Monday, August 29, 2011

A Stressful Day to Start Off a Stressful Week

Oh my goodness, what a day. The morning started off in a panic attack as the money from our PTO book sale wasn't adding up. As PTO Treasurer, it falls on me, especially since I'm the one who did the final count. YIKES!!!! I went to recount cash this morning. I counted it the day of our event, by hand. So, this time I went to use the cash counting machine. Lucky for me the numbers, this time, did add up. Holy Smokes, what a stressful morning!!!!

Now, on Thursday we are hosting an event for 8 of hubby's contacts, so that is dinner for 10. I don't know what possessed me, but I am cooking a lot of it myself. I'm prepping the menu with an Indian theme (Lamb Madras, Chicken Curry, Naan, Basmati Rice and Mango Cheese Cake). I cannot wait until this week is OVER.

We are going out with friends Saturday night, I think I will need the good laughs they always bring, along with a few drinks by then.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Indicative of where we live

So T came home from his first week of school with a paper about getting to know his new classmates. We are at a school largely attended by expats, as such a 25% turn-over in students each year is not uncommon. So, these type of getting-to-know-you exercises are very important. On this one, there were 14 special items and the kids each had to find different classmates that matched one of the items. One of them originally was "_________ has flown on an airplane." Only, that is not so special at school of expats, so it was changed to "has not flown." I just thought that was so representative of the life of these kids - kind of struck me somehow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


So my kids have to take fluoride supplements here at post as the water is not fluoridated. The doctor gave us a pill bottle with a new type of child safety cap. For the life of me, I cannot get the stupid bottle opened. However, my 8 year old has no problem doing it. Last night hubby tried opening up the bottle and decided it was broken, so cut-off the lid. So when did child-proof lids turn into parent-proof lids???

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Now That's Funny

Warning, this post might be considered more PG-13 as opposed to my normally G and PG rated postings. . .

I just watched the clip of Anderson Cooper laughing at the sophomoric puns he was making in regards to the recent "peeing on the plane" incident perpetrated by Gerard Depardieu. Yes, even at 41, I find this kind of thing funny. I don't know why, but I do. And, so, it got me thinking about funny things we've encountered overseas that I thought I would share with you today.

In Pakistan, the surname of "Butt" is quite common. Yes, we've known many fine, nice, upstanding "Butts;" they are good people. But, from an American reference point how can you not sometimes laugh when coming upon the name in certain contexts. . .There was the bakery called, "Butt Brothers' Bakery" and the clothing store called, "Butt's Honey House." And, of course, lest we not forget the time S had a meeting with an Army Major and had to use every ounce of composure he could muster to announce he was there to see, you guessed it, Major Butt.

When learning Portuguese at FSI, S and I shared a class with two other people. Our poor teachers, I don't know how many times three of the four of us just burst out laughing. The one that sticks-out in my mind the most, however, is when our Portuguese teacher was attempting to explain about these big ceramic white and blue Roosters that are apparently quite the item to buy in Portugal. And, she just kept talking about "the big blue cock" that you just must buy. OMG, heaven help us, to not break out in laughter over that one.

In East Timor, you often came across attempts at English that just didn't translate such as the  restaurant called, "Cock and Bull." I think they were trying to say their restaurant specializes in chicken and beef, but it just didn't come out that way.

Ok, so we still find this stuff funny. I'm not sure what that says about us, but hey that's just how we roll. Got any funny stories to share, leave a comment with your story, we'd love to read it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GAO report on Overseas Comparability Pay Misses a Few Points

I recently read the GAO report on Overseas Comparability Pay (found at and, as a Foreign Service family member, would like to point out a few things.

First, hardship pay and danger pay were implemented before locality pay was instituted back in 1990. As far as hardship pay goes, the intent was to provide financial incentive and compensation for Foreign Service Personnel and their family members agreeing to live in situations that are more difficult than living in the US (i.e., unsanitary water supply, food supply, etc.; lower quality medical assistance; exposure to parasites and diseases not present in the US, unreliable power and water supplies). And, danger pay was implemented to compensate for living in situations where personal safety is in jeopardy due to civil unrest, high crime with little host country security forces or corrupt ones, etc. . . .

When locality pay was enacted in 1990, it gave federal employees living in DC (and the US in general) more base pay than those overseas. That percentage grows almost every year. It is to the point where our base pay in DC is more than our pay, with hardship incentive, would be living in a country like Dakar, Senegal and many other similar posts. In Dakar, for example, Malaria is a real concern, health facilities are lacking and not up to par with the US; employees and family members (including young babies and children) are required to take Mefloquine (an exceptionally questionable drug) that we are told is still better than getting Malaria; manga worms (a worm, that unbeknownst to you, lays eggs on your skin, which then hatch right out of your skin) are a part of life, especially for kids and pets. We don't have access to US style grocery stores, food establishments, and products and those we do have access to are very expensive. So, given the choice of taking a posting in DC or living in Dakar, which would you choose - 10% less pay, including all the "incentives" to live in Dakar, or stay in DC?

The whole point of incentive pay was to provide an INCENTIVE. To use those incentives as a way to help equalize us with DC pay goes against the intent of why they were created in the first place. And, as locality pay rises almost every year, there becomes less and less incentive to serve in hardship posts. Do you really think taking a pay cut to serve in West Africa is really an incentive to go there?

In 21 years, locality pay has risen to 24%. What happens as it raises more? Our "incentives" to serve in hardship posts become less and less. If you take away OCP, make no mistake, with each passing year and rise in the locality pay, you are increasingly taking away incentive to serve in hardship posts. Even those of us who seek hardship posts, will be hard-pressed to do so when it means a significant pay-cut to do so.

As far as COLAs go overseas, we see no profit from those amounts. The COLAs exist because the cost-of-living is so much higher than compared to the DC area. Every cent we receive in COLA goes toward paying the higher cost of living in whatever country we are in. I think that GAO completely failed to take that into account.

Remember that incentive pays (such as hardship and danger pay) preceded locality pay by many years. When implemented, it WAS the intent to provide INCENTIVE for serving in less desirable locations. This incentive is eroding; help fix it in one way or another. Something must be done to ensure that the intent of incentive pay is preserved as it has been for our Senior ranks.