Archive for March, 2010

A marathon, not a sprint

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

People often say that learning a new language is a marathon, not a sprint and I sure believe it!

I took a needed break yesterday from Hebrew study and went shopping with my good friend Cathy for formal dresses. We had so much fun! We were primarily shopping for her, since she’ll be leaving in a couple of months. We found several beautiful things for her, and I found a cute cocktail dress for me.

Then last night, John and I met a man from our A-100 class and his wife for dinner at a great Cajun place. It was fun to catch up with them. And, the food was great. I had the best soup I’ve ever had in my life!

This week in our area studies class, three Middle Eastern journalists spoke, including the director of Al Jazeera. Very interesting!

Two local staff from Juarez, Miriam and Katy, were here for a class, so we took them to a happy hour on Tuesday for Elise’s going-away. On Wednesday afternoon, I took them on an outing to Main State’s gift shop for souvenirs. They had a lot of fun, and I think it was a good break from the unsettling times in Juarez.

Friday was a light day because one of our teachers was absent. That afternoon we stayed at school to study, then caught the shuttle downtown to another going-away happy hour.

Other than that, the week was filled with studying and more studying…the marathon that it is!

And then everything changed

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

The week started out great. Last Sunday morning we drove over to Richard’s apartment for bruch with a small group of friends – good food, good conversation (Richard is an outstanding host). Then John got an email about the murder of a Consulate employee in Juarez. We immediately commandeered Richard’s computer to find details.

To our horror, the woman who was killed, Lesley, was a dear co-worker of mine in the American Citizen Services section – we had just been emailing the week before. I wish I could convey what a wonderful, beautiful person she was, inside and out.

Needless to say, all of us associated with Juarez are in shock and still trying to understand what happened…and why.

The rest of the week seems sort of irrelevant after that news. We studied a lot. Wednesday, our Hebrew class had an interesting trip to the Israeli Embassy here in DC, where we met and listened to their diplomats.

Thursday we went to two different happy hours. The first one, in Chinatown, was to meet one of the local staff from the Embassy in Tel Aviv. He seemed like a great guy, and I look forward to working with him later this year. The second one was with our A-100 classmates – it was good to laugh with them.

We also managed to squeeze in a few movies. “Stolen,” a documentary about the Gardner art heist; “The Lemon Tree,” with our favorite Middle Eastern actress; and “A Serious Man,” the Coen Brothers’ new movie, which we really enjoyed (mostly we appreciated the scenes of the boy in Hebrew class, as Pam predicted!).

Flavie continues to come out a bit more, and has even started to play again and sit in our laps some!

With Lesley at the Consulate Christmas party last December

Familiar faces

Sunday, March 14th, 2010










Tom, Justin, Ale, Mikey and Beth

It was a treat to see Ale and Mikey, from ACS in Ciudad Juarez! They were here for a training class at FSI, so we organized a Juarez happy hour at Harry’s. I think the hardest part about leaving Juarez was leaving the local staff (like Ale and Mike), so it was great to see them again!

In our Area Studies class this week, we heard a very interesting expert on the Arab Peninsula  – this gentleman has been studying that area for 47 years. He talked for three hours without notes! Very engaging, and his Southern drawl added to his charm. We also had a Purim party on Thursday afternoon with our fellow Hebrew students and instructors, as a way to learn about the Jewish holidays.

We had a few social outings this week that eased the pain of studying so much. We had dinner with Richard on Sunday night (at Harry’s…um, do you see a pattern?), and went to a small dinner party last night at Cathy’s apartment – great food and interesting conversation.

We also watched “Up  in the Air,” which we really enjoyed (it brought back fond memories for John of being on the road and hitting “platinum” status). I finished a very good book, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” by Muriel Barbery, loaned to me by my friend Jim. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s been a nice rainy weekend here in DC…makes it a little easier to stay inside and study. On the Flavia front, I bought a plug-in that emits feline pheromones – it’s supposed to be calming to cats. I’m not sure if it’s just my imagination, but it does seem like she is coming out more and even playing a bit.

Plugging away

Sunday, March 7th, 2010










Lucky shamrock from Pete and Ginger

We’re just plugging away in Hebrew. We pretty much are just going to class and coming home to study for several more hours. Not fun! But we do have our moments of respite.

On Wednesday, we went on a field trip with our instructors to the Holocaust Museum – John and I had not been there before. It’s a wonderful museum – great architecture and presentation of an unbelievable time in history. We were lucky enough to be there on a day when they had a Holocaust survivor speak, a series called “First Person.” The woman we heard was incredible – in her 90s and fascinating. She was a young mother when she was sent to Auschwitz.

The nice thing about our Hebrew department is that it’s small – there are probably only 10-12 of us, so it has a cozy feeling to it. (There is only one other person in class with John and me.)

We watched “Gran Torino” this week – it’s an excellent Clint Eastwood movie (and he is not usually one of my favorites). And we caught up on some Law & Order episodes we had taped.

Saturday we literally studied all day, then we celebrated with a nice dinner out at Harry’s.

We’ve started calling Flavia the vampire cat. She stays under the bed all day, then comes out at night for limited visits. I’m not sure if she is scared, or what – she has always slept all day anyway, but sometimes she doesn’t even come out for breakfast. Hopefully she will get more comfortable. Last week, the maid came and scared her to death. After literally turning the apartment (including beds and sofas) upside-down, John found her behind the refrigerator. We’ve asked housekeeping not to vacuum in hopes they won’t scare her so much; we can do it ourselves with less trauma to her, I think.

Oy vey!

Monday, March 1st, 2010










With Gil and Lee

I got so caught up in learning Hebrew that I completely forgot to blog yesterday! There just aren’t enough hours in a day.

We’re happy being back in DC! Last Sunday, our sweet friend Jim hosted a dinner party for us. We got to visit with Jim, Sarah, Richard and Cathy – so nice! And, Jim’s a great cook!

We eased into Hebrew class – Monday was an orientation day, so we just took “what’s your learning style” tests, met the instructors, etc. It’s fun to see so many familiar faces in the hallways at FSI (Foreign Service Institute) – folks from A-100 and from Juarez – it’s great! That night, we went to a friend’s apartment upstairs to meet her new husband –  we were in A-100 with her, and she married a man she met on her first tour.

Every Tuesday morning, we have an area studies class where we learn about the Middle East (and the Fertile Crescent, as “we” are called). This week we had two interesting speakers on Iran. I thought the first one was very interesting – he talked about the Iran perspective and why they may feel like they do about the outside world.

Tuesday night, John took me to Harry’s (our favorite restaurant) for an early anniversary dinner – 14 years! (Wednesday was our actual anniversary.)

We continued easing into Hebrew on Wednesday, since it was an “admin” day – which for us means the usual one hour of lab, but only two hours of class (as opposed to four). We were off the rest of the day, so we headed to Main State at Foggy Bottom to re-new our security badges…where we ran into more old friends while we waited.

So, Thursday was our first full day, and man, did it make my head hurt! Hebrew is…well, hard! When we (finally) got out of class, John and I moved into our permanent apartment – we wanted an upper floor apartment in our old building, and one became available – we love it! (Flavie wasn’t thrilled with getting in the carrier one more time, though!)

We ended the evening by running over to a local watering hole to say hi to my old Hot Springs buddies, Gilford and Lee. I never really knew Lee that well, but really enjoyed getting to know him. (He was a couple of years ahead of me in high school.) He’s been in DC for years, primarily working for USA Today – a really neat guy. And it was a treat to see Gil again after –  what? 25 years? – he hasn’t changed a bit, as you can see from the picture above.

Friday was another full day of class, but we celebrated the end of the week by having dinner with our old Juarez friends Beth and Tom at a nearby Lebanese restaurant. It was great to catch up with her – Beth left Juarez last summer, so we had lots to talk about.

It was nice to sleep in on Saturday, but we still had studying to do during the day. That night, we headed downtown with our A-100 friend Cathy (who lives in our apartment complex) to a very festive party.

Sunday was…well, more studying (you can see a pattern here). We did take a long break to watch the US-Canada gold medal hockey game (who knew hockey was so fun?), and we started watching a good Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino.”

So, it was back to classes today, but at least I remembered to blog!