Category Archives: Moving

Here and there

Well, true to form, I’ve been bad about updating my blog.  The last three months have been pretty busy and I’ve had a chance to do some traveling, too.  And, I had my first visitors!

October continued to be quite busy with official U.S. government visitors, primarily from DC, but also from Berlin.  In November, the consulate’s Marine Security Guards held their annual ball and I went to Brussels, Belgium for training.   December was a bit slower, as both U.S. and German contacts were on vacation for much of the time.

Christmas was really, really nice.  My mom came to visit for about 10 days and we made it to three different Christmas markets, did some sightseeing in and around Frankfurt, and also visited Munich for a couple of days.  My aunt also came for a couple of days.

And, on New Years’ weekend, a friend of mine from Ciudad Juarez, who is now posted in Berlin, came to visit and we did some sightseeing in and around Frankfurt.

So, it’s been a busy few months and I’m still very much enjoying my tour here in Frankfurt.

Without further ado, here are some pictures from the last couple of months.

Munich's Christmas Market

Munich’s Christmas Market

 

Frankfurt's Christmas Market

Frankfurt’s Christmas Market

 

Brussels City Hall

Brussels City Hall

 

USMC Birthday Ball

USMC Birthday Ball

 

Downtown Frankfurt at Night

Downtown Frankfurt at Night

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Filed under Belgium, Berlin, Brussels, Christmas, Ciudad Juarez, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Holidays, Mexico, Moving, Munich, Pictures, Thanksgiving, Winter

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated

Ok, ok, so there aren’t any rumors of my demise (that I know of) but I obviously haven’t posted here in more than two months.  So, the 3 of you who read this thing might have been worried that I’d met my demise….or not.

In the last two months, I’ve been busy with getting settled in to life in Frankfurt, learning the ropes of the consulate and my job, and a couple of quick trips.

Frankfurt’s a great place to live and settling in has gone fairly smoothly.  My HHE, UAB, and car and all arrived without any apparent damage.  I say apparent, because I still haven’t fully unpacked my HHE, even though I’ve had it for more than a month now.  But, I’m making progress.  That counts for something, right?  😉  I’m through most of the hoops and paperwork for things like my diplomatic ID, car registration, internet set up, etc.  There are couple of things I’m still waiting on, but most of the paperwork has at least been submitted.

Work has been busy.  Even though the consulate here in Frankfurt has more than 1,000 people working in it, I’m working in combined Pol/Econ section that’s much smaller than any section I’ve worked in before.  That has a number of advantages, in that I’m getting experience in a lot of new areas, but also means that the pace of work is generally a bit more hectic and I’m also having to learn a lot of new things.  But, all in all, it’s going pretty well.  My boss and coworkers are great, which can obviously make or break a tour.

I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of trips, so far too.  I’ve gone to Stuttgart for work, to Mainz and Wiesbaden with my aunt who was in town for work, to Belgium to visit one of my host families from when I was an exchange student, and I just got back from spending Labor Day weekend in Paris visiting a friend from Ottawa.

So, I’ve been busy with getting settled in and taking advantage of some of the travel opportunities around, now that State has finally let me get on a plane and go overseas, not just over rivers. 😉

Hope all is well in the blogosphere!

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Filed under Belgium, Canada, Family, France, Frankfurt, Friends, Germany, Moving, Ottawa, Paris, Stuttgart, Transfer, Unpacking

In Deutschland!

As the title says, I’m in Germany!  After a hectic couple of weeks after passing my German test, I arrived in Frankfurt on Tuesday.  After the German test, I had a week of leadership training, then a week for packout and other administrative stuff that one has to take care of before one leaves for post, like getting the Diplocat’s paperwork in order, shipping my car, etc.  Fortunately, everything went fairly smoothly.  There was a small hiccough with my apartment complex, but fortunately it got resolved fairly quickly and painlessly.  🙂

Then, I left DC on Monday and flew to Frankfurt.  Fortunately, things went smoothly with the flight, which was the Diplocat’s first flight.  She did pretty well, and only meowed some during the last half of the flight.  I had ordered some supplies for her ahead of time and my boss brought them to the hotel we’re staying in temporarily until my apartment is ready in a couple of weeks.

My boss (who is also a fellow Texpat!) and other colleagues seem really great.  When we bid on jobs, we may or may not know much about our future colleagues, depending on when they rotate, so it’s a bit of a guessing game.  But, I seem to have lucked out here and have pretty great colleagues. 🙂

This week was mostly about getting checked in, getting accounts set up, getting the HR processes started to get my permit to stay here for my whole tour, and things like that.  My air freight shipment is already here and can be delivered to my apartment the day I move in, and the rest of my stuff and car should be here by the end of July, which is great news.  Next week, things will move more toward my normal job duties as we prepare for a few events that are coming up in the next few weeks.

I’m slowly getting over the jet lag.  Wednesday and Thursday were rough, but today was a bit better and hopefully, it’ll get even better over the weekend.

So, it’s been a busy few weeks, but I made it to post and things seem to be off to a good start here in Frankfurt.  I hope all is well in the blogosphere. 🙂

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Filed under Diplocat, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Moving, Paperwork, Texpat, Transfer, Travel, Washington DC

Erfolg!

So, my German test was on Wednesday at high noon (cue tumblweed rolling down the hall at FSI).  Despite being nervous as heck, because hey, if I don’t pass, then I don’t get to post on time, which inconveniences my future coworkers and no one wants to be *that person* who gets to post late, I passed the test.  Woot!  Rational me knew I was well prepared and based on how others had performed on the test, I felt good, but terrified me was sure that I was going to get in there and accidentally try to refuse some visas in Spanish or something.  But, all’s well that ends well.  🙂

So, now I have one more course at FSI, then packout, admin stuff, and then flying on to Frankfurt in just a few weeks!  So. Much. To. Do.  But, also so exciting!  Almost six years in to my career in the Foreign Service, I finally get to get on a plane.  😉

Hope all is well in the blogosphere.  I’ll be over here trying to sort stuff in to UAB, HHE, and suitcases until the movers come. 🙂

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Filed under Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Moving, Washington DC

And then there was one

As this post’s title alludes to, I am now in one-on-one German training.  I came in with some German from living in Germany as an exchange student back in the day, so have had about 1/3 of the normal course and am on a different timeline than the folks who started from scratch.  When I started German, they put me in a class with students who had started the course in September and the normal end for that course is in mid-May.  So, my two classmates and many other students in the German department had their exams about two weeks ago.  Fortunately, many of them, including my two classmates, passed the exam and have moved on to other courses, their posts, and such.  However, there are still some of us left and because of different abilities, schedules, etc. and the fact that there are now far fewer students in the section but still the same number of teachers, a few of us are getting one-on-one instruction for awhile.

The one-on-one instruction is a truly wonderful opportunity to really get a lot of practice and to focus on things that I struggle with, but I have to admit that my brain is complete mush by the end of the day.  While reading an article in German at the end of the day, I found myself stumbling over easy words that I know that I know.  However, hopefully, it will all pay off in the end.  My test is soon, and based on how others have done, I feel like I’m well prepared, but I’m still a bit nervous, since there’s a lot riding on it, and not passing means either having to delay my arrival in Germany or asking for a waiver of the language requirement, which can be hard to get.  So, wish me good luck and drückt mir mal die Daumen, as they say in German. 🙂

In other news, I continue to work on all of the admin stuff that has to happen before I can move.  I’ve scheduled my packout, made arrangements to ship my car, taken the Diplocat in for her vaccinations and discussed the paperwork she’ll need with the vet, applied for my visa, etc.  I’ve also continued to catch up with friends.  Several friends have had birthdays recently and friends from Juarez and A-100 have been rotating back in to town as they get back from overseas posts and start new assignments in DC or training at FSI.  So, it’s been good to see some folks I haven’t seen in a long time, some of them even since I left for Ciudad Juarez in 2010!

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

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Filed under Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, Moving, Paperwork, Washington DC

5 Pros and Cons: Ottawa Edition

Ania over at The New Diplomat’s Wife started an FS Blog Roundup on the topic of five pros and cons about your post with her lovely review of being posted in Copenhagen.  FS bloggers did these a couple of years ago and I came up with five pros and cons of being posted in Ciudad Juarez last time around but never did one while I was in Ottawa.  Since a few people have already covered life here in the DC area, I decided to focus on Ottawa for this one, even though I’ve been gone for several months.  So, here goes.

Pros

1. People – Canadians are nice, friendly, and easy to meet.  It’s easy to get out and be involved in the community in Ottawa and I made some wonderful Canadian friends while I was posted there.  It’s easy to blend in in Ottawa and you don’t have to rely on the embassy community for your social life, which I enjoyed.

2. LQA – Ottawa is an LQA post, meaning that you get an allowance and find your own housing instead of being assigned housing from a housing pool like in most posts.  There are some cons to it that I’ll get to later, but after having safety and security frustrations with my house in Juarez and feeling like I had no power in the situation, it was so nice to pick out something that I liked.  I had a lovely apartment and very nice landlords, so overall had a pretty good experience with LQA.

3. Pet friendly – Ottawa is very pet friendly and it’s very easy to import pets to Canada from the United States.  I don’t know if it’s different for dogs, but all I needed for the Diplocat was a rabies certificate, and they weren’t at all interested in seeing it at the border when I entered with her.  Vet care in Ottawa is very good, though more expensive than in the States.

4. Safety – Ottawa is a very, very safe city.  Coming from Ciudad Juarez, it was sooooooooo nice to live somewhere safe, where I never felt like I had to look over my shoulder, worry about my safety, etc.  Maybe if you’re coming from the U.S. or are coming from somewhere else where it’s safe, this wouldn’t make quite as much of a difference in your quality of life as it did for me.  But after spending two years in Juarez weighing the security risks of simple decisions like going to the grocery stores, it was just such a breath of fresh air to be able to go about my business without safety concerns.

5. The summer and fall – Ottawa is BEAUTIFUL in the summer and fall.  The summers don’t get too hot and everything’s nice and green.  There are a lot of fun events in the summer and lots of great outdoor opportunities in area parks and lakes.  The fall is also beautiful, with changing leaves, crisp air, etc.  Again, lots of fun hiking opportunities with beautiful fall foliage.

Cons

1. Winters – There’s no way to beat around the bush.  The winters in Ottawa are really long and really cold.  It gets down to -20F with wind chills down to -40F.  And, the winters last from about November to April.  Maybe this is no big deal if you’re from Minnesota, but the winters were rough for this Texan who’s used to being able to wear flip flops throughout most of the winter.  And, after two years of being trapped in my house because of the violence, feeling trapped inside by the cold, snow, and ice was a bummer.

2. Expensive – While I was there, Ottawa was a pretty expensive place to live.  The U.S. dollar has appreciated considerably against the Canadian dollar since I left, so I’m not sure if this is still the case, but it was expensive to grocery shop, go out to eat, etc. in Ottawa.

3. LQA – While being able to choose your own housing was liberating for me, there are also downsides.  You have to have a chunk of change ready to cover initial expenses.  There were several hiccups in my case that were not normal, but at one point I figured out that I was out over $10,000 in LQA and unreimbursed travel voucher expenses.  It’s also stressful to decide on a place to live when you first get to a new city or sight-unseen before arrival.  There’s also a lot of extra paperwork involved in getting the housing approved and reconciling the costs at the end of the year.  So, while there are a lot of good things about LQA, there are some down sides, too.

4. Internet connections – This may seem surprising since Canada’s very much a first world country, but while I was there, internet packages usually had a monthly GB cap and you could incur very high fees if you went over your monthly internet usage.  The speeds were also nothing to write home about.  That said, looking back at the website of the internet provider I used then, it looks like they do now offer unlimited internet traffic.  So, maybe that’s not as much of a con now as it used to be.

5. Deceptively similar to the USA – There are a lot of things about life in Canada that are similar to life in the United States.  You’ll see many of the same products on the shelves in stores in Canada as you would in the United States, there are even many of the same stores in Canada that you’d find Stateside, there aren’t language difficulties (usually), etc.  So, you can feel a lot like you’re in the United States, until you run up against one of the weird differences like the internet download limits, etc.  Then, because the difference came out of nowhere, it hits you that much harder.

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Filed under Bidding, Canada, Ciudad Juarez, Diplocat, FS Blog Roundup, FSI, LQA, Mexico, Moving, Ottawa, Snow, Texas, Texpat, Transfer, Washington DC

Los geht’s

So, I’m now two weeks in to German training at FSI and so far so good.  My teacher is great, my German’s slowly coming back a bit, and I’m getting back in to the swing of FSI language training.  I’m learning vocabulary related to the impact of social media on society, elections in Israel, the Greek economic situation, and other such things that one doesn’t spend much time learning when one is a high school exchange student in Germany.  There’s also the whole FSI language test format to remember, so I’m also getting practice interviewing a native speaker, preparing 3-minute speeches on policy-related issues, etc.  I still have quite a way to go, but I can feel things coming back and am getting in to the swing of things.

I’m getting more and more excited about getting to Frankfurt.  I need to do more here, like going through my belongings and donating stuff I don’t need any more, throwing some stuff out, and eventually organizing what will come to post with me and what will go to storage.  But, it’s definitely getting a lot more real and I’m really excited about it!

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Filed under Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Moving, Washington DC

The Brave Little Toaster

Well, it’s been three weeks since Dad passed away.  I spent two weeks at home and have been back in DC for a week.  The first week was a blur.  There were so many emotions, so many decisions to make, and so many things to do that it all just ran together.  Mom and I would get several things done each day, but we’d eventually hit a wall and would just be too fried to do much else that involved thinking or deciding anything.

We held a visitation on Friday and the funeral was on Saturday.  It was so good to see so many people turn out for both and to hear so many stories from people who knew him from work, community service, etc.  I’d heard some of the stories, but heard a lot of new stories, too.  I was also impressed by the wide range of people who showed up, from the current mayor and a county judge, colleagues from all levels at the agency where Dad worked, friends from church and community service organizations, to a group of mentally handicapped residents from a group home of the agency Dad directed.

The second week was a bit less hectic but still plenty of work to do.  There was stuff to do around the house, administrative things to work on, and things like cleaning out Dad’s office at work.  It seemed like most of the things we set out to do ended up taking longer than expected, but we got a lot done.  It was also a chance for the loss to sink in a bit more and without as much chaos.

Then, Saturday, I headed back to DC and went back to class on Monday.  It’s been good to be back in to a routine, but it’s also weird to be in an environment where everything’s normal and no one else knew Dad or has been affected by Dad’s passing.  I also wish that I could be home and helping my mom with the things that she’s having to do, like finishing cleaning out my Dad’s office, some of the paperwork, etc.  But, everyone’s been very nice and very supportive.  The econ teachers and my classmates have been great about letting me copy notes, helping me catch up, etc.  Nicole at Kids with Diplomatic Immunity took wonderful care of the Diplocat while I was gone and Sadie at Sadie Abroad picked me up at the airport when I got back to DC.  And, many others have checked in on me and offered some type of help.

I’m also back to the unpacking.  My HHE arrived a little over a week before Dad passed away and I left town for two weeks, so there’s still most of it left to unpack and last night I tackled a few of the kitchen boxes.  In one of those boxes was my “Brave Little Toaster.”  When I moved in to my first apartment, my parents gave me some of their old kitchen items and I’ve replaced or upgraded some of them, but I still have a bunch of them.  One of the things that I still have is a metal toaster, not too different from the toaster in the Brave Little Toaster movie, that Dad bought at a garage sale when he was in graduate school.  I’m not sure when he got it, but it must have been in the 1960s, and it was used at that point, so who knows how old the thing is.  It’s a bit annoying to use it because, while the heating coils still work fine, sometimes the lever won’t stay down on its own and you have to stand there and hold it down if you want it to toast something.

But, even before Dad passed away, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it because of its history, even though I know a newer toaster would work better, and now I certainly can’t.  Realizing what was in the paper as I unwrapped it, I couldn’t help but tear up and eventually start to full-on cry.   So, even though I’m back to my normal routine and am doing pretty well for the most part, there are still things that trigger some memory or some thought about the permanence of Dad’s passing and result in tears, like finding the Brave Little Toaster that Dad had rescued from some garage sale probably somewhere around 50 years ago, repaired, used for many years, and then passed on to me.

So, the grieving process is a journey with ups and downs and will continue to be so for awhile, I’m sure.

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, Friends, FS Life, FSI, Funeral, Home, Moving, Texas, Transfer, Travel, Unpacking, Washington DC

Discharged!

Well, Dad was discharged from the hospital on Saturday, which is good news.  He has appointments lined up with the surgeon, the oncologist, and who knows who all else to go over the follow up on his surgery and to discuss options for chemo and/or radiation.  And, he got some good news on Friday that the biopsies that they’d taken on his liver, nearby lymph nodes and other parts of his pancreas all came back negative, which is a good sign.  So, we’ll see how things work out from there.  I still wish I could be there to help out with things as he recovers, though.

My HHE came on Thursday and it went smoothly.  All of the boxes were accounted for and so far no damage, though I still have a lot of boxes to unpack.  It’s been amazing to sleep in my own bed, have my own couch, and just generally feel a bit more settled despite the unpacking to come.  The diplocat is also enjoying climbing on and rummaging through the boxes.

The econ course continues to econ.  It’s a lot of info to absorb and some days my eyes start to glaze over as my brain reaches its saturation point, but I’m learning a lot and keeping my head above water thus far.  So, so far, so good.  We’ll see if I still think that way later on, though.

I’ve also been fighting off a cold for the last week or so.  It hasn’t been awful, but it’s been persistent and has interfered with sleep and generally feeling well.  Friday evening, I almost had myself convinced to go to a clinic on Saturday, but I woke up feeling a lot better on Saturday, I think in part because the weather shifted from being damp and chilly to just chilly, without the dampness.

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

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, FSI, Home, Homesick, Moving, Sick, Texas, Texpat, Transfer, Unpacking, Washington DC

The whipple that wasn’t

Well, Dad had surgery on Monday and they found that the tumor had invaded a major blood vessel and that it’s possible that the cancer has spread beyond the main tumor site to other parts of the pancreas.  Since the tumor had invaded blood vessels, they couldn’t safely remove it without risking him bleeding out on the table, so they just closed him back up again.  They’ll have the biopsy results back later this week to see whether it’s spread to other parts of the pancreas.  Obviously, this isn’t good news.

He’s recovering from the surgery now and the next steps will depend somewhat on what they find with the biopsies.  There may be some chemotherapy and radiation options that could reduce the size of the tumor to give him more time and possibly shrink it enough to make it operable.

So, we’ll see what the biopsy results say and what’s next.  I’m glad he made it through the surgery ok, but bummed that they couldn’t remove it and still sad that I can’t be closer to home while this is going on.

In happier news, my HHE comes tomorrow.  Yay for finally being able to sleep in my own bed!  Woot!  I’m sure that the Diplocat will also enjoy investigating the boxes.  🙂

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Diplocat, Family, FS Life, FSI, Home, Homesick, Moving, Texas, Unpacking, Washington DC