The Final Stretch: PCS Preparations and Making the Most of America

Preparing to Leave Again

Sigh. I really and truly just let out a big sigh as I began to type. Here we are about to move yet again. Sigh. There is another one.  You might think we would get used to it – the constant moving – in this career. However, I think it is only getting harder the older I become. And as my daughter gets older too.

When we arrived in Arlington, Virginia last September for my training, we met another single parent Foreign Service Officer. Her older son and C became fast friends. They walked to and from the bus stop together, rode the bus together, and had hours and hours of playdates, and even more hours online chatting and playing Roblox. He and his family moved to the Dominican Republic a month ago. It was the beginning of the end.

This happens every year. Even when we are not moving, there is always someone in our Foreign Service Community who is leaving. Unfortunately, the frequency of people coming into and out of our lives does not make the goodbyes any easier.

We too are focused on our own approaching departure. I am always saying that in the last few months before our PCS (permanent change of station) that it’s like picking up a part time job with terrible, unpredictable hours. While trying to keep doing one’s day job, whether that is serving as a political officer or a French language student, you must also take care of other things related to the move. These tasks include enrolling your child in school in the next country, applying for visas, preparing to move your pet, having final medical appointments, hiring childcare in the new country, and purchasing a vehicle for the next Post. These tasks require leg work, internet research, emails and/or calls, filling out forms, and so on.

We have received our housing assignment for Guinea.  C and I are very excited about our new place and have been working on decoration planning.  But it is not easy working out what all to buy now and have shipped as the global supply chain slowdowns mean what might normally take three months could take up to six months (or longer) to reach us.  There is our HHE (Household Effects) shipment from the U.S. but also the HHE shipment from Europe, where most of our things from Malawi have been sitting in storage for nearly a year.  Will what we had in a three-bedroom house in Lilongwe fit into a two-bedroom apartment in Conakry?  The moving company that packed us out from Malawi left me a cryptic list of our belongings, and my own memory of everything I own is most definitely flawed.

There are also the “consumables.”  Guinea, like Malawi, is a consumables post. The definition is: “a post at which conditions make it difficult to obtain locally the consumables required by employees and their eligible family members.  Consumables are referred to as expendable personal property because they are used up as opposed to wearing out.” Working with a list of provided by the Embassy’s Community Liaison Officer (CLO) of consumables families typically bring to Guinea, I am making purchases and creating piles of stuff in our current apartment.  These include jars of Vlasic dill pickles, containers of lite pancake syrup, and bottles of shampoo and conditioner that work best on my daughter’s hard-to-tame hair.  And like in Malawi, I will be buying four brand new tires for our Conakry-based car because it is reportedly difficult and costly to find quality replacements. 

Perhaps this does not seem like a lot?  Even as I write it, I note that the words completely belie the amount of time and effort and cost that goes into preparing to move internationally.  I am, frankly, exhausted by the effort, but keep trying to rally myself because I don’t want to forget something important.  I do not know how married couples manage the division of labor, but in my case, it is just me managing the move. 

I feel at odds; I am being pulled in two directions.  I am here, still in the US, but also very much focused on getting to Guinea.  I am in the final weeks of a long, exhausting language program, but I also must obtain plane tickets and apply for visas and manage the logistics of moving.  There is a lot of excitement, but also a lot of anxiety.    

 Making the Most of Our Time in America

I have found it difficult to balance the pandemic and my language study with activities, but all in all I think I did a pretty good job giving both my daughter and our young nanny a wide range of experiences in the United States. Since my halfway post, we have managed to squeeze in a good number of events. After trying for months to score tickets, we were finally able to visit the National Museum of African History and Culture in early February. I however had completely underestimated the time it takes to see a good portion of the exhibits and after 3.5 hours we left having only scratched the surface. In February, we headed to iFLY to give indoor skydiving a go. I had initially reserved for January for C’s birthday, but a snowstorm had forced me to reschedule.

We drove up to Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium and when my good friend CZ and her son Little CZ came into town, we all visited the International Spy Museum and strolled around the tidal basin to see the cherry blossoms. Both our nanny JMC and I served as chaperone’s for C’s school field trip to Jamestown and we stayed an extra night so we could visit Williamsburg and my alma mater, the College of William and Mary. We caught one of the season opening weekend games at Nationals stadium, visited Luray Caverns, and also met up with my aunt out at Harper’s Ferry.

But now here we are closing in on the last month and a half of our U.S. sojourn sandwiched between our Malawi and Guinea tours. I do not know what else is in store for our time here, though I have some ideas much depends on the results of my French exam. There is an incredible amount of stress placed on U.S. diplomats to pass the exam on the first go, but it is by no means guaranteed. Here’s to hoping for the best outcome, whatever that may be. And then, on to Guinea.

Halfway Through Our U.S. Sojourn 2021-2022

Here we are already halfway through the eleven months we have in the U.S. between our Malawi and Guinea tours. I have been wrestling with what to write about – having already covered home leave and trying to adjust, what to say about being sort of, at least temporarily, adjusted? When overseas, especially in the often less traveled places where I have tendency to live and work, or while on once in a lifetime vacations, the stories are easier to write. Sitting in a nondescript apartment in Northern Virginia as I telework feels far more conventional, even if in a global pandemic. I have lived a little more than half my adult life outside of the United States and the other half often working toward those times. I sometimes long for something more conventional, but honestly, I don’t know how to do conventional. And even this, being paid to learn a language by the Department of State in order to assist with my upcoming assignment in West Africa, frankly, isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill either.

Language Learning in a Pandemic

This is my third go at learning a language through the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI). I took Spanish ahead of my assignment to Ciudad Juarez and Mandarin before Shanghai, but in both cases I had the advantage of having studied the language before in high school, college, or another setting (or a combination of). This time I am learning French and have no background whatsoever in it. Though, honestly, that is a wee bit untrue. I mean, English speakers have been exposed to at least some of the language through cognates or popular culture. It is not like I am taking up Turkmen. Yet, I have no formal training and I feel the difference keenly.

I will not beat around the bush: I am not a fan of FSI’s language training method. I do not think I can describe it adequately if you have never been through it or a similar program. To me, the first few months are a bombardment of vocabulary and grammar. Often we will cover a grammatical point for one hour of the day and the teacher will say something like, “now that we have learned gender of nouns or the conditional tense, we can now move forward with another topic” and I balk because I might have understood some, but I definitely have not “learned” the concept in such a short timeframe. Imagine this happening every hour, five hours a day, five days a week for some eight weeks before your first assessment? Homework certainly reinforces concepts as does the daily build on — but I can feel myself fighting it day after day. (This is not to say I don’t have fun — I laugh every single day in class!) After this, the class then pivots to regularly putting students on the spot with impromptu discussions and then short speeches on societal topics such as gender equality, climate change, or vaccination mandates. I didn’t like this method when I studied Spanish or Chinese and I do not like it now. And I was no spring chicken when I started the Foreign Service (see my complaints about being too old for language training from 7 years ago). And yet, at the end of the day, despite the method and my resistance (and it almost galls me to admit), I get to a good level of language acquisition.

Doing all the training online has taken some getting used to. I sometimes miss the camaraderie of the halls of FSI, the running into friends and colleagues from A100 (our onboarding course), past posts, or past training, and getting to know new folks as we all muddle our way through new languages. Also, since so many people – thousands – are there at any given time pursing language or functional training, the Department offers other services such as passport or badge renewals, research for next posts at the Overseas Briefing Center, a clinic to get vaccinations, a child care center (for those lucky enough to get one of the very coveted spots), a gym, and more. All of this set on some really lovely grounds. FSI is a base sorts for those that often have none, a place someone can come back to again and again where you find yourself among others who get the quirks of the job and lifestyle.

Yet, I do love my 20 second commute to my desk, the wearing of comfy pants and no shoes, and rummaging around in my kitchen for snacks during breaks. And though there are some technical challenges at times (for some reason my microphone has worked only 50% of the time in class the past week and a half) I have not felt much difference in the quality of training from my previous two times at the Institute. I have 19 weeks of my 30 weeks of training left to go, so we shall see when it comes round to testing time how well I actually do.

Milking America for All Its Worth (in a Pandemic)

Despite the intense pressure to abandon all in favor of only activities that further my French and a continuing pandemic that makes the decision to get out and about sometimes difficult, I am still trying to make the most of our time in the United States. For my daughter who has spent the majority of her life overseas and our young nanny who has not had many such opportunities, I want to introduce them to a variety of activities we could not do in Malawi and won’t be able to in Guinea.

One of our first sightseeing trips was down into the heart of iconic Washington, DC. Just riding the metro was a treat as there had been nothing like that in Malawi. We walked past the Washington Memorial, visited the World War II Memorial, and then strolled along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial. We then rented some scooters and zipped back toward the Capitol, stopping to eat from several of the food trucks lining the streets. We also popped into the National Air and Space Museum.

As the weather cooled, I took us to Mount Vernon, for a tour of the house and walks around the grounds. There is a lot of history to learn and confront at the home of our first President and we lucked out with a glorious day to do it. I also scored tickets for the Disney on Ice show — I waited until the last minute, you know, just in case there was some COVID issue. We all loved the show but I think JMC loved it the most. Her whoops of delight at every major stunt were infectious. We met my sister and her family and a family friend at Liberty Mills Farm in central Virginia to take our chances in the country’s largest corn maze. We took the trail with no map and got happily lost (and then somewhat desperately), then, once free, picked out some pumpkins and scarfed down some farm-inspired desserts. I don’t know what says fall in Virginia more than heading to a farm for a pumpkin. And I took us to a Halloween inspired light show at a nearby zoo — one I used to go to when I was a kid. Afterwards we all tried some fried Oreo. Ah, Americana.

I found myself pretty excited that Halloween would be in-person. With the Delta wave still causing havoc through the fall, I really had not been sure it would happen and it made me a bit sad for my daughter. She had not had much experience with Halloween in the U.S.: In 2014 when she was 2 1/2 and we lived for five months in a Staybridge Suites hotel and trick-or-treated briefly in the adjacent townhouse community and in 2015 when we were in the U.S. for an unexpected medevac and I was recovering from an intense procedure. I had had maybe an hour of energy to take C trick-or-treating through our temporary apartment housing. And trick or treating in our past posts was different, especially last year. At three months shy of 10, this is the perfect age for my daughter to trick-or-treat. If we return to the U.S. for training after our next assignment, she will be 13. So, I decided to forego the likely sad trick-or-treating to be found in our apartment building and took us to the most celebrated Halloween street in Arlington for some big-time candy demanding.

For Thanksgiving, I opted for the typical non-typical American activity of dinner at a Chinese restaurant and a movie – only our second movie in a theater since returning to the U.S., the first being in Jacksonville, FL on Home Leave. That weekend though we drove down to King’s Dominion to meet up with one of my best friends CZ and her son Little CZ for the amusement park’s Winter Fest. As the weather grew colder we went ice skating at the National Sculpture Garden (the first time for C and JMC and the first time in a looooong time for me), strolled by the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House, and attended a breathtaking performance of the Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet company. The Nutcracker was one of the highest priorities on my “while in the U.S. bucket list” as it was the kind of performance we could not see in Malawi and will likely be limited or unavailable in Guinea. I know we have had the opportunity to see many amazing places and cultural activities in every place we have been, but I really am trying to boost our Americana while we have the chance and C is at this age. And introducing all of this to our nanny JMC is so fun as she approaches each and every activity with a positive attitude. At King’s Dominion she rode the scariest of rides and even though afterwards she said she was sure she felt her soul floating out of her body, she did not regret riding; and when a character from the parade invited her to join him in dancing she did so with great enthusiasm while C hid behind me shaking her head.

We had a more typical Christmas at my sister’s place, a little over an hour’s drive from us, where we could also see my parents. Then C flew to see her dad and stepmom in Kentucky, the first time she had seen them in two years. One reason I had opted to bid on a language-designated position for my next tour was the opportunity to have C see her dad a bit more. We had initially planned on a visit in August but scrapped it with COVID on the rise. Things were still dicey in December, but it was too important to skip.

And now, we are in the final five months of our U.S. interlude. It will be punctuated with increasing bouts of panic on my part as my language test and our departure to Guinea grows closer. While I will still seek out special activities for us all, my to-do list has to start accommodating things like dentist and doctor visits, obtaining visas, vaccinations, plane tickets and working out the intricate requirements for international cat travel while cramming more and more French into my skull.

Here’s to the second half.

Holy Chicken and Broccoli, Is My Test THIS Week?

Countdown: Less than two weeks until departure. Whoa, how did that happen? How did 19 weeks of training get past me? The Chinese test is the end of this week.

If all goes well, then yes, I will be departing on time. I know, saying “if” in the same breath as my Chinese test is against my Positivity Plan Code of Conduct. I am supposed to say, “After I pass my test this Friday,” or “When I totally ROCK my Chinese test on Friday…” and so on and so forth.

I am trying. I continue to say positive things to myself every day. Things such as “我是一个汉语的女王” or “I am a Chinese [language] queen.” I repeat that kind of thing to myself in the car. And power pose.

I am really starting to believe my amazing Chinese teachers are going to pull this off (with my help of course), that I will blow away the testers and that the recording of my test will be used for years to come as an example of how someone with AWESOME Chinese takes the end of training test.

That does not mean I will not be bringing all my various talismans. I am not really a superstitious person. I do the “knock on wood” or “knock on [insert random material, like plastic, here]” on occasions, but that is it. This is except, of course, when I am in an FSI exam. Then I am armed to the teeth. I will wear my positive mantra bracelets, carry my daughter’s smiling daycare center photo, and even bring in a ridiculously cute string doll that purports to help the owner “kick start your life, give you courage and confidence to get things done.” I am sure it was marketed for teenage girls, but I do not care. Whatever works, right? If I had lucky undies and a bullet proof amulet, I would wear those too.

This however has been my best training week yet. I do not have to do much homework to prep for class because my reading class is “cold” reading (first time seeing the material) and my speaking class is “impromptu” discussion of topics or presentations with very little prep time – all of which simulate the test. Previously, I felt so frustrated in class after spending hours studying and still not understanding SO much. Now, I feel elated because I understand SO much without needing much preparation time.

This week I have been thinking of my language test as a half marathon. (of course, what is a runner supposed to do?) Generally, I take between 2 hours and 15 minutes and 2 hours and a half to complete a half marathon. The language test also takes roughly the same amount of time. Running a half marathon is exhausting. So is sitting in a room having a conversation or reading an authentic three to four paragraph news article in a foreign language in which you are not fluent, especially if you are being graded on that language. Also, if your language test happens at lunch time, but that is whole other issue.

In the months leading up to a half marathon, I do a lot of training. Some days I have great runs. Some days I have terrible runs. Sometimes I cannot drag myself out to run at all. But over the course of the three to six months, my long runs get longer, I grow stronger, and I am better prepared for the big day. Still, on race day I never really know how it might go. I could wake up feeling off. A few miles in I might feel an odd twinge in my knee, which may or may not cause me problems. I may need to walk through the water stops to give myself just the break I need to push through.

I think back to this fall as I dropped out of my October half marathon down to a 10K and then later dropped 10Ks to 5Ks. I thought I was out of training. But I have been training for another kind of half – my language test. Nineteen weeks of training in fact. As I sit down to begin my test, I will neither know my outcome nor what hurdles might be thrown my way. I may need to slow down, check my pace, and correct my stride.

At the very least I want to finish strong. I want to know at the end of the test that I gave my best with whatever I was given. Even better if I hit a PR (scoring above the required language score can result in incentive bonus pay), though that would just be icing on the cake, not a goal.

There are no medals at the end of this race, just plane tickets and a new position waiting in Shanghai.

Race Day: Friday, high noon.

The Positivity Plan

I do not see myself as a particularly pessimistic person. I’m not a super optimist either; I will grant you that, but I have my moments. However through this fall, despite all the great things we have had the opportunity to do, I would say my overall feeling has not been upbeat. It is the language training.

Please, do not get me wrong. I really do know that the chance to be PAID to learn a language is an amazing benefit. I do in fact have fun in class and the Chinese department gets high marks from me; I have had wonderful teachers. Yet at the end of the training is a test and I will admit to having some rather strong test anxiety.

I know. Who likes tests? Every time I try to explain my anxiety I am told that no one likes tests, everyone gets nervous. I did not find this particularly helpful. Then a colleague mentioned that she had attended a test taking brown bag and a woman from the Language Consultation Services section spoke about just such a strategy. The strategy of knowing it’s normal to be nervous.

Apparently some study was conducted in which before an exam half of the students were given a card to read and half were not. On this card are simply a few sentences saying that test anxiety is a normal feeling and that some sense of nervousness can actually improve performance. After the exam those who had read the card felt both more calm and performed better.

I did not know if it were a true study or not but I was intrigued, and desperate, enough to soon after make a visit to the Language Consultation Services in search of this calming card. I made it clear I just wanted the magic before-the-test-card, but the consultant had me sit down while she looked for the cards amidst the candy-gram bags she was in the process of making and which littered her desk. As she searched I continued to explain I just needed this card and I would be on my way as the problem was not so much me as the test. Twenty minutes later I am armed with the card, several sheets of paper with strategies for test anxiety, and a suggestion to view a TED talk on YouTube.

A fellow diplomat posted a link to some beautiful bracelets with positive/affirmation messages. I loved the idea of the bracelets and considered their test charm effectiveness a plus. I had already decided that during my test I would carry in a photo of my daughter to both remind me that there are bigger and more important things in my life and also that, hell, if I can give birth then I can get through a two hour language test. Now I would also wear bracelets that would remind me to “enjoy the journey”, to “believe” and that I am “fearless.” I have done a lot of tough things in my life – such as the world’s second highest paragliding jump in Turkey, a six day trek in Nepal’s Annapurna mountains, and a two day slow boat ride down the Mekong River, as well as about a dozen half marathons-I have even taken the language test at FSI before, THREE times before. I wish I felt it had become easier, but I don’t. I would rather run a half marathon.

Now I was literally armed with some positive messages; I decided to watch the TED Talk. The talk is by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, who talks on how body language, particularly how one poses one’s body, can affect not only how other’s perceive us but also how we perceive ourselves. She posits that “power posing,” or standing or sitting in a manner that exudes confidence, for even two minutes a day can actually improve our chances for success. Pretty crazy, huh? Yet a few days after watching the video I found myself in my kitchen, with the microwave timer on two minutes, standing with my legs apart, hands on hips, head up, chin up, imagining myself to be doing my best impression of Wonder Woman.

At first I thought, “This is nuts!” Then I thought, “I am glad no one can see me.” Then I thought, “two minutes can seem like a long time…” Then the timer went off, I packed up my things, woke my daughter up and got her ready for daycare, and headed out the door. Just another day.

Except it wasn’t.

I found myself power posing in the car too. Sitting up straighter, holding my head higher. By the time I had arrived at the training institute I had decided that my daughter and I were in fact departing for Shanghai in five weeks. We just were. In other words I would stop saying we “might” depart, heavily caveated my words with the “IF I pass my language test.” Instead, I would pass my test and we would depart on time.

I posted this change to Facebook and launched my hashtag #positivityplan. Each day I have posted something fun concluding I “have awesome Chinese,” which will see me through and including my hashtag. For example, I posted the following a few days ago:

           I had a hair trim yesterday and the stylist found my first grey hair. Yikes! But with age comes wisdom, and for some, awesome Chinese. ‪#‎positivityplan‬

Also, although a month ago the FSI travel agent cautioned me that “Chinese is a difficult language and there are many who buy their tickets and have to change their travel date when they do not pass the first test…” I purchased my mother’s plane ticket. I made reservations for the cats to travel. I paid the difference for my daughter’s and my tickets so we could fly our preferred airline and the State Department would go ahead and pay the rest, this securing our tickets. I am moving forward because this is going to happen.

I expect this may all sound hokey to some. I wish I could say I am now 100% positive I will pass my exam and I am no longer nervous, but that would be an outright lie. Just tonight I started to again have some fairly strong doubts. I have what it takes to pass and I hope my positivity campaign pays off to help mitigate the nerves and demonstrate what I need to in order to pass. After all, I have awesome Chinese.

#positivityplan

Learning Chinese and a Poopie Diaper

I have been struggling with how to portray how I feel about my return to the Foreign Language Institute for training to top up my very stale Mandarin Chinese. Perhaps my most difficult issue was how to explain how hard this has been for me without sounding like a majorly sad grump. Because I will tell you, I have had some majorly sad and grumpy days.

For example, I had my first tear-stained breakdown. Yep, it happened. Thankfully it did not occur in front of any of my colleagues but rather in front of a member of the Chinese Department staff as I tried to explain my very real fears that I will not pass the Chinese test in January. She was very kind and told me not to worry, which only made me suspect she has no idea how badly I speak Chinese.

I also threw a pen in class. I am not proud of it. I could not help but think later that it while it was probably too mild a throw to make it in to some kind of “Diplomats Behaving Badly” montage, it most certainly was not one of my finer moments. I certainly did not make a conscious decision to throw the pen but after feeling browbeaten to create one too many a Chinese sentence in a grammatical structure I simply did not understand with a limited vocabulary of half-remembered words and phrases learned as recently as 2002…and then having the teacher cut me off two words into my response, I had had it. And the pen launch sequence commenced.

One of my biggest struggles has been finding a time to study. I tried studying in the evenings as C watched a DVD and then after she went to bed. Firstly, you parents out there must be laughing your socks off imagining me trying to study with a toddler in the room. Yeah, it went about as well as you imagine. “Mommy, change DVD, change DVD, change DVD.” “Mommy, snack, snack, snack!” “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy…” Secondly, my attempts at raising a jet setting night owl toddler have been too successful and I was too tired to do anything after she went to bed because it was also my bedtime.

Then I decided to wake up early in the morning, around 5 am, study until C woke up around 7:30, take her to child care and then drive on to the training institute for a little more study until class began at 10:40. Except on day one of this brilliant plan I woke up at 5:30 and I heard the sweet little call of “mommy?” at six.

@$&#

Plan #3 has been to wake up at 5:30, get C to daycare by 6:45, drive to the training institute, arriving around 7:35, then studying in the cafeteria until class at 10:40. I study again for at least an hour in between my morning class and afternoon class. I also listen to Chinese in the car either to or from the training institute. I downloaded some popular Chinese songs and language learning podcasts, burned the textbook and other dialogues to disc, and purchased the soundtrack to Frozen in Mandarin. We are expected at the very least to study for 8 hours a day including our 5 hours of classroom time. This schedule means I can generally manage to get those three extra hours in. This has been mildly successful, at least in relative terms.

Yet every single day I eat a huge helping of humble pie in class and continue to harbor serious doubts about my readiness to test in January.

This morning I set about to take C to swimming class (I have at least followed through with this ONE thing from my “back in the U.S. to-do list”). I got myself dressed and her dressed. I took us out to the car and buckled C into the car seat.

Then I realized I had forgotten my towel.

[Note: I did not bring towels the first day of swim class because I expected, for some reason, they would be provided, and had to run into the nearby supermarket to buy a set of hand towels. I felt like schmuck.]

So I unbuckled C from the car seat and walked back to the apartment to get the towel and then returned to the car and buckled her back in. Only to realize I had forgotten a spare diaper.

So I unbuckled C from the car seat and walked back to the apartment to get the extra diaper and then returned to the car and began to buckle her back in. Then I smelled something unfortunate. C needed a diaper change.

<sigh> I wanted to just pack it in. I wanted to just get C out of the car and give up on the swim class at least for today and maybe forever. There was even a millisecond there I considered I might never leave the apartment again. I took a deep breath and convinced myself to keep going.

So I unbuckled C from the car seat and returned to the apartment, changed her diaper, and then returned to the car and buckled her back in.

We were late for swim class.
But we still got there and were able to participate.

This week my Chinese study has been derailed several times.

Last weekend C had a fever of 102 all day Saturday and 103 most of Sunday. Instead of being a docile and very sleepy sick person she became an extremely demanding one. Not one minute of studying that weekend. <sigh>

I arranged for my parents to watch her on Monday instead of taking her to daycare, so I actually departed home at 9:20 that day, after some haphazard studying in the apartment that morning. <sigh>

Early Wednesday morning, C woke up and demanded food. I mean she literally sat bolt upright in bed at the witching hour of 3:40 am and said “FOOD!” and would not go back to sleep until she had had some “Dora snacks” and a juice. So I let her sleep in a little and departed for daycare at 8 am. Then on the way to the daycare center that morning the low air light came on for my tires. I stopped to have them checked and every single one of them was low. <sigh>

On Thursday C woke up in the middle of the night upset, the fever was back. I gave her medicine but could not get back to sleep as I had developed a terrible stomach ache. So I called in sick and took C to the doctor. I imagined I might get a little studying done but again C would not nap, was extremely demanding, and, as an extra fun bonus, shoved an edamame bean up her nose in the afternoon. <sigh>

Right now I am feeling the best I have about Chinese in the four weeks I have been studying. I have no idea why.

On the drive back from swimming class today I thought the whole episode summed up how I feel I prepare for Chinese every day – shit happens but I AM trying.

That’s all I can do.