Friday, December 31, 2010

10 things I'm loving this fall/winter (#7)



#7 Midwestern weather

I admit that growing up in the midwest gave me a phobia of all things cold. (Everything from skiing to the refrigerated section of the grocery store.) So at the first opportunity I packed up and moved to the desert. I loved the heat and even past 100 degrees rarely used my AC. (I guess all that talk about dry heat is right.) It took Sri Lanka to cure me of my unquestioned love of heat. After an entire year of being either too hot or way too hot, I am appreciating winter in a way I couldn't before. And even more, I'm appreciating the fact that even if I get sick of winter it won't be here forever.

The saying back home sums it up nicely, "Don't like the weather? Just wait, it'll change." (Not quite as catchy as I remember it...) Anyway, the top picture was taken a couple days ago. Notice that the lake has frozen over and the trees are laced with ice. It was gorgeous; crisp, still, silent. The bottom picture was the next day. It looked and felt like spring, with water flowing over the ice and the smell of wet grass. I loved them both. So maybe the weather can help me remember that nothing lasts forever and to just enjoy what I've got.

So here's to this season of my life! Cheers to a month off at Christmas, free lectures, a very good library, a starbucks on every corner, and learning for a living.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home for the Holidays

So just a quick update, stuff that doesn't fit into my 10 things... scheme.

*I've been too busy with finals to make the most of the holiday in DC - I missed the Eastern Market's Christmas market, didn't go to the Nutcracker, and have not yet been ice skating on the mall. However I'm making up for it as best I can tomorrow by going to visit the National Christmas Tree and listening to some freezing cold choir sing in front of it. Did you know they have music there every night from the 14th until Christmas? (Well, maybe fact check that, but that's how I understood it.)

*I've been conducting some cooking experiments to distract me from all that studying. I've tried pesto (way too much garlic), beef stew (a little watery), tortilla chips (easy!), roasted garlic (only so-so), and lasagna (made enough to feed a small army - will not be eating lasagna again for a year or so).

*I haven't made any progress recently on meeting the entry requirements for state. Basically there's only the Oral Assessment left. I have both of my clearances and passed the FSOT already. (And I don't have to do the PN's, see the Pickering Faqs section.) I still haven't actually gotten my invite to the OA, but I'm assuming that I'll be taking it the next time it's offered, so I've been preparing accordingly. I have a really great former employer who is coaching me on my interviewing skills (which is great because she does that for a living). I'm also planning to join a DC study group, as much for the social value as the study value. I know the chances aren't great for passing it on the first try, but I'd like to think I'm preparing as much as or more than most people, so it's only a matter of time, right?

10 things I'm loving this fall/winter (#6)


#6 Time (Off -that is)

This week I fly home for a very long Christmas break which I am very grateful for. I've already picked up some winter reading from the library (fiction! finally!) and put together an ambitious list of all the awesome, non-academic things I'm going to do while home. On the list? Host a party, learn how to make homemade marshmallows, see my old buddies from high school, and maybe take a first aid/cpr class, because I think I'm the only one in my family now that couldn't save a life, well, to save my life and it's about time I did something about that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

10 things I'm loving this fall/winter (#5)


#5 Memo Writing

Okay, this one may be hard to explain. But I've been preparing for the oral assessment (in my perpetual battle to find alternatives to studying for my finals and writing my research paper) and in doing so I discovered how much I like memos.

They are about everything that grad school is not. Clarity. Brevity. Simplicity. Action. Sticking to the facts. Using words that mean things! No wonder I have been struggling here! At heart, I'm more of a memo person than an 'scholarly research' person. If I have to read one more article about 'conceptualizations of developmentalization' or some such nonsense... well I'd better save that rant for next year. ;)

8 days left in my 1st (otherwise known as fourth to last) semester!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The problem with living in the tropics...



...is that you lose the ability to distinguish between this:


and this:


Is it just me or is DC colder than it looks?


*I should also note, only the first picture is mine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ways to avoid writing a research paper (by someone who knows)

*Go for a walk.
*Call your mom.
*Make homemade tortilla chips.
*Write your Christmas letters.
*Watch Glee reruns online.
*Check your email.
*Check it again just in case.
*Organize your notes.
*Clean your apartment.
*Make paper snowflakes.
*Plan your spring break trip.
*Apply for things; jobs, internships, whatever.
*Go work out.
*Take a nap.
*Do your nails.
*Shop online.
*Redecorate your apartment.
*Update your blog. :)

*sigh*

Saturday, November 20, 2010

10 things I'm loving this fall (#4)



#4 Ridiculous Music

And yes, I took the time to learn the safety dance during finals.

Friday, November 19, 2010

10 things I'm loving this fall (#3)


#3 Technology

I know, everyone loves technology, but sometimes it hits me what my life would be like without it. First of all, the year I just spent in Sri Lanka would have been an awful lot lonelier without Skyping my family (on two continents), emailing my friends, reading about their lives on facebook everyday, watching Lost over the internet, reading the New York Times, looking up recipes, and on, and on. Especially considering that I hope to be an expat again as soon as school is over this stuff makes a world of difference. I cannot imagine what it would be like to leave on a ship for another country, never knowing if you would see your loved ones again. I am so blessed to be living right now.

Oh, and I need to explain the picture. It's a picture of my printer. Which cost $30 and can print, copy, and scan. I might be a bit out-of-the-loop, but that just astounded me. Another thing that astounded me? My new phone. When I left the US last year people had normal phones. When I came back the cheapest phone I could get flips into two parts with a little keyboard. And it takes pictures. I could probably fly the space shuttle with it. Wow. Maybe that's the other reason I go abroad - it just makes coming home seem amazing. ;)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

10 things I'm loving this fall (#2)


#2 The Watergate Complex

The Watergate is practically across the street from my apartment, and I'm really enjoying it. The first reason is that it has the closest grocery store - and also the best - near my house.(No offense Trader Joe's, but your lines are long, your prices are high, and you're apparently too pretentious to stock spaghettios.) The best thing about the Safeway is that it is totally out of keeping with the Watergate image. Actually, the whole courtyard is a little off. There's a CVS, a mobile phone store, some random travel agents, a fake flower store (?!), picture frame store, and some restaurants. It's a little seedy and there's never many people there, which makes me wonder how they could possibly stay in business. Anyway, all of the wealthy people who are actually living/working/whatever at Watergate shop at Trader Joe's, so me and the rest of the grad students and neighbors of limited means have the safeway to ourselves.

Besides the wonders of Safeway, the Watergate complex also appeals to my inner architect. As a kid I actually collected house plan books, drew my own plans, and even had some design programs on my computer. (It really doesn't get much nerdier than that...) So seeing such a cool building up close is always really awesome. Both Watergate and the Kennedy center right next door remind me of the movie the Incredibles. The style is really over-the-top, big and unapologetically modern. I like the balconies that just end halfway around the building, they remind me of a video game. And I like the chaos of it - uneven profile, sweeping curves, little bridges and fountains and things all over. I tried to find a better picture online, but this was the best I could do. If you come to DC take a stroll around and see for yourself. Anyway, it's not just the dry office building that you'd think.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

10 things I'm loving this fall (#1)


#1 Multicolr Search Lab

This website serves no function that I can think of, other than to waste time in a strangly addictive way. Simply pick some colors from the box on the side and Multicolr searches Flickr to make you a random little collage of pictures that match your color theme. If only I could expand this and put it on my wall... instant decorating to fit my mood!

*note that any more than 3 colors and all you'll get is a mess

Friday, November 5, 2010

Waiting (update)

As of November 1st I am no longer waiting for my security clearance. I have officially been declared 'secure enough' I suppose.

And it turns out that the personal narrative questions were so familiar because I had already answered them for Pickering, so it turns out I don't have to do them again! VERY excited about that.

And my picture frame arrived. ;)

And it turns out United Airlines was just joking about using the FF miles to fly to South America (ha! that was a good one UA!) so I'm planning a somewhat more low-key trip for spring break instead. I'm sad to miss my brother in South America, but who knows, maybe someday we'll be neighbors? Anything's possible!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Waiting Game

So, I've been waiting a lot lately.

Waiting for my scholarship money to come in,
Waiting for my security clearance,
Waiting for the picture frame I ordered online :)
Waiting for my frequent flier miles to process,
Waiting for my results from the FSOT,
etc.

Finally, finally, this week is my turn! My money's here so I can buy a lamp (I really need a lamp), my security clearance is ... well surely it's almost done by now... my frame is on its way, I have enough frequent flier miles to fly to Paraguay and back, and, drumroll please....

I passed the test!

If I were the type to squeal and go crazy this would definitely be the time I'd do it. But since I'm not, I spent a few minutes smiling and rereading the congratulations letter.

And then of course, I got down to work on the Personal Narratives.

They seem eerily familiar from my Pickering application/interview process, which helps. The downside of course is that I have only three weeks in which to finish them. The same three weeks in which I have to write two 20 page research papers, and one 6 page discussion paper, read 3 books and do all of the other 'little' assignments, so the timing is a little, intense. Oh well, still excited!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Go miners go!

I've been watching the rescue blog all day. I will have to cross miner off my list of potential jobs. No way I would be that cool after 68 days underground. Can't seem to make this a link, but cut and paste should work just fine. :) http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/latest-updates-on-the-rescue-of-the-chilean-miners/?ref=global-home

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm finished! (With the FSOT that is.) I think (?) it went well. I can't say exactly what was on it, only that it wasn't as detailed as I expected. A good thing, I hope. I certainly wrote a better essay than for the GRE's. Now I'll have to wait 3-5 weeks for my results. *sigh* back to work!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Path to State


Well, I keep inching closer to the foreign service.

Last Friday I had an interview for a summer internship with a really great guy at State here in DC. I don't want to go into detail, even though it isn't secret or anything, but it's an office I was interested in working for, so hopefully I made a good impression!

I also have a meeting scheduled with my school's coach-in-residence, who can hopefully answer some of my questions about how I can fulfill my fellowship obligations (and maybe about how I can finally get my medical reimbursement!)

Finally, I am taking the FSOT (my first try - oh I really hope it's my only try) this weekend. Wish me luck!

Things for which I am grateful:

*Beautiful weather. Especially after yesterday's experience getting totally soaked in the rain on the way to work.
*Biking past the monuments last weekend. I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful, green, safe and friendly city.
*Being able to cook again! The supermarkets are full of foods that I recognize and I have a working stove, oven, and microwave! I have my cookbook and all sorts of cooking implements. I’m excited because I miss this when I’m overseas. It seems like cooking abroad is 100 times harder. You can never find the right ingredients or supplies and nothing ever works the same. So I will enjoy every minute of this while it lasts.
*Free NYT and Washington Post on campus. So glad I didn’t have to pay for one more thing!
*My fellowship. So. Much.
*My super awesome Ikea furniture! It looks great and I put it all together myself. ;) The best part is that it makes my apartment feel like a home. My home. My first home! And I really do feel like it too, that I’m an adult, taking control of my life and living independently. Strange, since I’ve lived away from home since I was 18, worked since I was 12, and paid my own way (in the big things at least) since college. I guess it’s the furniture?
*The amazing opportunities I’ve had so far. Who else got to live and work overseas in two (three-ish) fascinating countries, doing the work that they were most interested in? Who else gets to be a foreign service officer? Who gets to travel to India and Malaysia and Paraguay and all over Europe and just everywhere? (Okay, so some people get to do some of these things, but who gets all of them? Only me! I am so lucky!)
*My amazing and perfect health. May I never take that for granted.
*Being an American. In spite of it all, I really, actually, do love my country and the last time I landed at JFK I just about kissed the carpet. Even though I love, love, love to travel, it is wonderful to be at home.



What brings on this rash of good feeling?
I just needed a little self-pep-talk before getting back to studying. Only 150 more pages to read today! And then a paper to write. And then, of course, the FSOT tomorrow! I'm not nervous, I'm not stressed! No way!

Need a pep-talk of your own? Here's a good link. ;)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RQ98Fj_CFI

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fun, Finally


Ahhhh... much better. No, my classes aren't magically easier today, nor is my commute shorter or my evil roommate cat any better (it made me bleed!), but I'm starting to meet people and have fun and know how to get places and it feels sooo good to be, even a little bit, at home.

So what was on tap this weekend? Friday there was a party for people in my program. Saturday I went to DC Shorts film festival, Sunday - Adams Morgan day. I love how there is always something to do here. Here's a pic of the Adams Morgan festival (I didn't take the pic - disclaimer). Basically it sums up how 90% of the vendors were selling food. Yummy, interesting, fattening food. I had an avocado cream popsicle which was just about the limit of my budget this week, but it was awesome just seeing what's out there. And I will definitely have to return to Adams Morgan to check out all those restaurants again.

This week I'm moving into my long-term housing, thank goodness, where I will decorate and cook real food and just make myself at home. So looking forward to having a home of my own where I can stop living out of my suitcases.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gratuitous picture


Just realized I never post pictures... so here's one of my dog.

Grad School is Hard

Everyone said it would be, but I'm still a little flipped out.

I didn't think it would be hard to read a book (almost) a day. I just didn't foresee that those books might be really, really, almost unreadably...what's the diplomatic term? ... esoteric. Or maybe, dry. Anyway, I'm sure I will love grad school once I'm a little further in. And have friends. And free time. And cash.

Big plans this weekend? I have to apply to the internship state is having me do this summer (if they are making me do the internship, why do I have to apply? shouldn't I automatically be in?). And I will carve out some time to see the zoo and ride my bike because I need, need, need to get outdoors and away from these books for awhile.

Oh and state? I love my scholarship and I do want to join the foreign service, I swear. Just venting.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

End of August Update

Okay, no snappy title for this post. I've been too busy to write.

1: I had my security clearance interview. I was beginning to wonder when they'd interview me. It was intense. Not bare-lightbulb-in-a-dark-room intense, but kind of SAT intense. Basically it was 3 1/2 hours of insane and boring detail into my apparently very complex life. I think(?) I passed. Though I accidentally called the interviewer old, which didn't help.

2: I moved halfway across the country for school. My foreign friends can never get over how long it takes to get places in the US by car, but to me it's so great to think that I'm practically right next door to my parents. They're just a few hours away now!

3: I started grad school. It's a bit surreal, like going back to live with your parents after working. It just makes me feel like a kid again. Positives: free stuff everywhere, being in the middle of a city full of interesting and very smart people, getting to devote at least half of my time to stuffing my brain full of interesting facts. Negatives: I wasn't able to take language courses for my major (this is bad because I love language courses), my apartment company kind of screwed up their records so I got dumped in a temporary place for one month (so I get to move twice!) and the temporary place? it includes a cat, or rather, a pile of fur and dander that bites me. *sigh*

4: My 100 best novels list is going on hiatus until I figure out how to balance working 20 hours a week, being a full time grad student (and reading 1-2 school books per week), reading the newspaper every day in preparation for the FSOT, exercising, volunteering, going to church, and refreshing my language skills for the exit exam. Somehow I think it might be awhile...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

officially healthy

I am now, officially, the healthiest person ever. I received my worldwide available medical clearance the other day, and while I can't say it was a huge surprise, I'm still excited to have at least one stage of the process under my belt. Now if only I could get the reimbursement for all those tests taken care of...

As for the security clearance, I have my interview tomorrow and many of my friends, former employers, etc have been interviewed too. So I guess we're making progress on all fronts!

In other news, my preparations for grad school are going well too. I've got my books and have even started reading a couple of them. I've got my housing hooked up (it's pretty sweet). My parents are helping me move, which I really appreciate, and probably buying my furniture, which I would have had to do without due to my financial situation at present. So all in all, I feel pretty excited and ready to go. Part of me is still longing to just skip grad school and get back to the real world and make an 'adult' wage, but I guess I have the rest of my life to work, right? In the meantime I intend to fully enjoy being back in the states (and having all four seasons again!)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

# 6 (whatever)


So number 6 on the 'best novels' list? The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. Can I just say, it is the Worst. Book. Ever. Every time I open it I want to bash my head into the wall. If I weren't mildly OCD I wouldn't be finishing it, but we'll see. Maybe it will get better?

In other news, my security clearance is apparently off to a good start. Two friends have already had visits from scary government guys. I'm waiting for my own visit. Do I get one, I wonder? Still trying to figure out how to get the medical stuff reimbursed. I definitely don't have the cash to just let that one go. (Apparently chest x-rays are expensive.)

Other than checking books off my list, I've been having the perfect summer. Cooking at home, visiting friends and family, watching stupid action flicks and lying by the pool. Ahhhhh...

*footnote: I had fun picking the book cover that best reflected how boring this book was/is. In the end this was the best choice. No pictures = no fun. And they call this a classic? Even more than that, they call it one of the best classics!? Nowhere near Lolita. Give it a miss.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reading Lolita in Iowa

Lolita, number four on the modern library's list is remarkable and horrifying by turns. It carries a little extra meaning for someone who has worked for the past several years with abused children. I've always wondered what goes on in the minds of the abusers. How do they justify themselves? Especially to themselves? Nabokov seems to have some answers. (Although it does make me wonder how on earth he could get inside the head of his character so well.) I find it creepy how several of the reviewers on the back cover have called it a 'love story', considering how Humbert so often refers to coercing, threatening and bribing Lolita.

On a happier note, I'm still on vacation. I've been enjoying friends and family and alll things American and I still have a month left. This will probably (hopefully) be the last long summer that I have unemployed, so I'm enjoying it while I can. And of course, about once a day I get another email regarding my security clearance or medical clearance. At first I was surprised. It all seemed so...disorganized. But now I'm starting to roll with the bureaucracy, anticipating that I'll need to make 2 copies when they say 1, and submit 3 references when they say 2. And that there will always be one more step... But I received an encouraging email today. My medical clearance is scheduled to start on August 17th. When will it finish? No one knows, but at least now I can plan on it starting. ;)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Whole New World

America really is a whole new world, accessible only after a harrowing journey through the evil land of Jet Airways and Delta. Oh how I hate flying... But seeing my friends and family back home is pretty worth it.

I spent my first week back in the states in a daze, starting every sentence with 'well in Sri Lanka...', and marveling at the shininess and general abundance of America, even rural America. It's nice to be back, but it is just a bit like Disney World at times.

This week has been a whirlwind. My mom and I had a Julie & Julia day. (We watched the movie and cooked Bouef Bourgignon, it was awesome.) I met my sister-in-law for the first time ever. (She's great!) And I got the most thorough medical exam I've had in my life. (Thanks DoS, it's good to feel so healthy!)

I'll write again later, but here's a preview of the next few days: my brother's wedding reception is Saturday and our town's festival (Wait for it...BEEF DAYS, a celebration of beef!) is this weekend, and I will finally be getting back to my reading list.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last day in Sri Lanka


Today is my last day in Colombo!
I said goodbye to the girls with a dance party, and I've been trickling through the list of friends to say goodbye to as well. I'd forgotten how emotionally draining goodbyes can be. At least I know that most of these friends I will likely see again.

Other than goodbyes things have been going well. I'm mostly packed and I have the rest of the day to finish. I did 90% of my packing this morning, in about 45 minutes. It's nice having only two bags, it keeps me sane I think. I've read blogs of people in the FS who move a whole household every 2 years. I can't imagine, though I guess if things go to plan that will be me in a few years. First, I'll need to buy some things worth shipping overseas.

Well, take care Sri Lanka, it's been fun. I wish you hadn't been so hot and had so many mosquitos, but you've made up for it in many ways - with beautiful views, wonderful people, and something interesting around every corner. I wish you well in the future - improved waste disposal systems, vastly improved schooling, jobs (not just in the garment sector), a new highway to India, tourists, maybe even a Mexican restaurant someday. Dream big.

Friday, June 25, 2010

5 days

This week is certainly bittersweet for me. I've been very anxious lately to get home and see family and friends - I even have a new sister-in-law who I'll be meeting for the first time - and the April/May heatwave here really knocked me out, so I'm very happy to be going home. On the other hand, I'm saying goodbye to a year's worth of friends, all of the girls we work with, and a country that I've really grown to love (on it's good days of course).

The things I'll miss about Sri Lanka?
First off, my friends. I couldn't say enough about them, except that I don't want to spoil their privacy. ;) So let me just stick to the obvious. They've been with me through all the highs and lows of life in a place that is far from home and culture that is even farther. They've made me laugh and helped me enjoy all the amazing things that life has to offer here. We're scattering this year, but I hope to see them all sometime in the future, who knows, maybe even DC this year?

And secondly, Sri Lanka itself. In no particular order:
String hoppers, frangipani flowers and my pink bougainvillea, the beach, the bustle of the streets, monkeys, geckos, football(soccer!)and cricket, pub quiz, my neighbors' babies, cows in the street, monsoon rains, fresh papaya for breakfast, the call to prayer at dusk, the mountains, pol sambol, women in saris, school kids in white, delivery people for everything from yogurt to mops, rickety trains, colorful skirts, tuk tuks, and I guess just the feel of the place. It's all beautiful and exotic and rewarding at the end of a long day struggling to get things done and I will look back very warmly on this crazy island during the long cold winter at home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The process

So...I missed the Pickering fellows orientation, which shouldn't have been a big deal, but has actually made it really difficult to get information about what's going on. I asked if they could send me the information covered during the two day orientation and I got a page and a half. (It must have been a busy weekend ;) All that is just to excuse the fact that I know almost nothing about what's going on. I actually was surfing the web the other day for information about my fellowship. That's sad. So forgive me if my explanation turns out to be flat out wrong.

My timetable for pickering?
April 2010 -
I found out on the 6th that I was a finalist and that I would be flying to DC for an interview at the end of the month.
On the 24th I took a short essay test and had an interview with the panel, as did 39 other amazing candidates. I flew back to Colombo the next day.
I found out I was a fellow by the 27th. Less than a month!

May 2010 -
Mostly radio silence, with the exception of receiving my security clearance package late in the month with the understanding that I would fill it out and return it within about 10 days.

June 2010 -
I missed the orientation in DC, since fellows outside the US don't attend (I actually really appreciate that they didn't waste tax dollars on that flight - and that they didn't make me live through another Colombo-to-DC-to-Colombo weekend, as the first one just about killed me), submitted my security clearance, signed a contract, and now have just received my medical clearance information. I'm waiting til I get back to the States, as I'm too busy to deal with it now, and I'd rather go to a doctor at home anyway.

I know this is pretty different so far from the application process that most people go through. However, some things are the same. I still need both medical and security clearance, I still need to take and pass the FSOT and the FSOA, I still have to attend A-100. The biggest difference seems to be that instead of the QEP I had the Fellowship application and the interview/test in April, which I suppose served the same function of evaluating my background and experience. Oh, and the fact that it's all out of order this way. I'll probably have my security and medical clearance before I take the tests and I'll have a contract signed before anything else.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Me...and the Police

So this week I had the opportunity to meet not just one but two sets of Sri Lankan police officers. Well, I've met plenty of police here before, but usually at roadside checkpoints. This time I met them on their own turf.

My visit was necessitated by the security clearance that I've been working on. Among other things I needed to submit 72 pages (!) of information regarding everyone I know, everywhere I've been, and everything I've done. Ever. And I also needed to submit two sets of fingerprints. Oh, and I had 10ish days to track down all this info and get my prints done, in addition to working with my colleague here to interview and try out my replacement and do my regular duties as well. So it's been a pretty busy week.

The upside of course is that the government can feel much more secure hiring me now. (How much more secure? 72 pages more!) And I can relive the past 10 years in excruciating detail. And pretend to be a hardened criminal at the police station of course. :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

#18 Slaughterhouse Five

One of the very few books from the list that are available at my local library. (ie, the American Center Library, I didn't want to get a card at the Colombo Library for many reasons, mostly relating to the ease of public transport)

I liked it and found it hard to put down. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is not, in fact, about the meat-packing industry. It officially goes on my list of best books too.

Happy reading!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

100 Best Novels

I've added something new to my life list today. (Clearly I had too much time on my hands after the 'great flood' of yesterday.)

I decided to read all the novels on the 100 best novels list (the one put out by the modern library). There are actually two best lists, one by the 'boards' and one by the 'readers'. Even though I've read only 18 of the 'boards' list compared to 22 from the 'readers' list I decided that I want to use the expert list as my guide. I think it has something to do with the presence of so much Ayn Rand, L. Ron Hubbard, and Stephen King on the readers list and their overall focus on sci-fi. It just turned me off.

So I'll try to keep you posted with my thoughts on the list as I read them. And luckily I'll be back in the states soon, with access to a real library, which will make this goal a lot easier to reach.

Todays book? #88 The Call of the Wild.
My thoughts? A little heavy on the Buck's-evolutionary-background nonsense, but otherwise I liked it. The movie was pretty faithful, which I was glad to see. And, unlike most of the list, this one was quite short, only 139 pages of fairly large print. Totally a classic.

Ooh! Quick note: I found another list, Radcliff's. And I have to say that I think it's a better list (of course I would think that, since I've read 35 of those books already!) I'm still sticking to my original plan, but I just thougth I should note that I would recommend Radcliff's list over the Modern Library's if you want fun books. It's got (in my opinion) a better mix of classics and enjoyable favorites (like Charlotte's Web. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ups and Downs of life in Ceylon

(yes I know it's called Sri Lanka now)

So now that it's less than two months to my departure, I'm starting to feel nostalgic about everything.

The upside of Colombo?
1)The sunset last night was amazing, the clouds looked like something out of Vanilla Sky.
2)I'm a 12 cent bus ride away from the beach, which I plan to take advantage of this weekend to scandalize the locals by getting a tan.
3)We have geckos everywhere. And monitor lizards in the canal.
4)Stuff is cheap. Thankfully, because I will need to basically replace my entire wardrobe after a year here. Apparently hand washing isn't as good for clothes as it sounds...
5)Air drying is easy. 10 minutes on our roof and a whole load of laundry (ie, a bucketful) is dry.

The downside?
Colombo is always reminding us about what's important in life. Like refridgerators (broke on Sunday, all the food had to be tossed) or water (shut off last night, will be turned on...?) electricity (off today and managed to somehow blow the modem along with it). *sigh*
Getting harassed on the street.
The heat.
A very long way from home, and family, and dog of course.

Friday, April 30, 2010

How did I get here?

There's a long and a short answer to that question. The long answer involves traveling, studying, and meeting lots of current and former FSOs and eventually growing interested enough to apply for myself.

Which leads me to the short answer, I applied. I applied in the winter for the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship in Foreign Affairs. I hoped to get in, but certainly didn't expect it, so when I got an email inviting me to move on to the next stage in early-April (while on a work trip to Malaysia no less) I was as stressed as I was excited. Less than two weeks later I found myself on a plane to DC. I felt like a bit of a mess going into the interview. I was seriously jetlagged, had to have my mom buy me a suit in the states since I couldn't find one locally, I'd left my job in a state of minor chaos, and I had next to no idea what the interview would be like. At least I can be pretty confident that everyone else being interviewed was in the same boat.

The next bit was pretty rushed. I met the other candidates (40 total) and we all had a quick interview, a quick test, and a tour of the FSI(foreign service institute). I was back on a flight to Colombo the next day and within 48 hours had gotten the news that I was accepted. Less than one month from the first email to my acceptance! What a whirlwind.

There's an orientation for fellows in June, but since I'm living abroad I won't be attending. I love to travel, but it's a very long flight for a day and a half long orientation, so I'm relieved to be sitting this one out. Now all I have to do is survive the heat until the end of June when my job is finished. I get a whole month to rebuild relationships with everyone back home and then, for the first time in a few years, settle down in the USA! So happy right now...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Step 1

So here I am, starting out on what will hopefully be a long and crazy journey.
I just found out that I'm a Pickering Fellow, meaning that my graduate degree will be paid for by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and then I'll be moving on to a career in the Foreign Service. !!! More later.