foreign service Feed

Covered in mud and bird poo - My car arrives safely

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Rain storms came through this weekend, the first time since I arrived in Quito.  The storm clouds could be seen coming off the mountains to the east.  The cloudbursts were dramatic and amazing as I watched them roll in from the safety of my patio windows.  

As the subject line states, I was reunited with my truck on Wednesday.  I've adjusted to life without it, but it's great to have it back. Several people have offered to chauffeur me around, and I've also used cabs when needed.  But nothing can replace the freedom of getting to know the city while driving your own vehicle.  Lucia will get a nice change as well, since we can drive to distant parks instead of limiting our walks to the nearest one.

The FJ is well suited for the hilly driving in Quito. Many of the side streets have pavers vs. asphalt or concrete.  So the ride can be a little bumpy for a sedan or other low clearance vehicle.  However, there's plenty of economy sized vehicles traveling the city streets.  And the cost for imports is very high.  I've heard new vehicles can cost twice as much as you'd pay in the States or other countries, even higher if you're talking about high end luxury vehicles.

One of the first things I've had to get use to is parking in my residence's parking garage.  The height and turning radius inside the garage makes driving the FJ feel like I'm a gopher burrowing into its hole.  

Speaking of new things arriving-

Everyone told me that the speed of shipments have improved over the last few years.  Here's how my personal timeline shaped up for my vehicle (POV), unaccompanied air baggage (UAB), and household effects (HHE).  Everything was shipped from Virginia during the week of July 10.  Everything was staged in Miami, Florida for shipment to the coastal city Guayaquil, Ecuador.  From there it comes over land to the capital city.

Here's how long it took everything-

UAB - < 21 days

POV -  35 days

HHE - arrived in Guayaquil Aug-17, a week to 10 days for Customs clearance to Quito

I'm hopeful I'll see the HHE before the labor day weekend.  Fingers crossed.


¿Como se llama?

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 Camino Antiquo a Nayon

This magnificent view overlooks the back of my neighborhood and the city valley below.  You can see the steep inclines leading up to the apartments.  While breathtaking to look at, it's also breathtaking to walk.  My endurance is slowly increasing as I get use to the high altitude that comes with living in Quito. (9350ft)  I'm getting use to the small hills around my building, but this climb usually requires a minute break just prior to reaching the peak.

One of the first phrases I've gotten use to asking is "¿Como se llama?", since I regularly run into dog walkers.  Lucia has already tallied up friends' names such as, Alberto, Luna, Fidel, Ella, Pepo, and Corky.  All them vary in breeds from German shepherds, Siberian huskies, basset hounds, golden retrievers, schnauzers, shih tzus, and Yorkshire terriers.  The dog park is now a daily stop in Lucia's routine.

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With all the dog walking at a higher elevation, my appetite hasn't quite caught up with the calories I need.  But I've gotten use to forced snacking through out the day and drinking more water to help me adjust.  Some of the popular supermarket chains in the city are SuperMaxi and MegaMaxi.  Since I'm still waiting for my car to arrive, I use a taxi for my weekly shopping.  The taxi rates are surprisingly cheap, usually costing $2 for a one way trip to the store.  A nice tip for the driver helps me get the bags to my apartment door.

Supermaxi

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A selection from this weekend's SuperMaxi trip

While it's nice eating familiar name brands (Snickers!), it comes with a higher cost due to obvious import fees.  Fortunately, I've always liked trying local products since it's cheaper and tastes (usually) just as good if not better.

I've been working on my Spanish more now that I'm here.  It definitely helps when you're trying to see more of the city and what it has to offer.  Everyone's been extremely patient and tend to help me as I practice.  I think I called my dad a potato once when I didn't accent papa (papá) correctly.  Sorry Dad, I'll just say padré next time..  

¡Hasta luego!


Departure of state

 

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My new neighborhood


No, I didn't leave the Department of State, but I did leave Virginia for my next assignment overseas.  I've arrived in Quito, Ecuador and started the next chapter in my life.  Adapting to change is a prerequisite for working in the Foreign Service.  The last time I left the country, all I had to contend with was packing up an apartment and getting on a plane.  This time, I had to sort through a full house, prepare the property to be a rental and arrange travel for my faithful companion Lucia.

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"For the record, I was not consulted on this."

I've been in Quito for two weeks now and I'm getting use to my surroundings. My apartment is in a beautiful neighborhood and overlooks an amazing vista.  There's a postage stamp-sized park just outside my apartment building and another larger park for dogs just a few blocks away.  This park is Parque Lomas de Monteserrín.  Lucia adjusted quickly as the newest diplomat to the park, she's always ready to go off leash and play with her new acquaintances.  

As I mentioned, the view from my balcony overlooks the valley and on a clear day you can see several volcanos. From my patio I believe my view is of Cotopaxi, Antisana and Cayambe.  I'll add more photos once i have clearer pics.

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My patio view

That's all for now.  I'll be posting more in the future now that I'm back online.

 

 

   

 


Govt goes back to work but I never left.

Sorry
Like many other State Department workers during the govt shut down, I continued working with no break in service.  It was odd after a while, because every other federally employed friend I knew was furloughed.  I was starting to feel like the State Department was the only federal agency that was still burning the midnight oil.

So I'm thankful both parties finally came to an agreement but there is so much to be said on how this end result could have been reached without causing the shutdown in the first place. 

Work has consumed most of my time so the last thing I've wanted to do was spend more time sitting in front of a computer when I'm at home.  But now that I'm getting settled in my new assignment and the pace is under more of my control, I'm slowing getting back into blogging again.

So here's to the govt monolith's gears starting their slow grind once again and the production of red tape once again in full swing.  I can't wait till Feb 2014 when they once again begin anew!

 


AFSA 2013 Election

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It's shocking to see how few AFSA members are voting in the annual AFSA election. I didn't realize it myself until reading articles and seeing this post on Diplopundit.

So if you're an AFSA member, help yourself and the rest of us, by making sure you see who's on the ballot and what they have to say.  Unfortunately the field of choices is slim, but on the upside that means you don't have as many statements to read through.  That should make the choices easier for you to decide.

Go here to vote now: 2013 AFSA Governing Board Election

They'll even send you your AFSA member number again if you forgot it.