Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Year in Review

(now with corrected pictures)
It's hard to believe 2011 is already coming to a close. It's crazy to think that in the last year I've gone from being a poorly paid intern at a DC non-profit to U.S. Diplomat in Sudan. I think that's pretty good progress for one year, don't you? So here's a quick round-up of the excitement i've had over the past 12 months:

January: Interning in DC, dreaming of joining the foreign service, and studying Arabic to get some bonus points on the register.

February: A-100 invite! Flipping out excited. Time to move into DC, buy some suits, and finish up my job at NDI.

March: Quick vacation to Guatemala, then started my foreign service career with the amazing, vibrant 160th. In awe at all of my new colleagues, as we sit through lectures, practice speeches, and fantasize over the bid list.

April: It's Sudan! A-100 flew by, and now I know that I'm off to Khartoum for the next two years.

May: Pol/Econ training was great- because I actually had no idea what my job entailed before then. Starting to get really excited about doing political work in Sudan.

June: More training, first vibrant colleagues jet off, and I'm busy applying for my black passport and visa. Getting to spend lots of time with my amazing 160th friends and colleagues.

July: My departure date gets postponed, a learn about the wonders of consular work, and hear great updates from my 160th friend that already made it to Khartoum.

August: Embassy Khartoum, I have arrived! Khartoum is way better than I expected, and I jump right into pol and consular work.

September: I get to be acting consular chief for two weeks and manage to not cause any international incident. Really made me appreciate the amazing local staff we have at the embassy here.

October: I'm settling in to work, and get to go on my first trip to Darfur! Month ended with an excellent halloween party.

November: Vacation season is here, so off to Egypt for a week, then Dubai for Thanksgiving. Its refreshing to get a change of scenery and a frapuccino. The marine ball was a big success and fun to celebrate with our small corps of MSGs.

December: Work is in full gear, with visitors, meetings, and trips fulling up the schedule. I get to go to Juba, South Sudan for work and visit our colleagues at the newest US Embassy. Although people are heading off for vacation, we're just as busy as ever here- the joy and downfall of working at a high-priority post.

So all in all, a pretty darn amazing year. Here's hoping 2012 is just as great!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cop out post: Being American Abroad

I'm clearly a failed blogger.
In brief, life is good, job is interesting, can't complain.

I really liked this post by Alex over at travel orders. Off on my first business trip in the morning and too busy to write anything insightful, so I'll just leave you with the link:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Full Circle

Nineteen months after I took the first step to becoming an FSO, I am now going to be the proctor tomorrow for the very same Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) tomorrow. It's a fun feeling to get to be on the other side of the table, and watch as some more people start their journey to the Foreign Service. Hoping that Embassy Khartoum has a strong showing tomorrow.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today we had a short memorial service at the embassy.

With such a young embassy, many of us grew up, and most of us started our careers  after 9/11.

I wonder if I would still be doing this if it weren't for that day. If I would have developed any interest in U.S. foreign policy.

It was nice to be surrounded today by so many people dedicated to the country, so many who will put themselves in harms way in order to serve. Today I'm just proud to be American and to be a representative of my country.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

3.5 weeks in Khartoum

Hello! I'm here! Remember me?

After almost 4 weeks in Khartoum, and a particularly crazy day today, I figured it was time for an update. It's hard to write one entry covering everything here so far, but I'll do my best to give a quick recap.

Colleagues (in Bathing Suits)

My very first evening here I saw many of my colleagues half-naked. The pool is the hub of social life in Khartoum. Still jet lagged, I made the social rounds at pool volley ball and trivia. I even ended up meeting the Charge d'Affair (no ambassador in Khartoum) and didn't realize who it was till a few days later.

Because of the generally small community here and security restrictions, your colleagues at Embassy Khartoum also quickly become your friends.  And I can't complain about that at all, cause the people here are generally great. Back when I was bidding, I told my CDO that one of the most important factors to me was having a good social scene and morale at post- and Khartoum is the place for that. Since it's a no-dependents post, most of the people here (both at the embassy and in the rest of the expat community) are young and single, which means a lot of people in the same boat as me. I was worried about getting a post where, at the end of the day, everyone goes home to their spouse and kids for the evening, but here it's happy hours, parties, pool time, and restaurant outings.

Since then, there have been many, many other pool days. Last week was an unexpected week off for Eid, and while I was in the office almost every day, I also made it to the pool almost everyday. I also went with a couple of the girls to get henna, and have just learned that I am allergic to bad quality henna. Looks great, itches like a snitch.

A Modern(ish) City

Khartoum itself is way better than I imagined. Despite the fact that the road I live on is unpaved, there is a lot of infrastructure in most of the city, tall, shiny buildings going up, and a busy and large population here. I arrived during Ramadan, which meant the city was pretty slow and shut down for most of the day. Now that it's done, things are livening up a bit and I'll finally get the chance to go out and explore more.

What never shut were the "fancy" places in Khartoum. Believe it or not, there are a few (very few) hot spots around town where you can get a croissant and a latte, fresh olive focaccia, italian food, and be comfy and air conditioned. The clientele at these places is almost entirely expat, due to the prices, and in former times I would have felt guilty about doing something so clearly designed for a non-Sudanese audience. No more. I embrace the latte. (And I have a 3x/week housekeeper. Who am I?)

My (two) job(s)

Of course, the reason I'm here is my job. But lucky me, I have not one, but two jobs at the moment. Before I arrived at post, I was warned that the only Consular Officer would be on R&R shortly after my arrival, leaving me as Acting Consular Chief. So yes, lil' ol' 3-weeks-on-the-job me is running the Khartoum Consular section at the moment. I was able to learn quite a bit before the other consular officer left, and the local staff here are absolutely amazing (and know how to do my job better than I do), but it's still a bit nerve wracking to be in charge. Interviewing for visas is hard enough (already I've made people cry, second-guessed my self for days, and, today, someone threatened to sue me...), let alone dealing with destitute Americans the need to be repatriated, organizing visas for high level officials to go to the UN General Assembly, handling all the accountable items, and taking care of a second country (Juba doesn't have real consular capabilities yet, so everything from South Sudan still mostly gets taken care of through us).

Jealous yet? Well, don't forget, I'm not actually working as a Consular Officer in Khartoum, I'm a Political Officer. And it just so happens that my portfolio is making headlines. And the human rights report is on the table.

And did I mention I've only been here 3 weeks?!

Overwhelming is one way to put it. But also really, really exciting, enjoyable, and generally cool. My boss is great, a very good teacher. As I said, the local staff here are lifesavers. And having the social support network seals the deal.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind so far, but no complaints.

More to come.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Semper Gumby

Always flexible.

This week, I was thanked for my flexibility in being willing to stay an extra 6 weeks in DC. Yes friends, you all have the pleasure of having me around this summer, I hope you're excited.

I'm not the first of my classmates to have a change, and definitely have one of the most minor. One colleague learned that her job had switched, and she managed to get her post to grant her an extra couple months in DC to do some more training to help her with the new portfolio. Another colleague got moved from a country's consulate in one city to its embassy in another. In the scheme of things, being asked to stay an extra 6 weeks to do consular training isn't a big deal at all. I guess I'm glad to be getting my first dose of gumby-required changes at this early stage of things.

So I will get to take the infamous ConGen afterall. In addition to that, when I go to post I'll have under my belt Political-Economic Tradecraft, Religion and Foreign Policy, and several security trainings.

While I'll be uber-prepared, it's hard not to be a bit disappointed that my departure has been delayed, mostly because I'll now be missing the South's independence, scheduled for July 9th. Of course, I would be in Khartoum, not in Juba, and the 9th would likely be just like any other day in that part of north Sudan, but c'mon, who wouldn't want to be in a country when such an important event is going on?

Yet I guess there's no use in being bummed. Honestly, I may not have been able to make it by then anyways, with the potential hold up on my visa. And this gives me more time to acquire stuff (which I made some darn good progress on last weekend), be here for my sister's 21st (what kind of older sister would I be if I didn't take her for a drink?), spend a 4th of July in the States for the first time in about 5 years, and since my 160th colleague also assigned to Sudan is heading out before me now, I can learn from everything she experiences while there.

So DC summer, bring it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Proud Owner of...

It's kinda awesome and I pretty much feel like a rock star. Now just keep your fingers crossed that my dip visa gets processed in the next 6 weeks.

An update on life after A-100 forthcoming, I promise.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flag Day

Since Friday, I've been busy 1) processing, 2) celebrating, and 3) researching (yes, vibrant members, that was a public speaking joke). But now it's time to write out the story of that great day.

Flag day was phenomenal. While our coordinators did their best to keep us occupied and entertained all morning, it certainly didn't help to distract me from the afternoon's event. I was literally dancing around FSI, getting out all the pent up energy I had before it started. Mom and dad came to watch, and after getting them situated and answering a last minute question from my mom on, of all places, Sudan, I took my seat in between two of my closest 160th friends.

Luckily, both these seat-neighbors had been warned that I would be doing an anxious thigh-grab on them as each flag went up, and they got what I promised had been in store. The fun started when our CDOs filed into the room with 3 big racks of flags. Instantly we started analyzing them, trying to see what was and wasn't there, trying to find the flags we wanted to be handed. After a delayed guest arrived and introductions were made, the fun began. Flags and colleagues began to be called, and it was surreal to see my own Flag Day finally unfolding. Only about eight flags in, a second Sudanese flag popped up on the screen (the very first flag called  was the other Sudan post, given to an awesome colleague who I look forward to working with). When it flashed on the screen I felt a twinge of... apprehension? anxiousness? I'm not sure what it was, but as the flag came up I thought "wow, this might be it".

In all honestly, I hadn't given Khartoum much consideration. It would be a great post, but since it was only Arabic language designated at a 0/0 I had thought it unlikely: they would either send me to an Arabic 2/1 post, or to a Spanish post I assumed. How wrong I was, because a second later the presenter announced my name and the Sudanese flag was in my hand.

I had about a minute to think about it as I collected my folder, waved to my parents, and took my seat. Then it was back to the fun of the event- my friend on my right side literally squealed and jumped out of her seat when she was called for Riga, my left-hand friend was clearly in shock at getting Geneva. It was so exciting to see all of my classmates get their assignments after getting to know them for 5 weeks. It's hard to believe it's only been 5 weeks, because with each flag, I knew if that was what he or she wanted, it that would be good for his or her family.

All in all, I think the CDOs did a pretty great job at giving people posts that made them happy. So far I've only discovered a couple people who were clearly disappointed in their assignments. A lot of people were confused at how they ended up with a certain flag in their hand, but more than anything people were uber-happy.

I'm still wrapping my head around Sudan. It is going to be such an amazing time to be there, getting experience in my cone, in the heart of one of the biggest focal points of the international community. Sure, I'll have to deal with the drawbacks of limited mobility and nasty weather (but hopefully I'll come back with a nice tan). But besides that, I think this is going to be AMAZING. I'm hoping to get some more info tomorrow on what to do next. Right now I just want to get it all moving! Who needs another week of A-100 when I have to apply for a diplomatic passport, contact my embassy, and pack up my life over the next two months?!!

Friday, April 29, 2011



The job is fabulous, the current political climate is amazing, and another super awesome 160th-er is going too!


Thursday, April 28, 2011


Tomorrow's the big day! Flag day is only 16.5 hours away. Good lord.

Hopefully I will have some wonderful news to report after that. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy some other flag day stories, and keep your fingers crossed for me. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011


In 6 days I'll know where I'm going to spend the next two years of my life.

But before that, let's catch up on the last several weeks!

1) Bid list: done and done. I rethought my preferences, went with my gut, and got it submitted. Now it's out of my hands, and I'm trying to forget how I ranked everything. As far as I'm concerned, right now everything's a high and I'm going to be happy with whatever they hand me on Friday.

2) Offsite! The vibrant members of the 160th had a great 2-night trip out in rural America that we are now safely recovered from. Let's just say our esprit d'corps is sky high.

3) Socializing to the max: It's great having 88 new friends eager to go out around town and try new things. In the past few weeks, I've gone to a pub quiz, Moroccan restaurant complete with belly dancing, market shopping, and more happy hours than I can count. My wallet is feeling the pinch, my kitchen misses me, but I'm definitely glad to get to spend time with my amazing classmates, many of whom will be jetting off in the coming months.

Okay, so hopefully you, like me, are focused on nothing else in the universe expect next Friday. Flag day, flag day! The course coordinators are doing a great job of keeping us busy this week, but I'm sure that the days will just be dragging on and on. So I'll just keep singing....

Flag day, flag day gonna find out on flag day
Everyone's looking forward to their posting, posting

In other news, looks like we'll have a new group of A-100ers at FSI next month afterall! Congrats to everyone who just got invites to the 161st.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Where in the world...

... will I be going? I wish I knew, but first: As many of you have noted, the current title of this blog now seems a bit inappropriate (no waiting any more - I'm a diplomat baby!). Thoughts on a new title?

But back to my musings about what flag will be handed to be in 26 days time. I know the bid list backwards and forwards now, and am surprising myself by my thoughts. I'm liking some places I never expected to, and am disregarding some that initially would have made me jump for joy. In the end, I know I will do well and have a wonderful experience wherever they send me. For now, it's just a matter of figuring out which of the posts most closely match my preferences.

1) Social life. I know, seems kind of trivial, but one of the things I'm most worried about, being a single person, is leaving work at the end of the day, having no one to come home to, and being utterly bored and lonely. That means I'm looking for larger posts (I'm sure you can have great career opportunities as an entry-level officer in a consulate of 8 people, but I'll save that for later in my career), good post morale, and a place that attracts singles more than families.

2) Language/regional preferences: Because I took the Arabic points while on the register, I have an 'obligation' to serve in an Arabic speaking post either this time around or next (I say 'obligation' in quotes because I really see it as more of a privilege). I'd rather get started earlier rather than later.

3) Danger danger. Call me crazy, but I want to serve in a danger post. I feel like I should take advantage of my singlehood, childlessness, and head to a war zone (no, there are no war zone postings for first tours, but some other 'unsafe' places get danger designations too). I'll have to serve in a danger posting eventually, so might as well do it now.

So based on those three criteria, where would you send me? I unfortunately have my heart a wee bit set on a couple places on the list, but am working hard at opening myself up to other options and staying zen.

In other news, my colleagues are still awesome, and I can't wait to get back in the classroom with them all tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bid List

Is out.

And all I want to do is go to sleep. This becoming a diplomat thing is tiring...

All I'll say about the list is that I'm happy with it, especially a couple posts (and especially if I get assigned one of 'em). However, I'm just going to stay zen through all of this and know that wherever they send me, it'll all work out.

For additional thoughts, I refer you to my classmate's lovely blog here.

A 9pm bedtime isn't too embarrassing, is it?

(p.s. - yes, I do need a new blog title I guess. Suggestions?)

Monday, March 28, 2011

First first day

Today was my first day. Yes, I am now a Foreign Service Officer, and couldn't be happier to hold that title. However, it's hard to consider today the real first day, since it was nothing but administrative in-processing (and a really great happy hour(s) with classmates).

Tomorrow is our first real day of A-100 and I'm super excited. In honor of that, I am fully embracing a 9:45 bed time and look forward to tackling A-100 with 8 hours of beauty rest. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Yesterday, things got real. It was just drinks with some colleagues (I think about 20-30 people came), but it was wonderful. While the non-locals hires get a pack-out, hit the road and get to realize "yes, I'm doing this now", that hadn't hit me until yesterday. These people are my A-100 class. These people are going to be diplomats, with me, on Monday.

Wonderful = everyone gets it. No one asking "Oh, Foreign Service, where are you going?", or trying to explain a bid list, or talking about what a CNL obligation is. Instead, we talked about or bid list fantasies, our travel histories, our shared anxieties about what we're getting in to.

Wonderful = the people. We have everything - couples with kids in college making a career change, people fresh out of college, someone relocating from Sweden, China, Japan. Oddly enough, I didn't meet any other Middle East focused people. I know there's at least someone else with Arabic points, so hopefully I'll meet him today.

So yes, one evening in, and I'm already deeming this totally wonderful. Let's hope that keeps up.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My not-Flag Day: Vacation time!


Maybe it was the fact that the 159th had their Flag Day on Friday (and still waiting for all the results to start surfacing on the blogs...), or maybe it was the fact that I've been listening to too much Mana and Juanes, or maybe it was the fact that it was pay day, but not matter the reason, what it boils down to is: I'm going to Guatemala on Saturday!

With two weeks off before A-100 and the very likely prospect of spending two years in a compound in Saudi Arabia looming ahead, I can't think of a better treat to myself and a better way to spend this little vacation I find myself having. This week is going to be spent with my Lonley Planet, figuring out what exactly I'm going to do in Guatemala when I get there, then a couple days of catching up with some old friends, off for a whirlwind 6 days in Guatemala, and back to DC with enough time to unwind, meet my colleagues at some happy hours, and then head off the work at State the following Monday.

I'm crazy excited!!!

Anyone with Guatemala travel experience please share some suggestions with me!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Goodbye NDI and private-sphere privilege

Tomorrow is my last day at NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), and I can't believe how sad I am to be leaving. Of course, my sadness is offset by the overwhelming joy and excitement of joining the Foreign Service, but over the six months at NDI I've really come not just to love my job and coworkers, but really believe in the Institute's mission and programs (how cheesy, I know). The timing makes it especially bittersweet, because with the current events in the region, we're getting funded to do some awesome and essential work on the ground.

We had a Middle East regional team meeting today to talk about the current situation and what we'll be doing. One statement in particular struck me - apparently, a U.S. congressman was shocked at how good our on-the-ground assets were, saying that they're better than the government's intelligence on the ground now. While that makes me really proud of NDI's work, hearing that comment made me think about what I'm getting into in the government world. I've been so excited about my job and what new opportunities I will have and what I will be able to do, it's easy to forget that this job also means there are things I won't be able to do. As and NDI representative in Yemen, for example, I could go out into the protests, talk with the people, and see how things are developing. As an FSO in Yemen, I'll be confined to a compound, evacuated at the first sign of turmoil, and getting my intel from who knows where (maybe from NDI).

Now I'm not at all criticizing the way the government handles itself abroad- safety and security of employees should be the number one priority, and if that means living on a compound, so be it. It's just that with the amazing privilege I have of working for the government, I am also inheriting the amazing burden of working for the government. Or, as Helen says, "You are now a U.S. Diplomat (baller), but you are always a U.S. Diplomat so behave yourself."

I'm not exactly sure what point I'm trying to make here, if any, so I should probably just stop. I guess I can just say that one chapter of my life is coming to a close and a totally new one is about to begin - one that's going to take a while to get used to.

So au revoir NDI.
Foreign Service: Bring it on.

Monday, February 28, 2011

T-1 Month: My not-packout

It's officially one month until I become a Foreign Service Officer. Crazy.

While things aren't officially starting yet, I am getting a bit of a head start on one phase that my classmates are still waiting on: the big move. My big move was to all of 50 minutes away, going from out in the Maryland suburbs into the city. And as a local hire, I didn't have an official 'packout', with all the joys of moving assessments, UAB/HHE designations, etc. (or the paid apartment to move into).

I did, however, get my own chance to be stressed, sore, and pleasantly relieved with a new home. Thanks to Craigslist, I found me some cheap movers (aka strong guys with truck), packed up the SUV, and made three trips from suburbia to Capitol Hill. A long weekend, but definitely worth it. It's great to be getting to start this new phase of my life in a new place that I can all my own (well, besides the three roommates I share the house with). And living in this gorgeous part of this awesome city doesn't hurt.

Now that the move is done, it's back to paperwork. I still haven't picked a health insurance plan and have decided not to until I get to A-100 and have the chance to see some presentations on the programs and talk to representatives. Otherwise things are pretty much wrapped up, although some of my documents did manage to be left behind on the move and need to be added to my ever-growing pile before sending them in.

March 28 - here I come!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bid list envy

I can't believe that 6 weeks from now I will be working on my bid list. I will have had a week of orientation, will have figured out my post priorities, and started ranking world locations high to low. The 159th has theirs now (and yes, this post is inspired by Maguire Wire's post that is all of, oh, 15 minutes old - blog stalker much?), and I'm dying to know what their list, and then mine, looks like. Is Beirut there? Damascus? Tunis? I'm trying not get get fixated on anywhere, knowing that I could very well be sent to Mexico, Russia, or Vietnam. But it's already killing me that I don't even know what the possibilities will be!

Just 6 more weeks....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Acronym fun

FEHB, PPO, UAB, POV - my head is spinning with acronyms. While I'm still not sure what they all mean, I now have to use them to make decisions about all the administrative fun that comes with being hired by the federal government. Shopping for health insurance for the first time is confusing and intimidating, thinking about a retirement savings plan is a wee bit difficult for a 24-year-old, and dealing with tax forms has always been a task I need someone to help me with.

Luckily I have a great group of resources already available. Besides my parents (who don't yet know they are going to sit down with me all day tomorrow to work on this stuff), the google group set up for my A-100 class has been awesome. Everyone is getting to know each other, asking questions, and getting some insight from our sponsor class. I do feel a bit out a place - it seems like everyone is married and has children, given them some very different concerns than what I have. I'm glad to know at least one other young single person in the class- a girl I buddied up with during out OA is going to be in the class too, and it's a great relief to know I'll recognize a friendly face and have someone else to relate with on some of the 'family' issues.

I also had an awesome dinner a couple weeks ago with two friends of mine in the 158th. They are both so excited to be FSOs and the excitement was contagious; I left our dinner even more excited about what I'm getting into and even  more confident that I made the right choice in pursuing this career. One of them is leaving next month for her first, awesome, western-european post, but I'll have my other amiga at FSI while she does more training until August before leaving for her awesome, beach-front apartment post. It's wonderful to have friends that have just been in my shoes who I can rely on for advice (they both just got a 'help me figure out health insurance' email) and general support.

This is really starting to get real. A few weeks left at NDI (they've already found a replacement for me), apartment hunting success, and signing off on my commitment to serve. I am so ready for this.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Call! A-100 starts March 28!

Well that was fast.
A couple hours ago I received an e-mail inviting me to the March A-100 class! I have already accepted, and will be entirely useless the rest of the day here at work.

I really never thought I would have a security clearance by now, let alone a spot on the register, let alone an invite!

I am really at a loss for words, so this will have to do for now: YAY!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It's official: I'm in spot 7 out of 195 on the Pol register! That ain't too bad :)

Did take a call and a couple e-mails to get the sorted out. When I spoke with Pat at State yesterday morning she still had me at 80/195 without language points. Glad that was sorted out. Getting that hard data though really made me realize how horrible this whole process can be. I passed the OA with a 5.5, safely above the 5.25 needed to pass. There must be loads of people at 5.3, 5.4 (and indeed, there are, as the yahoo group has shown), that are way below 80 on the list. Looks like I definitely picked the right language to study in college. Allhamdullilah.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I am shocked, stunned, flabbergasted, surprised, but mostly thrilled to report that I am officially on the register!

Yes, I am still in disbelief that it could have happened so fast, but according to a letter I received today, I was added on to the political register on January 26th. And this whole week I was losing it as I made myself be patient and not call to check up on my security clearance. But apparently I am cleared, suitable, and an official candidate for a Foreign Service Officer position.

It's the weekend so I won't be able to get in touch with the office at State until Monday to find out my rank, so stay tuned.

A May class invite maybe? OMG.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's Next

Dear parents,

In order to avoid having this same conversation multiple times a week, I've decided to write up for you a handy guide on what will be happening next on my way to becoming a Foreign Service Officer.

1) Receive a top-secret security clearance: My file is currently in the adjudications stage, meaning that Diplomatic Security has uncovered all the raw information about me they need, and are now evaluating what they learned to decide whether they will grant me clearance.

2) Pass the final suitability review (FSR): After being cleared, my file is reviewed once more by State to allow them to make sure that I am, in fact, someone they want to be an FSO.

3) The register: Once it's determined that I am, in fact, suitable, I will be placed on the "register", or list of all other candidates seeking to be appointed to the FS as a political officer (all other 'cones' have separate registers, so I'm not competing directly against Public Diplomacy, Management, Economic, or Consular candidates). Place on the register is determined by score at the Oral Assessment (OA, mine = 5.5) and any bonus points (0.5 for Arabic). My best guess at the moment is that I will be in the top 10 people on the register.

4) The Call: Approximately two months before each training/orientation session for new FSOs (called A-100), invitations go out - this is called 'getting the call'.  This is the formal job offer from the Department of State.

5) A-100: Training begins! On the first day, I'll be sworn in and will technically become a State employee. A-100 lasts for 5 weeks.

6) Bidding: In the first or second week of A-100, all members of the class are given an identical list of all the posts that are available for our first tour. Using guidance from a career development officer, the language restrictions (I need to use my Arabic in one of my first two tours), and other considerations, I will 'bid' on the posts, ranking each as a high, medium, or low.

7) Flag day: Near the end of A-100 is the all-exciting Flag Day, the day on which first-tour assignments are given out.

8) And the training continues: Based on the results of flag day, I will be assigned to more technical and linguistic training following the official end of A-100.

9) Serve abroad as a Foreign Service Officer of the U.S. Department of State. 

Wow, that's a lot to do! I have no idea how long it will take to get to step 9, or even to step 2 at this point, but I know I'm ready to be there already!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Woot woot!

No more patience required (at least on the language test front)!!

"You passed the BEX Arabic (formal Std) language test on January 18, 2011."

Holler at my 6.0 on the register (when I get there)!!!

I will learn to be patient

Because apparently I suck at it. Despite the fact that my test wasn't a week ago until today, yesterday I e-mailed BEX in hopes of getting my results, and when that didn't turn fruitfull by lunch time I got on the phone. The person at FSI was out of the office, so I gave up on that for the day.

Today, I was back on the phone with FSI before 9am. No results yet, but they said that it usually takes a week, so I should try back again this afternoon. It's been 2 hours since I made that call, and I want to check back in already.

Yeah, I suck at this patience thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

atakalam alugha alarabiya jayidan - insh'allah

(I speak Arabic well - I hope)

Today was Arabic test day, and all-in-all, I feel good.

I did some good prep over the weekend with my tutors, and felt much more comfortable, fluid, and ready to go. Good nights sleep was in order before the 9am test time.

Oh, if only it had been that easy. I wake up this morning to a blanket of snow and ice outside, and the news that the OPM has called a 2-hour delay for the federal government. So if the government usually opens at 8 and would today open at 10, I assume that my test will be canceled or delayed. Right? Unfortunately, there wasn't much I could figure out at 6:30 in the morning with no one yet in the offices to answer my calls. Do I go into work, prepare there, and try to call in at 9? Or stay at home, lazy relaxing morning, with some preping of course, for an 11?

So while I enjoyed my breakfast and some early morning talk TV, I repeatedly called FSI until Steve finally got into work. He was clearly flustered, trying to deal with all the chaos the weather had caused for them, and told me at 8:30 that he didn't know if my testers would be in or not. With the possibility that it would take place, I turn on some BBC Arabic to set the mood and get ready to go.

9am rolls around and what do you know, testers are in, set to go. I still don't really get why they came in when the rest of State and FSI was shut all morning, but I guess it has something to do with the fact that the people who are being tested aren't necessarily in DC, and changing the time last minute on a test-taker in Nairobi ain't so easy.

Anyways, the test itself was FAST. I couldn't believe it was already done when they said thanks, bye. We jumped into Arabic directly after some formalities & explanations, and it went from "hi how are you" to discussing the political crisis in Lebanon in about 60 seconds. Thank goodness for my tutors, who really helped me out by practicing discussing current events over the past few weeks. After we conversed about political events for a few minutes, the English speaking observer informed me that I would now be asked to speak "at length" on a topic. That's fine, except for instead of choosing a nice easy topic like Sudanese refugees or climate change, I get asked about a certain domestic issue for which I don't have the most essential vocabulary. After explaining in Arabic that I unfortunately did not know the word for said topic, and was told to try my best, I went off on a bit of a ramble, substituting the "this issue" in for the specific words that I lacked. I managed to quickly divert my monologue down a path that let me talk about something I felt more comfortable with, but was still related. Hopefully this won't count against me, because I was still speaking about a larger issue related to what they wanted to hear, was using Arabic, and had clearly explained that I lacked a few words that had led to the diversion.

So I feel good about the test overall. I think I spoke coherently and relatively fluently, and got to use a lot of advanced vocabulary to express some interesting ideas on relatively specific topics. Insh'allah they were happy with it- but I have to wait a week to find out!

I'm really feel like I'm getting to be an expert in the art of waiting (I didn't say patiently...)

Ila liqa (Till next time...)

Monday, January 10, 2011


Called up customer service for DS today and sometime between the 27th of December and now my case entered adjudication. While I know that adjudicationville can be a bit of a black hole, I'm really glad to hear that I'm on to the next step. I'm sure this process will take some time as they'll have to look at my red flags, but at least they're finally looking at those issues and not just compiling information.

As always, trying not to get my hopes too high about how fast this might get done, but I like the chance to be a little optimistic with news like this!