Friday, April 9, 2010

Planning a New Life – and Remembering Past Ones

Posted in Foreign Service Life, Generalities, In DC at 11:22 pm by graceandpoise

Our time here in India is winding down, and we’re scheduling “one last” dinner out with friends and “one last” trip to our favorite shops and restaurants.  We’re worrying about packout, editing and re-editing our EERs (Employee Evaluation Reports), and generally trying to tie up loose ends.  In the midst of all this, I also find myself thinking about DC, spending a lot of time pondering what life is going to be like when we move there for the next 2 years.

I will admit, I went into this whole “bidding on DC jobs” thing with more than a little trepidation.  Last time I lived in DC, I knew I was only going to be there for a short amount of time, and I was a student so I lived like one, sticking to a very tight budget.  I found it nearly impossible to meet interesting people or make friends in the city, there was a lot I didn’t understand about the whole west-coast/east-coast culture gap, and I generally had a pretty crummy time.  I remember thinking sardonically that the only way to get anyone in DC to give you the time of day was to be either politically powerful or the right-hand-man of someone politically powerful.  I don’t want it to be that way this time around.

Though being part of the Foreign Service essentially makes you homeless, a drifter from place to place unable to put down roots anywhere, I’ve learned that in order to preserve your sanity, you basically have to lie to yourself and treat each posting as though it were for good.  That way, you can at least give yourself a chance at having something approximating a normal-ish life.  (Discussion on how marvelous and exotic a “normal” or “ordinary” life sounds these days will be kept for another time.)

So I’m thinking about DC.  For instance: what part of the DC area should we think about living in, and do we want to rent or buy (or can we afford to do either one)?  Will I gain crazy amounts of weight when suddenly I no longer have to worry about 80 percent of available foods being painfully spicy?  Should I join a gym or just take lots of classes at that fabulous yoga studio we went to in the weeks before we came to India (or will I have time/energy to do either one)?  I’ve also been thinking about work stuff, like how I’m going to be able to replenish my work wardrobe after I get rid of all the things ruined by living in India, and whether I’ll manage to remember any of the stuff I learned about working in my chosen “cone” (job track) of the Foreign Service way back when I worked for the Department before formally joining as an officer.

And, of all things, I’ve been thinking about rowing.  I’m not sure where, but I saw a photo recently of rowers out on the Potomac in an eight, on the glass-smooth water of early morning, all the rowers moving with purpose and in unison, with the city’s landmarks gently touched by the sun in the background – a photo obviously shot in those quiet, private hours before the rest of humanity is fully awake.  I haven’t rowed seriously in about 10 years, but it’s amazing how much that photo made me yearn to get back out there with a boat, an oar, and a group of like-minded individuals.  It’s a sport that requires a high degree of coordination – almost choreography – great amounts of power, a huge helping of perseverance, lots of sweat, sometimes blood, sometimes tears, and even sometimes little icicles hanging off your fingernails – and, yes, getting out of bed early.  Those who know me well are undoubtedly scratching their heads at that last bit.  But I don’t know – there’s just something about the simple, quiet things (not to mention the sense of community and of accomplishment) that is so unbelievably seductive these days.


  1. Welcome back to the US soon!

    And I totally hear you about rowing. My 16 yr old son rows competitively on a crew team – he rows stroke in a quad, not a sweep like I think you’re alluding to – but it’s a fabulous sport and so I wanted you to know that I totally hear you about wanting to get into it again when you’re back stateside!

    India has ruined your clothes?

  2. It’s Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up – and you’re on it!

    Here is the link:

    (If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)


  3. Connie said,

    If you need temp furnished housing, well, we’ve used Oakwood in past, but this summer we spent a couple of months in a Marriott Execustay apartment. Miles better in overall quality, (the apartment, furnishings, maid service, etc.). When I asked Oakwood for a quote, they asked me if I were a govt. employee then told me my rate was the current per diem. Hmm. Marriott just quoted a very fair and (because they weren’t going by the per diem chart) darn fine rate. We’ll definitely use them in future. Good luck with the move

    • Connie – thanks for the suggestion! We’re definitely going to start trying to figure out the temporary quarters thing in the next several days, so any hints or recommendations are surely welcome!

  4. caehli27 said,

    I suggest the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria…

  5. Natalie said,

    Happy that we were a part of your “last” trip to Kolkata. I look forward to seeing you in D.C. this Fall, maybe out to dinner at an Indian restaurant ;). I vote for Adams Morgan/Dupont/Logan Circle if you decide to rent. Best of luck with the move!

    • Natalie, thanks so much for hosting us for lunch! It was good to see you again (and the little one, and the 4-legged one), and to catch up. It’s funny: K and I looked at one another upon leaving your place that day and almost simultaneously said basically the same thing: “those two are good people – we should make sure we stay in touch with them and see them in DC”. So I guess I’m saying you can pretty much count on that evening out – though the question of Indian food will of course hinge on how long it’s been and whether we’ve hit the nostalgia point yet! 🙂

  6. stmemory said,

    Maybe I’ve become a bit of a DC snob – but if you’re going to be in DC a short time then actually live in DC! Not NOVA or MD. Although if you’re looking to buy, I’d say look anywhere and everywhere that makes sense and is in your budget. It sounds like you need a place near Georgetown to get your rowing fix. I love your blog, by the way. I never gave more than 2 seconds thought to Bhutan before, but after your pictures it’s now on my ever-growing list of places I’d love to visit.

    • Thanks for the comment and the suggestions. Funny, I just found your blog recently and thought it was both good and entertaining – so the compliment is well-appreciated! Yes, you should DEFINITELY go to Bhutan. It truly is an amazing place. (No, not switching sides and becoming a Bhutanese diplomat, just enchanted by the place 🙂 )

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