Home(less) Leave Part 3

For our final part of home leave, we stayed with my husband’s family for two weeks. It was full of time spent with family, going to doctors appointments, and so. much. shopping.

My husband’s parents are basically saints and very easy going people. So staying with them was incredibly easy. They were having their kitchen renovated so we were eating out or barbecuing the whole time. We also got to break up the visit by staying with my brother-in-law and his wife at their new house for a few days while the floors were refinished. Of course we had a Philly cheesesteak and lots of Wawa pretzels and hotdogs while in South Jersey.

We had some doctors in the area that I had seen before (eye, ear, dentist, and dermatologist), so we went to see them for our annual checkups. I had my women’s doctor appointments during that time as well. We wanted to take preventive measures to ensure that everything health-wise was fine before heading to our next post.

And the shopping. So much shopping. Mali is a consumables post, which means we have 2,500 lbs of items that the government will ship to us (we have to purchase the items ourselves, of course). Usually included in consumables are liquids over 16 ounces, no perishable food, and household goods that are either cheaper in the U.S. or that you cannot find outside of the U.S. We went to Costco two times to stock up on consumables. Items such as dish soap, laundry soap, and hand soap are way more expensive and not great quality in Mali, so we bought lots of those types of items. Additionally, shampoo, cleaning liquids, canned goods, and cooking oils were purchased. My mother-in-law, a pro at consumables shopping from living 20+ years overseas, went with us and helped guide us on what we would need. She is also a savvy shopper, so she pointed out what are good deals that we should take advantage of. We left with half of my in-law’s living room full of stuff to be picked up and shipped to us.

We had a small clothing allowance due to the fact that we were moving between posts with extreme weather variations. We took advantage of this and got clothing that is appropriate for Mali’s very hot climate. Lots of flip flops, sandals, and lightweight clothing were purchased. In fact, we bought so much stuff that we ended up mailing ourselves a few more boxes full of things we purchased during that time.

We took a couple of day trips to Philadelphia and Ocean City (with a winery stop along the way back), and also got to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday during our time in south New Jersey. It didn’t feel like a true vacation during our last leg of home leave because of all the appointments and logistical stuff we needed to do, but we got to spend time with family, which is priceless.

Home(less) Leave Part 2

For our next part of home leave, we traveled from Seattle to Washington D.C. for 2 days, and then to New Orleans for 4 days. Before we left my mom’s house we mailed a few boxes of stuff and left two suitcases with her, as we wanted to travel as light as possible for the rest of our trip. Lugging multiple bags around and baggage fees are no joke!!! Plus it was difficult to cram our two checked bags and carryon per person into an Uber.

During our short time in D.C., we met up with some old friends for dinner, upgraded my phone, and did some sightseeing and touristy stuff. The weather was glorious, so we were very happy to be outside and get our steps in. Also worth noting is we had the best crab cakes we ever tasted at Old Ebbitt Grill.

New Orleans was our next destination after D.C. We had been there 9.5 years ago prior to going on a cruise, but there was still so much more to see and eat. Our goal was to have as much good food as possible during home leave – and we definitely accomplished our goal!! There was so much walking during home leave that somehow, miraculously, we did not gain more than a pound or two during that month. In New Orleans, we had beignets, gumbo (3 times), fried chicken and biscuits, fried catfish, and of course shrimp creole.

Our first night we went to Bourbon Street to have some Sazerac and listen to some jazz music. Day 2 we went on a riverboat cruise, Day 3 we went to the World War 2 Museum, and Day 4 we went to the Oak Alley Plantation. All of these activities I highly recommend- and the weather was perfect the entire time. The final day we left early to finish off our home leave with my husband’s family on the east coast.

Our break in between visiting family was exactly what we needed. Although home leave is supposed to be about reconnecting with friends and family, sometimes the best solution is to break it up if possible and have some time exploring more of the U.S.

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