I find myself in week six of studying Russian, and preparing for a brief presentation tomorrow afternoon. I will be discussing (if you can call it that) my educational background, professional experience, hometown, and normal weekly schedule.
Seven years and nine months ago tonight, I went on my first date with a guy who I didn’t really know, but from whom I soon would become inseparable. And then one year ago today, I donned an enormous dress. I walked down the aisle of Evangelisch-Lutherische St. Matthäus-Kirche in San Francisco, California, and pledged to love and cherish him until death us do part.
The Russian word “счастье” (pronounced schast’ye) means happiness, bliss or luck. That is honestly the way I would summarize both my thoughts and feelings about studying the Russian language.
On Sunday, August 31, my husband and I celebrated Uzbekistan’s twenty-third Independence Day (1991) by visiting a Russian/Uzbek restaurant in Arlington, VA called Rus Uz.
On Friday, August 22, my AR281 Russia/Eurasia Regional Intensive Area Studies came to a close. On Monday, August 25 and Tuesday, August 26 I sat for a two day safety and security overseas briefing, and for the remaining three days of last week, I conducted distance learning from home. It was a fantastic opportunity to catch my breath after the 8.5 weeks of continuously packed schedules of A-100 and Area Studies, and the first days I have been at home during the day since the end of June.
I opened my eyes on the morning of Friday, August 8. A big smile spread across my face as I thought, “Today is the day!”
Our last day had arrived, the day when we would get up and officially swear in as diplomats during a formal ceremony. For months and even years I’d wished to join an A-100 class. Now I was smiling because, incredibly, not only had I made it in, but I’d made it through. Those six weeks of A-100 were finally about to end. A-100: I’d laughed, I’d cried, I’d graduated.
The sixth and final week of A-100 arrived suddenly on August 4 and there was a new energy in the air. The thrills of week 5 and Flag Day were finally behind us. The knowledge of where we would all be posted generated a kind of “senioritis” which I would describe as a heady blend of elation and concern. A whole new level of questions and tasks loomed ahead as we started to figure out how to get ourselves to post – some next spring and summer, and some as early as eight weeks from now.
Today I celebrate nine years of federal service to the U.S. Government.
On August 1, I started counting down the hours until our Flag Day ceremony as soon as I arrived at the Foreign Service Institute. Eight and a half hours until 15:30. Just eight and a half more hours until I find out where my first assignment as a U.S. diplomat will be. Despite my best efforts and intentions, I hadn’t slept much the night before, more out of sheer adrenaline than actual nerves.
Today I learned the location where I’ll serve my first tour as a Foreign Service Officer…
It’s Flag Day Eve. Yes, as anyone who has entered the Foreign Service knows, that’s a thing.
Tomorrow at 15:30 EDT, in front of friends, family, and classmates, each member of the 178th Generalist Class of new diplomats will be called one by one to the front of a large room and handed a flag, and a folder containing a training schedule. The flag will be that of the country where we will serve our first overseas assignment, and the training schedule will tell us whether we’re going to post in a matter of several weeks, next summer, or anytime in between.
It’s very cliche of me to start this post by saying that it’s hard to believe I’m already halfway through A-100, and yet it’s the absolute truth – both that it’s hard for me to believe, and that as of a couple of days ago, we’re only three weeks from our Swearing-In! I can totally see why new Foreign Service Officers often drop the ball on blogging during these very intense weeks of formality, responsibilities and hours of nightly homework. When I come home, the last thing I usually want to do is turn on my laptop to blog, even though I like doing it once I get into it.
My first week of orientation into the Foreign Service has already passed in a blur of exhilaration, jitters, gratitude, lack of coffee, heightened emotion and general overwhelm.
Last Wednesday I said goodbye to my staff position at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC after nearly four years of work. It was bittersweet, but made easier by the knowledge that I only had about a year left on my appointment, and that I was leaving to accept my dream job in the Foreign Service. I was also comforted by the knowledge that I will be eligible to come back someday (after my time out equals my time in).