Friday, August 27, 2010

Project Hummingbird

Nia got a hummingbird feeder last weekend. Paul’s brother Ray and his wife Mary have one up at their vacation home in Deep Creek Lake, MD and it attracts quite a few hummingbirds. We were there again this past weekend for a family reunion and Nia was captivated by the tiny birds. Mary, who is an absolute sweetheart, had an extra feeder and gave it to Nia.

Nia and I did some research online and found a recipe for the nectar. It’s really just 4 parts water to 1 part sugar but it needs to be boiled (and cooled) before putting in the feeder to make sure there are no contaminants because that could harm the hummingbirds. They also suggest changing the nectar and cleaning the feeder weekly for the same reason.

Anyway, we put the nectar in the feeder and hung it in the tree by our dining room window this past Tuesday. I didn’t expect we’d attract hummingbirds because the area is very shady but sure enough today we spotted one. We were all glued to the window watching the little bird come and go for quite a while. It was awesome! Nia was totally delighted!

I tried to snap a few pictures but it was quite tricky with the bird being so small and my camera really not up to the task. The pictures don’t do it justice but here are a couple anyway.

IMG_8286 IMG_8292 IMG_8300

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pregnant Woman vs. Bid List

Last evening started out like any other in our household. We read books with Nia and put her to bed around 8 p.m. The house got nice and quiet, so I decided to check my email and read my blog faves. I was struggling to stay awake, as has become my habit since I got knocked up pregnant. All the baby-production going on in my body is making me exhausted and sooooo sleepy, so I was nodding off at the laptop, when I heard Paul say, “Wanna see the bid list?” I was like “Huh?”

It took my sleepy, pregnant brain a moment to register what he was saying but the realization sent a mega dose of dopamine throughout my brain and all of a sudden I was fully awake and my mind was going 100 miles an hour, “The bid list’s here!!! OMG! OMG! OMG! Are you kidding me - of course, I want to see it. We’ve been waiting for that thing FOR, like, EVER!”

So we sat down and stared at it. My mother realized something was up, so she came over and started asking questions. We explained what was going on. Around 9:30 p.m. my mom had had enough and went to bed. At 10 p.m. Paul called it a day too. Not me. I was way too excited and anxious to go to bed because for the first time in a long time we had something specific to look at that narrowed down the number of possibilities for our second post. I was on a mission and not at all interested in sleeping anymore.

A little background (in case you are new to this blog): In order to get tenured, Paul is required to serve in a consular position and learn a language in the first 5 years with the Foreign Service. He is in the Public Diplomacy cone. His first post – eDiplomacy in DC doesn’t satisfy either of the tenure requirements, so the second post has to.

Back to the bid list. First, I removed all the posts that were not consular. Then of those that were, I had to say a teary Buh Bye to lovely posts like Johannesburg, Sydney, Auckland and a few others because they didn’t require a language (damn!). That left me with 171 consular posts that require language, to play with. Of them, we have to bid on 20, in order of preference.

And this is when I let my imagination run wild and created multiple top 20 versions. I know some of you are dying to know, so here’s the spoiler alert - a few of our favorite posts, for which we may or may not qualify due to timing constraints: Casablanca, Istanbul, Skopje, Prague, Moscow, Havana, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Bangkok, Athens, Beijing, Taipei, Almaty, Amman, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Budapest, Rio, Berlin, San Jose and more but I better stop before I get in trouble. Oh, yeah, there were no posts in Bulgaria, again, but that’s OK. Guess it wasn’t meant to be…

I was missing a key piece of information in order to do any meaningful prioritization: namely, the length of time Paul will be in mandatory functional training. Knowing that is crucial because you have to submit 20 realistic bids, which means that the date you are done with all your training (language and functional) can’t be more than 2 months apart from the date your 20 desired posts start. Figuring that out can be tricky because even though all posts are consular, some require different training, so the length of training will vary. So, as much as I would have liked to, I was not in a position to complete the exercise. Not that I really had to. Our top 20 list is not due for weeks.

Anywho, around 1 a.m. my body crashed and I decided to go to bed. But my brain was still in serious overdrive, so I kept tossing ant turning and thinking about various posts. I must have finally zonked around 3 a.m. but at 4:30 a.m. Paul woke up and so did I. It’s around noon now and I am in desperate need of some Zs but it’s just not happening.

I was a mess with our first bid list too but nothing like this and I am not quite sure why…

In any case, in this battle of Crazy Pregnant Woman vs. Bid List, the Bid List won.

Stay tuned for more bid list drama…

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Frying Pan Park/Farm

Last weekend we went to Frying Pan Park with some FS friends and their kids. The park is close to Dulles Airport and has a lot of farm animals as well as a playground and picnic tables. It’s a good place to take the kids if they want to see/pet animals. Here are some pictures from our adventure.


Diplomats on a farm – Greta, Doug, Jason, Paul and Charlie



Three pregnant ladies and a cute little girl – Greta (almost 30 wks pregnant), Carrie (20 wks), moi (10 wks) and Mila.



Diplokids and farm animals


Friday, August 6, 2010

Bid List Blues

So the Foreign Service blogosphere has been abuzz with chatter about bit lists. The new A-100 class that started this past Monday got their bid list a couple of days ago and are feverishly researching their posts. The 2011 Summer Bid List is also out and everyone who’s bidding this summer is discussing the possibilities, mostly in vague terms for fear of getting in trouble because the bid lists are not to be shared publicly. By the way, does anyone know why the bid lists are not public? If so, could you please explain. Inquiring minds want to know.

We (meaning Paul) are also supposed to bid right about now but don’t have our bid list yet. We checked out the 2011 Summer Bid List thinking it may be what we should be looking at and someone forgot to let us know. Apparently not. Turns out the 2011 Summer Bid List is for tenured Foreign Service Officers (which Paul is not yet) bidding on post 3 or higher (we’ll be bidding on our second post, our first post being DC).

Paul got a note a week or so ago saying that he’ll be getting the bid list in the next few weeks but that was it – no further explanation. Patience is not my virtue, so I have been urging Paul to ask for more info but he  is CDO-less right now (CDO = Career Development Officer). The woman, who was his CDO, got an overseas assignment and has moved on. We are told that there’s no replacement yet. Besides, Paul is not the type to ask questions. He’ll just wait until they tell him what to do.

So we are waiting again... And I’m thinking, waiting has got to be the one activity every FS family loves to hate.  But we have no choice. We have to wait… For our bid list... For our new CDO… For Godot…

We did sneak a peek at the 2011 Summer Bid List and there were some really cool posts there. We know it’s pointless to look at any bid list but our own but a little dreaming never hurt anyone, right? Plus, it makes the waiting a little more bearable.

Of course, because of tenure requirements, our bid list will be very limited this time around. In order to get tenure, new FSOs have to serve in a consular position and learn (or know) a language at a predetermined level, which depends on how hard a language is. Paul’s first position is in his cone, Public Diplomacy, so his second one kinda has to be consular.

Paul also tested with Bulgarian during A-100 in order to satisfy the language requirement but didn’t pass. Shameful, I know, considering his wife of 13 years is Bulgarian, which gives him infinite FREE opportunities to practice!!! That same wife also has a stack of Bulgarian language books, which she has been placing strategically in various very conspicuous spots around the house, to be picked up at any time, you know, for practice, should anyone be interested,… only to see them put away by the reluctant student. In his defense, the student has been reluctant because he passed the phone test (also in Bulgarian), without preparation, when he was on the Foreign Service register last winter and got his bump-up points, which made him perhaps a little too confident in his Bulgarian skillz.

But I digress… Where was I? Oh, yes, so, we’ll be bidding on consular positions that require language this time, which will probably render a large chunk of the bid list off limits for us but getting tenured in the first 4 or so years is a must, so we have to comply.

So in the meantime, I am praying to the Second Post Untenured FSO Bid List God(s) to have mercy and send us our bid list pronto and assign us a new CDO, so we can move on to the next stage in the FS Waiting Game…

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