DONE!!!!

It’s New Years Eve 2009 and I’m breaking my longest hiatus from blogging since starting again in South America this summer.  At the end of the year I have fantastic news to share – I’m done with Georgetown!!!! Finished!  All papers submitted!  Comprehensive exams passed (with flying colors!)!  Only the last of grades to come in, a diploma in the mail, and it’s set in stone!   I’m a Master of Latin American Studies!!!!  It feels so good to write that I can hardly convey the smile on my face, the skip of my heart, the sense of accomplishment, and the surrealness of it all.

Not to downplay the accomplishment of finishing a semester early (I do love finishing in December, harking back to my undergrad days of Dec ’07 in Boulder, CO), but unfortunately the end was anticlimactic.  Since I finished a semester early, the graduation ceremony will be in May, where the reception is customarily at a Latin American embassy in Washington.  After finishing my last paper, the blizzard of DC cancelled my flight for two days, nearly all my friends had left town, and I was left with my thoughts… No matter–I still managed to catch a couple Smithsonians with a friend, do plenty of decompressing, and prep for what is sure to be a great and utterly relaxing vacation at home in Colorado.  I purchased a one-way ticket, and will likely head back to DC in mid to late-January, when a graduation party will definitely be in order.

That said, finishing school feels surreal.  I am still waking up on occasion in the middle of the night fretting about details to make my final papers A quality.  But everything is set!  No more homework!  I’m done with school!  Unless I decide to be a professor later in life and go back for a PhD (highly unlikely), I am done with school!  Wow!  Just to cope with change, I’m 200 pages into Madeleine Albright’s 650 page autobiography, Madam Secretary.

All of my hard work has been validated by accepting a job offer to work at Booz Allen Hamilton.  Booz Allen is *the* leading consulting firm in DC, has been rated a Top 100 place to work several years in a row, and focuses exclusively on government consulting and contract work (perfect for my interests).  Beginning in June, I will be a Consultant working on Economic and Business Analysis, based out of an office in northern Virginia near Dulles Airport.  This job offer is seriously sweet, and I am downright excited!  In particular, I am very relieved that I will be able to repay my graduate student loans.  As an added bonus, my standard workweek is 40 hours and any time above and beyond is paid as time and a half–virtually unheard of in the hectic world of consulting, and a guarantor of a more balanced life.  I Googled my future supervisor, and was stunned to learn that he earned his PhD in Political Science from CU in the 90’s.  I couldn’t believe it–of all the places to run into a very-rare CU alum in the DC area.  God continues to astound me as my life unfolds.

I can wholeheartedly say that attending Georgetown is one of the best decisions of my entire life.  I still remember the moment when I opened my email in April of 2008 and saw the acceptance message that I knew would open doors to change my life.  Major life changes were underway–moving careers from IT to my original track of International Affairs/Latin American Studies, parting with a serious girlfriend, moving across the country to a house full of international students.  As with all things, I’ve experienced many highs and lows since coming to DC (to be shared in more detail on future posts, or you can just call me).  But I’m certainly feeling on top!  I’m learning more to take things one step at a time, and increasingly realize how events are unpredictable.  Looking back to when I started my Masters, I would be surprised–but nevertheless proud–to learn that I’ll be working at Booz Allen.  Without attending Georgetown, it would be nearly impossible to get in the door at Booz Allen, even more so considering the abysmal job market.  Likewise, I wouldn’t have known that I’d find myself with six months in between graduation and starting work.  Six months will go quickly, everyone keeps telling me, and in the meantime I’m looking for temporary work as a Spanish translator, web designer, paid intern, or really anything to fill five months and leave room for a month of traveling (Europe?  Latin America?  Road trip across America?).

Enough about me…. I want to wish you an awesome 2010!!!  Look back at your 2009–I hope it was filled with fun, happiness, and personal growth.  May your 2010 be even better!  Cheers!  Mike

Wine pictures from Chile up!

Wow, I have finally sorted through all of my South America pictures and am going to be uploading all of them on Facebook within the next week or so.  I just put up pictures from wine country in Chile, a place I had been eager to visit for years.  I first became interested in wine when I lived in Paraguay and would eat asado (world’s best steak) with Chilean cabernet sauvignons, which my host father loved.  I was sooo happy to be able to visit the vineyards in person! 

One of the best wine tastings of my life at Concha y Toro!

One of the best wine tastings of my life at Concha y Toro!

 

I will put up skiing pictures, Mendoza pictures, Peru, and Paraguay soon!  Holy cow!  I still can’t believe this summer….

4am and I’m going to bed

No, I’m not partying!  I’m a graduate student!  It’s nearly 4 in the morning and I’m going to get some shut eye after finishing my first short paper and an intense week of academics, research assistant work, and my job hunt.  Thankfully I don’t have to be anywhere until the afternoon and will finish my last class for the week tomorrow evening.   ZZzzzzzzzzzzz

Mmm tapas

It’s raining tonight and is the ideal night to stay in.  I have plenty of homework, a cool roommate to hang out with, and it’s nice and dry inside.  So I decided to take a study break and make some tapas!  Mmmmm tapasssss.

Tapa #1: Fire-roasted crackers with goat cheese, tomato, and olive oil

Tapa #1: Fire-roasted crackers with goat cheese, tomato, and olive oil

 

Tapa #2: Baked and sliced red new potatoes with agave nectar and cayenne pepper

Tapa #2: Baked and sliced red new potatoes with agave nectar and cayenne pepper

Last night I had a ridiculously fun time.  There was a happy hour between archrivals Georgetown School of Foreign Service (SFS) and SAIS (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies) at the SAIS campus in Dupont Circle, my neighborhood last year.  The two schools constantly vie for first place in rankings of international programs (Georgetown has been #1 at the policy-related Masters level for the last two years), and teaching philosophies are very different (SAIS contributed heavily to great ideas such as the Iraq War and the Washington Consensus), so getting together is always interesting.  I also had a lot of house mates last year from SAIS, so it was good to run into a few of them. 

Anyways, I ended up meeting some really cool people actually from Georgetown that are first-year students at SFS.  After the happy hour one of my new friends and I went to get some empanadas at nearby Julia’s empanadas, one of the cooolest place in DC.  He mentioned that there was actually a Paraguayan girl in the flagship MSFS program, something which I had heard and had to confirm since there are so few Paraguayans in DC.  Basically anytime someone from Paraguay does make it here, it’s almost guaranteed we have shared friends back in Asunción.

We were headed to the Big Hunt, a great dive bar/pub, to meet up with other Hoyas when my friend yelled, “Mike! That’s her!  That’s Claudia, the Paraguayan!”  So basically the best luck ever running into her randomly.  Claudia and her friend invited me to come to a huge Paraguayan DJ party on U street (one of the coolest parts of DC) to raise money for an organization that builds houses for people outside Asunción.

A Paraguayan in need of help!

A Paraguayan in need of help!

So we walked to the place, Station 9, and it slowly began filling up.  With people.  And more people.  And more people!  The place was packed – full of Paraguayans, other latinos, tons of people working at the OAS, IDB, World Bank, etc.  And wow!  It was a blast!!!!  Sadly I didn’t bring my camera with, but I had such a fun time – it felt like I was back in South America with my friends, and couldn’t believe my luck.  I can’t wait to see how much money the dance party raised, and I’m happy to have a couple more Paraguayan friends in DC now!

Thursday night Steve and I also had our first shindig at our apartment.  We had our classmates over from the Chile program, and had a great time hanging out and drinking pisco sours!  So things are going great in DC!  I’m getting much more into the swing of coursework, and heavily into the job search.  But it feels great to be back.  I missed Georgetown, my friends, and DC!

At the National Portrait Gallery

At the National Portrait Gallery

Just put up more Chile pics

After massive amounts of sorting, I just uploaded 160 more pictures to Facebook from my time in Santiago, Chile.  See them here.

IMG_0046

I’m on a diet!

Mike Coe?  On a diet?  You’ve got to be kidding me!  Ok, so it’s more of a new nutritional plan, and definitely not a weight loss plan.  The last week of my South America adventure in Paraguay I came down with an awful cough where my throat kept closing up and would not stop, most likely from being worn down.  Long story short, my host family was concerned that they wouldn’t let me on the plane with South Americans being all paranoid about sick people and the H1N1 virus (and no I didn’t have the swine flu).  So I got antibiotics, which helped slightly, and I was able to get home fine.

When I returned to Colorado I went to see the alternative health specialist (yes, they are common in Colorado) about the cough, since it had been nearly 3 weeks since it had started, and was really annoying!  I had a similar recurring problem in DC last year, mostly due to severe allergies from the tree and other seasonal pollens.  Allergies are horrible! 

So when I went to see the alternative health practitioner they explained that diet can exacerbate allergies which feed on bad bacteria and yeast.  Additionally, I have to regularly take digestive supplements when I eat, which is part of the issue.  So the practitioner, who is also a certified nutritionist, put me on a nutrition plan called the Alkaline diet.  About.com has a concise explanation of it here.  Basically the diet has analyzed pH levels to reach a natural balance between basic and acidic foods, thereby emphasizing eating a ton of fresh produce, organic food, and minimizing processed food. 

When starting, the goal is to eliminate anything that feeds bacteria or yeast, meaning no sugar, yeast, starch, dairy, or white flour.  That translates to no fruit other than citrus, wine or beer (I can only drink vodka/gin and tonic, since they are both minimally processed w/ little sugar added), pizza, cheese, pork, or highly processed foods (not a problem, since I don’t eat them anyway).  I was taken aback when I first heard of all these foods I’d have to give up for approximately 2 months.  However, they assured me that their office alone has done the diet on thousands of people who have seen real results in increasing resistance of immune systems, improving digestion, and significantly improving energy levels – basically making people feel amazing once they’ve stuck with it.  Hearing this, I figured it would be worth pursuing.

So I’m now about 2 and a half weeks into the plan.  Other than two glasses of sangria (I can’t say no to sangria) and a couple of hot dogs at a park when there was no other option, I’ve basically stuck with it.  The pollen levels have been low in DC (until today… grrr) so I’m not sure if it’s working or not yet.  However, I’ve been feeling really good.  My new building has a gym, and I’ve been working out every 2 days.  I’ve also been walking what is probably the equivalent of several miles, between grocery runs, getting to campus, etc.  This is the first I’ve told anyone, but I’d like to set a personal goal to run a 5k this fall (previously I only ran one once for work w/o training and it was pretty painful, but I finished without walking at all!).

Thus far I have been eating tons of produce and ethnic food.  The food I’ve been eating is really tasty!  For example, my normal breakfast now is organic scrambled eggs with cilantro and smoked salmon (I loooove smoked salmon), plus a whole wheat tortilla with guacamole.  Yum!  Other than that, lots of stiry fry and also regular items like whole wheat pasta and organic beef.

I’m also experimenting with more Latin American food.  This time around in South America I continued to expand my food knowledge and purchased a cookbook in each country I visited.   Let me know if you would like to be my guinea pig (hahah I won’t cook that Peruvian entree for you) on a whole host of new dishes!  The food in Chile was not great (amazing seafood, but otherwise bland, minimal variety, and expensive), but in Peru it was amazing (see cooking video here about lomo saltado, which I cooked in the picture at the bottom), and also very tasty in Paraguay and Argentina. 

I think part of the reason why many Latin American people tend to be attractive and have amazing skin is due to the diet.  Obviously there are wide variations in what people eat based upon country and region, but generally most food is all organic, fresh, and high in fruits and vegetables.  Another example is Argentina and Paraguay, where the beef is organic grass-fed beef, which is high in Omega 3s and very lean, in contrast to American beef which is corn fed (cows can’t digest corn w/o taking steroids which get in the food) and fatty. 

Lomo Saltado: National dish of Peru and mixture of Asian & Latin cuisine

Lomo Saltado: National dish of Peru and mixture of Asian & Latin cuisine. My home-cooked dinner on Saturday!

Home!

After nearly a month of travelling after finishing my Chile program, I’m home!  I had a blast but it feels amazing to be back in Colorado!  I have a lot of blog posts to catch up on, having visited PERU (amazing!) and Paraguay!  I purposely left my laptop behind when travelling to Peru, and also had limited internet in Paraguay, so I’m just catching up and organizing the ~2500 pictures I took this summer.

I flew back a few days ago through New York, stopped over for a day to see TV on the Radio in Concert in Brooklyn, then just arrived in Colorado for my brother’s 21st birthday.  To celebrate we went on a tour of Great Divide Brewery in Denver.  Tasty! 

Skyline of New York
Skyline of New York

Walking through New York I had a big smile on my face – it was so good to be back in the USA!  I was soaking it in – the diversity, cultural opportunities everywhere, Mexican food, everyone smiling, fast service – it felt great!

view of the Flatirons in Boulder, CO
view of the Flatirons in Boulder, CO
An AMERICAN size pizza slice!  'MERICA!
An AMERICAN size pizza slice! ‘MERICA!

I’m really exhausted, so I’ve been decompressing at home and resting up.  On Saturday I had back to DC to move into my new place (so excited!) with my classmate Steve.