Friday, June 21, 2013

It's Almost That Time...

With apologies to General Eisenhower's message to the troops on D-Day, things are starting to feel like that around here: Diplomats of the United States- the great undertaking for which you have been training these many months is at hand!

Our stuff at the apartment is now in the magic three piles of UAB (air freight, quickest delivery), HHE Ship (slower, literally by ship) and HHE Store (at that place in Maryland where it looks like they are storing the Lost Ark).

For the last few months I have been going through Consular training, Political/Economic Officer training, and a brief stint in Consular Affairs at Main State as a sort of OJT. The quality and rigor of the training is excellent, not just because of the great substance to the classes, but because they do their best to teach you how to think like a diplomat. We Foreign Service Officers have knowledge that is a mile wide and an inch deep. You never know if today is the day you must address an unruly group in your host country, respond to an urgent request from Washington, escort a visiting dignitary or respond in an emergency situation on behalf of American citizens. In other words, they can't prepare you for everything you are going to face. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times, we must be flexible in order to adapt to sudden changes.

I have also had the pleasure (and I really DO mean pleasure) of maintenance classes in Indonesian. My skills were the sharpest the day of my language test. Since then it has been masses of detail in two different areas of professional training. Let's just say that the old hard drive isn't as big as it used to be, so sectors of the brain devoted to when to use passive-voice type 1 or passive-voice type 2 have been overwritten with the 15 things required for a student visa and what the significance of investment as a share of real GDP is.

My language instructors, always friendly, have become friends now that the stress of an impending test is gone. They have told me that they could tell I was a student who really wanted to know the cultural background and not just the grammar rules, and that I was really motivated not just to regurgitate vocab but to understand. If you are starting language at FSI, you need to know that your instructors can tell who is checking a box and who is enthusiastic about learning their language and culture. For your future career success and quality of life at post, you want to be one of the latter.

And so, as my friends who came into the Foreign Service with previous languages send around emails about where they are going on their SECOND tours, a few haggard veterans of the 168th A-100 class are finally about to get to post. I can't believe how fast all this training has gone, and I can't believe how long it has taken at the same time.



  1. I always imagine that Hagerstown facility as having the Lost Ark buried in a crate somewhere too. :) Blessings as you go.