Category Archives: Spring

The Great Cherry Blossom Hunt of 2015

My mom was here in DC visiting me for about 10 days and it was great to have her here!

She got some genealogy work done at the National Archives and the DAR headquarters, and we went to Mount Vernon, had dinner with a cousin of hers, test drove a car I’m considering for Germany, and went on a hunt for the elusive DC cherry blossom.  Neither of us had been to Mount Vernon, so it was really interesting to check it out, despite it being fairly cold and windy when we visited.

Mom had planned the timing of her visit to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Festival but this year, Mother Nature just wasn’t cooperating.  It’s been colder here than usual this year, so the cherry blossom trees weren’t blooming quite yet.  We did go down to the Tidal Basin area to see what we could see, and one of the volunteers there told us that she’d heard that there were some blooming by the WWI Memorial.  We had a map that showed where the trees were supposed to be located, so we set off to find them.  We wandered for awhile and eventually found about five blooming trees near the DC War Memorial.  Not exactly the same as the whole tidal basin full of them, but still something. 🙂

In other news, German’s continuing to go well and I’ve also continued to whittle away at the things I have to do before I go to Frankfurt.  I applied for my new diplomatic passport, which turned out to be more complicated than I expected, since they’d changed the procedures.  But, after a few e-mails and phone calls, I found the right person who could get me the right form that I needed to submit with my passport application.  I should get it back in another week or two and can then apply for my German visa when I get a little closer to my departure date.

I also put my proposed itinerary in to the system, so eventually I will get my orders back from those.  I couldn’t do that until I was transferred from the Econ Course to the German Department in the system.  Then, of course, I forgot that I needed to update my medical clearance before they could issue my orders, so I had get that updated.  Fortunately, you can renew your medical clearance with a form if you haven’t had any major health issues, and MED updated within a few days.  So, I then re-submitted my proposed itinerary and hopefully my orders will come back in a few weeks.

That’s most of the news here.  Here are a few pictures of the stuff that Mom and I got up to while she was here.

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Filed under Easter, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Paperwork, Pictures, Spring, Texas, Vacation, Washington DC

Graduated!

On Friday, I officially graduated from the FSI Economic Studies Course!  Woot!  It was a lot of work, made somewhat harder by missing two weeks when Dad passed away and then not being 100% when I came back, but I made it through.  Though, I’m not entirely sure that it counts since we didn’t actually get to see the gold at the Federal Reserve when we went to New York.  😉  Our last week of class had the excitement of a snow day, and cramming all 20 of our capstone presentations in to one day instead of the two they’d had scheduled.  It was hectic, especially since I had to go a day earlier than planned, but at the same time, there wasn’t as much time for tough questions.  Fortunately, though, all’s well that ends well and the snow is now melting and the next week or so should be warmer.

On Monday, I will start German classes at FSI.  I’m looking forward to using my brain a bit differently and I think that getting in to German classes will also help make my assignment to Frankfurt feel a bit more real.  I’ve been so focused on getting through the Econ Studies Course that I haven’t had too much time to focus on the excitement that will be my move to Frankfurt in June.  I need to sit down with the departure checklist, an arrival checklist for Frankfurt, etc. and start making a list of what I need to do and deadlines for things that have them, like getting the Diplocat’s paperwork in order, etc.

So, that’s the news here.  I hope all is well out in the blogosphere!  I’ll leave you with this video from Carly Rae Jepsen (I saw her perform on Canada Day in Ottawa in 2013, btw) that cracks me up.  I mean, Tom Hanks lip syncing to a pop song.  What’s not to like?

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Filed under Canada, Canada Day, Diplocat, Frankfurt, FSI, Funeral, Funny, Germany, New York, New York City, Ottawa, Snow, Spring, Washington DC, Winter

NYC…and other things

Shortly after my last post, I went to New York City for three days with the FSI Economic Studies Course.  We visited the NYMEX, the NY Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. Mission to the UN, a credit rating agency, and a couple of banks.  It was a really interesting trip and I learned a lot from all of our appointments.  It’s one thing to learn about the theory and to look at data and another thing to talk with people who are actually making sovereign risk assessments, analyzing foreign economies for the Fed, etc.

I’d actually never been to New York City before, so it was also nice to finally see some of the sites there during our free time in the evenings.  One of our meetings was close to the World Trade Center memorial, so some of us stopped by there on our way back to the hotel at the end of the day.  I also met up with one of my friends from A-100 who has since left the Foreign Service and it was reallllllly good to catch up with her.  She left the Foreign Service for a variety of reasons and it seems like things have worked out well for her and it’s really good to see her happy there.

We’re now in to the Country Data Analysis section of the course which has been interesting.  Essentially, we’re taking a lot of what we’ve learned and applying it to analyze economies of the countries we’ve been assigned.  This first part is in groups of four and then we’ll each do an individual capstone project.  Most people do something related to their onward assignment, but it’s not necessarily required.  I suspect I’ll do something related to Germany but need to see what issues I might want to try to dig in to.

I’ve also continued to organize some of the administrative stuff that comes with transferring, like getting myself enrolled in German language training after the Econ Course and a required leadership class, too.  I’ve gotten my housing survey from the Frankfurt and am filling that out.  I’m pondering what I want to do about a car there, meaning whether to ship my current car, buy something else here and ship that, buy something else there, etc.  I’ve also started to make some basic lists of what I’ll need to take on the plane with me, in my suitcases, in my air freight, etc.  The lists will evolve, I’m sure, but it’s helpful to start sketching things out a bit.  I also need to get my diplomatic passport renewed so that I have the new one back in plenty of time to apply for my German visa.

I also ended up having to find an urgent care place to take care of an illness that popped up in January.  I hadn’t had to see a doctor here in the DC area before, so I didn’t really have a relationship with a primary care provider here.  I searched a few Foreign Service groups, and found a recommendation, took myself to the urgent care place and got it taken care of.  Fortunately, it turned out to be something easily treatable, but I wasn’t sure what it would be going in.

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

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Filed under Diplocat, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, New York, New York City, Spring, Transfer, Washington DC, Winter

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.

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Filed under Canada, Diplocat, EER, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, LQA, Moving, Ottawa, Paperwork, Snow, Spring, Texas, Transfer, Travel, Vacation, Washington DC, Winter

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

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Filed under Canada, Ottawa, Pictures, Shopping, Spring, Toronto, Travel, Vacation

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!

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Filed under Austin, Canada, Frankfurt, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Moving, Ottawa, Rain, Snow, Spring, Texas, Washington DC, Winter

Happy Happy!

Sooooo, as you might have guessed from the title, this is a happy entry!  I just got back from a great long weekend in the DC-area.  Now, why was I there?  So see my excellent friends L & S get married!  L is a Foreign Service Officer and was posted in Ciudad Juarez with me and she met S while living there and one thing led to another and now they’ve gotten hitched before heading off to Morocco for L’s second post.

Since the wedding was actually about an hour outside of DC and I wanted to do a bunch of shopping while I was down there, including getting some liquids, I decided to drive instead of fly.  It’s about 10 hours of driving to get from Ottawa to DC, which is doable in one day.  However, Mother Nature decided to make the drive down a bit of a challenge.  First, Ottawa was forecast to get 5-8 inches of snow on Friday, the day I left.  So, I left at 0-dark-thirty to try to avoid it.  I succeeded in avoiding the snow, but managed to drive through about an hour of freezing rain.  By the time I crossed the border in to New York, my car was covered in ice.  Not only was it covered in ice, but when I stopped to get gas in the car there, the gas nozzle was covered in ice.  Have I mentioned that this is in APRIL?  Yes?  Ok, then.

After Ogdensburg, it changed to regular rain and rained on my for another 3-4 hours.  Then it cleared up for a bit, but I wasn’t in the clear yet.  In Pennsylvania, I ran in to bad fog, where I could only see about 100-200 feet in front of me.  That obviously slowed me down a bit.

Finally, it cleared up and I made the rest of the drive to Maryland.  When I finally got to the hotel, I stepped outside and just basked in the glorious 78F sunshine for a few minutes.  It felt sooooo good to stand outside in the nice, warm sun.

The wedding on Saturday was wonderful!  It was outside at a nice vineyard and the weather was beautiful.  The ceremony really reflected L & S and was super fun.  The reception at the vineyard was also really nice.  The company was especially wonderful.  I saw several other friends from Ciudad Juarez and it was wonderful to be reunited with them for a bit.  My time in Juarez was definitely tough, but I’m really lucky to have come away with some really good friends from my time there and spending time with them made me realize just how much I miss them.  There was much laughing, much fun, and even some dancing.   And, of course, L & S got married. 🙂

On Sunday, I ran a bunch of errands, returning things I’d ordered online, buying new things, and so on.  I got a lot done and then finally checked in to my hotel closer to DC.  I also met up with some of the same and some different Ciudad Juarez friends for a nice dinner.  Again, it was really fun to hang out with them for a few hours before we all had to go our separate ways.  Several of them are wrapping up language training before heading out to their second posts.  One was on R&R from her second post and I’d driven down from Canada.  While we used to see each other every day, we’ll now see each other less and less and will almost certainly never all serve at the same post again.  So, it was nice to be able to get together before everyone heads off to their new posts.

On Monday, I ran more errands, and finally finished stocking up on all the stuff I was after.  Between shopping in Ottawa and in New York, I can find almost everything I want, but there are a few things like Shiner Bock beer* and whatnot that I can’t find.  So, now I have all the peach salsa, pepper jelly, frozen enchiladas, and so on!  Nom, nom, nom.

Finally, I drove home today.  The drive home was much less eventful than the drive down.  It was smooth sailing.  There was some rain, but not too much and it didn’t slow me down too much.  The Diplokitten was happy to see me and all the frozen stuff I got actually fit in my freezer here.

Tomorrow, I go back to work and will have to hit the ground running since this is a busy time.  Also, on top of the busy-ness, I now have to do an Employee Evaluation Report (EER) because I found out last Wednesday evening that I got TENURED!  Tenure in the Foreign Service is sort of like academic tenure.  It’s a decision to keep you around and it means that it’ll be harder to fire you. Mwahahaha! 😉  Kidding.  Still, it’s an important step and nice to have out of the way.

So, that’s been my last week or so.  A very happy one for a lot of reasons. 🙂

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Filed under Canada, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Ottawa, Spring, Travel, Vacation, Washington DC, Weddings, Winter

Spring?

Even the Canadians I talk to have said that this was a cold and snowy winter this year.  However, I may be getting ahead of myself, but I think that Spring is starting to sneak up on Ottawa.  It hasn’t been below 0F in a couple of weeks, it’s actually gotten above freezing for several days in a row, the snow is slowly melting, and to top it all off, I saw a squirrel on my way to work last week.  So, it looks like spring is starting to arrive in Ottawa, though I’m sure it’ll be awhile before I’m running around in flip flops.   Still, it’s nice to see the weather improving a bit and to not have to put on quite as many layers each time I want to leave the house.

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Filed under Canada, Ottawa, Spring, Winter