Category Archives: Random Musings

#BPLComiccon15

Idaho friends, don’t pass up this chance to check out a great activity in Boise in just over a week. The email below is from the event’s most-magnificent organizer, long-time friend and one of our regular overseas couch-surfers, Josh.

Be there or be square!

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There are only nine days until the 3rd Annual Library Comic Con arrives on Aug. 29th! Excited? Terrified? Wholly indifferent? Too full of competing emotions to have a clear idea of what you’re feeling? Maybe this email will help.

First, I’d like to share a few new things that we’re trying out for this year’s event:

  • The Friends of the Library will be selling a specially commissioned commemorative LCC15 poster during the con. The artwork is by local creator Adam Rosenlund http://www.adamjrosenlund.com/ Adam has also recently designed a traffic box wrap for the city, which will be installed either later this year, or next summer. The Friend’s poster will be 13×19, printed on nice paper stock, limited to 250 copies, and sold for $10.
  • To really spruce the place up this year, several team members, with the help of our wonderful pages, constructed post-it note artwork, some of which will be involved in a Super Mario themed scavenger hunt. Wonder Woman was completed yesterday, and is currently guarding the Artist’s Alley.
  • Local artist Jim Sumii is in the process of constructing a “Pikture Booth” where, for a small donation, he will draw caricatures of passersby. He plans to donate all proceeds to the Friends.

Additionally, we’ll be bringing 14 amazing special guests to Boise, including Nate Powell, Steve Lieber, Emi Lenox, Farel Dalrymple, Joëlle Jones, and many more. You can read about all of our LCC creators here: http://www.boisepubliclibrary.org/classes-events/library-comic-con/2015-library-comic-con-guests/

There will be three food/drink vendors: Fanci Freez, Pie Hole, and St(r)eam Coffee. The 501st Legion will be attending all day (Stormtroopers!), as will the R2D2 Builders group, with at least three, life sized droids. Why hasn’t there previously been any LARPing, you say? What is this LARPing thing, you say? It’s Live Action Role Play, and it’ll be happening this year! There will be a Zombie Walk, (no, I’m not just talking about the staff at the end of the day). Need to know how to make a wand? Don’t worry, Dave Ultis from Citizen Scientific Workshop has you covered!

This is the website for LCC15, which has more information as well as specific times for events. http://www.boisepubliclibrary.org/classes-events/library-comic-con/ And if anyone would like to share this information with friends, family, random people on the street, that neighbor that keeps complaining about your lawn, your child’s harried school teacher, the local fishmonger, or just on your own social media, please feel free. We even have a hashtag to use this year: #BPLComiccon15, because we’re fancy like that!

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“What I Did on My Summer Vacation”

“What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” The much dreaded first essay of a new school year is a perfect fit as we wrap up Summer 2015. In school, this is where your English teacher gets a sneak peak of your writing skills. Can he use punctuation correctly? Does she know the difference between their/there/they’re? Has he figured out that paragraphs really are the go-to structure for an essay and that indentation is more than a passing fad? These are all the things your teacher is making mental notes of while you squirm and try to finagle a summer of video games and sunbathing into an essay that makes it sound like you read the complete works of Toni Morrison and spent your free time perusing the artifacts of the Smithsonian.

Although it has been years since I had to write such an essay, it is a perfect theme for my return to the blogging world. (Again, if you read the previous post, I blame my month of silence on a combination of vacation, Secretary Kerry and a bit of laziness.) Three weeks of my summer were spent back in Idaho, and what an “Idaho” vacation it was. Between a trip to the gun range, a night at the rodeo and visit to the county fair, I pretty much fell right back into the rural lifestyle with which I was raised.

Now, the gun range is not on my normal “to do” list. As a matter of fact, I’d only ever shot a gun once before this summer’s trip, but when it came up as a possibility, I was all over it! What’s not to love about pinging metal targets and shooting clay pigeons? Between the rifles, revolvers and pistols, we had a pretty good assortment of hardware for our morning outing. I do have to say though, I think I am much more of a pistol kind of girl than a rifle one. That rifle tried to knock me on my ass more than once and left a nice little sore spot on my shoulder. While we had our tiny arsenal to play with, I think the guys up a few spots from us at the range brought the militia. I have no idea what they were shooting with, but I’m going to take an uneducated guess and say rocket launchers and tanks!

The gun range outing was followed up, just a few days later, by a trip to the annual Snake River Stampede. This year was the 100th anniversary of the Stampede, so the turnout was great. A packed house! Events kicked off early with mutton busting and then headed right into full-blown patriotism with giant flags hauled around the arena by pretty girls on the back of prettier horses. (For those of you unaccustomed to the rodeo circuit, mutton busting is how dads break in baby cowboys. Little kids, think four and five year olds, are placed on the back of sheep who then haul mutton-butt across the arena, trying to rid themselves of the forty pound monkeys on their backs. This usually ends with a toddler face-first in the dirt and a happy sheep doing what they do best- huddling with the rest of its herd. I am not sure how much little kids actually enjoy this event, but for the spectators, it is hilarious!) Between bronc riding, roping and bull riding, the evening was a success- more so for the livestock than the riders, but a success nonetheless.

And, of course, any summer in small-town America is not complete without a trip to the county fair. Being the thrifty family that we are, we opted to go on “free” day- the first day of the fair. We got there right at lunchtime so we could enjoy the wonders of fair food (although, I was hugely disappointed to not get my brick of fries that is my normal go-to choice at the Western Idaho Fair) and then it was into the exhibit hall to check out the entries and 4-H projects. (As a former 4-H-er myself, I understand the last minute struggle to get those portfolios in tip-top shape just days before they are due.) I was excited to see that my 14-year old niece won several ribbons for her artwork (including a grand champion!)and her 10-year old brother got a ribbon for his woodwork piece. From there it was out to see the stars of the show- the animals! I was bummed to see that there is no longer a llama 4-H club in the area, but did enjoy looking at the cows, goats, rabbits and, of course, my favorite- the pigs. It was a hot (but not Malaysia-sticky!) day, so a few hours of wandering the fairgrounds were enough for our entire entourage. I skipped the carnival part of the fair, as I am already terrified by most rides to begin with and then you add in the fact that they were just pieced together that morning by a few sleep-deprived carnies and I will have to take a pass. How easy would it be to lose a crucial screw in the grass, misplace a necessary nut or just botch the thing in general? No thanks!

Summer 2015. It was as “Idaho” as one can get, and yet it was also just about perfect. My three weeks back Stateside were filled with family and friends, which are the things we miss most as we hop around the world from country to count every couple of years. Being home was a nice break and makes me look forward to December- our first Christmas home in almost five years! With summer quickly fading in the rear view mirror, it is time to buckle down at work (VIP visits), with school (a thesis) and personally (TLC for the blog). Ready…set…go!

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Oh, Just Sitting in Osaka

Osaka’s skyline rests across the bay from where I currently sit, laid out on a lounge chair in KIX, an international airport with the feel of small, regional airport. Out the window, on the left side of the panoramic view, runs a long bridge, connecting the airport to the city, looking as though it will collide with a huge building that towers over all everything else on the horizon. As I scan to the right, my eye is caught by a large Ferris wheel that sits right on the water, making me think this city might have more personality than first meets the eye through the haze. (Fog? Smog? I’m not sure what is causing the gray out there today, but gloom is definitely the overriding feel.)

I’ve been in this airport since 7AM, which means I’ve roamed its compact hall for six hours now, with at least three more to go. While the sign may say international airport and the planes come and go from international destinations, the concourse speaks a different tale. There are two cafes in the terminal, both small and both serving very little other than coffee and tea. Luckily, I had packed Pop Tarts in my backpack to tide me over, knowing I wouldn’t want much from my plane meals (and not having my favorite travel companion to swap out my entrée for his roll and brownie), so those became breakfast at KIX. Hours later when lunchtime rolled around, I revisited my two café options, finding the afternoon choices limited to hotdog-like meat wrapped in bread or shrimp ramen. Neither of these options was going to hit the spot, so I stepped into the one convenience-type store in the concourse. Stepped in is a bit of a stretch, as the shop was small enough that as my body was inside, my backpack remained outside. Not a lot of room to browse or turn. I quickly grabbed a few things I could recognize, (Pringles, a Coke and a weird little waffle thing), opting not to try the freeze dried tentacles, even though they were quite easily recognizable!

Between these two meals, both of which would make any nutritionist cringe, I did discover a hidden row of lounge chairs, making the perfect place to take a nap. Not far off the beaten path, these plush chairs had little cubbies around the top half, giving the sitter the feel of being in his/her own little pod. I knew I had found my home for a few hours! Pulling my ever-handy travel blanket and pillow out of my backpack, I kicked off my shoes, stashing them under the chair and tucked my bag in the space between the chair and the surrounding cubby and curled up for a mid-morning siesta. When I laid my head down, the closest gate was still occupied by the Malaysian Airlines plane I had come in on. When I finally pried my eyes open two hours later, those red and blue markings had been replaced by the green and red of Eva Airlines. Time passed. Planes moved. I slept.

Now, well-rested and kind of fed, I should be working on my thematic paper for my one of my literature classes. The ideas are all there, bouncing around my head: Tom Bissell, Uzbekistan, Peace Corps, the Aral Sea, the inner journey of a travel writer–bounce, rattle, rumble. The problem is, those ideas are competing for my attention with the planes that keep rolling up and down the runway, the boats trailing through the harbor (Is that a harbor? The ocean? A river? I have no idea what the body of water that lies between the Osaka airport and the city is.) and the strangely hilarious FaceTime conversation of the pre-teen in the next lounge cubby over. (Things I know about my cubby neighbor: She has an American accent. She is on my flight to SFO in a few hours. She is eating a sucker, loudly. I am pretty sure she memorized some list of current slang, using all of it much more liberally than any self-respecting tween should. Occasionally you have to use a full word in a sentence, even if you are talking to your bae and are totes excited to see her.)

If only the cubby around my head provided focus in the same way it shielded me during my earlier siesta…

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*Reblog* 10 Books to Inspire the Traveler in You

Re-blogging this article I wrote for A Traveling Life: Working to See the World

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Travel. For many of us, it is the reason we get up and go to our jobs each day. I work so that I can afford to go awesome places, so that I can meet new people, and so that I can experience new adventures. Whether the goal is to go black water rafting on the south island of New Zealand, visit the Giant Buddha … via 10 Books to Inspire the Traveler in You.

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Bidding on the Brain

Tokyo vs. Tallinn vs. Taipei.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges to grapes, with maybe a few bits of durian thrown in there.  Why would these cities even show up in the same sentence? Because, my friends, pre-bidding season is upon us! Pre-bidding? Oh yes. That part of the year that is consumed with making lists of potential job openings and then making new lists as positions come and go from the projected lists. (In the interest of corridor reputation and general good sense, I’ll refrain from specifically labeling any place as the durian, but it actually plays out as a pretty good simile. Durian, while not the fruit for me, is loved by many Malaysians and even a few Americans. Foreign Service posts can have a similar vibe. A post that many people don’t really care for can end up being the perfect fit and you’d never know it if you didn’t give it that first shot. Your durian post might be my pineapple post!)

One of my favorite things about the Foreign Service is that we are always getting to live in new countries and call new cities home, but there is no magical eight ball that determines the next posting. Rather, at this point in his career, it is all about Thad reaching out to posts he is interested in, lobbying for positions that look intriguing and selling himself as being the fantastic officer that he is. In a lot of ways, this is like job hunting Stateside. He has to put together a resume, collect recommendations and interview with interested posts. Before this, when he was a first and second tour officer, all he had to do was put together a list and then left the rest to fate.

I actually kind of like that style of bidding, partially because I get to be more involved. (I’m not going to say that I am bossy, but I do like to have a hand in what is going on. This might be one reason I adored being CLO in Chengdu. I may not have had a lot of power, but I did get to be a part of a gazillion different activities and committees at the consulate. I loved that job!) The last time we bid, coming out of Chengdu, we put together of a list of thirty posts he was interested in. We ranked them in order of our interest and then sent it off to do CDO- career development officer- in Washington DC and then waited. And waited. And waited. But after what felt like a lifetime, he got the email saying he’d spend the next two years in Kuala Lumpur, which was #17 on our original list. (Initially, this was a shock, as I had been betting on something in the top ten and had done little to no research on anything beyond that.)  Being able to just rank our preferences and sit back and wait was great. Once the list was turned in, there was no stress of lobbying, but rather just a test of patience, and at least on the surface, I can fake patience. (Inside, my brain is overtaken by swarms of lightning bugs, but that is a different matter altogether!)

This time around though, I’ll be sidelined from the process, as it is all about the officer working the system to find a position that is a good fit. But, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had discussions about options we love and those we are less excited by. While there may not be an official list that I can help create, I definitely have thoughts on where I’d like to see us end up!

So, it seems, does my oldest niece, who already has designs to come spend a summer wherever we land. (She’ll be a freshman this year, so probably old enough to do just that, provided she can convince her mom to buy her a plane ticket to spend a month on a new continent! She might need to start saving her babysitting money now.) With her hopes for future travel (which, of course, I fully support!) in mind, her uncle sent her a long list of possibilities and told her to get back to him with her top ten. Now, in the Foreign Service, all posts are listed by city, not country, so I’m sure this little bit of homework stretched her geography skills a bit and had her Googling like mad! After perusing the list for a few days, here is what she came back with, in order of preference:

1.Casablanca, Morocco

2.Rangoon, Myanmar

3.London, England

4.Tokyo,Japan

5.Nassau, Bahamas

6.Tallinn, Estonia

7.Minsk, Belarus

8.New Dehli, India

9.Guangzhou, China

  1. Vilinius, Lithuania

Interesting choices! While I’m not ready to reveal our top choices right now, I do have to say a few of these look promising to me too, but there are also a couple there that would definitely not make my top ten for a variety of reasons. Some people run towards durian. Some run away from it.

It is always exciting to look at lists of possible future postings and there are very few places that I would really dread going. Flipping open an atlas and tracing the outlines of new countries with a finger, figuring out a new travel radius and researching potential new homes is at the heart of why I left my teaching job to become a “trailing spouse” (don’t get me started on that nomenclature) in this crazy Foreign Service lifestyle. The question is, where we be “homebase” for my next round of sidewalk searching? Only time will tell…

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You Too Can Search for Sidewalk Endings!

Do you ever read this blog and wish you could live/travel to different cities abroad? (The adjectives for these cities include all of the follow, depending in the day/my mood: strange, exciting, frustrating, fascination, wonderful, tiring…the list could go on and on!)  The Foreign Service is currently advertisting OMS openings. (Office Management Specialist)  Here’s your chance to join the Foreign Service and search for your own sidewalk endings!!

Below is an excerpt from the job listing. Be sure to check out                                                  http://careers.state.gov/work/opportunities/vacancy-announcements/oms for full information!

Office Management Specialist

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT
United States Department of State
An Equal Opportunity Employer

Position Title: Foreign Service Office Management Specialist – Administrative Assistant
Open Period: 06/17/2015 — 07/07/2015
Series/Grade: FP – 0318 07
Salary: $35,014 – $51,419
Promotion Potential: FP-03
Hiring Agency: U.S. Department of State
Duty Locations: MANY Vacancies throughout the World
For More Info: HR/REE/BEX-EVAL, OMSVacancyInfo@state.gov

Who May Apply

All potential applicants are strongly urged to read this entire Vacancy Announcement to ensure that they meet all of the requirements for this position before applying.

Applicants must be American citizens and at least 20 years old to apply. They must be at least 21 years of age to be appointed. By law, all career candidates must be appointed to the Foreign Service prior to the month in which they reach age 60.

Duration Appointment

Permanent after being tenured in the Foreign Service by the Tenure Boards.

Grade and Starting Salary Range: FP-07, $35,014 – $51,419

Summary

The U.S. Department of State is the lead foreign affairs agency formulating and implementing the President’s foreign policy and representing U.S. interests throughout the world. Foreign Service Office Management Specialists (Administrative Assistants) serve at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide as well as a few domestic locations. Assignments can vary from working in a Political or Economic Section in one mission to working in the Management or Security Section in another. Future assignments can lead to the Executive Office and the position of Office Manager to an Ambassador overseas or to a high-ranking official in Washington, D.C. Whatever the position or nature of duties, Office Management Specialists will have a rich opportunity to make valuable contributions to their country while leading professionally and personally fulfilling lives.

The Foreign Service is more than a job – it’s a career. As a member of a diplomatic team, you will not only help to accomplish the mission of the Department of State, but also will be a representative of your country to the people of other nations. A Foreign Service career involves uncommon commitments and occasional hardships, as well as unique rewards and opportunities. A decision to enter this career should be based on extraordinary motivation and a firm dedication to public service.

Many overseas posts are in small or remote countries where harsh climates, health hazards, and other discomforts exist and where American-style amenities and the latest in technological advances often are unavailable. Personal security frequently becomes an area of concern in countries where there is political unrest or terrorist activity. However, careers in the Foreign Service offer special rewards, including the pride and satisfaction of representing the United States and protecting U.S. interests abroad.

The Foreign Service strives to maintain diversity in the representation of gender, geographic region, race and ethnicity within its work force.

Key Requirements

All applicants, in order to be considered for selection, must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be at least 20 years old to apply and at least 21 years of age to be appointed. By law (Foreign Service Act of 1980), all career candidates (except for preference-eligible veterans)** must be appointed to the Foreign Service prior to the month in which they reach age 60.
  • Be available for worldwide service.
  • Be able to obtain a Top Secret Security Clearance.
  • Be able to obtain an appropriate medical clearance for Foreign Service work.
  • Obtain a Suitability Clearance, based on a review of the candidate’s record for conduct in accordance with suitability standards defined in Chapter 3 of the Foreign Affairs Manual. For more details see http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/specialist/selection-processor http://www.state.gov/m/a/dir/regs/fam

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July in June

Long time, no blog! Well, at least not a travel/KL-related blog. I’ve been great about Wordless Wednesdays, as it is pretty easy to pull a photo from our cache and pop it up while I eat my Cheerios on Wednesday mornings. (Those Cheerios are like gold, so I set my alarm early enough that I can leisurely enjoy them while perusing blogs or People.com first thing in the morning. I usually ship my cereal in from Amazon, which while not always as cheap as you can get it at Albertson’s, is much cheaper than the $8-10 a box they would cost here in Malaysia. And don’t judge my People.com fixes. I am sure to his the news sites as well and I do spend much of my free time writing papers about contemporary travel writing, so I get a few guilty pleasures when it comes to my internet browsing. People, Lamebook, Yahoo comments…you know, all the classy stuff.) I’ve also put up several Top Ten Tuesdays over the last few months, so blogging is happening, just not always travel blogging.

Anyway, I could give you a laundry list of excuses why it has been a month since I’ve written anything travel-y: I went temporarily blind in my left eye; I am working on a second graduate degree; I work full time at the US embassy; blah, blah, blah. But they would just be excuses since we’ve also watched ten seasons of Friends on Netflix this year, I rarely let a Saturday get past me without taking at least a brief nap and I have time to make cookies for the office on a semi-regular basis. It boils down to two things: 1) we’ve not been out of town much recently, other than the recent, unplanned/unwanted trip to Singapore and 2) laziness.

Probably more #2 than #1, as we have definitely been busy.

Lately, life has been all about the 4th of July. That’s right. It is just passed the middle of June and not only have we thought about Independence Day, but we have celebrated it. Twice.

Since Ramadan falls pretty early this year (tomorrow is the first day and it goes until mid-July), embassies in Muslim countries have to work our holiday around the fast. A big party just isn’t much of a party when your guests aren’t eating or drinking. So, rather than throw a drink-free, food-free party close to the actual 4th of July, Kuala Lumpur opts to do it ahead of time. We had a huge event at the Marriott Hotel in KL last Tuesday night and then a smaller, more intimate event in Penang just a few days ago.

For the KL event, I was assigned to be on the decorations committee, which meant many meetings ahead of time, but then a lot of supervisory work on the day of the event. While it took a bit of coaxing to get the hotel to bring our vision to life, in the end the red, white and blue bonanza that is Independence Day looked great! There was tons of food (most of which I didn’t eat, as I’m just weird about food other people make), a great band and lots of patriotic pizazz. The evening of the event, I didn’t get to see the actual ceremony with the presentation of the colors or the ambassador’s speech, as I was on check-in duty at the front door all evening, but judging from the smiles on the guests as they headed home, it was definitely a success.

This is the first year KL has done a second event, this one in Penang. (I think the Ross family brings the second 4th of July event with us. When we were in Chengdu, the first year we were there was the first year they had held a second event as well. Maybe we just look like party-planning folk!) Penang is a great island off the northwest coast of Malaysia. It has an amazing art scene and a totally different vibe from Kuala Lumpur. (Click here to read my post about when I went there on vacation last fall.) The party there was smaller, but maybe better. Without hundreds and hundreds of guests, it was easier to actually spend time chatting with folks and the whole thing just felt a little more relaxed. Once again, I missed the color guard and remarks, as I was checking people in at the front desk (somehow that ended up being my gig all-around this year!), but I did get a chance to wander through later in the evening and it was great! Again, red, white and blue ruled the night, with numerous flags flying. It’s funny that for a bunch of people who have chosen to live mostly outside the US, you probably won’t find a more patriotic group. Foreign Service officers took their jobs to do just that- to serve their country and they are mighty proud of it!

So now, it is just mid-June and I’ve already celebrated the 4th of July twice. Looking at the calendar, I’ve got two more celebrations to go: one with the embassy community on the afternoon of the day I fly out for the US and then the *real* one on July 4 when I am home in Idaho. I hear that one is going to entail homemade ice cream and sparklers, so not a bad way to round out the quad-fecta (it’s like a trifecta, but with four!) of Independence Day parties.
Happy birthday, America (X4)!!

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