Saturday, December 19, 2009


I just returned from a two-week Spanish immersion in Guatemala. We received four hours of one-on-one instruction each day, lived and ate with Guatemalan families, and had many other opportunities for cultural experiences. I was fortunate enough to have immersion with seven of my A-100 classmates.

Overall, the experience was fantastic. I highly recommend the immersion for any other language learners.

The good:

My Spanish improved (that's the point, right?). For me, the improvement was more about fluidity than new grammatical concepts. My professor was great; we passed many hours discussing topics as varied as politics, healthcare, archaeology, sports, and culture. I probably could have spent more time working on grammar, but for me, conversation was the most important.

We also had time for lots of other activities. We climbed a volcano and roasted marshmallows over lava, took a weekend trip to a lake, bargained in the local markets, took salsa dancing classes, participated in traditional culture events, and flew for a day up to northern Guatemala to visit Tikal.

But one of the best things we did is captured in the Spanish verb dominguar, which essentially means "to wander around aimlessly on a Sunday afternoon." Antigua (the city we were in) is an old colonial town still paved with cobble stones and situated around a large central plaza. Life really slows down there and we spent a lot of time simply wandering the streets, enjoying the sights.

The bad:

I fear that I may have brought a friend (the internal kind) back from Guatemala. I've been sick for over a week now. I'm on some antibiotics and the doctors are running some tests. Hopefully I will see some improvement soon.

As you can see, the good certainly outweighed the bad. Here are some pictures from the trip.



Lake Atitlán


On horseback on the way up the volcano

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

8 years

I made a lot of bad decisions when I was young, but I somehow managed to make one of the most imporant decisions of my life correctly when I married Sara eight years ago today. I couldn't ask for a better partner in life or a better mother for our children. I love you sweetie. Happy anniversary.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October Reflection

Disclaimer: from now on, I cannot be held responsible for grammatical mistakes because Spanish is melting my brain.

Today begins the normal "busy season" in our household. Our anniversary, several birthdays, plus the regular holiday season tend to make money tighter, time thinner, and tempers flare(ier). This year, we have added pregnancy to the cauldron. And as if that wasn't enough, we've also scheduled two trips during the busy season.

We're heading to Dallas next weekend. Well, Sara gets to go for five days while I have just over 24 hours there. It's hard to take trips during training because I don't get per diem for leave time. And since our apartment is part of that per diem, we become financially responsible for our rent during leave days. It's not the end of the world to take a few days off, but a couple of hundred dollars a day added to a vacation can really stack up.

I also want to keep my out-of-town time short because missing Spanish class no es bueno. I had my first evaluation a week ago and scored a 1+/1+. If you're interested in the grading scale you can read about it here. I feel good about my progress after eight weeks starting from a 0/0.

I start in a new Spanish class on Monday. They use the evaluations to make ensure students are in the appropriate classes for their skill level, rate of learning, etc. My class is being broken apart and sent to other classes. While I really enjoy the company of my current classmates, I'm excited about the change because the new class is on the early schedule at FSI (8-2) instead of the "late" schedule I've been rocking (10-4).

Hopefully the early morning classes will sink in so that I can get to a 2/2 by the end of November. That's what I need (officially) to participate in the immersion trip to Guatemala. But since I already bought my tickets, I'm pretty sure I'll make it. There are eight of us going from my A-100 class, and we'll spend two weeks in language school while living with local families. Some of my other A-100 classmates are going to keep Sara company while I'm gone.

I also want to say that I'm getting more and more excited about Costa Rica. I've been reading the Costa Rican newspaper and learning about local issues. We've also been in contact with some friends who live there, and soon we'll get our diplomatic passports.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Puke Couch

A new couch appeared in our apartment today with no explanation. Perhaps it was because our old couch had a huge (at least 20" diameter) puke stain on one of the cushions. The stain originated with our family, but I won't name names. When we mentioned it to the cleaning staff (several months ago), they recommended that we simply turn the cushion over. Problem solved! But today, the puke couch is gone, replaced by something approximately the same size and shape that doesn't quite match the loveseat, and without the familiar stains.

Spanish is progressing well, at least I think so. I have my first informal assessment on Friday. They will evaluate my progress and make sure I'm in the right Spanish class for my level and pace. Tomorrow I also start area studies (Central America). Two A-100 classes have finished since I did, and a new one starts next week. Someone from the last class is going to San Jose with us, and he and his wife live at Oakwood as well. Hopefully, we'll get to know them before we go.

It was cold and rainy here for the entire weekend, which pretty much meant we just say around. It also made me wonder if I'm ready for winter.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Costa Rica!

Nosotros vamos a ir a Costa Rica!

Our departure date is not until May of next year, so we have plenty of time for visitors and whatnot. As many of you know, Sara lived in Costa Rica for a few months before we got engaged. She's very excited about seeing her old friends. Malachi is very excited about volcanos, jungles, beaches, and monkeys. I'm excited about getting off language probation and maybe, MAYBE, finally doing some scuba.

Sorry about the terrible banner. My computer with photoshop is not functional at the I'm stuck with paint.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast every day. Wait... Maybe more than once a day. Anyway, today's breakfast was steak & eggs, bacon, sweet rolls, and orange & grapefruit juices. Delicious.

We knew several great breakfast/brunch restaurants in Dallas, but we haven't had much luck around here. I know they're out there, we just have to find them. Fortunately, we aren't suffering from a lack of restaurants in general--we just need the time to find the good ones.

In other news...

Have we found out where we're going, yet? Yes. Can I post it here on the blog? No, not yet. For a few reasons, I can't publicly announce our assignment for a few more days. I CAN say that we are happy(ish) about it, that I'm still in Spanish training, and that we'll be in DC for a while.

More info to follow.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

¿Que hora es?

Welp, September is shaping up to be a lower posting month than August. I definitely didn't intend that to happen. I blame the uncertainty funk I've been in for the last three weeks. That and laziness. And Spanish.

Spanish class has actually been pretty interesting. It's surprising how much Spanish exposure I've had in my life without realizing it (thank you, Texas). I seem a lot less stressed that many of my other colleagues who are learning languages like Hindi, Arabic, or Tagalog. Spanish seems fairly easy (as far as languages go). But I'm expecting it to get very tough any day now.

I'm also expecting, any day now, to find out where we're really headed, when we're going, and what the interim holds for me. Yes, we did receive a bid list on Thursday, and no, I didn't post about it until today. I can't really just throw it up on the blog, but I can say that it had equal number of English and Spanish posts, and we're bidding for an English post. Some of the highlights include a great place to get fish and chips, and a land down under. Some of the lowlights include cities very close to Texas.

Other than location, there are many other factors to consider. Timing is a big one. A few of the very agreeable posts on our list have terrible timing for a February baby. Some posts are very expensive places to live. And one has a 7:00 PM curfew and comes with a standard-issue bulletproof vest.

I will also say that what we thought we wanted at first is not what we are gunning for.

My CDO hopes we can know by the end of this coming week. I'm crossing my fingers for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No news

Still no news on where we'll be going. I hope we can get our new bid list next week, but it really up to how quickly MED can get all the clearances done.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Consular officers are responsible for notifying the families of U.S. citizens who die overseas. In ConGen we briefly discussed the Kübler-Ross grief cycle because we're going to be dealing with some fairly grief-stricken people. You're probably familiar with the grief cycle (or something similar). It basically maps out standard human reaction to bad news. The simple form is:

Denial -> Anger -> Bargaining -> Depression -> Acceptance.

My reaction to this week's events have followed remarkably close to the cycle. Anger and depression were the most apparent stages, but there was definitely more than a hint of bargaining in my email to the CDOs. I won't claim to have reached full acceptance yet.

I did receive word yesterday from my CDO that they are putting together a new bid list of approved posts for us. This is both good and bad: good because we will some input in where we ultimately go, bad because it seems to take a long time to get posts approved. So we may not know where we're going for a quite a while.

In the meantime, I'll continue my Spanish studies. Please click here to see what class has been like this week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Imagine a giant wrench. No, really...make it cartoon big. Now double it in size. Now throw it into your plans for the next couple of years. That's kinda how I feel.

We were informed yesterday (my last day of ConGen) that Malachi's Class 2 Medical clearance prohibits us from serving in Chengdu. A few hours later, they pulled me from Chinese and told me that I'd be learning Spanish (because it will be easier to find a post that Malachi is cleared for that way).

I'm working with my CDO (Career Development Officer) to explore all our options, but I'm having a tough time not feeling discouraged. Oh well.

Banner updated.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I actually got out to play some tennis on Wednesday. I spent about one and a half hours with a bunch of friends from my A-100. I'm about as good/bad as I thought. That is, I'm fairly coordinated but really don't know anything about tennis (read: how to play). Years of ping-pong seem to have helped little. We didn't play any actual games because we were all newbies; we just smacked the ball around a bit. Afterwards I was dead-tired but felt great.

It was so much fun that I played again on Thursday for two hours. This time we did play real games, which was very different. The players (other than me) were more experienced and the rallies were short. I did less running but was just as tired. I felt pretty bad for my partner. He's a competitive guy and I was more of a liability than anything. I need to work on my serve.

I got to practice my serve today when I played for FOUR hours. Ouch. I can tell I'm improving, but I still feel bad for my partner(s). Sara and Malachi came to watch after their naps. Malachi loves to encourage people who are playing games. His timing is sometimes off, but his words are always appreciated.

We had a nice trip to Baltimore yesterday and today, but I'll let Sara tell about it on her blog.

Monday, August 24, 2009


This is just a bonus picture of Malachi smelling the flowers.


My workday was only from 9-12 today (rough life, I know), so we took the opportunity of an open afternoon to visit the Luray Caverns. The pictures don't do it justice, but they're better than me trying to describe it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Class 2

The weekend started with a downer: Malachi received a Class 2 medical clearance on Friday because of the seizures. This might affect our impending move to Chengdu. The medical staff at post will evaluate his specific condition and the care available in Chengdu to determine if we are still cleared to live there. If we are, everything will proceed normally. If not, we'll have to be posted somewhere else. Hopefully we will know this week.

Friday night we had a China Team (all the people from my class going to various China posts) Mahjong party. I had only ever played Mahjong on the computer, and so expected something very similar. But it's not. In China, Mahjong is one of the premiere gambling games, and it plays similar to a card game (most like rummy). We weren't playing for money (thank God), but I did finally win once and ended the night on a high note. And in true Chinese style we combined gambling (though not really) with alcohol. One of my classmates mixed Lychee martinis throughout the night.

Yesterday we took Malachi to the Air & Space Museum (again). After breezing through a few of his favorite exhibits we watched an IMAX movie about fighter pilots. It was quite enjoyable, and Malachi was really transfixed by it.

Despite having read the weather forecast, we didn't bring an umbrella downtown. So we walked a few blocks in the rain to get back to the Metro station. Malachi fell asleep on the Metro (no nap).

Last night was my final A-100 class party. The first members of the 146th head out to post next week. Sadly, Sara couldn't come because trustworthy babysitters are hard to come by around here. Most of the class (+ significant others) was in attendance, many in costume based on their country of assignment. I was jealous that I didn't have a panda mask like some of the other China folks. I exercised self-control by not offering my rendition of Baby Got Back during karaoke (though it would have been awesome).

Already a full weekend and it's not over!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Busy all around

At home -- Sara is finally past the morning sickness phase of pregnancy. We're all happy about that. We have some pictures of the baby from Sara's first appointment, but we won't find out the sex for another month. Malachi is getting very excited about having a little brother or sister. He has named the in-utero child "Chickenbutt." Hopefully he won't be too disappointed when we choose a less scatological name.

Friday night Sara and I went out to a movie. The Time Traveler's Wife = exactly what it looks like in the trailer. If that's your cup of tea, enjoy. I also went to District 9 with a couple of work friends. Our opinions were split. One friend said it was one of the worst films he had ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And since this is my blog, I'll just say that he's wrong. This weekend we also had a poker night, volleyball tournament, and Vietnamese food outing.

At work -- In ConGen we are deep in non-immigrant visas. FSI (the Foreign Service Institute) has a mock consular area complete with eight consular windows behind bulletproof glass. During our roleplays, those playing the applicants have access to several boxes of costumes. The roleplays have been very helpful for me. I learn much better by doing something than by hearing about how to do it. Also it's fun to play the annoying applicant.

For the first few weeks of ConGen we had a lot of open time, but this week is pretty packed. I was nearly at work for 8 hours today (whew!). The downtime we do have is supposed to be spent studying or doing homework, but I can't stop playing Desktop Tower Defense.

In unrelated news, the owners of woot! have launched a new site that sells kid's stuff. This is clearly a poorly-disguised plan to make me spend even more money on their websites.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Turned out my illness was strep. This is the first day in a week that I have felt like myself. I still have a lot of antibiotics to take, but it's great to have a clear head again.

In the midst of my fever, I went through some interesting phases. One day, I felt completely trapped in the house: cabin fever after only a few hours. The next day I was terrified about our move to China. I was convinced that we had made a huge mistake in coming here, and that I had forever ruined our lives. The entire time of my fever, I was really emotional and would tear up even at sappy commercials. This is certainly not the kind of information I would generally volunteer, but it was so bizarre that I want to record it.

Speaking of bizarre, I decided not to shave whilst sick, just to see what would happen. It turns out that seven days without shaving is still not very's mostly just embarassing.

In total I missed three days of ConGen, fully half of the module we were in. Still, I managed to catch up and pass the exam today. I still have to make up all of the lectures, roleplays, and application training I missed, but it's been worked into the schedule for me. It's going to eat up a good portion of my free time, but I'm glad not to repeat the whole module. Four weeks left on ConGen, then I start Mandarin!

I made a fort for Malachi out of one of the giant boxes from our air shipment. It quickly became his "dog house." The other night we let him sleep inside it.

In other news, we went to a church on Sunday that seems pretty good. We're going back this weekend and taking a couple of friends along. We bought some theater tickets for a few shows this fall and spring. We mini-golfed today and it feels like we're in the pool almost every day. Malachi is progressing in his bike riding. I wish I had more time to read. I bought Woot! shirts for the whole family.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I woke up yesterday with a temperature of 102. And so I missed a day of ConGen. That wouldn't have been a huge deal except that my temperature this morning was 102.2. So I've missed two days in a row. I'm feeling a lot better now, though I can still feel the fever. Hopefully I won't have to repeat the whole 7-day module of ConGen.

Sara's really been a blessing to me. I don't get sick very often, but when I do I really shut down. She's been by my side the whole time with whatever I've needed. Thanks babe!

Friday, July 31, 2009


This week marked the beginning of general consular training (ConGen). When we move to China next year I will be one of a handful of consular officers in Chengdu. The training lasts for six weeks and broadly covers the main job functions, applications used, and more! Here are the basics:

Consular officers are responsible for assisting overseas U.S. citizens with everything from registering children and issuing passports, to jail visitation, adoption or abduction, or other emergencies. Consular officers have the sole authority (by Presidential commission) of adjudicating visas to foreigners seeking to travel to the U.S. There's a lot more, too, but that's a good overview.

ConGen includes bits (that's for you JA) from every aspect of the job, including field trips to the airport (to watch DHS process incoming visa holders) and the morgue (to get used to seeing dead people). Yesterday we examined a bunch of documents to determine if they were real or forged, and we'll also receive training in detecting lying.

The hours are generally good, too. There has been a lot of "administrative time" so far (read: sleeping in until 9). But it's a trade-off for not being able to miss a single minute of ConGen. No leave time--period. After ConGen I start Mandarin, which has similarly strict attendance requirements.

Sara comes home tomorrow; I'm so excited!

Blasts from past(s?)

Last weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. Sara and I flew to Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon with just enough to time to do a little shopping and check-in to our hotel before heading to the restaurant. Overall it was a very pleasant experience--turns out many people were as nervous as I was about forgetting names, faces, etc.

A lot of my closest friends didn't attend, but I've seen/spoken with most of them with some regularity anyway. My wonderful wife tolerated us staying longer than we probably should. The most interesting thing was seeing how most people DON'T change. We'll see if that holds true in 10 more years.

The next morning we drove out to our old church, where I attended from age 11(ish) until I moved to Texas six years ago. It was like another reunion (minus the alcohol) except that I remembered the people a lot better. After church we grabbed lunch and headed back to the airport so I could be back on Monday for ConGen (next post). Sara stayed in MN for the week (Malachi was already there). They come home this weekend.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Header Updated

No more mystery (for two years)!

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Official (again)

Yesterday was our swearing-in ceremony as Foreign Service Officers. But it was only that--a ceremony. We took our oath on the first day of training (more than a month ago) because we had to be sworn-in to get on the payroll. Even so, it was a nice ceremony and the Deputy Secretary administered the oath.

All this means that today is the last day of A-100. We all (mostly) go separate ways starting on Monday. A fifth of the class starts work at Main State on one-year D.C. assignments, and the rest of us start various trainings (consular, language, security, area studies, etc.). For me, it's general consular training (ConGen) followed by months of Mandarin.

Tomorrow is my 10-year high school reunion. I'm looking forward to it. Sara and I are flying to Minneapolis and in the morning, and I'm coming back on Sunday night. Sara and Malachi (already in MN) will stay there for a week visiting friends and family. So my first week in ConGen I'll also be flying solo in D.C.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Flag Day!

That's right! Next year we are headed to Chengdu, China! I have job and language training starting next week, and the earliest we would be leaving the States is April 2010. This was one of our top choices and we're all very excited (especially Malachi). It's a small post covering a huge region, so it should give me lots of great experience and responsibility. I'll post more later; headed out to celebrate!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lesson Learned (and more)

Remember that air baggage that I said got delivered? The good news is that it WAS the boxes we were looking for. The bad news is that said boxes DIDN'T contain some of the things we thought they did, most notably our clothes. Or our printer. Or Malachi's toys. What did we get, you might wonder? Well, we received several dented boxes of organic macaroni and cheese, Sara's jewelry box, and the contents of our filing cabinet (sans cabinet). Unfortunately, this is our fault for not watching what the packers were putting in what box (though so many things were packed and repacked that they were confused as well). Oh well.

There were two rather stressful activities this week during A-100. We each gave a short speech and then were critiqued by a professional and our classmates. They also gave us a copy of the speech on DVD so that we can share the humiliation with our friends and family. My speech actually went pretty well--it was a confidence boost.

The other activity tested our composure under tough questioning. Part of my job as a diplomat is to defend U.S. policy, even if I personally disagree with it. The activity involved rapid fire questions from classmates about all aspects of U.S. policy, personal questions, hypothetical situations, etc.--everything from Guantanamo Bay, to Michael Jackson, to CIA. My classmates insisted that I appeared to be very composed, but I was pretty stressed on the inside.

I know I've mentioned this before, but it's very exciting--Monday is Flag Day! We will all assemble to receive tiny rectangles of colored cloth that represent the next 2-3 years of our lives. I'll make sure to post the information here, as soon as I can, and after important parties have received a more personal notification.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Woods

This week, my orientation class had our offsite training at "The Woods" in West Virginia. This is a legendary part of A-100 and it did not disappoint. I'm not really at liberty to discuss exactly what goes on, but I will say that it's focused on leadership training.

It was also a great social opportunity. They say that your orientation class becomes your Foreign Service family, so social interaction is very important. In fact, Sara is out bowling with some of my classmates as I write this (I came home after dinner to put Malachi to bed).

I'll try to post again tomorrow about some of the other exciting things that happened this week. but there are two big headlines for now:

1. Our REAL air shipment finally arrived!
2. We find out where our first post will be on Monday!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Week in review

This was quite a week. Malachi went in for his EEG (read Sara's blog for more info) on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday he was admitted to the hospital (again, read Sara's blog). He was discharged on Thursday after all his tests were clear.

Thursday night we went to a restaurant downtown D.C. called Marrakesh. About 50 members of my orientation class (+ families) shared a private room for a 3-hour, 7-course Moroccan feast, complete with belly dancers (not being eaten). After everything that happened in the previous two days, it was nice to get out and relax.

The movers finally came with our air baggage. That's 600 lbs of our stuff from Dallas that wouldn't fit in the car--things like clothes, kitchen stuff, a lot of Malachi's toys--useful things. Unfortunately, there has been some kind of mix-up, and they delivered some boxes that were supposed to be in storage. So we got Sara's wedding dress instead of our wearable clothes. Oh well.

Last night (Friday) was poker night at a classmates' place. It's really been a privilege getting to know my colleagues. I'm humbled every day by their knowledge, skills, and experience. Oh, I was out first from poker (bye bye $20), but joined in some of the other games (Apples to Apples, Mad Gab, Wii).

Ok, gotta stop; we're running out to the door to the zoo!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July

It's not that I've been avoiding the 4th, I just haven't been out to see fireworks in a few years. But I'd been looking forward to Independence Day ever since I found out that we'd be in D.C. Some people told us we HAD to go downtown, and some said to avoid it at all costs. I'm very glad that we went, and would do it again.

We took the metro downtown around 4 p.m. and staked out a place near the Washington Monument. Dad, mom, Malachi and I walked to the Air & Space museum to look at the rockets. Dad walked back to relieve Sara of place-saving duty, and she met us at the Natural History museum. Malachi loves the dinosaur bones, mummies, and just about anything else...for about 10 seconds...and then he wants to see something else.

We got back to our viewing spot with about an hour to go until fireworks. They were great. It's not that the display was particularly spectacular, but the location, scenery, and crowd really did it for me.

We cut out a few minutes early to huff it to the Metro station, and made it out on the first train.

Here are a few picture highlights from the day:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Where are we going?

As I mentioned in a previous post, we received our bid list for assignments last week. Signing on to this job means I have agreed to be worldwide available, despite our preferences for or against a certain country or region.

The current bidding process requires us to clearly state three primary preferences (e.g. I want to learn a language, I don’t want to stay in Washington, beaches make my skin clear up, etc.) and then rate all the available jobs based on those. Our preferences include learning a difficult language, going to a post eligible for the student loan repayment program, and staying in D.C. until the baby is born.

Yesterday we had a meeting with my Career Development Officer (CDO). CDOs are the folks who will be assigning us to our first two posts. We got to talk over our preferences and get advice on how to bid. Many people find this process unhelpful, but we were encouraged by it. Our situation is a little unique because Malachi’s medical clearance might be downgraded from 1 to 2 (this would limit where we could be posted).

One other note: we took the Modern Language Aptitude Test on Monday and I scored in the 99th percentile. This was very encouraging to me as I look to tackle a difficult language.

Internet Woes

One of the reasons (certainly not the only reason, and probably not even the main reason) that I haven’t blogged a regularly as I’d like is that the internet in our apartment is slow and unreliable. The whole complex has wireless (nice) and it doesn’t cost extra (nicer), but unfortunately it proves that you get what you pay for.

Our laptop picks up the signal alright (2–3 bars out of 5 on connection strength); the desktop rarely works as well. Also whenever the air conditioner kicks on, there’s a small chance the internet connection will drop for 5–10 seconds (laptop) or permanently (desktop). The worst part is that even when the connection is “good” it’s still too slow to stream anything from Hulu or Netflix.

We have looked into other options, but haven’t found anything yet. Verizon FIOS is available in other buildings in the complex, just not ours. Comcast says Cox covers us and vice versa. Oh well, maybe it’s a good adjustment period for life overseas.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Week

Yes, I know, it's been way too long since my last post. But I think I have some good excuses. The first week of orientation was pretty crazy, and I wasn't always clear on what I could and couldn't talk about in a public forum.

Here are some thoughts, in no particular order, on our first week in D.C.

I really enjoy wearing a suit everyday, but it's no bueno in the summer. Unfortunately, all my ties ended up packed in our air shipment (no word yet on delivery) so I've been forced to expand my tie collection.

Traffic is fairly horrendous on the main roadways, but everything we need is pretty close. That said, GPS has been invaluable.

I love the Metro. Our aparment complex runs a shuttle all day from the front office to the nearest metro station (8-9 blocks away). It's a nice break from driving everywhere, and walking is nice.

I didn't think I would get MORE excited about my new job, but I am. Some of the briefings have been kinda sleepy, but we've heard some great testimony from other FSOs at all career levels.

This week we received our bidlists--the list of available assignments for entry-level officers. Sara and I have spent a good amount of time reviewing the list, ranking the assingments, and researching the posts. We find out on July 20 where our first assignment will be, and I'll make sure to post it promptly here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Multi-day Update

Monday 6/15
Pack-out was a challenge. We basically had two sets of movers collecting two different shipments: a 600 lb air shipment coming to our D.C. apartment, and a ground shipment going to storage (the rest of our stuff). There was some general confusion among the parties about who was supposed to be taking what, but eventually the ground folks finished up and left. But then it turned out that we were over our weight limit for the air shipment. The packers stopped at 600 lbs and left, and we still had stuff left in our apartment. We moved into the hotel and spent the evening with friends.

Tuesday 6/16
After many phone calls, we arranged for the movers to come out again on Wednesday to collect the rest of our junk and take it to storage. It was the only option we had that didn’t result in us incurring substantial cost. During the day, we did all of our laundry and ran a few other errands. We had a great evening at our friends’ house.

Wednesday 6/17
Malachi slept in until 8:45! We headed back to the apartment to pack the car. It’s amazing what you can fit into a compact car when you’re really committed. A lady from our church came to clean our apartment, so after she got started we headed back to the hotel for napping. We came back in time to meet the movers. Locking the apartment for the last time was a bit surreal. Now the only key on our keychain is for the car; we are officially homeless for three days. We hung out with friends the rest of the night.

Thursday 6/18
Finally, we got underway. We don’t move in to our D.C. apartment until Saturday, so we are taking our time. As I write this, we’re in our hotel room in Memphis. We arrived around dinner time, so after checked-in we took the trolley to a BBQ restaurant for ribs. On the way back, Malachi played in the fountains with some other kids. Tomorrow, we head across Tennessee to Kingsport, and then continue on to D.C. on Saturday. We’re getting a two-bedroom apartment right away (we were originally scheduled for a one-bedroom temporarily), so that’s pretty exciting. Enjoy the pics below.

Finally on the road!

Malachi stuffed into the only available space in the car.

A great place for ribs in Memphis.

Malachi in the fountains.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moving Day

Movers just arrived. Did we organize well enough? What will we find ourselves without when we get to D.C.? How much trash will be stored in Maryland for years to come. Will a cockroach family hitch a ride in our stuff? Only time will tell.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Waked Up

“I already waked up!” was the announcement that jarred me from deep dreaming to fully awake. For the first time ever, Malachi got up on his own instead of calling for mommy & daddy. We’ve been trying to get him to do that for months, but I wish he had picked a different day--like a day when Sara had been in bed too (I suspect she stayed up all night reading--I haven’t seen her yet this morning).

This is the last day of our Minnesota trip, and one week from tomorrow we move into our new place in D.C. We’ve had a great time here--we accomplished out goal in less time than we thought, and have visited with lots of friends and family. We have one more friend/family gathering tonight and then we leave early tomorrow for Dallas.

Tomorrow is our going away open house and dinner with friends. Sunday we have a gathering after church with more friends, and Monday the movers come. We’ll be in a hotel for our last three nights in Texas.

Ok, I’ve written slowly enough that everyone else is up. I was right about the all-night reading.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Apparently, I’m a packrat. We came to MN to go through the many boxes we had stored at my parents’ house for the last 6 years. But there was a distinct pattern with almost every box: cut it open, look inside, Sara: "More of your crap, babe."

Out of roughly 25 boxes, only 5-6 were exclusively Sara’s stuff, and at least 15 were exclusively mine. I found a couple of old treasures, like a chunk of the Berlin Wall, my Micro Machines (as previously mentioned), and my old pig puppet, Francoine. I estimate that we ended up trashing about 1/5 of the total contents of our storage, and donating about ¼ of it to goodwill. We left a tidy pile of boxes in the attic.

We’re hoping that the shipment dates from MN to storage and from storage to our first post will work out such that we could bring some of those items. But if not, we can always grab them before our second post. I figure if we’ve done alright for 6 years without them, we can stand another 2.

Monday, June 8, 2009


So we're in Minnesota to sort through boxes of things at my parents' house. Later, we will have most of those things sent to storage in Maryland. For now, it's been fun to find (read: play with) some of my old Construx and Micro Machines. But that's not what I want to talk about right now.

When we handed our IDs to the agent at the check-in counter yesterday, he glanced at Sara's and immediately handed it back to her. But mine he scrutinized, squinting, examining it in great detail. After looking back and forth between the computer screen and my drivers license several more times, he made a phone call--the kind of phone call where your voice is barely audible because you don't want people around to hear you.

He hung up the phone and announced that he would be right back before disappearing through a door behind the counter. He returned a few minutes later and handed me my ID.

Him: You're good to go.

Me: Sooo...what was that about.

Him: Hm? Oh, apparently you're on a "No-Fly" list.

Me: WHAT?!

Him: Well, not YOU, but someone with your name. But we cleared you.

Me: So how do you know it isn't me?

Him: We checked the birthdate.

Me: Is is older or younger than me?

He didn't have an answer that could clue me into my doppelganger's identity. I wonder if it might be Patrick Roy's son--he seems to get into trouble fairly often. Anyway, I sense that having my name on a "No-Fly" list is going to make travel pretty interesting for a while. I wonder if getting my diplomatic passport will make things easier.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Beginnings

This is a copy of an email that I sent to many people today, my last day at work. I reposted it here for those who I may have forgotten.

This is my last day at Benny Hinn Ministries after nearly 5 ½ years. I have enjoyed my time here immensely and thank God for the privilege of working for both temporal and eternal rewards.

Without a doubt the best part has been working with all of you. There is nothing like being surrounded by Christ-filled coworkers when stress sets in. And there is nowhere else quite like BHM. Thank you so much for your love and friendship. Please share this message with others I may have forgotten to copy (sorry!).

As Sara, Malachi, and I walk through the door God has opened, we will treasure and continue to pray for you and this ministry.

For those who are interested, you may follow our lives and adventures on our blog:

Again, thank you for the years of memories and prayers. God bless you.

He is faithful,


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


This is for my wife, who is concerned that my blog is nothing but State Department recruiting propaganda.

We are two weeks and two days from our move and feeling the pressure.

This is my last week (and Sara’s last day) of work. It’s been especially busy here as I try to 1) document everything that I do, 2) prepare to train my replacement, and 3) offload many responsibilities to other people. And the busyness doesn’t end when I leave the office.

While we’re not allowed to pack any of our things (the movers handle that), we do have to separate our junk into things we want to have in D.C., and things that will be stored until we move to our first post. Our place in D.C. will be fully furnished, so we won’t need much more than clothes, toys, and a few things to remind us of home. The remainder of our personal effects will go into storage until we move to our first overseas post. At that point, we will designate some things to follow us quickly (weeks), some to follow slowly (months), and the rest to remain stored in the U.S.

We will be in Minnesota next week visiting family & friends and relieving my parents of boxes of who-knows-what they’ve stored for six years. I haven’t been up there in over a year so I’m excited for the trip, but wish it was a little longer.

Our pack-out is scheduled for two days after we get back from Minnesota, and we head out three days later.

We’ve been trying to divide our remaining time between preparing for the move and visiting with friends. This is definitely a bittersweet departure. Our time in Texas has been incredible, and we wouldn’t leave for anything less than the opportunity of a lifetime.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How I Came to the Foreign Service – 3

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) is the first step in joining America’s diplomatic corps. I took the test in July of 2008, but I began preparing for it much earlier.

Here is a brief description of the test for those who don’t click the link:

The test will measure your knowledge, skills and abilities, including writing skills that are necessary to the work of a Foreign Service Officer [including]…

  • Job knowledge – [covers] a broad range of topics including but not limited to the structure and workings of the U.S. government, U.S. and world history, U.S. culture, psychology, management theory, finance and economics, and world affairs. In addition, you will be given 30 minutes to write an essay on an assigned topic.
  • English expression
  • A biographic information section that asks you to describe your work style, your manner of interacting and communicating with others, and your approach to other cultures.

I’d heard various opinions on studying for the exam, ranging from “it’s impossible to study for,” to “at least a year of prep is recommended.” But the perspective I agree with most is “it’s the test you’ve been preparing for your whole life.” Some of my studying helped on the test, but mostly I benefited from years of loving to learn.

Still, I did prepare quite a bit:
A little over a year before the test (and before I even planned on taking it) I started listening to NPR on the way to and from work everyday (~2 hours daily). This one habit, more than anything else, did the most for me.

I also subscribed to Newsweek and Foreign Affairs magazine, and read them cover to cover. I read several online news sources everyday. I purchased and surveyed economics and management textbooks (thank God for Half Price Books). I read several books off the suggested reading list. One, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, taught me a lot about myself.

I memorized the geographic position of every country in the world using this site (Africa was the hardest). I brushed up on U.S. history, researched government structure, and memorized portions of the Constitution. I practiced writing essays quickly and had my wife proof my writing and logic. Having just completed an English degree, I wasn’t very worried about this section of the test.

On test day, I watched Hot Fuzz to relax. Honestly, the test wasn’t that bad. The biographical section took me by surprise, but the government’s NDA prevents me from saying more. I felt pretty good when I finished, and sat back to wait two months for my results.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How I Came to the Foreign Service – 2

Motivation is a major factor in joining the Foreign Service. You must possess it to subject yourself to the application and exam, maintain it during months of waiting, and finally express it (both in writing and verbally) during the Oral Assessment.

I scrutinized my motivation from every angle and determined unequivocally that a career in the Foreign Service was what I wanted.

I found my primary motivation was to serve my country—a desire born from my father’s example of military service. I had considered the armed forces in the past but was more interested in other areas of public service.

A secondary motivation was for my family to have broad cultural experience. I’ve always felt that early and often foreign exposure taught me to relate with humility to other cultures, instilled a love of learning, and built a respect for history. I want the same and more for my children.

I also discovered many more-personal motivating factors. Diplomats enjoy generous compensation, daily challenges, variety of work, and opportunities to learn new languages, experience other cultures, and make a real difference in people’s lives.

My final motivation was my belief in the power of diplomacy. I know that diplomacy can’t solve everything—that’s not what I’m espousing. But I know from experience that people separated by vast geographical and cultural gulfs can find common ground in an afternoon of conversation. I know that diplomacy happens every time two people interact.

So I’m committed to a lifestyle of personal diplomacy that, while it may never directly influence world leaders or policy makers, will hopefully impact the hearts and minds of individuals I meet on a daily basis. And who knows, maybe those individuals will go on to preach against terrorism, treat their wives and children better, or change a repressive regime.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How I Came to the Foreign Service - 1

I am often asked how I found out about a career as a U.S. diplomat and why I decided to pursue it.

I first learned of the Foreign Service about 10 years ago while on a trip to China as part of a cultural exchange program. One of the other participants mentioned looking into working at an embassy, living overseas, learning languages, etc. and the job instantly intrigued me. I must have looked into it at the time, because I remember realizing that I was a bit too young (minimum age is 20).

me (center) in China, circa 1999

I didn’t seriously revisit the idea until about two years ago. My undergraduate work was wrapping up, and I had the urge to continue studying. I found myself steering toward graduate programs in International Affairs. I didn’t know where it would end up (international business, law, teaching abroad, etc.) but knew I wanted to see the world.

I started visiting the Department of State’s website with some regularity, reading through the information and familiarizing myself with the selection process. I found some Foreign Service Officer’s (FSO) blogs and read about their lives. By the end of 2007 I was committed to a course of study (International Affairs at the Bush School of Government – Texas A&M) and eventually a Foreign Service career.

Next post…what motivated me to join the Foreign Service…

Monday, May 25, 2009

Inaugural Post


This is the first post of our brand new Teamroy Adventures blog. We are a young family embarking on a great adventure: a career in the United States Foreign Service.

Training (A-100) begins in Washington D.C. on June 22, so we have about 3 ½ weeks to wrap up our life in Texas before heading across the country. Around the middle of July we will find out where our first overseas assignment will be.

I will write more about joining the Foreign Service (the process in general as well as my personal experience) in future posts.

This blog will serve to keep our friends and family aware of the latest and greatest in our lives, and give readers a taste of what Foreign Service life is like.