Monthly Archives: February 2011

Saturday Run!

This weekend I got to run twice — yep TWICE!  It almost feels like I’m back to normal, if it wasn’t so hard to do what just months ago I considered a “short run.”

I met up with the group on Saturday at Roosevelt Island, and from there we did one of my favorite routes:  Rosslyn – Iwo Jima – Arlington Cemetery – Memorial Bridge – National Mall and back.  It starts uphill at first, it’s completely flat once you get to the National Mall, and then it’s downhill to the end (after tackling the famous Marine Corps Marathon finish line at the Iwo Jima hill…)

I wish I had thought to take a picture when we first started running — we had the biggest crowd yet (at least for an event that involved running, not beer).  Over 35 people showed up for the run!  We usually get anywhere from a dozen to two dozen people, so we were all excited by the amount of folks who showed up.  As usual, there were enough people for every pace, but people were really able to run with a large group this time!  Awesome!  If you live in the DC area and are looking for a running group, or just visiting, make sure to check us out:  www.IRunYouRun.com. (Yes, I’m super creative and named my blog after my running group…)

So back to the run…  I not only failed to take a picture of the group, but failed to take a picture of the start on Roosevelt Island.  But, I did think of pulling the camera out for most of the 5 mile run…

We started going up to Rosslyn…

Passed the Arlington Cemetery…

Hopped on the Memorial Bridge…

Went next to the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool (I got no pictures of it, since I just did this route last week).  Then we got to the 2.5 mile turn around point, and made our way back…

And crossed in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial before heading home…

Despite yet another gloomy day and my tired face, I was doing great throughout the whole run.  Maybe because I got to wear my favorite jacket?  Yep, that was one of my purchases during the Marine Corps Marathon, and it cost a fortune, but isn’t the back of it super cool?

When I got home, I even forced Karl to take a couple of stupid pictures in front of the mirror in our building’s hallway with me…

 

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Filed under Pictures, Runs, Training

Picture Tour of a Run

As much as I’m ready to leave DC, and I am, I know I’m going to miss this city dearly.  Not only the amazing friends I’ve made during my 7 years here, also the great running buddies I’ve met (many which have become part of those amazing friends I just mentioned).  I also know that Manila, or even most cities we will live in our future, will not have the trail system that DC and Arlington offer.  I will have to learn how to be a sidewalk runner, and in some countries, even a *gasp* treadmill runner.

My friends can visit Manila (and I sure hope they will — hello, 3 bedroom apartment we’re living at?), but these trails?  It will be two years until we meet again.  (Can you believe that in two months I will have been in Manila for 4 days?)

I know the trails in DC so well now (with exception of the Custis trail — I’m a wimp and I stay away from hills!), and I know most monuments, because at some point or another, I have run by them.

And to think that 7 years ago I was going on a date and he suggested “well, we can just walk around the Mall?” and my reply was ” The mall?  It’s a beautiful day outside, why would we go to the mall?” and he explained how he was talking about the National Mall, not, you know, a shopping mall.  Ooops.  Now I’m one of the people that also just says “the Mall” — because, duh, that’s the only Mall worth mentioning around these parts!

Look how far I’ve come!

Which is why I’m going to try my best to start running with a camera — sometimes it will be like yesterday, I’ll bring my cellphone and take crappy pictures (believe me, it was a crappy day, so crappy pictures were fitting).  Others, I’ll suck it up and carry my normal camera with me.

Because when I leave DC, I want to have the memories of the many trails I’ve run.  And days like yesterday, that I didn’t feel like running, and truthfully I should have skipped it (two miles in the hip pain became unbearable and I walked the rest of the way home), I kept reminding myself that I only have one or two runs left in this route, if that much, and I better appreciate it while I can.  And I did, I so did, despite my frozen fingers.

So after I went to DC for yet another medical clearance appointment (and have to go back sometime next week for a chest x-ray), I ran home, and took pictures, tons of pictures.  So here you are, after way too much blabbing, a picture tour of my run from Foggy Bottom area in DC (no pictures of that, because I was still freezing then), to Columbia Pike in Arlington, a place where many Arlingtonians have no clue where it is located (even though I’m only a mile from the Pentagon and Pentagon Row), but where I proudly call home.  (Fun fact — Columbia Pike is name that because it was the first major road into DC — after the construction of the Pentagon, it no longer goes into DC, but starts there instead.)

And excuse the gloomy weather — DC though has the most horrible weather (cold and unpredictable in the winter, huge storms with hail in the spring, super hot and humid in the summer — it is a swamp after all), gloomy days are not what DC is known for.

And, for what is worth, this is also the most boring trail I run in.  It’s just the quick way home, though not what you would call “pretty.”  But there are some pretty sights on the way out of DC…

Arriving at the National Mall…

 

Approaching the Lincoln Memorial…

One of the many military helicopters that were flying by that day…

The Washington Monument — and a drained out (and fenced up!) reflecting pool…

Can you tell I wasn’t having the best of days?

Approaching the Memorial Bridge…

You can see the statues at the start of the bridge, and the arches over the Potomac River…

Leaving the Lincoln Memorial area…

The Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument…

Entering the Memorial Bridge…

I really love these statues!

You can see Rosslyn on the other side of the river.

And if you look really hard, you can see the 14 Street Bridge crossing over the Potomac…

But for me, the Memorial Bridge is by far the prettiest bridge in DC — even the details are beautiful!

See that thing right in the middle behind the trees?  (The Air Force Memorial) I’ll be half a mile from home when I get there!

Approaching the end of the Memorial Bridge.  If you go straight through, you reach the Arlington Cemetery (which I have yet to visit — sure, there are presidents buried there, but a cemetery is still a bit creepy).

Right after the Memorial Bridge — if I go left, I hop onto the scenic Mt Vernon Trail and run along the Potomac River, towards Crystal City, Old Town Alexandria, and of course, Mt Vernon.  On the right, I follow Washington Blvd trail, and end to the right of the Pentagon.  Home is on the right.

I can still see the Washington Monument behind the trees and across the river…

But this trail is BORING.

But we’re getting closer to home — look at the Air Force Memorial!

Almost at the end of the trail — that building right up ahead?  It’s this little thing called the Pentagon.

Told you!  The Pentagon and the Pentagon Memorial (from 9/11).  I haven’t been to either, but I’ve run next to both for ages now.

Up ahead?  Crystal City on your left, Pentagon City on your right.

Finally on Columbia Pike, and we’re getting closer to the Air Force Memorial…

And there it is!

Less than half a mile from home! (You can see my building on the left of the road)

And I’m home!!!

I’m hoping to do more of these picture tours, but it doesn’t help that it’s been dark when I take the Mt Vernon Trail on my Wednesday runs…

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Filed under Pictures, Run Commute, Runs, Training

And I need your help…

I know lots of folks reading this won’t do anything about it, and that’s ok.  But if I can get a couple of you to help out, it could make a difference.

Congress just voted to reduce Karl’s salary in 24%.  Yep, a salary cut to a Federal employee.  Fun, no?  Considering I cannot work while following him in his career (very few wives get to work, due to the scarce options of employment in both the embassies and in the foreign countries you’re posted at), being a one income household will be tough to make ends meet if he does get a pay cut.  We already knew he would get an 8% pay cut when we move overseas, because they were still implementing the new changes that would prevent him from losing that money (but we were warned when he started that because of the salary freeze, that 8% might never come), but now they’re saying that the 16% of his salary that he already gets — posted on his offer letter and what not — will be literally reduced (so a total of 24% pay cut as soon as we land in Manila).

In short, please write to your senator about this.  I will now shamelessly copy what A Daring Adventure posted on her blog, because why re-write what has already been explained so perfectly?  Of course, some of the details between her husband’s and Karl’s situation, are slightly different  (we don’t have any kids, and Karl is a Class 4, not a 5), though the end result is the same, we’re all getting a pay cut.  So here you go:

“Let’s Talk Money: Dear HR1, Please Get Your Hands Out of My Husband’s Paycheck

I was horrified to learn today that my husband’s paycheck is under assault.  Here’s how (the simplified version).

Federal employees’ salaries are made up of different pieces.  For example, my husband has a “base” salary, which you can find here (very first page).  He was hired as a 5, and is still a 5, so that gives you a general idea of what this single-income, four-person family is looking at in terms of base salary.

On that same page, you can see that federal employees also get, above and beyond their “base” salary, what is called “locality” pay.  Locality pay is a percentage of their base salary.  Thus, if you’re a new State hire and you come in at the first Step of 5, your “base” pay is $42,948.  If you’re in Washington DC, you also get 24.22% added on as your “locality” pay.  (And trust me, that doesn’t even *touch* how expensive it is to live here.)

It used to be that, when stationed overseas, State Department Foreign Service folks didn’t get any “locality” pay.  I mean, even a quick glance at that locality chart shows you no foreign city names, right?  But then, a few years ago, the government slowly began phasing in a plan to eventually give Foreign Service folks stationed overseas “locality” pay equal to Washington DC’s.  It’s being phased in slowly.

Now, as part and parcel with the proposed Continuing Resolution HR1 (so as to try to get some sort of federal budget together?), which has already passed the House, this locality pay for overseas employees (but ONLY overseas State Department employees!  Other Departments like FBI and ICE folks overseas have ALWAYS gotten locality pay while overseas!) would be GONE.

I spent a while this afternoon calling my two Senators in my home state (and I also followed up with heartfelt emails) begging them to not let this happen to my family.  Because what would happen to my family is that, when we went to China, my husband would literally lose 24% of his salary overnight.

We are a one-income family.  With two children.  You have already seen my husband’s base pay range.  We’re not wealthy.  We can’t afford to lose my husband’s locality pay when we go overseas.

Are you with State?  Are you not, but feel badly for us?  Call and/or write your home state’s two Senators (it’s actually super easy to do it online).  Tell them not to let Foreign Service employees who are overseas get their paychecks effetively cut by 24%.  Tell them not to let HR1 do that to us.

Please.

[Articles about this can be found here and here.]

 

If you want to help out, and would like a sample letter, this was posted in one of our Yahoo groups:

 

Dear ,

The House recently passed Amendment 583 (led by Tom Reed NY-29) to the FY2011 budget (H.R. 1) which would reverse the Overseas Comparability Pay initiative that was to give Foreign Service Officers serving out of the country the same locality pay as their counterparts (and every other federal employee) serving in D.C. As a constituent, I wish to express my strong disagreement with this amendment.

According to the Congressman’s Reed’s website, this amendment “removes automatic 24 percent pay raise for foreign service officers.”This statement, which went on to be conveyed on the House floor, is grossly inaccurate.

Prior to 2009, foreign service officers abroad received ~20% less than their counterparts in D.C. Meaning, if an officer moved from D.C. to another country, he or she took a ~20% pay cut. Officers abroad received no locality pay due to an unintended consequence of the federal pay system. In fact, every federal employee receives locality pay while working stateside. Currently, the D.C. locality rate is 24.22%, 28% for
New York, et cetera. Even those not living in any defined locality area in the United States receive greater than 14%.

Thanks to a bipartisan effort, the Congress agreed in 2009 to institute full locality pay for foreign service officers over a three year period (1/3 of the D.C. locality rate per year). Thus, today foreign service officers receive 16.52% locality – still a pay cut when coming from D.C.

Should Congressman Reed’s amendment become law, all foreign service officers abroad will instantly experience a 16% pay cut! This includes our diplomats helping distressed Americans in Egypt and Libya and would include the hundreds of State Department and USAID foreign service officers serving alongside our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was clearly not a “raise” for Foreign Service Officers, but a correction of an oversight which has put stress on 13,000 families who do not have the benefit of having dual incomes, due to frequent moves
and limited availability of jobs in the countries where they are assigned.

Please take the time to research the Reed amendment and educate your fellow colleagues on this issue.

Respectfully,

 

Whether you are writing to your senator or not — thank you for reading.  Put yourself in our shoes — if your salary was going to be slashed by 16% overnight, wouldn’t you also post it on your blog and try to get as much help as you can?

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Filed under Foreign Service

Hacked! And housing!

My gmail account was hacked — if any of you ever sent me an email (or vice-versa), I apologize if you got some random crap today.  We just found out our housing assignment this morning, and I googled the hell out of it, clicking on all sorts of links on Filipino websites.  My guess is, one of those was the culprit.

*sigh*

In related news — we just found out our housing today!  YAY!

We really wanted to stay at a high rise in the Makati area, which is the financial district in Manila, but the odds were against us.  But we lucked out!  Looks like we’ll be in temporary housing for the first 3 weeks in town, then we’ll be living in style in a 3 bedroom (!!!) condo.  Woot!  They have a gym and a pool, and we’re right next door to this sports club that has an olympic sized pool (but not the easiest to become a member of, but one can try, no?).

Hence the googling — I wanted to see if our pool is a proper swimming pool with laps or not.  No such luck, found tons of pictures of the outside of the building online, none of the pool.

We really wanted to live in Makati, because there are tons of things to do within walking distance.  There’s even a Starbucks two blocks away (thank you google maps!), which probably made Karl pee his pants a little. (He’s a tad addicted, but since he’s from Seattle and all, that’s allowed, no?  I won’t discuss his love for McDonalds breakfast sandwiches, because that is just wrong.)

A throughout look at google maps, showed me no running trails whatsoever, so I’ll have to learn to be a sidewalk runner for the next two years.  But I think I can handle that!

I also found out about these great (and cheap) photography classes there, so I can finally learn how to use my camera without the “auto mode.”  It’s about freaking time.

Now fingers crossed that Lily finally gets better from this respiratory infection (her lungs are now clear, but she still coughs a lot, so another two weeks of antibiotics for her).  Without her getting better, we can’t get her vaccinated, without the vaccines, she can’t go anywhere.

Yesterday I had to go to the State Department for my own set of vaccines (the first set out of three).  Isn’t it odd that I got a rabies shot before my dog did?

And lastly, I printed one of our wedding pictures on canvas (thanks to this great Groupon I got for Canvas On Demand).  Look how great it turned out (and believe me, it looks even better in person!).  Can’t wait to hang it at our new place!

 

 

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Filed under Foreign Service, Random