This is us.  The one showing lots of shoulder (in her Chengdu, China Marine Ball ball gown!) is the EFM who writes this blog. The one wearing a tux (James) is the employee who moves her (and their two sons) around all over the world. The red link, below, is how you can get in touch with me...

The time in Chengdu, China

Chengdu: city of fabulous food and beautiful Buddhist monasteries!
Yes, Beijing's Forbidden City (pictured, above) is really pretty and all, but I like Chengdu much better than Beijing!

In Our Same Boat (with State)

  • Beyond the Cornfields
    Brand-new State Department family in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Love their two little girls (she just recently had a baby while being posted in Dhaka), horticulture, traveling and adventure!
  • Email From The Embassy
    State Department family formerly in Beijing, China, and recently posted to Amman, Jordan. A trailing spouse, she's also a writer, and frequently publishes articles with major news sources. A very experienced State family, this new post is something like overseas post number six or seven for them.
  • Just US
    A beautiful family of seven - they have arrived at their new post: Jerusalem! They just finished off an unaccompanied tour to Iraq and are very much looking forward to sightseeing around the middle east.
  • Our Life
    State Department family on their second post...Tijuana, Mexico. It's their first overseas assignment and they have two little boys. They love Tijuana so far and post pictures frequently! They also get to enjoy the best of both worlds for they can sneak over the border into San Diego when they want to!
  • The Dinoia Family
    State Department family formerly in California, now in DC for a DC tour. Next, the husband will do a one year unaccompanied tour. A very experienced State family (formerly in Iceland and Caracas) with a blog that has been around quite a while and has great archives. Jen has a sweet heart and a lot to give!
  • The Perlman Update
    State Department family formerly in Chennai, India, who then did a year-long unaccompanied tour in Iraq. They are now on a DC tour and after that will do another unaccompanied tour (Afghanistan). She totally tells it like it is and doesn't sugar-coat what life is really like. Witty, snarky, funny and down-to-earth. Look elsewhere if you want fake. Read if you want REAL.
  • Where in the World Am I?
    State Department family formerly in Bujumbura, Burundi and now in Hyderabad, India. They just had their first baby this summer - a beautiful little girl- (there's a separate blog about this) and she also eats gluten-free (with a separate blog, also).
One of the most intriguing things about Chengdu is that it is a seamless blend of ancient and modern... all together, side by side.

Can't Live Without (non-State)

  • Crass-Pollination: An ER blog
    The best ER nurse blog EVER!
  • Doctor Grumpy in the House
    The best doctor blog EVER!
  • In Which...
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of seven. Her darling daughters are, goshdarnit, probably too young to be hoped for as my future daughters-in-law.
  • The Crib Chick
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of five. Hopefully two (Any two! I'm not picky!) of which are my future daughters-in-law.
  • the underwear drawer
    An anesthesiologist who is possibly the most talented & entertaining writer ever. I've read her blog ever since she started medical school. No, don't know her in real life. Wish I did.
  • The Bloggess
    This blog is both hysterically funny and hilariously irreverent. I actually let my 17 year old son read it (who loves it as much as I do!), but wouldn't even CONSIDER letting my 12 year old son read it. Which is about all the description it needs!
The grounds of Chengdu monasteries can be very, very peaceful...even though they are smack dab in the heart of a city of millions of people.


Yes, there are Starbucks in Chengdu! All over the place, in fact. So much so, Starbucks even crafted mugs for Chengdu stores!
Texan bluebonnets. Because I learned during our very first posting (Houston) that there's nothing prettier in the spring than the meadows of Texas.
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Good luck! Cheering for you here. You are awesome.


Bon Courage!


Boa Sorte! Now I know four Portuguese words (wished Jill feliz aniversário), so now I'm all set for Brazil. I know you'll do great! And that is a badass video. My husband just took the week-long course and man, does he have respect for DS agents after that.


Life is full of second chances: take the test, take Congen. If you don't get the score you want/need: keep studying (an hour or two per night while taking Congen) and take the test again in six weeks.

Apply for the job whether you get the score or not: there is a constant friction in HR regarding whether job requirements are absolutes or ideals - or get a private tutor at post and test again in a few months (this can be done long distance.)

Carla @ I Run, You Run

So hold on, DS is NOT like Fast & Furious 5? And here I thought they all looked like The Rock, wore tight underarmour shirts and could tell the local police "JUST STAY THE EFF OUT OF MY WAY!"

(Can you tell we had a few laughs watching that movie? It does make the job a lot cooler than it really is though :)


Carla -- DS might not look like that, but all the private security guys in Kabul do! Meatheads and knuckle-draggers all.

Kolbie -- YOU CAN DO IT! I'm cheering for you too...


加油! I think you can do it. What I recommend is hopping on Craigslist or something and seeing if you can find a language partner to talk to for those two days. Failing that, go hang out at the Tea and Rice Cafe (in Clarendon, just up the hill from Rosslyn) or, if you dare, Chengdu Xiaoguan and talk to people. Or there's a Chinese buffet over in Bailey's Crossroads where the food's not great, but the waitstaff have always been friendly and willing to chat with me.

Also, try and watch some movies in Mandarin. Don't worry about learning new vocabulary, just expose yourself to as much Mandarin as possible before the test so you don't lose it over the weekend. Then drink a beer (so not kidding), go in, relax and see what happens. You might surprise yourself. Also, helpful hint, don't try to do an entire presentation dealing with a language-related topic... and forget how to say "language" in Mandarin. Not that yours truly would ever do such a thing, of course. Ahem.


Good luck, if anyone can do this you can.


Talking about just adorable friends ... seriously lady, you rock.

I read this very late last night - just in time to thank you in my post! I know how crazy busy you are during your day - so to take time out to wish me a happy birthday was just that much more special.

Best of luck to you on your test. I KNOW you'll rock it!


good luck from me too! I know you can do it.


Good luck, Kolbi!I'm rooting for you!


Good luck Kolbi!!! You will do fantabulous!!! And we will be praying for you!


You have been included in the Weekly State Department Blog Round Up here:

If you’d prefer not to be included please let me know.


Great video! Thank you for sharing and good luck on your big test!!

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James loves me. And our sons. And his job. But not having his picture taken. In 2011 he finished up over a year and half of training, and in the fall of 2011 we got to our first overseas post - Chengdu, China!
Mao says hi! Because Chengdu is one of the only cities in China with a Mao statue.
Flowers are like friends. Each one is unique. Each one is beautiful. They brighten up everything around them. And you can never have too many. 

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2012 is the Year of the Dragon, y'all! Talk about the ultimate in good luck! This kinda party only comes around once every twelve years!
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Colorful! (Inside a Chengdu ancient Buddhist monastery.)
Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore taking pictures? Here are some that I've taken recently:
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