17 December 2009

The Color Commentator

This is the moniker my wife has given me w/r/t this blog. And apparently she thinks I suck at my job, as she was harassing me the other night for not posting enough. Know what? She's right. I need to be more a of Jerry Remy to her Don Orsillo than a Tim McCarver to her Joe Buck.

See, in baseball broadcasts, you have the play-by-play guy and you have the color guy. The play-by-play guy is matter-of-fact, calling the game as he sees it. This is Joanne. She's going to describe what getting thru A-100 and language training is like. How hard it is to join the Foreign Service. What a pain-in-the-ass the Security Clearance is. The color guy, on the other hand, is supposed to come up with factoids and anecdotal stuff to enhance the normally-boring straight description of the game. He brings up stats, injects humor, and otherwise provides little trinkets of information that wouldn't usually be available to the casual fan. I'm the color guy, and I've been asleep in the booth for the past few innings (a lot like Harry Caray used to do).

So here's a maelstrom of trivial and anecdotal information compiled thru detailed scientific research which I hope you will find interesting and useful. (No animals were harmed in the making of this list)

1) The basic kitchen setup at Oakwood sucks. SUCKS. You get really basic stuff (plates, glasses, silverware, some utensils). You also get a knife block containing six of the world's dullest knives. If you like to cook, bring your own gear and put the crap that passes for kitchen equipment here in the closet until you leave. You may thank me later.

2) Our apartment doubles as a sauna. Or a greenhouse. We face south and are on the top floor. When the sun shines, the temperature in here easily goes up to 85+ degrees. Opening the window does nothing. Opening the balcony door does too much. Joanne likes to joke that I'm secretly in training for life in the D.R. (it's a tropical freaking island). I don't find the humor in sweating all day every day while home. Still trying to find a solution for this.

3) The two supermarkets closest to Oakwood FC are atrocious. Dirty, poorly stocked, and just unpleasant to shop in. This, however, doesn't prevent me from shopping there. While both are under a half mile away, it takes 15 minutes to get to them. So going much further to a nice supermarket is a little unreasonable, especially when I typically have a small child in tow.

4) The existence of the Eden Center in our back yard is awesome at every moment of the day except between 5:45 and 6:00 a.m. when the garbage trucks come through and make a hell of a racket. It never fails to wake our son up. Not cool.

5) Snow. Seriously, Virginians. You don't have to panic and go to Target and buy 3 scrapers, a snow shovel, 2 emergency blankets, 10 chem lights, 3 gallons of arctic-grade windshield fluid, Coleman stove, and a huge honkin' car emergency kit for your car when 1-2 inches are forecast. A Southern friend told me, however, that it's not the apocalypse until all the bread and TP are sold out with the threat of some flurries. There's snow in the forecast for the weekend, better stock up.

6) Parking spaces. They're tiny. Cross into the District or MD, and they regain their normal width. In VA, however, they're about 6" narrower than in any other part of the country. This is truth.

That's all for today, I guess. I'll try to keep up with this blog a little more and wow you with more Tales from NoVA.

06 December 2009

We are off to the Dominican Republic!!

Flag Day, 2009.  Flag day is a tradition in the Foreign Service Officer orientation class.  It's truly an amazing moment.  Some people jump and cheer, others suffer temporary shock -- regardless of how they ranked their assigned assignment.  One of my orientation coordinators share this fantastic story (paraphrased):

"I ranked H-- at the top of my list. First, actually.  No one else wanted it as much as me.  I told my friends that's where I was going.  I told my entire family.  On flag day they held up the H-- flag, paused, and called my name.  Suddenly, my heart sank.  I felt like my life was over." 

In all fairness, the day does define an FSO's destiny for the next 1-3 years.  In the extreme, it can be the first step in a life-long connection with your post.  After they held up the red and blue flag of the Dominican Republic and called, my name, I felt numb.  By the time I sat down I was already calculating how my family would like it, what it would mean for my language training, and what this meant for my career.  It's silly, but the State Department admits it likes to hire "planners," so I think this is a normal reaction for many of us!!

My conclusion:  Gee, if the State Department wants to send me to a tropical paradise for two years, where the weather is warm, the fruit is plentiful, and my son can be fluent in Spanish before he is 5-years-old, then I'll take it!  I mean, look at the pictures on the official country homepage!

Dave has decided he wants to track down the Boston Red Sox in the Dominican Republic.  David Ortiz, aka "Papi," is from the DR and has a children's foundation that helps fund pediatric critical care: http://www.davidortizchildrensfund.org/.  He's also considering working for the embassy, or maybe just hanging out in a hammock with some Dominican rum.  The way I see it, he has a little equity coming to him from supporting me through law school. 

Tomorrow I start Spanish language training. The introduction to language training they gave us in A-100 "freaked me out" a little bit.  I imagine I'll be fine, but the speech they like to give goes a little like this: "So, if you majored in a language in college you probably got to a 1+ score according to our system.  You might have made it to a 2 if you were really good.  We're going to take you from a 0 to a 3 in six months."   Wow.  And wow.  Well, I'm just grateful that learning a language is part of my job.  They're actually paying me to do this!!!!  Yipee!!!  (Jealous, anyone?)