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February 2007

hello comrade

Just when I feel like I'm all settled in, it's time to start moving on.  The end of my tour is fast approaching.  Another 5 months or so and I'll be heading on to my next assignment.  I found out over the holidays where my next post will be.  And I'm happy to say it's Vladivostok, Russia.  Ok, it's not the first place people think of when imagining working in the Foreign Service, but it was for me.

I guess growing up with the cold war generation and seeing the history between the Soviet Union and the United States, it's always been fascinating to me.  It's a chance to live in a Russian city that was closed off to all foreigners and even most Russians until the early 1990's.  Vladivostok was closed off during the 1950's to most people. I'm excited about the chance to see it since they've started opening up it's doors to commercial interests and tourism.  I've started learning Russian with some home schooling, I doubt I'll get any training through work but it doesn't hurt to try.  Will see what happens.  My replacement hasn't even been officially named so I'm still waiting to get my departure date planned.  Most of the officers at work have already gotten their travel orders and some of them got there after I did.  It's a bit embarrassing to see that but I make due. 

I did get a chance to go home over the holidays and also took some training I had been asking for.  It was great to see my family and catch up on what's been going on.  I didn't get to see any snow except for one day.  Ever time I hopped on a plane it seemed the snowstorms filled the void behind me.  Even after I left the states, the snow waited until I got back to Sydney before it covered the country.

St. Nick was pretty good to me this year.  I helped him a bit.  So now I'm enjoying a new iPod nano that I use for my runs.  It actually gets me out more now knowing I have some nice tunes to run with.  I picked up the Nike + system also that works as a transmitter and receiver to track my mileage and keep me updated during the run.  While running in Sydney, I never really could tell how far I was running unless I drove by car and checked the distance.  Now I'm free to explore and let the iPod tell me how far I have left to go.  I never thought I break down and get a pod but after looking at the competition, I didn't like what was available.  The only bad part was Nike tries to get you to buy their shoes in order for the transmitter to be included in the sole.  But there's other vendors that are quick to sell their products that work on any shoes laces. 

I've also picked up a nice Washburn acoustic guitar and started practicing again.  I tried long ago to learn how to play, but fate interfered a bit and interrupted my lessons I was taking.  Now it's nice to sit on the balcony and mix up some chords.  Not so great for my neighbors I'm sure.

I've also started volunteering at the Sydney Dogs Home.  I went with some friends at work through our Public Affairs office back in December.  After one visit, I immediately felt like helping out more.  I took a morning to go through their orientation program and now I'm a regular volunteer.  This morning I stopped by the Home and walked some of the dogs, being an American holiday, I knew everyone else would be working.  Sure enough, there were only a couple other volunteers there walking and grooming the dogs.  I think by the time I left we were able to walk every dog at least once for the day.  But it bothers me that tomorrow will come and being a weekday it starts all over again.  I guess I'll have to work out one weekday a week to get over there and help out. 

One of the dogs I walked surprised me with how much personality it had.  He's name is Jet and he's a Chihuahua.  When I put his leash on, he didn't act like he really wanted to go.  But after I got him out the door and out for a walk, he never stopped.  It was almost like he had appointment to get to.  He wasn't running flat out, just a nice quick stride.  I was walking normally with him in the lead.  I wasn't a Chihuahua fan up to today, but he won me over.  Normally, I think of the smallest of dogs as very hyper and nervous.  But when I brought him back, he and his other cellmate, a Pomeranian were actually calm and happy to have me visit.  I was sorry to have to go so soon.  I'd love to take one of the dogs home but I'm still working out the details with work and the landlord.  So for now, I guess I'll just be helping out at the Home.

For more info about the Home goto: Sydney Dogs Home

That's all I got, sorry for the big gap since the last post.  Among other issues, someone thought it would be fun to hack an old website page I had and I finally got around to reporting it to another web provider.  They were great in getting it cleared up but it was just another aggravating problem to deal with.

Scoota's running great still, knock on wood. With the warm weather it's been even better to get out and around on it.

Ciao