Archive for the 'Life After A-100' Category

This thing on?

Oops! Where, did the time go? The last few weeks have been a blur of learning visas and checking things off my list of stuff to do before I go to Mexico. Next Friday is the big day, provided I get everything done between now and then. I’m afraid the last few weeks haven’t been very blog worthy considering they have been eaten by Congen homework and pre-departure planning. I remember last November when I had an endless stretch of gap days and was trying desperately to fill them. Oh I wish I had know then…. I could have been using that time to do all the consultations that I desperately tried to cram in last week. I did manage to get a bunch of them done. I’m still in a bit of disbelief that a week from now I’m really going to hop in a car and drive down to Mexico. It’s been on the horizon for so long and I’ve been training for this job for months, it’s hard to believe my time at FSI is actually ending. I am ready to actually start working though.

The grand plan at the moment is to drive from DC to Memphis and stop at Graceland to get my fill of tackiness. Then on through Arkansas. If I have time I may stop at the Clinton Library in Little Rock and then drive the width of Texas over on to El Paso. It’s supposed to take about 4 and a half days. I think I’m going to leave Friday evening and try to put in a half day of driving then but we shall see how it goes. If there is internet I will update from the road. I’m looking forward to the road trip since I’ve never been to Tennessee, Arkansas or Texas. Between now and then there is a lot of preparation to be done including the pack-out which I have been dreading since I joined.

Busy Week

I’m afraid I haven’t had much time for blogging since I started Congen. There is certainly a lot to learn. Next week I’m back in Spanish training part-time. I can already feel my ability atrophying so I signed up for the Spanish for Consular Officers class and the Spanish maintenance class. That will give me a couple of hours of “class” time and I’ll need to do some Spanish self-study too which will be tough to balance with my other class but I think it is going to be necessary. I’ve probably spoken 3 words of Spanish since the test. Right after the test I tried to talk to one of my former teachers and found it nearly impossible. I swear they took all my Spanish words during the test.

I’ve also spent a good part of the week running around prepping for the move. I received my Mexico visa which was kind of exciting and scheduled my pre-pack out survey.  Of course then I got some news which could derail my early May departure. Someone stole my air bags about 2 years ago (yes, really, that’s apparently what the kids are after these days) and now I’ve been subpoenaed to testify in the case. Ug! I’m not sure how much I can really add since I didn’t see anything. I’m hoping I am not really necessary because if I am it means missing a day of class which means I have to make it up at a later date which should push back my departure at a minimum, one week. I’m still crossing my fingers that I can finally be done with this whole air bag debacle.


After 19ish weeks of Spanish I managed to pull together something which vaguely resembled the Spanish language enough to pass the exam! The testing room included an assortment of recording devices which is amazingly disconcerting. I hate to think that my stumbling attempts at Spanish are immortalized forever in the archives of FSI. The test was pretty much what I expected in terms of format and there were moments when I felt like I was definitely being pushed to the edges of what I was able to express in the language. The toughest part of the day was waiting for them to figure out my score. I probably sat there for about 15 minutes which was sufficient time to review in depth all of the various and sundry mistakes I made. Finally, they came out and gave me the good news.

I’m still not happy with my level of Spanish. I’m hoping to continue working once I get to post to improve it, but it is a relief to be done with the test. Next I’m off to ConGen. It is a little weird having to switch gears. On some level I don’t think I ever thought I would get out of Spanish training. So now it is only about 6 more weeks until I leave for post. I haven’t freaked out yet about the security situation in part I think because I am going with a group of friends from my A-100 class and also I seem to be very good at operating in a state of low-level denial when it comes to situations like this. I fully intend to take all the security precautions necessary and recommended, but giving up this job that I love so much is not even an option to me, and so to Juarez I go.

Un Viaje a Guatemala

So after having our first flight canceled due to snow in Atlanta of all places, I thought we were going to be good to go on Sunday. I was over at one of my fellow immersees apartment waiting for our 6am flight when another of our group called at 1am to let us know our flight had been delayed yet again and that we were going to miss our connecting flight. Apparently they hadn’t heard of road salt or something in Atlanta so the runways refroze overnight. Fueled by brilliant 1am logic we decided to cancel our flights and switch to a flight that went from DC to Chicago to Houston and then finally on to Guatemala. I never thought I would buy an international ticket 4 hours before the flight left and yet it is amazing how a week of snowapocalypse makes one desperate to escape the cold. Miraculously it worked and managed to be cheaper for me than our original flight. So after all the flight craziness we finally made it to Antigua. Continue reading ‘Un Viaje a Guatemala’

Getting kicked out of the nest

I fully intended to come back from Antigua and blog all about the fantastic immersion experience. I also intended to come back and ask for more time in Spanish since I felt like I was behind having lost a week to snow and since I hadn’t had an evaluation since December. In theory my last day in Spanish is March 19th and while nothing is certain until you pass the test it is starting to look like I am actually going to finish on that date. Continue reading ‘Getting kicked out of the nest’

Still trudging along

I haven’t quite fallen off the face of the earth. The last few weeks have been really busy. Spanish has hit that point where I no longer feel my progress is making leaps and bounds. It is the point where I have learned most of the tenses and the basics of the grammar. Now I’m trying get the details under control. Just because I understand the difference between the preterite and imperfect and which words are masculine and which are feminine, doesn’t mean I can use them correctly! There seems to be a lot of me stopping mid-sentence, backing up and correcting myself. Which is necessary but frustrating. It was much more satisfying before when we’d be studying a new tense and then we’d suddenly have a whole new way to express ideas and thoughts. I also have my second test coming up which I am not to thrilled about.

In brighter and happier Spanish thoughts, in about 10 days I am going with a fabulous group of fellow Spanish sufferers to Guatemala for a 2 week immersion. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and inflicting my Spanish upon the world and to getting to someplace warmer! I also got my presidential commission, which is certificate autopenned by the president and the secretary. It’s kind of neat but the truth is it will probably wind up in a drawer with my degree and all the other bits of paper which serve to validate my existence. 😉

In theory in a little over 3 months I’ll be off to Juarez, it is amazing how quickly time goes when you’re in full-time language training.

El día mágico

There comes a time in the life of every Spanish learner when after weeks, months, or in some cases years of blithely sailing along on relatively tranquil seas of indicative verbs that they first hear the word that will soon crush all their delusions of speaking Spanish with some semblance of fluency. This word, the word that strikes such fear into the hearts of Spanish students, is of course “subjuntivo.” In every Spanish course I have ever taken after many moons of struggling to properly use the preterite and imperfect tenses and to tame the legions of wild irregular verbs in the preterite and present tense, someone comes along and informs me that I have speaking the language entirely wrong for months. That nearly every time I tried to express an opinion or say something was possible, speculate about the future, ect I had been massacring the language because I had never learned the subjunctive. Inevitably in my previous Spanish classes the subjunctive was covered just days before the final exam and I never truly understood it beyond the fact that there was this whole other world out there that I wasn’t able to express. Continue reading ‘El día mágico’

Back to the Grind

After a week of self-study it is back to full-time 9-5 language study. Days like today remind me though what the best part of the foreign service is: the people. I went to a brunch thrown by one of the members of my oral assessment study group. It was great to catch up with the people I spent all those months studying and fretting about the oral assessment with. About a year ago we started a study group which met weekly at the MLK library in DC. Apparently this group has taken on a life of its own and continued even after the original group finished their OAs. It was nice to see the members of the original MLK group almost all of whom are either on the register, in the service, or finishing their security clearances. I have great confidence that the few that just barely didn’t make it the first time are about to put us all to shame with their amazing OA scores on the next attempt.

After brunch I headed over to a party which my class was hosting for the incoming 150th A-100 class, to help out and meet the newest FSOs. It was great to see my classmates again after being away from FSI for the last week and a half and to meet the incoming officers. It’s hard to believe that a little under four months ago, I was there wondering where I would be going and what I would be doing. I was given a few new FSOs to “mentor” which is almost humorous since most days I feel like I could still use a mentor to help me navigate the wilds of the department. I am constantly amazed by my colleagues and the 150th is no exception.  And now, back to Spanish studying….

Looking forward to 2010

Since I got my assignment a little over two months ago, moving to Juarez has seemed quite far off.  Now that 2010 is almost here it is slowly sinking in that in a few short months I will be in Mexico! The question I seem to get most from people when they hear I am going to Juarez is “aren’t you scared?” I do actually read the news, despite being advised that ignorance is bliss, and I am still excited to go. I didn’t sign up for this job thinking that it would be safe 100% of the time. I always like a challenge and I have a feeling that working in Juarez will be sure to provide that. As for the safety issues, well I tend have just enough common sense not to get myself in trouble. I’m also not exactly the demographic being targeted in the violence so it’s not keeping me up at nights. So I am looking forward to 2010 and moving to Juarez. As more and more of my A-100 colleagues depart for post I’m getting envious. I’m itching to get out there and start doing my job. Unfortunately ConGen and many more weeks of Spanish stand between me and departure.

Looking back, 2009 was quite a year. It’s hard to believe that a year ago this time I had just learned my QEP results and was stressing about my upcoming OA. Thanks to friends and family for their support through this incredibly crazy year and Happy New year to everyone! Hopefully 2010 will bring much more interesting blogging material as I finish my training and head off to post!

Aventuras en español

Spanish continues! Though I am afraid the joys of wrangling the preterite vs. the imperfect tenses doesn’t make for fascinating blogging material. I had my week 7 progress test which went a lot better than I thought. Progress tests are like shortened versions of the full test which includes a conversation, an interview and five minutes of talking at length on a given subject. At the end of the test I was given a range on my speaking ability of 2 to 2+ and my reading was a 2+. I’ll take it! I came in with a 1/1 so I wasn’t starting from a complete 0 though I feel like I was pretty close to it. The progress tests are done by our learning consultants who are there to help us prepare for the exam, give us feedback on what we need to spend more time studying, and keep us generally on track. Continue reading ‘Aventuras en español’