Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Almost Time

Here I sit in my apartment, with nothing but two suitcases of clothes, my laptop, some important documents, and some boxes of matches that couldn't be put into my UAB/HHE shipments.

Somehow, the quantity of my belongings increased dramatically between my UAB-only move to DC and my UAB/HHE packout to Mexico. I don't think I explained the unfortunate ordeal the last time around, so allow me to digress for a moment.

On my last packout, I opted to go for UAB only (no HHE at all) because I really didn't have much stuff, and I was driving my truck to DC. I had plenty of space in the bed of the truck and in my backseat to take whatever wouldn't fit in the 250lb UAB shipment. The movers came (from a moving company that will remain anonymous), I told them what I wanted in the shipment, and they went to work. They finished packing after just about an hour or so - again, I didn't have much - and they left. The day before I departed my hometown, I emailed my State Department travel tech to get a status update on my shipment. That was the first time I had heard that my UAB was 80lbs over the 250lb limit. Oh, thanks for informing me. The thing is, the movers had ensured me that the shipment wasn't going to be over 250lbs, and that they would call me if it happened to be over (which, of course, it wouldn't be, even though they were using a BATHROOM SCALE to weigh the giant cartons). To put the rest of that story in a nutshell, I ended up reclaiming one of the THREE tri-wall UAB shipping crates and tossing it in the back of my truck to avoid paying something like a few hundred dollars to ship it as planned.

Fast forward to today. I was explicitly clear with my moving company (a different company this time, fortunately) that I had a bad experience last time, and I wanted them to be sure to bring a good scale and to really focus on the weight limit. The two guys that showed up were great. I had such a completely different, and much better, experience this time around. They ended up packing everything I requested to be in my UAB, and it weighed 242.5lbs. Perfect. And it was even weighed on a legit-looking much-more-professional scale to boot. It's actually kind of nice to know that someone else is handling my entire move.. I didn't pack a single box.

About three hours later, the movers left with all of my stuff, leaving me in my relatively empty furnished Oakwood apartment. Needless to say, I'm a little bored.

Tomorrow I've got some final wrap-up stuff to do at FSI, get the oil in my truck changed, and then meet up with some friends for a last-night dinner. Strange, really.. I've been here just under six months, and I'm already on my way out. I suppose the rest of my life will be like this... get settled in then pack up and move.

And you know what? I'm so looking forward to that.

Until next time...peace.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seriously? This is my job?

Have I mentioned recently how much I love my job?

I just spent the last week in the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat course, otherwise affectionately known as Crash Bang. Let's break it down.

Crash Bang lasts for one week. The first two and a half days are spent learning about surviving a kidnapping, surveillance detection, and medical training. I now have enough medical training to be dangerous. If you have massive hemorrhaging out of one of your limbs, I can put a tourniquet on it faster than you can blink. That's right.. I'm a tourniquet professional at this point. I can also seal up any holes you might have in your chest (aka sucking chest wounds) and take care of  various other injuries to boot.

We then spent an afternoon going through a weapons familiarization course. They weren't training us to be marksmen or anything, but it was nice to get an opportunity to do some shooting. Three different pistols and two rifles later, I'd say I'm a pro (yeah right.) Just throw a penny up in the air and I'll put a hole in it (I wish). Obviously, as diplomats, it would be a bit of an oxymoron to give us weapons. The idea is that, if the proverbial crap hits the proverbial fan, I'll be able to defend myself using a weapon if I had to.

Thursday and Friday were the icing on the cake, though. I spent those two days driving around a track with an instructor learning how to do all kinds of stuff in a car that I've never done before. I mean, seriously... I got paid to do that! It was like an educational theme park for adults! I had an absolutely thrilling experience there, and I hope I get the chance to do it again. Interestingly enough, most of your basic driving instincts and habits are actually totally wrong and don't work in the heat of the moment. I've now been given some knowledge that can seriously save my life if I'm caught driving around in Mexico and come upon a roadblock or vehicular attack from those narcotraffickers.

In other news, I'm moving in less than a week. I'll be at post in less than two weeks. I can't believe this. It feels like I just got settled in here in Washington and here I go again.

Speaking of moving... I've got lots of things to do. The countdown begins.

Until next time...peace.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I passed!

I took my final Spanish exam today to complete my training at FSI before going to post.

I passed with a 3/3+! I couldn't believe it... especially after the humorous Spanish mistakes I've made this week!

A few days ago in Spanish class, we were reading an article about Tax law in Ecuador (I know.. exhilarating, right?) The article was half book review half commentary on the tax law. Well, I thought that this book that explained tax law was actually a play. Yes, a play. I was sitting there thinking "wow... a play that explains tax law. How dreadfully boring that must be." Needless to say.. my classmates laughed at me for a few days.

Then yesterday I was telling my professor that I was going to come early before my test to have a one-on-one session with a native speaker as a warm-up before the real thing. Note to everyone learning Spanish: avoid the phrase "warming up" whenever possible. Let's just suffice it to say that I accidentally suggested that the native speaker and I would have some inappropriate relations. hahahahaha.

Regardless, Spanish is done. Next week I have the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat course, also known as "Crash Bang." A whole week of learning/using firearms, explosives, detection- and counter-surveillance, first aid, and offensive, defensive, and evasive driving techniques? Yes please!

Two week countdown to departure for post starts... now!

Until next time...peace.