Saturday, April 20, 2013

Settling in and making a home

I've been expectantly slow at blogging - the last few weeks have been busy both at work and at home as I settle into my new job and get my home in order. My things arrived nearly two weeks ago and my Vespa just got all the needed registration, so I'm finally feeling like I am home. I have a few odds and ends to collect to fill up the space, but so far I think it's looking pretty good :-)

Main Living Room - Before
Main Living Room - After
My Fabripod lamp
I filled the living room with my large Ikea expedit shelf, my family hand me down arm chair/footstool, and a craigslist coffee coffee table from DC. I added an Ikea Monstad sofa with a new cover from Bemz (which is the most fantastic place to get perfectly fitted covers specially made for Ikea furniture, seriously their beautiful fabrics make me want to buy more Ikea furniture). It's hard to see, but the pattern is actually this one. I bought the multi-system TV before leaving DC and the TV stand I inherited from my sister. Oh, and I nearly forgot the piece de resistance, my lampshade. I ordered the lampshade from Fab (I'm addicted, it's actually a good thing that they don't ship to DPO addresses). The maker is called Fabripod and it comes in a box of small wooded pieces that you have to assemble, and I'm absolutely in love with the result. 
Study/Office - Before
Study/Office - After
I still haven't figured out what to call this room other than my second living room. I think study is more accurate, and just sounds fancier. I used my old couch and loveseat in here (meaning guests will sleep in the TV room on the fold-out sofa) and made an office space next to the windows and balcony. Some great Kandinsky prints that I picked up for pennies at Goodwill next to FSI are perfect on the walls. The huge map is a former classroom map that I ordered off of Etsy.

The kitchen was definitely my biggest challenge because it is just so huge! Talk about first world problems, but I was really glad that I ordered the kitchen island from World Market before I moved, but even with that I'm struggling to fill the space. My little set of table and chairs that I got off craigslist and refinished are great, but could be double the size with little problem. I replaced the worlds ugliest lamp shade with an steel reclaimed shade from etsy and added another pendant light over the counter. I made a gigantic clock out of wall decal stickers and clock hands.

My bedroom and closet haven't changed all that much, still working to personalize those areas (including refinishing an old mid-century dresser that I've been dragging around since college). I'm also tackling a small balcony garden, which is a slow process because spring is just barely arriving and every huge bag of soil has to be dragged up to the 4th floor. But it will all come together in time for the coming long Norwegian summer days.

Bella at the flea market (acquired mirror in basket)
Ruby enjoying having her own furniture

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Loss among us

Many bloggers in the foreign service world are also posting this, but I learned this morning that a young FSO was killed in Afghanistan this weekend and felt compelled to post as well. While her death may not get the coverage of the tragic death of Ambassador Stevens in Libya, this felt closer to home. I didn't know her, but it's a small world, and because she was serving in only her second tour, she was an A-100 classmate to many people that I know. She was only 25 and volunteered to go Afghanistan for her 2nd tour, a truly courageous thing to do. It's a reminder to me, as I enjoy my safe and comfortable life in Oslo, that this career is truly one of service.

All of us received an email from Secretary Kerry giving us the news firsthand, but the most touching words I've read on this came from her own parents:

Parents' statement on the death of Anne Smedinghoff

"The world lost a truly beautiful soul today. Our daughter, Anne, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, died in the service of her country as she was traveling with a group to deliver books to a local school in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan. She joined the Foreign Service three years ago right out of college and there was no better place for her. Anne absolutely loved the work she was doing. Her first assignment was in Caracas, Venezuela. She then volunteered for an assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which she began in July, 2012. Working as a public diplomacy officer, she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war. We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world. She was such a wonderful woman--strong, intelligent, independent, and loving. Annie, you left us too soon; we love you and we're going to miss you so much. -- Tom & Mary Beth Smedinghoff"

Statement from Secretary Kerry

"Our State Department family is grieving over the loss of one of our own, an exceptional young Foreign Service Officer, killed today in an IED attack in Zabul province, along with service members, a Department of Defense civilian, and Afghan civilians. Four other State Department colleagues suffered injuries, one critically.

"Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province's capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack.

"Just last week in Kabul, I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service Officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future.

"We also honor the U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian who lost their lives, and the Afghan civilians who were killed today as they worked to improve the nation they love.

"I spoke this morning with our fallen Foreign Service Officer's mother and father and offered what little comfort I can for their immeasurable loss. As a father of two daughters, I can't imagine what her family is feeling today, or her friends and colleagues."

The full State Department statement is available here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A few days in Copenhagen

Easter in Scandinavia is a big deal. For a week and a half or more, the whole country pretty much shuts down and heads up to their cabin or to Spain or something. Because it would be pointless to try and work when NO ONE is in Oslo, the Embassy also closes for a good chunk of this, meaning a 6-day weekend for me. Instead of sitting around in my apartment or wandering around the empty city, I decided to try out a piece of local culture by taking the boat to Copenhagen.

Norwegians don't get on a boat to their southern neighbor because they are nostalgic about the nearly 300 years of Danish rule. Nope, they get on a boat to Denmark for pretty much one booze. I knew this going in, and while I had no desire to participate in the seafaring drunkenness, I figured observing it would be good sport. Plus I was hoping to partake in some shopping while in the much cheaper Copenhagen. Turns out the shopping was a bust because Denmark was as closed down as Norway, but I did have a nice cruise and got to try some tasty Danish beer. Here are some pics of the  quick trip.

The ship at port in Oslo.

My humble abode. 

Enjoying a beer in the sun before setting sail.

Oslo from the sea

Inside a tower in Copenhagen

Copenhagen Canals

A bike rests on an urban wall.

The little mermaid in the snow.

Danish Flag at the Castellet.