Sunday, May 21, 2017

French - Three weeks in

I've finished my Charleston assignment in the Comptroller and Global Financial Services Bureau.  Now I'm temporarily in the DC area and am at the Foreign Service Institute learning French.  Yes, my job for the next few months is to learn French.

Mark and Cosmo are here, too, and we're all nestled into our temporary apartment in Sedona-Slate in Rosslyn.  It's nice to be all back together after being apart for a year and a half.

French class going fairly well.  It's a very well organized system designed to get one to the necessary level of speaking and reading as efficiently as possible.  Since I had a bit of French coming into the course, I'm what they call a "parachuter".  That means that the first week I moved around different sections to find the one that corresponds to the level I'm at.  That first week was spent saying je m'appelle Michael a lot.  Right now I'm in a section of two people.  At the end of May I'll go through another assessment and be put into another section.  For now I'm scheduled to be in French until mid-August.  However, I have my first language text on June 30.  If I obtain my target of 2/2 (2 speaking and 2 reading), then other options may come up.

French at FSI has also been humbling.  This first video is how I felt, smugly, about my French ability.  After my first assessment during the first week, the second video is more how I feel.

Well, maybe not quite that bad, but close.

My advice to anyone coming to FSI to learn a language:  bring your patience, desire to learn, and humility.  It can be fun, but it's also a lot of work.

I'll check back in a few weeks from now when I'm in my next section.

Here are ten reasons to learn French.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Goodbye Charleston

My time in Charleston, SC has ended.  It's been a good assignment - rotating through different parts of financial administration for the State Department.  I've made lots of friends and colleagues and met a ton of people who will be super helpful throughout my foreign service career.

I'll miss Charleston and the friends I've made.  But I'll take with me the friendliness and gentility that I encountered on a daily basis.  I'm also taking with me about 10 extra pounds, but hopefully the DC bike trails can help take care of that.

My last rotation in CGFS was in Disbursing and my last task was a trip to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda to monitor and audit the cashier operations there.  I'm very happy to have had this experience to put training into action and to see how a U.S. Embassy runs.  It was a small preview of some of my duties as a financial management officer at post.

So now it's three months of French language training and then on to the next assignment:  Bamako, Mali.

Before Kigali, I spent two days in Amsterdam.  It was perfect tulip time (late April).  Also, take a boat ride with Those Dam Boat Guys.

Tulips at Keukenhof

A few pics from Kigali.  I definitely want to go back.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

One Month Left in Charleston

I have just about one month left in Charleston, South Carolina on this assignment. I'm in a training class this week and at the end of April I'm going on a trip to Kigali, Rwanda. So, really, I only have about three weeks of work left in the Global Financial Services Center. March is almost over and April will go by really quickly; before I know it my apartment will be packed up (and the house in Lynn, MA, too) and I'll be meeting up with Mark and Cosmo in Washington, DC for about three months of French language training before heading out to Bamako, Mali in August.

I just finished up a "farewell" tour of some family and friends:  Charleston to Boston to help Mark and Cosmo with pack-out items and to say goodbye to our home of 16 years.  It's sold (fingers crossed until the closing is done, though) and that's that.  Mark did a great job of getting it ready for listing and sale, and our agent - Doug Morrow - whom we used to buy the house, is great. 
Cosmo helping us make packing decisions.

Our (sold) home.

From Boston to Los Angeles to see our friends Jamie and Clinton and to establish our California domicile.  Yes, Mark and I are Californians, now. Cool, dude.  So happy to have seen Southern California during a once-in-a-decade wildflower bloom.  I couldn't believe how green the LA area was. These are from Malibu Creek State Park and the Getty Museum in LA.

LA on to Oklahoma City to visit my family.  It was great to see my parents, sister and brother-in-law, and my three nieces. I was amazed at the transformation that OKC downtown has made, especially the revitalized river-front area.  There was even a bike share in Downtown and Mark and I had a nice - albeit gusty - ride along the new Oklahoma River (formerly the North Canadian).  And we found a winery - and the wine is OK (sorry, couldn't resist).

Mark on a Spokies bike share in OKC

The Land Run Monument in OKC

Clauren Ridge Winery and Vineyard 

I love travel that has surprises in it (good, surprises, that is).  I'm hoping for many more on our upcoming adventures to Mali and beyond.  

Just three weekends left for me in Charleston. My friend Meg's yoga studio is having it's first anniversary on April 7. I need to ride the Ravenel Bridge one last time.  And I still want to go to HUSK - so I'll need to find a few dinner partners soon.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy 2017!

Well, Happy New Year!

2016 sure was something, huh? Not just the U.S. election, but the loss of so many iconic, controversial, loved, or reviled people. Certainly, we should take a moment of reflection, meditation or prayer for ALL of those who passed in 2016, but here's a brief memorial to just some of those:

But Betty White is still with us!

I hope you had a great Holiday Season.  I did.  I got to go back to Boston for Thanksgiving and spend some time with Mark and Cosmo and also in North Adams, MA with some of Mark's family at his brother - Michael's - place. Actually, I flew on Thanksgiving day and then we drove from the airport to North Adams; so, Thanksgiving was really on Friday this time around.  Some pics of Michael's place:

I think you can AirBnB it, too.  

For Christmas, Mark came down to Charleston for a quick three days.

New Year's Eve was glittery, but low key

Oh, did you know that 2017 is the future?