Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Week In Pictures

Our rental condo - hardwood floors, granite counters - quite nice!
Falls Church Farmers Market Bounty
Crazy Fungi

Good Luck Plants from MB and Bill!
My first day of work - notice the suit jacket - I have to wear one EVERYDAY!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'mmmmm Back

I survived. I survived my first week of training as a Foreign Service Health Practitioner. Holy Smokes - 1 1/2 years after applying all the stars were aligned and it happened I actually started work. The week was completely overwhelming. Monday morning we were to report to "Main State" which is the block long building in downtown DC for in-processing. This means at the end of 8 hours you get a badge. I somehow navigated my sweaty-self to the right place and the day began.

To back up a bit...we arrived in Virginia at our new house on Saturday afternoon and had a remarkably easy check in. Eric unloaded the car in EIGHT trips and I put O down for a nap and started unpacking. We are staying in a condo in a suburb of DC called Falls Church. Its a pretty nice set up. The place is fully furnished and the complex has a pool. Its not bad at all. We have sorted out where to grocery shop and where the closest subway stop is, so things are OK.

Our old friends - Kelli and Michael - who we met in Guyana and are with the FS - are here for the next two weeks until they leave for their first post in Costa Rica. It is really nice to hang out with folks who know where things are and can give us a little insight into life out here.

My orientation with the FS is at a place called the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center also known as the Foreign Service Institute. Its quite a nice campus about 15 minutes from our place. It has the air of a community college crossed with a community center. It has a cafeteria, gym, classrooms and all the other assorted offices that make a school function. There are paths all around the buildings where the smokers hang out and the only really big difference is the security that you have to pass through to access the campus.

Most of my days are spent in a classroom learning everything there is to know about the FS or at least hearing all this new information and hoping that I will remember it when I need it. The FS is divided into Generalists and Specialists. The G's are what you think about when you think about the FS. The S's are the rest of us - they are people who are already trained in a certain area of expertise. S's include human resources, administration, medical, security and others I am forgetting. My class includes all S's. When looking at the initial schedule for this three weeks of orientation; I thought three weeks was way too long to spend on orientation. After surviving my first week, I am so glad we have a long orientation. I have learned so much about the government, about what it means to be a diplomat, about how these HUGE systems work. Our class was asked "what branch of the government do you work for?". YIKES, didn't I learn that in 8th grade civics class and promptly forget it after the quiz. Turns out, I work for the executive branch and at the very top of the DOS chain of command is Hillary Clinton.

During this last week, I have also met with the medical staff. These are the same folks I had my oral assessments with and they are all so nice. Once I finish my general FS orientation, I will complete three weeks with medical and I am really excited about this. I get to take a two day parasitology class and learn a bunch of other things about how to med-evac someone and hopefully, how not to have a nervous breakdown.

The biggest news of the last week was the distribution of my "bid list". This is a list of posts that are open for my position - that I can "bid" on. I took one look at my list and thought "Africa here we come". Honestly, world geography is not my strongest suit and the bid list only lists the post locations. HELP! But when I looked at the list I thought the names all looked vaguely African (what does an African word look like?) and turns out they were all African: Niger, Nigeria and Rwanda or Neamay, Lagos and Kigali. We knew there was a good chance we were going to be in Africa as most FSHP (Foreign Service Health Practitioners) serve in more rural areas but still it was a shock to get the bid list. The FS is an amazing resource for everything you ever wanted to know about a potential place you might live so Eric and I went to work doing our research on each country. We both came to the same conclusion - Rwanda.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Today makes day 6 on the road and thankfully our last overnighter. Didn't post yesterday cause I was out shopping with my friend Teresa. This road trip followed a path across the country where we didn't know many people so we didn't have the diversion of hanging out with friends. Last night was the exception - we planned the trip so that we would arrive in Wheaton around noon and have the afternoon off to play with Teresa and her family. It was a great reprieve. We splashed in the pool, ate Thai for lunch, pub grub for dinner and I was at Target until 10pm. What a night! Thanks so much Wrenn Family.

47 miles into our trip today we crossed from Illinois into Indiana also known at the "Crossroads of America" though when I just googled their nickname it said it was known as the "Prairie State". All I know is that the gi-normous sign at the state line said "WELCOME TO INDIANA - CROSSROADS OF AMERICA". When in reality what it should have said was "WELCOME TO INDIANA - TOLL ROADS SUCK ALL YOUR MONEY". Seriously, I have never been in a state with so many toll roads. I imagine its no big deal if you have the IPASS or the EZPASS but if you just have cold hard cash you have to slow down, stop, throw money into a bin or give it to an attendant. Wowza it makes the journey so much slower.

We stopped for lunch at one of these middle of the road traveler stations they have on these toll roads. We ate and ran around for a bit and as Eric was loading the car, O and I were watching a HUGE charter bus. My son has a thing for buses (does every male child have this same thing?). He can get a bit obsessed with them and will repeatedly say "bu bu bu bu" which in his-speak means BUS! So there we are watching all the old folks get on the bus and all of a sudden the driver walks down the steps and asks O if he wants to get on the bus. He ran for the steps and with minimal assistance made it up to the cheering of about 50 people. He smiled and waved and was friends with everyone. He then promptly sat down in the middle of the aisle and told me to close the door so we could go for a ride. I know sometimes I shake my head when people tell their kid stories but this one was worth the re-telling even from this smitten mamma.

201 miles into our daily journey we made it into Ohio and to Eastern Standard Time. Tonight we are staying in Youngstown at a sweet Marriott with a bedroom door that closes. If you have ever tried staying the night with a toddler in a regular hotel room you know what a treat a suite is.

Roadkill count:
Today - NONE
Yesterday - Deer 6, badger (?) 1

Funniest Names:
Today - NONE, you know why? Cause you don't see any towns from the Toll Roads
Yesterday - Beefaroo Restaurant and Menards ("my nards are killing me" - direct quote from E) Home Improvement Store

Not sure what the Internet story will be like at our new home but will post again soon. Until then...please send positive vibes my way for my first day of work on Monday. I have some serious butterflies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeling Cheesy

Late start getting on the road today and damn if I am not a grumpy girl. Have I just gotten older and the thought of living out of a backpack has lost its allure? 89 miles into our drive today we left behind South Dakota and crossed into Minnesota - not that you could really tell the difference. I have found that to be true with most state border crossings - unless there is a sign you really can't tell one state from the other. Before leaving South Dakota we made one last pit stop at KINGS LIQUOR - alcohol in SD is cheap and what better time to stock up. We had lunch in Albert Lea, MN and ate in a park with some kids toys. Do you remember those old school wide metal flat slides? That's what they had in this park - it was crazy hot - and as Eric slid down first guess who got a singed backside? I don't know what was funniest watching him try to get down the slide faster or watching O watch his reaction.

Tonight we are in Mauston, WI - somewhere in the vicinity of Madison which has signs all over town advertising their cheese! We are staying at the craziest hotel. Orion is sleeping in the closet, there is a jacuzzi in the corner of the room, green carpet throughout. Let's just say we were desperate by the time we passed this town on the freeway. Tomorrow we are staying with Teresa in Chicago (Wheaton to be precise) and we are really looking forward to some good food and catching up.

Roadkill Count:
Skunk 2
Deer 2
Raccoon 2
Unidentifiable mass 2

Funniest Convenience Store Name:
Kum and Go (what's up with the spelling?)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 3

and it's starting to show. This is not how the Ali Crew normally does road trips. Usually we drive here and there and follow our noses to interesting restaurants, to hot springs, to whatever catches our fancy. Not on the trip, Batman. This is a nose to the grindstone, get your ass across the country kinda trip. Like today, I wanted to detour to see Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower and Yellowstone - this would've added at least another day onto our trip and yours truly has to "report for duty on Monday at 0730" so needless to say we kept driving. Eric logged 526 miles today and that is no easy feat. Typing it doesn't sound so bad but DAMN those last 50 miles were enough to kill me. I really can't believe what a little trooper O has been. It's a good thing he was raised riding in the car or this would be torture. Today we stopped at at Wall Drug, South Dakota for lunch. It was horrible - in fact, the entire lunch break sucked big testicles (we saw a sign for a Testicle Festival - that's where that came from). The place was packed with crazy tourists and cameras and it was not very O friendly. We finally got lunch to go - drove into a Days Inn Hotel parking lot and used their picnic table. I was about to jump in their pool, too, that's about how desperate we were getting. Luckily, iced coffee for me and an lemon energy drink for E made us feel better and we hit the road hoping SD wouldn't be a total bust. Tonight we are in Mitchell, home of the world famous CORN PALACE . We took a drive around town and I gotta tell you South Dakota is not the place for me.

Roadkill Count:
Deer 5
Skunks 4
Coyote (?) 1

Live Animals:
A ton of antelope - holy smokes it was like in the song "ohhh give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deers and the antelope play" they are awesome looking creatures.

Funniest Mini-Mart Names:
The Whoa and Go
Loaf and Jug

We also got a little delirious and started talking about what we would name our farm or ranch should we ever own one...here are the top contenders:
1. Rough Rider Ranch or R3
2. Almosta Ranch (said with a Spanish accent)
3. Gay Meadows
4. Happy Go Lucky Ranch
5. Lovin Life Farm
6. Open Spaces

OK - now that you have a sense of the craziness that overtakes when you wind your way through endless amounts of prairie...have a good night. Tomorrow we should be in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


and then we arrived in Sheridan, WYOMING.

Road Kill Count:

Unidentifibale mass - 3
Deer - 2
Large bird - 1
Racoon - 2
Skunk - 2

Energy drinks consumed - 4 by Eric and 3 coffees by me

Crossed mountain pass #3 - Pipestone Pass in Butte, Montana.

We loved Bozeman, Montana and maybe put it on the list of potential places to "settle". Drove through Hardin, Montana border town to "Crow Country"

Heading out right now...more details to come.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Journey of a Million Miles

begins with 467. That is how many miles we drove today. We left Auburn with tears in our eyes, heavy hearts and many deep sighs. The first miles were slow and sad and then things began to look up. The weather has been beautiful today - blue skies and above 70 the whole way. We had lunch in Ritzville, WA (ever heard of it? me neither!) and crossed over the panhandle of Idaho (aka The Gem State) to arrive in Missoula in The Treasure State. Tomorrow our plan is to make it to a state who's nickname is The Equality State. What's your guess...

Roadkill seen today - 2 deer and 1 porcupine

Coffees consumed today - only 2 can you believe it?

Strangest thing seen today - one really old Chevy truck on fire on the side of the road

Can't download pictures in this hotel's computer...but here's a good one anyways.

Thursday, June 10, 2010