Notice to Friends: I will be in Bogota, Colombia for 2 years and you all have a standing invitation to visit.
September 2010: In Which I Develop New Routines
Living in South America has been wonderful. Bogota is a remarkable city. My embassy friends (American and Colombia) are great, and work is full of challenge and excitement. As I haven't updated in awhile I am happy to include a handful of great experiences. One is stateside (the second DC snowstorm) and others are for fun trips I've taken here and things I do in my free time in Colombia.
This update includes six sections:
Fate conspires in my favor. Jeanette was able to live with me in Colombia for 7 weeks. This may have been the last time will live together for so long - I am glad we made the most of our good time. Jeanette studied Spanish each weekday morning and we got to explore Bogota on the weekends and evenings. In fact, this was the first time Jeanette has lived in a large urban area. She will be moving directly to San Francisco State to begin college (Go Gators!!), thus a Bogota transition will suit here well.
We spent weekends exploring Bogota and just hanging out. The most memorable adventures include a descent from Montserrat - a retreat overlooking Bogota. Walking down offered stellar views of the city and was a nice windy path through the mountains. We also enjoyed the Botanical Gardens and the Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral). On another enjoyable outing we walked 80 blocks from the historic downtown back to my apartment. We got to see many places in the city I'd not seen before and that have a different feel from my neighborhood and the city center. Click on the picture below for a Bogota Slide show - including Montserrate, the Botanical Gardens, and some of the places we visited along carrera Septima during Ciclovia.
Our final week together we traveled to Argentina to see the reknowned Iguazu Falls - they lived up to their reputation and more. Truly a must see destination for any naturalist. From the raw, awesome force of "La Garganta del Diablo" to the fantastical veils of water pouring forth amidst green algae resting on red rock, Iguazu was spectacular. Click on link adjacent for the Iguazu slideshow or above, on the picture of a waterfall :)
Happily, a series of bureaucractic delays in Washington before leaving for post allowed me to visit Khrisha and see London again. Many happy memories of LSE came back while there. I walked along the Thames, saw old roommates and even got to repeat a wonderful hike I'd enjoyed across the rolling English countryside. Although only there for four days I greatly enjoyed my time and am thankful to Khrisha for making it possible and hosting.
As things turned out Khrisha was excited to see me in Colombia - I was able to see her again merely weeks later! She stayed with me in Bogota for about two weeks and we explored the city and also visited the Caribbean coast. There we saw Santa Marta and stayed in Parque Tayrona - a beautiful national treasure where tropical hills fall into turquoise-water coves. We slept in hammocks :) Click on the picture above to start the England slide show or click below to start Khrisha's Visit to Colombia photos.
Right before leaving for Colombia I was caught in Snowpocalypse 2.0! DC was blanketed in white and I saw some simply breathtaking parts of the city covered in snow. My favorite was the Roosevelt memorial - where almost nobody was walking. It feels like ages ago that this happened, but really it was only 6 months. Still, I think everyone deserves to see some of the photos I took - I should have submitted them to NYTimes or something, they are really cool. Click above or here for the snowshow.
Two Christmases ago, my genealogy was kindly sent to me by my Aunt, Lynne Darrouzet. I decided it was worth posting to my site! She has become in expert in the subject (not just our family) and shared with me two incredibly cool ways of displaying my ancestry. One is a chart which traces back as far as 13 generations (along one branch); the other is a well displayed graphic with circles out. A couple of the greatest ancestor names are "Captain William Downing", "Jemima Mott", "Obadiah Sowell", and "Mary Quimby". Yes, Quimby. The chart also stretches back to 1622; this honor goes to a "Major John Welch". Click for the chart; click for the circular graphic.
And all this leads me to work. I have learned so much in 6 months. In fact I recently reflected on the van ride home: "I am convinced I've been with USAID for over two years, but realize it has been more like 16 months... So thanks for the giving me over two years of memories in 16 months, Uncle Sam." USAID/Colombia is really energized and well run. I am lucky to be getting this introduction to the agency. Sure we never have enough office staff to complete everything in the detail we'd like and prioritization leads to mild tension - but it is my understanding of the real world that this happens anywhere people care about their work :P That said I think everyone in USAID/Colombia is really happy with the work we are doing. When folks leave post (as happens pretty often in the foreign service) they have really touching things to say about their time spent in Colombia and how much they will miss it. Forecasting into the future, I suspect I'll have very much the same sentiment upon departure.
As for what I do day to day, it is difficult to say. As a DLI (the new hiring mechanism for junior officers) I am technically on a training assignment and thus get a pretty wide exposure to what we do. I have worked in the fast-paced program office where I deal with any number of procedural issues relating to just about everything in the mission. This also allows the program office to weigh in as appropriate on all development activity, and hence is a cool place to be. Since then I rotated to a technical office, which is responsible for programming relating to economic opportunity and environmental projects. This has allowed me to work more in detail on specific projects, which is also a great thing to learn. I look forward to seeing more of the offices during my 2 year tour.
I turned 26 on August 23rd!
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Updated September 5th, 2010