Monday, August 27, 2012

A summer trip home

A trip back home during July or August is becoming something of an annual tradition. It's great to be able to see the family, go camping, and of course escape the terribly uncomfortable DC heat. This past trip was a very short one, just three full days on the ground, but it was packed with outdoor fun by far the best part was spending some time at Sullivan Lake up in the far North-East part of WA state. The lake is surrounded by Forest Service land, which means no cabins, boats, or pollution to spoil the water. Just crystal clear lake to enjoy. After becoming used to east coast crowds and lack of mountains and lakes, this place was a real treat.

Seeing the family, especially my amazing niece and crazy little nephew was very special. One of the hard parts of my new life and career is going to be missing them. After returning from camping, I closed out my whirlwind trip by being the guest speaker at my mom's Daughters of Norway meeting out at another lake. It was my first time talking about my job jn front of non-State audience, but it went really well and I was humbled by their warm reception.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Training Lull

It's not that I've given up on blogging, it's just that my life is pretty dull right now. Maybe not dull to me (though it has its boring moments), but not really interesting in the "yeh, I just joined the Foreign Service!" or "woo hoo I just found out I'm going to Norway!!" sort of way. It's a day by day sort of slog, getting up early to do my hour long commute out to FSI, sit in some classes of varying topic, and then reverse my commute back home, relax with friends, watch some Daily Show, rinse, repeat.

The one thing about not having to move to another city in order to start this new life is that, really, my life hasn't changed all that much. I get up early, feed the cat, make my way to a work environment, get done and spend the evening either relaxing close to home or find some typical DC way to entertain myself (Team Bocce, Screen on the Green, Jazz in the Garden, Happy Hour, etc., etc.). This has been my routine for the last three years, give or take some breaks for travel or some particularly unsocial periods due to chaotic work hours. And this will likely be my routine for the next 6 months. I can't complain about that, since I love my life, my apartment, and the people I spend my time with.

Right now I'm in the middle of three weeks of what I unfairly have been calling "filler training" - training that separates my required training from my language course that begins after Labor Day. THe filler designation being unfair because the classes on social media, outreach strategies, and leadership are actually really interesting and well-taught. But I'm really really looking forward to beginning my Norwegian class. I've already started reading blogs and following Norwegians on twitter, with long-ago learned words and phrases starting to float back into my brain. It's hard to believe that by February I will be expected to conduct diplomacy in this random language, but I'm definitely looking forward to conquering that challenge!

It's Shark Week - Meet Chompy at Discovery Channel HQ in Silver Spring. 

Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market. 

Grassy picnic area at the National Zoo - perfect for reading on a warm day.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Buying local weekend

One of the great things about DC in the summer time is the fantastic variety of local farmers markets that pop-up on the weekends. Sure, many cities around the country experience the same phenomenon, but I think it's especially appreciated by residents here. Our day jobs are often spent in stuffy offices, writing memos and feeling very disconnected from the rest of the country. I go weeks, months sometimes, without leaving the "beltway"- so it's nice to be able to walk three blocks up the street to find a lively collection of local farmers selling tomatoes, melons, and peaches.  This morning at the Mt. Pleasant market I picked up supplies for a watermelon/mint/feta salad, some huge heirloom tomatoes just for eating (with a dash of salt), and some fresh corn for grilling this afternoon.

In the afternoon my BFFs picked me up for a trip to Port City Brewery to fill our growlers. For the uninitiated, a growler is a 64oz jug that you pick up at a brewery or bar filled with beer, and if you're lucky (and the local alcohol laws allow it), you can take that jug back to any beer selling establishment for a refill. It's awesome and eco-friendly! In Seattle, this is as common a practice as getting milk and eggs at the corner store, so I was more than shocked when I discovered upon moving to DC that not only would the bar not fill my growler, they hadn't even heard of this concept!! Ahhhh! What crazy beer-hating world had I wandered into?? Fortunately, over the past 3 years DC has very slowly started to catch on to the importance of fine beer and the necessity of the growler fill, but we're nowhere near the west coast yet. There are now at least 4-5 very quality breweries in the metro area that fill growlers, but so far the law only allows for breweries to do this, and not just any bar or beer store with a tap.

One of our favorite local breweries for growler-filling is Port City Brewery. They were featuring their newly tapped Derecho Beer, which came about after they lost power for a few days after our crazy storm at the beginning of the month and one of their pilsner batches turned into something a little more acidic. The beer was surprisingly tasty, though a little too limey for my taste.

Later in the evening I party hopped between two going away parties, one for my good friend from college who is leaving DC to go to graduate school at Yale, and the other for an A-100 colleague that is heading off to Abuja. I guess saying goodbye is part of this job, and it feels like the process is only beginning. Being here until March, I'll have the chance to say plenty of goodbyes, but knowing that the upside is that the foreign service is small and our paths will cross again soon.

Rooftop going away party