Sunday, May 31, 2020

Two Simple Ways to Fight Racism

Unless you live under a rock of willful ignorance, you've heard that racial strife is boiling over in the United States. I am not an expert on this subject, but there are a lot of opinions flying around online about this. So here's that part of mine that I actually find worth sharing on my blog: the status quo is unacceptable and these injustices cannot be tolerated if we are who we say we are.

There are many people more worth listening to on this subject, but I have seen a lot of lists going around like "75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice" that seem mostly already geared towards people who have some understanding of the problem and want to be a part of organized action. The target audience I'm envisioning for this post is more curious about where to start on a more basic level. Perhaps you're even diving into this subject matter for the very first time. And that's okay because we are all constantly learning and growing. So that's why I wanted to distill my suggestions down to just two simple ways to fight racism. Please note this is not a checklist; this is a starting point. That being said, I hope some readers find it helpful.

1. Listen and Learn

It's exhausting for people who are suffering from a problem to have to explain the problem to others over and over again. That's why it's so helpful for those of us on the outside to be able to take ownership of our own learning, seek out good resources, and listen. Some of my favorite resources include @laylafsaad and @jameelajamilofficial on Instagram. If you prefer to read things, I recommend The Root and particularly this timeline of events that led to what we are seeing right now (note: it does have cursing). One Foreign Service-specific example that I consider a must-read is this heartbreaking article by someone who should have been supported enough to have been able to stay in public service. As one of my colleagues put it, "The State Department lost a great officer due to indifference that could have been based in a number of -isms. Hopefully, this story and our current environment will inform the way we manage and engage with colleagues at post and at FSI and in social media." (And yes, do at some point go and read that "75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice" article even if you find it a bit daunting. It includes more recommended resources for learning, too.)

2. Lift Where You Stand

We have a powerful influence in our families, circles of friends, and communities. Whenever we can, let's stand up for others even if they're different from us. That means not only refusing to laugh at the racist joke but also calling it out directly. That means not scrolling past that social media post where an echo chamber is reinforcing racist stereotypes but engaging in the conversation and providing an alternative point of view not just for the posters but for the many silent others watching. Take those materials and sources you discovered while following step one and share them with people you care about. Join diverse book clubs or start one of your own. If you're a parent or teacher or auntie or uncle, talk to kids about racism and help them consume entertainment featuring diverse characters.

It's that simple and easy to get started. I'm trying to do better and be better, too, so let's make this journey together as a society and as a country. Now, there is surely some subset of readers who will think, "But I thought you were in the Foreign Service? Aren't domestic issues a little outside of your purview?" To whom I offer the following:

  • In the digital age, the foreign/domestic issue divide is to some extent a false dichotomy. Especially as a Public Diplomacy Officer working to improve America's image, influence, and partnerships abroad it's impossible to ignore the effect what's going on in our country has on our effectiveness on the international stage. I highly recommend this article where the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom explores some of the main issues youth in the UK have with the United States (spoiler alert: racism and police brutality are high on the list).
  • I have deviated from this blog's regularly scheduled programming before, when there were outbreaks of violence in Kenya and Charlottesville. I will probably do it again.
  • This is my blog, and I think advocating for what is true and right (even when it's hard) is more important than making everyone comfortable.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or advice in the comments below. Trust me: I'm listening.

Monday, May 25, 2020

(Happy?) Memorial Day

Isn't it interesting that we say "Happy Memorial Day" when we're recognizing a national holiday to honor and remember those service members and families who served and sacrificed for us? I'm grateful for those brave men and women, but it doesn't feel quite right to say the mood of a day like today is simply "happy" when there is a need for solemnity, not as a matter of obedience but of respect.

M and I tried to make our Memorial Weekend and especially Memorial Day special. We visited the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, worked on genealogy and thought about the veterans in both our families, and took some time to reflect quietly over long walks in the beauty of nature at Great Falls Park and in Georgetown. In this post, I thought I would intersperse photos we took this weekend with quotes, poems, or thoughts that I found worth considering on Memorial Day. I hope you get as much out of them as I did.

I'm embarrassed to say I never knew the story behind Taps until this year, but almost everyone will quickly recognize the tune. It was first played in 1862 during the Civil War and has now become our traditional military funeral melody. You can read the heartbreaking story behind it and listen to it played at Arlington National Cemetery here.

Regardless of political leanings, I hope we can all agree that we owe a lot to the sacrifices of our soldiers. Although we can never repay what we owe, we should strive to build a nation worth serving and a world where the horrors of war are lessened as much as possible. Adlai Stevenson II once said, "Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." And on Memorial Day in 1982, Ronald Reagan said, "And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice." (You can read more excerpts from that speech here.)

Many soldiers including some of our loved ones have drawn additional strength from their faith before, during, and after military service. I was struck by this Memorial Day message from Church in 2015 that still resonates today, as well as this linked video about two brothers who struggled with PTSD and addiction after returning from war.

I want to end with a poem called "The Unknown Dead" by Elizabeth Robbins Berry that I liked even as someone who is not a big appreciator of poetry in general. (You can read other Memorial Day poems here.) Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you had a peaceful and sound Memorial Day.

The Unknown Dead by Elizabeth Robbins Berry

Above their rest there is no sound of weeping,
Only the voice of song-birds thrills the air;
Unknown their graves, yet they are in God's keeping,
There are none "missing" from His tender care.

He knows each hallowed mound, and at His pleasure
Marshalls the sentinels of earth and sky;
O'er their repose kind Nature heaps her treasure,
Farmed by soft winds which 'round them gently sigh.

Bravely they laid their all upon the altar,
Counting as naught the sacrifice and pain,
Theirs but to do and die without a falter—
Ours to enjoy the victory and the gain.

They are not lost; that only which was mortal
Lies 'neath the turf o'erarched by Southern skies;
Deathless they wait beyond the heavenly portal,
In that fair land where valor never dies.

In the great heart of coming generations
Their fame shall live, their glory never cease;
Even when comes to all earth's troubled nations
God's perfect gift of universal peace.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Final FSI Korean Test Complete!

I have thoughts, I have advice, and I have feelings to share. But first of all, what a relief to have passed my final Korean test at the Foreign Service Institute (i.e., Diplomat School)! After almost nine months of intensive studying, I feel like a weight has been lifted. Now, I'll be working on maintaining the language skills I've gained so far, but there's definitely a lot less pressure.

Given the pandemic situation, instead of a normal in-person test I was assessed over video conference. Even though the setting was remote, the format of the test was very similar to what it would have been under normal circumstances. The biggest difference was being able to take the reading and speaking tests separately instead of in one sitting. Thankfully, I received the results even sooner than I expected. My final score is: 2+/2+!

I have a lot of conflicting emotions about this score. I did much better on the reading than I expected, but I was disappointed I failed to reach a 3 in speaking after being estimated at a 2+ months ago. At the same time, I only needed a 2/0 to pass so I'm grateful to have that out of the way at least. Maybe I can even try again for a higher score once we make it to Seoul and I spend some time living in a more immersive environment. And although I failed to reach the 10% language incentive pay threshold, I still qualified for a 5% pay bump!

So without violating any non-disclosure agreements, I do have some advice. I feel like I've learned a lot since my first FSI language test in Arabic a few years ago. So I thought I'd share a few things that I found helpful or that I wish I had known earlier in hopes it'll benefit some future FSI language student:

  • Familiarize yourself with the ILR standards. The language scores are based on Interagency Language Roundtable criteria, described in detail here. You can also watch short clips demonstrating the various levels in English. There's an example of where I wanted to be here, and where I currently am here.
  • Do your best to get your head in the game, but accept that (as my dad often said) excrement occurs. For example, in preparation for my reading test I went to bed early the night before, had a nutritious breakfast, and tried not to stress out. Despite my best efforts, though, I ended up having a horrible stress dream where I had to take the test while insects were laying eggs in my ears (gross, I know... I probably read too much science fiction). Then, I accidentally burned my breakfast and set off my smoke alarm. I was way more frazzled than I'd hoped the morning of my test, but I just had to roll with it! I tried to think of it as good preparation for work, where I'm sure I'll someday have to use my language skills when my brain feels completely fried.
  • Be bold. The language test is not a time for shyness; you've got to give them something to evaluate you on, after all! I would err on the side of being talkative and don't be too timid to interrupt the tester if you need to ask a question or clarify something.
  • Practice your self-introduction. The speaking portion of the test always begins with an introduction and small talk, so I always find getting that right helps me build confidence for the rest of the test.
  • Time yourself reading. It's not enough to have good reading comprehension. The reading portion of the test requires you to read fast, so when you're getting closer to your test date I highly recommend giving yourself a limited amount of time to read, summarize, and analyze articles to practice increasing your speed.
  • Try to avoid comparing yourself to your classmates or others. I personally struggle with this, but comparison is not only the thief of joy but it's the mother of a whole lot of unnecessary stress. (Yes, I just made that up... But it's true.)
  • Prepare a one pager with all the vocabulary and expressions you want to memorize for articulating yourself intelligently before the test. I was inspired to do this by my colleague S's excellent one pager specifically for how to discuss economics and statistics in Korean (it's amazing how many words there are for "increase" and "decrease"). I found it really helpful in elevating my ability to have a conversation, so I called it my "Sound Smart Reference Guide". (A snippet of it is the cover photo of this post.)
  • Team up with others. I really benefitted from helpful videos, articles, and tips other Korean students sent me, so I tried to share relevant things with them. We're all in this together.
  • Put things in perspective. Plenty of successful diplomats I look up to have failed language tests. The vast majority of people will not have their career ruined by a single bad language test. Most folks will just take a little more time and then wind up exactly where they are supposed to be anyway. And a few years later, nobody will likely know, remember, or care how many weeks it took you to get that score.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Best of luck to all of my colleagues who are preparing for language tests, and I'm raising a glass (of grapefruit seltzer) to myself and everyone else who is done!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Top Email Newsletters I Recommend

I enjoy using email to stay informed, and I've tried a ton of different free email newsletters over the years. I use emails to stay on top of political and financial news as well as stay connected culturally and digitally with information that I feel adds something to my life. So I thought I'd sum up the newsletters that I've found to be tried and true. In other words, these are the ones I open and read every single time. Most are daily and concern the news, but there are some that are less frequent and more varied on topics. (And of course, you can sign up to receive emails for this blog, too! If you're on a desktop, just submit your email address in the lower right. If you're on a mobile device, just click view web version and then enter your email in the lower right.) Enjoy!

News

  • Vox Daily Sentences: This is a left-of-center summary of the news that covers a fair number of issues. Their reporting is thoughtful and they include information aggregated from other news sources in their newsletter.
  • The Atlantic Daily: I don't read most of The Atlantic in detail, but their newsletter gives me an idea of which longform pieces I actually want to take the time to read. Several of their articles have stuck with me years after I read them.
  • Robinhood Snacks: Robinhood provides succinct, punchy, and interesting finance news digestible even for not-so-economically-inclined readers like me.
  • Stephen Aftergood's Secrecy News: This is a bit of a niche newsletter that doesn't publish that frequently but provides updates in publicly available U.S. government secrecy, intelligence, and transparency policy. I recommend it for folks interested in national security and open government policy.
  • Diplopundit: This is essentially a blog for State Department insiders with a mix of breaking news, gossip, and analysis. I recommend it for folks who work at State who want to keep up with the goings-on of Foggy Bottom.

Spiritual

  • Latter Day Light: This is a short daily devotional with a brief Scripture, Church leader quote, Church history factoid, and usually a one-panel cartoon. I like it because it gives me a brief pause in my day to think about eternal things.
  • The Well Examined Life: This is a blog recently launched by my dear friend E, who is a lawyer by day but an excellent scholar of the Scriptures and religious history in his spare time. I always find his perspectives deeply thought-provoking and insightful, and I hope you will, too.
  • FamilySearch: I'll be the first to admit I'm not the most diligent family history researcher, but I still enjoy the emails from FamilySearch letting me know when there are some records in my family tree I can clean up and reminding me of memories and stories recorded about my ancestors.

Miscellaneous

  • TED-Ed Newsletter: I get about three original animated educational videos per week, and I watch whatever's in the email. The topics include history, literature, science, math, and even riddles, and the animations are beautifully done. I highly recommend this if you're just generally curious and want to learn something outside your wheelhouse.
  • Morgan Hazelwood's Writing Blog: This has great tips and encouragement for the creative writers out there! I heard about this great blog from someone at the Washington Science Fiction Association, and it definitely lived up to the hype. The newsletter is helpful without being overwhelming. Check it out!
  • Blogilates Newsletter: This is the newsletter for YouTube fitness legend Cassey Ho. I originally signed up for this to get the free monthly POP Pilates workout calendars, but I've also grown to love the blog posts and videos about body positivity, fitness, healthy eating, and more.
  • Slate's Dear Prudence: So I confess, I'm addicted to advice columns. I don't always agree with Slate's columnist, Daniel Mallory Ortberg, but I do like to think about the dilemmas posed in the weekly chats and think about how I would advise a friend in that situation. And thinking about those things has increased my understanding and compassion for people going through various hardships and has even helped me comfort my friends in real life more effectively when they're struggling.

Of course, there are some newsletters that I once read but fell by the wayside, but a lot of that is due to personal preference. I cancelled my subscription to theSkimm because they had a few cases of misleading reporting, and when I reached out to them they followed up with a form reply and no corrections. I stopped following Foreign Policy and Politico because I find they publish too many viewpoints too frequently for me to keep up with limited time. With Foreign Affairs and various DC think tank newsletters, I felt their most important content was generally captured in the news or conversations I'm already having with friends. I also used to get a lot of food-related emails and cancelled those because I can pretty much find all the food information I want when I want at my own convenience. Not all of these newsletters are bad, it's just that I don't have the time to read them.

If one or more of the newsletters above interest you, you should give it a shot and see if you like it! You can always unsubscribe later. I've sure enjoyed them a lot. Let me know in the comments if you have a recommendation that I missed; I'm always looking for more!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

It Is Well (with Our Easter)

Happy Easter! We hope yours was as peaceful as ours was. Before the spread of Covid-19, I was planning on participating in a special choral program at Church today. Of course, now that we're social distancing we spent a quiet day at home instead. It felt special in other ways, though.

The day was off to a strong start because my kind friend J sent me a custom recording of her singing one of my favorite hymns, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, with a ukulele accompaniment. Because I couldn't go to Church or take the Sacrament today, I wanted to do something to make it feel like Easter. As part of my daily Scripture study, I've been going through Saints, Volume 2 (a narrative history of the early Church) after recently finishing Saints, Volume 1. Today, though, I made an exception and focused on the Church's #HearHim devotional resources designed especially for Easter. I read Scriptures about the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, revisited talks by Church leaders, listened to hymns, and more. I was particularly moved to learn for the first time the story behind the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul". You can listen to it and learn more about the background here. Taking a few hours to intensively study, ponder, pray, and worship made a huge difference in my personal experience of Easter today.

On a sillier note, I enlisted Marwan in a beloved Easter tradition I had with my sister: Peep Wars/Peep Jousting. We would stick toothpicks in our Peeps marshmallows, make them face each other on a plate, and then pop the whole thing in the microwave to see which Peep stabbed the other first (since marshmallows expand when heated). I can't say it was hugely successful, but we had a good laugh and still ate the Peeps. (I will also say it works a lot better with the bird Peeps that have a wider base than the bunny Peeps we used today.) You can see the setup in the photo above and the results below.

After dinner, M and I went for a pleasant walk in the neighborhood while listening to Reply All, one of our favorite podcasts. It was an amazing episode about investigating a catchy 90s pop song that had somehow been wiped from the Internet. You can listen to it here. Anyway, we enjoyed some scenic views and some encouraging words written in chalk along the path. What a great idea, to write positive things in chalk for people to enjoy and be cheered by when they go outside!

Lastly, my dear friend K generously offered to let us do a contactless pickup of some extra dessert she made! We got some of her scrumptious cake and pashka (a Polish bread traditionally made for Easter) to enjoy at home. And it was super delicious--we dug in as soon as we got back home.

All this time missing things I'm so used to has given me an increased appreciation for just how much I take for granted. At the same time, there was something sweet about the experience of a quiet and relatively solitary Easter experience at home. I'll certainly remember this day, and I'm glad I wrote down what it was like so I can revisit and share it in the future.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Strange Lands: Scifi Reading List

As you could probably tell from my previous post on the African literature book club I joined in Nairobi, I'm a very big fan of community reading and discussion. When we moved back to the DC area for me to learn Korean, I immediately looked for a local book club and found one for science fiction (scifi) with a fantastic name: Strange Lands. (I also later learned this book club is one of many subgroups within this literary Meetup page - definitely check it out if you're looking to get connected with the book scene in Arlington, Virginia!)

Just as I left mini-reviews for the African literature I read, I thought I'd do the same for these scifi books. I think a lot of these will be accessible to both longtime scifi fans and those new to the genre.

  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: I enjoyed this book, but our book club was extremely divided on it. It was unconventional as far as science fiction goes, taking place in an alternate-history 1950s America. It was clear to me the author had done extensive historical and scientific research, which paid off. I also thought the diverse representation was well done, including Jewish people, persons with disabilities, and people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. The book did get a little too ambitious to the point of introducing too many characters who didn't have a chance to be developed more in-depth. (I also didn't like the periodic romance scenes, but that's just a personal preference.) Overall, I would recommend this book because it's an easy read, the main character is someone worth rooting for, and it has the single best depiction of anxiety I've ever seen in a book.
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey: I recommend this book without hesitation. It's a delightful space opera that infuses themes of noir, political intrigue, sociology, and horror quite well. The pacing of the story is some of the best I've read in a long time despite the book's heft. There are eight books in the collection after this one, but don't let that scare you for two reasons: first, the book doesn't end on a cliffhanger so precarious that I felt I had to continue immediately (though everyone insists the book series continues to be as good or even better and I should keep going). Second, there's now a TV show so you can always catch up that way. My biggest qualm was the writing of women (as objects of lust and plot device movers rather than their own agents), but I'm told that gets better in the second book. You could also make the argument that the women are that way because they are filtered through the perspective of the two main characters in the book, both of whom are Problematic Protagonists.
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: The premise of this book is truly unique: a broadcast of alien life is detected, and while governments try to figure out what to do the Catholic Church sends a Jesuit mission into space. I have very complex feelings about this book. The pace can feel a bit slow at the outset and then a little rushed at the end. At the same time, the book's themes of religion and philosophy are so expertly explored through the lens of a plausible future world. I found myself shaken through the whole final section of the book, following the arc of the main character and the impact of his experiences on his ideals and his pursuit of truth.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: I loved this book, but I don't think it would necessarily appeal to general science fiction fans. The science fiction elements felt very light throughout, even though they did undergird the main premise of the book. I would recommend this book to fans of literary fiction or memoir who are open to speculative fiction. I liked the way the recollected stories from youth tied together and didn't want to put the book down. The whole thing is written from the perspective of a narrator reminiscing, and it is equal parts mysterious, unsettling, and heart-wrenching.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab: I wouldn't consider this work science fiction but rather urban fantasy, so I'm not quite sure on how this was chosen for our book club. Regardless, I'm glad it was because I enjoyed the world and the characters so immensely that I hardly cared that the plot was a little cliche. Although it took me a while to get into this book, it turned out to be a true gem. I put my money where my mouth is and actually immediately bought and read the next books in the trilogy because I couldn't wait to let it go just yet. That is extremely rare for me, given that I have a list of hundreds of books already on my Kindle (and mental) wish list. If you like urban fantasy, London, and magic, you'll love this book. (And I liked the second and third books even better.)
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman: I'm going to preface my commentary by saying the author is the protege of Margaret Atwood, and I fully expect her to continue to be an important voice in feminist science fiction. That being said, this book was not my favorite. I really liked the premise: what if we woke up and women had a power that instantly made them the stronger and more dominant sex? At the same time, I didn't like the frame (where the main story was presented as a stylized account of human history), one of the main characters (Allie), and the extensive sexual and physical violence (also see my thoughts on Ursula Le Guin's work below).
  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor: I loved this book! I was so grateful for the African literature-focused book club we had in Nairobi, because through it I understood more of the references in this one. This book has so much going on: aliens, marine biology, mysterious deities, interesting characters, mystical powers, and more. The whole thing is set in Lagos, and even though I've never even been to Nigeria the descriptions just pulled me right into the setting. I highly recommend this one.
  • *BONUS* The Birthday of the World by Ursula Le Guin: So this one's a bonus because I didn't read it in my main book club, but rather I picked it up for a Politics & Prose after-hours class (which I highly recommend). This was my first time reading Le Guin, but I can't say it was fully my cup of tea. I feel a bit uncultured saying this given how common it is in literary science fiction, but stories like these about complicated alien cultures that are very difficult to understand or that reveal information very slowly are a struggle for me. It's a shame because my general preference is for the exact kind of soft science fiction that explores new ways of being, forming relationships, and building societies. I also realized how prudish I am compared to the average reader, because I cringed more than anyone else in my group at the frequent depictions of rape and vulgarity in this short story collection. To be fair, the other participants who had read other works of hers, particularly her famous book The Left Hand of Darkness, seemed to enjoy these short stories more. I'll have to give that one a try next time.
  • *BONUS* The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison: This was also not part of the book club, but M and I read it together and are working on the rest of the series now. So many people have recommended this book to me so many times over the years, and now that I read it I can see why. The story is exciting and engaging, the world is very unique, and I like how it kind of straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction. The characters are complex and well-written, too. I highly recommend this one for any readers who like adventures and are okay with ambiguity. M agrees!

I originally thought this post would be even longer, but I've stopped attending this book club so I can maintain social distancing and help control the spread of Covid-19. M and I are still reading speculative fiction books together while I continue to work on my own novel manuscript. In the meantime, I thought I'd share the above recommendations for anybody else looking for new reading material while stuck at home. Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

#CoronaWriMo: A Silver Lining?

I previously wrote about our Coronacation and experience with social distancing. This time I thought I'd write about one way I'm trying to make the most of this experience: #CoronaWriMo. For those who are active in the #WritingCommunity online, you're probably already familiar with National Novel Writing Month, known as #NaNoWriMo. It takes place every November, and writers around the world resolve to crank out 50,000 words or more to write a novel (really more of a novella) in just that month.

So naturally plenty of folks thought all this time inside would give us a bigger opportunity to write, and the idea of #CoronaWriMo was born. I actually finally crossed the 50,000 word total on my first ever novel draft on only the second day of social distancing, when I'd lacked the motivation to work on it regularly for a long time. My one New Year's Resolution for 2020 was to finish this draft, and this disease might actually help put me over the finish line.

I've learned so much about myself writing a novel for the first time. Foremost, I don't enjoy writing novels in general. I don't experience the same rush and excitement that pushes me to stay up all night working on a short story. Needless to say when I am done with this first draft, I fully expect I'll be putting it down for a while to refocus on my short stories. I have several drafts that need some revision and polishing, but I've neglected them this year while plagued by guilt for not making more progress on my novel.

In case any readers are curious about what I write, it mostly has very little to do with my work. My favorite genre to write in is soft science fiction. The reason I like it is because it's a fun genre for exploring philosophical and moral questions without the baggage that real world people and settings impose on stories. (Or at least you can choose how much baggage you want to keep around in your world.)

So I'll keep plugging away at my science fiction novel draft for now, though I admit I haven't been as diligent or consistent as I would've liked. These really are unprecedented times... So whether you're taking the chance to do something new or you're just trying to survive (I go back and forth depending on the day), I hope you're hanging in there! We all deserve some extra grace right now. And if you're doing #CoronaWriMo or have any other goals while social distancing, feel free to share below.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Going on Coronacation

Like many in the United States, M and I are currently practicing social distancing in response to the threat of pandemic Covid-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. In this post, I want to share why we're doing it, what it looks like for us, and some opportunities to help.

M and I are both healthy and young, so we're not in the high-risk group for Covid-19. At the same time, we're listening closely to the advice of public health specialists, epidemiologists, and medical researchers out there so we can be part of the solution when it comes to protecting vulnerable populations. We have a lot of loved ones who are immunocompromised or older or would have comorbidity with other conditions like high blood pressure or respiratory problems. We also have a lot of friends working in the medical field who are trying to keep their heads above water and help prevent the system from being overwhelmed. We're going to do our best to minimize the risk of spreading the new coronavirus to folks like them, especially now that it seems clear the virus is quite contagious even when the carrier is asymptomatic.

So what are some of the things we're doing to help keep our community safe? These are some of the simple steps we've taken in recent days that might be worth considering:

  • Teleworking (if possible): M's part-time teaching job is already fully remote, and my full-time Korean classes are finally switching to full-telework starting this week. If you can work from home, it's a great way to limit a lot of the exposure risk. At the same time, it's important to recognize not everyone's work is so flexible--M still has to go in for the family business because it's physical work that needs to be done on site.
  • Skipping the gym: I just temporarily froze my gym membership. (If you attend an Orangetheory Fitness, you can do this easily with a phone call and email.) It's simply too easy to contract this disease in such close quarters with lots of circulating air and shared equipment. If you can use one of the many great YouTube channels for home workouts (my favorite is Blogilates) or if you can go for a run in an open space like a wide park, that would be much safer.
  • Limiting large social gatherings: We're staying home from restaurants and parties for now. The more people you're physically near during this time, the riskier it gets. There's obviously a huge spectrum between having a best friend come over to hang out for a little bit (relatively safe) and going to a crowded bar (please don't if you can help it).
  • Reasonably (!) stocking the pantry: The "reasonably" is crucial here--I am not advocating for this mysterious toilet paper obsession that has seemingly spread across our society even faster than the new coronavirus itself. It helps to go to the store only if you need to, and even then it's better if you try to go early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer people there. Grocery delivery might also be a good option for folks. Either way, stocking up on shelf-stable and freezer foods in bulk is a great way to stretch what you have and stay fed while minimizing additional trips out into the public.
  • Keeping the Sabbath at home: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, like many others, has temporarily suspended our usual religious services around the world. Thankfully, I have some wonderful Priesthood holders in my life who are visiting with me on a more individual basis so I can still take the weekly Sacrament. I'm sure this decision isn't easy for any religious leadership, but it will help protect the maximum number of worshippers.
  • Upholding #StopReflectVerify standards: If I see you sharing fake Covid-19 news on social media, I will call you out right away. There are a lot of malicious, opportunistic folks trying to capitalize on the panic. We should all be checking the legitimacy of our sources, confirming when information was published to see if it's up-to-date, and not buying into misinformation marketing campaigns. For example, I saw this fake news doing the rounds earlier: that if you gargle salt water it will completely kill Covid-19 and you'll be safe. This is not only untrue but dangerous. You can gargle salt water and still catch this virus as well as spread it to others. Let's stop, reflect, and verify before we share or comment online.
  • Cutting back on non-urgent volunteering: I usually try and volunteer at a rest home once a week. Needless to say, the residents there all fall within the highest-risk category for this pandemic and I will not be visiting them in the near future. A few friends of mine who usually volunteer in person have taken the opportunity to try and find volunteer opportunities online, which is a fantastic idea.
  • Refraining from travel: We are refraining from travel at this time and are re-evaluating our ability to go on trips we'd planned for the future. Yes, it's frustrating, but the risks outweigh the inconveniences.
  • Maintaining personal hygiene: This is probably the most important one of all. We're continuing to regularly wash our hands correctly and trying not to touch our faces. I'm notoriously bad about touching my face, so I can't promise perfection but I'm trying my best!

So given that life is clearly a bit different right now, what else is worth thinking about as we go through this together? Someone pointed out that volunteers in many areas tend to be older and at higher risk for the worst consequences of Covid-19. So if you are young, healthy, and low-risk, you might want to call a local food pantry or meals on wheels and see if they need help meeting demand right now. Another good idea I saw circulating online was to buy gift cards and generic merchandise like t-shirts from restaurants that are probably struggling right now. Those gift cards can always be redeemed well after the crisis has passed, and it helps businesses with already narrow profit margins weather the storm.

I hope this blog post was helpful or maybe even just resonated with a few readers who are stuck in the same boat. In the meantime, I hope everyone has the chance to catch up on reading, writing, art, memes, or anything else that helps us beat cabin fever during this "Coronacation" in our homes. We'll look forward to the day when everything can go back to normal but prioritize protecting and helping others until then.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

My First Scored FSI Korean Assessment

As most readers of this blog know, I am currently in what's called long-term language training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI, a.k.a. diplomat school). For over six months now, I've been studying Korean full-time. That's about five hours of class a day with two to three hours of studying expected outside of class. The only other time I've ever studied a language this intensively or for this long was back when I did an Arabic immersion in Oman. It's intense, but I feel that having done it once before is making this go-around a lot easier.

We recently also reshuffled the classes, and my new class is a major challenge. There are only three students including me in my class, and we rotate teachers to expose us to a variety of teaching styles and methods. This system has been really useful for me, especially now that I'm in a "harder" class. My classmates seem to absorb information like a sponge, and I'm continually impressed by how diligently they're studying. They really help me stay motivated to do my best and to push myself instead of staying complacent, which brings me to the real subject of this post: my first scored Korean progress assessment.

Last year, we had another progress assessment but we were only provided general feedback and whether we were "on track" or "not on track". From that test, I learned about specific issues I needed to work on going forward. These included (A) my upspeak (i.e., the phenomenon of turning your intonation up at the end of sentences), which I often do even in English when I'm unsure or nervous and (B) my sacrifice of accuracy for speed. I really focused on these weaknesses in the months since, and I'm delighted to say it paid off because I improved on both those counts this time around.

This progress assessment was scored, meaning we were provided with a rough estimate of what the testers (who also happen to be our regular teachers) think we would score if we took the test today. FSI tests are scored on a scale of 0 to 5 based on the on the Interagency Language Roundtable, or ILR guidelines (which you can read more about here). On my final test scheduled in May, I need to receive a score of at least 2 in speaking and 0 in reading (basically, anything above a zero is a nice bonus but not required). On the final test day, we'll be tested in both reading and speaking, but this time we only did the speaking portion.

So, imagine my surprise when I learned I was assessed to already be speaking at a 2+ level in Korean! I was floored for multiple reasons. First of all, I've spent way more time intensively studying Arabic, and yet when I joined the Foreign Service I tested at a 2 for speaking. I certainly didn't expect my Korean score to surpass my Arabic score anytime soon. Second, I know that a 2+ is way closer to a 3 than a 2. Before receiving this estimated score, I never dreamed I'd be able to get a 3 in half the time it usually takes (almost 2 years total). I honestly think it's my new class that has really accelerated my learning lately and brought me up to this level.

When I talked to a friend about my estimated score and how I still had more than two months left of language training before my final test, he encouraged me to go for the 3. He also reminded me that if I do score higher than needed, I'd be eligible for Language Incentive Pay since Korean is a Super Hard Language. (I know it sounds cheesy, but I swear that's the official name of the category of languages!) Basically, to incentivize Foreign Service Officers investing time and energy in these difficult and high-demand languages, the Department of State will provide certain salary percentage pay bumps to those who achieve specific scores. If you're interested, you can read about that in more detail here.

Everyone I've spoken with at FSI seems to have a wildly different language learning experience. A lot of things are language-specific or even teacher-specific, but at the end of the day we're all there to learn what we need to learn to be successful and effective while we serve overseas. I'm really enjoying my time in long-term language, and I hope to make the most of what little time I have left. Even if I end up falling short of the 3 that I want, I'm excited just to try, do my best, and make sure to appreciate this precious opportunity.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

How to Retain a Language

A lot of diplomats study multiple languages over the course of their careers. Unless you achieve complete fluency, though, maintaining proficiency in any language is hard work. So what's the difference between someone who can pass a language test but rapidly loses what they learned and someone who becomes a true polyglot?

I consider myself an aspiring polyglot, so I've spent some time exploring what helps make a language truly stick. Since my brain typically seems to handle only English and one other language at a time, I currently struggle most with switching between foreign languages in the moment. Although I'm certainly a work in progress, I have discovered some strategies that have helped me retain conversational ability in previously studied languages. I've summarized these below:

  • Attend meetups: You can't beat practicing with native speakers in real-life, so I recommend attending meetups for the foreign languages you speak. You can search for foreign language meetups here, or check your local library to see if they have a conversation group available. If you're in the DC area, I also recommend you take a look at Conversational DC here.
  • Study one language intensively at a time: It's very confusing to try and start from scratch in multiple languages at once. I recommend focusing on one language at a time until you reach a conversational level. Then, if you want to study another language you can continue to maintain your level in the other language(s) more easily than if you were still at a beginner level.
  • Memorize how to clarify in each language: It's so much easier to stay in the zone of each language if you minimize the number of times you need to resort to English or any other language when you get stuck. It's helpful to be able to ask what a word means, ask someone to please repeat what they just said, or admit that you didn't quite understand in the same language you're using at the time.
  • Know language-specific fillers: For the same reason, it's helpful to be strict with yourself about using the correct filler words for the language you're practicing. The moment I say "um," my brain already starts shifting back to English. I've also definitely said "yani" (يعني) in Korean class, and it shifted my brain right over into Arabic.
  • Practice with other polyglots or in multilingual settings: The more you practice switching back and forth between foreign languages, the easier it gets. Something that really helped me with this was to memorize a few stock sentences of introduction for myself in every language I want to practice. That way, I can immediately say those few memorized phrases and usually by the time I'm done introducing myself my brain has successfully shifted into the correct language.
  • Mix up your flashcards: If you've studied multiple languages, chances are you have flashcards or study materials for all of them. When you quiz yourself, mix them up for an additional challenge. I also find it helpful to see a word on a flashcard in one language and then to try and think of it in all the other languages I know. If I can't think of how to say it in a specific language and I think I'll use it often enough that I'd want to know, I'll check a dictionary. (And of course, I'm going to plug my favorite flashcard app I've been using for years: Anki.)

I hope this advice has been helpful to the readers of this blog, and please let me know in the comments if you have any additional tips I missed. Goodbye! 안녕히 계세요! مع السلامة! Kwa heri! Au revoir!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

8 Steps to Start Learning Korean for Free

So you think you might want to learn Korean? Korean has so little in common with English that it can be really hard for an English learner to figure out where to start. I wrote this post as a helpful guide for a true beginner to learn about some of the free resources available online to help them discover this beautiful and fun language!

I'm not going to dwell on my beloved free flashcard app Anki, because I already sang its praises for virtually all languages in a previous post. You can just assume that I recommend Anki for pretty much anything. I will say that the Korean Vocabulary and Korean Grammar Sentences pre-built flashcard decks by Evita are excellent and include high-quality audio recordings. In general, I was surprised by how many Anki Korean shared decks there are.

So without further ado, here are the eight steps I recommend to start learning Korean for free online:

  1. Learn Hangul/Hangeul: So, the good news is Korean has an alphabet made up of letters, just like English does (as opposed to the thousands of characters you would have to learn for, say, Chinese). I highly recommend starting with Ryan Estrada's excellent graphic here, which provides a simplified overview and makes the whole thing way less intimidating. Then, I recommend watching videos on YouTube to get used to practicing and hearing the sounds. If you prefer something a little more interactive, you can try this gorgeous Let's Learn Hangul site here. It looks excellent, but I haven't played it all the way through so I can't promise a paywall will never pop up before you complete it. There are also multiple Anki shared decks for the Korean alphabet, so really there are plenty of free resources for this step.
  2. Dive Deeper on Pronunciation Rules: Although Korean is a phonetic language, meaning each letter makes a specific sound, there are certain placements or combinations of letters that might lead a sound to change. Thankfully, these changes are generally governed by consistent and common rules so they can be learned fairly easily. You can watch a great video summarizing the Korean alphabet and pronunciation rules here. Another video summarizes the letter names and pronunciation rules for badchim (받침, the consonant at the end of some syllable blocks) here. (You can go into more detail on badchim here.) You can also find a simple overview of other pronunciation rules written out here, and a much more extensive list of examples by character with audio files here.
  3. Get Basic Sentence Structure Down: Sentence structures in Korean are so different from those in English. In Korean, the sentence ends with the verb or adjective (also known as a descriptive verb). Moreover, the subject can drop if it's obvious to the listener and speaker what or who it is. For a well-done and simplified intro on sentence structure, you can start on this great resource with explanations and example sentences here. Once you've reviewed that, there's a video that goes into some of the cultural connections to the language structure and provides more examples here.
  4. Build Exposure on Duolingo: I recommend this as step four because I don't think Duolingo is great for learning Hangeul and it's much more effective once you've at least seen the basic Korean sentence. You should be able to test out of those Hangeul lessons right away if you just quickly familiarize yourself with the official Korean romanization rules, available in a handy chart here. Doing Duolingo every day with the volume turned up will help build vocabulary and gain exposure to more types of sentences, and I think Korean Duolingo is built fairly well relative to other languages.
  5. Supplement with TTMIK: TTMIK (Talk to Me in Korean) sells lesson content but also provides a wealth of videos for free on YouTube here. When I have a niche question about what the difference is between two phrases in Korean that seem similar, or why something is pronounced differently than expected, or how to say particular holiday greetings I always check TTMIK's YouTube channel first because chances are they already have a relevant video. I have another friend who swears by their dictation practices for improving listening, and I've used a number of their vocabulary builder videos to improve my speaking. This is a treasure trove of information for Korean learners at all levels.
  6. Practice Your Level: Now that you have the basics down, it's time to practice more at your level. This is where I highly recommend the DLIFLC (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center) GLOSS (Global Language Online Support System) here. (Yes, they really love their acronyms!) They provide an impressive range of listening and reading practice lessons with grammar, vocabulary, videos, and more. They're a true challenge, so you should start at level one and only move up when you feel ready.
  7. Try Some News: Full Korean newspapers are notoriously difficult to read and full of idiomatic expressions and sentence endings you wouldn't see elsewhere. This is where the JoongAng Daily bilingual Korean-English column comes in real handy. It's not a direct translation, but the Korean article is much easier to follow once you know the gist from the English one. As you become more advanced, you can switch to starting with the Korean article without looking at any of the English and seeing how much you can understand and figure out before confirming. Check it out here.
  8. Reference a Context Dictionary: Korean and English are not in the same language family, so you can bet that a lot of words don't work in direct translation or carry many different meanings and nuances. As you continue to study Korean, I highly recommend building the habit of using a Korean-English and English-Korean dictionary with context, meaning when you look up words it will give you example sentences from real, verified translations. My favorite is the Naver Dictionary, which you can use on the web or via mobile app. (I use both.) Naver is almost like the Google of Korea, and they also have plenty of other materials you can use to practice, like news articles.

Obviously, everyone's language learning style and preferences are different. But if you're looking to start learning Korean without spending a lot of money on expensive classes, I hope this post is a good starting point. Please let me know in the comments below if I missed any other great tools for beginning Korean learners, and happy studying!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Happy (Korean) New Year!

Did you know Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year, called 설날 (Seollal)? We commemorated what is usually a multi-day affair with a special class party for students, teachers, and even a few guests from the Foreign Service Institute (FSI, or Diplomat School) administration.

As always, we ate delicious Korean food (한식, Hansik), but we also got to try on various kinds of traditional clothes known as 한복 (Hanbok). I wrote about wearing Hanbok in a previous post, but this time I got to try on some ceremonial wedding Hanbok. Unfortunately, M wasn't there, so I pretended to marry three other classmates who were trying on the groom Hanbok and posed for pictures with me in my bride outfit. It was a lot of fun, though I will say the clothes suited some of the students more than others.

There was even a small amount of traditional alcohol for everyone to enjoy! (Thankfully, my friend R was happy to take my share of alcohol.) We toasted to the new year, good health, and long lives for everyone present. As we say for "Cheers!" in Korean: 건배 (Geonbae)!

Lastly, we played 윷 놀이 (Yut Nori), a competitive traditional game where you passionately toss sticks to determine how to move pieces representing horses on a game board. You keep playing until you make it the whole way around, and you can catch and bump opponents' pieces back to the beginning. The closest game I could think of in American culture is Sorry!. I got so into it that I forgot to take any action shots while we were playing. But thanks to the stick-tossing skills of my teammates (and possibly some weighted sticks that rigged good throws) we won! The teachers gave us special prizes and cheered us on, and it was wonderful to revisit a game I haven't played since my own childhood.

새해 복 많이 바드세요! We're wishing all our readers many blessings in the new year! Thanks as always for reading.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Duolingo: Lessons Learned after Three Trees and Beyond

If you aren't already being nagged by the little green bird hundreds of millions of users like me affectionally know as Duo, then you might not be familiar with the incredibly popular language learning app Duolingo. Duolingo offers 94 free courses in 23 different languages. What's unique about the app is that it gamifies the language learning process. By taking language lessons, you receive points. If you use the app every day, you can maintain your streak. You can even compete with other users in leagues.

I have spent a lot of time on the Duolingo app myself over the years. Through it, I've studied 6 languages for a total of 21,776 points, known as XP. I have completed the trees (meaning all of the available lessons at least once), in three of those languages: Arabic, French, and Korean. In all that time, I think I've learned a few things, so I thought I would share them with any readers out there who may use or be thinking of using this free and easy language learning tool:

  • Not all languages on Duolingo are created equal. I found the Arabic tree in particular to be quite weak and low-level, while French is extremely detailed and well-developed.
  • You can lose a trophy even after you complete a tree! After you complete a language tree, you get a special golden trophy for that language. I did this for French a long time ago, but when they did a major update and added more lessons I lost my coveted trophy! The worst part was, there was no way to test out of any of the added portions. So now I am painstakingly going through all the French lessons again so I can get my trophy back. I'm still bitter about this.
  • I find the lessons best for intermediate learners to maintain. I think starting Duolingo as a true beginner is hard, especially in languages like Korean and Arabic with a different alphabet. Very advanced learners might find most of the lessons too easy, so I recommend it most for learners who have had just some basic education in the language. It also works well for those of us who need a refresher on a language not used often or recently.
  • If you're competitive, the leagues can be a major motivator. I am amazed at how much time people have to spend on Duolingo when I see the high scores of the leagues I'm in, but then again they always push me to do more and more to stay in the upper ranks myself.
  • There's no correct number of languages to study. I've seen users start a ton of languages or go all in on one language for years and years. I'm clearly somewhere in between, but I think it all depends on your learning goals. I will say I've never seen someone succeed at learning multiple new languages at the exact same time.
  • It's totally worth submitting corrections. A lot of my corrections have been accepted when I get a question wrong but feel that my answer should have been accepted (just tap the flag icon when it says you got an answer wrong). They've been pretty quick to respond in multiple languages, so I think they're pretty agile with user suggestions like those.
  • The app is better for vocabulary than grammar. The app generates unexpected sentences (like the one from the screenshot at the top of this post) and does a good combination of exercise types to help you retain vocabulary, but I find it a bit lacking in grammar explanations. Other apps like Mango have great grammar explanations, but they're not free so it is what it is.
  • Lingots have become useless. The in-game currency of lingots used to be valuable, but now inflation is so high they're pretty useless. If you do just a small amount of Duolingo here and there, you'll still have enough lingots to buy whatever you want.

So what's been your experience with Duolingo? Love it or hate it? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and happy language learning!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Tesla Model 3 Review at 10,000 Miles

After exactly five months, we just reached 10,000 miles with our Tesla Model 3. Every mile has been amazing.

We picked up our Tesla the day after we returned from Kenya. We ordered it while still overseas and requested a delivery date the week we returned, which worked out perfectly. Tesla does not haggle on pricing, so every vehicle is purchased through the website even if you go to a showroom in person. There was an option either to have the car delivered to our address or to pick it up from a service center, but I read that it's best to choose the service center in case there are any minor defects that can be resolved on the spot. The delivery specialist at the Tysons Corner service center had us fill out some basic paperwork, and we carefully checked over the car for any flaws. There was some minor residue from shipping that they cleaned off immediately, but there was also a noticeable misalignment where the top glass met the windshield which we scheduled to be fixed at a later time. We collected our key cards (there are no traditional keys; you normally use your phone and have the key cards as a backup) and off we went.

Driving a Tesla is unlike anything else. Since there are no gears to shift, all of the power is available the moment you press the accelerator—and there is no shortage of power. The Model 3 currently comes in three variations, including the low-end Standard Range Plus RWD (250mi, 5.3s 0-60), up to the high-end Performance AWD version (310mi, 3.2s 0-60). We choose the intermediate option, the Long Range AWD which gets 322 miles of range and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4s. (N is reminded of the specs everytime we are at the front of the line at a stop light.) When you do have to slow down, you almost never need to move your foot. The electric motors of the car will use friction not only to slow down the car, but also charge the battery at the same time. This is referred to as regenerative braking. It's called one-pedal driving since you only have to manipulate the accelerator both to speed up and slow down, and you'll never want to go back to two pedals after you get used to it.

Even if you are not interested in the performance aspects or do not like driving at all, a Tesla is still the best vehicle you can buy. Tesla's full-featured autopilot is years ahead of any other manufacturer's, and it makes even stop-and-go traffic manageable. It uses eight cameras and various sensors to recognize the entire environment and drive accordingly. Also, since the Tesla has few moving parts, there is practically no scheduled maintenance. Other than tires and windshield wipers, which need to be periodically replaced on any car, there are only a few things to be checked every few years. Even the brake pads rarely get replaced due to the regenerative braking. It's expected that most Teslas will last for over a million miles. In the case of something unexpected, the car tells you exactly the problem on the screen; it does not just display a small "check engine" light that leaves you wondering what is wrong.

Many people dismiss full-electric vehicles because they are worried about running out of charge or not being able to drive long distances. However, neither of these are an issue with a Tesla. Besides the fact that an electric vehicle will travel much further on the same amount of energy than a internal combustion engine (ICE) car, it also provides highly accurate estimates of how much charge you'll have remaining when you reach your destination—unlike an ICE vehicle where you have to guess how much fuel you'll use and have remaining. Typically you should have a way to plug in the car at your home, and most people charging overnight will easily recoup the electricity used for their normal commute. But in addition to home charging, there are also thousands of public chargers scattered around. These are usually located at businesses that use the chargers as a way to bring in more customers, many of which are free while others will charge a minimal rate. We happen to have a free charger in our apartment building's garage, so driving our car is virtually free.

For people like us who like road trips, Tesla has built the most extensive network of fast chargers (called Superchargers) across the country. You can travel anywhere in the U.S. just by using the supercharger network. You typically only need to wait 15-20 minutes to charge enough to get to your next stop: just enough time to stretch your legs, get something to eat (most superchargers are at shopping centers or convenience stores), watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix (or Hulu, YouTube, Twitch, etc.) with the 15" screen and amazing sound system, or play a video game (including Stardew Valley, Cuphead, Beach Buggy Racing, and multiple board and arcade games). Tesla also makes the highway hours more enjoyable, with autopilot doing most of the driving, and Caraoke providing entertainment for the passengers. We have taken three long trips so far (2400mi, $50 / 1300mi, $50 / 600mi, $20) and they were all the best times on the road that we have had.

One of the best parts of having a Tesla is how often they get over-the-air updates. In the five months that we have had the car, we have received six updates. Two of them have been "bug fix" updates, but all the others have included new features, including multiple entertainment options, a 5% performance increase (yes, the car is now faster than when we bought it), and improvements to the security system (four of the cameras constantly monitor all sides of the car and record if anything gets nearby). Tesla also takes feedback from users, so popular feature requests can actually be implemented within months. This is one reason why Tesla does not really use model years, since a car bought years ago can have the same features and functionality of a car bought today. You can go to bed one night and wake up in the morning with a car that still feels brand new.

If there is anything bad to say about Tesla, it would be that their customer service can be hit or miss. Unfortunately for those of us in Northern Virginia, we normally have to deal with the Tysons Corner service center, which has to be one of the worst service centers in the country, both with communication and workmanship. However, Tesla also has Mobile Service, which can come to your location to take care of most small issues, such as replacing a damaged or faulty part, and for larger issues we can drive to Richmond, which has one of the best service centers around. Luckily you rarely ever need service, but hopefully Tesla is able to standardize their service level at all locations in the future.

Sadly we will not be able to take our Tesla with us when we move to Seoul in July, but we plan to enjoy every minute of driving until then. If you have any questions about our experience or you plan to buy a Tesla and want a referral code for a free 1,000 miles of supercharging, please post in the comments below.