Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Wow wow wow wow wow wow it feels SO GOOD to have my own apartment, be all moved in, mostly unpacked!!

Thanks to my HMF, George, Kang and David, Ann, Mary and especially Dan (for his truck) for making this move go smoothly. Here's to the urban family!

Now I can do what I do best - nest!

M is for Move is Over-

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Random Country

(It's the tiny red country on the left.)
In a quick google search yesterday, here's what I found, courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia (that is to say, one man with an Encyclopedia Britannica):
Azerbaijan, officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan) borders Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest. The Nagorno-Karabakh region in the southwest of Azerbaijan proper declared itself independent from Azerbaijan in 1991, but it is not recognized by any nation and considered a legal part of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a secular state, and has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001, EU's European Neighborhood Policy partner since 2006, NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) member since 1994, NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) since 2004 [2] and Commonwealth of Independent States's member since 1991. The Azerbaijani people (or simply Azeris) are the majority population, most of whom (about 70%) are traditionally adherents of Shi'a Islam. The remaining Muslims are Sunni. Other religions include Russian Orthodoxy(2.5%), Armenian Orthodoxy (2.3%), other (6%). The country is formally an emerging democracy, but with strong authoritarian rule.
Aaaaaaaand, that's about all I know, for now. That and I'm set to go there in mid-May, for about three weeks and work very, very hard. And that there's alot of oil there.
As if my life isn't random enough....
Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Career or Family?

"...the problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don't get young men standing up and saying, 'How can I combine career and family?' "
-Gloria Steinem

This subject has come up twice in the past two days, from two close friends, and I think it merits a blog post. This issue is no less important in other careers, but I feel that ESPECIALLY in international development, women have some tough choices to make.

See, it's the international part that causes trouble. It's in one part an exciting homecoming (in some ways I have felt more alive/relaxed/comfortable living overseas than I ever have state-side) and one part excruciating, especially as parent's age, family members get married, friends move on and biological clocks tick tick tick away.

Mostly, it's the last one I've had friends secretly admit fear about. As one friend put it, "I don't want to have an exciting career but end up being 38 years old and alone." As a result, I see her limiting her job options - and she's only 27. This makes me so irritated, I can't even wrap my mind around it - why should women be so afraid to be 38 and alone? You're only as alone as you feel, right? Better to be alone and happy than in a failing marriage, right, RIGHT?

Sigh. I wish it was as simple as that. Of course, we all know that society and (sigh) our only biological clocks, have other ideas.

My friend A. was recently awarded a prestigious fellowship to study in Senegal for up to a year. She told me yesterday that she was trying to get it paired down to 6 months, because as she put it "I spent my 22, 23, and 24th year in Africa. I don't want to turn 30 there."

Again, I must say, I completely understand where these women are coming from and I don't begrudge them their own decisions. We are all in charge of our own happiness, of course. But I don't seem to be hearing these same sentiments from my male friends. In fact, considering the huge amount of emotional capital women spend dissecting their career moves, the men that I know are strangely silent on this topic. Do they think twice about going overseas? Do they wonder who will stay and take care of their parents? When and at what age to have kids?

I don't look down upon my lady friends who have chosen to stop their careers and have kids - just the same as I love my divorced or 40-and-fabulously-single friends. All us women deal with this subject in the way that we think is going to optimally affect us.

I do think, however, that a few of us make these life choices out of fear (ie, if I don't marry this guy, what happens if another one doesn't come along?) and perhaps rushed things just to have "everything perfect." Or perhaps turn down career opportunities for the simple fact that being 38 and alone is just so unfathomable an outcome that everything must be done to prevent it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What I Have Learned from Hosting Garage Sales

1) People will buy the darndest things. Especially if it's $1, half off or an otherwise reduced price. And my darndest, I mean: a half used bottle of shampoo, opened wart remover and out of date vitamins.

2) People are suspicious of expensive looking items with a cheap price. I'm trying to sell my stereo system for $10 (with an i-Home, i-pod and i-tunes, i-don't-really-need-it-anymore). This has drawn some attention as I'd hoped, but mostly in the 'What's wrong with it?" category. Hum.

3) People will gyp you at your own garage sale. (Wait, do I really want to go after her for .50??)

4) Garage sales are great ways to get to know your neighbors, especially if they're looky loo's and nosey nellies.

5) Garage sales bring out a special breed of cheapskates who will a) not only buy used out dated vitamins, but b) also try to haggle with you for it. (!) Also, the kind of person who would look at a $1 computer bag and say "I'll buy it if you throw in this calculator" (wha?!? FYI - I KEPT the calculator...)

6) One person's junk may be another person's treasure, but more often than not, it's just "another person's problem", now! :)

7) Garage sales are great for little kids because they get more with their $1 allowance than they would at Target...

8) True friends will show up unexpectedly to sit on your porch and watch total strangers paw through your junk, and help you make wicked fun of them.

9) Also, even though it's junk and you don't want it anymore, it still kind of hurts when people leave without buying anything...

10) Even if you don't make as much money as you wanted, there are worse ways to spend 5 hours on a beautiful Saturday......!

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Road I'm On

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(I had to make a difficult career decision this week - for the first time in my life I think I chose the road MORE travelled, but I've learned in the past few years that sometimes going against the grain means hitting the mainstream...)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Twist on an Old Standby

In celebration of my friend's birthday and impending run in the Boston Marathon this weekend, we met up at a - get this, Swedish bar - in Petworth called Domku. I was highly impressed. Not only did they have a vast array of Russian beers and strong mixed drinks (with fun names like "Swedie Pie"), they also had something I have only seen in church basements in the upper midwest: lefse.

In fact, it was savory lefse, something I have never seen, so of course I had to order it. It arrived wrapped around spinach, feta cheese, mushrooms and onions, kind of like a fajita. Luckily, I like fajitas, so it was easy to get over my aversion to lefse with something else other than butter and brown sugar. Overall, I gave it a B.

Well, maybe a B +, for nostalgia and going home feeling like I ate something of which my mother would approve. :)

M is for MN foods in new places,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blossoms, Kites and Wet Willies

So this is late, but I've been busy. I just put a deposit down on a beautiful studio apartment that will soon me MINE ALL MINE. Hooray!

But before that, Saturday found the HMF, Ann, Elizabeth and I down at the Mall for the Smithsonian Kite Festival. We were prepared for crowds, and as usual, we weren't let down. At one point, WMATA shut down the Smithsonian stop and were only letting people out (not in). The HMF and I were glad that we drove.

We saw all kinds of different kites: butterflies, fairies, dragons, Hello Kitty, a rainbow hexagon, a b-1 bomber, several 'sharks', a Wright brother's replica, a giant lobster and many space shuttles.
Sadly, we also saw a few kites that didn't quite make it through the day. :(

I was glad that we went - turns out that Sunday was icky and Saturday was pretty much the only time I'll have to see the elusive blossoms - they peak this week! Of course, the entire day was topped off my sitting on the tidal basin with my friends, and Elizabeth surprising me with wet willy that had us howling for a full twenty minutes.

M is for March is Over,