Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guess who lost a wallet again...

Well, the Diplomat has gone and done it again! He lost my wallet. I just don't get it--frankly, it takes a skill to be able to lose wallets and similar possession at the rate he does it. This past Thursday it suddenly turned out that there were no classes that day. After debating whether we should spend the day with our beloved child, with a fair dose of parental guilt we took Son to daycare (which was open) since we had decided to go out to see a movie. Well, that parental guilt went a bit away since when we got to the daycare we saw a whole bunch of VERY guilty looking parents also bringing their kids and quickly slinking away in the misty Arlington air. Then we got back home, went back to bed and re-emerged a few hours later ready for a lunch and a movie date. I gave the Diplomat my wallet to keep in his pocket. After the movie, he sped away to ... yes, you guessed it, play tennis and I went to pick up the precious Son from daycare and spend quality "mommy and me" time with him. And then I discovered I am missing my wallet. 36 unanswered phone calls to the Diplomat later, I realized that he had lost it. After I picked up Son, I decided to check the one place that I thought I might have a shot at finding the unfortunate wallet--the movie theater. Son and I went there, and miracle of miracles, some saintly patron had found and turned it in. It was a Christmas miracle! Overjoyed, I bought us movie tickets and we saw the highly educational and intellectual movie Yogi Bear--Son's first movie ever! Armed with a pizza and a complimentary cup of water, Son sat down in my lap patiently for one and a half hours watching the inane movie. I am proud of him.
We have just landed in coldish Northern California where we are visiting the Diplomat's sister and her family. I love coming here since they are so much fun, plus her cooking is fabulous. There is one small fly in the ointment, however--inexplicably, she keeps her house's temperature at a freezing 60 degrees, while I keep my apartment at 90ish. The difference has been the subject of endless family jokes and I have gotten used to walking around her house wrapped in multiple blankets like an ancient dervish.

We are off to lake Tahoe tomorrow to ski. Woo-hoo! Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On privacy, crappy customer service and depressing Bengali movies

What happened to privacy in one's house is all I want to know?? I love Son to death, but I do draw a line and that line goes right in front of the bathroom. Lately, Son has picked up a new awesome habit which goes like this. Every time I decide to visit the facilities at home, I try to clandestinely slink out of the room I am in and even more quietly sneak into the bathroom for some one-on-one time with Mother Nature. I happily pick up a magazine or whatever defining intellectual reading material lies there and just as I am about to enjoy my privacy, I hear the hasty patter of little boy feet and two seconds later, I hear the following, "mamma...mama...mammmaaa.....maaaaaammmmaaaaaaaaaa" all conveyed playfully underneath the crack of the bathroom door. Next, I see a few tiny fingers showing from there. A few seconds later, a couple of cars gets shoved inside but in a few seconds their owner starts screaming demanding the cars back. With a resigned air, I get up, open the door and am greeted by a beaming face and a happy voice which promptly and loudly announces to the world, "Mommaaa pooped!" Um, well...I love that child!

Now, let me tell you about an awesome shopping experience I had last week. I had this brilliant idea to send our parents and grandparents a slightly cheesy 2011 calendar with pictures of Son and us. You know the type--when other people have them in their houses, you just roll your eyes, but when it comes to your kid, you think they are a piece of eternal art. At any rate, since Son's grand and great-grand parents barely see him, I thought it would be a stupendous gift, easily shipped to Bulgaria and India. I know that CVS makes that kind of personalized crappola so I promptly went to their website, and lo and behold, turns out they provide a 1-hour express service!! Now, how about that? The consumer in me rejoiced, and I almost teared up thinking how awesome America is for providing me with such excellent ways of spending my money. I promptly designed the calendar, uploaded Son's best pictures in it, and three hours later sent the Diplomat (who seemed like he had nothing better to do and was just loitering around the house) to the CVS across the street to pick up the masterpieces. To my utter dismay, he came back rather quickly and told me that he found the photo guy at CVS amidst Son's pictures , looking lost and baffled. Apparently he said that he did not have the time to finish the calendars that night, and not even sure about the following morning. The consumer in me was horrified. After a choice of unladylike words, I let it go. The next day, around 12, I went to CVS to get the finished product. I found a rather flaccid-looking gal behind the counter, wearing unnecessarily festive antlers attached to a tiara on her head, who informed me that the calendar service was a new thing there, and no one there has been trained to do it. Brightly, she offered to make me some albums instead. After I stifled an urge to smack her antlers, I reservedly asked for the manager. He appeared from behind, wearing a T-shirt and a massive skiing hat, and confirmed the distressing info. Visibly agitated (to think of it, I might have been near screaming), I asked why they offer the service, take the money for it but then do not perform the service. He passionately assured me that they will do everything in their power to provide me with the calendars and he would call me by 5 pm with new info. I stared him down with my best blood-curdling look and told him that I am still unhappy and that he should make me whole somehow. He sighed and refunded me all the money I had paid. I brightened up considerably. A couple of hours later, I got an email from CVS that cheerfully informed me that my order has shipped. Unwisely, I presumed that it was sent by the manager and went to CVS again! He saw me enter the store and I swear, he was about to run. I told him about the email, he was rather puzzled and told me it must have been sent by the automatic CVS email system. I almost took a fake wreath from nearby to choke him with it, but took a deep breath, turned around and left. An hour later, he called me to say the calendars were done--they had sent them to a different location.
The moral of the story--when you are about to order some seemingly awesome service online, call first to see if it is too good to be true. Cuz it could be.

Today was our last day in Bangla class for the year. Our lovely Bangla teacher let us a watch a movie, and to celebrate the festive occasion I suppose, chose a particularly grim and depressing Bengali movie, which included a murder by a crazy person, a suicide, a sad love story and a horrible forced marriage. At least there were a bunch of friendly cute goats in the movie. Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Very Bangla Week

This week has been the perfect illustration of what they call at FSI “no progress day,” meaning day for practice and no new material. For the Bangla class, this week was devoted to the obsessive practice of our Bengali song for the end of the year party for the SE Asian division of FSI, which was yesterday. If I may humbly say so, we were a smashing hit. Maybe it was because we gesticulated wildly during the singing; maybe it was because we seemed so eager and honest and folks felt sorry for us; maybe it was because we were dressed so awesomely in the picturesque sarees and Punjabis of our teachers and I wore the full splendor of most of my Indian jewelry. Whatever the reason, people kept coming to us afterwards to tell us how great we were.
The highlight of the day was the brief speech given by the director of the division, who baffled us with the following statement, “Some people make comments about the way we teach languages at FSI, but in the words of the director of language studies at Georgetown—‘at school, we have ‘Language education,’ at FSI you have—‘Language training.’ The difference is the same as between sex education and sex training.”

On Wednesday, a couple of other FS wives came over for a playdate—we had a bit of Kir Royals and gossiped. Oh yeah, our kids also had a playdate—naturally, I wanted Son to shine in his best, which he naturally did not, fighting and screeching for every single toy the other kids wanted to play with. Sometimes, I feel like the Beast Master dealing with him. I am sure a LOT of moms will the sentiment.

Also, I am still in adjudications. I call every 3 days to check on my status, and the annoyed rep on the phone in an ill-attempt to hide her irritation, keeps telling me tersely, “Um, you are STILL in processing!” The problem with that is that the invitations to join the March 2011 A-100 class at FSI will most likely go out right after the holidays and I really wanted to be part of that class. If I want to join the Diplomat in a timely manner in Dhaka, I need to be done with all my training around June-July. That means that by then I have to:
1. finish Bangla
2. complete the consular training class
3. complete the A-100 class

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

I find it tough, though. we have two neighbours--one to the left and one to the right. The one on the right smokes disturbingly cheap cigars twice a week. The stench permeates in our apartment through our balcony door and not even Febreeze can help get rid of it. I welcome the cold weather--he has reduced his cigar smoking to once a week.
The neighbor on the left has another bad habit--he/she tends to bang on the wall when Son wakes up and cries at 2 am in the morning. Now, I get the sentiment--no one likes to be woken up by a hysterical child at 2 am. I personally don't. I, however, do not appreciate the expression of that sentiment--the person clearly does not have children or otherwise he/she would have known full well that there is little I could do about it. Perhaps he/she thinks I enjoy the experience...The problem is that it is affecting my disciplining methods--I am a firm believer of letting a child cry it out rather than sitting in the room and trying all tricks known to motherhood to make the child sleep. With a neurotic childless wall-banger as a neighbor, I get nervous and afraid to apply my true and tried methods.

This past Friday we were informed that next Friday the entire South East Asian section at FSI will have its own holiday party, at which all students have to make a 10 minute presentation of their country. A very deluded person from the Bangla section decided that we should sing a popular Bengali folk song that playfully discusses the merits of Islam and Sufism. The song is presented as a clever banter between a man and a woman, and while I am certain it can be a delight for the initiated aficionados, we, the FSI students with barely 3 months of Bangla under our belts, face the following problems:
1. The Bengali lyrics are old-fashioned, poetic and very difficult
2. The music is particularly ornate and contains a million twists and turns.
3. None of us look like accomplished Bangla folk singers.
4. None of us can can play the tabla or any other instrument for that matter. We will have to do with a tambourine, which I can only imagine will contribute immensely to our Earth-shattering performance.
5. We have only 4 days to practice, with one hour per day.
I will inform you of the results in due time.

My midterm progress evaluation is coming up this week on Tuesday. I had an especially un-progressing end of the week, failing to understand simple yet unpalatable passages about Bangladeshi education (our topic for the week) and to share unintriguing information about my own educational past (our daily speaking training involves endless discussions of our past experiences; as a result, we all learn something new and unexciting about the others every single day). Thusly, I have devoted this weekend to entertaining Son and revising piles of Bangla words. I am having a blast.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Famed "Diplomatic Clause" in leases

Since my last post, I got several questions on the so-called "diplomatic clause" in house/apartment leases. This, folks, is simple--since many diplomats tend to stay in DC for short, rather irregular periods of time in between posts, if they choose to live outside the warm, loving embrace of Oakwood housing and rent themselves something on their own, they need to be able to get out of their leases quickly. As the uninitiated might imagine, few landlords are openly ecstatic about this state of affairs and tend to get cranky when said diplomat starts packing up his cats, African bongos and Islatic antiques after only 6.5 months in the property. Thusly, smart folks have come up with the "diplomatic lease clause" to get themselves out of such pickles. I enclose a couple of sample diplomatic clauses for your convenience:

Sample #2
Diplomatic Lease Provisions

If any tenant or their spouse is or becomes a member of Foreign Service of the Department of State, the tenant may terminate this rental contract on 30 days written notice to the landlord in any of the following conditions:
a. If the tenant receives permanent change of station orders to another area.
b. If the tenant is separated from the Foreign Service.
c. If the tenant has leased the property prior to his/her arrival and subsequently received orders of reassignment, including TDY orders for sixty days or more, to other than the local geographical area (50 mile radius).

Tenant shall not be liable for rent after the 30 day period, and the landlord agrees to release the Tenant from all obligations under the lease, including, but not limited to, any obligation to pay rent through the original termination date. Any monies paid by the Tenant as the last month’s rent is not part of the security deposit and shall be refunded, or credited and prorated to any rent due before the new date of the termination of the lease, without further notice.

If the lease was signed before this diplomatic clause was signed Landlord and Tenant agree that $1.00 paid by the Tenant to Landlord is adequate consideration for this change in the lease.

Sample #2

Diplomatic Release Clause

For active duty military personnel and government employees, it is
understood, agreed, and convenanted that if Tenant is transferred 35 miles or
more, (radius) from the location of the Premises or is prematurely and
involuntarily discharged or relieved from service/employment, Tenant shall
have the right to terminate this Lease, as provided herein, and the
termination shall not be effective until 30 days after the next rent due
date. Tenant shall deliver to Realtor/Agent/Landlord a written notice with a
copy of the Tenant's transfer or discharge orders or letter from the
appropriate supervisor, whereupon Tenant shall vacate and surrender
possession of the Premises to Landlord within said termination period. Such
notice by Tenant shall have no force or effect unless it is accompanied by
the rent for the final month of the tenancy, and a copy of Tenant's transfer
or discharge orders.

So, you can try and sneak any of these in and see how your potential landlord will stomach it. Note--if, in addition to your diplomatic lifestyle idiosyncrasies, you also own a large dog, a hairy cat, a boa, a massive Tibetan coffee table, Chinese decorative dragon, and a huge ficus, I would recommend that you first try to sneak in a clause about the flora and fauna in your life before even attempting to discuss a diplomatic escape clause. Or just go live in a hut in the Arlington forest and prepare for your next hardship post the real way! Good luck either way.

MASSIVE LEGAL DISCLAIMER--please keep in mind that the two lease clauses above do not in any way or form represent legal advice nor have they been intended to be given as such advice. They are presented here merely as a convenience and a reference point and I take ZERO responsibility for their content. You are allowed to sue Fat Cat should your landlord manage to find a loophole in the text one day but I cannot guarantee any court appearances--he is simply too fat for that.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

Every Thursday, the Asian languages students are treated to a riveting lecture, called Area Studies. None of them can wait for the moment to come, I can assure you. I have chosen not to partake, for um, let's call them personal reasons. This past Thursday, the lecturer decided to give them some real-life experience to prepare the Fledgling Diplomats for their lives at post and told them they would be going on a field trip to the Washington Islamic Center on Embassy Row. I decided to join them as the Diplomat assured me that it will last only 2 hours tops. At 12 pm, a bunch of bundled up, mildly excited Fledgling Diplomats merrily climbed an oldish-looking bus, which would take us to the Center. Since we are clearly the coolest, the Bangla bunch sat at the back. Half a mile away from the FSI, a strange odor started permeating the bus. It smelled suspiciously of bad exhaust fumes, and lo and behold, turned out that the bus was leaving a large cloud of darkish fumes behind us, which were also slowly permeating the rear of the bus. Soon, the situation was intolerable, and amidst clouds of poisonous smoke, we yelled at the driver to stop. In a few minutes, coughing and breathing heavily, we were hastily on our way back, and since it was starting to get a bit late so some of us clever folk in the back started plotting our escape once we were back at FSI. But the bus driver was cleverer! He took us to the back of the FSI, entered the garage area, closed the gates behind us and told us to get into another bus. There was no way to get out of there—the only way out was onto the bus or climb the fence. Drat! With a deep sigh and resigned air, we are climbed on the bus and went to the Center, where after an interesting talk with the Imam, we stood sheepishly along the walls of the mosque to stare at the faithful responding to the afternoon prayer call. I think I can speak for all when I say that we all felt very stupid, watching people kneel over in prayer for over 15 minutes. As you can tell, our lives at FSI are super interesting!

I also wanted to mention that I am getting a bit worried over the Diplomat’s sweet tooth. He reiterates on a daily basis that he is concerned about his weight and takes vows of sugar abstinence to be broken about 45 mins later. After Thanksgiving, we had a quarter of pumpkin pie and a quarter of apple pie left, which I was slowly enjoying. To my horror, the following night I saw the Diplomat sitting in front of the TV with all the pies piled up on his plate, garnished with a generous helping of whipped cream. I politely asked him what he was doing and, with a pained expression, he told me that he prefers to eat everything now so that he is not tempted later. He also pointed out that the whipped cream was low-fat. The problem is that the following night, faced with a sugarless fridge, he decided that he would go to the deli downstairs and procure condensed milk to mix with some bananas for a semi-healthy evening snack. Few minutes later, he was back with a very guilty expression and after some interrogation, confessed to buying a large box of ice-cream. Which he ate alone.

And while I am on the subject of food, let me tell you about a recent lunch trip we made to the Cheesecake Factory, that epitome of American gluttony. Since I am also obsessed with my weight as most of my friends know (and roll their eyes behind my back about), I decided to go lightly and order an salad. I went to the entrĂ©e salads page and while perusing the impressively large selection, saw that the heading above the bottom three salads read, “weight conscious—all salads under 590 calories.” Wait, what???? How can a salad be ABOVE 590 calories in the first place? Hmm. So, I decided to get a “lunch size” salad with the dressing on the side (typically all the calories are in the dressing) to allay my fears. Soon, the waitress came back with a plate that measured at least two square feet, onto which there was a mountain of lettuce and other salad-related accoutrements about 1.5 ft high. Faced with the mount K2 in salads, I balked and my face lost color—then brightly told her that I had asked for the “lunch” size, and she, just as brightly, assured me that WAS the lunch size. 20 mins later, feeling a bit nauseous, on my way to the restroom, I saw the full portion on someone else’s table—the plate took most of the table, and what was even more shocking, it was mostly empty and its happy owner was gobbling down the last pieces. No, we did not have cake that day. We were lucky to be able to roll back to the car, go home and fall into deep, calorious sleep.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been asked by some readers to remove the addresses of some of the Oakwood properties --they felt I should not be disclosing where FSOs live in Washington, DC. While I feel that that information is freely available both on Oakwood's corporate site as well as on a Facebook page maintained by the State Department HR office and opened to anyone without moderator approval, I have obliged. However, some of your comments contain references to those addresses and I am unable to delete the references without erasing the entire comment. Since the comments contain great info, I don't want to erase them entirelly. Therefore, I appeal to commenters to edit/re-post their comments without the exact building addresses. I thank you so very much in advance for your effort!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Housing/Living arrangment while training at FSI

And as promised, some (way too) detailed information on housing during training at FSI. This is a freakishly long post, so brace yourselves! This is what happens:
One sunny/snowy VERY happy day, you receive the long-coveted State Department letter in your email, titled enticingly—“Salary Offer.” Whoaaaa, you think, this is rather awesome. You burst into a spontaneous dance for a while, yelp in excitement from time (much to your cat’s irritation) and finally decide to open the precious email only to be blinded by a myriad of colors, fonts, italics, bolds, underlining and flashy yellow backgrounds. The part that is of particular interest to us lies at the bottom and it tells you that they have contracted with a management company to provide direct-billing housing (meaning, you pay nothing out of pocket) in Arlington, or you can choose to take a housing allowance instead, find your own place and wait to be reimbursed. It also directs you to a lovely facebook account the HR department has created with more extensive info on the subject, including pictures.
Thusly, in essence, the excited future FSO has 2 options: (1) to take the per diem allowance and find his own place, or (2) to stay at a DOS-sponsored building.

Pros of option 1: You can choose your own location, and think that you are super cool because you live in downtown DC vs. Arlington. I cannot think of any other advantages. Here are the disadvantages:
1) You get to negotiate a lease with an obtuse landlord who refuses to include a so-called “diplomatic clause” in your lease, which allows you to break your lease at any time, depending on when you have to leave for post. Needless to say, landlords are not particularly excited about the clause.
2) You pay all of your utilities
3) Need to find a way to get to FSI other than the shuttles. If you live in downtown DC, the only way to get to FSI (except for a car or bike), is to take the shuttle service from Rosslyn (first stop in Arlington) bright and early every morning, which, given the slow metro system in Washington, pretty much means that you need to get up at 5.30 am every morning to ride the metro to Rosslyn and then get on the shuttle (which is often quite late). That is what all of my classmates who live in DC do. Also, most of the FSI happy hours happen in Arlington, which means that once it is over, you have to find a way to get your drunk diplomatic butt back into town, rather than just walk home. There is another shuttle leaving from the Main State building on R street. That shuttle may be useful to you if you live someone downtown, but it starts at 8.30 am, and it takes almost 30 mins to get to FSI. Thusly, if your class starts at the crack of dawn (like all of the South Asian language classes do), then obvisouly, you can't really use it.
4) Your allowance is VERY often VERY late and you end up fronting your rent all the time.
5) Your allowance is on a sliding scale, meaning it is very generous at the beginning, thus luring you to an expensive place, and much smaller in the end (which works out just fine if you happen to go to a post with no language training and spend very little time at FSI beyond A-100s).

State-sponsored housing pros (the only con—EVERY apartment has exactly the same furnishings, so it gets a bit weird when you visit others):
1) You don’t have to worry about rent, cable, internet, utilities.
2) Every time you have ANY problem, you call the State Department liaison and your problem is taken care of.
3) You get weekly maid service (no joke!!!).
4) A lot of other FSOs live there so you get to socialize.
5) The shuttles to FSI stop right in front of the buildings.
6) The apartments are furnished.
7) All of them have pools, gyms, concierge and all kind of other perks.
8) You get free underground parking!
So, I would encourage you to consider the DOS option.

A note about the shuttle services: anyone associated to FSI can board the shuttles, whether or not they stay at a DOS-sponsored property.

One final point for the ardent cooks among the future FSO fold. My biggest question prior to coming here was—what was provided in the kitchen. In other words, what did I need to bring/buy in order to continue to live a nice cooking life? So, here is exposed truth about the “Welcome Kit” provided by DOS-sponsored apartments for a 2-bedroom apartment: sets of 6 of silverware, small and large plates and wine glasses, mugs and cereal bowls, a pile of water glasses, a set of 3 pots in various sizes, a set of 3 glass bowls and Tupperware in various sizes, a couple of baking pans, measuring spoons, bottle and can openers, a set of stirring spoons, a kettle, a toaster and a great block knife -set. There are also placemats and napkins for 4. Oy, I forgot the colander! It also has a vacuum, a (good) iron and ironing board, laundry basket as well as a water bucket and a broom! It is a bit underwhelming but a good start. If you are driving from home to Arlington, load your car with kitchen stuff you want or be prepared to do some damage at the nearby Target or IKEA. Your UAB will take a while.
This is all that comes to mind for now. I welcome any questions and will update this post as necessary. Now I am off to finish my dinner of popcorn.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

One very busy week...

This week has been truly crazy. I had intended to devote my next blogpost to housing options while training at FSI since I receive many questions on the topic, but this will turn into a mamooth post that no one will care to read. So, I promise to do that tomorrow instead. I also promise to write about the whole process of applying to join the Foreign Service in detail over the next few week.

This was possibly my busiest week in terms of hosting and entertaining ever. Last Saturday I hosted a 10-people, 5-course dinner party with close FSO folks at home, which was super fun. Then the Diplomat's sister and her family arrived on Monday night to stay with us for the holiday. On Thursday, I hosted a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner for them, the Diplomat's aunt and uncle and a good friend and a plethora of kids. Then, on Friday, we all went to Aunt and Uncle's house for a post-Thanksgiving party, where I helped to prepare a bunch of the (super-spicy) dishes. Ready to keel over from fatigue, I was really excited that a couple of great friends from NYC were in town and we were going to have dinner in downtown DC with them. Sadly, both of my babysitters had decided to have a personal life right this weekend and so we could not go out. Instead, we stayed home and had our friends over--I decided to be creative with my turkey leftovers and created the following fabulous alternative:

Thanksgiving quesadillas:
Take a flour tortilla. Spread mustard on one side and arrange pieces of the leftover turkey on one half of that side (I prefer white meat for this occasion). Top it off with leftover cranberry sauce, add some curry powder or whatever powder you fancy, and then put two thick slices of brie cheese on top. Fold the torilla in half, rub olive oil on top and stick it in a 425 degree oven for about 10 mins. It is fabulous with red wine!

I was rather surprised to learn that this past Friday was a non-vacation day in the federal world. Where the government worker vacations on a variety of splendid holidays neglected by the private world like Veteran's Day and Columbus Day, no one found it in their heart to give the day after Thanksgiving off to the poor, turkey-stuffed federal employees. I thought it was a shame and as a sign of protest stayed home that day. The Diplomat could not--he gets paid to learn bengali, while I do not, so that's OK.

Speaking of protesting, I continued to be a true rebel this weekend--as someone keeps stealing our incredibly unexciting newspaper, the Investors Business Daily, I decided to post a note at the door. The note reads: "Please, stop stealing our newspaper. It is very juvenile. Go buy your own." The Diplomat thinks it is very undiplomatic and openly juvenile. I think it is fantastic and poigniant. As a matter of fact, as I am writing this (I swear!), one of the FSOs who also lives on this floor knocked at the door on her way back home from the holidays to tell me that she loves my note. Nuff' said!

This and next week our Bangla class has individual midterm progress exams. In other words, an outside tester will come to examine each one of us to find out how much we have progressed. The Diplomat is taking himself rather seriously (he is a nerd), and has been cramming vocab and verb conjugations. Good for him. I have no illusions about my Bangla command so I prefer to spend my time elsewhere.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The world of the foreign security clearance adjudications

I am in that no-man's land in the FSO-hopeful life called adjudications. This is what that means and why I am (gently) bitter about it. After a person completes the numerous exams/hurdles and fills in piles of paper describing every minutia of her life in the past 10 years, she receives a conditional offer to join the United States Foreign Service. Yupee!
Not so fast. Several potentially daunting stages separate the not-yet-FSO from the coveted job, some of which are related to that mysterious and rather expensive process called "security clearance." As Elmo says, "Oh boy!" It is done by intimidating FBI investigators and starts with a huge questionnaire which asks various crucial details from your life like the professions of your grandparents, frequency of contact with any of your non-US "relations" as well as whether you have every tried to overthrow the US government or smoked pot.

Once you fill in the important information, a deft team of investigators begins to dig in your past. And make no mistake, they do dig. They call all the contacts you have listed, visit your former jobs (without warning anyone), run title searches, check your taxes, liens against you, credit card histories, your addresses, schools, you name it. There are no secrets to the determined "special investigators." More power to them. Someone also comes to interview the nervous FSO candidate and ask inane questions about her life.

This very important process takes about 2 weeks or so. Then the file goes to ... who knows. Someone important, I presume. Who decides whether the candidate is worthy or needs more probing. You are even given a so-called "target date for completion of the security clearance," which is exactly 3 months after its start. That target date means squat. I suspect the idea behind setting such a date is to have a ready answer for the anxious FSO wannabe when she calls every week the "security clearance customer service line" (I wonder if it is outsourced to India....??). Once the date passes and you are not yet cleared, you have clearly entered the so-called "adjudications." Whatever that means. And however long it takes. No one knows. I keep imagining that a team of omnipotent, very wise people gather every day to adjudicate. They pour over the information gathered by the mighty FBI investigators and pontificate. Then, unable to reach a final decision, they adjourn to again adjudicate the next day. In the meantime, the frustrated and enervated candidate sits at home, sends futile emails to the customer service and tries tor ead coffee beans.
You'd think that once you exit adjudications, you are officially cleared. But wait, there is more! Then you go into what they call "final suitability review." Whoa! That is awesome. Not so much. Again, not exactly clear who does that. Another omnipotent governmental body, I suppose. I wonder if they also pontificate daily, like the Supreme Court.
At any rate, one sunny, nice day, after you have just finished lunch and are feeling generally rather pleasantly predisposed towards the world and the notion of paying taxes, your security clearance is over and you are free to serve in the Foreign Service. No one tells you that, however. Unless you ask. So much fun.
So, do you think now that the FSO hopeful has top security clearance, she can freely join the Foreign Service? Of course not! Right then and there, she is placed on a very important list called "the Register." In some other future post, I will tell you all about THAT roller-coaster ride.

So, I am currently in the stage of adjudication. I suppose the fact that I have a dual citizenship and a pile of foreign relatives is not helping much. It definitely is playing a role since one of my friends, who was interviewed by the sharp FBI minds, told me that the investigator looked her straight in the eye and quietly asked her if she was aware that I was originally from Bulgaria. Trying not to burst into laughter, she confirmed that yes, indeed, she was aware of that. Oh well, once there is some movement on the security clearance front, I will inform you promptly.

My sister in law and her family, which includes two twin girls aged 7, are flying in tonight from California to visit us for the holidays. They are all quite smitten by Son (can you blame them??) and have insisted on taking him off our hands for the next one week. God bless them!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Ode to the FSI Daycare facility

I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the Foreign Service daycare facility and how fabulous it is! These people have made Son so happy and my life so easy plus I get so many questions on the subject that I decided to summarize the info.

1. It is right on the premises of FSI and the shuttles that take FSOs from their housing buildings to FSI in the mornings stop right in front of the daycare to drop off the eager FSO Diplotots. No, you DO NOT need a carseat to get on the bus (unless you have a miniscule baby and want to take the carseat with you). There will always be a spot for you and your child to sit since no one wants a screaming kid at 7.30am on the bus.
2. It is open from 7.20 am to 5.30 pm, which is more than enough given your FSO schedule during training, and they can care for your (forgotten) child as late as you need them to (for the appropriate price, of course!)
3. The staff is very international and appropriately educated.
4. They are incredibly loving towards the children and cater to their whims within reason.
5. They will work with you on potty training, biting issues, sleep issues, food issues, whatever little unique "things" your kiddo has, they can accomodate. And be nice about it.
6. It accepts kids from (what it seems) birth to pre-K.
7. It is relatively inexpensive (then again, I hail from NYC, so my gauge is a tad different than that of someone coming from Ohio or, say, returning from Vietnam).
8. It has great outdoor space and weather permitting, the kids are always playing outside in the afternoon.
9. The kids are entertained in all kinds of ways during the day, including crafts, music, book-reading, counting and other activities including materials that in the evening I desperately try to get out of Son's clothes.
10. You get to meet many other FSOs dropping off their kids and form some realy cool friendships that way, especially when your kid has beaten up/been smitten by another kid.
11. They provide breakfast and lunch and snacks for the kids, and you KNOW that is awesome (my least fav thing in NYC was scrambling to provide an interesting and nutritious lunch for Son in the morning before sending him off to daycare).
12. They have pie socials for parents every month.

The only issue is: You MUST reserve a spot way in advance--there is huge demand and you need to act ASAP you know an offer for a A-100 class is forthcoming. It will only cost you $50 in deposit fees and remove the hassle of trying to find a nearby daycare option. Their number is 703 302 7501.

So, I hope I have answered all your questions on the subject. Should anyone have any more questions, let me know and I will try to answer them. And btw, if anyone needs a pediatrician recommendation, I can give you that too.

In other news, Son has picked up a new fashion--he now wants to wear different shoes on each foot. Nothing will make him change his mind. His choice is not always unreasonable--yesterday, his right shoe matched his pants, and his left show--his shirts. Sometimes, in a decisive break with his Indian roots, he even sleeps in his shoes. I have to say that I love his firm stance on his own fashion.

Also lately, whenever he sees me or the Diplomat disrobed, he runs to us, touches the bare bums and screams with delight, "RAINBOW!!!" Um, what?

Monday, November 15, 2010

A BBQ Fiasco and a Bed, Bath and Beyond splurge

After a busy Saturday which ended up with another heated game of Taboo (men vs. women, which the men badly lost), the Diplomat and I decided to go to a pretty local park and BBQ. We envisioned hours of gazing into each others eyes, holding hands while watching our prodigy frolicking in the grass and delighting us with his angelic smile and cherubic laughter, the meat sizzling on the grill and abundant family happiness gagging those passing by us.
After shopping for provisions at Harris Teeter, the Diplomat made the fatal mistake of buying 2 fresh out of the oven baguettes, which I proceed to eat ravenously in the car on the way to the park. BY the time we got there, I was not hungry anymore.
Once we got there, we faced another problem: the charcoal required paper to be ignited (we have brought an entire issue of the Financial Times for the purpose), but the paper needs to be saturated with "vegetable oil." I have forgotten said oil. After giving me blood-curdling look (so much for the gazing thing), the Diplomat leaves to forrage for flammable material. I continue my meager attemps to light the damn charcoal by stacking twigs around it, while Son prances around me and tries to stick his hands in the fire. Finally, I manage to produce a small flame, which requires my absolutely undivided attention. At that moment, Son announces he needs to go "poopy." I say good-bye to the budding flame and go to help. Since I was not entirelly convinced I was supposed to leave his, um, results lying in the grass but was also unwilling to pack them up for the time being, I decided to cover it with a napkin. Son, however, was having nothing of the kind--he produly screeched all over the park, "BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG POOOOOOOOPPYYYY" and even pointed out the napkin to passers-by. I scuttled back to the grill, only to discover that my tiny flame was all gone.
Luckily, the Dipomat then came back, proudly bringing lighter fluid. We generously douse the coal with it and all of a sudden, with a loud "whoosh" the coal is on fire. For 12 seconds. Then it is all out again. We douse again (yes, I KNOW we are not supposed to do that--we were a wee bit desperate at the time, ok?), and then again. With a resentful hiss, the charcoal always went off. I think it was bullet proof.
Defeated, we returned home and grilled out on the gas grills in our building's courtyard. Then I put Son to bed and took a nap myself--family time is exhausting!

All in all, the weekend was very satisfying. We spent another pantload at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but worry not, I saved an entire $7.50 thanks to coupons! What is it about BB&B? Have you noticed that every time you go there, you get so lost in all the neatly arranged merchandise, that you walk dazed among the shiny kitchen gadgets and think--"Potato ricer! Dear Lord, how ever did I manage to live my life without it?? Ahh! Little corn holders--a MUST have for a decent household! Egg rings--I have no idea what those are for but I feel I ought to just have them!" and then you leave the store as a proud owner of a new pasta-making machine, tortilla press, asparagus peeler, lemon reamer and herb scissors and wonder what just happened. I promise will not go back for at least a month. Only then I can afford to return for a second look at that mango splitter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rise of the Machines

Today I had all the machines in my house do work for me: I was running both the washer and the dryer with our weekly laundry, while at the same time the dishwasher was humming pleasantly along, the breadmaker was making the Diplomat's favorite bread, and I was sitting down, ironing the first load of the laundry while watching a DVR-ed episode of "Grey's Anatomy." Yes, I live in robot-dreamland and I love it. I had 7 machines working for me at the same time, and while I was following the clearly realistic and not at all implausible pre-recorded drama on TV, it occurred to me that in just a few months I will go on to live in a place where many of my robot best friends will not be available. The things we do to serve our country...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Not THAT young, apparently

It is amazing the difference just a few years can make in your age. Last night I hosted a particularly successful dinner party as a good-bye to one of the Diplomat's colleagues who is leaving for Niger in a couple of weeks.
The party must have been good since the last guests left at 3 am. And this is where age hit me badly--at 1.30 am, I had to excuse myself from the chatty Fledgling Diplomats and hit the sack. I could barely keep my eyes open. Back in my student days, I would have been able to stay and drink all night. Maybe that was because I spent a considerable part of the afternoon making chicken biryani, or that I drank a considerable amount of white wine, followed by a martini. Who knows. But it was fabulous to have a dinner table full of very smart Fledgling Diplomats and have a particularly intellectual conversation about buying sundries overseas, shipping your car and the budget for representational dinners. I think the State Department will be very happy with me once we go to post as I intend to utilize that budget to the maximum.
This morning Son woke up at 7 (which was great because after the summer time change, he was waking up at 5.30am for a couple of mornings), and soon came to our bed to jump around in it and on top of us while the Diplomat and I laid there comatose and sleep deprived. While Fat Cat frowned upon this frivolous conduct, Son was quite happy and did not mind our relative unresponsiveness. This is good parenting, no?

This has been a pleasant and quite warm week, where I even managed to play some tennis. It would have been even better if Mr. No, aka Son, really stops the habit of saying NO to everything, or repeating what he wants 578932854 times, or waking up every morning requesting to watch Elmo immediately (something he has NEVER been allowed to do before), or simply tossing his milk/food/cup/plate/snack on the floor as a sign of protest (not clear to what). And the worst part is that I cannot keep a straight face to scold him since every time he has screwed up, he stands with a semi-scared expression on his face, not sure whether I will be mad or not. The expression is hilarious and often I burst into laughter, which I presume cannot be very educational?

The good news is that it is Veteran's Day and for the first time in his life, the Diplomat has the day off. Son has been chanting "outside" for a good 15 mins now, so I suppose we will have to brave the whole wild world out here in Arlington and go to the park.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I am a young lady!

There is nothing more refreshing than going to the (hot) doctor and him calling you "young lady" on a rainy day. So, I was pretty happy yesterday about that. I was also very happy that I did not have a strep throat, which is what Son currently has.
Son, by the way, has entered a pretty crappy stage in his life where almost every answer from him is a "no." He sounds worse than the Catholic church, frankly:
Me: Hey, would you like some milk?
Son: No.
Me: Do you want some water?
Son: No
Me: Do you want a banana?
Son: No
Me: Do you want to play with mommy?
Son: No
Me: Are you mommy's boy?
Son: No
Me: I am getting a bit frustrated here!
Son: No
Me: Do want to go outside to play?
Son: No
Me: Do you want to stay inside?
Son: No
Me: What do you want, intractable child???
Son: No
Me: I am leaving?
Son: OK, OK, OK!!!

He did hand me one nice surprise however: yesterday, I told him to go to the bathroom and take of his shoes in anticipation of his bath. After some serious banging and shuffling coming from there, I poked my head in to see him sitting primly on a very eschewed child potty seat, his pants pulled down, huge grin on the face, peeing happily. Wow. He has never previously indicated an ability to 1. pull down his pants and underwear, 2. climb on the toilet on his own. I must be an awesome mom!

Bengali studies at the fabulous Foreign Services Institute are not going so well for me. This past week our topic of learning was shopping, so we spent the whole week reading large, incomprehensible texts about shopping around Eid, prices of various types of fish (whose names I strongly suspect we are supposed to know), and how everything is just going up. I just don't think I have it in me to read one more article about the shocking rise in prices of the banana fish before and after New Year's day, or another comprehensive description of a Dhaka market. I think the worst part of Bengali articles is that half of them are in English but with Bengali script--so you spend 2 minutes reading a long word that sounds like this "dee-dja-een" or "be-do-ko-bhar" only to realize that they mean "design" and "bedcover." Then you feel stupid while the rest of class snickers.

And one last piece of very exciting news is that I bought pretty shower curtains for both bathrooms here, both of them on sale! Nothing quite like it, eh?

A couple of blogs of Foreign Service folks who have just landed in Dhaka have posted pictures of their housing. Guess what is the one unifying feature of them all...they are ALL BEIGE! So, my new colorful shower curtains are coming with me next year.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Molodetz, I Passed Russian! And Happy Halloween!

So, the good news is that I have passed the neurotic Russian oral test I took last week. Which makes me feel pretty darn good about myself. The downside of my prep work on the subject is that I keep dreaming in Russian. Not gut.

Anyways, this past week I took a break from my crazy and meaningless work project and devoted myself exclusively to Bangla, the Diplomat, Son and, to a lesser extent, Fat Cat. That meant:

(1) leaning copious amounts of particularly useful Bengali words like "jollopropat" (waterfall), "Bhumodoshagor" (Mediterranean Sea), or "daba" (chess). I can just picture myself, standing at a dainty Dhaka diplomatic soiree, drinking tea in an evening dress, discussing the merits of waterfalls, trips to the Mediterranean and the local chess competitions. I do believe that my Bengali proficiency in a variety of topics will be impressive.
(2) Cooking food
(3) Picking up Son from the FSI daycare, which has been wonderful. Thanks to the good weather, I discovered that Son has cultivated a highly refined taste in modern music. On Tuesday, I went to pick him up and had the top of my convertible down thanks to the lovely October weather. We started driving slowly home, while I was blasting Creedence on the radio and wondering about the quality of my parenting style. Soon I heard Son screeching something from the back and freaked out, quickly turned down the music and turned around to see what was going on. Only to see the child throwing his arms high in the air, huge smile on the face, making some sounds (I suspect he was singing), clearly enjoying the ride. Then he looked at me sternly, pointed to the radio and demanded "more!" Well, child, be my guest, and I turned up Creedence again.

(4) Petting Fat Cat occasionally and engaging in yet another futile attempt to cut his (very) sharp nails.
I am proud to say that I spent over 2 hours at Target one evening along with my good friend and EFM Mrs. Hawaiian, until the store actually closed, under the pretext of searching for Halloween costume for Son. Here is my philosophy on that one--Halloween is a scary holiday and so costumes should be of scary things. Son had to be a devil (if you read this blog regularly, you'd know why and agree). I personally own 2 witch hats and horrible looking, CVS-bought witch dress. I have managed to convince the Diplomat to wear a Dracula cape. We make for a very diabolical family.
This weekend revolved around Halloween, and I would like to share some thoughts on that one. On Friday night, we went to meet our fabulous friends M&M in Eastern Market, to see the local festivities. On Sunday afternoon, we also took a stroll in Georgetown where Son engaged in his first Trick or Treat experience. Now, I understand the drive for originality that some parents have, but, for the love of Pete, what exactly are you trying to say when your child's costume is a laundry basket with actual dirty clothes hanging from it? My guess is that you just airing out your dirty laundry while at the same time saving money on an actual costume. Or how about the kid whose costume was one giant LEGO block? Now THAT's exciting, no? Trick or Treat, I am a LEGO block--oh, hm, yeah, very nice, here are mini Tweezlers for you. Then again, maybe the child's dream WAS to be a giant LEGO block one day. Who am I to judge...

Otherwise, Georgetown was wonderful and Son had a fabulous time T or T-ing. I admit that the Diplomat and I were a bit unsure about the whole process at the beginning. Since we both did not grow up in the US but in poor developing countries, the notion that random people will give you free candy just for the asking was practically unsettling. We stood there, scratching ourselves pensively, pretending to be just scoping out the scenery. Mercifully, a giggly pile of kids practically overran us and started ringing doorbells left and right around us. So, we channeled our inner naturalized American and encouraged Son to procure candy. Which he fiercely did. The problem was that he insisted on eating each and every candy he got, and he would not move to the next house until it was all eaten. After the first three chocolate bars, we had to stop and explain the procedure to him and handed him the bag, promising rich rewards later.

I was also somewhat taken aback by the abundance of 30-something year old trick-or-treaters. I have to say that if was at home, handing out candy to kids, and a 35-year old, 250-lbs angel with a beard or yet another unsexy nurse comes to my door, I might just refuse to give up the candy and poignantly eat it myself.

All in all, I Halloween was awesome! Boo!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A BEX test and a weekend in NYC

It has been a while, I know. My life has been a tad crazy, if I may say so.
Last weekend, the Diplomat and I dragged our poor child to the Shenandoah Valley, where we spent a weekend playing tennis, getting massages and drinking with a couple of good friends.
In our defense, Son had a blast playing among the fallen leaves around the rented house and experienced his first pumpkin carving, courtesy of our good friends. I attended two tennis classes. The name of the first one should have given me a good hint NOT to attend but hindsight is always 20/20, right? It was called "Sweaty Tennis: Drills" and a 23-year-old "tennis pro" made me and another 2 middle-aged women run around the court for our lives in the span of an hour. It could have made a very odd episode of "The Bachelor" where older women run around a tennis court to compete for um, a tennis ball from the young bachelor. The worst part was that he kept giving little yelps of encouragement to the other women, who in turn kept yelling back to him in utter delight. 20 mins into the session, I was ready to keel over and throw up, while the perky cougars kept running around screaming, "Yeah baby, give it to me baby," to the amused youth. I chose a different session the next day. I also went and got a massage. They gave me a masseur. His name was Randy. I think it is a very unfortunately chosen name for a masseur. I am just saying. Oh yeah, and the Diplomat lost his wallet. He does that often.

The week that followed was as crazy as ever. On Wednesday, I was told that my work project was over and I spent an entire evening dreaming with the Diplomat about my impending freedom. On Thursday morning, I was told that the client liked our work and I was asked to stay for another month. In a momentary lapse of reason, I accepted. I had a very serious conversation with myself after that. One part of me argued that the price of shoes has been rising and hence, additional income at the price of my sanity is key. My other side tersely retorted that sanity is, after all, very important and money is not. Shoes won.

On Thursday morning, I took a phone Russian test administered by the Foreign Service Institute, the notorious BEX oral test. Now, let's see if you think the test started auspiciously for me:
1) candidates are expressly asked NOT to call from a cell phone, but from a landline.
2) I call from home, my FSI-sponsored home with FSI-paid for phone line. Connection is terrible.
3) The assistant asks me to call back. I do. The connection is just as awful. She proceeds to connect me to the testers.
4) During the transfer, the connection drops. I call back frantically.
5) She connects me again. The testers are on speaker phone and the connection worsens considerably. I get nervous as I can only hear 35% of what they say.
6) I humbly beg to call from my cell phone, explaining that I can barely hear them. They concede.
7) I call back form my cell phone. The connection is fantastic and we proceed to discuss a variety of fascinating topics.

I am now waiting for the results, which are crucial for my place on the notorious omnipotent Register of diplomatic hopefuls. If I pass, I go on the top of the list and the moment the FBI completes my security clearance, I will get "the call" to join the Foreign Service. If I do not pass, I will not speak to myself for a very long time.

This past weekend, we drove up to NYC so that the Diplomat can get a new driving license. Son received a brand new haircut from a fancy children's salon, where he sat perched in a red racing car instead of a chair, watching Thomas the Train, while the hairdresser cut his locks. I took a very fuzzy picture with my phone camera, something I never do. If I ever figure out how to get it out of the phone, I will post it. It was overall a very good experience, and I highly recommend to any parent who dreads his child's haircut on a salon to go to a specialized place--it is a bit pricier than your local barber who looks like a very old Mafioso, but well worth it.

I am happy to say that in the span of three days, I managed to see a good deal of my good friends in the city. On Friday, we had drinks around 5 with Mr. U, then had over our fabulous neighbors for drinks and pizza, while discussing their marriage plans for this winter. On Saturday, we drove to Brooklyn to see A+F and had brunch at a slightly pretentious eatery (which did not have any regular sugar substitutes but only a suspicious and foul smelling green powder). On the way back from Brooklyn, around 1.30 pm, the Diplomat dropped me off on the Upper East side where I met my fabulous friend from law school who is also a great Fat Cat aficionado. We had one giant margarita each. At 3.30pm, after squeezing a manicure, I met the lovely S for a glass of wine on the Upper West side. Pleasantly tipsy, I went back to Riverdale, where at 6 pm, I met the Diplomat and we went to visit our Bulgarian neighbors for a round of beers. We finally made it home around 8, put Son hastily to bed, waited for the babysitter, and went out for a night on the town. We found a brand new restaurant on the UWS, Tolani, which served "favorite foods from around the world" and so we had the pleasure of drinking Austrian and Tasmanian wines, while eating a Thai salad, Belgian mussels, Greek appetizer and a goat curry to end. Around 11.30 pm, we were joined by the fabulous J for one last glass of wine. Utterly exhausted, we dragged our butts to bed at 1.30 am.
We spent most of Sunday afternoon in traffic on the way back to Washington, DC while Son insisted on watching a particular short video teaching kids to count cars 46 times in the back seat. Son is obsessed with counting. Apparently. He spent the rest of the drive peeing every 30 mins. which, of course, meant that we had to stop on the side of the highway every single time.

Tomorrow, I have a day off work. It almost feels like cutting school in 10th grade! The Diplomat and I might even go see a movie while Son is in daycare!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bengali Immersion at the Mall

Bangla classes are starting to get more complicated and the Diplomat is trying to shine as much as he can by using Hindi words in his sentences, hoping that they will magically sound like Bangla. Sometimes that happens and he gets really happy. This past week he wrote a particularly complicated sentence on the blackboard, which was more or less correct, and beyond himself with pride, he actually yelled to the class, "Look at me!" Sadly, the effect of his language genius was lost on all of us since his penmanship is particularly lacking and his handwriting resembles the track pattern left by a herd of drunk alpacas rushing down the slopes of the Andes. The good side of this is that his irritating ease with Bangla thanks to him knowing Hindi is giving me an incentive to study even harder.

Today we took a field trip with the Bengali class in the Ballston Mall. As we descended upon Macy's and started wondering loudly in slow, badly-pronounced Bangla where we can find baby shoes, suddenly a female voice interrupted us and in crystal clear bengali told us that they do not carry baby shoes. Turns out, she was a sales rep there and was originally from Dhaka. Happily, we asked her all about her: where she was from, about her family, name, what was her favorite color and food (that is how far we have advanced for a month and a half of language training...). In a fit of brilliance, I managed to somehow ask her how many years she had lived here and even understood her answer. She was rather shaken by the fact that a group of (seemingly) crazy and loud Americans was speaking Bangla at the mall on a quiet Friday morning, and so we delightedly told her (in perfect Bangla) that we were kutnitibid (diplomats) who will go to live in Dhaka. She appeared rather perplexed and it took us a long time to explain what exactly that meant. I really don't think she was impressed though; I suspect she was convinced that we were all slightly insane. I am not saying she was wrong. We left her section and proceeded to the male shoes section, where we (again loudly) discussed shoe colors, at which point another, male, sales rep suddenly said something in bengali. Utterly delighted that we have met yet another live Bangladeshi, we enthusiastically asked him where he was from. He sullenly and with a thick accent said--Amerika. We asked again; he again irritably insisted, "American! Now I American!!" Visibly disappointed, we asked him where his family was--reluctantly, he admitted it was in Dhaka. Excited again, we started asking more inane questions but he finally drew the line at our bengali immersion when he refused to tell us his favorite color. We thought it prudent to leave at that point as people had started staring. I love Macy's--I ALWAYS find what I need there. Even a live Bangladeshi person.

Tonight we leave for a fun weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, where the Diplomat has signed us up for (guess what!) tennis camp. I am beyond myself from excitement although that might have something to do with the fact that I also booked an hour of massage at the spa for tomorrow.

It also has come to my attention that the Foreign Service apparently administers an English literacy test for spouses who want to take the 6-week General Consular class, which most FSOs take during their first round of training (often, spouses choose to take the class to be able to work at at post in the Consular section of the embassy or consulate in order to have a nice, little additional income). It does not matter how many university degrees the spouse has (or whether they maintain a highly eloquent blog); they still have to take the literacy test in order to be able to take the class. Apparently, the foreign service seems to think that FSO spouses are illiterate by default. Hm...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeverybody loves Costco! And possibly fondue.

This was a nice, pleasant weekend, in which I tried to cram as much errands as possible, while bonding fiercly with Son. So, I took him to Costco. One thing that struck me (pleasantly so) was the sheer amount of cars with diplomatic decals there. I recognized the cars of several Nordic countries (ever so thrifty, those Danes!), as well as some East and South Asian minivans filled with happy shoppers. Not surprisingly, I did not see a Greek diplomat shopping at Costco. Son was hugely entertained eating various samples, which constituted his lunch during my shopping spree--between three samples of soup, one salmon, two crackers with Brie, one M&M-encrusted granola bar sample, a dried peach, and a load of strawberries, I thought I provided a much needed nutritional meal for my child. No?

This weekend we also went out for a nice dinner with two other couples from the Diplomat's class. We chose a fondue place, and I freely admit that I had never been to one in the past, thus I was somewhat excited about the experience. In fact, I was so excited that I even put in my contacts (I do that only on special occasions). The place was really nice and cozy and we were just settling in nicely when the rather large and intimidating server showed up. She asked whether we had been there before, and when we all said NO, she started excitedly to yell "Virgins, yey, virgins!" to the rest of the people in the restaurant. We got some funny looks. Then she prattled out the way the menu works (which no one understood), told us to order everything on the menu, and scolded the Diplomat for holding the menu on the wrong page. Then she took the drink orders, after asking me specifically how I wanted my martini. I answered "vodka martini, straight up, no more than 2 olives," to which she quipped--"you don’t want a salad with your drink, huh?" Totally baffled (I had never heard of anyone having a salad for the sake of a martini), I retorted politely-"Oh, not yet." She gave me a hateful look and disappeared, which is also when it dawned upon me that she meant that I did not want MANY olives in the drink. Shortly thereafter, another server came and gave me a martini without ANY olives in it and with an offended expression asked me whether I wanted any. A tad exasperated, I asked for two. A minute later, the original waitress, visibly irritated and carrying back the unfortunate drink with 2 olives in it, came back and told me that the bartender would like me to be MORE specific about my olive choices in the future.

Our menu options included a pre-fix menu, which seemed to include an impossible amount of fish and meat and pasta on it. Our trusted waitress cheerfully assured us that it is a bit of everything and not to worry. Then she asked us to choose two types of broth (we were completely unsure why) and disappeared. The cheese and salads showed up shortly, and we all spent an hour happily dunking bread and apples in the bubbling cauldrons of melting cheese on the table, mentally calculating the calories per bite (well, ok, I was). Then our beloved food leader reappeared and proceeded to present each one of us with a nice plate filled with raw meats of all kinds. Turns out, we were about to cook our own food. So, here is the thing--next time someone tells me that I am about to spend $145 in order to cook my own food MORSEL BY MORSEL (since we each had only two pitchforks onto which we cooked our pieces of meat in the communal pot/cauldron of broth), I will suggest that they sit next to me and cook the meat for me. Thankfully, the company was great and fabulous time was had by all. Next time, we decided to go camping and cook our own meat there instead.

DC is experiencing some lovely warm weather, and Son has spent considerable amount of time outside this weekend. On Sunday, I decided to be nice to the Diplomat and let him play tennis, while Son and I headed to the park next to the tennis courts. As I was passing by the picnic area, I saw a large group of people, eating, talking and playing volleyball. Something in the diction of their speech, which I could not hear exactly, made me pause and inch in their direction. Lo and behold, it was an entire horde of Bulgarians! Turns out, it was a weekly outing for the kids and parents of the Saturday Bulgarian School in Washington, DC. I had a lovely time chatting with a bunch of them while Son was rediscovering his Bulgarian roots by staring down fiercely a nice little Bulgarian boy who wanted to play with him. I hope to reconnect with the group again!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What is a SuperMom?

This has been a delightful week in bengali class. We have learned exquisite words like "tiktiki" (lizard) and "jok" (leech), which I imagine will be key in my life in Bangladesh. We have also learned to construct complicated sentences like, "All the people in the world from , I the tallest am," or "I, of all my brothers and sisters, tastiest am." Apparently, "tasty" doubles as "witty" in bengali. Plus we count from 1-50 two times every day. You can just imagine our anticipation.

Forget the guilty pleasures of rote memorization, however. I have to say that my schedule of work and school is slowly starting to kill me. I have no time for anything outside of Bangla and work and the few times a week I try to come home earlier than 9 pm in order to see my poor child. Someone asked me to meet for drinks this week "after work" and I had to laugh sadly at the idea. I can only imagine that my project at work is nearing its end. My current employer has expressed an interest in keeping me for future work, but for that to happen we need to have a little talk about working hours because otherwise by the end of this whole adventure I might simply not be alive.
On a positive note, the Diplomat has truly stepped up to the plate and become a rather decent Mr. Mom. I think he might be taking the role a bit far however: yesterday afternoon he took Son to the house of our friends and hung out there with two other mommies and their children, sipping afternoon wine. Then, when I came home, he complained loudly to me that (1) going to school from 7.30am to 12.30 pm and then (2) going for a tea and cookies info meeting in downtown DC with one of the FSI dignitaries, followed by (3) the above mentioned wine-infused playdate, (4) reheating a rice dish (which I cooked the previous night at 11 pm AFTER coming home form work), (5) feeding Son (in front of the TV) and then (6) giving him a bath was all so very exhausting and he is tired all the time. I just looked at him with my tired, blood-shot eyes, having just ran home from work earlier in order to read Son a book before bed and before he forgets who I am, thought about how I needed to go back to the computer now and work for another 2 hours and THEN learn 34567 new bengali words, then go to bed at 12.30 and get up back at 6.30 am and decided not to say anything. I imagined that my wild look explained it all. I don't think it did though because when Son woke up and started screaming at 1 am from his room, Mr. Mom-tastic dreamily told me to "go check on him." The Diplomat is lucky he did not get strangled last night.

All in all, I have to say that the Fledgling Diplomats live a rather pleasant life before their first posts--they have 5 hours of language training per day and the rest of the time they live life to the fullest At least I imagine they do. I cannot wait to be in that position one day.

Another piece of good news is that my security clearance is well under way. Hopefully, it doesn't take too long, so that I can get an invite to the FSI class in late March, which would put me in a perfect position to join the Diplomat in Dhaka as a full-fledged Mrs. Diplomat rather than just Wife. I also need to pass a telephone Russian test on October 21st, in order to boost my FSOA scores, which will help in getting an invite to join the Foreign Service sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Celebrating Eid and catching some sleep

Welcome to another chapter of my circus life. Monday began with plenty of Indian/South Asian food and banghra dancing in the early am of the day as the SE Asian division of the Foreign Service Institute threw a party for the end of Ramadan and celebrated Eid. Most of the teachers, young, old, male, female, danced their butts off after the feast, dragging most of the timid, stuffed students to the dance floor. Now, it is possible that this wouldn't have been THAT awkward if all of us were wearing traditional clothes, but, except for the teachers, everyone else was wearing a variety of out of place clothing, including: (1) rain boots with all kinds of designs like frogs and flowers (it was raining outside), (2) long skirts, (3) short skirts, (4) suits, (5) 4-inch heels (ok, that was just me). So, all of those uncoordinated students, flailing their arms up in the air and stomping the floor with the rain boots/sneakers/high-heels, kept trying to keep up with the teachers who were coming up with all kinds of masterful moves on the dance floor (barefooted!). It was not pretty but fun was had by all.
After that auspicious start of the week, Son decided to get sick, which meant no Bangla classes for me on Thursday and Friday. He spent most of Thursday on the couch with fever, watching sullenly Sesame Street and dosing on and off , while adamantly refusing to take off his shoes. He refused to take them off even when he went to bed that night, and after I had sneaked in to remove them twice during the night, he woke up freaked out by their absence and insisted on putting them on again. He also spent portions of the day latching onto me for dear life, while I was trying to work remotely. in the afternoon, he resolutely refused to sit on the couch by himself, and instead chose to watch TV while sitting in my lap as I was typing on the computer. Every time I stood up to go to the bathroom, he would be inconsolable and insisted on coming inside to make sure I would not run away or disappear through the drain.
There were two positives from the whole story. First, I discovered that Son can count to 10 in English (courtesy of my wonderful father-in-law, who had the infinite patience to count his cars with him every day during his stay with us) and to 5 in Bulgarian (courtesy of my desperate attempts to teach him to count). I was so impressed that I made him count half of our belongings in the apartment. When we went to count my shoes, I got embarrassed and shoo-ed him out of the closet. Do YOU think 35 pairs is too much??? Second, I finally got some sleep. Typically, I have to be up by 6.30 am to make it to daycare and Bangla class, and I cannot seem to go to bed any earlier than 12. Now, I got to (sort of) sleep in till 9 am each morning while Son was awake and was playing around my bed, rolling his cars on top of my half-asleep head and tickling my feet. It was heaven.
Son's clinging to me has made me realize something--when we are sick, we all want our mommies. It is a comforting thing, even if mommies do not exactly contribute anything to our well being. Son could have perfectly happily watched Elmo on his own, or sitting NEXT to me on the couch, but he simply HAD to climb on top of me and watch it from my lap. I have gotten more hugs and kisses and "mama, mama"-s in the past two days than in the past 2 months combined. It's good to be needed by a little, blond, curly boy, who is usually so filled with energy that can barely stop to give momma a kiss.
And speaking of which, here is your bengali word of the day--"chonchal", meaning energetic or restless.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Did you say Bangla????

And so my life has become a three-ring circus.
During the week I attend 5 hrs of intense bengali language classes from 7.30 am to 12.30, then the Diplomat swiftly drives me to downtown DC to begin working from 1 pm to about 8ish pm, after which I dash home to catch a glimpse of Son primly pajama-ed and pleasantly smelling of baby shampoo. If I am on time, I get to read a book with him in bed. If not, I get to morosely sit and eat dinner and feel like a crappy mommy. On top of that, I try hard to catch up on the class material I have missed during the first two weeks of bengali (I joined the class later in the game), which means going to bed at 12 and getting up at 5.30am to feverishly recite scores of incomprehensible words like urodjahadj and punghanapungko. I was so severely underslept that I think half of this week I was asleep and was dreaming about being at work or in class, I am not sure. All I know for sure is that I am surrounded by piles of small green index cards filled with Bengali words, which I carry with me everywhere and pull out to recite at every opportunity (like, when I go to the bathroom, for example).

This weekend I finally got to sleep--the Diplomat graciously let me sleep in on both days since Son has picked up the unsavory habit of getting up at 6.30 am. I also finally found time to put together the digital piano and play it clumsily for my rapturous domestic audience consisting of Son, who keeps insisting that I play Baa Baa Black Sheep on it while sitting on my lap and pressing the keys alongside with me, and me trying to constantly remove his sticky apple-saucy fingers from the keys. Once we play that lyrical masterpiece, he decides he wants to sing Twinkle twinkle little star (as you are painfully aware, I am sure, that song has the same exact melody). Not happy with Twinkle twinkle, he moves on to the ABC song, which AGAIN, has the same melody. He (and I and the Diplomat and quite possibly Fat Cat) has spent this weekend endlessly humming to himself, alternating between Twinkle Twinkle, Baa Baa Black Sheep and the ABC song. I cannot get the idiotic melody out of my head. Not sure if you knew this, but the melody was actually written by Mozart and was the base for 12 variations, which I played as a child and which are wickedly tough. It must be fate that I get to play this for my child now. One thing is for sure--we were both immensely impressed and swelling with pride because, as it turns out, Son knows the words to all three (damned) songs! Another thing he kept doing this weekend is line up his cars and count them like this: one, two, thee, fou, seven, eigh, nine, seven. For hours on end. Then another happy performance of Twinkle Twinkle...Good times!
This weekend we also went to the second birthday of Son's best pal E, son of M&M. There was a fire-truck cake there with massive quantities of awesome red frosting there. I wanted to lick the entire cake but suspected it would be frowned upon by most adults and some of the children. So, I ate as much as I could as graciously as I could. Then there were red-frosted cupcakes. I ate only one and a half, pretending to be giving some to Son. I figured people would start noticing if I had more. I wanted to though. So, to curb my appetite, I pulled out the deck of green (shombudj) index cards and chanted a few bangla words, realizing I do not remember a single one of them. My appetite immediately subsided.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle!!

Well, folks, I can safely say that this was one crazy weekend yet again. The madness started on Thursday and unfolded like this:

1. Me marinating 6 lbs of chicken for tandoori grilling at 1 am on Thursday night, after we came from a romantic dinner celebrating my birthday with the Diplomat.
2. Friday: cooking industrial quantities of Indian food, partying with fellow FSOs and celebrating our future post and life in Dhaka.
3. Saturday morning found me and the Diplomat at Costco, buying a digital piano and a lifetime stock of Splenda and pickles.
4. That same night the waiter in Harry's Tap tried (somewhat successfully) to squeeze 20+ people at a table for 15, including a plethora of running children all under 7 who for some reason would not sit at the bar (the waiter's idea--he clearly did not have kids). Later that night, few of us bold, energized bunnies drove to downtown Washington to dance some clumsy salsa till the wee hours in Havana Village. I have to say that the Diplomat's salsa leaves someething to be desired--one of my friends felt compeled to intervene in the middle of our dancing to show him what to do.
5. Sunday morning, Son was having his usual manic routine of running hysterically all over the apartment as if chased by a panicked herd of goats, when he tripped over a big heap of matchbox cars, fell and apparently hurt his arm. After an hour of howls of pain, snot running down his nose (and wiping naturally and prodigiously in my nice, black shirt), followed by unusual quiet and staring at the TV, I decided to take the hurt child to the hospital. X-rays were taken (to the sounds of horrified yelling, some snapping procedures tried on the elbow, and finally a miniature cast of fiberglass adjusted on his arm--his first cast!! Seconds later, Son passed out exhausted by the events. Senseless, we carried him home, where, upon waking up, he took one look at the cast, then looked me straight in the eyes and said firmly, "No!" After 56 of those Nos, I took it off. You be stronger with your child, I suppose I am not that good of a mom.
6. Sunday night found us at Diplomat's aunt's place for some seriously great idlis and other unpronounceable Indian delicacies. Son proudly peed and pooped in her garden 3 times. Good job!
All of the weekend, amidst the insanity, I kept studying the Bengali alphabet, which contains only 50 characters, most of them pretty much the same to the naked eye of the amateur. That night, I had a horrible dream that a few squiggly letters were running to catch me through the streets of Dhaka.
7. Son proceeded to have a bad night of waking ups and refusal to sleep, while trying to viciously bite us if we approach the bed. Fantastic. I ended up sleeping about 5 hrs, which is a bad idea since today I started bangla classes at 7.30 am. Did I mention that I am also working full time, while taking 4 hour classes every day? Can you say FUN? I can't, I think I am asleep as I am writing this.....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's My Birthday, It's My Birthday!!!!! I am getting a piano!

This may sound somewhat selfish to you, but when I was pregnant, my due date was the day before my birthday, and I thought--"Oh, no, I don't want Son to be born on the same day!" Some people said that it would be the greatest gift on my day. But I always thought that everyone should have their special day, and if both Son and I had the same special day, our individual importance would blend somewhat. Son agreed, put his feet down (literally--he was a breech baby) and made an appearance 2 weeks before this day. Good boy!
He gave me the great gift of starting the day wonderfully. No midnight wakings, and getting up with a smile and not a single, tiny tantrum, and a pee in the potty. Well, what could a mom want more??? OK, a Ferrari, but let's not get carried away...
I am getting myself a piano today! I can hardly contain myself.

I am getting a bit frustrated with my future employer, FSI. I have decided to take Bengali classes together with the Diplomat at the institute. All along spouses are told what a great asset we are and how we are encouraged to take language classes. That there are many options for working spouses, like early morning crash classes, Rosetta stone, distance learning, what have you. well, folks, not in Bengali, that precious commodity of a language. I actually must take Bengali, if next June I am to join the Diplomat in Dhaka as an FSO myself, so that we can be a so-called "tandem couple." So, we have been trying to figure out a way for me to take the Bengali classes, while still working. Everything is moving at a snail's pace.

At least I don't have to go through medical clearance as I already have one from last year, when the Diplomat was getting his. Security clearance, on the other hand, is a whole different matter. They haven't even started that one yet. Rumor has it that the time to complete those has been reduced to 3 months (it took 8 months for the Diplomat, but then again, he is a suspicious element), which gives me hope that i will be able to go to Dhaka as an FSO after all. So, Bengali must be learned....what to do?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How (not) to be a good disciplinarian

Have you ever found it tough to discipline your child because right after they have done something bad they stand in front of you with the most hilarious expression on their face? Could be fear, could be mischief or pure puzzlement-why is momma angry? Well, folks, I often find myself unable to keep a serious, angry face as Son stands in front of me, blond locks flying everywhere, half a cracked smile on the face (testing the waters--let's see if momma is angry or pretending to be??), then scrunching up the face in mock regret, only to melt in a huge smile, so huge that the eyes close. In moments like that all I want to do is grab the child, swing him high in the air and smother with kisses. Instead, I have to scold because he has just broken a glass. Parenthood is unfair!

This weekend we finally ventured outside Arlington and into the DC museum scene. Now, you should know that we are currently trying really hard to potty train Son--I started this months ago, he was 100% trained, and then we did all that traveling and all of my good work (of mopping pee off the floor for days) was gone. So, now we work on it again, which means no diapers on the weekends. Which also means that everywhere we go, we look like Lady GaGa's wardrobe entourage while on tour as we carry plenty of clothes for changing in case he pees in his undies--which he does. We went to the Natural History Museum, thinking Son would delight in the stuffed animals. He sure was delighted but that was only because he was allowed to run inside the museum for a good steady one hour. I am uncertain about the point of the visit--I am pretty convinced that he could have run the distance also outside on the Mall. Oh well, I got to see a couple of very curious bats, so it wasn't a total waste. On the way back, before we got into the metro, I asked Son to pee, which he did with delight. Then we entered the metro station, waited patiently 17 mins for the train and just when the electronic board said that the train is approaching, Son suddenly announced that he needed to pee again. So, the Diplomat and I ran all the way down the platform to hide from the other waiting passengers and held him over the concrete rails so that he can pee--what would YOU have done in such a moment?? We also managed to catch the train! Good times!

Washington is a beautiful city. Green, spacious, arranged. It is a pleasure to walk around. Too bad all the governmental buildings downtown are built in a style that we used to call in Eastern Europe Stalinist Baroque--you know the type, big bulky grey buildings. I suppose the message they are trying to convey is that being the government is not supposed to be fun. Like we needed to know that.
Work has been just as riveting as always. Lately I have been experimenting with the fancy tea machine there and making myself iced tea instead! Gives software license review a WHOLE new spin, I tell ya. But, I did get my first paycheck, woo hoo! And promptly bought a bunch of unnecessary things just to make a point.

It is my birthday on Thursday, yey! I cannot believe I am getting younger again!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to get rid of the pacifier: musings of a bored lawyer

This week will go down in history as the week I got the guts to get rid of Son's pacifier. To him, the pacifier was the most valuable thing in the whole wide world. He used it to go to sleep and was not allowed to use it anywhere else. However, as he grew older and considerably wiser, he found a way to steal his binkies from the bed. So, for the past few days he took on walking around the apartment, proudly sucking on the silly contraption, driving me to near fury. So far, the Diplomat and I have been dreading getting rid of it since Son slept so well with it. At night, we would just give it to him, put him in his crib, kiss him good-night, close the door and never hearing a peep from him anymore, go out drinking without a care. I am kidding. We stayed IN drinking. We always said to ourselves that we need to lose the paci at some point. Some faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar away point. But two nights ago, Son was in a spectacularly bad mood and decided (bad move) to bite my viciously. I got really mad and told him that it was over with the binky. Stunned, he cried for about 15 mins in his crib, then waived a little white flag (I swear I heard him mumble some not very polite things in my direction under his breath) and fell asleep like a log. The next night--he went happily in his bed and did not cry for a sec. So much for my horrified predictions that it will take a week of crying to get rid of the paci. It did not. So, for all those mommies dreading the BIG moment--don't. Seriously.

My job is boring. Really, really boring. I am reviewing IT contracts all day. Today, to keep my eyes open, I ran three times around the table in the office. It is possible, however, that I fell sleep in the middle of that exercise. So, to keep me somewhat occupied, I drink tea using the fancy Flavia coffee machine in the office. Since I don't drink coffee, I peruse the fancy law firm's tea collection. I must be drinking 6 cups of tea on average--I can safely say that I alone keep the Flavia company in business. I even do a little competition with myself to see how many cups I can drink before I go to the bathroom. It makes my day infinitely more exciting. To spice things up today, I made myself a cup of hot coco instead! Woaaaaaah, good times! Who said office life was all about politics...

I am beginning to worry about the Diplomat. He started Bengali classes this week, and has commenced walking around the apartment speaking incoherently in monosyllabic words with a very intense facial expression. I suspect he wants me to be excited and engaged about the whole business. I honestly try but I am afraid I don't show the requisite Diplomat's wife interest in the whole Bangla affair. It is possible I am just too high on tea. Naaaaaah! Tomorrow I will try the Raspberry Magic!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Foreign Service Oral Assessment day and Son turns 2

Believe it or not, Son turned 2 this past Saturday. We celebrated with gusto with new and old friends, and, as luck would have it, with my inlaws who are visiting us for the month of September. It was a memorable affair, filled with sangria, noise, sugar and gazzilion small Matchbox cars. It was catered by Costco, that lovely haven of our consumerism. I owe them a lot. FYI--to my delight, Costco in Virginia carries wine (not so in NY, a source of eternal aggravation to us).

The night ended somewhat questionably for the birthday boy, as he was utterly incapable of sharing his cars, even with the girls. Surrounded by about 20 small cars, he would not allow ANYONE else to touch them and tried to protectively snatch and carry all of them at once. It was not exactly possible and the other kids were playing with the cars, spilling from his clutched arms, which drove Son to a frenzy. He had to be removed from the party scene and brought upstairs to the apartment with his grandparents. Good times.

I am still internalizing the news of my passing of the FSOA. It has been a long process, and it still does not appear real in my head. Let me tell you about the day of Oral Assessment without breaking the obligatory NDA. It is an intense day, comprised of three parts--a group exercise (think model UN) with 5 other nervous folk whose hands shook uncontrollably whenever they spoke, an interview with stern current FSOs, and a case management memo writing exercise, which is as daunting as writing War and Peace. The FSO hopeful has about an hour between each fun part, during which he or she neurotically swaps stories with the other freaked candidates. Once all three parts were over, all of us sat down in the waiting room, our nerves tight as Stradivarius strings. It did feel a bit like a reality show, say "FSO Survivor" and we all waiting to hear which one of us was voted off the island. All of us kept talking endlessly so as not to permit the thought of the results to enter our heads. Business cards were swapped, marriage stories exchanged, jittery giggle puncturing the air, and every single time someone would open a door, all of us would jump up in the air in anticipation. It was possibly the most nerve-racking experience of my life. Even Flag Day wasn't so intense. I was one of the last 5 people called (out of 22) and rumor had it that the last people standing were the ones that pass. I can't vouch that it is true, but most of us left in the end passed.
I will be taking a Russian proficiency test soon to boost my score--my passing score wasn't the most spectacular, I admit. So, off to hit the books again. Ugh.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Results of the FSOA

Just a brief note to let those who are waiting to hear know that I passed the Foreign Service Oral Assessment today. It was one INTENSE experience and that is ALL I am going to say for now. Happy it is over, and now prepping for my Russian phone exam. I am exhausted. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flip-flops and military uniforms in Washington, DC

So, I got a job. To which I go every day and all. Very exciting stuff. But it gives me the chance to hang out in downtown Washington, DC, which is rather interesting. This is what I see most often in the streets, in order of highest frequency:
--people with various types of chains dangling from their necks, on which they carry ID cards, a thousand keys, more ID cards, access cards, key fobs, metro card pockets with metro cards in them and other curious objects. I sometimes wonder how they manage to carry the load
--women in flip-flops, whether they are wearing suits, skirts, miniscule shorts, pants, sweats, whatever
--men in army uniforms
--men wearing shirts and ties
--panting tourists

I like the uniforms.

Son had the experience every child in daycare dreads--he was the last kid today and the lady there had to stay and wait for us for extra 35 mins. Everything with drop-off and pick up went wrong today. I had to get to work ungodly early so that I can leave early to pick him up since the Diplomat had to be in DC the whole day (rather than in Arlington, where the FSI and the daycare are located). The Diplomat drove Son to daycare in the morning. It is a 8 min drive. 20 mins later I get an angry call from him, during which he announces that he is hopelessly lost on the way to the daycare. Um, what? Keep in mind he has been traveling that road every day for the past one month, whether by shuttle, by car or on foot. Plus, I heard the GPS in the background. I am just saying...
Then, in the evening, I met the Diplomat in the metro--he was going to pick up the car from home and then go pick up Son. Naturally, there had to be a problem--someone passed out in the metro car, apparently, so for over 20 mins no trains were coming or going. I am entirely unsure why--I cannot imagine the sick person to have been sick on both sides of the track. Finally, when I was mumbling that if an air-conditioned train does not come soon, they will deal with a whole lot more sick people in the metro, a train came on the opposite track. We were assured that it was going in our direction. We boarded like a herd of disoriented but rather irritable sheep. Then the train went in the opposite direction. Even more irritated, we got off at the next stop and after we saw the massive crowds of people waiting to board whatever came their way at the opposite platform, we decided to catch a cab instead. Mistake. Traffic was insane. After 15 mins we passed by the original metro station where we boarded the train and the Diplomat decided to get out of the cab, go in and see if he can catch a train while I go by cab. The idea was the one of us will get there sooner since we are already late to pick up Son. Finally, traffic moved and I made it to the daycare. The Diplomat showed up soon thereafter--naturally, the moment we left the metro, all the backlog had cleared up. Son was sitting lonely in the principal's office, eating Chex Mix with an evil expression. Fun times.

I also would like to mention that tomorrow is D DAY for my orals. May the force be with me! I can't wait for all this prep work and studying to be over, so that I can start my Dhaka prep and finally get back to knitting a sweater I started last winter. Though I am not entirelly sure that I will need it in Bangladesh. OH well. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The joy of having a child

This has definitely been one of THOSE days. This is what went down, in this order:

7.15 am-the Diplomat woke me up to tell me he was leaving for NYC (believe it or not, we STILL have crap in the apt there that we imagine we need here so he is driving there for the weekend to pick it up). I mumble incoherently, buried under the sheets in the darkened room. The Diplomat decides to ask me a few inane questions, apparently expecting a coherent answer. I remember to remind him to take the keys to the apt, he dangles something from the other end of the room, I confirm those were the right keys (I would have confirmed those were the right keys even if he were dangling a dead rat over there--the room was dark, I was asleep and did not wear my glasses).
7.30--despite my desperate attempts to remain asleep, the Diplomat, about to leave, announces that Son is up. I select a choice of unpleasant words and pretend to wake up. Son appears to be bursting with energy and very intent on playing with his zillion cars. I give up, get him our of the crib, mumble irritably and go to attempt waking up.

7.50 am--Son plays with a wine glass on the coffee table, leftover from our celebration of yesterday's events last night. I nicely tell him to leave the glass as he will break it. He proceeds to toss it on the table and, naturally, break it. I yell very unmotherly-like and send him flying to his room until I collect broken glass and whip out the vacuum. Good morning, Saturday.

8.15 am--Son is eating Cheerios and demands to have the entire box. I surrender, thinking "what bad could happen?" Few minutes later the entire contents of the Cheerios box is lying on the floor and Son is lying in the middle of it making Cheerio angels in the pile. He seems way too happy to be scolded. I make a feeble attempt at discipline and ask him to collect and put them back. I ask him to stop when he happily starts collecting them, licking each one of them first and then depositing them in the box. I whip out the vacuum again. I LOVE Saturday mornings.

9 am--I start making bread. I take out the bread machine and Son insists in sitting on the countertop to watch. I gladly oblige. I pour water in the machine and turn around to grab flour. When I turn back, I notice that Son has just dropped my cell phone in the water. Again, he seems way too happy to be tossed out of the window so I refrain. I might have felt like crying though.

10 am--As Son is apparently bouncing off the walls at home, I decide to take him out shopping. In the grocery store, he notices the olives stand and insists on eating 756olives, or else. I surrender and give him the olives. People look at us strangely but we disregard them.

We go to the park where good times are had by all. We come back and a few mins later, Son runs horrified to me to tell me he had pooped in his underwear. I clean up with a resigned air and go to our bedroom to change when I suddenly notice a big pile of poop on the carpet. I turn around in agony and notice Fat Cat giving me the evil eye. I shake my finger at him and clean his poop too. I am NOT happy.

1.15--Son goes to nap. I try to relish the free time but instead spend 30 mins on the phone with the cable company.

1.45--the Diplomat calls angrily to tell me that the key to the NYC apt is not on the chain even though I told him it was there. Rather tersely (it is possible that I have yelled) I explain that he knows what the key looks like and he should have checked it himself. I suggest he call the real estate broker who has a duplicate copy.

1.55 pm--I call the Diplomat to see whether he got hold of the key. He informs me that he had just dropped the car keys in the drain in front of the building, and no, he has not heard from the broker yet. I hang up, making firm plans to move to live in a cave in the woods, far from the world.

Son wakes up after only one hour of sleep. I am starting to pack for the cave. Son, however, is in a stupendous mood and runs around in circles, stopping to kiss me now and then. Life suddenly turns fantastic. Son remains in great mood for the remainder of the day and I forget every single little thing that had happened today. And for the millionth time I realize--having children might be the most maddening, difficult and frustrating thing in the world but it takes one little, crooked smile on their face and that same world somehow all of a sudden just brightens up!

I am ready for tomorrow!

PS--in case you wonder, the Diplomat fished out the car keys with a wire hanger and the broker showed up with the key.