Category Archives: Texpat

Yeah, so about those updates…

I’ve been lousy about updating.  And, I can’t promise that I’ll be much better in the future.  But, a lot has happened over the last year and a bit, so I’ll at least do a quick run-down of some of the highlights.

  • Spent seven weeks in Berlin as part of a really cool program organized by the German Foreign Office for “young” diplomats.
  • Traveled to Istanbul, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Luxembourg City, Madrid, and Split for fun.
  • Traveled to Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Munich for work.
  • Covered for my boss for three months while she was out on maternity leave.
    • Also covered for two of our locally engaged staff who were out for significant parts of that time.
  • Got promoted (finally).
  • Visited my host families in Belgium.
  • Worked my first Secretary of State visit.
  • Worked the Vice President’s first trip overseas as VP.
  • Worked a ridiculous number of other visits.
  • Wrote some cables.
  • Went home to Texas twice.

Looking forward, I have a couple of trips planned in the next couple of months and some thoughts about some other travel goals for my last year or so here.  My boss will rotate back to DC and her successor will arrive this summer.  I’ll bid on my next assignment this fall.  And, I’m sure plenty of other stuff will pop up.

If the motivation strikes, I may write up some of what’s happened over the last year in more detail, but sadly can’t guarantee I’ll get around to it.  But I’ll at least try not to wait another year to update this thing. 😛

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Filed under Amsterdam, Belgium, Berlin, Bidding, Bucharest, Croatia, Family, Frankfurt, Germany, Hamburg, Holidays, Home, Istanbul, Luxembourg, Luxembourg City, Madrid, Munich, Pictures, Romania, Spain, Split, Stuttgart, Texas, Texpat, The Netherlands, Travel, Turkey, Vacation

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

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

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

Radio Silence

It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I fully expected to blog about my home leave adventures, but when I would sit down to write about it, I found I just didn’t want to write it up.  I think that, honestly, I didn’t want to admit that it was temporary and would be over soon.  It was just so great to be HOME.  Yes, HOME in all capital letters.  The Washington, DC area is great in many ways and I was definitely looking forward to the Econ Course and to Frankfurt, but neither DC nor Frankfurt is HOME, no matter how wonderful they may be and no matter how settled I may eventually get in my time in either place.  So, I just didn’t want to jinx it or admit that it was a temporary thing.

But, Home Leave was in fact temporary (shocking that the State Department won’t let me stay on vacation indefinitely and keep paying me, I know. 😛 ) and I’ve now made it back up to the DC area.  So, picking up where I left off almost two months ago, here we go.

The Diplocat and I continued on our road trip homeward and stopped in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to visit some family there.  I got to see family and friends there, and also stayed in my Grandmother’s old house, which will likely be sold by the next time I go back to Oklahoma City.  My grandmother passed away just a few weeks before I started A-100 in 2009, so it seemed fitting to spend some time there in between assignments.  It was also good to catch up with family that I hadn’t seen while I was in Canada.

After a few days there, the Diplocat and I continued on home to Texas.  Again, it was good to be HOME.  It was good to be able to spend a solid chunk of time at home, to reconnect with friends and my parents, to attend church at my home church, to eat a lot of yummy foods that I’d missed like Tex-Mex, Mexican, BBQ, Blue Bell ice cream, Big Red soda, etc.  It was nice to shop in familiar stores that I’d missed.  It was nice to not need the GPS because I knew where I was going, etc.  In short, it was just good to be HOME.

Some of the more interesting things I did were speaking about the State Department and the Foreign Service at Rotary Clubs and to incoming students at my grad program.  Also, on the way back to DC, I stopped in Houston to visit some friends from when I spent a semester interning there.

The drive back up to DC went well, aside from the Diplocat’s incessant meowing.  She’s lucky she’s cute and cuddly, or else she miiiiight have been thrown out of the car.  Meowever, we both made it to DC and she seems to have forgiven me for putting her through all of the driving.  I shudder to think what flying to Frankfurt with her will be like, but at least it’s only one flight and only one day, and maybe the plane noise will drown out her yowling or freak her out enough that she stays quiet.  A girl can dream, right?

I’m now a week in to the Econ Course and so far it’s gone well.  The first week was mostly administrative things (timekeeping, laptop security, and travel vouchers, oh my!) and math that we’ll need when we get in to more of the econ topics.  My classmates have a variety of experiences, and I think it’ll be good to learn with and from them.  The schedule is also nice.  I’m in class from 9-4 most days, with homework each night.  It’s nice to have a little more flexible schedule, where I can do my homework right away after class, or go run an errand that needs to be done during business hours and then do my homework later in the evening.

It’s also nice to be back at FSI and see friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’ve reconnected with grad school friends in the DC area and FS friends, too.  It’s sometimes hard to get things done at FSI because you keep bumping in to friends you haven’t seen in awhile and chatting with them about what they’ve been up to since last you saw them, instead of getting whatever task you set out to do done.  I’ve bumped in to Juarez friends who’ve gotten married and had kids since I last saw them!  People who had newborns in A-100 five years ago now have kindergarteners.  Craziness, I tell you!  So, it’s good to catch up with folks and see what’s new and exciting with them.

And, while the DC area may not be HOME, it’s still a nice place to spend a few months.  I’m looking forward to doing some sightseeing and enjoying some of the neat events that happen here.

So, that about catches us up with what’s happened since last I blogged in July.  Hope all’s well in the blogosphere.  🙂

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Filed under Austin, Blue Bell, Canada, Diplocat, Family, Frankfurt, Friends, FSI, Germany, Home, Home Leave, Houston, Moving, NASA, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Ottawa, Shiner, Texas, Texpat, Transfer, Travel, Unpacking, Vacation, Washington DC

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!

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Filed under Alamo, Austin, Canada, Chicago, Diplocat, Home, Ottawa, Pictures, San Antonio, Texas, Texpat, Travel, Vacation, Washington DC

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? 😉

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Filed under Canada, Diplocat, Ottawa, Shopping, Snow, Texpat, Winter

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!

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Filed under Canada, Home, Homesick, New York, Ogdensburg, Ottawa, Shiner, Shopping, Texas, Texpat

New blog, y’all!

Alas, Posterous has decided to discontinue its blog service after April 30th.  So, I’ve decided to move my blog to WordPress, since it has a nice interface and would let me import my old posts.  Unfortunately, misplacedtexan and several variations of it were already taken, so I settled on texpatica since life in the Foreign Service makes me an expat and I’m from Texas.  Texpat was already taken, so I went with Texpatica to cover all things Texpat. I hope you enjoy the new space and format. I may be tweaking things over the next few days and please let me know if something’s not working right. 🙂

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Filed under Texas, Texpat