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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Bidding adieu to Vilnius...well, not just yet

These promos for the Modern Art Center, currently under construction, can be found in several locations in central Vilnius. Amber poses with this one in Vincas Kudirka Square

No, barring unforeseen circumstances, we're going to be here for another seven or eight months. But I am in the midst of bidding on my next post and I should know our next destination by the end of this month. Unlike my first two tours, where I submitted a list of preferences and someone in Washington, D.C. then made the decision, I'm a lot more involved at this stage in my career progression (lateral though it has been so far). Now, in addition to compiling a list of posts and positions, I also have to submit a resume and a statement of purpose, have others vouch for what a great guy I am and then reach out to people at my hoped-for future work locations and convince them of how I'll show leadership and yet follow, of how I'll make changes but not rock the boat, and of how I'll bring new ideas to the table while maintaining continuity. It's an unnecessarily stressful and time-consuming process, the result of endless committee meetings and negotiations between management and union, designed to produce a supposedly fair and balanced assignment system (only many plum jobs manage to get doled out between bidding periods, but that's another topic). If the Secretary of State were truly serious about reforming the State Department, he would initiate an overhaul of the assignment, evaluation and promotion processes, instead of attempting to carry out an ideologically-driven drastic budget cut.

The shorter days mean I'm waking up before dawn, but on the other hand I've been witness to some spectacular sunrises

You would think my wife would also be emotionally invested in the bidding process, but as usual she's taken a hands-off "you make all the decisions" approach. Shu-E would make a better bureaucrat than me, as she's more adept at making sure not to commit herself to anything should the proverbial excrement come into contact with the proverbial electric-powered cooling device. Even the idea of living in a hot, humid environment supposedly isn't a concern for her, as she could just "stay at home all day with the air conditioner on". This from a person who, despite having grown up in the semi-tropical Taiwanese climate, finds Vilnius to be too hot at times!

Frozen yogurt break while shopping at Ozas

So in the end the choice will be...probably not mine, but decided by a group of people in a dark corner office somewhere in Foggy Bottom. I won't reveal my wish list at this point, other than to say I'd like to return to Asia, though I'd also be happy with certain jobs/places in Africa, Europe or the Western Hemisphere.

Still time in get in a few more hot-air balloon rides

Fall has arrived in the Baltics, and the leaves are beginning to change color:


On a cloudy, cool Sunday afternoon (temperature 5°C/41°F), my daughter and I took a stroll through the woods of the Dūkštų Ąžuolynas Cognitive Trail, located about 30 kilometers and 35 minutes by car from our apartment building in Vilnius. To our surprise, the trail was closed to walkers due to "work on the decomposition of wood" (Google Translate), but seeing as everyone else was ignoring the prohibition and proceeding on into the forest, Amber and I did as the Romans:


The trails were lined with wooden sculptures depicting characters from Lithuanian mythology...with some also serving as playground equipment:


This one is apparently of a god who was offered rye and wheat stalks by worshippers at his mountain temple (again, according to Google Translate):


Walking through the woods and admiring the autumn foliage: 



Amber stops to read one of the many informative signboards along the trail...all in Lithuanian:


This stretch of elevated walkway wasn't in too bad of shape. In fact, the only difficulties we encountered on the trails were the occasional muddy patches:


An interesting group of spiky mushrooms. The fact that they've been left alone by normally fungi-fanatical Lithuanians suggests these shrooms might not be the kind you want to serve with lunch or dinner:


My daughter was surprised and elated to find that someone had left twelve British pence on this rock. I convinced her to leave them there:


The Dūkštų Ąžuolynas Cognitive Trail is part of a 300-hectare oak tree preserve, and is an extremely easy 2.3 kilometer-long walk that took less than an hour to complete. The path is lined with oak trees between 180 and 200 years old. There's another trail in the same area that is more than twice as long and will take three hours to complete (according to the map in the parking lot) that we'll probably tackle later this month...provided it isn't closed due to decomposing wood. Then again, we are in Rome, so...

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