Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Coddling the Enemy," AKA You gotta be kidding me

Did you hear the latest swipe Sarah Palin took at the State Department. Apparently, she thinks we are "coddling" Ahmadinejad because my old boss, the Department spokesman, tweeting him a birthday greeting.

She is in sore need of a life. Someone buy her one please.

PJ, by the way, is a retired Air Force Colonel. He is deeply committed to this country. And he has sharp wit. I love his tweets...remember the one about Chavez singing to the Secretary? Good stuff.

So here's what he said to Ahmadinejad:

# Happy birthday President #Ahmadinejad. Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home. What a gift that would be. #Iran 2:30 PM Oct 28th via web

# Your 54th year was full of lost opportunities. Hope in your 55th year you will open #Iran to a different relationship with the world. 2:31 PM Oct 28th via web

Hoping for the release of the hikers. You remember them, right? Hoping for a different relationship between Iran and the world. Gosh. That would be awful, right?

Now as you might also know, Sarah Palin tweets.

Here are her responses to PJ.

# Happy B'day Ahmadinejad wish sent by US Govt. Mind boggling foreign policy: kowtow & coddle enemies; snub allies. Obama Doctrine is nonsense about 12 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

# Americans awaken 2 bizarre natl security thinking of Obama Admn: Ahmadinejad b'day greeting after call 4 Israel's destruction speaks volumes about 11 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

According to DiploPundit, AFP reported that Crowley defended on Friday, saying:

"My tweet was simply to suggest that a reasonable celebration of President Ahmadinejad's birthday would be to release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal," Crowley told reporters."I can't imagine why Sarah Palin would object to the release of the two hikers who remain in custody, we think inappropriately," he said.

DiploPundit can't imagine either:
"Unless of course, whoever writes these tweets was a) thinking only of twitter mileage, b) has no freakin idea who are Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, 3) knows but no care, d) insert one more funny gunny grizzled bearly reason. In any case, the "lamestream" media apparently is paying enough attention to report this great development. So hilarity all around. Har...har...har..."

And people want her to be our next President. Sigh.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Not a Good Language Day


Language learning HARD!

Today was not a good day...I know everyone has them.

But damn!

I really hate feeling stupid. I remember when I got to high school and got an algebra teacher who was not particularly patient or good at teaching new concepts, I felt stupid. I decided I was bad at math, even though I had always been good at math.

I continued to think I was bad at math, even after earning subsequent A's in algebra II, calculus and trig.

I felt like that again today...this time in language. And I have never felt that way about studying language.

I feel like I don't have a handle on the endings at all. I feel like I can say a lot of what I want to, but all the endings are wrong. Which really changes the meaning.


I know I will get past it. I know my teacher is an excellent teacher. People I trust trust her abilities, and so do I.

But man, I hate feeling stupid.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I thought it was a GREAT idea

Today I finally did what I have been putting off...I asked our teacher when our progress test is.

She said the first part of November.

Um, like next week first part of November?

I hate progress tests. I mean really really really hate them.

I never do as well as I think I should. And yes, I know it is not realistic to expect to be a 3/3 at this point, but it still bugs me.

So after my teacher protested about how great these tests are, just chatting, reading and getting an idea of how we're doing.

Here is the problem...when she is speaking to my classmates, I understand every word she says. And I know how to respond.

And then she speaks to me...


I think it is performance pressure.

Anyway, she asked what she could do, and I told her my GREAT IDEA!

We should have our other classmates in the test...I would listen to what she said and translate! Then she could grade me that way without me having performance pressure!

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In which I am really cranky...

Today's language class will be interupted repeated for discussions of repairs but not for any actual repairs.

The first call was from the carpet company.

"Just want to let you know the men are on their way. They should be there soon so you can let them in."

"Remember that the key is in the lock box because I am at work?"

Oh yeah.

A little later, I call back. "Don't leave the door open. I have pets."

"Yes, you have a dog."

"Yes, and two cats. Don't let them out."


Second call from the carpet company.

"I am at the job site. You have a lot of books.

"Yes, the same number I had when you gave the estimate."

"But we are a floor company, not a moving company."

"Yes, but you told me you could move them if I packed up all my personal belongings. Which I did."

"Yes, but it is a lot of books. We could put them in the spare bedroom."

"Fine, but try not to freak out the bird, who is in the spare bedroom because you asked me to move her."


Third call. This from the contractor.

"So apparently you have moved a lot of stuff into the master bedroom."

"No, it is the same stuff that was there when your painters were there."

"Well the flooring company says there are a lot of books."

"Yes, the same ones that have always been there"

"I don't remember there being much in the master bedroom."

"No there isn't. There is nothing in there that wasn't there when the painters were there."

"But the flooring company can't move the books."

"But she told me when she did the estimate she would. And then she told me a few minutes ago she would put them in the spare room."

"I need to see if the insurance company will approve a packout."


Later, I call back. "Why don't you have the flooring company move the few books in my bedroom into the spare room. They can put carpet down in the bedroom and hall. Then I can move my office books to the bedroom so she can do the office."

"I'm waiting for her to call back. I'll suggest that and call you back."

Then no more calls.

I went to lunch.

I went home.

They had done NOTHING in my house except open my closet doors (why?), pulled out a cable cord and messed up the track on the door to my heat and air unit.

None of which has anything to do with the carpet.

And now? I can't get ANYONE on the phone.

Just shoot me.

So You Want A PhD in the Humanities

"Do you know that less than half of PhDs get a tenure-track position? You will probably get an adjunct position making less than many of the secretaries and janitors in the school."

Yep, so glad to be a bureaucrat...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So Busted

I had my first consultation with my language instructor yesterday.

Things were going well, until she said, "so from your form, it seems that you think..."


Okay, so I am lame. I didn't fill out the form.

During our first week, we took all these tests to determine our learning style. I took them, again (I took them the first time I studied language too) and I was supposed to go and find out the results.

But I haven't bothered.

Last time, they said I have "thin boundaries," which means that I am a little nuts and that I will absorb information regardless of the means that it is thrown at me.

Both of those things are true. And I already knew them.

I also know that I have a preference for seeing things...I will remember a word better if I have seen it written.

None of this has changed, so I haven't gone in for that consultation.

And then our LTS gave us a form to fill out asking about our specific class. Apparently is asks what things we like, what we don't. What works. What doesn't.

I say apparently because I haven't filled it out. I haven't even looked at it.

So when our teacher guessed which form was mine, she was wrong, because they didn't have one.


Just as well...what she thought I thought wouldn't have been true for me anyway (if it had, I could have claimed that yes, that was my form).

I'm such a rebel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome to the 157th and 117th!

Starting tomorrow, we will once again see the hordes of be-suited new officers and specialists descend onto the Foreign Service Institute. Both began their new lives today, but their first day is over at the Mothership getting all badged and indoctrinated.


And as has become my tradition, I am moving the following blogs from the Future FSO and FSS blogroll to the FS Blogroll.

A Fisher Out of Water

International Librarian

Life in the Red Brick House

Paul Benjamin: Writer, Editor, Supermodel

Saunders Family

The Barefoot Nomads

Two Red Marys and a Yellow Rose

Welcome! I hope you find this life everything you wanted and more!

And let me know if I missed anyone!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Washington Blade: Gay diplomat presses LGBT issues at int’l conference

From today's Washington Blade:

Gay diplomat presses LGBT issues at int’l conference

By Chris Johnson

A gay diplomat led a U.S. delegation at an international conference earlier this month that touched on the importance of LGBT rights as a human rights issue.

Michael Guest, former U.S. ambassador to Romania, headed a delegation of about 25 U.S. diplomats during the human rights portion of an annual review conference for the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe. The review conference took place between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8 in Warsaw, Poland.

The Warsaw Review Conference was a primer engagement for trans-Atlantic countries to discuss human rights principles — including hate crimes against LGBT people and the freedom to association to have Pride celebrations across the globe — in anticipation of a later OSCE summit that this year is set to take place in December in Astana, Kazakhstan.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, Guest said that his sexual orientation made his designation as head of the delegation representational of the Obama administration’s stated principle that international LGBT rights are human rights.

“I also think that it made an impact with other delegations,” Guest added. “It was clearly a prominent feature of my biography, so there were a number of delegation members that come and it’s representative in their eyes as a sense of progress that an openly gay man would be appointed.”

Still, Guest said he thinks his 26-year service as a diplomat was the primary reason he was selected for the position and noted that during much of his career he focused on OSCE policy.

“I dealt with it at the time when all these changes were happening in Europe in 1989, 1990 and 1991 and when most of the commitments on fundamental freedoms and human rights were signed by the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union and the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe,” he said.

Guest attained notoriety in 2007 when he retired from the State Department in protest because it didn’t offer certain benefits — such as security training and free medical care — to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers. The situation has since been rectified by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, which took part in the review conference as an non-governmental organization, said the selection of an out gay man to lead the U.S. delegation was significant because previous administrations have been reluctant to incorporate LGBT issues in foreign policy.

“The United States in the past has been reluctant to address LGBT concerns within this forum,” Bromley said. “I think the fact that they selected Michael Guest as someone who is openly gay and works with organizations that promote issues on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was an important statement.”

The OSCE was established in 1975 after 35 trans-Atlantic countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, signed the Helsinki Accords and agreed to take part in annual meetings. During the Cold War, the OSCE served as a forum where the United States could raise human rights and security issues with Warsaw Pact countries.

But Guest said the tone of the conference has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to become less of an East-West dialogue and more of a pan-Atlantic conversation.

“It’s an opportunity to look at what has been done and is being done on human rights issues ranging from migration to freedoms of assembly and freedom of religion, to human trafficking, to capital punishment, to gender balance to hate crimes and intolerance — the whole range of human rights related issues,” Guest said.

During the course of the discussion on human rights, Guest impressed upon the 56 participating states in the conference the importance of inclusion of LGBT rights as human rights issues.

The former ambassador mentioned LGBT issues during his opening statement at the conference’s plenary session, including bias-motivated violence against LGBT people and the right to freedom of association at Pride celebrations. Such activities in Eastern Europe, where the conference took place, are often the targets of hostility and violence.

Guest lamented human rights abuses such as “when civil society assemblies are denied permits on spurious grounds, or police allow bigots to attack Gay Pride parades.” The former ambassador also acknowledged the United States has more to accomplish on human rights issues because “equality under the law continues to elude those of us who are gay or transgender.”

During a later discussion, Guest also appealed to governments in attendance to implement hate crimes protections measures and recalled his own personal experience as the victim of bias-motivated violence.

After a hostile non-governmental organization equated homosexuality to pedophilia and necrophilia at the end of the meeting, Guest responded that the connection was offensive and such inflammatory allegations can be responsible for hate crimes.

Guest told the Blade he raised LGBT issues during the conference because he believes they should be brought up in any comprehensive discussion of human rights.

“We raised it in questions of freedom to assembly, freedom of association and in the course of the discussions on hate crimes and tolerance,” he said. “We had some good news stories to tell from the standpoint of the United States, such as the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act and the overall trend in hate crimes going down, but the negative, of course, being that the reported number of LGBT hate crimes and hate crimes against immigrants has, in fact, gone up.”

LGBT issues were also raised by non-governmental institutions at the conference, including the Council for Global Equality.

Bromley delivered a statement at the conference on behalf of his organization — as well as two European international LGBT right groups — that called for passage of hate crimes protections in other countries as well as the decriminalization of sodomy.

Emphasizing the importance of accurate documentation and effective prosecution of bias-motivated violence against LGBT people, Bromley said hate crimes won’t go away as long as countries have anti-gay statutes on the books.

“As a first step, we call on all participating states in the OSCE region to remove any laws that continue to criminalize homosexual conduct or identity or the public dissemination of scientifically supported information on homosexuality and sexual health,” Bromley said.

Bromley told the Blade that discussion of LGBT rights at the conference was significant because the U.S. delegation had only begun to bring up such issues last year after the start of the Obama administration.

“We’re very pleased to see that level of emphasis from the head of the delegation, but a number of other governments also spoke to the issue, so it’s certainly gaining ground and giving additional attention to LGBT hate crimes,” Bromley said.

The delegations from other countries and other non-governmental organizations at the conference responded to the U.S. delegation’s promotion of LGBT rights in varied ways. Guest said the session in which he spoke personally about hate crimes issues caused delegations from other countries to take note.

“It was a very quiet session,” Guest said. “People were listening very quietly, and a lot of people did respond specifically to what I said including non-governmental organizations. A number of delegations told us afterwards — either to me directly or others on the team — how that more personal approach really had resonated with them.”

Guest said a representative from the Catholic Church in Vatican City was among those that approached him afterward and mentioned that talking about hate crimes in a personal manner was “a way that we could build bridges.”

But Guest said the outcome was different for discussions of freedom of association and the right to hold Pride celebrations. The former ambassador speculated these talks made less of an impact on the delegation because they had already come up at last year’s conference.

“I think it’s just that because Gay Pride issues have come up before, there were some delegations that maybe expected it and maybe didn’t really reflect as much as might otherwise be the case,” Guest said.

So-called “ex-gay” groups and other organizations hostile to LGBT rights were also present.

Bromley said Redeemed Lives, a Christian ministry, spoke out at the conference about bias-motivated violence against “ex-gay” people for giving up what the ministry called a “homosexual lifestyle.”

“That was somewhat alarming to see a strong showing of ex-gay activists who were waving issues that were, as far as I know, not legitimate concerns,” Bromley said. “I don’t doubt that there could be violence directed at ex-gay individuals, but I never heard of any reports to that effect.”

Reparative therapy programs that seek to change sexual orientation have been widely discredited by major medical and psychiatric associations around the world.

A spokesperson for Redeemed Lives deferred comment to a statement the organization made at the conference, which was published on the OSCE website. In the statement, Mario Bergner, director of Redeemed Lives, stresses the importance passing legislation to protect the free speech of Christian academics and clerics to “teach the sexual morality of their faith traditions” so that they can help those with “unwanted sexual desires.”

“Such people include Christians with sexual addictions for whom freedom means living free of internet pornography, Christians with compulsive sexual behaviours for whom freedom is fidelity in marriage, and Christians, like myself, with unwanted same sex attractions for whom freedom is the self emancipation that comes through effective pastoral care or psychological treatment for homosexuality,” Berger said.

Bromley said the organization’s concern about hate crimes against people who identify as “ex-gay” is ironic because the Matthew Shepard Act already protects them.

“It would actually be covered under our current hate crime law because it would still be violence on the basis of sexual orientation,” Bromley said.

But the conference nonetheless provided a forum to discuss international LGBT rights as a human rights issue.

Guest noted progress was made at the conference, although he said more work is needed.

“I think there are moments like that where you feel that you are making headway in getting people to understand that these are issues that governments have to take seriously,” Guest said. “And then, there are other times where it seems to go right past — certainly on some the freedom of association things.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where Am I?

Becky over at Small Bits is doing this week's Foreign Service Blog Roundup and she asked that people submit pictures of where they are physically or mentally.

Physically, I am here (this is the window from my classroom. Note the total lack of fear from the geese...probably because they aren't studying Estonian):

Sorry I didn't have a pink picture in honor of Jen, but she already knows my thoughts and prayers are with her. And since she knows I am a big 'ole dyke, I hope she will understand and forgive the lack of pink.

Mentally, I am here:

Isn't my future home beautiful (even in the snow, which I hate. Yes, I know I am going to freeze to death). By the way, did you see that the UK's Daily Mail did a piece today on Tallin is this year's European Capital of Culture? This is a nice piece about Tallinn...I didn't see a mention of how hard the language is though.

Which reminds me that I never told you about our grammar boot camp.

It wasn't all that boot camp-ish. Mainly our teacher did a quick overview of the dreaded cases.

I am really enjoying having our teacher back. She speaks to us much more in Estonian than our substitute did, even for ordinary things. That makes class lots harder but also much better. I can already feel myself becoming more comfortable with the language.

Now if I can just find a cure for these brain cramps.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


So I hear some of the pundits (read: idiots) are second-guessing Secretary Clinton's motives for making the video I posted yesterday.

They think she did it for political motives, suggesting that maybe it is even related to a future run at the presidency.


So in case you were wondering, here is a little piece of evidence that gay teen suicide is something she was concerned about BEFORE these latest suicides hit the mainstream media (because we all know that it isn't the suicides that are new, it is the coverage). This is a direct quite from Secretary Clinton's Pride speech on June 22, 2010:

She said:
"So I think that each and every one of you not only professionally, particularly from State and USAID in every bureau and every embassy and every part of our government, have to do what you can to create that safe space, but also personally to really look for those who might need a helping hand, particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life."

Now here is a little more background. She did this video because GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) asked her to consider doing it. It wasn't an idea someone on her staff thought up for political expediency (and really...since when is supporting gays is politically expedient?) But she and her staff were eager to do it, because as the quote above demonstrates, she already cared about the issue.

Just one more reason why we love her.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why My Boss Rocks

This is why my boss rocks. Here is a video Secretary Clinton made in response to the recent gay teen suicides. And thumbs up to GLIFAA for helping make this happen.

She says:

"I have a message for all the young people out there who are being bullied...hang in there, and ask for help. Your life is so important.


"The story of America is the story of people coming together to tear down barriers, stand up for rights and insist on equality, not only for themselves but for all people.


"Here at the State Department, I am grateful every day for the work of our LGBT employees who are serving the United States as Foreign Service Officers and Civil Servants here and around the world. It wasn't long ago that these men and women would not have been able to serve openly, but today they can because it has gotten better. And it will get better for you.


"Please remember that your life is valuable and you are not alone. Many people are standing with you and sending you their thoughts, their prayers and their strengths. Count me among them. Take care of yourself."

Tommorrow Will Be Better

Grammar Boot Camp


That wasn't the firehose we were drinking from.

It was a nice, gentle garden hose.

Starting tomorrow, we begin what our instructor calls "grammar boot camp."

In Estonian.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

In related news, today I learned the word for brain cramp.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Break's Over. Back on Your Heads

There is an old joke that a man dies and goes to Hell. Once there, he sees everyone standing around, waist-deep in, um, poop, drinking lattes. He decides, "Okay, this isn't so bad. Sure it smells, but it could be worse."

And then a bell rings, and a voice says:

"Break's over. Back on your heads!"

I sort of have that feeling about Estonian.

During our second week, our teacher had to go back to Estonia to take care of some family business. In her place, we got our regular substitute.

Our substitute is wonderful. She is sweet and kind, much like a kindergarden teacher. That is probably because, in her regular life, she actually IS a kindergarden teacher.

Our regular teacher comes back tomorrow.

For no particular reason, she intimidates me. I don't know her well enough be be intimidated, and everyone EVERYONE says she is a great teacher. That she is particularly good at explaining the grammar. Which we need. Because Estonian has five billion cases. And is HARD!

I know she is just what we that we have been lulled into a false sense of security and confidence by our sweet substitute.

But I admit I am nervous.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Beautiful Christan Response to Gay Teen Suicides

This is an amazing blog post from a mother responding to all the reports of teens killing themselves when they just can't take any more bullying.

You should especially read her letter to her son. I wish everyone had a mother like her.

A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On

So Glad....

Last night, I had one of those moments where I thought how glad I am I left academia and joined the State Department.

A friend from my dissertation program wrote on her blog about the current job market in academia. She said she thought she would be able to apply for four positions this year...that in years past, the number of available positions were in the double digits. Now she is faced with having to continue being an adjunct, with little pay and even fewer benefits. She said she made more twelve years ago as a secretary than she is as an adjunct college instructor. She is also looking at post-docs, which are temporary, and may not pay enough to justify a move. She has even been looking for non-academic jobs, but not finding them.

She finally says:
"Grad school is looking appealing again, which is absurd. I really wish I had not pursued my interests, but instead got a degree in something lucrative and kept happy with hobbies."

She is really good at what she does...she should have been able to find a job.

They just don't exist.

So who is to say one would have existed for me?

And I think about the timing of my joining the service. About how easy it was to join...ridiculously easy for someone who never even considered the Foreign Service. Like it was meant to be. Yes, I believe in that sort of thing.

And like I said the other day when I got an invitation to apply for a tenure-track position, I am getting paid far more than I would have in academia and am looking at a cool job living in Europe rent free for the next three years.

So glad I joined the service!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Federal Employees Can Purchase Health Insurance For Their Pets, But Not Their Same-Sex Partners

From The Wonk Room at Think Progress.

Federal Employees Can Purchase Health Insurance For Their Pets, But Not Their Same-Sex Partners

This morning, federal employees who are insured through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program received an email from Aetna advertising their new pet insurance plans. “In these challenging economic times, it’s good to know you can get some financial protection for unexpected illness and injury to your pets,” the e-mail reads before listing the many benefits:

The insurance is a handsome perk for those who can afford it, but what’s illuminating about the ad is that while federal employees can buy pet insurance “in these challenging economic times,” LGBT workers are still prohibited from purchasing policies for their partners or spouses by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — a federal law which denies federal benefits to legally married same sex couples.

President Obama supports repealing DOMA (although the administration is currently defending the policy in court), but hasn’t pressured Congress to repeal the Act. Last year, he issued a memorandum instructing federal agencies to “conduct a thorough review of the benefits they provide and to identify any that could be extended to LGBT employees and their partners and families” within the scope of current law and has since ordered federal agencies to “extend a host of benefits to their employees’ same-sex domestic partners.” These benefits include: long-term health insurance, credit union membership; access to fitness facilities, planning and counseling services (including briefings on employee pay and allowances, career counseling and retirement counseling.

There are currently two separate bills in the House and Senate to provide full federal benefits to same sex domestic partners of federal employee. Last year, the legislation was voted out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on a bipartisan basis (Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) co-sponsored the measure), but Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) — the bill’s chief sponsor — has promised not to move this on the floor of the Senate “until we get the explicit offsets” from OPM. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the legislation would cost approximately $310 million through 2020 and benefit some 30,000 employees with same-sex partners.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a similar domestic partner benefits bill in November of 2009.

Digger comments:
There is an option for those in the Foreign Service to purchase insurance for their partners through AFSPA, but only while they are overseas. So when they are back in the States, the partner is unprotected and much change to a different insurance. And as we know, if you have a pre-existing condition, changing insurance is a risky proposition.

Nightmare on Mitten Street

Each day, we have to bring in uudis, or news, in Estonian. We pick a news story and write it on the board, and then as a class we read the stories and make any corrections that are needed.

I have found it a very useful activity.

Usually, I end up looking up a couple words, which we are really not supposed to do. We are supposed to try to use the language we have.

So last night I did. And I found a story online about a bus getting hit by a train, and I only used words we already had.

What I meant to say was that the accident happened because the bus went down a closed street.
The word for clossed it kinni.

What I actually said was the bus went down mitten street.

The word for mitten is kinna.

The teacher thought it was so funny she left it on the board.

This is not a mistake I will make again.

The day did get better, and for the first time, we are reading news articles. I'm excited and surprised at how much we can already figure out.

Fortunately, there were no closings in the story. Or mittens either.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gay Pride in Belgrade

My wife came home yesterday and said someone had asked her why I hadn't blogged about gay pride in Belgrade on my blog. She asked the person, "What blog?"

Good answer!

Seriously, I hadn't covered it because I hadn't decided what exactly to say. It saddens me that there are still people in the world who react with violence just because people choose to stand up and demand basic human dignity.

But this is the time when I want to tell you how much I love straight allies. And you can see why when you go check out WoodLand Travels' post Standing in Solidarity.

Regina writes:

"Today I stood in solidarity for my gay brothers and sisters in an historic Gay Pride Parade in Belgrade, Serbia. It was the very first time in history that a pride parade was held in the nation's capital. Last year there was an attempt, but the protesters threatened to attack the police, the government said they could not guarantee the safety of the marchers, and a permit was not granted. This year, 5,000 police were on the street ready to protect. (No doubt, politics were behind this, as Serbia is still not a member of the EU.) Despite serious warnings of violence from the embassy (through the State Dept.), I decided that I wanted to go."

You should go and read her take on the day, both the joy of pride and the saddness at violence. And check out her pictures. Because how can you not like rainbows.

And thank you Regina, for standing with us! I wish everyone was a strong and brave!

Useful Area Studies

It only took five weeks, but today's area studies was actually useful!

We were broken out into small groups and we had a guest speaker from INR talk to us about the Baltics. I feel like I have a much better handle not only on citizenship issues in Estonia (a big issue...there is a substantial Russian-speaking population there, much of which does not have Estonian citizenship) but on energy issues affecting the region as well.

Next week, we are back to a combined class...and back to talking about a country that is not one of the Balts.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not the Thanksgiving gift I wanted

Nobody likes taking language tests at FSI.

Or if they do, they also like bidding. And waiting.

I don't think that person exists.

Language testing is always exhausting, even if you are decent at the language, because the instructor is pushing to see the limits of your abilities. And they are always stressful, even if the results don't matter.

And they always matter, just not always officially.

Sometimes it is just that you really want to impress your teacher, or you really want to know that you have been making as much progress as you think you have. And sometimes, it matters in terms of when you can go to post.

So though some of the stress can be self-imposed, it is always stressful nonetheless.

And today, I found out we are getting an EXTRA language test.


So instead of one progress test and one final test, we will have two progress tests. The first will be around Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Talk about getting a turkey.

Monday, October 11, 2010

People Are Dying for You to Come Out

Today is National Coming Out Day.

In case you didn't already know (and if you didn't, you haven't been paying attention), I am a lesbian.

In all seriousness, if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, please come out.

People are dying.

Gay teen suicide is nothing new. What is new is that it is making the news. But I knew when I came out 25 years ago that gay teens were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts, far more likely to try more than once, and far more likely to succeed.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but among the biggest is that they still hear messages all around them, subtle and overt, that something is fundamentally wrong with them. Fundamentally wrong and fundamentally unfixable.

That is where you can help.

I am convinced that one average gay person living his or her life openly and honestly does more than all the marching and lobbying we can do. Studies back that up...people who know a gay person (and know that the person is gay) are far less likely to be prejudiced against LGBT folks and far more likely to support equal rights.

I have seen it in my inlaws, who support and love their daughter while being very conservative on every other issue. People can't say to them "lesbians hate men" or "lesbians had an absent or abusive father," for example, because they know how much my life adores her father. Knowing she is gay and is still the same person they have always loved is the only thing that has made a difference.

So please stop hiding who you are. You don't have to make a big announcement. But put your partner's picture on your desk. Talk to your friends about your life outside of work. Stop treating your sexuality as if it is private, and therefore to be hidden. Do straight people hide their sexuality as private? (No, you don't want to hear the details of their sex lives, but that is quite a different thing from knowing who they have decided to spend their lives with). Behave the same way you see your straight friends behave..."And what did you do this weekend?" "Oh, my wife and I went up to an orchard to buy some apples." Or, "I went to a movie with this new guy I met. He seems really nice."

Behave as though it is natural, because IT IS.

And straight folks, let your kids know that you have gay loved ones. I adore the fact my my sister and brother and my wife's sister have been teaching our nieces and nephews that they have two aunts who are married. To them, our relationship is no different than the other relationships they see in their lives. You don't have to have a big sex talk with a 3 year old to say that Aunt Susie is married to Aunt Cindy. Because you wouldn't have a big sex talk with them about Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob. It is exactly the same.

And what you will do by doing that is raise a child who, if they are gay, will know that there is nothing wrong with them and that you will love them regardless of their sexuality. And if they are straight, they will know that someone being gay is not a reason to bully them.

Please, I am begging you.

Lives depend on it.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Roby Chavez is my new hero

You might have missed it last night. You might not even watch My Fox DC. But my wife and I do, because we like to catch the news at 10 before we go to bed.

Last night, Roby Chavez did a story on a gathering at the Duplex Diner to support the "It Gets Better" project and the Trevor Project, both aimed at combating bullying of LGBT teens.

You can read the story here. Or you can watch the video:

At about 2:33 into the clip, Chavez comes out.

He says:

‎"Many of us who are gay think it is important to let those who are struggling out there know their greatness is coming. Many of us lead great lives and want you to be around."

Now THAT is awesome!


Congratulations to all those who got promoted yesterday, especially those who deserved it! ;)

Muttering Behind the Hardline has a list of those who got the good news yesterday here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Its Not That I Don't Want To Talk to You

Okay, I confess.

I sort of avoid my old language teachers.

This is technically my third language that I have studied courtesy of the Foreign Service Institute (fourth if you count the Arabic I took at post, but since that teacher doesn't work for FSI, it doesn't count for the purposes of this post).

So there are a number of folks walking around FSI who I have studied with, and some of them I even genuinely like. But I sort of avoid them.

I found out at our Nordic get together the other week that I am not the only one. Other language students do too.

It isn't that we don't want to talk to our old language teachers. It is that we want to talk to them in the language we studied with them, and that really screws up the language we are studying NOW.

So when I see my Russian teachers, who I only studied with for an hour a day for 16 weeks greet me in Russian, I respond in Russian....and then I start using Russian pronouns in Estonian class.

Which is BAD, on multiple levels.

But Hebrew? I'd be doomed. I got to a 3/2+ in Hebrew and then lived in country for more than two years. So I try to avoid it at all costs.

But today in the cafeteria, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to find Sara, my Hebrew teacher, who I just LOVE! She greeted me in Hebrew, and I gave her a big hug.

And then I begged her not to speak to me in Hebrew so that all the Estonian I had mashed into my brain over the past five weeks wouldn't fall out. Because Hebrew still has a better grip on those over-taxed brain cells.

Luckily she now I won't have to avoid her anymore.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Area Studies Week 4

Twice today in Area Studies, someone walked past me, saw the "Basic Estonian" text on my desk and asked if that wasn't an oxymoron.

Yes, yes it is.

It is probably no accident that the Estonian word for "gentle" is "hell."

I can't believe we are already more than a month into language training. But I do finally feel like I am making some progress. Each day, we have to do "uudis" (news) in Estonian. Nothing major, but a few sentences on something we saw in the news or something going on in our lives. And I make a lot of errors because I try to struggle through cases that we have yet to cover.

But I am beginning to make fewer errors. Some things are beginning to click, and I am really liking that. I am beginning to think that by the end of 10 months (dear god, I'm only 1/10th of the way through??), I might be able to speak and understand this language.

But let's get back to area studies.

Today, we moved classrooms again, to a...wait for with fewer seats. Yes I said fewer. There is now a cadre of us who get to class thirty minutes early and just eat lunch there so we can make sure we have a seat at the table.

Today we had a guest lecturer, and I did find the lecture interesting. I also managed to multitask and finish transerring all my notes from the past month to a new and better organized notebook.

I did all this with one major distraction.

There was a guy sitting near me who was making pig noises and farting the whole time.


For three HOURS!

Yes, seriously.

And I used to work with pigs...the noises were frightenly accurate.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Assisting in a good deed

Today I came out of language class to find a friend of mine walking with a folder held out flat.

There was a tiny bird on it.

Apparently Trey found the bird somewhere upstairs at the Foreign Service Institute. He put his folder down and the bird stepped on it (I worked with him when I was in INR and he was in Ops...he is just the sort of good guy you would expect to try to help a bird. I'd serve with him again in a heartbeat). He got on the elevator and came to the first floor, which is where I found him.

As he tried to head out the door, the bird got frightened and flew off the folder. He tried unsuccessfully to get the bird back onto the folder. It flew into a potted plant.

I have a bird, so I reached down and gently covered the birds wings, and picked it up. Trey opened the door for me and I released it.

It flew up into a tree. I am so glad Trey saved the little guy, and glad I got to help!

I think it was some sort of finch. It looked like this:

Chef Cat Cora on Gay Teen Suicides

LKL Web Exclusive: Chef Cat Cora on bullying

This is a LKL Web Exclusive by Chef Cat Cora, President and Founder of "Chefs for Humanity" (

I was born in the 60's in Mississippi. I was also born gay. Yes, that's right BORN gay. Believe me, I tried to pray "it" away at church every Sunday like a good Christian girl from the South. I tried to date "it" away, dating good guys who didn't understand why I wouldn't, no couldn't, be with them completely. I wanted so badly to be straight like my friends. But I couldn't change it anymore than I could change having brown eyes. And I knew I would never fit into what kids thought was normal.

When I finally met my first love, I was 17. I fell in love and didn't have one friend who I could tell. There was no giggles and gossip and no gushing about how beautiful, smart and wonderful she was. There were definitely no "meet the parents" dinners. I endured the love and loneliness alone. The passion was liberating but the breakup was almost unbearable.

So when a young person who is gay takes their life, my heart breaks to pieces. But, I also know their pain. I understand how fragile life is being young and gay. Being a "freak" as some people would like to call us is hell on earth. Straight kids have no idea how much it sucks. One trauma can break you and change life as you know it, and you are gone forever.

This is what happened to Asher, Jaheem and Tyler. There is evidence that Asher and Tyler were gay and Jaheem was called gay, a word he was confused by. Who cares? They were human, someone's child, someone's grandchild, nephew, brother, friend. I want to weep as I write this for our lost children. I want to scream for the 12 year old who shoots himself, an 11 year who hangs himself with a belt and an 18 year who jumps off a bridge. Why don't our kids feel safe? Why? America, parents, teachers, friends and role models, we have to do better for the children of the world.

No one knew I was gay growing up but I was bullied. I was a cheerleader, fairly popular and considered straight. An older girl who unknowingly hated me and had a locker right next to me, tortured me mercilessly every single day. She threatened to beat my ass, have her friends beat the hell out of me and yes, the word "kill" came up. My first thought is Phoebe Prince, she was not gay, but vilified for being new at the school and pretty.

Gay kids are not the only ones being bullied but the word "gay" is killing our kids. Bullying is killing our kids. Being different is killing our kids and the kids who are bullying are dying inside. We have to save our kids whether they are they are bullied or they are bullying. They are all in pain.

I want to talk to the bullied kids of the world. Tell them to hang on, it will get better. Know that an Iron Chef, actors, musicians, artists and all successful people have probably been bullied in their life. And the best part of your life is yet to come. Whatever it takes to live, do it!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


We are doing cases.

Duh....with 14 cases, we will ALWAYS be doing cases.

Today we were doing some work with genitive case. And I had a moment of clarity where it made sense, I could figure out when to use the case and what endings to come up.

Which no doubt means I am soon to get the massive language slap down.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Did. Not. Want.

So I have ceilings. And painted walls. And maybe by the end of the day, light fixtures.

The carpet folks came today to see if the carpet could be cleaned or would need to be replaced.

It cleaned beautifully...except for one place.

The area where the water came into contact with my antique mahoghany night stand. No go on getting that stain out.

So the carpet has to be replaced.

I did not want new carpet. At least not yet. We figured we would replace the carpet when we sell the place...which will be YEARS from now. We plan to rent it out while we are overseas, hence, no need to spend the money right now.

Okay, so we don't have to spend money on new carpet, but this means we have to spend this much more time in upheaval.


Did. Not. Want.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Epic Weekend Wins!

This has been a great weekend for several reasons.

First, I completed my first 8k race. This one was really important to me. It was the Brain Aneurysm Race for Awareness. Some of you may know that I lost my mother 14 years ago in July to a brain aneurysm, and her loss continues to be a defining force in my life. I miss her every day.

So doing this race to help raise money and awareness was a really tangible and productive outlet for my grief (a friend told me when she died that it never hurts less, it just hurts less often, and I have found that to be true).

But I was worried about finishing before the timer was turned off and worried about finishing last.

I managed to finish before the race clock itself was turned off, but unfortutely, the racing company stopped tracking people WAY before they were supposed to. Like 15 minutes earlier than the race had advertised. But I have my time from my Garmin watch, so it is all good.

And I wasn't last. Though that said, total respect to the woman who was last. She ran the whole way and she ran her race. And you know what they call the person who finishes a race last?


Also this weekend, the repairmen finished the ceiling. I love the color in the office (it had been white, and was the only thing we changed in all the repairs other than adding overhead lights in the bedroom and office). Granted, more upheaval begins tomorrow, when the carpet people arrive to clean and perhaps replace the carpet and when the electricians hand the lights in those rooms and re-hang the one in the dining room. But at least for the moment, the house seems somewhat back to normal. And the paint job is nice. Everything looks so clean.

Plus, I got some good news on the Estonian front. I found out that the person assigned to Tallinn by Diplomatic Security is someone I served with in Jerusalem. And he is awesome! I am delighted to get to serve with him again.

Now if we could just get a handshake for my wife, I would be able to relax and enjoy fantasizing about our future life in Europe.

Did I mention that I got an invitation to apply for a position as a tenure-track professor in archaeology? And I this economy, do I want to give up a secure job with great benefits that include getting paid to learn a language and then to live for three years rent free in Europe? For an insecure position paying maybe a third of what I make.

Uh, that would be no.

Friday, October 01, 2010

How Cool Is This?

I found a new blog tonight I wanted to tell you about:

Foreign Service for Kids.

It is written by the child of a Foreign Service Officer. It was apparently started when his dad started the application process. Somehow I missed it until now.

But FS kid's blog! How cool is that!

ON EDIT: The Bear has decided to move his blog to Foreign Service Kid

Best Lunch Ever

We had a great GLIFAA lunch today, and the 156th comes close to being as gay as the 118th (I think we have held on to the title of gayest A-100 every by one person!).

I got to meet several people I had talked to, including fellow bloggers. But what was really nice was when I was talking to Cyn and Eva from we be rolling stones (OMG Eva makes great rum cake! Cyn is right...she married Martha Stewart!) when one of the folks asked if wel (GLIFAA) were behind this blog. And I said, "No, now we. Just me."

And he asked if he could hug me.

I am still surprised that people actually read my ramblings. But what I really really want is to help people. I want good people to join. And I especially want other LGBT folks to know that this is a good place for them.

So it makes me really really happy that people find it a useful blog.

And that made today the best lunch ever!

Reminder: GLIFAA brown bag at FSI TODAY!

Just a reminder: Today from 12:40 to 1:30, GLIFAA is having an informal brown bag lunch at FSI for the 156th A-100 class.

Anyone who is interested in learning about GLIFAA is welcome (encouraged!) to attend. Allies are especially welcome.