Craig's Travels
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2009 New Year's Letter

Dear Friends & Family,

Ah, the Holiday Letter: the chance to try and make up for not keeping in touch for the last 12 months. And for the Gerard’s, it has been even longer than that.  Last December got busy (as Decembers do), and we said, “Oh, we’ll just do our annual letter in June, just to be original.”  June came and went. No letter.  So here I am, humbly begging your forgiveness, not just for missing last year’s update, but for the lack of personal updates throughout the year.  And it is already January none-the-less. There is a good reason for my tardiness in this year’s letter. You’ll just have to read on to find out why.

Are we cheating by sending this out via email?  We, like most, have enjoyed getting everyone’s snail-mail letters and pictures.  But in a bid to use a few less trees and to save some time, we’re using our friend, the World Wide Web, for distribution. I hope you don’t mind.

All in all, life is good.  In September of 2008, we moved to Phnom Penh Cambodia with Ronit’s job at USAID.  We enjoy the comforts of the city, and try not to dwell too much on the negatives.  It seems our days and weeks are getting busier, which can only mean we have built a life and a community for ourselves.

Ronit continues to be challenged at work.  Her job as the Private Enterprise Officer at USAID Cambodia makes her the go-to person in the mission for everything dealing with Economic Growth and environmental impact in the realm of development.  This, coupled with the US government’s new focus on Global Food Security has her swimming in projects, reporting and collaboration.  This is by no means a complaint.  She loves her projects, only wishing she could be more involved in daily operations of the projects.  She was rewarded for her hard work in December when she received a Merit Honor Award for hard work with a project design team.  We must be enjoying ourselves, because, she has signed on for another two years in Cambodia.  We will find out in February if we will stay here until summer 2012 or if we’ll move in August of 2010. If we stay, Ronit will be moving to a new Agriculture Development Officer position, something she’s been longing to do since her days of planting millet in Peace Corps.  Ronit still takes breaks from her busy work schedule to run or work out a few times a week. In September, Ronit fulfilled her life-long dream of performing Community Theater, when she stared in “The Proposal,” a one-act play by Chekov. 

Craig just completed his third year as “Embassy Cruise Director,” in the Community Liaison Office.  He keeps things interesting by simply programming for things he is interested in. A brewery tour here, a scotch tasting there, a tour of the local knife factory, and round it out with some time on the playground for the kids.  This is work?  When not busy planning the next wine tasting with the Australian embassy, Craig has filled some of his spare time with writing for a local expat magazine. While the pay is peanuts, the experience is golden.  With 7 articles submitted in the past 2 months, there may be a viable excuse for not getting this letter out until January.  But there’s a better reason; keep reading.  Craig has also filled his days with a few healthy habits as well. In December he completed the 80-kilometer (ok, 72km, but who’s counting?) Angkor Wat Bike Race for the second year in a row, finishing in 2:46, only three minutes slower than last year, despite considerably less training.  But his real sports passion is Ultimate Frisbee, which he plays twice a week, and has competed in 3 tournaments in the past year (including two first place finishes).  He is heavily involved in planning Phnom Penh’s ultimate tournament in the beginning of March.

 Shai is still our little bundle of joy.  A defiant bundle at times, but still a bundle of joy.  Being two and a half, he is exerting his independence (“I want to do it by self”) and pushing the limits wherever he can.  It is fun to see his little mind at work (and when I say little, I don’t mean size; he still has a massive cranium).  He is starting to logically think things through, by beginning a lot of sentences with “Because…,” though the logic isn’t always logical, as in, “because the little dog went up to the sky.”  Shai started pre-school in October at Gecko & Garden, and he has many friends there and seems to enjoy the songs and the playground.   He is starting to say the funniest things. An example: Every night after bath time, we dry off different parts of his body, then when he’s dry, per tradition, he gives both mommy and daddy a hug and a kiss, and then dries his feet off (again), before giggling and running to the bed for jumping.  In his room, we have two twin beds pushed together foot-to-foot, making one long bed.  Ronit even had an extra long comforter made for the bed.  As is custom, mommy sits at one end and daddy sits at the other and Shai, naked as the day he was born, runs and jumps back and forth between the two.  There is much giggling, tickling, and general merriment (and not as many bumped heads as the Little Monkeys song might suggest).  However, mommy and daddy know that at some point jumping on the bed has to stop. Otherwise, he’ll be 17, naked, and still jumping up and down after a shower.  We have decided that three years old is the magic age when jumping is no longer permitted, and we’ve told Shai this on a few occasions to prepare him for losing this privilege.  The other night, just to make sure he knew what was coming 4 months from now, Craig asked, “Shai, what happens when you turn three years old?”  Shai pondered, “ummmm, you get birthday cake!” he exclaimed.  You can see where his priorities lay.  “Yes, that is true,” said daddy, “but what else happens? Do you remember what else happens when you turn three?”  Shai, without missing a beat says, “You get married!”  What??  Where did he get that from?  We were all in stitches.

And for the big news you’ve been so anxiously waiting for… the reason this letter is so tardy… Ronit has just received her next assignment, and this summer will be posted to Afghanistan. Of course, she is not going to Afghanistan because we are 12 weeks pregnant with Shai’s sibling.  We are very excited about the upcoming changes.  We had hoped to stay in Cambodia for another two years, leaving summer 2012, but with her appeal on the Kabul assignment, it may throw a little monkey wrench in that plan.  Not to worry, we’ll roll with whatever comes our way, be it another 2 years in lovely Phnom Penh or a move to some unknown destination.  Either way, we’ll be back in the US this summer for the birth of our second child, and we look forward to seeing many of you at that time.

We sincerely hope to keep in touch better over the coming year, and we keenly desire to spend more time with all of you.  Wishing you all the best in 2010.

Craig, Ronit, Shai and Perry or Paris (as in parasite)

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