Category Archives: Vacation

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

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

A glorious week at home

The Christmas to New Years week is one of the few times that students at FSI are actually allowed to take annual leave, so I decided to avail myself of this option and went home to Texas for a little over a week.  It was really nice to be home and spend time with my mom, friends, and other relatives.

It was definitely weird not to have Dad there.  I think the best way to describe it is that he was conspicuous in his absence.  Dad really liked to cook and saw holidays as a chance to really go all out in his cooking.  If he had been there, there would have been lists, lots of different snacks, a fire in the fireplace, etc.  Mom and I are both a little more low-key on those things, so it was just quieter overall.  Going to church on Christmas eve was also hard, since that’s something that we’d always done as a family and it was the first time for me to be back in our church there since Dad’s funeral.

It was, however, just good to be home and spend some quality time there.  Mom and I test drove a few cars, since she’s eventually in the market for a new (to her, at least) car sometime in the next few months or so.  I had some good Tex-Mex and barbecue, and just generally enjoyed the break from the econ course, spending time with family, and being home.

In non-vacation news, I’ve worked out a tentative arrival date in Frankfurt, have reached out to a couple of the offices at post that are involved in the transfer office, and so on.  So, things are moving along towards my departure in a little over five months.  So, that’s exciting!

The econ course continues to march on.  We’re working on money and banking now, and it’s interesting stuff.  Next week, we’ll start on development economics, which should also be interesting.  It continues to be a lot of work, and I was very grateful for the break around Christmas, but it’s interesting and I can see how a lot of it will be useful in future posts.

All in all, things here are going well.  Hope all’s well out in the blogosphere.

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Filed under Austin, Cancer, Christmas, Family, Frankfurt, FSI, Funeral, Germany, Holidays, Home, Shiner, Texas, Vacation, Washington DC, Winter

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

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

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

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Filed under Canada, Ottawa, Pictures, Quebec, Quebec City, Snow, Travel, Vacation

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

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

Home for the Holidays

I’m a bit late writing about it, but I went home to Texas for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful.  I hadn’t been home since last Christmas and it was good to be home, to go to church, to see my family, to consume foods from several of the key Texas food groups, and to get some (slightly) warmer weather.

It was snowing as I left Ottawa, but I still managed to miss the really nice weather central Texas had the week before and the week after I was there.  The weather hovered around freezing and was grey and rainy for the first few days I was there.  It did get warmer in the last part of the week, but not quite warm enough to wear my flip flops.

I did take a couple of pictures while I was home, so here we go:

Lovely weather at the Ottawa Airport before I left

Lovely weather at the Ottawa Airport before I left

My parents' dog is so shy! ;)

My parents’ dog is so shy! 😉

Mmmmm, Shiner Cheer!

Mmmmm, Shiner Cheer!

Texas, where even the beer wears camo.

Texas, where even the beer wears camo.

First reindeer car sighting of the season

First reindeer car sighting of the season

Diet Dr Pepper from the fountain, as it should be.

Diet Dr Pepper from the fountain, as it should be.

Texas is prepared for zombie attacks

Texas is prepared for zombie attacks

Sadly, this was too big to fit in my carry on.

Sadly, this was too big to fit in my carry on.

All the pretty Shiners!

All the pretty Shiners!

Santa also wears camo in Texas

Santa also wears camo in Texas

My parents' cat and I warmed our toes in front of the fire.

My parents’ cat and I warmed our toes in front of the fire.

Aaaaand we're back in toasty Ottawa.

Aaaaand we’re back in toasty Ottawa.

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Filed under Austin, Canada, Holidays, Ottawa, Shiner, Texas, Thanksgiving, Vacation

Mont Tremblant

Last weekend, I went to Mont Tremblant and met up with a friend who’s now posted in Montreal.  It was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so the resort area was really packed, but we had some fun wandering around a couple of the lakes in the area, shopping, etc.

Fall is in full swing in this part of Canada and the foliage was just beautiful.  The drive up there from Ottawa was mostly two lane roads through cute little towns, and despite my GPS not being able to find the road I was driving on (and it was not a new road!), the drive up there and back was very enjoyable.  I wish I could have taken some pictures while I was driving, but that would have been a bad idea, especially given my recent luck with raccoons. 😉 (I got my car fixed by the way, but that’s another whole story).

The most exciting thing of the weekend had to be finding a Mexican restaurant that actually tasted like Mexican food from Mexico.  I’ve been to a few Mexican restaurants in Ottawa and they’re not bad, but just don’t taste at all like the food I was used to in Mexico or the Tex-Mex food that I know from home.  This place, however, was amazing and tasted like the real thing I remember from my time in Ciudad Juarez.

I didn’t take a picture of the delicious Mexican food, but without further ado, here are a few pics from the weekend.

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Filed under Canada, Mont Tremblant, Ottawa, Pictures, Quebec, Shopping, Travel, Vacation