Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fun, State Department Style

Word came down last week from our language overlords that all sections in Indonesian language training would be attending a "Holiday Party" last Friday. We were told that the language teachers would be preparing authentic Indonesian dishes for lunch (woo-hoo!) and that we would be responsible for choosing and creatively presenting a holiday-related presentation to the class (boo!).

We have reached the point in our studies where we are vocabulary-building by the day, with less new grammar concepts. The level of pain we suffer depends on the reading level of materials assigned on a given day. Once in a while, they hit us with stuff that has us in our dictionaries for long stretches, but for the most part we are okay and learning our way to our required score by accretion, picking up a little each day. Complacency of a sort has settled in.

Well, just throw an opportunity to create a Powerpoint onto the table, and suddenly everyone is an over-competitive ninja. Transitions, shadow effects on block letters, and continuity between different contributions all suddenly became important. Each section kept their presentation secret while attempting to "accidentally" find where the others had saved theirs. We figured we would trot out our presentations, have some lunch, and hit the skids.

Instead the day before the event we were emailed a daily schedule that included many hours of "games" (we ain't talking about Monopoly, more like Jeopardy! Indonesia). In addition to our planned presentation there would be another extemporaneous one, and many more! Then the kicker: the head of Student Language Services AND the head of the East-Asia Pacific Languages Division would be joining the head of the Indonesian Section at the "party" to monitor our progress, I mean, join in the festivities.

Now, I have been to office Christmas parties before, and I can't say they were all tons of fun, but as long as you didn't drink enough to tell your boss what you REALLY felt or become the subject of an embarrassing picture or video, you didn't have to worry about work so much.

In my new job, attending "social events" and working hard at them is part of the gig. Yes, everyone will be in party clothes, and there will be yummy snacks and beverages, but brother, you are at work and don't forget it. For my classmates who were on their 2nd tour or more, this was no surprise. Being exhausted at the end of a party because I was working is a new experience for me. Here in the Foreign Service, we work in many different and dangerous environments, and do it for as long as the job requires. Today's Foreign Service is much more than the "striped-pants cookie pushers" of old. But we still ride to the sound of the champagne toasts in service to our country.


No comments:

Post a Comment