Friday, May 25, 2012

"So Will You Be, Like, a Secret Agent?"

As we have shared the news about my entering the Foreign Service, many people have asked me just what the heck it is I will be doing over there (wherever "over there" might be). They think I will be in a tuxedo at some cultural event (the striped-pants cookie-pusher scenario), or in some tactical gear springing an American out of a Locked Up Abroad-type jail. My job as a vice-consul will involve three main tasks: issuing visas (or denying them) to potential visitors to our country, doing the same for immigrants, and providing services to American citizens should they run into difficulties while abroad. For a good picture of how Consular work goes in one of the countries most important to our own, take a look at this video from the PBS television show To The Contrary. The part about Foreign Service Officers begins at about the 11 minute mark, and after the video package comes a studio interview with someone in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Countdown Has Started... and I Can't Find My Spacesuit!

So, we are at T-two months and counting to be on the road to DC, and the stress about what has to be done between now and then is ratcheting up nicely. If we had two months to do home repairs, list the house, sell two cars, prepare my current office for the transition, pack up and be ready to move, and attend to all our usual obligations of a family of five, that would be plenty. Heck, just writing that out makes we want pizza and brownies and a night of TV watching.

However, there will be a package arriving sometime soon from State that has my official salary offer and apparently a huge blob of paper, some of which must be signed and returned ASAP, that require gigantic decisions on our parts. We don't even know what is in there yet, but all of my fellow Yahoo Groupies are sending around "did you get it yet?" emails.

I have described these feelings as being dropped into a swimming pool full of chocolate pudding. I want to move, take action, DO SOMETHING to at least start to whittle down the task list. Instead, it appears that everything depends on everything else, and there is a whole undiscovered country of further things I don't even know about yet. I can be pretty task-oriented, and no matter how big the knot is, I will work diligently to unravel it. But right now I can't find the bitter end to start with, or even know if I am staring at the right ball of string.

I am grateful and MORE than grateful to have won the nerd olympics and been chosen by my country to represent her to the world. I know several people (smarter and with language skills better than mine) who have been trying so hard to get where I am and been torpedoed by a head cold on OA day, or a missing piece of paper for a clearance, or expiring off the registry a month before their scores are reached.

But to paraphrase something Jim Lovell said in Apollo 13, "I don't mind telling you that we're all a little tired (and freaked out) up here, and mid-July is starting to get awfully big in the window."


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Offer From the Blue!

Friends and family, last Tuesday was a very amazing day. I passed OA in March with a 5.5 for Consular. Med Clearance was done in late March for me, with plenty of complications for my 4 dependents. Looking like three of us are going to be Class 2. In mid-April I had my long security interview and my neighbors and friends were rousted on my behalf. I hadn't heard anything since then, so I sent an email to security clearances and got a nice surprise Monday- TS granted on 5/2. Cool, and very fast, right?

Well, that ain't got nothing on Tuesday. That morning in my inbox was an email from the Registrar saying, "you don't know this yet, but you were placed on the Register on 5/4. And, this is to offer you a place in the July A-100 Class." Holy Beans!

My initial reaction was like someone who was thrilled to learn their wife is pregnant and busy planning what September would be like, only to get called the next day and told "It's twins!" I mean, this was what I was shooting for, but JULY? Almost too much of a blessing.

So it was an amazing, stunning, scary, confounding, and thrilling day at our house.

Sean McKeating, Diplomat? Apparently so, apparently so.