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...