Archive for July, 2007

Two, Four, Six, Eight…

Sunday, July 29th, 2007


With Nate, Ariel (Bangladesh) and Aaron (China)

…Let’s go adjudicate! That’s John’s little cheer for our duty on the passport task force. I joined John at SA-44 to process the huge backlog of passports – the work is actually not bad. It’s kind of voyeuristic – you get a little glimpse into people’s lives. I also think it’s interesting to see the array of old birth certificates that people send in. It was funny because John had several applications from people from Little Rock, one belonging to a programmer he worked with many years ago at Systematics. John’s been especially proud of “making Americans” – he’s had several cases where the passport he issued was the first piece of paper that minors have to prove they are Americans (these come about when the parent of a minor child becomes a naturalized citizen…at that point, the child becomes a citizen, too). The only down side is that we have to work on Saturdays, which makes for a very short weekend.

One thing I find really odd is that my Toastmaster friend Amy told me that Brady Post Office in Little Rock recently had a passport fair, where people stood in line for hours to fill out passport applications! There are already about three million passports in backlog – State has flown FSOs in from posts around the world, re-hired retirees and delayed our departure to our first posts in order to process the backlog…so I’m not sure why a local post office seems to think we need more passports to process! Oh, well!

For our sole day off this week, we went to Baltimore for a baseball game (Orioles v. Yankees) with some of our classmates. We drove up to Camden Yards with Sarah and Aaron. Bad traffic, but a great day for a game – it kept threatening rain, so there was no sun and nice cool breezes.

I read a great book this week, A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah. He was a boy soldier in Sierra Leone in the early 90s. Fascinating and well-written.

Camden Yards

Getting crabby

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Blue Crab and Blue Moon

The weather this weekend has been incredible, so we drove up near Annapolis today to have crabs. We went to Mike’s Crab House at the recommendation of a classmate, and it was great. We sat outside by the water and watched a family of ducks while we made total messes of ourselves with crabs – yummy! We also drove through downtown Annapolis while we were in the neighborhood.

John started working on the Passport Task Force this week (including Saturday), which means he is no longer at the FSI campus. Instead, he’s working downtown and takes the Metro to work every day.  Thanks to him, several hundred more people got their passports processed this week. I’ll start tomorrow morning, too.

Last night, we went with two friends to see the new Harry Potter movie and then out for drinks and a bite to eat afterwards. Again, the weather was so pleasant, we found a good little bar and sat outside. Earlier in the week, we enjoyed happy hour (complete with oysters) at Clyde’s downtown with our classmates.

Otherwise, the week was pretty calm. I was in a training class most of the week to learn how to adjudicate passports. The Task Force requires that we work 48 hours per week, so most days John worked 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., then part of the day on Saturday. I expect to do the same, which is going to require a re-work of my morning routine. I’ve been going to the gym every morning to walk on the treadmill, but I don’t think I can continue to do that and still catch the Metro by 6:10 a.m. Hmmmm.

Anyway, here’s a photo of Noodle sitting in one of his favorite new spots in the apartment (above the refrigerator).

We’re official

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Sarah and John

We picked up our diplomatic passports on Friday, so I guess that means we’re official now! We celebrated by having lunch downtown at Old Ebbitt Grill. They have an oyster menu, which I had never seen. We got a sampler dozen, and it really was interesting to taste the differences between them all, based on where they were from.

The rest of the week was pretty fun. Whitney and Ali hosted a happy hour for a few of us going to Juarez on Tuesday. Thursday night was our regular class happy hour at a place in Clarendon. Saturday night was an impromptu BBQ with several classmates up at the grill – it was especially fun because there were some classmates who don’t live at the Oakwood who came, too.

Saturday during the day, John and I went to a protocol class. Who knew I had been doing so many things so wrong for so long?! One of the speakers, Sheila Switzer, was especially interesting and great fun to listen to.

On the cat front, we have apparently weaned Noodle from his Prozac, although he still takes a small dose of Lasix daily for his heart. It’s funny, because without the Prozac, he’s a lot more vocal (more of the Siamese yowl) and he goes through spells where he runs around like a banshee for a few minutes, several times a day. But, so far no litter box problems or apparent anxiety, which is what prompted us to start the Prozac to begin with. Keep your fingers crossed. Flavia continues to come out of her shell, and is becoming a nice little lap-cat. She’s still jumpy, but can now sit by the sliding glass door and see people outside without getting spooked all of the time.

Changing course

Monday, July 9th, 2007

With friends at Old Town Alexandria

You’ve probably heard about the backlog of passports – this week, we were recruited to help. John will start his passport training this morning, and I’ll start mine next Monday. After four days of training, we’ll be adjudicating passports until August 31st which will delay our arrival in Juarez a little bit.

On Saturday, one of our favorite people, Sarah (sitting next to me in the photo above), took us to Old Town Alexandria. We did a self-guided walking tour, stopping for lunch and libations along the way. It’s a neat place to go, on the waterfront with lots of shops, restaurants, and historic places. Afterwards, we dropped in on a going away party for our neighbors who are headed to Conakry, Guinea.

We had a fun happy hour on Thursday where we celebrated the marriage of one of our classmates, followed by a great Turkish dinner at Attilla’s.

We spent the 4th at home, not wanting to fight the crowds (and the rains) on the Mall. Instead we cooked out with some friends and just took it easy.

Here’s a great shot of John with DPAS Kathleen Stephens on Flag Day!

Life as usual

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Mary’s cookout 

So we’re just rocking along…I’m doing Rosetta Stone on the computer everyday for Spanish, and John has been in Western Hemisphere area studies. We had a fun week – Tuesday night was dinner with our classmates who are also assigned to various places in Mexico. Thursday night was dinner with folks in our class and other classes before us who are going to Mexico. Thursday night’s dinner was at a great little Tex-Mex restaurant called El Paso – it was as close to La Palapa in Little Rock that we’ve found – so good that we went back for lunch on Saturday!

Saturday night we had a class going away party – some of our classmates will be leaving in the next few weeks. It was a really fun party.

On Sunday, John and I headed to the Museum of Natural History – super cool! From there, we walked through the Folklife Festival on the Mall, all the way down to the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. We made a stop to see Einstein’s statue behind the State Department, then back home.

I finished reading The Kite Runner – what a great read! Thanks to Cousin Dail for the recommendation.

With Abe