Monday, March 31, 2008

Flag Day Dinner

With family in town and a big cause for celebration, we thought we would go to a restaurant with the cuisine of our assigned country. Here are the possibilities:

Angolan - After a call to the Angolan embassy, the receptionist recommended the Portuguese restaurant Tavira as the closest in the area. She said traditional Angolan food is not available.
Brazilian - Fogo de Chao
Cuban - Cubanos
Ecuadorian - May be one in Baltimore, although I couldn't find information on it. For this country I am going to match it with Cafe Atlantico, since they serve Ecuadorian scallops there.
Indian - Jyoti or Tandoori Nights
Mexican - Lauriol Plaza
Filipino - Little Quiapo Restaurant
Polish - Restaurant Kolmbia, a modern Polish-influenced restaurant
South African - Will have to settle for a South African wine at Proof.
Togolese - Ghana Cafe for Ngoma which is a Togolese dish.

Sao Paulo Beaches: Too Many to Choose

The New York Times has an article on the beaches by Sao Paulo:
A Beach Scene? Just Up the Coast
There is a popular beach in Santos about an hour away. Supposedly the traffic is so horrendous on the weekends that it takes a few hours to get there. There are fantastic beaches up and down the coast which will most likely be long weekend or vacation trips.

Here is Santos beach without people:

And with:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Best Part of Havana

Finding great pictures of the beaches in Havana wasn't hard at all. The biggest problem with being posted to Havana is the 25 miles restriction. We would not be allowed to leave a 25 mile radius from the U.S. Interest Section. Luckily there are some great beaches within that 25 miles.

Update: We just learned that you can leave the 25 mile radius if you submit a request three days prior. So the limitations have opened up!

Refining to a Top Three

With all the obsessing and analyzing, we have refined the list of places that we may have been matched to a top three: Sao Paulo, Chennai and Lome. A lot of people have told us that they bid on Manila, Havana and Kolkata, so we suspect that we may not have been assigned to one of those. I believe the wild card will be Johannesburg. Only 13 more days. In the meantime Sicily is being exposed to Indian food and she loves it.

Although she really loves hummus.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Two Good Options Outside of Kolkata

Well, I am learning that really only Chennai, Havana and Lome are near beaches. Kolkata, Sao Paulo and Manila have great beaches with some travel.

Kolkata has two popular choices for beaches, Shankarpur or the Andaman/Nicobar Islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are accessible by plane or ship. It is a two hour plane ride. By ship it takes three days. It looks amazing.

Shankarpur is about 100 miles away from Kolkata, accessible by bus or train. The journey takes five hours by bus.

Update: Even though Chennai is near a beach, most generally travel at least an hour to go to a beach where they can enjoy the surf and sand. A friend of mine recently went to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and said they were amazing. Other friends of ours traveled to Shankarpur, and although it was quite and relaxing, it is not the type of beach to enjoy swimming. One of our friends drew a crowd while there, so unless you crave attention, saving up for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands seems the way to go.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mostly Outside of Manila

Looks like here are some fantastic beaches in the Philippines but they are not on the capital island of Luzon. The most popular beach is Boracay, on the island of Panay, 200 miles south of Manila. This is a longer trip to the beach than in D.C., but the beaches are much more spectacular!

It is a 35 to 45 minute plane ride from Manila, then a ferry ride, then a motorbike ride to get to Boracay.

Gabbing with Gabrielle

It was definitely more than just gabbing. I met Gabrielle for lunch today, a friend of Alan's old boss at the Greater Washington Board of Trade. She is the wife of a foreign service specialist and has lived at three different posts: Moscow, Dublin and Beijing.

She had a lot of great information to share. The best tidbits were to stay away from the negative people at post and to make contacts with the people at post before arriving. She had a very positive outlook on the FSO life and said that we were joining at a good time, when Sicily is young enough to not know what a move is. Gabrielle said it gets harder with middle school.

14 more days! The anticipation is getting to us!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lome and Its Beaches

Lome, Togo is right on the beach. I found beautiful pictures of Lome. The only thing that was missing was people on the beach. From various websites, it looks as though the undercurrent is so strong that people do not swim in the water. It is beautiful to look at though. There are a few resorts with pools and inlets to swim in.

People don't swim in the water but it looks as though elephants do!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Beaches of Chennai

One quality that all six posts have in common is access to beaches, except possibly Kolkata which I will have to research more. Living in D.C. it takes a lot of mental energy and time to go to the beach, most popular ones (New Jersey and Virgina Beach) being about four or more hours drive (without traffic) away.

Today I thought I would look into the beaches of Chennai. Less than two miles away from the city center is Marina Beach, who's claim to fame is the second longest in the world. It looks like it gets very crowded on the weekend and on festivals. Also from pictures, it looks like women don't wear bathing suits.

May be a good place for Sicily to play in the sand and possibly stick her toe in the water. Not sure that Coco will be accepted there except for very early in the morning.

Update: Although it seems like a tangent to research the beaches of each post, it was actually a fun way to understand the geography, challenges with transportation, security and accepted dress for each location.

Another Update: After talking with people in Chennai, Marina beach is more of a scenic view than a place to go to the beach. There are popular beaches an hour or so away that many from the consulate visit for sand and surf.

Our Top Six Best Guesses

After analyzing the list against our priorities, language requirements, and departure times, we have our top six best guesses, in alphabetical order: Chennai, India; Havana, Cuba; Kolkata, India; Lome, Togo; Manila, Philippines; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

So our original guess of India, Mexico or South America was kind of close.

The real winner was Alan's very concise and clear bid list letter that explained our priorities.

Still Overwhelmed

A lot has happened since the last DiploLife post, which is why it has taken a while for me to post again:

We counted the days until A-100 started
We attended a 138th A-100 Class Welcome party
Alan started A-100
We signed up for new health care, life insurance, and a flexible spending account
I attended a two day spouse/partner training at FSI
Sicily started daycare at FSI
We changed our commute time and route to travel as a family
We received the bid list
We researched posts
We met with a Career Development Officer to discuss our post preferences
We bid high, medium and low on each of the 68 posts available
Alan attended his A-100 retreat in West Virginia


And now we are spending much of our time trying to guess where and when we will be going.