Language, tornadoes, and knives

Come on… how many other blogs are you reading that can boast all three of these topics in one post?

We’re back at Oakwood, gettin’ our learn on, and things are just as we left 2 years ago when we departed for post.  The Oakwood Foreign Service Ghetto remains the premier family destination for FSOs to pass their time at NFATC, and it’s good to be “home”, since this is about as close to a home as we have in the FS.

Language training is in full swing for the hundreds of students currently filling the corridors at FSI, and a new A-100 even started today.  Congratulations to the incoming whatever number class… may Flag Day not reduce you to a puddle of tears.

We started Indonesian training a week ago, and man-oh-man it’s not what I expected.  I’m really not sure how I feel about it… I know it’s useful and helpful to know the target language of your posted country, but the FSI thing doesn’t jibe with my personality.  I find myself sitting in class counting the minutes until dismissal just about every day, and really can’t remember what I’m being taught.  Indonesian is going to require a hell of a lot of effort, and I’m just not sure I’m willing to invest that much in it.  Spanish was a different beast altogether (I already spoke some, and it’s a Romance language), and even with a background, the FSI classes broke me, and I ended up switching up my schedule/commitment level about 4 months into it.

See, I learn by doing.  The pedagogy at FSI isn’t really suited to my learning style.  I know this, FSI knows this, but yet there’s really not much I can do about it.  The Indonesian department is 6 people, and there’s really not a whole lot of room for variety or tailoring the course to my needs.  Thus, I remain miserable.  It’s hard to learn a language when you dread even going to class.  I’m going to try to stick it out for a little while longer, but thus far it’s been excruciating.

Changing the subject, on Saturday we had quite the scare.  Strong thunderstorms were predicted in the afternoon after a particularly hot and sultry 5 days in DC.  Around 4:30 the sky clouded up, and luckily we were inside.  Within minutes, severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings had been issued for Falls Church, and Wife and Son headed for the bathtub (Wife is from Tornado Alley, after all).  I was still staring out the window at the clouds when I saw the wind drop (something my wife tells me is bad), and then I saw the trees across the cemetery start to bend.  And bend.  And bend.  The wall of wind and rain hit our building with significant force, snapping several tree branches outside our window, and blowing rain sideways.  I hastily retreated to the kitchen and squatted down behind the counter and kept an eye on the scene out the window.  There was definite rotation to the wind, and if it wasn’t actually a funnel cloud that passed over us, it was damn close.  After about 10 more minutes, everything calmed down, and a light rain continued.  The whole thing was scary.  I’d never seen anything like that out of a thunderstorm before.

To top off my weekend, last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I heard a crash come from the kitchen.  I knew exactly what it was, and rushed out to inspect the damage.  My magnetic knife rack had fallen off the wall, and my santoku and three chef’s knives were strewn across the floor.  I went to pick them up, and I noticed that the tip of my totally awesome Global 8-inch chef’s knife had snapped off.  About 3/4 of an inch or so.  Then I noticed that my 10-inch chef’s knife was missing about a half inch.  Then I noticed my beloved santoku, a knife which I’ve had for about 14 years… more more trustworthy and faithful to me than a good number of ex-girlfriends.  The tip was seriously bent to the left.  Ruined.  Even the el-cheapo Tramontina 12-inch chef’s knife hadn’t escaped trauma: its tip, too, is bent to the left a little.  On this sad note, I went to bed.

Today I decided that I will gradually replace all of the damaged knives, starting with the santoku.  I have my eye on this little darling, and am going to Williams-Sonoma tomorrow to test-drive some knives.  Seriously, folks…. if you’re going to drop significant coin on cutlery, please do yourself the favor of trying before buying.  If it doesn’t feel comfortable in your hand, don’t buy it.

That’s about it for now… language awaits in the morning.



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