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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Oh, isn't that the worst feeling, when everyone else is talking and joking and you're just sitting there feeling like a moron? I've spent many a year like that (not always due to language gaps, either!). I remember an FSI Chinese New Year's party at which I was utterly miserable, too.

So start studying up, taitai! Soon you'll be shaming us all!


Be prepared to be snubbed for your spouse status in the Foreign Service, no matter how high-falutin' you are--the officers are often focused on networking with other officers and can't be bothered with anyone else. I've had FSOs look over my shoulder to see who their next target will be. ("Hello, what am I? Chopped liver?!) That's what they do. However, keep this thought in mind throughout your FS career...there will ALWAYS be at least one other person in that room who has no clue what's going on either. He/she has just learned to smile and chuckle knowingly when everyone else is doing the same. I think there's a course for that! Congrats on snagging the language gig.


Ok ray of hope here! It is not that bad at post! I generally don't go to official events with Dave and at casual events nobody is speaking the host country's language. They get enough of that at work. Also it is much more common for a spouse not to work in the FS than it is in America society in general. Not saying that you won't get people asking why you don't get a job, because you will, and you will want to strangle them, but I don't often have people walk away when they find out I am a stay at home mom (which has happened more than once in the states!)

Having language classes will help you so much at post. I am sure you have read enough blogs by now to realize that the spouse is the one who gets to go shopping, deal with hired help, people coming to the house to fix things, the phone ringing and the person on the other babbling in Mandarin, driving and reading the street signs....all without language training. Having any level of language competency will be an absolute blessing! Good luck!

PS I am so glad you shared that story with the world, sadly it happens to all of us EFMs sooner or later. It always helps to know you are not alone. Very brave move.


wow! Like I've said before, never a dull moment in your house. I'm thrilled for you! And how amazing that it is all working out in the end for everyone. Your boys are amazing! So are you! I can so understand that feeling you described and have also been there myself so I am SO GLAD you will be getting some Mandarin training yourself. Congrats!


I agree, worst feeling ever. And it's how I felt a lot my first 4 months at this post (cried tons and vented a lot on my blog which is one of the reasons I locked it). I did pretty well with the whole nod, pretend to get it, and use what little you have approach in Bolivia. Didn't work here though. You are so smart to get what you can now. It will help in the transition no matter what.

I've lived places where not having good language was fine and places where everyone looks at you like you have a second head if you don't speak. This place is in the later category. Couldn't do language at FSI because of child care issues and, since we were newbies, we didn't know about the Rosetta Stone and Fast course access until right before we left DC. Did the fast course once we got here and it made a huge difference but I still wish I could talk to local friends better. I think your 2/1 will be a huge asset for you.

I am SO glad that you are able to get in a class and that it will work out for your family, even though it may take some juggling. Gives me hope that maybe we can live through another language in about 10 years when my kids are teenagers.

Best of luck! You'll do awesome!


Awh Kolbi! HUGS!!


I am so happy for you. I am glad that you were able to get into a language class. Good luck with the next few weeks.


I think you were very smart to sign up for this class ... and am overjoyed that you got in!! I thankfully never needed language training at any of our 3 overseas postings - though if I did, I'd absolutely take it.

As everyone else has already said, you already feel like an outsider at some of these events by JUST being the spouse (oh it angers me so sometimes...), but to have a language barrier as well would potentially make it doubly difficult.

You also struck a chord with me as well with the question, "what do you do?" As if being a mom, a wife, a maid, a cook, a friend, a chauffeur, a lover, a fighter, a mediator, a personal shopper, a secretary, and a woman weren't enough?


Yey for you! So happy you were able to get in the November class! And yes, we spouses, often don't get the same treatment as FSO's even though the transition at post can be just as hard, if not harder, on us than on the FSOs themselves. After all, they have an instant network at the embassy/consulate and we have to start from scratch every time.

At least, with this class, you will know the language and that's one less thing to worry about.

Best of luck!!!


HOW COOL that you get to learn Chinese FINALLY!!! And your boys still get to be home schooled! I will miss seeing your smiling face on here (and other "gathering" places) but am super excited for you and this new adventure!


First of all, don't let the Moon Festival thing get you down. I don't think most people mean anything offensive by asking what you do (well, unless they're asking after you've said you're a stay-at-home mom, then they're just jerks); it's just unthinking habit. That said, having read stuff similar to this on various blogs, I try really hard not to ask that question in that way if I meet someone's spouse (though I might ask if they're planning on working at post or something, but it's just in the interest of making conversation). I think it's partially the product of being immersed in an environment with a lot of Type-A people where everyone seems to have their career on their mind. And I'm sorry I didn't track you guys down and introduce myself- by the time I got over to the reception, it was kind of a mob scene (plus we were given an assignment to talk to a bunch of the instructors in Chinese- soon, this will be your life!).

The spouses of my A-100 classmates have been uniformly awesome people. I love hanging out with them, and I can't imagine not wanting to talk to someone or blowing them off because I found out they're an EFM. I'm probably just being naive because I'm an ELO, but really? I don't know, my parents raised me better than that. Seriously, screw those people. They're not worth your time in the first place. I know that's easier said than done when you're at post and the opportunities for socialization are limited, but still....

Anyway, just my (probably excessively blunt) two cents.


So glad you got a language class! And I absolutely KNOW that you and your guys will make it happen! It will be a challenge, as juggling things can be, but a challenge I am confident y'all will weather and come out the better for it.

It's weird about the wife/mom thing. I'm less defensive about being a wife/mom than I am about my previous occupation (it was NOT a career -- it was a means to get Hubby through grad school.) But I have been a little more uptight about sharing that we homeschool. For whatever reason. . . even though the last time it came up, of all the women in that group who had kids, each said that their FS kids asked to be hs'd. So. . . *shrug* Maybe I need to let my defenses down a little?

Btw, I would love to know the history and who the forces were behind having h/sing become a more acceptable option for FS families. . . While I think it is only just to have a h/s reimbursement as there is boarding school or private school reimbursement overseas, it is still amazing and a really progressive that DoS includes it in their education policies.

Melissa V

Hooraay for your Chinese class! I'm jealous - we're trying to figure out now how to get a little bit of a head start before next September.

A Daring Adventure

Thank you SO much, you guys, for all of your support!

@Donna- Seriously? Do I need to out you publicly for all of your amazing awesomeness? You are fluent in, what, six languages? Something like that? Never mind your awesome writing skillz and gigz? There's no *way* I will *ever* put you to shame.

@Sheri - I'm sure you have to be right that there was someone else there, also, who didn't have a clue what was going on. I looked to try to see another hapless spouse, but I didn't see anyone. :( But thank you for the support. You have so much more experience than I'll ever have!

@ Shannon- You don't do "the official stuff" alongside Dave? That makes me feel better. I don't really know what the official stuff is, of course, not having been overseas yet. :) And it's nice to know that, when overseas, there's less judgment about staying at home.

@ Bridget- Thank you! You're always so encouraging!

@ Becky- Absolutely... I always say (and I always mean it!) that the older the children get, the better/easier life gets. Seriously. I would NEVER wind back that clock. And yes, I feel horrible for any mom who wants to go to FSI with little ones. FSI charges a MORTGAGE PAYMENT per child. I just can't even BELIEVE how expensive child care is. It blows my mind. So I feel very fortunate that I don't have to worry about that with my guys.

@ Sam/Emily- Hey, you guys! Thanks! Hugs!

@ Jill- Oh, yes. The laundry list of what we "do" as stay-at-home-moms is quite, quite long. And extensive.

@ Daniela- Thank you! And I very much hope that you get into language training, also, and that all goes well for you on your hoping-to-be-tandem path. :)

@ Melissa- Thank you! I'm going to try really hard not to completely disappear online. We'll see what I can pull off...

@ Diplogeek- Oh, girl, you KNOW I'm grateful for your input and comments. And you know- I might not have done such a good job describing the scene where the guy asked me what "I do." Yes, he was just being conversational, truly, and yes, it actually made sense to ask me that. I mean, we're in a HUGE room full of Chinese students. Sure, some EFMs take Chinese, but the very high likelihood was that I was also an employee in the class. No, no, no... he didn't ask me that AFTER I'd told him that I was a stay-at-home-mom. He wasn't rude at all. I was the one who was socially awkward- I was already so upset, and it's actually VERY hard for me (and other stay-at-home-moms) to be in social situations where we have to tell other people (who have great careers!) that... we're... *just* stay-at-home-moms. It's very - humbling. And difficult.

@ TulipGirl- I totally hear you about the homeschooling thing. I feel like... I don't know... a cave woman sometimes in modern social circles. That's why I just out and tell the world at large that James and I have an 1800's marriage. It sort of helps people smile. Because I'm wholeheartedly agreeing that the one-income-family, wife-stays-at-home, and HOMESCHOOLS-THE-CHILDREN thing is sort of out of antiquity.

Yes, I have a VERY hard time also telling people that we homeschool. This is because there really isn't a whole lot that anyone can graciously say to that in response, other than, "Oh!" -or- "Wow!" or something equally monosyllabic. If they say, "Geez, I could never do that!" then what, exactly, am I to say to THAT? It's a conundrum.

However, I have less of a problem defending myself than a lot of other homeschooling mothers. I have so much advanced coursework in so many different subjects that I can verbally body slam anyone to the floor if they go down the road of questioning my "qualifications" to homeschool. Those sorts of conversations are, actually, rather amusing. Not, of course, that I think that a homeschooling mother can be unqualified - but what I mean to say is that I can totally (TOTALLY) hold my own if the conversation turns in that direction!!

@ Melissa - Oh, girl, I totally hear you. I'm trying my best to gather together lots of different Chinese sources. I'm going to try to post them, soon. Congrats on your new assignment! :)



You know, if homeschooling is something "out of antiquity," then, to me at least, that means it's a good thing. In the long view of history, it's the norm. Public schools weren't common in the USA until the 1880s, and the trend (back) to homeschooling started to take off around 2000. I'm sure that when historians look back a hundred years from now, state schooling will be seen as an aspect of the Industrial Age, along with mass manufacturing and mass communications, and homeschooling will be seen as a leading indicator of the Information Age, with individuals supporting themselves via on-line resources and creating virtual networks. So you're really very futuristic!



I'm enrolled in a class at FSI that will meet November 3 to November 5. Since you'll be there that week for Chinese, and since I assume you and James will have the usual noon-ish lunch break, how about we meet for lunch one of those days?

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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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