My husband and I arrived in Washington, D.C. Monday. We have a grand view from our hotel room window – the National Cathedral is stunning at sunset! We hope to visit it sometime before returning home.
Our first action as tourists (other than prerequisite checking in…tipping the very helpful bellman… unpacking) was a stroll up to the National Zoo. From the conference hotel, it is a 3 to 4 block walk to the zoo’s entrance. The pandas all seemed to be eating, or sleeping. A new elephant habitat is under construction. Good seeing how huge and natural looking it will be. Although there’s a cost for parking, like many other national sites in D.C. the zoo itself is free to visitors. Quite pleasant for strolling.
Tuesday, 8 am. Kiss of Death met in the lobby for the annual pre-conference tour. I enjoyed saying “Hi!” to fellow WisRWA member, Laura Iding. Also met other KOD members I knew mainly by name from the loop. We boarded. On our way to the first stop, our driver treated us to a drive-by tour of some of Washington’s many memorials.
At the U. S. Department of State, we were greeted with courtesy and security then ushered into the Loy Henderson Auditorium. The next three hours we learned about diplomats, foreign service, and counter-terroism. Director of the Foreign Press Center, Gordon Duguid, gave a great Overview of the Department Mission and Function. Michelle Bernier-Toth, Director of Overseas Citizen Services and Crisis Management presented a lively discussion about Overseas Citizen Servies. The Deputy Coordinator for Programs and Policy, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, concluded with a terrific talk on U.S. Counterterroism Efforts. They all highlighted the morning with lively anecdotes while answering many of KOD’s authors’ questions.
We drove south to the National Abortoreum to enjoy a brief box lunch and a little more chatting with fellow writers under the shade in a serene setting.
The United States Postal Inspection Service was our afternoon destination. We were met at the door and ushered in like honored guests. A team of at least twelve Postal Inspectors greeted us with agendas, personalized name tags, and cold drinks. An enthusiastic introduction was followed by a dynamic presentation by the Team Leader on the Anthrax Investigation. After catching our breath, our large group was broken up into groups of 12 or so and rotated through five breakout sessions on topics that included Mail Fraud, Mail Theft, and Child Exploitation, among others. I was awed not only by the Inspectors’ excitement in their jobs, but also the breadth of their knowledge. They seemed genuinely excited to share their passion with us. Lots of heroes in that group! 🙂
For a few years I’ve heard about the superb quality of the Kiss of Death Pre-Conference tours but have never been able to attend one. Today I experienced this tour first hand. The word “Wow!” falls short. Thanks to the U.S. State Department and to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Finally, my sincere appreciation to the organizers of this year’s event – Nina Bruhns and Debbi Ward. Thank you, ladies! ∞