Tragedy, Americana, and Consumerism

First off, the FS Blog community has discussed the events over the past week-and-a-half rather thoroughly and much more eloquently than I’m capable of.  I’ll defer to them on the subject of the violence in the Middle East and the murders of our colleagues.  However, being at FSI during all of this was rather surreal.  It’s kind of awesome when an entire cafeteria full of FSOs and spouses falls silent and stares at the TV to watch/read (closed captioning FTW) the President’s remarks about the 4 American diplomats killed while serving our country.

I try to leave politics out of this blog as much as possible (check my Facebook wall if you’d like to see my political filters dropped), since we serve “at the pleasure of the administration”.  However, Gov. Romney’s remarks at his presser on 9/12 were absolutely some of the most garish and gauche things I’ve ever heard.  How dare he politicize the deaths of 4 diplomats to scare up some votes?  I’m glad that he’s been taking such heavy flack from both sides about this foot-in-mouth moment.  At least some people have morals.

On to happier, or at least different subjects…

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting two, that’s right TWO FS bloggers IRL.  Sadie and Jen attended an AAFSW happy hour and I was totally psyched to get to speak with them for a bit.  Actually meeting (face-to-face, no less) others in this crazy, disparate community makes connections a little more real, and makes the world we live in a little smaller.  So, Sadie and Jen: It was an absolute pleasure to meet you.

Today, I had the pleasure of walking around the D.C. Zoo with Wife and Son.  While parking was a nightmare, being able to walk the streets and the paths, and really, just NOT WORRY about our safety was amazing.  It’s crazy what you take for granted while you’re living the the U.S.  Even knowing I was at the D.C. Zoo, surrounded by cops and Secret Service, I still found myself looking over my shoulder and grasping the knife in my pocket (a nasty habit I picked up in the D.R.) on occasion.  When you live in a crime-ridden country, you find yourself being extremely paranoid in situations that don’t warrant it…

Last week, I had a lovely experience at the VA DMV trying to register our car that was shipped back to D.C. from the D.R.  I spent several days combing the DMV Web site looking for information about our situation (VA-purchased car, shipped abroad, brought back), and thought I stumbled on the right info (scroll almost to the bottom).  I got all my paperwork together, headed to Tysons Corner, waited almost 2 hours, and was told I needed numerous additional pieces of paperwork I didn’t have (the towing company didn’t give me the EPA forms, HS7, and customs paperwork, etc.).  I was SOL and pissed.  Thank god for Livelines, however, as I had several pieces of advice within minutes, including the email of a high-ranking official in DMV, and my problem was solved.  I love the FS community, seriously.  Now my car is happily registered and on the market.  Anyone need a car for post?

Being back in the U.S. after 2 years abroad is mostly a never-ending source of joy for me, however.  I fully admit I’m a consumer.  I like to consume many things: food, drink, electronics, media, tap water, clean air, etc.  The D.C. area is awesome for this.  Amazon deliveries in 2 days or fewer, excellent grocery stores, the Virginia ABC and their selection of small-batch bourbons, niche and specialty butcher shops and groceries, direct flights to just about any point worth visiting in the U.S.  I’m definitely going to do what I can to consume what I can before traveling to the other side of the world to live for 2 years.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this fact.  Indonesia.  Man, that’s far.  There are going to be so many challenges to maintain even a modicum of “Americana” over there, but that’s my goal.  Everywhere we live during our FS career, I’d like to be able to recreate certain aspects of the U.S. so as to maintain some level of sameness.  Number one for me is food.  See, I’m open to trying new things… in fact, as a burgeoning chef, I kind of thrive on it.  But there are certain things that I become a whining Prima donna over if I can’t find them.  Good beef is one of them.  Sage come Thanksgiving is another.  Cheese is a third.  You can call me crazy if you like, but I can’t live without good food.  My family (i.e. Mom & Dad and sister) all think I’m crazy, as they all see food as solely a source of nutrients, and don’t understand my obsession over flavor, texture, preparation, and presentation.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact that my Mom is Irish and English, and my Dad is Polish (or Austrian, none of us know), and none of these cuisines are really groundbreaking in what they do.  I’m kind of the anomaly in the family.

See, in Surabaya I plan to attend culinary school.  It’s been too long that I’ve gone without formal education in the culinary arts.  I’ve been cooking and learning about food since I was about 13 when my sister’s college roommate fed me her grandmother’s red sauce.  Turning point in my life, for realsies.  I grew up on Ragu (it’s NOT Italian) and Perdue “Done It” chicken cutlets.  Enough said.  I’m of the mindset that cooking is one of those fully-transferable skill-sets: who doesn’t like food (well, except for my Mom)?

The least I can do as I follow my wife around the globe in her amazing career is to make sure our family is well-fed.  I’ve kind of resigned myself to the fact that working in the Mission ain’t my bag, and unless I can get a steady gig as the Ambassador’s Chef, I may as well cook at home for the small audience of my family and possibly a broader audience of American expats in the Mission.  Hell, after my wife retires, I fully plan on opening a private chef service and/or a small farm-to-table concept cafe (i.e. 3-4 covers a night), and use the culinary influences I’ve gained over 20+ years of traveling the globe and learning the cuisine to make some seriously world-class food.

Well, enough of my dreams for tonight.  I’m still trying to get my other blog together (a totally food-related one) and dedicate some time to it.  Maybe now that formal Indonesian training is shelved for the time being, I’ll have more time to develop the concept and actually produce some content.

Until next time, Mahalo.

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4 thoughts on “Tragedy, Americana, and Consumerism

  1. Our first post was Jakarta, which although a larger city is still in Indonesia there at least I was able to find sage once I figured out that you pronounced it “soggy” in bahasa. I always had to ask for it though, it was never just laying there in with all the other fresh herbs.

    If you are inclined to eat street food, which is cheap and amazingly good, 1. Don’t tell med it freaks them out and 2. remember the rule watch them cook it and eat it hot! Enjoy Indonesia, the food is amazing and I loved the people.

  2. So glad you got the car thing sorted! I saw your post about it and hoped it had worked out for you. Enjoy the rest of your DC time. Can’t wait to hear about your time in Indonesia and your new blog.

  3. Okay, bourbon and food are my favorite things about trips stateside.. well and NPR and very hoppy beer. Ahhh Indonesia, I lived there for a while as a kid and spent a month there last Christmas, and I know every bidding season I will continue to not so subtly move it to the top of the list! So, enjoy it! And cooking school there? That sounds amazing. Cheers!

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