Wednesday, February 15, 2017

African Americans in U.S. Diolomatic Service

In honor of Black History Month, have a look at some of the links below. Most Americans can probably name the two prior African-American Secretaries of State. Right? But did you also know that Frederick Douglass served on a diplomatic mission in the Dominican Republic in 1899? Or that the first African-American consul was assigned to the exotic city of ... San Francisco?

African American U.S. Envous, Diplomatic Ministers, Ambassadors, since 1869
This site has a list along with some pages  highlighting specific individuals.

In 2008 the State Department posted a statement - now a bit dated I admit - noting that 5.6% of State Department employees were African Americans. While that figure has improved, African Americans are still underrepresented within the Foreign Service.

Also, Wikipedia has a fairly extensive list as well. If you don't have time to read anything from the list please do check out this mini-bio of the first African American diplomat - Ebenezer Dos Carlos Bassett whose heroic actions in the midst of danger and hardship in Haiti were inspiring (and would make a great movie - FYI Hollywood).

That's all for now. Hope you had a Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 Resolutions

Hello again!

Taking a page from a fellow FS blogger*, I'm posting my New Year's Resolutions for a little accountability. So here foes. In 2017 I swear that I will make every effort to:
  • Be a better communicator - Write to family on their birthdays, send actual letters, respond quicker to invites... All that good stuff
  • Know the Hatch Act, live the Hatch Act.  Seriously though, I plan this year to be a more reponsible (read: active) participant in our great democracy. I plan to do something to support causes I believe in at least once a week. 
  • Finish three or four more books in Italian - I already have Jhumpa Lahiri's In Altre Parole mostly finished and I also intend to finish the last three by Elena Ferrante (I read the first already this year)
  • Cook seafood. I've always been intimidated by seafood but no more! Spaghetti con vongole (clams) and calamari are on the menu.
  • Also on the cooking front - learn to can food
  • Go sailing (bonus points if I manage to take a course)
  • Travel - two new countries, two new states, two new Italian cities
  • Finally go to Tuba Christmas in DC
  • Have friends over for dinner more often
  • Find a solid volunteering gig in DC and stick with it
  • Learn how to make a really kick-ass cappucino before leaving Italy
  • Be able to play level 4 (will have to explain this later) songs on the piano and actually sight read
I realize not all of these are SMART (Specific, Measurable, etc) but they get at my larger ideals for the year - squeezing every last drop out of my time in Italy, investing more in my community and loved ones, and continuing to challenge myself with new skills.

What are you planning for 2017 faithful readers?

*Thanks fellow blogger for the inspiration, I'm glad you're writing again!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

rainy day

I haven't felt much like posting lately - a friend of mine expressed it well when she said she was reevaluating her blog because she didn't want to just write glorified trip adviser reviews. Especially as so much is going on back home it feels downright irresponsible to stick to food and museum reviews like any other time. But there are two reasons I'm not going political with the blog. #1) As I mentioned before - The Hatch Act.  Writing about US policy, while not forbidden if it isn't partisan, would require me to get my posts cleared by the department and as we know, there's nothing that feels less like speaking your own mind than submitting your writing to the clearance process. And #2) I feel that if this were a political blog I'd have to be much more serious and responsible about it and it is just a hobby. 


Here are some photos of the Terme di Diocleziano (Baths of Diocletian) - a solidly second tier tourist attraction that I recommend if you run out of other stuff and like ruins a lot.  It's a good way to get a sense of the scale of ancient Rome - and a sobering reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Wish I could explain this but I'm just as mystified as you.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Happy New Year!

I promised you dog pictures right? 

Well, here's the little precious that I dogsat before I left for vacation:
It certainly made the holiday a little brighter to have him around (and he did a good job keeping me active on all those cold days!)

In other news, I'm just back from the US - a country that seems a little stranger every time I return. Bet you can't guess where I was?

Yep, back to my sandpile where we finally have almost all the approvals and they can break ground soon!  I really ought to write a post when the house is built about the process of building a house while living overseas (and the complex issues of state residency) when it's all over and done with. It's such a complicated and specific circumstance that even the government officials I spoke to about taxes, voting, etc weren't always quite sure how I should proceed. But at least I'm moving in the right direction!

Big thanks go to my parents too for shouldering so much of the burden to get the house built. I hope they get to enjoy it as much as I do - or more!

Glad to be back to the blog! I hope there's plenty to write about in the last 7-8 months of my tour here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Clearly my priorities have been elsewhere lately, but now that the holidays are over I plan to pick back up with the blogging. 
Just as soon as I get back from vacation.

Check back in a week or so for my heartwarming Italian Christmas story and an ode to the little dog I borrowed for the holidays.

In the meantime I'll leave you with a little bit of apartment DIY that made my place a bit cozier this season.

Where there's a will...

*See that radiator in the background? Let me just warn you that while it adds authenticity it is not a friend to the aging laptop.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hipster Christmas

I visited Rome's Vintage Christmas Market today in a part of town I don't hit very often. 
My friend and I saw a ton of cute stuff and knocked a few items of the Christmas list.  But mostly we reveled in the total hipster experience. There were food trucks, homemade nerd memorabilia, 'artisanal' vegan cake, newsboy caps and bluesy covers of Christmas favorites.  It was a good time and a weird reminder of being back in DC.

Only a week to Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Last weekend I visited Antarctica (I mean Copenhagen). After my adventure in Norway I was excited to see some more of Scandinavia - and I have A-100 friends to crash with so how could I resist? 

I ended up only doing a long weekend but it was lovely. Unbelievably cold, but lovely. I focused my touristing on the Tivoli gardens, Nyhavn and the Christmas market. I ate smodbrod (spelling?), drank coca, and tried at least five new varieties of pastry. I tried Glogg and Gluhwein (glogg is the Danish version, both sweeter and a bit less alcoholic than gluhwein), wandered the stalls full of ornaments and furs, and admired the seriously extensive decorations.  I even saw Santa. If anyone is looking for somewhere to get their Christmas fix in, Denmark is the place. 

Love how bikeable Copenhagen was, and how no one found it necessary to lock them up.


Forgive the filter, but my camera can only do so much with low light. 

Sadly this is the best picture I got of the balloon ride but it was just charming. Google Tivoli, you'll see.

More Tivoli