Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Where we interrupt with (more) conversations with the Teapot

With all the intensity of recent weeks, can you believe it's already mid-March? Time really has a way of running away from you...

First to clear up a misconception... while we are in long term training (such as language at FSI), we are not really allowed to take leave. This means I'm actually less able to take time off to fly and see my family than when I am posted abroad (weird right?) Since my folks are west coast based, this makes our communication continue to be primarily text, skype, and phone call based. And super short weekend flights with the puppy.


I forget sometimes how gorgeous it can be to see our country from the skies. 

Puppy doesn't get frequent flyer miles. Sad.

I don't always pose in my mom's gym clothes drawer. But when I do, I look like an advertisement for ASCPA

Making my way downtown, walking fast, grandma's holding me like a churro.

Beautiful sky as we drove around Nevada

Hardest part of being abroad...missing out on dumb stuff and time with family. #vacayinvegas

#vacayinvegas is also where I discovered Game of Thrones slot machines #goodbyeperdiem

I tried to repair my brother's floating wall when I visited. I failed. 

Our family goes big for Thanksgiving feasts. #oneturkeyisneverenough

Now please enjoy some light entertainment in the form of a few random snippets of conversations with my nonstop source of comedy sitcom material (and beloved maternal): Teapot.

M = Me
TP = Teapot
K = Kettle (make an intelligent guess)

My constant encouragement to hit the gym

M (on skype): Hey, sorry I haven't called in a while. I've been really sick, the weather has been so cold.

TP: Oh is that why? No wonder your face looks so bloated. I thought you just got fat again.

I'm not fat, this is just my bone structure. And fur. 


TP (while out eating X-Mas dinner with the family): ...I just think you shouldn't date someone too young, you'll always end up just being a mom and taking care of them. You need someone who knows how to take care of you.

M: Uh huh. And what if I happen to be dating someone who's older?

TP: Wait, are you dating someone? Are they divorced? Why aren't they married already? Is there something wrong with them? And do they have a house yet? What kind of person at that age doesn't own something more permanent? Do they have an established career? A graduate degree?

M: ...if you ask one more question, I'm going to find the first divorced, fresh out of state penitentiary, internet blind date and marry them, I swear.

TP: Why are you always so dramatic?

Excellent refugee exhibit we caught at the MoMA in New York

Nothing is ever good enough

M: (texts pictures of the first big snow we have in the DMV during January)

TP: (texts back) Do you mind getting some snow on the trees, the picture would look much nicer.

Sorry about the lack of snow on trees. I'll go get my spray paint right now...

Spring seems to be coming early though. Beautiful blooms.
You get what you ask for

Teapot (out at dinner, trying to be casual): So...who are you dating? Tell us more...

M: Well he's a man.

TP: Of course he's a man.

K: You should be happy it's a man.

TP: Yea, it's a modern era. Could have been a woman.

Alright, I like showing off my cute dog, ok? 

And food obsession. But that's nothing new. #rameninNY

This land is my land

TP: I'm just saying, that city in [country] is clearly more nationalistic and pro-unification! It's something to pay attention! It's a big deal!

M: ...I am dating someone who is isn't insane, is the same religion, doesn't have a criminal record, and can possibly communicate with you and you're complaining about what politics his ancestral city may have leanings towards?

TP: (pause) ...I'm just saying...

M: Go to your drawer right now! What type of passport do you have!

TP: ...US.

M: Done with this conversation.

Great luncheon fundraiser called Empty Bowl, supported by local restaurants and ceramic studios. You enjoy a lite lunch of soup and breads while getting to choose and keep a lovely ceramic bowl. Proceeds help our local food bank. 

Animal identification

TP: I don't understand why you would dress the puppy up as a rabbit, she is clearly much more of a lion look.

M: (confused and looks at the photo I sent) ...that's a penguin costume.

Eastern Market is getting lively again now that the weather is better. 

Missed Calls

M: (notice 4 missed calls in the span of 20 mins, calls back) Hey, is something wrong?

TP: Where were you? Why didn't you answer the phone on a Sunday?

M: I was napping, it's freezing outside.

TP: What if this was an emergency? Why are you napping?  Don't you realize your parents could be incredibly worried about you?

M: Alright, sorry, what's wrong?

TP: Oh, I saw it was snowing in DC, is puppy too cold? I think you should order her a parka and some boots.

M: ...I'm hanging up now.

Super cute french bakery I studied at the other afternoon. 

Vacation while you can

M: So yea, I'm taking off for the weekend for a short trip. It'll be nice to travel a bit.

TP: Well it's good you have friends and can do all your traveling now. When you have a family, you'll never be able to go anywhere.

M: Why not? Families vacay.

TP: Life is different when you're married, you'll have to travel with your husband and go with him everywhere -

M: ...when was the last time you took dad with you on any vacation with your friends?

TP: That's different. (pause ) Your father is happiest making me happy.

M: And for every pot, God created a lid.

Come on, cutest sake ever at a pho party fundraising event? 

The blurred lines of animal and human rights

TP: I'm so excited to be coming to visit the puppy! I'm going to take her to the supermarket!

M: We've talked about this, you know you can't take her to the supermarket.

TP: I don't understand why people are so mean and won't let her in. She's tiny and so cute and well-mannered.

M: Dogs shed, people have allergies. And it's a hygiene issue.

TP: None of this would be a problem if you just bought me a stroller like I asked you to.

M: I'm not buying you a dog stroller.

TP: Well, how about a baby bjorn?

J asked but apparently there's not much in Shanghai, WV. We still want to drive through it and take a picture though.


(Phone rings.)

M: Yes?

TP: I've been thinking, you need to be more like a cat.

M:...come again.

TP: In dating. Make sure you're like a cat more.

M: ...huzzuh?

TP: Like Cookie (our house cat), she'll sit right by me while I eat breakfast, but she won't look at me, she'll just stare into the backyard. So even thought I know she wants attention and food, she's not going to do anything until I give her a head scratch or treat. You want to let the man take initiative or they won't appreciate you as much. Don't be clingy. Be like a cat.


Bonus photos! Congrats to the 189th A-100 class who just had their flag day!

Also welcome to the incoming March 190th A-100. Go baby diplomats!

But seriously, it'll be great having the maternal out to visit. What could go wrong?

As always, Tea.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Where one lives in a fantasy world known as FSI training...

"You haven't updated your blog in forever!"

"It's only been a little while - "

"...it's 2017."

Hello internet fambam, it is in fact 2017. New year, new times, (new tổng thống...) and hey! I've been in language training for uh... 4 months? What is this madness indeed?! Life at Arlington Diplocommunity College for Diplomats for want to speak the language good and do other things good too has been a great experience. I attend classes five days a week, get assigned homework, work on everything from speech presentations to reading articles and excerpts from newspapers, advertisements, reports (so much TPP...so much nhap khau va kinh te...) My language department is very well organized and not only do we rotate between three different teachers for each small class (one for speaking, reading, and other textbook...stuff... learning).

My beautiful weekday routine. Back when it was warm. 

It's hard to believe the time has passed so quickly. During the last four months, I've had all sorts of excitement....there was when the dog woke me up so she could sniff at the door and bark at the neighbor..when she woke me up by jumping on my chest like a trampoline... (not quite the excitement you were hoping to read?)

Beautiful fall foliage back in October. 
How about when I had to arrive in DC on crutches because I was dumb enough to injure my ankle badly just two weeks prior to departing post...yea, Tea is a hashtag lesson on things not to do when PCSing. (To my friends in UpSea who were fabulous with medicine, wheeling me to the doctor, plying me with food and drink to celebrate my departure in spite of all my fail - I thank you all and will never forget your love and pity.)

Life lesson? When on a trampoline and trying to vault into a pit of foam blocks, much like in life and love, listen to the advice of your betters and COMMIT DAMN IT.

So what has life consisted of outside of trying to master a five tone language (6 in the north, but us southern speakers are a bit lazy)? Well, lots of eating that's for sure. Some interesting times learning to make new friends through the power of the inter-webs and online apps (seriously, how has the State Dept not channeled this into an all powerful way to create tandem FSOs and save the dept a ton of money?) Outside of readjusting to being on the East coast and exploring supermarkets (7-11) and FSI's cafeteria, there's been great opportunities to partake in some great arts and culture - the Scott Bradley Jukebox show was fantastic as was enjoying a very different Flying Bach - break dancing to classical music. I've also snagged a ticket to the new African American museum, but it's not until well...April. I'll report back when I get there. Some day.

Consider this a photo dump of the last few months. Enjoy while I go kick some more a$$ at Ticket to Ride.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Where I breakup with China and head back to the Diplocommunity College of Arlington

This post was hard to write for many reasons, some understandable and some just plain 'me'. When I started it a few weeks ago, I was winding down my two years. Two years of learning about the department, learning about the people, learning the ropes of how to do this living abroad business. As I tried my best to avoid the countdown game, (1 month...25 days...8 hours) there's a strange part of when your work life begins to become about tying up loose threads, passing projects onto other officers, doing the seemingly never ending check out process (which I think I still ended up doing wrong).

You need to complete an employee evaluation report (EER) which is a lovely document completed by you (to talk about doing your job), your rating supervisor (to talk about you doing your job), and a reviewing supervisor (to...talk about if your boss and you were talking about doing your job?).

My laoban's motivation was a genius plan of sticking a giant sign with my name and EER in large letters at my work station, guilting me into working on said EER every time someone passed by and would ask me about it. Tips for those in or wanting to join the service? Work on your damn EER early, it's like performing self oral surgery with no mirror and just a bottle of whiskey for anesthesia.

So with an EER out of the way, my fumbling attempts kind of proceeding with getting checked out at HR when your main management section is located a 45 minute car ride away in traffic from your usual work location, I had the brilliant plan that instead of a farewell party, I would just run down a bucket list of activities that I had wanted to do in Shanghai, but never gotten around to, while inviting anyone who wanted to come to join in. Someone once explained serving abroad as being in 6 month cycles for a two year tour and I have found it pretty valid. Will have to see if it stays true for my next tour.


1st 6 months: excitement at arrival at a new job and location, getting to make new friends, I can't believe they pay me for this. don't screw it up.
2nd 6 months: cloud nine sinks down to routine life and the not so wonderful inconveniences of life abroad crops up, maybe time to do some traveling and explore
3rd 6 months: usually after R&R, you realize that you have a year left and you actually are starting to understand what the acronyms they use at work are and maybe you aren't a complete fail
4th 6 months: wait, i'm leaving? time to fight for as many opportunities as you can to complete before they all forget your name and throw your nameplate out

So here's some random shots of the last few months.

Last trip to Japan

Shanghai Disney Prep!

I'm going to miss good Chinese food.

I don't remember where this was, but check out those shoes!

Moo for America.

I'm proud of these signs I designed. Very proud. They're waterproof. 
"antique" shopping

Sherlock Holmes Cafe

We had an ACS egg drop for team building. I designed our NASA style badge.

ChinaJoy ....convention. Games? Electronics? I don't remember, it was really hot. #chinajoymeans 
Celebratory wheels up meal with J.

Last train ride for a prison visit in Zhejiang.

One day, I will be literate. One day.

Live music bluegrass band!

We've gotten so many great new people in and I miss the great group I left behind. I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces in DC and having more people for me to cajole and force into social activities with me. Last time I was here, it was just for a four month session of training, a whirlwind of learning about the Department, my job, my assignment, and unanswered questions like why do we need to have TM-1 through TM-4, will there quizzes on the logistical layout of department hierarchy, what is work life balance, and how many annexes are there?(Also, HST cafeteria is still way better than FSI cafeteria.) This time, I'll be returning with more unanswered questions like if I don't get tenured does that mean I never have to try bidding 3rd tour, what is work life balance, and how have they not created a state department tinder (list the bureaus you're willing to bid on, language scores, and how many hours you're willing to fly for a first date).

Goodbye UpSea. You have been a wonderful bundle of adventures to the Silk Road, friendships that will survive Wechat and the Great Firewall, the opening of Shanghai Disney, bad trampoline decisions (still on crutches), glorious karaoke decisions (always say yes to a karaoke invitation in China), Go Karting, Trivia Nights (go Team Hatch Act!), and all the other plethora of memories that may or may not be recorded on a phone camera somewhere. I missed out of G20, but did work on a super EdSec visit, and hey - there will always be more important work, more visits, more cables, and more 'Murica. As I rode in the car to the airport, I realized that leaving post feels a bit like a breakup - you've invested so much time, energy, passion, and love. You both separate hopefully having made a tiny impact (for the better?) on each other and even though you may meet again, it will never be the same as it was before.

Hello FSI. Be kind to me, language training, I have a delicate constitution and the memory of a goldfish cracker.