Toronto!

Good Friday and Easter Monday are federal holidays in Canada, so I had a four day weekend and decided to go crazy and head to Toronto to do some sightseeing.  I’ve been a couple of times for work, but those were really short trips with limited time to do any sightseeing.  It’s finally really started to act like spring and it was a beautiful weekend.  I had a great time wandering around. :)

I went to the CN Tower, which is a giant radio/TV tower that you can tour, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Steam Whistle Brewery, Kensington Market, Chinatown, and some general wandering around and shopping.  I’d intended to meet a friend at the new aquarium near the CN Tower, but when we went, the line was awful and it was packed so we made a change of plans and checked out the Steam Whistle Brewery instead.  I think we made the right choice. :)

So, without further ado, here are some pictures from my wanderings.

Toronto's CN Tower

Toronto’s CN Tower

CBC's English Language Programming Headquarters

CBC’s English Language Programming Headquarters

Friendly Mountie Moose at the CN Tower

Friendly Mountie Moose at the CN Tower

Lake Ontario from the CN Tower

Lake Ontario from the CN Tower

Downtown Toronto from the CN Tower

Downtown Toronto from the CN Tower

Hudson's Bay Company

Hudson’s Bay Company

Hudson's Bay Company is known for their point blankets with blue, yellow, red, and green stripes.

Hudson’s Bay Company is known for their point blankets with blue, yellow, red, and green stripes.

Ontario Provincial Parliament

Ontario Provincial Parliament

Totem Pole at the Royal Ontario Museum

Totem Pole at the Royal Ontario Museum

Dinosaur at the Royal Ontario Museum

Dinosaur at the Royal Ontario Museum

Steamwhistle Brewery

Steamwhistle Brewery

Street signs in Toronto's Chinatown

Street signs in Toronto’s Chinatown

Canada and China meet in the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto's Chinatown

Canada and China meet in the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto’s Chinatown

Posted in Canada, Ottawa, Pictures, Shopping, Spring, Toronto, Travel, Vacation | Leave a comment

Dare I say…signs of spring?

There’s still plenty of snow on the ground here, but I’m starting to see a few signs that spring might be coming around, finally.  The temperatures are starting to get in to the 40s (Fahrenheit) and yesterday we had rain instead of snow.  It’ll take awhile for all of the snow to melt, and we could have a few relapses, but it’s heartening that we seem to be done with the worst of it.   Now, we’re just stuck in the awkward shoulder season where’s it’s no longer winter but not quite really spring.

After such a long winter (even the native Ottawans have said how long and bad this winter has been!) I’m looking forward to spring, and then eventually summer here.  It’s pretty amazing how much Ottawa wakes up once the weather starts getting better.  I’m looking forward to enjoying a more vibrant Ottawa.

My departure from Ottawa seems to be sneaking up on me a bit.  I keep thinking about things that will happen here this fall and then realizing that I won’t be here for whatever the thing is.  There are a lot of administrative things I’ll have to do before I leave, so that’ll keep me pretty busy my last few months here.  Oh yeah, and we’ll have a new ambassador who will need us for a few things, too. ;)

I’ve got some housing secured for my first few weeks in DC and will have to see what I want to do for housing for the rest of the time.  I will be assigned to Washington for the FSI Econ Course which means that I won’t be able to participate in the housing program they run for FS folks on TDY between posts.  So, I’m totally on my own for housing this time around, but will be there for less than a year, since I have my onward assignment to Frankfurt lined up, so won’t be able to sign a full year’s lease.  I have some ideas for housing but don’t really want to sign a lease on anything that I haven’t seen personally.  So, I’ll sort out my housing after I get to DC, probably.

I also need to start working on my home leave plans.  I assume that I’ll spend some time in Texas, but I’m not sure if I’ll spend all of my home leave there or if I’ll do any side trips or maybe get to DC for the last week or two of it so that I can do some house hunting before the Econ Course starts.  So, I need to start mapping things out, especially if I want to book any flights anywhere.

So, that’s what’s going on here.  Think warm thoughts for Ottawa!

Posted in Austin, Canada, DC, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ottawa, Rain, Snow, Spring, Texas, Winter | Leave a comment

Accio Ambassador!

I’ve neglected this blog for far too long, but at least I have something interesting to write about this time.  The Senate recently confirmed the President’s nominee to be Ambassador to Canada, so we’ll be getting an ambassador in the embassy soon!  After he’s confirmed by the Senate, he has to be sworn in, then he comes to Canada, then has to present his credentials to the Governor General, then is officially the President’s representative to Canada.  It’ll be a busy few weeks/months after he arrives because there will be lots of meetings to prepare for, visits to the consulates, etc.  It’ll be great for him to get here! :)

Posted in Canada, Ottawa | Leave a comment

Still snowing!

I should really update this more often.  Since I last posted, several things have happened.  My friend, J, came to visit from Montreal, I was in charge of a VIP visit, and of course, it’s still snowing.

Over President’s Day weekend, J came down from Montreal to visit.  We were both posted in Juarez together, and it was good to catch up and to show her around town a bit.  We did some sightseeing and saw the Rideau Canal, Parliament House, and the Diefenbunker (the Cold War-era bunker built for Canada’s Prime Minister and emergency staff), saw a movie, went out to eat, etc.  It was a lot of fun! :)  Here are some pictures of what we did

The Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal

Entering the Diefenbunker

Entering the Diefenbunker

Diefenbunker OR

Diefenbunker OR

Bank of Canada Vault - Where they kept the loonies?

Bank of Canada Vault – Where they kept the loonies?

Diefenbunker Cabinet Room

Diefenbunker Cabinet Room

When in doubt, beat the heck out of your electronics.

When in doubt, beat the heck out of your electronics.

High tech computers...for the time.

High tech computers…for the time.

PM's bedroom

PM’s bedroom

Last week, we had a VIP visitor and I was control officer for the visit, since it touched on one of the issues in my portfolio.  I’ve served as control officer for working-level visits, but this was my first time to serve as control officer for a VIP visitor.  I did a lot of planning, a lot of work to set things up, and then stayed with the visitors for most of their visit here.  Fortunately, the visitors were very nice (which is not always the case ;) ) and they were here for a meeting that took up a lot of their time here.  We also lucked out that their flights were on time and everything went smoothly with their transportation.  So, no last minute extra overnights due to cancelled flights or anything. :)

Aaand, as I mentioned, it’s still snowing here in Ottawa.  We did have a few days above freezing the week before last, but it’s now back in the below freezing range.  That’s not all bad, because it did let me go skating on the canal a bit, but I’m definitely ready for it to warm up a bit.  Here are a few pics from my canal escapades:

Entering the Rideau Canal

Entering the Rideau Canal

IMG_2731

No trolls under this bridge!

No trolls under this bridge!

Just a dad pulling his kid on a sled

Just a dad pulling his kid on a sled

Handy markers showing how far you've gone.

Handy markers showing how far you’ve gone.

More canal!

More canal!

Rest stop with bathrooms, a warming hut, and food vendors

Rest stop with bathrooms, a warming hut, and food vendors

Finally, I got paneled in to the FSI Econ Course, which means that I could then put in my travel plans for departing Ottawa, home leave, and arriving in DC.  I’ve put my request in, and it’s currently moving its way through the process and eventually I should get travel orders out of the system.  I haven’t been paneled for the Frankfurt job yet, but there’s no hurry on that.  As long as I’m paneled for FSI, I can leave Ottawa and worry about getting paneled for Frankfurt and doing my travel plans for that separately.  Now, I just have to figure out where I’m going to live while I’m at FSI.  Since I’m assigned to DC, housing is all on me, as opposed to being funded by State if I were in TDY status between two overseas posts.  I’ve got some ideas and am looking in to it, but it’s still a bit daunting to consider all of the logistics and to keep in mind that I’ll then need to go through it all again in for transferring to Frankfurt later on.

So, that’s what’s new here.  Hope all’s well in the blogosphere.

Posted in Canada, DC, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Moving, Ottawa, Pictures, Snow, Transfer, Winter | Leave a comment

Escaping the Ottawinter

I went home to Texas again to see family and to escape the cold, snow, and ice here in Ottawa.  I had a great time seeing my parents, spending some time in Austin, shopping, enjoying the awesome weather (I wore flip flops!), aaaaand going to see the Alamo!!  I went to the Alamo when I was about 10 but didn’t really remember much about the visit.  And, what kind of Texpat can I be if I can’t remember the Alamo?

My flights home went smoothly, but my flights back to Ottawa were a different story.  I was originally scheduled to fly back to Ottawa through Dulles airport in the Washington, DC area on the 21st, but got a notification on the evening of the 20th that my flight from Dulles to Ottawa had been cancelled.  I called the airline’s customer service line and the agent rebooked me on an earlier flight through Dulles that had not been cancelled.  However, that meant that my flight from Austin would leave at 7:20am.  Add in the extra time to drive down to Austin from my parents’ house, get through security, etc. and we had to leave at about 4:30am.  I made it down to Austin, through security, and was waiting for the flight when I got a notification that the new Dulles to Ottawa flight had been cancelled.  The agent rebooked me for a second time on a flight to Ottawa through Chicago…the next day.

So, we went back home to my parents’ and I crashed for a couple of hours.  The flight to Chicago left Austin even earlier, so we had to leave home around 3:30am.  Fortunately, all went well with that flight, and I got to Chicago on time.  However, the flight to Ottawa ended up delayed close to 3.5 hours.  It did, however, eventually get off the ground and I ended up in Ottawa about 30 hours later than intended.  I was exhausted and relieved to get home.  And the diplokitty was very glad to see me. :)

So, without further ado, here are a few pictures from the trip.

WiFi and Inspiration.  What more could you want?

WiFi and Inspiration. What more could you want?

The Alamo

The Alamo

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Alamo Grounds

Lovely Austin Weather

Lovely Austin Weather

Neat tunnel at the Chicago airport

Neat tunnel at the Chicago airport

Back in Ottawa!

Back in Ottawa!

Posted in Alamo, Austin, Canada, Chicago, DC, Diplocat, Home, Ottawa, Pictures, San Antonio, Texas, Texpat, Travel, Vacation | Leave a comment

Ice Ice Baby

Lately, the weather has been hovering around freezing which has resulted in temperatures a little bit above freezing during the day and below freezing overnight.  The resulting melting and re-freezing has turned some sidewalks in to virtual ice skating rinks and, though I’d deftly avoided a few close calls over the last week or so, it was only a matter of time until I fell victim to their iciness.

This afternoon, I decided to walk to the grocery store to get a few things and as I was walking, one second I was upright, the next second I was on my hands and knees halfway in a slush puddle, my purse also halfway in the slush puddle.  I’m sure I looked thoroughly ridiculous.  I certainly felt thoroughly ridiculous.  I’m still not sure exactly what happened or how I fell, but both of my upper shins and one of my elbows are sore to the touch so we’ll see whether I get any pretty, colorful bruises.

Is it summer yet?

And yes, for those of you wondering, I did make it all the way to the grocery store and back.  Next time, I’m sending the diplocat for groceries.  Cats always land on their feet, right? ;)

Posted in Canada, Diplocat, Ottawa, Shopping, Snow, Texpat, Winter | Leave a comment

Sweet, sweet nectar of the Texpats

From time to time, I make the drive down to go shopping in New York.  Groceries are usually cheaper in New York and there are a few things that I haven’t been able to find here in Canada, though admittedly many U.S. grocery products are available here.

However, I had not been able to find Shiner beer in Watertown or Ogdensburg, NY, the two towns where I tend to shop.  After checking several places in both towns not too long after I got here and not having any luck, I did some research and discovered that Shiner didn’t have a distributor in New York.  Alas!  Then, I saw news that Shiner was coming to New York and got all excited.  However, disappointment struck again when I learned that their distributor only operated in New York City and surrounding areas.  So, imagine my surprise when I wandered in to a grocery store just across the border and saw this glorious sight:

Shiner!

Shiner!

It was amazing.  I am not a huge beer drinker, but Shiner is just one of those things that reminds me of home and is nice to have available when I get a craving every now and then.  It’s nice to know that I don’t have to stock up when I drive further south in to Shiner-land or to hoard it and ration it when I bring it back since it’s now easily accessible.

Happy Shiner Day to me!

Posted in Canada, Home, Homesick, New York, Ogdensburg, Ottawa, Shiner, Shopping, Texas, Texpat | 1 Comment

Mewy Christmas from Catnada!

Mewy Christmas from Catnada!

IMG_2337

Posted in Canada, Christmas, Diplocat, Holidays, Ottawa, Pictures, Winter | Leave a comment

Handshake Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

When I posted a little over a month ago, I’d accepted a handshake for the FSI Economics Course.  The course runs from September to early March, and is followed by either language training or an assignment in DC at the Department of State, another agency, a company, a think tank etc.

A couple of weeks ago, they added a bunch of jobs to the bid list since there were so many people bidding at my rank who still didn’t have jobs lined up.  Some of those fit well with the timing of the econ course, so I put in a few bids.  Well, one thing led to another and I’ve accepted a handshake for a Political and Economic job in Frankfurt, Germany starting in the summer of 2015, after the FSI Econ Course and a refresher course in German to get my German back up to speed.

I am beyond excited about the assignment and still keep pinching myself thinking that it’s not real or that there must be some hidden catch.  I double checked though, and there was no clause signing over my firstborn child or anything in the handshake offer. ;)

Posted in Bidding, Canada, DC, Frankfurt, FS Life, FSI, Germany, Handshake, Ottawa, Transfer | Leave a comment

Home for the Holidays

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

Lovely weather at the Ottawa Airport before I left

My parents' dog is so shy! ;)

My parents’ dog is so shy! ;)

Mmmmm, Shiner Cheer!

Mmmmm, Shiner Cheer!

Texas, where even the beer wears camo.

Texas, where even the beer wears camo.

First reindeer car sighting of the season

First reindeer car sighting of the season

Diet Dr Pepper from the fountain, as it should be.

Diet Dr Pepper from the fountain, as it should be.

Texas is prepared for zombie attacks

Texas is prepared for zombie attacks

Sadly, this was too big to fit in my carry on.

Sadly, this was too big to fit in my carry on.

All the pretty Shiners!

All the pretty Shiners!

Santa also wears camo in Texas

Santa also wears camo in Texas

My parents' cat and I warmed our toes in front of the fire.

My parents’ cat and I warmed our toes in front of the fire.

Aaaaand we're back in toasty Ottawa.

Aaaaand we’re back in toasty Ottawa.

Posted in Austin, Canada, Holidays, Ottawa, Shiner, Texas, Thanksgiving, Vacation | 2 Comments