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.

"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!