Sorry I’ve been gone so long, I let real life take priority for a while. Let’s get caught up!
Last time, I was starting Distance Learning, that is, taking Mandarin lessons over Skype. Overall, it went well, I got to practice my pronunciation with a native speaker, a speaker from Northern China, so I learned to speak like the people in Shenyang (sort of). But I think I probably would have been better off if I had just stuck with Mango for the last six months. The lessons were pretty basic, things I’d already learned with Mango, mostly, and I found it hard to do the Distance Learning and Mango at the same time. If I had the time, it would have been best to take language classes at FSI, but that wasn’t in the cards.
I left my job back in December, so I’ve been officially unemployed for about three months now. Most of that time has been pretty busy with preparing for our move, but there has been plenty of down time too. Let’s just say I’m not hurting for free time these days. It’s nice to have left my old job, no more pretending to work, or working for a pair of crazy people (long story). I’m now free to find new work at the Consulate or pursue a new career elsewhere. More on that later.
The first six weeks or so of the new year were occupied by doing a top-to-bottom inventory of everything we own, getting rid of stuff we don’t want, and buying things we need. I’m glad I decided to quit my job a few weeks early, because this was a big job. I used a website/app called Homezada to do the inventory, it’s easy to use and free. Basically, I divided our stuff into categories, and sub-categories, then took hundreds of pictures. I really should go back and label everything, and assign values, but the hard part is over.
Towards the end of this inventory period, our family suffered a tragedy. One of our two sweet, lovable cats suddenly became ill and had to be put down. I had never gone through anything like it before, and I miss her very much. On the other hand, if it had to happen, it was a good thing that she became sick before we moved. I’m not sure she would have survived the trip to China, and veterinary care here isn’t at the same level as back in the States. Our other cat is still alive and well, and seems fine being the only cat in the house.
For three weeks in February and March I accompanied Diplowife to work, and took some classes with her. These varied in their usefulness, but it was nice to get out of the house every day. We took two weeks of “Area Studies” courses: basic knowledge about East Asia’s history, culture and current political/military situation. One week on the big picture, then a second one focusing on China. Most of the classes were very interesting, taught by professors from nearby universities. Some were not-so-interesting, but on the whole, the time was well-spent. The third week was at “FACT”, kind of survival training, a couple hours outside DC. Really cool stuff, learning about how to handle and escape dangerous situations. I can’t talk about it here, but if you get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. Even if your next post is a “safe” one, this training is worthwhile.
That takes me up to the week before our move. I’ll sign off for now, the move should have its own blog entry. To sum up: Mango > Distance Learning, set aside more time for your inventory than you think you need, take Area Studies and FACT classes if you can get into them, and give your pets an extra hug from Diplowife and me.