Face The Sun: Let There Be Light!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively those of its author, and are not in any way meant to reflect the opinions or policies of the US Government.

Past Travelogues.

Finland, Estonia, Petersburg

Kirovograd, Ukraine


Tirana, Albania

Macedonia & Romania

Budapest to Bucharest

Balkans and Poland.

Christiania, Copenhagen.

Northern Norway

Northern Finland


Kashgar, briefly

More to come, Inshallah, as I go through old paper travel journals.

The DC experience, archived.

July '05
June '05
December '05
October '04
More to come should interesting things happen to me. Ever.

Blatent Plagiarism

The nation's largest chain bookstore has indicated that, due to lack of consumer interest, it has stopped selling books.
--Frederick Raphael, The Glittering Prizes

I feel this is the equivalent of a surgeon, skipping through a radiology department singing, 'I don't have cancer, I don't have cancer!'
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

Mum is crying with her faced turned away from me, gulping and honking like an injured seal. And I'm rolled up in the back seat wishing the old man would stop the car and make her walk. That or buy her a fish.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

I love it when well-educated women sweaar -- the words regain their original power and meaning when delivered unexpectedly with so much poise.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

She lived with her mother, who looked like an old labrador, and an old labrador.
--Will Self, Great Apes

When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Dore, I saw the Lord God sitting on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quality is merely the distribution aspect of Quantity.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

...In the frank brilliance of the bright sun, which, as we all know, is the friend of heroes.
--Jose Saramago, All the Names

He stuttered so badly that you could go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar while he was wrestling with an initial p or b; he would never try to bypass the obstacle by switching to a synonym, and when the explosion finally did occur, it convulsed his whole frame and sprayed the interlocutor with triumphant saliva.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

To Stand on Jericho's Walls and Face the Sun.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

So then, it's over. Final score: 3+/3+, well above the State Department's Bonus Money Threshold, and thank god for that: not getting it in Urdu STUNG; not getting it in Chinese might've resulted in sniping off the roof with a high-caliber slingshot.

I was definitely trying for the 4 in reading, and was very sad to miss it -- I could definitely feel it slipping away from me as I read (and failed to understand) the second long article that they gave me, but I'm ok with that. I was damn close. And I can always retest in 6 months, once I've had a chance to memorize a few thousand more characters. For now, I'm perfectly content with the fact that for the first time ever, I'm completely comfortable with Chinese newspapers, and can read them only slightly slower than English.

It's about time: 5 years of studying in total, and words can't express how glad I am to be DONE.

Posted by Dakota on 2:29 AM link |

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lucky boxers: check. (Scooby-doo, ensconced in cartoon hearts and surrounded by the words "Lover Dog").

Lucky t-shirt: check. (White, technical fabric, soft from a hundred washes, and one of three t-shirts that accompanied me to Eastern Europe).

Lucky shirt: check. (Maroon, tailored by my boys at Wazir's Tailoring in Islamabad, and which my boss declared as "an attempt to look like a mafioso." She later recanted and somewhat apologized -- "I guess I wasn't completely right about that mafioso thing" -- and the shirt's been lucky ever since).

Last minute memorizations: check. (Ge jin suo neng, ge qu suo xu, From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs; dong mian, hibernation; zhi-fa bumen, as contrasted with xing-zheng quanli, executive branch vs. executive powers or executive privelege).

The goodwill text messages are flying in. The coffee has been drunk. My stopwatch is ready and my embassy badge is in my pocket. My hands are shaking only a little bit. My hair is sculpted and my shoes are shined, and the nausea has largely passed.

I'm off to Starbucks to drink a nonfat caramel machiatto and listen to Beethoven's ninth while taking deep breaths. I will review a few last minute idioms (zhao san mu si, to pull the wool over an unsuspecting population's eyes, based on the story of the monkey leader and his worthless banana proclamations), and I will walk to the embassy while reciting potential opening lines to the 5 to 10 minute speech that, for me, is the hardest part of the exam.

By 4 o'clock this afternoon, I will be free.

Posted by Dakota on 9:25 PM link |

Monday, June 18, 2007

Homeward bound: my final exam is on Wednesday at 1:00 Beijing time. And I am FREAKING OUT. And then I'll be running (sprinting) to a bar to have a celebratory or consolatory martini, and then I'll be packing, to get on a plane on Thursday evening to come home for my mandatory month in America to re-adjust to Americana and remind me why it's home and why it's wonderful.

So then, my home leave schedule:

Thursday, 21 June, arrive in Atlanta at just before midnight.
Thursday, 28 June, ATL to Seattle.
Sunday, 1 Julyish, Seattle to Portland (overland).
Wednesday, July 4th in Portland, to run my first ever full marathon.
Thursday, July 5th, arrive in Charleston, South Carolina.
Sunday, July 8th, Charleston to DC.
July 12th-ish, to South Bend, Indiana for a wedding.
July 15th-ish, back to DC.
21 July, back to Beijing.

I'm looking forward to seeing almost everyone in DC, but the important thing here is that if anyone feels like coming along to anywhere else on the itinerary -- particularly Charleston, SC, but everyone's welcome on the west coast or in Atlanta as well -- let me know and we'll coordinate.

And now, back to freaking out about Chinese and my complete inability to speak it.

Posted by Dakota on 8:32 AM link |
Current Location:
The People's Republic of China.

Stop by any time: everyone's welcome.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Be Born

Comments and requests for dates should be directed to email.

And here I am.

And for all you random folks out there whom I don't know, for the love of god, email me. I'm abroad, know no one, and look forward to hearing from you. I'm especially looking at YOU, whomever YOU are who's Facing The Sun all the way from Kenya. And Sweden. And Canada. And whatnot.

Books Tackled, 2006:

1. Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
2. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
4. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous
5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes

This year's movies, in chronological order:

1. Kung Fu Hustle
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Pi: Faith in Chaos
4. My Big Fat Independent Movie
5. The Winter Guest
6. Voices in Wartime
7. What Dreams May Come
8. Farewell My Concubine
9. The Ring
10. Like Water for Chocolate
11. Sahara

Foreign Service Officers by day, Bloggers by day as well.

The Diplodocus
(Islamabad, Pakistan).

The Permanent Mission of Joshie
(Zagreb; Libyaward).

Prince Roy
(Chennai; Taiwanward).

Sue and not You
(Tbilisi, Georgia).

Life on the Mekong
(Vientiane, Laos).

FSO Globe Trotter
(Lahore, Pakistan).

Vice Consul: Diplomatically Transformed
(New Delhi, India).

Adventures in Good Countries

Our Man in Tirana
(Tirana, Albania).

Anne's Blog
(Kazakhstan; Greeceward).

(Bogota, Colombia).

Furnish Worldwide

Tasman's World
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

(Lome, Togo).

World Adventurers
(Seoul, Korea).

Aaron Martz

A for Adventure
(Chennai, India).

The Excellent Adventures of Nickie P
(Paris, France).

Permanently Disco
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Consul At Arms
(Kingston, Jamaica).

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