Category Archives: 4th of July

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. 🙂

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Filed under 4th of July, Austin, Canada, Canada Day, Diplocat, Friends, FSI, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ottawa, RCMP, Texas, Transfer, Washington DC

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. 😉

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Filed under 4th of July, Canada, Canada Day, FSI, LQA, Moving, Ottawa, Transfer, Unpacking, Washington DC

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!

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Filed under 4th of July, Austin, Canada, Canada Day, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Home, Home Leave, LQA, Montreal, Moving, Ottawa, Paperwork, Quebec, RCMP, Texas, Travel

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  The embassy had a really nice 4th of July party on Thursday and it was a ton of fun.  We lucked out with the weather and it only sprinkled a little bit, which was actually helpful since it cooled things off a bit.  The guests seemed to really enjoy themselves and it was nice to have a fun 4th of July party when you’re away from home. 🙂

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Filed under 4th of July, Canada, Ottawa

Worry? Who me?

I’ve been bad at blogging lately, but mostly because there hasn’t been a ton to blog about.  Work has been busy, but nothing that stands out as “OMG, I must tell the world about this!” though the Italian National Day party was pretty neat.  🙂  I’ve just been trying to keep on top of all of my files, learn more about what I’m doing, get info for Washington, etc.

I’ve also been doing some worrying about bidding in my free time.  If you actually know me in person, you also probably know that I am a professional worrier.  So, naturally, I need something to worry about.  If I don’t have something to worry about, it’s worrying because clearly I must be missing something that is worry-worthy.

My current focus of worry is bidding for my third tour.  The list won’t come out until August, but that does not stop a champion worrier such as myself from worrying about it.  State recently introduced a new projected vacancy tool that you can use to search for projected assignment vacancies.  So, you can see what will be open for a particular rank in a particular bid cycle, what will be open that requires a certain language, or by post, etc.  So, I’ve been able to see which jobs in which places are projected to be on the bid list this summer and I’ve been doing some research in the evenings to find out more about life at different posts, pet import issues, cost of living, etc.  However, the projected vacancy info does not include much info about the actual job, so it’s hard to tell what would really be interesting job-wise.  It’s also subject to change and anything on the projected list may or may not be on the actual list when it comes out in August.

Bidding this time around will be a lot different than it was the first two times I bid.  Your first two assignments are “directed assignments,” meaning you put in your preferences, but the State Department directs you to go to a certain post.  The first time, my A-100 class got a list with roughly as many posts as there were people in the class and you had to rank each post high, medium, or low.  Then, in the last week of training, we got our assignments.  The second time, we had to rank 30 posts off of a list of about 250 jobs and then received our next assignments about two weeks later.

Starting with your third tour though, the process is much more like a job interview process.  You will usually talk with the person who currently holds that job and then interview with supervisors at post and in the DC office responsible for a post for an overseas assignment and with people in DC for domestic assignments.  Then, the decision makers at post (if it’s an overseas assignment) and in DC get decide who they want to offer the assignment to and start offering “handshakes” to people after a certain date.  This process is also tricky because it’s sort of a rolling process.  Not every office is ready to make offers when that date rolls around or you might not be a post’s first choice, but might be their second or third choice.  So, you might get a handshake offer from your #5 choice, but not yet know whether you’d get an offer for a higher choice when they make a decision or if their first choice turns them down.  Sometimes they can wait a bit for you to decide whether or not you want to accept the offer, but not always and you may find yourself deciding whether to take the bird in the hand with your #5 choice or hold out for the chance you might get a better bird in the bush with one of your higher choices.

It’s sort of a bizarre game of musical chairs where everyone will get a chair in the end, but it’s a nerve wracking process to find out which chair you’ll get.  Of course, people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and now Libya and Yemen can link to their chairs ahead of time or get offered a chair earlier than the rest of the bidders coming from other posts.

A few people, who must have nerves of steel, sort of sit out the first process and then just swoop in on what’s left over or not otherwise assigned.  Some of those posts are places that no one really wants to go, but some are gems.  In watching what got left over in other bid cycles, I’ve seen some pretty swanky European posts make it through the first round of musical chairs, probably because of a first choice turning them down for another excellent post and the other bidders figuring that they ought to take the birds they have in their hands because no way will they offer a handshake for Swankovia if you’re not their first choice.  However, I do not have nerves of steel and I think the fear of a tour in Ickyville will keep me from employing this tactic.

So, I’ve been doing research and imagining my life in places like Tokyo, Podgorica, Tirana, Brussels, Santiago, San Jose, Jakarta, Bogota, Taipei, Manila, Chisinau, or even back in DC.  Of course, this is all with very, very limited information about the actual job I’d be doing, which will play a big part in my decision of which jobs to go after and also with no idea what I’ll actually be competitive for which will also affect my bidding.

In other goings on, Ottawa continues to be a really nice place to live.  It’s been great to wander around at lunch time, see lots more people out and about, and enjoy the mostly lovely weather we’ve been having.  The U.S. embassy is in the Byward Market area and is close to Parliament Hill and downtown, so it’s easy to pop out for lunch or after work.  Canada Day preparations also seem to be in full swing, with Canadian flags going up all over the place, shops promoting Canada apparel and party supplies, etc.  I’m looking forward to Canada Day here in Ottawa, since it sounds like it’s a great celebration.

The embassy’s 4th of July party is also coming up.  I’m looking forward to it a lot since it’s a big party and I’ll know a number of the guests.  I helped with a couple of them in Juarez, but since I was adjudicating visas and not out meeting contacts or anything, I didn’t know any of the guests.  So, this one promises to be more interesting due to the scale and actually knowing more of the people who will attend.

So, that’s what’s been going on here.

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Filed under 4th of July, Bidding, Canada, Ottawa

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  Well, Happy 4th of July to the three of you who actually read this. 😉  I didn’t really do anything special for the holiday today, but the Consulate did have a big 4th of July party on Friday.  Pretty much every U.S. embassy and consulate in the world has some sort of 4th of July party, though sometimes it’s actually held during another part of the year if weather conditions require it.  While everyone in the consulate or embassy is not necessarily required to attend, it’s generally expected that U.S. staff attend unless there is a compelling reason.  So, it’s work, but so far the two that I’ve been to have been mostly fun work.  The party is a chance for us to invite various contacts, like members of the host government, businesses with whom we work, and so on, to the consulate to celebrate the 4th of July and I’ve gotten to meet a few people that I would otherwise not have much contact with, since I work in the consular section and not in the political or management section.  So, it’s something different and fun.  This year’s party turned out really nicely and I think that most everyone had a good time.

Still no news on the bid list.  We were hoping that we might hear something on Friday of last week, but no luck.  Hopefully, we’ll hear something back this week.  The suspense is tough, especially since we don’t know when to expect the results.  It would be nice if they could give us a day when we could expect to hear so that we can manage our expectations, but I suspect that they don’t know for sure when everything will be ready so they can’t tell us.

Anyhoo, that’s the news from here. Happy 4th of July!

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Filed under 4th of July, Bidding, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico