Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hail and farewell

Offices and posts throughout the Department of State (and likely lots of other organizations as well) have a tradition to greet newcomers and say goodbye to outgoing folks in one big event called hail and farewell.

Today I have my own version.

So, bad news up front, I'm bidding farewell today to my dog, our family's dog really, who was 15 and a half years old in people years and a crazy old man in dog years. He had heart issues so it wasn't unexpected, but that doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye. It's a huge blessing though that he did not have to be put down and ended up passing away in his sleep. I was afraid my poor mother would have to take him to the vet on her own (since he lives with my parents) and I hate the thought of her going through that alone. And he had a great life for a dog, so no regrets there.

Still reeling from the phone call about my dog, I got an email from my brother (in South America). After a brief scare, his daughter was born and she's beautiful and perfect and so so small! So just like that my big brother and his wife are now a father and mother, my parents are now grandma and grandpa (or more appropriately, abuelo and abuela) and I'm an aunt. I am so happy for them and anxious to meet this newest little family member. Happy birthday little one! And congratulations to the proud parents. You guys are going to be wonderful parents, I can tell already. And what better way to celebrate this occasion while in Italian training than to make it a teachable moment : La mia nipote e nata oggi, il ventotto febbraio. Benvenuto bambina!

It's barely noon here but it has already been a big day, with lots of joy and a bit of sadness. Good thing I had a cold last week, I think I'm going to need that entire jumbo box of tissues.

Goodbye buddy

Hello sweetheart!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


So it's apparently not 'bru-sheh-ta', it's 'bru-skeh-ta'. 

Don't feel bad. I've been saying it wrong too.

And to my friends in super-hard languages now, nothing but respect for your growing ability to decipher hieroglyphics or deliver demarches in klingon or take notes on fast-paced pig-latin negotiations. It's a little bit intimidating whenever I get a peak at your homework, not gonna lie. 
As for me, I'm really enjoying the FSI language experience (albeit one day in), but it's nice to be starting with a language that already feels so familiar. And any language that gave us both pizza and gelato is a winner in my book.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spring! At least for today...

I started this post on Saturday (while waiting the excruciating 22 minutes for my pizza to bake) and it was snowing. I had planned to title it "Still winter" or something equally obvious. But that title was, as they say, OBE (overcome by events). The weather was so nice in fact that in spite of an obnoxious cold I spent most of the day out and about. I went to church, hit the library for some pre-Italy background research, and then slopped through the snow from there to Whole Foods and back home - a very long way I assure you! This is about the time that I made a new New Years's resolution - buy waterproof boots! (On a side note, why do clothes just seem to disintegrate overseas?)

In work-related news, I've just finished one course at FSI and on Monday I start a new one. I was pleasantly surprised to find this training to be very practical and well-paced - and the whole class came away with similar feelings. That's not easy to accomplish when you are preparing people with extremely diverse backgrounds to succeed in such varied posts and positions. So kudos FSI! I am cautiously optimistic about my upcoming training. I guess I'll have some updates on that soon.

And finally, just to keep Nigeria on your minds, like it's been on mine:
Humans of Lagos - I can't take credit for finding this blog (thanks old boss!) but it's really interesting
Tragic news from Nigeria as well - even more tragic is that when I saw this I immediately thought they were referring to a similar attack back in January, but no - this unbelievable tragedy is one of two basically similar bombings in northern Nigeria - just since the start of 2015
The Daily Show reacts to recent Nigeria news (semi-recent anyway)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is winter almost done yet?

Just thought I'd share some pictures from my walk last week when the weather was lovely. Everyone was out running - there was so much peer pressure that I ended up hitting the Mt. Vernon trail myself for a bit. Can't wait til it's nice out every day! I have big plans to complete the couch to 5k running program this spring. We'll see how I feel about that once I get to the runs where you don't get a break every 60 seconds.

This weekend the plan is to hide from the cold and watch tv...particularly now that a blizzard seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. And maybe I'll do some post research if I feel really motivated. 

I did manage to get out today with some friends from A-100 to Chinatown for dim sum (pretty good and not as expensive as expected) and took my bike in to Pheonix Bikes to get it put back together. (Long story short - they had to disassemble it to get it in the UAB box and my efforts at re-assembling the bike were ... less than successful to say the least.) Check out their website if you're looking for a bike to purchase or need any repairs. It's a great program that teaches kids to fix bikes and lets them fix up donated bikes and keep them. Certainly worth supporting with your business or donations.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Back to work!

I started back up at FSI this week and I have to say, it feels good to have a little structure in my life again.

I've been settling in and even with the welcome arrival of all my UAB stuff it has still been expensive. I once read that a family has to budget ten thousand dollars for home leave to cover flights, hotels, food and all the rest. While my leave wasn't anywhere near that expensive (thanks mom and dad for hosting!) all this constant transitioning does add up. Every day this week I had to hit up the grocery store and each time I thought something along the lines of 'too bad I left that basil plant (or vegetable oil or bottle of mouthwash...) back in Nigeria'. And seven months from now I'll start the whole process over again. I better start saving up now!

I also started breaking in my 'Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' book. So far I've learned that Italian cooking takes a long time! But the results have been pretty spectacular. I especially love how the Italians seem to be able to make simple vegetables taste like a million bucks. Can't wait to eat the real thing when I get there!