Ok, as promised...going to write a bit each day...or at least try to!   I've been amazed lately at all of the perks we get for falling under the US Embassy.   There are three types that fall under the umbrella of the embassy.  There are the military families here (5 in total), the state department folks (think foreign service exam) and the Peace Corps staff (4 American families).  The majority of Americans here are state department but that is probably only 12-15 additional families. The three groups all have our slightly different perspectives and experiences in life, so it keeps it interesting. There are 21 children on the US embassy school bus.   The military folks are used to moving every 3 years and the state department folks move every 2-3 years from what I can tell.  Most of them have moved many places and this is just one stop along their journey.   (Cannot use the word journey without thinking of the Bachelor...but I digress).    It seems that all the families that move a lot really love Fiji.  They think this is a winning post.  I can see why.   I mentioned before that a friend pointed out that here you do not have to worry about your children getting kidnapped.   Overall, it's very safe here.  Assaults are extremely rare, kidnappings virtually non-existent, and robberies are common.   (I just read that Atlanta is one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. where people not only rob you, but then shoot you after they take your belongings. (   I still love  my Atlanta, but it does help keep our safety in perspective.

All of these people make for a great community...paired with many welcomes and farewells.  Since the Passins will most likely be here for 3 to 5 years, we will probably see many people come and go.  Anyway, I am SO thankful that we fall under the embassy's umbrella.  There are many expats here who do not fall under their government's umbrella, including some Americans.   As a US diplomat (I think we are that...we have diplomat passports anyway) we have constant access to embassy perks.  We have a house that has to meet US government security guidelines.  We have a crazy amount of locks on all of our doors, two safe rooms in the house,  an alarm system, a locked gate, an emergency radio, and guards that drive by and check the house every hour.   From what I understand, this is the same for all embassy folks world wide.  

This is just a portion of the keys for the locks in this house.  Crazy!

Also, the embassy is right across the street from our house.  We can see the US flag from our backyard.   It is open and guarded 24 hours a day.  I have to use my special embassy badge to get in there and then I can run the trail around the embassy.  It is only about 1/3 of a mile, so I have to run the loop many times to get in a good workout, but hey...I have a guarded, safe running place any time of the day or night.  We can also take the kids there to ride bikes, run around, etc.  The embassy makes a decent lunch every day.  Yesterday I found out it was lasagna day and that I can even order an extra tray to buy when they make it.  Yes!!!  Good take-out food that's homemade.   (Not really even a thing here).  I tried the lasagna and it was loaded in yummy, yummy cheese...which is not easy to find here and when you do find it, you pay for it.

If you look closely, you can see US flag from our backyard!

We have a US mailing address so we can use amazon prime and order things from the states all of the time.   There are regulations on what we can order (no liquids over 16 oz, no alcohol, no fireworks, etc.) but we sure are ordering a lot of cereal!   The orders take between 2 and 3 weeks to get here, but such a benefit!

The kids ride the US embassy bus to and from school.  It is a posh, air conditioned bus that picks them and drops them off right at our gate.   There are seat belts on the bus and such a kind driver, Drawla.    The other ISS kids ride the usual buses here, with bus stops they walk to and definitely no air conditioning.  I hope my kids don't get to used to this royal treatment because they won't know what hit them when we move back to the states!  Once we get the car, I would like to drive and pick up the kids more often though, just to help me feel more connected to the school, the teachers, and the other moms.  But again, a great convenience.

Lastly, we have the care of the embassy nurse.   We get to see her for any medical problems that may arise.  If it is a big problem, the nurse accompanies us to the hospital as an advocate for us.  If it is a really big problem, we get medically evacuated for treatment in Australia or Korea or even Hawaii.   I have heard mixed reviews on the medical care here in Suva.  I do know that if anything happens, you don't call an ambulance because they have to find one.  You have to drive yourself quickly to the hospital and call the embassy on the way.   I have to say I am more nervous here about my kids breaking bones or getting really sick because as nice as it is to have a nurse to watch over us, it's the not the same medical system as in the states....but again, I'm so grateful for the embassy nurse to help us navigate the system.

I guess I forgot to also mention that they do all of our moving, packing, and secure the furnished house for us here too.    It's SO hard to leave a life of comfort, amazing friends and family ...but falling under this government umbrella definitely cushions it.   At this stage in my life, I think I really rely on that cushion!   I SO SO admire Peace Corps volunteers who have none of these perks, especially the ones who are older.

Wait...before I sign out... I just went to an American Women's Association (AWA) luncheon.  While I was there I realized I've been here for one month today!!  ONE MONTH!   I still feel very new to here and still feel like I'm completely acclimating...but, hey..I definitely know more than when I came.  Every day I am more comfortable and grateful for the experience.   I wonder what it will feel like 36 months in.   Crazy to even ponder...