Friday, December 19, 2008

American By Choice

This week I was privileged to be part of a naturalization ceremony for a friend of mine. Several coworkers and I headed to the Convention Center in downtown DC. It was an awesome experience to see so many people gathered together for the sole purpose of becoming citizens of the United States. According to the judge presiding over the ceremony this was the largest naturalization ceremony in DC history with 701 people from 104 countries pledging allegiance to the United States. I was misty eyed through much of the 2+ hour ceremony.

We had a color guard, the national anthem, the reading of each name and country of those becoming naturalized, the oath of allegiance to the United States, the pledge of allegiance to the flag and then a big congratulations with much waving of small American flags. Some of my favorite moments were the cheers that came after the new citizens were told they could receive their passports in as little as three days! Other favorite moments: a stoic couple from Croatia beaming and kissing after they became citizens and some young adult kids cheering for their 60+ year old parents as their names were called.

Overall, it was really exciting to see people become Americans by choice and it was a thrilling memory to have with me as I will be on the frontlines of the visa line helping to start others dreams come to reality in a ceremony like this some day.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What's New Pussycat, Woah, Woah, Woah

Being a Monday and all, I thought I might post a few updates for my few faithful readers. If you are one of them, thank you for sticking with me through thin and thick and hardly there posts.

Update #1 - Foreign Service

As you have seen from the previous blog, I have been offered and have accepted a position with the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer. I'm still excited and still in a bit of shock when I start to think about it. Orientation will begin for me on January 5 in DC. I'm glad that I get to stick around the area for a bit longer while in transition and don't have to move to a new city quite yet. On February 13, I will attend what is known as Flag Day. The day I find out which country I will be spending the next few years working and living in for my first post. This will be a day of great anticipation and nervousness and excitement and I'm already planning a big party for that evening. I will also learn at that time what additional training I will need before leaving for post ie. language training and other important things. I'm guessing that I will be leaving for post sometime the end of next summer or early fall. Of course this is all a guess and I won't know for sure until February. I'm already busy starting to think about a myriad of different things like insurance, taxes, moving, buying things I'll need, clothes, etc. It's gonna be fun but also a lot of work. If you think about it and are the praying type, I would really appreciate prayers for wisdom and insight regarding my choices of posts (I get to put in my preferences) and for the assignment of those posts and for an openness and sense of camraderie and friendship among the 70 plus of us that are starting orientation together.

Update #2 - The Grand Canyon

This was an amazing four day backpacking trip that I was able to go on with my dad, his brother and half sister. We hiked to the bottom of the Canyon, spent two nights at the bottom, hiked halfway up, camped again, and hiked the rest of the way. It was spectacular and a vacation of firsts for me:

first time to the Grand Canyon
first time backpacking
first time meeting my Dad's half sister
first time seeing the Hoover Dam
first time in Arizona
first time in Las Vegas
first time swimming in the Colorado River
first time smoking a cigar

Overall, it was a great vacation of firsts and what was even more cool about it was that I found out about the Foreign Service a couple hours before flying on a plane to start the trip. I spent the whole time in the canyon vacillating between "I'm in the Grand Canyon" and "I'm a Foreign Service Officer". It was great and so cool to hang out with my dad and family for a couple days. I'll post pictures soon.

Update #3 - Thanksgiving in Nashville

I just spent four days in Nashville, TN with my friend (and pastor) Heather and her husband Ryan and another friend/colleague Juliet. We spent the holiday with Heather's sister and brother in law and other related family members. I ate so much that it hurt to even look at food again. But it was so much fun. We went to Fido's - this really cool coffeeshop, the Catfish House for some delicious grilled catfish (and fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, and friend onion rings - all was delicious but I don't want to eat fried food for a while), Corkys for awesome barbecue ribs and collard greens with pepper vinegar - yummy, and of course the house for turkey and all the trimmings. It was some good eating. We also made it out to the Grand Ole Opry for an evening of good country music. It was so cool to be there even if I didn't know any of the artists or the songs, but just so much fun anyway. On the ride back, we "ran into" my friend Josh on the highway, so I switched cars and rode back back with him which was so much fun. Overall, a great holiday.

Update #4 - The New House

For those of you in the know (and those who now will be), I moved into the city a month ago. I'm now a ten block walk from work and loving being in the city. I still haven't quite gotten everything unpacked and in its place but I'm getting there. So far its been an easy transition and it will make the new commute in January pretty easy as well.