Friday, September 21, 2012

DC Love

I am completely, totally, entirely loving my time in DC.  It feels so good to be in a familiar setting and reconnecting with this city and region that I love so much.  So I decided to list out all the things that make me so happy about this time in DC.  (BTW even though I am living in NoVa, I am going to refer to it as DC.  I know this is controversial, but it's what I'm going to do, so just bear with me.)

It has been such a tragic few weeks for the FS, but I'm going to use this post not to dwell.  As the Secretary said at the transfer of remains ceremony, "So we will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and face the future undaunted."

I adore the training I'm taking - every day is more interesting than the next, and I am pretty much bursting at the seams to get to post and actually do this work.  I come home energized and excited, which makes me more likely to go out and do things at night.

The weather is perfect.  Cool, sunny days with a bit of crispness sneaking in.  The rainy days are spaced out nicely thus far, though there has been a fair amount of crazy weather with them.  But after two years in hot, humid, hazy Jeddah, it's blissful.

Farmers' markets.  There was one afternoon in June in Jeddah when I was just at the end of every rope I had and feeling like nothing was coming together the way I should.  So I spent an hour or so perusing the website of the Arlington Farmers' Market, and the anticipation made me oh so happy.  So my first Saturday in DC I took the metro (!) over to Courthouse and spent a blissful morning perusing the stalls and talking with producers.  I bought exotic mushrooms, locally-sourced scrapple and bratwurst, heirloom tomatoes, fresh pasta, inventive sorbets, fresh baguette, and more.  Since then I've discovered the Ballston Farmers' Market, conveniently on my commute home on Thursday afternoons.  There I find crisp apples, free range chicken, fresh goat cheese, AMAZING crab cakes, flavored honey, and just-baked fruit pies.  Love.  Love.  Love.

Public Transportation.  I have my car here, but I am only taking it out a couple times a week.  The metro is super convenient to where I live, though weekend track work is making train wait times kind of a pain.  But during the week it's super easy to hop into the city for dinner or meandering about.  I can commute to work by shuttle bus, which is also super convenient in terms of times and location.  I rarely drive to work, because the bus is easier. 

Walking.  My FitBit is super happy these days.  My daily step count is through the roof (for me).  I'm motivated to walk those extra few blocks because I can and because it's so pleasant to do so - people yield to pedestrians, every crosswalk has walk signals, the sidewalks are in great condition, and it's safe to walk around without hassle. 

Being at FSI is a lot of fun.  I love the diversity of languages being spoken, in addition to the familiar FS language spoken by clusters of people throughout the campus.  It's not unusual to hear the most random declarations by people involving far-flung locations and improbable (in normal life) travel or work scenarios.  I would provide examples, but it's late and I'm tired and can't think of anything clever.

OMG the food.  First of all, the sheer variety and availability of restaurants.  Imagine my sheer delight to find out that my favorite college Thai place now is located down the street from me!  I will never exhaust the options in even my neighborhood.  I've been loading up on Thai and Vietnamese food (mmmm pho!) but ordered my first pizza yesterday with delicious results.  And yes I do cook (got to use the above-mentioned market finds!), but it's nice to have all these other possibilities as well. 

I'm taking full advantage of being in the area and trying to meet as many FS community members as possible.  I finally met the legendary Jen Dinoia, the always-entertaining Dave Pernal, and the awesome Alex of travel orders in person and look forward to meeting more bloggers and others soon :-).  AFSA and AAFSW are both headquartered here, and I'm enjoying meeting more and more of the people I seek advice from on numerous issues through their various resources.

I'm not exactly saving money these days, but I'll deal with that a bit later.  I'm stocking up for Kampala, consumables and much more.  I bought several modular shelving units at the Container Store this evening (one of my favorite stores ever!) and ended up having great conversations about the FS lifestyle and career with several (awesome!) store employees.  One of them is interested in the FSOT, so I pointed her in the right direction.  I love having these types of encounters - it makes shopping more fun and meaningful to have positive interactions like these without navigating cultural divides.  Don't get me wrong, I love the challenge and excitement of shopping and meeting storekeepers and vendors where I travel and live overseas, but it's nice to be around Americans every now and again.  I had similarly awesome experiences at Origins and The Body Shop last week and pretty much most of my store trips. 

On that note, who wouldn't love the proximity of Wegmans and Trader Joe's?  I don't think I need to even explain this one. 

One of the wonderful things about being in DC is the sheer number of awesome friends who are here.  I run into friends and colleagues every day at FSI, and we do a pretty good job of organizing ourselves for get-togethers, and it's awesome to reconnect and share stories and laugh and commiserate and dream about future posts.  I also love reconnecting from great friends from throughout my life and have been fortunate to see several already.  Lots of laughs and reminiscing and catching up and general merriment.  I also have a lot of family in the area and look forward to some fun family outings soon too.

And I would be remiss if I didn't include the setting itself - the beautiful city of DC.  I spent most of last weekend traversing some of the most well-traveled (and a few less-traveled) monuments and memorials and buildings for a series of photography classes, which was great fun.  Perhaps I'll get motivated enough to upload photos at some point in the near future!  Whether it was gazing at the White House, thanking Korean War veterans for their service at the Korean War Memorial, finding the echo point at the Albert Einstein statue, people-watching at the National Sculpture Garden, or gazing at the magnificent architecture of Union Station, it was so much fun to revisit all of these familiar and beloved sights.  It made me realize how privileged I am to represent our amazing country, and I'm thankful that I get the opportunity to periodically return to Washington, our nation's capital, to reconnect.  On my DC bucket list for this stay:  finally getting to the American Indian museum, visiting the new MLK Jr. memorial, browsing Eastern Market, and walking from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building - one of my favorite walks in the world.  I hope to do much more, of course, but I need to keep the wish list reasonable to motivate myself to actually do all of these things!

And now, I need to get to bed so I can wake up in time for one of my other favorite DC wonders - grocery delivery!  I get my beloved seltzer delivered in bulk so I don't have to lug it to and from the car and up elevators and down hallways.  It's well worth the delivery charge.