Dozens of Russian diplomats posted to the United States declared persona non grata and sent home. Thousands of American troops marching into Poland in the largest U.S. military reinforcement of Europe in decades. An entire world on the edge of its seat awaiting the inauguration of a new U.S. head of state. It was in this dramatic and turbulent political climate earlier this month that one hopeful American diplomat went on holiday to the Russian Federation.
I spent the second week in September with my mom on a highly and long-anticipated trip to Moscow. As I mentioned in my previous post about our travel to Budapest, Americans must obtain visas for travel to the Russian Federation that exceeds 24 hour transit. This didn’t dissuade us; several of my A-100 diplomatic colleagues are serving at U.S. Embassy Moscow, and one of my dear friends and former Russian classmates there offered to sponsor us for three-year “guest of diplomat” visas. So with my coordination, my mom quickly obtained hers from the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. However, my issuance from the Russian Embassy in Tashkent took a bit longer.
It’s been two weeks since we returned from our trip to Samarkand. I am currently working on a half-baked theory that the life of a diplomat is especially suited to extroverts, although according to what I’ve heard and seen, many of us in the State Department (myself included) are in fact introverts.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what an introvert actually is – some people categorize introverts as shy, socially awkward, or bookworms. That may be true in some cases. However, the introversion-extroversion scale is more about where one receives their energy.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit an older part of Tashkent, the Hazrat Imam Complex (sometimes written as Khast Imom Square) with a few embassy colleagues, including our ambassador, led by local historian, author, scholar and inventor Boris Anatolevich Golender.
This blog post is dedicated to the people who sent me questions about my life here in Uzbekistan via Facebook, LinkedIn, and email. If you have a question you would like me to answer in an upcoming post, please contact me through one of those mediums or comment this post to let me know! I will tag these posts “Your Questions” in the future.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.