This past week was my favorite yet during consular training. Partly because we worked on passports, nationality and citizenship, and I got a perfect score on my exam. Plus we started our final module on special consular services, which to me is fascinating (i.e. prison visits and death notifications).
As of today, I’m halfway finished with my six week consular course.
It is kind of a crazy thought. All that’s standing between me and the day I depart for Uzbekistan is the remaining three weeks of consular tradecraft, and an additional two weeks comprised of security training, administrative time, my packout and consultations. No days off, and no lolly-gagging. It seems like the closer I come to getting on the plane, the faster the clock begins to spin and the longer the to-do lists grow.
On Monday, March 23, one business day after passing my Russian final assessment, I began basic consular training, otherwise known as ConGen.
The first two weeks have been dedicated to non-immigrant visas. This means visas for non-U.S. citizens to come here for the purposes of business, tourism or study. After six and a half months of Russian language class, I’ve really been looking forward to learning all of the ins and outs and regulations of how immigration law really works – in English!
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.
If I had known what trouble you were bearing
What griefs were in the silence of your face
I would have been more gentle and caring
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently, I’ve commented to a few people about the day I mailed my application to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It was a sunny Monday afternoon between work and classes during my senior year at San Diego State University. But it was more than that, too.