Libraries & Leisure

Here’s my confession: I’m a workaholic.

In the nearly thirteen years we’ve known each other, my husband and I have lived in a variety of locales: Indiana, Ireland, and the Czech Republic for college, Texas, China, Suriname, and Washington, D.C. for work. And every time we hit a new spot, I’ve vowed to prioritize getting out and experiencing whatever makes that place special.

But every time, my to-do list tugs me back: to my laptop to write, my palette to paint.

It’s a flaw I’m trying to pray through. But in the meantime, I’m super thankful when people like my brother–who’s infinitely better at sallying out to try new things–come visiting.

It’s that push I need to go forth and explore.

So my brother gets all the credit for coaxing me to visit the Library of Congress–the largest library in the world, housing millions of books, penned in 470 languages. Sad as it is to admit, this is my third stint living in D.C…. and my first trip to the Library. Which is kind of unacceptable, considering my bibliophilic little heart.

But better late than never, right?

Just a handful of the many, many highlights included:

  • The gorgeous architecture of the Thomas Jefferson building
  • A complete version of the Gutenberg Bible (the 15th century innovation that rocked the worlds of religion and books)
  • A still-in-progress replication of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, being gathered text by text from around the world
  • The Main Reading Room (one of several research enclaves accessible to anyone over 16 wishing to study… provided you can keep up with their code of conduct [Cue finger-wagging librarian])
  • The office of the Librarian of Congress (currently Carla Hayden)

Confession no. 2: I now have office envy. But it’s probably for the best that my own workspace isn’t quite so nice.

It’d be a poor fit with my efforts to combat workaholism.

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Father’s Day

 

On this Father’s Day, I think (unsurprisingly) about my dad, who’s really always been my hero. As a little girl I looked up to him completely… and honestly, none of that’s changed now that I’m a girl all grown up, and moved (at times very, very far) away from home.

My dad has given me many things. A sense of safety and security in the loving family he helped build. A drive to learn, a strong work ethic. A penchant for adventure that’s stood me in good stead in my life married to a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. A love of the outdoor world that is so deeply rooted in me. My passion for all things water-related, that, as a surfer, swimmer, and ocean-enthusiast, I find to be at the very core of who I am as a person.

These mark but a few of the gifts my father has bequeathed me. But perhaps the one that is easiest to take for granted is the support he’s provided me as a writer. Many parents, I think, would’ve been tempted to herd me (out of love, of course) toward a more stable career. Instead, my dad listened to my ideas, read and edited my early (terrible) drafts, paid for writers’ conferences and even traveled with me to attend them. He’s believed in my dream even when I didn’t. And for this writer, there aren’t words enough to say thank you.

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So Siem Reap’s on Your To-Visit List…. Here’s 5 Things You Should Know

If you’d asked me about our Cambodia trip pre-arrival, I would’ve said this particular vacation was my husband’s baby. And I was okay with that. After all, he was very gracious about my dragging him back to Thailand for a second, more-beach-centric trip. So it seemed only fair to make getting to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat a priority.

Pretty quickly into our trip, however, I grasped why everyone we knew who’d traveled to Cambodia gave it such glowing reviews. “Kingdom of Wonders” is a lofty title for any locale to hold, but Cambodia manages to live up to its self-hype.

In the future, I hope to blog in more detail about our trip. But for now, here’s 5 things you should know if you’re thinking about your own Siem Reap escape. Continue reading “So Siem Reap’s on Your To-Visit List…. Here’s 5 Things You Should Know”

The Pack Out Paradigm

Monday was Pack Out Day (cue Jaws dun-uh-dun-uh music), the day our entire household got disassembled and dissected, all our worldly goods boxed up and labeled for their journey to our South American onward assignment.

Kitchen Boxes
Boxes in kitchen.

It’s hard for me to express just how deeply I dislike packing out. Think the scene from Julie & Julia where Julia is packaging up a cookbook and mourning her impending departure from Paris…. Then graft in a bit of Oscar the Grouch. And there you have it–me on Pack Out Day. Continue reading “The Pack Out Paradigm”

China, In Review

Usually, I’m fairly responsible about my time management; I make sensible decisions, putting work and other obligations first. But this past Thursday night, I found myself still up at 2 AM–even with the start of my workday at the Consulate looming a mere 6 hours away–because I couldn’t tear myself away from a casual ladies’ night that brought together women from the Consulate ( a shoutout to our awesome hostess, if you’re reading!). I drank 3+ glasses of wine (amazing, since I’m usually a 1-glass-and-done kind of girl) and laughed until I had tears in my eyes… laughed harder than I have in months.

In the back of my mind, sensible Lauren was reminding me that I had to get home, that I still needed to shower and send off a bit of correspondence, that I had work in the morning. But I was having a desperately hard time prying myself away from the company. The women at the Consulate–Foreign Service officers and diplomatic spouses alike–come from incredibly diverse perspectives, experiences, and places. Occasionally, these differences cause conflict. But 95% of the time, I’m amazed by how lively, accepting, and kind our community is. Sitting there at 12:30 in the morning, trying not to wet my pants from giggling, I had two simultaneous thoughts running in the back of my mind:

“I can’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know these women, against all odds, despite the long distances we’ve had to travel to be here.”

And

“I can’t believe I have to say goodbye in two and a half months.”

Continue reading “China, In Review”

Russians, Ice Festivals & Tigers–Oh My! (Part 2)

Given that Harbin, China was once a hub for Trans-Siberian Railway construction, it’s unsurprising that an ice festival is the town’s current claim to fame. How poetic that even today, such a locale remains infamous for its (literally) freezing temperatures.

Truly, Harbin’s ice festival is stunning–particularly its crowing jewel, Harbin’s Ice and Snow World. I feel blessed to have made it there, at least once in my lifetime.

But I’ll be honest–magical as the Snow World was, there are some drawbacks to wandering around in -20°F weather (that’s actual temperature–none of this “feels like” nonsense!) after the sun goes down. Namely, being brutally, numbingly cold. The day after our icy adventure, our group decided to take a break and head to the (only slightly) warmer Siberian Tiger Park.

For me, this site triggered conflicting feelings. Continue reading “Russians, Ice Festivals & Tigers–Oh My! (Part 2)”

Russians, Ice Festivals & Tigers–Oh My! (Part 1)

In addition to introducing the upcoming year, Chinese New Year also marks the official start of spring according to China’s lunar calendar.

This year, I owe the lunar calendar a big commendation, as it pegged spring’s arrival perfectly. Just two weeks ago, temperatures here were in the 40s and 50s. Following on the heels of February 8th’s New Year celebration, the cherry blossoms are blooming and I’m shedding my jacket, happily welcoming 75°F days.

But the sunny days have made me nostalgic, bringing to a close our last winter to be spent in China. With the days counting down to the end of our assignment, I’m fondly remembering adventures we’ve taken, even as I wonder how well we’ve availed ourselves of our time here.

Of our many exotic escapades, perhaps the one that stands out most crisply is our trip to Harbin. China is a diverse country, with many an unexpected influence. But Harbin is a particularly unique gem. Continue reading “Russians, Ice Festivals & Tigers–Oh My! (Part 1)”