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. ;)