Author Archives: Kathryn

About Kathryn

A small town girl from rural NE Oregon who suddenly found herself living abroad and most recently in Washington D.C. Not exactly the "weekends in Paris" that my husband promised me when trying to get me to agree to a future overseas...but it's a good life.

Moscow 2.0

We made it! We survived the packout of our house and the long flight to the other side of the world with our two tiny humans. After almost two weeks without internet, we are finally connected to the world again and so I can begin blogging about our second round of life in Moscow. It’s been about 7 years since we were here last time and though we’ve only just arrived, our experience is already vastly different. We were very poor students living with a Russian family before and now we’re in house all to ourselves and we’ve doubled in size. We’re excited to be back and what’s even more exciting is that we will be able to afford groceries this time and even a meal out from time to time 🙂 Some bullet points to catch up on the past two weeks:

  • I used to have a baby that slept through the night. Jet lag is the worst!
  • The three year old is an absolute mess. The poor thing just is not transitioning well and has had some pretty major meltdowns when we’ve tried to venture out on the metro so we’re a bit housebound for now until we get a car and/or her sorted out.
  • Russians dress their children SUPER warm and even if there isn’t snow on the ground, snow pants are required (along with a coat, snow boots, scarf, hat, mittens). They won’t hesitate to tell you that your child is woefully underdressed. In the span of one block, three different women tried to put the hood on my toddler’s head and 3 or 4 others made comments. I told one man who made a comment about her not having a hat, “Ne hochet” which means that she doesn’t want it. He laughed and said incredulously “Ne hochet??!!” as if it should even be an option. Some Americans struggle with the communal child rearing but I actually find it kinda nice. We will work on getting her to wear gloves and hats if only to avoid the social shaming 🙂
  • The Embassy is big and well staffed. I know that we’re lucky to have a lot of great resources available to us. We’ve already been to see the doctor for the toddler’s asthma and received really good care.
  • We put our oldest in a Montessorie pre-school a couple days a week. It’s an interesting approach to education and one little girl got up early from quiet time and said to her teacher, “The other teacher told me I’m supposed to be quiet and think.” And the teacher said, “Yes, you need to sit and think. Think about why you are here.” Ummmmmnnnnn….that kid probably doesn’t use the toilet by herself and you want her to contemplate why she is in this life?! Anyway, the socialization should be good. 🙂

Poka- that means see you soon.

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A writing resurrection and a ticket to Moscow

After a long hiatus from blogging, I’m resurrecting Weekends in Paris to immortalize our life in the Foreign Service as we trot this globe once again. This time with two tiny humans in tow. Next up: MOSCOW!! We are anxious and ecstatic to begin this next chapter in our lives. Follow along as we share life from inside the snow globe.

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I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life.

I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life. I knew it would come, I just wasn’t sure when, but the anticipation of it has always been in the back of my mind- lurking, waiting. This day comes for everyone I think. I suppose there are the lucky few who escape by some twist of fate, but for most….it will happen.

It happened to my sister many years back. Poor thing was pregnant at the time too. We were walking back from the convenience store. She was so cute in her maternity jumper, hair in a braid, belly bulging as she was about 7 months along. There was a skip in her step as she was contentedly eating the contents of a bag of penny candy. She was so consumed with the sugary pleasure of it all, that she never saw it coming. And then she heard it, and I saw it. She cried. I laughed…but I also knew that one day it would be my turn.

A couple weeks ago, I was heading back to my office after a lunch-time walk in the city. The sun was out and there was a skip in my step as I thought of the caramel macchiato I was going to get at Starbucks. And then it happened- fate came calling for me. I heard it. SPLAT. Oh please, no…don’t let it be…but it was. A giant glob of bird crap on my head! I swear my sister’s revenge-filled cackle filled the air. I wiped my hair with my glove, and sure enough- white paste with bits of yellow. The bile rose into my throat and I rushed into the Starbucks towards the bathroom. And then I had to stand there like an idiot with poop all over my head while the lady in front of me took her sweet time. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t find it! Where did it go? The goo had sunk into my blonde hair. Disgusted, I walked back to the office and with absolute shame asked my co-worker if he could please locate the remaining excrement. The look on his face, and his very brief glance towards my head told me that he thought I was one foul being, and that he was certainly not going to make an extra effort to look through my hair for poop.

I am now member of the “A Bird Pooped On Me” club. Some of you may commiserate with me, and for those don’t…just remember….this day comes for everyone.

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Philly….love you and curse you

I recently ventured out of D.C. to visit my friend Paige in Philadelphia. I boarded the bus in Chinatown, got yelled at by the driver in Chinese, and witnessed an altercation between two passengers who were both clamoring for the last seat on an oversold bus. I should have known that it’s a bad idea to purchase a discount ticket from a company with a hidden basement-level door on a dirty street.

When I stepped off the bus onto the grimy, gum-plastered streets of Philly’s Chinatown, I instinctively hugged my purse a little closer. Perhaps it was the dirt. Or maybe it was the guy hovering in the door 10 feet away, twitching, scratching, watching. Or the woman yelling at the invisible, but obviously stupid, companion next to her. The hotel was just across the street, looking less like the swanky Hilton I had pictured in my head, and more like one of the questionable SE Asian hostels I am all too familiar with.

Paige was already at the hotel, which was also the site of the accounting conference that had brought her to town. We had a great time getting caught up. She is a kindred spirit and surprisingly fun for an accountant. 🙂 I knew my nights would be great, but I was on my own for the day time.

I got a map from the hotel desk and decided to explore the city in depth. Afterall, Philadelphia is the start of it all. What I discovered was a rich city full of “old” architecture, friendly locals….and the famous cheese steak sandwich.

October 2009 (51)

This is worth describing. Buttery, toasted bread piled high with thin, perfectly seasoned beef, grilled onions and provolone cheese. It was huge and delicious, and for a moment I forgot about being socially appropriate as I shoved all 10 lbs of it into my face without pausing for breath. I’m quite sure most men would not have been able to pace me on this. I groaned in satisfaction and then felt a flush of embarrassment as the two guys behind the counter stared in complete awe/disgust at me. It had just felt so right in the moment. Giving myself over completely and without thought to gluttony. As is the case with sinning, the pain came later. My bloated stomach leading the way as I tottered down the streets, people giving way to let the “pregnant” woman through. Mmmmnnnnn…..I’d do it again.

Things in Philly were looking up. I had been impressed with the people and the food. I’d gotten a chance to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I’d also been taken with the Betsy Ross House. I had learned more about the founding of my country in one day in Philadelphia than I had during almost two decades of formal education. For the record I blame myself for that and not my teachers.

October 2009 (61)

October 2009 (50)

Paige and I had reconvened for the evening. My stomach was down to a more normal proportion instead of the gargantuous cow shape it had held earlier in the day. And then things went downhill. Being from the NW, we both love beer. And being from the NW, we are accustomed to having good beer readily available. I had great expectations from Philadelphia. The Constitution was drafted in Philly’s taverns. The first American lager was brewed here, and the City of Brotherly Love boasts the country’s oldest brewery. So why was it so hard to find beer?! Not to be misleading, we did find some great brews in pubs and restaurants, including a sampler of 8 local brews at McGillin’s Olde Ale House (est. 1860), the oldest tavern in Philly. So there was plenty of hoppy, yeasty happiness to be found, but for some reason, we simply couldn’t find a place to buy a six pack. The convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations don’t sell alcohol, and the only other vendors we could find were state-owned and were limited to spirits and wines. Why would they discriminate against beer? It’s un-American! By the time we found a place that sold six-packs to go, we were very thirsty and a little cranky from all the walking around in high heels. I felt triumphant that we had finally located an establishment which was reasonable enough to sell my favorite sudsy beverage. Then the cashier informed me that I needed to pay $15. For six beers. Okay, that is REALLY annoying. They weren’t even imports. The beer I had selected was from New York. In absolute defeat, but still holding on to my beliefs that beer should be affordable, I put the six-pack back, grumbled something rude about the state government, and left the store. This is from Wikipedia regarding the alcohol laws of PA:  To purchase a six pack, one must go to a tavern with an off-licbeer pintense, and a person is only allowed to purchase 2 six packs at a time (or a single 12 pack, if available).

I’m convinced that Benjamin Franklin would be appalled at the current beer conditions in the state of Pennsylvania. I digress.

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27 year old intern…yikes

This is a story from a few months ago, but the humiliation still lingers so I felt it worthy of being shared.

In July, I came to D.C. by myself to find an apartment. By the end of that very sweaty and exhausting week, I had a day left to search for jobs. I decided to start with Capitol Hill. It seemed to me that the best bet for dropping off an univited resume would be with the folks representing the two states I’ve lived in. Now if you know me, you’ll know that I am affiliated with the Republican party. In both states that I have lived in, this is not the most popular group to belong to. In D.C., I am soooo not part of the “cool club”.  According to a September, 2008 article in The Washington Post, the district is 74% Democrat. And, after the 2008 elections, Capitol Hill reflects the American voters’ anger with the GOP. So, being the practical girl I am, I knew it foolish to hold out for a job with the red team. I’m fairly moderate anyway, so I had made my peace with working for “the other side”. 

I met the aides at each office with a huge smile, chit-chat about life back home, and a gleaming white copy of my resume. I knew if they looked closely at my work experience, I’d be discovered, but it was worth a shot. My previous experience includes working for a non-profit called Concerned Christian Citizens. It was non-partisan, and in fact, the board of directors was represented by both Democrats and Republicans, but just looking at the name, who on earth would ever think it was anything but a forum for pushing a conservative, evangelical agenda? I had also worked to elect a candidate to Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. If those two things didn’t give me away….

I laughed out loud in disbelief when I got a call from one of the office’s I had visited…one of the democratic offices. They asked if I would like to interview for an internship. I’m 27, I have a college degree, I’m married, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve already had some solid work experience…work for free for a politician that I don’t know much about and  who I probably wouldn’t agree with anyway? Sure, I’ll give it a go. I figured I would at least do the interview for the experience.

Before the phone interview, I popped onto the politician’s site to do a bit of research. It was mostly what you would expect and I spent just a few brief minutes looking things over. When the call came, my stomach turned as the questions began- I was completely unprepared. I knew that to be successful, I needed to be vague about my own political preferences, but I certainly wasn’t willing to lie…well, I didn’t think I would lie, but one sort of slipped out, and for no reason at all!

The girl asked me to describe a situation in which I had dealt with a difficult customer, and how I had handled it. My mouth started moving faster than my brain could catch up, and after the first few words were out, my brain started screaming “NOOOOO! Anything but that story!” But it was too late and I forged ahead, marching my way towards complete humiliation and a lame, lame lie.

“I work at a sailing school, and one time some students showed up who stunk something awful. You know, like they had really bad B.O.? Yeah, it was terrible, and when they walked into the office, the whole room just reeked. They were going to be going out on a week-long course with two other students and an instructor. A week is a long time to be on a boat, let alone with someone who stinks like that, so I pulled them aside and explained the situation and asked them to please shower before they left for their course. I gave them quarters to use at the harbor showers.”

LIAR! That story did happen, but it wasn’t me that dealt with it! I had hidden at my desk like the awkward geek that I am and my boss, Jermaine, was the one who carried out the dirty deed! Plus, could I have possibly picked a more disgusting and awkward story to share?

When I had finished…..silence. Just silence. Then a few small giggles in the background and the main girl responded with “Huh. Well, we don’t normally have to deal with issues of personal hygiene.” Ugghh, kill me now.

I thought that might be the end of the torturous interview, but she kept going. Perhaps she was enjoying toying with me- the weak and helpless prey, caught on enemy turf. She asked me to name the elected official’s priority issues. I thought to myself about the things that all democrats like and figured that was as good a response as anything. “The environment.” Nice job, Kati…the environment is a safe one. Besides, it’s not like they would contradict me on that. Feeling a little more confident, I continued with “making sure everyone has healthcare paid for with tax dollars.” Shoot- probably should have just stopped with the word “healthcare”. Then I remembered some little blurb on her website and my mouth shot out of the gates again with “women in the military- yeah, that’s a really big priority.” Oh my gosh, not that women in the military don’t deserve attention and accolades, but come on, is that really any politician’s main priority? Is anyone going to build a re-election platform on that?

Again….the silence. And again, the giggles in the background. “Okay…” the girl tried to speak, but her voice was heavily strained with impending laughter. “Well, thank you for your time. We’ll let you know when we make a decision.”

My face burned red for two days every time I thought of the disaster on the phone. At 27, I should have learned by now that opening your mouth when you have no clue what you’re talking about, is a horrible, terrible, very bad idea. Maybe I deserve to not be paid.

And then they offered me the job. No joke. They planned to eat me alive- savoring every blush, every sweat of my palms, every stumbling word that tumbled out of my brain-t0-mouth disconnect. I was sure of it. Why else would they take me? I politely declined after considering it for a day. The thought of spending 4 months with an office full of masochistic, political minions terrified me.

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Quitting your job in a recession…genius

Mountains, islands, sealife, beautiful yachts, friendly co-workers, a great boss…these are just some of the things that welcomed me to work each day at San Juan Sailing, a charter company and sailing school servicing the amazing archapelago known as the San Juan Islands.  I lived in a euphoric little place called Bellingham, Washington in a house overlooking a lake with a large deck that hosted many a bbq with family and friends. My husband and I were even able to afford our rent. And then we quit. We quit in a recession. Now we live across the country from eveyone we know and love, and we spend our days in a small shoebox of an apartment that costs nearly twice what our big beautiful house on the lake did. It’s okay to judge, sometimes I think we’re complete morons too.

Danny, my husband, is smart. Really smart. And he got into Georgetown University for a Master’s of Science in Foreign Service. Georgetown is number 1 in the country for Grad progams in International Relations, and when the number 1 school takes you- you go. How can you tell Madeline Albright and George Tennent that while you appreciate the offer, you will not able to make it? So that is why in the midst of a recession, we quit our great jobs, packed up our perfect house, said goodbye to our best friends and loved ones, and moved from Washington state to Washington D.C.

I spend my days searching the internet, looking for signs of life in the economy. People keep telling me that D.C. is the best place to be right now, but with every ignored application I submit, I believe them a little less. Now the thing I really don’t get is why a company would advertise for openings and then completely ignore or blow off applicants? After submitting an application, I usually follow up with a phone call later in the week. This is how a typical follow-up call goes:

Girl at front desk: Hello, welcome to Schuman and Associates.

Me: Hello, my name is Kathryn. May I speak with Ms. Jackson please?

Girl at front desk: Does she know you?

Me: I applied for a writing and editing position that was advertised on Craigslist and I just wanted to follow up with her.

Girl at front desk: Uh-huh. Well, she’s in a meeting. All day. I’ll tell her you called.

Me: Would you like my phone number?

Girl at front desk: I’m sure she has it, but okay, whatever, go ahead.

Me: I can almost see you playing solitaire. You aren’t going to write anything down are you?

This is life right now. Oh the days of sailboats and friends….

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