Spanish Language Regrets

Yesterday, I signed a Peace Corps contract that stated that I would take additional Spanish classes before my departure date in 2009. I took two semesters of Spanish during one of the summers I stayed on campus, which was very helpful for my nomination. But in order to get an invitation to Latin America, I need a full second year of Spanish.

Given how much those summer classes cost (GWU's rate is just over $1k per credit hour which is about $3k per Spanish class), I wish that I had taken them more seriously. But I was young and foolish. I didn't realize that summer school meant that I would have to work 8 hours on campus and then spend another 3 hours in class. It was a bummer (but a great summer!) but somehow I managed to pass both classes.

I don't remember much Spanish so I must relearn it asap. I'm hoping to take Spanish 3 and 4 starting in April at ILI or USDA or starting this summer at a local university/college that costs significantly less than GW (Why is GWU so expensive?). In order to prepare myself, I will devote March to reviewing my Spanish 1 and 2 notes, attending a few Spanish Meetup group meetings, taking free Spanish classes at GW, and hounding my Spanish-speaking friends for quick lessons.

I do regret not taking Spanish in high school and college. I was so enamored with Latin that I took it from 8th grade until college. I loved the language and I loved the teachers. Oddly, I chose not to place out of the college Latin 1 and 2. So I spent those semesters reviewing the basics and learning a lot more about the formation of sentences and words. Latin 3 was a lot of fun. The professor was very kooky and we did lots of translation, which I love. I enjoyed Latin so much that for a while I seriously considered minoring in the Classics.

I don't regret spending so much time taking Latin. I just wished that I had stayed mindful that I would probably need to know a few modern languages (like Spanish) to achieve my personal and professional goals.


Peace Corps: Interview

I had my Peace Corps interview today. It went well. I've been nervous during the past week but I felt amazingly comfortable during the interview. It helped that I recognized the recruiter from an information session I attended last fall. She was very nice, engaging, and helpful and I think that I nailed most of the questions—even if I did ramble a bit.

To anyone applying to the Peace Corps: check out the PeaceCorps2 Yahoo Group and Peace Corps for Women (Live Journal) for a list of interview questions and other helpful information. Most of my interview questions were the same ones listed on those sites--a lot of questions about past experiences of working with difficult people and in difficult situations, leadership experience and experience working in an unstructured environment. It also helped to have a list of prepared questions for the recruiter to show them that you've done your homework and are eager to learn and prepare.

I've been unofficially nominated for Latin American for Environmental Education with a departure date of January or February. It is unofficial because I don't meet the Spanish language requirements and the recruiter will have to double-check with the placement office to make sure that they will accept me as long as I gain solid Spanish skills before I leave. I'll find out my nomination for sure by the end of the week!

I really wanted to get Latin America, but I've tried to temper my hope of such a placement after being told by so many people that it is almost impossible to get Latin America without a Spanish language background. So, I became set on Africa and the possibility of learning French. But now there is hope which is nice. As I told my recruiter, as long as I'm not in a cold climate, I'll be happy wherever I'm sent (and even then, I can just buy a warm coat). I'll just be extra happy if I'm in a Spanish speaking country.

Assuming that I get the nomination, I'll need to sign up for some Spanish classes and request a series of medical and dental appointments to ensure that all the health paperwork is completed. I've heard horror stories about the health review taking several months and costing hundreds of dollars even for folks with insurance ($15 co-pay per visit really can really add up if you have to make 10 visits to get all the tests done and forms completed).

Thereafter, I'll await an invitation from the placement office. The invitation will let me know exactly where and when I'm departing—though it can always change. Assuming that I get all my paperwork in on time and I am cleared for service, the invitation will probably come in the fall.

I'm so happy that I've reach the next step in the Peace Corps application process, and I look forward to all the other hoops I'll have to jump through before I depart.


Waffle House & McDonald’s

Wow, I just found out that Waffle House was founded in Avondale Estates (ATL), Georgia. For some reason, I just assumed it was started in Texas or Alabama.

I love Waffle House. It became a nightcap tradition in high school and to this day, I chuckle when I see Waffle House locations on both sides of the Interstate. My meal of choice was always a grilled cheese sandwich (with those two pickle chips on the side!). It always made my night—the food along with playing our standard WH songs (e.g., American Pie, Let's Get it On, etc).

My mom once told me that when she and my dad first moved to Atlanta back in the early 1970s, they didn't go to Waffle House. Certain locations didn't serve blacks or at least let it be known that blacks were not welcome. I'd imagine that many places in the South were like that back then and sadly, many are still that way.

On a similar food note,


Masterpiece Theatre's production of Pride and Prejudice

[Sigh] I'm back in D.C. after a great week of relaxing at home. It wasn't as hard to wake up this morning as I thought it would be. I guess I am well rested. I realize that I haven't given my review of the latest installment of the Masterpiece Theatre's Complete Jane Austen series. I was awaiting the conclusion of the 3-part Pride and Prejudice presentation. As an added bonus, during the past week I saw both the 2005 Keira Knightley version and the 1940 version with Lawrence Olivier.

I truly love Pride and Prejudice. It is a humorous, vexing, romantic, endearing and enduring study of human relationships and life. By far, the 1995 BBC production is the best that I've seen. The costumes, settings, and performances are wonderful. It is more complete, more accurate and fuller than the other versions. Of course, that depth comes at a price. The BBC version is 6 hours long. But given that Pride and Prejudice is arguably Jane Austen's most beloved work, it seems warranted. After the BBC version, the 2005 version comes in at a far second. It is entertaining and lively but more modernized (i.e., less reserved) than in the book and what would have been common during that time period. The emphasis on propriety back then was, at times, absurd but the 2005 movie barely reflected on it. The 1940 version was very much over the top--a "gentle satire." As with the 2005 version, there was an amusing merging or disregard for certain characters and subplots. But there was decorum in this version--though perhaps, too much. All are must sees. But it is definitely worth spending an entire afternoon stuck inside to see the BBC version.

As noted in Miss Austen Regrets, "my darling girl, this is the real world -- the only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up." Perhaps, I can make up my own Mr. Darcy in the novel I am writing. In real life, I'll settle for a Mr. Johnson, a Mr. Butler, or just a Mr. Smith (a reference to Persuasion).

After a three-week hiatus, the series will return March 23 with the 1996 BBC production of Emma staring Kate Beckinsale.


Quick Notes from Home

Ah, it's so nice to be home relaxing. The train ride was interesting. I sat by the most annoying women and their babies. I spent most of the ride ignoring them while sleeping or reading my magazine. I don't want to come off as elitists, but omg why are people so annoying and lacking. The highlight of the trip was definitely coming into Georgia at sunrise. The sky, trees and fields were so beautiful and it made me long to have an organic farm in rural Georgia and be able to watch the sun come up every morning. But I'll have to wait on that goal.

I spent the past few days watching television, reading, and working on a few Hill applications (a very few). Today is my aunt and mom's birthday and we're set to go downtown to check out the High Museum before heading out to dinner with the rest of the family. It is quite amazing that my mother is turning 60. I can only hope that I would have achieved as much as she has and lived as long and as full of a life as she has.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my father's death. It is a bit bittersweet to be home for both events. I can still remember the weekend 14 years ago that I spent attending my father's funerals (in ATL and NOLA) when I should have been enjoying a long holiday weekend and celebrating my mom's birthday. But alas. C'est la vie!


All Aboard!!

In just a few hours, I'll board the Amtrak Crescent 6:30 pm train to Atlanta. I'm quite excited about going home and even more excited about experiencing solo train travel. I don't think that I've properly expressed my love of trains--particularly freight trains as they helped to build our nation

I'm hoping for a relaxing 14 hour ride home and I've done as much prepping as possible for the trip. I'm quite sure that I've brought way too much stuff for the ride, but I'm so afraid of being hungry, bored, cold, sick, annoyed, sleep-deprived, etc. So my carryon bag is loaded with sweet and salty snacks, books (Prep and Mansfield Park), magazines, puzzles, medicine, writing group stuff and even a worksheet on sample Peace Corps interview questions. I also have a blanket and sweatshirt just in case I get cold.

I haven't decided if I'll venture to the dining car for dinner (probably not) or breakfast (probably yes) or even to the lounge. Depending on my level of comfort, I may venture out in search of a travel buddy, but most likely I will be glued in my seat pouring over all the reading materials I've packed. My novels and writing will have me as a captive audience and I can't wait. But maybe, I'll take some Benadryl and go straight to sleep...

So long D.C.! Good riddance 9-5 work life! Hello suburban Atlanta! Welcome lazy days! It will be great to see friends and family again and most of all watch lots of TV and get fat eating all the yummy food my mom will cook and buy for me. Yay!


Happy Valentine’s Day!

A friend told me about Someecards. It’s a site with really funny, sarcastic greetings like the one above. I definitely encourage you to check it out. I’m having problems accessing their site today, but I’m sure things will be back to normal after the big V-Day ecard rush.

Okay, so I did wear black today, but I promise it was totally unintentional. I just own a lot of black work clothes. So far, the day has been like any other. I’ve spotted a few extra flower booths on the street and seen people with red balloons. Otherwise, so far so good.

I think it helped that I had a solid session of commiserating celebrating my singlehood last night with my friends. We’re all single, or at least not in serious relationships right now. It’s good to have single friends. They’re more flexible in scheduling and can tell lurid stories about their latest conquest.

We met at Gazuza. It’s an okay bar, chill and not at all crowded. The happy hour specials were good—about $4-6 per drink or sushi order. No bad for D.C., though I prefer its sister bar, Chi-Cha Lounge. My friends and I spent most of the night talking about our careers and men. Notably, they christened Mr. Rebound of last summer a “'We' Guy" in reference to the Sex in the City episode where Samantha falls for a guy that drops “we” into every conversation.


Preparing for Single’s Awareness Day

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The most abhorred day of the year for single folks like me. No, I don't have Valentine, and no, I don't have any plans. I will avoid wearing all black tomorrow in protest, but I know I'll be feeling less than cheerful with all the flowers, chocolates, balloons and smiling couples that I'm sure to encountered between work and home.

To all those annoying, attached/in-love folks reading my blog, don't forget to acknowledge the single folks in your life. Sure it's exciting that your lover surprised you with dinner, jewelry and roses, but don't intentionally rub your romantic fortune in the face of the less fortunate. As Shimmy-Shimmy noted, tomorrow isn't just for lovers but a day to remember single folks too. There are so many single folks out there. So, don't forget the divorcees, widows, cat ladies, bachelors, etc in your life. They need some TLC too!

To the unattached, don't forget that you are not alone. So many people have loved and lost and are single. Take it easy, treat yourself, and keep in mind that the kindred spirit you're looking for is still out there.


2008 Election, Step Two: Vote in the Primary II

This morning I voted for a woman to be the next President of the United States, and I can't stop smiling. It is so exciting that the democrats are given the choice between a woman and an African American nominee. It's something that I'd always hoped for as a child, and now I've had the chance to be a part of history in the making.

During lunch today, a coworker asked me why I voted for Clinton. I've been asked about my political leaning several times during the past year, and my choice and explanation have always been the same: Clinton because she has experience and will be able to navigate the craziness of national and global politics to get the job done. But more than that, it is a gut feeling. I'll admit that Obama's rhetoric appeals to my intellectual hopes and dreams, but Clinton appeals to my fundamental beliefs and emotions about fairness and progress.

My support of Clinton counters the results of so many voter profiles. In comparison to Clinton supporters, Obama supporters tend to be younger, more educated, more financial comfortable, and African American. Hmm... I'm young, well educated, financially stable and African American. Something beyond my gender has to explain why my beliefs align more strongly with Clinton.

I think my upbringing is the major culprit. My upbringing fostered a strong passion for such social issues as the environment, education and the welfare of children and the poor—things that I, along with the poorer, less educated, and older Americans, feel that Clinton is more likely to champion. Additionally, like many poor, less educated and older Americans, I feel a sense of kinship and trust in the Clinton clan brought forth by former President Bill's eight year reign. Finally, I don't buy the rhetoric. I've lived in D.C. and the world long enough to know the unbelievalbe comprises that have to be made to create incremental change. Of course, I'm still hopeful for the big paradigm shift (which Obama somewhat avows), but I'll accept and favor the less dramatic, though just as needed, progress that Clinton will bring.

No matter what, I'll support the Democratic nominee. Either candidate will help move this country in a new direction and ensure that "the forgotten" of the Bush Administration's reign are once again remembered.


Adult Slumber Parties

I attended an adult slumber party. I'd heard about adult sleepovers/girls' nights out before, but I'd always imagined that they were events that only happened in NYC or California. But no, they're being held in my neighborhood.

The sleepovers are basically a modern version of the Tupperware parties that graced living rooms in my mother's day. But these sleepovers provide an opportunity for women to explore (touch, taste and smell) the variety of products out there without worrying about a leering store clerk or if/how a certain product works. It was amazing how open we all became about the items we were viewing and discussing. I, for one, rarely talk about my sex life or preference/experience in the bedroom, but the (many) glasses of wine and theme of the night loosened us all up. (Hmm…Bad choice of words…)

I was definitely nervous about attending the party and particularly, attending an adult party with more than a dozen women I didn't know (minus Chatty Chica). But I had such a great time, and I don't think that I've ever giggled or squirmed so much in my life.

When we first got there, we all bonded over a lovely table of snacks. The party leader was around my age, very pretty and surprisingly open and confident. Unlike her, I don't think that I could ever nonchalantly present an array of stimulation devices, lubricants, and massage oils without giggling or turning bright red. The evening started with a quick game--the granny panty relay--to break the ice and get us pumped up for the night. Our team lost, though only by a few seconds. With a plateful of snacks and a full glass of wine in hand (and many bottles dispersed around the room), we took our seats and were presented with an array of adult toys, clothes and other items guaranteed to add spice to our bedroom adventures.

No, I didn't buy anything, and I'd rather not go into my favorite items. But I did tell the party leader that I'd be interested in hosting my own party this spring. I think my friends would really enjoy a great night of bonding, giggling, and drinking at my place. I'll let you know if I actually do it.


Museum Visits

This time next week I'll be preparing to take the train back home to Georgia. I have several things that I want to do while home beyond spend time reading and working on my applications. I want to visit at least two Atlanta attractions: the High Museum of Art and the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. In looking at the admission info for both, I've been struck by their costs ($15 & $8 for students, respectively). I now realize how fortunate I am to live in D.C. I have access to so many free museums!

I must admit that I don't frequent the Smithsonian museums as much as I did when I was in college. Back then, the entire National Mall was my backyard and I took advantage of its quiet spaces and interesting events. But now, I live further away and I'm less inclined to navigate the annoying crowds of tourists.

Yet, it is winter time—the best time for sightseeing in D.C. before the first wave of tourists hits during the Cherry Blossom festival. My plans are to visit the Washington Monument and Hirshhorn—the only museum and attraction on the Mall that I have yet to visit. Of course, I'll stay mindful of opportunities to visit the National Gallery. The West building is definitely my favorite though the wonderful NGA film program is held in the East building's auditorium.

I spent a few hours at the Reynolds Center (the National Portrait Gallery and American Museum of Art) last Sunday. The new Kogod Courtyard is lovely. Although I wish there were more comfortable chairs for longer visits, the lighting, sounds, and general atmosphere make it a worthwhile destination. The water scrim was surprising. I was like, "This courtyard is brand new. Why are there so many puddles?!" But I enjoyed watching the little kids play in it. As an added bonus, the courtyard café serves yummy Giffords ice cream, among other items. Before I left, I checked out the Katharine Hepburn exhibit as well as the Stephen Colbert portrait. Both left me with a smile on my face.


Moving On: My Goals vs. Reality

I have an interview with a Peace Corps Regional Recruiter in a few weeks. I'm really excited about the quick turnover so far and I hope that the whole process remains relatively quick and painless (though admittedly, the medical review will be a long, painful process).

I haven't made much progress on my Hill applications and now I'm starting to reconsider my original plan of requesting an August 1 departure date. I'm feeling very listless in my current position and though I am still hopeful about securing a Hill position, I feel that I need to prepare a backup plan just in case the hill job doesn't happen. Floyd recommended that I set a deadline for myself. My deadline is mid-March—my two-anniversary at my current position. If I haven't secured or even interviewed for a Hill job by then, I will have to reconsider how I want to spend the time between the end of my lease and my departure date (in D.C., Atlanta, or somewhere else?). Additionally, I need to decide if I'm willing to spend the four months between my work anniversary and the end of my lease at my current job. My current feeling is no way. Yet, I don't think that I have the cojones to leave my current job for a random position in D.C., ATL, or elsewhere. Floyd did it, but I don't know if I can. I thought about applying for an unpaid summer Hill internship and just plowing through my savings in order to get that experience. But that doesn't seem realistic or meaningful. Time is moving so quickly and I need to reevaluate if working for the Hill is something that I really need or want to achieve. I did have a House internship in graduate school and in the end that may have to suffice.

The bottom-line is that I am feeling increasingly unfulfilled in my current position and that in order to restore my own piece of mind and ensure that I leave on a high note, I must either: 1) get an attitude adjustment (most likely) or 2) grow some balls, put in my 2 weeks notice in March, and move on.


2008 Election, Step Two: Vote in the Primary

It's Super Tuesday and I feel obliged to write about politics, democracy, elections, our founding fathers, etc. I'm a bit disinterested in Super Tuesday given that I have to wait until next Tuesday to vote. Plus, I've grown very tired of all the ads, phone calls, flyers, and pundit predictions/commentary that have flooded my life and psyche during the past months.

First, let me say that the presidential primary is no more important than other primary and election. Indeed, it is troubling that people spend so much time discussing the presidential elections when local politics more directly affect our everyday life. I'm not trying to downplay the role of the president and his/her magnificent control over federal and state bodies, state access to federal funds, our reputation in the world, etc., but merely to underline the importance of voting in local elections and runoffs. I know for a fact that I want my local leaders to address the issues of pedestrian safety, environmental protection, and access to social programs that vex me on a regular basis. Nevertheless, this entry is about the presidential election, so my sermon about local elections will be saved for another day.

I, Hippo Q., endorse Hillary Clinton as the democratic nominee for president.

I think that she'll be a wonderful president and has the skills, judgment and vigor to lead our nation in a new direction from day one. True, I am passionate about having a female president (something my friends and I used to dream about when we were kids), and of course, I'm unbelievably amused by the notion of Bill Clinton as First Gentleman--and I know he will do a great job of championing his wife's initiatives as well as continuing some of his own projects. But mainly, I trust Clinton to do the right thing. I see her as more seasoned and not in a bad way. I think that from day one, she'll be able to navigate the crazy world of politics--alternating between compromise and firmness on the social issues involving women, children, the poor, etc that I am so very passionate about. I believe that she will be committed to those social issues throughout her entire term and that, with the will of a democratic majority in Congress, progress will be made.

I did briefly consider Edwards and Obama and even Richardson (Floyd's favorite), but I've maintained my preference for Clinton. I admit that I'm excited about the prospect of an African American First Family. Furthermore, as an African American and young person who has been waiting for my generation's chance to be a part of the wave of change (a wave bigger and better than anything that my parents' generation could ever dream of!), I sense a closer kinship to the ideals of Obama's camp--indeed, I've been reluctantly charmed by Obama's rhetoric. Obama will do a great job as president and surround himself with sound advisors to help guide, implement and polish his own lofty vision for America. But, so will Hillary.

My preference for Hillary Clinton as president is strong and firm. No matter how many folks try to "enlighten" me of the better fit that another would be, next Tuesday my vote will be cast for Hillary Clinton. She is the best choice for the 44th President of the United States.

Irregardless of your affiliation or preference, I urge you to vote this (and every) election year for your new federal, state, and local leaders.


Masterpiece Theatre's production of Miss Austen Regrets

I had an amazing weekend. Though I didn't make much progress on my Hill applications (so shameful!), I did submit my PC application (yay!). Plus, I got to reconnect with a high school classmate and attend a memorable "adult sleepover"/girls' night out. And, of course, I got to watch the latest installment in Masterpiece Theatre's The Complete Jane Austen Series, Miss Austen Regrets.

I enjoyed Miss Austen Regrets. I apologize for repeating what has been said so many times before in this blog, but the performances, settings, and costumes were solid. For additional reviews, check out these LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle articles.

I know little about the life and times of Jane Austen, and I guess there is more speculation than fact about her life given that many of her letters, which might have provided a great portrait of her, were burned by her sister. Yet, what struck me the about the story was the proposition that though Austen never did marry and therefore, never had fulfillment in terms of a consummate/romantic love--like so many of her heroines did--she had fulfillment of the pen and of her imagination. One particular speculation was touched upon in the movie was that Austen sacrificed love and money for freedom and art. It is interesting to think what might have become of Austen if she did marry--would she have had leisure for writing and a husband who encouraged/allowed such an undertaking?

I suppose that ultimately Austen's short-yet-full life reminds me of the importance of choices. Making the right ones and learning lessons from the ones that don't turn out right. As is put forth in the movie (as in Persuasion), no one really knows how life will turn out. You just have to make decisions based on what feels right at the time and be willing to make sacrifices for what you truly want, need, love and believe in. Austen, by default or pure choice, opted for her art and thankfully because of her choice, millions of readers have been uplifted and entertained.


Moving On: Peace Corps Application

Yay, I just submitted my Peace Corps application online! It took a while for me to fillout and review everything, but finally it is done! It feels so good to have completed step one (of many) in the Peace Corps application process. The next steps are to get the outstanding recommendations submitted and await an interview.

I'll take a short break to celebrate this small achievement that's been years in the making, but then I must start on my Hill apps!