I’m a bit late writing about it, but I went home to Texas for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful. I hadn’t been home since last Christmas and it was good to be home, to go to church, to see my family, to consume foods from several of the key Texas food groups, and to get some (slightly) warmer weather.
It was snowing as I left Ottawa, but I still managed to miss the really nice weather central Texas had the week before and the week after I was there. The weather hovered around freezing and was grey and rainy for the first few days I was there. It did get warmer in the last part of the week, but not quite warm enough to wear my flip flops.
I did take a couple of pictures while I was home, so here we go:
Lovely weather at the Ottawa Airport before I left
My parents’ dog is so shy! ;)
Mmmmm, Shiner Cheer!
Texas, where even the beer wears camo.
First reindeer car sighting of the season
Diet Dr Pepper from the fountain, as it should be.
Texas is prepared for zombie attacks
Sadly, this was too big to fit in my carry on.
All the pretty Shiners!
Santa also wears camo in Texas
My parents’ cat and I warmed our toes in front of the fire.
Aaaaand we’re back in toasty Ottawa.
Earlier today, I finally accepted a handshake to go back to the Washington, DC area for the Foreign Service Institute’s Economic Studies course. It’s six months of economics training followed by either language training for an onward assignment or a six month stint in an economic job at the Department of State or another economic department like Commerce or USTR, a think tank, or a private company.
It was a nervewracking couple of weeks waiting for something to work out and by my last tally, I sent more than 75 e-mails inquiring about positions that seemed to be open in the bidding system, but that turned out to be spoken for, just not yet registered in the system. I was not feeling excited about many of the options left, until I had a brainwave and remembered the FSI Econ course. I’m super excited to get it as an onward assignment, since I don’t have an extensive economics background and could get a lot out of the course.
All’s well that ends well.
So, Monday was the first day that they could offer jobs to mid-level bidders. They call it a “handshake” because you shake on it, but it still has to be approved by the panel. As it turns out, I did not get any offers. I made a couple of short lists, but was not the top choice anywhere. I had hoped that one of the places I’d bid on would pick me after someone declined an offer, but I found out late today that all of the jobs I had bid on had given their handshakes and their top choices had accepted them.
So, now I go back to the drawing board. I will look at the list and start reaching out to jobs that haven’t nailed down a candidate and also watch for new things that might be added to the list. Things come open unexpectedly as people leave post early, volunteer to go to a place where they really need people, or have to back out of a handshake for some reason. So, while I’d realllllly like this process to be over, /begin Dory voice I’ll just keep bidding, just keep bidding, just keep bidding, bidding, bidding /end Dory voice.
As frustrating as it is, I’m in very good company. I know a lot of good officers who are in the same boat as me. I think that the hiring surge that happened in 2009-2011ish has contributed to the craziness that was bidding this time around. One senior person who shall remain nameless called the FS-03 bidding this year the Bidding Hunger Games, and given that 20 and 25% hardship differential posts had 30+ bidders on a job, does seem a bit appropriate.
Once I have something firm enough to announce though, I’ll be sure to share.
Last weekend, I went to Mont Tremblant and met up with a friend who’s now posted in Montreal. It was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so the resort area was really packed, but we had some fun wandering around a couple of the lakes in the area, shopping, etc.
Fall is in full swing in this part of Canada and the foliage was just beautiful. The drive up there from Ottawa was mostly two lane roads through cute little towns, and despite my GPS not being able to find the road I was driving on (and it was not a new road!), the drive up there and back was very enjoyable. I wish I could have taken some pictures while I was driving, but that would have been a bad idea, especially given my recent luck with raccoons. (I got my car fixed by the way, but that’s another whole story).
The most exciting thing of the weekend had to be finding a Mexican restaurant that actually tasted like Mexican food from Mexico. I’ve been to a few Mexican restaurants in Ottawa and they’re not bad, but just don’t taste at all like the food I was used to in Mexico or the Tex-Mex food that I know from home. This place, however, was amazing and tasted like the real thing I remember from my time in Ciudad Juarez.
I didn’t take a picture of the delicious Mexican food, but without further ado, here are a few pics from the weekend.
This rock ode to a Norwegian diplomat is both hilarious and awesome. Why aren’t there more rock odes to diplomats?
Last weekend, I drove from Ottawa down to Ohio for a family event. It was a long drive, but good to see family and to do some shopping. My cousin’s son was baptized and I’m one of the godparents, so that made the trip extra-special!
However, on the drive back, about 45 minutes south of Ottawa, a raccoon decided to end it all and ran out in front of my car on the highway. I was going about 60mph/100kph and I tried to swerve, but I couldn’t entirely miss the raccoon and I hit it. The raccoon seemed to die on impact and it also damaged the front of my car. Fortunately, a very nice couple stopped about 10 minutes later to make sure that I was ok, and the guy was a mechanic so he took a quick look at the car to see if anything critical was damaged. Shortly after that, a police officer showed up and made a report so that I can file with my insurance company. The car was drivable, so I drove back to Ottawa and then called the insurance company to start the claims process. Fingers crossed that things will go smoothly, but so far things seem to be moving along and I’ll try to get the car in to a shop in the next few days so that they can start the process of getting it all fixed again.
I’m taking this week off and this wasn’t exactly how I’d planned to spend the week, but at least the damage was relatively minor and I didn’t hit a moose!
Last week, I had to be in Montreal for meetings and went up a couple of days early on my own dime to sightsee. And, I have to say, that Montreal is awesome. Montreal is a much larger city than Ottawa and it’s got a lot to see and do. One of my friends from Juarez, whom I’ll call “J” on here, just got to Montreal for her next assignment and I met up with her and we spent a lot of time sightseeing, wandering, and exploring Montreal. We went down to Old Montreal, out to the Botanical Gardens, and wandered around Montreal’s massive underground shopping areas. Montreal has a great Metro system that makes it easy to get around and a lot of the downtown area and Old Montreal is pretty compact, so it’s easy to walk and wander around.
Without further ado, here are some pictures from my trip:
I heard this country song about the differences between Canada and the United States on the radio today and it made me laugh, so I figured it was worth a share.
I have to admit that I’ve been feeling a little homesick lately. I really, really like Ottawa and I have no complaints about living here. At least, not during the summer. ;) It’s been a wonderful place to work, to relearn how to live a more normal life after two years of being on edge in Juarez, and to live. While there are certainly some differences and Canadians will be quick to point out those differences sometimes, there are a lot of the same shows on TV, I can find just about any U.S. product I’d want in the grocery store, most things function similarly to the United States, most everyone I run in to has some connection to the United States like a relative living there or a house in Florida, etc. So, it’s certainly not a difficult place to live, except perhaps when it’s -20 outside.
But, it’s not home. There were no bluebonnets in March (unless they were secretly hiding underneath the snow, which I doubt), there’s no Shiner Bock in the grocery store here, the leaves are already turning (in August!?!?!), and no one wears cowboy boots anywhere. Most of all though, my family and friends from home aren’t here. So, I’ve been feeling a bit homesick. Hopefully, I can snap out of it soon. I do have some trips in Canada and in the U.S. planned for this fall, so perhaps getting out and about a bit more will help.
Because this cracks me up every time…