It’s been a crazy past few weeks.  Our personal vehicle finally arrived and we are now mobile.  Then all of our household effects showed up at one time, so the three bedroom apartment looks like a storage unit exploded.  It will be weeks before everything is either in its place or thrown away.

And last week, I had to make an emergency trip up to Istanbul while fighting a hellacious head cold.  Airplanes and head colds do not mix well.  As I scurried around the Consulate doing some repairs, I had to stuff tissues up my nose to function.  Hopefully no one noticed.

But the trip was a success and the apartment will eventually resemble a home.  We bought a small pretend Christmas tree at IKEA, so we are now in some sort of festive mood … and we are now officially over the hump of Winter, so very slowly the days will get longer and the nights shorter.

Speaking of Christmas, it baffles us to see all the Christmas decorations throughout a country that is 99.8% Muslim.  I was just as surprised to see they also celebrated Halloween like they did.

We find the people amazing, just like we did in Ethiopia.  Just different.  They are very sociable and giving.  I recently gave several classes to our Local Guard Force on the operation of a piece of equipment, and after each class I had to sit with the Guard Supervisor and have çay (tea) with him.  In the period we will be here, we will drink more tea here than anywhere else we live.  After every meal, hot çay is served in small curved glasses.  Most people put a cube of sugar or two in it.

I have so much to write about, but my head is still trying to recover from the cold I picked up.  Working in single digit weather will take a grown man down.  As I told Terese many times, I paid my dues in the cold, let the young guys do that work now.  Only problem, they want to sit and play video games instead.

I’ll get back to you soon.  If I don’t before Christmas then:

To my Liberal friends:                    Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2014, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great.  Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other countries nor the only “America” in the Western Hemisphere.  Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

To My Conservative Friends:      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

          (not my words but I wish they were)       D.