Tag: Washington

:: sipping and painting ::

What do all great artists have in common? Inspiration. How do you get inspired to create great pieces of art when you are not visually creative? The answer lies in an evening of sipping wine and painting canvases in an attempt to unlock our inner Van Goghs.

Looking for an escape from our move preparations, we booked ourselves onto a Living Social event in the District and were joined by about twenty five other similarly inclined artists and were presented with a half bottle of wine and a blank canvas.

There to guide us through the process of painting a picture of a bird was a local artist who gave great ideas and instructions. We weren’t overly enthralled by the subject, but in the end it turned out to be a good first foray into the painting world.

So when people come to our house in Lesotho they will now see two exquisite examples of early twenty-first century ornithological art. Just smile politely and tell us how lovely they are no matter what you think, we are still novices with fragile painting egos.

:: blooming burbs ::

We currently live next to a lovely little neighbourhood which is home to a unique array of houses each with their own distinct character, garden, driveway and mailbox.

Suburbs like this one are a great place to witness the American appreciation for space and individuality.  Coming from urban living in the UK, these houses and gardens all seem immense.  And unlike the terraced houses you find in London and beyond which can sometimes all look very similar, residents of this neighbourhood have made extra efforts to bring unique elements to each home.  Everything from the actual design and colour of the home to the garden decorations and porch fixtures are different in this neighbourhood.

As we went for a walk the other day through the neighbourhood to a small local park we were stunned by the beautiful bushes blooming everywhere, making all of the houses look really lovely.  I felt like a proper tourist walking around with my camera admiring the lovely blossoms, huge gardens and American homes, but I was happy to come away with a few photographic memories.

:: holi good fun ::

One of the great things about being in the foreign service is being surrounded by people who share an interest in experiencing cultures. Well two of my classmates put together a Holi party yesterday in Meriden Hill Park in the District. Basically Holi is a Hindu spring festival celebrating the blossoming of new growth after the winter – though there are also religious connotations as well.

The tradition is to throw coloured powder and water at one another! Everyone is meant to wear white and run around throwing the bags of powder and water balloons at everyone else. A group of thirty or so of us gathered in a public place and then proceeded to go crazy! There were a lot of bemused bystanders, but we all had a blast! In the end it looked like a paint factory exploded!

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We then partook in some traditional Indian line dancing, which involved short wooden sticks that we had personally decorated earlier. It was two parallel lines with the people standing opposite hitting the sticks together and then moving down to do it again with the next person. Of course the more flamboyantly you could move – think turns, jigs, twists, etc – the better! Afterwards we had some Indian sweets and general picnic offerings.

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Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was walking from the park to the bar. To say we got intriguing looks and comments from passersby would be an understatement! Of course I hadn’t really seen what I looked like until I saw the mirror at the bar – I completely understand why people responded like that!

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It was a great day out – especially as it was the first truly warm day of spring. Sun, warmth, good friends and coloured powder – not much more you could ask for!Image

:: kites, blossoms and easter bunnies ::

Taking advantage of the four day Easter weekend in the UK I decided to come to DC for a few days to spend some time with CW.  Although he’s had to be in training we had a lovely couple of days over the weekend and several nice evenings together.  Without this visit we would have gone a few months before seeing each other which was just too long for either of us to bear.

It was a great weekend to be back as there has been loads going on.  The warmth and sun are finally trying to make an appearance here so it’s a really nice change from London which has been really cold lately.  It’s a great feeling to be able to have the windows open and not have to bundle up in a million layers.

Saturday we decided to meet up with Krissy and her friend in DC for the annual spring blossom festival.  Washington DC is known for its cherry blossoms around this time of year which bring thousands of visitors every year, similar to the foliage changing in New England.  Not only are the blossoms meant to be spectacular in their own right, but their location along the tidal pool near the monuments make them all the more special.

Unfortunately this year the sun and warmth hasn’t come early enough, so although the blossoms were forecast to peak this weekend, they are still feeling a bit shy and probably won’t make their appearance for another few days.  Nevertheless we had a lovely walk down to the new Martin Luther King Jr monument and a great view across the water to the Jefferson Memorial.

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In the meantime we were distracted by another great event happening this weekend, the annual Blossom Kite Festival.  As we approached the mall there were not only hundreds of people who had come out to enjoy the sunshine, but it felt like almost all of them were flying kites.  The festival involves different components, one of them being the public field on the mall where people can bring their own kite and fly it.  It was quite a spectacle looking up the mall towards the Capitol and seeing so many colours and ribbons, creating quite a unique site!

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In addition to the public field there were other events including a Rokkaku Battle.  This Japanese tradition involves hexagonal-shaped fighter kites that compete against each other to stay up the longest.  Each kite flier runs around the field trying to ‘cut’ the other kites down using different tactics and the one who survives is the winner.  If you have ever read the wonderful book ‘The Kite Runner’ it’s a bit like this, though more closely managed and without the runners.

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After the kite and almost blossoming cherry festival, we had a lovely drink and meal at the Elephant & Castle pub outside – a great way to finish a lovely day out!

Easter Sunday we had a relaxing day together doing a lot of admin getting ready for my move to DC and other things, and now sadly it’s time to leave for another few weeks of long distance.  A few more weeks of work and then I’m finished which is really hard to believe and also quite sad for me but all good things must come to an end!  At least this one leads us to a great adventure!

As it stands I’ll be back in DC again on 1 May so stay tuned for more news from us…

:: a separate beginning ::

Following a mad few weeks during which CW stopped working, we both spent numerous days sorting out things in the house and tried to see people and things we truly care about.  Finally a Saturday afternoon trip to Heathrow beckoned. It was very difficult to go our separate ways (temporarily) and only the knowledge that this is leading to bigger and better things could really prompt us to be apart anymore.

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Cora has stayed behind in London for the time being, which has included packing up the house and moving in with friends while finishing up some important work projects.

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Meanwhile, CW has gallivanted off to DC to join his 76 classmates in what is called the A-100 orientation class. This is a six-week training class that all FSO generalists take upon entry to the Foreign Service. It is a mixture of skills training, information dump and team building. My classmates are an amazing group – lots of former military, peace corps, lawyers, and generally successful people who speak lots of languages and have some great international experience. I am lucky and honoured to be a part of this fantastic 170th class!

The training included sessions on how to write diplomatic cables, speak to foreign audiences and not put your foot in it during a press conference or Q&A session. The last in that list was really good fun as we broke into small groups and were able to pepper one another with the most ridiculous questions we could think of and occasionally act rather rude. Our group may or may not have really gone overboard on those fronts! The training also included a rather eventful off-site leadership event, complete with a lot of drinking, a SNL type performance, and CW leading the entire class to success in the final exercise – overcoming the Death Star while wearing a bright orange winter hat and screaming a lot. It was a strange couple of days.

The time ticked by very quickly and we arrived at the fateful day when lots of family and friends would be in attendance to witness the great revelation of where our next two years will take us – flag day!

:: seeking global adventures ::

After years of attempts and more recently months of waiting, CW has joined the US Foreign Service!  We are so excited about this new career, and lifestyle, and the amazing global adventures this will bring!  To celebrate this new chapter in our lives we thought it would be fun to create a new blog dedicated to the unique fabulous, challenging, interesting, diverse, crazy and happy experiences we will have as part of this new life!

Getting into the Foreign Service has been an arduous process involving a written exam, some personal narrative essays, an all day oral assessment and then months of waiting for security and medical clearances. Following all that we then had to wait a few months before an orientation training class was formed and CW was called into it.  Fifteen months after he sat in the London embassy for the written exam, he walked into the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. and swore the oath of office joining the State Department and becoming a Foreign Service Officer.

As part of this new role we will be sent to a new posting at one of the 275 embassies and consulates around the world around two or three years. There is the prospect of posts in DC as well, but the vast majority of our time in the Foreign Service will be spent out in the world and we are absolutely thrilled about that!

CW will be an officer in the management cone which means that he will be responsible for various operational elements of the missions overseas, though he will also have opportunities to serve in other capacities, including working on visa lines and directly helping American citizens who are either travelling or living in these foreign countries.

Cora is excited about the prospects for taking her excellent intercultural training and competence skills and applying them in new locations, as well as looking to expand our photography activities and maybe do other things in the local communities, such as volunteer or work at the embassy. There is a lot of uncertainty, especially without knowing where we are heading to, but we are confident it will all be for the good.

So, there you have it. We are off on new adventures to places unknown! We are extremely excited by the prospects of this new journey. The chances we will have to explore new countries, experience disparate cultures and interact with lots of interesting people are going to be too numerous to count.

Welcome to our new reality and hope you appreciate reading about our new global adventures!