Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Have a Confession

My name is Pu, and I am an exercise DVD addict. I know you all already think I am crazy obsessive with my workouts, but even I am starting to worry. This year alone I have done rotations with the Firm Express, Insanity: Asylum, Tracy Anderson's Meta, This was my A-100 rotation (I combined BCX with Real Strength), and now I am coveting PeakFit and P90X2! Do I really need all these workouts????

The answer is YES, people. Yes I do....I may also need a straitjacket, but that is another conversation altogether.

Also, I have to give a shout out to AinA who, upon hearing that I will be learning Tagalog* for my first post, commented, "Thank God! Finally, someone else will know an even more useless language than me."

*Fun Fact: Every time I type Tagalog into Word it tries to correct it to Tagalong. Mmmmm, Tagalongs with Manila....

***ETA: Five minutes after I wrote this, I bought PeakFit
...I am so ashamed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Manila...It's Not Just a Folder

Well, if you didn't know that the flag I posted was for the Philippines, don't feel bad. Neither did I! And if you're surprised we're heading to Manila, then you can imagine how I felt when they called my name. I almost fell out of my chair I was so surprised. After all of the talk about bidding strategies and keeping expectations low, we were preparing to go to some of our lower priority areas. Manila was our #3 choice, so we are stoked!!! For future post-bidders (and any looky-loos who are just interested), here's how we looked at it:

Pu's Priorities: I wanted a post that would allow me to learn a 3rd language (on top of Mandarin and English), fulfill my consular tour (now I have a really good chance of doing Econ work in China), somewhere in the EAP (Pacific Region) Bureau (which is the Bureau I would like to major in), and somewhere with great schools & great special education resources for A.

Husband's Priorities: Husband wanted a post that was in a warm weather area on a coast so we could continue to enjoy beach activities, somewhere that had a decent amount of English so it wouldn't be such a shock to the system (a transitional post, if you will), somewhere with a bilateral work agreement so that he could find employment, and somewhere where the cost of living was low so we can afford a nanny.

Secondary Priorities (nice-to-haves): We both wanted to leave DC sometime after the New Year so we could spend one last holiday with our families, we also wanted to be close a military installation so that we can shop for any US necessities and so I could have an opportunity to do my Reserve duty without having to travel to far, and we wanted a location that would allow us to do a lot of traveling.

Manila fits every single one of our criteria. My CDO absolutely could not have advocated for a better assignment for us!

So now what happens? Well, I have about a week after A-100 ends next Friday where I'll have to arrange my own training either by doing some distance learning or scheduling consultations in the Department. After that I start ConGen (consular training where I'll learn how to do my job), which lasts the rest of the summer. In early Sep I will start about 8 months of Tagalog training before we leave for the Philippines next April. So we will be staying here in Oakwood Falls Church until we leave the country since we will be in training status. A will continue to attend DiploTots at FSI through the end of summer when he'll transition into the VA school system (as will the girls, of course). This was really fortunate since I wasn't sure how we'd handle the whole pre-school thing overseas.* Now we can relax and just enjoy the rest of our time here in DC, and you all can start making plans about how you're going to come visit us in the Hawai'i of Asia!

*The State Dept is incredibly generous by paying for your child's schooling while you're posted overseas; however, they only pay for K-12 not pre-school. Since A has an IEP that covers pre-K (like his program in FL), I wasn't sure if they would also pay for his special needs pre-K since it is something that would be offered to him in the States.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A-100 Update #4

So much to catch up on! Let's see where I left off...Camp was fun, but very hot! I can see why this is considered a highlight in A-100 because you really get the opportunity to get to know your fellow classmates in a way you just can't in your normal environment. Luckily I have been blessed to be part of an amazing cohort, so I really enjoyed getting to know my colleagues (the wine may also have had a small part in my increased happy level). Poor Husband, on the other hand, returned from spending several days in the actual, for real woods with the kiddos (about 6-7hrs travel time to get home from rural Wisconsin) only to discover that our car had been towed despite having our complex sticker on the dashboard. Apparently they felt that because our car was parked in the same spot for a number of days that it had become a "suspicious vehicle." You can imagine the Husband's pleasure at returning home after a long day of travel with 3 kids, an extra trip to pay $250 to get our car out of impound (we did complain, and Oakwood will reimburse us), so when I called to talk from the bar it didn't go over so well.

I also got a call from Oakwood while we were gone that they had found us a space over at Oakwood Falls Church (we were in Ballston previously), so we spent last weekend moving into our new apartment. We had to move ourselves since we were the ones to requect the move, but it was totally worth it because FC is like paradise for kids. For any future FS'ers, I cannot recommend FC high enough if you have kids. If you're single or child-free, go to Ballston!

Week 4 of A-100 saw the decent into exhaustion. The excitement has worn off some, and the classes are long (and some a wee bit painful). We're also getting anxious for Flag Day (next Friday!!), so it's harder and harder to pay attention (also there is a lot of info being presented and the likelihood that we'll remember it all is getting smaller and smaller. At least for me it is, I've only so much room left in my brain!) In addition, the s-kids arrived so we are back up to 5 kids + MIL, which makes a total of 8 in our 3-bedroom apartment. So, there isn't much downtime, which has resulted in me developing a terrible cold that I'm desperately trying to get rid of before I head into Core Skills week next week. Core Skills week should return us to our normal level of excitement (and/or terror) since it is mostly focused on how to keep your composure when answering tough questions about U.S. foreign policy (and also how to avoid inadvertently changing it by answering stupidly), as well as public speaking among other things. Then on Friday, as noted above, I will finally find out where I am going in a ceremony known as Flag Day. Basically we'll all be seated in an auditorium where our MC will bring up pictures of the flag of a certain country, we're supposed to yell out the name of the country from memory (so I'll be the one in the back mumbling), and then they call the name of the individual who will be going to that post. This is a big family event, so even though Husband is really not looking forward to having all 5 kids there, it means a lot to me to have everyone involved.

Oh, I also found out last week that putting A on the FSI daycare waiting list paid off. Starting Monday he will be coming with me on the Oakwood shuttle to work to go to FSI's daycare center on campus. This is going to be a mental lifesaver for the Husband, and it should be great for A, as well. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about the FSI daycare and how focused it is on preparing your children for going Global.

This weekend we had a small bbq with a few classmates and there kids (there was a larger event going on last night, but we didn't want to make people suffer through having our 5 kids running around like maniacs). It was nice to finally hang out with people outside of the classroom. Husband and I also plan to attend one of the Happy Hour events next week (we always have about 3-4 events scheduled per week, but I have not really been able to attend any because of the fam), and, of course, we will attend the family-friendly celebration after flag day. I am stressing a wee bit because I have procrastinated on my school work, and I have two big papers due in the next week that I have yet to start. It makes me feel very guilty to come home after work at 6pm and have to hole up in my room trying to bang out homework when Husband has been home all day with the kids (who also miss me, I hope!), but I am so close to finishing! Only a few more months. I have to say, though, that I would not recommend staying in school while attending A-100 to anyone else!

So that's life in a nutshell right now. This week should be fairly busy, but you can be sure I'll post the minute we know where we're gong so everyone can start making their travel plans! :)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Rollin' the Dice

Bid list is complete and sent. Where are we going? No freakin clue! But we'll be happy and together wherever it is :)

This weekend we went to the "beach." FL has spoiled us, and we have become complete beach snobs. We have missed the sun and sand so much, though, so it was nice to have a little bit of it back in our lives even if the sand was orange (J: Mommy, sand a sposed to be white). We also had a birthday party for A, who turned 4 on Sat. My baby is 4! I need a new one stat! I need to schedule a visit to see AinA post squiddo-birth so I can fend off these crazy hormones. 6 kids? I can't even begin to imagine.

We also hit up the Eastern Market. I took the kids by myself on the metro, and we had a blast. It was the first time for the two little ones on any kind of public trans (yes, I know, it is hard to believe that FL doesn't have a great subway system), and they were pretty enamored of it. We'll see how long that lasts.

This week I go to the Woods (actually it's an Army Reserve Base somewhere in WV, but they still call it the Woods). This is for a couple of days of leadership and team-building training, which is a highlight of A-100. I won't be missing the fam too much since they have already abandoned me to go to WI for my family reunion (I couldn't go since we aren't allowed to take leave during A-100). It is a little weird being in my own home without anyone around. I have spent a lot of time talking to the cat, lol. On a positive note, I have already finished all of my homework for the week (only 6 more months!). Now if only I could get the motivation to do anything else!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

So Tired

It's so crazy. This should be almost a vacation for me. No deadlines, no crazy people promising others that we will do things that can't accomplished, I don't even have to drive myself to work (yay FS shuttle)! Yet I am utterly exhausted. I can't figure it out?

I had my language test today. The language phone test I took as part of the hiring process was just a mini-test to see if I spoke at a reasonably appropriate level. This test a little over an hour and it was excruciating. It felt like my testers sucked every bit of Chinese knowledge out of my brain with one of those tiny little straws you get with your coffee and spread it out on the table...then they pointed and laughed. And that was just the speaking portion! It. Was. Painful.

So to lighen the mood here's a taste of the send off I got from work. First they gave me this really handy emergency booklet that I can use to help me out in my new jobs as an FSO:

And so forth...There are literally nametags in just about every language. I am so ready for this!

Additionally, I also received a wonderful book of top ten lists to remind me of all the wonderful things I have left behind, as well as all the wonderful things I have to look forward to:

*BTW, I've added a little disclaimer into my intro for any random people wo happen to stumble onto my blog (and in accordance with State's official policy). I've also added some links to other FS blogs written by other people in my A-100. Enjoy stalking them!