Thursday, September 27, 2012

Leftovers (2)

More Bolivia!
All these are from the Lake Titicaca trip.



Scenery is nice, but hilarious animals are even better. I just want to note that this is not how any other llama's teeth work. This guy just happened to have very unfortunate genes.
And again from the side, just because.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Leftovers

Since I don't have anything but home and work to take pictures of right now I thought I'd post some old Bolivia pictures that I didn't have the time/internet/patience to post this summer. I will attempt to make this a series, but no promises. All these are from Lake Titicaca. Enjoy!





Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dreams (0) - Reality (1)

Fittingly, this week's FS blog round-up is exactly what I was going to write about anyway - my dream post. So here goes!

As you (may) know, I just started A-100. Before the class I was free to speculate and assume all I wanted about the bid list. And I wasn't the only one making assumptions. Once they handed out the lists I think everyone in my class had a least one moment when they thought, 'Gosh, I was really counting on/hoping for X'. (More Turkey, less China, more POL, less CON, you name it.) And I know for a fact that quite a few of us noticed with a bit of anxiety that there's a whole lot of, shall we say, Ickystan, on the list. Suddenly I went from speculating about 'the perfect first post' to swallowing a rather large dose of reality.

It's one thing to promise that you are worldwide available. It is another thing to be staring down the pipe at two long years in one of your 'well as long as they don't send me to X' countries. The orientation staff have worked hard to impress upon us the truism/platitude that there are no bad posts in the Foreign Service, only bad attitudes. That may be true, but it is hard to ignore the suspicion that certain posts are labeled 'hard to fill' for a reason.

Anyway, back to answering the question.

Prior to A-100 I had a very straightforward idea of my dream post(s). I want to go to Morocco, Cairo, Rio, Capetown, Istanbul, Fiji. In short, all the places that everyone probably wants to go. (I don't have any illusions about spending my entire career in these places, but once isn't too much to ask, right?) In fact, a year ago I did a whole list of my preferred posts and it's been very enlightening to compare it with my current bids and see how much has changed. 

I'm finding that my highs, mediums and lows don't mesh very well with what I expected. To the extent that my dream posts are on the list (barely) I'm bidding them high, even if I can't actually have them due to timing. Otherwise it's all over the map. All of my top 3 posts came from my original 'neutral' (read YUCK) list. Several 'posts I would survive' are now medium bids, and the whole list in general has turned on it's head. This is not so much because my lifestyle preferences have changed - I still enjoy driving and religious freedom for example - just that I found that bidding is a lot more about career goals than vacation plans. I'd still like to end up in some of those awesome places, but I've toned down my expectations about the path it will take to get there. 

In short, the dream stayed the same, but the plan has changed

So there it is folks. The likelihood of a dream post this time around is hovering somewhere around 0%, BUT the likelihood of a really challenging post that gives me lots of equity that maybe helps me get a dream post next time? It's looking pretty good. Either way I don't have to wait much longer. October 12th is Flag Day and the dream, for better or worse, becomes reality. Until then, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to color coding my list. 


Monday, September 17, 2012

Speechless

I tried and tried to come up with something profound to say about the recent attack in Benghazi that killed four American diplomats. At the end of the day it all just felt wrong. I'm just a week into my own FS journey and I can't talk about the men who were killed as if I understand their sacrifice, at least not yet.

Instead I'll just say that the example of these officers - of generous and courageous service - and the example of those who knew them well here in Washington, has made me very proud to join their ranks.

I promise a lengthy update soon about my weekend trip to Arkansas, the bid-list, and anything else that comes to mind. Until then, all the best.

Monday, September 10, 2012

One day down...

Well, I survived the first day of A-100 and I'd like to think I didn't do anything career-ending.

I did, however, learn about all the things I'm not supposed to post on my blog. So before I get too much further along in my career, there are some things I need to get off my chest.

You may have been wondering where they keep all those super secret documents at. Well let me tell you, you just take a right at XXXXXXX and then XXXXXX and it's about XXXXXXX to the secret lockbox of doom!

Or maybe you're wondering where the secretary is going to be tomorrow. I'm pretty sure I overheard in the hall XXXXXXX.

Do you know the secret to all US Foreign Policy? (It's XXXXXXXX! Explains a lot, doesn't it?)

And don't even get me started on the names, photos, and social security numbers of my fellow FSOs.


Ok, so obviously security is a serious topic, and I don't want to joke about it (too much). But luckily the rather long list of prohibited topics doesn't include the stuff I like to post. My favorite youtube videos? Still fair game. My vacation photos of questionable quality? Absolutely. Whining? All the way!!!

It's a good thing too, because I plan on sticking around. (Speaking of - I'm a little late in celebrating my 200th post and 10,000th page view. Thanks for reading!) So here's to many more mildly informative and hopefully entertaining stories from my journey. I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Home, Sweet (temporary) Home

Well, here I am in Sunny Oakwood! It wasn't quite so sunny while I was moving in yesterday - in fact I got soaked moving my stuff in and hiking to and from the grocery store - but today it's gorgeous out.

Travel day was pretty easy. Thanks Mom and Dad for driving me to the airport and carting my extremely heavy suitcases around. I got here in the afternoon and so far I've unpacked, purchased a ton of groceries - hopefully enough to last two weeks - and explored the area just a bit. I can't wait to start exploring the Eden Center a bit more, but that will have to wait for a day when I'm a bit more settled.

r After hearing a lot about Oakwood over the years I was pretty curious, and a little nervous, but I think I'm going to enjoy it here. I got upgraded on arrival to a one-bedroom and it's pretty awesome. It's sort of a cross between an apartment and a hotel. They provide a few toiletries and cleaning products and things to tide you over until you can buy your own - like a hotel. But, just like an apartment you have a full kitchen, laundry machine (either in the room or down the hall) and lots of space to spread out. I could get used to this!

I had heard that Oakwood Falls Church wasn't very walkable, but the local Safeway and the metro are both about 20 minutes walking-distance. For someone who is used to a 30 minute walk to work all of last year the distances seem totally fine. And for the faint of heart - or those with children or disabilities - there are pretty frequent shuttles.

It's also kind of weird to be somewhere so full of Foreign Service people. I don't know what percent of the complex is FS, but it must be a lot. Everywhere I go I'm meeting new friends and mentors.

I'm off to a reception and then a concert tonight and then class starts tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Corn Maze

It was awesome. I have almost never felt more midwestern.

Also, my first packout was yesterday. I'm having two packouts since they couldn't do the HHE this week. So the UAB was packed - I was 50 pounds underweight, even after packing all of the 'gee I wish this could go in the UAB shipment' pile. In the end I stuffed a few extras in the pile and just sent it in underweight. The movers are coming back Monday for everything else and my longsuffering parents are dealing with that shipment on their own because I will already be in DC having my first day of A-100. Woohoo! The only hiccup in the packing process came when I found out that they won't take my liquids if they're in plastic bottles. I was a bit disappointed because I carted all my cooking stuff home specifically so I wouldn't have to repurchase one of everything in DC.If I'm only in DC for a couple of months it would be annoying to have to purchase and then toss a bunch of cooking supplies, but just as annoying to live for two months without basic ingredients. What's a girl to do? Hopefully it was just a quirk of the moving company, but we'll see.

Also, I just found out that several family members actually read my blog. I always assumed it was just my folks.So thanks family! I'll try to limit the boring Foreign Service details for you.

One more note - I have really been impressed with how much work the 167th class has put in to help my class (the 169th) feel welcome and make a smooth transition. Thanks 167th, I definitely appreciate it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Test

picture 1

Ugh...packout

I am sure there is a right way to do packout.

I am equally sure that I haven't discovered that way yet.


Two days from now movers are coming for my stuff and I just don't quite know what to do about that. My parents' house is in a state of utter chaos. Renovations have taken over the basement and flooded the rest of the house with 'refugee' furniture. Now there is the addition of all my displaced belongings and furniture and it's hard to climb over the piles of stuff, much less sort and inventory everything. So far my strategy has been to half-heartedly look through some stuff for an hour or so, get overwhelmed, and then decide to take a break that ends up lasting all day.

I swear I am an organized person, but something about being in someone else's home, and the whole renovation-induced claustrophobia, makes it very difficult for me to start tackling this problem.

Ugh.


In other news, I am busy wrapping up my summer. I got my hair chopped off for charity the other day.  I also fulfilled a goal I've had for years - to sell something at the farmers' market in town. I made the apple pie my grandma taught me, with apples picked fresh that morning. I am proud to say it sold in less than an hour and I made a whopping $12.50 for a lazy morning of baking and chatting with my mom. I'm hoping to cross one more item off my bucket list this week when we (hopefully) visit a corn maze nearby.   Oh, and did I mention that I got to ride along in my friend's semi?

(this deserves a paragraph of its own)

So, the story is that my friend - a totally normal, 20-something, liberal arts major and California girl, needed a job and was feeling adventurous. Next thing I know she's updating her facebook page from her 18-wheeler. (It's 18 wheels, right?) So, lucky me, I got to fulfill another dream that I didn't even know I had. I sat behind the wheel -while it was parked, naturally - and 'drove' a semi. I also got to see just what exactly a truck looks like on the inside. It was super awesome.  And of course I got to see my dear friend and catch up with her, which was even more awesome.

So yes, it has been a big summer. I'm getting increasingly nervous about A100 and the whole flag day  thing looming on the horizon.  The first day is only a week from today!

And with that I think I need to go bake some more pie and finish 'packing'.