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August 2009

birthday cruise

Vladharbor
 

С днём рождения:  "Happy Birthday"

on my birthday, i took a day off so we could enjoy a nice lunch at mario giovanni's and a sailboat ride around the harbor.

i been on several ships and boats but never a sailboat, so it was a nice way to end the day.  Here a snap of the captain.

Captain
 
 

he's a friend of my girlfriend and always happy to take guests out for a ride, especially the ladies.   beautiful weather and a great day to be on the water.


Specialist and Generalist

when it comes to distinguishing between the foreign service career paths, many officers still give me a blank stare when i mention i'm a specialist and not a generalist.  i get the impression that once someone is in a-100 class (generalist's orientation) they never hear about the specialist path.  during my specialist orientation  (sorry we don't have a snazzy name) the general path was explained in full and we quickly understood who the folks were walking around the foreign service institute's campus that weren't in our classes.

i understand american's coming from other agencies serving a tour as an FSO not picking up on it.  everything in the department of state is new to them.  i'm talking about regular FSOs that have already worked for several tours. i explain to them the differences in pay, job responsibilities, usually no language training, etc.  invariably, i get asked by post to fill in for officers even though i've never received any generalist training in that regard.  i've been a backup for management officers but that usually the norm for an IT person, since we work under that section and learn about it anyway.  but my current post has brought up other back-fill positions that i really have no right to do at the expense of my own responsibilities.  i'm all about working as a team, but that's like putting a running back into a wide receiver position. you better plan on seeing a few balls get dropped. it's better to just pick up another receiver to fill the gap.

so for all those aspiring generalists out there, just remember there's another career path out there also. and speaking for the specialists, we're happy to help you out and look forward to working with you.  take a minute to see who's who and save yourself any future missteps down the road.

Generalist:

  • Management Affairs
  • Consular Affairs
  • Political Affairs
  • Economic Affairs
  • Public Diplomacy (Public Affairs)

    Specialists:

  • Facilities Maintenance Specialist
  • Financial Management Officer
  • General Services Officer
  • Human Resources Officer
  • Construction Engineer
  • Information Management Specialist
  • Information Management Technical Specialist
  • Regional English Language Officer
  • Information Resource Officer
  • Printing Specialist
  • Health Practitioner
  • Regional Medical Technologist
  • Regional Medical Officer
  • Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist
  • Office Management Specialist
  • Diplomatic Courier
  • Security Engineering Officer
  • Security Technical Specialist
  • Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent

    Here's a nice wiki link to read more about the Foreign Service and it's history.


  • bad traffic, poor roads and more cars

    it seems like every day i come upon a car accident somewhere in vladivostok.  not surprisely, most of the ones i see are within a couple miles of my home.  so i started wondering how many accidents occur each day.  unfortunately, there's nothing i can find online so i can only estimate that even if i see one or two accidents a day there's got to be more.  the city population is over 600,000 so i'll let you do the math. 

    during my time here, i've seen more than one body laying in the street after an accident.  usually covered discreetly with a sheet, the body is surrounded by police, ambulance crew and the vehicles involved.

    one of the worst cases i saw was coming back from shamara beach. we had seen a group of motorcyclists on the boardwalk at the beach. they were having something to eat and drink, and by drink, i mean beer.  30 minutes later we had left the boardwalk and were in my car heading back to the city on the winding blacktop road.  the makings of an accident appeared around a curve and i recognized several of the bikers standing on the side of the road. further down the road we saw one of the bikes that had lost control and was still laying on the road where it had finally stopped.  the rider was motionless about 70 feet away further down the road.  people think i'm crazy for riding my scooter here, but i don't drink and blast down the road at 100km\hr.  i'm constantly waiting for the other drivers to do the wrong move and have a ready hand on the brakes.  that goes a long way in making sure you have a nice easy ride around the city.  if only we could get more potholes fixed, i would love it.


    st. petersburg

    Hermitage 

    russian word(s) for the day:
    "Я был в отпуске" = i was on vacation

    so i finally took a week off to spend time in st. petersburg.  you'll see new photos added to my flickr account at:

    nomadically's flicker photostream

    flights were uneventful there and back again. i flew aeroflot with moscow as a layover. the only bad part was spending a few hours in moscow's sheremetyevo airport on the way back to vlad.  it was a pretty small domestic terminal, so i ran out of things to do while i waited. by the time i was on my last leg of the flight i was so tired i slept through the whole thing.  my girlfriend met me at st pete's airport and it was great to see her after several weeks of being apart.

    so here's what we ended up seeing-

    1. the hermitage - (pic above: left to right: hermitage theatre, old hermitage, small hermitage, and winter place. new hermitage is behind the old hermitage)
    2. church of the savior on blood - alexander ii was mortally wounded during an assassination
    3. kazan cathedral
    4. saint issacs cathedral
    5. peterhof - many outdoor fountains covering a lush park of paths and trees near the sea.
    6. tsarskoe selo (the royal villege with alexander pushkin's boyhood school and catherine's palace)
    7. nevsky prospekt - main avenue of the city with shops, dining and other tourist haunts
    8. boat tour on the neva and city canals.
    9. bus tour - during the one rainy day all week.  it helped cover a lot of what we didn't have time to see while on foot.

    we covered a lot of ground but there was still so much to see.  i packed for all kinds of weather but ended up wearing summer clothes most of the time.  we only had one rainy day for the week.  besides the sightseeing, we also ate out often to try the local cuisine. my girlfriend took me to eat at Штолли, which had delicious meat and dessert pies.  everywhere we stopped had great food but that one will always come to mind when i think of st pete.

    many of the sites we visited were great to see but i'd say, the hermitage and peterhof were the ones that stand out the most for me.  the hermitage consists of several buildings and houses. it had so many exhibits it was impossible to see them all in one day.  we spent six hours going through it but could easily have spent a week there.  think of the smithsonian's collections in d.c. and you get the idea.  

    peterhof is outside the city and required a bus ride to get there.  sometimes called "peter's court", it's named after peter the great.  we spent all day walking through the park, checking out the fountains and underground grotto. 

    the rest of the week- besides the normal tourist spots we caught the raising of the bridges on the river neva.  around 0120am, people can watch from the river as the street bridges raise for the night to let the ships out of the city.  the ships return early the next morning with their deliveries and the bridges are lowered again for the rest of the day.  they're all lit up so it's easy to see from any distance. if you're driving a car and need to leave the city, it's not so much fun. you're pretty much stuck in the city, unless you want to abandon the car and take a boat across the river.

    with so much walking, my shoes gave out and i ended up buying a new pair of sneakers.  i found some adidas that ended up being so comfortable i didn't even know my feet were sore until i took them off at the end of the day.  i also bought a couple pairs of shoes for my girlfriend because she was even getting a little tired of walking in the shoes she brought. 

    i picked up some propaganda posters from a local bookstore.  i've been looking for them for awhile and found some that covered everything from popular heath, tourism, and cold war slogans.  once i get some framed i'll post some pics.

    i really hated to leave the city on my last day.  i hope to get back again, maybe i'll stop on my way to estonia if i head to tallinn for a visit.  when i got back to vlad, i was still in a state of relaxation for several days afterward. one of my best vacation trips ever..