I’ve been reflecting for the past several weeks on everything that’s happened in my life during 2014. It’s been probably the most up and down year of my life in a decade, filled with changes. It’s been one of my busiest and most memorable, too.
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.
In the last four weeks since my most recent post, it seems that a lot has happened, so this entry will probably be less thematic and more of a mixed bag.
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?
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…