a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Friday, March 12, 2010


In the days leading up to flag day, I thought it was likely that I was headed to Bogota, Caracas or Guadalajara. Any would have been a chance to learn Spanish in a cool setting.

But as cities and classmates' names were called off in a long list, my heart skipped a beat as our mentor raised the Indian flag. I've been fascinated with India since senior year of high school. A land of extremes. A land alive. More official languages than I have fingers. Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Call centers and nuclear tests.



Game on. I'm headed to Hyderabad...a life-long dream fulfilled, working for the State Dept in India. Awesome. For 8 months I'll learn Telugu, which seems even more daunting at the moment than India did many years ago. So, so jazzed.

The early verdict?

Hyderabad's about the 5th largest city in India. It's home to 4.5 million people and a burgeoning hi-tech sector. The consulate is new, it opened last year as the fifth in India. The city is peacefully split between Hindus and Muslims high atop the Deccan Plateau. Temperatures are expected to be hot. Way hot. Visits are recommended between October and February.

Hyderabad's in the state of Andra Pradesh. The state's a hotbed of Telugu speakers. The 50-odd million speakers make it the 17th most widely spoken language in the world. H-Bad's known as the "City of Pearls," thanks to a famous pearl industry. Part of the reason for the proclivity toward pearls is that Hyderabad was the traditional capital city of the Nizam, always one of the richest people on the planet through independence and Partition.

And the cherry on the top? Two friends are headed to Hyderabad to man the visa windows alongside me. Egeszsegedre! Big Al tells the tale better, check out his blog. Keen eyes will even catch a shoutout.

Jai ho!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Training

Best adventure of late? Ghost-touring old town Alexandria with 40 Wisconsin 8th graders. A cloaked tour guide with a lisp, though, made it slightly more difficult to believe the tales of haunting. Needless to say, 10K's any time Katie's in town.

Highlight of the "Diplomatic Culture and Representation" curriculum? Learning to eat and drink like a diplomat. The morals? 1. You've gotta eat whatever's in front of you. Villages, it seems, sometimes think it flattering to offer visiting officials yak brains, snake blood, usw. Perfect... 2. "America will not make you drink for your country."

Highlight of "Compure under Fire?" I roleplayed a US official in Columbia during a particular intense question and answer session with Columbian and American demonstrators. Classmates fired questions at me, I did my best to defend the American position or deflect the question. A classmate accused U.S. military forces of participating in violence alongside Columbian troops, He tried pinning me into a corder by claiming that he saw a "blond haired soldier" alongside Columbian soldiers. I thought for a moment. "Well, Shakira has blond hair. Next question, please?"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

selection fundays

next friday's kind of a big day, the day we learn where we're headed for out first two-year assignment! "worldwide availability" was narrowed down for us to a list of 95 postings in 80-odd cities across 5 continents and a handful of islands. we ranked our interest in each city/job as high, medium or low. Lome and Manama required more background research than Moscow or Buenos Aires. Some of the highs on my list? Abidjan, Bogota, Caracas, Hyderabad, Manila and Ulaanbaatar. Awesome.

i recently, though, had my very first flag day nightmare. i woke up in a sweat at 6:03 am, my mind racing. in my dream, we had all been handed a sheet of paper informing us of our assignment. my eyes darted over the sheet, but i couldn't find the check mark indicating my first post. finally, i saw a note on the bottom of the page: "please see reverse for new assignments that were not on your bid list."

so I flipped the sheet over, and find my little check mark, right next to a sort of purgatory. instead of heading off to a land exotic, i would be manning a 16-month assignment here in Washington DC...in the Division of the Library. Someone, you see, donated 450 books to the government. the books were pretty crappy, but the donor was a big whig, so they couldn't just be tossed out. so my job, for more than a year, was to plan out what to do with those 450 books...

i balled up in the hallway, the sheet in my hands, in tears. one of our training coordinators, a very nice lady, walked past. Jeremy, she snapped, be professional!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

clickity clack down the track

Today I sat on the subway and typewritered short messages to friends. i would rip it off the typewriter and pass it down to them. it was like texting. With a reciept.

Strangely enough, i was not even the strangest person in the subway car. across the aisle, a man holding a clipboard was doing somersaults in his seat. awesome.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Getting to Know DC

I've never spent time in WashDC as an adult, so i figure 2-12 months of orientation and training makes a darn good excuse to explore the city.

Needless to say, it's only gotten better since night one: a Valentine's evening spent wandering Foggy Bottom in a desperate hunt for food. I had to settle on a messy gyro in a cramped basement cafe.

Early favorites? U-Street is a fantastic zone of hipness. Adams-Morgan is like a big long Brady Street. Russia House is delightfully familiar. Chinatown is a fun faux-urban area. Eastern Market's got a great vibe to it. La Tasca's tapas are worth tasting two days in a row. The best view in town is from atop the Kennedy Center.

If you'll humor me, though, I do have the littlest of pet peeves: multi-name metro stops. Yowsers, it makes it hard for visitors when metro stops have a ridiculous number of names. Just one example? U St/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo. WTF. Let's do it, DC, let's just settle on one name per stop. I suppose, of course, it's all politics. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, the glamour and name recognition that comes with a spot on the subway map.

The bad news? The trend is getting worse. Three metro lines were built in the 1970s. 7% of Blue Line stops have two or three hyphenated or slashed names. The Orange and Red Lines stand at 29% and 30%, respectively.

That's bad, but both of the lines built more recently have even more hypens and dashes! The Yellow Line opened in 1983 with 35% double or triple nameage. Even worse, the Green Line opened in 1991 with a full 40% uber-verbiage.

Makes me wonder if there's any hope at all for understanding the Silver Line when it opens toward Dulles in 2013...