century mother, the days of being in the kitchen and being knocked up at home are over,” I argued. “Everyone needs to experience childhood, and have a man,” she always responded back.

My mother’s health took what seemed to me a rapid turn for the worse while I was working in Mexico. After her heart attack, I flew home and visited her in Lexington at the hospital for several weeks. She was released to the nursing home where I visited her once last time; I tried to talk to her, but already she couldn’t recognize me. I’m not sure if it was the tumor on her brain, the chronic struggle with diabetes or her weight. After leaving my mother’s bedside the next morning, my supervisors took me out of a training class I was leading to tell me that my brother had called and they are just so sorry.

While I grieved and was depressed for a while at the passing of my mother and best friend, I came to the acceptance that she was out of suffering and thus in a better place. It was okay for me to move on with life. I thought a lot about my mother. What would she think of her daughter a year later living in Pakistan? She wasn’t too keen on me traveling the world, but yet was so proud. It was a cautious support she provided.

My mother’s mother, Granny Johnie Mayfield, had lost three children, one named Corey I believe who died of a now-treatable disease as a child who I of course never met, the second was Veronica-who lost a battle with cancer and then my mother. Every now I then, I would hear Grandmother say, there is no pain greater than losing a child. I never paid any attention to those words until this moment that I write about the loss of my own child. My grandmother passed away while I was in Pakistan last year and I was unable to make the trip back home to attend the homegoing ceremony-a guilt that weighs on me today.

When I returned to the US, little did I know that life was growing inside of me. I was shocked and I took 3 pregnancy tests to confirm – two solid blue lines appeared every time. While a complete shock and unexpected, I looked to my mother to inspire me. She was a single mother who raised me on a nanny’s salary and looked how I turned out. I’m not conceited or trying to brag, but we can say that she had unconditional love for children and people and that’s what I wanted to emulate. If she could parent, so could I. My mom would be so happy that I was going to have a baby. In a crazy way, I became closer to her, because I remembered all the things she did raising me and I would think to myself, I am going to be just like Ms. Judy, a tough disciplinarian that everyone knows not to mess with, but have a heart of pure gold. In terms of motherhood, I looked to no one else but my own mother for guidance and as a role model.

I cried sometimes. Being pregnant was a constant reminder that she wasn’t here. I wanted someone who would share the excitement, joy and to be honest-the anxiety that unexpected pregnancies bring. I never talked about my birth with her, but I know I had to be a surprise; after all there is 14 years age difference between my youngest brother and myself. I wanted someone to go shopping for baby clothes with and the free babysitter that I knew she would be. I wanted someone to dress my baby up in ridiculous baby clothes like she did with me and we could argue all over again like good times. It was tough at times, but I thought if my mother made it through tougher times, I too would overcome this.

As Mother’s Day 2012 approaches, I find myself as an Orpan and a Childless Mother. On April 8, 2012, Easter Sunday, I lost my child, Angel Easter, to a terrible illness that occurs during pregnancy known as HELLP Syndrome. If I ever needed my mother it was and is right now. I would have to look in her eyes and see her disappointment that I lost the baby and couldn’t have any more. But also be a witnessed one more time to her faithful love for me and children. I would be rocked in her arms and comforted by our shared pain and loss. I would hear the words that only a mother can give to comfort their daughter.

As I think about my loneliness and desire to have my mother and baby physically here on Mother’s Day, I know it cannot be and I know that I am not alone.

To those who have children, expecting a child or never conceived and/or have their parents- throw your sorries out the window-I don’t want it, nobody does. May you simply be reminded of how precious life is. May you know it is okay to talk to us who have suffered painful sudden losses. May you take a step away from the chaos we call life to forgive those who have wronged us and just give love. May tonight you hold your child a little closer. May you send flowers and hugs while we are alive. May you be reminded of what really is important.

To those who feel like orpans, those who have lost a parent or both, to those who sit in shelters and in foster care, may you know that you are loved, may you know that you are being watched over, may you feel the warmth of a mother’s hug and kiss everyday. May she wipe away the tears on you cheeks. May you become the parent you so long for. May you send her a kiss whether you have met her or not or regardless where she may physically be. May you know on this day too, you are being thought of.

To the Childless Mothers, whom often suffer a grief in silence, that have experienced miscarriages, delivered a child that was stillborn and/or had a child that died of SIDS, may you know that you do not suffer alone. May you be reminded that today, on Mother’s Day, you are a mother, may you know that your child is not forgotten, may you know that your child knows that you always and forever will love them. May you be reminded of the joy your child brought to your life, even if it was only a few seconds, a few kicks in your womb. May you know that you deserve flowers and a homemade card with crayon stickmen. May you know that pregnancy and childbirth still is a blessing. May you know that life is beautiful. May you buy yourself something today. May you know on this day, you are special, and that you were, still is, and forever will be, a Mother. Happy Mother’s Day.


Angel Easter

April 15, 2012

When the Chaplain came to my hospital bed, I was crying hysterically and could barely get out any words, the nurse was nervous, as I was having trouble breathing. I was only able to muster up the words, please pray for my baby that didn’t make it. He said, some times, God needs the smallest and tiniest of Angels, thus I named my child that I had lost over the Easter weekend, Angel Easter.

On April 5, 2012, I was 22 weeks (5 months) pregnant and for the second day in a row was vomiting and not feeling well.  I decided to leave that afternoon a little early from work and go to the emergency room to be checked out; I figured they would reassure my nerves and tell me that this is all part of pregnancy and prescribe some rest and tylenol.  I reassured myself that everything was fine, I had no bleeding and during all my prenatal visits, the doctors and midwives said baby and I were healthy. I didn’t smoke, I was 29 years old, young, healthy, fit, no health issues. But after several hours in triage, I knew something was wrong when the doctor said, “Thank God you listened to your intuition and came in.”  She further said that I was being admitted and that I was going to the labor and deliver unit to be further checked out.    

Over the next hours, the pain only further increased and I was diagnosed with preeclampsia which included more vomiting, chest pains, headaches, and swelling of my face and limbs.  It was at this point that the hours and days began to blend together, Thursday turned into Friday, Friday turned into Saturday, Saturday turned into Sunday.  I only remember the doctor telling me that I had now been diagnosed with HELLP syndrome and that now we are talking about life and death.  The doctor said the only way to save my life was to deliver the baby tonight. My heart sank as I knew 22 weeks was too premature to deliver a baby. He said, yes I know, your baby will not survive, there is nothing we can do to save your baby. He continued, at this point, you are going to die, so what I’m telling you is about the only thing we can do and that is to save your life.  He told me that if I didn’t deliver the baby, that I would likely have a brain hemorrhage and die and that the baby and I would both be dead.  

I just remember tears flowing like a water fountain. I really couldn’t understand, where was advanced science and medicine? Surely my life or the baby’s life is not the option. The doctor just kept saying preservation of mother. The doctors began to induce me.  I knew the choice I was making, but on some level I held out hope, that a tiny miracle would happen and that everything was going to be okay, somehow my baby would defy all odds and would survive at just 22 weeks gestation barely weighing 2 pounds.  

The doctors confirmed over, perhaps so I knew what I would expect, that there was no way the baby would survive more than a few seconds outside the womb.  Every several hours I was vaginally, orally and even renal induced with pills.  Several hours went by and on the second day, the doctors were giving me pitocin to induce me. I was told that the process would take about 24 hours, but at about 48 hours, my cervix had only dilated a few centimeters.  The doctor said that my body was refusing to deliver because it knew that it was not time to push. I remember the doctors stating they could use other interventions to help push the baby and placenta out since baby was so small, but after my HELLP syndrome seem to progress more, it was clear that I was going to have to go into emergency surgery, nearly two days of being in labor.  

I remember the last ultrasound and unfortunately didn’t hear the usual thundering noise of horse racing, also known as my baby’s heart rate.  I think I asked several times about the baby and they finally told me that the baby had passed, there was no heart rate and I had already miscarried. The small hope I had saved out for had diminished. A tiny light went to complete darkness. 

I don’t remember going for surgery, I don’t remember when I woke up, I couldn’t even remember how many days had already passed, after all I couldn’t eat during labor and I had been previously throwing up the prior two days before. I just remember having a pain in my heart aching for my baby that never did come.  The doctors said that I would be able to go home in 24-48 hours, which is the expected time that vital signs will return to normal after taking out the baby and placenta when the mother has HELLP syndrome.   But it was only a day or two later that my vital signs not only were not normalizing, but getting worse.  I was with the nurse when I started spitting up blood who immediatley called the doctor.  The doctor began to run through my medical history with me. He believed that the pregnancy had potentially masked another disease, perhaps something genetic like sickle cell, lupus, and he called in specialists-hematologists and renal doctors to run more tests.  

The irony of it all, I felt fine. I was ready to be discharged and began the process of moving on. But the doctor said that if I left the hospital, I would just collapse on the street. It was the next day I believe that I had several specialists reviewing my charts and blood work, and concluded that I had now TTP blood disease which stemmed from the pregnancy. I was confused, how was I getting worse, they promised me I would get better and be discharged soon, that the surgery had saved my life. The doctor reassured me that I was not going anywhere, he said that if I were to leave the hospital, I would just collapse and be back here in the hospital, if not dead. The good news though, they reassured me that TTP is 100% treatable and although they are not 100% conclusive that’s what I have, they are pretty sure based on how my blood is acting under the microscope, the actually test takes about a week to get conclusive results.    

I couldn’t understand it, why, why, why. The doctor said it is rare that women die during childbirth and that I almost died about 3 different times. Rare he said that women miscarry during the 22nd week of pregnancy, rare that healthy women suffer from HELLP syndrome, rare that it then causes TTP blood disease. I struggled with the word, RARE. How valuable is a rare gemstone? Don’t we love rarity, something that doesn’t conform. My rarity had nearly killed me.

How do you explain the love you have for something you never held? I was going to be a mother, do anything to protect my child. I had plans to take my child with me, to travel the world, would know all the capitals of the world and be able to say greetings in nearly every language. How does something growing inside you, beating inside you, living off your nutrients just stop? I’ve cried every day, for a baby’s face I never saw, a grip I never felt. What do I do with the milk in my breasts? The physical pain is there, I’m currently taking about 16 pills a day and will possibly need further treatments for TTP. My body is slowly losing the weight I had gained. I have a whole in my upper chest area for the frozen platelets and plasma treatments along with bruises, scars all over my body. I don’t even recognize my body, I guess it looks like life has been sucked from me. My legs, feet, veins, arms, everything looks and feels different. I’ve had more than 6 IVs in my body, blood drawn every 4 hours, even from my feet. I’ve had a blood transfusion and two treatments of plasmapheresis.

The doctor told me that I had been really sick, but I was lucky to be alive. Hard to feel lucky. The chaplain who had first prayed for Angel had sent another chaplain to visit me, Jill. Jill told me that she had miscarried three times and during one of her pregnancies had gave birth to Jacob, who was stillborn. I felt inspired by her strength. She told me that she knew what I was going through. We talked over a few days and I think I admired her most by the tough love she gave me. She told me to be prepared to have to explain to people who don’t know. She told me to ignore the people who tell you to just get over it or will say other insensitive comments. Adam Ruiz was the chaplain who initially came to visit me. We actually spent a lot of time talking about TexMex food-a bond we quickly found — I told him that I lived 2 years in Mexico and his parents were Mexican immigrants. I listened to Adam tell me that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer at the tender age of 19 and has partial paralysis due to the tumor. Lucky, the doctor told me. I wanted to feel lucky, but I didn’t, but how could I complain listening to others who clearly had suffered more than me. How could I complain when I watch outside my hospital room the helicopters land, transporting the most serious of victims.

I never knew the sex of the baby, but in my heart I felt that it was a girl, perhaps the first sign of a mother’s intuition. When the nurse came in the room with a memory box-everything was pink. I didn’t ask her if she had saw on the ultrasound or how she knew, perhaps she just picked up what was on top of the stack, but it felt right that everything was for a girl. A pink box with an announcement card saying “It’s a Girl!” There was a tiny pink knitted hat, a premature baby diaper, along with it’s hospital bracelets. The nurse had given me a teddy bear, given to those who suffer a miscarriage and/or still birth. She asked if I had given the baby a name, and I told her Angel Easter which she filled out for me on card and bracelets. I guess it is strange to others to be comforted by a memory box and a teddy bear, but looking at it, makes me feel better. I’m grateful for my family, especially my brothers who were there in the hospital with me, my friend who came to spend the night with me twice, cried with me, spoiled me with candy and combed my nappy hair. Grateful for the friends who called and cried over the phone with me and sent flowers. And to the medical staff, especially the nurses-Megan, Erny, Kim, Tamra, Eisel, Elizabeth, Chelsea and others that I might have forgotten who took care of me in the middle of the night when I was suffering both physically and emotionally.

I’ve been encouraged to grieve, to cry, to share my story. I feel like I can’t write it all down. What words can describe the sense of loss a mother feels after a miscarriage? A belonging to something that will never be? An emptiness that fills so heavy? Why do I love something that never came? Want to hug something that doesn’t exist? Why do I want to kiss a forehead that I’ve never seen or have tiny fingers grip my pinky? How do you explain that you love something so much, when it’s not there?

Angel Easter, the child I never got to sing a lullaby to, the child that never was rocked by my bosom, how I wish I could explain to you how much I love you, how much I cared for you, how I long to meet you. To my unborn child, may you immediately have wings and sing in the choir. May you already met your grandmother. May we meet one day.

Most Wanted Killed in Pakistan

May 2, 2011

This morning around 5 o’clock Pakistan time, I received a text message from our security team that the Ambassador had called a mandatory meeting for all American personnel. It woke me up and I was unable to go back to sleep, so I decided to call my brother, Tony, since it would be about 8pm in Kentucky and just have a routine talk. While talking on the phone, I kept getting text messages and phone calls from the security team and my supervisor, so I immediately knew something was brewing and this was not going to be a normal day. As you know, May 2, 2011, President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. An obviously exhausted Ambassador gave an emotional speech at the Embassy, sending messages of congratulations and thanks to the mission on behalf of President Obama and Secretary Clinton. The speech drew rounds of applause from everyone there and you could feel the sense of pride on everyone in the audience.

I recently met someone at the U.S. Embassy who survived the 9/11 attacks. He was in New York at the time working for the FBI and came here to serve America. There are so many personal stories here and it is surreal to be here at the time of Osama’s demise. For the most part, we are all happy and celebrating while being hopefully cautious that no retaliations happen. Today, I immediately left work after our 4pm meeting, I had a splitting headache, I believe from not sleeping enough-I had just got back from Lahore, which is a volatile area for us Americans right now and then waking up at 5am didn’t help. As I drove home, for the most part, things on the street seemed to be business as usual. Our security has stepped up, there were noticeably more guards and soldiers with bigger assault rifles surrounding the embassy as I left. We currently are only allowed authorized travel from home to work and that’s it. I of course, try to blend in, taking a head scarf with me. Pakistani media mostly focused on the silence of the Pakistani government-they have mostly said nothing and when they did, it was hours after President Obama’s speech.

I have been in Pakistan for 6 months and it has been a blessing to work with the people I work with. We have some very dedicated troops and diplomats that work round the clock to serve the American people. I have learned a great deal from them and if there were any regrets I had about coming here, they have now been officially squashed. Please know that I am well, in good spirits and very thankful for continued thoughts and prayers.

Cricket Fever

April 22, 2011

I have to be honest here, I have never watched cricket in my life. But on March 30, it was a game of a lifetime in Pakistan. Two countries of what many would call the fiercest rivalry that possibly two countries could have were to meet and battle it out for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in Mohali, India.

For a short while, it seemed that we, or at least diplomats, could forget about living in a high level critical threat country. There were cricket parties to watch the matches in anticipation of the two power rivalries possible big match, the city was adorned in green and it seemed that everyone had a pep in their step and an extra wider smile just thinking about the match to come. No matter where you went, the news was cricket, a nice break from the Anti-american sentiment and terrorist attacks that generally plague the news media. The weather was starting to become pleasant, so kids, adults in every open area filled the grass or pavement playing cricket. It didn’t matter who you were, cricket was on your mind. You could see kids learning about the game, elder men talking about the matches over tea time and even women seemed to break the norm and get in on the action, sporting the Pakistan cricket jerseys.

My colleagues and I quickly caught cricket fever and threw a surprise party for our local staff in the office to wish Pakistan the best. I wore my new salwar kameez, made brownies with a drop of green frosting – which were a hit! The embassy closed early that day about an hour or two after the match began, so most went home to watch the end of the match. Yeah, I’ve learned – cricket is a long game! I’m talking about 9 hours or so for 1 match. Unfortunately Pakistan lost the match and we were all a little depressed immediately after. But for me, it was one of the best moments in Pakistan. Cricket Fever.

Welcome to Bali!

March 8, 2011

I’ve died and gone to heaven. This place is absolutely amazing and I’ve only been here for 2.5 hours. I arrived in Indonesia today, more precisely the island, Bali-I think it’s an island or perhaps a city on an island-whatever it is a more appropriate term would be paradise, heaven, nirvana. It is simply amazing.

So what has captivated me in just a few hours? Well the hotel is amazing. I’m staying at the Oberoi hotel which sits at the edge of the ocean. When I arrived, I was greeted with a lei-which is the main reason I always wanted to go to Hawaii. The fresh flowers that stringed the lei together created a beautiful necklace and perfume. The room is more of a thatch roof hut/villa. The bathroom is probably the most fascinating bathroom I’ve seen. All glass-when one looks out the glass-there is a garden and stone idols-giving you an imaginary feel that you’re also in the garden. And don’t let me forget about check-in, check-in was done outside with a stunning view of the ocean and a complimentary non-alcoholic mojito (drink). I was not too upset at the “no alcohol” in my drink because I quickly made it over to the thatch roof bar for a cocktail that was adorned with an orange and a flower.

Tea time at 3 o clock is accompanied by two young boys in training to become musicians-they play typical Indonesian music as the teacher guides them; meanwhile I enjoy the bread pudding, crepes and the backdrop of the ocean. Awwwww, welcome to Bali!

Do you see the glass half full?

February 23, 2011

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It’s so easy to sink into that place of complacent and just start complaining in Pakistan about Pakistan. I mean, everyone seems to go there, friends, colleagues even the locals themselves. But I like to see the glass half full-whether it’s by nature or by choice; I don’t want to be here in Pakistan and just complain, there must be a reason I am here. As I said before, it’s easy to complain-I hate the way women are treated here and I really just want to go to a restaurant and not have to notify security. Oops, I’ve started complaining, so you see my point.

What I’m trying to say is I think there is a greater purpose in me coming to Pakistan and I’m trying to stay conscious of that. When I started this blog, I stated who would’ve thought that a black girl from Kentucky would be rolling deep in Mexico, ha, try Pakistan now. In just my three short months, I’ve learned a lot about: my job, Pakistani society, international affairs, among many things and that’s enough to be content with – that I’ve had some educational growth, not that I was trying to not learn anymore or anything. But on top of all that educational growth-I’ve had some amazing opportunities, even hugged the current Vice-President of the U.S.-Joe Biden-who is a down to earth brother that I would have over any day at my future house in the country with a bottle of bourbon. I’ve met some amazing people here, which words will never justify what they mean to me.

I remember hearing the old folks in church say, I’m not where I want to be, but thank God, I’m not where I use to be. This really resonates with me as I ride this rollercoaster of life, that has gone in reverse, upside down, up hills and down hills. So this is the day, I’m looking at the bright side of life. I’m still here, if not stronger than I was, I’m smarter, wiser, more kind, a better listener and more patient. I’m not perfect, but the glass is more than half full.

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

January 2, 2011

Hmmm, well I never imagined spending Christmas in Pakistan. For one, it is a Muslim country, right up there with Saudi Arabia. Islam is indoctrinated in the country, the people, the institutions, everything, after all, the capital isn’t called Islamabad for nothing. A country where the call to prayer wakes me up at 5:30 every morning, a place where Pakistani Christians are ostracised from society and even jailed for committing blasphemy/using Alla‘s name in vain. But I must admit I was pleasantly surprised this Christmas as I had a great time passing with friends and colleagues and enjoying the sights and sounds around Islamabad.

My maid stopped by and bought me a Christmas present, my guards wished me a Merry Christmas and even my rental car driver stopped by and gave me Christmas card. I was really surprised that Pakistanis were doing such acts-far from the extremists muslims we often only get to view and hear about. Then, I found a Christmas tree at the market, the vendor wanted to charge me $40 USD for it, so I didn’t buy it, that was double of what I was willing to pay. I knew my maid, being a local, could go back and get it for 1/2 the price if not less! Then there were even Christmas lights and decorations around the city, although it looked like a toddler was in charge of the decorations, again, I was surprised to see any Christmas decorations. The church in my area also held major celebrations and the government’s department for minorities helped fund a lot of the celebrations. I only saw a few of it as for security reasons, I am unable to go to any of the religious places, churches included.

But I have found, as my friend says, a pseudo family in the small community church I attend on the Embassy compound. We even did a small Christmas play and I played the inn keeper who told Joseph and Mary there was no room. I like to think I was the best inn keeper there ever was! I have met some great colleagues here and even more, great friends. We like to say we are in the same boat and for Christmas dinner we called ourselves orphans as we were spending the holidays away from family and close friends.

I tell you we ate like kings though! I cooked corn pudding to contribute to the scrumptious dinner. Dinner was concluded with a little game of spades, great talk and more importantly, it was the first weekend that I had had completely free of work! Yes, a three-day weekend, I normally work on the weekends-that’s another blog though 😦

On Christmas day, I had plans to go to the market to pick up my present to myself, but as you may have heard on the news, a female suicide bomber blew herself up in Peshawar, a city near the Afghan border at a World Food Camp, then there were the jihadists in Africa threatening to cause more attacks on the Western world, so yeah, just like that, I decided to stay home and only go out for the dinner. So I finally went to the market in the middle of the week, which was absolutely fabulous with some ladies from work. You may have heard though I got chased by a transvestite to the car who was begging for money. I tried to jump in the car and run away from her, I mean him or whatever and well the car door hit my big butt before I could fully get in the vehicle. Yeah, I was crying about it the next day, you know the type of crying where you are laughing so hard.

And well I won’t be shy about it, I treated myself to some bling bling for my birthday/Christmas, buying an emerald ring with little diamonds on a white gold band and a necklace that has .6 carat diamonds and tourmaline stones. Hard work pays off is all I can say.

New Years seemed to roll really quick on me. I had ordered a black dress to wear for the New Year’s Party and of course, it didn’t arrive in time, so I found an old black dress that needed the emergency assistance of a tailor who quickly added spaghetti straps to the dress to make it a hit for me! I first had dinner at the Canadian club, then went over to the British club to ring in the New Year. Two days later, I am still paying the price. Hopefully soon will catch up on my sleep though. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Pakistan.

Welcome to Pakistan!

December 11, 2010

As I left my apartment on Sunday evening, I was torn and sad to leave my family and friends behind, but excited about the new opportunities that soon would come. Ironically the taxi driver was Pakistani and I tried to speak a little urdu with him, but he mostly complained that his family can’t get visas to come to America and that I should hire his children to work at the embassy.

My stomach turned with emotions, I didn’t feel this emotional when I left for Mexico and I spent two years in Mexico City, I thought, “I’ll only be in Islamabad for one year.” I boarded the flight and decided to check for last minute messages and facebook statuses. I began to cry as I played a voicemessage. It was Rev. McCowan who gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral. “Your grandma Mattie asked me to say a prayer for you cause prayer has the power to change.” The tears came down as I realized that I was starting this adventure in my life without the most important person in my life and who was my best friend, my mom, who passed away a little more than a year ago. I knew that my mom, Miss Judy as she was known, would be freaked out knowing that I would be going to some country far away from Kentucky where they blow up people, and I knew that I was going to miss sharing my experiences with her.

It was a 13 hour flight from Washington, D.C. to Dubai, UAE. This was probably the longest flight I have ever taken in my life! I swear it took all day and night to get there. Dubai was hot, I repeat, it was hot! Dubai is an interesting city; for the first time I saw men dressed in traditional Islamic robes, or Kanduras as they are called and women fully covered in black burqas. But there were also people dressed in very western clothes, t-shirts and jeans. I still don’t know what to think of Dubai. It is like an artificial city, ski villages in the mall (note 100 degrees farenheit in winter), dancing water fountains, six star hotels (ummm, five is the highest ranking), a mall that resembles Egypt, I mean seriously, if one thinks it can’t be built, come to Dubai. The beaches were gorgeous and I had a nice time at Le Meridien Hotel. Food was great, I had dinner at an African restaurant called Tribes, I opted for the lamb chops and sweet potatoes-best decision I made in Dubai. The only place to get alcohol are at the hotels because it is a strict Islamic country.

My 34 hour layover ended quickly and I headed to the airport in a complimentary mercedes ride that yes, was pimped out. Of course the flight was delayed and I touched down in Pakistan at about 4am local time, which looked like a scence from twister. There were people standing and getting their bags out of the compartment before we had even landed. Passengers were throwing suitcases and their bags back and forth. I was like, do we have to jump out of the plane or something, I mean let’s wait til the plane lands please. Flight attendants had no control and as we landed on the runway and are deplaning, 2 other planes just pulled up on the runway next to our plane. I honestly thought someone was going to get hit by a plane. There was no organization, just 3 full planes on a runway with everyone trying to exit and get on buses for transport to the terminal. It was a moment of cultural shock, a moment that I was like I am in a different world, and all I could say was, “Hushamadeed” or Welcome to Pakistan!

The Visits

April 19, 2009

Nothing is quite like a high level visit, I have had the opportunity before to meet with our former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, actually on two seperate occassions. And I’ve met the first black woman President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, I also saw President Mugabe, he went out the wrong door at the African Union Summit, and I’ve met Rev. Jesse Jackson all within the same week (between you and me, I was not impressed with the civil rights leader Jesse Jackson). And there are other Ministers of Foreign Affairs I’ve met as well.  But nothing was like this year.  

This year Secretary of State Clinton made a stop to Mexico City.  She was here on official business, and to facilitate her trip I worked as an additional site officer. What does that mean?  So first I went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and literally held the seats for the traveling press until they arrived.  This may sound small to you but let me tell you I am the best seat holder.  1. When I was in Ghana working the African Union Summit I had to arrange for the seats fot the United States as “international observers” which meant we only got 2 allocated seats, but with my diplomatic negotiation skills, I got 7 seats, including myself one!  2. For the Secretary of State visit, I was told to be sure to hold a seat for CNN but there were a bunch of traveling press, I said I would hold as much as the Sec. of State’s staff would like me to hold, and they told me in Mexico they would not allow me to hold too many seats, well family and friends, I held 12 seats, exactly the number in the traveling press with the secretary so all the press got seats, exceeding anyone’s expections. Watch out!  However, this was no easy task as by then, Secretary Clinton is 2 hours behind schedule for the press event! 

After the Press took there seats in preparation of the joint press conference with the Mexican Secretary of State, I headed over to Bellas Artes to work as hall monitor.  So after the Diplomatic Security secured the national arts building, I was a cleared body to make sure nobody/nothing funny went on as we had indigineous students come.  During this time, I made great friends with REX, the bomb dog, and the Diplomatic Security. When she finally arrived, I was in the hallway to make sure the hall was cleared, and she made her way to the right rooms. 

It was awesome, I remember telling myself I wonder when she is coming and then, the Diplomatic Security agent was like ok she is on her way.  So I waited in place wondering when the elevator would open and when exactly she would appeared.  And then like 10 agents dispersed out of the elevator in such precison and organization, I was like, damn, she must be here.  After the event with Mexican indigenous students concluded, I went back to the Embassy to wait for the meet and greet, now 3 hours behind schedule. Yes I was tired. So the Secretary of State was actually coming to my office to cut the ribbon and inaguarate the new visa windows! Wow! She came I took a couple of pictures and clapped and then went out of the pavilion and back to my desk, leaving the event early where no one was. I began to heat some food in the microwave and check my mail on the computer when I heard DS agents come in and whisper in their little mics, she is going to have to exit this way, the other entrance is blocked. So I am like shit, she is not suppose to come this way, so I run to the microwave and cut it off, becasue that buzzying noise was not that pleasant and proceede to throw all crap on my desk under my desk to hide hit. Man I wish ya could have saw me. Hilarious. I was the only one in the office, then as I am sitting on my desk breathing hard from tring to clear up everything in like 30 seconds she walks by and asks how I was doing. I said fine, thank you. And that was my meeting with Secretary of State Clinton.

Then guess who comes to town???

April 16, 2009, it was my one year anniversary in Mexico to the date. I’d like to think the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, came to Mexico City for that very reason, and than creating more cooperation between the two countries was just secondary but whatever, he came.

I have never seen more security in my life, I am talking about 5 sniper shooters, God knows how many Marines, 100s of Secret Service agents, the mexican police force, the mexican national guard, our diplomatic security, I mean WOW. I really didn’t have a task for this visit, I mean he came for a day and peaced out the next. Actually I was very busy, my supervisors were working the airport arrival and departure logistics of Air Force One, so that meant I had to do my and their job all week. Acting Chief of Visa Section you could’ve called me. At the last minute they asked me if I could take some Congressional Staffers shopping, a Cogressional Delegation was also traveling with the President so I said sure. As I was going to meet the Congressional Staff, already at the Embassy, guess who walked by? Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attornery General Eric Holder.

The Congressional Staffers were easy to please, I took them to lunch and to a local market to buy arts and crafts. Then we made our way back to the hotel in time for them to freshen up and Air Force One to land. It was amazing as I was like the only one in the hotel with Secret Service, I could see them going back and forth, POTUS has landed. Then POTUS took his helicopter, or Marine One to Los Pinos, the Mexican Presidential Palace, where we could hear the helicopter landing because it was so close. Well I just stayed in the hotel, a Senator arrived, so I took him to his meeting and then another Congressman arrived, and some how I ended up escorting him as well. So funny b/c all I was tasked to do was to take the staffers to lunch and around before the arrival which I did, but it seems like no one had responsibilty of the Congressmen after they got out of Air Force One, so I just played along, and was like, Good Afternoon, I’ve been waiting for your arrival, please follow me Congressman, I’ll show you to your room. LOL.

Anyways some random Mexican woman came up to me saying how low level of an official I was and how she was all important and high level. I just told her to get out of my face, I mean that was me being diplomatic, b/c if I had been on the street, I would have just smacked her, she had no right to step to me like that. Security asked her to leave b/c she was trying to sneak in to see the President during our briefing with him and she doesn’t even work for the Embassy, please.

So we waited for 2 hours atleast and a little after 5:30 pm, the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama walked in, I think I turned into a 13 year old girl at a Justin concert because all I remember was being in shocked. I didn’t get to shake his hands, but just being able to listen him to talk, have him thank us for our service overseas, and live this experience was awesome, unforgetable and just as much inspiring as the day he took office. I will never forget it.


February 19, 2009

For the long 3 day weekend myself and 6 others set out on a adventure to the state of Chiapas.  Chiapas is the southernmot state of Mexico, has the highest population of indigenous peoples; the region alone speaks about 8 different languages and there are the Zapatistas (ELZN) the armed revoluntionary group based in Chiapas.   We left work on Friday, well 3 of us left together after work and took an 1 hour and 10 min. ride to Villahermosa airport were we rented a car and drove ourselves to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for the night.  Getting the car at Hertz, proved to be one of the most challenging aventures, but not surprisingly as things never seem to run according to any rules or regulations, but I won’t stray on that. 

The hotel was nice, we woke to meet our other 4 friends/colleagues for breakfast and hit the road for Palenque, a beautiul Maya ruin site.  The drive was about 2 hours, but well worth it!  The pyramids, plaza and structures were gorgeous where a small river ran through it.  I walked and climbed everything I cold in what must have been 90 degree hot burning weather.  After about 2 hours of exploring we stopped back into the main town for lunch, where my friend, Alla, and I split a delicious huge fish cooked with vegetables.  Next, we headed via our 2 rental cars to the jungle/rainforest towards the Guatemalan border that was about another 2 hour (lots of speed bumps) ride away to a hotel in the rainforest.   The hotel rooms had thatch roofs and mosquito nets to prevent lots of bug bites.  There we ate dinner and made arrangements for our next big day.  We struggled so much just to arrange for our breakfasts the next day as we soon realized that the workers didn’t even speak Spanish, but rather a Mayan language!

At 6 am we woke up the next morning and took a small boat that was about a 1 hour ride to Yaxchilan, a more undiscovered Maya ruin site.  Located far from the major cities and off the river in the jungle,Yaxchilan is one of the most magical places I have ever visited.  (see pictures!)  At 6 am we watched the sun rise as we sped on the boat.  We were the only people to have arrived so early, but well worth it as it was not so hot yet and we were able to discover the place on our own.  Yaxchilan had greenery growing everywhere, trees and roots had pressed its was through the pre-columbian architures of pyramids, temples and stones.  Sculptures of rulers had cracked and had been worn by the years and earth naturally.  The site was huge, at one point, I hiked up 300 feet to see more of the buildings, the small acropolis and other structures all along monkeys swang overhead, hollering, I kid you not, Monkeys were everywhere.

After about 2 hours of discovering this Mayan site, we checked out of the hotel in the rainforest and headed to Bonampak, another ancient Mayan archaeological site, that still has murals on the walls in the temples.  On the way out, we went back to the main town for lunch at a popular local restaurant wher I had some delicious grilled shrimp.  Next we headed to our final hotel, more of a resort in Palenque.  So tired, I jumped in the pool, ordered a margarita and chilled out, ending the night with a dinner with everyone. 

The next morning, only a few of us were up to it, we went to Agua Azules, the waterfalls.  This was a 1.5 hour windy drive that nearly made me car sick up through the mountains.  The sceney was gorgeous.  We of course were harassed for money, when people tried to put a rope up across the road to try to make us buy their products or to pay “tolls” “fees.”   Anyways, the waterfalls were gorgeous, I thought I was going to swim, but didn’t after 1) too tired, 2) too early and 3)the people in the town were rude and just wanted our money.  So after exploring the waterfalls, headed back down the 2 hour path to the hotel, went swimming and finally I drove back to Villahermosa so that we could send our 4 other friends off earlier on their flight,we went to the museum in town to check out the Olmec heads and then went back to Hilton Hotel to return the car, well no one was there, so we ate lunch there first and then got on our flight back to Mexico City Monday night! 

Check out the pictures on the following link:   http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=e91d4ro.cmh7qmjc&x=0&y=-b5a9lx&localeid=en_US