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Archive for February, 2007

Hail to the Chief

For those following this blog, you know I’ve had some rare opportunities to have important government officials speak to our class. But the topper was this morning. The Deputy Secretary John Negroponte spoke to us last week and then did our swearing-in on Friday. For some reason, he has really taken to us. He said to us and others have told us he considers himself part of the 132nd A-100 (my orientation class), and on Friday he said he wants to be considered an honorary member our class. The reason we have been told is because he believes this will be his last major role in the State Department (after 46 years); so he is on his way out and we are on our way in. He seems to like the paradox.

Anyway, he has taken to us, like I said, and for that reason, he invited us to his official swearing-in ceremony this morning. The ceremony was in the Benjamin Franklin diplomatic reception room, which was beautiful. Important people (I’m assuming) from the State Department along with foreign ambassadors were in attendance. At 10:25, someone introduced the Deputy Secretary, the Secretary of State, and the President of the United States!! President Bush walked in and stood up on the stage right in front of me. Oh, I was on the 3rd row. Sec. Rice spoke for a couple of minutes and then the Commander in Chief spoke for about 5 minutes (including referencing and speaking directly to our class). Then the “D” was sworn-in, and he got up and spoke for about 10 minutes. At one point he talked about the 132nd and then he said, “Mr. President, I would like to present to you the 132nd A-100 class.” Wow!!!

Negroponte Swearing-In

The Secretary’s speech: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2007/feb/81123.htm

The video of the ceremony (I’m there, but you can’t really see me): http://tinyurl.com/2569pp

The President and D’s speech (Look for the references to 132nd): http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070227-2.html#

After it was all over, they walked off the stage and shook the hands of those on the 1st and 2nd rows (unfortunately I was on the 3rd), all the while “Hail to the Chief” was being played. The President and Sec. Rice left the room, and everyone else was invited to a reception for the D. There was a receiving line, so I was able to shake Negroponte and his wife’s hand. He asked where I was going, to which he replied, “That’s a great post.” (I had shaken his hand on Friday and he said “Good post” when I told him Bogota, so at least he’s consistent.) We then moved into a room that had Thomas Jefferson’s desk and a copy of the Treaty of Paris (which is what ended the Revolutionary War). Waiters walked around with duck, some sort of cheese, shrimp, champagne, etc.

Obviously, this was a rare and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experience, since I’ll quickly be moving into more training and eventually adjudicating several hundred visas a day. But it has been absolutely incredible while it has lasted. God has been very gracious in giving me these opportunities over the last 8 weeks.

But none of these experiences will compare to tomorrow, when we find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl!!! Stay tuned!

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Swearing-in and Swearing Day

Today I officially got sworn-in as a Foreign Service Officer. Kristen was able to come and attend the ceremony. It was short and simple but nice. Deputy Secretary Negroponte (the #2 in the department, right behind Sec. Rice) conducted our swearing-in. I think in a few weeks I’ll get some sort of “diploma” that shows I’ve been commissioned. The 7 weeks have gone by quickly, although back on January 8th, it seemed like it would never end.

From here, I have Monday-Wednesday to research Bogota and Colombia. Starting Thursday, I’ll start my 6-week consular training, which I’m assuming will entail learning how to do visa interviews and what all the regs are, along with what assistance we can provide to Americans in trouble overseas. Afterwards, I’ll have language training, which will run pretty much up until we leave for post.

But the most significant (and exciting) news of the last week or two has been that Kristen is now able to feel the baby moving around!!! A few times a day, Kristen will say, “I felt the baby move earlier.” And she always says it kinda nonchalantly (although she knows it’s cool). Whereas my reaction is shock and excitement every time. I haven’t been able to feel it yet, but I’m really looking forward to that day! Wednesday is ultrasound day and “swearing day” (since our doctor doesn’t seem to mind using profanity)!

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Baby Tracker

Lilypie Expecting a baby Ticker

We’re pretty sure Seth’s the father. 😉

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NY times

On Tuesday, my class had the honor of having the newly confirmed Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, speak to just our class. He had only been on the job since February 13th, but he really wanted to speak to a new incoming class. In case you don’t know, Negroponte has led a distinguished career as a Foreign Service officer, including helping broker an end to the Vietnam War, ambassador to Iraq, and most recently the director of national intelligence. Anyway, he spoke to us on Tuesday, and brought with him a reporter from the NY Times, who wrote an article about the “D” and his discussion with us. Check it out!

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/21/washington/21negroponte.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1172096867-H2ecT1sW3mvYqKLcFM3aFw

Speaking of New York, Kristen and I went to the Big Apple for an overnight on Saturday. It was a combined Valentine’s Day trip and wanting to visit NY before we left this part of the country. But after Flag Day on Thursday and hunting for warm clothing on Friday and me being sick since Tuesday, we really weren’t quite as excited about our trip as we had been only a few weeks before when we planned it. But we dutifully got up early Saturday morning and drove the 5 hours to NY. It took us a while to get into Manhattan because the Lincoln Tunnel was jam packed. Once we got there, we visited the World Trade Center and then drove to our hotel, which was right across from the U.N. Around the Brooklyn Bridge, we realized cars were backing up right in front of us, seemily unfazed by the oncoming traffic. Turns out there was an hour-long traffic jam in front of us. We decided to call it an evening and finally get some rest.

I threw a wrench in that plan as I was up all night coughing and sneezing and snoring.

The next day we went on a walking tour of midtown Manhattan, visiting Grand Central Station, the Chrysler building, Times Sqare, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We had a great time, but did our absolute best to stay warm, as it was freezing and windy!!

On our way home I got us a little lost, and we ended up going the LONG way (meaning all the way around) around the loop of DC. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, except for it was 10:30 at night, starting to snow (we saw 4 accidents in less than a mile), and we hadn’t slept in a week! We made it home by 11:30, exhausted. Unfortunately, I was still sick and kept us up yet another night.

Overall we enjoyed our time together, and the highlights were seeing Uncle Nathan and Aunt Joyce along the way and having a slice of New York pizza at Nico’s!

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Timeline update

As most of you know we had Flag Day last Thursday. There were only about 10 posts left when Seth’s name was finally called. They held up a flag for Colombia and called Seth’s name. We had held our breath while they called Nogales, Cuidad Juarez and Matamoros. We were down to Tel Aviv, Mexico City, Belgrade and Bogota. Any of those would have been fine but we are pleased with the results. Our major concern with our assignment was the departure schedule.

As of Thursday, Seth was scheduled to leave DC sometime around July 31. The baby is due July 20th and my doctor was planning to induce on the 30th if nothing happens before then. So, you can do the math and see that Seth was going to be leaving only a few days after the baby is scheduled to be born. Today he met with his CDO (Career Development Officer) and got them to verbally agree to let him stay until 6 weeks after the birth when the baby and I will both be cleared for travel. We are waiting for this in writing but so far things look good!

We haven’t had much time to gather more info on Colombia. So far from what we read it is a great post! It was the most desired post for the class so we are feeling really lucky to have gotten it! There is another girl in Seth’s class that lived in Bogota for two months with her husband before coming to DC. She will be returning to Bogota after her training. She has given us little tidbits. She told us that the apts are big, the food is good, live-in help is the norm, the city is safe for walking with a baby, and the weather is around 70 degrees year round! Oh, and she also mentioned that you can take pictures such as a Pottery Barn photo and you can have furniture made for very cheap (no we can’t take your personal orders but you are welcome to enjoy our furniture when you visit us)! At this point we are pretty satisfied with what we know. We have a while to take it all in before we head out.

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Bogota, Colombia

Yep, we’re going to Bogota!!! And we’re excited! It was tied for #1 for our top post. So, we’re very happy. Overwhelmed, of course. And I’m sure we’ll go through all the cycles of emotions, but as of tonight, we’re thrilled!

More details to come!

http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/co/

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Quick Bid List Update

Just a quick update before the big Flag Day on Thursday (this is the ceremony when we find out where we will be moving). Seth just recieved an email from the commitee letting him know that two of our medium posts were not filled with anyone in his class (there ended up being more posts than people). The posts removed were Seoul, Korea and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were interested in these for sure but they would have required a LOT more language training and would have meant we would have left around Christmas time which would have almost completely eliminated the chance of coming home to visit. So, glance at our list in below entries and mark these off your mental list. You might see them come up again in our future but for now we will not be headed that way!

Two more days until the big day!  The suspense has been building for 2 years now so we will be relieved to have this big decision behind us!

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