Author Archives: Michelle Ross
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.
Oh boy, do the Australian’s know how to rejoice in their beauty rich and rare! Last Tuesday night, I was Thad’s +1 for Australia Day, the biggest national holiday celebration in KL. Since we’ve been here, we’ve heard rumors that if we were to attend just one national day event, Australia’s was the one to which we would want an invitation.
Those folks were not wrong.
As a member of the 4th of July committee for two years in a row in Chengdu (which each year hosts two events: Chengdu and Chongqing), I am well-aware of how much work it takes to pull off these huge parties. The planning for next year basically starts about a week after the current year’s event. Having walked in those shoes, I was incredibly impressed with Australia’s shindig. Very over the top!
The evening started with the requisite speeches toasting the Queen of Australia (am I the only one who didn’t know they recognized the queen?!) and thanking the host country, but once the formalities were out of the way, the doors to the grand ballroom opened. In a rush, in flowed hundreds of guests, all headed straight for the food tables. Luckily, the food tables were ample and well-stocked. Thad’s first stop was the one labeled King Neptune, where an enormous tuna hung from above, the chef cutting off pieces for each person in line. After having more than a sample size of ol’ Neptune, we ventured over to the Outback table where an entire lamb was roasting on a spit. From there it was the seafood table which had an ice sculpture that dispensed shrimp for all the hungry guests.
(As pretty much the opposite of a “foodie,” I could leave or take most of the dishes that evening, but I was highly impressed with the presentation! Lights, fog machines, entire tunas, whole lambs, shrimp dispensers…all very fancy!)
In the midst of all these food tables scattered around the ballroom, guests mingled and nicely vied for the few cocktail tables, looking for somewhere to set their plates as they indulged in everything Outback. At one such table, where for a few minutes we commandeered a spot, we were introduced to several members of the Australian navy who are stationed in Penang. As I chatted with one woman who is up there with her husband’s post, I had a weird feeling that I had met the Australian me! She was about my age and does not have kids and follows her husband’s career from country to country. She was having a hard time finding a job in the area, so decided to go back to school and work on a degree program. Sound familiar?!
By 9:30, we decided to call it a night. I’d been in heels since 7AM and my toes were ready for a bit of freedom and I think Thad had worked his way around most of the buffet tables, so it was time to head home to kick off the shoes and loosen the belts.
Not only do they have adorable koalas and kangaroos as their beck and call but the Aussies know how to entertain hordes of diplomats looking for something cold to drink and a bit of meat to eat. Is there anything these folks can’t do?!
Word on the street proved to be right this time: Australia Day is where it is at when it comes to stuffy national day events!
Curves. They are all over the internet right now. Dove wants women to accept their curves (and buy more lotion in the process) and England wants to see those curves in action. (Click here to see the video.) But curves have taken on a whole new meaning in my life over the last few weeks, as I’ve been wrangling one or two myself. But, my curves have not been of the physical nature, but rather the learning kind. Learning curves. And they’ve been steep!
Two weeks ago, I started a new job at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur. I’m now working in the consular section, covering an array of tasks- everything from answering calls from people looking for information (Will the embassy exchange my US dollars to Malaysian ringgit? No. Do you keep a list of local doctors/lawyers? Yes. Can I renounce my citizenship? You bet, for $2350!) to doing intake of passports/paperwork for visa applicants (looking through passports from Spain, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc. is fascinating!) But, all of this requires a working knowledge of consular affairs that is a bit rusty in my mind. I was lucky enough to be able to take CONGEN in 2011(the consular training course for Foreign Service officers taught by the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia), but then I ended up not using that training in Chengdu, so the details are a bit foggy, but coming back quickly.
B1/B2 visa? Let’s scan a photo and send you off for fingerprints.
Looking for a student visa? Be sure to give me your SEVIS receipt.
Slowly, the jargon of the consular world is coming back to me. (It does help that I’ve heard it from Thad every day for the last two years as well!)
Needless to say, every day has been a new adventure for the past couple of weeks and I’m quickly getting to the point where I don’t have to put each and every caller on hold to go run down an answer. I’m up to every other caller on hold!
Way back in November, when I hadn’t heard any positive news about employment, I was nominated to sit on the embassy’s employee association board. Thinking it would be a great way to get out of the house and more involved in the community, I accepted the nomination and ran for a seat on the board. On my second day back in the office, I got an email saying I had been elected. So, add that to the calendar as well. (Just yesterday we had our first meeting and I was assigned to be in charge of “events.” It looks like I’ll be going back to my CLO roots with that one!)
The second part of the curves thrown at me by the new job is relearning to budget my time. When I wasn’t working, days had a lot of spare time in them. Time for a second breakfast. (That may have contributed to some new curves in and of itself.) Time to stop for a hot chocolate at Starbucks before going to the grocery store. Time for an afternoon catnap. Time to finish a book a day. Time to work on reading and assignments for school.
All that time has flown out the window!
I went from searching for productive ways to fill my days (and looking for ways to be out of the house when Patimah was cleaning) to having a full schedule on a daily basis. As I’m facing down end-of-term papers for twelve credits of graduate courses, I’m thinking the learning curve for scheduling is looking more like a vertical line than a gentle slope, but I there is no activity on the list I want to give up, so I’ll just keep plugging away: work, school, events and then around the corner to do it all again!