Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tornadoes, Local Morsels, and Hillary

Okay. First off let me start out by saying that I need to work this blog thing into my daily routine. Because here it is Friday night already and I have a week's worth of adventures to write about! So how do I do this...
I'll just put it all in this post and hope you don't get bored.

Monday Jan 28:
I went shopping at a nearby Goodwill for some dress clothes to wear to class tomorrow and I wandered around a big Vietnamese mall. Found some slacks, a pea coat, shoes, and a laptop purse... and found some delicious fried tofu for $2! Win and win. This is a great neighborhood.

Tuesday Jan 29:
I got orientated by the Feds today. It was an 8-hour class for State Dept Widows, I mean State Dept Spouses/Partners. Also known as EFMs (Eligible Family Members). I get an acronym too!
It was enlightening. For the last 6 months we've had a million questions to ask. And then once John got the nod we got all excited because he had numbers to call and addresses to email. But those calls and emails all seemed to disappear into a black hole and were never responded to, and if they were answered the answer was always wrong, different than the previous answer, or "it depends." It was a good reminder of what we were getting ourselves into: a government job and all the run-around and bureaucracy that goes with it.
Now that we're here at the mother ship we finally have real people to talk to who have all done this before.
The take-away from the day was that there are a ton of resources available if I want to know about life overseas, the different posts we may go to, how I can get a job at the embassy once we get there, the immunizations we'll need and even where to find a list of American groceries that are/aren't available in all the countries we have diplomatic relations with. It feels incredibly reassuring to hear all this, and yet each specific question I ask is still answered with the now infamous, "it depends."

Wednesday Jan 30:
The East is crazy. Their weather is crazy. (As Johnny is quoting right now, "I'm crazy, you crazy, evybody crazy!")
Tuesday it was cold and I realized my cute new east coast pea coat will never be as warm as my down jacket. Then Wednesday was super warm and muggy all day, with really strong windy gusts. I heard the word "tornado" being thrown around by the weather barbies and actually thought they might be onto something. I spent the day doing admin stuff in our hotel room, then walked a mile to the grocery store and got chased into a Walmart-quality clothing store called "Burlington", considered buying an overpriced umbrella, decided to just get soaked and save my money, and then when I stepped back outside the rain had tapered off and the parking lot was flooded. Later on that night once John and I were both safely inside our hotel room, and several floors up, the tornado-rain-storm started up again so we opened our sliding glass door and enjoyed some fresh, wet air, and the quiet roar of a huge downpour. It reminded me of summer thunderstorms in Oregon, only it's January and it went on for HOURS.
The next day the news had all kinds of video footage of cars washing away down creeks and houses thrashed by the tornado-force winds. Pretty crazy.

Thursday Jan 31:
Today was my first day in DC!
I spent the morning in the Overseas Briefing Center reading post reports and daydreaming about where we might go. We got our bid list but I can't publish any of the locations so I'll just say that John and I were thrilled with all 10 possibilities. We'd be oh-so-happy to go to any of these places. Of course most of them are hardship posts (read: the worst of the third world, ie: not Bangkok). But surprisingly there were a few Europe posts on there that are on my top-10 dream vacations list. Of course we can already anticipate the ups and downs of each one, and since John and I don't have kids, pets, or health issues, we fully realize that we'll be going to the hardest hardship post on there, and therefore won't have any of our lovely friends stopping in for a visit anytime soon. But that's okay, it's only 2 years and we'll get to see a place that we would probably never ever make it to on our own vacation time!
After researching posts John and I met with his Career Development Officer over in DC. She's the one who decides where everyone in his class is going, so of course we were both a little nervous because we weren't sure how to play this game; or if it's even a game to be played. She interviewed us and tried to get a feel for what we were looking for, and also list the strengths we would both bring to post. Her job is to match our needs with the needs of the Foreign Service. Which means we'll be going where we're needed and we'll bloody well like it. Sounds good to me! We're pretty easy to please.
After that John returned to Virginia to do some homework and I was free to roam around DC for the rest of the afternoon.

I ate a lovely late lunch / early dinner at Founding Farmers, a locavore restaurant that sounded awesome online. I ate at the bar and even enjoyed a drink. These tasty morsels you see are Griddled Farm Bread with Brie, Onion Jam and Sliced Apples served on an adorable wood cutting board.

Then came the PEI Mussels in White Wine and Pesto in a cast iron frying pan.

And then a frigid walk over to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

The big hall inside was gorgeous and I was glad I still had on my nice clothes for the red carpet.

Every night, 365 nights per year they offer a free show to bring art to the people. Tonight's performance was called Literary Death March. It was 4 authors / writers / slam poets and 3 judges all reading their work and making witty comments. Hilarious. I'm going to this free show thing every night!

Friday January 1:
We got our 350 pounds of air freight delivered this morning! And there's no way we have room for all this crap in our little studio apartment. We're crossing our fingers that they'll move us into a 1 bedroom apartment early next week and so we're holding off on unpacking these monsters until then.
I sweated out some anxiety at the free hotel aerobics class in the morning and was reminded how much I hate sit-ups.
Then I took the Metro down to Foggy Bottom and stood outside in the below-freezing temps to try to catch a glimpse of Hillary and give her a wave as she bid farewell to the Sate Dept. That was mildly traumatic since I didn't have a badge and had no way of meeting up with John (yeah... still no cell phone...) and therefore was not allowed to get anywhere near the building for security reasons. I understand the security guards have a very serious job to do, and I was not expecting to be able to get into the building at all, but I though maybe there would be a little crowd of onlookers that I could stand with on the sidelines. Well, there wasn't. So I stood by myself for 45 minutes until I couldn't feel my face or my toes. I got hassled multiple times by very mean security guards who kept on pushing me further and further away and making me generally resent the State Department as a whole. And to add insult to injury, I couldn't stop myself from shedding a few tears... so there I stood: alone, freezing, crying and embarrassed that I didn't have a badge or any way of feeling just a little bit of pride to be joining the Sate Dept family. But I did see Hillary walk out, shake a few hands, give a few waves, and get into her armored sedan that whisked her away in a convoy of black SUVs. I waved. I doubt she saw me.
Later that night when John and I met up back in our room he said he had been just inside the whole time with an awesome view, watching Hillary speak and feeling a huge sense of pride and accomplishment to be part of such an important mission. We both wished we could have shared that moment together. But I think that's just one of many things I'm going to have to get used to about this new gig. 
With that disappointment behind me I vowed to get a cell phone on Saturday and started a long walk down Constitution Ave towards Smithsonian row.

I stopped in a boulangerie called Paul and had a warm quiche, salad and a pain au chocolate to warm me up.

I only had about an hour before closing but I got in a little culture at the National Gallery of Art, peacefully strolling among Rodin sculptures at the end of the day. This is so awesome!!!

Finished up with my new favorite thing: another free concert at the Kennedy Center before picking up some quick groceries at Whole Paycheck and heading home.

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