Category Archives: Third Culture Kids

Sunshine, Sand and Sea Lions!

Sometimes, people think that if you have seen the world, you might not have any interest in your own country. This is so not true! I love to travel in America. There’s so much of it I haven’t seen yet. Continue reading Sunshine, Sand and Sea Lions!

Goodbye, Crazy Old Cat

A few months ago I wrote about Huckle, our not overly bright, directionally challenged, accident-prone, Czech barn cat. I started that post as a sort of epitaph, as he had disappeared from our roof a few days previously and I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing him again.

Well, he found his way home that time, just like he had the previous two times he’d wandered off. At 15 years old, with no teeth, 2/3 of a tail, and a healing rib from a seven-story fall, he traveled back to Arlington with us to happily lie around a nice, warm apartment on his favorite serape.

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But all was not well. Soon after we arrived, I noticed that he was breathing heavily, and seemed to be losing weight. So, in September, I took him to the vet, and they diagnosed hyperthyroidism and congestive heart failure. Medication helped a lot with his symptoms, but the vet was honest with me that he probably didn’t have more than a year left.

This presented a potential problem for moving to Warsaw next summer. I quietly hoped that the decision would not be left up to me: whether to drag him to Europe once again or put him down for the “needs of the service.”

Still, it was a shock when upon our return from a short Christmas trip to Nashville, Huckle’s breathing was labored and he didn’t look too good. He was still eating, drinking, and using the litterbox, but he was clearly wiped out. I called the vet the next morning, and she put him back on the diuretic he had been on previously (not sure why they took him off it in the first place) in an effort to reduce the congestion in his chest.

But, two doses didn’t help, and while we were watching TV that night, he started to go downhill fast. He was panting, restless, and hiding in corners in that ominous way that cats do when they know their time is up.

Around 10 p.m. we took him to the emergency vet. They put him in an oxygen tent which made him more comfortable, and offered to surgically drain his chest, but advised us that  it probably would not work for long, and it would be better to put him down.

I’m not a believer in extreme measures to save geriatric pets, and so it was not actually so difficult to decide to let him go. It was a tough night, though. 15 years is probably the longest I have ever had a pet, and my daughter, home from graduate school, had known Huckle for most of her life. He was always “her” cat. She and I stayed with Huckle for the procedure and said goodbye to him. I just wonder if he held out for those last few days while we were away so that we could be there to help him along.

So, both of our kids’ childhood pets are now gone. It’s the end of an era, in a way.

Goodbye crazy old cat. You were never the sharpest tool in the shed, but you were the cuddliest cat we ever had—and you loved us with all your simple kitty heart. I hope there is a sunny spot on the sofa for you wherever you are.

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Flashback to Guatemala: And Then There Were Three

About a year and half into our Guatemalan tour, our daughter was born. And, like many Foreign Service babies, she was an instant rock star.

Unsurprisingly, two very white, blonde people produced a blue-eyed blonde daughter. You know, like this, except not so well-dressed.

nino de pragaThe Nino de Praga is just one of the many blue-eyed, blonde characters in Catholic iconography. So, take a blue-eyed, blonde baby to Catholic, family-oriented, Latin America and what do you get?

¡Mira que linda! ¡Que angelita!

The angel in question.
The angel in question, fresh from heaven.

Rachel got lots of attention everywhere we went, starting in the hospital, where she was the star attraction in the nursery. Later, while we were out and about, people would ask to borrow her to show the cooks in the kitchen, or a friend in the next tienda over. We joke that Rachel thought her name was Que Linda until we left the country. I am sure it was one reason she was so smiley. She got smiled at a lot.

It’s all a bit racist, I do realize that. But, to be fair, in a country with a majority indigenous and mestizo country, a blue-eyed blonde baby is pretty unusual. Especially in the mountain towns, because really, how many people who look like us take their tiny baby to Totonicapán or Patzún?

When Rachel was a few weeks old, my family came to visit. My dad and brother are big guys, both over six feet tall. They helped out by popping Rachel in the Snugli while we explored mountain villages. Not only had the locals rarely seen a man carrying a baby, they had certainly never seen such a large man carrying a baby strapped to him as a woman would. The petite ladies of the towns could not stop staring and giggling. It was pretty hilarious.

My brother toting the baby in Antigua Guatemala.
My brother toting the baby in Antigua Guatemala.
My dad chilling with a cerveza along the road to Coban.
My dad chilling with a cerveza along the road to Coban.
Best family photo ever, on top of a Mayan temple at Iximche
Best family photo ever: grandmother, mom, dad, brother, on top of a Mayan temple at Iximche.

The last few months in Guatemala are a bit of a blur for me, for obvious reasons. My husband’s parents came to visit after my own did (with the first grandchild on both sides, we were very popular that way) and we had some great trips with both families to various towns. There was a quite a bit of shopping, as I recall!

My grandmother trying on huipiles (native blouses)
My grandmother trying on huipiles (native blouses)
Textiles in the market
Textiles in the market
Shopping for huipiles with my mother-in-law
Shopping for huipiles with my mother-in-law.
I bought three of these masks. They wear Santa hats every Christmas.
I bought three of these masks. They wear Santa hats every Christmas.
Jewelry for sale on the ferry to Santiago Atitlan
Jewelry for sale on the ferry to Santiago Atitlan

I got a lot of advice on babies as well. I was still too shy to breastfeed in public, so if I sat down to give Rachel a bottle, I’d get asked “porque no le da pecho?” (Why don’t you give her the breast?) And for heavens’ sakes woman, put a hat on that child!

And this kind lady showed me the proper way to carry a baby when she saw her fussing in the silly American backpack.

Best baby photo ever.
Best baby photo ever.

A baby was a great icebreaker, too. When kids wanted to look at her, I’d ask to take photos. I’m really glad I did, because I’m so enjoying looking at them now!

Pretty girls.
Pretty girls.
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Gorgeous.
Mamacita and baby sister.
Mamacita and baby sister.
In Santiago Atitlan.
In Santiago Atitlan.
Blind street singers. I've always liked this photo.
Blind street singers. I’ve always liked this photo. They were good, too.

And finally, diplomatic passport number three arrived, and it was all over. We were all off to a much less colorful and interesting country, alas!

Little did she know how often she'd be using that passport!
Little did she know how often she’d be using that passport!