The baggage carousel jerked to life, and the second bag that trundled up the belt was mine. “Right out of the gate, that never happens!” I exclaimed to the man next to me. “Well, all right,” he responded with a smile. I had landed in San Francisco on a Saturday mid-morning after a fairly comfortable 11.5 hour flight from Seoul. However, I hadn’t slept for two nights in a row, and I still had a three hour drive ahead of me.
It’s Saturday…all over again, I thought, noting the 17 hours I’d just gained after spending all Saturday morning, afternoon and early evening in Seoul. I noticed myself getting almost giddily distracted by the fact that everyone around me was speaking English. Focus, I told myself, and wheeled my baggage towards the air tram.
I picked up my rental car, an SUV with all-wheel drive and satellite radio, and headed northeast towards the Sierra Nevadas. It’s always good when traveling in the mountains during winter to have a well-equipped vehicle. The music I can only justify by saying that I hadn’t been in the U.S. in nine months and wanted to see songs by name!
My plan was to make it to my mom’s house by late afternoon. During the first ninety minutes I felt great. My mind was clear, and I ate lunch. I made it across to the east bay, and on up through the valley. But slowly and steadily, everything started looking like an old flickery movie. Then I suddenly hallucinated a woman standing on the side of the road. I blinked, and she was gone.
Nope. Putting on my turn signal, I took the next exit. Finding a safe public place to park, I laid my seat back and set my alarm for an hour’s snooze. My back and left leg throbbed, and as usual, I ignored the pain.
Eventually, with a huge diet soda and a huge coffee on board, I rolled up in front of my mom’s house – just in time for a delicious home-cooked dinner.
I hadn’t seen my mom since last September when we’d said goodbye at the airport in Moscow, and it was hard to go to bed when I got a second wind from visiting with her. But go to bed I eventually did.
My last posts on social media showed me in Tashkent. But like my brief time in Seoul, I was still hiding, about to pull off the most epic surprise for my dad’s 70th birthday. Given that his birthday actually falls towards the end of February, he wasn’t suspecting a thing.
The surprise weekend had actually already started for my dad. As I’d made my way north that Saturday, my stepbrother B had been heading several hours south towards Monterey, showing up at my dad and stepmom’s house “unexpectedly” in the middle of the afternoon. My stepmom summoned my dad home from his bike ride, and given that B lives a distance away, my dad was indeed surprised.
That same night as I recovered from my flights at my mom’s house, B took his mom and my dad out to dinner in Monterey where my other stepbrother J and his girlfriend H, who live in San Diego, were waiting to surprise them at a restaurant. I didn’t get to see that, but everyone told me he was so surprised and happy to see them and that they enjoyed a great meal together. Little did my dad know that his surprise weekend with *all* four of his far-flung kids was only getting started!
I woke up very early on Sunday, feeling jet-lagged but happy. Rolling out from my mom’s around 07:00, I texted my brother C, I’m on the road. His reply came quickly back, Me too. C, who lives in the same town as my mom, happened to be on a work trip in southern California, and so we were making our way to Monterey separately. It would take us roughly 4-5 hours each, meeting in the middle to spring our trap.
The plan was that after church, my stepmom would lead my dad to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey under the guise of showing around the visiting B, J and H. We had a reservation for seven at a beautiful seafood restaurant on the pier that I had arranged weeks before, all the way from Uzbekistan. My dad is a marine enthusiast who has lived in the Monterey area for more than twenty years, still logging multiple scuba dives and coastal bike rides per week, and still volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium feeding fish and cleaning tanks.
Getting my dad down to the shore normally wouldn’t be hard. But I found out later that he was tired from biking about one hundred miles cumulatively that week and had wanted a nap after church! My stepmom had apparently needed to twist his arm a little bit to keep him from messing up the lunch surprise.
Unaware of all this, I arrived in the area first, checked in with the maître d’, and scouted hiding places around the wharf. J kept me apprised via text message of my dad and stepmom’s movements, while C came in hot and nearly an hour later than he’d planned due to a GPS failure. Hiding his very recognizable truck in a random parking garage, he nearly crossed paths with my dad as he ran to meet me in the hiding place.
I couldn’t help but giggle from exhaustion and adrenaline as C and I lurked around in a wharf alley, spying on my stepmom, dad, B, J and H as they casually strolled along the pier. The moment came and C stepped out, walking up to them with his hood up. I could hardly see from my vantage point without being caught, but I snuck glances as my dad put his arms around my brother and laughed, looking totally caught off-guard. Apparently my dad said, “What are you doing here?” and C laughed, “I came to see you! What else would I be doing here?” Hilarious.
Atttacting glances from passers-by with my overly warm black coat and my dark glasses, I realized I probably looked nuts but it was just too funny. Peeping around the corner and gauging the scene, I finally made my move, tiptoeing up and standing right between H and B while my dad obliviously talked to C, unaware of my presence. My stepmom started to laugh, and take pictures, as we all waited for my dad to turn around and notice my arrival.
Still talking with C, my dad pivoted back to the group, but looked right through me. Smiling politely, inquisitively, as if wondering who this blonde woman was who had joined the group. “Look who it is!” my stepmom said. I removed my sunglasses. My dad’s face was still smiling, rather blankly, with a hint of a question mark in the angle at which he held his head.
Then a look of total shock passed across his face and he did a strong double-take. After a moment, he said, “How did this happen?” I said, “Surprise, Dad!” And just like that, our 2 years and 1.5 months without seeing each other came to an end.
We stood there for a few minutes on the pier and laughed, and everyone hugged. Then I heard my dad say to my stepmom that he wanted to sit down because he thought he was going to faint, and I felt really bad. “Let’s have lunch!” I suggested. He agreed, and off we went across the pier. It took us almost a half an hour to calm down enough to order.
It was so funny to me that it didn’t occur to my dad that my coming to the United States was possible. If I can go to Russia and the Maldives and Bosnia and all the other places I’ve been going during my first diplomatic tour, I can certainly come home, too! Perhaps the trip home is the easiest and most important of all. My dad is the guy who sometimes thinks it’s a pain to get in the car and drive for a couple of hours, so me flying one way for more than 20 hours in a metal tube at 700 mph to get to him kind of blew his mind.
We had a really special lunch together as a family, and then we all went back to my dad and stepmom’s house to watch the Super Bowl. Since my stepmom was celebrating her birthday that week too, I gave her and my dad some gifts that I’d brought back from Russia and Uzbekistan for them, including an old Soviet “view master” with scenes of Leningrad that my husband had found for her in Yangiobod bazaar.
I was sure to let my stepmom know how much I appreciated her help with pulling off this most epic of surprises. I tried to put myself into her shoes and my dad’s shoes: welcoming home their four adult children and sharing in the joy of a family that we have all worked hard to build since the early 1990s.
Our stepfamily has seen its share of conflict and growing pains.
We have had the screaming matches, the splits down blood lines, the mistakes, the misunderstandings, and the regrets on all sides that are common in stepfamilies. A stepfamily is borne of loss: the breakup of the nuclear family, and sometimes more than one. No one wakes up one day and wishes to be a stepmom – or a stepdaughter. I am both, and I know. And yet with hard work to understand each person’s role and perspective in the new configuration, with the celebration of shared life events, with empathy and understanding, with protection for the fragility of these relationships, with fun and humor, and with the passage of years, we have worked together to build a successful stepfamily that is ours. In our family everyone has a place, permanent and irrevocable.
My stepbrothers stood side by side with my brother C in my wedding. I have watched my stepmom care for my dad and add value to his life for years. And as we sat around and caught up with one another, I was reminded again how much I love these people and am proud to call them my family.
My stepbrothers eventually took off, and my brother and I had an overnight there before caravaning back north the following afternoon (Monday) in our separate cars. The weather was poor for the second half of the trip, with heavy rain and low visibility. We proceeded slowly, and arrived tired and annoyed, and particularly annoyed that we were not together in the same car. (If you’re keeping track, you may have noted that by the third day of my “rest and recuperation” trip I had already logged about 13 hours on the road. Just saying.)
Tuesday was a busy day for me, with medical appointments back-to-back starting first thing in the morning. The most important thing I did was see about my left foot, which has been virtually crippled by arthritis for more than a year.
As I may have mentioned in the past, I had a difficult choice to make in order to serve in Uzbekistan. I had to cease taking my Enbrel injections before starting this tour due to Uzbekistan’s endemic tuberculosis burden. Enbrel, which suppresses the body’s inflammatory response, would leave me open to tuberculosis infection. I had previously been using Enbrel for several years to control psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disorder which causes the body to attack healthy joints and tissue.
Unfortunately, within about five months at post, the lack of Enbrel, despite alternative treatment, led to a drastic inflammation in my body which manifested in one of my toes and over the course of the following year, the joint was completely destroyed. Since February of 2016, I have not been able to wear shoes other than open-toed sandals and some moccasins and boots with large, padded toe boxes. Let it sink in a moment that I am a diplomat, working in an embassy, and I can’t wear heels or even ballet flats. It has been absolutely awful and discouraging for me. I knew serving at this post would be a medical hardship, but I didn’t think it would be this bad and start so soon.
During my appointment, the podiatrist removed the dead tissue and destroyed joint, and part of the toe bone to encourage healing. He also started to treat what he suspected was a low-grade infection. He told me what I already knew: the joint had died, gotten infected, and the infection had spread to the bone. Unchecked for so long, it wouldn’t be saved. Come summer, doctors would look at fusing the joint or just replacing the whole bone with a pin. I silently thanked God that it hadn’t been one of my fingers.
Afterwards, I zoomed to my mom’s to eat lunch and call my nana, then I zoomed to the next town to get my hair cut and highlighted, and then I zoomed back to pick my mom up and take her out to dinner. Zoom, zoom, zoom. I had a good time, and it was a super productive and positive day, but I was tired. I felt an enormous relief that I had made some progress with my toe and even though it was bandaged and I was limping, I felt like something was finally happening.
Wednesday morning I had a hard time getting up. My left leg was weak and trembling, and the sciatic nerve pain up and down my left leg was much worse than usual. The feeling in my lower back alternated between a dull throbbing ache and a sharper pain that had me practically jumping out of my skin. Every step made me feel weak, and caused shooting pains down my leg that jolted and bordered on unbelievable.
My mom went to one of her volunteer activities, and I meandered around the house, eating breakfast, drafting my blog post for South Korea, and reading emails. It was the first real downtime I’d had for more than a week, and I felt grateful. But when I went to take a shower, I noted with dismay that my leg and back pain was too severe to get into the tub. My foot and leg were so numb I almost couldn’t feel them at all. I decided not to shower while home alone and went back to bed instead.
When my mom came home at lunchtime, I was dead asleep. It was my little niece A’s 7th birthday, and we were planning a birthday party and Chinese food dinner that would start in a few hours. So I made another attempt to get to the shower, and realized I couldn’t even get down the hallway from my bedroom. My leg was wobbling out of control. This is absurd, I thought. I tried to lay back down, but couldn’t find a comfortable position. On my side, on my back, on my stomach – the pain had me writhing around and pumping my legs constantly trying to make it stop.
I got down on all fours and crawled on the carpet, thinking if I could just stretch a certain way the pain would recede. My stoicism and pain tolerance are infamously high, and so my mom was quickly alarmed by the gravity of my condition and my reaction to it. I couldn’t hold back the tears and struggled to control my fast, shallow breathing.
Incredibly, it took about three hours of my trying and failing to ignore, breathe through, or otherwise cope with the pain for my mom to convince me it was time to go to the emergency room. At a certain point the pain was so severe I was living second to second, and so I relented. It was almost impossible for me to walk, so my mom held me by the waist down the hallway, through the kitchen, and into the garage. I had to stop in between nearly every trembling step, and my breathing was ragged.
My mom drives an Infiniti SUV which under normal circumstances is a fabulously comfortable car, however, getting me into the front passenger seat took several minutes and was torture for both of us. I felt like I was being thrown in the back of a metal pickup truck bed. I tried to get in sideways, then backwards, but it was so difficult. Once I got in I couldn’t hold still. My mom buckled me down and stayed calm as I sobbed the whole five minute drive to the hospital. We pulled up at the emergency entrance and it took about three people to get me into the wheelchair in the pouring rain. My mom begged them for a gurney but apparently that is only allowed when patients arrive by ambulance.
I howled and held myself out of the wheelchair boosted up by my arms all through the admission process, which took about four minutes, after which time I was rushed into the back. I was crying so hard I couldn’t see anyone who was talking to me. I never even saw the waiting room because my condition was too acute to put me in there.
There was a part of me that felt embarrassed by my “behavior”. Anyone who knows me knows that one of the things I hate above all else is any kind of public spectacle. I pride myself on staying calm and rational, and I did manage to speak with every member of hospital staff with some degree of dignity and reason through my constant sobbing, explaining that I was not sad or scared but just unable to manage the pain or find a comfortable way to sit or lay to get relief.
I wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t being “emotional” because I did not want anyone to waste time trying to “talk me down” or into perceiving things differently. There was absolutely no controlling the nerve pain, and it was real. I could have more easily thought my way out of a broken arm. I heard my mom say more than once to people that she had never seen me like this and it meant something big time. It was sheer misery, and I saw more than one nurse surreptitiously shed tears of sympathy just watching me. When it was time, I insisted on using the bathroom myself, leaning heavily on a walker and weeping the entire way there and back to bed. I was grimly determined to survive this pain in as calm a manner as possible, and only surrendered to tears when it completely overtook me, even still apologizing to my mom and the nurses and not knowing what else to do.
Incredibly, my ordeal in the hospital lasted from Wednesday late afternoon all the way until Friday night. More than 50 hours of agonizing pain, during which time many doctors and nurses worked hard to stabilize me. My mom was by my side the entire time, comforting me as my back and leg erupted into flames over and over again. Relief was short-lived, and the doctor told my mom that the amount of pain medication I was being administered would cause most patients to stop breathing. And yet my pain continued. I writhed, turned, pumped my legs, did everything I could, but I could not escape my own skin.
During the time I was hospitalized, my mom communicated with my husband, with my brother C, and with my dad and stepmom, keeping them up-to-date on my condition. She was my safety blanket, my advocate, and my greatest help. She suffered in some ways probably more than I did, watching her child in pain that she could not alleviate. It was yet another opportunity for me to give tremendous credit to my parents, divorced for three decades, and the way they always come together and communicate on family matters and in times of crisis.
When I was finally released on Friday night, I was exhausted but my pain level was very low. My mom and I went to pick up my favorite bake-at-home pizzas and we threw an impromptu birthday party do-over for my niece A, two days late. A opened the set of seven Russian nesting dolls that I brought her from Saint Petersburg and it was the cutest thing ever. I don’t post kid pictures on my blog, but if I did, you would be bowled over by her adorableness! I had a feeling that she would open them and put them in size order again and again and again, and I was right. This kid is my blood.
Perhaps incredibly, on Saturday morning, my brother C and I decided to continue with our plans to head back down to the Bay Area to our uncle’s house for a family BBQ. We were going to bring more friends and relatives together to celebrate my dad and stepmom’s birthdays. Originally it was going to be a surprise, but my stepmom had to tell my dad about it to keep him from getting in the car and rushing to my mom’s town, where I was not going to be after being released.
My parents were wary and a bit unhappy that I was on the move again, but since I had good medication and was with C for the three hour one-way drive, I felt like it was OK. We spent a great afternoon with family, and despite me feeling ill and needing a two hour nap, I enjoyed myself.
Later that evening, C and I drove to our nana’s house to visit with her and make her breakfast the next morning. We sat in her backyard watching the hummingbirds visit her many feeders, and I felt at peace being in probably the only familiar place I’ve ever had that has not changed during my entire lifetime.
Then on Sunday morning C and I headed back northeast towards the Sierra Nevadas, making stops at Target and Trader Joe’s along the way so I could shop for things my husband and I needed in Uzbekistan. My dad had kicked me down a spare suitcase to participate in this endeavor. C and I sat in the California sunshine for over an hour at Rubio’s, eating fish tacos and catching up on our lives.
This road trip for me with C was one of the most special things about my R&R, as work constraints and family responsibilities pull us in different ways most of the time. I cherish the little time we spend together and the way we understand each other without having to explain much. We have always been extraordinarily close and experienced literally almost none of the sibling drama as kids that many other families have as a part of normal life. When we were teenagers my brother actually kicked one of his friends out of our house after school for being rude to me. So it’s kind of like that.
Monday morning came early, and was the final full day of my crazy time in California. I had a series of personal errands starting super early in the a.m. and a follow up for my foot. In the afternoon I had a spinal procedure which had been harder than hell to get scheduled, and which I had wanted while in the hospital but it didn’t work out. Of course no one bothered to tell me that I could not eat or drink beforehand, so I had to undergo the injection without anesthesia. In the end that was probably for the best anyway, although the surgeon and nurses told me I was brave and looked like they were holding their breath for the whole twenty minutes I was on the table. For my part, I talked about work, joked around, and was grimly silent during the worst parts. “You’re kind of a badass, aren’t you,” joked one of the nurses. “No one does it like this.”
“Probably not,” I replied. “I just need to get this done before I go home.”
The surgeon told me that my October injury as shown on my MRI did not show the serious damage from the subsequent fall I took in December, and that I would likely be facing back surgery at some point. Hopefully I could expect six months of relief from the spinal injection, but if the nerve pain, tingling and numbness didn’t abate within a couple of weeks, there would be more trouble. Time would tell.
We finished Monday evening by having a family dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday, which was to occur the day after my departure back to Tashkent. It was like I couldn’t take enough pictures, like I couldn’t hug my family enough times, like I couldn’t eat enough tacos!
But 02:30 on Tuesday morning, Valentine’s Day, dawned early. Ever the trooper, my mom helped me pack and load my stuff.
Within two hours I was on the road to San Francisco International and was making good time. The last surprise of my R&R was again going to be on me – the total circus side show that my trip home turned into.
An hour to get over the bay bridge? Awesome. Drama and aggravation and inefficiency with checking my two suitcases all the way to Tashkent because Uz Air who? Of course. TSA agent snapping at me like I’m some punk? Why not. But I made it to my gate early, got some nice snacks, and even called to reassure my dad, who had needed much convincing not to show up at the airport to be my porter, that I was OK.
As the plane took off for Seoul, I realized I was going to be violently air sick before long. And that continued for most of the 11.5 hour flight time. I don’t know if it was all the medications, or the stress of so much moving around, or pain-related, but I was as white as a ghost. Luckily the bathroom was about five feet away from my upgraded aisle seat in economy plus. My seat mates looked alarmed, and the flight attendants brought me ginger ale and bags of ice for my neck. I couldn’t keep down my Dramamine, nor my pills to control the nerve pain and muscle spasms. Needless to say after a few hours I could barely stay seated. It was excruciating. The spinal surgeon’s last words hung over me: “Take it easy for a while. Don’t f*ck around with this.” “I hear you,” I’d sworn, mentally weighing my carry-on.
The turbulence over the Pacific did not help. Oh, the turbulence. I don’t know why, but for my entire life whenever I have been motion sick, I get a large measure of comfort from listening to music on headphones. I listened to my epic electro house music playlist which could go on for nearly two days if I needed it to. The rhythm and the pattern of the music somehow saved me. I made myself as cold as I could and just went into the music. Hour after hour ticked by. I piled up food to eat later.
United Airlines actually emailed me a $100.00 voucher a couple days after the trip because they felt so sorry for me. I stayed friendly, weakly joking around with the flight attendants and trying not to be a pest. But it was a very unpleasant experience.
When I arrived in Seoul, I was misdirected to the terminal with the transit hotel, and I decided that had been a fortuitous error. That and I was totally done for the time being. The transit hotel rents rooms with beds and showers for about $60 USD in six-hour blocks. I checked in for a few hours and slept hard. There are plenty of lounges and free areas where one can sleep, and even free showers, but I was heavily medicated and carrying a lot of valuables, and really just wanted to crash in total safety.
Somewhat refreshed after a few hours, I proceeded back to my departure terminal, checked in for my flight, ate some froyo and more Dramamine, and there may have also been a minor episode of me asking a random Korean Air staff member for a wheelchair and trying not to cry. In the end, my diplomatic passport and poor physical condition won me a comfortable aisle seat on an extra wide row, and I boarded my final flight of nearly 8 hours hoping for an uneventful flight. It was not to be.
Turbulence hour after hour and more air sickness. The plane was packed with Uzbeks who had obscene amounts of carry-on baggage, who continually disregarded the fasten seatbelt light, who infringed on each other’s space, who shouted back and forth to one another, and who just generally made things unpleasant.
My pain increased more and more during the flight to the extent that I actually cried out in pain several times when someone passing through the aisle bumped into me. The plane wasn’t as hot as usual, but in my sandals, scarf and sleeveless dress I was sweating so much others could notice.
As we neared Tashkent, and I started to mentally prepare myself for the melee which is deplaning and Uzbek immigration, something weird happened. The “time until arrival” estimation changed from 8 minutes to 33 minutes and a new destination popped up: Samarkand. A general unrest stirred throughout the plane. No announcement. Just…landing in Samarkand. At 02:00. Men started yelling. Someone threw a bag of duty free items through the aisle, narrowly missing my head.
I turned on my phone upon wheels down and had a message from my husband. According to the embassy expediter in Tashkent, our plane had been unable to land due to fog. Apparently had we been there just ten minutes earlier, we could have landed. The pilots’ need for mandatory rest meant we would need to stay put in Samarkand for eight hours.
However, I learned from the woman sitting next to me that there was no customs crew in Samarkand at that hour to process our international flight, although rumors were flying that the airline would try to find accommodation for passengers and get us our baggage. Yeah right, I thought. Hotels. Here.
Flight attendants hid in the galley for over an hour as the chaos died down and we sat silently on the tarmac, popping out only to give water to pleading passengers. When they ordered passengers to deplane into an airport lounge during the second hour, I decided I was physically unable to leave the aircraft. My leg was shaking uncontrollably and I continued to vomit up any medication, food or water. Militia boarded the plane and I went to sit in first class with them, the crew and another passenger who decided he was too big time to deplane.
As my husband worked frantically through the night, waking up embassy staff to try and arrange a car to pick me up from Samarkand, I gathered information from crew and airport authorities about how soon we might be leaving. Finding accommodation in Samarkand did not sound likely, and I knew I wouldn’t have been able to collect all my baggage and manage a train ride alone to Tashkent the following day in my condition.
During hour three, we got the go-ahead to return to Tashkent and lounge passengers suddenly all bolted back onto the plane. Apparently our plane was needed for an onward to Frankfurt, and the fog had cleared just enough. I wondered how much of the fog was actually burning trash. I cancelled my request for an embassy car and my seatmate helped me buckle in. The safety video blared and cabinets swung and banged as the wheels left the ground in about the fastest taxi and takeoff I’ve seen yet.
After a half hour burst through the sky we were wheels down in Tashkent. I found myself stumbling – off the plane and across the tarmac onto the shuttle, held up only by the crush of the crowd, into the immigration line where I was doubled-over and leaning against the wall. As kind Uzbek men guided me in front of them in the line, my husband and the airport expediter waited on the other side where a uniformed militia officer yelled my surname and waved me forward. I stumbled to the counter with my black passport, holding on with both hands and raising my head only to stare into the camera when told. People stared at my arms, hands and wrists, black and blue with IV puncture marks, my legs bruised from top to bottom, my left foot stiff with bandages, but I just kept looking down.
As soon as I was cleared, I passed through the gate into my husband’s arms, and soon after into a chair. Whisk – my suitcases grabbed by my husband. Whisk – my diplomatic passport grabbed by the expediter as he filled out my customs declaration. Whisk – jumped to the front of the line and passed around the metal detector (“She’s a diplomat!”) while being held up by my husband, some of the people from my flight who had shown me kindness and assistance watching me be finally whisked away. Whisk – into the SUV with green plates that has its own airport exit.
Whisk – to my house where I received this belated Valentine’s Day surprise from my husband:
I guess this post could have also been entitled: “How Not to Rest and Recuperate” while on R&R from a hardship post.
0 hospital bed pans used
1,250 miles driven in the rental in 10 days
1 hair appointment
1 emergency room visit
1 cancelled dental visit
1 cancelled nail appointment
1 Super Bowl watched
2 outpatient surgical procedures
2 layovers in Seoul
2 cancelled massages
2 birthday surprises hosted
2 birthday non-surprises co-hosted
3 trips to the pharmacy
3 times eating Mexican food
5 relatives’ homes visited
6 Korean trains hopped
6 members of my immediate family with February birthdays
All priceless. All precious. All surprising either because of their surreal nature or their unexpectedness. I went to bed in Tashkent on Thursday morning and slept for 22 hours in a row, waking only occasionally for meds, food and water. My last day of R&R at home passed in a blur of timelessness, weightlessness, and acute pain. Every time I woke up and saw my suitcases on the floor, I remembered where I was and snuggled deeper into my clean, sweet flannel sheets.
Friday morning dawned and I was back in action, arriving in the office by 07:30.
By 13:45 you won’t believe where I was: back at Tashkent International boarding a flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan for a romantic three day weekend with my husband which we had planned months ago. I guess I knew I would need a few days of downtime to recover from my R&R.
The least epic surprise: I go really hard. I had been white-knuckling this tour for so long for lack of ability to treat my medical problems at Post that I forgot to notice the signals my body was sending me. Falling down the stairs? Yeah, no need to check that out. But even I have my limits.