November 30, 2006


The whole Looking-for-a-Job thing is so demeaning.

Adjective: demeaning
Causing awareness of your shortcomings
- humbling, humiliating, mortifying

Verb: demean
Reduce in worth or character, usually verbally
- take down, degrade, disgrace, put down
See also: demeaningly, undignified

Type of: abase, chagrin, humble, humiliate, mortify

Either you're spending hours tailoring your résumé and cover letters or you're calling people back to see if they can give you a definite yes or no answer.

It's incredibly demoralizing when you realise that:

1. Most jobs to which you have applied already have a chosen candidate. Organizations will post their jobs internally, allowing internal candidates to apply first. By the time they post on their external websites (for legal reasons job postings have to be shared), it's too late for you.

2. Large organizations have automated answering machines-you leave a message enquiring about your application and never hear from them again.

3. When you can talk to a human-being, he or she is not allowed to disclose anything about what is happening with the job selection.

4. The majority of jobs in DC are acquired through networking. When you're an introvert like me, the thought of bothering someone who's busy with their own work and asking them to evaluate your chances or contact someone they barely know, makes you cringe inside.

5. A friend told me that he's tracking if people are reading his emails. He tells me that, in some cases, people don't even bother to read the emails and just erase them immediately.

What's a girl like me to do?

November 22, 2006

Congo court catches fire as fighting erupts

POSTED: 12:07 p.m. EST, November 21, 2006 , on

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo (AP) -- Gunfire and street fights erupted outside Congo's supreme court and a blaze swept through the building Tuesday as hearings began over fraud allegations in a presidential election meant to bring lasting peace to the Central African giant.

Ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has launched a legal challenge of the results that showed him losing to President Joseph Kabila in a runoff that was designed to end the wars, coups d'etat and autocratic rule that has hobbled mineral-rich Congo since independence in 1960. Some 17,500 U.N. peacekeepers are overseeing the transition.
The latest election-related civil unrest in the capital, Kinshasa, came as dozens of Bemba supporters massed outside the court building as proceedings on his motion got under way. Fights broke out in the angry crowd.

Sporadic gunfire was heard for about 45 minutes as U.N. peacekeepers sped to the scene in armored vehicles, then fired in the air to disperse the crowd. Cars were set ablaze, and police sirens wailed.

Officials said gunmen in the crowd had fired on security forces, but no injuries were immediately reported.

"Armed men were mixed in with the civilians and shot at the police," Interior Minister Denis Kalume said.

Several offices in the two-story court building were on fire, along with furniture and documents. U.N. soldiers evacuated the building and firefighters worked to contain the flames.

A spokesman for Bemba's party said it had no role in the violence. [...]

November 21, 2006

Sweet Lord!

I was just "casually" checking my blog's net worth and found that it's now worth US$67, 744. 80.

Sweet Lord! I'm giddy with excitement!

November 17, 2006

Claiming the "Embarrassment Right"

I am 28 and my parents still embarrass me. I suspect they signed a special "Embarrassement Right" contract when I was born: "Thou shall be allowed to embarrass thy Daughter as often as thou wishes."

Case in Point:
My parents were in town the other day (from Madagascar), so I celebrated by taking them to dinner (well that's technically untrue. I showed them where the dinner place was, but as all good parents will I suppose, they paid for dinner).

We went to this wonderful place called Mimi's American Bistro.

It's described as a "Cabaret restaurant with singing servers and a variety of live music". Which means that every waiter and waitress is involved in plays and live theater, but works at Mimi's part-time for extra income. It's such a fun place to go, when your waiter could be up on the stage belting out a rendition of Les Miserables one minute and asking you if you want white or red with your salmon the next.

I hesitated a little bit before making that decision-my parents are cool and all that, but it takes a special kind of person to appreciate the place. Namely, a young, gay or very open person. My parents were born on this earth around the 1950s and well, the world was a different place back then.

Well we sat down to dinner and my dad was slumped-over with fatigue. I started explaining the spirit of the restaurant, when he sat up, looked over at the stage...and mouthed every word that was being sung! Oh my god it was embarrassing. Furthermore, he fully recognized a Liza Minelli song and enjoyed a young waiter's imitation of Renee's performance of a Chicago song, slinky moves and all.

When our waitress came around, he kindly asked her to sing from the Evita soundtrack-which (I couldn't believe) she graciously obliged. When she started singing, he gesticulated wildly and I cringed with embarrassment at his enthusiasm. I felt like I was in a sailor's bar with my dad singing along with the old drinking songs and waving his arm for emphasis. Except this was Mimi's and these were show tunes.

Thankfully, I looked around to assess the damage of his enthusiasm...and saw that everyone else was doing the same thing. Pfeww!

November 14, 2006

I'm not knocking temping but... I was filling in for the receptionist for a couple of hours and some colleagues stuck up a conversation in front of my desk. They eventually patted my hand and said: "I'm sure you'll find a good job soon, a lot of our receptionists find good employments".

To which I replied with politeness: "Well I certainly hope so, you see, I used to be a Project Manager in Congo; but that's very kind of you".

November 08, 2006

A car and a woman curled up

My roomate and I had a crash last night, and the unfortunate victim of the accident was a young lady coming home from work.

We are looking for a place to park, in the busy "up and coming" U street area, recently converted from decaying townhouses and louche neighborhood into a busy and popular evening hangout. Wanting to find a place close to the restaurant and in a rush to get there precisely at 7:30 to watch the election results, my roomate waits for a lull in traffic to swing his car around, in his usual confident, I'm-cool fashion.

I see her, a young black lady with her plastic shopping bags, all dressed in black, in the dark of the evening. My roomate is looking the other way, making sure he aligns with the lign of traffic and makes it around quickly enough to avoid other cars. I see her as she walks two feet away from our car, also taking advantage of the gap in traffic to walk across to her car, from an evening of working in a cheap clothing store.

I am close enough to see the shock on her face as she realizes she's going to be hit by our slow but sharply swinging vehicle. I extend a hand in her direction, as if pushing her back from harm, and yell "careful!" to my driver. Her body curls against the front of the bumper and she falls to the ground. The sound of the impact is terrible -I'm not sure if it's the contact of the car to her body or the sound of the breaks- and for a stomach-churning minute, I believe she is lying, pinned under the floor of the car.

I swing the door open to get to her, as my roomate slowly creeps the car out of traffic's way. My door swings more open and I am almost scared to get out.

She gets up, intact...thank you God. She is shaken and, intuitively checks that her hair is not out of place. Funny how these unimportant instincts surface. I ask (many times) if she's OK and she says yes but that she's just shaken. I hear an accent in her voice and can't stop thinking how bad this must be for her-a recent immigrant, working in a cheap clothing store, jay-walking to her car at the end of a long day, to get hit by a car. For some reason, this is worse for her than for anybody else.

The cops are instantly on the scene. They are nice, helpful, ask what's been going on and appropriately fine my roomate quite substantially. But they keep their cool, they are polite and they do the right thing. Thank God for them now. I only wish they would ask her to sit in their car. I ask her again and again if she wants to sit but she doesn't, she just stays at the scene slightly shaken and shell-shocked. She lifts her black pants to check her leg which is aching but can't see anything underneath her knee-high stockings. I wear the same things to work-funny how that is. She reaches to her back often and realizes that it hurts from falling on her bottom. That's the word she uses. It's so quaint, so delicate and polite. How funny.

I drive home, our evening understandably cut short by the incident. My roomate tells me the young lady lives on our street. In fact, she lives on our block. How funny. How ironic. We three roomates, who live in a neighborhood where we are already not welcomed, where the up-and-coming-ness of the street makes it so that we can afford a nice townhouse and our neighbors live in low-income housing. How unfortunate.

And here I am, at 2am morphing into 4am, rethinking the events and the sequence of the crash, thinking, how funny, how unfortunate. My lips, ears and scalp are throbbing, as they often are when I am stressed and they itch and they burn.

November 06, 2006

Elucidated-The Mystery of the Wax Ball

The Best Response so far was from a Chinese Girl who says:

"Aha, how funny!

It's Chinese for sure. And it's a herbal medicine ball! First of all, the
yellow ball is made of wax and keeps the moisture of the herbal content. I
can read from the package the black ball is for strengthening kidney. If you
are really curious, they usually cut the black ball into small pieces and
then swallow them with warm water.

I guess it belongs to a male...but it could be a joke. "

But thanks to Laura who asked a total stranger in a Asian grocery store about it-that takes balls :)

November 03, 2006

Come On!

Come on! Doesn't anybody, of Asian persuasion or even remotely connected to Asian customs and lifestyle, know what this ball of wax is? It's killing me!

Surely one, ONE person can read the characters on the box, no?

Arrrgh...If I don't hear from anybody in, say, one week, I will brew the licorice-like ball and make my morning tea with it. That'll teach you!

UPDATE: Sunday, 5:20PM.

Steve in WI says:

"I've got the answer!

According to Jeff Pan at the English-language China Daily newspaper in Beijing:

[Quote:] "To my knowledge, this is probably a kind of traditional Chinese medicine, with the 'wax ball' being the wrap for the medicine in it."

The mystery is solved.
Now if we only knew what the medicine was for."

Thanks Steve! I sort of figured it was medicine-so now that's confirmed, but am still puzzled about what sort of medicine this is.

November 02, 2006

Two Degrees of Separation

If you work in the Humanitarian sector, beware. You can't afford to piss somebody off because that person will come back to hunt you.

Yesterday I was chatting with a nice gentleman who had just finished Peace Corps in Niger. I talked a little bit about my time in the Congo and he says:

Him- "I know someone in Congo"

Me- "Oh really? Well there are a lot of expats there but I may know them"

Him- "Her name is KW"

Me-"No way! That was my favorite person in the Congo. She even lived in my building! I just talked to her by Skype last week!"

Him-"My, that's weird. Well my wife was considering applying to a job in the Congo with X organization"

Me-"NOOO! So funny, that's where I worked!"

At that point the conversation got louder.

Me-"Wait, wait, is your wife a health person"


Me-"Oh my GOD! That was for my position! I wrote the job description! I remember emailing her about it too!"

And this is during my lunch break at the temping job. I'm so glad I didn't do anything mean to her :)

Other Side of the Street Theorem

My friend brought to my attention a very interesting phenomenon, right here in our nation's capital. I call it the Bus Clumping Phenomenon. It goes like this.

a. Have you ever noticed that there are sometimes 2, 3, or sometimes 4 commuter buses in a row in the morning? I always thought that there was someone at the bus headquarters who screwed up the dispatch schedule.

b. But it turns out that the reason for this bus clumping is that the first bus has a lot of people to pick up in the morning. And thus, with all the little old ladies trembling their way up the stairs, the bus is slowed down and takes a long time to finish its usual route.

c. The second bus has fewer passengers to pick up along the way (since the first bus picked them up). Consequently, this second bus is much faster on its route.

d. It soon catches up to the overloaded first bus and, voila! A bus clump has formed.

Inspired by this rather astute observation, I present you my very own equation. I have noticed that -when I am waiting for a bus in the morning freezing my buns off- the buses on the other side of the street come much more frequently than the buses on MY side of the street. I swear this is true. I call it the Other Side of the Street Theorem. I haven't quite figured out how it happens yet, but I'll certainly think about it when I'm waiting at the bus stop tomorrow morning.


Wow, for some reason, on my way to work in the bus today, I thought about lots of new things that I would like to blog about. And since I have a notoriously bad memory ("Congo, where?"), I must write them down right here and now:

-My thoughts on the Campaign to End Poverty-is it realistic?
-The Bus Clumping Phenomenon and the Other Side of the Street Theorem
-Nigerian Scam Emails, and
-Two Degrees of Separation-the Humanitarian Game

I have plenty of free time on the weekend, so hopefully I can update soon. I know you are quivering with curiosity and anticipation!

Who Stole my America?

I wanted to share these Words of Encouragement bestowed upon me by Strudel (a German reader):

"dedicris said...
My flipping rocks, you becoming a sick European-minded lazy worker. Rush out American Girl, enter the next bank and tell the fucking banker you want $1 billion to invest in the yellow-ball toy before Xmas. He would be shy and not dare to ask you -What's this thing? -. STRUDEL
11:11 AM"


"dedicris said...
Who stole my America? Redskins. Ford T . Stan & Oliver. Now you answer ads, get interviews, are told -WeLetYouKnow- . Just like us.

Many (sigh) many years ago, hijacking in Germany I met a parà of the most famous Folgore Brigade in Africa in ww2,he was working as a driver for Herz comapny. Many (sigh) many years later, as a management consultant I met a second Folgore parà, he was working as an accountant in a factory. Work sucks for the bravest too. STRUDEL
11:24 AM"

What translation engine have you been using Strudel? When you say hijacking, I think you mean hitchiking, no? Anyways, thanks for the good words(I think)! A little laughter at 7:00am goes a long way.

November 01, 2006

Make Poverty History

This is a new video from the ONE Campaign.

More thoughts to come on that.

Chinese Wax Ball

So, I go up at 6:00AM twice in a row to apply to a job before my temping job starts and instead, I bring you "Chinese Wax Ball!".

I was going through my drawers in the office, looking for a marker in my new cubicle, when i came upon this white, red and orange stamped box. Like Alice through the Looking Glass, I couldn't help but open it, thinking there would be a miniature inking pad and stamp in there. No dice. It revealed this perfectly spherical, yellow wax ball. I jiggled it and noticed that there was something large moving in there. Try as I might, no amount of throwing, biting or stabbing would get it to open. Then I gently pushed it on its seams and TA-DA, it opened! Revealing, revealing....

A licorice-smelling waxy ball.

Does anybody know what the heck it is? The mystery deepens.

(Note: this does not mean I get nothing done at work. I am actually very productive during the day. Please hire me, and I promise I won't go through your drawers...much)