Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Our Nile Cruise

Starting in Cairo, we sailed to Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan.

Trouble at Sea: Our Red Sea Dive Trip in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world, but Saudi Arabia is a very restrictive country to get into. That alone would have made the trip memorable...but then things went south and the Saudi Coast Guard and a hospital got involved.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Discovering Turkey

We emersed ourselves in Istanbul, explored the white travertines of Pamukkale, and traced history through Laodikeia, Hierolopolis, and Cleopatra's Baths.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The FSCE Assignment Process

So today, I received my official assignment notification for the job in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In State Department lingo, it's called a TMONE (Shorthand for Travel Message One) and pronounced "T-M-1". I don't know why they didn't go all in and use the actual number. There are a total of eight TMs in the official assignment process (click here to see them), but what makes my job so interesting is all the stuff that has to happen prior to getting to this point.

Our process differs from most other Foreign Service officers and specialists because Foreign Service Construction Engineers usually go somewhere to build a new project instead of filling a position that already exists. This means that places that don't currently have projects will have to actually create a position for us to fill and subsequently vacate and eliminate when the project ends. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let me go back to the beginning...
There's more to the assignment process than this...right?
My job exists to execute projects that have been identified as required and funded by Congress. This means that there are ever so many ways that a project could fall off the tracks and never actually be started, much less completed or be something I could be assigned to. Here's the general process just for getting a project to exist, and I'll cover the HR aspects afterwards:
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

How I organize my digital photos for multiple photo streams

Remember when organizing your digital photos was easy? You had one camera that you connected to one computer and no one else really wanted to look at them. These days, it's not uncommon to have photo streams coming in from your phone, your camera, your significant other's phone, their camera, your family's pictures, and Facebook or other social media. Then you have the organizing aspect of all those photos, to include backing up across multiple computers and in the cloud, which lends itself to the ultimate reason we take pictures: sharing. 

So, what's my system? I'm coming around to Picasa, having previously used Windows Live Gallery until I upgraded to Windows 8.1. To ensure proper cross-platform backups within my Photos directory, I have several folders with a consistent naming system on Kacey and my computers, as well as an external hard drive.  
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Monday, October 06, 2014

Downton Abbey at Winterthur

This past weekend, we drove up to Delaware to visit Winterthur to see their "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibit. More than just an exhibit, the sprawling estate was like an American version of Downton in no small part because it once served as the home of the unimaginably wealthy du Pont family. The exhibit even compared the many similarities between Downton (fiction) and Winterthur (fact) that served to make both seem that much more alive and real. Winterthur also had two great areas for the kids: the Enchanted Woods and the Touch-It Room.



Even the entrance to the estate set the mood for the experience. We drove in through the gates at the edge of the property, then followed the winding road around rolling hills of a well manicured lawn. My first thought was that it was a lot of grass to mow. From where we parked, it was a short walk down hill to the visitor's center.


Parent note: If you're deciding whether to bring/use a stroller, yes. The grounds are pretty conducive to using a stroller (there's even a marked-out, stroller-friendly path), and if your kids are like ours, there are plenty of walking opportunities to wear them out. Also, there are stroller-friendly trams that stop at the Enchanted Woods, so they've really thought things through for the little ones.
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Saudi Arabia: So Far, So Good?

We're over two years in to our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It's hard...

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