Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Anniversary

Posted by quirksalight on June 26, 2011

It’s been one year since I arrive at Seoul, jetlagged, bewildered and armed with a vague notion of what I’m supposed to do. In that year, I’ve made some wonderful friends, weathered political crises, fielded called from friends and family worried about my safety, and finally gained a sense of what this job is all about. I remember griping back at FSI about the vagueness of the training, and non-specific answers to questions about what we were supposed to do as a political officer. And I realize now that the answers we received were vague because there really isn’t an answer. There are case studies, if/then scenarios that can be discussed, but an answer? No, singularities such as that isn’t what this is about.

In whole, it’s an ever changing lifestyle. The social aspects, being a “rep”… it becomes a second skin that you easily don on and off.

Though a downside of the job are the inevitable blatant users. For example, I had dinner with a group of people; friends of my friend, who the dinner was in honor of. One person sticks out because of the interesting turnaround in her behavior after she found out what I did for a living. When she thought I was “just another Korean” – I wasn’t worth bothering with. But an American diplomat with access to the PX, well, that’s another story. Immediately became chatty, asked if I could “help her out”. tsk tsk….

But I don’t regret it. Now, it’s bidding season, and I’m worrying over my bid list, wondering which places to list, what I need to put in my narrative, etc. 2nd tour will be 2012 onward…………

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, annoyance, Bidding, commentary, work | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Commonality

Posted by quirksalight on April 3, 2011

The most common question I get, considering my educational background, is, “How did you go from biomedical engineering to the Foreign Service?”

Convoluted? Yes and no. There’s a bit of history, and the kernels behind all this were placed a long time ago. In high school, I was on the high school debate team and that ignited my interest in politics and international relations. However, I was rather obsessed with science and had dreams of developing a treatment/device that would revolutionize medicine. It wasn’t until grad school, after being burned out of medical research, when I had to start thinking of, “now what?”. My temporary answer was to take a leave of absence for a year and teach English in Korea. That’s one of the earlier points in this blog, back in 2007.

But in Korea, teaching was one thing, but straddling two cultures socially and linguistically was a whole ‘nother beast. Plus, I came to Korea at a political change; for the first time in 10 years, the progressive party was out of office and the conservatives came into power the month I arrived, March 2008. This combined with my background in Korean culture and language, sciences, and interest in politics led to some interesting discussions with the faculty in my middle school, handling getting punched on a subway, acting as a facilitator for my foreign friends in Korea, and occasionally having to explain what the U.S. government was doing to my students, colleagues, and friends.

I really enjoyed that interaction – facilitating the understanding between two cultures, though not so much the getting hit part. Which led me to starting thinking about the Foreign Service. I always planned to go into public service, someday, when I was on the academic track. But I hadn’t thought about it again until when I was in Korea, pondering my next step. So I did – FSOT exam date was November 5, 2008. I got the acceptance in to the QEP in December 2008, decided not to sign a teaching contract for another year, gambling that I would pass the QEP and get to the OA, which I did. So I left Korea, with a freelance editing gig, prepped for the OA and passed on June 15, 2009. A year later, I was prepping to leave DC for my first tour as a POL officer in Seoul. whew! What a whirlwind…

Posted in ancedotes, commentary, election 2008, Graduate school, Korea, New York, school, Science, Seoul, teaching english | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The New Year

Posted by quirksalight on January 1, 2011

Looking back on 2010, it’s been a crazy ride. A year of massive changes in all aspects of my life, from work, dating, friends, and location, roller-coastering is a mild way of describing it.

January: Move to NYC, received and accepted my invitation to the 152nd A-100 class.

February: Prep for starting, snowmaggedon of DC, met some interesting folk in NYC

March: Meet up with friends in NY for the last time in a while, learned to snowboard properly; Move back to DC for A-100!

April: Complete A-100, first post is Seoul, Korea.

May: POL/ECON training

June: Pack out, good-byes to friends and family; arrive in Seoul on June 24.

July: 2+2, get to meet Secretary Clinton,

August: Another year older…

September: Chuseok, Typhoons and Conferences

October: Bangkok!

November: G-20, Yeonpyong Island, Marine Ball, St. Andrews Ball, Thanksgiving feast for 25

December: Eating across Asia with friends; Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore; military exercises off the western coast of South Korea. Holidays with friends old and new; ringing in the New Year with new friends, very grateful for the year that had just wrapped up.

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, musings, vacation, work | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

HK: I think I ate too much

Posted by quirksalight on December 13, 2010

Jen’s uncle took us to a seafood restaurant in the New Territories. It was AWESOME. I ate things that I have no idea what they are, but only that they were delicious. The seafood is freshly caught and in holding pens outside the restaurant. These were extremely large specimens… and you choose your dinner to be cooked in whatever way you please. It’s a good thing that we spent 6 hours earlier in the day walking around on Hong Kong Island.
I’m going to let the pictures do all the talking. :) Definately on my top 10 meals ever.

Posted in adventure, amusing, Food, fun, Hong Kong, travel, vacation | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Peak and other delights:

Posted by quirksalight on December 13, 2010

The rest of our group made it to HK and we were now a merry band of 4 Penn alumnae running around HK. Excellent.

Staying in Kowloon, we hit the local shops, the malls, and markets for interesting finds. Personally, I found some sunglasses, a bottle of Miss Dior perfume (which I hadn’t been able to find for a while), comfy/dressy shoes, and a jade necklace. The necklace was a part of a collective bargaining session at the Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei, with Laura taking the lead for our goods. Nice market, but definitely a place where you need to be able to bargain and knowing the language will do you a lot of good. Next, as one of our main agenda items for the trip was eating, we hit up a Buddhist vegetarian dim sum place. Hmm… the artificial meat in the dimsum was a little strange… but the veggie bits, such as the tofu skins, excellent!

Tea at the Landmark Mandarian Oriental – running late because turns out you can’t just get a taxi on the street to get you from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, but have to call one for that purpose. Easy enough at any hotel, but to those who didn’t know this tidbit of info, quite frustrating, especially when you’ve got reservations.

Next, we split up and the three of us, Kim, Jen and I, headed up to Victoria Peak, just after sunset. Even though it’s not high tourist season, the tram line was LONG. And a crush to push our way into the tram – I seriously had to hip check a guy out of my way who tried to jump ahead of me.

But the view was totally worth it. With the wind whipping through our hair, we stood on top, watching the glittering skylines of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon spread before us, and the ferries moving across Hong Kong Harbour like balls of light floating across the water.

Recommended by our guidebooks and several friends, we first hit up Dragon-I for drinks and apps. Turns out that there is a Happy hour special of 2-1 drinks from 3-9pm. Just don’t get the one with Benedictine liquor – horrid… tastes like cough syrup…. unless you like that sort of thing…. Otherwise, it’s a great deal for drinks in that area.
Met up with an AFP photographer who I met at the G20 in Seoul the past month. He and his colleague joined us at Classified, a wine and cheese bar in the Soho/ Lan Kwai Fong area of Central HK. It was good to meet up with him, though his colleague wasn’t feeling well and went home shortly after arriving.

Posted in adventure, amusing, Food, friends, fun, Hong Kong, outdoors, travel, vacation | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Korean in HK

Posted by quirksalight on December 10, 2010

For me, a big part of traveling is absorbing cultural information and history, so I tend to hit the museums. Also, I really like museums; I think it may have had something to do with growing up with easy access to the Smithsonian.

Jen and I started the museums at the Hong Kong History museum, after a dim sum brunch. When we got there, we got the week-long, all-museum access pass (which is an AMAZING deal, $30 HK for 7 museums).

We get stamped in, and of course, the usual random chitchat with the ticket attendant about where we’re coming from, etc. Upon finding out that I was from Korea, she told me that my English was really good for a Korean, to which I answered that I was an American.

Finding out that I was bilingual in English and Korean, the ticket attendant asked if I could tell her how to say a couple phrases in Korean for the tourists that come by. She was pretty happy and excited that I could, and so I helped her with the translation and pronunciation in English for “Opens at 1 o’clock” and “How many tickets”.

Pretty neat. And later, when we needed to get back to an exhibit, she called the other museum guard to let us in. :)

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, history, Hong Kong, Korean, museums, travel, vacation | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Hong Kong!

Posted by quirksalight on December 9, 2010

I’m skipping blogging on the Korea part because Jen’s got that one covered. :)
As you can see, the goal of our trip to Korea and HK is to hang out with old friends, but to have a gastronomical adventure in Asia. hee hee…

But today was one of adjustment… got up at 5am to catch the flight to HK, and had to take a nap because I was so tired. Pretty sure I overpacked, but meh… not exactly sure what is needed. But mainly, we were walking around in Kowloon and getting a scope of the place. I noticed that it appears to be more crowded on the streets than in Seoul…. but I’ll have to take stock of that in the coming days. A data point of one isn’t really telling much, no?

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, commentary, fun, Korea, travel, vacation | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Vacation

Posted by quirksalight on December 9, 2010

I’m taking my first official vacation this month – with friends visiting from the US to explore Korea, then to Hong Kong, then to Singapore and back to Seoul in later December.

I remember that I was surprised seeing Seoul eligible for an R&R (which I haven’t taken for this trip), but it’s been a rather intense couple of months. I love my job, but decompression time is definitely necessary.

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, travel, vacation | Leave a Comment »

Cataloging a month…

Posted by quirksalight on October 29, 2010

In no particular order…

Bangkok trip
visitors, visitors, visitors
Halloween
On the US Embassy Association board
Pulled into the planning of the Diplomatic Happy Hours in Seoul
Accidentally started a get-together of junior female diplomatic officers in Seoul
Sick
Visiting cousins
cooking!
A couple national day celebrations
Being the recipient of good news and grant money to an NGO
Parties…..
Did I mention work? :)

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Flying High

Posted by quirksalight on September 22, 2010

Heading out of Seoul for an adventure day, three friends and I headed to Mun-gyoung in Gyongsangbuk-do for some aerial action.

Pretty amazing….I think I’m hooked!

Posted in adventure, flying, Korea, Sports | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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