This is us.  The one showing lots of shoulder (in her Chengdu, China Marine Ball ball gown!) is the EFM who writes this blog. The one wearing a tux (James) is the employee who moves her (and their two sons) around all over the world. The red link, below, is how you can get in touch with me...

The time in Chengdu, China

Chengdu: city of fabulous food and beautiful Buddhist monasteries!
Yes, Beijing's Forbidden City (pictured, above) is really pretty and all, but I like Chengdu much better than Beijing!

In Our Same Boat (with State)

  • Beyond the Cornfields
    Brand-new State Department family in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Love their two little girls (she just recently had a baby while being posted in Dhaka), horticulture, traveling and adventure!
  • Email From The Embassy
    State Department family formerly in Beijing, China, and recently posted to Amman, Jordan. A trailing spouse, she's also a writer, and frequently publishes articles with major news sources. A very experienced State family, this new post is something like overseas post number six or seven for them.
  • Just US
    A beautiful family of seven - they have arrived at their new post: Jerusalem! They just finished off an unaccompanied tour to Iraq and are very much looking forward to sightseeing around the middle east.
  • Our Life
    State Department family on their second post...Tijuana, Mexico. It's their first overseas assignment and they have two little boys. They love Tijuana so far and post pictures frequently! They also get to enjoy the best of both worlds for they can sneak over the border into San Diego when they want to!
  • The Dinoia Family
    State Department family formerly in California, now in DC for a DC tour. Next, the husband will do a one year unaccompanied tour. A very experienced State family (formerly in Iceland and Caracas) with a blog that has been around quite a while and has great archives. Jen has a sweet heart and a lot to give!
  • The Perlman Update
    State Department family formerly in Chennai, India, who then did a year-long unaccompanied tour in Iraq. They are now on a DC tour and after that will do another unaccompanied tour (Afghanistan). She totally tells it like it is and doesn't sugar-coat what life is really like. Witty, snarky, funny and down-to-earth. Look elsewhere if you want fake. Read if you want REAL.
  • Where in the World Am I?
    State Department family formerly in Bujumbura, Burundi and now in Hyderabad, India. They just had their first baby this summer - a beautiful little girl- (there's a separate blog about this) and she also eats gluten-free (with a separate blog, also).
One of the most intriguing things about Chengdu is that it is a seamless blend of ancient and modern... all together, side by side.

Can't Live Without (non-State)

  • Crass-Pollination: An ER blog
    The best ER nurse blog EVER!
  • Doctor Grumpy in the House
    The best doctor blog EVER!
  • In Which...
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of seven. Her darling daughters are, goshdarnit, probably too young to be hoped for as my future daughters-in-law.
  • The Crib Chick
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of five. Hopefully two (Any two! I'm not picky!) of which are my future daughters-in-law.
  • the underwear drawer
    An anesthesiologist who is possibly the most talented & entertaining writer ever. I've read her blog ever since she started medical school. No, don't know her in real life. Wish I did.
  • The Bloggess
    This blog is both hysterically funny and hilariously irreverent. I actually let my 17 year old son read it (who loves it as much as I do!), but wouldn't even CONSIDER letting my 12 year old son read it. Which is about all the description it needs!
The grounds of Chengdu monasteries can be very, very peaceful...even though they are smack dab in the heart of a city of millions of people.


Yes, there are Starbucks in Chengdu! All over the place, in fact. So much so, Starbucks even crafted mugs for Chengdu stores!
Texan bluebonnets. Because I learned during our very first posting (Houston) that there's nothing prettier in the spring than the meadows of Texas.
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The cool thing about all this is that, ...well, remember your theological roots and you'll know what I'd write. :)

Dora Moreland

Dear Daring Adventure,

I am a fellow homeschooling mom. I found your blog and so far I have enjoyed reading about your adventures. If I may, I would like to share my 2 cents. If it is causing you so much anguish to send you kids to school, so you can get Mandarin language training, even though it seems to me, it is your husband who is required to do so, then why not get Rosetta Stone (they have Mandarin) and do that with your kids as part of school? Your hubby can always fill you in about what he learned and teach it to you guys, it will be good for him, since he will learn the material even better. I am sorry, I know I am giving advice where it may be unwanted and I may not know all the underlying issues this decision was based on. I just felt really bad for you when I read how upset you were. Good luck to you and wish you the best.


Had no idea that's how the language classes for spouses worked. How totally infuriating. It drives me mad that the powers-that-be make it so hard for spouses. After all we have to go to the grocery store in a foreign language, run errands in a foreign language, take care of everything that needs to be done to make a house run in a foreign language. God forbid we actually have a chance to LEARN that language.


goodness, what ridiculous limbo. I'm so sorry that's what you're going through right now. I just really appreciate your sharing all of these (mis)adventures; you really help those of us who are still waiting to get in :) understand what it's all about. I hope it works out the way that is best for you and your family. hugs.

A Daring Adventure

Hello, Dora,

Your comment was so kind and heartfelt - thank you! But maybe I haven't explained well enough.

Our family actually does have access to the Rosetta Stone Mandarin program. But nothing can even remotely compare with being in the same full-time, year-long class with my husband. Being in the class with my husband would take me to, basically, fluency.

On one hand, being in that class would be the opportunity of a lifetime, and if there's room for me, I will jump at it. However, it's hard because - because of this lifestyle, I really never "saw it coming" that last year could be my last year of homeschooling the children. So I've been going through a mourning process, if you will.

Also, the post we're going to doesn't have much English around, if any, so I've been told by many people who know that the more Chinese I can have before I get to post, the better life will be for me.

And maybe my children would *like* school. And maybe my children would *hate* school. But I know you understand my mourning process. :) And of COURSE, I welcome your thoughts! Advice is never unwanted. And thanks for reading!


@ Shannon - I've been told that if there are "lots of complaints," that things might change back to they way that they were (with language classes being enlarged to make room for spouses). But that it is, in the end, a budgetary concern.


Hmmm, knowing what I do about State, I would register the kids for school. Even if they tell you some time over the summer that you won't be in the class, you really won't know for sure until the first day. People could get shuffled around at any time and another spot could open up after they tell you it's full. For the school registration, is there any medical stuff that's the same as the medical clearance? Doubling up on that could make the registration a little easier.

Is it a full-day class? I thought all language classes were only four hours. Does a half-day not give enough time for schooling with the boys for the other half?


I don't envy you. Andy's in the same situation with language classes or finding a job in DC. We're down to about two weeks before the class is scheduled to start, and we still can't get a definite answer about whether there will be space for him. From what I hear, we may not know for sure until the Friday before classes start. Frustrating.


Ah, you don't want to hear my Spanish language class story...but I'll tell you anyway...we couldn't afford $800 plus a month in daycare fees to send Cait to daycare while I took Spanish w/Peter (back in the early days and NO FSI daycare at all). Instead I signed up for a morning (EARLY morning) class at FSI..I had just enough time to take the class and get home in time for Pete to leave for his language class.

I showed up the first day (all signed up, of course) to find out they had switched the class to MAIN STATE. Livid didn't describe it. No one contacted me (or Pete) and driving to and from Main State would add 30 minutes to the commute...and ensure Peter would be late for his class.

It was Spanish, I learned it at post by immersing myself (and took classes at the Embassy), but didn't change the fact that there was something very wrong with the way things went with the whole class at FSI deal.


Oh, my. . . you have a knack of taking the craziness, uncertainty, emotion-laden things of life, state, and motherhood -- and making me laugh!

Seriously, smiling all through this post, though I know it really is complex. . .

Were I in your shoes, boy, I hope I'd be handling it with the skill and humor you are. . .

A Daring Adventure

@ Stephanie - Actually, if we start talking about time schedules, the issues grows yet worse. This is because there are two different class schedules we may be facing, and the Chinese department doesn't yet know which time schedule the 44 week Mandarin class may be.

The first time schedule is from 7:40 am through 2:30 pm in total. That's the early schedule. The class would go from 7:40 to 10:30, then a two hour break for lunch and self-study, and then resume from 12:40 to 2:30 in the afternoon. So that's one language schedule.

The other language schedule is from 10:40 am to 5:30 pm in total, with the class meeting from 10:40 to 12:30... and having a two-hour break for lunch and self-study... and then meeting again from 2:40 to 5:30.

As I've said, we don't even know which time slot the class will meet in. But, either way, most of the day is gone. In the early schedule, I'd be away from home from easily 7 to 3 something in the afternoon; the other way from easily 10 to 6 something in the evening.


@ Alex - Thank you so very much for sharing with me what is going on with you and Andy. I've been thinking of you guys and hoping that Andy gets in. To know that you're down to two weeks prior and STILL don't know - ? I just... really hope that Andy gets into French. And I'm sorry this is all so complicated.


@ Jen - Jen, I've now heard a rumor that daycare at FSI is TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH. Which I can't even FATHOM.

And thank you for telling me your Spanish story. I just... can't even imagine. I guess that means that you never got to take the class? *sigh*


@ TG - Please. You handle anything FAR better than I do.


My husband is currently trying to get into ConGen. So far he's been waitlisted twice, told to show up in the morning, and "see if there are any available seats." It's the same deal where he only gets a spot if there are extra places in an existing class. No seats the first time; trying again next week. We share your frustration.

Becky Watt

Another State Dept. spouse here. Just wanted to wish you good luck getting into class. I hope it works out for you. You are smart to get any Chinese you can before you go. I don't know if it'll be any help but we use materials from betterchinese .com in our homeschool studies and it helps a ton. Our kids are younger but the older level stuff looks good too. Haven't used it though so I can't say for sure. As I have been reading your posts, it looks like you are already making great progress. Jia you!

A Daring Adventure

@ RK - Oh my gosh, RK, the whole ConGen for spouses thing is its own separate circle of hell.

When we first got here a month or so ago, I came with high hopes that I could get into a ConGen class. Then I found out about all the insane hoops you had to jump through. Taking tests to show that you're not an idiot... to prove that you can speak the English language... that you can actually learn something from a book...

Getting the employee spouse's SIGNATURE on the ConGen application, as though the spouse isn't their own person...

Then, after all that, I heard that there were over 35 people on the wait list. I decided: no thanks. Just: NO THANKS. So kudos to your husband for going through all of the ridiculousness, and I truly hope he gets a class. I was thinking to making the whole ConGen for Spouses thing its own blog post, because it's so truly absurd, but I have to wait until I'm not seething or it may just be too ugly to print.


It’s Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up – and you’re on it!

Here is the link:

(If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)



I hate not knowing! Especially when it comes to impact to the family... sigh... I hope you get answers and SOON!


On the class scheduling thing, I may be able to help. I was actually previously enrolled in the September Mandarin class, but have since been shifted to an earlier class that they've just created to allow some of us newbies to get to post and get as much language as they can stuff into us by next May.

Something may have changed since I was scheduled for that September class, but I was literally pulled out and put in the earlier class a week ago, so hopefully not. Prior to that, my FSI schedule showed that the class started on the earlier, 7:30 schedule. I wouldn't take that to the bank or anything, but that's what I saw when obsessively checking my registration schedule to see if I was going to have to find a way to fill up a bunch of gap time.

Oh, and I'm a brand new FSO and have no idea how most of this stuff works, but depending on your family schedule, would it be possible for you to start Chinese earlier? If so, would they let you into a class earlier than your spouse's? Maybe you could get into the August class.

Good luck getting everything squared away!

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James loves me. And our sons. And his job. But not having his picture taken. In 2011 he finished up over a year and half of training, and in the fall of 2011 we got to our first overseas post - Chengdu, China!
Mao says hi! Because Chengdu is one of the only cities in China with a Mao statue.
Flowers are like friends. Each one is unique. Each one is beautiful. They brighten up everything around them. And you can never have too many. 

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2012 is the Year of the Dragon, y'all! Talk about the ultimate in good luck! This kinda party only comes around once every twelve years!
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Colorful! (Inside a Chengdu ancient Buddhist monastery.)
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