Monday, September 26, 2011

Klase ng Pornographica

So maybe I got a leetle bit carried away yesterday...maybe...probably not. I mean this was monumental. Four interceptions of Tom Brady (matching the # of interceptions he had all of last year!), overcoming a 21-0 deficit, putting an end to the 15-0 winning streak the Pats have had over the Bills (it has been 8 years since the Bills have beat the Pats), being #1 in the division since god know when! This was a big fucking deal!! What are we going to do without football in the Philippines!!??

Okay, enough about football (at least until the Redskins beat the Cowboys tonight, yeah!). Language continues to struggle along...or, I continue to struggle along in language :) Some days are good Tagalog days and others, well, not so much. Today was a good Tagalog day. We had a couple of officers who just came from Manila come and talk to us about life and work at the Embassy. It was really nice of them to take the time out of their days to come and talk with us, and it was fantastic to get some perspective on what it's like for an ELO (entry level officer) as well as what it's like for families. This week my kaklase (classmate) has a language test in another language (she speaks like 5, she is crazy amazing!) so it will just be me for two hours for some 1-1...not sure how I feel about that. It is difficult being in such a small class because there is absolutely no break (as in, you can't take a minute to just absorb because it is always your turn to speak or translate!). Now I'll get to find out what it's like to be a single student. Hopefully my head doesn't explode. I don't think the custodial personnel would appreciate that very much.

In other Tagalog news, my teacher is totally awesome. She has reached a certain age - the age at which you no longer give a fuck what anyone thinks. She loves to make jokes and just laugh and laugh, which is awesome because that is what I like to do :) She also likes to tell dirty jokes, which is hilarious. L & I have been making jokes because I make stupid, crazy sentences with the limited vocabulary I have. We recently learned the word for snake, so I have been making sentences like: the fat, gluttonous snakes who live near the back of the church, or the dirty snakes who smell bad that are located on top of the clean stove. Well, I guess snakes is also a euphemism for penis because on Friday our instructor asked what my deal was with snakes (in slightly different language), and we tried to explain the humor in making these inane, ridiculous sentences. Apparently humor doesn't really translate because she thought we were giggling over making sentences about penises and promptly pronounced us to be the "Pornographic Class" !!*

* incidentally, I now know the words for penis and pornography in Tagalog...adding these to the other dirty words I have picked up so far should make me a popular figure in Manila! ;) 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who's # 1??!!

The fucking Buffalo Bills, bitches, that's who!!!!!!!!

3-0 and our 1st win over the Pats in 15 games feels sooo good! Husband and I went to a Bills Backers bar in DC to watch the game, and it was fucking in.sane, ya'll, in-fucking-sane! Watching Brady cry, piss, and moan in his post-game interview was just the icing on the cake.

GO BILLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

School Daze

I know posting has been slow lately, but I promise that I really do have a good excuse this time. It's back to school season! This year we've decided that it is so exciting everyone is joining in. The kids started back to school on the 6th, and I started language training the same day. Husband and I are also back to our various other educational pursuits. After a couple weeks of summer break, I am back to my Masters degree (I graduate in Dec, yay!) while Husband is pursuing a post-grad certificate program in IT program management since he may as well put the rest of his GI Bill to good use!* Husband also starts ConGen on Monday. This is the same course that I just finished which is required to get your consular commission. As an EFM (eligible family member, which is what we call all family members listed officially on one's orders), Husband will not be eligible to adjudicate visas like an FSO, but there are many other jobs in the consular section for which a cleared American is needed. Manila is a rather large post and there are many jobs available for EFMs that pay on the US pay schedule. After looking into jobs on the Philippine economy, Husband has decided that it would probably be better to pursue employment at the Embassy and earn a decent wage rather than try to put his MBA to use and make very little.

Now that school has been in session for a couple of weeks, I can report that all children seem to be doing quite well...thriving even. I was concerned, especially for C, that the change from small private school to large public school would be a difficult adjustment, but my children constantly amaze me with their incredible resilience. C is absolutely loving her new school. She has made lots of friends, joined the morning announcements team, and her favorite class is FACS (I forget what it stands for, but it is apparently the new, PC term for Home Ec) where she gets to cook! J is also enjoying school, and she recently started soccer. Today was her 1st game. I was a little worried how she was feeling about the whole thing because we discovered at practice that she is not only the only new child (all the other children played together last year), she was also 1 of only 2 girls on the team! J is more than a bit shy, and at practice one of the rambunctious boys kicked her soccer ball away from her and the look on her face just broke my heart. At first J mostly stood around on the field, but after a couple of quarters and some encouragement from her parents and coaches (who are really wonderful) she started running around after the ball just like the other kids. She even kicked a few times! I was very, very proud of her. A seems to be flourishing in pre-K. His teacher is very sweet, and although A is not quite over his shyness, he is doing well. A will be starting ice skating lessons in Oct (NHL here we come!).

As for me, well, language training is not quite what I expected. I am in a class of two...actually, I am in a department of two! L and I make up the entire Tagalog language department at FSI :) Fortunately, L is an awesome girl, and it has been a very bonding experience so far. I imagine we will be very close by the end of the course as we have nothing but each other to talk about during class :) Another benefit to being in such a small class is that we got to set our own schedule. Generally language classes at FSI are either in the morning (0740 - 1440, 5 hours of classroom instruction and two hours allotted for language lab) or in the afternoon (1040 - 1640). Since it is just L and I, we requested to have class from 0740-1240 with no break for language lab so that we would be free to do it at our leisure. This way I will always be home to pick up the kids from school, even on Wed when they have early release. It is really a great schedule! As for the course itself, let me start by saying if my teachers are representative of the Philippines, I think I am really going to like it there. They are such a warm people, and they love to laugh! Just like me! :) As for the course itself, well, it has been an interesting experience so far. Tagalog is a very unique language. It is of Malay origin, but it has been heaving influenced by Spanish and English, so it is really a bundle of contradictions and lack of rules. On top of that our instructors, as wonderful as they are, are not teachers by profession, so it has been a struggle to understand some of the madness behind their methods. We had little structure to our days, no drills, no grammar, no homework. I actually became quite jealous of my friends in Hindi and Chinese who had hours of class devoted to grammar, pronunciation drills, etc. It had gotten so bad that on Thursday L & I met with the head of of the SE Asia Maritime Dept (who also happens to be a Tagalog speaker and has a PhD in second language acquisition). She was very understanding and seemed to be expecting some of our feedback.  I don't know what she said to our instructors but yesterday was like a brand new class. It was a good Tagalog day! I am also amazed at how much we have learned so far. We have only been in class for two weeks, and we are already having small, halting conversations. It boggle the mind to think of how far we will have advanced by the time we leave next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Living in VA has reminded me of my desire to never live or work in the DC area. Between the multiple natural disasters (including the last week of non-stop rain that caused flash floods and tornadoes), the incredibly rude people (perhaps we have just become accustomed to the friendliness of the South and Southwest?), and the ridiculous cost of living here, I am more determined than ever that we will spend the vast majority of our career overseas. However, there have been some incredible high points to living here. I blogged about experiencing 4th of July in our nation's capitol, and being here for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is right up there with it. 

I was in the process of transitioning from active duty to ROTC when 9/11 happened. I had flown into Seattle on the 9th and was staying with my friend A while I apartment hunted and got registered for school. My ex and C were staying with relatives in Idaho and were supposed to fly in on the 11th. My friend A and I were at her friend's apartment when the news reported the 1st plane crash. I remember talking to my dad on the phone and trying to make some sense of what was happening, watching the fuzzy picture on this friend of a friend's small television on a disconcertingly beautiful fall day, but I don't have a whole lot of concrete memories of what I did for the rest of that day. I know the ex and C's flight was delayed since everything we grounded, and they didn't arrive until two days later. I know that I felt sick to my stomach that something like this could happen here, and I knew that nothing would ever be the same. I think if you asked any American where they were when the planes hit we would all have some rather distinct memory. They might be as vague as my memory of staring at strange pixelations on an old tv set, searching the channels for coverage that would help us make some sense of what was happening. It's not so much the memory of what I was doing that stands out to me as he memory of how I felt. I remember distinctly the sense of disbelief and dread when we learned of the attack on the Pentagon. To me, even more than the 2nd tower crash, that signified that this could not be interpreted as anything other than a serious violent attack on the U.S. 

It's hard to explain to people who joined the military or the intel field post-9/11 (as many did) the difference between what it was like before and after. It was not the same experience. When I joined the AF in the 90's most people came in to get their education (GI Bill), to escape a bad situation, or to learn a skill. We had a decent operational tempo (after all there were still tings like Kosovo, EP-3 crashes, stand-offs in the Taiwan Strait, etc. to worry about), but the difference was that feeling of security. I can't put into words the changes that I saw over the years, some were quite sudden and jarring and some were so gradual it's hard to say when  they changed at all. Of course, there are many things I expected to change that have never changed at all (thus my distaste for serving in Washington). All I can say is that to serve today is very different than it was to serve 10 years ago, and I am proud to have served my country in as many capacities as I have. I myself joined the military to go to college. I ended up loving active duty, oh how I needed the structure, and was awarded a scholarship to ROTC through the AECP program. I commissioned as an officer post-9/11 and rejoined a service changed by experience and by declaration of war. I also left active duty for the same reason some years later when the deployment tempo simply became too much for our family, and I was unwilling to leave three small children behind to go to Afghanistan for a year supplementing the Army. But, I can reflect upon how the wars were managed (or mis-managed in some cases) in another post. I would rather you take this time to read this article and reflect on how 9/11 affected your life. 

So to my foreign service colleagues, military counterparts, intel professionals, and our civilian equivalents: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Americans feel safe again because they have no idea what you do on a daily basis to keep them safe. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Are You Ready for Some Yoga?

While the end of August/beginning of September brings with it pre-season football and fantasy drafts (only doing two leagues this year, but I still ended up with several of the same picks - Arian Foster better be a beast this year or I am screwed!), September is also known for being National Yoga Month. I hearts me some yoga! Yoga has innumerable physiological, physical, and psychological benefits. Personally, practicing yoga has really increased my flexibility, my mental calmness, and my physical strength (especially core strength). Because I have so little time to fit it in amongst my other fitness routines, I only do two long (60min+) yoga practices per week (although I do stretch for at least 10min after every workout). Yoga has become so popular that there are multiple online resources, no need to go to a class or purchase a DVD (unless you want to). Most are pay by month or pay by download sites, which helps if you have exercise ADD like me. Yoga Today, Yoga Vibes, Yoga Glo, Yoga Download, and My Yoga Online are all excellent sites with a variety of different types of yoga classes. Most of them have free trials so you can see if you like it before you commit to anything long term. There are even some totally free resources online like Yogis Anonymous. Many yoga instructors like Sadie Nardini and Jill Miller have their own YouTube Channels that offer several free practices, and, in honor of National Yoga Month, several different sites are offering free trials or free downloads, why not try kripalu?  

If you're not big on following along with a screen, try some MP3 downloads that simply talk you through, like Alive Yoga. It feels more like a classroom just without all of the other sweaty people in your space :) Yoga Journal and iHanuman have free podcasts for download. 

Now that I've shared all of that with you, I'm off to do my own practice for the day because after a weekend filled with school preparation and broken doggie doings, I sure need some relaxation! 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Perils in Parenting - School Version

Everyone is heading back to school next week, and it has been a pain in the ass trying to get everything ready. Since C attended private school last year, she had to take placement tests for English (reading and writing) and Math. To her great disappointment my Francophile daughter will have to endure yet another year of Spanish (what they taught at her last school) since they only offer year 2 of French for 7th graders. I did, however, attempt to ease the sting by agreeing she could take chorus instead of band this year. I think 3 years of flute is torture enough. Because we had to wait for the results of C's placement tests we weren't sure what school supplies to buy. Now that we have them, I have to head back out and brave the crowds and empty aisles trying to track down the last few items she will need for the year. I am a bit worried about how she is going to deal with going from a very small school environment to one that is not only large (there are more kids in her grade than there were in her entire school last year) but also significantly more complicated. C will have to change classes by period (Math in one room, Spanish in another, etc.) as well as by day (each day's schedule is slightly different since only some classes are 5 days per week, while others are 2 or 3 days per week), contend with actual lockers (one in the main hall and one in gym) and floors (3 of them!), and the realities of middle school fashion choices (uniforms - I miss you already!). I have a feeling the 1st couple of weeks are going to be quite a challenge as she acclimates to this new environment.

As for J, well, it has been a bit of rough going there as well. She had gone in a few weeks ago to do a reading test and based on that assessment, I learned yesterday that the school has recommended that she repeat kindergarten. Now, I was already concerned because she is not reading and I felt like she was not at the same level as C had been at that age, but her K teacher from FL seemed to think she was ready for 1st grade. So it was a bit of a blow to have my fears given some credence. J is also very young (the youngest in her class), and I am not opposed to having her be the oldest rather than the youngest in her class. Plus, I would rather she have a strong foundation now instead of perpetually being behind and playing catch up. She's too young to be stressed about school yet. So I was feeling okay with this abrupt and sudden change of plans until I ran into some friends at the school's open house later that afternoon where I learned that the school had also recommended the same thing to them except they turned it down. I was not present when J took her assessment (Husband had to take her, but he wasn't permitted in the room), but my friend S said that she felt the assessment was unfair, that the administrator had been cold and a little intimidating. It's understandable that a young, shy child might clam up and not want to answer questions in an unfamiliar and somewhat scary environment. So now I feel very conflicted. Did I make the right decision for J? I don't want her to feel bad about having to repeat a grade, but I want to make sure she has a really good foundation before we throw her into international school (which generally has even more rigorous standards than U.S. schools). All her new friends here at Oakwood FC will be going into 1st, and I wonder what they/she will think about not being together in the same grade. Did I make the right decision?

A's school entrance have also been somewhat of a nightmare. 1st we had the contention of just getting him in in the first place. Then we had to wait for all the new paperwork to get processed. So when I took in J yesterday I asked about A's class & teacher, and they didn't even have a file on him yet! School starts Tuesday!! Anyway, after some scrambling and a lot of time being sent from person to person in the school, I got word today that A will for sure be in the afternoon program, as well as am e-mail from his new teacher. They have also changed his IEP to reflect the appropriate language, hours of therapy, etc. to meet VA's requirements. He may also have to get two more shots (they never reviewed his shot records since there was no enrollment verification, so no one told me that VA has different standards for immunizations than FL). After all the issues we've faced changing from just one state to another I can only imagine the hell we're going to face when we transfer overseas.

Of course, husband is in LA right now, so I've been taking care of all this + the one-legged dog all on my own (wah, wah). I try not to let my decisions weigh too heavily on me (my thought is usually, what's done is done and you just have to move forward rather than dwelling on the past), but I can't help it when it comes to the kids. Did we do the right thing putting them back in public school (especially for C)? Did I make the right decision having J repeat kindergarten? Will A thrive in his spec ed pre-K or will the other kids need much more attention so he gets lost in the shuffle? This parenting thingy really sucks some times.