Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My stomach is going to need a long time to recover...

Because the holiday season has been pretty good to me.

Sadly I don't have a picture of everything I ate over Christmas, but trust me it was a lot.

I got my mom to teach me how to make her specialty - divinity. This is our finished product. They were, in a word, divine.


Then on Christmas morning we made our family's traditional Santa Pancakes. They would probably be more accurately described as Santa Crepes. They are the best thing ever, and every year I (attempt to) help her make them. Absolutely delicious.



I also asked for and received a bunch of kitchen gadgets this year. Nothing says Christmas like immersion blenders and slow cookers.

Yum...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays

For those celebrating a religious holiday:


For those just celebrating:

(see also the original snl version)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Video(s) of the Week 10

I thought these videos would be a nice complement to my Sri Lanka guide. Take it with a grain of salt though, he seems to have developed a pretty strong impression of Sri Lanka after his weeklong vacation. Though, to be fair, he did seem to get around quite a bit.


My assessment is that Anthony Bourdain was spot on about the heat, but exaggerated the presence of army guys.

Foods mentioned in the video that I wouldn't recommend: maldive fish, capsicum



Short eats - meh.


Hikkaduwa - amazing. Totally met Kushil, the guy featured in this segment. He really was as great as in the video.
Paripu (lentil curry) is a favorite with a lot of people but I found it bland.
Jackfruit is good. Jackfruit curry is one of my favorites.
Pol Sambol is the best. I can't believe I forgot it in my last post.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sri Lanka Guide

Here it is, in honor of my dear friends in Sri Lanka and the FS bloggers on their way there soon. I know I promised this about a million years ago, but you know, school and work got in the way. And one more quick caveat - I didn't come to Sri Lanka as a tourist, I came for work. Since I was pretty well immersed in all things local and authentic in my work and at home, whenever I went out I favored Western stuff. So this is more of a guide for homesick expats than for travelers. If I left out one of your favorites just let me know, there's always room for a Guide Part 2!

Places to eat and/or shop in Colombo
Odel, the randomly fancy store in the middle of Colombo. In case you're interested, you can buy gelato and I think they also sell GoNuts Donuts there. (The Krispy Kreme of Sri Lanka.)

Cricket Club This place is a great expat hangout. I highly, highly, highly recommend their cobb salad, pumpkin ricotta (non spicy version), prawn-burger, chocolate milk shake, and banana fritters. Basically, the entire menu is great.

Barefoot Big, full of nice stuff to buy, not just souvenirs, but fabrics and pillows and clothes and stuff. They also have a nice cafe out back.

The Galle Face Hotel Every expat in Sri Lanka is basically required to come here at some point in their stay - if not once a week - for 'sundowners', the charmingly-named tradition of watching the sunset from the waterside lawn. (See picture.) They also have high tea. It's every bit as post-colonial as it sounds, but if you've had a rough day of Sri Lanka-ness, it is also a taste of something homey.


Inn on the Green - An English pub attached to the Galle Face Hotel. The fish and chips are fine, but come for the quiz night once a week. Bring a smart quiz team and you'll win back your drinks or better.

Barista Come here when you miss American style coffee bars.

Hotels like the Cinnamon Grand, Hilton, etc. - There are a half dozen expensive expat hotels with great restaurants attached. I didn't try many of them out, but from what I hear they are all excellent.

Palmyra and Green Cabin (Sri Lankan food) I ate Sri Lankan food every day at work, so I didn't often eat it when I went out. However, when I did go out for Sri Lankan, these restaurants were favorites. Plenty of regular street side shops have great string hoppers (see below) or kothu.

Nihonbashi - expensive, but amazing sushi

Places to Go
Mt. Lavinia beach and hotel


Galle
The old fort city in the south of Sri Lanka. It's an interesting cultural city, I really liked just walking the quiet streets. Emphasis on the QUIET. After Colombo it's a nice break. I'd also recommend the annual literary festival, it's more fun than you would think.

Adam's Peak

You absolutely can't skip this one if you are in Sri Lanka for any length of time. Adam's Peak or Sri Pada as Sri Lankans call it. #1 You have to hike it overnight, so it's a beautiful starlit trip. #2 Your goal is to hit the top before sunrise so you can see it from the mountaintop terrace. #3 This will be the one and only time you are comfortably cool or even chilly. A light jacket and hat are a good idea. #4 Stop at the tea stalls along the way. They are perfect places to relax and get warmed up. #5 Avoid going during poya (religious holiday) or at least don't go during poya and a weekend. We made that mistake and there were so many pilgrims that we had to wait in line at the top of the mountain for three hours. Seriously though, still 150% worth it.

Sigiriya and Kandalama
Sigiriya is the mountain/tower-thing pictured here. Halfway up there are some caves and on top are the ruins of a palace. It's fun, a bit tiring, and kind of scary if you're afraid of heights. And of course, I've already written about the Kandalama hotel which is the best place to stay when you visit Sigiriya.

The beaches (Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Trincomalee, etc)
There's really no need to explain this. Beaches are amazing. The best part about Sri Lankan beaches is that they all have amazing names. I particularly like Unawatuna.

Kandy - The old capital city. A great place to visit for a weekend when you can't take the heat any longer. It's in the hill country and it's just beautiful. If I had my own wheels I would have gone there every weekend. (Well, every weekend when I wasn't already going to the beach.)

Tea country - the tea plantations are gorgeous and the hills around them are perfect for relaxing.


Foods to try
Hoppers
(Regular, Egg, and String)
The first picture shows regular hoppers on the left and egg hoppers on the right. They're kind of like crispy crepes. You rip off bites and use them to mop up sauces or curries. The second picture shows string hoppers, a personal favorite. It's the same deal, eat them with curry and your life may be forever altered.


Kottu - very hard to describe. It's a mix of chopped veggies and roti. It seemed to be more of a late night snack food, but provided you find some that isn't too spicy it would be good any time of the day.

And of course, all of the fruits and vegetables were amazing, my favorite was the papaya.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lately

My mom was in town all week (hi mom!) so forgive me for not writing more. I've been busy seeing the sights and enjoying myself immensely.

Whenever I get together with my mom we do incredibly cute and girly things that would make my father gag. We ice skated at the sculpture garden. We had high tea at the Willard Hotel (oh my goodness it was amazing).* We shopped, naturally. We saw the Twilight movie. We even visited the Library of Congress. I have exactly zero pictures of all this because I never remembered my camera. But in my defense, I was having too much fun!

Now that she's back home I have been trying very hard to buckle down and finish my last two papers and I must say they're going well. Whatever happened to the nervous wreck that I was last year?

In other news, I have two announcements.

#1 - I'm going to Uganda this spring!
In my program everyone teams up and completes a final project for a client in the development field. In the interests of privacy I will keep our client a mystery, but just know that they are a very cool NGO who I'm really excited to be working with. And I'm also very, very excited to be visiting Africa. This will be my 5th continent. Until this summer I thought I would be the first in my family to visit Africa. Then, of course, some aunts and uncles went on a safari and ruined my life, but whatever, I'm still excited. I guess that's just what happens when you have a family that is exciting and adventurous, for which I'm very grateful.

#2 - I still don't know where I'm interning this summer.
Apparently other fellows have already found out. And I'm super jealous. The nice thing of course is that I will be excited about going anywhere, so whatever I get it will be good news. It's just the waiting that I dislike.



*A quick note on high tea: Tea at the Willard is an old-school DC tradition. It's crazy expensive, especially if you're a grad student. ($40 a person) However, I really wanted to do something special to celebrate my mom coming into town and me passing the OA. So I splurged and I have to say, it's worth the money. We drank tea with our pinkies out and ate lots of little bitty food. It was even better with all the Christmas decorations up, so don't miss it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Someday...

I will be the kind of diplomat that makes history and stands up for what's right.

I might be writing a dissent, like Vaky's Guatemala memo, or I might be shaping US foreign policy for decades to come, like Kennan did with The Long Telegram . Maybe I will have the privilege of rescuing Tutsis in Rwanda, or helping Jews escape Germany, or championing the rights of an average citizen in imprisoned abroad.

I'm very proud that soon I'll be carrying on such an incredible tradition. (And of course very anxious that I do a good job...) I know the history of diplomacy isn't perfect, but it sure is impressive.

Reading stories like these has become a personal hobby as I get myself in gear for my own FSO carrer. The links above are some of my favorites so far; for the stories of several other great moments of American diplomacy check out this link. Or this article by Foreign Affairs. It's funny how every list I've seen of Great Moments in Diplomacy includes totally different moments. (Either they're all great, or no one really knows what constitutes a great moment. I'm hoping it's the former, not the latter. ;)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It was a tough decision...

...but I can now confidently say that I will never be a cat owner.

I know that there is a strong contingent of cat-people in the foreign service, and it does make sense. Cats are quieter, more portable, and require less time-commitment than dogs.

But this weekend I did a bit of cat sitting and I have to say that it just about killed me.

90% of my problem was the shedding. You see, I have a dog that doesn't shed, so I wasn't prepared to deal with it. (And by that I mean I didn't bring any sort of portable breathing device or heavy duty air filter.) And OH MY GOODNESS. There was cat hair everywhere! On all the furniture - and by extension on all my clothes - on the counters and table tops, in the food, in the air, everywhere. (Did I mention it got in the food? Ick!) It didn't help that I think I might be mildly allergic to cats. I spent the entire time itching like mad and coughing. Utter misery.

The other 10% of my problems with cats relates to destruction of person and property. The person being me of course, and the property being everything within reach of the cat. Now granted, some things the cat didn't scratch. It didn't scratch the table. Or the cupboards. Or, um, the television... That's about it though. It has already destroyed the majority of its owners' furniture and clothes so it focused on my stuff this weekend. It tried to destroy my scarf, my coat, my bag, and my computer cord before I gave up and locked my stuff in the closet. Unfortunately, I'm not able to lock my skin in the closet, so it's a bit bloodier after a day with the cat. I joke about my dog being a biter, but I think there's a double standard going on here. If my dog made everyone that visited my house bleed we would have had to put him down by now. Just saying.

I want to clarify that I am not saying dogs are better than cats. I know after all that most dogs are shedders too. I guess my main point, in keeping with the holiday season, is that I am so thankful that I have a non-scratching, non-shedding pet. (He's even more low maintenance now that he lives with my folks. In fact, he's no trouble at all!)

All food for thought for a future FSO and prospective pet owner.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pictures!

To be honest, I have nothing much to say today. Thanksgiving is next weekend so everyone seems to be out of town and I find myself at home, writing papers and trying to organize my life.

However, this gave me the great idea to upload any pictures I might not have shared yet.

So in no particular order, here are some snapshots of my life.
1 & 2) The Marine parade at Iwo Jima memorial. I think it's on Tuesday nights, which is inconvenient, but it is a nice show. If you have time I recommend it.
3) My dog and his mouse friend.
4) The challenge coin I got from my supervisors at the internship this summer.
5) Care package my mom sent with me when I came back to DC this time. That's right, it's for making smores. Best mom ever.
6)The sign for my childhood Dairy Queen. Too nostalgic for words.
7)Reuben sandwich, it's that time of year again.
8)Pumpkin soup. Would have been less chewy if I had a blender, but still amazing.
9)Peaches and farmer's cheese. Yum.







Monday, November 7, 2011

Overshare

As promised, here is the detailed score breakdown from my first OA - in April. I got the report in mid September after filing 3 requests (ah bureaucracy). The scores were both better and worse than anticipated.

As you may recall I scored 5.1 overall and passed only the structured interview portion.

My specific scores for each section...
5.8 on the structured interview (which they broke down into 5.7 on both hypotheticals and experience/motivation and 6(!) on the past behavior)
4.9 on the group exercise ...likely because I did great on the presentation and lousy on the negotiation

...and are you ready for this?

4.5 on the case management. Wow.

This was particularly striking to me because writing was traditionally my strong suit. As in I got an 800 on that portion of the SAT. Not to brag, just to prove that in some contexts people used to consider me to be more of a 'pass' writer than a 'fail miserably' writer.

And then I met the State Department and the bar shifted up. (Way up.)

Whew. Given that truly terrible score I was amazed that I passed case management this time, but as I stated before, my summer was full of State Department writing practice and instruction. I think all that practice helped a ton and it certainly gave me a taste of what kind of writing they're looking for.

Just in case you're interested there was nothing else listed about my scores and how they were determined. The only comment was how I reacted to the news that I didn't pass. (I think they do screen out the crazies, so behave yourself, at least until you pass the OA.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

OA Debrief

Now that I've had a full day to absorb the awesomeness of passing the OA (and the glorious knowledge that I never have to take it again) I am ready to start passing on my vast stores of knowledge.

I took the test Thursday with 9 other people. Only 2 of us passed, I think. (The assessors were kind of cryptic, so there may have been a couple other passers who left early, but it's hard to say.)

Since this was my second time around I was less charmingly enthusiastic. I didn't arrive 1/2 an hour early. I didn't pack an extra copy of every single document they requested, I didn't even do much studying. The only prep I did this time was to have a former FSO mentor talk to me about the test and grill me for a couple of hours.

The group exercise was both better and worse than the last time I took it. They threw us all for a loop by changing up the content of the test. There was still a presentation phase, followed by a negotiation phase, but the stuff we were presenting was totally different than what I expected and practiced with. Several members of the group were so thrown by this that their presentations really suffered. I said a prayer and just dove in and I think my presentation was one of the best. I also did much better at the negotiation than last time. I spoke up quite a few times, helped organize the group, and made some substantive observations - rather than just saying 'I agree'. That said, I was still a bit too timid, probably spoke quickly and softly (as is my habit), and made a judgment error when advocating for my project. I thought I had passed that section, but in fact I didn't. (I'll have to wait for the FOIA request to come back to find out how close I was.)

The structured interview was next. I had prepared several of the questions they asked, but otherwise my answers were all a bit rusty. I thought I did worse than last time, but not significantly so. This is the section where the mentor helped me really refine my performance. He grilled me on short and substantive answers and broke me of the habit of starting every response with "So, ..." They definitely played good cop, bad cop this time and I felt like I impressed them by remaining composed and warm despite being challenged on my responses. I ended up passing this section again.

Finally, I had case management. This section killed me last time, so I was a bit nervous. However, I had also spent an entire summer writing for State, in addition to attending writing workshops put on for fellows and reading a series of articles from State magazine about diplomatic writing style that were particularly useful. I figure that if there was a way to prepare for Case Management that was it. (Although no one I know who has taken the test in the past 10 years seems to have passed that part, so mostly I was just trying to not fail as badly as before.) I had a minor moment of panic 3/4 of the way through when, due to my total inability to tell time using normal clocks, I thought I had 2 minutes when in fact I had 32 minutes left. Happily, this helped me work really, really fast for two minutes and get a lot accomplished, though I think it also took a couple of years off my life. I ended up passing this section, much to my surprise.

We all went for a walk to the American Indian Museum to blow off some steam while we awaited our results. Then we returned for the very awkward period of sitting in the case management room while one by one we were called out. We waited forever until only me and one more test-taker were left. They called me out and took me to one of the rooms where several testers were waiting. They brought in the other remaining test-taker and herded us into the corner and I knew we were either going to pass or this was the cruelest fail-speech ever. The first words they said were congratulations and I honestly forget the rest. There were handshakes all around and then we sat down to hear the whole speech about language points and medical tests and whatnot. It was really sweet to see how happy the testers were for us. They all stuck around just to watch us hear the good news.

In the next few days I'll publish me detailed scores from the first test, just for comparison. I held off on doing that before - and on giving my faithful readers a heads-up that I was testing this week - because I was too stressed about passing. But now I'd love to share what I can if it will help someone else.

Over Christmas break I will hopefully have enough time to also upload some of the writing tips from the State magazine articles and the writing workshops for fellows. Til then, I'm off to go celebrate a bit and continue telling random strangers on the metro that I'm going to be a diplomat.

Best day ever.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thank you Jesus

Today I passed the Oral Assessment.

I'd say more, but I have no words right now.

...

And I have class in 15 minutes.

But in my mind I'm definitely having a party tonight and you are all invited to my imaginary party. I hope your day was as good as mine!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The elusive diplomat in the popular mind

Funny, but this usually isn't what I picture when I think of diplomats.

In case you're wondering what inspired this topic, it all started last week. I've been watching mildly scary movies in the run up to Halloween. Last night I saw The Omen (the 2006 version, which was accidental, but it was scary enough) and I had another run in with Movie Diplomats. I've been lazily collecting diplomat stories from a variety of media, so it was a pleasant surprise. I should really write a blog post about them all some day. German diplomat?

Until that day however, these are the ones I can remember off the top of my head:
#1The Omen - The diplomats are the adoptive parents of the antichrist, and judging from their house, multi-billionaires. They're nice and smart and all that, but I can't help thinking that the career arc seems a bit far-fetched.
#2 The Constant Gardener - The diplomats are good, brave people who genuinely care about the country they live in. They get lots of points for representing.
#3 Julie and Julia - Julia Child.* Did you know that? She was also in the OSS in Sri Lanka. We have a lot in common.
#4 Dumbarton Oaks - If you remember, this is a fabulous estate in Georgetown owned by uberwealthy diplomat. (I realize this doesn't precisely count as popular culture, but just go with me here.)
#5 King Leopold's Ghost - The diplomat is the good guy who uncovers the truth about the Belgian Congo. He also gets lots of points for representing.
#6 The Bourne movie (forget which one) - This diplomat gets taken out by Matt Damon. No points for that.
#7 The Perfect Spy - Magnus Pym is a British diplomat and Soviet Spy. Again, no points.

Assigned to the Maldives, clearly.


*Before you write to correct me - I believe that the spouse of a diplomat totally counts as a diplomat as well, because he/she faces just as many hardships and is held to the same high standard as the person getting the paycheck. So Julia Child - totally a diplomat.
I need to see this. It seems very realistic, just judging from the cover.

Someday I'm sure I'll compile the definitive book on diplomats in popular culture but I need a few more examples first. If you have any good ones that I've forgotten let me know! Japanese diplomats. Way more attractive than American ones.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I wish daylight savings time was over....

Waking up at 7 o'clock in total darkness is getting old. Daylight Savings Time needs to hurry up and be over. I looked it up and this year we 'fall back' on the 6th of November, so it's just a little over a week until we all get to sleep in for an hour and I can wake to actual sunlight.


In other news, I spoke with that professor I mentioned in an early post. It went great. Of course he didn't randomly decide to give me an A+ with a gold star on it, but we had a respectful, lively discussion where I was able to defend my perspective. He undoubtedly still thinks I'm wrong, but I held my own in our 'battle of wits' and that was the satisfaction I was really looking for. It was also great to just have the professor one-on-one for an hour. I almost never make it to office hours since I work, but I certainly appreciate the chance to be able to lock heads with someone intelligent and interested in the world.

He also gave me some great advice for the foreign service: Keep your ideals, but temper them with pragmatism. Respect the lessons of history, but don't let them make you afraid. Always remember that life is complicated and politics more so. And finally, never be afraid to disagree with your professor. (It's a good lesson, even if he didn't say it out loud.)

Next time I promise to post actual pictures. This blog has gotten a bit word-heavy lately.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anger Management

I came home today absolutely furious. The particular details aren't important, but basically, I got a bad grade on a paper that was among my best work ever - not for poor writing, the professor actually didn't find any faults with my writing, but because of the political stance I took.

The old me, who was timid to say the least, would have fumed in silence, but the new me is a bit too assertive for that. I plan to set up a meeting with the professor to state my case, once I'm not quite so angry. I'm certainly not planning to yell, plead, or insult anyone (wouldn't be very diplomatic), but I'm also not willing to let this one go without arguing my point. My point of course, being that students shouldn't be penalized for disagreeing with the professor.

Especially if the professor is wrong.

Just saying.

The plus side of all this is that when I'm angry I can't sit still, so I channeled all that energy into cleaning the entire apartment and cooking a week's worth of food. I suppose I should thank the professor for all the inspiration...nothing says 'I respectfully disagree with you' like a pan full of brownies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Video of the Week (9)

Absolutely fascinating.

I realize this is not my normal video-of-the-week fare, but I do occassionally enjoy learning new things, and TED Talks are particular favorites. Even though my degree is in development studies, and I sometimes feel that I have read everything ever written about the subject, I learned a great deal from this 20 minute talk.

Who knows...maybe my v.o.t.w. will be nothing but documentaries from here on out...

Or maybe I'll start back in next week with Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry. It's a tough decision.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm sure the suspense was killing you...

As you may remember, I have been stressing out recently because in addition to my slightly-more-than-full-time course load, my 20 hours a week job (that needed me for 32 hours a week til the end of October), my questionable decision to volunteer with my church, my eventual goal of passing the FSOA, my ongoing battles with the health insurance company, and my attempts to have a life, I have been stressing out about passing my Serbian language test.

You see my program requires 'fluency' (rather loosely defined) in a foreign language to graduate. Unfortunately, you can't take language classes and use them towards the degree, you just have to study on your own time and pass a test.

Even more unfortunately, they don't have any Serbian (or Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, whatever) testers at my school. And they are too cheap to pay for one.

And even more unfortunately, DoS isn't willing to pay for me to take the test. Even though I'm in the same stage of the testing process as all the other people who take the language test. And even though they will have to pay for it eventually. And even though it would save them time and trouble later and they have a whole Institute just for that.

*sigh*

My only option turned out to be an accredited (read - expensive) testing agency in Arlington, where I could be tested in Reading and Speaking, with listening thrown in for free for only $450.

Lesser grad students would have fainted at the cost, but clearly, I am a warrior. So I showed up yesterday after work, sick as a dog and with no clue what the test was supposed to cover and with about 10 minutes of studying rattling around in my head. (I've been busy.)

Apparently they use the FSI method and even do testing for FSI students sometimes, so it was very offical. Basically, there's a conversation first. Then you give a presentation, then you give the gist of 5-6 articles (you have 6 minutes to prepare), then you explain to them in rather excruciating detail the meaning of a couple longer articles, finally you 'interview' one tester and report back (in English) to the other.

I learned a lot about myself during this experience.

First, I am apparently good at having conversations under pressure. You'd think it would be awkward, but it was kind of fun.

Second, my so-so public speaking skills in English translate to horrifically bad presentations in the target language. I'm not sure if I didn't take it seriously enough or what, but it was just painful.

Finally, I like reading because you don't really need to know grammar.

As I may have mentioned, I needed a 1+/1+ in order to graduate. No passing score, no diploma, no diploma no Foreign Service, so the pressure was on. I was pretty sure I'd score a little higher than I needed to in reading, maybe a 2. But my speaking skills have deteriorated a ton - I haven't had anyone to speak to really for years - so I worried about getting the necessary 1+ in speaking.
My final scores were...drumroll please...

I got a 2 in speaking!
I got a totally free 2+ in listening.
And finally, a 3 in reading!

Congratulations mom and dad, your daughter can read!

There was a bit of consternation on the part of the testers about the disparity between my reading and speaking skills. I think the general consensus was that I will probably need to learn grammar someday and work on using my full vocabulary. But considering how long I've been away from Serbia - just studying on my own and reading what I can - I am pleased with the results. And I am very, very pleased to not have to pay to take the test again.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hello again, it's been awhile!

So if you haven't heard from me in a while it's because I've been buried under a small mountain of homework. These past few weeks have been mid-terms and I've had a lot of side projects on top of all the paper writing.

#1 My Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/whatever test is coming up this Friday. I'm kind of doomed. The only practice I've had has been following the Montnegrin press for the past 7 weeks for another class. The other complicating factor is that the test costs $450. It would be free of course at FSI, but State has sort of a weird relationship with fellows where we are part of the family, but kind of not really. We're like the foster children of the DoS. We can stay for 3-5 years and if we pass the tests then we get 'adopted'.

So that ridiculous metaphor was just to say that State wouldn't let me test at FSI. And sadly my school doesn't have anyone to test me either, so I had to find someone independently.

And the only agency that seemed willing was kind of expensive. Just a little bit.

So in addition to reading and writing, I've also been studying Serbian.

#2 My office also needed me to pick up a bunch of hours. They wanted me to work full time for two weeks, but I'm not superwoman, so that idea was nixed. Instead I'll be working 75% til the end of October.

#3 And in addition to reading and writing and Serbian and working I've also taken on some random volunteering. Namely, I'm in charge of the 3 year old nursery at church. People who know me will laugh when they read this, because I'm sort of terrified of small children. But I figured it was time to face my fear and spend an hour keeping the little people from destroying themselves, each other, the entire building, and most importantly, me. I still haven't mastered the art of toddler conversation, but I'm pleased with my progress so far.

#4 Finally, there are lots of ongoing and vaguely stressful projects that I'm working on. There's the FSOA, which I will have to take again (unfortunately). There's my death battle with my health insurance company. There are my half-hearted efforts to work out at the gym. And my classic novel reading list, and my monthly dinner club, and my list of 100 things to do in DC which I've been working on writing - but first I have to do them... etc.


All of this is basically my excuse for not writing. That and writers block...but I promise a newsy update when I finish my Serbian test. That is unless I fail. Then no update, only lots of self-pity.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It was cold and stormy weekend...

Luckily I spent the entire weekend hunched over my computer, so I didn't really notice.

Fall has certainly arrived in Washington DC. And not that cutesy apple-picking, dog-walking, cider-drinking kind of fall. No, this is more of the so-cold-I'm-wearing-three-layers-indoors kind of fall. (Of course, that could also have something to do with the fact that the apartment managers don't turn on the heat until mid-October.)

I only ventured out into the beautiful wind/rain/cold a three times this weekend. Once to visit the Thai Village in Georgetown. It was great, btw. I got some Mangosteen Juice, and some inedibly spicy somtam and larbgai. They also had muay thai (thai boxing) and sword fighting demonstrations along with traditional music and dancing. Despite the unpleasant weather it was great. It brought back all of my memories of Thailand from college (I was an exchange student in Bangkok). Though I suppose there are many things to like about every country, Thailand is one of my all-time favorite places - beautiful scenery, friendly and polite people, cheap travel, amazing food and rich culture. What's not to love?

My second escape was to the Honey Pig, an amazing Korean BBQ in Virginia somewhere (I wasn't driving and it was dark). I had a great time, and my friends all agreed we should meet up every month for foreign food. I'm counting my blessings that I'm in DC this year where I can get almost every kind of food available. (Though there aren't enough African cuisines in my opinion.)

Then of course there was my study group. I like the group, but could have done without the studying. Did I mention I have less than 7 months of grad school left? Not that I'm counting down or anything...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Important research

So there I was, minding my own business online...

I was trying to find more information about the mini earthquake they had recently in Montenegro. There wasn't much available, so I clicked on this* site since it looked vaguely promising. And Oh. my. goodness.

Jackpot.

You just never know what you're going to find online. This site happened to be an 'end-of-the-world (no, for real!)' site and it was pretty much everything you'd expect/want it to be.

Exhibit A: the Categories list

(How on earth did they think of 3092 unique things to say about society's collapse?!)

Exhibit B: the Sponsors of the site

Paintball = the end of the world. I knew it.

Exhibit C: the sense of impending doom
'(redacted) has obtained information that an event of unknown severity may occur within the coming hours or days'
Direct. Quote.

Exhibit D: Countdowns
There is a section devoted solely to the countdown to December 2012 (450 days 3 hours 35 minutes and 19 seconds!) and the countup(?) of the national debt.

Exhibit E: There is a place after each post to mark your reaction. I'm thinking of including this in my blog now. [Do you find youtube videos -important -eye-opening -scary -sad?]

Exhibit F: The survey in the sidebar?
War with china... inevitable, won't happen, probably, or necessary?

Well, I could go on, but I should stop. This is probably a good time to link to a particularly funny site I found last week full of zombie apocolypse-preparedness plans. It's never to early to start planning.


*I'm not posting a link to the site because I'm actually opposed to the message they are sending, but if you want to search it out for yourselves I am sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hidden talents

Imagery Analysis - it sounds boring, but this quiz I found is kind of fun.



I took it the other day when I got sidetracked trying to write a paper on GIS and imagery analysis for humanitarian response. (It was riveting, believe me.) I discovered that I have a hidden talent for imagery analysis, so now I know what to do with myself if the whole foreign service thing doesn't work out.

So in case you would like to discover your own hidden talents, you can visit the website here

Friday, September 16, 2011

You should totally go to this.

The Kennedy Center and Washington National Orchestra (and the ballpark I guess?) are teaming up to host Opera in the Outfield. Basically, they broadcast a live performance of Tosca in the ballpark and I think they even let you have a picnic on the field. It's once a year and, sadly, I can't make it. But you, faithful readers, should definitely go. I'm sure it will be awesome and edifying and plus someone has to go so they can tell the organizers that no one can do that kind of stuff on a Thursday night!!!

So anyway, have fun. I'll be having fun in class. Maybe I'll make the 5th annual next year when I'm in A-100.

And while I'm on the topic of cultural events, the National Book Festival is rolling back around. It's on the 24 and 25th (that's right people, a weekend, as God intended) on the National Mall and it's free.

I'll let you know what it's like if I manage to break away from writing papers, but no promises.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's making me happy today

Watching football online!

For those of us without TVs - a growing number I'm sure - and for those who live overseas and only get the local channels, football is hard to come by. This has always been sad to me because the fall football season is one of the things I'm most nostalgic about from my childhood. I love the whole feel of it. Tailgating, little kids with their faces painted, the marching bands, the obnoxious crowd chants. It just isn't fall without football.

But now I've discovered how to watch it online and it is uncanny how much the sound of it in the other room transports me back. I can almost smell the cut grass, the leaves, even the grills. I'm feeling particularly nostalgic because I picked a university without a football team.

I know. I didn't even know they had those either.


Anyway, if you'd like to watch football online too, just go to ESPN3 and scroll to your sport of choice (football, naturally). They do live games too, but I'm not sure how that works, so you'll have to figure it out on your own.

*Disclaimer: I'm not getting paid by ESPN to write this. And if this doesn't work overseas I apologize for getting your hopes up.

Happy fall!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why I strongly dislike health insurance

I was going to make dinner tonight. And finish some reading for class. And maybe catch up on my emails.

But no.

Instead I spent all afternoon on the phone with my insurance company, on hold, stating my name and birthdate and zipcode etc. and repeating my story until I was blue in the face. Squeezing in bites of eating cheese and crackers when I wasn't busy digging through stacks of insurance nonsense.

This is about the 20th time I've had to do this, all for the same claim. I cannot imagine how people who are also dealing with a major health crisis would ever make it through this process. Or people with small children. Or elderly people with hearing problems. Or people that have to work two jobs.

Utterly unacceptable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

For the architecture geek in you

I found an interesting site online a few days ago (though of course the site is acting up this afternoon). Check it out if you are into architecture.

Sadly she doesn't seem to have covered one of my favorite movies houses, the one from Life as a House.(Can't find a good pic.)

And of course, Edna's house from the Incredibles was pretty good.

Oh yeah, and the crazy aunt's house from A Series of Unfortunate Events. (Right at the beginning of this clip there's a good shot.)

Hmm... maybe I should be a contributor to the blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Settling in to the new job

Hey!

It's been ages since I posted, I realize that. But it's all for a good cause. I think I mentioned before that I've got a new job. (right?)

Anyway, it's absolutely great. I like my coworkers, I have lots of time to do readings, and it pays more than they advertised - which is weird, but who's complaining?

My only problem is converting my brain and body back into crazy mode, where I work from 8-5 then immediately rush off to class for 2-3 hours. I'm not sure how all the Type-A's do it, but for me, there isn't really a lot of brain function going on after a full day of work. I've taken to writing down potential comments for class while I'm at work and still capable of rational thought.

So as you can imagine, I haven't had much time for blogging. Or visiting the sites of DC, or reading edifying literature. My only remaining hobby seems to be cooking. And with all the rainy weather I've mostly been wanting to cook cold-weather foods. I made moroccan food the other day and except for mixing up cucumber with zucchini it went well. (They really do look exactly the same to me.) Next week maybe I'll make some chili, or mashed potatoes or something. If I do cook anything good I'll make sure to post a picture.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

So far, so good

Today is a good day, but unexciting day. I bought ink for my printer (which is still giving me the 'no ink' message, sigh), I did a few readings, I cooked... nothing much. I'm a little swamped with work already, but I can't shake the good feeling that I have about this semester.

Reason #1 I got myself a good job at a Latin American NGO in town. The people seem nice, the pay is pretty sweet, I can walk there, and it sounds prestigious when I tell people about it. All important qualities in a job. I had planned to apply for another internship at State, but they didn't post the positions in time. Sorry, State! You snooze, you lose!

Reason #2 I like my classes this semester about 100% more than I liked my classes last year. It could be that I have more realistic expectations this year. Or it could be because these classes are 100% better. We'll have to see. But so far each professor has impressed me. One reminds me of an old spy movie, and tells good stories, which I feel is a good sign. One has a nice British accent and is very witty, also good. The third seems a bit dull frankly, but has made the wise decision to be an easy grader to make up for it - I can live with that. The fourth I haven't met yet, so I'm withholding judgment, but I have high hopes.

Reason #3 It looks like I'll be getting the chance to focus more directly on my two areas of interest. In one class I'll be doing research using original sources from my target regions - the Balkans and South America. And at work I'll be focusing on Latin America and interacting with Spanish speakers on a regular basis. So I'm hoping for an amazing boost in my language skills and a moderate boost in my international affairs knowledge base. ;)

Okay, back to work!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shout out

I got back from the midwest earlier this week to a great surprise.

I had left my apartment in the hands of a capable fellow fellow (not sure about the grammar on this one) who needed a place to crash. His only real job was to water my plants and empty the mail box.

...but much to my delight he was basically the best house-guest ever. See this picture?


He left me an entire freezer full of crazy Polish food. I don't know what it is really, but I've tried some already and it's awesome.







Then of course there was also this stuff.


Four full bags of kitchen stuff! He even unknowingly left me a replacement for the plate I broke last month (which is good because having an odd number of plates was driving my OCD side crazy).

So yay for good house-guests!

In other news, tomorrow is my first day of classes (in my third semester of grad school, in case you are interested). I'm in five classes this semester to make up for last fall when I only took three. Wish me luck with the extra workload.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Care to learn a bit more about visas?

I didn't think so.

But just in case you change your mind...

Here's an op-ed from the New York Times about the J-1 visa program. Since I'm planning to be handling visas myself a year or so from now I found it interesting.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Old books



For my birthday a couple of years ago my brother got me these old books that I love(with a little hinting on my part). It's a whole series about Peter and Nancy - as far as I can figure, two perfectly behaved robot-children who travel the world with their endlessly wealthy and restless uncle. They have a very Nancy Drew appeal - only with pith helmets and steamboats and prop planes. When I read them I was struck with the wonderful idea that maybe back in the 1930s a little old lady traveled the world with her notebook and camera writing a series of books on geography for children.

My only complaint is that the Europe book completely bypasses Southeast Europe and Central Asia. Curious, but I guess then I've got quite a few countries left to visit myself...



Friday, August 12, 2011

Making me proud

I don't know if you remember my encounter a few months ago with Southern food. But I'm proud to say that the midwest has an answer to porkorn.

Drumroll please....


Yes, you read it right. Fried Butter on a Stick. I read an article claiming that it isn't as gross as it sounds, but I'm going to have to take their word for that, since there is no way I'm wasting my appetite on fried butter.

It's been ages since I've been on the blog, so let me just say that since my last post I flew back to my parent's place in the midwest, and I've been relaxing ever since. I've done all of the nostalgic summer things from my childhood, including eating lots of sweet corn, boating, going for picnics, and reading in the sun.

I have not been doing anything productive, and it's been wonderful.

I'm also planning to finish a couple of posts that I've been working on for ages now. The first is a guide to Sri Lanka for expats - since I lived there for a year. I thought maybe I'd make a mini guide to each place I've lived, but Thailand was awhile ago, and in Bosnia and Serbia I didn't get out much, so we'll see about that. But expect the Sri Lanka guide sometime soon. I'm also planning to post a guide to writing for the foreign service, based on some articles from State magazine and the writing seminar given to fellows. But all that will have to wait until my vacation is over. Til then!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The End. (of my summer internship)

So this is it, my summer internship is officially over. My colleagues threw me a goodbye party, I wrote one last 'quickie' piece, and I went through the whole check-out process. It was very much bittersweet, because I would continue working with my office all year if I could.

When I initially got the fellowship I thought of this internship as more of an afterthought. I think the word 'whatever' sums up my feelings nicely. But now I can't imagine how people can just jump right into the foreign service without this experience. It was immensely helpful.

For example, I learned maybe 75% of the acronyms that I'll need as an FSO. I can find my way around Main State - maybe not with my eyes closed, but definitely squinting. All of my questions, from fair share bidding, to the tranche system, switching cones, evacuations, unaccompanied posts, tenure, language designated posts, dissent, cable writing, protocol, were answered.

I also had all the resources of State right at my fingertips, and whenever I didn't have lunch with friends I spent it at my computer, looking at real bid lists, or post reports (did you know that in Juba you get 90% extra pay? or that in Geneva, if I read it right, you get 120% for COLA!?) or all the optional programs available to FSOs - like the out-year lanaguage program, the public policy masters program, or the one where you can swap jobs with someone from another foreign ministry for a year. (Doesn't that sound fun? You could go work for a year in the French foreign ministry for example, before spending a year at Embassy Paris.) I checked out the strategic plans of all the missions I'm interested in. I read about how to write briefing checklists and action memos and all the rest.

I learned that despite it's seemingly daunting size, State is a small world. Everyone seems to know everyone. Even with only 10 weeks under my belt I ran into a dozen people a day that I knew. Now I understand why they spent so much time talking about corridor reputation. Because it's not just the 'corridors of main state' that matter. Those people travel to post too, and pretty soon everyone knows everyone (almost).

So to sum up, it was a great and very educational summer. I contributed what I could, but mostly I just soaked it all in. And now I'm twice as excited to be joining for real in 2012.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off for a little bit of R&R before school starts back up!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Video of the Week (8)


(Sorry about the short video. All the good clips don't allow embedding. But here's a link to the opening credits, which set the whole 'classic movie' vibe.)

Yesterday evening I went to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play along with Casablanca at Wolf Trap. It was phenomenal. I recommend this show (or something similar) the next time it comes around. Only two suggestions:
1) Come really early. (seriously, or you will have standing room only on the lawn)
2) Book tickets ahead of time. If you get lawn tickets you can bring a picnic. If you get seats you can only bring bottled water. Plan accordingly and you should have a good time. Lawn tickets cost $20, the seats in the front are $52.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bits and pieces

Rather than tell you substantive things about my time at State (which I'm still really enjoying, fyi) I thought I would share with you something totally unrelated. So here, without further ado, is a set of completely random pictures that sum up my week.

Picture #1:Cutest breakfast ever. The recipe for the cupcakes is from Martha Stewart Living. They are life changing. The mug is my favorite one. I got it in Sri Lanka.


















Picture #2: Curry - sort of. I tried to make beet root curry. (Hence the beets covered in curry powder.) I loved this overseas, but my version was terrible. It was one of those 'remembered recipes' passed on to me from a friend. As in 'put in some beets', then 'cut some onions' then 'mix the coconut milk with the oil and voila!' There were no measurements, no times, no methods of cooking, no temperatures, nothing. I wasn't even sure when the food was supposed to start cooking, instead of just mixing. So the moral of this story is that cooking without directions is only for the massively talented/experienced chef, or those with lots of money and time to kill.

















Picture #3: New book!
Rebecca West's classic on the Balkans, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. It has 1200 pages. What possessed me to start reading this right before grad school starts back up I'm not exactly sure.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

At least it's good for a laugh...

So, I may have mentioned that I'm working my way through Rosetta Stone French. I'm on level 3 right now, maybe a few weeks from finishing. I promise to review the program once I'm done, but for now, I just wanted to share this with you.



Translation?
"The Indian Prime Minister meets the American President."

Shameful, Rosetta Stone, just shameful.

It also leaves a lot of questions in my mind:
Why did Air Force One apparently drop the president at the terminal like a tourist?
Why is the president so young?
Why is the prime minister so young?
And for that matter, which one is which?
Are heads of state not wearing stockings any more? Because I could get behind that.
Why do they seem to be meeting in Thailand (look at the signs)
Where are the secret service in all this?

And just so you know, Rosetta Stone, a ten second google search leaves me with this: Now granted, this is not the most recent president, nor is it a picture of them meeting exactly, but you know, at least it's in the ballpark.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dumbarton Oaks

Continuing my 'touristy-things-to-do-in-dc-for-free(or almost free)' series, ...

I went to Dumbarton Oaks a couple of weeks ago. I haven't gotten around to posting about it til now because it was gorgeous and I couldn't figure out which pictures were best.

A quick recap:
Dumbarton Oaks is a giant house in Georgetown with attached gardens. It costs 5 dollars to visit the gardens. They are stunning. The house has a museum attached, with exhibits on pre-Columbian, Byzantine, and European/Renaissance tapestries. (yes, I too thought it was a little random, but maybe they were going for stuff not covered by the Smithsonians?) The museum itself is free. I would highly recommend this one, and it was blissfully un-crowded even on a beatiful Saturday afternoon.

I loved the mosaics down by the pool. I also really loved the greenhouse (apparently used for growing oranges, because they called it an 'orangery')and all the little sculptures around the property. And check out the last picture.










Caption: Even when attacked by dogs, the deer-man managed to tastefully drape his robe.






Sorry it's a little blurry, but did you catch the interesting fact? This house belonged to a former Foreign Service family! So, future FSOs, you too can live in a ridiculously amazing mansion someday.

All you have to do is marry up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today - and the overseas internship

I had the opportunity to attend a hearing on the hill today, one of several interesting places I've been on this internship. I also had the chance to hear from a Consular coned member of the Senior Foreign Service. She said she loved being a consular officer and from her stories I think I will love it too. (Finally, someone to tell me what I want to hear!)-Did I mention I want to be a consular officer?... Well, now I did.

Overseas Internship info:
As expected, at the meeting on the overseas internship they told us that we will be applying to two different bureaus and within each bureau we apply to three different posts (so six total posts). There are several rules for where we can and can't apply.

Rule #1: We can't apply to any post with danger pay (even 5%). This can also cause trouble if an intern is accepted to a post and then it becomes dangerous. In that case the intern is assigned to whatever happens to be leftover, ideally in the same bureau.

Rule #2: We have to apply to the posts that have intern housing. Other interns just pay their own housing, but ours is provided by state. Usually the biggest posts don't have housing - or so I've heard.

Rule #3: Some countries require interns to have language skills, some don't. I don't have the list yet, but they've promised us one later.

Rule #4: We don't choose specific cones or positions, but if we make a deal with someone at the embassy we can have more say in our assignments.

We've been encouraged to get ahold of people at post before we apply. We've also been encouraged to branch out and try something new. So there you go! Now I can narrow down my list. South America is looking promising, and so is Eastern Europe. I guess I had better start brushing off the language skills.

Monday, July 11, 2011

One of those days...

Today was one of those days...

...where you attend the Montenegrin National Day party and chat with the Ambassador,
...and where you get your work back from the DAS with good feedback,
...and where you get to shake hands with S. (Those of you who work at State know who that is, and those of you who don't can just use your imaginations.)

Ever had one of those days?

Yeah, it was quite the day. I suppose the longer I work at state the less impressed and intimidated I will be by days like this, but for now I'll just savor the moment full of excitement and nerves.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My day at work

(I'm busily typing with one hand, highlighting with another, and reading an article I have propped up on the desk, surrounded by my pile of stuff to do.)

Coworker: Hey! As long as you're not doing anything --

Me: Actually...

Coworker: -- Do you mind if I just leave this huge stack of random tasks right here on your desk, while I go fix myself a pina colada?

Me: ...I'd love to but...

Coworker: Great!


In all honesty, no one was having a pina colada today. We were all slammed, but at least we were crazy busy together. I think the stress might have something to do with the post-holiday sugar crash, the backlog of a three-day weekend, and the realization that I only have 4 more weeks to win the 'best intern ever' prize.

*sigh* Back to work!



And in other news, guess what?

This is my 100th blog post! I think that calls for a cupcake, don't you?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Two museums and a festival

1) The Postal Museum:
A lesser known Smithsonian across the street from Union Station. I saw this two weekends ago, but was too lazy to post about it til now.

What do they have?
*A couple little mail planes, a mail train car, some mail trucks, and a mail wagon in the atrium. Yes, it's a big atrium.

*Some exhibits on mail fraud.

*The history of the US Postal system.

*A section on the Pony Express. (Apparently it wasn't around very long.)

*Letters sent to/from soldiers.

*Stamps from all over the world.

*A room on stamp collecting.

All in all, it was more interesting than I anticipated, though I'm still a bit confused why the Postal Service gets its own Smithsonian. (Notice, for example, that there is no Smithsonian for the diplomatic corps. Although, coincidentally, I finally made it to the diplomatic reception rooms at state a few weeks ago. They were...nice. Even nicer? The next time I see them I'll be sworn in as an FSO! Now that's something to get excited about.)

There are now only two Smithsonians (in DC) that I haven't seen yet, and it's unlikely that I'll make it to either of them. 1) The Udvar-Hazy center is out by Dulles (I know, right?) and since I don't have a car that won't be happening. 2) The Anacostia museum is in town, but I'd have to take a metro then a bus to get there which is also a bit too much.

2) Today I saw the Phillips Collection thanks to the generous donation of a free ticket by one of my colleagues. It was not particularly kid friendly, but sometimes that's the point, right? I was particularly impressed that they have Renoir's original "Luncheon of the Boating Party", especially since Renoir was my favorite painter in high school. I also really liked the stuff by Raoul Dufy. Other than that the art was, admittedly, a bit over my head. But if you're into art, especially abstract art, I'd recommend it.

3) The Folklife Festival was great! I ate a Senegalese dish called Thiebou Dieun (unpronounceable!), saw some great Tinikling dancing by a group from the Philippines, danced to some Colombian music, and watched a performance of by a group of San(from Botswana) dancers. I left early because the mall was hotter than the surface of the Sun and I was not feeling well, but I had a good time anyway. And now, of course, I'm dying to get out and travel again. It's been a year and 2 days now since I set foot out of the U.S. and I'm developing a bad case of 'itchy feet'.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Video of the Week (7)



Continuing the theme, another really classic 80's video. This one is in honor of my time in Sri Lanka because it was actually filmed in there.
This video is, like the 'One Night in Bangkok' video, offensive on a number of levels, but try to ignore that and just enjoy the silliness.

A few notes about Sri Lanka:
Just for the record, downtown Colombo looks exactly the same today, which is spooky.

The scene where the little boy gets the man water from the lake is actually right next to the site of a fantastic hotel. If you're ever in Sri Lanka you have to check it out, it's called the Heritance Kandamala Hotel. It was designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka's most famous architect, who created several green hotels and houses in Sri Lanka. (Remember, I'm an architecture geek.) The hotel is great not only because it's super luxurious and beautiful, but also because they went to great lengths to make it green and make sure it had a good impact on the local community. (Check out their green philosophy page to see how they're trying to make a difference. As someone who has worked directly with abused/exploited children in the past, it's gratifying to see that they devoted space on their site to specifically condemn both child labor and sexual exploitation of minors.) Of course, I never actually stayed there, because it's priced for foreigners and I earned a local salary, but any FS people headed to Sri Lanka, you have to spend the night when you visit Sigiriya. Yes, that's an order.



See? Told you it's pretty.

Get thee to the National Mall...

If you haven't heard, the Smithsonian is hosting its annual Folklife Festival this weekend (and next weekend I think). They're featuring the inexplicable combination of Colombia, the Peace Corps, and Rhythm & Blues.

Anyone who has met me in person has heard me gripe about the lack of good restaurants on the National Mall. Either you're eating a hot-dog from a stand, a stale pizza slice from a cafeteria, or a squished PB&J from home.

(The Mitsitsam Cafe at the American Indian Museum, is the one exception. It has never served me anything that wasn't phenomenal. But it's only one restaurant and during tourist season I can't even imagine the lines.)

So I was very excited to hear that not only does the Folklife festival come with food tents, it comes with crazy foreign food tents. (foreign is my favorite type of food) So if anyone's looking for me this weekend I'll be sampling unpronouncable goodness from Colombia and West Africa, and maybe some pronounceable goodness from the BBQ tents too.

Check out their website if you're interested, it should be a good time!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Decisions, decisions

Sometime in the next few weeks we (myself and all the other fellows) are supposed to hear about applying for the overseas internship that we'll complete next summer. (In true FS fashion, the moment you start in one job you start thinking about the next.) The main reason we're hearing about this a year in advance is because we'll probably be applying in August or September like we did for the domestic internships, so we need to decide soon where we want to apply.

This has led to quite a bit of discussion about everyone's different strategies. I've heard it all, but my own strategy is ... evolving.

Initially I was (rather shamelessly) drawn to places where I would like to vacation, like...
Morocco
Rio de Janeiro
Nepal
Egypt
Fiji
South Africa
Cambodia
New Zealand

Then I thought maybe I should try out something more challenging; a place that would be difficult to handle for a 2 year stint, just to see how it goes, like...
Namibia
Sudan (do they let interns go there?)
Kazakhstan
Congo (Kinshasa)

Then I thought I should act like a (Type-A) grown-up and start trying to build up my 'career'. This would basically entail sticking with the region where I'm doing my domestic internship, where I have in-country experience and language skills and connections, ie the Balkans, especially...
Kosovo
Bosnia
Serbia
Montenegro
Croatia

Then again I've been advised to try a region where I don't have much experience, to broaden my horizons. Maybe...
Bolivia
Nicaragua
Rwanda
Madagascar
Colombia
Algeria
Japan

It's a difficult decision. Not because there's nowhere interesting to go, but because there are too many interesting places. I think I have it narrowed down finally, but I'll wait to see what the rules are and how I'm feeling in the fall. Either way, I'm glad to know that the final decision doesn't rest with me and whatever I choose to apply for, and whatever I get, I'll learn a ton and get my feet wet 'at post'.


Where would you apply to go?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Video of the Week (6)

Yes this is a day early. I've discovered that Friday is a bad day for my blogging memory. So I thought I would continue what I started two weeks ago. (If you remember, I had a video from Serbia, where I lived in 2008.) So now, in honor of the place where I first lived overseas....


Fun fact: This song is from a musical about chess (in Bangkok I guess?) with music by the guys from ABBA .... yeah.

Notice the amazing campiness, the horrible asian stereotypes mixed haphazardly, and I think there's a thriller dance move in there at 3:27. The first time I heard this song, and then the first time I saw the video, I just about died laughing. Let me just say for the record that it's amusing because it's the polar opposite of Thailand as I know it. While any country has its challenges, I loved Thailand. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, the weather was great and the country itself is gorgeous. Not to mention the amazing history, religious tolerance, cheap travel and beautiful language. (Seriously, drop what you're doing and move to Thailand.)

P.S. If anyone is heading to Thailand and wants more information, just leave a message for me in the comments and I will write you a novel about what to see and do there.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

healthy people and lots of them

I woke up this morning to a very different sound than usual. Usually there is a constant rushing noise outside my window. (I like to pretend it's a waterfall that I'm hearing.) But this morning there were no cars, just the sound of someone clapping and occassional shouts of "On your left...your LEFT!".

Turns out the DC Triathlon is this morning. (Not to be confused with all the other crazy marathons and triathlons I've caught a glimpse of this year.)

I took these shots:

See that woman in the blue shirt with the sign? I'm not sure if she was protesting or cheering, but she inspired a lot of yelling as people rode by.






Can you believe that there were this many people willing to get up early on the weekend just to swim in the Potomac, bike on the road and then run in this humidity? (I can't.) I'm always impressed with the number of athletic people in DC. I'm almost tempted to get out there and join them.

(almost)