December in Washington

31 Dec

31 December 2007

Hard to believe but once again the end of the year snuck up on me! My wish for 2008 is that it goes by slowly! Unless I am not traveling because Washington is a boring city and I want time to fly when I am stuck here. After 2 months of daily discoveries in Malawi and 2 weeks of pampering in Ireland, my lifestyle screeched to a halt.

Métro-boulot-dodo as we say in French, except that I don’t take the metro. I walk to work (the second part), which is eminently boring at this point because nothing is happening. So boring in fact, that all I have to do is catch up on stuff I was too busy to do over the summer or while in Malawi. Tragic. The third part (dodo) is working well for me – especially since every other week I catch another cold and fight it with Nyquil (Hello. My name is Janique and I am a Nyquil-olic), which knocks you out for 8 hours.

To kill time, I watch movies. Like just before coming here I watched “Enchanted,” which ends on a happily-ever-after note – totally normal since it’s a Disney movie stealing clichés from fairy tales – good for the soul. Before that, I returned my apartment keys since I moved on Saturday and have a whole new set! I new my efficiency was small, but I realize it better now that I actually have to walk more than one step to go from the couch to the sink, the bathroom, the table and even my bed. I am exercising more! One resolution done – yeah! My second resolution – and last because you don’t want to overdo it – is to socialize more… I have been pretty good in the first half of December.

‘Tis the season to party

The only thing that comes between me and my beauty sleep is my friends. I should probably be more honest if I want Santa to remember me next year (never too early to start): PAR-TIES!!!!!!!!!!! The first one was I actually missed because of my cold – forget culture shock, it’s all about temperatures! Olivia was having about 30 people over in her apartment (80+ showed up!) the first Saturday I was back, but the party was past my bedtime, so I had tea with her in the afternoon (I become an old lady when I am fighting a cold).

December 6 was the first corporate party I crashed – it was one of those decadent affairs the Wall Street Journal has been railing against (because they supported their best friend Paul “the Grinch” Wolfowitz when he cancelled our holiday parties last year — tsk I am sure the WSJ celebrates in style!). Well, decadence is not what is used to be: cafeteria food, limited bar, one band and of DJ for entertainment, good selection of desserts but nothing to swoon over (i.e. no chocolate fountain). Of course among the units celebrating the season that evening were Department of Institutional Integrity and the President’s Office, so what else could we expect!? My former EXT colleagues were also the rightful attendants, and I had fun catching up and dancing. In between, I managed to enjoy 3 servings of chocolate mousse and some pastries… I love Christmas.

A week later, the Latin America Region had its party, and I am sure it was much better but I had other plans… You probably wonder: what could be better that crashing a party with a martini bar and people who know how to celebrate? Two words: Melting Pot. Quizzical look from some of you, those who haven’t visited heaven yet:   “” . I organized the outing and was my usual strict self: you are welcome to come as long as you stick to the pre-set menu (traditional Swiss cheese fondue and chocolate fondue – I am more flexible with the latter as long as the 9-letter c-word is included). I had to quench the mutiny when Nawsheen wanted meat (we’ll forgive her because she is from Mauritius) and tried to entice Jonathan (no excuse, he’s from Canada) – both newbies who had to be pulled back into the ranks with much disapproving eyebrows. Thankfully my friend Magda was on my side (she’s Mexican but she was introduced to fondues last year by a pro…). Christian was being his usual Swiss self and remained neutral… tsk tsk tsk.

We ended the evening in the 18th Street Lounge, where I had my second Cosmo and staggered home around midnight. Yes, I had to work the next day… and another corporate party to crash that night. Since this time the guests came from free-thinking units — everything is relative: Human Development Network-HDN, World Bank Institute-WBI, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network-PREM, General Services Department (GSD), and Sustainable Development Network-SDN) — the party was more festive! For example, the HDN Communications Advisor (my best mate Phil from New Zealand) hosted a Dancing-with-the-Stars-type show. The contestants – all staff – had 90 second to impress us with their moves – swings, merengue, tango. The three men of the jury were useless but took a LONG time to realize it (typical Bank-style) so the public voted by applause and no one was surprised with the result since that lady walked like a professional dancer and was swinging her heart out. The VPs gave away the awards… except for the PREM VP who, disguised as Santa, was distributing Hershey Kisses (the kiss of death if you believe this Swiss Miss who knows that chocolate should NOT taste like wax) and pinching cheeks – not mine because I not so subtly ran away.

The biggest disappointment was the chocolate soup. Two years ago – before the Grinch cancelled the corporate parties – we had chocolate fountains… This is one thing you HAVE to try before you develop diabetes. This year it was a huge bowl of melted chocolate and a few squares of sponge cake and fruits. I guess you were supposed to pour the chocolate over the cut-up pieces on your FLAT plastic plate. Puh-liiizzze! Heresy. I couldn’t even find my chocolate mousse in tiny plastic glasses, but the night wasn’t all lost since I had a delicious Margarita. I even found friends who were not actually crashers. I guess if you live long enough…

I am sure you know some of those unlucky people born around Christmas, well, Katya is one of them! I don’t give presents on the 25th, but made sure she had a nice birthday gift (yes, chocolate was involved), and I added a little something for baby Sasha. I didn’t talk to everybody but I found TWO guests who didn’t work at the Bank – I know hard to imagine. Joel is a pediatrician (and he is single, girls!! He was playing with his i-phone… another toy boy – sigh – but he did admit that Hershey chocolate can taste like wax, ha!). Martha is married to a World Banker and works for an ophthalmologist – how exotic! I was worried about the birthday cake when I saw candles, but thankfully they only put 8. Relief. There are many reasons why growing old is not a good thing, and increasing amount of melted wax on top of succulent chocolate cakes is one of them.

There is more to life than parties

Speaking of chocolate, we have a new tradition: Ana made colleagues who were going on leave buy hot chocolates or bring chocolate on their last day at work. Three did just before Christmas: Aby  treated us first to the hot chocolate at the cafeteria; Leonora brought delicious cookies and chocolate; and Chris insisted on JUMBO hot chocolates from Swing’s. So we decided to try the chocolate of each coffee shop in the neighborhood… the holidays will be too short! Ana is supposed to bring Mexican hot chocolate and I treated the team to Starbuck’s  last Wednesday. The weather is ALMOST too warm for hot chocolates though!

I saw on the Swiss news that they were showing images of snow storms in the US, but I haven’t seen a snowflake in weeks, and temperatures actually are above average (50+ F or 10+ C). The sun is often shining and some days feel like Spring! This is of course perfect weather for long walks… or watching movies. I had so much catching up to do that I was on a strict schedule. Unfortunately my movie buddies have left me, some for good (Mien is in China!!) and some for a few weeks (the list is too long) but two did honor me with their company before leaving the country. I watched “Beowulf” with Cecile, and “Michael Clayton” with Magda, who was very understanding of my drooling all over the cushioned seats. I am sure I am not the only one since Gorgeous Georges is nominated for a Golden Globe! He has another one coming out soon, “Leatherheads”… he looks silly with that thing on his head, but he’s still gorgeous 😉

I was alone at “Golden Compass”, but had brunch afterwards with a couple I met in Malawi. Ross now works from the Washington office and his wife Yukako is looking for French lessons. Don’t look at me, that was another life! She speaks well already, we had time to know each other at the cafeteria (I know I know but visitors are actually impressed by our cafeterias). I saw Ross at the stamp machine in the lobby of our building – yes, that was less than a week before Christmas, which explains why my Christmas cards were Happy New Year cards, oh well. The next day, they were off for the Bahamas… I was off that evening to see the National Holiday Tree at the White House. There is one humongous tree surrounded by electric trains and all around there are small trees, one for each state, territory and the District (did you hear that we are getting our own quarter!! Youhouhou). The decorations are usually done by children, and have some kind of theme… loosely linked to the holidays. I mean, it’s understandable that some have butterflies and exotic birds or feathers since places like Guam and Puerto Rico don’t have that much snow-wo-men, but please tell the Texans that adding glitter to their flag doesn’t make it Christmas-y! The choir was singing carols, the Yule log was burning bright, and tourists were trying to get their pictures taken with their state tree – feat rendered particularly difficult by the white fence protecting the flora from the eggnog-imbibed fauna.

So “Beowulf” ended strangely; “Golden Compass” didn’t end because there are a couple more movies coming; “Atonement” was good until its immensely depressing ending, and I can’t wait to see James McAvoy in his next action movie; “Charlie Wilson’s War” ended at a high point: when the Afghans got rid of the Commies thanks to the US’ help – we know what happened afterwards; speaking of Afghanistan under the Taliban, “Kite Runner” was depressing except for the end when Mr. Push Over finally stood up for something; “No Country for Old Men” was a series of shootings and gory wounds (eeeww) with an ending that made you want to OD on chocolate – or the poison of your choice – and Ana, who recommended it, got an earful; “PS I Love You” ended sweetly but the cast was strange: Hillary Swank is forever a boxer in my mind, not a heart-broken widow, and why did they hire a Seattle-born actor formerly on Grey’s Anatomy to play an Irish hunk? Ok, he had a minor role, but still, if they cannot find cute Irish boys, I know a few…

What is coming up in January?

More exercise, more parties, fewer Nyquil-induced nights. My priority is to get a good haircut. Last time I went, in September, she did something strange that basically gave me bad hair MONTHS! It’s only in December that the awkward cuts were softened by the length – which is why I haven’t yet had it all chopped up. Of course, I should probably focus on finding a job, renewing my visa, or taking care of my health since it has been less than good in the past weeks, but what I really want to do is… PLAN MY NEXT VACATION! I was thinking the warm climate of Latin America to practice my Spanish, but it looks like I’ll be practicing my German in Austria… It’s time to remind my nephew and niece of their American Auntie’s existence, and more importantly that they better keep speaking French if they want to talk with me .



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