Sunday, July 29, 2012

Closing out July

I think I'm finally settling into this new life as a student. It's been nice to put the suits back in the closet as the temperatures rise to nearly 100 degrees everyday. I've been able to figure out how to ride my bike part-way to FSI, so that I can fit in a little exercise. So after so many months of uncertainty, I finally have a routine. But all of this control is deceiving, since preparing to pack up a life and move across the world is anything but normal. Many of my closest friends are here in DC and this place has truly become to feel like home. And I have some very important life realities that I will need to come to terms with in the coming months. Sigh...

But for now I'm putting aside the less fun aspects of moving and focusing my time on enjoying the right now with people I care about. Highlights of the last few weeks have included baseball games, BBQs, birthday parties, staycationing at a fancy hotel, joining a bocce ball league, rooftop drinks, Olympic fever, and summer strolls.

Nationals Baseball

Olympic Fever

Preparing for Screen on the Green (National Mall)

Georgetown Waterfront

A walk with someone special along the C&O Canal

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ESTH Training

After swearing in and my week of self-study/crazy storm/4th of July, I started the 2-week course for new ESTH Officers (stands of environment/science/technology/health and falls under the Economic portfolio). I'm in the middle of the second week, and so far it's been an interesting class that has really demonstrated the very wide range of issues that I'll be covering once I arrive in Oslo. It's also been a really great chance for me to brush up on the State Department perspective on a few things I've already worked on and to see some friends and colleagues come through as presenters.

In addition to learning about climate change, water policy, biotech, the Arctic, Rio +20, wildlife trafficking, HIV/AIDS, hazardous waste, and scientific cooperation, we've also been able to take a couple of really interesting field trips. Last Friday we got an exclusive behind the scenes peek at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We learned about the work they are doing to collect and archive samples of the world's biodiversity, and were able to see up close examples of birds species that are now extinct or very rare. Their collection is astounding, with cabinets filled floor to ceiling with species that could be nearly 100 years old.

Today we had another field trip to the Calvert Cliff Nuclear Power Plant. This was a great visit, and I learned all kinds of things about nuclear power that I never knew, and feel much more prepared to talk about this issue with my colleagues and counterparts at post.

The (sadly) now extinct Passenger Pigeon.

Outside of class I have been immersed in hot, but still beautiful DC summer. Lots of evenings on rooftops, drinks with friends, eating outside, and trying to stay cool. As much as I complain about the heat (which really does suck), I love the summer for its abundance of things to do.  Also, since my workout routine has gone downhill thanks to my really long commute to FSI, I'm experimenting with riding my bike into Main State, cleaning up in the shower rooms there, and then heading to school on the shuttle. So far it seems like it will work great, and makes me feel more accomplished at the end of the day knowing I've done a good workout and saved on my commute time. 

A great rootop sunset

Exploring the new waterfront park in SW DC called the Yards (where on Friday evenings you can also find jazz and yummy beer). 

Gathering at the Half Street Fairgrounds near Nationals Park for Truckeroo. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th from DC!

Spending Independence Day in DC is a special treat, and I thoroughly enjoy the extreme patriotism that one can get away with on this day. I took a stroll around the mall area and found lots of red, white, and blue along with folks trying their best to stay cool on this scorcher!

Being done and Norsk Fest

A-100 is over. A-100 is over? A-100 is over!

Last Friday I swore my oath of office and am now officially a Foreign Service Officer. Okay, well technically I am a "career candidate" and won't be officially official until I obtain tenure somewhere between three and five years from now. But I have made it through the initial orientation and am now on to "real" classes. My schedule is pretty full for the next 8 months before I head off to Oslo. First up is the ESTH Tradecraft course, which is a couple weeks overview of all the environment, science, technology, and health issues that matter to the Department of State. After that it's Political/Economic Tradecraft, some other short courses, and then on to Norsk språk (Norwegian language).

In addition to the excitement of swearing-in, this weekend was a wild one in the world of weather. As has been thoroughly covered by the local, national, and international media, the East Coast was hit hard by a freak storm, called a derecho. The storm itself only lasted about half an hour, but the next morning the entire area looked like a massive hurricane had rolled through. I didn't see one street without a tree down, including my own (see pics below).

But a storm wasn't about to stop me from a planned trip up to Ikea to gather some scandinavian food supplies in preparation for my "norsk fest." Driving through miles of city without working stoplights was interesting, but I made it to my mecca and found everything I needed (and much much more).

$1 breakfast at Ikea

With my Ikea trip accomplished, I hid for the rest of the day in my cool basement, thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't one of the millions who lost their power and A/C in the 90 degree heat.  The next day my Norwegian celebration went off without a hitch, with plenty of cheese, crackers, cucumbers and salmon in all forms (dip, grilled, or cured for gravlaks). Thanks to my BFF for manning the lefse griddle. And with several of my friends without power and thus emptying their freezers at my house, I ended up with way more food than I had at the beginning. So for the next week it's salmon and cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which should be good preparation for my two years in Oslo!

Getting ready!