Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

Last night, I went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. For the first time.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Let's start from the beginning. One of my A-100 classmates from The Winning 156th sent out a message saying he was going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) on Friday night and asked if anyone wanted to go with him. Now, I've heard of RHPS before, but I knew literally nothing about it before going, other than that people throw things and yell during the movie. I've never seen the movie on TV, and I knew nothing about the RHPS culture.

I was completely flabbergasted by the entire event. First of all, as soon as I arrived, I realized the night was going to be weird. There was a guy wearing nothing but golden underwear, scantily-clad women, and even some (disgustingly) scantily-clad men. Oh, and then while we were waiting to enter, a group of people wheeled a full-size coffin into the theater. Because, that's normal when you go to movies. Riiight.

Luckily, I was attending the RHPS with folks who had seen the show before, so they coached me a little and helped me understand the madness. So, the movie gets rolling, and people immediately begin yelling things. Hilarious things. Witty things. Super vulgar things. But still funny things.

During the movie, we danced the Time Warp (video above), we threw cards, we waved glowsticks, we covered ourselves with newspaper.. we did all kinds of really strange things. But you know what? It was all so much fun. I thoroughly enjoyed myself once I stopped thinking about how absurd it all was.

In summary, it was really a great evening spent with great people. I'd like to do the RHPS again sometime, but I need some time to process it and let it sit first. Maybe in a few years, hahaha.

One last little tidbit: Leslie over at Destination: Diplomacy posted a video the other day that has taken me by storm! I didn't even realize that Will and Jada (Pinkett) Smith had a daughter, but apparently, they do, and she's pretty talented. The video below is her new single that just came out. It's definitely my current guilty pleasure song:

On a slightly related note: what's your guilty pleasure song? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time...peace.

Oh, PS - The Rally to Restore Sanity was GREAT today. No word yet on how many people were there, but there was a massive amount of people there. Well done, Stewart/Colbert.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Quick Status Update

Hey folks. Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I would attribute it to being so incredibly busy with work and having a jam-packed social life, but neither of those would be entirely accurate. Here we go.

I started ConGen (Consular General) training last week. Basically, this six-week training course will teach me the actual day-to-day things I will be doing when I get to CG (Consulate General) Monterrey. So far, I've learned all about passports, nationality, and citizenship. I can adjudicate your passport application with my eyes closed. (ok, maybe not with my eyes closed, but you get the picture.) I can also inform you on how you could possibly expatriate yourself (lose your U.S. citizenship...something I will not ever encourage you to do.) I could even document your child's birth overseas, though just because you're a U.S. citizen doesn't mean your child automatically will be, too. I found that to be very interesting. Before ConGen, I had just assumed that if you were a U.S. citizen, your children would be too, regardless of anything else. Today we started learning about Immigrant visas, and next week we'll start Non-immigrant visas. There is an incredible soup of letters and numbers that go along with each of those sections, but for now, I can tell you about IR1,2,3,4,5,6, F1,2,3,4,12,13,21,22,2A, E1,2,3,4,5, EW, SD, SR and a few other random immigrant visas. Yeah, it's a little ridiculous. Good thing we have a chart.

I was at the State Department on Monday morning taking care of some business during some downtime in my daily schedule. I was walking through the "inner sanctum," where all of the super important people work, of the State Department (with an escort, of course), when lo and behold, there is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talking to someone in the hall. I was maybe two feet away from her, and she made eye contact with me. Yes, I was star struck by the former first lady, NY senator, and current cabinet-level official. Call me a nerd if you wish.

I'm going to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this Saturday on the National Mall. I'm not normally one for big quasi-political rallies like this, but honestly, I'm excited about it. First, I think Stewart and Colbert are hilarious comedians. In addition, Stewart is really a brilliant person, and is much more than "just a comedian." For reference, see this Youtube video in which he dominates Tucker Carlson in a CNN interview. His commentary on the daily news is witty and astute, not to mention absolutely hilarious.

But the point of his rally is one with which I fully agree: it's about time for some sanity around here. Mainly, in the media. Unfortunately, insanity, fear, and hype are what drives the news cycle these days, and I think a lot of the American public are tired of it. It's time for some rational, logical debate instead of fearmongering. I think it will be a hugely entertaining time out on the National Mall with tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people. It'll probably also be the last time I do something like this.

In other, completely unrelated news, I cooked a roast last weekend. It was my first attempt at cooking something that seemed so daunting. But in reality, it wasn't all that bad. After cooking in the oven for about three hours, I had a delicious roast with potatoes and carrots...which I then ate as leftovers for the next 5 days!

Speaking of seemingly daunting tasks... what's something you've done recently that you thought would be really difficult but ended up being a great thing to do? Let me know in the comments.

I think that's about it for this update of randomness. I'm going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (first time ever!) tomorrow night, so I'm sure I'll do some kind of follow-up blog over the weekend about it!

Until next time... peace.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Change is Coming...


Before starting my career in the Foreign Service, there wasn't a lot of change in my life. I spent four years at the same college, with roughly the same people, doing the same jobs, going to generally the same classes. Life was comfortable, predictable, and enjoyable. It was a normal, American life.

After joining the Foreign Service, though... everything is changing.

What do I mean by that? Well, for one thing, I'm no longer in college. That's major life change #1. College only lasts so long, and after that, everyone experiences some kind of change from that "quasi-adult" stage to the full-fledged "adult" stage. That change is normal and expected. But I've experienced quite a few other changes since then, and there are only more to come.

Let's examine the last seven days, for example. Last Friday, I was sitting in a big room with lots of people and ninety-four flags on a table and projector screen. In the span of an hour, ninety-four people had their lives changed, and ninety-four plans were changed (for better or for worse). In the span of an hour, the next two years of my life were handed to me in a blue folder with the seal of the State Department on it. I think it will be a great place to start my overseas career, and the people there seem to be really quality people.

Fast forward to yesterday. In a room full of family, friends, my classmates, and even a few ambassadors, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. It was truly a special moment for me. It sent a chill up my spine as I said it. I am officially a Foreign Service Officer in service of my country.

That's a lot of change. My career has changed, my home has changed (and will change again soon), and my friends have changed. And you know what? The rest of my life will be like this. Every few years, I will change homes, change friends, and change jobs. Change is imminent, and it will be often.

And you know what? I'm pretty happy with that.

So, what kind of change is occurring in your life? Are you OK with change, or does it bother you? If it does, why?

Until next time...peace.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Flag Day Recap

As you know, Friday was Flag Day for the 156th A-100 class. Ninety-four of us were handed the plan for the next year or two of our lives in a nondescript blue folder accompanied by a small flag of a foreign country. My flag happened to be that of Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. It all went by so fast.

There we were, listening to each assignment announcement and clapping wildly for each person (while also playing bingo with the cities on our bid list. America Wins Again!) As my classmates were called up one by one, I was really blown away by the reality of it all. Here were 93 people that I had spent the last four weeks with, getting to know them and building friendships. And at the end of next week, we will all begin our own, separate tracks toward our posts. For me, that means various training classes and a language refresher before departure in February. For some, it means spending almost an entire year in language training. And for a few others, it means reporting to work in a week at the State Department to begin their job! I'm really glad I didn't get a DC post, but it floats some people's boats. Not mine.

I've been doing some basic research about Monterrey since Friday evening. It's a big, first-world city with about 4 million residents. It's got a public bus and metro system, and is surrounded on four sides by big mountains. I've heard that the views are spectacular, and there are a lot of outdoor activities available if you can handle the smog and air pollution. Medical services are good, and the police are trustworthy. I'll be working in the U.S. Consulate General (consider it a "satellite office" of the embassy in Mexico City.) It also happens to be the busiest visa processing post in the world. Last year, they processed more than 179,000 non-immigrant visas. That's massive.

I'm certainly not disappointed by my assignment! I'm excited about getting to use my Spanish that I've been studying for quite a few years. I just wish that I was going a little further away than 2 hours across the Texas border. On the bright side, though, being so close will make it easier to come back to the States for things like my friends' weddings.

My mom has been in town this weekend visiting, and we've been quite the sightseeing pair. So far, we've hit all of the memorials and monuments on the National Mall, the Natural History and American History Smithsonians, the White House, the State Department, and Arlington Cemetery. Tomorrow is the U.S. Capitol Building before she flies out in the afternoon. Great weekend.

That's enough for now, I think. This upcoming week is our last of Orientation. It will be tough to say goodbye to these friends of mine in the 156th.

Until next time...peace.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Mexico!

I'm going to Monterrey, Mexico in February! Yeahhhh!! I'm actually pretty excited, and I'm glad that I'll get to use my Spanish. I'm sure I'll post something more detailed later this weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flag Day... Tomorrow!

Oh man... I can't believe that tomorrow is Flag Day! By the end of the day tomorrow, I'm going to know exactly where my first post will be, how long I'll be in training, and, subsequently, how much longer I'll be in DC.

I'm crazy excited, and even more excited that my mom is joining me here in DC for the weekend to celebrate!

Fear not... I'll have a blog post up Friday evening or Saturday to let you know where I'm going!

Until then... peace!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hitting the Ground Running

Good Monday Morning to you all!

My weekend in Nashville was a great change-of-pace and a much needed break from being under the foreign service fire hose. Seeing friends is always a good thing, and always worth sacrificing a bit of sleep. I got back to Baltimore at 10p, in time to catch an Amtrak train that was supposed to depart at 10:45p. It finally rolled in to the station at 11:25pm. Luckily, I had my iPod and a great book with me, so it wasn't a terrible wait.

About a half hour later, the train pulled into Union Station right around midnight. I was worried that I might miss the last metro (subway) train back across town to where I lived, so I hurried down into the station. I made it on the first train and rode it to Metro Center, where I had to change trains. As the train I was on arrived at the station, I noticed the other train that I needed to catch was also arriving. I hurried downstairs and managed to get on the last train of the night toward my destination. I'm so glad I made it because, otherwise, I would've spent quite a lot on a taxi across town. I arrived at my station, walked 3 blocks in the cold rain, and finally walked in to my apartment around 12:45a. After unpacking quickly and changing clothes, I was alseep by about 1:15a.

When I woke up at 6:10a this morning, I was surprisingly awake. I cooked two eggs, some toast, and ate some grapes. I finished getting ready early and caught the shuttle with plenty of time to spare. I'm now here at work, waiting for class to start. (Note: I'm not blogging during work hours! It's ok!) I feel great right now and very energized. I suppose we'll see how I feel around 2:30p this afternoon, haha.

Tonight's entertainment is a concert in Baltimore by Brandi Carlile. I'm a huge fan of hers and excited to see her in person. Hopefully we won't be too late in getting back so that I can get a normal amount of sleep, but somehow I don't see that happening.

Oh well. You only live once, right?!

Until next time...peace.

Oh, PS... Flag Day is this Friday!