Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find tips from the field, websites and information, home is where the hooch is suggestions, upcoming programs and events and follow our book club. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Food and Mood

According to WebMD, growing research suggests that your diet may affect your mood.1 The following foods (and nutrients) may not only be good for your mood, they can also help your overall health:2
·        Omega-3s: Omega-3s may protect us from chronic stress damage. Canned light tuna, sardines, flaxseed, and chia seeds are all good sources of omega-3s.3
·        Complex carbs: Carbs trigger the brain to make more serotonin, a feel-good, calming chemical. Complex carbs provide a steady supply of serotonin. By keeping blood sugar levels stable, complex carbs can also help you feel balanced. Whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals (including oatmeal) are all good sources of complex carbs. Avoid simple carbs, such as sugary foods and drinks.2
·        Vitamin C: Oranges are packed with vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can lower stress hormone levels while making the immune system stronger.2
·        Magnesium: Low magnesium can contribute to headaches, fatigue and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Green, leafy vegetables, cooked soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and salmon are all good sources of magnesium.2
·        B vitamins: Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.4 Vitamin B-12 can be found in animal products such as fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and low fat and fat-free milk. Fortified cereal is also a good source of B-12 and other B vitamins.
·        Polyphenols: Eating a diet rich in polyphenols (found in colorful fruits, vegetables, spices, teas and wines) may support brain health and help battle brain-related disorders. For example, green tea and turmeric have been associated with better brain function, better mood and protection against various brain diseases.5
·        Tryptophan: Tryptophan helps production of serotonin in the brain. Try to incorporate tryptophan-rich foods in your diet, such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and kidney beans.6
·        Calcium: Calcium can ease tension, anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. Try a glass of warm skimmed or low-fat milk before bed.7

Article thanks to:

MHN Members Pulse Digest 

Interested in receiving Members Pulse?  Please write FLOaskUT@state.gov

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

UT Book Club

Just read a good book?  Share it with the community!  Write FLOaskUT@state.gov

Below are some books you might enjoy!


The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam
The End of Manners by Francesca Marciano
In the Shadow of the Prohet by Milton Viorst
Come Back to Afghanistan by Said Hyder Akbar
The Caged Virgin by Ayann Hirsi
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Kabul in Winter by Ann Jones
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseine
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
My Forbidden Face by Latifa
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriquez
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hasseine
Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile
Caravans by James A Michener
Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield
The Warlord’s Son by Dan Fesperman
In Afghanistan by David Loyn

Youth Fiction Afghanistan

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis
Mud City by Deborah Ellis
A Bed of Red Roses by Nelofer Pazira


The Translator by Daoud Hari
The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles


Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq
Nights and Horses and the Desert edited by Robert Irwin
The Prize by Daniel Yergin
Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson
The Nightingale by Morgana Gallaway
Soft Spots by B. Van Winkle
Absent by Betool Khedairi
Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth
Voices of the Desert by Nelida Pinon


Trespassing by Uzma Aslam Khan
 Moghul Buffett by Cheryl Benard
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
 Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Passion and Peril on the Silk Road by Susan Barrett Price
Stones into Schools by Gregg Mortenson
Diplomatic Immunity by Grant Sutherland
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Youth Fiction Pakistan

Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Havali by Suzanne Fisher Staples
House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
8 Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel
Finding  Noef  Zoe Ferraris
The Cairo Trilogy by Najib Mahfuz
Beneath a Sky of Porphyry by Aicha Lemsine
The Chrysalis Aicha Lemsine
The Dawning by Milka Bajic
The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes you a Happy Birthday by  Neil MacFarquhar

Thursday, February 26, 2015

MHN Workshop on Building Healthy Families - Excerpt from February 20 Webinar


Most important rule: Use statements that deal only with child’s efforts and accomplishments, not with his character or personality.
Be specific and concrete.

Questions place the child-on the defensive.

Look for strengths in child and opportunities to “stroke” desired behaviors. It’s very easy to become too focused on negative behaviors.

Feelings need to be identified and acknowledged; undesirable actions may have to be limited, stopped or redirected.

Make rules that are specific, behavioral and concrete.

State things positively.

After you have said what you want, if not forthcoming, do something.

In order to get the behavior you want, expect to enforce it!

If you say something will happen, e.g. a consequence, make it happen.
MHN: Family Communication Page 13

Make rules that you both believe in and feel okay about enforcing.

Provide nurturing at other times.

Make very clear and explicit.

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say” simply doesn’t work.
Avoid talking in global terms or using judgmental words.

Should be fairly immediate or close (in time) to specific behavior.

When you feel your continued presence will only reinforce the behavior and/or escalate into a power struggle.

Think about what you would normally do, then do something different, perhaps the opposite.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MHN Workshop on Building Healthy Families - Excerpt from February 20 webinar

A person with high levels of self-esteem has the following traits:

Feels good about her/him self
Has a basic sense of trust in self and others
Doesn’t exploit anyone
Gets along in the family
Has a sense of humor, and not at other’s expense
Forms relationships that are mutually enhancing
Cares about other people’s welfare (altruistic)
Learning, growing and communicating require taking the risk of failure and disapproval. Children with good self-esteem find it easier to ask questions, explore and stretch the boundaries of their known world. You can help your child develop self-esteem.

Never be stingy on hugs!
Focus on how your child has made a contribution.
Recognize the effort - not the achievement.
When commenting on behavior (positive or negative) be specific - not global.
When making a correction - criticize behavior not the person.
Find something positive to say when making a correction.
Overuse “I” messages.
When your child is discouraged - acknowledge the problem and demonstrate confidence.
Write a letter about how wonderful your child is ... and give it to him or her.

Practice good communication. Model the behavior that you want to see in your children.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“Building Healthy
Families Through
Improved Communication”
Friday, February 20th @ 8:00AM EST

An excerpt from the workshop - RULES OF FAIR FIGHTING

Step one: Ask yourself: “· What exactly is bothering me? · What do I want the other person to do or not do? · Are my feelings in proportion to the issue?"

Step two: Know what your goals are before you begin. What are the possible outcomes that could be acceptable to you?
Step three: Remember that the idea is not to "win" but to come to a mutually satisfying and peaceful solution to the problem.
Step four: Set a time for a discussion with your partner-in-conflict. It should be as soon as possible but agreeable to both persons.
Step five: State the problem clearly. At first, try to stick to the facts; then, once you've stated the facts, state your feelings. Use "I" messages. Avoid "you" messages. See handout: Active Listening Skills.
Step six: Invite your partner-in-conflict to share his or her point of view, and use active listening skills.
Step seven: Try to take the other's perspective - that is, try to see the problem through his or her eyes.
Step eight: Propose specific solutions, and invite the other person to propose solutions, too.
Step nine: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal.

Step ten: Be ready for some compromise. Allowing the other person only one course of action will likely hinder resolution.

For more information go to MHN's member website (For log on information email FLOaskUT@state.gov)

Virtual participants will need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection and computer speakers. Only the presenter will be able to speak. The chat function will allow you to post questions during the presentation. To participate in the webinar visit: 

Enter as a guest; type your first name, and your post or future post.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

WEBINAR on Family Communication

The Family Liaison Office and MHN
Is offering an interactive workshop
“Building Healthy
Families Through
Improved Communication”
Friday, February 20, 2015
8:00 to 9:00 a.m. EST

The February 20th session will discuss the challenges of maintaining positive communication with everyone in the family while coping with stressful situations. A participant workbook accompanies the session and individuals are encouraged to request a copy before the session by writing FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Remote or In-Person participation:
Participants may attend in person or virtually. Virtual participants will need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection and computer speakers. Only the presenter will be able to speak. The chat function will allow you to post questions during the presentation. To participate in the webinar visit:

Enter as a guest; type your first name, and your post or future post. The session will begin at 8:00AM EST and last one hour. It will be held in room 1239 of the Harry S Truman Building. In-person participation: RSVP to floaskut@state.gov. If you do not have a state badge or diplomatic passport, please let us know so someone will be available to escort you.

If you have questions: Please direct questions or in-person RSVPs to FLO's Unaccompanied Tours Team at 202-647-1076 or email floaskut@state.gov

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Friendships:  Enrich your life and improve your health
Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it’s not always easy to build or maintain friendships. Understand the importance of friendships in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture friendships.
What are the benefits of friendships?
Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
Boost your happiness
Reduce stress
Improve your self-worth
Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness or job loss
Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Why is it sometimes hard to make friends or maintain friendships?
Many adults find it hard to develop new friendships or keep up existing friendships. Friendships may take a back seat to other priorities, such as work or caring for children or aging parents. You and your friends may have grown apart due to changes in your lives or interests. Or maybe you’ve moved to a new community and haven’t yet found a way to meet people. Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.
What’s a healthy number of friends?
There’s no need to aim for a specific number of friends. Some people benefit from a large and diverse network of friends, while others prefer a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances. There are also different types of friendship. You may have a few close friends you turn to for deeply personal conversations, and more casual friends with whom you see movies, play basketball or share backyard cookouts. Consider what works for you. Overall, the quality of your relationships is more important than the specific number of friends you have.
What are some ways to meet new people?
You can take steps to meet people and develop friendships. For example:
Take your child — or pet — for a walk. Chat with neighbors who are also out and about or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.
Work out. Take a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility. Start a lunchtime walking group at work.
Do lunch. Invite an acquaintance to join you for coffee or a meal.
Accept invites. When you’re invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
Volunteer. Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
Attend community events. Get together with a group of people working toward a goal you believe in, such as an election or the cleanup of a natural area. Find a group with similar interests in an activity, such as auto racing, gardening, reading or making crafts.
Go to school. Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests.
Join a faith community. Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
Above all, stay positive. You may not become friends with everyone you meet, but maintaining a friendly attitude and demeanor can help you improve the relationships in your life and sow the seeds of friendship with new acquaintances.
How does social media affect friendships?
Joining a chat group or online community might help you make or maintain connections and relieve loneliness. However, research suggests that use of social networking sites doesn’t necessarily translate to a larger offline network or closer offline relationships with network members. In addition, remember to exercise caution when sharing personal information or arranging an activity with someone you’ve only met online.
How can I nurture my friendships?
Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you’re the one giving support, and other times you’re on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond. It’s as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends.
Remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.
For more information go to MHN's member website (For log on information email FLOaskUT@state.gov)

Thursday, January 29, 2015


ALWAYS be prepared at Post for an evacuation

Go Bags should be ready to grab and go, and don’t forget about pets.

Remember, FLO follows you wherever go. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Staying in Touch While Separated

Use all communication avenues open between you and post. These days we rely on electronic mail and telephones to provide speedy connections; with added equipment one can easily add photos, videos, and even real-time communication via web cameras. If your family does not already own a digital camera, computer, or web cam, this would be a very good time to get one, or better yet, two. However, good old “snail mail” is still a very viable option and most people appreciate a             hand-written note or drawing, especially from children. Buy greetings cards and presents ahead of departure; stock up on ‘Forever’ stamps if post has U.S. mail capabilities; make sure the computer, phones, cameras are in functioning order; set family ground rules for communications: e.g., length of calls; sharing air-time when Dad/Mom is on the line with one person; agree to not draw negative conclusions if one party misses a phone date; decide together which dates are the most important not to miss: e.g., birthdays, anniversary, and set up a family calendar showing schedule of calls, R&Rs, etc.

For more information request our Separated by Service guide from FLOaskUT@state.gov or visit our Resources for Parents and Children site

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fitness:  Tips for Staying Motivated
Have you ever started a fitness program and then quit? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Many people start fitness programs but stop when they get bored or results come too slowly. Here are seven tips to help you stay motivated.
1. Set goals. Start with simple goals and then progress to longer range goals. Remember to make your goals realistic and achievable. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up if your goals are too ambitious.
For example, if you haven’t exercised in a while, a short-term goal might be to walk 10 minutes a day three days a week. An intermediate goal might be to walk 30 minutes five days a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a 5K walk.
2. Make it fun. Find sports or activities that you enjoy, then vary the routine to keep you on your toes. If you’re not enjoying your workouts, try something different. Join a volleyball or softball league. Take a ballroom dancing class. Check out a health club or martial arts center. Discover your hidden athletic talent. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery — and you’re more likely to stick with a fitness program if you’re having fun.
3. Make physical activity part of your daily routine. If it’s hard to find time for exercise, don’t fall back on excuses. Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity. You can also slip in physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk up and down sidelines while watching the kids play sports. Pedal a stationary bike or do strength training exercises while you watch TV at night.
4. Put it on paper. Are you hoping to lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Write it down. Seeing the benefits of regular exercise on paper may help you stay motivated.
You may also find it helps to keep an exercise diary. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Recording your efforts can help you work toward your goals — and remind you that you’re making progress.
5. Join forces with friends, neighbors or others. You’re not in this alone. Invite friends or co-workers to join you when you exercise. Work out with your partner or other loved ones. Play soccer with your kids. Organize a group of neighbors to take fitness classes at a local health club.
6. Reward yourself. After each exercise session, take a few minutes to savor the good feelings that exercise gives you. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise. External rewards can help, too. When you reach a longer range goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes or new tunes to enjoy while you exercise.
 7. Be flexible. If you’re too busy to work out or simply don’t feel up to it, take a day or two off. Be gentle with yourself if you need a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.
Now that you’ve regained your enthusiasm, get moving! Set your goals, make it fun and pat yourself on the back from time to time. Remember, physical activity is for life. Review these tips whenever you feel your motivation slipping.
By MHN Member Pulse

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Are You Ready for Change?
Nobody’s perfect, so there’s probably something about your life, habits or routine that you’d like to change. Maybe you want to eat healthier or exercise more. To improve your chances of making a long-lasting change, try these tips.
1. List the benefits of healthy change. To increase your chance of success, remember to pick just one or two areas of your life that you want to change. Then write down exactly what you could gain by making a change. You might note that you’d have more energy if you exercised, for example, or lower your blood pressure if you ate healthier meals.
2. Evaluate your readiness for change. Behavior change happens over time, not overnight. Knowing where you are in the change process can help you develop a plan for moving forward – and ultimately achieving lifelong change. Which stage of change describes you?
             Considering making a change – You’re thinking about change, and see some of the benefits. You see a lot of roadblocks, too, though. You’re just not sure if change is possible or will be worth the effort.
             Planning or taking some action – Change now looks like a real possibility, and you believe that the benefits will be worth the work. You have a plan for overcoming roadblocks and you’re starting to lay the foundation for change.
             Making the change – You are making the change, and working hard to make it part of your routine. You are committed to your goal.
3. Move towards change by creating a S-M-A-R-T goal. A S-M-A-R-T goal is:
            Specific – You know exactly what you need to do.
            Measurable – You can track your progress easily and objectively.
            Attainable – You have a clear vision of the steps you’ll take.
             Realistic – You are honest with yourself about the challenges, and have a good plan for confronting them.
             Timely – You have a clear, reasonable timeline.
Example of a SMART goal: For the next three months (timely and measurable), I will go for a brisk walk (specific, realistic and attainable).
When creating your S-M-A-R-T goal, try to frame your goal in terms of what you can control.

4. Stay on track. It takes time for a healthy change to become a solid habit. In the meantime, you’re more likely to stay committed to your goal if you:

  By MHN –  for unaccompanied tour employees and family member to log on to MHN go to and use the company code:  unaccompaniedtour