Thursday, December 18, 2014

DC with Dad

This fall I had just six weeks in the DC area to indulge in favorite sights, foods, friends, and fun. I was in training all day every day during the week but still managed to fit in some wonderful fun. First up, a visit with my Dad!

My dad brought me my car from NH when I first got to DC and stayed for a week to soak up history, culture, art, and fun. His stay coincided with some spectacular weather, and we had a great time seeing some new to both of us DC staples. On Saturday we headed to the National Museum of the American Indian, happily visiting on one of the days they were celebrating Day of the Dead. We were treated to some amazing displays of art, singing, and dancing while there. The cafeteria was quite busy and tasty, but I think it was too busy to be truly enjoyable that day. I'll have to go back and choose my foods based not on the shortest lines but by what sounds best.

We walked along the Mall a bit before heading back to VA for Dad's inaugural trip to Wegmans. It was lovely to be back at this oh glorious of food emporiums. We picked up assorted goodies and had a quiet night in. On Sunday we woke up to a power outage, which I realized wasn't as convenient in Uganda as the generator didn't automatically kick in. Luckily the power came on during our outing to Safeway and we were able to get in showers.

First up was a trip to Eastern Market and a wander through the stalls followed by brunch at the Boxcar Tavern. I had bought timed entry tickets to go up the Washington Monument so we headed back downtown and strolled among the Sunday sports leagues and enjoyed that wonderfully DC spectacle. After a visit to the WWII Memorial it was time to go up the monument. Neither of us had gone up before, and it was lovely to see the view of DC from that high up! My favorite part, though, was seeing the commemorative stones placed by various cities, states, and countries from the elevator down. So neat, and something you can't see from outside.

After that we visited the Holocaust Museum, always a somber look at a painful time in history. I hadn't been since high school and, especially having visited Auschwitz since my last visit, it was interesting to better understand some of the exhibits and put them into greater context. The collections (non-permanent) included video segments from Darfur and Syria, both current crises/genocides, depending on how you define them. I won't try to do so here. But seeing some of the footage from refugee camps in Uganda and knowing I'll soon be in Lebanon, these really hit home. We definitely don't always learn from history.

During the rest of the week Dad and I had dinner with my aunt and cousin at a lovely Balkan restaurant in Eastern Market, and D and I introduced him to the wonder of Pho 75. He's a fan of both. On his own that week, while I was at work, he managed to take in the Botanic Garden, the National Gallery, the Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery, National History Museum, most of the monuments - including MLK Jr and Einstein - and the Zoo. Quite a full week; his FitBit was super happy with his walking and gave him uber badges all week.

DC has long been a vacation destination for my family, since we have had family in the area since I was in high school and then with my going to university there and joining the FS. Next time I'm there for any length of time my parents intend to both come and stay for a while. The museums and sights never get old, and there's always something new to see and do (and eat).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keep Calm and Save Diplopundit

Most Foreign Service bloggers and much of the FS community are avid readers of Diplopundit's truly impressive blog. Unfortunately, Domani Spero will be forced to put down her pen at the end of the month as what started as a hobby has turned into a full-time unpaid job. Which is, of course, unsustainable. Fundraising efforts in the last year haven't been lucrative enough for the blog to keep going, and the post we all dreaded about the blog going black went up last week.

Enter an intrepid FSO who started a Go Fund Me campaign to save Diplopundit (thanks for this post's title goes to said FSO). In just two days more than $10k of the necessary $30k has been raised. This is tremendous and illustrates how important Diplopundit is to the entire DOS community. So let's keep up the momentum. Please take a few moments to give whatever you can to save this informative, well-researched, and entertaining news source. We may not always agree with Domani Spero, but her efforts to keep us in the loop of the good, the bad, and the ugly are unparalleled.

Keep Calm and Save Diplopundit!

Edit: as of right now the total raised stands at $19,972. Let's bump this up to $30,000 in the next couple of weeks! Please donate if you haven't already, and spread the word. The FS can't lose this valuable resource.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Home Leave Begins

Let's see if going backwards gets me blogging more regularly!

After a whirlwind and absolutely wonderful seven weeks of training, I am finally home in NH for home leave. I'm sitting in the kitchen at my parents' house, one cat curled up by the woodstove and the other surveying the veritable buffet of birds at the backyard feeder, spectacularly visible against the snow. Don't worry, these are strictly indoor cats, so no birds will be harmed this home leave.

My friend D, of so many Uganda adventures, was in DC at the same time, and she very kindly offered to supervise my UAB packout on Thursday while she had a free afternoon and I was a prisoner of FSI's 100% attendance policy. That's a little harsh since I really enjoyed my FSI classes, but let's just say the contracts with the moving companies being restricted to work hours M-F makes it very hard on single folks, especially those whose consultation days were frontloaded and reserved for actual consultations.

Anyway, the entire pile of UAB must-gos fit, and then the entire pile of if-possibles also fit, with a few pounds of spare for wrapping! I was ecstatic. I proceeded a lovely FS blogger dinner with Nicole, Kelly, and Gretchen at a favorite Thai restaurant with a big sense of relief that my car wouldn't be packed to the gills.

Friday evening D came over to help me pack the car, which went much better than expected. We got 90% of the stuff packed that evening; I just had to add the cats in their carriers and the last couple bags. Easy peasy. Then a final goodbye and a good night's sleep.

Saturday was a perfect day to drive up the East Coast - 45 degrees, sunny with scattered cloud cover, no precipitation, and - most importantly - no traffic. I made it home in nine hours exactly, which was not a moment too soon with two very unhappy traveling companions.

The cats settled into the house with familiar ease, having lived here during a previous home leave and recognizing my parents who they'd seen in the previous months. They spend their days busily exploring every nook and cranny, gazing out the many windows at actual views that a fourth floor apartment with a concrete balcony doesn't offer, and learning the wonders of the warmth of a woodstove.

I'm enjoying not waking up to an alarm (except this morning when I forgot I still had it set to 6:00 on M-F) and general relaxation. I'll ramp up to visiting and shopping and making plans in the next couple of days, but it's quite enjoyable to just being for the first time in many, many months.