Thursday, September 20, 2012

Life in DC

One of my goals coming back to DC this year was to date more.  In two years in DC, I went on dates with two girls and no more than a third date with either of the girls.  In all honesty, there really weren't too many options for dating in Belmopan.  I'm sure I could have put more effort in to it, but I don't think it would have really turned out any differently.

Coming back into DC, it has been a bit of a different story.  I joined OK Cupid - a free dating site - and I have had three different dates from there.  I also went on a couple of dates with a girl from my Pol/Econ class.  I've had a pleasant time on each of the dates, but I haven't really hit it off with any of the girls.  I'd go out a third time with one of the OK Cupid girls, but we haven't been able to figure out a time to get together, so I may be getting the brush off.  We'll see what happens.

German class is going well so far.  I really liked the class that I had for the first two weeks.  The instructor was simply fantastic.  He pushed us to use our German in new ways each and every day.  The two other students in my class both had a decent amount of German, which put me in a distant third place in terms of language skills.  But, I actually liked being the worst in the class.  Being thrown into the deep end, forced me to swim harder or drown.  This made me stronger, but really probably wasn't fair to the other two women in my class.

After two weeks, they moved those two girls into a faster moving class with another student who had previous German experience.  I was joined in my class by two other students and we also started with a new instructor.  I have no idea if it is because of the new instructor, the new classmates, or the new material, but I don't feel like I have learned nearly as much this week as I did the previous two weeks.  I am still amazed by how much German I have learned in just three weeks, but I still have miles and miles to go.

My biggest complaint about German so far is their insistence of repeating basic words in nonsensical ways.  For example, the word "sie" can mean "she" and refer to either a person or an inanimate object such as a lamp.  "Sie," when capitalized, is also the formal version of "you" both in the singular and plural ("you all").  Finally, it also means "they."  So one pronoun covers four different situations and you determine its meaning based on the verb and the context.  The exact same sentence can mean very different things - "Sie kommen aus Ireland" means "They come from Ireland", "You (formal) come from Ireland" or "You all (formal) come from Ireland."  (Fortunately, "she comes from Ireland" is different  - "sie kommt aus Ireland.")

Worse than "sie", however, is all the different forms of "the."  Like Italian and Spanish, German nouns have different genders.  Every noun is either masculine, feminine or neuter.  Each gender has its own word for "the" - "der", "die", and "das", respectively.  If the noun is plural, "the" is "die" regardless of the gender.  (The noun ending also usually changes to show plurality).  By itself, this wouldn't be too bad.  What makes it worse is that these articles change based on the case of the noun.  I still don't really understand cases and when they are used because we don't really differentiate in English.  The best example in English is the way we change from "he" to "his" to "him" depending on where it falls in the sentence.  There are four different cases in German, "nominative", "dative", "accusative", and "genitive."  I have no idea what these mean yet.

Since German has four cases and four genders (masculine, feminine, neuter, and plural), there should be sixteen different words for "the."  While this would be annoying, with a bit of memorization, it could be learned pretty easy.  Plus, the different forms of the word "the" would clue me in to the gender and case of the noun making comprehension easier.  That would be too easy.  So, instead there are only six words for "the" and they are used for multiple meanings.  So "der" can refer to a singular masculine noun in one case and a singular feminine noun in another case.  Yep.

In other news, in only two weeks, I will be competing in my first race.  Ever.  On October 6, 2012, I will run in the Dead Man's Run 5K.  One of my fraternity brothers and his wife suggested the run and I loved the name.  I have convinced several FS friends to run it with me as well.  I only have two goals for the race.  (1) Finish; and (2) don't finish last.  Regardless of my time, if I meet these two goals, I will consider it a success.

On Monday, I finished the Couch to 5K program on my iPod.  On the last day, I jogged for 30 minutes without stopping.  I honestly don't think I ran 5K during those thirty minutes (that would be a 10 minute mile, which is a pretty good speed), but I had never in my life run for 30 minutes without stopping before.  I am both very proud of this fact and a bit ashamed at how proud I am.  For many adults, a 30 minute run is a warm-up or a light work-out.  But, two months ago, I could not run for 5 minutes without stopping.  Through this program, I continually pushed myself to achieve something I had honestly thought impossible not long ago.  Although it is a cliche, if I could do this then anyone can do this.  And although I still don't "like" running, I don't hate it anymore.

Finally - a quick update on my statistics and goals:

Current statistics (starting stats from August 4, 2012):
Weight - 271 (285 lbs).  I am down from my peak, but still haven't passed the 270 plateau which is my low point since probably 2010.
Pant size - 42x30 Still in the same pant size, but they are no longer tight and the belt has come in a notch.
Longest run without stopping: 30 minutes (90 seconds)

  1. Complete the Couch to 5k app by October 1, 2012  Completed September 17, 2012
  2. Run a 5k race (fall 2012)  Scheduled for October 6, 2012.
  3. Join some intramural sports league of some sort (fall 2012) I haven't done anything on this.
  4. Complete a 10k race (Spring 2013) Some friends are encouraging me to do the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.  Seems impossible now, but we will see.
  5. Lose 30 lbs before Katie's Wedding (November 24, 2012).  Note - if I have not met this goal on my own, I will begin using weight watchers.  I am down 14 lbs.  I also started weight watchers last week, so we will see if that helps.
  6. Lose 60 lbs before I go to Germany (May 2013)  almost 25% of the way there
  7. Lose two pant sizes (38x30) before I go to Germany no change yet
  8. Complete a marathon in Europe  (question - can you take sick leave when your body is literally unable to move because you stupidly ran a marathon?  Or do you have to take annual leave?)
  9. Do 100 sit-ups in 10 minutes I did 20 sit-ups one day and my abs hurt for 3 days.  Haven't really put much effort into this.
  10. Weigh less than 200 lbs.  (This really doesn't seem like a possibility for me.  I have weighed at least 200 lbs. since I was in junior high.  Even when I lost all that weight in Italy, I barely made it to 220 lbs.    But the upper range of a healthy weight for my range is 179 lbs.)  16% complete
  11. Ask at least one girl out per month (not really a weight loss goal, but still important.  Also, can be the same girl more than one month if I have a girlfriend).  so far so good.


  1. Hi Al, I came across your blog while perusing all the Foreign Service blogs out there. I hope you don't mind that I started following your blog, but I decided I'd stop just "lurking" and say hi. Also, I live in DC (have been here since 2006) and just found out that I was invited to the FSOA (this is my first try through the whole process). I know you must get a lot of requests for advice from people going through the process of trying to become FSOs, but I didn't know if you'd be up for meeting up some time. My email is grstults (at) gmail (dot) com.

    I am a runner, am active in the DC running community, and have run a few marathons. I also lived in Germany for a year during college not too far from Frankfurt (I was a German major in college). So a few things on which I might be able to offer insight too :)


  2. AWESOME on the running! That is very impressive and you should be proud. I love WW. I used it earlier this year and was very successful on it. My husband returned home from a deployment and I lost my motivation and gained it all back. I tried Paleo, South Beach, etc. and I'd lose some quick weight and always put it back on. Two weeks ago I started back up with WW. It's truly the only consistent method that has had proven results. Good luck with it! I'm sure you will do very well :)

  3. I just came across your blog, Al, and am enjoying reading about your life in the Foreign Service - thanks for putting it out there!

    I began running in April and have to say that it's the single best thing I've tried for losing weight and keeping it off. I'm now at my goal weight, and have been able to maintain it by running 5 to 6 days a week. I try to log 15 miles a week, which means that I might run 2 miles one day and 4 miles the next, but I average 3 miles per run. Every morning that I look groggily at the alarm clock and think of sleeping in, I remind myself that by running, I can eat like a normal person. It's motivation enough for me. :) Keep up the good work!

    BTW - I'm also running in a 5K on October 6 (although not in DC). I'll be rooting for you as I run!