Wednesday, May 26, 2010

See You Soon, DC

Last day in Washington - I fly in a few hours.  In keeping with my tradition of the last few years, I'm getting a haircut on my way to the airport.  (I admit: I'm afraid of getting it cut overseas.  I can barely explain what I want my hair to do in English, much less in a foreign language.)  Pretty much everything I needed to do except get my car shipped has been done, and luckily I have friends who are more responsible than I to help with the logistics on that once I leave.  How would any of us survive moving every two to three years if it weren't for our friends, who mail us things that don't fit in our suitcases, take the half-empty bottles of ketchup and vodka from our refrigerators, and sort out the piles of crap before the movers arrive?

Last night I and a few friends went to my favorite pre-departure place in DC: the back side of the Lincoln Memorial.  For the past few years, every time one of us departs Washington for an extended period of time, we've wandered down to sit behind Abe late at night, where we watch road and air traffic, look at the lights of Virginia and the dark of Arlington Cemetery, and revel in having our own little piece of DC to ourselves.  No photos, because the lighting wasn't right, and the moment wasn't either.  It's just a nice way to remember my last day in DC: swinging our feet off the marble wall, holding hands and telling old jokes.

I'm off on a new adventure, but this is still home, because of all of the people I love here.  See you soon, DC.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Things We Carry, Part 2

My movers arrive in 4 hours, and I still have to make a Target run to get a few things.  But I wanted to put this one out here before my stuff disappears for a few months, hopefully arriving before Ramadan.  I have a lot of stuff - somehow I've accumulated 4 pairs of black flip-flops (all from Old Navy), bunches of snarky T-shirts, and pounds of loose-leaf tea, as well as more pillows than you can shake a stick at.  But the truly bizarre things are what always make my movers look at me strangely.  Up today: Esmerelda.

Yes, this is a disembodied life-sized doll's leg, named Esmerelda.  The right leg, to be specific; the left leg belongs to my Aunt Gail, whose favorite movie is My Left Foot.  The near obsession with creepy dolls in my family goes back to college, when my mother found in her father's attic an appalling, life-sized doll that came to live with me in my dorm.  That freaking doll was far more effective than any burglar alarm could ever be - I'm fairly certain it was possessed.  Shiloh (for that was her name) unfortunately did not survive the move away from St. Louis, but luckily a few years later we discovered these legs on the side of the street in our neighborhood.  

Esmerelda is great fun.  She goes with me on major trips, fitting neatly into a carry-on bag, which always makes the TSA scanners do a double-take.  She went to Atlanta in January, Puerto Rico in March, the beach two weeks ago, and out on the town with Rita and me on Thanksgiving eve.  Let me tell you, there's nothing more fun than explaining to your waitstaff why you have a plastic doll's leg sitting at the spare seat at your table.

Weird?  Absolutely.  Awesome?  Very much so!  We dance with Esmerelda, too, but since I have no photos in which anyone has a normal face, I'll spare you those details.  Esmerelda has many other uses: a hobo carrying stick (the toes keep the bag of your earthly possessions from falling to the ground), a defensive weapon should someone break into your house, a katana, artwork, a hat rack...  you name it, and Esmerelda can probably do it, so long as it doesn't involve moving joints!

So when you visit me in Istanbul, you'll probably see Esmerelda hanging out in the living room.  Just wave hello and know that you'll probably be dancing with her at some point during your stay.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Weekly State Blog RoundUp

Welcome to the Weekly State Blog RoundUp, in its new incarnation as a shared feature!  THIS IS AN ACTION REQUEST - SEE SECTION 4.  END SUMMARY.  

(Or, if you just have time to read the summary, go here.  It's self-explanatory.)

Recommended posts, by popular vote

Nelson started off this week’s suggestions with a New Yorker article on Haitian adoptions after the earthquake.  I will admit that I haven’t had time to read it fully (my PCS looms next week), but here’s his commentary:  “I sent this link to A Daring Adventure because I thought it showed the dedication of State folks – CON officers working around the clock and helping people in need.”  Nelson’s an aspiring FSO, so hopefully he’ll be joining our dedicated ranks soon!

One meme that’s been circulating through the blogs in recent weeks is how we came to the Foreign Service.  I think No Double Standard has set the bar pretty high with the series of posts on this topic, including the gut-puncher in part three.  Hat tip to the Diplopundit for recc’ing this one. 

Bfiles submits to us this comparison of Sao Paolo and Brasilia, which end up with a tie score by the end of the match.  Do you want to defend your favorite Brazilian post?  Duke it out in the comments at Overseas Insights!

Bfiles wins the coveted Pointy Hat of Link Submission Success for most links submitted for this week’s RoundUp.  Her next contribution is this entire blog, where Chris is describing what it’s like to live and to work in the middle of the Red Shirt protests in Thailand.  Keep the updates coming, Chris, and most importantly, STAY SAFE!

James sends us the At Post photoblog, which I hadn’t heard of before now and which will now be my preferred way to get a covert giggle during some of my less-than-enthralling FSI classes.  You know all of those pictures you take of funny English errors or bizarre signage overseas to send to your family back home?  Now you can share it with your colleagues as well!  Remember y’all, protect ya tings!

We have a request via A Daring Adventure’s comment form – does anyone know of any FS types blogging in France?  Submit anything you can think of in the links, or email stateroundup2.0 {at} so we can pass the word back to Pam, who’d originally asked.

Editor’s selection

Don't miss Diplopundit's call to participate in a registry drive for a child in need of a marrow donation.

Jill has had a crappy day, and SassAndSweet has had an even worse day.  Show them some love - and S&S, I'm thinking of you.  I hope you find peace soon.  

Katie may have missed Poetic Sunday, but don't worry, Rock Star - we have another blogger (with possibly my favorite blog title ever) holding down the poetry fort!

In a topic near and dear to my own heart, C.C. at Six Months of Settled has opened her blog back up.  Welcome back! 

Lemur shares a day-in-the-life post - may be of interest to those of you still on the register or considering taking the test.  

Todays list of amusing things to tell children, courtesy of I'll Take Mine to Go (times two) and Worldwide Available.  

Mr. and Mrs. Crab experience that moment we all remember - the great power and responsibility of picking up your black passport for the first time.  Use it wisely, Crabby-wans.

It's an endless topic of conversation...  what do you miss from home when you're overseas?  There's a good list stacked up at Simmons Says, as well as at Neither Here Nor There, but we can always add more to it, I'm sure!  The flip side of this, of course, is the shock you get when you come back home, which rk sums up nicely.

For those of you who've been assigned to Jerusalem, I hope you're prepared.  I don't want to say that it will make you crazy...  No Double Standards and Digger certainly wouldn't say that, per se.  However, there is such a thing as Jerusalem Syndrome, which provides fodder for every news agency's odd news wire and which I must imagine leads to some Dada-esque ACS calls.  Don't say you weren't warned!  (But seriously, read NDS' account for a take on Jerusalem that's not flip and sarcastic.)

Speaking of Jerusalem, I'd like to transition into bits of local color spotted at post (or wherever you happen to be living now).  Brooke and Max went to a wedding in the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem, Leesonthego figure out how to find their car in a crowded lotJudie talks about the commemoration of the end of World War II in Prague, Sara experiences her first earthquake at post, Alex talks about the deadliest hotdog stand in the world, Z. Marie sees local color on the Metro, and Stephanie hears about low-tech election delays in a high-tech method.

It's transfer season, and insanity is running high among the blogs.  ShannonDonnaDevonYellow FlowerAlC, and I are all in the process of packing out (and David's in the assistance phase).  I'm sure there are more of you, and my eyes have just glazed over at the pile-up of posts in my RSS feed (and from lack of sleep).  If I've missed your tales of packout woes, please email me, and I'll be sure that you're added to the list!  Misery loves company, right?  Luckily, there are mothers out there to provide advice and finger-wagging when needed.  Shannon's mom is there for her, and while I have no snappy links for this, my mother is sitting about four feet away from me right now, taking a break from helping me with my packout.  I suspect that I'm going to owe her for years for this one.  Chris and family take the prize for worst move story of the week, though.  

Think Pieces

The Skeptical Bureaucrat brings up for discussion H1-B visas and Fortress America.  What do you think?

SassAndSweet raises a question - what would you do?  (Other than be very, very careful not to cross the line and reveal too much personal information!)

Job advice from HeatherJeff's tips from Yellow Flower, and a jobs soundtrack from NDS. 

How the Department uses social media, courtesy of Digger.  Passed along without comment.  

Drama Llamas
Well, I think I covered everything that happened this week.  (As far as my blogroll goes - again, if I missed you or you want to be included, just comment away and I'll make sure I get you next time!)  What's that you say?  
Something else of note happened this week?  Hmmm...  Here's the ensuing discussion in the blogs about FS blogging as we know it - Donna's takeDiplopundit's takeDiplopundit's take again for extra erudition, and NDS' take on it for good measure.  Well, luckily for us, Kolbi's back at A Daring Adventure, with an incredible tale that TypePad has ever-so-kindly deleted.  (Hope you got to read it before TypePad did its thing - it's a doozy!)  

Whatever the case may be, we have Kolbi back, which I think we can all agree is a good thing for the community.  One thing that did come out of this debacle is the divvying up of blog RoundUp duties.  I had no idea until I sat down last night/today to work on this just how time- and labor-intensive a process it is.  Kolbi's done a hero's work in getting this started - now I think we should give the poor woman a break and rotate the fun so that no one takes too much time out of his or her life for this!  You can see the sign-up page for hosting duty here.  If you have ANY questions, please send an email to her, me, or to stateroundup2.0 {at}  

Here's to the future, folks!  See you next week for the RoundUp at Diplolife!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wherein the Author Attempts to Recreate a Community Feature

So, for whatever reason, last Friday's State blog roundup didn't happen.  I don't have the readership to make this work well at first, but I'll give it a try.  If you have a State blog entry you want to highlight, if you want to promote your own piece, or if you find some news item of relevance to us transient State-sians (what is the proper demonym for us, anyway?), pass the link along to stateroundup2.0 {at}  Send your suggestions in by Wednesday, and I'll do my best to get it out to you by Friday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

USAA: Now with More Awesome

Overheard on Twitter yesterday...

draperha I love USAA so much. They must inject all of their phone reps with happiness and competence before every shift.
USAA @draperha Oh no, our secret is out! Who told you? :) We are honored to serve our members and try our best to take excellent care of them.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Well, That Was Fun

And eight months later, language training is suddenly over.  I am evidently an FSI-designated proficient speaker of Turkish, and all that remains between me and Turkey is three weeks of learning how to write a cable and packing out.

I'd like to commemorate my 2/3 year of language training with a collection of some of the things I learned about Turkish.
  • You only need one verb per paragraph.  Any more would be an extravagance.
  • A sentence to make in order, your opposite thinkingness' being is necessary.
  • The word for cannibal is yamyam.  (Say it out loud for maximum hilarity.)
  • There are no Chinese cognates in Turkish.
  • I can make any verb I want by combining the English noun with the verb to do.  Reserve yapmak, piknik yapmak, brifing yapmak, stabyouintheface yapmak, etc.  It's quite handy. 
  • I learned more about running marathons this year than I ever wanted to know.  Unfortunately, I only learned it in Turkish, so I can't explain any of it in English.  Wait, did I say unfortunately?
  • If you can't remember the word in Turkish, pronounce the English word with a horrid French accent.  You have a 50/50 chance of being right.
  • I have the cutest grandmotherly vocabulary.  Knowing Arabic is useful in this language, but only if you don't mind sounding like you're an 85-year-old villager.
    • A corollary: all of the Arabic/Islamic/Arab phrases of politeness and cultural awareness that have been imprinted in my DNA?  Completely useless in Turkish, and use of them will probably label me as a religious nutcase.
  • I still can't use conditional sentences.  Luckily, I will only ever need to talk about factual events, so it's totally irrelevant that I can't say, "If you don't clear my HHE through customs in under three months, I am going to sit down in your office floor and scream until you give me my cooking pans."  
Yep, I think I'm prepared for post.