Category: U.S.

Travel Orders

This past Monday marked the start of ConGen, the six week training that prepares consular officers for overseas work in embassies or consulates with visas, passports, and American Citizen Services.

While I was in my class today completing a module on non-immigrant visas, my first travel orders cable came through! It was in response to the request cable I sent in February, in which I proposed a PCS (permanent change of station) plan routing me, my husband, and all of our stuff from Washington DC to Tashkent, via New York City and Frankfurt.

The Verdict

Yesterday at noon I underwent my final speaking and reading assessment for Russian, otherwise known as the end of training test (EOT). I did manage to pass and receive the 2/2 I need to go to my assignment this May at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This is how it happened.

Murderboard

Today was my last official full day in LRU 100, better known as the 28-week Russian introductory + basic course.

In order to help me prepare for my final assessment, my instructor and last remaining classmate BB put me through a kind of “murderboard”. For nearly two hours they peppered me with questions on democracy, economics, human rights, current events, terrorism, education, mass media, public transportation, immigration, ecology, American values, hobbies and yes…even kangaroos. (Because I did my postgraduate degree in Australia, I suppose it was fair game!)

The Warmth

The other day I was listening to some old albums on shuffle and what began to play but one of my favorite songs, “The Warmth”. It was released as a single sixteen years ago by Incubus, one of my all-time favorite California bands.

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel – a Train?

Last Thursday was a snow day and federal government offices in the Washington DC area were closed. This included the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington where I’m completing my Russian course.

Watching Facebook friends post pictures of their paid snow day frolicking, I felt the urgency of a clock ticking down. According to the calendar, I was in week 26 of a 28-week Russian class.

Encouragement for the Troubled Language Learner

Last weekend I came down with a cold. My husband was out of town and it was snowing outside, so I got busy with one of my most popular tasks since last fall: sorting items in preparation for my upcoming move to Uzbekistan. While conducting another epic scan-and-shred fest, I came across the journal that I wrote during the Pre-Service Training (PST) which preceded my Peace Corps Volunteer service in the Republic of Macedonia. 

Я говорю по-Русски…

Yesterday, six weeks out from the end of my Russian language studies, I had a progress evaluation to measure how close I am to demonstrating the 2/2 level of speaking and reading in Russian that my new job in Uzbekistan will require. The results were unofficial, and the evaluation was conducted at the language department level rather than at the institute level. However, it’s important for instructors and learning consultants to see how their students are progressing.

One Extra Minute of Sunlight Each Day

Over the last few weeks since the holidays, my focus has begun to shift towards finalizing my Russian studies (I just concluded week 21 of 28), and preparing to depart for Tashkent in less than four months.

This month has been correspondingly busy on the administrative side. The year unfortunately started off with a young lady sliding in the snow and rear-ending my car as I sat at a stop sign waiting for traffic to pass so I could make a right turn out of a parking lot. She did $1,700 worth of damage and then became escalated, hysterical and unreasonable (all conditions I tolerate, but barely), culminating with her dodging my calls. However, my insurance company (props to Travelers!) hunted her down and forced her to be liable. Additionally, I was not injured, nor was she (or the two small children in her vehicle), and all ended well.

Congratulations to the 180th A-100 Class

Yesterday morning, before the clock had even struck 7:00 a.m., I drove to the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington to help welcome a new group of diplomats from the 180th Generalist Class to their first day at FSI.

In the Foreign Service, each class sponsors social and informational events for the group two classes behind them. For many new diplomats, their first day of A-100 orientation is likely preceded by events like a packout and move to a new city (sometimes even an international move), learning to navigate unfamiliar public transportation, making new schooling arrangements for children, dealing with pets, possibly even a spouse who has given up his or her career to join this adventure – and all of that is before even going to post!

LRU100: The Halfway Point

This is week 14 of my Russian class, LRU100. This week marks the halfway point of the 28 week language program that many in my new Foreign Service Officer cohort (the “too big to fail 178th”) embarked upon in September. Fourteen weeks in, we are in the thick of it – regardless of whether we are studying Russian, or Mandarin, or Spanish, or Azeri, or Bangla, or Arabic, or whatever else.

At this point, I have the unsettling feeling that I should be precisely halfway to the level of language proficiency required for me to travel to post. However, it’s probably more true that by now I should have established the solid foundation upon which to continue building and expanding, while simultaneously consolidating and fine-tuning what I’ve already acquired.

It’s Official

For the last 11.5 weeks, I have been eager to get going on all of the arrangements that must precede my first posting in Tashkent. I’m talking about things like obtaining diplomatic passports and visas for my husband and I, trying to figure out travel dates and housing needs, and of course, the small matter of my husband’s career.

However, I’ve been waiting to be “paneled” or officially slotted into the consular officer position in the embassy there, and haven’t been able to do much other than focus on Russian. I’ve had occasional daymares about getting three months down the road in Russian language class, only to find out that my job has fallen through and I’m actually being sent elsewhere. Mandarin class, anyone?

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