Cherry Blossom Kite Festival 2017

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It’s that time of the year in Washington, D.C., when tree branches puff a pink cloud. It’s a special time of the year that signals spring- so special that a festival was created around the occasion- The Cherry Blossom Festival.

One of the activities lined up each year is the kite festival, which I wasn’t aware of, until my roommate/landlady told me about it a few days earlier. I usually just go to the Tidal Basin, and gush about the flowers for the rest of the year.

Back in late March, I attended a one-day workshop to learn the basics of smartphone filmmaking offered by Docs in Progress, a non-profit that promotes documentary filmmaking based in Silver Spring, Maryland. What better way to put my budding (no pun intended) filmmaking talent to good use by shooting a fun event like the kite festival held last Saturday. And here’s the result. It’s not worthy of an Oscar, but at least a like or retweet or two. Enjoy!

 

Adulting advice from a book author

Tips on how to get your act together from a writer who has been there and done that

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When I was in grade school, I envied my other classmates who were better off than my family. My brother and I studied in an exclusive school for boys in grade school, where many of my classmates came from well-off families. Our blue and white school uniform did not disguise the Game Boy and Nike Air Max other students brought to school. It was easy to be better off compared to our family. My parents only earned enough to meet our day-to-day needs. But there were even times they had to borrow and pool money to pay for our tuition so the school would allow us to take the quarterly periodic tests. I fantasized of being born into a different, well-off family (which reminds me of this meme). I imagined being chauffeured to and from school (we got our first family car when I was 23). During Christmas breaks, I also wanted to have travel plans, wore thick sweaters, and visit Disneyland. But the closest I got to my dreams was a visit to a local theme park with questionable safety standards and the cold AC of a shopping mall.

You’d think I would outgrow this feeling of envy as I got older, but my wants and wishes turned more elaborate yet more professional. My mom was a public school teacher, and I wished she had the right connections to set me up for any well-paying job. My father had left the country. What if they were doctors and lawyers, so choosing a career would have been as easy as taking over their practice? They let me take up a major in college that no one among us knew of the future career odds and options. I was an early version of a free-range kid out of necessity, because they didn’t have the means to put up that fence that could give me a sheltered life.

I didn’t have anyone to turn to, and neither knew the right questions much less have the gumption to ask. Unlike meals I’ve had with other families, eating on the dining table was an act of nutrition and not discussion.

When I went to grad school in my early 20’s, I realized all these fantasies and what-ifs were just that- unhealthy and irrelevant ruminations that stem from comparing my life with that of others. It’s a waste of time and energy, better harnessed for working with what my parents have been able to provide, and carving my own niche in life. We always had food on the table and a roof over my head. And I’m forever grateful for that. They’re easy for me to say now in hindsight. But who’s supposed to teach us these nuggets of wisdom when we’re young? From whom, and how can we learn them sooner rather than later?

Margaux Bergen in her first book “Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me” could be that person. She addresses these thorny life questions, and so much more. I met her in person during her book reading and signing last Tuesday at the Barnes & Noble in Brookland. She read excerpts from her book, which dishes out lessons on school, jobs, and relationships. The book is difficult to categorize given its breadth of topic. It’s self-help, parenting, career advice, and memoir all rolled into one. The book, written over a span of ten years, was originally addressed to her daughter when she went to college, which explains the crossover themes of the book, and the tender prose and intimate voice in which it is written.

I arrived early at the book event and got the chance to chat with the Margaux. We talked a bit about her book, our love for writing, and careers. I felt an affinity for her when I learned that at one point she also worked for the World Bank, where where I work now as a consultant. Showing motherly concern, she gave me unsolicited and simple advice on how to get a staff position.

I bought a copy of Margaux’s book that I picked up right off the display showcase beside her. I asked her to sign and address the book to a friend who has been asking me for career tips, and worrying about not finding a job once she finishes grad school next year. She comes from a humble background, has paved her own career path, and is now studying on a scholarship here in the US. Hopefully she benefits a lot from the book, beyond the advice I’ve been giving her born mainly out of my own experience and decisions, some of which have not necessarily been the best I have made. I plan to give it to her as a Christmas present, although I could use one for myself. I hope she won’t notice the creased spine and the broken-in look of its edges by the time she reads it.

Returning to live in Washington, D.C.

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The National Mall taken from the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

I’m more than a month into juggling two jobs as a consultant, one at my old office doing some web and comms work, and another with the Climate Investment Funds on climate change and organizational learning. It’s amazing how things fell into place, how one lunch led to two coffee meetings, and then two contracts a couple of months later. I had an open plan when I came to the US- reconnect with family and friends, attend a writing workshop, and meet some old colleagues. If nothing came up in the work front, I was ready to pack and move on. But I only realized how much I missed the District as soon as I came back, and thought it would be nice to stay here for a while and find something to do.

“How long have you been in DC?” I often get asked when I reveal I’m not originally from the area, to which I have prepared a spiel of my DC 1.0 circa 20112013, and how I ended up again in the East Coast this time around. This bitemporal experience makes me appreciate this city all the more. I now look at the city with fresh eyes looking with delight at my old haunts, curiosity with new shops and buildings, and nostalgia with those that have closed down. Many of my fellow former JPAs have left, moving on to do their PhDs, or back home. People, just as with places, have come and gone.

Before I lived in Foggy Bottom steps from the World Bank and near the White House during DC 1.0, I’ve now moved farther to a friend’s house in the North East about half an hour’s commute downtown (that is, if the Metro is working- I’m looking at you, Red Line). But I get to work from home, or make that work from Brookland, where there are cafes and more dining options. I’ve established a daily routine: I wake up early and start working, walk to the hip neighborhood around 10 or 11 in the morning to grab an early lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon at a café at a bookstore, then try to be back home before it gets dark. Weekends are spent on more walking and exploring other nearby neighborhoods or towns.

I make it sound like I’ve got this adulting all sorted out. Yes and no, depending on how you define “sorted out”. My work is far from stable and cushy contrary to how others may perceive it. And that’s fine. With these social and professional changes also come personal ones, mostly on realizing what matters to me: going for long walks, exploring interesting neighborhoods, keeping in touch with family and friends, and defining and redefining personal values and lifestyles. Whereas I only used to treat Washington DC as the city where I lived to work, it has become a more meaningful place where I live to live.

Woah, that’s a lot of introspection. Something to get us back to reality: Donald Trump just got elected President of the United States of America.

Updates on the new World Bank Group Analyst Program

World BankA few readers of my blog have asked me (here and here) how the World Bank Junior Professional Associate (JPA) interview process worked. Unfortunately I have no one standard answer because there was not one standard process when it was still existed. Most applicants submitted their application to a database, while others like myself sent it directly to the hiring unit as the job advertisement instructed. There was also no official webpage where once can find current JPA openings.

If the job advertisement and hiring process of the JPA program was an opaque blackbox many dared to break but with only a few who have succeeded to do so, the WBG Analyst Program (AP) process is perhaps an attempt to overhaul and improve the professional programs aimed at younger people (because there is also the Young Professionals Program) who want to gain experience at the Washington-based development institution.

So, is the AP selection process any better, you might ask. I perused the AP website, and also got a tip on the recruitment process so far, which is fairly straightforward:

  1. January to March: Submission of applications
  2. End of March: Selection committee contacts candidates to submit additional information (what information). Here’s the added bit: the World Bank also administered a battery of standard tests consisting of a personality test, logical reasoning, and mathematical deduction. Now that is new. Others who were not selected will receive an email stating so. 
  3. April to May (planned)/on-going: Hiring unit stream conducts interviews
  4. June (planned): Job offer
  5. September (planned): Welcome to Washington, DC!
  6. For the next three years: Happy hours!

The World Bank is a couple of months behind schedule based on the timeline on their website. By now, they should have made job offers already. However, some departments are still setting up interviews, while others are still putting together their shortlists. Whether the first cohort will march down 1818 H St., NW in Washington DC come September is yet to be seen. For now, congratulations in advance to those who have gone as far as the second round of selection, and I wish you all the best.

Do you have other information or questions on the WBG Analyst Program? Let us know in the comments, or drop me a message.

Attending the AEA Conference 2013

From tomorrow until Saturday (October 19), I’ll be attending the 27th Annual Evaluation Conference 2013 organized by the American Evaluation Association in Washington DC. To prepare I’ve been perusing the conference program which has over 875 sessions to choose from. But I will most likely use this SEA Change cheat sheet to attend environment and climate change-related presentations. I’ve also been updating my CV that I will give away to potential employers. The hunt continues.

If you cannot attend in-person and want to stay up-to-date with the goings-on in the conference, follow me via Twitter @jadz, or monitor #eval13. Hit me up if you’re attending the conference. See you there!

Landing in Lima

I did not make the move to New York. In the end it’s Plan B.2. “Just find the cheapest flight”, nudged a Colombian friend from graduate school who now works in Lima. Three days later at 4:00 in the morning, I found myself searching for flights. And a week later I found myself in Peru.

Almost three weeks had passed since my last day at work and I was still stuck in Washington DC. In between those three weeks, I became savvy with Craigslist postings to sell whatever furniture my studio apartment managed to host: a full bed ($50) and a solid metal shelf ($20). Earlier I gave away two wicker chairs in exchange for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. For more than a week I slept on an air mattress lent by another friend. A sofa bed ($40) also went quick to the bedroom of a former officemate, which came with free lifting service. The last two pieces furniture that lent a semblance of ‘home’ were a table and an office chair (free). When a neighbor bought the table ($15), I knew was really time to go. I spent the last day packing and cleaning in my Foggy Bottom apartment, which I called home for almost two years. Then a friend put me up in his place in a neighborhood aptly called Friendship Heights.

There was no grand farewell party. I got a couple of dinner treats, which I tentatively accepted. Farewell parties, it seems, are only for occasions when one is forever banished and never to return again. Will this trip be just a two-month stint, or will I stay for an indefinite period? Will I move to another place after some time? I’ll be treating this trip like a learning holiday at the very least.

I’m already in Lima. Still, I’m living out of a suitcase as I move from one apartment to another as I find an ideal living arrangement, my itinerant start seeming like a microcosm of the past years. I’ve stayed in the bohemian district of Barranco, upscale side of Miraflores, and might go back for a week to Barranco only to leave again for Miraflores the next. On my second day of stay in the city, I met a girl who is a fellow Filipino. And another Filipino the other day. I’ve been invited to a Peruvian family dinner, and saw a glimpse of a LImeno Friday night. All these after only having been in Lima for ten days.

I’m not really livin’ la vida loca. Or maybe I am in a more literal sense. Packing my bags and hopping on a plane to leave behind Washington DC and fly to a part of the world I’ve never been to actually come quite close.

The morning after hurricane Sandy (photos)

A man cleans the driveway with pressurized water while still raining (this is wrong on so many levels!).
Autumn leaves scattered on the sidewalk
Sandy Express stopped by the District
Capital bike-scare
Newspaper boxes bowed down to Sandy’s wrath
Broken branches, twigs and leaves litter the streets of Washington DC