I left Dhaka, Bangladesh the beginning of April after a flurry of goodbye parties and packing. I’m now back at one of my favorite places, the Foreign Service Institute, learning French. I will have to obtain a level 3/3 to be able to depart to my next post (Dakar, Senegal, in case you weren’t paying attention!). My life right now is 5-6 hours of language training a day, 5 days a week, plus homework and self studying. It is intense, but I’ll be glad to French once I get to Senegal. Plus it will come in handy in future bidding. Bengali was fun and challenging to learn, but I would only be able to use it in two posts – Dhaka and Kolkata. French opens up a lot of countries I can go to in the future.
Once I get to a 3/3 level in French, I should be “able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations in practical, social and professional topics.” For example, I would be able to “use the language as part of normal professional duties such as answering objections, clarifying points, justifying decisions, understanding the essence of challenges, stating and defending policy, conducting meetings, delivering briefings, or other extended and elaborate informative monologues.” Since I’m not even sure I can do this in English most of the time, it will be a challenge!
Since my last posting, I was able to travel to Singapore for a weekend as well as to visit friends in Oman. Oman does not strike most people as a place to go to for vacation, but I wholeheatedly recommend it. I had a blast even though I was only there for a few days. We went to a secluded beach, and to a stream in a canyon where we swam through emerald green water to a cave that actually had a waterfall inside. Unreal!
After departing Dhaka and saying farewell to my awesome driver, housekeeper and everybody at the Embassy, I headed back to my hometown for home leave. I travelled with my family to Yosemite (gorgeous!), then left them to visit my friend in Washington where we expored the Olympic Peninsula, then I left her to head up to Alaska for some mountain time. Highlights included biking around Yosemite with my family with gorgeous weather and amazing views, strolling along a gorgeous beach at low tide with my friend in Washington, and going on a glacier cruise where a pod of orcas came right up to our boat.
Home leave was good overall, though it felt strange to have no real task for 5 weeks. It’s hard to relax once you’ve been going non-stop working and travelling for 2 years. I guess that’s the point though – to get some rest so you can recharge and get ready for your next challenge. Plus, connect with my Americanness again.
I’m enjoying the U.S. so far. It’s nice to be able to walk outside, go to restaurants, catch up with my A-100 colleagues and folks who also served in Dhaka. I love my apartment. However, I am really really excited to be headed to Senegal in 6 months. I love the ocean, and I will be living within a short distance of it, so that’s pretty fantastic. I have heard the Embassy community is supposed to be good, and a lot of people choose to extend their service. Many of my colleagues and friends did not understand why I put Senegal first on my bid list. It’s simple to me as it checks all my boxes – A cool location (ocean, wildlife, deserts, fun travel opportunities to nearby countries), a great Embassy community, freedom of movement, fulfilling and interesting work, direct flights back to the U.S. (no more 30 hour flights!), great food (seafood!!!!), fantastic culture – music (Youssou N’Dour. Baaba Maal, hey even Akon is of Senegalese descent), art, dancing, hardship differential (to pay for my fun travel opportunities)….what’s not to love??
Recently I added to my family. I adopted a new kitty. She is a rambunctious little thing who likes to annoy my first kitty. Hopefully he will start liking her a bit more as time goes by. Does she look ready to travel??
Well, that’s about it for now. I will be a better blog-updater now that I have a little more free time on my hands. Thanks for reading this especially long post!