My good friend Heath (aka "Funny Uncle Heath) Druzin has taken a major leap in his reporting career, from the rugged American West to the somewhat wilder west of Iraq. He recently started a year-long reporting gig with Stars and Stripes (the preferred newspaper for America's military) as an embedded reporter in Iraq. He'll also be reporting from Afghanistan later on during his contract.

His insights so far have included a lament for the woeful lack of beer in embedded units, the interminable "hurry up and wait" atmosphere, and the culinary delights of chow halls.

If you'll permit me a moment of sappiness (save the snark, Heath), I've always been impressed by Heath's determination and neverending curiosity. Though I and all our friends worry and think about him daily (I won't even mention what his poor mother is probably going through), I'm impressed by his dedication to this position and I know that he'll leave his mark on the cannon of Iraq (and later, Afghanistan) war journalism that's currently in the works.

So, upon his insistence, I've added him to my friends' blogroll. Honestly, I should've done this much sooner, but I've become a pretty delinquent blogger of late, so please enjoy.


President Obama

This picture is taken on U Street at roughly 2:30 a.m. when I ran into Dave, Vahan's roommate. At this point, Karin and I were going on pure adrenaline.

Finally, something interesting to post about. Something truly Washingtonian. Something that made yesterday one of the greatest days of my life. Though on the one hand it seemed there was no stopping the Obama momentum, until the moment CNN called the election for him, I can honestly say I've never felt jubilation quite like that before. Nor have I ever felt so proud of my country and my countrymen.

My evening of election celebration all happened on U Street, Washington's historically black neighborhood, U Street. We started off at Ben's Chili Bowl, a landmark half smoke joint that's been around for 50 years. Until now, only one person famously could eat free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. After yesterday, that rule was amended to include the Obama family. Can't wait to see little Sasha and Malia stopping by for a snack! U Street is also the epicenter of DC's jazz clubs, including the one where Duke Ellington used to play and where we watched Barack Obama become the 44th president. Bohemian Caverns had three levels of bars, TVs, and a bounce house to keep us entertained. A friend was DJing and we kept dancing as the numbers got better and better.

Around 11 p.m., when they finally named him President, the bartenders popped the champagne, soaking everyone in the vicinity, including yours truly, who also snagged a full glass and a beer from a particularly jubilant photographer who'd snuck behind the bar. We stuck around for McCain's extremely gracious (I thought) concession, did a little boogaloo, listened in rapt silence to the man in whom we now entrust all our hope, then quickly headed to the streets.

Already they'd stopped traffic at 11th and U, right outside Bohemian Caverns and just two blocks from my place. Strangers hugged strangers, high-fives were had all around, and the downpour that started around midnight couldn't dampen the dancing and chanting. The crowd swelled and stretched along U to 14th Street, where a drum circle took over one corner, and revelers in trees and on bus tops waved American flags and intermittently chanted, "U-S-A!" and "Yes we did!"

Word spread that a crowd was forming at the White House, but Karin, Mona and I stayed put at 14th Street, where we joined a conga line and slapped high-fives with everyone around. Every time we spotted a friend in the crowd (which was pretty often) we embraced, screamed, and jumped up and down in circles. A Marine in his uniform stood up on a newspaper box chanting "Yes we did!" as everyone around him clamored to hug him and applaud him.

What may have been the most moving was seeing all the African-Americans with tears streaming down their cheeks and everyone (white, black, Latino, Asian, gay, straight) hugging them and each other. It brought tears to my own eyes and goosebumps all over. And hokey though it sounds, I couldn't stop thinking to myself, "We, as a country, have come a long way."

We kept going until about 2:30 when Karin and I slowly started trudging back to 11th Street, and when our tired feet reminded us that our jeans were now soaked from dancing in the rain-streaked streets. We stood at the corner of 11th and U watching the impromptu parade continue to gather steam. When we saw there was no chance this party was going to let up, we walked back up to our apartment, collapsed in the living room and watch Obama's speech replayed on CNN, before finally crawling into bed.

My only regret is that I let Vahan borrow my camera this week for his trip to Hong Kong. Thankfully my friends got numerous shots and this YouTube video of 14 and U Streets will show you just exactly what we did last night.


it's been a while

Hasn't it? The trouble with blogging is that it's not very interesting to blog when you have nothing to blog about. I pointed this out to the V when he was complaining about my un-updated blog this weekend. He helpfully reminded me that I DO have something to blog about. Two words: NEW. JOB.

OK, three words: HOORAY!

It took not nearly as long as I thought it would and when I saw it I knew it was the perfect one for me. The job I'd gone to graduate school to get. One that allows me to work with journalists, overseas and in Washington, and lets me help them be better at their jobs so that governments will do their jobs even better. Where in particular, you may ask? Russia, Ukraine, Azerbeijan, and...Armenia! Hopefully I'll get to travel to all, but most likely the first two at least a couple times a year.

They already knew me over at IREX from my travels last summer. They were kind enough to fund my research project and, in turn, my thesis. Now they'll be funding an above-poverty-grade lifestyle for this newly minted NGO staffer. In truth, it's a much better salary than I expected and I'm happy to report that I'll be able to pay my rent, bills, grad school loans, and possibly even tuck away a tiny bit into a retirement account each month. This is more than I can say for many friends in the NGO/think tank world.

Though it would've been nice to have transitioned into a full-time gig at the current office, I am somewhat relieved to be leaving the think tank world. It was a great complement to thesis research and an even better introduction to the field as a whole, but I'm ready to get my hands dirty, as it were. Hopefully, however, I won't have to dirty them eating borscht, the national dish of former Soviet states suffering from a dearth of taste. Blech.

In other exciting news, I cut my hair short! *giggles* It's very fun. See!


back to dodge and out again

They're not kidding when they say DC is dead in August. I've spent the two short weeks I've been back at work after our vacation mostly reading about Russia and Georgia doing stupid things to each other, marveling at how Olympians can swim/run/flip around in the air several times, and generally doing nothing of any consequence. It helps that The Boss is out of the country, and just about everybody else is on vacation.

I headed out of town again Thursday afternoon -- this time for San Francisco and little Whelan's wedding, which was a ton of fun, and only slightly less debauched than every other Basement Reunion to date. Duringthe Friday night rehearsal dinner -- a nighttime cruise around the Bay -- I was reminded of how much I miss California, but really Northern California. Orange County will always be home, but there's something about San Francisco and the Bay Area that feel so right to me. Maybe it's the people, or the lifestyle, possibly even the weather. (It doesn't take long to be absolutely sick of the swamp that is DC in the summer.) I would love to live up there and be only an hour's plane ride from home, instead of a minimum six-hour trek across country. I'd love to be able to wear a trench coat for the summer evenings, but still walk around in a tank top and skirt during the day. And the Mexican food, oh the Mexican food. Guacamole just ain't the same when you have to ship the avocadoes across country.

But then I remember what I love about DC. The seasons, the excitement, the pleasure of being able to walk anywhere (work, store, National Mall), the culture, the interesting conversations, and the even more interesting jobs I've held since moving there. It feels like home to me now. Especially today as I clean out dusty bookcases and decide which of the CDs I left behind I'm going to sell. I can't make room in my new life for much more of the stuff from my old life.

I don't yet know if Washington is where I'll settle permanently -- somehow I doubt it is -- but it's home for now and I'm grateful for it.


getting out of dodge

I've been quiet lately mostly because there hasn't been much to say. Since school ended, I've been enjoying the life of a regular DC civillian. I read far too many magazines, journals, and books, discuss politics and foreign policy with my colleagues and friends alike, go out to dinner and even make a few new things, and generally feel like I'm melting every time I leave the house.

It's been lovely, but here's the thing. When you don't have a car, you don't get out of town much. And in case you've never been to D.C., I'm going to let you in on a little secret: It's kind of little. As in, you need to get the hell out of Dodge every couple months or you start going stir crazy. It's a great city, but unlike New York, you rarely discover new neighborhoods, or shops, or really even restaurants. You run into friends all the time, and you rarely venture out of your routine. 90 percent of the time, that works just great. But in the last few weeks I've been feeling itchy. I need out.

Tomorrow I'm off to Detroit for a wedding and this time I'm going to see college roommate Jessie and finally meet her new little daughter, Leah! (We'll also see her husband Mike, but who really cares about that when there's an adorable little baby to hold? Mike is cute, but he's not cuddly.) Monday morning we'll take a train to Chicago for several days of sight-seeing and eating lots of good food and hopefully lots of sleeping. Thursday we'll take a train back to Michigan, only this time to Kalamazoo, home of Vahan's alma mater. We'll have dinner at his friends' nearby farm, then head to South Haven, MI for several days of lakeside relaxation.

It's sure to be fabulous and I'll let you know just how good it goes when we get back Aug. 3.


happy fourth of july, muppets!

Last year I spent the fourth of July with my dad, eating hamburgers at Yerevan City Diner because tickets to the bbq-fireworks extravaganza at the U.S. Embassy were sold out.

This year, I'll be drinking beers on my friend's rooftop in Glover Park and watching the distant fireworks over the Washington Monument.

And now, in celebration of America's independence, one of my very favorite things about America: MUPPETS!


now what?

So there have been more than a few complaints about my lack o' blogging. (How did I miss the entire month of June?) Part of it may be because school is over, the madness of graduation week is over, the three weekends in a row of having friends and family in town has also (mercifully) come to a close, and now I've got nada. I walk to work every morning, which has been lovely. I usually walk back in the evenings. (At 3 miles for the round trip, I feel that is sufficient enough to excuse my lack of all other exercise.) And as of late May/early June, I've been obsessively job hunting.

I'd been dreading the thought of job hunting since I began graduate school. Because I enrolled in such a touchy-feely humanities program, I knew I'd be running the risk of struggling somewhat in my post-graduation job search. Since January, however, I'd been ambling along under the somewhat questionable hope that my current employer would be able to hire me full time. My boss said she'd love to, I was enjoying the work, even if it wasn't a dream job, the pay was decent, and HELLO! I could WALK to work. But the funding for my position didn't come through and so my contract ends in August. As of September my student health insurance runs out, and shortly after that, I have to start paying back my student loans. What's a girl to do?


Not quite yet. I've had some bites -- an informational interview today, a real interview tomorrow -- but none of the jobs really excite me. Part of the problem is I'm *still* not exactly sure what I want to do. I'm still totally fascinated by media development, and using new media to engage people in civic participation, but that only gets you so far, even in Washington. It also is a one-way road to nonprofits, which are wonderful, but when you're staring down $50k in debt, something more FOR-profit is tempting.

What does that leave me? Government would be interesting and I'm still leaving that door open. Consulting/private development (read: FOR profit) firms are also quite tempting and I have some friends who are helping to open some doors in these directions. But again, all of this needs to be the right fit for me. And what that is, I still don't know.

I'll let you know when I figure out the secret to happiness.


on master's degrees and my future

It's been a while since my last post. I've spent the last month finishing up graduation requirements, buying caps and gowns, wearing caps and gowns, welcoming my family and Vahan's to DC (and introducing them), hosting more friends this last weekend, and trying to figure out what's in store for my future. Needless to say, it's been a bit busy around here.

Graduation was wonderful. The ceremony was, of course, long and boring, but Vahan and my parents threw a fantastic party at Vahan's house. Our parents got to know one another (and like each other!), and got to know our friends, who I think want our parents to adopt them now.

Now I'm trying to figure out what's next. I'll be here through the summer. After that? It's still up in the air. Maybe stay on as a staff member (I'm a contractor now.) Maybe go elsehwere? I'm looking but haven't been enticed by anything yet. Part of me is toying with the idea of going back to journalism -- that itch never seems to leave you. But then I hear horror stories of layoffs in all my friends' newsrooms and I wonder if I'm willing to put up with that sort of lifestyle again. One where nothing is ever certain.

When I started graduate school I thought it might help me find something that was a better fit for my intersection of interests between journalism, international affairs, and media development. And (I won't lie) I was hoping it would be more lucrative than the journalism career I left behind. So far it's only marginally so. Now that school is over, however, and I have some time to think and read and talk to more people this summer, I'm hoping to come up with a better answer to my dilemma.

In the meantime, enjoy this image of the Agopians and Callans and a master's graduate.


saying goodbye

On Valentine's Day my mom called. My grandmother -- Lily Mommy we called her, because she was everybody's Mommy -- was not doing well. She'd been in a nursing home since November. Now the nurses were saying it could be a matter of days. I insisted on booking a ticket, but then held off. Unsure what I'd be booking a ticket for. Finally, I flew home for a few days over spring break. I got off the plane and went to see her.

It was heartbreaking to see how she'd deteriorated. I'm still not entirely sure she recognized me. In December, when I'd seen her last, my mom told her that I'd come from Washington to see her. And she looked amazed that I'd traveled such a distance. She sort of understood it.

In March, she didn't even really speak. I held her hand, and stroked her hair, and kissed her on the forehead over and over. Then I said goodbye.

She let go of this world on Tuesday. At the funeral, I kissed her forehead again. But it felt strange and cold. I couldn't bear to touch her beautiful hands. She looked like she was asleep. Peacefully so. I whimpered, and said goodbye again. But she was already gone.

My mom asked me to speak at the funeral, but I just couldn't do it. It was too hard to stay composed. If I had, however, here's what I would have said:

I can never repay you for all you taught me: The importance of being a tough, independent woman. To never depend on anyone. To pursue whatever I wanted in life. To be unafraid in the face of challenges. To be graceful and ladylike -- though I may still struggle with that last one.

You were my Lily Mommy. As good as a mother to me. I'm grateful to have had you in my life for 28 years. And the world will forever benefit from the 89 years with which you graced your presence.

I love you. And I miss you so, so much.


on distinction and fresh fruit

Exhausted. Elated. Overwhelmed. And proud. Very very proud.

My thesis defense couldn't have gone before if I'd planted the questions in the audience myself (And NO, I did NOT!) It felt more like a conversation than a defense, which is what it's supposed to be anyway.

Then I stepped out of the room with the most wonderful friends (and boyfriend) a girl could ask for and waited. For about 5 minutes. Then Dr. Garcia called me back into the room and before I could even shut the door she said the words I really wasn't expecting to hear:

"Don't you want your friends in here too, to hear that you got distinction?"

I gasped. I stared. I grasped my stomach. Then I hugged her. I hugged Nelson, too, who I think was a little startled by that. But I digress. Their only recommendation to me? Get it published. So, that's project #2. After my brain comes back to life and I finish the remaining assignments for Nelson's class.

Vahan and I went out to celebrate at J. Paul's with oysters and beers. And that's when the exhaustion descended. Two beers later I just wanted to go home and go grocery shopping with the roommate. Now I have fresh produce and a master's degree earned with distinction.

It's a good day.


stay tuned...

You don't really expect me to post while I'm working against the clock, do you?

If all goes well, I'll have a complete draft read and approved for presentation by Monday afternoon. Like I said, stay tuned...



Thesis, thesis thesis. Thesis thesis thesis thesis. Thesis? Thesis thesis. Thesis thesis thesis thesis. Thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis. Thesis thesis thesis thesis. Thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis thesis.

"Thesis thesis thesis thesis?"


"Thesis thesis!"

Thesis thesis thesis thesis.

Oh, and Vahan's in India. Lucky bastard. Thesis.


California/no end in sight?

Well, maybe that's not entirely true. My adviser assured me there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, this is after she requested my sixth revision of the neverending chapter 2. I handed it in Friday afternoon and hightailed it on out of there to fly home Saturday morning.

Now I'm in Irvine. Still revising away at Chapter 3 (and even bits of Chapter 1). All while it's sunny and 70 degrees outside. It's good to be home, even if the circumstances aren't ideal. I've slept more in the last two nights than I typically do in DC. Perhaps too much to get me wound up about? Guilt about not being awake and writing? Whatever it is, it doesn't tread as heavily on the mind in good ol' Kah-lee-fohrn-ya.

While I was reading the LA Times Sunday travel section, I felt nostalgic about my home state and all the wacky fun things you can find here. The 70-degree weather helps, too.

I'm not yet ready to move back west, but I suppose absence does in fact make the heart grow fonder. Maybe it's just nostalgia, or maybe it's homesickness. It might even be the fact that at present, Washington only promises nonstop writing, revision, and working. Whatever it is, California is looking good this week.


things to do when i've finished my thesis

Actually, the list on my desk is titled: Things to do when I'm DONE (double underline under the DONE)

(Also, for those curious, I'll be DONE sometime after 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 16. Not that I'm counting or anything.)

When you're working on the fourth set of revisions to a 20-page chapter that provides an overview of the literature supporting your argument that indeed electronic media does have a role to play in democratic development, you need an end goal in sight. A light at the end of the tunnel. Or, more to the point, 10 lights at the end of the tunnel. (Though I'm fairly certain this list will grow longer.)

As it stands now (and in no particular order):

1. SLEEP (oh how I covet thee.)
2. Guitar lessons (How long have I been saying I'll do this? I'll be -- hopefully -- gainfully employed with significantly more free time to juggle.)
3. Couples yoga with V. (Can't believe I just published that on the internets, but we'd talked about it this week and as much as I despised yoga the first time around, I'm willing to give it another go if only because the V Man himself is actually quite enthused about the idea.)
4. Go out more (dancing, bars, restaurants, game nights with friends, anything social, really.)
5. Attempt to cook more complicated meals. (last night's highlight: pasta with any vegetable left in the fridge. actually turned out decent.)
6. See things on the East Coast that are not in the Greater Washington Area. (I never ever leave the Capitol except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and..oh wait. That's it. I never leave. Le sigh.)
7. Exercise (No, really. I'd started jogging a few weeks ago on Saturday mornings. Then there was the Saturday that it was 10 degrees. Then there was the Saturday after I fell down the stairs banging my back in the worst possible locations and walking was painful. I'm walking a lot though!)
8. Read novels. (Oh books, how I miss you. How I miss a decent story that isn't an academic treatise on the Importance of Democracy.)
9. Read the entire Sunday paper, possibly even at a coffee shop. (Whaaaaa??? A lazy Sunday you say? Impossible!)
10. (related to 9) Not feel guilty about not working on a Sunday. (or a Saturday for that matter. A girl can dream.)


sometimes you just need to laugh

It's been a tough week personally for a number of reasons that I'd prefer not to get into online, but suffice to say that when things are tough, it's good to have friends.

Last night we dined at Napoleon for dear Dora's 28th birthday, then indulged in some decadent chocolate-raspberry cake from Cakelove, and made very silly (some may say inappropriate Valentines). It was fun and hilarious and much-needed.

Tonight, finding myself with some spare time I hopped on the Metro and went to Macy's at Pentagon City to peruse the shoes (since the Macy's two blocks from my office never seems to have anything available in my size. I guess every woman who works downtown and shops at Macy's on *her* lunch hour is also a size 8.5.) I scored with an adorable pair of black ballet flats, which were desperately needed since I literally wore off the soles on my old pair running around Washington last year. What was even better: The sticker said the shoes were on sale for $45. Good deal, right? The clerk rings them up: $21! It was like Christmas! It also felt somewhat like I was getting away with murder. I can't wait to wear my adorable little shoes.

But first we have to get through this week's latest cold snap. Last Wednesday it was 70 degrees! Tonight? Yahoo! Weather says it feels like 15. Spring keeps teasing us but won't actually arrive yet for god knows how long.

In the meantime, I amuse myself by staying indoors and watching moviesand hilarious online videos, both of which I highly recommend.

It's the little things that keep us going. And I'm just going to go remind myself of that right now with a bite of Swiss chocolate. (Thanks, Christie!)


i wrote a thesis and all i got was this lousy t-shirt

Actually, it's a FABULOUS t-shirt, brought to you by the fabulous Katy. I'd give you the link to her blog but she's all private about that.

Incidentally: Garcia is our thesis advisor.

(If your eyesight is as terrible as mine, it reads: When Garcia says jump we ask in how many pages?)


onomatopoeia (and other favorite words from the English language)

Thanks Liz for the inspiration.


Let's make this a work in progress...Your favorites?


according to Yahoo! weather it feels like 10 degrees outside

That would explain why I can't feel my fingers and nose and am still wearing Uggs as I type at my desk.

Also: Calling your professors on the phone is weird. Very weird. That said, however, it was also very helpful. I'm three paragraphs away from an honest-to-goodness abstract! Yippee!

Finally: How had I forgotten the amazingness of dim sum? We went this morning in Rosslyn with a group of 10 mostly Georgetown pals. Total bill (split 10 ways, remember): $106. I love the Chinese.


muuuuuuuuuuuuch better

All it took was one meeting to realize, "Hey! I'm not doing so bad!"

I have my thesis schedule in hand: A chapter every two weeks with revisions in between and since I have a solid draft of my second chapter, I'm already ahead of the curve! This is not to say I'm on cruise control, but I did need some mental massaging. The anticipation was killing me.

As for the job, well, I guess I'm less worried there, too. I'm doing good at the new place and have gotten praise from the New Boss. I wouldn't mind sticking around there for a little while after May 16 (aka D-Day, aka Graduation!), at least until I figure out what's next. I've always managed to land on my feet and I see no reason why that won't happen again.

In other words, I've gotten a much-needed attitude tune-up.

This is all my way of saying: "Don't worry, I'm fine. Still have my head above water."



I started my last semester of graduate school yesterday, but I feel like it's never going to end.

I attended the first class of the last graduate course I'll ever take. But it doesn't feel like I'm leaving the classroom for good.

Tomorrow morning I attend my first-ever thesis colloquium for what will probably be the biggest academic endeavor I ever take on. And yet every time I open thesis.doc, I scan a few pages, freeze up, and close it.

Am I afraid to start because I don't know what's going to happen when I finish? Where will I get a job? What happens after 2:30 p.m. May 16?


eleeza is back home...in the District

My how time flies. A little more than two weeks ago I was giddily hopping my flight to LAX. A week later, Vahan showed up, we spent four whirlwind days seeing family (mine and his), had our first Christmas together, enjoy each other's families, then hopped another plane (a plane delayed by 5 hours -- grrrrrr Northwest) to Michigan, to see his family and attend two weddings, back-to-back, one of which he was in as a groomsman. (Though it would be funny to see Vahan as a ringbearer. All 6 feet 2 inches, and many many pounds of him.)

I wish I could say it was relaxing -- parts of it were -- but mostly it was a lot of fun and fulfilling to see so much family and not nearly enough friends. I did a rather poor job this time around of getting together with Orange County friends, but time was crunched the first week by a pesky final I had to get done.

Now I'm back and started my new job today. I think it's going to be a challenge and a good step forward in what I hope is becoming a very interesting niche in international development. And starting next week: it's back to All Thesis All the Time.

In the meantime, enjoy these silly little elves: