Sunday, January 1, 2017

Adjustment

Since arriving in Vilnius, the biggest adjustment I've had to make is accepting that everyone here seems to be in a good mood. Maybe it's because I'm American, or a diplomat, or it's just my naturally surly disposition, my guard is always up. But day after day, Vilnius proves to be a happy place where people are among the most content and satisfied of all the European capitals.

The young guy at the cash register doesn't get angry when he can't understand my pidgin Lithuanian, he just smiles and speaks English. The taxi driver isn't taking the long way to run up the fare, the kooky layout of the city means the long way really is the only way to get to my apartment. And I believe the girl in the bakery really does want me to have a nice day.

Is it possible that an entire city can be in a good mood all the time? It will be interesting to see what three years here will do to me. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Best Idea We Ever Had

I really love being a Public Affairs Officer. Mostly. One down side is that I don't get to do as much of the fun stuff because I spend a good deal of time managing the budget, doing HR-related paperwork, supporting the front office, and responding to requests from DC. But recently I got to give a presentation to a school group on a topic close to my heart - National Parks.

My presentation skills may have been a little rusty, but my enthusiasm for the topic made up for it. For me, this is the perfect American culture topic - it combines America's natural beauty, American history, and maybe one of the best ideas America ever exported to the world - protecting the nation's most glorious natural wonders for the public. And, of course, it's a chance to show lots of pretty pictures. (If you want to know more, visit PBS's National Parks documentary page.) 


After all the craziness of the elections, it was nice to talk about something fun and positive. And, I hope, it left a good impression with the students.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Discerning Solo Female Traveler

Foreign Service Officers like to joke that we have no transferrable skills if we were to ever leave the Department. That's not quite correct. I can say that my traveling skills have become quite advanced.

As an experienced, worldly traveler, I have some practical advice for hotels seeking to lure the discerning solo female traveler.

If I could have only one wish come true, it would be for more counter space in the bathroom. Or at least some drawers. Women travel with a lot of bathroom crap and we need someplace to put it.

Hotels typically provide a hair dryer, which is great. But what about a curling iron or flat iron?

And why such unflattering lighting in the bathroom? Under no circumstances should there be flourescent or harsh white lights.

Don't skimp on the toiletries. Provide nice shampoo and conditioner.

More hangers in the closets. And a full-length mirror is a nice touch.

It's hard to believe there are still hotels that don't include free wi-fi. Especially for the 4 and 5 star hotels, charging $15/day for wi-fi is tacky, especially when all the inexpensive hotels provide it free of charge.

It would be nice for hotel restaurants to offer 1/2 portions. Normally I'm a fan of leftovers, but when traveling, it's not always possible. Large meals are often wasted.

There you have it, Heather's World Adventures tips for attracting the discerning solo female traveler. I can see a post-Foreign Service career as a luxury travel consultant!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What I Really Think About the 2016 Presidential Elections

Redacted due to the Hatch Act.

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