Monday, February 27, 2006

A Note on Dating in the FS:

Don't.

Really, it's just not worth the hassle. Just accept the fact that you'll wake up one day to find you own a fern and two cats named for TV characters, and that there's nothing you could have done to avoid it. The best you can hope for is that your siblings send their kids to live with 'Crazy Aunt [Your-name-here]' for the summers. Take solace in your career, and maybe a nice hobby like crochet or mah jongg.

Unless you're a man. Then accept the fact that you'll soon have a [country-of-first-posting]ese wife.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

O Meu Valentin Divertido

For Valentine's Day, I made red velvet cupcakes to give out at FSI. For those of you lacking experience with red velvet cake, the batter resembles semi-coagulated blood; it looked as if I'd brained a person, then poured the results into a bowl. My roommate actually gasped when she walked in on me in the kitchen, laughing maniacally and madly beating red goop with her electric hand mixer. A well-timed thunderclap would not have been out of place.

I am actually dating someone now, who did in fact ask me out to dinner yesterday. (I managed to pull myself away from Portuguese study for it, but only just!) As we were driving about looking for a place to eat, he was marvelling at all the traffic. "What's going on tonight?" he said to me. Apparently, he was the only person commercial America missed in its Valentine's Day campaign. Luckily for him, I don't put a lot of stock in Valentine's Day -- to my way of thinking, it's the one day of the year when declarations of love and gifts of chocolate probably mean the least. (Red velvet cupcakes with creamcheese frosting, however, take on added significance on the 14th...)

Things have gotten better in Portuguese, mostly because I've sort of stopped trying to learn anything other than consular related phrases ("Please place your right index finger on the red box."; "Do you have permanent residence in Japan?"; "What do you earn per month?"; etc.). On Friday, I suddenly felt myself getting very warm in class; and I realized -- with no small sense of surprise -- that I was about to cry. I didn't feel sad, just agitated; something about the stress of moving and language learning, I suppose. I was able to contain myself until our 20 minute lunch break, then grabbed my coat and scarf and marched outside in the 40 degree weather to weep beneath the trees. The whole thing was pretty amusing: I kept checking my watch to make sure that I wasn't going to be late in returning, and was rather impressed that I was able to time something as seemingly uncontrollable as tears. My biggest fear was that someone else would come across me, and I'd have to explain that I only had about a 5 minute crying window left and didn't have time for comforting.

Despite my apparent stress, arranging departure for post (now set for the 12th of March) has been a lot easier than one would think. I've gotten my shots, set up a pack-out date, reserved tickets, made plans to consult with DHS in San Francisco, and contacted Tokyo so the embassy can arrange for me to meet the DCM [an embassy's XO, officially in charge of mentoring all junior officers]. I arrive at my actual post on the 16th of March, just in time for their St. Patrick's Day party on the 17th. I'm not sure how awake I'll be, or what language I'll be speaking, but at least I'll be there!

This morning I picked up my visa and diplomatic passport. It's like I'm a real diplomat now...