2 Months In..

Here’s a little I’ve learned in these past two months living abroad:

1)Knowing where to shop for food and home goods is absolutely key. And I do believe there is a workaround to just about everything. Even if that solution means ordering something online. Ask around, use CLO (Community Liason Office) as a resource, but I am telling you, things I didn’t think I would find here after going to 6 or 7 stores I ended up finding. So ask around.

2)Things will be different to what you’re used to, and that’s OK. Another country’s version of Mexican seasoning might be different from what you are used to, people might park cars on sidewalks, KFC might not have biscuits or extra crispy chicken breasts, but just roll with it. There will be things that each country has that you will love (hello Georgian food), and some that you don’t. That’s part of the adventure of living abroad.

3)PCS (Permanent Change of Station), A.K.A., moving from one country to another is brutal. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. It is stressful. PCS weight gain is a fact and the packers will try to pack things that they shouldn’t. But the good news is that you realize you can survive on few items, and it doesn’t last forever. And when you get your HHE, it is like the best day ever.

4)Embassy folk truly are amazing, giving, and so welcoming. I could not believe how quickly that they have become friends, sounding boards, and a wonderful support system.

5)Take language lessons!!!! Trust me on this, it will help with everyday life. And Google Translate is a lifesaver.

6)Having Facilities Management come and fix things around the house and hang up artwork is kind of awesome. As is packers helping unpack your HHE.

7)Use every weekend that you can to explore!! Go to all the parks, malls, aquariums, festivals, and things that you can. Take trips around the country or to neighboring countries. Take advantage of the fact that you are living in a different country for what is in the grand scheme of things is a short time and make the most of it.

8)Missing important events back in America kinda sucks. In the past couple of months we have missed birthdays, a high school reunion, and a funeral. Do what you can to be included such as FaceTime and let people know that you really wish you could be there in person.

9)Do what you can to maintain a “normal” everyday life. Subscribe to Netflix or Hulu or YouTube TV to watch your favorite shows, make FaceTime dates with family and friends back in America, and for goodness sakes occasionally suck it up and pay the higher price in the commissary for some familiar foods.

10)Leave as many U.S. electronics at home as you can (sell or donate them) and buy local electronics with local plugs and voltage at post. Even though we are provided a few transformer boxes, you will want your transformer for other more important electronics such as computer or the living room T.V. You don’t want to risk ruining your hairdryer, flat iron, or precious kitchen standing mixer or the transformer provided at post from using said U.S. voltage electronics. Also, you might have to use your U.S. voltage appliances in interesting ways, such as this:

Yes, that’s a griddle on the floor of our kitchen. Ahhh glamorous overseas life…

How to Grocery Shop Abroad

One of the main differences between grocery stores in the U.S. (at least in the places that I’ve lived) and Kyiv is instead of large one-stop grocery stores with a wide variety of items, here there are smaller grocery stores with a more limited selection. When it comes to grocery shopping, we are extremely lucky that we can find most things here in Kyiv at our local grocery store. However, there are times when you just want certain foods and spices/seasonings that you are used to from America that aren’t sold at the local grocery store.

Add in the fact that my husband has a dairy allergy, and I have had to come up with solutions for grocery shopping. These challenges are nothing I haven’t found a way around. In the past 4.5 weeks or so of living here, these have been my hacks for grocery shopping:

Grocery Store:

Get things like eggs, milk (yes, they have lactose free milk), juice, bread, tortillas (I was shocked to find this!), tea, coffee, mayonnaise(even the vegan kind), granola, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, cooking oil, peanut butter (yes!!!!) rice, pasta, (most) meat, pasta sauce, veggies, and fruit, rice cakes, and most cleaning supplies (called household chemicals here).

Online Grocery Delivery:

I have gotten heavy things like bottled water (we can’t drink tap water here), and things I can’t always find in the grocery store such as lactose free butter, lactose free yogurt, bacon (the kind at the grocery store near us isn’t cured like what we are used to in the U.S.), and some flavors I enjoy of jam. These are delivered to my door (if you place your order early enough, it can be delivered same day) for 69-79 Hryvnias ($3 USD). Being without a car at the moment, carrying heavy items is not fun, which is why I choose this option for heavy or bulky items. You can also order pretty much all of the things listed in the Grocery Store section above through this method of shopping. I suspect I will use this option a lot in the winter when I don’t want to walk to the grocery store in the snow and in sub zero temperatures:)

Embassy Commissary:

The size of a mini-mart, we have a commissary at the Embassy that we have utilized for convenience to get American goods. You can get some things that you can’t find at the grocery store such as vanilla extract, a selection of baking ingredients and mixes, a small selection of frozen American foods, American cereals, marshmallows, coconut oil, some spices, and canned black beans (since black beans aren’t popular here in Ukraine).


In approximately 2 weeks, you can receive taco seasoning, spices, brownie mix (for people like me who don’t care to make from scratch when Ghiradelli does such a good job of making a mix), Panko bread crumbs, popcorn, cereal that is not sold at the commissary, steel cut oats, cupcake liners, and dairy-free chocolate chips, along with most other household goods that Walmart sells that are not liquid. That is important- no liquids, gels, or aerosols can be shipped overseas via our DPO (Diplomatic Post Office). Just be aware that when you buy food from Walmart, they sell them in jumbo size or multiples of the same item.

6 More Weeks…

It’s hard to believe that the past 3 months have gone by so fast. What have I been up to?

Here it is in numbers:

67-Current streak on Duolingo (i.e., days in a row of learning Ukrainian)

38-# of years around the sun

3-# of flights to D.C. to see my husband

2-# of times my husband has been able to come to Florida to see me:)

2-# of meltdowns I have had (my poor husband)


#of online orders for clothing, household goods, etc. to prepare to move overseas

# of trips to the clothing drop offs in the area to drop off bags of clothes

We are entering the home stretch of our time in the United States (well, for now), so we have both been busy with the logistics of preparing for an overseas move. Diplomatic passports, visas, flight arrangements, international drivers permits, and pack out have all been scheduled and/or completed. I have been busy purging many items from our house that do not bring me joy (thanks Marie Kondo!) and working away at my job.

We had wonderful visits in February and March for Valentines Day and my birthday, exploring D.C. and it’s excellent culinary scene. I was able to see an old friend that lives in Arlington, and my husband and I were able to meet up with some of his old friends that he met 20+ years ago in South America.

It has been a good thing that I have been to D.C. so many times, because I have been able to test out jackets of varying weight for the winter temps. I have been craving winter temps ever since we moved to Florida (call me crazy, I know), so I was ecstatic to feel cold weather again. My husband also has been reacquainted with living in a colder climate after living in Florida for 3 years.

More travel has already been scheduled between now and when we leave for the Ukraine- I am going up to D.C. again to see the cherry blossoms, have a mini reunion with some of my hubby’s friends, and to get set up with our new bank. My hubby is coming down to Florida to do some final purging of his stuff, final doctor visits, and getting his vehicle ready to ship overseas. Also, we are going up north to see his brother get married before we leave!!

It is a huge transition for me- I will be unemployed, leaving a career I have had for over 15 years, living in another country- that I do not speak the language of fluently, by the way- and my husband and I are going to have to be on the same page using one budget and living off of one paycheck for the first time in our married lives. The anticipation of this got to me, so being human and all, I had a couple of meltdowns. Both during visits to see my husband in D.C. My poor husband- he deserves so much credit for putting up with me, a demanding training schedule, and organizing the logistics of the move. I acknowledge he is under so much stress too. But we are working through it and excited to be FINALLY settled in Ukraine soon.

I know I will miss many things about living in the United States, but I am sooo ready to be living full time with my hubby again. FaceTime really has been so good for our relationship, but it is no substitute for being with my hubby in person. There is so much to look forward to and we can’t wait for our adventure to begin in 6 weeks!!!

P.S.- here are a couple of pictures from the famous Georgetown Cupcakes we visited during my birthday weekend.

Bid List

Tuesday, on his second day of A100, my husband received the official bid list. The amount of countries on the bid list for IMS was 1 country for each IMS candidate in his A100 class. Surprisingly, there were countries on the list that I had been reading about recently on various Foreign Service blogs. He told me Tuesday evening that he needed to turn the bid list in with his rankings high to low on Thursday, so I spent an hour or two researching posts before I called it a night.

After spending the majority of Wednesday researching pretty much every post on Tales From Post and other blogs, I responded with my list in order from top to bottom ranking.

Later that night we FaceTimed and talked through the pros and cons of each post, and even looked at YouTube videos together of a good amount of cities to get an idea of the downtown areas, streets, and basic vibe (done by real, everyday people, not a visitor’s center). In the end, after almost 2 and a half hours of negotiation, we ranked each city from top to bottom.

We both feel good about our rankings, and now fingers crossed we get a post that is at the top of the list!!

A side note, the week has gone by pretty quickly, and I am not as sad/blue as I was on Sunday. FaceTime and being generally busy at work helps!! Also, I am amazed at how the house is strangely still clean and I spend not even a fraction of the time picking up stuff/tidying up in the morning as I usually do with my husband away:)

A100 Starts..

Well, my husband left this morning for DC. A100 starts tomorrow, and he has to check into his temporary apartment, attend a happy hour with his training class tonight, and somewhat settle in before he starts his new job as an IMS bright and early tomorrow! Training should last 22 weeks, according to his paperwork, which means that we will be leaving for post in April (I think..)

In other news, these past few weeks have been busy for my husband with travel, seeing friends, shopping for last minute items for A100 training, getting the official offer of employment and travel orders, sorting out housing in D.C., and saying goodbye to his wonderful coworkers he’s had over the past 3 years.

On my bucket list for Florida was to see Naples and St. Augustine, so we took a quick day trip to Naples and also went to St. Augustine for my husband’s birthday earlier this month. We took a trip to California last weekend to see my brother, grandma, my dear college friend, and my husband’s cousin and his family. This weekend, we saw his best friend and his wife, and we celebrated Thanksgiving with some good friends here in Florida.

It is bittersweet to have training start right after Thanksgiving, as I had thoughts of “this is going to be my last Thanksgiving in the U.S. for a very long time.” It must be the full moon right now, but I am very emotional about “lasts” of things in America and having to live here in Florida while my husband is in D.C.

Little things, like doing laundry yesterday and opening my husband’s sock drawer to find it empty have brought tears. And goodness, when we drove to the airport this morning I was a mess.

Being apart from my husband for 4-5 months is going to be rough, but I seek solace in the fact that, in addition to Face Time, I will see him in 2 weeks for flag day, then about a week and a half later for Christmas. In January, my mom and brother will visit for about a week, which should keep me busy. My husband still has to sell his car and motorcycle, and tie up some loose ends, so he will be making a couple of quick weekend trips here before we leave for post.

Well, that’s about it for now. I will post again later this week when we receive the bid list- I am very excited to see what cities and countries will be in it!!

The Journey Begins

Welcome to my blog!!  For those of you who are not familiar with the term “Trailing Spouse,” it refers to a person who follows their spouse (or significant other) for a job opportunity.   In my case, I will be following my husband for the adventure of a lifetime – traveling the world together!!

We found out this month that he was offered the position of an Information Management Specialist with the State Department.  At this time, we do not know where we are headed – we will find out in December.  All I can say is that this process has been loooong (over 2 years since he applied!!).  My husband has lived in quite a few countries, so he is familiar with expat life abroad.  I, on the other hand, have lived in the U.S. my entire life so this is brand new to me.  To prepare myself, I have been reading blogs of other trailing spouses and Foreign Service Officers to get an idea of what life might be like living abroad.  Those blogs have been tremendously helpful and have eased my anxiety (somewhat) of living the life of a trailing spouse.   This is the reason I started this blog – to share my experiences as a trailing spouse living abroad (in addition to giving friends and family updates on our lives of course).

Some of the challenges of being a Trailing Spouse are moving every 2-3 years (check, for all of my adult life this has been the norm), not knowing where you are headed to next (check, I have not planned a move more than 6 months in advance, so this is the norm), and living in a country where you most likely do not speak the language or know the social norms/culture (ummm well does South Florida count? j/k ).

Of course nothing can truly prepare you for life as an expat trailing spouse, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that my experiences thus far in my 37 years of life have given me an idea of what life is like living abroad.  My dad is from South America, I grew up and have lived in areas with a fairly diverse population, I have traveled to Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and Central America. I have lived in dry and mild climates (California), hot and humid climates (South Florida), as well as climates with four seasons (Boston). South Florida in particular has prepared me as most of the population is from another country, so it is common to hear Spanish, French, and Russian in my local grocery store and apartment building. My husband’s family also lived abroad in a similar situation moving every 2-3 years for 20+ years, so I have been soaking up advice from them.

My husband is a little over a month away from leaving for A-100 training, so we have lots to do – sell items we do not wish to keep, figure out what we intend to keep, and figure out where the items we intend to keep go (storage, HHE, or UAB).  We have been looking up the best banks to have an account with overseas, hustling to get as much debt paid off as we can before leaving, and much more.  Since I need to work until the packout date (which can be anywhere from January to June, from what I can gather), it will be very difficult for me to keep focused at work because all I want to do is start this new adventure already!!  Stay tuned for the real, awkward, and funny tales of an expat living abroad.

Sherwood Family Nonsense

My Life As An Expat Abroad

She Picks Up Pennies

Living a More Purposeful Life One Cent at a Time

Collecting Postcards

Foreign Service Officer and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

Get Rich Slowly

My Life As An Expat Abroad

Jenni Goes Global

our life abroad

Technically a Diplomat

My Life As An Expat Abroad

Ramble On - Foreign Service Specialist

My Life As An Expat Abroad