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Monday, July 11, 2011

ConGen, Baby!

Today was my first day of Basic Consular (a.k.a. ConGen) training at FSI (the Foreign Service Institute), where US diplomats learn their craft.

No, I did not become a FSO (Foreign Service Officer) overnight. My candidacy is still in the works and will probably take another year and a half but as the spouse of an FSO, I am eligible to take classes at FSI, if there is space available. I have been trying to get into ConGen since March.

In order to qualify for ConGen, I had to take a 75 minute pre-test, which was not a problem. Then I was placed on a waiting list. Getting into ConGen as a spouse is especially hard in the summer because that’s transfer season and that’s when most FSO’s need training. FSOs, understandably, get priority for training classes at FSI, so I was waiting and waiting but nothing was happening.

I had been checking in with the powers that be to see if there’s any room at all in any of the ConGen classes. Up until the middle of last week, I was told that, unfortunately, there was no ConGen for me. Boo!

So, I had lost hope and was warming up to the idea of spending the summer at home with the kids and my Mom. Then last Thursday I got a call. Someone had to cancel and all of a sudden there was a seat in one of the classes starting on Monday (today). Would I be willing to take it?

Would I? Would I? Are you kidding? I had been waiting for something like that to happen since March and now that I had my chance, I wasn’t going to miss it. I immediately accepted. So, now the kids are home on vacation and it’s back to school for Mommy (and very soon Daddy).

But that’s OK because I think I may actually like it. I can’t write about any of the material covered in class but so far it seems fascinating, especially for someone who has been on the receiving end of consular services both as an immigrant and a US Citizen. Of course, it’s only been one day. Ask me again in a couple of weeks when I am buried in reading materials and case studies and have to prepare for my exams. Yes, there are four exams too, though in all honesty they are open book but still, I am bracing myself for a lot of work.

So, I’ll be in ConGen till 8/22. After that I get to relax for a couple of weeks. Then, on 9/6, I am tentatively enrolled to start Hindi at FSI, if there’s space available again. If I get in, I’ll be studying Hindi until I am blue in the face 3/31/2012.

Paul is starting his training next week. First, he has a couple of days of security training, then ConGen (in a different section) and then Hindi from 9/6 to 3/31/2012 as well.

So, that’s that. Now I need to go catch some fitful Zs in between baby feedings because I gotta go to class in the morning…

Friday, July 8, 2011

Janel’s Visit

Our friend Janel visited us for a long weekend a few weeks ago. Both Paul and I used to work with her in Florida. We liked her a lot but didn’t get a chance to hang out together as much as we wanted to, so we had a great time reconnecting. We talked a lot and ate maybe even more. One night we went to Adams Morgan and ate at a Turkish restaurant. The food was really good. The rest of the time we cooked and ate at home. My Mom made Bulgarian food one day. I cooked Indian the other. We did some sight seeing. Good times!

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But the highlight of the weekend for us was Janel taking pictures of the family. You see, Janel is a badass photographer. She used to work for the U.S. Air Force (Combat Camera), the UN (UNPROFOR) and the St. Petersburg Times. She’s covered some hot spots such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Panama, Liberia and Bosnia. And the Swiders, cause we are hot stuff, that’s why.

The pictures she took of us are nothing short of amazing and we can’t thank her enough. Here are just a few of my favorites:

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Janel is back in school now pursuing a Master’s degree in Strategic Communications Management. She’s looking into moving to the D.C. area when she’s done with her studies at the end of the year. We certainly wish her luck and look forward to spending more time with her and her family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July at Lincoln Memorial

Since this is our last 4th of July before moving to India, we decided to go downtown D.C. Paul and I had done it many years ago when we were young and childless. It was awesome, except getting back home after the fireworks took forever. We decided not to subject the kiddos to the insanity of driving or taking the metro downtown and back. Instead, my smart husband booked us a hotel room a couple blocks from the Mall. Clever fellow, he is!

It worked out really well. We drove downtown around noon yesterday, checked in, relaxed at the hotel for a bit, then had a nice dinner at Bertucci’s before heading over to the Mall. Around 7:30 p.m. we packed our stuff and the kids in our handy-dandy foldable wagon and strolled to the Lincoln Memorial end of the Mall.

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In hindsight, we should have left earlier because the choice spots were already taken. We ended up in a spot that was great if you wanted to enjoy the Lincoln Memorial but less than optimal if you wanted to take pictures of the fireworks with the Washington Monument as a backdrop. We got some nice shots nonetheless (the Washington Monument one would have been nicer if they hadn’t ripped out the Reflecting Pool but oh, well…).

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Around 8 p.m. it started drizzling, which threatened to ruin the whole experience for us but luckily the drizzle lasted only about 15 minutes and the fireworks proceeded without a hitch.

The fireworks were glorious and we all enjoyed them. This was Chutney’s first 4th of July and he marked the occasion by sleeping  right through the very loud fireworks but hey, I am not complaining - he could have been crying the whole time.

Here are a few more pictures:

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