And just like that, it was over

Well, Friday was my last day at Embassy Ottawa.  Just like that, my (not quite) two year tour is over.  It’s bittersweet, because there are a lot of things that I’ll miss about Canada, Ottawa, and my time there, but also exciting because I’m looking forward to reconnecting to friends, family, and Mexican food on home leave, the Econ course and reconnecting with friends in the DC area, and then eventually to Frankfurt.  So, there’s a lot to look forward to.

My last week at work was spent mostly wrapping up loose ends at work, working through the massive checkout list, and seeing friends one last time.  I also got to see Mosaika, a light show they do on Parliament Hill each summer.  I saw it when I first arrived, and now again right before I left.  Seems fitting.

It’s quite a bit to write out, but actually leaving Ottawa was not without some excitement.  The night before I left, the fire alarm at the hotel went off around midnight.  I was actually putting some things in my car in the parking garage when the alarm went off and had to dash up 14 flights of stairs to try to get to the cat, because the elevators were out of service due to the alarm.  Of course, with all the noise from the alarm, the cat had hidden herself and I couldn’t find her anywhere and so I worried that she’d left the room when I left with my hands full to take things ot the car.  Fortunately, she eventually came out of her hidey spot and they eventually said that the fire alarm was a false alarm.  And, on top of that, the elevator from the lobby down to the parking garage was out of service, so that made for many trips up and down those stairs to load the car.  But, Saturday morning, I eventually made it out of Ottawa.

So, now I’m in a hotel in Ohio with the Diplocat and we’ll keep chugging along until we get home to Texas.  She’s been serenading me almost the whole way both days.  It’s so thoughtful of her to think that I might not like the music on the radio and to come up with her own mew-sic.  Anyone know if you can FedEx a cat from Ohio to Texas?  Asking for a friend, of course. ;)

Posted in Austin, Canada, DC, Diplocat, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ohio, Ottawa, Texas, Transfer, Travel | Leave a comment

Three strangers took my stuff!

Well, packout has come and gone.  Three strangers came and took 98% of my stuff and I was actually happy about it.  It all seemed to go smoothly enough and my preparation of putting a lot of things in to bags and totes seems to have speeded things along.  We’ll see how everything fares and how things turn up when I get my stuff in DC.  Whenever I start worrying about that, though, I repeat to myself “It’s just stuff and you got the good insurance.”

I didn’t do anything super-exciting for Canada Day, since I was in full-on packout prep mode, but a friend did invite me over and it was nice to relax for a bit and spend a couple hours with her and a few of her friends.

The 4th of July party went really well, as far as I could tell.  There was a great turnout and the weather was wonderful.  People seemed to have a really good time and I got to see a lot of the people I wanted to see, though it was such a big party, it was hard to find everyone.

I also neglected to mention in my previous entry that my friends L & S visited a couple of weeks ago.  We were all in Ciudad Juarez together, and now they’re posted in Northern Africa and were on an R&R trip to the U.S. and Canada.  It was really great to catch up with them and we did some fun things like see the actual RCMP Musical Ride performance and go to the Museum of Civilization.  Mostly though, it was just really great to catch up with them.  Going through an experience like CDJ forges some pretty close bonds and then it’s hard when your really good friends are spread out around the world and you see them so infrequently.  Fortunately, modern communication technologies make it easier to stay in touch than in the past, but they still don’t replace the face to face time.  So, anyhoo, it was great to see them.

And, since my apartment is now empty, I’ve moved in to a hotel for the rest of my time in Ottawa and will spend the next while sorting out things at work and getting everything ready to make the transition to my successor as easy as possible.   Then, I start the epic trip back to the Austin-area for home leave followed by another trek back to Washington, DC to start the econ course at FSI.  The Diplocat has handled the transition to the hotel well but little does she know about the epic road trip that awaits her. ;)

Hope all’s well in the blogosphere. :)

Posted in 4th of July, Austin, Canada, Canada Day, DC, Diplocat, Friends, FSI, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ottawa, RCMP, Texas, Transfer | Leave a comment

Burn it all!

I have officially reached the “burn all the belongings and start over again” phase of packout preparation.  The hassle of organizing all my stuff, the prospect of unpacking and reorganizing all of it in Washington, and the worry about something getting damaged or going missing en route has reached a point where I just want to burn it or toss it all out and start over.  Of course, I won’t do that.  It’d be too expensive for one thing.  And, it’d be hard to burn the stuff without setting the whole apartment on fire.  Still.  I’m ready for this whole move thing to be done.  I’m a little bummed that I’ll probably miss out on the fun Canada Day festivities since I’ll be busy with packing prep, but so it goes.

Other than that, things are going well.  I’ve gotten a bunch of giant ziploc bags and ziploc totes and they’re making the organization part of packing a bit easier.  Hopefully, they’ll both protect my stuff from dust and moisture, and also keep the things I want to stay together, together.  So, for example, the fitted sheet doesn’t end up in one box and the flat sheet and pillow cases in another.  We shall see.

And, there are plenty of things at work to sort out, too.  Lots of loose ends to tie up and lots of administrative hoops to jump through before I can make it out of here.  And preparations for the 4th of July party.  But, it’s moving along.

So, that’s what’s new here.  I think the next stage of packout preparation is the “wine” phase. ;)

Posted in 4th of July, Canada, Canada Day, DC, FSI, LQA, Moving, Ottawa, Transfer, Unpacking | Leave a comment

Busy little bee

Hola!  Sorry for the lack of updates.  It’s been busy!  First, the parental units came for a visit.  They were here for about a week and we got to do a lot of sightseeing.  We went to Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, The War Museum, The Aviation and Space Museum, the RCMP Musical Ride Training Centre, the Diefenbunker, and of course I took them in to see the embassy!

Then I was back in the office for a day before going to Montreal to help with some visitors at the Conference of Montreal.  It was a great visit and a great event, and I even got to catch up with J, a friend from Ciudad Juarez, who’s now posted in Montreal.

Now, I’ve been back in the office for about a week, trying to wrap up loose ends, get things ready for my successor, organize things for my move, etc.  Oh yeah, and new things keep popping up!  So, it’s been a busy few weeks.

However, things keep moving along.  My packout is scheduled.  I’m where I should be with the checkout list.  I’ve made arrangements for most of the things I need to do with my apartment since this is an LQA post, like scheduling my electric and internet account for cancellation when I move out, etc.  And, yesterday, I officially got paneled for the job in Frankfurt.  It’s a long story, but a series of hiccups pushed the paneling this long, but all’s well that ends well. :)  I’ve also made hotel reservations for my trip down to Texas for home leave.

So, I now have less than a month left here in Ottawa.  It’s a shame I’m leaving in the middle of the summer, when Ottawa’s so nice.  Summer and fall in Ottawa ALMOST make up for the winters.  Almost. ;)

So, that’s the news here.  Next up, packout, Canada Day, and the 4th of July!

Posted in 4th of July, Austin, Canada, Canada Day, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Home, Home Leave, LQA, Montreal, Moving, Ottawa, Paperwork, Quebec, RCMP, Texas, Travel | Leave a comment

Blog slacker

I’ve really been slacking on any kind of substantive updates.  No real excuse, unfortunately.  Things here have been busy, but not so busy that I couldn’t update my blog from time to time.  As I’ve posted, I’ve made it to Toronto and Quebec City for fun in the last couple of months.

Spring has finally arrived in Ottawa.  The snow’s been gone for a bit and sometime in the last two weeks all the leaves started to come out and everything’s all nice and green now.  It’s a very, very welcome change after what even local Ottawans say was an awful winter.

My EER (State Department-speak for annual evaluation) is now in to Washington.

We’ve had a number of official visitors, events, etc. to manage and such.  Canada Day and the 4th of July party are coming up in just over a month.

The wheels are starting to spin toward my departure from Ottawa.  I’ve had my packout survey, the dates are set, and I’ve given notice to my landlord.  I’ve got an appointment to take the Diplocat in for her vaccinations, so there won’t be any problems bringing her back in to the United States. There are still more things to do before I can actually leave, but despite occasional feelings of panic that I’m behind on where I should be with my departure stuff, I do seem to be on track.

I’ve also made reservations for my drive from Ottawa back to Texas for Home Leave.  I’ve signed up for the Hometown Diplomats program and will at the very least talk to students at my old grad school, and possibly some other groups at home.  I’ll also plan to visit friends in Austin and maybe Houston.  I don’t really have plans past that, though.

I have a reservation for where I’m going to stay for my first 60 days at FSI.  I don’t know where I’ll live for the other 8 months I’ll be in DC, but I have some ideas and I have time after I get there to figure it out.  I’ll be assigned to DC, so will have to take possession of all of my stuff, but at least I don’t have to decide what to take to Frankfurt more than a year before I’d actually get there.

I’m paneled for the FSI economics course and have also taken a distance German course to refresh some of my German in preparation for entering German class after the econ course.

And, the Texparents are coming to visit next week!  I’m excited to see them and show them Ottawa.  Then, later in June, L&S, friends from CDJ, will visit Ottawa.

So, it’s shaping up to be a busy last two months!  I’ll try to be a bit better about blogging, but no promises. ;)  I should be able to catch up a bit over home leave though.

Posted in Canada, DC, Diplocat, EER, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, LQA, Moving, Ottawa, Paperwork, Snow, Spring, Texas, Transfer, Travel, Vacation, Winter | Leave a comment

Quebec City!

Last weekend was Victoria Day weekend in Canada, which meant that we had Monday off.  I went crazy and took Friday off, too, and decided to check out Quebec City.  I hadn’t been, and it seemed like a neat place to check out.  It was indeed neat and I’m glad I went.  It’s apparently the only walled city in North America north of Mexico City, and has a super-cute old town with cobblestone streets and cute little shops.  I highly recommend it!

Without further ado, here are some pics!

 

Quebec's Parliament

Quebec’s Parliament

Chateau Frontenac as seen from the Citadelle

Chateau Frontenac as seen from the Citadelle

Governor General's Residence w/ period actors posing in front

Governor General’s Residence w/ period actors posing in front

This being Canada, there's STILL snow that hasn't melted.

This being Canada, there’s STILL snow that hasn’t melted.

The 22nd Regiment, based at the Quebec Citadelle, has a goat as its mascot.  The goat's ancestors were given to Queen Elizabeth II by the Shah of Persia. Fancy goats.

The 22nd Regiment, based at the Quebec Citadelle, has a goat as its mascot. The goat’s ancestors were given to Queen Elizabeth II by the Shah of Persia. Fancy goats.

The largest cannon at the Citadelle.  It's pointed south down the St. Lawrence river because that's where they thought the Americans would attack from. ;)

The largest cannon at the Citadelle. It’s pointed south down the St. Lawrence river because that’s where they thought the Americans would attack from. ;)

Buildings at the Citadelle of Quebec

Buildings at the Citadelle of Quebec

Buildings at the Quebec Citadelle

Buildings at the Quebec Citadelle

The seal of the 22nd Regiment, the only French-language only regiment in the Canadian Army

The seal of the 22nd Regiment, the only French-language only regiment in the Canadian Army

Gate to Quebec City's Old Town

Gate to Quebec City’s Old Town

Dog parking, 10 minutes max.  Not sure if they ticket dogs that are parked there longer.

Dog parking, 10 minutes max. Not sure if they ticket dogs that are parked there longer.

The Chateau Frontenac and old town as seen from the Citadelle

The Chateau Frontenac and old town as seen from the Citadelle

The mighty St. Lawrence

The mighty St. Lawrence

Posted in Canada, Ottawa, Pictures, Quebec, Quebec City, Snow, Travel, Vacation | 1 Comment

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 | 1 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, Friends, FSI, Germany, Moving, Ottawa, Pictures, Snow, Transfer, Winter | Leave a comment