Saturday, April 26, 2008

Communication with Post

Alan received our first email from post this week. They seem very enthusiastic about his arrival. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, namely our arrival date, but they suggested a car for us to purchase - a used Tata Marina - and recommended that we ship some dog items prior so that Coco will be more comfortable when she arrives.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Natalie Tells Work

I told my employer yesterday afternoon about the move to Kolkata. It went a lot smoother than I was nervous of, most likely because of the familiarity with Jessie's upcoming move. Jessie is moving to Bolivia with her FSO husband in July. I am already starting to feel sad about leaving, hoping that I can continue in some way since I have so many great relationships with the people here.

Reconnecting with Friends in South East Asia

We have two friends that live in South East Asia, Raj in Bangalore and Kaew in Bangkok.

Alan and I both know Raj through work. I met Raj in 2003 while working on the Nextel intranet project. He then worked with both of us on the Chemonics intranet. Ironically, Raj just in the last two weeks moved to Pennsylvania for a two year stint through his work at Deliotte. He thought I was joking when I informed him of us moving to Kolkata.

Kaew is a friend of mine from graduate school at North Carolina State University. The last time I saw her was on my visit to Thailand in 1997. Bangkok is only a $350, two and a half hour plane ride from Kolkata, so I have a feeling we will be visiting her more than once. She is very excited about our future visits. I am very excited about getting back to see Kaew, the changes to Bangkok and the fantastic Thai beaches with fresh seafood.

Swearing In Ceremony

The official swearing in ceremony was on April 18th, a week after Flag Day. I hadn't been to the main State building, so it was quite inspirational to walk the halls with so much history.

We got lost on our way to the reception, so a person helped by letting us into the Secretary of State's secure hallway to use her elevators. I think the baby gave us some sympathy points.

After a very nice reception, we adjourned to the main auditorium where all State employees were sworn into the State Department by John Negroponte after a few inspirational words.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Making Our Lists

I attended another workshop for spouses yesterday, to review the issues, procedures and allowances for moving and transportation. There is so much to do! I have three pages of lists from the three-hour meeting, on top of the two pages of lists they handed out.

The most cumbersome will be getting all of our paperwork in order, such as an updated will, medical directive, and scanning all of the documents we currently have such as medical records, previous taxes and official documents.

Another complexity for our particular post is the ability to ship consumables. Since it will be hard to get many things in Kolkata for a reasonable price, we are allowed to two shipments of up to 2,500 pounds of consumables. The items that qualify for consumables are foodstuffs and personal health items. Unfortunately, you can not use the weight to ship extra toys, furniture, clothes, etc.

We definitely know we will need toilet paper and a trip to Costco. It was recommended to include chocolate chips, diapers, cake mix and canned pumpkin.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We May be Able to Finally Understand Cricket

Kolkata's cricket team is the Knight Riders. I do not think referencing David Hasselhof will be appropriate. Although every time I see Ishant Sharma, one of their current star players, I can't help but think of George Harrison. Possibly reincarnated as a cricket super star?

Image of Kolkata Knight Riders from
Image of Ishant Sharma from

Flag Day Dinner for India

The dinner plan for Flag Day night, if we were posted to India, had been Tandoori Nights in Clarendon or Jyoti in our neighborhood. But because Ann and Mike were staying Old Town Alexandria and our neighborhood, Adams Morgan, is crazy on a Friday night, we decided to look up Indian restaurants in the Alexandria area on Mike's Blackberry. We found the Bombay Curry Company, which I vaguely remembered hearing about.

It was a great choice, even better than the other two possibilities. When we arrived, a 138th class member assigned to Mumbai was already eating there. Our waiter was Bengali and was very enthusiastic about our post. He told us the food was very good in Kolkata and that we should watch out for the mosquitoes. We will probably be back before we leave.

And Then There Was Flag Day

Flag day for the 138th was on a Thursday, April 11th, a day that I will always remember, since there was so much anticipation.

It was held in the gymnasium on the FSI campus, padded floors for those who may faint or turn somersaults. The room was standing room only, many invited friends and family. Alan had his mom, myself, Sicily, his brother Mike, his sister-in-law Ann, three Chemonics co-workers and a friend from the 139th class attending.

There was a lot of excitement in the air, as it was hard to hear anything else prior to the calling of the posts. They presented a flag for each post. The order was random, so it was hard to predict when Alan would be called.

The stressful moments were when the other Alan in the class was called for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They call each post first, then call the person's name that is assigned, so when we heard "Saudi Arabia and "Alan," all of us gasped then looked at each other relieved.

The next was when all but one of the India posts had been called. I could see the flags from our other high posts in the holder. So when the last India post came up, it was quite wrenching. Alas, they called "Alan" and "Smith" and it was all adrenaline for the next hour.

Unfortunately you have to sit patiently for the rest of the names to be called. All you really want to do is to huddle with your family and friends and get out all of the built up excitement. But we patiently sat.

Saturday we were much the same. The 138th put on a picnic for all of their classmates, family and friends, which we attended.

It is Sunday, two days later and we are finally assimilating our new home for two years. There is just so much to do in the next two months!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Excited. Exhausted. Overwhelmed.

That's how I feel right now. I think Natalie is the same. We're excited to finally know. I'm looking forward to the professional and cultural challenges of living and working in India. I'm also very tired after an emotionally draining week. Natalie is also tired and is already sleeping, even though it's before 10pm on a Friday night. And we're both overwhelmed. We have so much to figure out between now and our departure in early July -- less than 3 months away. What will we do with the house and the condo? How will we get Coco to India? When will Natalie tell her job?

We're happy to get a "high" bid -- and one that will position us well to get one of our preferred choices for the second tour.

We celebrated with dinner at the Bombay Curry Co. My mom, Mike and Ann joined us, and we all agreed the food was very good. Our server was Bengali, so he was excited for us, too.

Okay...time to sleep!

We are Going to Kolkata, in July!

We have pictures and more to share of flag day after we get over the realization of getting Kolkata! It was so emotionally draining to finally know and overwhelming to understand that we will be leaving so soon!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Daddy's Pulse

This is my first time posting on this blog. I had hoped to analyze our "high" bids to determine which will offer the opportunity to resurrect my Winesmith blog. Johannesburg would certainly facilitate wine blogging, but it might be harder if we go to Chennai, which has restrictions on wine and beer.

But tonight, less than 20 hours before learning our first assignment, I'm too distracted and anxious to research the rest of our high bids for wine blogging potential.

Instead, I'll say that I'm very excited about what the future holds. Tomorrow, Flag Day, will be the first of many moments in our Foreign Service experience that will have a significant impact on our future. It's very unnerving for us, tough, because we have very little influence on the outcome.

Okay...the anxiety and fatigue have settled in. It's time to get some rest and prepare for tomorrow. I'll be in touch.

This is Emotionally Draining! Less Than One Day

This picture of Sicily expresses how I feel right now. On the back of a big train moving forward but not quite sure where it is headed. She was off to a walk with Dad and Coco. We are off on a walk with the U.S. State Department and it all becomes real tomorrow at flag day.

Alan had a Consular reception tonight and talked to an officer that used to be a Career Development Officer. He asked for Alan's preferences and situation and then made the prediction that we would be assigned to Kolkata.

Alan's family predicts Johannesburg, South Africa as the choice.

We now believe Sao Paulo, Lome and Kolkata are the biggest possibilities.

We will find out tomorrow!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Politely Avoiding Jessie

Since so much is still unknown, I have not informed my employer of our FSO life and move. We plan on deciding the best date after flag day. (Only two more days!)

The twist in this story is that one of my workmates is married to an FSO. They are leaving early July for Bolivia. Her husband is attending FSI for Spanish language training, so every work day is a potential exposure as I drop off and pick up Alan and Sicily.

Tonight at our Personal Finances and Investments workshop the chance of being exposed is even greater. Luckily, the Overseas Briefing Center that runs the workshops has let us know which classes Jessie is attending. She and her husband will be at tonight's class.

I have a change of clothes so that I will look atypical to how she typically sees me at work. We are also going to arrive early and sit in the back. I may bring a newspaper with me to hide behind. We informed Paul and Amy last night not to yell across the class, "Hi Natalie and Alan!"

Let's hope for the best. Jessie is such a great person, I can not wait to tell her and talk about FSO life.

Did I mentioned there is only two days left before flag day?

Update: Everything went smoothly. Both of our hearts starting racing when Jessie and Bob entered the room, but we went unnoticed. Paul and Amy also did not see us or did not respond as planned.

Dinner with Paul and Amy

Last night we had dinner with another FSO and spouse in Alan's A-100 class at Las Canteras, a great Peruvian restaurant in D.C., two blocks from our house. Sicily is getting to be a bit too active for nice dinning, but she made it through our time together.

We mainly talked about the process so far, their move to D.C., bidding on countries, our favorite posts and the anxiety around waiting for flag day!

They are such a wonderful couple, it makes me very proud to have them represent the U.S. overseas. We will be rooting for them to get their favorite post on Friday.

Only two more days!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Supplemental Training at FSI

Outside of A-100 and subsequent language classes for Alan, FSI offers training for spouses/partners and workshops on foreign service life.

I already attended a two-day introduction to the Foreign Service during Alan's first week, which included an overview of all of the resources available to FSO families, how to research and bid on posts, medical care, employment for spouses/partners, and overseas schools.

This week we are attending a workshop labeled Personal Finances and Investments. Next week Alan will be going to a workshop called Traveling with Pets and I will be going to an overview of transportation and logistics for spouses/partners.

Only two more days to Flag Day!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Flag Day Scorecard

Just in case we are the last ones called on Flag Day, I created a scorecard to keep a running tally of our high bids for Alan's fans.

Another activity that helped damper my anticipation! Four days left!

Update: After using the score cards on Flag Day, I would change the scorecards to include all posts, with our highs prioritized on the entire list.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Old Toys (and Clothes) for Sicily

The St. Andrew Episcopal Church in Arlington has a fantastic kids consignment sale twice a year, once in the spring and fall. This year as a consignee, we were able to shop pre-sale to the public. But as part of my ability to consign, I had to also work the sale this morning. I was given the task of door guard, allowing only a certain number of shoppers in at a time. The place was crowded with about 400 shoppers in the first hour. I highly recommend the sale to anyone in the area.

During the sale, I was thinking that I will probably be involved in more events like this in the Foreign Service, so it was a nice activity to work this morning.

We picked up a wood doll house, a pull-toy with ducks, another activity table, three books, a see-and-say, some drawing templates, some shirts, a couple of dresses and a pair of shorts.

If we are in town for the Fall sale, we will definately participate again.

Less than six days!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Going to miss my office.

My first mobile post. I just tried out the feature that allows you to blog from your phone, with photos. It's fun!

Inter A-100 Class Happy Hour

Last night Alan, Sicily and I went to a happy hour for the 139th A-100 class, sponsored by the 137th A-100 class at the Brickskeller in Dupont Circle. Members of the 138th A-100, which is Alan's class, were also there. After a dinner of onion rings, garlic vegetables and Belgian beer with talked about the realities of A-100 with the next in-coming class.

It was interesting to give information and answer questions for people that are about to start with the State Department. We had forgotten all of the questions we used to have. It showed us how much we have learned and have started to adjust. We will definitely take advantage of any future networking activities, since you learn so much.

Less than seven days to flag day!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Less than Eleven Days

It is amazing for us to know that our lives will change dramatically in less than eleven days. Luckily we have two busy weeks to keep us mostly preoccupied. The wait is very hard!