Category Archives: First Post

Backpacking in Canada- the Juan de Fuca Trail

My first major vacation at post was this past August- I went backpacking in British Columbia with my dad! It turned out to be one of my favorite trips ever. But it did take quite a bit of time to coordinate the logistics. Hopefully this helps anyone considering this trail in the future, I certainly read a lot of trip reports before hitting the trail 🙂 All our planning was more than worth it- nature is always the best form of therapy for me. I have felt so much more relaxed back in Mexico after backpacking for a week.

 

Part 1: Getting to Canada

Both my dad and I flew from Texas to Seattle- much cheaper than Vancouver. From there we took the Victoria Clipper, a 3 hour ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. I was slightly nervous about getting seasick, but it was really smooth for us both ways.  Victoria is a really cool city with tons going on- we were there to hike so we sadly didn’t have much time in the city itself. This is the point I noticed that I was not at all used to the “cold” 70 degree weather 😀

Part 2: Driving to the Trail

Our first night was car camping at China Beach, which is about an hour drive from Victoria. Renting a car made the most sense for us, but there are also hiker shuttles from Victoria to various parts of the Juan de Fuca trail. We spent the first day getting our packs ready for the 5 day hike. It was really nice to have a relaxed setup day at the start. We hiked the trail backwards- leaving our car at the China Beach day use area and taking a shuttle early the next morning to Botanical Beach, 47km away.

 

Hike Day 1: Botanical Beach to Payzant Creek (moderate)

The first backpacking day- at first I was a little intimidated by all the other hikers who seemed to be in way better shape than me, but we made it to our first campsite! Highlight of the day was watching the eclipse from Botanical Beach. This part of the trail wasn’t too hard, lots of boardwalks to start and some elevation gain. Not as muddy as we’d expected. But thankful that we settled for Payzant Creek instead of Little Kuitsche Creek as originally planned! I was not yet ready for an extra 6km of hiking with my heavy pack.

Hike Day 2: Payzant Creek to Sombrio Beach (moderate)

The trail guide calls this moderate, for me it was the hardest day. Once you reach the beach walking part towards the end, lots of scrambling over slippery rocks. I discovered I have pretty bad balance. But happy to be camping at our first beachside campsite!

Hike Day 3: Sombrio Beach to Chin Beach (difficult)

My favorite day of hiking. Lots of wandering along the coast this day, passing the emergency shelter cabin right after Sombrio Beach. This was the first day we had an issue with the high tide- we had to get our feet a little bit wet to cross the beach right at the end! Ending the day with one of the coolest sunsets I’ve ever seen right at our campsite on the beach.

Hike Day 4: Chin Beach to Bear Beach (most difficult)

Definitely the most physical day- up and down over hills the whole day. Having the other end of Bear Beach to ourselves was a highlight.

Hike Day 5: Bear Beach to China Beach (moderate)

Hiked out to the car at the end of this day. Bittersweet- ready to be done with the trail and having real food again, but not wanting vacation to be over.

 

Update from Post- La Frontera y la Canícula

I had originally decided to stop updating this blog for personal security reasons. Now that I have been in Mexico almost a year (wow!), I feel somewhat more comfortable about my life here at post. Adding an obvious disclaimer that these are purely my thoughts and do not represent the official opinion of the State Department 🙂

There is such little information out there about Nuevo Laredo and other border posts- I know when I was bidding and researching it was tough to find even basic details. Some surprises include ballet performances at the Centro Cultural, which is in the “restricted zone” but we are allowed to attend if we let the security office know. One major aspect of life at the border: the summer heat.

When I arrived in the winter, local staff told me about la canicula- the hottest time of the summer where it would be 108 degrees or higher. I’d say it generally lasts from June-August and we all try to just stay inside during the day! I think the best way of dealing with the heat is escaping on the weekend to the nearest beach- Mustang Island!

Related to work, I have had the opportunity to already work in 3 major areas of the consular section: non-immigrant visas, American citizen services, and the fraud prevention unit. I also got the chance to TDY (temporary duty) to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for 3 weeks which honestly deserves its own blog post. It was truly an island paradise and I’d serve there in a heartbeat.

It is a little crazy to think that in October I will have been here for one year. I am basically halfway through my first tour in the Foreign Service. It has been much more challenging than I expected- there have certainly been days where I’ve counted down the time left. The 25% hardship isn’t for nothing. Thankfully I have some incredible colleagues who I am so proud to call close friends for life.

Also, I now have my onward assignment- I found out in late April that my second tour will be in Riga, Latvia doing public diplomacy! It is truly a dream job and was my top bid. I’ll be back at FSI in fall 2018 to study Russian and PD tradecraft for about 9 months before moving to Latvia. Until then, I’ll be trying to visit places on my Mexico bucket list (Tulum!) and make the most of having my family and many friends close by in Texas.

Tres/Tres, or I Passed My Spanish Test!!

About two weeks ago, I found out that I passed my end of training Spanish test at FSI!!

Since then, I’ve been getting everything ready for my impending departure for la frontera, aka Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. I am thrilled to be done with training and so ready to leave very soon! Here are a few of the cool things I have done recently in preparation for starting my dream job in Mexico:

-Talked to a group of interns at FSI about the Foreign Service application process while realizing how lucky I am to have this job

-Attended Crash Bang, the State Department’s counter terrorism training in which I ducked for cover and rammed cars in a simulated attack on an embassy

-Sent thank-you emails to everyone in the Spanish department I could think of for their part in my (surprising) success on the test

-Bought a real car and mentally prepared myself for all the driving I’ll be doing in two years

-Planned goodbye dinners with friends in DC 😦

It’s crazy exciting to me that after 9ish months of living here, I’m finally headed to post. I cannot wait to find out what my job will be like as a consular officer. While I’m comforted by a few things (there are 3 Chick-fil-a’s right across the border in Laredo!), I don’t really know what to expect about my new home. But I am sure excited to start my tour!

And the winner is…

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico!!!

 

It was a high bid for me! I am thrilled to be doing such important consular work at the US-Mexico border. Plus I’ll be near friends and family in Texas! Spanish language training and Consular tradecraft start in a few weeks! Longer post on my whole Flag Day experience to follow soon.

 Excited to have my Mexican flag 🙂