“The” Ukraine and “The” Bahamas

Weird cross-cultural hang up. . .

In Ukraine, it is a serious political faux pas to say “The Ukraine” — as many of us grew up saying during the Cold War. It implies that Ukraine is “the borderlands” of Russia, and that Ukraine isn’t a state in its own right.

However, the proper term here is The Bahamas. It’s on the government documents and money.

But, I just. can’t. say. it. I can’t say “The”. . .

I hope I’m not offending any Bahamians or making another political faux pas by just saying Bahamas.


Wedding Registries and Moving Overseas

A new Foreign Service Officer is getting married soon and is about to head off to her first post.  When she asked about wedding registry and wishlist items for this transient lifestyle, these are the things I’ve found helpful over the past four years.


  • High quality knives (I’m borrowing my son’s Henkel knives… a gift from my mom to my budding chef.)
  • Comfy, queen sized sheets.
  • Towels.  I tend to be plain Jane, and like having white ones which will match a variety of decor and can be bleached.  Some people, however, find all whites get grey or reddish with water overseas.  In theory, the boys each have a different shade of blue or brown for their personal shower towels.  Doesn’t really work that way in practice.  I love having huge bath sheets, and think I need to indulge in getting a pair of those soon.
  • I’d skip asking for accent pillows or other decorative items — your style and taste will change over the years, and it is fun to find treasures in  various countries.
  • Pouch only means no mailing glass. We bought lots of picture frames for framing all the great photos we took and artwork we found. A digital photo frame is great, too!
  • Do you have a good camera? If not. . . definitely worth putting your wedding money towards!
  • Lots of glassware and mugs. Having more than 12 of everything is nice,  and I prefer having inexpensive ones with plain lines which blend with various tableware and seasonal decorations. I don’t stress when one breaks. Maybe this is more important to me with a houseful of boys!  (FWIW, it is pretty standard issue to have a dining room hutch, so you have a place to store your glassware!)
  • I like having certain kitchen items. . . not that I’m a fab cook, but I do a lot of it. . . So I like having my Blendtec, really big crockpot, iron skillet, cupcake pan and carrier, serving pieces, big glass bowls, etc. We do some entertaining, but it is usually casual, so I have basic stonewear and not china. Some people love having their china sets that they take everywhere and add to through the years, though.
  • Holiday items.   We don’t go all out like some friends do, but it is SO important to our family to pull out the same Advent calendar and Christmas card holder in house after house. It sure is nice to open a box and make it feel like home around the holidays. I love having my red, white & blue tablecloths for Independence Day and any other summery event. (Btw, I usually buy two of the same tablecloths now, so that if I have my dining room table fully extended to seat 12+, I can have it completely covered.) I have my little Thanksgiving salt and pepper shakers. I enjoy collecting holiday items where we live.




Our first overseas move was 13+ years ago, with a nonprofit organization and no shipment.  We did just fine with what we brought on the plane (lots of luggage, since we had lots of kids!)   No matter where you live, you’ll need to be flexible — even in the US.  It just requires a little more creativity to live on the economy in other places.   But it is really, really nice to have a household shipment with each move we make with the Department of State.  Frequent moves are challenging, and opening up a box and putting things on the wall to feel like home make a big difference.   This list summarizes what I’ve found to be the most useful for making life smoother and making it home wherever we are.

Memorial Day 2014




Hubby is outside of Kyiv.  He’s spent this weekend as an election observer during this key Ukrainian election.  He emailed me at 5:45am, while they were still counting ballots.  He’ll be home on the evening train tonight.  We will have our family memorial time tomorrow.

It is always odd to be overseas during distinctly American holidays.  Other countries do have days similar to Memorial Day, days to remember those who have given their lives in the fight for freedom or for their country.  In Ukraine, probably the closest thing is Dyen Pobyedi, “Victory Day,” which was May 9th.   Right now, with the tumult and the fighting and the shock that it is going on here in Ukraine, Memorial Day feels even more poignant.



“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword.

Joyce Kilmer