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!