Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Note on the Wikileaks Debacle

I won't say much about the recent Wikileaks dissemination of classified State Department cables. I find it despicable, dishonorable, and treasonous. Of course, you probably already knew that. It severely impacts our ability to do our job overseas. In fact, a lot of my blogging friends have already covered most of what I would like to say about it, so check out their posts around the Foreign Service blogosphere.

Before I leave, I want to highlight one particular post that really resonated with me. I think the blogger said it all very well (and he or she has the same blog design as me...go figure.) Anyway, you can check out "Here's Hoping You Choke on that Whistle" over at Muttering Behind the Hardline.

Until next time... keep your cables protected. And peace.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Little Too Short...

I have discovered yet another downside to moving around so often.

Bad haircuts.

I went today, for the second time, to a barber shop that's attached to my apartment building. I pass it often, and every time I go by, I see the same thing: lots of guys getting their hair cut by lots of Asian women (I'm not sure, but I'm guessing Vietnamese.) It's almost always busy in there, though the two times I've been, I've only had to wait maybe five minutes each time.

Because I've seen so many guys in there getting their hair cut, I figured it must be a good place to go. There wouldn't be that many people if it weren't a good barber shop. So about a month and a half ago, I went for my first haircut in DC. The woman who cut my hair was very polite, although we couldn't communicate very much because it didn't seem like she spoke much English. This was the first thing that worried me, but again, I figured it must be OK if so many guys go there. By the end of that first haircut, it was slightly shorter than I was hoping for, but it wasn't bad, and I was satisfied.

This time not so much. When I sat down, the woman cutting my hair (named Hanh) put the apron around me, a towel around my neck, and then stood in front of me and asked how I wanted my hair cut. As I told her, I felt like she wasn't really paying attention to me.

Yet another thing that I should've picked up on was the fact that all of the chairs in the entire shop face AWAY from the mirrors. The only time you can see yourself in a mirror is at the END of the hair cut. Now, maybe it's just how hair is cut in the South, but usually, you see everything that's going on in the mirror. Not so much here, I suppose.

Hanh was surprisingly rough while cutting my hair. She used some clippers and a comb all around the sides of my head, and while doing so, she ripped individual hairs out of my scalp with every swipe. Then, while using the guard on the clippers, it felt as though she was pushing them into my head with all her might. Ouch.

When I finally saw the result of her abuse of my head, it was as I expected: too short. Way too short. That was when I decided that I'll be looking for a new barber shop next time I need a haircut (which will be a long time from now, thanks to Hanh.) I tried to figure out how to express my disappointment. Should I complain? Should I not tip? After thinking for a few minutes, I decided to reduce her tip from the normal tip I give after a haircut. Maybe she got the message, maybe not. ...Probably not. She probably just thinks I'm cheap.

In any case, this is a good object lesson for how the rest of my life will be. I'll be living in countries where I won't speak the language well and will probably have difficulty communicating with the people who will cut my hair. I guess I need to find a picture of me when I had a good haircut and just bring it with me every time.

Have you ever had an experience like that?

Until next time...peace.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Need a Hobby

I'm now looking for a new hobby. I've got some free time, generally in the evenings, and I'm looking for something different to do.

I've been considering learning guitar, so that seems like a viable option. It's something I could definitely spend some time on every evening, and I could almost teach myself to play. That might be fun, and it's definitely something I'm considering.

I could also become a bonsai tree gardener. I could come home every day and painstakingly and artfully trim a small bonsai tree. ... Yeah, right.

Then again, once I start my Spanish classes in December, maybe I won't have much time for hobbies. I'm betting studying and practicing Spanish will be my new hobby, haha.

What do you think? I'm now taking hobby suggestions. (One of my friends on Facebook just suggested I take up knitting. I'd like to point out that I'm moving to Monterrey, Mexico, where the average temperature year round is 88 degrees.)

Oh, and no offense to bonsai tree lovers.

Until next time...peace

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans and Volunteering

Yesterday was Veteran's Day.

I'm very grateful for the service of our American heroes. It's easy to forget that we have military personnel serving all over the world right now. For wars in recent American history, it seems as though people back home in the US were actively engaged in following the war and supporting our troops. But now, when our lives are so hustle and bustle and with hundreds of channels of television entertainment and the internet's social media, there are plenty of distractions that keep us from having to focus on the war. We don't feel the effects of the war here at home, partially because now is different than 50 years ago, and partially because we don't want to let it.

I'm thankful that there are people serving in the military doing what they do. I don't think I would be capable of doing that. Yes, I am a patriot and I wanted to serve my country, but I don't think I have that "something" that people in the military have. Instead, I've chosen to serve my country as a Foreign Service Officer, though the life is admittedly easier this way than if I had joined the army.

Suffice all of that to say: thank you, heroes.

Instead of lying around all day yesterday while enjoying the federal holiday, I decided to join some of my Foreign Service classmates to volunteer at the Capital Area Food Bank. It was a great opportunity to give back to and serve the DC community. There were around 20 of us who showed up, and we ended up sorting over 40,000lbs of food donations that will be delivered to over 700 different partner organizations in DC.

How do you feel? Does the war seem distant and unrelated to you? Have you thought lately about those around you who don't have the luxuries you do? It's worth doing.

Until next time...peace.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Clock is Ticking

I find myself in a strange situation. I'm sure many of you Foreign Service folks can relate to the situation which I'm about to describe.

I just moved here to DC two months ago, and now I'm leaving again in just over three months. Usually, when people move to a new place, they make an effort to get to know their neighbors and invest themselves in the community. But the fact that I know I'm leaving in three months has negatively affected my motivation to get to know people.

Obviously, I'm getting to know people that are in training with me. They're great, and we have a decent number of social activities to keep us entertained. But now that we've all kind of gone our separate ways and some of us will be leaving next month, those opportunities are diminishing.

It's a hard decision to make. I'm a very social person and an extrovert to the max. But I also know that friendships I make here (at least, non-FS friendships) will be essentially left behind in three months.

Is this bad logic? What do you think about the situation?

Until next time... peace