Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cote D'Ivoire - Not Ireland

As you can see, I have figured out how to post photos!

Above is not a picture of the Irish flag.  This is the flag of Cote D'Ivoire - where I will be stationed for my inaugural post in the Foreign Service.  At the Flag Day for the 100 Specialist Class at the George P. Schultz Center in Northern Virginia this flag caused much confusion.  When it was held up everyone in the class was shouting "Ireland!" Then my name was called.  Many classmates have told me they wish they had a photo of my face.  Not only was Ireland not in my top three of posts where I would like to be assigned, it wasn't even an option.  I was thinking, "Well I'll go, but gosh, you could have given me some advanced warning."

Even after the confusion was cleared up, several people in the class still thought that I was going to Ireland, or that I had been mistakenly given the wrong flag.  

The difference is this:  Ireland goes: green, white, orange.  Cote D'Ivoire goes: orange, white, green.  

Here is the display of 55 flags for the 55 members of the 100 Specialist Class. The water bottle was not handed out, and will continue to serve in the United States.

And below is a Stanley Crane which lent its name to my last posting.  The Stanley Crane is from southern Africa and I liked the weird shape of it's head.  I'm guessing it was "discovered" by the Stanley who found Dr. Livingston.  I'm also guessing that none of the African natives ever called it a Stanley Crane.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Look! A Stanley Crane!

Today I went to the National Zoo.  I should have been working on my computer courses for my FSI training, but it was too pretty of a day, and the zoo is only a subway ride away.

I love the National Zoo.  We went here all the time when I was a kid, a teenager, and later when I became a professional aunt.  It's free.  There are plenty of bathrooms, benches, green spaces, and water fountains.   It's free.  No wonder we went ALL THE TIME when I was a kid.  It's free.  
Yes, they charge you for parking, but I took the Metro.

The zoo has changed.  They are putting in a giant elephant walk so that the elephants can saunter back and forth from various habitats instead of hanging out in one.   They got rid of the fake footprints you used to follow to the exhibits (panda paws to the pandas, bird feet to the bird house, flippers to the seals, etc.).  The place is still full of Mennonites (not Amish - you can tell they're not Amish because they are at the zoo and texting).  The sign, "Coins Kill" which used to show a seal's stomach full of quarters is gone.  Now it's a sign about plastic bags and the damage they are doing to the environment.

I have to give the sign-makers at the National Zoo credit.  One sign shows a bird laying on its back with it's head turned in a way which suggests its neck is broken: "This bird isn't dead." the sign reads.  "This is just how they like to sun themselves."  Just when I'm thinking that someone didn't hose down a cage I encounter a sign, "What's that smell?  It's the Maned Wolf!"

They have two sloth bears now and are very proud of them.  These bears are not very slothful, they just got stuck with that name - probably from some Western explorer in Asia (where the sloth bear hails from).

I saw the beavers being fed!  You wouldn't think this is a great thing to see, but I got to tell you, it was pretty darn cute.  I got some great pictures, and some terrific pictures of meerkats.  However, when I try to put a picture on my blog I get an error message.  I'm still learning.

Yep, the zoo lived up to all my nostalgia.  It was just what I needed to detox from Foreign Service training.  

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dark Falls Church

No, it's not as exotic as - well it's probably more exotic than Utah. I'm in Falls Church, Virginia living in a furnished studio apartment, and I'm doing it at the government's expense. You see, after many years of threatening, I have actually joined the Foreign Service. For those of you who don't know, the Foreign Service are the diplomats who staff the embassies and consulates of the United States around the world. I will have a black passport. I will be able to go through the diplomat's line at customs in the airport. But first, I have to finish my training.

So I'll be at the Oakwood until August 2008, and then I'm off to Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire.

From Oakwood I have a lovely view of a graveyard, which means it's quiet and I have plenty of light. During the day. On rainy days or at night I have to turn on every light so that I can get a slight haze of illumination. I finally figured out that the one table lamp is not a 60-watt max lamp. Oh sure, that's what the label says, but right underneath the label, etched into the metal of the bulb-holder part, it clearly says 250 watts max. And, it takes two turns of the switch to turn it on, and two turns of the switch to turn it off. Yes folks, it's a three way lamp. I bought a 30-70-100 bulb last night and now I can see during my nightly knitting.

I also replaced the 9-watt (who makes a 9-watt bulb?) over my bed with a 25-watt bulb. I was reading by 9-watts. What? Do they want me to go to Africa nearly blind?

The desk has no light at all. And even upping the light in the room has not taken it out of it's dark recess. So I bought a cheap clamp-lamp, like you have in college, and can now work at the desk without using braille.

The large walk-in closet came with 15 hangers. I asked for more and got another set of 15. Luckily, Mom and Dad came by with a bunch.

Did I tell you my studio apartment has two large TVs?

Still, it's pretty nice. I moved the fake plants around (to get them out of my way). And I am amassing the largest collection of dish towels in Falls Church. You see I use one, and put the other away in one of the kitchen drawers. Then when the maid comes on Friday, she takes the dirty one and leaves two fresh ones. I must remember to leave the whole stack out so she won't leave me anymore.

Yes, the maid comes once a week and cleans the studio, replaces the towels and sheets, and smothers me in dishtowels. I haven't vacuumed or scrubbed the tub in three weeks. This is the life.

Come visit. Renting a roll-away only costs me $25 a week.