Monday, January 31, 2011

Not Important

So our assignment over the weekend was to use our new vocabulary on media and advertising to write a paragraph about advertising.

I was uninspired by the assignment, until I hit upon something to write about that interested me.

The Super Bowl!

So I talked a bit about how my journalism professor had said that newspapers existed to provide an audience to advertisers. An annoying thought for a young journalist, but there is a lot of truth to it. And I said that to the same extent, television shows also exist to provide an audience to advertisers.

And the Super Bowl provides one of the largest audiences, so much so that 30 second spots are going for a cool $3 mil this year.

All perfectly legitimate to talk about in Estonian.

But you'd be disappointed if I wasn;t a smart ass, right?

So I said that for this year's Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing "some other team." After I finished, my teacher asked for some clarification. Like, who was Pittsburgh playing.

Some other team.

My classmate, who is not much of a football fan (a serious flaw, but I like him, so I'll let it pass), tried to help by trying, unsuccessfully, to come up with the name of the other team.

And my teacher asked, "so you don't know who is playing Pittsburgh?"

Oh I know, I answered.

But it isn't important. ;)

Inquiring Minds....

Want to know! What post did those of you in the current A-100 get?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

State Department Employee Experiences

On the State Department's Careers website, they have some new videos that might be of interest to you if you are considering joining the Foreign Service. Among them are a few of GLIFAA members.

You can check them out here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Are you smarter than a US diplomat?

I thought those of you considering the Foreign Service might be interested in this quiz from today's CS Monitor:

Are you smarter than a US diplomat? Take our Foreign Service Exam.

Diplomats working for the US Foreign Service are responsible for carrying out the policy of the United States. In order to serve at one of the 265 US diplomatic missions around the world, applicants must pass a series of examinations. The tests consist of a job knowledge test, English language test, essays, oral exams, and a qualifications panel. Our 20 questions are modeled after the job knowledge portion of the Foreign Service Officer's test. The real examination consists of 60 questions and is administered over 40 minutes. Think you know enough to become a US diplomat? Take our quiz.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I still passed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

GLIFAA lunch tomorrow!

If you are at FSI tomorrow (Friday), please come join us for the GLIFAA A-100 welcome lunch. We will be in the little room at the end of the cafeteria nearest the welcome center from 12:45 until 1:30ish.

Allies are most welcome!!

Both annoyed and thankful

Last night, I had to pick my wife up from Main State. I got there at 5:00.

We got home at 8:15.

We only live 4 miles from Main State.

To be fair, we did stop for a potty break at a Harris Teeter. That accounted for the extra 15 minutes.

Along the way, I got progressively more annoyed. I do think that the government should have dismissed folks sooner, like oh say BEFORE the snow started in full force. But that is not my real complaint.

My real complaint is with the snow plows.

I did not see a single one with its blades down, even when they were not on the traffic packed side of the road. The road by my house, which is a main road, had not been plowed AT ALL when we got home. And there were no cars blocking the way.

And the abandoned buses...really not cool. There were FOUR in a one block stretch. This was before they were called off at 9...and they made the traffic worse by making the passable areas even more narrow.

Still, I am grateful.

We picked a place close enough to both Main State and FSI that we could have walked. Our condo is tiny, but we usually have a 10 minute commute. So I am grateful our commute last night was ONLY three hours. I hear there are people stuck in their cars today.

AND...we still have power. Glad the builders of our condo in 1978 had the forethought to bury the lines.

AND...we have a 4X4 so we can get around.

AND...and I never thought I'd be saying this, I am grateful for the winter I spent in Syracuse because I am comfortable driving in the snow.

AND finally, I am grateful all of my friends seem to have gotten home safely. That one is probably the most important of all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dang. Still stupid.

Well, my skills with partative case were no better today.


I can move past this slump now? Pleez?

I feel like I am moving backwards. It sucks.

Do you want to know what doesn't suck though?

Lunch with several other FS bloggers!

Thanks to Lisa at Paul Benjamin: Writer, Editor and Supermodel coming up with the idea and rounding us up. Also at lunch was Career Diplomat, The B Files, and Wanders of a Cheerful Stooic.

We are thinking of having a blogger get together for all of us who are in DC. We discussed having it around the weekend after President's Day weekend, so the folks from the next A-100, which starts on Valentine's Day, can also attend.

I'll let you know when we have more details.

Also, Friday is the our GLIFAA brown bag at FSI. We try to have one for every A-100, but we welcome all GLIFAA members and allies. We'll be in the cafeteria from 12:55 until about 1:30 in the little room at the end of the cafteria nearest the welcome center. So please join us!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh Look. I'm Stupid Again

I admire my teacher's patience.

It is not a gift I share. Especially with myself.

I had been feeling reasonable confident lately...boy did that go away today. Now I am back to feeling stupid.

The endings are really hard, and a case I thought I was getting a handle on seems to have been wiped from my brain.

And it is one of the three most important/common cases.

So shoot me. Please.

My teacher, because she is patient with my stupidity, has not volunteered.

In other news, I have purchased boots. I ordered a couple pairs of Merrells from since they have a one-year return if it is uncomfortable, I can send them back. I went to REI yesterday and tried on a pair of Sorel Caribous, but they aren't comfortable on my calves. Too bad, since they look like they'd be excellent for the snow there.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

That Made Me Feel Good

So our homework for yesterday was to read Little Red Riding Hood and then write a dialogue where Little Red Riding Hood tells her mother about everything that happened.

In Estonian, of course.

First, it has been a long time since I read the fairy tale, and I can't remember if I read a German or American version, and what happened to the wolf in the end. I didn't remember him dying. But he probably did.

At any rate, it was pretty close to how you remember it. LRRH goes through the woods to take a cake to her sick grandmother. Meets a talking wolf. Wolf runs ahead, eats grandma and dresses in her clothes and waits in her bed for LRRH.

You remember, right? Why do you have such big ears? All the better to hear you with.

So I wrote my dialogue. But I can't just be boring right? Apparently our teacher liked it. Because when I finished, she asked for a copy. She said she likes to keep copies of some assignments for later.

She's never asked for mine made me feel good.

So my dialogue went something like:

LRRH: So mom, you'll never guess what happened.
Mom: What happened?
LRRH: I went to grandma's like you asked.
Mom: Good, how is grandma?
LRRH: She's
Mom: Now?
LRRH: She got eaten.
Mom: That's nice. Wait, what?!
LRRH: Yes, she got eaten by the talking wolf.
Mom: Wolves don't talk.

She goes on to tell her mother about how the wolf was in the bed and she thought it was grandma.

Mom tells her she needs to go to the doctor.

She tells Mom that the woodsmen saved them and they all had dinner together.

Mom says didn't she tell LRRH not to talk to strangers!

And then LRRH says that is was fine. But that the real problem was that the woodsmen sewed stones into the wolf's stomach, and that when he went down to the river, the stones pulled him under and he drowned.

And that now, PETA was coming after them!

Friday, January 21, 2011

That Time Again

Late every summer, I get this nagging feeling that there is something I should be doing.

Of course, it comes from all of the years (and years and years) I spent in academia. The end of summer signals the anticipation of the start of the new school year.

The same thing happens to Foreign Service folks. Usually about 6 months before we need to head to post.

We start getting the nagging feeling we should be getting ready.

It has started for me. I am beginning to sort in my head. I'm making lists of things I want to make sure I have in my UAB...and I keep meaning to ask post how long it typically takes there to get it. And I need to start thinking of what I need to mail to myself (pet supplies, etc).

I am also thinking about what I can get rid of, and what I can leave behind in storage. I plan to take much less with me this time (thank god for the kindle! now I can take lots and lots of books with not much added weight!).

And my big fret...winter clothes.

I don't really have least not THAT kind of winter!

And apparently I should have looked for a winter coat in JULY instead of now.

Now how the hell was I supposed to know that??

And I am discovering that what I thought I would do, which is just get an LL Bean coat, probably will be insufficient. Well, insufficient if those coats weren't sold out!

So now I am getting recommendations of coats like the Canada Goose Mystique. but of course, those are long since sold out. As are the Patagonia Downtown Loft, and the North Face Arctic Park. People, I am Southern! I am going to die if I can't get a decent coat!

And it gets worse. I need boots. They need to be warm, waterproof, and professional-looking enough to wear to work.

Here's the monkey-wrench...I am a lesbian.

And not a lipstick lesbian.

I don't do girly. Ever. No heels. No "pretty." Ever.

I don't own a dress. I haven't worn one in longer that I can remember. Not to my graduation, not to my mother's funeral. And if those don't rate a dress, nothing does.

That is severely limiting in the boot department even before you add in the requirements of living in arctic-stonia.

Yeah, that nagging in my head is rapidly turning into alarm bells!

ON EDIT: I just realized I misspelled heels. Not all that surprising, actually.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Area Studies

Area studies is better, at least in that the instructor knows something more than one country.

But seriously, is it not possible for him to teach without all the self-aggrandizing?

And maybe he could conceal the distain he feels for government employees, since that is who he is teaching!


In other news, I finally went and got the report on my progress test. Yes, the text I took in, um, November?

I should have gone sooner...then I would remember the positive things the instructor said at the time rather than the only negative things the LTS wrote (we never write down the positive because we don't have much space, she says).

At least they said I was doing well and on track.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No, I am really selfish

I had lunch with Kolbi and James today.

Kolbi thinks I am nicer than I really am.

She thinks this because I like to help people as they come into the service and as they navigate things I have already experienced.

But really I do it because I am selfish. Profoundly selfish.

The Foreign Service is much more than a job. It is a lifestyle. And it is one where you become very good friends with the people you work with. One where you will become closer to more of your co-workers than any other career I can imagine. Even in the military, the community is so much larger than our tiny little service that I think one bad apple can't affect you they way they can in the Foreign Service. And you have more possibilities of a life separate from your co-workers than we do.

So I want to work with good people. Because I know those people will be part of every aspect of my life.

So I want to help good people join the service.

And I want to help good people stay in the service.

Being in the Service can be hard...navigating the bureaucracy can be maddening. And sometimes when you are in the middle of it, it seems like the Department has never gotten anyone to post and will never get you to post. But of course, they always do. So if I can pass on some of what I know to you and help keep you from getting frustrated and quitting (or worse, frustrated, bitter and staying, I win.

See? Selfish.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good timing

We all know I am not a fan of snow.

I like ice even less.

We got sleet last night so our stairs were a hazard.

But the timing of it was pretty good.

I forgot to set my alarm yesterday after the long weekend. Not something I ever do. I HATE being late. So when I rolled over and looked at the clock, and discovered we had overslept by 34 minutes, I was mortified.

Thankfully, the sleet bought us a two-hour delay.

So I rolled back over and slept for another hour.

But I remembered to set my alarm before I did!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Good Parts Can Also Be The Bad Parts

I remember watching the movie Mask years ago (the one with Cher in it, not to be confused with "The Mask"...Let's just say I am not a Jim Carrey fan).

The movie is about Rocky Dennis, a kid with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia,known for its disfiguring cranial enlargements.

In the movie, he writes a poem for school:

"These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face.

These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face."

Sometimes the Foreign Service reminds me of that poem.

For example:

One of the cool parts about being in the Foreign Service is that you end up with friends all over the world. People you care very deeply about. Pick a place in the world to go on vacation and chances are good you have a friend there. Take a look at your next bid list and call your friends there for the inside scoop.

And one of the bad parts about being in the Foreign Service is that you end up with friends all over the world. People you care very deeply about. Pick a place in the world where there is conflict and danger and chances are good you have a friend there. Someone you worry about.

I have several friends in Tunisia. And I am worried about them.

I pray things calm down there soon and that everyone stays safe.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goodbyes are always a little sad

Today is the last day that Estonians can make purchases with the kroon, their national currency that was introduced following independence in 1991. After today, they will have to use only the Euro for purchases.

There is a story about it today on NPR's All Things Considered.

I do have to say that you have to give props to a country which, after getting its independence back from Russia, put a picture on the 5 kroon note of the border between Russia and Estonia. There is a castle/fort on each side, and on the Estonian side, the sky is clear. On the Russian side, it is cloudy.

Just a coincidence, right? ;)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Clown Car

Today was area studies again, and so I welcome you to the latest episode of "how many people can we fit into this classroom?"

Several languages have just started new classes. Among them, Polish. So we had lots of new people in our classroom.

Now you might remember my previous complaint. We have some 45 students in class and seats for 36.

Well, no one has left.

We don't have a new room.

And now we have MORE students. Awesome.

As my friend S said, it was like fitting people into a clown car (wish I could take credit for that. I rewarded her for her creativity by annoying her while she was trying to study a flashcard program in her language on her phone by saying the Estonian version of those words. And yet Kolbi at A Daring Adventure thinks I am a nice person!).

Our speakers were some folks from INR's Opinion Research shop, and as you should already know, I really like INR. They did a good job.

Our new instructor was absent. No idea why.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Don't Know Me

Or do you?

Today, for the second time this week, someone I had never met before, at least in person, came up to me and knew who I was.

Both knew me from the blog.

Darn it folks, aren't you paying attention? I am anonymous!

Or not!

Anyway, both of them had to suffer through my unsolicited two cents worth, only because I really like to try to help people. Of course, take free advice is sometimes worth what you paid for it! :)

Today, my poor classmate came in looking exhausted. He normally is tired anyway because his wife, who is also in our class, just gave birth to their second child. So now they have a two year old, a two week old, and two full-time careers (she is on maternity leave at the moment). And now they have visitors. And last night, they lost their power.

For four hours.

With snow, two small children and two houseguests.

So he was tired.

Our teacher can make a teaching opportunity out of just about anything.

So she had him call the electric company (me).

And as good as our teacher is about making a teaching opportunity out of anything, I am even better at making a smart ass opportunity out of any teaching opportunity.

So he "calls."

I answer.

"Thank you for calling the electric company. All of our lines are busy. Please wait."

Cue musak.

I come back. "Thanks for waiting. How can I help you?"

"As you know, it snowed last night."

"Yes, I can see the beautiful snow from my nice warm office."

"Yes, well I don't have power."

"Let me check our computer. Please wait."

More musak. Teacher at this point is rolling.

"No, I don't see that your power is off. Are you sure you have no power?"

"Yes, I am sure."

"Oh, did you pay your bill?"

"Yes! Where are you located?"


We finished with me saying workers would be there in six hours, hopefully, and for him to call back if they hadn't arrived.

Okay, but it is really being a smart ass if I was just doing an accurate call?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Meeting the Boss

Our boss was in the country yesterday, so we all trekked over to the Mother Ship (Main State) to meet with him.

I had met him when I was bidding on him, but I continue to be impressed with him. To a person, everyone who has worked with him has had good things to say. I am looking forward to working with him. I can't wait to get there.

And yet, I am still really enjoying language class. I finally have the ability to be a smart ass in Estonian, something that is really important to me. Because I really need to be able to be myself.

Funny thing happened yesterday though...our boss was speaking with a group of expats from our country. One woman spoke to us in Estonian afterward and asked how we liked our teacher. Then she switched into English, and she had an American accent. I mentioned this to our teacher this morning, and she said, " Oh, that was so-and-so."

REALLY small expat community I guess!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Advocate Cover Story: Madame Secretary

Kerry Eleveld did a great story about Secretary Clinton for the cover story of this month's Advocate.

Secretary Clinton is a true ally and I am honored to have her as my boss.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

You Know You Want To...

visit that is!

The NY Times has a list of 41 Places to Go in 2011, and our future home (for the next three years anyway) makes the list at #21.

Of Tallinn, the article says:
The beautiful capital city aims to shed its stag-party past.

Soon after EasyJet began flights from London and Berlin to the Estonian capital in 2004, Tallinn became known as the Las Vegas of the Baltics, luring hordes of party tourists with its cheap liquor and wild seaside night life. But now, with the city’s selection as a 2011 European Capital of Culture, cash is flowing in and pulling Tallinn out of its stag party adolescence.

Some seven years after Estonia joined the European Union, large-scale infrastructural and restorative work, including several rebuilt museums, a waterfront promenade and a large arts venue, KultuuriKatel (Culture Cauldron), are reshaping Tallinn’s cultural identity. Much of Northern Europe’s arts community will converge on the city this year, as it debuts a yearlong schedule of European Union-sponsored events, including the student-focused contemporary art triennial Exsperimenta! and “Stories of the Seashore,” a project that enlists writers, actors, artists and musicians to reflect on the sea that has been so central to Estonia’s development.

The rest of the list is:
1. Santiago, Chile - Undaunted by an earthquake, a city embraces modern culture.
2. San Juan Islands, Wash. - Bold-face restaurateurs vie with unspoiled nature. Nature wins. (Pulling Stakes used to live here, and my friend Sez and her wife E still do)
3. Koh Samui, Thailand - A toned-down version of Phuket, heavy on wellness and food.
4. Iceland - Where a country’s hardships are a visitor’s gain.
5. Milan - A reborn cathedral joins fashion-forward galleries and hotels. (I wonder if Z over at Something Edited This Way Comes has room...)
6. Republic of Georgia - A rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery.
7. London - Anticipating the 2012 Olympics, a slew of new hotels and restaurants. (Been there, but hey, the Olympics are coming!)
8. Loreto, Mexico - A beach hideaway with sport fishing gets a luxury resort.
9. Park City, Utah - Beyond the film festival, a growing group of top-tier resorts.
10. Cali, Colombia - Cafe culture is on the rise while salsa fuels the night life.
11. The Danube - From Budapest to the Black Sea, new cruises on a storied river.
12. Niseko, Japan - An Aspen emerges in Asia, with luxury to spare.
13. Oahu - Hawaii’s most developed island adds resorts and attractions.
14. Antwerp, Belgium - A new breed of boutiques have made it a fashionista’s paradise.
15. Melbourne, Australia - New hotels plus big-name chefs put Sydney on notice.
16. Tlemcen, Algeria - An ancient Islamic city dresses up for a gala year. (Don, you got room?)
17. Sopot and Gdansk, Poland - Poland’s Baltic coast welcomes party hoppers and soccer fans.
18. Erzurum, Turkey - Skiing in Turkey? A winter sports capital emerges in Anatolia.
19. Hyderabad, India - Dynastic grandeur in the heart of modern India. (Andrea...need a dog sitter?)
20. Manchester, England - An industrial city reinvents its famed musical past.
21. Tallinn, Estonia - The beautiful capital city aims to shed its stag-party past. (Home Sweet Home to be)
22. Fogo Island, Newfoundland - An art colony blooms on remote and rugged shores.
23. Singapore - With new resorts and casinos, the city lets its hair down.
24. Port Ghalib, Egypt - A low-key beach escape with clear water and sea creatures. (I've been near here, but I'd go back).
25. Whistler, British Columbia - The Olympians are gone. Now it’s your turn.
26. Guimarães, Portugal - A city of youth is fired up by its art scene.
27. Olympic Park, Wash. - Bad weather is good for skiers and storm-watchers.
28. Dresden, Germany - A new museum leads the way to a historic city’s future.
29. Oualidia, Morocco - On a Moroccan lagoon, oysters, flamingoes and no crowds.
30. Zanzibar - On an African isle, luxury lures the après safari set.
31. Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay - The ranches beyond a historic village offer a dose of rural chic.
32. Tozeur, Tunisia - Camel racing, souks and eco-lodging in a Saharan oasis. (I could hang with the Four Globetrotters...I think.)
33. Hangzhou, China - An hour from Shanghai, a historic jewel goes five-star.
34. Iraqi Kurdistan - Safety, history and a warm welcome in a stable corner of Iraq.
35. Durham, N.C. - A downtown turnaround means food worth a trip. (Used to live near here...a famous blogger I used to date still does.)
36. Kosovo - Mountains, medieval architecture and unexpected night life. (Todd K...I know you are reading this!)
37. Pingyao, China - Ming architecture is intact as contemporary culture takes root.
38. Salonika, Greece - Out of the country’s economic woes, a new wave of artists. (T, how far are you from here?)
39. Okinawa, Japan - A ‘Japanese Amazon’ with some luxury thrown in.
40. Budapest - A scene pops up in abandoned buildings, and glamour rises.
41. Miami - Big-time music arrives in a town known for beaches and art.

Now I just need to figure out which of my friends are close enough to each spots so I can begin my vacation planning!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Kids with Two Moms or Two Dads can now fill out their passport applications accurately

I saw this in the Washington Post this morning, and the usual cast of characters are already losing their collective minds over it. But this change, which costs the taxpayers NOTHING simply represents a way to deal with the reality of our world. There ARE children with two mothers or two fathers. Those children have the SAME RIGHT as every other American to get a passport and travel. And we should be insuring that passport applications are accurate.

So thanks again State Department! I continue to be proud of my boss and the place I work serving the country!

Parent One, Parent Two to replace references to mother, father on passport forms

By Mary Beth Sheridan and Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 7, 2011; 11:47 PM

Goodbye, Mom and Dad. Hello, Parent One and Parent Two.

The State Department has decided to make U.S. passport application forms "gender neutral" by removing references to mother and father, officials said, in favor of language that describes one's parentage somewhat less tenderly.

The change is "in recognition of different types of families," according to a statement issued just before Christmas that drew widespread attention Friday after a Fox News report.

The announcement of the change was buried at the end of a Dec. 22 news release, titled "Consular Report of Birth Abroad Certificate Improvements," that highlighted unrelated security changes.

The new policy is a win for gay rights groups, a vocal and financially generous Democratic voting bloc that has pushed for the change since Barack Obama began his presidential transition in late 2008. The decision follows last month's vote to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which gay leaders consider one of their biggest victories in years.

Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, called the news "a positive step forward for all American families. It was time that the federal government acknowledged the reality that hundreds of thousands of kids in this country are being raised by same-sex parents."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, blasted it as reflecting the "topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness."

"This is clearly designed," he said in a statement, "to advance the causes of same-sex 'marriage' and homosexual parenting without statutory authority, and violates the spirit if not the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act," the federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

He called on Congress to take action.

It was not immediately clear whether a similar change would be made to all federal documents. But after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced in 2009 that partners of gay American diplomats would be eligible for benefits accorded to spouses, the rest of the U.S. government followed suit.

In 2000, Clinton was the first wife of a president to march in a gay-pride parade, and as secretary of state she has advocated on behalf of gay rights. In a speech in June she said the United States "was elevating our rights dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons."

Rosemary Macray of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs shrugged off complaints of political correctness and described the switch as an unremarkable bureaucratic tweak.

"Really, there have been so many changes in the last 10 or 15 years with reproductive technology and the like, and so this is why it is important for us to accurately reflect families in these applications," she said.

The DS-11 form is required of first-time passport applicants and children younger than 16. The change will go into effect Feb. 1 and will be part of an already-scheduled revision of passport forms, Macray said.

"It's not going to really involve any expense to taxpayers," she said.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Well that was painful

So I managed to survive my first week back after a vacation of only a week.

It was painful.

Our teacher is a kind and generous person who said we were doing remarkably well for having been on vacation.

I'm not convinced.

She tells me I am too hard on myself, but MAN have I felt stupid this week.

Hopefully next week will be better.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Much Better, But Much Longer Too

So today was our first day of area studies with our new instructor. Our previous instructor retired at the end of the year.

I had mixed feelings about our new instructor. On the one hand, he knows MUCH more about the Balts, which made me hopeful that we'd get more useful information. Our previous instructor seemed to know LOTS about one of the other countries lumped in with us, but not so much about the Balts. And with few exceptions, his speakers didn't seem to know much more. I am not the only one who felt that we were not getting out of area studies what we needed, and we really really need to have good area studies before going to post.

So like I said, I was happy the new guy had potential to give us great info on our countries. In fact, I took a one-week course from him before, though not at FSI, so I knew he was really knowledgeable.

He is also a little full of himself. When he spoke to our area studies a few weeks back, he still seemed really dismissive of the government and those of us working for it. Plus, he told all the same jokes.

Today I was pleasantly surprised.

He brought in a speaker today who seemed knowledgeable about all five countries we cover. And he seemed a little more circumspect. This gives me great hope for the remainder of our area studies.

The class was also our first to go the full three hours, so my backside was a little tired when we were done. Even so, I am optimistic.

Also, he had GREAT things to say about the local staff I will be working with in Tallinn. This is not the first time I have heard fact, every single thing I have heard about the folks I will be working with has been positive. I am unbelievably excited about getting to post! I am certain this is going to be an awesome tour!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I Have a Past

And I am ridiculously giddy about it.

No, not that kind of past. I'm the one who got my clearance in 2.5 months...that should tell you a lot about my actual past.

Which is to say I am pretty boring!

No, what I mean is that we now have a past tense in language.

Unlike many languages, future tense is really pretty easy in Estonian. Because there isn't one. You just use the present tense and add a time in the future. As in, "I am reading tomorrow."

For past tense, we have been using present perfect. But now, we can use a real past.

I'm a makes me really happy to say "I was" instead of "I have been"!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Good Way to Start the New Year

There are not many ways to start off a new year than with a great new job.

Not me, silly.

Yesterday was the start of the 158th A-100 class. Welcome to the Foreign Service!

As has become my tradition, I am moving the following blogs from the future FS blogs blogroll to the FS blogroll.

Career Diplomat

The B Files

Where in the World is Zehra?

Zvirdin's at Large

Welcome to the Foreign Service! And let me know if I have missed anyone.

Also, if you haven't already, check out the Department's newly redesigned page at They even have a section of FS blogs...yours truly isn't listed. I admit my ego is a tad bruised, but since DiploPundit and Email from the Embassy are also missing, I guess I am in good company!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Goals, not resolutions

So as I mentioned yesterday, I don't do New year's resolutions.

I made a resolution probably in high school not to make any more resolutions. And I have kept it. Because other resolutions usually end up not being kept.

I do have some goals though.

The easiest...and maybe the to get back to running. I haven't really run much since I did my 10K on Halloween. I am registered for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March, so I need to get my backside in gear. Plus, Noostie misses running.

So that needs to start this week.

Next, I need to get a 3/3 in Estonian. My secret goal (shhh, don't tell anyone) is to get a 3+/3+. I don't know if that will happen. But at least the 3/3 has to happen before I go to post. And of course, I have already been working on this goal since September. And I can honestly say I have been putting in more effort than I have with previous languages I have studied (but oh my god is going back after vacation HARD! My brain was seriously failing me today! Plus, I was tired because the vacation was less than relaxing...though I feel bad about complaining since my classmates had a baby over Christmas break. They are way more tired than I am...but I still want to go take a nap.)

Another thing I need to do before we move to Estonia is declutter. We once again have too much crap. But that probably won't start immediately.

Perhaps my most important goal, and probably the actual hardest goal, is to finish my dissertation. UNC granted me a final extension, so I have to finish by May or not at all. And I really want to finish. It is a good topic and it still interests me. I just have to apply butt to chair. That too needs to start this week.

Finally, a goal I only have a limited amount of control over is settling my grandmother's estate. I need to sell most of the property she left me (because managing it from overseas would be too much of a hassle) before we leave in July or August. But with the market the way it is, who knows if I will be able to.

So those are my goals. I think/hope I can reach all of them. What are your goals?

Sunday, January 02, 2011


Well, we are home.

Sadly, our vacation was not as restful as I had hoped.

We missed the first day because, as you know, snow hates me.

We made it to Folly Beach on Monday evening. We got to our rental house, unpacked...and discovered we had no water.

The company came to turn it on, and a pipe burst. So we had to move.

The house we got was nicer in some ways than the original, though the view was not as good.

Then our cat started getting sick. She had been coughing since Christmas, and we figured it was a hairball. But she seemed to be getting worse, so on Tuesday, we took her to the vet. Likely diagnosis: hairball.

Tuesday night, we started panicking that she might have a blockage, so we went to the emergency vet at midnight. Several hours, some x-rays and $250 later ( prices are so much lower in SC!), we confirmed our suspicion that we are overly paranoid because of the recent death of our older cat. Likely diagnosis: hairball.

Vacation improved from there, though we didn't get much sleep with our cat coughing every night. She started improving by Thursday, and we had a nice New Year's eve Friday...until the Gamecocks lost their bowl game. But then we had a nice toast at midnight. I have decided that since 11 is my favorite number, 2011 is going to be awesome.

I don't do New year's resolutions...some twenty year's ago, I made a resolution not to make any more New Year's resolutions, and that one I have kept. I do have some goals unrelated to the New Year. But I will share those tomorrow. For now, I am going to savor being back in the land of the interwebs and our awesome bed.

Happy New Year y'all!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy 2011!

Happy New Year!

I hope this year brings you and yours all the best!