Tomorrow is Flag Day - the day in which we learn where our first posts will be. Everyone is looking forward to Friday, no doubt with equal parts excitement and trepidation. After five weeks of waiting, the long-awaited announcements will be coming down, but there have been other activities going on this week to take our minds off of the event (at least temporarily). Take yesterday afternoon as an example - our class was invited to the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room on the 8th floor of Main State to hear Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and former Secretary of State James Baker engage in a "Conversation on Diplomacy". This was a privilege rarely afforded to an A-100 class, and it was especially gratifying to hear the Secretary acknowledge our presence in her opening remarks. The conversation was moderated by PBS talk show host Charlie Rose, and the video of the interview can be seen on his website (a transcript of the conversation can be seen on the State Department's site). I was impressed with the level of respect shown by Baker and Clinton toward each other, and it was interesting to compare the current secretary's carefully chosen answers to Rose's questions with the retired Baker's freedom to speak more freely (check out his remarks about Iran). Following the interview, our class was invited to join the reception, where we were able to partake of champagne and hors d'oeuvres - shades of embassy cocktail parties to come? The view of Washington, D.C. from the 8th floor balcony was fantastic, taking in the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and the Pentagon.
And of course I forgot to bring my camera, so I have no pictures of Clinton, Baker or the view. You'll have to make do with this photo of the invitation card, and take my word for it that I was actually there:
Fortunately, I remembered to take the camera along on Tuesday evening, when Amber, Pamela and I joined some of the members of A-100 in going to Nationals Park to see the Washington Nationals take on the Tampa Bay Rays. Thanks to Washington's efficient Metro system, it was a relatively short ride to the Navy Yard Station, though by the time we bought our food and drinks, and found our seats, the top of the first inning was over, with the Rays up 1-0:
I was impressed with the stadium, which is only four years old. My only complaints were with the high concession prices and the lack of craft beer.
For Pamela, the main draw was the chance to see Taiwan's own Chien-Ming Wang 王建民 in action:
Wang, however, was a disappointment. The right-hander has struggled this season, and on Tuesday night he lasted only 3⅓ innings, giving up five earned runs in a losing effort that saw his record drop to 2-3 and his ERA rise to 6.10. As a result of his poor performance against the Rays (Tampa Bay won 5-4), Wang has been dropped from the starting rotation and consigned to the bullpen.
We had a good spot in the left-field stands, seated just behind the foul pole in prime home run ball territory. While there were three homers hit in the game, none of them came our way, though one of my classmates, Tri, snagged a T-shirt that was fired into the stands between innings:
Amber didn't really pay much attention to the goings on down on the field, but she certainly enjoyed the atmosphere in the stands. She continually danced up and down in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get her image on the scoreboard screen, but she was able to bag a photo with the Nationals mascot, Screech (this was actually my second encounter with the eagle):
We stayed to the end of the game, which unfortunately meant we didn't get back to our apartment until around 11:45 (we did get to see a lot of fireflies on the walk from the East Falls Church Metro station). Any future Nationals game we attend will most likely be day games.
For a report on the contest between the Rays and the Nats, check here. You baseball fans will no doubt have heard of the Joel Peralta pine tar incident. At the time it happened, none of us in the stands had any idea of what was happening down on the pitcher's mound - it wasn't until breakfast the next morning that I finally learned why there had been a pitching change in the bottom of the eighth.
Tomorrow is Flag Day - stay tuned for details as they come in!