another lovely weekend

After returning from a most relaxing weekend in Russian River, it's back to the grind. Well, actually it's not. I never thought that I could possibly feel anxious about a lack of responsibilities but apparently I can (bossy, Type A anyone?). Am I just becoming a more anxious person? Is that what happens as we get older? Is this part of the peculiar phenomenon: Saturn Returning? Seems a bit harsh and unnecessary - definitely something to keep one's eye on.

Regardless, the river valley was delightful; we spent lots of time eating, reading and relaxing with our friends Palav and Sanjay. Palav is an adventurous soul and brings out the best in me. She swam to a neighboring beach with me and enjoyed the rope swing as well (although she decided not to take the plunge which was probably smart. the boys sitting on the shore ribbed us and said they had been watching previous jumpers fall short into shallow water due to not being able to hang on long enough to fall into deeper areas. I of course took this as a personal challenge, held on for dear life, landed deep and have the rope burns to prove it).

We got our friends hooked on True Blood, I got to wear my new super cute bathing suit and we visited a winery that Cynthia and I have somehow missed on our bazillion trips to the region, Hook and Ladder, which I highly recommend. We ate an enormous picnic lunch in the sun, did a ton of giggling and a little bit of dreaming (we like to talk about the "commune"/farm we are going to have with a few other couples in our future).

We also managed to talk about the Bohemian Grove transaction nearly every day with different folks. While at the second winery we saw no less than four private jets fly over the vineyard. I won't say much except that cronyism is alive and well and adult white men in severely powerful positions need to feel like fertile blossoms just as much as the next little girl.

apologies (and parentheses)

So I've always found it a bit annoying when bloggers say "it's been a while since I posted last" or "sorry for such a long delay between posts" and things of the like. Why don't you just post? Boy was I a jerk. I totally get it now, folks. It's an odd sense of regret and dismissal that makes you feel lousy. Like failing to feed a neighbor's cat - not that I would ever do that (sheesh).

I will start by apologizing for my rude thoughts and follow with sorry it's been so long since I posted (not that anyone can read this blog except family at this point) and I will try to be better in the future. But, A LOT has been going on! As Cyn probably already wrote about (I am worse than most and haven't even kept up with what she's been saying - for shame!) WE (and by we of course I mean Cynthia) WERE INVITED TO THE SEPTEMBER A-100 CLASS!!!!!! We sold the condo, I've sold my business (more about that later), we moved into a sub-let (in a new 'hood!), Cyn put in her notice at work, and all those publications we downloaded before are now relevant and current! At this point we finally have a little time to chill out in the evenings, catch dinner and drinks with friends, go on mini-vacations (last weekend to Raging Waters and this weekend to Russian River), and overall enjoy a much-needed sense of relief that this is all happening and we will be moving forward.

We are looking forward to a trip to Hawaii next month followed immediately by a week with my family in Washington State. Upon returning to SF we will have a little going away party and pack up the remaining things before beginning our sure to be awesome road trip to DC.  All of which we will totally keep you updated on.

As if that isn't enough, I will also be turning dirty thirty.

Digital Diplomacy and Jam of the Week

The New York Times published an article re: digital diplomacy, aka "21st century statecraft" today featuring two State Dept reps.  A telling quote from the article:

A series of events last year helped [their] work gain traction by showing that connection technologies have become inextricably entwined with the challenges of foreign policy. In April 2009, there was the so-called Twitter revolution in Moldova. In July 2009, there was China’s regional-information blockade, including a total shutdown of the Internet, following the Uighur uprisings (“full” Internet usage was restored to Xinjiang 10 months later). And then, of course, Iran, beginning in June 2009, when the organizing power of cellphones and social media — and their ability to capture and disseminate images like the death of a young Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan — arrested the world’s attention.
IMHO, utilizing social networking and web 2.0 to open communication/expand the marketplace of ideas is a powerful way to support values that the American government espouses. As the SCOTUS has recognized, open debate, through which there is an exchange or competition of ideas, is the best way for society to progress and for people to discern the truth. I'm glad the State Dept is so eager to include digital diplomacy in its toolbox.

On another note, I had to share my weekly jam.  This Bat For Lashes song takes a while to pick up, but once it does, it's magical.

Bat For Lashes - Daniel (HD)

FAQ re: Foreign Service (for friends and fam)

Since receiving an invite to join the 156th A-100 class, we have received many questions from family members and friends. I realized everyone had pretty similar inquiries, so below you'll find a short FAQ:

What is the Foreign Service?

The Foreign Service is a branch of the U.S. Department of State that represents the United States’ interests abroad. A Foreign Service Officer (FSO) is a diplomat.  There are five career tracks that an applicant must choose from before becoming an FSO:

  •   Consular: Consular Officers protect Americans abroad and strengthen U.S. border security
  •   Economic: Economic Officers promote economic partnerships, development, and fair trade
  •   Management: Management Officers run our embassies and make American diplomacy work
  •   Political: Political Officers analyze political events
  •   Public Diplomacy: Public Diplomacy Officers explain American values and policies
I am on the Political track.  More info on Political officers from the State Department:
As a Political Officer, you’ll keep a trained eye on the political climate at your foreign post and decipher events as they relate to U.S. interests, negotiations and policies. As you learn new skills and enjoy outstanding benefits, you’ll communicate with foreign governments to seek support for shared goals, including votes in multilateral fora, in addition to:
  • Developing foreign contacts in and out of politics and government to advance U.S. political interests
  • Assessing the impact of political developments on the U.S. and making recommendations on action by our government
  • Supporting high level visits and advising policymakers on how to communicate with foreign governments
Note, however, that each FSO is obligated to doing consular work for one year (and often 2-3 years). Because I passed the Mandarin exam and accepted bonus points for doing so, I also committed to serving in a Mandarin-speaking country at least once before being tenured (e.g., in one of my first two posts), and once after being tenured.

Where will you be posted?

Entering FSOs sign contracts for "worldwide availability."  We all start with a five-week "bootcamp" of courses/orientation colloquially called the A-100. These courses are taught in the Foreign Service Institute at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia.

At the beginning of training, each A-100 class is provided with a bid list, which lists all the countries available with open posts. We will have a couple weeks of bidding, where we will rank the posts as High, Medium and Low.  While the Dept of State may take your ranking into consideration, “the needs of the Department are paramount.”  We will go where we're needed.  During the last day of training, each class has a Flag Day. Each class member gets a flag  representing the location of our first assignment.

The nature of our first assignments will govern the type of specialized training that follows. That training may include public diplomacy training, consular training, political-economic tradecraft, or management training. Required language training can last for an additional six to nine months. Overall, newly hired FSOs can expect to spend from three months to one year in training before departure for their first overseas assignment.

What will Eva be doing?

The Obama Administration recently made policies and regulations as applicable to same-sex partners and spouses more inclusive.  See my earlier posts on this topic and Secretary Clinton's remarks.  Eva will be traveling with me as a "trailing spouse."  Unfortunately, because of DOMA, Eva will not receive the health insurance or pension benefits  that opposite-sex spouses of Foreign Service Officers receive.  We are hoping that the legislature will soon pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act (DBOA), which would allow us to enjoy the same family benefits already provided to employees with different-sex spouses.

Eva will, however, be eligible for the following (from the State Dept website): diplomatic passports, inclusion on employee travel orders to and from posts abroad, shipment of household effects, inclusion in family size calculations for the purpose of making housing allocations, family member preference for employment at posts abroad, use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives, inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts abroad, subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts abroad, inclusion in calculations of payments of overseas allowances (e.g., payment for quarters, cost of living, and other allowances), representation expenses, and training at the Foreign Service Institute.

I'll let Eva answer the question as to what else she'll be doing while we're on assignment. Those of you who know my extraordinary wife are well aware that she's an ambitious, intelligent woman who will make her own opportunities!

Invited to the September A-100 class!

An hour ago, I accepted an email invitation to join the September A-100 class in D.C.!

Eva and I are ecstatic. We are going to realize a dream we didn't even know we had until last year.