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January 25th, 2014:

Look before you leap, especially after hours

One of the people in my cohort who is a local hire arranged an outing to a jazz club this past Friday night. She said we could all meet up there and listen to some live jazz.

I love any live music, and live jazz is the best kind of jazz, so I went.

The club is well-known in the city, and has a good reputation as being unpretentious and no-frills. It’s all about the music.

The group that was performing was terrific. They were tight, skilled, and their style was both engaging and innovative.

The conversation was good, too. I met another Foreign Service Officer who has been in the service for several years, and she lived in the city that I am hoping to get posted to. As we were talking, I realized that I had actually read her blog over a year ago. They say that the service is small, and you meet the same people over and over again. This experience was evidence of that.

The club is not close to any of the metro lines. I had to take a cab for about a mile from the closest station. So before it got too late, I decided to head home.

I took at cab back to Union Station, and got to the metro stop. After about 10:30 pm, the trains run less frequently. In addition, over the last few weeks, they have been doing maintenance work on the tracks on the weekends, so the trains run about every 20 minutes. If you miss a train, you have to wait that long for the next one.

Well, I got on the first train without any drama, but I had to change from the Red line to the Orange line. Of course, that meant that I had to wait for the next train, and I was unlucky enough to have to wait almost the full 20 minutes for my train.

As soon as I got on my train, I realized that I had gotten on the wrong train, going in a direction perpendicular to the direction that I needed to go. I was on a Blue line train instead of Orange. Yikes! I got off at the next station so that I could go back and get on the Orange line.

A twenty minute wait for the Blue train back to the junction station. Then another twenty minute wait at the junction station for my Orange line train. Did I mention that the temperature was in the low 20s? Although most stations are underground, the cold air still comes in. By this time, it was after 1:00 am. I had left the club at 11:30 pm.

After I finally reached my stop, I faced a 15 minute walk from the station back to my apartment. The shuttle bus service that the apartment runs stops at 10:30 pm. I walked in double-time, and made it back in 11 minutes. I finally got to bed about 2:00 am. Since I had gotten up at 5:00 that morning, that meant that I had a 21-hour day.

I had suspected, but I know this now for sure: I am too old for a 21-hour day.

Lesson learned: after listening to jazz and drinking whiskey, be very careful not to get on the wrong train. If you aren’t careful, you will be punished with a 21-hour day.

Hooray! I’m not the oldest!

I entered the Foreign Service as a second career. That means that I am considerably older than the average age of entrants to this career (31 years old is the average age of new hires to the service). Before I arrived in D.C. for training, I was a little worried that I would be the oldest person in my cohort, a 40-something surrounded by a bunch of “kids” barely older than my own children.

In fact, there are at least two people in my cohort of 87 who are only 23 years old. When I learned that, I had two reactions. Of course I was impressed that someone that young could have made it through the very rigorous selection process. I don’t think that I could have made it in when I was that age. I barely feel qualified at my current age.

The second reaction was a confirmation of my original fear, that I would be the exceptionally old guy in the group.

As I’m getting to know my cohort, though, I see that we represent a pretty even distribution of ages. Plenty of young singles, and many who are married with young children. I suspect that the ages of this cohort would probably fit the average of 30-something.

But I was really pleased to learn that I am not the oldest person in the group. I know for sure that one person is five years older than I am (I know this because he told me, not because I sneaked a look at his paperwork). After talking with some other classmates, I know that two others are older than me as well. Several of us have kids in college, and there is plenty of gray hair (and lack of hair) in the cohort.

Interacting with my classmates has been fun. Whenever we have some down time on training days, there is a lot of talking, a lot of interesting conversations. This is a good group. We’ve only been together for two weeks now, and we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to work together, so it remains to be seen how well we will get along professionally, but socially at least, it’s been good so far. I feel like I’m fitting in.

And I’m really glad that I’m not the oldest guy in the room.

They fundamentally don’t understand snow removal here

The city seems to have recovered from the catastrophic four inches of snow that we got at the beginning of the week.

Although the roads got plowed, and the sidewalks are somewhat cleared of snow, there are some lingering hazards that we have to look out for. Here is an example:

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To someone who is very familiar with winter, this is obviously very dangerous. Someone could easily slip on this and get seriously injured. Maybe the locals just don’t get enough snow and cold weather to realize that stairs need to be cleared of snow?

This picture shows three things:

1. I am, in fact, in Washington, D.C.
2. It’s really cold in Washington, D.C. right now.
3. I am still a Michigander, and am not afraid of a little cold and snow.

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Hmmmmm…

This picture was taken right outside my front door. I’m glad that I know my building allows dogs. Otherwise, I might think that I’m living in a frat house.

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