Fun Fact: The Population of Thailand is 63 Million People

After surviving his first week as a Foreign Service Officer in A-100, Thad and I decided to use the lovely (alright, hot and humid would be better adjectives, but lovely has such a nicer connotation!) three-day weekend to do a little exploring.


Saturday started with a lazy morning around the apartment until John and Erin picked us up to go enjoy their favorite pho restaurant. I chose to have the noodles with a bit of beef in them, but Thad thought the a more diverse option was the way to go. His bowl of noodles included a variety of meat items, including tripe, but he did pass on the tendon. Really though, if you are going with tripe, is tendon that much more of a stretch? Apparently the tripe-tendon area is where the line falls.


Our brilliant plan to relish some Smithsonian time was quickly curtailed by the massive amount of tourists in town for the holiday weekend. After about an hour (a single exhibit), we wove our way back out of the building into the sunlight, deciding that while all summer will be busy, there are probably better times than the three-day weekend to wander the museums.


Back in Arlington and sufficiently cooled off, we figured a movie was the route to go for the evening. I knew there was a theater on the bus route down the road just a few miles, so off to the land of high-priced soda and popcorn it was! After checking the bus schedule, we went down to the stop to wait. The bus was right on time to our stop, the only problem? It didn’t stop!! We were very obviously waiting at the marked stop, but the bus blew right by us! As I called for the next bus time, Brian, a young man who gives new meaning to the word “friendly” asked if we needed any help. After explaining where we were trying to go and the apparent lack of brakes on our bus, Brian suggested that the problem may be that we don’t fit the common demographics of bus riders in this area. Well, that may be, but I am here without a car and I am going to be a regular bus rider! I’m crossing my fingers that this was a one-time event. Brian said he was headed to the same shopping center where the theater was located and he offered to give us a ride. As there were no “stranger danger” alarms going off in either of our heads, it was bright daylight, and Brian is probably the least threatening individual I have met in DC, we readily agreed. Not only did we get a ride to the movies, but in the short few miles we learned all about Brian’s girlfriend’s boring parties that are based around serving bagels and cream cheese (which is what he was on his way to the store to procure), how he left his car window open the night before and someone stole his phone charger but it was okay since his new one was the best thing ever since it let him rotate screens on his phone that were previously locked, that he works for the Patent Offices here locally and that his mom is a teacher and his dad is a policeman. Wow! That is actually just a smidgen of what was covered in those two miles, but we couldn’t have asked for a friendlier stranger from which to hitch a ride. The trip to the theater turned out to be just as entertaining as the main attraction itself!


Popcorn and peanuts and Cracker Jacks were the name of the game on Sunday. Okay, really it was hotdogs and peanuts and cotton candy, but stadium food is really all the same. A group of A-100ers gathered to take in a Nationals’ game on Sunday afternoon, which was a lot of fun. While the home team didn’t win, it did come down to a ninth inning before the locals choked, but apparently that isn’t really news around here. I came home with a purse full of leftover peanuts and some tender, pink skin! For some Memorial Day weekend is the official start to summer, but for me it is that first sunburn of the year that ushers in the dog days. This year the two just happened to sync nicely.


As Memorial Day itself rolled around, we decided to head in the opposite direction. We’d spent two days in the District, so yesterday we hopped on the Metro headed out of town and into Alexandria. There is a great Old Town section of the city filled with a variety of boutiques and restaurants all set along a main road through the area. After wandering through several fancy furnishing stores and clothing shops, I spotted some cute summer dresses in the windows of a store across the road. The store was called An American in Paris, but if it is a movie allusion the proprietor was looking for, Psycho may have been more appropriate. As we walked into the shop, the owner locked the door behind us. (Brian set of no “stranger danger” alarms, but this five-foot tall, middle-aged woman with a foreign accent sure did!) She proceeded to tell me that I was allowed to look at anything I wanted, but I could not touch the fabric. If I wanted to feel the garment, I could touch the very bottom along the hemline. Also, I was to touch on the hangers as I looked through the racks and when I returned an item to the rack, I needed to make sure that there was a three-inch space between each hanger. Are you kidding me? Is this a store or a museum? I have been in some strange places, but this shop really might be the strangest! Luckily, about two minutes into our captivity, another unsuspecting customer came to the door, so it was unlocked and opened a crack. Thad and I saw our opportunity and Shawshank-ed it out of there! The poor woman who unknowingly sacrificed herself for our escape may still be there, looking, but not touching!


DC and its surrounding areas are full of intriguing people and places. In just the three days this weekend we have seen both ends of the spectrum, from friendly and helpful to slightly neurotic and crazy. We had a great time just going with the flow each day and ending up in a different part of town each time. I’m quickly compiling lists of places to take visitors when they come to stay, so make your travel plans to vacation with Ross Vacations Co.!

Our FS Timeline

June 2009– Thad takes the FSOT(Foreign Service Officers Test.)  This is the day before we embark on a trip to visit our former Peace Corps home in Gansu,China, as well as a vacation through Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.  As you can guess, there was a LOT of email checking as the results date came nearer and nearer.

July 2009–  While on vacation in Laos Thad gets confirmation that he passed the FSOT!

September 2009– Thad submits his QEP (personal narratives) to the State Department.
October 2009– Thad gets an invitation to an Oral Assessment in Washington DC.
February 2010– Thad flies to Washington DC for his Oral Assessment.  I spend the afternoon on pins and needles waiting for results!  HE PASSES!!
Spring-Summer  2010– Clearance check (for Thad) and medical checks (both of us) are passed.

Winter 2011– Thad passes his Critical Needs Language test (Mandarin) and gains extra points for his placement on the register.  He jumps to the top 20!

Spring 2011– The Federal Government comes to a standstill on budget issues. All future A-100 classes are put on hold.

April 2011- A budget is passed and the May A-100 class is reinstated!  Thad gets an email offering him a spot in the class that starts in a mere month.

May 2011– Thad begins his first day as an officer in the United States Foreign Service

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.


When the sidewalk comes to an end, something else picks up where it left off.  This blog will be an accounting of those “somethings.”  After a decade of teaching middle school English/reading (mostly 8th grade), the boxes and boxes of YA books are packed away as Thad and I transition into the adventures of life in the Foreign Service.