Serving overseas, the Fourth of July is a big deal. It is the Embassy’s largest public event – an opportunity to showcase our culture and celebrate our nation’s independence. Given how much work goes into putting the fete together, one forgets sometimes how the holiday is an even bigger deal back home. Parades in even the smallest of rural towns, fireworks displays, jets flying overhead. Being back in the United States to celebrate the Fourth of July for the first time in several years not only gave us a much greater appreciation for Independence Day, but also enabled us to steep ourselves in American culture in a way that is all but impossible overseas.
Eight and a half months in the Washington DC area seemed like an eternity considering how little time we had spent Stateside during our first two tours with the State Department. We made lofty goals of exploring the District’s green spaces, as neither of us had spent much time in the area before. S bought a couple of hiking books that were replete with enticing trails, which unfortunately we never found time to explore. We did make it out to two parks on our list, both of which proved excellent birding destinations.
When does the inevitable become truly real? At what point does the near future undeniably intrude on the present and color every moment leading up to its imminent arrival? When did our move to Rwanda morph from being the next chapter in our Foreign Service career, which could be compartmentalized and vaguely ignored, to a fact of life as undeniable as an onrushing Mack truck?
A couple of years ago, one of our photographs nearly wound up hanging in Chicago’s Field Museum. Another photograph was included in a Polish publication aimed at educating children about various indigenous dwellings around the world. This year, another artist reached out to us to ask for permission to use one of our photographs for a project that represents the coolest use of our work to date.
If you’ve read D’s previous tribute to sports superstition and the pain of fandom, then you’ll understand why there is currently so much relief and jubilation in our household.
After a busy week together, our immersion group scattered to the four winds on Saturday. One colleague went to Normandy, another to Marseilles, and a third to Belgium. We also left Paris, taking a day trip with our host family to Giverny, before spending the rest of the weekend with our friends in the countryside.
As an international city with a large, diverse immigrant population, Paris offers a nearly limitless array of fantastic cuisine. We enjoyed spicy creole food with our French friends, sampled a bevy of mezes at a Michelin-rated Turkish restaurant hidden in one of Paris’s outlying districts, and compared the dishes at two excellent Moroccan restaurants on our classmate’s initiative, but one of the most memorable meals we had in Paris was one that we prepared ourselves.
Paris’s numerous charms notwithstanding, two weeks seemed like a long time to stay in one place. So when our instructor proposed an excursion, we jumped at her suggestion. She floated a weekend group trip to Normandy as a possibility, but we all had our own agendas for the one free weekend we’d have in France. Instead, we settled on an outing to Versailles.