Saturday, March 28, 2020

Felicitations From Fairhope #03

Felicitations From Fairhope #03
28 March 2020

[Mental Health Sidebar - This series of postings - six in total - was completed before we were all engulfed by the advent of The Virus. We now live in a time where the general operating principle is “… and then it gets worse.” That may well be, but in constant vigilance lurks madness, so…]

Six Postings on Five Continents (cont.)


Accra - Pretty nice. Lived in a new compound of five duplexes known, rather enchantingly, as “The Hamptons.” Decent housing with intermittent water issues and Third World Internet. Security included a casually-staffed gatehouse, an electronic alarm system that we never used, and a massive steel grate for the front door that was simply too much.

Pretoria - Acceptable. A stand-alone located in a very scenic subdivision that used to be a farm. Lovely for evening walks. The house was nothing special, but security was over the top: A gatehouse, electronic alarm system (complicated to the point of uselessness), hourly drive-by security patrols, and 22 actual locking doors/grates.

Washington, DC - Acceptable. We considered DC something of a “hardship post,” primarily due to housing costs. Our place was small, comfortable, convenient, and heinously expensive. Naturally, DC was our only posting at which DoS had zero concern about security.

Buenos Aires - Excellent. Lovely 9th floor apartment on a 10-lane thoroughfare, with a security guard and portero (building superintendent). Also, a wonderful balcony with a view of the Southern Cross. The only drawback to the place was the mutant all-in-one washer/dryer. Whoever came up with that design needs to find another line of work. Also, another posting, another unused alarm system. The door was solid, it locked, and we felt quite safe.

Yangon - Excellent. The Shangri-La Residences is basically a self-contained hotel. The rooms were furnished (although the furniture was a bit clunky), we had housekeeping service every day, and the staff could not have been more helpful. We also had a very large and delightful saltwater swimming pool. We really – really - miss that. Security was tight, primarily at the entrance gate, and there was staff everywhere. No alarm system, not that we would have used it.

Rome - Acceptable. A decent, typical Roman apartment: high ceilings, no closets, weird Italian plumbing, and a very amenable Sri Lankan portiere. We had to furnish it ourselves, but it was in a safe, conveniently located neighborhood. Our apartment security consisted of a very serious front door lock and… that’s it.


Accra - Unreliable public transportation, so we needed a car to get to work until the Embassy relocated close to our residence. Having a vehicle was a real pain-in-the-ass. Going out at night was not advisable, since many local drivers would not turn on their headlights in order to conserve their batteries. (?) Taxis were surprisingly easy to find and usually acceptable. Walking options: Limited.

Pretoria - Public transportation was chaotic and getting a taxi was not easy, so we had to have a vehicle. It was a nice saloon car (sedan), but if I had it to do over, I would have opted for something larger with very tough, pothole-resistant tires. A Defender, perhaps? (I wish.) Walking options: Terrible.

Washington, DC - Our trusty Honda Element, a.k.a. “The Toaster,” was waiting for us. Man, I loved that vehicle. Except for occasionally taking Anne to work at Main State, however, I avoided driving (much less parking) in DC as much as possible. But the METRO was close and worked well enough. Walking options: Excellent

Buenos Aires - I sold the Element before we left DC (sigh), so we had no personal vehicle in BsAs. Which was great. We took taxis and buses everywhere and if we wanted to go somewhere further afield, we’d hire a car and driver. Walking options: Excellent.

Yangon - No car, no reliable public transportation, no problem. We counted on cheap taxis and had good drivers whom we used on a regular basis. Walking options: Limited.

Rome - No car, but no place to park one anyway, so… Rome has a moderately dependable public transportation system, convenient (though expensive) taxis, and, when you want to get out of town, trains. We love trains. Walking options: Excellent.

To be continued…

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