Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inauguration Day

National Mall getting ready for the Big Day

Yesterday our President, my boss' boss' boss times about 10, was sworn in for the 4th time (2 times in public and 2 times in private ceremonies for those keeping track). In 2009 I hadn't yet moved out to DC, so this was my first inaugural experience. Instead of standing on the National Mall for hours in the cold, I decided to experience the event from the inside out and be a volunteer. And I wasn't the only one, as it turns out the Inauguration happens thanks to the hard work of thousands of folks who come from all over the country to see their president sworn-in and celebrated.

So I put my name into the online Inaugural Committee hat and by some stroke of luck was given one of the coolest jobs ever. I was asked to be a Parade Unit Host, which means I got to be a liaison for one of the groups in the parade and walk along the entire parade route with them! It was definitely as awesome as it sounds (see video at the very bottom)!

The wake-up call, however, was less awesome. I woke up at 4am to join the masses on the metro and made my way to the Pentagon to get ready for the day and to meet the group I'd be helping. There I found out that I'd be walking with the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corps from Des Moines, IA. I didn't know much about the group beforehand, but learned that they became a personal favorite of the Obamas during their many Iowa trips over the years, and had marched in the 2009 Inaugural Parade in addition to visiting the White House. They also do great work for their community and have received a number of service-oriented awards. This explained our placement in the parade at 4th from the beginning.

Line of buses getting to the Mall

Military Units lining up for parade

After meeting and then spending the early morning with the Isiserettes at the Pentagon, I traveled with them to the staging location on the Mall. I was so excited to just be along for the ride, since it was clear that this group, little kids included, were true professionals and didn't need any extra help. We got to the Mall early enough to see the entire Inaugural Ceremony from the comfort of a heated tent just behind the crowd of a million (see picture below - I'm sitting on a chair in that massive tent sipping hot cocoa and watching a huge TV screen with quality sound).

(Aerial View of Mall - Source: Breitbart.com)
Hanging with the Isiserettes watching the Ceremony

We spent most of the day waiting and lining up in parade order. But once the President finished his lunch on the hill and made his way to the White House, it was go time! The kids were so excited (myself included) that the chill didn't matter at all. [That being said, I'm very glad that today's frigid wind waited a day.]  Once we turned that corner onto Pennsylvania it was pure amazingness. The street was lined with thousands of excited people and the Isiserettes drummed and danced their hearts out as the crowds cheered them on. I was merely an observer walking behind, but what a view! A friend of mine who was tailgating at the Canadian Embassy saw go by and sent me a picture, so I'm glad to have proof of what was a pretty unbelievable experience.

After what felt like a very short 1.5 miles we turned onto Lafayette Square to march in front the Presidential viewing stand. The Obama family instantly started smiling and dancing as the group got them fired up, and I was there to watch as Michelle got her groove on and VP Biden got off his seat to do a little dance himself. Since I might have been tackled by Secret Service had I tried to take a picture, I'm really glad that the video below exists. This was exactly my view of the whole thing, including Sasha trying to get her too-cool older sister excited by the group :-).


Friday, January 18, 2013


I have about 40 days until the big move. At the same time that is both plenty of time and a frighteningly short period. Between now and getting on my first one-way flight as a diplomat I have a long list of to-dos. Unwritten on that list is passing my language exam. I'm not at all worried about it, but passing one test in order to be able to travel is a lot of pressure. Also to-do is organizing and sorting all of my belongings into various piles: large shipment, air baggage, put into storage, goes on the plane with me, and gets donated/trashed.

My cat, Ruby, falls into the "goes on the plane with me" category, so we've begun kitty flying practice. She is already pretty comfortable wearing a harness and I've been putting into her carrier for a few minutes each time before she gets feed. Now she happily goes into on her own, though 12 hours of travel time is a whole other ball game.

I feel pretty on top of all the other things, which was helped by getting my housing assignment this week! I realize that any apartment that I would have received would have been wonderful, but this one sounds perfect for me. Near the embassy in a very walkable area and in an older restored "bygård" or city-style apartment building with older features like wood floors, fire places, and built-ins. Compared to my current basement 1-bedroom, I'm mostly just thrilled at the prospect of ceilings that are taller than 7 feet.

The list staring at me from my desk. 

Ruby practicing


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A commercial break

As crunch time washes over me (a post on that to come), here's a short break to do a little advertising. The State Department has put out a great new video that details the life of a foreign service officer. It even has some short video clips of a flag day that may or may not be my own.


Note: This post was originally published on the Department of State blog. To see the original post, please click here.

As a young woman growing up in Louisiana, a career in the Foreign Service was never really on my list of life dreams -- but all that changed, beginning with graduate school and a research project in Africa that opened my eyes to the possibilities of diplomatic life.
Since joining the Department of State 31 years ago, I have lived and worked on four continents, traveling the world from Afghanistan to South Africa. I have witnessed the horror of genocide in Rwanda; I've celebrated the joy of people coming out of 15 years of war to elect the first woman president in Africa. I've never regretted those first steps out of my comfort zone and into the world of diplomacy.
I've been the face of America abroad, and I've been blessed with the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives and to represent my nation. The State Department needs the energy and passion of Americans who want a career that matters.
And that's why we've made this video.
We want to highlight and share with you some of the faces and stories of the amazing people who have made their dreams to do good in the world a reality through their career in the Foreign Service.
I hope you will watch it and think about this unique career and lifestyle. You can see the full film by visiting careers.state.gov, where you'll be able to delve much deeper into the various types of diplomatic careers and learn about the steps you can take to pursue this path.
Share this post with others.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources. Prior to this , she served as Ambassador for the Republic of Liberia from 2008-2012.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Picturesque Seattle

Before the New Year came and went, I spent a few days relaxing with friends in Seattle. A nasty flu kept me from seeing everyone I wanted to see, but I did make the rounds and took some pictures while I was at it.

Arrival: Lake Washington from above

A furry friend awaited my arrival in Seattle

I met my cat's Seattle twin: a "wild" UW campus cat

The Space Needle from UW campus

Green Lake sunset
Sunset Hipstagramed

A Heron at Green Lake

Happy New Year! The space needle blows up on a bar TV. 

Departure: All the Mountains were out to bid me goodbye :-(. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Old Year

I guess the new year came over a week ago, but anytime is a good time for end of the year reflection.

2012 was a crazy year. I started the year knowing that I had passed the Foreign Service Exam and had been placed on the register, but I had not idea how fast the rest would happen. By the end of February I had been invited to join the 167th A-100 class. I had several months of waiting, which included telling my old job that I was leaving (I was pretty sad about this) and taking a full month off to enjoy life before the foreign service chaos began.

Come May I was 100% ready to start my new adventure. I was stuffed into a tiny classroom with 90-something other bright and shiny new FSOs. We listened diligently to briefings and presentations for 5 long weeks while we anxiously waited for our futures to be announced. I met some great people and am excited to hear all the stories of my classmates who are already out there in the world, do real live work (gasp, the thought!).

Flag Day came and my dream job was handed to me, just like that. With many more months of training, it seemed so distant and impossible. But the following months flew by and before I knew it I was celebrating the halfway mark of my language course over beers in Norway, in Norwegian. Now the year of a new start, a new career has ended and I look forward to this new year of all things Norway. With the number of weeks until I head-out now well into the single digits, all these things that were long-ago power point slides are becoming reality. Pack-out. Language Test. Pre-Departure. Ahhhh! It's going to fly by so fast.