Hello and Happy New Year! It’s been about a month since my last post, but I have a good reason. We’ve just returned from our first official R&R! If you’re new to Foreign Service blogs, R&Rs are granted as a break from your current country based on the level of hardship associated with it.

So if you’re in London, there is no R&R. Our entry-level post in Belize has one R&R. If you’re spending a year in Iraq, I believe you get two R&Rs, etc. R&R is not a free vacation; they only pay for the plane ticket. So you have to use your existing vacation time. I think it’s great. They understand that travel is expensive, and if you don’t get away at least once, you might lose it. Plus it’s supposed to be revitalizing and makes you more pleasant to work with.

For our one and only R&R in Belize, we chose to go back to California and visit family for the holidays. The visit was great. Our son got to meet grandparents and aunts and uncles that he hadn’t seen yet, so he is now loved by a whole new group of people. And we were excited to see them too, as it’s been close to five years since we’d last been together.

And we got some good vacationing in. Belize doesn’t have a movie theater, so I got to see Les Miserables with the girls, and my hubby and I went to The Hobbit on a date night. They were both fantastic, and I highly recommend them. We also hit some fast food places like In & Out Burger, McDonald’s and Taco Bell, as well as some yummy local restaurants such as Italian Cottage (a great Northern California chain since 1965), the restaurant in the Sierra Nevada Brewery, and newer ones like the T. Bar & Fusion Café, the Spice Creek Café, and Crush.

We did miss a few things that I was hoping to hit like La Comida (Mexican, ironically), Zot’s Hot Dogs, Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins. But we only had two weeks that spanned two holidays. So lots of things were closed…including my childhood playground in the park downtown. I was so disappointed the day we went that our son couldn’t see it. Hopefully next time.

But my hubby still managed to get his hair cut, and we did a bit of shopping in Target and spent about four hours in the Arden Mall in Sacramento. It’s a weird feeling wanting to buy everything in sight because you’re finally in a decent commercial area, but then realizing that you’re going to either drag everything back in your luggage or ship it, so you might as well order it from home. And you end up doing a lot of window shopping instead.

Unfortunately, the trip itself was a bit of a nightmare physically and logistically. We bought a special rolling car seat attachment, so we could bring it on the plane and not have to bring a stroller. But the wheel broke on our way to board the plane in Belize. So we got to carry the broken piece of junk, the giant car seat, and the baby, in addition to our carry-on luggage, all through the Dallas airport. On the way back, we checked the car seat in a special bag, and the airline lost it altogether but recovered it the next day and delivered it to us in a taxi cab.

We were also sick the entire vacation. Not with the flu that’s sweeping the nation, but with a good old-fashioned head and chest cold. I didn’t have any problems landing in Dallas with my head congestion, but Sacramento was a different story. Apparently the pressure in my ears had increased, and my ear drum actually ruptured during our descent. So I spent the next 10 days with partial hearing loss and feeling like I had someone’s finger stuck in my ear. We also had some tummy troubles as we weren’t used to all the rich and processed food. I guess it helped keep the holiday weight gain down.

On the way back, we missed our return flight out of Sacramento, which was totally my fault. Through the entire vacation, I could’ve sworn we were leaving at 6:30am, but it was actually 6:00. And 30 minutes is simply not enough time to go through check-in, take the tram, and go through security at SMF. I turn into some kind of feral animal when I’m late for a flight, so I will just say that I am not proud of my behavior in the airport. But my husband was awesome and amazingly patient, which is kind of a role reversal for us. Our son was actually really well behaved for getting dragged out of his travel crib at 4am, even if he was a little fussy and wept quietly on an off in a security line that was twice as long as it should be at 5:45am.

Miraculously there was an identical flight three gates down that had been cancelled and rescheduled from the day before. So were able to jump on that one and make it back to our midway point. The connecting flight out of Dallas was delayed for two hours as someone had puked on the plane, then the cleaners had dumped a ton of chemicals on it that had sent one of the flight attendants to the hospital. So they eventually gave us a whole new aircraft. And we eventually landed safe and sound back in Belize…where we crept down the dark Western Highway… at 30 miles per hour…in the pouring rain…until we… finally…made it…home.

But it was worth it. 🙂