Rajasthan day five (5)

10 12 2015

Today is my fifth day in Rajasthan. Today and tomorrow I will be in Jaipur after coming from Jodhpur and previously Bikaner. 

These towns are similar, all part of the Rajput people’s / former princely states of this area, but have some slightly different atmosphere. 

I really loved Bikane, maybe because it was the first town I visited, maybe because it is smaller than the other towns on this tour, maybe for both of these reasons. There is tremendous poverty everywhere, but Bikaner seemed less desperate, more provincial. Camel carts everywhere.

Junagargh Fort was truly spectacular, the only, unconquered, land fort in all of India. Very interesting to learn about Bikaner’s last maharaji Ganga Singh and his valor fighting in four wars, including the Boxer Rebellion and WWs I and II. 


Hotel Sagar was lovely; staff were kind and let me shower after returning from a camel ride although I had already checked out. Breakfast food delicious. 

 Even the camel tour, which I took as part of an overpriced tour package from a “government-approved” company in Delhi (win some, lose some), ended up being a lovely experience thanks to the generous host Primm from Nepal, who shared stories about 16 years of work all over India and his wife and two children and their life post-disaster back in Nepal. 


Most of all, Bikaner felt safe, and I felt less like a walking dollar sign. 

Jodhpur was a different experience. It seemed everyone, including my hotel host, was on the make. If you stay at Heritage Shubham Haveli, and Raj invites you to take tea with him, just know you will pay for it when you leave. Anyway, the tea is not that good. 

Poverty in Jodhpur felt more desperate, or it was more out in the open, with people everywhere sleeping on sidewalks with their children. I don’t have a lot of pictures, because it feels obnoxious to pull out an iPhone while next to people making their home on the street. I felt awful, guilty, seeing children outside of the sweet shop begging for food, and here I have just bought two shirts and dinner. Jodhpur gave me perspective, so I am glad I was able to visit. Yes, tourists will be charged five or 10 times over for transport and museum fees, but in USD, this is not much money. More important, this money means a lot to people living in desperate poverty. 

I have not seen many tourists, four at my hotel in Bikaner, but none out walking. They must be staying somewhere though, because I saw about 10 tourists at Merangargh Fort in Jodhpur. 

Here’s a view of the old city,which gives Jodhpur the name “blue city”, below. Apparently, lapis lazuli paint helps cool homes in summer and was originally reserved for the clergy class in this neighborhood, though anyone can paint their home blue now. 


The other big site in Jodhpur is Umaid Palace, built at the turn of the 20th century by Maharaji Umesh Singh. Interesting about this building is that it was a kind of Rajasthani “New Deal”–the maharaji’s answer to the drought was to create this palace, which took 15 years and countless workers to complete. 

I am hoping Steve or someone will write a screenplay about Stefan Norblin, the Polish artist who decorated and designed the interior of the palace. His life story is facinating. Famous for his product posters in Poland, he fled with his movie star wife to the Middle East, where he was employed as a portrait artist for Iraqi royalty. He moved to India was employed similarly. Decades later, he moved to San Francisco where he ultimately committed suicide at the age of 60 after learning he was going blind. Screenplay, right?


Consigned to fragrance heaven

31 07 2015

And that’s it for the eau de gingembre, which is now discontinued. It takes so long for me to finish a bottle of cologne, that this one dates back to my married days. Goodbye and thanks for lots of good memories.

#firstworldproblems #whitewine


what a wonderful, unisex scent


this one was unisex too. who knew?


I canceled a job interview.

27 04 2015

No more negative self talk.

It’s done.
There will be another, better job opportunity.
There will be plenty of other job opportunities.
Most of all, there will be more time. If I take a meh job later in my job search, I’ll know I exhausted other opportunities.

Alright, I feel better. Time to finish a final.

Turning down a job

27 04 2015

Seems so foolhardy, when I don’t yet have a job. I am going to call and cancel this interview, because

  • This job doesn’t expand my skill set
  • This job has depth but not breadth it seems. I would be a big fish in a small pond working with two counties, rather than a little fish in a big pond working with multiple communities and teammates
  • Interviews are in the middle of finals week
  • The start date would likely preclude summer travel (with Mom)
  • The location is ~1 hour+ from a major airport
  • Also, I thought I would escape the South
  • The pay is good but not great
  • I am not excited about this job; better to hold out for an opportunity that sounds stimulating

Alright, that gives me the fortitude to call to cancel this interview.

Three semesters down, one to go

6 01 2015

Tomorrow marks the first day of my last semester in graduate school. How did this happen so fast? Life. You’re passing before my eyes already.

Today, the School of Government held their Assessment Center–a day of mock interviews and group exercises for students. I don’t know why more second years don’t take advantage of this. It’s a safe way to get critical feedback on your interviewing skills. I’m planning to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, which for those who are successful, includes a group exercise interview, so I’m happy to get all the feedback I can.

My individual interview experience was helpful. Roger Stancil from the Town of Chapel Hill (who coincidentally managed Fayetteville for 20 years and raised his children there) and Libby Hodges in Planning in Alamance County were my interviewers. Good feedback. Nuts I gathered from this experience:

  • Focus on the resume. The cover letter is an afterthought, if your resume merits a second look.
  • Also, and I knew this, I need to work on putting a bow on my responses. Re: STAR responses, I can speak to situation, my task in the situation, my actions, and the results, but the zinger is to tie those responses back to the job you’re interviewing for. Duh.
  • Last, take my time. Take a moment to think about the question and form a story in my mind that has a beginning and an end.

All in all, a good use of time. The group experience as well was beneficial. I learned, or was reminded, of the importance of framing. Before jumping into solutions, start with answering who are we, who’s our audience, what’s our message? My group got this wrong this afternoon. We jumped right into solving the technical problems without first weighing if there were any adaptive challenges to tackle. Again, very good experience and will be helpful if, knock on wood, I am EVER successful at getting past the FSOT written test, personal narrative, and finally to the in-person interview.

I applied for two jobs this week–one at Durham Technical Community College and another today at the North Carolina Community College System. Whether I get called back or not for these jobs, it’s good to get into the practice of applying, and I need to be actively looking for a job, as the Foreign Service is a Plan B or even Plan C, long-term path.

Another highlight of the day that I want to mentally celebrate is that our Program Director Bill Rivenbark asked if I’d speak about my internship at an upcoming conference. He’d asked our PWE (Professional Learning Experience) professor Margaret Henderson for a recommendation, and she said I had a good paper. Now, it could be that Margaret had my name top of mind, since I sent her a thank you note at the end of the semester (once grades were in, I’m not a kiss@$$), but I’ll take it, since I’ve not had great confidence in my writing in grad school.

WTH, I’ll take this moment to celebrate also, since it’s only to myself, that I made all H’s this semester (save the one P I got in Mediation Skills. Thank you Professor John Stephens for giving out such high marks that my 18.5/20 on our lone assignment wasn’t enough to merit an H. I hate that grading on a curve.)! I haven’t cared for grades as long as I’ve made Ps (P = degree), so it was a wonderful surprise to see the grades appear one by one and have them be Hs. That means I got an H on my 20-page, bear of a paper for economic development seminar and an H in community development. That means a lot, because I was definitely the weakest link in my group with two very smart, planning students.

And that’s ok. I’ll celebrate it. (Shoot anything that flies. Claim anything that falls.)


Workforce Development Dollars — Has your community cashed in?

Lessons learned from leading class discussion

21 10 2014

I just finished leading ~75 minutes of class discussion for my Economic Development Seminar. This assignment has vexed me for weeks, since this class is theory driven and the one I feel least competent in.

The topic I chose was workforce development and skills formation, and a reading about South Korea’s industrialization undergirded our discussion. As far as what went well…

The class was engaged throughout class. In part, perhaps there was a sympathy for me for being the first discussion leader. The introduction and brainstorming went well when we talked about different types of workforce intermediaries and their goals.

What didn’t work well is I sent myself the wrong version of my presentation–sophomoric. So 20 minutes into discussion, our professor and class discussed among themselves, while I loaded my current presentation. Also, I overprepared. Too much material. Our richest conversations only began to happen at the end. There is so much more I wanted to unpack with class. And my biggest omission–I didn’t talk about my experience in South Korea. Why not? I could have added so much to the conversation with context about business culture and education in Korea. I feel at a loss for not sharing this context with my classmates, only one of whom knows I worked in Korea, but nonetheless, I missed an opportunity to share myself with others. For that, I am sorry and I will use this as a learning opportunity to share myself with others.

Goodbye, Mr. Song

22 09 2014

We said “goodbye” to Mr. Song today. Korean Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville held a service for him. About 50 church members came, including Mr. Song’s three elder brothers. Between them, there was plenty of animosity and years without communication, but today #3 brother lamented he “could no longer even argue with his baby brother.”

Yunchol, Mr. Song’s oldest son, spoke, and then Mr. Song’s older brother, and the pastor advanced the agenda without a long enough pause to give others a chance to speak. No matter. It would have been misplaced to speak further after the eldest son and older uncle shared their feelings.

We rode to the restaurant together after the service–Eddie, me, and Yunsu, my brother from another mother. He and Ed are the same age, and because Yunsu is so…활발하다, he’s been easy to get to know. This emergency with his father gave me a chance to appreciate what a mature, young man Yunsu has become. He made the difficult decision to withdraw his father’s feeding tube and ran interference between the doctors, my mother, and his brother. On the car ride to Hibachi Grill, I told Yunsu what I would have liked to say about his dad at the service.

“미스터 송 빨리 돌아가셔서 아주 슬프네요. 그래도 자기 아프신 것 없어져서 좋아요.
미스터송은 우리 엄마한테 항상 착해서 정말 고마워요. 우리 한테도 친절하게 되셔서 고마워요.
어떤기억 나…옛날에 미스터송과 우리 엄마가 우리의 집에 오셔서 Thanksgiving식사하러 오셔서…우리 식사한다음에 미스터송한테 젓가락을 주고 미스터송은 식탁에서 드럼처럼 치셔서요. 제가 깜짝 놀랐어요. 그때부터 교회에서 미스터송의 드럼을 치기를 보고 그건 잘 하셨어요.

특별히 미스터송은 마음이 넓은 분인지 어떻게 알 수 있는 방법은 자기 아이들이에요. 아뜰 두명 아주 좋은 사람이라서요.”

“I’m sorry that Mr. Song left us so quickly. It’s so sad. But I am glad he is not in pain anymore.
He was always kind to our mother and to us too, he was very kind.
I remember one Thanksgiving when Mr. Song and Mom came to our house. After dinner, we gave Mr. Song some big, cooking chopsticks, and he started playing drums on the coffee table. D@mn! I had no idea he was THAT good. We saw him play in church with his brothers after that, Mr. Song on drums, his brothers on guitar, and I could see how they traveled to all of the military bases in Korea entertaining soldiers. They were good!

Most of all, what shows you what kind of person Mr. Song was is his kids Yunsu and Yunchol. They are good people.
I am glad to have them as a family.”

R.I.P., Mr. Song.